[Resource Topic] 2018/1166: Keeping Time-Release Secrets through Smart Contracts

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Keeping Time-Release Secrets through Smart Contracts

Authors: Jianting Ning, Hung Dang, Ruomu Hou, Ee-Chien Chang


A time-release protocol enables one to send secrets into a future release time. The main technical challenge lies in incorporating timing control into the protocol, especially in the absence of a central trusted party. To leverage on the regular heartbeats emitted from decen- tralized blockchains, in this paper, we advocate an incentive-based approach that combines threshold secret sharing and blockchain based smart contract. In particular, the secret is split into shares and distributed to a set of incentivized participants, with the payment settlement contractualized and enforced by the autonomous smart contract. We highlight that such ap- proach needs to achieve two goals: to reward honest participants who release their shares honestly after the release date (the “carrots”), and to punish premature leakage of the shares (the “sticks”). While it is not difficult to contractualize a carrot mechanism for punctual releases, it is not clear how to realise the stick. In the first place, it is not clear how to identify premature leakage. Our main idea is to encourage public vigilantism by incorporating an informer-bounty mechanism that pays bounty to any informer who can provide evidence of the leakage. The possibility of being punished constitute a deterrent to the misbehaviour of premature releases. Since various entities, including the owner, participants and the in- formers, might act maliciously for their own interests, there are many security requirements. In particular, to prevent a malicious owner from acting as the informer, the protocol must ensure that the owner does not know the distributed shares, which is counter-intuitive and not addressed by known techniques. We investigate various attack scenarios, and propose a secure and efficient protocol based on a combination of cryptographic primitives. Our technique could be of independent interest to other applications of threshold secret sharing in deterring sharing.

ePrint: https://eprint.iacr.org/2018/1166

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