International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Peter Hall


Towards Permissionless Consensus in the Standard Model via Fine-Grained Complexity
We investigate the feasibility of {\em permissionless} consensus (aka Byzantine agreement) under standard assumptions. A number of protocols have been proposed to achieve permissionless consensus, most notably based on the Bitcoin protocol; however, to date no protocol is known that can be provably instantiated outside of the random oracle model. In this work, we take the first steps towards achieving permissionless consensus in the standard model. In particular, we demonstrate that worst-case conjectures in fine-grained complexity, in particular the orthogonal vectors conjecture (implied by the Strong Exponential Time Hypothesis), imply permissionless consensus in the random beacon model---a setting where a fresh random value is delivered to all parties at regular intervals. This gives a remarkable win-win result: \emph{either permissionless consensus exists relative to a random beacon, or there are non-trivial worst-case algorithmic speed-ups for a host of natural algorithmic problems} (including $\mathsf{SAT}$). Our protocol achieves resilience against adversaries that control an inverse-polynomial fraction of the honest computational power, i.e.,~adversarial power $A=T^{1-\epsilon}$ for some constant $\epsilon>0$, where $T$ denotes the honest computational power. This relatively low threshold is a byproduct of the slack in the fine-grained complexity conjectures. One technical highlight is the construction of a \emph{Seeded Proof of Work}: a Proof of Work where many (correlated) challenges can be derived from a single short \emph{public} seed, and yet still no non-trivial amortization is possible.
Random Oracle Combiners: Breaking the Concatenation Barrier for Collision-Resistance
Suppose we have two hash functions h1 and h2, but we trust the security of only one of them. To mitigate this worry, we wish to build a hash combiner C^{h1,h2} which is secure so long as one of the underlying hash functions is. This question has been well-studied in the regime of collision resistance. In this case, concatenating the two hash function outputs clearly works. Unfortunately for practice, a long series of works (Boneh and Boyen, CRYPTO’06; Pietrzak, Eurocrypt’07; Pietrzak, Crypto’08) showed no (noticeably) better combiner for collision resistance is possible. In this work, we revisit this pessimistic state of affairs, motivated the observation that collision-resistance is insufficient for many interesting applications of cryptographic hash functions anyway. Thus, we believe (and argue) the right formulation of the “hash combiner” is to build what we call random oracle (RO) combiners, utilizing stronger assumptions for stronger constructions. Indeed, we circumvent the previous lower bounds for collision resistance by constructing a simple length-preserving RO combiner C^{h1,h2}_{Z1,Z2} (M ) = h1(M, Z1) ⊕ h2(M, Z2), where Z1, Z2 are random salts of appropriate length. We show that this extra randomness is necessary for RO combiners, and indeed our construction is somewhat tight with this lower bound. On the negative side, we show that one cannot generically apply the composition theorem to further replace “monolithic” hash functions h1 and h2 by some simpler indifferentiable (such as the Merkle-Damgard transformation) from smaller components, such as fixed-length compression functions. Finally, despite this issue, we directly prove collision resistance of the Merkle-Damgard variant of our combiner, where h1 and h2 are replaced by iterative Merkle-Damgard hashes applied to a fixed-length compression function. Thus, we can still subvert the concatenation barrier for collision-resistance combiners while utilizing practically small fixed-length components underneath.
Nonmalleable Digital Lockers and Robust Fuzzy Extractors in the Plain Model 📺
We give the first constructions in the plain model of 1) nonmalleable digital lockers (Canetti and Varia, TCC 2009) and 2) robust fuzzy extractors (Boyen et al., Eurocrypt 2005) that secure sources with entropy below 1/2 of their length. Constructions were previously only known for both primitives assuming random oracles or a common reference string (CRS). We define a new primitive called a nonmalleable point function obfuscation with associated data. The associated data is public but protected from all tampering. We construct a digital locker using a similar paradigm. Our construction achieves nonmalleability over the output point by placing a CRS into the associated data and using an appropriate non-interactive zero-knowledge proof. Tampering is protected against the input point over low-degree polynomials and over any tampering to the output point and associated data. Our constructions achieve virtual black box security. These constructions are then used to create robust fuzzy extractors that can support low-entropy sources in the plain model. By using the geometric structure of a syndrome secure sketch (Dodis et al., SIAM Journal on Computing 2008), the adversary's tampering function can always be expressed as a low-degree polynomial; thus, the protection provided by the constructed nonmalleable objects suffices.