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RPOW - Reusable Proofs of Work by Hal Finney (These pages are maintained for historical purposes.)

(The RPOW project is now terminated. These pages are maintained for historical purposes.)

The RPOW system provides for proof of work (POW) tokens to be reused. A POW token is something that takes a relatively long time to compute but which can be checked quickly. RPOW uses hashcash, which are values whose SHA-1 hashes have many high bits of zeros.

Normally POW tokens can't be reused because that would allow them to be double-spent. But RPOW allows for a limited form of reuse: sequential reuse. This lets a POW token be used once, then exchanged for a new one, which can again be used once, then once more exchanged, etc. This approach makes POW tokens more practical for many purposes and allows the effective cost of a POW token to be raised while still allowing systems to use them effectively.

Security

This is useful functionality, but the unique feature of the RPOW system is its approach to security. RPOW is the first public implementation of a server designed to allow users throughout the world to verify its correctness and integrity in real time.

Based on principles similar to those proposed for so-called "Trusted Computing", RPOW allows third parties to dynamically and remotely verify what program is running on the RPOW server. The RPOW server is implemented on a high-quality secure processor, the IBM 4758 PCI Cryptographic Coprocessor, which has been validated to the highest level of security publicly available, FIPS-140 level 4. The 4758 is a self-contained single-board computer which has its own device key, generated on-board, which never leaves the card. That key can issue cryptographically signed attestations which describe the software configuration running on the card, including the SHA-1 hash of the application program.

The source code to the RPOW server is available from the download page. Using publicly available tools, anyone can build from this source code a memory image identical to that running on th...

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