Security and Decentralization on the Ronin Network
The Ronin Network has undergone significant improvements in regards to security and decentralization since the socially-engineered validator breach took place back in 2021. Among the upgrades introduced by Axie Infinity developer Sky Mavis include the Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) consensus mechanism and more.
DISCLAIMER: This article does not constitute financial advice; always do your own research and due diligence.
The Ronin Network is a gaming-focused EVM blockchain made by Sky Mavis and known as the home to one of the most popular blockchain games, Axie Infinity, but also infamously tainted by the huge $625 million hack of its bridge. It’s been more than a year since that unfortunate incident – what is the security and decentralization on Ronin like today? Is it significantly safer than before? Let’s find out.
Ronin debuted back in 2021 as one of the leading gaming blockchains set to pave the way for play-to-earn gaming by housing Axie Infinity, the most active crypto game at the time. Thanks to being the foundation for a game with millions of daily active users, Ronin has managed to emerge as a proven, battle-tested and scalable chain for Web3 titles, as it not only managed to accommodate a huge number of players, but it processed more than $4 billion in NFT volume, garnering 15% of all NFT trading volume back in 2021, making it the 2nd biggest chain for NFT sales by volume, with Ethereum being at the top.
As such, Ronin has enabled users to experience almost instant transactions, with the network handling millions of transactions since launch, all while having miniscule transaction fees. According to the official website at the time of writing, more than 446 million transactions have been processed to date, with the average cost per transaction being only ~$0.00035.
Due to Axie’s popularity, it’s no wonder that the chain was also prone to constant security attacks, and considering the innovative, pioneering nature, Sky Mavis was delving into the unknown and learning everything on the go in an effort to uphold stability, scalability and security. Unfortunately though, they suffered a major slip, but one that was not a result of a technical flaw. Rather, the Ronin Validator breach was a socially-engineered attack by experienced hackers that the US linked to the North Korean Lazarus Group. Regardless, the Web3 company upgraded the security of its bridge while expanding the number of validators, all while making the decision to become a “fully antifragile, zero-trust organization.” This led to the integration strict internal security measures to maximize safety, while further optimizing and reviewing code as well as getting cybersecurity experts to completely audit smart contracts in an effort to prevent such attacks from ever happening again.
As is the nature of crypto and software in general, you can never be completely certain of having 100% security, but thanks to all the security improvements, the Ronin Network is now certainly stronger than ever before, and should hopefully be able to withstand any type of social or technical attack from here on out.
To further prevent such attacks however, the chain needs to be as decentralized as much as it can be. The Vietnamese-based company has worked on this side too.
In an effort to increase the decentralization of this gaming network, the developers moved away from the Proof of Authority (PoA) consensus and integrated the Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS). By implementing this consensus mechanism into validator selection, the network makes it possible for holders of the native token, $RON, to become validators themselves. If you hold enough tokens, you can be a validator, thus making the network more decentralized, while still reaping the positives of PoA that include low transaction fees and quick transactions.
With DPoS, token holders can delegate their stake to select validators, who produce new blocks, verify transactions, and get rewarded for doing so in the process. This means that token holders can choose to vote for themselves but they can also delegate tokens to someone else, and the more someone receives tokens, the better chances they have of being selected to become a validator, with rewards distributed to both delegators and validators.
In order to combat validators displaying malicious behavior such as trying to cheat and avoiding to produce new blocks, Sky Mavis uses slashing rules to penalize validators violating protocols. By not keeping your node online or providing signs of improper behavior, validators can see their rewards slashed, as well as potentially temporarily banned as well for not producing blocks on time when it’s their turn. This is because the network’s performance depends on validators producing blocks when they need to, and if they don’t, the network’s speed could potentially suffer as a result, hence why the slashing rules are in place.
Overall, the introduction of the DPoS consensus mechanism has made Ronin more decentralized than ever before, thus creating a more secure ecosystem that is growing beyond the Axie universe thanks to bringing in various new game partners looking to develop enjoyable Web3 gaming experiences that anyone can jump into, regardless of their knowledge of crypto.