ZISC researchers provide new insights on security of blockchains

This week Arthur Gervais, a PhD student at ETH Zurich and ZISC center, presented a new research paper titled “On the Security and Performance of Proof of Work Blockchains” at the ACM CCS 2016 conference in Vienna.

A technology website CoinDesk interviewed Arthur Gervais about his research results:

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“A small tweak to bitcoin could have a big impact. This has been the central point of contention in bitcoin’s “block size debate”, a long-running dispute over whether to lift a hardcoded limit on the amount of data that can be included in each block of transactions.

One side sees increasing the block size as an easy way to boost the number of transactions processed on the network, potentially expanding bitcoin’s user base. Those opposed to the move worry about the consequences (think centralization and instability) of such a change, or at least question the need to lift the block size in the near-term. There are other pieces to bitcoin that can be changed or moved around, and any change can make a big difference for the overall health of the network – good or bad.

One data-heavy presentation from the developer conference Scaling Bitcoin earlier this month explored how changing parameters can affect the network, like how a tweak to the frequency at which blocks are created might be one way to easily grow transaction capacity.

Using data pulled from their open source simulator of a proof-of-work blockchain (bitcoin and ethereum are two such blockchains), researchers from ETH Zürich argued that bitcoin could securely reduce its block time from 10 to 1 minute. The idea is that the change doesn’t impact security negatively, but still boosts the possible number of transactions on the network. So, the argument goes, it’s better overall.

Arthur Gervais, a PhD student in the Institute of Information Security at ETH Zürich, told CoinDesk: According to my research the one-minute block interval seems like the most plausible. I don’t mean that it provides sufficient security, but that it would provide the same security as bitcoin has today.”

Read the full article from http://www.coindesk.com/lower-bitcoin-block-time-scale/.

The research paper is available online at https://eprint.iacr.org/2016/555.pdf.

ZISC congratulates Arthur and the rest of the research team for these interesting results that help us to understand the security and performance properties of current blockchains better.