Data61 and Monash claim quantum-safe and privacy-preserving blockchain protocol

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Data61 has announced alongside the Monash Blockchain Technology Centre a blockchain protocol they claim is secure against quantum computers while also protecting the privacy of its users and their transactions.

The protocol, MatRiCT, is patented by CSIRO and now licensed to Australian cryptocurrency developer HCash.

Hcash will be incorporating the protocol into its own systems and transforming its existing cryptocurrency, HyperCash, into one that is claimed to be quantum safe and privacy protecting, but according to Data61, the technology could be applied to more than cryptocurrencies.

It highlighted potential applications such as digital health, banking, finance, and government services, as well as services which may require accountability to prevent illegal use.

Data61 researchers said blockchain-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are vulnerable to attacks by quantum computers, as they are capable of performing complex calculations and processing substantial amounts of data to break blockchains.

“Quantum computing can compromise the signatures or keys used to authenticate transactions, as well as the integrity of blockchains themselves,” research fellow at Monash University and Data61’s Distributed Systems Security Group Dr Muhammed Esgin said.

“Once this occurs, the underlying cryptocurrency could be altered, leading to theft, double spend or forgery, and users’ privacy may be jeopardised.

“Existing cryptocurrencies tend to either be quantum-safe or privacy-preserving, but for the first time our new protocol achieves both in a practical and deployable way.” 

See also: How blockchain will disrupt business (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

MatRiCT is based on “hard lattice problems”, which are quantum secure, and introduces three features: The shortest quantum-secure ring signature scheme to date, which Data61 said authenticates activity and transactions using only the signature; a zero-knowledge proof method, which it said hides sensitive transaction information; and an auditability function, which is touted as helping prevent illegal cryptocurrency use.

“The protocol is designed to address the inefficiencies in previous blockchain protocols such as complex authentication procedures, thereby speeding up calculation efficiencies and using less energy to resolve, leading to significant cost savings,” Monash University quantum-safe cryptography expert Associate Professor Ron Steinfeld said.

“Our new protocol is significantly faster and more efficient, as the identity signatures and proof required when conducting transactions are the shortest to date, thereby requiring less data communication, speeding up the transaction processing time, and reducing the amount of energy required to complete transactions.”

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