International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Giorgos Panagiotakos


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.
Ofelimos: Combinatorial Optimization via Proof-of-Useful-Work 📺
Minimizing the energy cost and carbon footprint of the Bitcoin blockchain and related protocols is one of the most widely identified open questions in the cryptocurrency space. Substituting the proof-of-work (PoW) primitive in Nakamoto's longest chain protocol with a {\em proof of useful work} (PoUW) has been long theorized as an ideal solution in many respects but, to this day, the concept still lacks a convincingly secure realization. In this work we put forth {\em Ofelimos}, a novel PoUW-based blockchain protocol whose consensus mechanism simultaneously realizes a decentralized optimization-problem solver. Our protocol is built around a novel local search algorithm, which we call Doubly Parallel Local Search (DPLS), that is especially crafted to suit implementation as the PoUW component of our blockchain protocol. We provide a thorough security analysis of our protocol and additionally present metrics that reflect the usefulness of the system. As an illustrative example we show how DPLS can implement a variant of WalkSAT and experimentally demonstrate its competitiveness with respect to a vanilla WalkSAT implementation. In this way, our work paves the way for safely using blockchain systems as generic optimization engines for a variety of hard optimization problems for which a publicly verifiable solution is desired.
Resource-Restricted Cryptography: Revisiting MPC Bounds in the Proof-of-Work Era 📺
Traditional bounds on synchronous Byzantine agreement (BA) and secure multi-party computation (MPC) establish that in absence of a private correlated-randomness setup, such as a PKI, protocols can tolerate up to $t<n/3$ of the parties being malicious. The introduction of ``Nakamoto style'' consensus, based on Proof-of-Work (PoW) blockchains, put forth a somewhat different flavor of BA, showing that even a majority of corrupted parties can be tolerated as long as the majority of the computation resources remain at honest hands. This assumption on honest majority of some resource was also extended to other resources such as stake, space, etc., upon which blockchains achieving Nakamoto-style consensus were built that violated the $t<n/3$ bound in terms of number of party corruptions. The above state of affairs begs the question of whether the seeming mismatch is due to different goals and models, or whether the resource-restricting paradigm can be generically used to circumvent the $n/3$ lower bound. In this work we study this question and formally demonstrate how the above paradigm changes the rules of the game in cryptographic definitions. First, we abstract the core properties that the resource-restricting paradigm offers by means of a functionality {\em wrapper}, in the UC framework, which when applied to a standard point-to-point network restricts the ability (of the adversary) to send new messages. We show that such a wrapped network can be implemented using the resource-restricting paradigm---concretely, using PoWs and honest majority of computing power---and that the traditional $t<n/3$ impossibility results fail when the parties have access to such a network. Our construction is in the {\em fresh} Common Reference String (CRS) model---i.e., it assumes a CRS which becomes available to the parties at the same time as to the adversary. We then present constructions for BA and MPC, which given access to such a network tolerate $t<n/2$ corruptions without assuming a private correlated randomness setup. We also show how to remove the freshness assumption from the CRS by leveraging the power of a random oracle. Our MPC protocol achieves the standard notion of MPC security, where parties might have dedicated roles, as is for example the case in Oblivious Transfer protocols. This is in contrast to existing solutions basing MPC on PoWs, which associate roles to pseudonyms but do not link these pseudonyms with the actual parties.
Blockchains from Non-Idealized Hash Functions 📺
Juan A. Garay Aggelos Kiayias Giorgos Panagiotakos
The formalization of concrete, non-idealized hash function properties sufficient to prove the security of Bitcoin and related protocols has been elusive, as all previous security analyses of blockchain protocols have been performed in the random oracle model. In this paper we identify three such properties, and then construct a blockchain protocol whose security can be reduced to them in the standard model assuming a common reference string (CRS). The three properties are: {\em collision resistance}, {\em computational randomness extraction} and {\em iterated hardness}. While the first two properties have been extensively studied, iterated hardness has been empirically stress-tested since the rise of Bitcoin; in fact, as we demonstrate in this paper, any attack against it (assuming the other two properties hold) results in an attack against Bitcoin. In addition, iterated hardness puts forth a new class of search problems which we term {\em iterated search problems} (ISP). ISPs enable the concise and modular specification of blockchain protocols, and may be of independent interest.
Bootstrapping the Blockchain, with Applications to Consensus and Fast PKI Setup
The Bitcoin backbone protocol (Eurocrypt 2015) extracts basic properties of Bitcoin’s underlying blockchain data structure, such as “common prefix” and “chain quality,” and shows how fundamental applications including consensus and a robust public transaction ledger can be built on top of them. The underlying assumptions are “proofs of work” (POWs), adversarial hashing power strictly less than 1/2 and no adversarial pre-computation—or, alternatively, the existence of an unpredictable “genesis” block.In this paper we first show how to remove the latter assumption, presenting a “bootstrapped” Bitcoin-like blockchain protocol relying on POWs that builds genesis blocks “from scratch” in the presence of adversarial pre-computation. Importantly, the round complexity of the genesis block generation process is independent of the number of participants.Next, we consider applications of our construction, including a PKI generation protocol and a consensus protocol without trusted setup assuming an honest majority (in terms of computational power). Previous results in the same setting (unauthenticated parties, no trusted setup, POWs) required a round complexity linear in the number of participants.

Program Committees

PKC 2021