Re: [Ilc] Clarifications and thoughts purpose of ILC list

Ben Laurie <> Sun, 26 February 2017 21:25 UTC

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From: Ben Laurie <>
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Subject: Re: [Ilc] Clarifications and thoughts purpose of ILC list
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On 23 February 2017 at 23:06, David Mazieres
<> wrote:
> Ben Laurie <> writes:
>>> Well, there's at least one existence proof, which is the SCP protocol we
>>> use at Stellar.  SCP changes the question slightly from whether the
>>> system is subvertible to who is being subverted, because it depends on
>>> whom people trust.  E.g., if you trust TurkTrust and I trust the
>>> conjunction of the ACLU and Google, you might get subverted because
>>> TurkTrust has been known to issue bad certificates.  On the other hand,
>>> even if Google somehow gets compromised, that won't subvert my view of
>>> the world so long as the ACLU remains honest.
>> OK, so here's where I get to confess that I don't understand Stellar,
>> and, worse, I don't know anyone who does.
>> Is there an idiot's guide somewhere?
> Well, there is a cartoon guide, but I don't actually think it will be
> useful in this context:

Well, its fun.

> The canonical guide is of course the whitepaper, which is probably hard
> to read:
> Maybe the most accessible rendition right now is my Google tech talk:

OK, this was very helpful.

I was struck by your remark that enumerating the set of bad things
that might happen to you is exponential time. At least, I think you
said that. That doesn't seem like a great security property.

>> That said, the properties you claim are also trivially obtainable with
>> a CT-like system, so I totally buy it can be done. But I don't see how
>> this corresponds to the popular notion of "permissionless"? Not that I
>> actually care, btw.
> My understanding of CT may be out of date, but I thought CT was a
> disjunctive system, as in any log can vouch for a certificate.  As I
> envision Internet-level consensus, you could insist on, say, 7 out of 10
> log authorities signing off something that guarantees publication of the
> certificate.

In practice, this is how CT works - Chrome has a policy on what logs
must be used, for example. Full details here:

Obviously, if you are Joe Random, you can insist on some other policy.
But the world is unlikely to provide it for you.

>> a) it seems utterly disconnected with the standard view of
>> "permissionless", so I think real care is needed with the charter.
> I think the term permissionless may just not be useful in this context,
> because even though it has been used to describe systems related to
> Internet-level consensus, there are other potential solutions that don't
> fit the permissioned/permissionless binary model.


>> b) whilst I think everyone should choose who they trust, in practice
>> this is mostly totally unusable. The ability to do it is not a system
>> problem: you have an answer in Stellar, I have one in CT/Trillian.
>> Others exist, I am sure. The problem is usability. Who chooses the CAs
>> you trust, for example? Not you (for most values of "you"), that's for
>> sure.
> Well, in my ideal world the browser vendors would ship some reasonable
> default, but if I'm paranoid, I can add the ACLU and EFF, etc.  More
> importantly, it should not be a pure disjunction where any CA can issue
> any certificate, but rather should require some threshold.  Here we are
> veering into CT 2.0 territory, because that's not how certificates
> currently work, but there are other transparency applications that could
> use such a threshold model from the start.

OK, I am up for some kind of pluggable "what is the consensus"
infrastructure, but what you propose here is a major departure from
how things work right now. Such departures are hard.

> What consensus mechanism does Trillian plug into?  I had assumed
> Trillian was what an individual authority would do, but I could probably
> use some education about the bigger picture.

You are correct that Trillian is infrastructure. My vision is that
logs would log each other's tree heads. Obviously this is unlikely to
be universal, so is in some way the dual of your quorum slices.

> Thanks,
> David