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Vitalik Buterin Eyes Research on Privacy Coin Monero’s Traceability

Vitalik Buterin Eyes Research on Privacy Coin Monero’s Traceability

Vitalik Buterin, Monero

A research report suggests that Monero’s privacy protocol is vulnerable to a “low-cost transaction flooding attack.” Vitalik Buterin wants to see Monero “overcome its obstacles.” | Source: (i) Flickr/TechCrunch (ii) Shutterstock; Edited by CCN

By CCN: Vitalik Buterin has expressed an interest in incorporating privacy features into Ethereum. He is partial to the ZK-SNARKS technology that is used in privacy coin Zcash. Nonetheless, his senses appear to be particularly keen about any developments surrounding privacy protocols. This became clear when a research paper was published entitled: “FloodXMR: Low-cost transaction flooding attack with Monero’s bulletproof protocol.”

The researchers decided to explore what they call a “flooding attack with Monero’s bulletproof protocol.” In a nutshell, it involves an attacker flooding the network with their own transactions and then eliminating “mixins from transaction inputs.” In doing so, the attacker could potentially trace nearly 50% of inputs at a cost of less than $2,000.

Incidentally, Monero Lead Developer Riccardo “Fluffypony” Spagni is in New York for the Magical Crypto Conference. He had not responded to the FloodXMR report as of press time.

Vitalik did, however, and caused a small stir on Twitter when he said:

Privacy schemes where the anonymity set of a single transaction is smaller than the entire set of users of the scheme are looking weaker and weaker with every passing month…

— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) May 10, 2019

Monero and Ethereum Both Face Headwinds

Some people in the crypto community pointed out that Monero isn’t the only project with challenges to overcome. One follower on the Twitter thread replied to Buterin, saying:

“Ethereum has its obstacles, so does Monero. I’m sure some very bright minds will take care of it. Both are legit projects.”

That’s when the Ethereum co-founder clarified where his comments were coming from, stating:

“I hope Monero overcomes its obstacles by switching to privacy schemes that make the anonymity set for each transaction be the set of all Monero users! The above wasn’t even intended to be against Monero in any way. I’m following this debate between different privacy tech mainly with an eye to seeing what privacy schemes to help support as layer 2’s for Ethereum.”

Ethereum and Privacy

The Ethereal Summit is also unfolding in New York this weekend, a ConsenSys event that’s been dubbed the “SXSW of blockchain.” Yet Buterin still found the time to weigh in on Monero’s privacy protocol.

At the conference, they’re discussion topics such as Ethereum 2.0 and the shift to the proof-of-stake protocol, with Messari CEO Ryan Selkis reportedly forecasting that it’s still a couple of years away. If true, that could push features such as privacy further back, too. Nonetheless, Buterin had privacy on his mind when he responded to Tesla CEO Elon Musk about what can be built on Ethereum. One of the Ethereum co-founder’s 13-point response centered on privacy:


* Markets for personal data for privacy preserving machine learning (you pay me X, I let you homomorphically execute function Y on my data that’s been attestated to by Z…)

* Cryptoeconomics for spam prevention in social networks

— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) April 30, 2019

Buterin expects ZK-SNARK technology could bolster Ethereum’s scalability to approximately 500 transactions per second compared to its current capacity of approximately 15 tps. ZK-SNARK tech would also give it the ability to scale. This approach differs from the Litecoin blockchain, which is adding second-layer payment solution Lightning Network and is also pursuing privacy. Litecoin is exploring the integration of Mimblewimble tech for privacy. Monero launched in 2014 and uses the bulletproof protocol.

Given the precarious nature of the Monero traceability report, it’s probably not a bad idea for all of these privacy coin project leaders to collaborate.

Vitalik Buterin also published this piece on “Control as Liability” today.

About The Author

Gerelyn Terzo

Gerelyn is Assistant Editor at CCN. Before crypto, she was covering institutional investing on Wall Street but caught the bitcoin bug soon after. She resides 13 miles outside of New York, close enough but also far enough away to escape it all. Follower her on Twitter (@cryptogerelyn) or email [email protected] Disclosure, she “hodls” bitcoin.

This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.

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