MIT researcher: “51% attacks on PoW blockchains are not always obvious”

Leading cryptocurrency developer Vertcoin and MIT Digital Currency Initiative researcher said attacks on blockchains with PoW consensus are not always obvious.

James Lovejoy (James Lovejoy)  told in his speech at the Unitize conference, why attacks on cryptocurrencies with PoW are not always obvious, despite the public nature of blockchains.

According to the developer, a 51% attack on the blockchain is not always immediately noticeable, since the blockchain needs an “active observer to monitor the network, which checks whether the attack is carried out”.

In his master’s thesis, as part of the MIT Digital Currency Initiative, Lovejoy created such an observer – a blockchain reorganization tracker that checks whether a 51% attack is carried out on the network. As he said during a speech, according to recent studies, attacks are 51% more likely than previously thought.

He described the viability of such reorganizations in networks of various cryptocurrencies, taking into account the different hash rates, costs associated with attacks, and other factors. By the time the market detects unfair play on a blockchain without a tracker, people may already be suffering from the consequences of the attack.

“So far, we have relied on the victims of the attack themselves to talk about the attack,” Lovejoy said. “As you can imagine, if this results in a loss of user funds, victims are often not interested in disclosing when the attack occurred.”

According to a study published this week , a full transition to ASIC miners for bitcoin mining increases the cost of attack by 51% to 2,000 times, thereby increasing network security.

In general, 51% attacks are not uncommon in the cryptocurrency industry, primarily with low hashrate blockchains. In April, PegNet miners, who controlled a 70% hash rate, provided false pricing data that misled the decentralized network and converted $ 11 pJPY stablecoins into pUSD worth $ 6.7 million. In April, it was reported that Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV became vulnerable to attack 51 % after halving the reward to the miners, and in January the  Bitcoin Gold cryptocurrency was attacked .

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