With quantum computing technologies thriving rapidly, scientists try to assess ways and methods to counteract the negative effects these new technologies could have on the blockchain industry. We spoke to Dr. Duncan Wong, former associate professor of computer science at the City University of Hong Kong and expert from Abelian, world-first post-quantum layer 1 blockchain, and discussed what steps science is making now to prevent a catastrophe in the future.
Q: Quantum computers are still far away from mass adoption even on a corporate level. Are they a real threat to blockchains?
DW: Just in December 2022, IBM announced its 1,000-qubit universal quantum computer, and in 36 months, IBM is planning to roll out its >4,000-qubit quantum computing module. Knowing that Google and many state-owned labs, as well as well-funded startups, are expediting their development on universal quantum computers, America’s NIST has already been working on standardizing PQCrypto (post-quantum cryptography) algorithms for 5 years. In July 2022, some post-quantum cryptographic algorithms were finalized and in 2024, the first set of post-quantum algorithms will be officially published for all government departments and institutions to adopt. As we can see, the post-quantum upgrade of computer systems is not just a blockchain-only initiative but a global one. Furthermore, we are long overdue for offering quantum-resistant blockchain networks. Similar to the concern of the hack-now-decrypt-later threat that all the non-quantum-resistant encryption systems are suffering now, non-quantum-resistant blockchains are suffering a similar concern that digital assets on those Blockchains will no longer have any guarantee on their ownership once the underlying digital signature algorithms are compromised by quantum computers.
Q: How does your quantum-resistant blockchain differ from existing blockchain technologies?
DW: Existing blockchain technologies are not designed to be secure against attacks launched from a quantum computer. For a modest quantum computer, existing blockchain technologies, which cannot be broken by conventional computers for thousands of years, can be broken in a matter of hours. Quantum-resistant blockchain technologies are designed to be not only secure against attacks from conventional computers but can also defend against attacks from quantum computers. As quantum computing technologies are advancing rapidly and we are getting close to the time that quantum computers can really rival the security of existing blockchain technologies, standardization bodies such as US’s NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology) have already published quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms for the industry to adopt. It is time to start creating a new generation of blockchain technologies that are quantum-resistant by design.
Q: How does your blockchain compare to other quantum-resistant blockchains in terms of security and scalability?
DW: First of all, there are only a few quantum-resistant blockchains available, and as far as we know, there is no existing one other than Abelian, which is quantum-resistant by design. Abelian is the world’s first quantum-resistant blockchain that has the cryptographic algorithms being provably secure and already publicly peer-reviewed by scholars and cryptographers all over the world. Furthermore, Abelian is also the world’s first quantum-resistant privacy-preserving blockchain which has its own privacy coin, ABEL. Regarding the scalability, Abelian still has room to improve as it is based on POW with GPU mining. Having said that, Abelian is currently building its L2 EVM-equivalent smart contract layer, which supports 1,000 transactions per second. A bridging protocol is also underway for connecting the Abelian mainnet with its L2 network.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced while developing Abelian quantum-resistant blockchain? How did you overcome them?
DW: The biggest challenge while developing the Abelian quantum-resistant blockchain was designing a provably secure cryptographic system that is not only quantum-resistant but can also support privacy-preserving properties which ensure the anonymity and untraceability of wallet addresses and transaction amounts. It took more than 4 years of research for our team to develop the Abelian quantum-resistant blockchain. In order to achieve this objective, the team, with all the world-renowned cryptographers, has completed all the security proofs of the cryptographic systems used in Abelian, and also made them published after being reviewed internationally by scholars and other cryptographers.
Q: What are the potential use cases for your quantum-resistant blockchain? How do you plan on implementing your quantum-resistant blockchain in the real world?
DW: As of the very intrinsic form, Abelian blockchain is positioned itself as the digital gold in the quantum era. Thanks to its security against both conventional computers and quantum computers and also thanks to its decentralization with more than 3,000 miners or full nodes across the globe already, Abelian is the world’s most secure and robust public Blockchain network to protect your assets in the form of its native token ABEL. In addition to this, Abelian is a privacy-preserving network supporting multiple levels of anonymity and untraceability. This makes Abelian the best tool for applications that require privacy assurance. Furthermore, Abelian’s EVM-equivalent L2 is under development. This allows digital assets such as NFTs, stablecoins, and DeFi applications to be quantum-resistant in the very near future.
Q: What do you envision the future of quantum-resistant blockchains to be? How do you envision the adoption of quantum-resistant blockchains evolving over the next 5-10 years?
DW: There will be more and more quantum-resistant blockchains coming up. Technologies with quantum-resistant properties are emerging and the Blockchain industry as a whole is undoubtedly considering quantum-resistant blockchains to be the near future. Abelian is the only and very first, as well as the dominating quantum-resistant blockchain which is privacy-preserving. In the next 5-10 years, quantum-resistant blockchains will be the only survivors and sustainable ones to exist and thrive. Quantum-resistant cryptographic technologies will be widely adopted and there is a lot of opportunities for the Abelian team to contribute to the industry in the next 5 to 10 years.
Q: Do you have any partnerships or collaborations in the works related to your quantum-resistant blockchain?
DW: Since the beginning of the project, the Abelian team has been partnered with research teams from world-renowned universities. The partnership has been continuing for more than 4 years and it has also been expanding to other cryptography research groups. To name a few, those universities include Nanyang Technological University, University of Wollongong, and Texas A&M University. Furthermore, the team has been working closely with CryptoBLK, a Hong Kong-based Web3 Blockchain technology powerhouse, which has a strong track record of building enterprise blockchain systems for financial institutions and R&D projects for central banks such as Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).