What are Zero-Knowledge STARKs?
Zero-Knowledge Scalable Transparent Argument of Knowledge, or zk-STARKs, are a type of zero-knowledge proof (ZKP), a revolutionary cryptographic method where one party can prove to another that a given statement is true without revealing any other information apart from the fact that the statement is true.
Here’s the breakdown of the zk-STARK concept:
- ‘Zero-knowledge‘ refers to the preservation of privacy;
- ‘Scalable‘ indicates that verification time is substantially less than the time taken for naïve computations;
- ‘Transparent‘ reflects the lack of a trusted setup requirement;
- ‘Argument‘ and ‘knowledge‘ relate to the security and robustness of the cryptographic scheme.
The invention of zk-STARKs is credited to Eli-Ben Sasson, a professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
How Do Zero-Knowledge STARKs Work?
Zero-Knowledge STARKs work by leveraging leaner cryptography, specifically collision-resistant hash functions, to validate the truth of a statement without sharing the details behind it.
Unlike zk-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-interactive Argument of Knowledge) which rely on an initial trusted setup and are theoretically vulnerable to quantum computer attacks, zk-STARKs eliminate these issues.
Although, it’s important to note that this leaner approach results in a significant disadvantage – zk-STARKs generate proofs that are typically 10 to 100 times larger than those created by zk-SNARKs, thus making them more expensive and potentially less practical for certain applications.
History of Zero-Knowledge STARKs
zk-STARKs were first introduced in 2018 in a series of papers by Eli-Ben Sasson, Iddo Bentov, Yinon Horesh, and Michael Riabzev.
This came about six years after the first zk-SNARKs were introduced in a paper co-authored by UC Berkeley professor Alessandro Chiesa.
Despite their later emergence, zk-STARKs have seen increasing support and adoption, with the Ethereum Foundation even awarding a $12 million grant to STARKware, a company focusing on zk-STARK-based scaling solutions.
Advantages and Disadvantages of zk-STARKs
|Advantages of zk-STARKs||Disadvantages of zk-STARKs|
Unlike zk-SNARKs, zk-STARKs are resistant to attacks by quantum computers.
|Large proof sizes
Proofs generated by zk-STARKs are significantly larger than those from zk-SNARKs, which can be problematic for applications with tight storage or bandwidth constraints.
|No trusted setup
The absence of a trusted setup means that zk-STARKs are less vulnerable to certain types of attacks and misuse.
|Less developed community and documentation
Zk-STARKs, being newer, have fewer developer resources, libraries, and community support compared to zk-SNARKs.
With zk-STARKs, there are no secret cryptographic parameters that could be exploited.
|Higher computational cost
Larger proof sizes mean that more computation is needed to verify each proof, which can increase the cost of transactions in certain systems.
Zero-Knowledge STARKs represent a significant advancement in cryptography, providing a tool for proving the truth of statements without revealing any underlying information, enhancing both privacy and security.
While they have their disadvantages, such as larger proof sizes and a less mature ecosystem, their unique advantages, like quantum resistance and lack of a trusted setup, make them an important tool in the field of cryptography.
As the technology continues to mature and evolve, zk-STARKs will undoubtedly play a vital role in the development and deployment of secure, privacy-preserving systems.