Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2020/774

Timelocked Bribes

Majid Khabbazian and Tejaswi Nadahalli and Roger Wattenhofer

Abstract: A Hashed Time Lock Contract (HTLC) is a central concept in cryptocurrencies where some value can be spent either with the preimage of a public hash by one party (Bob) or after a timelock expires by another party (Alice). We present a bribery attack on HTLC's where Bob's hash-protected transaction is censored by Alice's timelocked transaction. Alice incentivizes miners to censor Bob's transaction by leaving almost all her value to miners in general. Miners follow (or refuse) the bribe if their expected payoff is better (or worse). We explore conditions under which this attack is possible, and how HTLC participants can protect themselves against the attack. Applications like Lightning Network payment channels and Cross-Chain Atomic Swaps use HTLC's as building blocks and are vulnerable to this attack. Our proposed solution uses the hashpower share of the weakest known miner to derive parameters that make these applications robust against this bribing attack.

Category / Keywords: cryptographic protocols / bitcoin, HTLC, bribe

Date: received 23 Jun 2020

Contact author: tejaswin at ethz ch

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Version: 20200624:075643 (All versions of this report)

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