• Three Attack Methods Against an Ethereum PoS Chain are Described in a New Academic Paper

  • Following the Ethereum network’s Altair upgrade, the protocol’s native cryptocurrency reached a new all-time high. Altair is the next step in the Ethereum network’s transition to proof-of-stake (PoS). A recent white paper, on the other hand, explains that a group of computer scientists from Stanford University and the Ethereum Foundation believe there are three attack vectors “on [a] proof-of-stake Ethereum” blockchain.

    The Three Attacks on Ethereum Thesis Attempts to Describe a Proof-of-Stake Problem Using Evidence

    The Ethereum network currently uses a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism, but the protocol intends to fully transition to a proof-of-stake (PoS) network in the future. Recent upgrades, such as those in Berlin, London, and Altair, have aided in the smooth transition to the PoS goal. Following the implementation of Altair, the price of ether recently skyrocketed to a new all-time high (ATH) of $4,467 per unit.

    Simultaneously, network transfer fees have risen significantly, reaching as much as $50 for the average ether transaction on Saturday morning. Furthermore, Twitter vertical trends show that the term “ETH 2.0” began trending on Saturday morning in the United States. Some participants in the ETH 2.0 discussion have shared a new white paper written by computer scientists from Stanford University and the Ethereum Foundation.

    Tuur Demeester, a BTC supporter, shared the paper and two quotes from it on Saturday, theorizing how an adversary could attack the chain. On October 19, a paper titled “Three Attacks on Proof-of-Stake Ethereum” was submitted.

    Caspar Schwarz-Schilling, Joachim Neu, Barnabé Monnot, Aditya Asgaonkar, Ertem Nusret Tas, and David Tse wrote the white paper. Essentially, the white paper reveals that two Ethereum network attacks were recently presented, and the authors of the paper refined the techniques.

    In addition to refining the first two attacks, which theoretically cause “short-range reorganizations” and “adversarial network delay,” the computer scientists devised a third.

    “By combining techniques from both refined attacks, we obtain a third attack that allows an adversary with a negligible stake and no control over network message propagation (assuming instead probabilistic message propagation) to cause even long-range consensus chain reorganizations,” the paper’s authors write. The three ETH PoS attacks paper adds:

    This attack could be used by honest-but-rational or ideologically motivated validators to increase their profits or stall the protocol, threatening the incentive alignment and security of PoS Ethereum. Congestion in vote processing may also destabilize consensus as a result of the attack.

    Attacks, according to the White Paper, ‘also enable aPriori malign actors to outright stall consensus decisions.’

    Meanwhile, critics of the Ethereum network used the paper to highlight the potential vulnerabilities associated with these attacks when the network transitions to a full PoS system. Bram Cohen, the creator of Bittorrent and the Chia project, also tweeted about the new study on Saturday.

    “Let’s revisit your tweet in a year and see what Chia has accomplished vs ETH,” a Chia supporter responded. Please keep in mind that your attitude is turning away members of the community like myself.” The Ethereum attacks paper not only describes a possible method of attacking an Ethereum PoS chain, but it also provides solutions. The authors of the paper believe that the attacks provide incentives to malicious actors.

    “Our attacks also enable apriori malign actors, possibly ideologically motivated, to delay and, in some cases, outright stall consensus decisions,” the authors conclude. “The refined attack of Section 4.2 provides the adversary with a tool to do exactly that, even if the adversary cannot control message propagation delays (which are instead assumed to be probabilistic).”

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