Tech 11 April 2018Cecille de Jesus
‘Selfish mining’ not a valid issue, Dr. Craig S. Wright says
Even users are calling for a cease-fire on this non-issue.
Recently, a few media online threads resurrected the issue of “selfish mining” as a viable attack on the Bitcoin network, reigniting an online debate in the blockchain community. In a paper published in 2013, Ittay Eyal and Emin Gün Sirer outlined an attack called selfish mining which can be used to either game the system so those who exploit the vulnerability can supposedly earn more than what they should under the normal mining mechanism, and later influence other honest miners to do the same.
Selfish mining, they describe, can be instigated by a miner that holds 33% of the overall network hash rate, and therefore finds blocks earlier than the usual block time (10 minutes). He then decides to hold off on transmitting a block to other miners so he can get a head start in mining the next one and has a better chance at getting that reward as well, supposedly securing two blocks’ worth of revenue for himself.
To put this matter to the grave, nChain chief scientist Dr. Craig S. Wright, published counter-arguments explaining why the selfish mining FUD is a mathematically flawed fallacy, particularly because (1) the economics work against anyone who would choose to do it, and (2) in order to keep doing this, not only does it require a lot of investment while incurring massive profit losses—it also requires that all other miners be stupid and oblivious to something that is so easy to detect and takes very little effort to shut down.
And mostly, it is about the idea that there is no real costs to this strategy and that it will have NO impact on market forces and hence price.
It also assumes stupid honest miners who will not react and just sit and take it.
— Dr Craig S Wright (@ProfFaustus) March 30, 2018
First, this only works if the selfish miner (SM) wins at mining both the first hidden block and the next one before any honest miners (HM) find the first one which he withheld. Otherwise, he will then have to race against the honest miners in propagating that first withheld block and can ultimately forfeit his profit. If he loses this way, any blocks he mined after the one he withheld is orphaned, meaning the blockchain has rejected and abandoned it and the rest of the blockchain has been continued on top of a different block mined in the same time frame.
According to Dr. Wright, the SM’s orphan rate gets higher in the long-term, and the losses rise at a short period of time. He adds that the SM’s profit model looks as follows:
Even in a case where all honest miners are stupid, not noticing or even intentionally ignoring the selfish miner’s actions, the math still works against the selfish miner. A selfish miner gambles against the rest of the network, betting that no other miners will mine the block he withheld before he finally transmits the data. If he loses, the block he withheld gets orphaned and he needs to start again, effectively forfeiting the profit he would have made if he opted for honest mining instead.
Selfish miners incur a large amount of loss not only for themselves but for the whole network—which honest miners can very easily detect and probably retaliate against by blacklisting the offending miners’ IP addresses.
Wright concludes that selfish mining is a non-issue as it is, in fact, more effective to attack or corrupt the bitcoin network using the traditional mining method—which in itself is already quite difficult to instigate.
“I’ll say that again; the honest mining strategy is more effective than the selfish mining strategy even in attacking the bitcoin network,” Wright wrote.
“The reality of the scenario is that there is no place for selfish mining. No sane individual or corporation would spend money for the sake of spending money when even given the direct goal of damaging the network; they could achieve this for far lower capital expense.”
Wright is not alone in thinking the selfish mining issue is a non-issue. A few users made their own analysis and think the community should just move on to other real issues. Reddit user Rolling_Civ posted a thread titled, “The selfish mining debate: toxic and unnecessary,” saying this all stemmed from nothing more than a misunderstanding between developers. Others are also calling for a cease-fire, saying the community should focus on actual issues.
“I want to conclude by saying this thing is a huge distraction and we should focus on more important things for Bitcoin Cash. We’re currently lagging behind other coins and this is a reality that we need to focus on,” Reddit user MobTwo wrote.
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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