David Mazieres: 2015 Security Workshop


Monday, April 27, 2015
Location: Fisher Conference Center, Arrillaga Alumni Center

"Internet-Level Agreement with the Stellar Consensus Protocol"


This talk presents the Stellar consensus protocol, the first provably safe federated Byzantine agreement protocol. Unlike prior Byzantine agreement protocols, which presuppose unanimous agreement on system membership, a federated protocol allows the set of participating organizations to grow organically over time. Using consensus, organizations cement one another's commitments into a public history that bad actors cannot rewrite or fork. Applications of the technology include timestamping documents, preventing certificate authorities from issuing fraudulent duplicate certificates, and efficiently securing transaction settlement in digital markets.


The Stellar protocol gives individual participants control over whom to trust and how much to trust them. It follows the paradigm established by Internet routing, in which an organization's importance is determined not by any central authority but by individual, pairwise peering arrangements. Compared to other decentralized consensus mechanisms, such as the proof-of-work and proof-of-stake schemes popular in digital currencies, federated consensus decouples trust from resource ownership and requires no assumptions about the rational behavior of attackers. The protocol presented forms the backbone of the next-generation Stellar financial network, a decentralized digital marketplace in which people can efficiently exchange currencies and send money.


David Mazières
is a professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, where he leads the Secure Computer Systems research group. He also serves as Chief Scientist at both Stellar Development Foundation and GitStar, Inc., the latter of which he co-founded. Prof. Mazières received a BS in Computer Science from Harvard in 1994 and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2000. Prof. Mazières research interests include Operating Systems and Distributed Systems, with a particular focus on security. Some of the projects he and his students have worked on include SFS (a self-certifying network file system), SUNDR (a file system that introduced the notion of fork linearizability), Kademlia (a widely used peer-to-peer routing algorithm), Coral (a peer-to-peer content distribution network), HiStar (a secure operating system based on decentralized information flow control), tcpcrypt (a TCP option providing forward-secure encryption), Hails (a web framework that can preserve privacy while incorporating untrusted third-party apps), and COWL (an information-flow-control-based browser security architecture). Prof. Mazières has several awards including a Sloan award (2002), USENIX best paper award (2001), NSF CAREER award (2001), MIT Sprowls best thesis in computer science award (2000), and fast-track journal papers at OSDI (2000), SOSP (1995), and SOSP (2005).