Zcash’s platform focuses on the privacy that it can give investors. However, they seem to have found themselves in an interesting predicament – a chink in their armor of security. A group of researchers has recently discovered some of the code that keeps their coins protected and private, suggesting that these coins may not be as safe as investors hope.
The research team – Mary Maller, Haaroon Yousaf, George Kappos, Haaroon Yousaf, and Sarah Meiklejohn – is based out of the University College of London. Their paper was only recently published on May 8th, 2018 by Scirate, and it was titled “An Empirical Analysis of Anonymity in Zcash.” This paper was intended to expose the truth about different transactions that use a specific code in their anonymity-reducing pattern.
In the paper, the research team showed consumers how the ZCash coins were actually moved back and forth, going from shielded to unshielded and back again. This transition may have lost the anonymous feature that investors find the most appealing. According to the team, “Their relatively simple heuristics reduce the size of the overall anonymity set by 69.1 percent.”
With the Zcash protocol being the 27th largest cryptocurrency in the world, and highly favored by investors that prefer the privacy, this accusation is pretty severe. The protocol has two different types of addresses that investors can use – z-addresses for invisible transactions, and t-addresses that for transactions that are meant to be transparent on the block chain. Invisible transactions completely hide the block from the blockchain, while transparent transactions are visible.
When consumers choose between the two transactions, they have to be coded before posting. The coding for the z-addresses has a few complications in the process, which means that there is a brief time where anyone would be able to see every detail about the transaction. The researchers believe that this problem comes from the fact that so many people interact with the platform on a regular basis.
Zcash Swoops In To Make Changes
Before the paper was even released, Zcash received word of the information that the research team had discovered. This notification gave the platform the opportunity to come through and make some changes, which the research team immediately recognized.
Zcash founder Zooko Wilcox made the following statement: ““We congratulate this research team for this insightful new paper, and invite other scientists to join with us in investigating these questions that are important to the future of human society… It is valuable to understand how much privacy is lost when using shielded addresses as a pass-through mechanism but using it in that way is not recommended. Instead, store your Zcash in a shielded address.”
Wilcox also let investors know that there are additional upgrades planned in the future for the Zcash platform. The Sapling hard fork is specifically in the works to help address the issues that researchers talked about in their publication.
Consumers can read the full article released by Scirate at smeiklej.com/files/usenix18.pdf