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Raising the Security Bar? Dash Claims a 51% Attack Is Not Enough

Dash recently claimed it had been the world’s safest cryptocurrency for a year due to its innovative technology called ChainLocks that allegedly makes a 51% attack nearly impossible. Fully implemented in early July 2019, ChainLocks has not yet seen any protocol capable of matching it — according to the Dash Core team. 

Well-known Bitcoin (BTC) educator Andreas Antonopoulos recently suggested that with the Bitcoin blockchain, a 10-minute 51% attack would cost around $1 billion — something that sounds unrealistic to achieve. But what makes Dash’s ChainLocks blockchain supposedly more secure, and what is the importance of this technology for the industry as a whole?

51% attack: A lurking danger?

A 51% mining attack is possible when a miner, or group of malicious miners, has more hashing power at its disposal than the combined hashing power of all other miners on the network. Ultimately, it gains leverage to steal coins, cancel transactions and disrupt the operability of the network.

Experts from Cornell University believe that if the conventional assumptions underlying the proof-of-work consensus algorithm are valid, then 51% mining attacks are not a problem for blockchains such as Bitcoin. It is more beneficial to be honest rather than engage in malicious behavior. Another assumption is that most of the hashing power comes from rational participants. However, there are situations when these assumptions can be invalid. If, for example, the development of new ASIC mining devices remained secret or members of mining pools colluded to make additional profit, the distribution of hashing power could shift, making an attack beneficial for individuals or at least cutting losses to an acceptable level.

Large networks, such as the Bitcoin platform, are the least exposed to a 51% attack, as the cost of acquiring more than half of the computing power outweighs the potential profit. However, smaller projects such as Ethereum Classic (ETC) or Bitco...

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