Twins: White-Glove Approach for BFT Testing


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Byzantine Fault Tolerant (BFT) systems have seen extensive study for more than two decades, yet we lack a principled strategy for testing BFT implementations. This paper presents Twins, a new approach for testing BFT systems. The main idea of Twins is that we can emulate Byzantine behavior by running two (or generally up to $k$) instances of a node with the same identity. Each of the two instances (or Twins) runs unmodified, correct code. The Twins approach requires only a thin network wrapper that delivers messages to/from both Twins. To the rest of the system, the Twins appear indistinguishable from a single node behaving in a `questionable' manner. Twins generates `interesting' Byzantine behaviors, including equivocation, double voting, and losing internal state, while forgoing `uninteresting' behaviors that are trivially rejected by honest nodes, such as producing semantically invalid messages. Building on this idea, Twins can systematically generate Byzantine attack scenarios at scale, execute them in a controlled manner, and check for desired protocol properties. The paper demonstrates that Twins successfully reinstates several famous attacks on BFT protocols. In all cases, protocols break within fewer than a dozen protocol steps, hence it is realistic for the Twins approach to expose the problems. In two of these attacks, it took the community more than a decade to discover protocol flaws that Twins would have surfaced within minutes. Additionally, Twins testing was successfully incorporated into a production setting in which Twins executed 3M Twins-generated scenarios, and exposed (self-injected) subtle safety bugs within minutes of testing.
bft testing,white-glove
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