Zero-knowledge proofs belong to a category known as interactive proofs, so learning how the former work, helps to understand the latter. First described in a 1985 paper by the computer scientists Shafi Goldwasser, Silvio Micali and Charles Rackoff, interactive proofs work like an interrogation: Over a series of messages, one party (the prover) tries to convince the other (the verifier) that a given statement is true.
An interactive proof must satisfy two properties. First, a true statement will always eventually convince an honest verifier. Second, if the given statement is false, no prover — even one pretending to possess certain knowledge — can convince the verifier, except with negligibly small probability.
Interactive proofs are probabilistic in nature. The prover could answer one or two questions correctly simply by luck, so it takes a large enough number of challenges, all of which the prover must get right, for the verifier to become confident that the prover does in fact know the statement is true.
Zero-knowledge proofs allow for a transfer of information between two parties without the originator having to use a password or reveal any data related to them.
This helps weed out many of the potential risks that are involved with the use of password-only authentication protocols.
In its most basic sense, a zero-knowledge proof (also commonly referred to as ZKP) can be thought of as a protocol through which a digital authentication process can be facilitated without the use of any passwords or other sensitive data. As a result of this, no information, either from the sender’s or receiver’s end, can be compromised in any way.
Zero-knowledge proofs offer a lot of benefits to blockchain systems that make use of the technology. For example, they help in making crypto transactions highly secure thanks to their high-level of encryption.
I know that I know nothing.