Puzzles that teach the fundamentals of crypto's essential, elusive zero-knowledge proofs

Zero-knowledge proofs are one of the most important concepts in cryptography: they're a way to "validate a computation on private data by allowing a prover to generate a cryptographic proof that asserts to the correctness of the computed output" — in other words, a way to prove that something is true without learning the details.

The math isn't especially hard (relative to the rest of cryptology), but the concepts are slippery and counterintuitive. Luckily, there's the Hunting of the SNARK, a series of riddles and puzzles designed to teach you to understand and deploy zero knowledge proofs.

Even if you're not a cryptographer, this is important stuff — zero knowledge proofs are increasingly mooted and used as privacy protections for large datasets of potentially compromising information about you, and understanding what is and isn't impossible with zero knowledge is essential to understand who's looking after your private data with the care it deserves, and who's just throwing around buzzwords to confuse you.

Every once in a while we will publish a new challenge set, composed of several riddles, which will increase in difficulty with each new set. Every riddle is designed to teach you a new aspect of zk-SNARKs by making you discover the intricacies of the protocol and its smart design features.

If you complete the treasure hunt, you will gain an understanding of zk-SNARKs, how they work, what the security assumptions mean for the scheme and how to properly define the statements to be proven. The more difficult riddles will guide you towards generating proofs that can verify a false claim (when a security assumption is broken) and how to break some of the security assumptions, while at the same time understanding how to prevent other people from doing so. You will learn all this and much more.

If this was not enough motivation, some of the riddles will be accompanied with a prize, awarded to the first ones that solve them. With each riddle we will specify the prize and how many of them will be given.

The Hunting of the SNARK [Daniel Benarroch/QED IT]

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