Long Finance (February 2018), 61 pages.
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Long Finance's Distributed Futures research programme is pleased to announce the launch the report “The Quantum Countdown: Quantum Computing & The Future Of Distributed Ledger Encryption”, another in a series of exciting projects in the programme.
Smart Ledgers are based on a combination of mutual distributed ledgers (aka blockchain: multi-organisational databases with a super audit trail) with embedded programming and sensing, thus permitting semi-intelligent, autonomous transactions. Smart Ledgers are touted as a technology for fair play in a globalised world. There are numerous projects building trade systems using this technology with announcements from governments, shipping firms, large IT firms, and the like. The research is intended to inform policy makers and business people making decisions about moving towards these systems.
This report is about a major threat to the security of Smart Ledgers and other systems from quantum computing. If and when large-scale quantum computers become available, there is a concern that such computers would be able to break the security of widely-used public key cryptography, which allows remote parties to communicate securely and authenticate transactions and data without sharing a secret key in advance. Fortunately, there are good solutions to this problem, and better ones are emerging. The hard questions for individual computer system operators involve when and how to address the problem, given its uncertain timing and the evolving solutions. The report seeks to explain the problem in detail for both non-technical and technical readers, starting with the essentials of cryptography, quantum computing, and how quantum computing threatens public key cryptography. It then considers the available solutions to the problem, and provides frameworks for deciding when and how to respond to it.
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