Paper 2022/1767

Do Not Trust in Numbers: Practical Distributed Cryptography With General Trust

Orestis Alpos, University of Bern
Christian Cachin, University of Bern

In distributed cryptography independent parties jointly perform some cryptographic task. In the last decade distributed cryptography has been receiving more attention than ever. Distributed systems power almost all applications, blockchains are becoming prominent, and, consequently, numerous practical and efficient distributed cryptographic primitives are being deployed. The failure models of current distributed cryptographic systems, however, lack expressibility. Assumptions are only stated through numbers of parties, thus reducing this to threshold cryptography, where all parties are treated as identical and correlations cannot be described. Distributed cryptography does not have to be threshold-based. With general distributed cryptography the authorized sets, the sets of parties that are sufficient to perform some task, can be arbitrary, and are usually modeled by the abstract notion of a general access structure. Although the necessity for general distributed cryptography has been recognized long ago and many schemes have been explored in theory, relevant practical aspects remain opaque. It is unclear how the user specifies a trust structure efficiently or how this is encoded within a scheme, for example. More importantly, implementations and benchmarks do not exist, hence the efficiency of the schemes is not known. Our work fills this gap. We show how an administrator can intuitively describe the access structure as a Boolean formula. This is then converted into encodings suitable for cryptographic primitives, specifically, into a tree data structure and a monotone span program. We focus on three general distributed cryptographic schemes: verifiable secret sharing, common coin, and distributed signatures. For each one we give the appropriate formalization and security definition in the general-trust setting. We implement the schemes and assess their efficiency against their threshold counterparts. Our results suggest that the general distributed schemes can offer richer expressibility at no or insignificant extra cost. Thus, they are appropriate and ready for practical deployment.

Available format(s)
Cryptographic protocols
Publication info
Published elsewhere. Major revision. SSS 2023
Distributed CryptographyMonotone Span ProgramDigital SignatureVerifiable Secret SharingCommon Coin
Contact author(s)
orestis alpos @ unibe ch
2023-10-25: revised
2022-12-26: received
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Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Orestis Alpos and Christian Cachin},
      title = {Do Not Trust in Numbers: Practical Distributed Cryptography With General Trust},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2022/1767},
      year = {2022},
      doi = {10.1007/978-3-031-44274-2_40},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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