Vitalik Buterin Proposes a Quantum-Resistant Hard Fork for Ethereum

Vitalik Buterin proposes a hard fork strategy for Ethereum to protect funds against quantum computing attacks, sparking a community-wide discussion about quantum security.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin proposed a hard fork strategy. This preventative measure is designed to protect users’ funds in the event that quantum computers become capable of breaking through current cryptographic defenses.

The proposal, outlined in a discussion on the Ethereum Research Forum, underscores the urgency of preparing for the ability of quantum computers to solve problems like the discrete logarithm, which underlies the security of many current cryptographic algorithms, including those used by Ethereum.

The proposed hard fork will include the following steps:

  1. Restoring all blocks after detection of large-scale quantum attacks.
  2. Disable traditional Externally Owned Account (EOA) transactions to prevent additional vulnerability.
  3. Introducing a new transaction type for smart contract wallets, in line with the expected RIP-7560 standard.
  4. Implementation of a new transaction type or operation code allowing users to send STARK proofs demonstrating knowledge of a private pre-image and public address obtained through approved hash functions. The user’s account code will then be replaced with a new, quantum-resistant validation code.

The conversation in the Ethereum community is informed by a set of expert data. One participant shared a visual aid to help understand the proof statement, while others discussed existing quantum-secure backups for wallets and the integration of pre-images into ECDSA signatures to create non-repudiation signature schemes.

Some community members have warned that if quantum computers capable of cracking Ethereum wallets are already in malicious hands, it may be too late to distinguish between legitimate owners and attackers. They suggest that instead of relying on post-quantum state algorithms, Ethereum should use NIST-standardized ones in a hybrid mode with a classical algorithm, such as combining Dilithium with ed25519. However, this would increase block sizes due to the large signature and public key sizes of current post-quantum schemes.

Others have proposed the development of machine learning systems to monitor and detect unusual transactions as an early warning system to trigger a safe fork.

The community’s response underscores the importance of staying ahead in the security arms race against quantum computing. Innovations such as Lamport signatures and ERC 4337-based quantum-resistant smart contract wallets are already in development, as is the integration of quantum-safe cryptographic measures into other digital signature applications.

This Ethereum community initiative reflects the broader blockchain ecosystem’s commitment to resilience and adaptability in the face of emerging technological threats. As quantum computing advances, the blockchain sector’s proactive stance on security promises to be a critical factor in its long-term viability and reliability.

The Ethereum team and community’s proactive approach to quantum security demonstrates a clear recognition of the challenges ahead and a willingness to address them head-on. This ongoing conversation will likely shape the future of Ethereum’s infrastructure and set a precedent for other blockchain platforms.

Leave a Comment