Blockchain technology is a foundation for a new style of trust in identity, transaction, business process and human activities. Just as the Internet provides opportunities for permissionless innovation within the realm of communications, the mathematics and algorithms of blockchain enable the creation of new applications based on shared ledgers without permission.

The technology derives from a wide range of theories: cryptography, network, game theory, economics and law. While the research and development of blockchain is still in its early stage, fundamental research and development will help to build its social foundation.

The blockchain research team at NTT Research Inc. is conducting research to make blockchain more secure and scalable to ensure just such an outcome. We focus on security of cryptographic protocols, identity, privacy, game theory and incentive design.

2021 saw the rise of smart contracts as the primary application for decentralized finance (DeFi). This change also dramatically raised concerns regarding the security of the underlying blockchain technology. DeFi losses traced to insecure smart contracts have a lineage back to the 2016 DAO breach (US$50M). More recent episodes include Liquid (US$97M), two Cream breaches (US$37.5M, US$29M), and Poly Network (US$600M). This panel, featured at Upgrade 2021, delved into the smart contract security issue by explaining and discussing the lack of a blockchain key management standard, the Oracle Problem, the blockchain performance/security trade space, and the challenges presented by the current shortage of experienced blockchain engineers and operators. Panelists also addressed possible technical, social, and operational root causes and the importance of applying academic research to these issues.

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