Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies



Seminal paper
Pramod’s Group (UIUC, DTR, Thirdhash)

Abstract: Transaction throughput, confirmation latency and confirmation reliability are fundamental performance measures of any blockchain system in addition to its security. In a decentralized setting, these measures are limited by two underlying physical network attributes: communication capacity and speed-of-light propagation delay. Existing systems operate far away from these physical limits. In this work we introduce Prism, a new proof-of-work blockchain protocol, which can achieve 1) security against up to 50% adversarial hashing power; 2) optimal throughput up to the capacity C of the network; 3) confirmation latency for honest transactions proportional to the propagation delay D, with confirmation error probability exponentially small in CD ; 4) eventual total ordering of all transactions. Our approach to the design of this protocol is based on deconstructing the blockchain into its basic functionalities and systematically scaling up these functionalities to approach their physical limits

Abstract: A blockchain is a database of sequential events that is maintained by a distributed group of nodes. A key consensus problem in blockchains is that of determining the next block (data element) in the sequence. Many blockchains address this by electing a new node to propose each new block. The new block is (typically) appended to the tip of the proposer’s local blockchain, and subsequently broadcast to the rest of the network. Without network delay (or adversarial behavior), this procedure would give a perfect chain, since each proposer would have the same view of the blockchain. A major challenge in practice is forking. Due to network delays, a proposer may not yet have the most recent block, and may therefore create a side chain that branches from the middle of the main chain. Forking reduces throughput, since only one a single main chain can survive, and all other blocks are discarded. We propose a new P2P protocol for blockchains called Barracuda, in which each proposer, prior to proposing a block, polls ℓ other nodes for their local blocktree information. Under a canonical stochastic network model, we prove that this lightweight primitive strongly ameliorates the informational imbalance: the resulting throughput is as if the entire network were a factor of ℓ faster. We provide guidelines on how to implement Barracuda in practice, with a specific emphasis on proof-of-stake blockchains, guaranteeing robustness against several real-world factors.

Abstract: Proof-of-stake (PoS) is a promising approach for designing efficient blockchains, where block proposers are randomly chosen with probability proportional to their stake. A primary concern with PoS systems is the « rich getting richer » phenomenon, whereby wealthier nodes are more likely to get elected, and hence reap the block reward, making them even wealthier. In this paper, we introduce the notion of equitability, which quantifies how much a proposer can amplify her stake compared to her initial investment. Even with everyone following protocol (i.e., honest behavior), we show that existing methods of allocating block rewards lead to poor equitability, as does initializing systems with small stake pools and/or large rewards relative to the stake pool. We identify a \emph{geometric} reward function, which we prove is maximally equitable over all choices of reward functions under honest behavior and bound the deviation for strategic actions; the proofs involve the study of optimization problems and stochastic dominances of Polya urn processes, and are of independent mathematical interest. These results allow us to provide a systematic framework to choose the parameters of a practical incentive system for PoS cryptocurrencies.

Abstract: With the growing usage of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, many scalability challenges have emerged. A promising scaling solution, exemplified by the Lightning Network, uses a network of bidirectional payment channels that allows fast transactions between two parties. However, routing payments on these networks efficiently is non-trivial, since payments require finding paths with sufficient funds, and channels can become unidirectional over time blocking further transactions through them. Today’s payment channel networks exacerbate these problems by attempting to deliver all payments atomically. In this paper, we present the Spider network, a new packet-switched architecture for payment channel networks. Spider splits payments into transaction units and transmits them over time across different paths. Spider uses congestion control, payment scheduling, and imbalance-aware routing to optimize delivery of payments. Our results show that Spider improves the volume and number of successful payments on the network by 10-45% and 5-40% respectively compared to state-of-the-art approaches.

Abstract: Today’s blockchains do not scale in a meaningful sense. As more nodes join the system, the efficiency of the system (computation, communication, and storage) degrades, or at best stays constant. A leading idea for enabling blockchains to scale efficiency is the notion of sharding: different subsets of nodes handle different portions of the blockchain, thereby reducing the load for each individual node. However, existing sharding proposals achieve efficiency scaling by compromising on trust – corrupting the nodes in a given shard will lead to the permanent loss of the corresponding portion of data. We observe that sharding is similar to replication coding, which is known to be inefficient and fragile in the coding theory community. In this paper, we demonstrate a new protocol for coded storage and computation in blockchains. In particular, we propose PolyShard: « polynomially coded sharding » scheme that achieves information-theoretic upper bounds on the efficiency of the storage, system throughput, as well as on trust, thus enabling a truly scalable system. We provide simulation results that numerically demonstrate the performance improvement over state of the arts, and the scalability of the PolyShard system. Finally, we discuss potential enhancements, and highlight practical considerations in building such a system.

Abstract: Recent work has demonstrated significant anonymity vulnerabilities in Bitcoin’s networking stack. In particular, the current mechanism for broadcasting Bitcoin transactions allows third-party observers to link transactions to the IP addresses that originated them. This lays the groundwork for low-cost, large-scale deanonymization attacks. In this work, we present Dandelion++, a first-principles defense against large-scale deanonymization attacks with near-optimal information-theoretic guarantees. Dandelion++ builds upon a recent proposal called Dandelion that exhibited similar goals. However, in this paper, we highlight simplifying assumptions made in Dandelion, and show how they can lead to serious deanonymization attacks when violated. In contrast, Dandelion++ defends against stronger adversaries that are allowed to disobey protocol. Dandelion++ is lightweight, scalable, and completely interoperable with the existing Bitcoin network. We evaluate it through experiments on Bitcoin’s mainnet (i.e., the live Bitcoin network) to demonstrate its interoperability and low broadcast latency overhead

Abstract: Bitcoin is a popular alternative to fiat money, widely used for its perceived anonymity properties. However, recent attacks on Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer (P2P) network demonstrated that its gossip-based flooding protocols, which are used to ensure global network consistency, may enable user deanonymization—the linkage of a user’s IP address with her pseudonym in the Bitcoin network. In 2015, the Bitcoin community responded to these attacks by changing the network’s flooding mechanism to a different protocol, known as diffusion. However, no systematic justification was provided for the change, and it is unclear if diffusion actually improves the system’s anonymity. In this paper, we model the Bitcoin networking stack and analyze its anonymity properties, both pre- and post-2015. In doing so, we consider new adversarial models and spreading mechanisms that have not been previously studied in the source-finding literature. We theoretically prove that Bitcoin’s networking protocols (both pre- and post-2015) offer poor anonymity properties on networks with a regular-tree topology. We validate this claim in simulation on a 2015 snapshot of the real Bitcoin P2P network topology

Papers on Consensus

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