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Will quantum computing platforms be able to decrypt the private keys of a Bitcoin wallet?

In this article we delve into the topic of quantum computing platforms, often used to solve extremely complex problems that are impossible to tackle with traditional classical computers.

This type of technology, which is still in its early stages and will have to express its full potential in the years to come, finds a dark side in the concept of Bitcoin wallet security among its many uses.

Many cryptography experts are indeed scared by the fact that quantum computers 

They will be able to decipher the seed phrase of a crypto wallet through the practice of “brute force”, putting the entire cryptographic ecosystem of Bitcoin at risk.

All of this needs to be related to the costs, which are still excessively high, necessary to set up a quantum computing platform, and to the probable upgrades that current security systems that crypto wallets will implement in the coming years.

The concerns of the Bitcoin community are therefore as follows: is the current BIP39 standard, protected by the HMAC SHA-512 hash function, safe from quantum computers?

If it is not, will other brute forcing-proof standards be created?

Let’s see below all the answers to these questions.

What are quantum computing platforms?

Quantum computing platforms are part of an emerging technological niche that is rooted in the laws of quantum mechanics and quantum computation.
They aim to solve all those computational problems that classical computers are unable to solve due to their complexity, thus giving developers a number of significant advantages.

They can be used by companies for commercial applications ranging from financial models to personalized medicine, weather forecasting to cryptography.

These types of platforms are often very large in size and integrate thousands of CPU cores and classic GPUs, as well as special cooling systems to prevent overheating during work phases.

The potential they offer has led in recent years to a global increase in demand for quantum computing experimentation projects, with a total of 151 programs subsidized by 108 different companies.

Among the most prolific sectors in terms of number of projects, we find the financial, chemical-pharmaceutical, automotive, and energy sectors.

The technology companies that are most focused on quantum computing platforms are Google and IBM. In particular, IBM has dedicated its core business to the construction of quantum hardware with a roadmap aimed at increasing scalability for its processors.

Despite the impact that these supercomputers could have on society and everyday life, we must remember that they have several problems

It may happen that these platforms crash, it is probably because they have been asked to solve a problem with a too high level of complexity. 

The study and research on this technology is still in an early stage that places quantum computing in the early days of a story that promises to be very interesting, due to a potential that, once capitalized upon, could allow to overcome any existing barrier of computational calculation.

As we will see in the next paragraph, there are factors of these platforms that could cause major problems in specific sectors such as cryptocurrencies.

The experts’ opinion on the growing danger of the “brute-force” practice of a Bitcoin seed wallet 

Many cryptography experts agree that quantum computing platforms could create serious problems for the Bitcoin protocol.

This is because, given the strong growth of technology, it is believed that in the future quantum computing will help malicious actors decrypt the 12-word seed phrase of any Bitcoin wallet that contains 128 bits of entropy.

In practice, it is believed that by using a set of 2000 words and combining them randomly, it will be possible to brute force a wallet, that is, guess the winning combination that will grant access to the ability to spend BTC inside it.

All this would completely destroy the BTC network, ruining the reputation of the cryptocurrency and the cryptographic security on which it is based.

It is worth noting how the case of quantum computers could endanger not only Bitcoin, which would be the least of the problems in this context, but above all the security of entire governments such as those of the United States.

There are indeed much more delicate issues at stake, such as secret codes for nuclear weapons, which if they end up in the wrong hands could create a global catastrophe.

As the experts of the “Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency” (CISA) recalled in a report last year:

“In the hands of adversaries, sophisticated quantum computers could threaten the national security of the United States if we do not start preparing now for the new post-quantum cryptographic standard.”

At the moment, fortunately, this remains a very remote scenario, as the speed at which quantum platforms are able to perform such an operation is still limited.

In order to give an idea, in the case of Bitcoin wallets, assuming that you know the 12 words of a seed but not their order, a quantum computer can currently guess the correct composition in about 20 minutes, randomly trying out half a billion possible combinations.

All this seems worrying but if instead we make the same example on a wallet with a 24-word seed, that is with 256 bits of entropy, the time required to guess the correct password increases enormously as there are 6.24^24 possible combinations.

We remind you that it has been hypothesized to know the words of the seed and not the order. In a normal context where the words in question are not even known, the challenge that quantum computing must face is even more complex.

The Bitcoin network does not seem to be in danger from this threat, especially if you use a 256-bit wallet instead of a 128-bit one.

In addition, considering the fact that these quantum computing platforms will be able to improve their performance over time with computing power and speed that will reach unimaginable levels.

It is important to keep in mind that cryptographic security techniques will also continue to evolve, providing more options to protect against extreme cases like these.
In conclusion, there is no need to worry at the moment, but it is advisable to start studying secondary options to protect your Bitcoin wallet from platforms like these, by implementing brute forcing-proof systems.

Already today software capable of blocking this kind of activity is being developed, making quantum computers completely useless when it comes to deciphering a high entropy code.

Our Bitcoins, from the US nuclear weapons, are currently safe, but we cannot let our guard down.

Alessandro Adami
Alessandro Adami
Graduated in "Information, Media and Advertising", for over 4 years interested in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space. Co-Founder of Tokenparty, community active in spreading crypto-enthusiasm. Co-founder of Legal Hackers Civitanova marche. Information technology consultant. Ethereum Fan Boy and supporter of Chainlink oracles, strongly believes that smart contracts will be central in the development of society.