ZK-Lab – investigating the foundations of zero-knowledge proofs
ZK-Lab is a sister lab to the Edinburgh Blockchain Technology Laboratories collaborating with IOG on the delivery of high-assurance blockchain solutions
18 November 2022 3 mins read
As a leading blockchain research and development company, Input Output Global, Inc. (IOG) cooperates with top universities and research hubs to investigate distributed technology and deliver secure blockchain solutions.
A recent post discussed how IOG established a network of institutions and laboratories committed to the investigation of blockchain technology based on functional correctness and research-based evidence. This post looks at ZK-Lab – a zero-knowledge laboratory researching the foundations of zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs).
The rise of the decentralized computing paradigm is sparking renewed interest in establishing secure means for sovereign parties to manage their own data. ZKPs enable one party to prove to another that a certain statement or claim is true, without revealing the contents of that statement.
First proposed by Goldwasser, Micali, and Rackoff in the 1985 paper 'The Knowledge Complexity of Interactive Proof-Systems', ZKP has captured the interest of scientific theorists and practitioners alike. Initially appreciated for its complex, theoretical, and foundational aspects, ZKP was also recognized as a potential solution to protecting digital identity and solving the scalability problem of Ethereum and other blockchains.
Many current practical applications of ZKP differ in performance and cryptographic assumptions. Succinct non-interactive ZK arguments of knowledge (SNARKS) are currently the most attractive proving system from the verifier’s perspective. SNARKS can improve the performance, succinctness, and data protection properties of the blockchain system, and can be applied to multiple use cases such as light clients, smart contracts, payments, digital identity management, voting, and many more.
ZK-Lab is based at the University of Edinburgh and is a sister lab to the Edinburgh Blockchain Technology Laboratories. ZK-Lab was introduced to the community at IO ScotFest: the age of Voltaire. Led by Markulf Kohlweiss, IOG research fellow and a senior lecturer in the security and privacy research group at the University of Edinburgh, ZK-Lab features post-doctoral research associates and PhD students.
The lab focuses on research into the foundations and applications of ZKP with a particular focus on security and performance. Besides ZK protocols, the lab will also investigate other cryptographic and trusted hardware techniques to help achieve the goal of more secure, scalable, and decentralized computations.
The lab benefits from existing collaborations and research papers. Past success stories include zkSNARK proof systems such as Sonic, applications of zero-knowledge such as zswap and PEReDi, and a line of work on real-world aspects of security with research papers such as ‘Another Look at Extraction and Randomization of Groth's zk-SNARK’, ‘What Makes Fiat-Shamir zkSNARKs (Updatable SRS) Simulation Extractable?’, ‘Snarky Ceremonies’, and others. Together these works lay the foundation for further research and implementations of SNARKS in a blockchain setting.
ZK-Lab outlined its goals and initiatives at IO ScotFest. Some discussion points included:
- The importance of good theory for practice
- The role of zero-knowledge in decentralized applications
- The interplay of zero-knowledge, distributed ledgers, and multi-party computation
Join the IO ScotFest virtual event to find out more about ZK-Lab, other research initiatives, and hear keynotes and presentations with new IOG announcements and project updates.