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Attacking and Fixing the Bitcoin Network

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Much existing research in the blockchain field has focused on cryptographic primitives and improved distributed blockchain protocols. The network required to connect these distributed systems, however, has received relatively little attention. Yet, there is increasing evidence that the network can become the bottleneck and root cause for some of the most pressing challenges blockchains face today.

In this talk, I will introduce a few recent research projects from my group that focus on attacking and securing Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer networking protocol. I will begin with our novel Bitcoin partitioning attack, dubbed Erebus, that stealthily isolates one or more Bitcoin peer nodes from the rest of the network. Then, I will discuss how we have collaborated with Bitcoin developers to mitigate the Erebus attacks and present some remaining questions. Finally, I will mention a few open problems in securing the networking layer of blockchain in general.

BIO : Muoi Tran is a Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore, where he recently obtained a Ph.D. degree under the guidance of Zhenkai Liang and Min Suk Kang (KAIST). His research interests broadly include network security, blockchain security and privacy. He was selected as one of the Microsoft Research Asia fellows in 2019, a distinguished shadow reviewer at IEEE S&P 2021, and an awardee of the Dean’s Graduate Research Excellence Award at NUS in 2022.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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