Kovri & Bulletproofs: How Monero is Improving Privacy
Monero is one of the premier privacy conscious cryptocurrencies currently on the market.
It makes use some of the most advanced technologies in cryptography and blockchain technology. These include such features as stealth addresses, transaction mixing and Ring Confidential transactions.
These have made Monero (XMR) almost untraceable. Yet, “almost” is not good enough for the Monero community as they have strived to improve the protocol in their latest updates.
These updates include the Monero Kovri I2P implementation as well as what are termed “bulletproofs”. These developments have been in the pipeline for sometime and we are starting to see them being actively rolled out.
So what are they and how are they going to make Monero even more secure?
Before we can delve into the technology, we have to take a look the current state of Monero’s privacy.
Secure, Untraceable Digital Cash
Currently, Monero is able to hide all details about a transaction. Making use of stealth addresses, they are able to hide the recipient’s and payers’ details from the rest of the network. They are also able to hide the amount that has been transacted.
Making use of Ring Confidential transaction and transaction Mixin, information about future transactions is also hidden from the original sender of these funds.
Therefore, a Monero transaction is probably the closest you will get to making a payment with untraceable bank notes.
However, there are two outstanding quirks that the Monero community was not 100% comfortable with.
The first related to the potential of user IP address leaks and the other revolved around the inefficiencies of current Monero “Range proofs”.
Kovri and IP Anonymization
As mentioned, Monero is almost completely private. However, there was always a question that remained around the IP addresses of those who interacted with the Monero network.
When you initiate a transaction on the Monero blockchain, your IP address is being exposed to the network. If there was a malicious actor, they could observe this event and log your IP address. This could create the potential for meta data analysis by large and determined adversaries.
While this is a really difficult attack to complete, it is still a concern for some.
This is the reason that the community has been excited about the release of Kovri and its potential to encrypt and route transactions through I2P (Invisible Internet Protocol) nodes. Technically, Kovri will make use of “Garlic encryption” and “Garlic routing”
We won’t go into more detail about Garlic routing but one can think of it as a more secure version of the Onion routing. Onion routing is the current networking implementation that is on use in the TOR network.
By using this routing protocol, your connection to the Monero network is masked and your IP address cannot be identified. According to the Kovri lead developer, Anonimal, the Kovri protocol will:
“Essentially, we will be able to anonymise monero transactions even more than what monero is capable of doing right now, technically speaking, at the network layer”
Kovri is currently in alpha release stage and there is still a great deal of testing that needs to be done. There are currently 48 contributors who are working on it and the project still has a healthy chunk of funding to move the project forward.
BulletProofs and Lower Fees
While Monero transactions are completely private, they are relatively inefficient. This basically comes down to the nature of Monero’s “range proofs”.
Range proofs basically allow anyone to verify that a particular commitment represents an amount within a particular range without revealing anything else. These are needed in order ensure that transaction input and output amounts are positive.
This may sound like a mouthful, but all you need to know is that these range proofs are essential components for the private transaction.
However, the current range proofs on the Monero network are inefficient as they make up the bulk of the size of the transaction. This means that a great deal of mining resources goes towards verifying these range proofs and increases the cost of these transactions.
This is where BulletProofs come in.
Despite the catchy name, BulletProofs are the ideal solution to the Monero range proof problem. They scale in size differently to Monero’s current proofs and as a result, save space as transactions inputs and outputs increase.
A full explanation of Bulletproofs is beyond the scope of this article but if you wanted to flex your intellectual muscles you could read the paper on it by Bünz, Bootle et al.
The most important takeaway from the bulletproofs is the space that it saves in Monero transactions. For example, a simple Monero transaction that has two outputs is about 13.2kb in size. However, with bulletproofs the transaction is only 2.5kb in size. This is a full 80% reduction in size which will translate into a commensurate reduction in fees.
Given that bulletproofs scale logarithmically, the space savings on these transactions are even more pronounced with multiple output transactions.
In short, bulletproofs is a solution that all Monero users will notice immediately.
So where in the pipeline are Monero bulletproofs?
In July, Kudelski securities completed their audit of Monero compatible bulletproofs. While there were a few minor issues, it passed audit stage and was ready for implementation on the Monero test network.
The first audit (by Kudelski Security) of Monero compatible Bulletproofs has, bearing a few minor issues, been successfully completed! https://t.co/qZk3FdhJ5L
— Monero || #xmr (@monero) July 15, 2018
If all goes well in the testing phase, then the bulletproofs are expected to be released live on the Monero network in October.
Monero has proven itself to be one of the premier privacy coins on the market. The community is thriving and is comprised of some of the smartest and most privacy conscious individuals in the world.
Of course, as Monero has garnered attention from government backed entities, so too have the risks increased for vulnerabilities and deanonymization.
The Monero developers are well aware of this and are always looking for solution to improve on the Protocol.
Kovri and bulletproofs are two really important improvements that will help cement Monero’s market leading status.
We will keep a keen eye on the rollout of this technology.
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