Long-range Attacks on Proof-of-Stake (PoS) Blockchains w/ Valeria Nikolaenko | a16z crypto research | Summary and Q&A

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August 13, 2022
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Long-range Attacks on Proof-of-Stake (PoS) Blockchains w/ Valeria Nikolaenko | a16z crypto research

TL;DR

Long-range attacks are a significant threat in proof-of-stake blockchains, and existing solutions such as checkpointing and key evolving cryptography have limitations. A new approach called Wrinkle proposes user-based consensus where users vote on the current state of the blockchain within their transactions to mitigate long-range attacks.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the most challenging attack to combat in proof-of-stake blockchains?

The long-range attack is considered the most challenging attack to combat in proof-of-stake blockchains. It allows attackers to create forks of the blockchain using historical validators' keys and disrupt consensus.

Q: How can validators' keys be compromised in proof-of-stake blockchains?

Validators' keys can be compromised through various means, including hacking or social engineering. If an attacker gains control of a validator's key, they can corrupt the validator and disrupt consensus in the blockchain.

Q: What is the purpose of checkpointing in mitigating long-range attacks?

Checkpointing involves committing the hash of a block or epoch to a centralized mechanism or a proof-of-work blockchain. It helps users synchronize to the correct fork and prevents long-range attacks from creating alternative forks.

Q: How does Wrinkle propose to mitigate long-range attacks?

Wrinkle suggests user-based consensus, where users include a vote on the last epoch within their transactions. By involving users in the consensus process, the security of the blockchain is enhanced, as more keys are protecting it.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Long-range attacks are unique to proof-of-stake blockchains and pose a significant threat to their security and integrity.

  • Existing solutions to mitigate long-range attacks, such as checkpointing and key evolving cryptography, have limitations and are not entirely effective.

  • Wrinkle, a new approach, suggests user-based consensus where users include a vote on the current state of the blockchain within their transactions, providing an additional layer of security against long-range attacks.

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