Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2021/1413

Three Attacks on Proof-of-Stake Ethereum

Caspar Schwarz-Schilling and Joachim Neu and Barnabé Monnot and Aditya Asgaonkar and Ertem Nusret Tas and David Tse

Abstract: Recently, two attacks were presented against Proof-of-Stake (PoS) Ethereum: one where short-range reorganizations of the underlying consensus chain are used to increase individual validators' profits and delay consensus decisions, and one where adversarial network delay is leveraged to stall consensus decisions indefinitely. We provide refined variants of these attacks, considerably relaxing the requirements on adversarial stake and network timing, and thus rendering the attacks more severe. Combining techniques from both refined attacks, we obtain a third attack which allows an adversary with vanishingly small fraction of stake and no control over network message propagation (assuming instead probabilistic message propagation) to cause even long-range consensus chain reorganizations. Honest-but-rational or ideologically motivated validators could use this attack to increase their profits or stall the protocol, threatening incentive alignment and security of PoS Ethereum. The attack can also lead to destabilization of consensus from congestion in vote processing.

Category / Keywords: applications / Ethereum, attack, proof-of-stake

Date: received 19 Oct 2021

Contact author: caspar schwarz-schilling at ethereum org, jneu at stanford edu

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Version: 20211024:073039 (All versions of this report)

Short URL: ia.cr/2021/1413


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