On the insecurity of quantum Bitcoin mining

04/22/2018 ∙ by Or Sattath, et al. ∙ 0

Grover's algorithm provides quantum computers a quadratic advantage over classical computers for searching in an arbitrary data-set. Bitcoin mining falls into this category of a search problem. It has been previously argued that the only side-effect of quantum mining would be an increased difficulty, due to this quadratic speed-up which can be applied to Bitcoin mining. In this work we argue that a crucial argument in the analysis of Bitcoin's security breaks down when quantum mining is performed. Classically, a Bitcoin fork occurs rarely, when two miners find a block almost at the same time: only if both miners are unaware of the other's block, due to propagation time effects. The situation differs dramatically when quantum miners use Grover's algorithm. Grover's algorithm repeatedly applies a procedure called a Grover iteration. More iterations provide a quadratically higher chance of finding a block. Crucially, a miner does not have to choose how many iterations to apply in advance. Suppose Alice receives Bob's new block. To maximize her revenue, she should stop applying Grover iterations and measure her state. Her hope is that her block (rather than Bob's) would become part of the longest chain. This strong correlation between the miners' actions, and the fact that they all measure their state at the same time, may lead to more forks. This is known as a security risk for Bitcoin. We propose a mechanism which, we conjecture, prohibits this form of quantum mining, and circumvents the high rate of forks.

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