Papamanthou Awarded Grant to Study Security in Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies

Charalampos (Babis) Papamanthou, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering with an appointment in UMIACS, has been awarded a $50,000 grant to explore connections and applications of authenticated data structures and verifiable computing involving blockchains and crypto currencies.

Authenticated data structures are data structures that provide cryptographic proofs of their correctness. They are already being used in popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum to assist computationally-light nodes in participating in the protocol, without having to store an order-of-GB large validation state, which is necessary to detect double spending.

The grant is from Ergo Platform through the Blockchain Institute, an international research and development center that supports the production and implementation of blockchain-based solutions.

“It’s great to see authenticated data structures—a field I’ve been studying for a long time—having real-world applications and being deployed at a massive scale,” says Papamanthou, who is also member of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2). “Blockchains and cryptocurrencies offer great opportunities to test their scalability, and also provide inspiration for new and more flexible designs.”

For example, he says, after talking to cryptocurrency research scientists and developers at Real World Crypto in January 2018, Papamanthou’s team—in collaboration with Ergo Platform—began designing new distributed algebraic authenticated data structures to erase validation states from cryptocurrency nodes altogether, a notion put forward by the cryptocurrency community as "stateless clients."

Other directions that the team plans to pursue include extending a recently-developed proof system to provide a more flexible and practical approach for privacy-preserving smart contracts. This work will be presented at the 39th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy at the end of May in San Francisco.

Published May 15, 2018