Security company Trail of Bits published a study on purportedly dangerous flaws that might impact the Ethereum (ETH) and Bitcoin (BTC) blockchains. The U.S. Department of Defense financed the study, “Are Blockchains Decentralized?,” through its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The paper explores additional blockchain-based systems employing Byzantine Fault, Proof-of-Work (PoW), and Proof-of-Stake (PoS), with an emphasis on Bitcoin and Ethereum. generally agreeable consensus protocols.
The analysis found that these networks’ cryptographic components are “robust,” but it also found flaws in the consensus procedures and blockchain implementation. In other words, the security company thinks that while blockchain technology may be abused, the encryption that protects it is robust.
During their research, Trail of Bits came to the following conclusions: A “privileged collection of entities” with the authority to alter transactions, unencrypted communications, nodes running out-of-date “vulnerable” software, and other aspects of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other blockchains include them.
In general, the paper asserts that blockchain networks are not decentralized and that they are susceptible to several possible outside disruptions and attack vectors.
The conclusions of these investigations have obviously been rejected by the cryptocurrency community. Decentralized, trustless, transparent, and open platforms were the inspiration behind the creation of the two biggest cryptocurrencies by market size, BTC and ETH. The report’s main contention is that they have fallen short in that area.
Bitcoin and Ethereum: How Decentralized Are They Really?
Due to the report’s findings, the veracity of its conclusions, and the fact that it was funded by the U.S. Pentagon, whose government officials have shown hostility towards the cryptocurrency sector and digital currencies, it is very contentious.
The inquiry was fact-checked by Swan Bitcoin’s CTO and co-founder Yan Pritzker and its Editor-in-Chief Tomer Strolight, who discovered inaccuracies. They argued that “most blockchains are centralized to varied degrees (…)” in order to defend Bitcoin.
The Pritzker and Strolight study examines each assertion made in Trail of Bits individually. First, they claimed that since the nodes are managed by users, there is no “privileged group of entities” that can alter the code of Bitcoin.
Even if we focus on the most popular Bitcoin client, bitcoin-core, the claim that four people control the source code is also FALSE (…). Many other blockchains employ a forced-upgrade mechanism such as Ethereum’s difficulty bombs. In those cases, we find the claim to be largely TRUE (…).
Pritzker and Strolight also emphasized the distinction between mining pools and miners to emphasize that the former cannot interfere with the network, contrary to what the DARPA-funded paper claims. According to the paper, BTC’s Sybil attack costs are as follows, adding that the cryptocurrency was designed to block this attack vector from reaching its network:
The invention of Nakamoto Consensus (i.e. Bitcoin’s reliance on proof of work for source of truth) was literally designed to prevent Sybil attacks. Satoshi wanted any participant to be able to add a block, but choosing one user at random would be open to individuals pretending to be many users. But work cannot be faked (…).
BTC is currently trading at $20,000 and has increased by 3 percent over the past 24 hours.