Here’s What Vitalik Buterin Proposes in Case of a Quantum Emergency

In a recent publication on Ethereum Research dated March 9, Buterin explored the hypothetical situation of a “quantum emergency” potentially arising as soon as tomorrow.

Speculating on the implications of such an event, Buterin outlined Ethereum’s readiness to tackle the challenge head-on.

Shielding Against Possible Threats

Speculating on the hypothetical scenario of a quantum emergency, Buterin stated, “Suppose that it is announced tomorrow that quantum computers are available, and bad actors already have access to them and are able to use them to steal users’ funds.”

Buterin argued that Ethereum is already “well-positioned” to give a strong defense against a potential quantum computing attack. He proposed a simple solution involving a hard fork of the blockchain and introducing new transaction types.

“The blockchain would have to hard fork and users would have to download new wallet software, but few users would lose their funds,” Buterin explained, outlining the process of recovery in the face of a quantum threat.

According to him, the main challenge with quantum computers lies in their impact on cryptographic systems such as Ethereum addresses. These wallets are derived from private keys using elliptic curve multiplication. Quantum computers can reverse this process, making elliptic curve cryptography vulnerable. However, hash functions like Ethereum’s keccak remain secure even in such a situation.

Quantum Computing Resistant Transactions

Buterin elaborated that Ethereum developers plan to introduce a new transaction type as part of the RIP-7560 protocol, enabling transactions from smart contract wallets. When quantum computing threatens security, an Ethereum wallet transaction could expose the user’s private and public keys.

The proposed transaction type, integral to the quantum-resistant EIP, would use Winternitz signatures and STARKs to transition existing wallets to new validation codes. Based on ERC-4337 account abstraction, a core technology of smart contract wallets, this code aims to prevent private key exposure during transactions, rendering these accounts resistant to quantum attacks.

Buterin also reassured users that those who have never approved a transaction from an Ethereum wallet are already safe from potential quantum exploits, as only the wallet address has been publicly available. Additionally, he emphasized that the infrastructure required to implement such a hard fork could begin development immediately.

The introduction of quantum computing has long been a concern for the cryptocurrency industry, as it threatens blockchain encryption. However, many experts, including those from Google and IBM, predict widespread quantum computing capabilities won’t materialize until at least 2029.

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