On Detection of Bitcoin Mining Redirection Attacks

Nicolas T. Courtois, Pinar Emirdag, Zhouyixing Wang


In this paper we study the question of centralisation in bitcoin digital currency. In theory bitcoin has been designed to be a totally decentralized distributed system. Satoshi Nakamoto has very clearly postulated that each node should be collecting recent transactions and trying to create new blocks [Satoshi08]. In bitcoin transactions are aggregated in block in order to authenticate them and form an official ledger and history of bitcoin transactions. In practice as soon as expensive ASIC bitcoin miners have replaced general-purpose hardware, production of bitcoins and the validation of transactions has concentrated in the hands of a smaller group of people. Then at some moment in early 2012 an important decision was taken: the Stratum protocol was designed [Palatinus12] which took a deliberate decision to move the power of selecting which transactions are included in blocks from miners to pool managers. The growing difficulty of mining and large standard deviation in this process [Rosenfeld13, CourtoisBahack14] made that majority of miners naturally shifted to pooled mining. At this moment bitcoin ceased being a decentralized democratic system. In this paper we survey the question of a 51% attacks and show that there is a large variety of plausible attack scenarios. In particular we study one particularly subversive attack scenario which depends on non-trivial internal details of the bitcoin hashing process. How does it compare with the current mining practices? We have study the Stratum protocol in four popular real-life mining con figurations. Our analysis shows that pools could very easily cheat the majority of people. However the most subversive versions of the attack are NOT facilitated and could potentially be detected.


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  3. Nicolas Courtois, Marek Grajek, Rahul Naik: Optimizing SHA256 in Bitcoin Mining, in proceedings of CSS 2014, Springer.
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  5. Nicolas T. Courtois: On The Longest Chain Rule and Programmed Self-Destruction of Crypto Currencies, 20 May 2014, http://arxiv.org/abs/1405.0534.
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  8. Luke-Jr: getblocktemplate protocol, BIP 022 and BIP023, available from https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Getblocktemplate.
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  10. Marek (slush) Palatinus, Stratum mining protocol, the official documentation of lightweight bitcoin mining protocol, https://mining.bitcoin.cz/ stratum-mining, developped in 2011-12. A compact thrid-party description can also be found at https://www.btcguild.com/new_protocol.php.
  11. Meni Rosenfeld: Mining Pools Reward Methods, Presentation at Bitcoin 2013 Conference. http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=5sgdD4mGPfg
  12. Technical specification of the bitcoin protocol, 2009- 2014, https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Protocol_ specification

Paper Citation

in Harvard Style

T. Courtois N., Emirdag P. and Wang Z. (2015). On Detection of Bitcoin Mining Redirection Attacks . In Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Information Systems Security and Privacy - Volume 1: ICISSP, ISBN 978-989-758-081-9, pages 98-105. DOI: 10.5220/0005245600980105

in Bibtex Style

author={Nicolas T. Courtois and Pinar Emirdag and Zhouyixing Wang},
title={On Detection of Bitcoin Mining Redirection Attacks},
booktitle={Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Information Systems Security and Privacy - Volume 1: ICISSP,},

in EndNote Style

JO - Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Information Systems Security and Privacy - Volume 1: ICISSP,
TI - On Detection of Bitcoin Mining Redirection Attacks
SN - 978-989-758-081-9
AU - T. Courtois N.
AU - Emirdag P.
AU - Wang Z.
PY - 2015
SP - 98
EP - 105
DO - 10.5220/0005245600980105