HomeTech NewsWhat is the 51% Attack on Cryptocurrencies?

What is the 51% Attack on Cryptocurrencies?

The possibility of attack expands with the drop in reward during halving actions carried out by the bitcoin network at predetermined periods. See below, what is the 51% Attack in cryptocurrencies and understand how it works and why bitcoin has a greater chance of protection against this type of action in relation to smaller coins.

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Defining the majority attack

The 51% attack refers to an action against a blockchain — they have lower possibilities against bitcoin, which considers the chance of a hypothetical attack. The action is done by a group of miners who control more than 50% of the network’s mining hash rate or computing power.

How it works

The concept

Theoretically, attackers would be able to prevent new transactions from getting confirmations, allowing them to stop payments between some or all users.

Another major threat is that of reversing transactions that were completed while in control of the network, which means they could spend coins in duplicate — one of the pillars of cryptocurrency protection.

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They would hardly be able to create new coins or change old blocks. A 51% attack would likely not destroy bitcoin or other blockchain-based currency, even if it was highly damaging. The attack basically boils down to manipulation.

Attacking security and reliability

Everything in cryptocurrencies is based on blockchains, a form of a distributed ledger. These digital files record all transactions made on the network and are available to all users – and the general public – for review.

As a result, no one can spend a coin twice. As its name implies, a blockchain is a chain of blocks, which are packets of data that record all transactions completed during a certain period. For bitcoin, a new block is generated approximately every 10 minutes.

Once a block is finalized or extracted, it cannot be changed, as a fraudulent version of the public ledger would be quickly detected and rejected by network users.

The big problem is that by controlling most of the computing power on the network, an attacker or group of attackers can interfere with the process of writing new blocks. Even worse, they can prevent other miners from completing blocks, theoretically allowing them to monopolize mining and earn all the rewards.

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Smaller cryptocurrencies are more vulnerable to Attack 51% (Image: Kanchanara/Unsplash)

on the bitcoin network

The possibility is to block other users’ transactions and send a transaction and then reverse it, making it look like they still had the currency they just spent.

This vulnerability, known as double-spending, is the digital equivalent of a perfect spoof and the basic cryptographic error that the blockchain was built to overcome — making it a pillar of security and trust for the network.

A network that allowed double-spending would quickly suffer a loss of trust. Changing history blocks — transactions that were blocked before the attack started — would be extremely difficult, even in the case of a 51% attack.

The older the transactions are, the more difficult it is to change them. It would be impossible to modify transactions before a checkpoint, after which transactions are encoded in bitcoin software.

Even so, a 51% Assault form is possible — even with less than 50% of the network’s mining power — but with a lower probability of success.

Is there a real possibility?

It is currently very low, as cryptocurrency networks have reached huge numbers of users, especially bitcoin. However, the possibility is never zero. The reduction of miners is a true characteristic, right after the halving movements of the bitcoin network, which increases the possibility of the attack, even if it is small.

While it is very difficult for anyone to obtain more computing power than the rest of the bitcoin network, we cannot say the same for smaller cryptocurrencies. When compared to major ones, smaller ones have little computing power to protect their blockchains.

The situation could allow a 51% Attack (as already recorded). Some examples of victims of this type of attack include Monacoin, Bitcoin Gold and ZenCash.

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George Philip
George Philiphttps://betechwise.com
George Philip is a seasoned tech professional with a deep-rooted passion for all things tech-related. His mission is to demystify complex tech topics and provide you with the insights and knowledge you need to navigate the ever-changing world of technology. With a keen eye for detail and a talent for making the intricate seem simple, George crafts engaging content that explores how technology impacts your daily life, your workplace, and the broader global landscape. Whether you're eager to stay updated on the latest gadgets, intrigued by emerging tech trends, or simply looking to understand how digital innovations shape our world, George's writing is your trusted source for clarity and expertise. Feel free to reach out to George via email at [email protected] for inquiries, collaboration opportunities, or to engage in thought-provoking discussions about the fast-paced world of tech. Stay informed, stay connected, and let George be your guide in the tech-savvy universe.


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