Susan Athey and Ed Felten Discuss Bitcoins at the ... - Policy

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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Ed Felten says: November 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm. mrkent, You can try to devise an algorithm that works. Whether that is possible, and whether the honest miners would then have a counter-counter-measure that frustrates your new algorithm, remain to be seen. But in any case, it’s clear that ES-mining is not a dominant strategy—contrary to the ES paper’s claim. macavity says: November 8, 2013 ... 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 online marketplace Nicolas Christin, WWW 2013 JB. E-commerce. Bitcoin exchanges – buy and sell bitcoin using ... Our colleague Ed Felten proposes a hybrid strategy called fairweather mining, where the core idea is that a miner will maintain a presence on both the selfish mining team and the honest team.When the selfish mining team has no lead, the miner switches to the honest team to reap rewards on that side. When the selfish mining team is ahead, he switches back to selfish mining. Professor Ed Felten “Bitcoin Research in Princeton CS” Freedom to Tinker post, November 29, 2013. Bitcoin is a fascinating example of how technology, economics, and social interactions fit together to create something of value. Let me highlight one current project: we’re designing a decentralized prediction market using the Bitcoin protocol. … There are two main difficulties: first ... June 16, 2014 by Ed Felten. The big news in the Bitcoin world, is that one entity, called GHash, seems to be in control of more than half of all of the mining power. A part of Bitcoin’s appeal has been its distributed nature: the idea that no one party is in control but the system operates through the cooperative action of a large community. The worry now is that GHash has too much power and ...

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