Malkhi, VMWare Researcher, Says Ethereum’s Casper Is “Fundamentally Vulnerable”

Malkhi, VMWare Researcher, Says Casper Is “Fundamentally Vulnerable”

Dahlia Malkhi , principal researcher and founding member of VMWare Research Group, recently stated that one of Ethereum’s most critical upcoming upgrades is “fundamentally vulnerable.” Malkhi, whose research organization specializes in computer architecture, distributed systems, and various algorithms, has several concerns about Ethereum’s Casper protocol. The prominent researcher expressed her reservations on Friday during the Financial Cryptography and Data Security 2018 event in Curaçao.

While delivering the keynote presentation, Malkhi went over the various aspects of blockchain technology. She covered the topic with the added context of how multiple nodes reach consensus, based on well-known computer science algorithms. Although the presentation covered many areas of technological development, Malkhi’s comments regarding Ethereum’s Casper captured the most attention.

PoW vs. PoS: Basic Differences & Malkhi’s Comments

Notably, there are a number of fundamental differences between Ethereum’s proposed proof-of-stake protocol and Bitcoin’s proof-of-work. For instance, the proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm makes use of vast amounts of electricity in order to verify transaction’s on Bitcoin’s network. Meanwhile, Ethereum’s proof-of-stake (PoS) algorithm is reliant on “a validator’s economic stake in the network“. What this means is that the nodes on a blockchain reach a distributed consensus by taking turns voting on the next block to be processed. The weight of each vote placed is determined based on how much a node has staked, or deposited. Proponents of this approach claim that it offers better security and a lot less energy consumption, while being less prone to centralization.

Despite the various stated benefits of PoS over PoW, there’s a heated debate and argument over which is superior. However, up till now, a well-known computer science expert and academician had not officially offered their opinion on this matter. Now that Malkli has come forward, her statements might have more credibility, given her solid background in computer algorithms.

During her presentation, she said the following regarding Casper:

I think [Casper’s] proof-of-stake is fundamentally vulnerable. You’re giving authority to a group to call the shots […] In my opinion, it’s giving power to people who have lots of money.”

Admittedly, this is a pretty weak argument considering she didn’t seem to go into much detail about just how Casper would cause inequality, and affect the balance of power on Ethereum’s network.

Essential Components Of A Crypto Algorithm, According to Malkhi

The few other pertinent things Malkhi said about Casper was that it has contributed to “interesting” research related to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. According to her, this has even inspired further research into distributed systems, an area in which she has a lot of expertise. Moreover, the experienced computer scientist thinks that there are two main characteristics, namely security and “liveness”, that determine an algorithm’s legitimacy.

Per the PhD professor, the security and “liveness” attributes of cryptographic algorithms are key in ensuring that transactions are processed correctly, and whether the blockchain system that implements them will be sustainable. Malkhi then went on to say that, “I had a conversation with [Casper’s lead developer] Vlad Zamfir yesterday. He argues, isn’t it still useful if it’s ‘mostly’ live?”

Crypto Algorithms That Are Implemented Lack “Academic Rigor”

In response to this, Malkhi says the short answer is “no”. That’s because she believes this type of approach exposes the blockchain to certain vulnerabilities. She then backs up her claims by stating that, “We have several decades of experience here.” Malkhi’s comments seem to suggest that not enough academic research has been done to support the assumptions on which these blockchain-based algorithms have been implemented.

She then asserts,

Seriously, it’s very easy to come up with a solution which is not live. It’s trivial. The only thing we need to do in this field is generate mechanisms that are both safe and live.


Based on Malkhi’s recent comments, she doesn’t feel confident that any blockchain that has been implemented so far meets the criteria or standards she has suggested. Nevertheless, she acknowledges that there are “solid foundations”, but more work needs to be done in this area.

Her statements seem to have some similarities with what Mark Carney, Governor of England’s Central Bank, had to say about crypto-technology. As Core Media reported“It [digital currencies] does point the way in many respects to the future of money, [but] this generation of cryptocurrency is not the answer.” Comments from both Carney and Malkhi indicate that crypto-related technology has shown some signs of future adoption, but is not ready to replace the current legacy systems, which have a long, proven, and established history.