Cardano: New upgrade to support ECDSA and Schnorr cryptographic signatures to make it easier for developers to build cross-chain apps

  • The upcoming upgrade to Cardano will bring secure cross-chain DApps development and greater interoperability to the blockchain.
  • The Cardano developers have done successful integration testing already with the mainnet upgrade to happen by February 14, 2023.

In the next month of February 2022, the Cardano blockchain network is scheduled for a major upgrade that will incorporate some built-in functions to Cardano’s smart contracts programming language Plutus.

These new built-in functions at Plutus will also support ECDSA and Schnorr cryptographic signatures thereby making it easier for developers to build cross-chain applications. Different blockchain platforms implement different cryptographic signature methods.

Blockchain networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum use the ECDSA cryptographic systems. On the other hand, Schnorr signatures, which serve as an alternative to ECDSA are used by blockchain networks such as Polkadot.

However, the Cardano blockchain uses the Edwards-curve Digital Signature Algorithm (EdDSA) with elliptic curve Curve25519 as its base curve (Ed25519). Although it is fast, secure, and small in size, it is not compatible with ECDSA and Schnorr.

The upcoming upgrade to Cardano will bring secure cross-chain DApps development and greater interoperability to the blockchain. This, in turn, will make it easy for Cardano developers to work with other blockchain networks.

If not for this upgrade, Cardano developers might need to spend extra time, funds, and effort in implementing the ECDSA and Schnorr over the SECP elliptic curves in the smart contracts programming language Plutus. However, it would increase potential security risks while using an unrealistic amount of reserves.

Thus it was essential to provide ECDSA and Schnorr operations as built-in functions within Cardano’s primary signature algorithm Ed25519.

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Getting Ready for the Upgrade

The initial preparations for the upgrade are already underway for some time within the Cardano ecosystem and developers have seen some positive results already with the integration testing. In the latest announcement, Tim Harrison of  IOHK writes:

Preparations have been underway for some time across the entire Cardano ecosystem. The core engineering teams at IOG and the Cardano Foundation, SPOs, DApp developers, and exchanges have performed intensive integration testing in the preview test environment since November 2022, with positive results. This technology is now close to being deployed on the Cardano mainnet.

The upcoming upgrade won’t be as complex as the Vasil upgrade that took place last year in September 2022, and won’t be having any major impact on existing DApps. However, by working with the Cardano stakeholders, the teams are ensuring the readiness that may need to prepare for the new capability.

Exchanges have been notified of the upgrade already so that they have enough time to upgrade their systems as per the requirements. The announcement adds:

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IOG has also polled the DApp/tool development community – very few projects will be impacted by the change and we have factored in the needs of those that do need to update their code accordingly.

The proposed mainnet upgrade shall tentatively happen around February 14, 2023.

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