# Concurrent Honest Slot Leaders in Proof-of-Stake Blockchains

Consider the eventual consensus Proof-of-Stake (PoS) blockchains under the longest-chain rule such as Ouroboros, Ouroboros Praos, Sleepy Consensus, Snow White, etc. All existing analyses use a sub-optimal honest majority assumption in that if multiple honest nodes win the block-creation lottery in the same round, the analysis either treats it as a bad event or, at best, a neutral event.

In our paper, we put forth a consistency analysis that takes advantage of these events and thus achieves an asymptotically optimal consistency error under the optimal honest majority assumption; this is a first in the literature. The analysis applies to both synchronous communication and communications with a bounded delay.

This improvement is important since a sub-optimal honest majority assumption leads to weak security parameters for the blockchain system. The paper is going to appear at the prestigious conference IEEE ICDCS 2020. We posted the full version of our paper at https://eprint.iacr.org/2020/041.

# Fractional Moments of the Geometric Distribution

In one of my papers, I needed an upper bound on the fractional moments of the geometric distribution. The integer moments have a nice-looking upper bound involving factorials. In addition, Mathematica showed that the same upper bound holds for fractional moments once we use Gamma function instead of factorials. The problem was, I could not prove it. Worse, I could not find a proof after much looking on the Internet.

This post contains a proof that for any real $\lambda > 1$, the $\lambda$th moment of a geometric random variable with success probability $\displaystyle p \geq 1/2$ is at most $\displaystyle \Gamma(\lambda + 1)/p^\lambda$.

# Our SODA Paper on Proof-of-stake Blockchains

I’m pleased that our paper, titled “Linear consistency for proof-of-stake blockchains,” has been accepted at SODA 2020.

What is the Confirmation Time for Blockchains?

When you are selling a pizza and accepting Bitcoin, usually you wait “for a while” before you “confirm the transaction” and deliver the pizza. You are cautious because a fraudulent user may double spend—use the same bill to pay two different vendors.

# Our Paper on Realizing a Graph on Random Points

Our paper, titled How to Realize a Graph on Random Points, has been accepted at CCCG (Canadian Conference on Computational Geometry) 2019. I’ll write more about it in future posts.

Abstract:

# My Presentation on Proof-of-Work vs. Proof-of-Stake Blockchain Protocols

I gave a talk in our seminar about the proof-of-work vs. the proof-of-stake blockchain paradigm. Although I don’t have an audio/video recording, here is a Google Slides rendering of my original Powerpoint slides. Some of the animations are out of place/order, but in general, it feels okay.

I intended this talk to be accessible in nature, so I intentionally skipped many details and strived not to flaunt any equation in it.

Advertised Summary: Bitcoin is a blockchain protocol where finalized transactions need a “proof of work”. Such protocols have been criticized for a high demand for computing power i.e., electricity. There is another family of protocols which deals with a “proof of stake”. In these protocols, the ability to make a transaction depends on your “stake” in the system instead of your computing power. In both cases, it is notoriously difficult to mathematically prove that these protocols are secure. Only a handful of provably secure protocols exist today. In this talk, I will tell a lighthearted story about the basics of the proof-of-work vs. proof-of-stake protocols. No equations but a lot of movie references.

# Notes on the PCP Theorem and the Hardness of Approximation: Part 1

In this note, we are going to state the PCP theorem and its relation to the hardness of approximating some NP-hard problem.

## PCP Theorem: the Interactive Proof View

Intuitively, a PCP (Probabilistically Checkable Proof) system is an interactive proof system where the verifier is given $r(n)$ random bits and he is allowed to look into the proof $\pi$ in $q(n)$ many locations. If the string $x \in \{0,1\}^n$ is indeed in the language, then there exists a proof so that the verifier always accepts. However, if $x$ is not in the language, no prover can convince this verier with probability more than $1/2$. The proof has to be short i.e., of size at most $q(n) 2^{r(n)}$. This class of language is designated as PCP[r(n), q(n)].

Theorem A (PCP theorem). Every NP language has a highly efficient PCP verifier. In particular,

$NP = PCP[O(\log n), O(1)]$.

# Ouroboros Proof-of-Stake Blockchain Protocol: Assumptions and Main Theorems

A blockchain protocol is essentially a distributed consensus protocol. A Proof-of-Work protocol such as Bitcoin requires a user to show a proof  — such as making a large number of computations — before he can add a block to an existing chain. Proof-of-Stake protocols, on the other hand, would not require “burning electricity” since the ability to “mine” a coin would depend only on the user’s current stake at the system.

The growing computing power of the bitcoin miners is already consuming a significant amount of electricity. One can easily see the necessity of a provably secure and efficient cryptocurrency without the heavy energy requirement. However, it is easier said than done. So far, I am aware of only three Proof-of-Stake protocols which give provable security guarantees. These are Ouroboros, led by Aggelos Kiayias, Alex Russell, and others; Snow White, led by Rafael Pass and Elaine Shi; Ouroboros Praos from the Ouroboros team; and Algorand, led by Silvio Micali. There is also an open-source initiative to implement Ourorboros, named Cardano.

In this post, I am going to present the main theorems of Ouroboros.

# Random Walk on Integers

Imagine that a particle is walking in a two-dimensional space, starting at the origin $(0, 0)$. At every time-step (or “epoch”) $n = 0, 1, 2, 3, \cdots$ it takes a $\pm 1$ vertical step. At every step, the particle either moves up by $+1$, or down by $-1$. This walk is “unbiased” in the sense that the up/down steps are equiprobable.

In this post, we will discuss some natural questions about this “unbiased” or “simple” random walk. For example, how long will it take for the particle to return to zero? What is the probability that it will ever reach +1? When will it touch $a$ for the first time? Contents of this post are a summary of the Chapter “Random Walks” from the awesome “Introduction to Probability” (Volume I) by William Feller. Also, this is an excellent reference.

Edit: the Biased Case. The biased walk follows

$\displaystyle p:=\Pr[ \text{down}]\, ,\qquad q:=\Pr[ \text{up} ]\, ,\qquad p + q = 1$.

The lazy walk follows

$\displaystyle p:=\Pr[ \text{down}]\, ,\qquad q:=\Pr[ \text{up} ]\, , \qquad \Pr[stay] = r\, ,\qquad p + q = 1$.

In the exposition, we’ll first state the unbiased case and when appropriate, follow it up with the biased case.

# Characterizing the Adversarial Grinding Power in a Proof-of-Stake Blockchain Protocol

[Contents of this post are based on an ongoing discussion with Alex Russell and Aggelos Kiayias. It contains potentially unpublished material.]

In a proof-of-stake blockchain protocol such as Ouroboros, at most half of the users are dishonest. While an honest user always extends the longest available blockchain, the dishonest users try to fool him into extending a manipulated blockchain. Here, the user who is allowed to issue a block at any time-slot is called the “slot leader.” As it happens, a number of future slot leaders are computed in advance using the random values present in the blocks. Although counterintuitive, such a scheme ensures that if the adversary does not control more than half the users now, it is very unlikely that he cannot control more than half the slot leaders. The time-slots are divided into “epochs” of length $R$.