david wong

Hey! I'm David, cofounder of zkSecurity and the author of the Real-World Cryptography book. I was previously a crypto architect at O(1) Labs (working on the Mina cryptocurrency), before that I was the security lead for Diem (formerly Libra) at Novi (Facebook), and a security consultant for the Cryptography Services of NCC Group. This is my blog about cryptography and security and other related topics that I find interesting.

What's out there for ECDSA threshold signatures posted January 2024

In the realm of multi-party computation (MPC) protocols, threshold signing is the protocol that address how multiple participants can sign something under a "shared" private key. In other words, instead of one guy signing something with a private key, we want $N$ guys doing the same thing and obtaining the same result without any of them actually knowing the private key (each of them holds a share of the private key, revealing nothing about the private key itself).

The threshold part means that not every participant who has a share has to participate. If there's $N$ participants, then only $t < N$ has to participate for the protocol to succeed. The $t$ and $N$ depend on the protocol you want to design, on the overhead you're willing to eat, the security you want to attain, etc.

Threshold protocols are not just for signing, they're everywhere. The NIST has a Multi-Party Threshold Cryptography competition, in which you can see proposals for threshold signing, but also threshold decryption, threshold key exchanges, and others.

This post is about threshold signatures for ECDSA specifically, as it is the most commonly used signature scheme and so has attracted a number of researchers. In addition, I'm only going to talk about the history of it, because I haven't written an actual explainer on how these works, and because the history of threshold signing for ECDSA is really messy and confusing and understanding what constructions exist out there is near impossible due to the naming collisions and the number of papers released without proper nicknames (unlike FROST, which is the leading threshold signing algorithm for schnorr signatures).

So here we are, the main line of work for ECDSA threshold signatures goes something like this, and seems to mainly involve two Gs (Gennaro and Goldfeder):

  1. GG18. This paper is more officially called "Fast Multiparty Threshold ECDSA with Fast Trustless Setup" and improves on BGG: Using level-1 homomorphic encryption to improve threshold DSA signatures for bitcoin wallet security (2017) and GGN: Threshold-optimal dsa/ecdsa signatures and an application to bitcoin wallet security (2016).
  2. GG19. This has the same name as GG18, but fixes some of the issues in GG18. I think this is because GG18 was published in a journal, so they couldn't update it. But GG18 on eprint is the updated GG19 one. (Yet few people refer to it as GG19.) It fixes a number of bugs, including the ones brought by the Alpha-Rays attack, and A note about the security of GG18.
  3. GG20. This paper is officially called "One Round Threshold ECDSA with Identifiable Abort" and builds on top of GG18/GG19 to introduce the ability to identify who caused the abort. (In other words, who messed up if something was messed up during the multi-party computation.) Note that there are still some bugs in this paper.
  4. CGGMP21. This one combines GG20 with CMP20 (another work on threshold signatures). This is supposed to be the latest work in this line of work and is probably the only version that has no known issues.

Note that there's also another line of work that happened in parallel from another team, and which is similar to GG18 except that they have different bugs: Lindell-Nof: Fast secure multiparty ecdsa with practical distributed key generation and applications to cryptocurrency custody (2018).

PS: thanks to Rosario Gennaro for help figuring this out :)

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