Majority Is Not Enough: Bitcoin mining is vulnerable

Hijacking Bitcoin: Routing Attacks on Cryptocurrencies

Date: 2017-03-24
Author(s): Maria Apostolaki, Aviv Zohar, Laurent Vanbever

Link to Paper

As the most successful cryptocurrency to date, Bitcoin constitutes a target of choice for attackers. While many attack vectors have already been uncovered, one important vector has been left out though: attacking the currency via the Internet routing infrastructure itself. Indeed, by manipulating routing advertisements (BGP hijacks) or by naturally intercepting traffic, Autonomous Systems (ASes) can intercept and manipulate a large fraction of Bitcoin traffic. This paper presents the first taxonomy of routing attacks and their impact on Bitcoin, considering both small-scale attacks, targeting individual nodes, and large-scale attacks, targeting the network as a whole. While challenging, we show that two key properties make routing attacks practical: (i) the efficiency of routing manipulation; and (ii) the significant centralization of Bitcoin in terms of mining and routing. Specifically, we find that any network attacker can hijack few (<100) BGP prefixes to isolate ~50% of the mining power---even when considering that mining pools are heavily multi-homed. We also show that on-path network attackers can considerably slow down block propagation by interfering with few key Bitcoin messages. We demonstrate the feasibility of each attack against the deployed Bitcoin software. We also quantify their effectiveness on the current Bitcoin topology using data collected from a Bitcoin supernode combined with BGP routing data. The potential damage to Bitcoin is worrying. By isolating parts of the network or delaying block propagation, attackers can cause a significant amount of mining power to be wasted, leading to revenue losses and enabling a wide range of exploits such as double spending. To prevent such effects in practice, we provide both short and long-term countermeasures, some of which can be deployed immediately.

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Bonneau, Edward W. Felten, Prateek Mittal, and Arvind Narayanan. Adventures in Authentication: WAY Workshop, 2014. [21] The Economics of Bitcoin Mining, or Bitcoin in the Presence of Adversaries. Joshua Kroll, Ian Davey, and Edward W. Felten. Workshop on the Economics of Information Security, 2013. November 7, 2013 by Ed Felten. There has been a lot of noise in the Bitcoin world this week about a new paper by Ittay Eyal and Emin Gun Sirer (“ES” for short) of Cornell, which claims that Bitcoin mining is vulnerable to attack. In a companion blog post, The Economics of Bitcoin Mining, or Bitcoin in the Presence of Adversaries Joshua Kroll, Ian Davey, Ed Felten. WEIS 2013 JB. Price during 2013 JB. Black Markets Silk Road: US$14M in Revenue in 2012 [Christin 2012] Traveling the Silk Road: A measurement analysis of a large anonymous The idea to think about Bitcoin mining as a dynamic multiparty-membership signature (DMMS) was first pioneered by Back, Corallo et al.1 A DMMS is a signature made by a variable and anonymous set of signers who can enter and leave at any time. Their share of the computational power pointed at the Bitcoin network weights their contribution to the Ed Felten says: June 16, 2014 at 3:36 pm. there’s a large and growing ratio between the cash-flow value of bitcoin mining apparatus and the value of bitcoin balances; both are at risk in a crash, but the 51% need only have the first at risk, since they have better information about the timing of any crash.

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