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Prototype of PostgreSQL extension bringing some properties of blockchain to the relational DBMS
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README.md

pg_credereum

License: GPL v3

Overview

pg_credereum is a PostgreSQL extension that provides a cryptographically verifiable audit capability for a PostgreSQL database, bringing some properties of blockchain to relational DBMS. pg_credereum is not a production-ready solution yet, it's a prototype for the upcoming Credereum platform.

In a classic client-server DBMS, a client relies on the server to guarantee data integrity and authenticity. A client has to believe that the data provided by the server is correct without any proof. Even if the server supports audit features, the audit data could be forged by the server administrator or compromised by an intruder.

The blockchain systems allow to trace their state to individial actions of their clients, which are authenticated by their respective digital signatures. Credereum aims to bring this blockchain feature to a client-server relational DBMS. In Credereum, each modification of the database contents is digitally signed by the client that performs this modification. Based on these signatures, the server can build a proof that the current database state results from the previous actions of the clients. The clients can check this proof to verify that the data was not tampered with.

A well-known "double spending" problem the blockchain implementations have to solve also applies to Credereum. A malicious database administrator can maintain multiple forks of the database, and return query results to different users from different forks. To prevent it, Credereum creates a cryptographic digest of the entire database. This digest is periodically uploaded to a trusted storage, which clients can read. This storage must be immutable, that is, once the data is recorded in the storage, it must be impossible to change this data retroactively. This way, a client can be sure that once a database digest reaches the trusted storage, it can't be removed or changed anymore. Thus, any retroactive modification of the database contents can be easily detected.

In principle, various systems can serve as a trusted storage. For example, you can use a public blockchain like Ethereum or Bitcoin with a smart contract to store the hashes. Another approach is to use a third-party server that is trusted to forbid retroactive changes. Yet another example is a cluster of servers, where each server signs the hash it accepts, and the hash is assumed to be accepted once it is signed by the majority of the servers. pg_credereum uses an Ethereum smart contract as a trusted storage.

Implementation

In Credereum, each modification of the database contents is signed by the client that made it. The client must sign both the original digest version before the initiated changes and the final version with the modified data.

The digest must have the following properties:

  • It is compact, compared to the size of the entire database.
  • It allows to detect forgery (i.e., it is hard to change the database contents without changing the digest).
  • The client can verify that the digest corresponds to the correct values of the modified rows.
  • The digest does not divulge the values of the unmodified rows.

A well-known data structure that meets these requirements is a Merkle prefix tree ("merklix tree"). pg_credereum builds a single merklix tree for all the tables it manages. The tree is built over the set of key-value pairs, each pair representing a single row. The values are given by JSON-encoded rows, and the keys are given by a string consisting of the schema qualified table name followed by a string that encodes the value of the primary key as a 64-bit binary number. Hashes in merklix tree are calculated as follows:

  • For a leaf node, the hash value is calculated as sha256 hash of the value field.
  • For a non-leaf node, the hash value is calculated as sha256 of concatenation of child1 key, child1 hash, ... etc., for all the children.

The hash of the root node of the merklix tree summarizes the contents of the entire database. We also refer to this hash as the "root database hash". A "Merkle proof" is used to prove that a particular leaf node of the tree contains a particular value, without revealing the whole tree. Merkle proof is a subtree of merklix tree that contains the root node, the leaf nodes to be proven, and the path from the root to these leaves. The Merkle proof also contains the nodes directly referenced by the path from the root to the leaves to be proven. The whole contents of these nodes are not needed, so they are represented just by their hash values.

Signing a Transaction

Since the tables are represented as a merklix tree, a modification of these tables can be encoded as a pair of Merkle proofs. Both proofs encode only the rows that are being changed, with the "original" proof encoding the original row values, and the "updated" proof -- the updated values.

To sign a transaction, the client has to complete the following steps:

  1. Check the authenticity of the original state of the database as described below.
  2. Verify that the perfromed modification transforms the original proof into the updated proof.
  3. Sign the concatenation of the hashes of these proofs to authorize the transaction.

Using Transaction Blocks

The simple scheme described above, with each transaction depending on the previous one, effectively serializes database access, therefore limiting the transaction throughput. As an optimization, pg_credereum uses "blocks of transactions", that is, sequential sets of transactions. These blocks are created periodically by a background worker. The database contents at the end of the block are represented with a Merkle proof for all the rows that were changed within the block. The subsequent transactions use this proof as the digest of the original database state. This way, multiple transactions can run concurrently. A limitation of this approach is that a particular row can be modified only once inside a particular block. Transactions that violate this rule are rolled back.

The end of a block is a suitable point to publish the database digest to the trusted storage. pg_credereum can be configured to send the hash of a block to an Ethereum smart contract each time a transaction block is completed.

Verifying Data Authenticity

Given particular row values, a client should be able to check that these values are authentic, that is, they are a result of a series of modifications authorized by other clients. With pg_credereum, a typical verification workflow is as follows:

  1. Find the initial database state that is trusted to be valid. It may be an empty database, or, in a more practical case, a block published to a trusted storage.
  2. Request the history of transactions that have modified the given rows since the initial state.
  3. Check that each of these transaction was authorized by some other client, and the composition of these transactions transforms the initial state into the final state. If this is the case, the final state is authentic.

This procedure is used, in particular, to verify the authenticity of a given block, starting from some previous block that is known to be authentic.

Installation

pg_credereum is a PostgreSQL extension that requires PostgreSQL 10. Before you build and install the extension, make sure that the following conditions are met:

  • PostgreSQL major version is 10.
  • You have installed the development package of PostgreSQL, or built PostgreSQL from source.
  • go-ethereum, curl and jasson are installed.
  • The pg\_config command can be found in your PATH, or the PG\_CONFIG variable is pointing to it.

A typical installation procedure is as follows:

  1. Download and install pg_credereum:
git clone https://github.com/postgrespro/pg_credereum.git
cd pg_credereum
make
sudo make install
  1. Add pg_credereum to shared_preload_libraries to register the block collector background worker.
  2. Set the pg_credereum.database variable to the database you are going to control with pg_credereum. Optionally, you can also customize other GUC variables listed in the Setup section.
  3. Create the pg_credereum extension in the database:
psql DB -c "CREATE EXTENSION pg_credereum;"

Usage

Setup

For now, pg_credereum usage is limited to a single database of a PostgreSQL instance. This limitation might be addressed in the future versions. The name of the database managed by pg_credereum is specified by the GUC variable pg_credereum.database.

pg_credereum includes a "block collector" background worker, which periodically creates transaction blocks. The time interval is defined pg_credereum.block_period GUC variable. Block collector has to know in which schema pg_credereum is defined, so you must specify this schema in the pg_credereum.schema GUC variable.

Block collector can also store block hashes into a trusted storage. When pg_credereum.eth_end_point, pg_credereum.eth_source_addr and pg_credereum.eth_contract_addr GUCs are defined, the block collector tries to upload each block hash to a smart contract at the pg_credereum.eth_contract_addr address using Ethereum RPC at pg_credereum.eth_end_point, sending the transactions from the Ethereum address specified by pg_credereum.eth_source_addr. Note that the corresponding Ethereum account must be unlocked on the Ethereum node. When the block collector fails to store the block hash, it skips the block and tries to store the hash of the next block. The hashes are stored using the saveHash(uint256) method of the smart contract.

All pg_credereum GUC variables are listed below:

GUC Type Default Description
pg_credereum.block_period integer 1000 Time interval for block packing, in milliseconds
pg_credereum.block_retry_period integer 5000 Time interval for block packing retry after failure, in milliseconds
pg_credereum.database string postgres Name of the database pg_credereum is working with.
pg_credereum.schema string public Schema where pg_credereum extension is installed.
pg_credereum.eth_end_point string NULL Ethereum trusted storage RPC endpoint in format host[:port].
pg_credereum.eth_source_addr string NULL Source address to spend ether from.
pg_credereum.eth_contract_addr string NULL Smart contract to store top database hashes.

By default, pg_credereum does not track changes to any tables. To track a table, add a credereum_acc_trigger() trigger after each insert, update and delete. You have to revoke truncate right on that table from non-superusers, because pg_credereum can't handle truncates. Also note that the primary key of this table must be a single column named id of type bigint.

The following SQL snippet demonstrates how to set up such a table:

CREATE TABLE t (id serial PRIMARY KEY, value int NOT NULL);
CREATE TRIGGER t_after AFTER INSERT OR UPDATE OR DELETE ON t
FOR EACH ROW EXECUTE PROCEDURE credereum_acc_trigger();
REVOKE TRUNCATE ON t FROM public;

API

This section describes how to use functions and tables provided by pg_credereum to sign transactions and verify data authenticity in the database.

The procedure to sign a transaction is as follows:

  1. Client begins a new transaction.
  2. Client performs DML operations on the tables.
  3. Client run credereum_get_changeset() function to get the changeset for the performed DML operations, in the form of Merkle proof.
  4. Client checks that the received changeset really corresponds to the changes this client made at step #2.
  5. Client signs the transaction (a transition from one root database hash to another) using credereum_sign_transaction(pubkey text, sign bytea) function.
  6. Client commits the transaction.

The procedure to acquire and validate the history of given database rows is as follows:

  1. User acquires the history of given database rows with appropriate Merkle proofs using credereum_merkle_proof(keys varbit[]) function and fetches the information about transactional history and blocks from credereum_tx_log and credereum_block. When the required information is received, the user checks its consistency.
  2. User fetches hashes stored in the trusted storage, and checks that they match block hashes received from the database.

credereum_get_changeset()

Returns changes made by the current transaction. The changes are shown as a set of rows, each of these rows corresponding to a merklix node. The following columns are returned:

Column name Type Description
key varbit Key of merklix node
children varbit[] Array of children keys (for non-leaf nodes)
leaf bool Is this a leaf node?
hash bytea Hash sum validating this node and descendants
value json Value stored in leaf node
next bool false for the original values of the rows modified by the current transaction, and true for the new values.

Logically, the result of credereum_get_changeset() function consists of the two Merkle proofs mentioned above:

  • Merkle proof of the original values of the rows modified by the current transaction (next = false)
  • Merkle proof of the current values of the rows modified by the current transaction (next = true)

Each Merkle proof is a subtree of merklix tree. The value field of leaf nodes is a json representation of the corresponding rows. Some non-leaf nodes can have children set to NULL, and some leaf nodes can have value field set to NULL. This means that the entire subtree or the leaf respectively were not modified by this transaction.

Note that the same row can't be modified twice within the same block. On an attempt to do this, unique constraint violation error is generated. If such errors happen too frequently, consider decreasing the value of the pg_credereum.block_period GUC variable.

credereum_merkle_proof(keys varbit[])

Returns the history of a particular set of rows. keys are the merlix tree keys of the nodes, as described in the Implementation section. The return value is a set of rows, with each row representing a merklix node. The columns are as follows:

Column name Type Description
block_num bigint The number of the block this node belongs to
transaction_id bigint Transaction ID this node belongs to (NULL if it's a block node)
key varbit Key of merklix node
children varbit[] Array of children keys (for non-leaf nodes)
leaf bool Is this a leaf node?
hash bytea Hash sum validating this node and descendants
value json Value stored in leaf node

Logically, the result of credereum_merkle_proof(keys varbit[]) function is a forest of Merkle proofs. Since a transaction or even a block typically modifies only a relatively small subset of the database, this forest contains common branches.

Each tree in the forest is identified by pair block_number, transaction_id. Each block and each transaction have its own tree root. However, children array of the tree node may contain links to nodes of the previous block tree. The general rule is the following: if the key is referenced by the children array and there is no key with the same values of block_number, transaction_id, then the child should be found in the most recent block_number (transaction_id is NULL). The rules of tree hashing are the same as described in 'signing transaction' section.

The tree of a particular block must contain merged changes of every transaction in the same block_number.

credereum_tx_log table

This table contains the list of transactions. It has the following columns:

Column name Type Description
block_num bigint The number of the block that contains this transaction
transaction_id bigint Transaction ID this node belongs to (NULL if it's a block node)
tx_hash bytea Hash sum of the transaction
root_hash bytea Root database hash after this transaction
prev_root_hash bytea Root database hash before this transaction
pubkey text Public key of the user who signed this transaction
sign bytea Digital signature of transaction

Transaction hash (credereum_tx_log.tx_hash) is calculated as sha256 hash of concatenation of root_hash, prev_root_hash, pubkey, and sign.

credereum_block table

This table contains the list of blocks. It has the following columns:

Column name Type Description
block_numr bigint The serial number of this block
hash bytea Hash sum of this block
prev_hash bytea Hash of previous block
root_hash bytea Root database hash after completion of this block

Block hash (credereum_block.hash) is calculated as concetenation of sha256 hash of concatenation of prev_hash, hashes of transactions in this block ordered by transaction_id, root_hash.

If hashes of the blocks are also uploaded to a trusted storage in Ethereum, then hashes stored in credereum_block.hash need to be compared with the hashes stored in Ethereum. Note, that some hashes might be missing in Ethereum, because block collector might skip some blocks on error. However, the sequence of the blocks can't be altered.

Sample Application

The sample folder of this repository contains an example of how to use pg_credereum from a Python 3 application, as well as how to interface it with Ethereum. Required Python packages can be installed with pip3 install -r requirements.txt. The bash scrip run demonsrates overall usage of pg_credereum. If you run this script directly, note that it will kill your geth process. It also requires geth, solc and PostgreSQL binaries to be found in PATH. The script starts a PostgreSQL instance with a table managed by pg_credereum. It also starts a private Ethereum network with a smart contract to store the block hashes. After updating the table with the sample.py script, it runs the history_proof.py script that checks that the state of the database is consistent with what is stored in the Ethereum smart contract.

Besides the scripts mentioned above, there are some other files:

  • hts_eth/HashStorage.sol -- a reference implementation of the Ethereum hash storage contract.
  • credereum.py -- Python helper functions for dealing with pg_credereum, which are used by sample.py and history_proof.py
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