A new website has been created to calculate the cost of performing a ‘51% attack’ on various cryptocurrencies via renting mining power from mining company NiceHash. The results are surprising and shocking, with many cryptocurrencies requiring less than USD 1,000 for a successful one-hour 51% attack.
The website was created by Reddit user xur17 in response to an attack on Bitcoin Gold this past month which cost exchanges over USD 10 million. Verge has recently experienced a costly 51% attack as well. xur17 used network hash rate data from Mine The Coin, coin prices from CoinMarketCap, and mining rental prices from NiceHash for the calculations.
A 51% attack is one of the main vulnerabilities of a blockchain-based cryptocurrency. For this sort of attack to have a 100% success rate it requires the attacker to control more than half of the hash power on the network. The attacker will send cryptocurrency to a merchant or exchange, while secretly mining blocks that send the cryptocurrency somewhere else. The attacker, with superior hash power, should theoretically build blocks quicker than the rest of the network.
Once the cryptocurrency deposit from the attacker is confirmed, the attacker releases the blockchain secretly mined, replacing the original blockchain with a longer chain – this becomes the new recognized chain. The attacker’s funds remain on the new blockchain, while the exchange loses all the funds received, as they are not recognized on the new chain.
For more mature cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, a 51% attack is financially and practically unfeasible. There is 35,849 PH/s of hashing power on the Bitcoin network, and according to the website a one-hour 51% attack would cost USD 648,000 if that power were rented. However, there is no cloud mining site where that much hash power can be rented; NiceHash has less than 1% of the required amount. The cost of buying the equipment and paying for the electricity for a Bitcoin 51% attack is astronomical.
However, smaller cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Private, Einsteinium, Gulden, Feathercoin, and many more require less than USD 1,000 to perform a 51% attack using rented power on NiceHash. Some cryptocurrencies like Mooncoin, Catcoin, PinkCoin, DigitalPrice, MAZA, Zetacoin, and several more require less than USD 10 for a successful 51% attack.
Clearly, some smaller cryptocurrencies simply should not be considered secure since they have so little network hash power that they could easily be compromised by a 51% attack.
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