Japanese independent ETH research and developer Kikx stated that the Programmatic Proof-of-Work (ProgPoW) algorithm failed to protect the Ethereum blockchain from ASIC-based mining. What does this mean and why is it important for ETH?
There is no ASIC resistance in ProgPoW
According to Kikx, the hash function code operated by the ProgPoW algorithm can be modified to allow integrated circuits specific to the application to be exploited. And this is definitely a ProgPoW feature designed to be removed from the network.
Kikx notes that the 64-bit “seed” (one of the inputs in the ETH calculation) is too small, allowing ASIC to calculate the hash without accessing memory. Therefore, the owner of ASIC can modify the code in three simple steps and achieve superiority in mining profits.
Kikx shared all the recommendations (the nature of the vulnerability, the vulnerable areas of the code as well as the demo that could be implemented) in GitHub mine.
The developers confused
Leading ETH developers, such as Hudson Jameson and James Hancock, discussed the conclusions of Kikx, who later found the vulnerability “quite unusual” and did not endanger other mining algorithms. .
Couple of q's:
1. Is this the same vuln disclosed in Least Authority's audit of ProgPoW?
2. Would this vuln also affect Ethash or other memory hard algorithms?
– Hudson Jameson (@hudsonjameson) March 4, 2020
"There are two questions:
1. Will this be disclosed in ProgPoW's authorized Least Authority audit?
2. Does this affect Ethash or other difficult algorithm memory? "
In addition, Kristy-Leigh Minehan, author of mining algorithms, emphasize that:
“This is a pretty good trick – although we haven't confirmed it works in practice yet.”
ProgPoW is an mining algorithm that eliminates the possibility of ETH mining on ASIC to ensure the safety and decentralization of the network. It has been criticized for having an unwanted hard-fork. Additionally, its implementation could lead to a delay in the launch of ETH 2.0.
All ETH core developers have made one call YouTube video to determine the fate of ProgPow was held on March 6. Although there was an expected decision to revamp the mining algorithm such as “Ethash 2.0”, the call was made. More questions than answers.
The call lasted about 3 hours, of which 2 hours completely talked about ProgPow. Some representatives of both progPow and anti-proxies are in attendance. Supporters include Kristy Leigh-Minehan, one of the creators of ProgPow and BitsBeTrippin, who founded a mining education channel.
Anti-ProgPow representatives include co-founder Gnosis Martin Köppelmann and Matt Luongo, founder of Thesis.co. Ameen Soleimani, CEO of Spankchain, is also a famous critic.
Benjamin DiFrancesco, who proposed one compromise which ProgPow will be deployed but not activated, is also present.
A few concerns about technology
The initial discussion revolved around ProgPow's technical capabilities, talking about two gaps posed by independent auditors and researchers.
Minehan points out that they are easy to repair and can only be exploited in specialized situations. The core developers also agree with this, one of them praising the speed of fixing problems that ProgPow developers have implemented.
The opposition does not argue over its technological value, although they point out that the discovery of the vulnerabilities – even after previous tests – shows the inherent risks of changing the algorithm. exploit.
Participants also discussed the ramification of a sudden decline in ETH hashrate when Bitmain's 4 Gigabyte RAM GPUs and E3 miners will not be able to cope with Ethereum mining around April – regardless of which algorithm is work. One document published by Minehan and others estimate that 40% of Ethereum's hashrate comes from Bitmain ASIC.
There is no clear consensus on how to solve this problem, both sides use it as a tool for their debate.
Luongo's argument focused on the possibility of division within the community was the main reason why ProgPow was not approved. He said that any value, ignoring disagreements and pushing through solutions would divide the community – similar to the Bitcoin Cash creation debate.
Köppelmann sided with ASIC operators, arguing that ASIC resistance is a harmful change for ETH. I said:
"In my opinion, there may be situations where ETH must make a change that negatively affects users – if there is an extremely clear advantage or the existence of the network is at stake. As long as those things are not the problem, those decisions should not be made. With ProgPow, I don't think ASIC resistance will be a good thing. "
ASIC resistance is suspected
Despite the fact that ETH committed ASIC resistance in the yellow book (yellow paper), the call proves that not all community members believe it.
Specifically, Soleimani has argued that ETH will soon switch to Proof of Stake, making the effort to change Proof of Work meaningless. He also attacked the opposition, saying:
"This is a group of miners seeking profit lobbying the Core Developers Management Committee to get what they want. Please stop.”
The core developers answered that the ETH2.0 transition still needs at least two more years. James Hancock noted that maintaining the 1.0 string function – without paying attention to 2.0 – is the core privilege of 1.x.
The developers also point out that integrating ProgPow into each ETH client will take up to a week of work from an independent developer.
However, the call showed that the ETH community did not agree on the principle behind ProgPow. As Minehan said:
"I think the real question that the Ethereum community needs to ask itself is: is this resistance to ASIC? If so, a solution could be developed. “
The discovery of the technical flaws in the Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) has been partially accepted as not anticipated. The core developers say that EIP cannot be revoked according to the existing framework, but it may be replaced by other proposals.
Vitalik Buterin, the founder of ETH, was also present but did not speak in discussions about ProgPow.
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