[bitcoin-dev] summarising security assumptions (re cost metrics)

Adam Back adam at cypherspace.org
Fri Nov 6 14:08:10 UTC 2015


You're right that it is better that there be more APIs than fewer,
that is less of a single point of failure.  It also depends what you
mean by APIs: using an API to have a second cross-check of information
is quite different to building a wallet or business that only
interfaces with the blockchain via a 3rd party API.  There are
different APIs also: some are additive eg they add a second signature
via multisig, but even those models while better can still be a mixed
story for security, if the user is not also checking their own
full-node or checking SPV to make the first signature.

Power users and businesses using APIs instead of running a full-node,
or instead of doing SPV checks, should be clear about the API and what
security they are delegating to a third party, and whether they have a
reason to trust the governance and security competence of the third
party: in the simplest case it can reduce their and their users
security below SPV.

The bigger point however, which Erik explained, was: widespread use of
APIs as a sole means of interfacing with the blockchain also
contributes to reducing network security for everyone, because it
erodes the consensus rule validation security described under
"Validators" in the OP.

Adam


On 6 November 2015 at 09:05, Chris Priest <cp368202 at ohiou.edu> wrote:
> On 11/5/15, Eric Voskuil via bitcoin-dev
> <bitcoin-dev at lists.linuxfoundation.org> wrote:
>> On 11/05/2015 03:03 PM, Adam Back via bitcoin-dev wrote:
>>> ...
>>> Validators: Economically dependent full nodes are an important part of
>>> Bitcoin's security model because they assure Bitcoin security by
>>> enforcing consensus rules.  While full nodes do not have orphan
>>> risk, we also dont want maliciously crafted blocks with pathological
>>> validation cost to erode security by knocking reasonable spec full
>>> nodes off the network on CPU (or bandwidth grounds).
>>> ...
>>> Validators vs Miner decentralisation balance:
>>>
>>> There is a tradeoff where we can tolerate weak miner decentralisation
>>> if we can rely on good validator decentralisation or vice versa.  But
>>> both being weak is risky.  Currently given mining centralisation
>>> itself is weak, that makes validator decentralisation a critical
>>> remaining defence - ie security depends more on validator
>>> decentralisation than it would if mining decentralisation was in a
>>> better shape.
>>
>> This side of the security model seems underappreciated, if not poorly
>> understood. Weakening is not just occurring because of the proliferation
>> of non-validating wallet software and centralized (web) wallets, but
>> also centralized Bitcoin APIs.
>>
>> Over time developers tend to settle on a couple of API providers for a
>> given problem. Bing and Google for search and mapping, for example. All
>> applications and users of them, depending on an API service, reduce to a
>> single validator. Imagine most Bitcoin applications built on the
>> equivalent of Bing and Google.
>>
>> e
>>
>>
>
> I disagree. I think blockchain APIs are a good thing for
> decentralization. There aren't just 3 or 4 blockexplorer APIs out
> there, there are dozens. Each API returns essentially the same data,
> so they are all interchangeable. Take a look at this python package:
> https://github.com/priestc/moneywagon


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