How ZelNodes Help Secure the Zel Network

ZelNodes have many planned uses for the Zel ecosystem, including protecting Proof-of-Work (POW) integrity to resist malicious chain splits & hash attacks

  • All POW-based crypto assets are potentially susceptible to hash attacks & chain splits, even Bitcoin
  • Satoshi envisioned the “longest chain wins” consensus strategy to bolster the idea of complete decentralization of authority
  • This allows communities to essentially vote via their hash power for/against proposed forks
  • The introduction of cheap ASICs and rental services like NiceHash make it much easier to attack most POW algorithms for malicious reasons/monetary gain (51% attack)
  • Projects are utilizing available resources to secure chains, such as leveraging BTC hash power and/or networks of masternodes

ZelNodes Passively Help Protect Zel Network

The Zel network now has two consensus mechanisms on-chain, the POW/mining aspect and the ZelNodes voting aspect. POW secures the chain in the traditional way, solving hash functions to receive a reward for processing Zel transactions. ZelNodes also form consensus for which Nodes will be paid after each block find by POW. ZelNode consensus occurs based on the ZelNodes themselves voting for the next payout receiver for each found block.

Voting occurs a few blocks ahead of a scheduled payout, consensus is formed on which ZelNodes will receive payment, and these results are propagated on the network to be included in the scheduled block for ZelNode payout when it’s found by the miners. So now to submit a successful block hash and receive the block reward, the correct voting outputs must also be supplied at the same time.

This mechanism makes it much more difficult to attack the chain than relying 100% on hash power, which can relatively easily be attacked using NiceHash, especially for coins with lower network hash (Equihash algos are pretty cheap on NH). Requiring two separate forms of consensus means a would-be attacker needs 51% or more control of the network hash, while also knowing each ZelNode tier winner in advance (3 winners/round). This process needs to be performed for every block, expending considerably more resources than simply buying hash power.

This mitigation strategy is meant to resist attacks, not negate or be 100% effective against them. Hash attacks will more than likely always be possible, but projects are working on more sophisticated ways all the time to mitigate the effects of attack. [See dPOW from Komodo & PoP from Veriblock for examples of novel approaches to chain security]

Planned Additional Chain Security [Active] with ZelNodes

The added chain security achieved with ZelNode voting is nice, but Zel plans to utilize active chain security on the Nodes in the near future. There are many great security strategies available from other projects that utilize masternode computing power and Zel will also use the ZelNodes network to actively secure the Zel ecosystem.

Proposals for active security are currently being reviewed to select the best course of action for using ZelNodes to secure the Zel chain. More information of the ongoing process will be published here on Medium as it becomes available.

Zel is also currently working on a POW algorithm change that is unique to the project, internally named ZelHash V1. The specifics of this algorithm and how Zel will benefit from a swap will be documented in a future Medium post.

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Written by Zel Technologies, GmbH — 13 April 2019 — Rev. 1