ETC Lab CEO: 51% attack is a universal problem of PoW networking

Is there a solution to the most feared attack? Many teams have come up with their solutions before but the problem remains topical. Therefore, the opinion of ETC Lab CEO in this respect is so interesting.

Terry Culver considers that even the Ethereum and Bitcoin blockchains are at risk of a 51% attack.

A 51% attack threat is a universal problem for all projects that rely on the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm. The head of the Ethereum Classic Labs incubator, Terry Culver, told about this in an interview with Forkast News.

Culver admitted that repeated attacks on Ethereum Classic have shown that the blockchain has serious security issues that are a source of “growing frustration.” Simultaneously, the specialist noted that these problems are common to all networks using PoW.

“This vulnerability affects all PoW blockchains, even Bitcoin and Ethereum. We think they are safe now only because these networks are very expensive to attack. However, the truth is that the concept of value is a subjective concept. The cost of attacking one of these networks for a state or even a non-state actor is trivial – in fact, I think it’s just a matter of time, “said Culver.

A 51% attack is a situation in which one of the network participants seizes power that exceeds the total computing capabilities of the other miners. Such a participant can conduct transactions and then erase them from the blockchain.

Indeed, such attacks are usually susceptible to small projects – the cost of attacking large networks is tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, bitcoin activist Andreas Antonopoulos noticed that attackers would have to spend about $ 1 billion to attack the Bitcoin network.

Over the past month, the Ethereum Classic blockchain has been subjected to attacks of this kind three times. The first attack took place from July 29 to August 1, on August 6, the network was attacked again, and on the night of August 29 to 30, the blockchain was attacked for the third time.

How to deal with such attacks?

After the first two incidents, the developers presented a plan to improve network security, which includes both short-term and long-term steps to protect the ecosystem. Operational measures include, for example, enhanced monitoring of the blockchain and the implementation of the Permapoint “final arbitration” system developed in ETC Core, which allows reorganizing the blockchain while maintaining consensus between its nodes.

Developers’ long-term plans include measures that require community approval. These are, for example, the implementation of the PirlGuard protocol from the Pirl startup and the abandonment of PoW in favor of the Keccak-256 or RandomX algorithms.

IOHK, the company behind the Cardano blockchain, also recently presented its solution to this problem. The developers propose creating special checkpoints in the blockchain that will not allow the reorganization of a large number of blocks.

When a hacker creates a “shadow” chain, the blocks generated by him will not contain breakpoints. Therefore, he will not be able to transfer the nodes of the network to his version of the blockchain.

To create checkpoints, it is offered to use the Ouroboros Byzantine Fault-Tolerant (OBFT) algorithm, which was implemented in the Cardano blockchain with the Shelley update. You will also need to select “trusted members” of the network who will oversee this task.

It is suggested to add checkpoints once every three blocks on average. They will need to be registered with another blockchain. IOHK proposes to use the Bitcoin network for these purposes.


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