An expert in cryptography and privacy has come under fire from the IOTA community. Sarah Jamie Lewis received threats for exposing holes in the digital asset’s security model and recently-detailed upgrade.
The upgrade in question is called “Coordicide.” The name refers to it being an attempt to reduce the network’s dependence on a centralized coordinator to reference transactions and reach consensus.
Sarah Jamie Lewis, a cryptography specialist and executive director at OpenPrivacy, found several flaws in the proposed system. Most notably, that the solution does not actually promote greater decentralization. The researcher posted a critique on Twitter:
IOTA have released the whitepaper for their highly anticipated "Coordicide" aka "make IOTA not centralized". Have they actually solved the problem of a secure, decentralized, scalable fast distributed ledger?
No, of course not. They've added yet another layer of indirection. pic.twitter.com/jcAZwAPo6y
— Sarah Jamie Lewis (@SarahJamieLewis) June 6, 2019
The above Tweet storm concluded by stating:
“If you want to decentralized, scalable and fast you will definitely almost always compromise on the decentralized part (either through process or practice, through policy or payment).”
The story continues two months later. According to screenshots of a direct message, “Limo” at TangleBlog, an IOTA-focused publication, has since threatened the researcher over her critique. Limo claimed that he would “publish an article about [Lewis’s] business conduct in the next week,” stating that she replied to critics of her original analysis with “hate and belittlement.”
The message presented an ultimatum for Lewis, “address [an IOTA developer’s] questions openly in a scientific way without attacks against persons or purposeful misinterpretations” or Limo would forward his defamatory article to “every non-profit and organization” connected to the researcher. Lewis was given two weeks to satisfy Limo’s demands.
I just received this DM from an iota-focused outlet (@tangleblog) threatening to "write an article about me & my deeds" intended to compromise my job & professional relationships (oh no!) unless I address questions about iota "in an open and scientific way"
So let's science… pic.twitter.com/JrcSoYtvBC
— Sarah Jamie Lewis (@SarahJamieLewis) August 13, 2019
The message accuses Lewis of “openly lying” about IOTA. The author speculates that the cryptography researcher is deliberately down talking the project based on personal financial interests:
As encouraged by Limo, Lewis posted the message to Twitter. The screenshot was accompanied with another critique of the proposed upgrade, demonstrating that for Coordicide to work, it would require prior knowledge of the number of nodes operating in the system. This is something that Lewis argues is impossible in a decentralized network.
Following Lewis’s rebuttal, Limo published an article in TheTangler, another pro-IOTA publication. It accuses the researcher of having an unfair prejudice against the project since mid-2018.
It goes on to detail a “plan” conceived of by Limo. He claims that he wanted to get Lewis to open up a conversation with developers about Coordicide. He writes:
“I wrote my personal message in an aggressive and pedantic style and formulated a consequence that is no further from a threat than a correction. Because Sarah Jamie Lewis repeated several times that the IOTA Foundation is a company to scam people. Which is bollocks, of course.”
After admitting that he is “neither a developer nor a consensus specialist,” he concludes by bringing up Lewis’s past work in the sex-tech industry. There is no conceivable reason for him to do this, other than as a cheap attempt to shame the researcher. Finally, he calls upon the IOTA Foundation to provide a rebuttal to Lewis or to prove that the issues raised are unfounded, as Limo himself seems to believe.
However, just hours after claiming that he had used his extortion tactics to goad Lewis into providing insight to the IOTA Foundation, Limo published an apology for his behavior. Addressed to Lewis, the IOTA Foundation, and “followers,” it states:
“My approach was a very questionable attempt to force a public stage for a factual discussion, that, sadly, never happened.
“This threat was merely a poker play but not meant as a real threat. I don’t intend to harm the reputation of honest working scientists that have the best intentions, such as Sarah Jamie Lewis.”
Meanwhile, check out our interview with an IOTA co-founder to help form your own conclusions about the project.
What do you think about about the tangle between Lewis and the IOTA community? Share your opinions below.
Images are courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter.