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README.md

Build Status

Drand - A Distributed Randomness Beacon Daemon

Drand (pronounced "dee-rand") is a distributed randomness beacon daemon written in Golang. Servers running drand can be linked with each other to produce collective, publicly verifiable, unbiasable, unpredictable random values at fixed intervals using bilinear pairings and threshold cryptography. Drand nodes can also serve locally-generated private randomness to clients.

Disclaimer

This software is considered experimental and has NOT received a third-party audit yet. Therefore, DO NOT USE it in production or for anything security critical at this point.

Installing drand locally

Requirements: go >= 1.12.

git clone https://github.com/dedis/drand
cd drand
make install

Then you can run the command-line application with drand

Quickstart - Docker

To deploy several drand nodes locally, make sure that you have a working Docker installation. Then execute (might need root privileges to run Docker on some systems):

./run_local.sh

The script spins up six local drand nodes using Docker and produces fresh randomness every few seconds.

Overview

Public Randomness

Generating public randomness is the primary functionality of drand. Public randomness is generated collectively by drand nodes and publicly available. The main challenge in generating good randomness is that no party involved in the randomness generation process should be able to predict or bias the final output. Additionally, the final result has to be third-party verifiable to make it actually useful for applications like lotteries, sharding, or parameter generation in security protocols.

A drand randomness beacon is composed of a distributed set of nodes and has two phases:

  • Setup: Each node first generates a long-term public/private key pair. Then all of the public keys are written to a group file together with some further metadata required to operate the beacon. After this group file has been distributed, the nodes perform a distributed key generation (DKG) protocol to create the collective public key and one private key share per server. The participants NEVER see/use the actual (distributed) private key explicitly but instead utilize their respective private key shares for the generation of public randomness.

  • Generation: After the setup, the nodes switch to the randomness generation mode. Any of the nodes can initiate a randomness generation round by broadcasting a message which all the other participants sign using a t-of-n threshold version of the Boneh-Lynn-Shacham (BLS) signature scheme and their respective private key shares. Once any node (or third-party observer) has gathered t partial signatures, it can reconstruct the full BLS signature (using Lagrange interpolation) which corresponds to the collective random value. This random beacon / full BLS signature can be verified against the collective public key.

Private Randomness

Private randomness generation is the secondary functionality of drand. Clients can request private randomness from some or all of the drand nodes which extract it locally from their entropy pools and send it back in encrypted form. This can be useful to gather randomness from different entropy sources, for example in embedded devices.

In this mode we assume that a client has a private/public key pair and encapsulates its public key towards the server's public key using the ECIES encryption scheme. After receiving a request, the drand node produces 32 random bytes locally (using Go's crypto/rand interface), encrypts them using the received public key and sends it back to the client.

Note: Assuming that clients without good local entropy sources (such as embedded devices) use this process to gather high entropy randomness to bootstrap their local PRNGs, we emphasize that the initial client key pair has to be provided by a trusted source (such as the device manufacturer). Otherwise we run into the chicken-and-egg problem of how to produce on the client's side a secure ephemeral key pair for ECIES encryption without a good (local) source of randomness.

Installation

Drand can be installed via Golang or Docker. By default, drand saves the configuration files such as the long-term key pair, the group file, and the collective public key in the directory $HOME/.drand/.

Via Golang

Make sure that you have a working Golang installation and that your GOPATH is set.
Then install drand via:

go get -u github.com/dedis/drand

Via Docker

The setup is explained in README_docker.md.

Usage

This section explains in details the workflow to have a working group of drand nodes generate randomness. On a high-level, the workflow looks like this:

  • Setup: generation of individual longterm key-pair and the group file and starting the drand daemon.
  • Distributed Key Generation: each drand node collectively participates in the DKG.
  • Randomness Generation: the randomness beacon automatically starts as soon as the DKG protocol is finished.

Setup

The setup process for a drand node consists of two steps:

  1. Generate the long-term key pair for each node
  2. Setup the group configuration file

Long-Term Key

To generate the long-term key pair drand_id.{secret,public} of the drand daemon, execute

drand generate-keypair <address>

where <address> is the address from which your drand daemon is reachable. The address must be reachable over a TLS connection. In case you need non-secured channel, you can pass the --tls-disable flag.

Group Configuration

All informations regarding a group of drand nodes necessary for drand to function properly are located inside a group.toml configuration file. To run a DKG protocol, one needs to generate this group configuration file from all individual longterm keys generated in the previous step. One can do so with:

drand group <pk1> <pk2> ... <pkn>

where <pki> is the public key file drand_id.public of the i-th participant. The group file is generated in the current directory under group.toml. NOTE: At this stage, this group file MUST be distributed to all participants !

Randomness Beacon Period

drand updates the configuration file after the DKG protocol finishes, with the distributed public key and automatically starts running the randomness beacon. By default, a randomness beacon has a period of 1mn,i.e. new randomness is generated every minute. If you wish to change the period, you must include that information inside the group configuration file. You can do by appending a flag to the command such as :

drand group --period 2m <pk1> <pk2> ... <pkn>

Or simply by editing manually the group file afterwards: it's a TOML configuration file. The period must be readable by the time package.

Starting drand daemon

The daemon does not go automatically in background, so you must run it with & in your terminal, within a screen / tmux session, or with the -d option enabled for the docker commands. Once the daemon is running, the way to issue commands to the daemon is to use the control functionalities. The control client has to run on the same server as the drand daemon, so only drand administrators can issue command to their drand daemons.

There are two ways to run a drand daemon: using TLS or using plain old regular un-encrypted connections. Drand by default tries to use TLS connections.

With TLS

Drand nodes attempt to communicate by default over TLS-protected connections. Therefore, you need to point your node to the TLS certificate chain and corresponding private key you wish to use via:

drand start \
    --tls-cert <fullchain.pem> \
    --tls-key <privkey.pem>

To get TLS certificates for free you can use, for example, Let's Encrypt with its official CLI tool EFF's certbot.

Without TLS

Although we do not recommend it, you can always disable TLS in drand via:

drand start --tls-disable

Distributed Key Generation

After running all drand daemons, each operator needs to issue a command to start the DKG protocol, using the group file generated before. One can do so using the control client with:

drand share <group-file>  --timeout 10s

One of the nodes has to function as the leader to initiate the DKG protocol (no additional trust assumptions), he can do so with:

drand share --leader <group-file> 

Once running, the leader initiates the distributed key generation protocol to compute the distributed public key (dist_key.public) and the private key shares (dist_key.private) together with the participants specified in drand_group.toml. Once the DKG has finished, the keys are stored as $HOME/.drand/groups/dist_key.{public,private}.

The timeout is an optional parameter indicating the maximum timeout the DKG protocol will wait. If there are some failed nodes during the DKG, then the DKG will finish only after the given timeout. The default value is set to 10s (see core/constants.go file).

Group File: Once the DKG phase is done, the group file is updated with the newly created distributed public key. That updated group file needed by drand to securely contact drand nodes on their public interface to gather private or public randomness. A drand administrator can get the updated group file it via the following:

drand show group

It will print the group file in its regular TOML format. If you want to save it to a file, append the --out <file> flag.

Distributed Public Key: More generally, for third party implementation of randomness beacon verification, one only needs the distributed public key. If you are an administrator of a drand node, you can use the control port as the following:

drand show cokey

Otherwise, you can contact an external drand node to ask him for its current distributed public key:

drand get cokey --nodes <address> <group.toml>

where <group.toml> is the group file identity file of a drand node. You can use the flag --nodes <address(es)> to indicate which node you want to contact specifically (it is a whitespace-separated list). Use the--tls-cert flag to specify the server's certificate if needed. The group toml does not need to be updated with the collective key.

NOTE: Using the last method (get cokey), a drand node can lie about the key if no out-of-band verification is performed. That information is usually best gathered from a trusted drand operator and then embedded in any applications using drand.

Randomness Generation

After a successful setup, drand switches automatically to the randomness generation mode, where each node broadcasts randomness shares at regular intervals. Once a node has collected a threshold of shares in the current phase, it computes the public random value and stores it in its local instance of BoltDB.

The default interval is one minute. If you wish to change that, you need to do so while generating the group file before the DKG.

Control Functionalities

Drand's local administrator interface provides further functionality, e.g., to update group details or retrieve secret information. By default, the daemon listens on 127.0.0.1:8888, but you can specify another control port when starting the daemon with:

drand start --control 1234

In that case, you need to specify the control port for each of the following commands.

Long-Term Private Key

To retrieve the long-term private key of our node, run:

drand show private

Long-Term Public Key

To retrieve the long-term public key of our node, run:

drand show public

Private Key Share

To retrieve the private key share of our node, as determined during the DKG, run the following command:

drand show share

The JSON-formatted output has the following form:

{
  "index" : 1,
  "share" : {
    "gid": 22,
    "scalar": "764f6e3eecdc4aba8b2f0119e7b2fd8c35948bf2be3f87ebb5823150c6065764"
  }
}

The "gid" simply indicates which group the data belongs to. It is present for scalar and points on the curve, even though scalars are the same on the three groups of BN256. The field is present already to be able to accommodate different curves later on.

Distributed Key

To retrieve the collective key of the drand beacon our node is involved in, run:

drand show cokey

Using Drand

A drand beacon provides several public services to clients. A drand node exposes its public services on a gRPC endpoint as well as a REST JSON endpoint, on the same port. The latter is especially useful if one wishes to retrieve randomness from a Javascript application. Communication is protected through TLS by default. If the contacted node is using a self-signed certificate, the client can use the --tls-cert flag to specify the server's certificate.

Fetching Public Randomness

To get the latest public random value, run

drand get public --round <i> <group.toml>

where <group.toml> is the group identity file of a drand node. You can specify the round number when the public randomness has been generated. If not specified, this command returns the most recent random beacon.

The JSON-formatted output produced by drand is of the following form:

{
    "round": 2,
    "previous": "5e59b03c65a82c9f2be39a7fd23e8e8249fd356c4fd7d146700fc428ac80ec3f7a2
d8a74d4d3b3664a90409f7ec575f7211f06502001561b00e036d0fbd42d2b",
    "randomness": {
        "gid": 21,
        "point": "357562670af7e67f3534f5a5a6e01269f3f9e86a7b833591b0ec2a51faa7c11111
2a1dc1baea73926c1822bc5135469cc1c304adc6ccc942dac7c3a52977a342"
    }
}

Here randomness is the latest random value, which is a threshold BLS signature on the previous random value Previous and the round number. The field Round specifies the index of Randomness in the sequence of all random values produced by this drand instance. The message signed is therefore the concatenation of the round number treated as a uint64 and the previous randomness.The gid is an indicator of the group this point belongs to. At the moment, we are only using BLS signatures on the BN256 curves and the signature is made over G1.

Fetching Private Randomness

To get a private random value, run the following:

drand get private group.toml

The JSON-formatted output produced by drand should look like the following:

{
    "Randomness": "764f6e3eecdc4aba8b2f0119e7b2fd8c35948bf2be3f87ebb5823150c6065764"
}

The command outputs a 32-byte hex-encoded random value generated from the local randomness engine of the contacted server. If the encryption is not correct, the command outputs an error instead.

Using HTTP endpoints

One may want get the distributed key or public randomness by issuing a GET to a HTTP endpoint instead of using a gRPC client. Here is a basic example on how to do so with curl.

To get the distributed key, you can use:

curl <address>/api/info/distkey

Similarly, to get the latest round of randomness from the drand beacon, you can use

curl <address>/api/public

All the REST endpoints are specified in the protobuf/drand/client.proto file.

Updating Drand Group

Drand allows for "semi-dynamic" group update with a resharing protocol that offers the following:

  • new nodes can join an existing group and get new shares. Note that, in fact, all nodes get new shares after running the resharing protocol.
  • nodes can leave their current group. It may be necessary for nodes that do not wish to operate drand anymore.
  • nodes can update the threshold associated with their current distributed public key.

The main advantage of this method is that the distributed public key stays the same even with new nodes coming in. That can be useful when the distributed public key is embedded inside the application using drand, and hence is difficult to update.

Updating is simple in drand, it uses the same command as for the DKG:

drand share --from old-group.toml new-group.toml

for new nodes joining the system. The old group toml is fetched as shown above, and the new group toml is created the usual way (drand group ....).

For nodes already in current the group, there is actually a shortcut (the previous command works also) where there is no need to specify the old group:

drand share <newGroup.toml>

As usual, a leader must start the protocol by indicating the --leader flag.

After the protocol is finished, each node listed in the new-group.toml file, will have a new share corresponding to the same distributed public key. The randomness generation starts immediately after the resharing protocol using the new shares.

Here rnd is the 32-byte base64-encoded private random value produced by the contacted drand node. If the encryption is not correct, the command outputs an error instead.

Cryptography Background

You can learn more about drand, its motivations and how does it work on these public slides.

Drand relies on the following cryptographic constructions:

For our previous work on public randomness, see our academical paper Scalable Bias-Resistant Distributed Randomness.

DrandJS

To facilitate the use of drand's randomness in JavaScript-based applications, we provide DrandJS. The main method fetchAndVerify of this JavaScript library fetches from a drand node the latest random beacon generated and then verifies it against the distributed key. For more details on the procedure and instructions on how to use it, refer to the readme. As it is compiled from Go, DrandJS stays experimental and is used as proof-of-concept. Our longterm objective is to have a library written in pure JavaScript.

Documentation

drand has three separate documentation on the cryptographic background, the drand operator guide and the client side API of drand.

What's Next?

Although being already functional, drand is still at an early development stage and there is a lot left to be done. The list of opened issues is a good place to start. On top of this, drand would benefit from higher-level enhancements such as the following:

  • Move to the BL12-381 curve
  • Add more unit tests
  • Reduce size of Docker
  • Add a systemd unit file
  • Support multiple drand instances within one node
  • Implement a more failure-resilient DKG protocol or an approach based on verifiable succint computations (zk-SNARKs, etc).

Feel free to submit feature requests or, even better, pull requests. ;)

License

The drand source code is released under MIT license, see the file LICENSE for the full text.

Contributors

Here's the list of people that contributed to drand:

Acknowledgments

Thanks to @herumi for providing support on his optimized pairing-based cryptographic library used in the first version.

Thanks to Apostol Vassilev for its interest in drand and the extensive and helpful discussions on the drand design.

Thanks to @Bren2010 and @grittygrease for providing the native Golang bn256 implementation and for their help in the design of drand and future ideas.

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