Tech 7 September 2018Erik Gibbs
Bitmain activates controversial mining hack AsicBoost
AntPool, the cryptocurrency mining pool operated by mining hardware company Bitmain, has continued to support the company’s controversial public image. AntPool has reportedly activated AsicBoost, a type of mining hack that, according to the company, will increase mining efficiency by as much as 20%. While that sounds good on the surface, underlying side effects are more damaging in the long run.
AsicBoost exploits a known weakness in the proof-of-work algorithm employed by BTC. That weakness provides for faster mining operations, but is known to damage the BTC network. Despite this, the company already holds a patent in China that covers the network exploitation for mining purposes.
The AsicBoost Block Explorer shows that AntPool mined block 540032 using AsicBoost. Bitmain has denied using the exploit in the past and has even gone so far as to release a public statement asserting to that fact. It said last year, “Bitmain has tested ASICBOOST on the Testnet but has never used ASICBOOST on the mainnet as implied in Gregory Maxwell’s proposal. We ask conclusive proof from whoever claims this to be false because such baseless claims are toxic for the Bitcoin space. We also believe the math used by Gregory Maxwell is incorrect and that the method is not practical in a production environment.”
The references to Maxwell were in response to assertions by Blockstream’s then chief Technical Officer that accused the company of using AsicBoost.
Bitmain hasn’t released any comments about whether or not AntPool is using AsicBoost. However, many analysts feel that it is certainly conceivable. Given the fact that the company is reportedly losing money quickly, it would need to find ways to reduce operational costs. BitMEX Research analysts stated, “We believe this decline represents a smart strategic decision by Bitmain to divest (relatively speaking), from an increasingly competitive and lower margin area. In our view, as one moves down the mining supply chain, the competition is likely to increase faster and Bitmain made a sensible move by trying to focus their efforts up the chain, where an increasingly large proportion of the value from mining may accrue.”
This is just the latest example of the mining company’s questionable actions. Many within the crypto community have begun to suspect that there may be serious internal issues at Bitmain and that the company isn’t as solvent as it has led everyone to believe. Most recently, Samson Mow, Chief Strategic Officer for Blockstream, said that the company has releases a number of “false facts.” He added, “This is actually a fraud. But there are always many rumors in the industry. It is speculated that a certain group will intentionally produce false information and shed it to investors.”
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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