Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2018/574

Correctness and Fairness of Tendermint-core Blockchains

Yackolley Amoussou-Guenou and Antonella Del Pozzo and Maria Potop-Butucaru and Sara Tucci-Piergiovanni

Abstract: Tendermint-core blockchains (e.g. Cosmos) are considered today one of the most viable alternatives for the highly energy consuming proof-of-work blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Their particularity is that they aim at offering strong consistency (no forks) in an open system combining two ingredients (i) a set of validators that generate blocks via a variant of Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerant (PBFT) consensus protocol and (ii) a selection strategy that dynamically selects nodes to be validators for the next block via a proof-of-stake mechanism. However, the exact assumptions on the system model under which Tendermint underlying algorithms are correct and the exact properties Tendermint verifies have never been formally analyzed. The contribution of this paper is two-fold. First, while formalizing Tendermint algorithms we precisely characterize the system model and the exact problem solved by Tendermint. We prove that in eventual synchronous systems a modified version of Tendermint solves (i) under additional assumptions, a variant of one-shot consensus for the validation of one single block and (ii) a variant of the repeated consensus problem for multiple blocks. These results hold even if the set of validators is hit by Byzantine failures, provided that for each one-shot consensus instance less than one third of the validators is Byzantine. Our second contribution relates to the fairness of the rewarding mechanism. It is common knowledge that in permisionless blockchain systems the main threat is the tragedy of commons that may yield the system to collapse if the rewarding mechanism is not adequate. Ad minimum the rewarding mechanism must be $fair$, i.e. distributing the rewards in proportion to the merit of participants. We prove, for the first time in blockchain systems, that in repeated-consensus based blockchains there exists an (eventual) fair rewarding mechanism if and only if the system is (eventual) synchronous. We also show that the original Tendermint rewarding is not fair, however, a modification of the original protocol makes it eventually fair.

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Date: received 5 Jun 2018, last revised 13 Dec 2018

Contact author: yackolley amoussou-guenou at cea fr

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Version: 20181213:103905 (All versions of this report)

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