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What is Selfish Mining?


According to an explanation from Ittay Eyal, an assistant professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in Bitcoin’s Blockchain technology, a miner can generate one block at a time, and then can others can follow suit. After a successful generation of a single block, it has to be published to the network, and every miner works to produce a block that will follow the previous one.

However, for selfish mining, the miner does not follow the normal process of creating a block. The selfish miner instead mines the block continuously maintaining its track and fails to publish it to the network.  The attacker only publishes the chain of the transaction to increase the amount of revenue earned.  From the attack, the miner receives more than the stipulated portion of the mining power.  

The Essence of Selfish Mining

It is a fact that the motive of such an act is to ensure that the work produced by this attacker is more in portions compared to any other transactions made by anybody in the whole network. The concept of selfish mining is to lure other miners to keep on working on blocks that lead to a dead end instead of attaching them to the longest chain.

By not exposing the mined block to the entire Blockchain network, an attacker is only giving himself a priority in mining the next block. For attackers to bypass Bitcoin’s security and either reverse or block any transactions, their computing power must be more and powerful than Bitcoin’s entire integrated network.

Can This Be A Threat To Bitcoin?

Well, the concept behind such an attack is not new in Bitcoin’s system. For instance, there were previous discussions on such attacks at the beginning of 2010, and it is believed that Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin’s developer was also part of the debate.  Though Bitcoin’s community was aware of these attacks, no one took any measure to curb the spread of the vice.

It is a fact that most miners at the platform work selflessly to sustain the network by mining honestly and exposing their transactions immediately. It is because they do not wish to weaken their primary source of revenue.

Should Such A Threat Go Public?

It is considered that selfish mining attacks approximately 25% of Bitcoin’s whole network. It is not compared to a standard 51% attack, and the threat should be broadcasted during its early stages to enable honest miners to choose whether to join the attacking group for their benefit or not.

It is pretty clear that mining pools will not move away from a profit-making venture after the evidence of a cheat being viral within the network. Apart from mining pools, other users will leave their comfortable ideological considerations and optimize on accruing more quick profit.

The exposure of Bitcoin’s system to attacks increases drastically when pooling pressures cut the number of individuals mining. Though optimizations are not considered any form of attacks, the process of pooling increases the chances of an attack on its Blockchain. According to Bitcoin’s whitepaper, the word “attack” means theft.

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