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Crypto Kill switch: Monero goes to war against the miners

The developers are preparing to do everything to keep one of the largest cryptocurrencies in the world free from the interests of invasion of large companies.

While a high-speed hardware known as ASIC has been used to protect bitcoin transactions for years, the Bitmain mining hardware manufacturer recently announced a new model, the Antminer X3, which was purpose-built to extract the privacy-oriented cryptocurrency.

Yet, rather than greeting the hardware as a positive sign of growing interest, Monero will come to the point of implementing an emergency software update in April, in particular to change the rules of the system in order to completely block the effort. .

Widely referred to as the first move of monero in a "war" against ASICs, the next software update will make Antminer X3 ineffective. Not only that, but to prevent hardware manufacturers from catching up, these algorithm changes are planned to continue with two-year network updates.

Taking a step back, the move is a defense of mining made possible by Monero's current algorithm, Cryptonight, which can successfully extract monero on consumer-grade laptops. Faced with the competition of highly efficient ASICs, the fear is that mining of affordable laptops will be silenced.

And this is not a development that developers are taking lightly.

"I will do everything in my power to help the community prevent the proliferation of ASICs that induce centralization on the monero network," said Spagni on GitHub, the main developer Riccardo "Fluffypony".

Currently issued by a single supplier, Bitmain, there are concerns that the Antminer X3 could lead to certain types of attacks, especially those in which a pool of mining activities take charge of most of the analysis of a cryptocurrency , creating false transaction histories, double spending coins and censorship payments.

And while discussing the fact that highly efficient ASICs are, on the whole, good for security, many in the monero community are in opposition.

"If you're worried about an attack from, for example, someone using many Amazon servers at 51% of the currency, then bifurcating from the ASIC is a wrong move," moneromooo "main developer," he told CoinDesk.

The developer continued:

"If you're worried about an attack by someone like Bitmain, do not turn away from the ASIC means you're already busy, since Bitmain will probably have 51% very, very soon."

Bitmain doubts

Influencing the decision is, of course, the long-standing mistrust between the developers and Bitmain (as well as its co-CEO and main nominee Jihan Wu).

Last year doubts were raised about the fact that Bitmain was secretly exploiting a weakness in the work trial bitcoin algorithm, through a process called ASICBoost, which would allow its three mining pools to extract about 20 % faster than competitors. Not long after this controversy came the discovery of a vulnerability of the mining chips called Antbleed, which some believed Bitmain had intentionally implanted in such a way that he could forcibly force one of his miners at will.

Then, at the end of last year, Bitmain produced an ASIC that was able to extract siacoin, a small cryptocurrency, in a move that was widely regarded as an acquisition.

All these things allowed Spagni to defend the ASIC resistance of his cryptocurrency on Twitter, writing, "Their actions with the bitcoin community and more recently the community are clearly those of a bad actor".

But even without the concerns about Wu and Bitmain, enabling ASICs to be used to extract the monero could potentially pose a greater risk, since resistance to censorship is so critical to its success, said developer monero "binaryFate".

"Perhaps even more than for other cryptocurrencies, decentralization is the key to Monero to ensure resistance to censorship," said the member of the binary sector.

For example, censorship would destroy a key promise of private cryptocurrency: fungibility or the ability to use a currency like any other.

In an announcement, the team monero has extrapolated the risks of ASIC centralization, writing that as long as ASIC hardware is widespread, it is at high security risk, including the potential for government corruption or even the introduction of a "kill switch" that could shut down the miners remotely.

The blog post states:

"This threat has the potential to destroy the entire network."

Cryptonight critics

As such, monero will continue to fight against the hardware.

"I think this has created a precedent that we are seriously in favor of ASIC resistance, we can react quickly if we are forced not to worry about the producers losing money," said BinaryFate. "In the near future, I doubt any ASIC manufacturer will want to try Monero again."

However, the move also proved to be divisive, mainly because the test algorithm of Monero's work is not without criticism. While it is critical to the accessibility of cryptocurrency, others believe that the low entry barrier decreases the cost of the attack.

For one, a javascript implementation of the protocol, called Coinhive, was labeled as the sixth most popular malware in the world in a Check Cybersecurity Check Point company last November. Moreover, in February of this year, the algorithm has put botnet attacks on the scale of over half a million mining machines.

"In which a small-capital cryptocurrency desperately tries to destroy their security by actively fighting against economies of scale," wrote Philip Daian, ethereum researcher chirping, on the community's moves to stop the ASICs.

Echoing a similar sentiment, Andrew Poelstra, a Blockstream mathematician, argued in a research paper in 2015 that while the anti-ASIC code may delay manufacturers, "eventually ASIC resistance is useless".

Furthermore, it is feared that the changes in the underlying algorithm could weaken the code, opening the door to vulnerabilities. In addressing this, the "iamsmooth" developer suggested an "ASIC-friendly" approach, which would focus on the lowering of costs and the accessibility of hardware.

In the conversation with CoinDesk, even the moneromooo agreed, stating that biennial changes "are a bit of a shit method, so hopefully a better algorithm can be found".

But until then, Spagni and many others defend the actions of the monero.

"It's about choosing the lesser of two evils," Spagni wrote about Github, weighing botnets against ASICs.

And in the end, Spagni brought on Twitter to say: "It could be completely less secure, but the community made the difficult call."

he has continued:

"I decide nothing, the community does it."

Image of the red button via Shutterstock

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