Uncovering Novel Partitioning Attacks on the Bitcoin Network

Monday, December 7, 2020, 9:00 am - 10:00 am PSTiCal
This event is open to the public.
Seminar Talk - Networking and Cybersecurity Division
Muhammad Saad, University of Central Florida
Video Recording:

Bitcoin is an overlay network that is built on top of a physical network of Autonomous Systems (ASes). The biased distribution of Bitcoin nodes across ASes increases the risk of network partitioning attacks. In this talk, I will present spatial, temporal, and spatio-temporal partitioning attacks on the Bitcoin network that result from the node hosting patterns across ASes and the block propagation delay. Additionally, I will present the HashSplit attack that exploits the block propagation delay and network asynchrony to violate the fundamental blockchain properties. I will supplement the attack surface analysis with the root cause analysis to show how the real world Bitcoin network deviates from its ideal configuration. Finally, I will discuss the attack countermeasures that have been developed and tested in the Bitcoin network. 

Muhammad Saad is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he is a member of the Security Analytics Lab. Saad is broadly interested in the distributed systems security, particularly the blockchain attack surface. He has made several notable contributions to the Bitcoin community by uncovering novel partitioning attacks. His most recent contribution is the HashSplit attack that exploits the Bitcoin network asynchrony to violate the common prefix and chain quality properties. His research bridges the gap between theoretical models and real-world implementation of distributed systems, particularly from a security standpoint. In the last four years, Saad has published more than thirteen peer-reviewed papers, including two best paper awards and the first systematic survey of the blockchain attack surface.  

ISI Hosts: Srivatsan Ravi and Terry Benzel - Networking and Cybersecurity Division, USC/ISI

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