Zero-Knowledge Proofs: Practical Tips & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What are Zero-Knowledge Proofs?
  2. How Zero-Knowledge Proofs work
  3. Technique 1: Interactive Proofs
  4. Technique 2: Non-Interactive Proofs
  5. Technique 3: Prover and Verifier
  6. Practical Tip 1: Keep the proof simple
  7. Practical Tip 2: Use known frameworks
  8. Practical Tip 3: Always test your proofs

Understanding how to apply zero-knowledge proofs can make a world of difference in your coding projects. It's kind of like learning a secret handshake that only you and your friends know. But instead of a fun secret, it's a powerful tool to keep data safe and sound. So, let's dive right in and unpack this little-known gem of the coding world.

What are Zero-Knowledge Proofs?

A zero-knowledge proof is a method by which one party, the prover, can prove to another party, the verifier, that they know a value x, without conveying any information apart from the fact that they know the value x. Think of it as a magic trick. You, the magician (prover), are trying to convince your audience (verifier) that you know a secret (value x), but you don't want to reveal the secret itself.

Here's the interesting part: this concept can be applied in various fields, especially in the world of cryptography and data privacy. So how can you apply zero-knowledge proofs in your own projects? We'll get to that. But first, let's break down some techniques you can use to create zero-knowledge proofs.

Remember: The key is to prove you know the secret without revealing the secret itself. It's like showing you can do the secret handshake without actually doing it in front of everyone.

Now, let's roll up our sleeves and tackle how you can actually apply zero-knowledge proofs in your work. To make things easier, we're going to look at three techniques: interactive proofs, non-interactive proofs, and the prover and verifier technique. And of course, we'll also share some practical tips to help you along the way.

How Zero-Knowledge Proofs work

Before we dive into how to apply zero-knowledge proofs, we need to understand how they work. It's like learning the rules of a game before you start playing. So, how do these proofs work?

The process is a sort of back-and-forth dance between the prover and verifier. The prover makes a claim or a statement. The verifier then challenges the prover, asking for evidence to back up the claim. The prover responds with a proof that supports the claim, but doesn't give any other information away.

It's like a game of 20 questions, but the prover is really good at answering without giving too much away. The verifier can keep asking questions, but the prover's answers will always be just enough to convince the verifier and no more. Sounds tricky, right? But don't worry, it gets easier with practice.

So, think of it this way—you're playing a game of hide and seek. You, the hider (prover), know the perfect hiding spot. The seeker (verifier) knows you have a hiding spot but doesn't know where it is. They can ask yes or no questions to figure out your location, but your answers won't give away your exact spot. That's a zero-knowledge proof in action!

Remember: The goal is to prove you know something without revealing what that something is. It's a balancing act of showing enough to convince, but not too much that you give the game away.

Technique 1: Interactive Proofs

If you've ever played a game of 20 questions, you already have a good idea of how interactive proofs work. It's an effective way to apply zero-knowledge proofs, and it's all about interaction, as the name suggests. Let's see how it works.

In the world of zero-knowledge proofs, the one who's "it" (the prover) comes up with a statement they claim is true. The other player (the verifier) then throws out a challenge, a bit like asking a question in our game of 20 questions.

Here's the twist: The prover then responds with a proof that answers the verifier's challenge, but — and here's the crucial part — without revealing any additional information. It's a bit like answering "yes" or "no" to a question without giving any other hints.

Let's consider a simple example. Imagine you're trying to prove you know the password to a system without giving it away. The system (verifier) might challenge you to login successfully. You (the prover) can do this without revealing the password, thus providing a zero-knowledge proof.

Interactive proofs can be a great way to apply zero-knowledge proofs, especially when you're dealing with sensitive information. You're sharing just enough to prove your point, but not enough to compromise the data. It's like saying, "Trust me, I know what I'm talking about," without having to spill all your secrets.

Technique 2: Non-Interactive Proofs

What happens when there's no back-and-forth, no game of 20 questions, yet you still want to apply zero-knowledge proofs? Enter the realm of non-interactive proofs. It's like doing a magic trick with no audience reaction, but the magic still happens!

Non-interactive zero-knowledge proofs, or NIZK for those who fancy acronyms, are a one-shot deal. The prover generates a proof independently of any interaction with the verifier. It's like sending a one-way message: "Here's my proof, take it or leave it."

Imagine you want to show you've solved a complex puzzle, but you don't want to reveal the solution. With a non-interactive proof, you could provide a scrambled version of your solution. The verifier can confirm it matches the original puzzle without seeing your actual solution. Magic, right?

Applying zero-knowledge proofs through non-interactive techniques offers a unique advantage: they're reusable. Once you've created a non-interactive proof, any verifier can check it at any time. It's like making a recording of your magic trick — anyone can watch it later, and it will still be just as amazing.

So, if you want to apply zero-knowledge proofs in a less interactive, more reusable way, consider mastering the art of non-interactive proofs. It might just be the magical solution you're looking for.

Technique 3: Prover and Verifier

Let's move on to another method to apply zero-knowledge proofs: the Prover and Verifier technique. This classic duo is like a magician and their audience, each playing a vital role in the zero-knowledge proof magic show.

The prover is the one holding the secret, trying to convince the verifier they know it — without actually revealing it. It's like a magician promising they pulled a rabbit out of a hat, without letting you peek inside.

The verifier, on the other hand, is there to check the prover's claim. They're the skeptical audience member, ready to question every move the magician makes. The verifier asks questions or sets challenges that only someone who knows the secret could answer or solve.

So, how do you apply zero-knowledge proofs as the prover or verifier? It's all about asking the right questions and giving the right answers. As the prover, you need to provide evidence that you know the secret without giving it away. And as the verifier, you need to ask questions that will confirm if the prover truly knows the secret.

If you can master this technique, you'll have another valuable tool in your toolbox to apply zero-knowledge proofs. It's like learning a new magic trick that leaves your audience in awe, every time.

Practical Tip 1: Keep the proof simple

When you apply zero-knowledge proofs, it can be tempting to show off your skills with a complex, flashy demonstration. I mean, who doesn't want to be the magician who can pull off the most elaborate tricks? But, in the world of zero-knowledge proofs, simplicity is your best friend.

Why is simplicity so important? Well, think about it this way: the simpler the proof, the easier it is for the verifier to understand and accept. It's like telling a joke — if you have to explain it, it's not as funny.

Similarly, a simple zero-knowledge proof means less chance for errors and misunderstandings. It's easier to verify and thus more likely to be accepted. It's like choosing to do a simple card trick instead of a full-scale disappearing act — the impact is just as great, but there's less room for things to go wrong.

So, when you apply zero-knowledge proofs, strive for simplicity over complexity. Your verifiers — and your peace of mind — will thank you for it.

Practical Tip 2: Use known frameworks

Okay, so you've decided to apply zero-knowledge proofs. Now, where do you start? From scratch? Definitely not! There's no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to constructing your proofs. Using known frameworks is your fast track to success.

Known frameworks are like your favorite recipes. They have steps you can follow and ingredients you know will work well together. In the world of zero-knowledge proofs, these "recipes" are algorithms and protocols that have been proven to work. Like making a fantastic lasagna, using these known frameworks will give you a delicious result every time.

When you apply zero-knowledge proofs, these proven frameworks can save you time and energy. You won't need to worry about developing new methods or testing unproven ideas. Instead, you can focus on implementing the proof and making sure it works as expected. It's a win-win situation!

So, don't be shy about using known frameworks. They are your secret weapon for creating solid, reliable zero-knowledge proofs.

Practical Tip 3: Always test your proofs

Just like you wouldn't serve a new recipe to guests without tasting it first, you shouldn't apply zero-knowledge proofs without a thorough test. No matter how confident you are in your work, testing is a must. It's like a safety net, catching any slip-ups before they turn into real problems.

Imagine you're a detective solving a mystery—your zero-knowledge proof is your main suspect. You need to question it, check its alibi, and make sure it can stand up to scrutiny. The more rigorous your testing, the stronger your proof will be. And the more confident you'll feel about applying it.

Testing is not just about finding faults, though. It's also a chance to fine-tune your proof, to make it the best it can be. So, don't view testing as a chore. See it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Remember, everyone makes mistakes. But when you apply zero-knowledge proofs, those mistakes don't have to define your work. Test your proofs, learn from any errors, and move forward with confidence.

If you found our blog post on Zero-Knowledge Proofs interesting and want to learn more about algorithms and data security, we recommend checking out our generic classes on Daisie. Although the workshop 'How To Make The Algorithm Like You' by Natalya Lobanova focuses more on social media algorithms, you can still explore a variety of workshops and classes on Daisie's platform that cater to your interests in data protection and cryptography. Dive into the world of inspiration and creativity with Daisie!