The 51% Attack on Blockchains: A Mining Behavior Study

Fredy Andres Aponte-Novoa, Ana Lucila Sandoval Orozco, Ricardo Villanueva-Polanco, Pedro Wightman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The applications that use blockchain are cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance applications, video games, and many others. Most of these applications trust that the blockchain will prevent issues like fraud, thanks to the built-in cryptographic mechanisms provided by the data structure and the consensus protocol. However, blockchains suffer from what is called a 51% attack or majority attack, which is considered a high risk for the integrity of these blockchains, where if a miner, or a group of them, has more than half the computing capability of the network, it can rewrite the blockchain. Even though this attack is possible in theory, it is regarded as hard-achievable in practice, due to the assumption that, with enough active members, it is very complicated to have that much computing power; however, this assumption has not been studied with enough detail. In this work, a detailed characterization of the miners in the Bitcoin and Crypto Ethereum blockchains is presented, with the aim of proving the computing distribution assumption and creating profiles that may allow the detection of anomalous behaviors and prevent 51% attacks. The results of the analysis show that, in the last years, there has been an increasing concentration of hash rate power in a very small set of miners, which generates a real risk for current blockchains. Also, that there is a pattern in mining among the main miners, which makes it possible to identify out-of-normal behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140549-140564
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Access
Volume9
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)

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