EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium

Building systems using malicious components: how I learned to stop worrying and trust SNARK proofs
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 4:30pm
Gates B03
Eran Tromer (Tel Aviv University)
Abstract / Description: 

"Computers are unreliable and vulnerable to attacks. Therefore, we shouldn't believe what they say, unless they prove its correctness." Imagine how much more robust our systems and networks would be, if they could be built on this tenet! But how can we succinctly prove that some complex computation was not corrupted, and actually produced the correct output? Can this be done efficiently? And how would such proofs be used and propagated in a larger system?

In recent years, there has been dramatic progress in the theory and implementation of cryptographic proof systems with the requisite properties: zero-knowledge Noninteractive ARguments of Knowledge (zkSNARK) and its extension to Proof-Carrying Data.

We will survey this progress, and discuss several applications:

  • Ensuring the integrity of any logic circuit, or any C programs 
  • Zerocash: Preserving users' privacy in Bitcoin-like cryptocurrencies 
  • ProtoProof: Verifying the authenticity of edited photographs

Includes joint work with Eli Ben-Sasson, Alessandro Chiesa, Christina Garman, Daniel Genkin, Matthew Green, Ian Miers, Assa Naveh, Gilad Roth and Madars Virza.


The Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium (EE380) meets on Wednesdays 4:30-5:45 throughout the academic year. Talks are given before a live audience in Room B03 in the basement of the Gates Computer Science Building on the Stanford Campus. The live talks (and the videos hosted at Stanford and on YouTube) are open to the public.


Eran Tromer is a faculty member at Tel Aviv University's School of Computer Science, where he heads the Lab for Experimental Information Security and is codirector of the Check Point Institute for Information Security. Currently he is a visiting scientist at Columbia University. He received his Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and previously pursued his research at MIT and at Microsoft Research. His research area is cryptography and information security, focusing on risks posed by physical attacks and untrusted platforms, and on mitigating these risks using robust protocols and rigorous proofs. His work has guided government standards and industry practice, and has improved the security of systems used by millions of people.