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Validators Create New Attack Vectors for Decentralized Systems

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Pascal Thellman is CMO at Bounty0x, a simple service for earning crypto, and an advisor at PolyGrowth, a crypto PR firm.

As proof-of-stake (PoS) networks gear up in an effort to compete with proof-of-work (PoW) blockchains, significant attention has been placed on their validator mechanisms and incentive structures for maintaining valid consensus.

In particular, ethereum has been brewing the development milestones for its transition to PoS consensus as part of its ‘Serenity’ upgrade for several years.

Binance recently released the details of its upcoming ‘decentralized’ exchange which will rely upon 11 validator nodes – all controlled by Binance – for confirming transactions on the exchange. The company has since come under fire for even calling their exchange decentralized and has gone on the defensive.

Interchain projects like Cosmos and Polkadot are gaining traction among proponents of interoperability and fast-finality consensus blockchains using Tendermint BFT and DPoS consensus models, respectively. And Cosmos is preparing for the launch of its mainnet Cosmos Hub soon. While PoS cryptocurrency networks offer better energy efficiency and faster finality than PoW, they have yet to be proven at scale and come with myriad concerns in various attack vectors and misaligned incentives.

Further, though most interchain blockchain projects focus on using validators for their network consensus, others have maintained the emphasis on using PoW via nuanced approaches. Block Collider uses an optimized version of Nakamoto Consensus for an interoperable chain of several blockchains without the need to change its security model to that of PoS or using validating nodes.

PoW is the battle-tested and sustainable consensus algorithm that bitcoin launched an entire industry with, so it is necessary to assess some of the potential quandaries with the rapid onset of PoS cryptocurrency networks.

The myriad forms of validating

Networks that deploy validator mechanisms in their consensus use a variety of names – from “hubs” to “masternodes.” However, they all employ similar design models where validators guarantee the valid state of the network by “validating” or “producing” blocks in frequencies that correlate to their stake of the native token in the network.

Validators replace the role of miners in a PoW blockchain network and are incentivized to act honestly within the system because their stake is locked into the network while they perform their task. They are rewarded in the native token of the network for authentic validating efforts, and their stakes are slashed if they act maliciously.

If you’re looking for a deep dive into the mechanics of PoS validating systems, Vitalik Buterin provides clarification on ethereum’s CBC Casper (PoS) mechanism and an initial design philosophy for PoS. Similarly, Cosmos provides some useful developer documentation for how their interchain validating works.

PoS mechanisms are exceptionally complex because they require advanced game theoretic approaches and their immutability is subjectively interpreted. The source of the validation of the blockchain ledger derives from validator assurances of its integrity, rather than energy expended via mining where the cardinal attack vector is energy itself rather than human interpretation — an ideal social scalability construct for minimizing trust.

Additionally, many interchain frameworks require compatibility of blockchains that are plugging into the network. For instance, Cosmos requires subchains that use fast-finality consensus, precluding the ability of PoW blockchains to connect to the network.

Properly analyzing some of the pitfalls of validator networks requires focusing on two primary areas:

  1. Attacks vectors
  2. Misaligned incentives

The leading concern of validator networks is their trade-off of scalability for security.

Cost savings via PoS networks and quicker finality that help the network scale come at an equal cost in long-term network integrity, which is one of the fundamental value propositions of blockchains.

Attack vectors

The misaligned incentives of validator networks often directly correspond to the attack vectors that require complicated engineering around to avoid. Two of the long-standing issues with validator consensus are the attack vectors of Long-Range Attacks and Sour Milk Attacks.

Long-Range Attacks (LRA)

An LRA is where a malicious party could purchase the private key of a sizeable token balance that was used in validating in the past. The party could then wield this balance to generate an alternative history of the blockchain from when the private key held the balance, effectively enabling them to award themselves increasing rewards based on the PoS validation.

The proposed solution to this problem is checkpointing, but checkpointing the state of the chain requires nodes continually be online and has been criticized as a complex and centralized solution. Moreover, LRAs demonstrate that in the long-run, PoS validator networks fail to guarantee the validity of the ledger – particularly in past states of the blockchain.

The result is that validator networks are not creating a permanent, immutable ledger with their consensus, but rather only a “temporary consensus” within a given context of time.

Sour Milk Attacks

A sour milk attack is where base validators push their peers to doubt honest peers by publishing genuine and fraudulent blocks to peers concurrently. At the same time, these base nodes coordinate with other malicious peers to do the same, muddling the ability of honest peers to discern between valid and invalid blocks.

The requirements for conducting these attacks are concerningly low, as only a fraction of the network validators can effectively freeze the network, create forks and lock the consensus.

Other attack vectors

Some other prominent attack vectors for PoS validating networks include the “Fake Stake attack,” stake grinding and DDOS attacks against validators that are required to remain online — forcing them to lose money.

In particular, the fake stake attack reveals that PoS validating is not as efficient at scaling as perceived, due to the higher costs of checking PoS blockchains compared to PoW blockchains. The attack vector was recently disclosed and would enable attackers with minimal stakes to crash nodes running the network’s software.

Misaligned incentives

One of the main concerns with validator networks is their potential for supplementing the wealth of the “crypto 1 percent” where only validators with significant stakes will reap the rewards of staking. With the wealthiest stakeholders able to control a sizeable portion of the overall supply, the incentive for average stakeholders to participate in validating is diminished.

Reduced incentives are inextricably linked to one of the most cited and high-profile pitfalls of validator networks — the low participation in staking by users. The downstream effects of low participation are network centralization, front-running trades with price cartels, and many more adverse consequences.

The game theory complexity of validator networks is also often criticized. To the hammers — engineers in game theory and incentive structures — everything in PoS consensus design looks like a nail. As such, the model becomes exceptionally convoluted and akin to engineering new solutions to problems that old solutions collaterally produced.

Further, misaligned incentives draw from the sheer complexity of such systems. In particular, the “Nothing at Stake Problem” is one of the foremost concerns of PoS validator networks. The Nothing at Stake problem is a well-documented issue in validator PoS networks where PoS consensus cannot adequately solve the problem of two blocks being produced at similar times.

PoW solves this via a randomized mechanism involving the most worked chain of energy expenditure. However, PoS passes this burden onto the validators, leading to one block potentially having more stake than the other. The problem materializes when validators realize that staking on two competing chains is advantageous to them. By using their stake on both chains, it becomes challenging to discern which chain is the valid chain.

Criticisms of proposed solutions to the Nothing at Stake problem again highlight the layers of abstraction needed to obfuscate the fundamental issue of staking without actually addressing the problem itself – leading to even more design convolution.

Conclusion

As networks that rely upon validators continue to garner support among next-generation blockchain platforms, it is prudent to place the new consensus designs into the context of practicality. PoW is the only proven distributed consensus for blockchain networks. Only time will tell if PoS validators prove sustainable models for scalable blockchains, and being aware of their shortcomings is the optimal approach in a sea of blockchain innovation.

Network image via Shutterstock

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How to Save Your Business During a Recession

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How to Save Your Business During a Recession

How are you holding up?

I know, these are challenging times for all of us and I’m sure you get tons of emails talking about this ugly virus that’s going around the world COVID-19.

Many businesses are taking a huge hit by not having any customers, cutting down their employees and majority shutting their doors. This virus has eaten up some businesses and pooped them right back out.

Especially the ones that were not prepared for the recessional times.

I don’t want to go into statistics about how it will affect us locally or globally as you can look out your window or turn on the news for that (for good or bad).

I’m a very optimistic person when it comes to my life and it is sometimes hard to see the silver lining when we are in the middle of unprecedented, crazy times. 

But I want you to remember:

Things WILL get better.

This crisis situation won’t last forever.

Sure, things will slow down for a bit as we practice social distancing and isolation from the typical way we are used to living our lives. 

We all (well most) understand that, in the long run, it’s the best course of action to flatten the curve (I know you hate hearing these same words over and over but we need to do it). 

During this time of isolation, my plan is to help as many businesses as possible through my content. 

Step #1: We need to shift our perspective

As people stay at home, they are spending more time than ever online. 

Fact: My sites has seen a 15% increase (1,500 new visitors per day) day after day and it will only get better over the next few weeks and months.

It’s the right time to reach out to your audience on social media and show them your empathy as we are in this together.

To bring your community together, create relatable content that shows you care about your customers. 

Content that is centered around staying healthy and keeping mental well-being in-check can help you stay relevant. 

During this topsy-turvy time, consumers need reassurance and support from the brands that they love.

To weather this storm, you also need to be ready to pivot your business strategy. 

  • If your gym is shut down, why not give your customers an online workout class? 
  • If you run a coffee shop, can you shift to selling bags of ground coffee online instead of hot lattes?
  • If a seminar or an in-person event gets cancelled, is it possible to move it online?

It’s never been more important for businesses to go digital.

Step #2: Search Engine Optimization

As travel is restricted, spend more of your time/budget on writing content. And keep in mind that local SEO has become more necessary now than ever.

Fact: Most companies stop their marketing campaigns during hard times and will lose rankings and lose touch with their customers.  This is NOT a good move!

Being proactive by optimizing your site for SEO and writing content is crucial now to get to the top of Google while your competitors are stagnant.

If you don’t want to do the SEO work yourself, you can always hire SEO companies to do it for you while you sit back and oversee their work.

Go digital” — that should be your mantra for resilience.

Hang in there, we’re going to come out stronger.

Also Read: What Does Digital Marketing Agency Do?

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Top 10 Best Orlando SEO Companies

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Orlando SEO

As more businesses are adapting to the fast-moving world of digital marketing, services like SEO have become popular with many companies, with some providers charging outrageous amounts of money for the service while others charge very little. Some of these don’t even do any work to deliver their “results”. 

You might ask, “How do I choose a good service?” How do you know who offers the best service? Especially in the Orlando area, we recommend researching the company you are trying to sign up with before you hand over your SEO work. Check what they have done. Get on a call with them and ask if they can show you case studies. Not just general studies but ones from your industry, specifically. 

Have they worked with a similar company? What have they done for them? How long did it take them to deliver ROI-measurable results? 

Dive deep and investigate everything about them. Question them and pay attention to what they say. Avoid the ones that try to get you into super long, hard-to-get-out-of contracts. Legit companies will show you what they have done and give you room to breathe and decide whether this is the right strategy for your business. 

Regardless, we have put together a list of 30 SEO companies currently operating from Orlando FL. Follow my tips and choose the most suitable agency for your SEO needs. 

1. Web Daytona 

Web Daytona is a digital marketing agency heavily focused on search engine optimization. This agency got started back in 2008, with headquarters based out of Daytona Beach FL and has expanded to Orlando, since, bringing their results-driven services to the Orlando SEO market. 

This company offers optimized options for their clients, giving them the opportunity to choose what suits them best. They do contract options, long-term, short-term, or no contracts at all. They do not pressure you into buying their services and they support all their claims with valuable case studies.

How do they proceed with a client? Give them a call, first. They will get a clear understanding of what you need before taking 48 hours to do their research, analyze your website and your competitors and create a custom plan of action, ready to be implemented. Analyze their proposal and, if the price is acceptable, move forward and let them take care of the rest. This agency sends you weekly progress reports so you are updated, every step of the way. 

2. SEO By You 

This agency has not been around for a very long time, but long enough to make a big impact within the SEO community. In just two years, these guys were able to rank over 100,000 keywords on the first page of Google and other major search engines. 

As you can see, just from the name, they specialize in search engine optimization. Their team is composed of on-and-off-page strategists and technical SEO professionals, the architects of their optimization. 

This company does not offer long or short term contracts. They are paid, as you go, but ask all their clients for at least 6 months of commitment before they see any major SEO results for their business. SEO By You has their own proprietary tools that allow them to do a deep investigation of your current strategy, your competitors’ strategies, and develop a plan to help you match your competition. From there, they’ll help you leverage these services, ultimately outranking your competition and securing first page search results. 

3. Reach Local Orlando 

This is an SEO-focused agency, operating out of Orlando FL. They help businesses build successful online presences through up-to-date SEO practices. This company helps you take control of your Internet presence, as well as ensuring that your customers find your business when they search for your products or services. 

They focus on generating leads through SEO, not just increasing a certain percentage of clicks. Their beautiful landing page can tell you a lot about what type of strategy they build for the businesses they work with. I’ve got to say, according to some online reviews they help you target and engage your local customers based on valuable data, deep insights and an integrated advertising approach. 

4. WASHEEN SEO 

Originally based in Sri Lanka, WASHEEN SEO operates out of and brings their services to Orlando and the businesses therein. They are a digital marketing agency, but mostly focused on SEO. They have been involved with SEO since 2015 and have done quite well with ranking their clients. 

Since then, they have built over 800 websites with SEO strategy and generated over $30M+ in revenue for the clients who have hired them to carry out digital marketing and strategic SEO campaigns. 

This agency specializes in the following industries: 

  • Healthcare
  • Restaurants
  • Real estate
  • Dental
  • Software
  • Pool
  • Bail bonds 
  • Security camera systems

It does all of this, while servicing clients with high quality, on-time delivery and service. 

5. Get The Clicks 

This company began their journey back in 2002 as a web development company as The Outer Limit Studios. In 2009, they rebranded and evolved into a digital marketing agency and, two years later, the company became what it is today: Get The Clicks. 

Since then, the company began its journey into the digital marketing arena. This agency has helped over 1,100 businesses of all shapes and sizes throughout the United States, delivering high quality marketing services.

As part of their marketing service, they have hired professional SEO experts to handle their clients’ SEO needs. This company does not offer contracts and they have no hidden fees. They give you the full transparency you need as a business owner to feel comfortable while dealing with any third party agency. 

They have a simple approach to your SEO strategy. They evaluate where you are currently ranking. Then they figure out what your competitors are doing to out-rank you. They then build a strategic plan based on your competitors weaknesses and they execute it with full transparency in communication. 

6. Web Market Florida 

While this company has not been around for as long as other agencies, they have been around for about 5 years, providing web design and marketing services to their clients. They have completed over 1,000 web design and development projects and have launched over 500 marketing campaigns. Over 700 branding campaigns and 900 search engine optimization projects have been completed. 

This agency has been focusing on SEO and enhancing their strategies to help their clients thrive through search engine ranking. They have specialists with years of experience in the field who are up-to-date with all SEO trends and techniques, and are aware of search engine algorithm updates. This ensures they can keep all their clients’ SEO strategies fully furnished. 

7. Orlando SEO Group 

This agency has been serving Orlando since 2005 and has done some great work in the SEO field. They are an award winning digital service and have been accredited by the Orlando Business Journal from the results of all the local businesses they have helped. 

They have one goal in mind: to rank your website in the top three search results of the first page, as well as ranking your local business in the top three packs for the relevant keywords your potential customers are looking for to find businesses like yours. 

If your website is not mobile friendly, they can make it user friendly. If your website is not optimized, they can optimize it for you. These guys don’t back out from any challenge – they overcome them with knowledge and years of experience, creating different types of SEO campaigns. 

8. Orlando SEO World 

This company’s focus is on helping you improve your online visibility through search engine optimization strategies. Enhance your website performance and increase your ranks to generate more targeted traffic, increase your sales, and get better ROI on your marketing investment. 

Orlando SEO World was founded in Orlando FL and has an office operating from Winter Park, serving greater central Florida. They have been there since the early days of the Internet and have served thousands of businesses, since. 

They can truly help you put your company in front of your audience and gain a competitive advantage over your competition. They give you a free website analysis and free proposal to work with them. 

9. SEO CFL Expert 

This Orlando based SEO agency specializes in SEO across various industries. They help businesses strategically optimize their websites and their online presence. They create custom campaigns that help local businesses reach local targeted customers. 

They have a team of digital marketing experts that have in depth knowledge and experience in the SEO industry. It took them years to test and bring their professionals to the point where they are today. All their strategies will be geared towards your business to gain maximum exposure online and they only work with limited amounts of clients so they can ensure your company’s success is their priority. 

10. Marketingoose 

It is unknown exactly how long this SEO company has been serving the Orlando area but their website has been around for over three years. This company’s experts are fully focused on search engine optimization. 

This company clearly understands how search engines, rankings and algorithms work and are willing to do everything in their power to help businesses outrank their local competition. Their focus of SEO services are on-page optimization, off-page optimization, technical SEO and search engine marketing through pay-per-click advertisement. 

Conclusion

These are the top 10 Orlando SEO companies in operation right now. If you are looking to hire one, you have plenty to choose from, and the talent is all right there. I do recommend researching these companies yourself, analyzing their websites and seeing where they rank when you search for the following keywords in Google or other search engines: 

  • Orlando SEO 
  • Orlando SEO Services 
  • Orlando SEO Company 
  • Orlando SEO Agency 

If any of these companies do not show up on the first page or top three search results of Google, you might not want to work with them. An SEO company that claims they can rank you should not have a problem ranking themselves. At the end of the day, it is a case study they can show you to close the gap, gain your trust, and show that they are the right guys to work with.

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Top 10 Best Paving Companies In Daytona Beach FL.

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Best Paving Companies In Daytona Beach

Here are the 10 best paving companies servicing Daytona Beach FL.

  1. Rockwell Construction Services
  2. P&S Paving
  3. Halifax Paving
  4. D & W Paving
  5. Duval Paving
  6. Pavemax
  7. E & H Paving
  8. M & S Asphalt Paving
  9. ACET Recycling
  10. The Alternative

Rockwell Construction Services

Rockwell Construction Services (RCS) is based out of Daytona Beach, Florida. Provides professional paving and construction services throughout the Volusia County area, they make quality workmanship their number one priority.

With a full-service approach to construction and paving, Rockwell has it all. The scope of their work includes:

  • Asphalt paving / Repair
  • Sealcoating
  • Sitework
  • Parking Lots
  • Driveways
  • Millings
  • Heavy construction projects

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P & S Paving

P&S Paving, Inc. has grown to the point where they work major highway construction and earthwork projects. They’re also at home onsite for small driveways and parking lots, producing large amounts every hour, in a cleaner, more efficient manner.

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Halifax Paving

Halifax Paving, Inc. has construction experience building roads, airports, and highways. Their portfolio is big enough to offer most services, from bike paths to highway work, subdivisions and apartment complexes.

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D & W Paving

D & W provides asphalt paving, patching and site work in central Florida’s Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns, Seminole and East Marion Counties. With GradingExcavating and FillingBase WorkAsphalt Paving, and Asphalt Patching in their portfolio, they’re one not to miss.

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Duval Paving

Duval Paving, LLC has been in operation since 2011. Paving new driveways and parking lots, repaving, and sealing commercial and residential properties is right there in their wheelhouse.

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Pavemax

PaveMax uses industry best practices and green technology to use in their projects. With a focus on meeting their customers’ needs, their work doesn’t suffer in spite of their relatively quick pace.

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E & H Paving

E & H Paving LLC brings more than 35 years of experience in the state of Florida to the table in their outstanding asphalt services. Look out for them in residential and commercial spaces.

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M & S Asphalt Paving

M&S Asphalt Paving is a full-service asphalt paving company offering quality services, driveway work, parking lots, roads, businesses, and commercial parking for a range of operations.

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ACET Recycling

ACET Recycling offers recycling services to site development projects across the state of Florida. Consider it a sort of one-stop-shop for site services of different types and sizes.

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The Alternative

The Alternative provides paving services in Daytona Beach FL.

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Pave The Way In 2020

For your paving and construction projects, the businesses listed in today’s article offer a range of great consultations and full service portfolios. Reach out to a few of them, make a connection with one, and happy paving!

For more great articles like this, make sure to check out some of our other blogs, as well!

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