Friday, January 27, 2023

Luke Dashjr: Voting Stress Test on the Bitcoin Blockchain is ‘DoS Attack’

Luke Dashjr: Voting Stress Test on the Bitcoin Blockchain is ‘DoS Attack’

Bitcoin Core developer Luke Dashjr has spoken out against blockchain projects burdening the Bitcoin network with non-transactional data. His criticism comes as an online voting project announced it would “stress test” the blockchain with thousands of transactions over a 24-hour period.

Also read: Are Craig Wright and Gambling Tycoon Trying to Cash in on Bitcoin Patents?

Elections Platform Stress Tests the Bitcoin Blockchain

On March 5 XO.1, an Australian startup building a blockchain-based election platform, announced it would “stress-test” the blockchain starting March 6 GMT. This test involved processing 1.5 billion votes contained in 11,000 bitcoin transactions, using 4 percent of the network’s total capacity.

XO.1 chief technology officer Max Kaye announced the test and the team posted a PSA (public service announcement) on Reddit to warn users. Some transactions would be delayed 30 minutes and would take 24 hours to fully clear, the announcement read. The company would pay a priority fee to ensure its transactions went through, which would affect lower fee-paying users.

The stress test results are available online here. So far there have been no complaints about major delays from other users, though with the current high price both wait times and transaction fees are higher than usual.

‘Disrupts the Network, Provides Nothing of Value’

However XO.1’s announcement drew a rebuke from Dashjr, who called it a “DoS attack” and reported XO.1’s moves to Australian law enforcement. The reason, he said, was that there was no financial transfer involved in the test transactions.

Speaking to us, Luke Dashjr said he had not yet received a response from the Australian authorities. It’s not unusual for the state to intervene when other online platforms are deliberately inundated with data, as in spam DDoS and botnet operations.

“We shouldn’t rely on such protection, of course,” he said, “but there’s no reason not to take recourse to it when possible.”

“It disrupts the network, and provides nothing of value to the attacker (outside of achieving disruption of Bitcoin). More specifically, Bitcoin-style blockchains don’t solve anything useful to voting, besides perhaps proof-of-existence, but that use case does not require any additional data on the blockchain at all.”

Projects like the voting system “try to make a quick buck at the expense of others,” he said. He expects such moves to occur again in the future, as more projects seek to push the envelope of Bitcoin’s functionality.

Non-Financial Transfers Not Welcome

The often-outspoken Dashjr (a.k.a. Luke-jr online) has for years criticized projects that attempt to expand the functionality of Bitcoin’s blockchain to include other data. Calling it “spam” in 2014, he wrote a patch for one version of bitcoind that temporarily filtered out transactions belonging to Mastercoin and Counterparty.

Bitcoin developers had discussed ways to dissuade projects from using the Bitcoin blockchain for non-financial transfers of data, he added.

“A few years ago, there was some discussion of P2SH2 which would prevent storage of data on the chain, but unfortunately the idea hasn’t progressed further since then. It might be practical with segwit to revisit that again, but nobody seems to be taking the effort to do so.”

Voting on the Bitcoin Blockchain

XO.1 is working in partnership with Australian registered political party Flux. The party has no official political position, instead making decisions on individual issues by polling its members. For its “SecureVote” voting system to be auditable as well as cautious of users’ privacy, XO.1 decided to use Bitcoin’s public blockchain with vote data embedded in bitcoin transactions.

In its public announcement, XO.1 states SecureVote is the “world’s first high-throughput commercially viable secure, verifiable, auditable, and scalable internet voting system, with voting delivered via smart-phone app and local electronic voting machines.”

Even though there is no current election scenario in which 1.5 billion people would vote, XO.1 said it wanted to test at a level far beyond what its platform could expect to handle, to prove its resilience.

Flux ran candidates in Australia’s most recent federal election, in 2016, but did not win any seats in the country’s parliament.

The stress test would produce around 150GB of data, and would add 3MB to the Bitcoin blockchain, the PSA claimed. The project chose Bitcoin over other blockchains, such as Ethereum, as its developers believed the Ethereum blockchain could not handle that amount of data at this point.

As a public and open source network, Bitcoin has no explicit rules against using its blockchain for non-financial transfer data. However, those who prefer to keep Bitcoin true to its original purpose frown upon such use cases. One argument is that the contentious 1MB transaction block size is vital to limiting extraneous data on the blockchain.

Did you experience any unusual transaction delays? Should any measures exist to prevent developers trying to use Bitcoin in non-intended ways? Let’s hear your thoughts.

Cover image via Pixabay

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