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Paper Review - Hijacking Bitcoin: Routing Attacks on Cryptocurrencies

03 Sep 2019

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Hijacking Bitcoin: Routing Attacks on Cryptocurrencies

Apostolaki Maria, Zohar Aviv, and Vanbever Laurent. “Hijacking Bitcoin: Routing Attacks on Cryptocurrencies”. In: Proceedings of the 2017 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP).

Research motivation

As Bitcoin has become the most successful cryptocurrency today, it is easy to be targeted for attackers. Despite many existing uncovered attacks, routing attacks are still paid little attention as they are often considered as too challenging to exploit. This paper is motivated to prove the possibility of routing attacks against bitcoin in practice and give related countermeasures so that stakeholders can prevent such effects in real-world, for which can be generalized for other cryptocurrencies which similar network as well.

Research goals

The researchers aim to show the possibility of attacking Bitcoin via the Internet routing infrastructure itself, namely routing attacks, by two key characteristics:

Research methods

They first gave a comprehensive measurement of routing attacks on Bitcoin network by collecting three key datasets including information about Bitcoin IPs, mining power and AS-level topology as well as forwarding paths and analysing on the results.

They then evaluated two general attacks from AS-level adversaries, partitioning attacks and delay attacks, in both node-level and network-level. Regarding partitioning attacks, they considered four different aspects:

Regarding delay attack, they considered node-leve and network-level:

Finally, they presented measures against routing attacks in terms of short-term and long-term.

Research results

Overall personal summary

This paper details how attacking core protocols of the internet backbone can also lead to an attack on popular cryptocurrencies, highlighting significant centralisation in a P2P cryptocurrency network. They also discuss the network’s resilience to such attacks, and potential countermeasures.

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