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Researchers Discover How To Automate Accountability On The Blockchain

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“The (virtual) gold rush is on, and as in the Wild West of yore, the outlaws are ever present,” wrote blockchain developers and academics in a recent paper, Polygraph: Accountable Byzantine Agreement. Luckily, these researchers have have discovered a way to detect and punish dishonest blockchain users.

The authors — Vincent Gramoli and Pierre Civit of the University of Sydney, and Seth Gilbert of the National University of Singapore — developed the Polygraph protocol, which automates accountability in blockchains to hold participants accountable for double spending, a notoriously knotty issue in cryptography.

Though the double spend problem was supposedly solved by Satoshi’s white paper, published in 2008, the researchers discovered that disagreements caused by blockchain forks can lead to double spending if the resulting branches have conflicting transactions.

They cite a zombie case:

“Byzantine nodes can override the General Polygraph Protocol by proposing directly two conflicting views to two different clients to then perform a double-spending attack. The coalition does not participate to the consensus in order to violate the liveness property…. Note that safety is also violated: When a client invokes the read() primitive, the coalition can answer arbitrary values, despite the non-termination of the legitimate consensus. The client is supposed to trust the coalition, like all the other clients who can forever receive a different output for the read() primitive. Hence, for t ≥ n − t0, the eventual prefix property is violated. This makes the blockchain vulnerable to a double-spending attack.”

Yes, the paper is scholarly, but it also provides pragmatic solutions to real problems in current consensus mechanisms.

The group considers the growing threat of centralization on blockchains, caused by the collectivizing of hashing power. Under traditional Byzantine protocol agreements, if one party amasses more than one-third of total mining output they gain decision making authority. As an aside, the authors note that the largest Bitcoin mining pool today controls approximately 19 percent of total hashing power.

“We need a new sheriff in town to bring the guilty parties to justice. What if, instead of preventing bad behavior by a party that controls too much of the network power, we guarantee accountability,” write the authors.

Much in the way we prevent crime in the real world, we can prevent bad blockchain behavior via “defense-in-depth” — the basic Byzantine agreement protocol that prevents usurpation if the attacker has less than one-third of network control or if the network infrastructure is working to pass messages in time.

“Byzantine agreement protocols act as the locks on the bank doors, preventing the gangs from making off with the loot,” they wrote.

However, when these guarantees fail — and the authors suggest they can and do — the Polygraph protocol will intercept malicious behavior.

The Polygraph’s basic algorithm is based on the Byzantine agreement protocol, but goes further in that proceeds through asynchronous rounds, or a vote that receives democratic imput.

“First, a reliable broadcaster is used to distribute the proposal values. Then, a second phase of communication is used to determine whether enough processes have converged on a single value. Finally the processes decide, if they can; and if not, they update their estimate in an attempt to converge on a single value.”

This Town Isn’t Big Enough

If the process determines that someone is pursuing illegal actions, the consensus can vote them off the network.

“Accountability has been overlooked in blockchains but it is actually key to security,” said Gramoli, who also serves as Red Belly Blockchain CEO. “The industry cannot accept blockchain to be a simple distributed system where valuable assets vanish as soon as a third of the participants form a coalition.”

Red Belly Blockchain has been funded by the Australian Research Council and developed by researchers of the Concurrent Systems Research Group at the University of Sydney and Data61-CSIRO.

Photo by Xiang Gao on Unsplash

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Bitcoin Retakes $11,000 Following Turbulent Week in Crypto

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Charts Courtesy of Coin360.com

Charts Courtesy of Coin360.com

July 20 — Bitcoin (BTC) has retaken the $11,000 price point on the heels of a turbulent week. 

Charts Courtesy of Coin360.com

Charts Courtesy of Coin360.com

After a bull market at the end of June brought the price of BTC to almost $14,000, the coin had largely been maintaining between $10,000 and $13,000 for most of the past month, briefly cracking $11,000 on July 15 before slipping below the $10,000 price point on July 16. For the past three days, BTC has been in the $10,000 range, but had faltered at the $11,000 resistance until now.

Charts Courtesy of Coin360.com

Charts Courtesy of Coin360.com

The past week has seen some major hurdles for cryptocurrency at large, particularly within the United States. On July 11, President Donald Trump voiced his opposition to cryptocurrencies, particularly BTC and Facebook’s planned Libra, in a series of tweets, saying:

“I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air.” 

Trump’s tweets came days before hearings on Facebook’s Libra before the US Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, July 16 and the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, July 17. The two hearings left little doubt as to Congress’s attitude toward Libra, which was overwhelmingly negative. Representative Madeleine Dean commented:

“It’s tough to trust when the collection, storage and misuse of the information of your customers generated a $5 billion fine.”

While Libra’s outlook may be bleak, the significance of the hearings for Bitcoin — with a market cap of $196,266,374,749 as of press time, the largest cryptocurrency — has remained unclear. 

Today’s price rally may mean that the storm has passed for BTC.





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Coinbase CEO Wants Firm to Move Beyond Trading in Next 5 Years

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Brian Armstrong, CEO of major American crypto exchange and wallet service Coinbase,  believes that the firm will be less about trading and more about adoption five years from now.

Armstrong wants the firm to connect people in crypto industry

 In an AMA session on July 19, Armstrong presented his vision of the company in five years, claiming that he sees Coinbase as not just a crypto trading service provider, but rather a more universal entity driving adoption to crypto.

Armstrong pointed out Coinbase’s mission to help grow the global crypto economy by connecting people in the market and expanding crypto community to help people use cryptocurrencies for more than just buying and selling. In this regard, Armstrong cited some recent Coinbase developments, such as incentivized crypto educational program Coinbase Earn, as well as preparations to soon enable crypto lending and margin trading on Coinbase. Armstrong explained:

“In five years I hope that we’ll have it even further beyond that. There’ll be thousands of companies that’ll be crypto-first.”

Armstrong supports people who left Coinbase to run their own crypto projects

As a part of Coinbase’s crypto adoption driver mission, Armstrong has also expressed his positive stance to former Coinbase employees who decided to leave the company to launch a new successful crypto project. Coinbase CEO noted the existing term of Coinbase mafia, recalling roughly ten people who have quit Coinbase to run successful crypto companies.

Armstrong appeared to encourage these former employees, claiming that he really wants people to learn from Coinbase and spread their knowledge to bring more adoption. “We‘re just gonna keep doing more and more of that,” Armstrong said, still adding that Coinbase is a multi product company.

On July 12, Armstrong said that a recent anti-Bitcoin (BTC) tweet by United States President Donald Trump unlocked another achievement for crypto industry, indicating that crypto industry is independent of global powers and that those powers cannot shut crypto down.





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Bitcoin Approaches $11,000 With All Top 20 in Green

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Saturday, July 20 — crypto markets have seen another upward move, with all top 20 coins by market cap seeing major gains, while Bitcoin (BTC) has approached $11,000 mark again.

Market visualization from Coin360

Market visualization from Coin360

After dipping below the $11,000 threshold on July 14, Bitcoin has approached the price point today, with its intraday high of $10,944, according to data from CoinMarketCap. The biggest cryptocurrency added 3.7% to its price to trade at $10,922 at press time. As Bitcoin has seen significant volatility this week, with its price having dipped below $9,500, the cryptocurrency is down around 3% over the past 7 days at press time.

Bitcoin 24-hour price chart. Source: Coin360

Bitcoin 24-hour price chart. Source: Coin360

Ether (ETH), the second cryptocurrency by market cap, is up over 5% and trading at $232 at press time. The top altcoin is down 13.4% over the past 7 days.

Ether 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Ether 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Ripple (XRP), the third top cryptocurrency by market cap, added 6.4% to trade at $0.339, also seeing a notable growth over the past 7 days, adding up to about 2.6%.

Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Bitcoin SV (BSV), the ninth top cryptocurrency by market cap, has added over 25% to its value today, seeing the biggest growth among the top 20 coins by market cap.

As of press time, total market capitalization amounts to $298 billion after that number dropped below $250 billion earlier this week. Daily trade volume amounts to around $63 billion.

The new wave of green on crypto markets follows a recent bullish prediction by managing director and quant strategist at Fundstrat Global Advisors Sam Doctor, who suggested that much-anticipated Bakkt’s Bitcoin futures contracts will launch in Q3 2019.

Additionally, India’s Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur said yesterday that there is no legislation in India that expressly bans citizens from using cryptocurrencies.

Keep track of top crypto markets in real time here





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