The cruel anti-hacker lessons of the Bitcoin white paper

cryptocurrency-security-hackers

Key facts:
  • Thirteen years after the publication of the Bitcoin white paper, its technology seems more invulnerable.

  • Hacking Bitcoin could take you 30,000 years or $ 2.2 million per hour.

Many have speculated on possible ways to create a fortune out of thin air by hacking Bitcoin transactions. But all those thoughtful efforts have been in vain. In fact, the white paper of Bitcoin already showed the keys to prevent a hacker (or any type of attacker) from stealing cryptocurrencies through changes in the transaction history.

Thirteen years after the publication of the white paper of Bitcoin, the lessons on how difficult it would be to scam the network are still valid. What’s more, with every day that passes and the network of Bitcoin miners grows, the simple idea of ​​hacking the system becomes more and more absurd.

At white paper of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto does not rule out the possibility that there are attackers who want to defraud the system. There is always someone greedy who wants the biggest piece of the cake.

In fact, in 2009, Bitcoin was a network that connected only a handful of computers (and was not worth a few pennies). When the Bitcoin consensus rules were written, even a simple computer sneeze from a hacker could have been a problem.

But those rules held the key to getting people to put their effort, and their computers, into the service of a common goal. The more valuable bitcoin (BTC) becomes, the more secure the network becomes.

I’ll show you why Bitcoin’s rigorous security system can turn out to be a cruel headache for anyone attempting a network hack.

The rules of the Bitcoin game break the illusions of attackers

A greedy hacker wouldn’t make more money from a fraud or a transaction exchange than by honestly mining Bitcoin. The miners network is designed in such a way that an attacker would find it very costly to remake the blockchain “in secret” via proof of work, the ingenious solution that avoids double spending on Bitcoin as it rewards miners for your participation.

The incentive can help encourage nodes to stay honest. If a greedy attacker is capable of assembling more CPUs than all the honest nodes, he would have to choose between using it to defraud people by stealing back their payments, or using it to generate new coins. He should find it more profitable to play by the rules, rules such that he favors newer currencies (…) than undermining the system and the validity of his own wealth.

Bitcoin white paper.

This means that a hacker would need many computers or Bitcoin miners to create the conditions that allow to deceive most of the miners that currently work on the network. For example, through a 51% attack to censor others’ transactions or reverse the attacker’s own transactions, creating double spending.

Only one state could execute a 51% attack on Bitcoin

Hacking Bitcoin with such an attack would cost $ 2.2 million every hour, according Crypto51. To give you an idea, you would have to have 1,273,000 ASIC Antminer S19 Pro at full capacity to compete against the entire network that is currently connected (and that we assume they want Bitcoin to continue to have the value it has already achieved).

cryptocurrency-security-hackers
A Bitcoin network hack becomes more expensive as the network grows. Source: Pixabay / pexels.com

According Go Bitcoin, needed invest USD 28,678 million in the purchase of mining equipment such as the Antminer S9 to hack Bitcoin today and its electricity costs, in the event that that amount was obtained in the market.

Of course, an attack of this magnitude would have immediate consequences on the markets. Whoever sets out on the insane undertaking of getting bitcoins this way would be acting against their own interests, because their pOwn cryptocurrency reserves would be devalued immediately.

Only a state could afford an attack of this magnitude, protected by the fact that only central banks could print money unrestrictedly without suffering – so much – for the cost. Who could be so motivated to destroy something with the awareness that they will lose more than they could gain?

The odds are against a Bitcoin hack

The chance that a hacker will be able to fool the network of miners decreases as the history of blocks added above the transactions that he wants to modify grows. Furthermore, a hacker could only secretly modify their own “recent” transactions, because the rest of the nodes would never accept a history of new transactions that did not match their own record on the blockchain.

Even so, this is so unlikely that Satoshi Nakamoto compared this delusional expectation to the statistical concept “gambler’s ruin.” A persistent gambler who starts playing a game with a deficit, even with “unlimited credit,” eventually you will be ruined, no matter how many betting strategies you use.

This means that an attacker who starts competing against Bitcoin miners is more likely to lose simply by starting to mine blocks later.

code-hackers
No matter how good you are at casinos, the numbers are against you if you pretend to
a Bitcoin hack. Source: Negative Space / pexels.com

It is as if you have less capital when you “start your bet.” In the race to get your blockchain accepted as valid (including your rigged transactions), you’d be expected to have fewer opportunities to mine or validate the block of transactions that continues the chain.

Given the assumption that [la cadena honesta es mayor que la cadena del atacante], the probability decreases exponentially as the number of blocks the attacker has to reach increases. With the odds against him, if he doesn’t lunge forward at first, his chances get smaller and smaller as he falls behind.

Bitcoin white paper.

It doesn’t matter how hard I try. The odds of an attacker using Bitcoin software to secretly replicate a blockchain and eventually replace it with the public blockchain are slim.

In fact, in the white paper of Bitcoin there is a mathematical demonstration of the progressive decline of the luck of someone who tried to hack Bitcoin in this way. To put it another way, the white paper Bitcoin does not show compassion for anyone.

Who needs a hacker to steal bitcoins?

Perhaps you are not one of those who thinks that all hackers, crackers or hackers are misunderstood beings or precocious geniuses who just want to destroy the world (and make a few million in the process) like Elliott Gunton, accused of having hacked TalkTalk and EtherDelta. And you are right.

Some of these hackers (or crackers, which is a more accurate term for these dangerous computer scientists) have actually been very clever. Take Gary MacKinnon, for example, who managed to outwit the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). So why bother spending billions on computers and electricity if you only need a computer and a cup of coffee? truth?

Some criminals, or would-be criminals, aspire to hit a more accurate shot and avoid the big problems. Perhaps among these are those who believe that they can get a few extra bitcoins by making two transactions with the same cryptocurrencies, fast enough so that no one notices.

Nevertheless, Bitcoin is designed to prevent anyone from double spending, which is how this type of fraud is known. This anti-hacking system described in the White paper of Bitcoin consists of creating a “timestamp” on each transaction. The goal is to have ‘a system for participants to agree on a single history of the order in which [las transacciones] were received ”, as the White paper.

Because the goal of the network is to keep as many copies of the transaction history as possible so that no one can change them, the security of Bitcoin is built on cooperation. So whoever receives a transaction, only “needs proof that, at the time of each transaction, most nodes agreed that this was the first received ».

Well, it is possible to manipulate the transaction code, right?

No, it is not possible. Every Bitcoin transaction uses an encryption algorithm known as Sha-256, which was designed by the NSA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is a cryptographic security standard used throughout the world.

I’m not going to overwhelm you with the whole explanation, I promise. This method takes the information from each transaction and transforms it into a 256-bit or 64-character sequence, known as hash. This means that any letter and number information put into Bitcoin’s cryptographic “machine” becomes a unique item. This process has several functions.

The cruel anti-hacker lessons of the Bitcoin white paper
A hacker who wants to change a transaction from the comfort of his home has little chance
of success. Source: Tima Miroshnichenko / pexels.com

On the one hand, it generates Bitcoin addresses and the keys to identify the owner of those addresses. Of course, by having those unique keys (the private keys), you can also prove that you own the cryptocurrencies stored there, and not just anyone who tries to randomly put keys in a Bitcoin wallet.

It is practically impossible to try to find someone’s private key by throwing numbers at random. In fact, it is so unlikely that if they made a quadrillion attempts you would have 0.681892% likely to find it. If you had a million computers searching for a private Bitcoin address every second, it could take up to 30,000 years to find it. Luck!

Also, this same algorithm is used for Bitcoin mining. Each block in the chain, which contains some 2,000 transactions on average, uses cryptography. Any change in a transaction alters the hash that the miner uses to record and identify the block of information added to the network, so it is easy to know if someone changed something in a transaction (because a different hash is generated) and wants to sell cat for free.

Nothing is left to chance in Bitcoin

Although there are hypothetical conditions that might not exactly be considered hacking, Bitcoin is prepared to prevent someone from trying to take advantage. For example, if two miners add a block to the chain at the same time, and these blocks contain the same transactions, the only valid ones will be those that spread through the network in the shortest time.

So repeated transactions would start to be discarded by most nodes, before mining the next block. In other words, Bitcoin always chooses the longest chain or the one with the most proof of work as true, avoiding any double spending. It seems unlikely, but from time to time it happens that two transaction blocks collide, as we reported in CryptoNews.

The economic cost of the hacking, the odds against it, the level of cryptographic processes that are in each transaction, and that prevents a single centralized entity from having the key to open all the doors, should be sufficiently dissuasive for any hacker, just like it is indicated by the rigorous white paper of Bitcoin.

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