Quantum Resistant Ledger uses XMSS Cryptography
On April 23rd, I interviewed Adam Koltun, Marketing Manager of The Quantum Resistant Ledger (QRL). We discussed, in detail, the impact quantum computers will have on the future digital world and how the development of the QRL platform could contribute to this paradigm shift. Interestingly, QRL aims to be one of the very few quantum resistant cryptos. What this means is that its network will be able to withstand “classical and quantum computing attacks“.
Covering the basics of quantum computing and related concepts is beyond the scope of this article, so the interested reader can refer to useful links found below. Notably, QRL is among the few crypto platforms that use XMSS cryptography, which is not what Bitcoin and various other cryptocurrencies use.
Current Stage / State of Quantum Computing
According to Adam, there is presently “no meaningful intersection” between cryptos and quantum computing. However, he also pointed to the steady rate of development of this nascent technology; in fact, Google has reportedly created the first 72-qubit gate-based superconducting system. This is a giant leap from the 50-qubit processor by IBM.
The University of Massachusetts Boston graduate confirmed that quantum computing technology is progressing at a steady rate. While its current state poses no threat to current Blockchain-based systems, Adam says it’s “general rate of development is the real threat” due to its “fairly rapid acceleration”. Roughly, the QRL manager said, the number of qubits has been doubling every 18 months of late. And, he explained that given that each qubit exponentially increases the computational power of a quantum computing system, the actual processing power is increasing even faster.
In the Next 5-10 Years
The Quantum Resistant Ledger spokesman said that quantum computers might reach the stage of development in the next 5-10 years that would potentially enable them to attack the majority of today’s blockchain-powered networks. Adam noted that Shor’s algorithm, formulated in 1994, and related integer factoring methods can be implemented using a quantum computer. In simple terms, once the actual hardware and software needed to run these algorithms has been developed, they would be able to crack the cryptographic encryption techniques that Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrency platforms use.
The anticipated problems or issues that will arise as a result of the emergence of this technology can be compared to the effects of global warming and rising floodwater, according to Adam. He then stated that once these mature quantum computers become a reality, it will be like a “light switch” and will have the “all of a sudden” effect. Clearly, we need to do all we can right now to prepare ourselves for when this happens.
Quantum Resistant Ledger Platforms – Preparing for the Future
There will be “no time to play catch up”, Adam says, and the current online security systems and protocols, such as SSL, will no longer be able to provide the same type of protection that they used to. That’s only if we do not prepare ourselves accordingly for this imminent change. The security of centralized systems is the least likely to be compromised because of quantum computers.
That’s due to several solid reasons that Adam mentioned; one being that giant companies like Google and IBM are actually behind the development of quantum computers, so they will make sure that their services, such as Gmail and Google Chrome, will be modified in a manner which will make them resistant to “quantum attacks.” This makes sense because not only do these companies have the human resources necessary to handle such a task, but also the financial resources.
Decentralized Systems Much More Difficult to Migrate
There’s a lot of hype right now about how great decentralized systems are, however, Adam informed me that users of decentralized blockchain networks would have to manually transfer/migrate their private keys and other private information over to a quantum resistant network. Users of centralized networks would, on the other hand, not need to do much to transition, since it would be taken care of by their centrally managed systems.
While continuing to discuss quantum computers and Quantum Resistant Ledger platforms, I asked Adam if Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency platforms would get hacked once this new technology becomes available. His response was that it depends on who gets their hands on it. Considering that the organizations that are controlling its development are companies like Google, IBM, US / Chinese / Russian governments, they might not do something like this. Furthermore, a company would be motivated to announce via a press release that it has developed the best quantum computer, so that their stock price goes up. But governments would probably keep something like this a secret for as long as they could, according to Adam.
Cryptocurrencies Pose No Threat to Microsoft Et al.
The QRL Marketing manager stated that cryptocurrencies are not a significant threat to Microsoft or other giant tech companies, because they serve different use cases. There are some things, though, such as the increase in cross-border payments using digital currencies that could destabilize or disrupt the current global financial system. But this would still be negligible given the relatively small size of the crypto market, compared to the multi-trillion dollar traditional financial system.
Additionally, cryptocurrencies will not likely replace fiat currencies according to Adam. He thinks that there is something about holding physical money in your hands that digital currencies cannot offer. Also, Adam predicts that the digital representation of fiat currency will increase in the future.
Quantum Resistant Ledger Development
The QRL founders originally proposed the idea of their platform in Bitcointalk forums. However, due to extreme difficulty in reaching consensus within the Bitcoin community, the founder of the Quantum Resistant Ledger platform decided to launch his own project. That’s how this crypto-platform’s development all began.
The QRL codebase is completely open-source, like many other crypto projects, and currently programmers can only use its testnet to write code. Instead of developing a completely new programming language for their platform, the QRL team (mostly developers only at this point) decided to use the more standard and reliable object-oriented programming languages such as C++, Python, and Google’s gRPC.
This, Adam explains, will remove the entry barrier of having to learn a brand new programming language, something developers have to do if they want to program on the Ethereum blockchain, which uses Solidity. Another benefit of not trying to “reinvent the wheel” here is that developers can “piggyback off testing” that has already been done by companies like Google. Adam also noted that in line with best practice, the Quantum Resistant Ledger codebase is adequately modularized. This makes the coding process more efficient.
Should the current Blockchain Signature Scheme used by QRL become vulnerable, then Adam says it would be as simple as “swapping it out” of their current network and replacing it with another one. Perhaps the larger cryptocurrency community should look more closely into the imminent security issues their platforms could face in another 5 or 10 years, assuming they are not doing so already.
Already, the Quantum Resistant Ledger platform has amassed a marketcap of $65 million. As Adam noted, this is a lot of money and his team is confident that the mainnet will be highly secure, because there are two major audits coming up to ensure that proper security features have been implemented. The QRL team describes the process of building a crypto-platform to that of “building a house”, where you must have a solid foundation.
Although there is still more I could tell you about my conversation with Adam, I will leave that for another article or interview, as we at Crypto Core Media look forward to future correspondence with the Quantum Resistant Ledger team. Also, I’d like to thank Adam for taking the time to speak with me.
https://eprint.iacr.org/2011/484.pdf (XMSS Cryptography)
http://harleypatton.com/papers/Shor’s.pdf (Shor’s Algorithm)