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by Philipp Schneider (University of Bern, IC3) with contributions by Ignacio Amores-Sesar (University of Bern, IC3), and Christian Cachin (University of Bern, IC3) on May 17, 2024
In a three part series, we look at the “Snow” protocols that address the fundamental consensus problem and were introduced in a whitepaper by a group associated with AvaLabs that pioneered the Avalanche blockchain infrastructure. This is a post that consists of three parts. Part 1 appears here, part 2 and part 3 appear on the Crypto@Bern blog. This first part gives an overview of these Snow protocols and a summary of our findings.
by Orestis Alpos (University of Bern), Ignacio Amores-Sesar (University of Bern, IC3), Christian Cachin (University of Bern, IC3), Michelle Yeo (National University of Singapore) on May 10, 2024
The problems of maximal-extractable value (MEV) and front-running attacks have plagued decentralized finance (DeFi) in the recent years. We tackle the problem of sandwich attacks in general and introduce a protocol to transform any blockchain consensus algorithm into a new one that has the same security, but in which sandwich attacks are no longer profitable. Our protocol is fully decentralized with no trusted third parties or heavy cryptographic primitives. It makes existing blockchains resilient to such attacks in exchange for increased latency until consensus becomes final and by adding a small computational overhead.
by James Austgen, Andrés Fábrega, Sarah Allen, Kushal Babel, Mahimna Kelkar, and Ari Juels on January 16, 2024
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are increasingly popular, and already managing many billions of dollars in treasuries. Their decentralized governance is a transformative new way of organizing communities. But as they grow, DAOs will face a new and potent threat to their decentralization - Dark DAOs. A Dark DAO is a private smart contract that targets a legitimate DAO, attacking its voting integrity by enabling vote-buying among its users. First considered in 2018, Dark DAOs haven’t yet appeared in the wild — but only because DAOs are not very decentralized today. As DAOs continue on a path to higher decentralization, Dark DAOs will inevitably surface. Vote-buying may be illegal in political elections, but in DAOs it’s probably legal. It’s legal in shareholder voting and there’s even a marketplace to facilitate it. Vote-buying in DAOs would follow the trend in Web3 of monetizing everything from people’s friends to maximal-extractable value (MEV).
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August 7-9, 2024
The conference focuses on technical innovations in the blockchain ecosystem, and brings together researchers and practioners working in the space. We are interested in the application of cryptography, decentralized protocols, formal methods, and empirical analysis, to improving the security and scalability of blockchain deployments. We aim to foster collaboration among practitioners and researchers working on blockchain protocol development, cryptography, distributed systems, secure computing, crypto-economics, and economic risk analysis.
June 10-16, 2024
Join us for the 9th Annual IC3 Blockchain Camp! This 7-day experience will be hosted once again at the Cornell Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island, New York City. Our camp technical committee of Surya Bakshi, Haaroon Yousaf, Lorenz Breidenbach, and Patrick McCorry is preparing another immersive coding and learning experience!
January 8-11, 2024
Thank you to all who joined us for the IC3 Winter Retreat 2024 at the Eurotel Victoria in Les Diablerets, Switzerland!
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Featured Projects

E-Vote Your Conscience: Perceptions of Coercion and Vote Buying, and the Usability of Fake Credentials in Online Voting

Online voting is attractive for convenience and accessibility, but is more susceptible to voter coercion and vote buying than in-person voting. One mitigation is to give voters fake voting credentials that they can yield to a coercer. Fake credentials appear identical to real ones, but cast votes that are silently omitted from the final tally. An important unanswered question is how ordinary voters perceive such a mitigation - whether they could understand and use fake credentials, and whether the coercion risks justify the costs of mitigation. We present the first systematic study of these questions, involving 150 diverse individuals in Boston, Massachusetts. All participants “registered” and “voted” in a mock election - 120 were exposed to coercion resistance via fake credentials, the rest forming a control group. Of the 120 participants exposed to fake credentials, 96% understood their use. 53% reported that they would create fake credentials in a real-world voting scenario, given the opportunity. 10% mistakenly voted with a fake credential, however. 22% reported either personal experience with or direct knowledge of coercion or vote-buying incidents. These latter participants rated the coercion-resistant system essentially as trustworthy as in-person voting via hand-marked paper ballots. Of the 150 total participants to use the system, 87% successfully created their credentials without assistance, 83% both successfully created and properly used their credentials. Participants give a System Usability Scale score of 70.4, which is slightly above the industry’s average score of 68. Our findings appear to support the importance of the coercion problem in general, and the promise of fake credentials as a possible mitigation, but user error rates remain an important usability challenge for future work. For further details, please check out our Projects Page.

Keywords:
Voter coercion
Fake credentials
Remote systems
Trustworthy

More projects:

  • CFGs: Practical Proofs of Parsing for Context-free Grammars
  • PURE: Payments with UWB
  • "The DAO": The Contractarian Joint Venture
  • LLMs: Evolving AI Collectives to Enhance Human Diversity and Enable Self-Regulation
  • LPs: Fragmentation and optimal liquidity supply on decentralized exchanges
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