The Anatomy Of A 51% Attack And How You Can Prevent One

Delton Rhodes
Delton Rhodes

The Anatomy Of A 51% Attack And How You Can Prevent One

As the blockchain sphere continues to swell, concerns over security measures are mounting. One of the most daunting threats looming over blockchain projects is the 51% attack. Recognizing the pressing need for formidable security, the Komodo platform is propelling itself to the forefront with its innovative delayed Proof of Work (dPoW) security mechanism. By tapping into Komodo's security service, integrated chains harness the robust security levels of the Litecoin blockchain. In this expansive analysis, we’ll dissect the anatomy of a 51% attack and explore how Komodo's Blockchain Security Service stands as a sentinel against it.

Decoding the 51% Attack

The term "51% attack" resonates as a cryptic phrase, yet its underpinnings are fairly direct. When malicious entities command over half (specifically more than 50%) of a blockchain's peer-to-peer network hash rate, a 51% attack is set in motion. Commandeering such a majority stake of the network’s hash rate, attackers can manipulate the network, allowing them to erase blocks containing specific transactions. This manipulation offers them an avenue to double-spend coins or tokens.

Double-Spend Attack: An Alternate Moniker for 51% Attack

The action of spending the same digital coins more than once christens the 51% attack with its alternate name: the “double-spend attack.” As the blockchain ecosystem matures, it's crucial to underline that only Proof of Work (PoW) blockchains remain vulnerable to 51% attacks. In contrast, Proof of Stake blockchains grapple with unique threats, like the Nothing-At-Stake attack, which is a separate challenge altogether.

Quantifying the Threat Level

Mammoth blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, despite operating on the PoW framework, are typically deemed resilient against 51% attacks. The overwhelming resources required to achieve a majority of their network’s hash rate acts as a deterrent. However, emerging blockchains, especially those with a limited user base, walk a tightrope. Rather than pouring funds into acquiring hardware, savvy attackers might opt to lease the necessary hash rate from services like NiceHash. Alarmingly, data from a crypto enthusiast's website suggested that many blockchains could be 51% attacked for an unsettling sum of just $500 USD per hour.

Tracing Past 51% Attacks

The blockchain timeline between 2018 and 2019 was riddled with numerous 51% attacks. Among the most staggering were:

It's imperative to comprehend that these figures merely represent the iceberg's tip. A plethora of other attacks might have eluded public attention, making the true scale of the threat nebulous.

Dissecting a 51% Attack: A Comprehensive Breakdown

To fully appreciate the potency of Komodo’s defense mechanism, understanding the intricacies of a 51% attack is essential. Typically, the attack unfolds over six distinct stages:

  1. The attacker establishes dominance over the blockchain’s network.
  2. The attacker concurrently mines blocks on a clandestine chain, separate from the recognized blockchain.
  3. On the authentic version of the blockchain, the attacker transacts coins or tokens.
  4. Covert mining on the hidden chain persists until it surpasses the length of the authentic chain.
  5. Revealing their secretly-mined chain, the attacker coerces it to be recognized as the genuine chain, leveraging the longest chain principle.
  6. With their chain recognized, the attacker proceeds to double-spend their assets.

Komodo’s Vanguard: The dPoW Blockchain Security Service

In the vanguard of blockchain security, Komodo's dPoW security mechanism fortifies platforms by creating periodic backups of the blockchain data onto the Litecoin ledger. Projects integrating with Komodo not only elevate their security framework but also instill trepidation in potential attackers. The frequent notarizations, a hallmark of the dPoW mechanism, enhance this deterrent effect.

In Closing

As we traverse 2023, the blooming blockchain sector is facing ever-evolving security threats. 51% attacks, once relegated to theoretical discussions, have morphed into real-world concerns. Platforms such as Komodo, wielding their dPoW shield, are crucial vanguards in this digital era. As blockchains proliferate, the onus is on projects to remain vigilant, and integrating security solutions like Komodo's offers a promising avenue to maintain the sanctity and trustworthiness of a blockchain.

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