Sybil Attack Vulnerability Trilemma

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Public and permissionless blockchain systems are challenged by Sybil attacks, in which attackers use multiple identities to gain control. Traditionally, such attacks are prevented by consensus mechanisms relying on resource expenditure. However, such mechanisms (e.g. proof of work) face criticism for being wasteful. To address this and other concerns, novel blockchain systems backed by new consensus mechanisms have recently emerged. We formalise three key characteristics pursued by these systems: permissionlessness, Sybil attack resistance, and freeness. We demonstrate that no blockchain protocol can simultaneously achieve all three characteristics within the paradigm established by our formalisation. Thus, a trilemma emerges for distributed ledger technology designers, who must balance these characteristics thoughtfully.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Parallel, Emergent and Distributed Systems
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2024


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