Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2021/139

Order-Fair Consensus in the Permissionless Setting

Mahimna Kelkar and Soubhik Deb and Sreeram Kannan

Abstract: Over the past five years, a significant line of research has investigated the blockchain consensus problem in the general permissionless setting, where protocol nodes can leave and join dynamically. The work of Garay et al. (Eurocrypt 2015) and Pass et al. (Eurocrypt 2017) showed the security properties of consistency and liveness for Nakamoto's seminal proof-of-work protocol. However, consistency and liveness do not provide any guarantees on the relationship between the order in which transactions arrive into the network and the finalized order in the ledger, making protocols prone to transaction order-manipulation attacks. As a solution, a recent paper by Kelkar et al. (Crypto 2020) introduced a third useful property for consensus protocols: transaction-order-fairness. Their model was limited to the classical (permissioned) setting, where the set of protocol nodes is fixed a priori, and does not fit well for permissionless environments where order-manipulation attacks have been most prominent.

In this work, we initiate the investigation of order-fairness in the permissionless setting and provide two protocols that realize it. Our protocols work in a synchronous network and use an underlying longest-chain blockchain. As an added contribution, we show that any fair ordering protocol achieves a powerful zero-block confirmation property, through which honest transactions can be securely confirmed even before they are included in any block.

Category / Keywords: cryptographic protocols / permissionless consensus, blockchain, fair ordering, zero-block confirmation

Date: received 8 Feb 2021

Contact author: mahimna at cs cornell edu

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Version: 20210210:073558 (All versions of this report)

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