Syscoin Takes ‘Zero Knowledge’ Approach To Prevent Bridge Hacks

Blockworks exclusive: The layer-1 blockchain’s announcement comes amid a bevy of recent interest in zero-knowledge rollups


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key takeaways

  • The announcement represents the first actualized zero-knowledge bridge
  • The company says the bridge will be cheap, scalable and capable of performing all the same functions as Uniswap

After a flurry of Ethereum security-oriented so-called “rollups” were unveiled recently, another layer-1 blockchain has decided to throw its hat in the ring.

Syscoin, a “dual-layered blockchain” merge-mined with Bitcoin and running Ethereum-compatible smart contracts, is launching a zero-knowledge cross-chain bridge. The bridge, dubbed ZKCross, will have minimal fees and will facilitate cross-chain decentralized exchange, Syscoin told Blockworks. It is expected to be ready to demonstrate in September.

Hackers have stolen more than $1 billion from cross-chain bridges in 2022, leading to a proliferation of proposals meant to put investors at ease when moving assets between chains. The cross-chain bridges hacked in recent years employed multi-signature or multi-party computation (MPC) to validate their trades.

Syscoin’s zero-knowledge mechanism operates an off-chain automated market maker (AMM) that avoids exploitable consensus protocols, and can be used to manage liquidity and trading across multiple chains.

The accuracy of the transactions are verified with a zero-knowledge proof — essentially a fast and private way to authenticate data — before a bundle of transactions are rolled up and compressed to be settled on Syscoin’s base layer.

Syscoin believes the bridge technology allows for economies of scale — with a worst-case security scenario of the AMM going offline and users being forced to exit to the base layer.

“If it’s not this bridge, someone else will release a zero-knowledge bridge and that’ll be the bridge solution everyone is using. I really think this is where things are headed,” Jagdeep Sidhu, lead developer at Syscoin, told Blockworks.

Helping the transition is the (relative) cheapness of zero-knowledge bridging. Sidhu says the only cost to bridge users will be that of their own CPU.

Zero-knowledge technology still has its shortcomings — a lack of decentralization being one of the most prominent. In essence, investors trade scalability and low cost for the risk of censorship.

“All the rollups are centralized right now,” Sidhu said. “We’ll start with a centralized sequencer, but the goal is to create a decentralized sequencer down the road.”

Syscoin hopes to create a zero-knowledge Ethereum virtual machine (EVM), the much-hyped proof system for Ethereum smart contracts, like the zkEVM protocol launched Wednesday by Polygon. 

Sidhu does not believe anyone in crypto has yet created a “proper EVM” but emphasized that all protocols will need to move into the space eventually.

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