Why buy when you can rent? Bribery attacks on bitcoin-style consensus

Joseph Bonneau

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

The Bitcoin cryptocurrency introduced a novel distributed consensus mechanism relying on economic incentives. While a coalition controlling a majority of computational power may undermine the system, for example by double-spending funds, it is often assumed it would be incentivized not to attack to protect its long-term stake in the health of the currency. We show how an attacker might purchase mining power (perhaps at a cost premium) for a short duration via bribery. Indeed, bribery can even be performed in-band with the system itself enforcing the bribe. A bribing attacker would not have the same concerns about the long-term health of the system, as their majority control is inherently short-lived. New modeling assumptions are needed to explain why such attacks have not been observed in practice. The need for all miners to avoid short-term profits by accepting bribes further suggests a potential tragedy of the commons which has not yet been analyzed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFinancial Cryptography and Data Security - International Workshops, FC 2016, BITCOIN, VOTING, and WAHC, Revised Selected Papers
EditorsKurt Rohloff, Jeremy Clark, Sarah Meiklejohn, Dan Wallach, Michael Brenner, Peter Y.A. Ryan
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Pages19-26
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9783662533567
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016
EventInternational Workshops on Financial Cryptography and Data Security, FC 2016 and 3rd Workshop on Bitcoin and Blockchain Research, BITCOIN 2016, 1st Workshop on Advances in Secure Electronic Voting Schemes, VOTING 2016, and 4th Workshop on Encrypted Computing and Applied Homomorphic Cryptography, WAHC 2016 - Christ Church, Barbados
Duration: Feb 26 2016Feb 26 2016

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume9604 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349

Other

OtherInternational Workshops on Financial Cryptography and Data Security, FC 2016 and 3rd Workshop on Bitcoin and Blockchain Research, BITCOIN 2016, 1st Workshop on Advances in Secure Electronic Voting Schemes, VOTING 2016, and 4th Workshop on Encrypted Computing and Applied Homomorphic Cryptography, WAHC 2016
CountryBarbados
CityChrist Church
Period2/26/162/26/16

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)

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