The second chapter of our Q1 2023 Quarterly Insights comprehensively examines the evolution of shared security in PoS networks. It delves into the various strategies employed by different networks to implement shared security, shedding light on the incentives and risks involved. This article distills the key takeaways from our research, offering a succinct summary of the various approaches to shared security.
What is shared security?
Shared security is a form of improving the safety of a blockchain by using resources from other blockchains. It works similarly to merge mining in PoW networks, where miners use one blockchain to mine another.
To make this concept work, there needs to be at least one blockchain providing security and another one using it. The system must allow for penalties if either blockchain misbehaves, usually by reducing their stake.
There are two key motivations behind the concept:
Different approaches to shared security
Rollups, or ‘Layer 2s’ are shared security solutions that take execution off the main chain to scale computation and memory while keeping settlement on the Layer 1 chain.
Essentially, Rollups democratize execution by offering a fully compatible environment for easy application deployment and value transfer, but lower transaction cost. They guarantee security through smart contracts deployed on the Layer 1 to store transaction data, monitor state updates, and track user deposits.
There are two types of rollups: Optimistic and Zero-knowledge (ZK)
*A State Transitions is a change in the overall state of the network, which can occur when a user sends a transaction that updates the state of their account or interacts with a smart contract that changes the state of the network.
EigenLayer is a protocol built on Ethereum that allows users who hold ETH or ETH liquid staking tokens to restake their tokens and earn additional rewards. Restaking involves users giving their tokens to a service, which uses the tokens to secure its own network and other networks.
However, by doing so, users take on the risk of being slashed if they act maliciously according to the rules set out in the service's slashing contract.
EigenLayer uses the slashing contract to determine whether a user has acted maliciously and to slash their tokens accordingly. The protocol is currently on testnet and has recently raised $50 million in a Series A funding round led by Blockchain Capital, with participation from Coinbase Ventures and Polychain Capital.
ICS: replicated and mesh security
Replicated security, a system that first went live on the Cosmos Hub in March 2023 as the initial version of the Interchain Security protocol (“ICS”), allows other Cosmos chains to apply to get the entire security of the Cosmos Hub validator set.
In other words, by participating in ICS, a consumer chain can leverage the security of the Cosmos Hub validator set to ensure that its own blockchain is secure. This is done by having the validators of the Cosmos Hub also run the code of the consumer chain, and being subject to slashing for any downtime or fraudulent behavior.
However, there are some challenges with this approach, such as scaling issues and the potential for poor performance if the validator set of a consumer chain secured by multiple providers grows too large.
To address these challenges, a new approach called Mesh Security was proposed by Sunny Aggarwal, the CEO of Osmosis. Mesh Security allows for delegators on the provider chains to re-delegate their tokens to validators on the consumer chain's own validator set, without any additional overhead. This means that operators who already run nodes for both the provider and consumer chain can be delegated more voting power on the consumer chain, resulting in an approach that is similar to what EigenLayer is proposing for Ethereum.
Babylon is a project that aims to improve the security of Cosmos zones and other PoS chains by using the security of Bitcoin. It is made up of three components:
Babylon operates by receiving streams of transaction data checkpoints from multiple PoS chains and then combines these checkpoints into a single stream which is posted to Bitcoin. To achieve this, it uses the IBC (Inter-Blockchain Communication) protocol to trigger a transaction sent to the miners. This transaction is added to the Bitcoin ledger, effectively timestamping the events occurring in other blockchains through a process known as ‘checkpointing’.
Currently, Babylon is on testnet, and 13 Cosmos zones are experimenting with it.
Overall, shared security aims to improve decentralization of applications and increase the cost of corruption of lower value networks. However, despite its advantages, shared security also carries inherent risks. It can compromise decentralization, opening doors to higher levels of contagiousness during stress scenarios. Additionally, it may introduce risks to smart contract implementations, as users may lose their tokens due to factors outside of the base protocol layer.
Read the full, in-depth analysis of shared security at https://chorus.one/reports-research/quarterly-network-insights-q1-2023 .
Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 40+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures. We are a team of over 50 passionate individuals spread throughout the globe who believe in the transformative power of blockchain technology.