The Rationale For More Secure Smart Contracts

December 26, 2018

Why Smart Contracts

When it comes to the future of business, there are few innovations that have captured the imagination more than the concept of smart contracts. Despite the misnomer — the degree to which they are “smart” or even “contracts” is still a matter of intense debate — businesses understand the need for autonomous processes that are unstoppable and always-on.

At least so far as it doesn’t destroy user experience, the answer to “How much security do we need?” is almost always “More.” This is why it makes sense to look at the best way to provide secure smart contracts. Bitcoin has this answer.

Why Smart Contracts on Bitcoin?

What makes Bitcoin so secure? This comes from the accumulated “proof-of-work”–about a decade’s worth. By bundling a given period’s set of transactions and hunting for a brute force solution a computing problem that is difficult to solve, but simple to verify, a tamper-proof ledger of transactions emerges.

Impressive as it is, though, Bitcoin is only really good at one thing — moving value from one person to another. RSK sought to expand these features and, thus, developed an EVM to ride atop of the Bitcoin blockchain and provide it with smart contract capabilities.

In his post “Work Is Timeless, Stake Is Not,” Hugo Nguyen discusses the two leading concepts for achieving consensus on blockchain networks: proof-of-work (again, as utilized by Bitcoin and its relatives) and proof-of-stake (to where the Ethereum network plans to transition). His argument is that proof-of-work offers the security of elapsed time: Blocks cryptographically buried under successive blocks, making them increasingly tamper-resistant. Proof-of-stake (or, as he describes it, “proof of temporary stake”) relies on the “miner” risking a kind of security bond to ensure good behavior.

To say nothing of Ethereum’s future consensus plans, however, even in a head-to-head comparison of the present proof-of-work security for each, Bitcoin is still the clear choice. The cost to attack Bitcoin, for example, is prohibitively high. (This recent study, commissioned by Zebpay, sees it as impossible.) This is several multiples of Ethereum and Ethereum Classic.

For us, it was neither an argument nor even much of a choice. To provide the most secure smart contracts possible, we’d be fools to not take advantage of the great gift that Satoshi Nakamoto gave us. Thus, RSK forms the foundation of RIF OS. That is why RIF Labs chose to build its implementations of the RIF OS Protocols on top of the RSK Smart Contract Network because of its unique position as the first open-source smart contract platform secured by the Bitcoin Network.

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