Reflections on trusting distributed trust

by   Emma Dauterman, et al.

Many systems today distribute trust across multiple parties such that the system provides certain security properties if a subset of the parties are honest. In the past few years, we have seen an explosion of academic and industrial cryptographic systems built on distributed trust, including secure multi-party computation applications (e.g., private analytics, secure learning, and private key recovery) and blockchains. These systems have great potential for improving security and privacy, but face a significant hurdle on the path to deployment. We initiate study of the following problem: a single organization is, by definition, a single party, and so how can a single organization build a distributed-trust system where corruptions are independent? We instead consider an alternative formulation of the problem: rather than ensuring that a distributed-trust system is set up correctly by design, what if instead, users can audit a distributed-trust deployment? We propose a framework that enables a developer to efficiently and cheaply set up any distributed-trust system in a publicly auditable way. To do this, we identify two application-independent building blocks that we can use to bootstrap arbitrary distributed-trust applications: secure hardware and an append-only log. We show how to leverage existing implementations of these building blocks to deploy distributed-trust systems, and we give recommendations for infrastructure changes that would make it easier to deploy distributed-trust systems in the future.


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