Greg Maxwell, a Bitcoin Core developer has recently criticized the overwhelming fearmongering in case of a 51% attack. The expert states that all of the panic for such an attack on the bitcoin blockchain, is raised by people with a fundamental lack of understanding about bitcoin itself.
Maxwell’s Reddit post was published last week and in it, he argued that so far, all of the mechanisms which were developed to combat the threat of a potential 51% attack on the bitcoin blockchain, heavily implied centralization and were in fact a far bigger threat to bitcoin than the attack itself.
The 51% attack itself does take a lot of resources. The majority of cybersecurity experts have concluded that the resources required to pull of such an attack on the bitcoin blockchain would be nigh impossible to acquire.
51% attacks usually occur on blockchains which use the proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm. The person or group behind the attack seizes control of the majority (51%) of the mining power and monopolizes control over the network.
A 51% attack can have devastating consequences for any blockchain
If successful, the user in control can now reverse transactions and begin to double-spend. Basically, the user in control transacts crypto for fiat and then simply rolls back the transaction to return the crypto and still pocket the fiat.
Maxwell said multiple times that any of the proposed suggestions threaten to compromise bitcoin’s centralization which is the heart of the project itself. He noted that bitcoin focuses on solving the problem of having consensus based on a stable history of transactions.
He is completely right as bitcoin’s decentralized nature relies on “voting” of computing power through mining without any involvement from a third party. According to the Bitcoin Core developer, any mechanism would allow for a very easy rigging of this vote by 1 or more parties. He stated:
“People have thought up of more than a thousand different ways to allegedly do it without introducing centralization. The reality of the situation is however, that the proposed fixes always centralize the system, the just hide it better and better each time.”
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