From blowtorching computers to using radioactive dust from Chernobyl, crypto’s getting another trusted setup. This time, it’s its largest.
P0xeidon Labs, Manta Network’s development team, today announced a trusted setup ceremony that will be used to launch its private payments app.
MantaPay will let users privately send crypto across other Polkadot- and Kusama-based networks using zkSNARK technology. Kusama is akin to a testnet for all things Polkadot.
The ceremony is expected to last up to two weeks and will have about 5,000 participants from as many as 133 countries, making it the largest and most distributed trusted setup in the history of Web3, according to Manta Network.
Trusted setups are unique events in crypto and are executed to make sure that a newly-launched privacy network can never be compromised. Members of a setup randomly generate the cryptographic rules for a network (public parameters) and then sometimes even destroy the machine on which those rules were created.
“We're witnessing an overwhelming amount of interest in participation in our trusted setup—about 5,000 registrations so far. I think it indicates just how critical privacy is for Web3, and the ecosystem is recognizing that,” Kenny Li, co-founder and COO at Manta Network, told Decrypt.
Manta Network, which is developing its own layer-1 blockchain using Polkadot’s Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS) consensus model, says it is building the future of Web3 with privacy protection, allowing users to conduct private transactions between any parallel chain of assets.
As explained by the team, MantaPay will not have its own native token. There are plans, however, to launch one for the Manta Network.
Discarding Manta Network's 'toxic waste'
Manta Network’s trusted setup will see the ceremony’s participants—known as provers and verifiers—generate Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs), which Manta Network says are core to its privacy preservation functionality. This guarantees the validity of transactions without posting any private information to the blockchain.
The prover and the verifier will perform a complex computation, committing to a “shared secret” that will be used to generate public parameters. A shared secret is a set of verified private keys received by the prover and the verifier.
The keys’ computation produces what cryptographers call “toxic waste” that has to be discarded.
“Toxic waste could be described as secret numbers that would allow someone to produce fake ZKPs. Anyone who knows those numbers can produce tokens out of thin air in our protocol,” Todd, a pseudonymous cryptographer at P0xeidon Labs, told Decrypt.
According to them, “the reason for a trusted setup ceremony is to break that waste apart into thousands of pieces and give each participant a piece. If you destroy your piece then an attacker can never figure out the toxic waste.”
Some notable examples of trusted setups in the blockchain space include Zcash (ZEC) in 2016. This was the first practical implementation of a zero-knowledge proving system, with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden among those helping to launch the privacy coin.
Aleo, another project developing privacy tools for the web, had about 1,000 contributors to its ceremony in 2021.
U.S.-sanctioned Ethereum mixing service Tornado Cash is considered to have conducted the largest trusted setup before today. The ceremony concluded with 1,114 participants helping with the launch of the platform in 2020.
As Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, said earlier this year, “to the extent that trusted setup ceremonies are necessary, it is important to remember that not all trusted setups are created equal. 176 participants is better than 6, and 2,000 would be even better.”
As Manta Network prepares to set a new record for trusted setups, the team behind the project emphasized this became possible thanks to the low requirement for participation.
“The criteria is very low, we have no hardware requirements because with ZKP, it is hardware agnostic. We support major operating systems including Ubuntu Linux, Apple, and Windows OS,” Li told Decrypt.
According to Li, as long as someone can follow the ceremony’s instructions it's very easy to participate.
“The registration process is a few steps, and if you can get through that you can also complete the contribution phase once it starts,” he added.
Privacy as the core value
User privacy remains key to Manta, with one anonymous participant of the setup saying that "Web3 is the frontier of new technology and privacy is critical to building that infrastructure. I’m concerned about the protection of personal data, especially financial information. The trusted setup allows me to contribute to a future that I believe in."
Manta Network’s COO also stressed that there are no financial incentives for the trusted setup ceremony participants—aside from earning a non-fungible token (NFT) that proves they've contributed and a Discord title in Manta’s community channel.
This makes Manta Network’s trusted setup a true community effort.
“Privacy isn't just about keeping transactions secret; rather, it's about your entire on-chain identity: every application you interact with, every wallet you interact with, any piece of data that you record on the blockchain is permanent and publicly available,” Li told Decrypt. “Without privacy solutions, blockchain becomes a massive surveillance tool.”