ECE Lab Group Receives Best Paper Award for Work on Bitcoin Performance

By Allison Kleber

The Laboratory of Networking and Information Systems (NISLAB), led jointly by ECE Professors David Starobinski and Ari Trachtenberg, has recently been honored for their ongoing research into the performance of the Bitcoin network. “Characterizing Orphan Transactions in the Bitcoin Network” was awarded Best Paper at the Second IEEE International Conference on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency (ICBC‘20) in early May, after a rigorous evaluation process. The paper, authored by lab member and ECE PhD student Muhammad Anas Imtiaz in collaboration with Professors Starobinski and Trachtenberg, represented “very original research with insightful results,” according to the award committee. The paper can be found here, and the accompanying oral presentation is available here.

ECE Professor Ari Trachtenberg
ECE Professor David Starobinski
ECE PhD student Muhammad Anas Imtiaz

NISLAB has established a testbed for evaluating the performance of the Bitcoin network, which is used to manage roughly $100 billion in pseudo-anonymous electronic currency, or cryptocurrency. Utilizing this unique platform, Mr. Imtiaz and his labmates made some intriguing discoveries about so-called “orphan transactions” (Bitcoin transactions that are missing their income sources, or “parents”) which could lead to changes in network parameters to increase efficiency. This award-winning paper follows the lab’s contribution at ICBC‘19, examining the phenomenon of “churn,” in which many Bitcoin nodes experience an intermittent rather than constant connection to the network. The paper they published identified some potential security threats that could take advantage of churn, an issue NISLAB’s research is currently working to address.

Professor Starobinski had this to say about his lab’s reaction to the award: “We feel honored to have received this recognition from our peers, and look forward to pursuing activities in the exciting and emerging area of blockchains and digital currencies.” He expressed gratitude for the ongoing support of the ECE department and the College of Engineering.