‘Storage Proofs’ Touted as Alternative to Hack-Prone Bridges in Multichain World

Storage proofs, a feature that could minimize cross-chain exploits by allowing users to keep their assets on one chain and prove that it's there on a different chain, will go live on Starknet soon.

AccessTimeIconJun 21, 2023 at 3:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 9, 2024 at 11:14 p.m. UTC

As new blockchains proliferate, users who want to swap assets between chains are dependent on bridges prone to problems and attacks.

Chainanalysis estimates that bridge attacks accounted for 69% of all cryptocurrency stolen in 2022, with over $2 billion siphoned from buggy cross-chain bridge platforms.

As blockchain developers increasingly recognize the problem of vulnerable bridges, some, like the Ethereum layer 2 network Starknet, are turning to “storage proofs” for help.

Storage proofs are a cryptographic method to allow users to “prove” that certain data, transactions or assets on a blockchain are true or valid, without having to rely on a third party.

“Today, you hand over money to third parties to transport over a bridge. Anyone can be lurking, waiting to ambush you and steal money,” Eli Ben-Sasson, co-founder of Starkware, the company behind the Starknet blockchain, explained in a statement. “Storage proofs will let you just press a button and more-or-less teleport liquidity from chain to chain. It’sa dramatic difference.”

This article is featured in the latest issue of The Protocol, our weekly newsletter exploring the tech behind crypto, one block at a time. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Wednesday.

According to Starknet, they will be the first network to have storage proofs natively integrated, after it goes through a security audit later this year. Currently, Starkware’s Goerli testnet has storage proofs built on it by a team called Herodotus, so project developers can experiment with the new setup.

Starkware is betting that rising demand for cross-chain transfers will soon bring storage proofs to more platforms.

How do Storage proofs work?

Storage proofs aim to enable “trustless”' cross-chain bridges, using cryptography to eliminate the need for third-party “oracles” to track assets between chains.

The method could be particularly useful for tracking assets between Ethereum and its growing community of “layer 2” chains – faster, cheaper networks that operate alongside Ethereum and rely on bridges to communicate with it and between each other.

With storage proofs, “You're basically proving mathematically – and using the integrity of math – to assert that you indeed own this asset on Ethereum,” Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk.”You don't need intermediaries, you just need the power of math.”

Ben-Sasson contends that storage proofs can, in some cases, even eliminate the need to transfer assets across different chains. Instead, users could use storage proofs to simply show on one chain that assets exist on another.

For instance, say a user has vote-bearing tokens on one blockchain, but a platform’s governance process takes place on another chain. The user can use a storage proof to show their assets on the first chain, and then vote on the second one, without having to move over the assets and pay high gas fees.

Why now?

One team working on storage proofs is Herodotus, which is focused on bringing them to Ethereum’s layer 2 platforms.

Cryptographic proofs, like storage proofs, can be quite large and complex for computers to verify, making them difficult for space-constrained blockchain networks to handle. Previously, “what really made storage proofs economically unfeasible, is the fact that all the computation had to happen on the blockchain,” said Kacper Koziol, co-founder of Herodotus.

Starkware turned to zero-knowledge (ZK) cryptography to address this issue when building its storage proofs, allowing for smaller and more efficient computation.

“We can simply prove that it was computed in a valid manner and just do the verification of the computation,” Koziol said.

Edited by Bradley Keoun.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Margaux Nijkerk

Margaux Nijkerk reports on the Ethereum protocol and L2s. A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Emory universities, she has a masters in International Affairs & Economics. She holds a small amount of ETH and other altcoins.