Ripple CTO: Quantum computers will be a threat to Bitcoin and XRP

  • Ripple’s CTO, David Schwartz, believes that quantum computers will be a threat to the security of Bitcoin, XRP and other cryptocurrencies.
  • Schwartz predicts that quantum computers will start to become a problem within the next 10 years.

In a chapter of the Modern CTO podcast, Ripple’s CTO, David Schwartz, expressed concerns about the development of quantum computers. Ripple’s CTO believes this technology is a threat to the security of Bitcoin, XRP, and cryptocurrencies. This is primarily because the consensus algorithms behind cryptocurrencies rely on conventional cryptography, as Schwartz stated:

From the point of view of someone who is building systems based on conventional cryptography, quantum computing is a risk. We are not solving problems that need powerful computing like payments and liquidity – the work that the computers do is not that incredibly complicated, but because it relies on conventional cryptography, very fast computers present a risk to the security model that we use inside the ledger.

Algorithms like SHA-2 and ECDSA (elliptic curve cryptography) are sort of esoteric things deep in the plumbing but if they were to fail, the whole system would collapse. The system’s ability to say who owns Bitcoin or who owns XRP or whether or not a particular transaction is authorized would be compromised (…).

When will quantum computers be a risk for XRP and Bitcoin?

Ripple’s CTO said that Ripple is trying to prepare for the emergence of quantum computers. Therefore, they are determining when the algorithms mentioned will no longer be reliable. Ripple’s CTO estimates that in the next 8-10 years, quantum computers will begin to pose a threat, as Schwartz further stated:

I think we have at least eight years. I have very high confidence that it’s at least a decade before quantum computing presents a threat, but you never know when there could be a breakthrough. I’m a cautious and concerned observer, I would say.

The other fear would be if some bad actor, some foreign government, secretly had quantum computing way ahead of what’s known to the public. Depending on your threat model, you could also say what if the NSA has quantum computing. Are you worried about the NSA breaking your payment system?

Despite the above, Ripple’s CTO made an optimistic conclusion and stated that even if there is a malicious actor with this technology, he will not use it against “the average person”. Therefore, Schwartz believes that most users have nothing to worry about:

While some people might really be concerned – it depends on your threat model, if you’re just an average person or an average company, you’re probably not going to be a victim of this – let’s say hypothetically some bad actor had quantum computing that was powerful enough to break things, they’re probably not going to go after you unless you are a target of that type of actor.

As soon as it’s clear that there’s a problem, these systems will probably be frozen until they can be fixed or improved. So, most people don’t have to worry about it.

About Author

Reynaldo Marquez has closely followed the growth of Bitcoin and blockchain technology since 2016. He has since worked as a columnist on crypto coins covering advances, falls and rises in the market, bifurcations and developments. He believes that crypto coins and blockchain technology will have a great positive impact on people's lives.

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