Blockchain appeals to users for its high level of security, particularly in the financial industry. But that security depends on the honesty of more than half of its network, which can be changed by multiple factors.
Ning Zhang, assistant professor of computer science & engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, plans to develop new defense tactics for blockchain with a four-year, $360,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Specifically, Zhang and his lab will investigate how clustered power in large mining pools, heterogeneous network connectivity and malicious peer-to-peer network link manipulation can impact fundamental blockchain security, as well as the challenge of trustworthy external data feed.
The team will develop new models and analysis of consensus protocols, network connectivity and other factors in the system to study the safety and fairness of blockchain. The models will help them develop quantitative understanding of the system under various forms of network connectivity.
“Real-world blockchain systems have shown a high level of resource centrality,” Zhang said. “The top four or five mining pools have controlled more than half of the mining power in Bitcoin.”
They also will study how to defend against network attacks against blockchain using trusted computing. They plan to develop a new data feed mechanism that addresses trustworthy data in blockchain applications. The mechanism would use the honest majority consensus to enhance the system’s resilience to attacks with false data.
Zhang said the team will test its proposed solutions in both simulations and distributed network testbed.
Click on the topics below for more stories in those areas
Faculty in this story