In an event where Ethereum is losing some key clients and potential uses cases to Tron, Stellar and EOS, Vitalik has come up with a new paper that explains the new algorithm require control on more than 99% of nodes of the Blockchain to carry out an attack.
Attack would become nearly impossible with this new Algorithm
In the paper, released by Vitalik on his own website, named “ A Guide to 99% Fault-Tolerant Consensus” Vitalik Buterin has proposed a new kind of consensus algorithm which requires just 1% of nodes to be “honest”. What looks like a highly technical and complex paper, actually reads out.
“We’ve heard for a long time that it’s possible to achieve consensus with 50% fault tolerance in a synchronous network where messages broadcasted by any honest node are guaranteed to be received by all other honest nodes within some known time period (if an attacker has more than 50%, they can perform a “51% attack”, and there’s an analogue of this for an algorithm of this type)”.
“ But did you know that if you add even more assumptions (specifically, you require observers, i.e. users that are not actively participating in the consensus but care about its output, to also be actively watching the consensus, and not just downloading its output after the fact), you can increase fault tolerance all the way to 99%?”
The new algorithm is built over the description of the algorithm which was published as part of Leslie Lamport’s famous 1982 paper “The Byzantine Generals Problem”. He was a computer scientist who received the Turing Award for his work on distributed systems. Vitalik used Leslie’s solution in terms of the blockchain.
The new algorithm introduces a new kind of validator nodes called as the “independent observer nodes”. These nodes observe the chain in real-time and detect inconsistencies in when the message appears. This works because, Double Spend attacks are slightly quicker (or slower) compared to normal transactions, and the special nodes in Vitalik’s solution detect just that.
Explaining this using his Reddit, Conrad Barski, an ETH developer explains,
“Usually, all blockchain consensus algos care about is what the validators (i.e. miners) of a chain do. Vitalik is proposing that if an independent observer of the network traffic (i.e. just the blockchain client a user is running, not a miner/validator) watches what’s happening in real time and pays attention to when messages appear, they can detect “foul play” by miners performing a 51% attack and this can provide additional safety guarantees that can protect against such an attack.”
To which Vitalik himself replies,
“Another use case for this is that it can be used as a tool for detecting 51% censorship attacks and coordinating around using minority soft forks to get out of them, without the tool needing much human-driven social coordination to pick one action or the other in edge cases.”
Ethereum future looks more secure and bright
Although Ethereum is facing a recent flack for being congested and being costly to transact on, It definitely has some cards in hand which could keep it in the game. Ethereum has one of the most active development community in the world of Blockchain. Currently, the Ethereum team is shifting from Proof-Of-Work (POW) based consensus to a Proof-Of-Stake (POS) based one. And now with the implementation of the new “observer nodes”, Ethereum blockchain could become the most secure public blockchain in the world. The timelines for such an implementation have not been given, but it’s safe to assume that the new algorithm will be implemented after the POS based consensus goes live.
Will Ethereum be able to defeat the competition and come out stronger as it always was with these new changes? Do let us know your views on the same.
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Sunil is a serial entrepreneur and has been working in blockchain and cryptocurrency space for 2 years now. Previously he co-founded Govt. of India supported startup InThinks and is currently Chief Editor at Coingape and CEO at SquadX, a fintech startup. He has published more than 100 articles on cryptocurrency and blockchain and has assisted a number of ICO’s in their success. He has co-designed blockchain development industrial training and has hosted many interviews in past. Follow him on Twitter at @sharmasunil8114 and reach out to him at sunil (at) coingape.com