After experiencing a nasty 51 percent attack roughly one year ago, Vertcoin has been subjected to another such attack on its blockchain.
Vertcoin: The Victim Once Again
51 percent attacks occur when hackers secretly infiltrate a specific blockchain and then begin mining their own chain through the ledger. Granted the attacker has enough mining power under his or her belt, their chain can potentially overtake the ledger originally governed by the cryptocurrency or company in question.
After a while, the attacker reveals their chain and it automatically becomes the new chain for the currency, taking on the form of a “mini-fork.” This is often done because the attacker is eager to cash in on all the original block rewards they’ve mined. However, this doesn’t always work given that it takes an exorbitant amount of time to do this, which presents a window for the hacker to be discovered.
In addition, there’s also risk of the cryptocurrency falling in price or value, meaning that the hacker’s rewards can fall significantly. To avoid this, a hacker may seek to utilize what are known as springboards or double-spend attacks.
This causes someone to spend money two times in a row. A transaction can occur on a standard blockchain, but if a hacker has overtaken it and is now mining on the new chain, they can undo that transaction and force the user to spend the money on their own chain, ensuring they retain a cut or some of the profits (i.e. fees) associated with the transaction.
In the case of Vertcoin, it is reported that the attacker may have spent more than a full day trying to mine from their secret blockchain through a site called Nice Hash. This is likely because Vertcoin is only listed on a limited number of exchanges, one being Bittrex. That platform typically requires a full day to go by before any Vertcoin funds can be spent – a strategy designed to override such attacks.
With so much time at their disposal, the hacker is forced to spend more money and time mining new coins. This, for the most part, diverts the attacker from revealing their own chain, and thus they wind up losing a lot more money in the end.
The Attack Wasn’t Profitable
This was the case with Vertcoin’s attacker, who despite their “best” efforts, wound up on the losing end of the spectrum. It is widely believed that the culprit may have spent as much as $7,300 to maintain the equipment necessary to carry out the attack, yet only made half that much through the attempt. With such an expensive method taking place, the motives of the person behind the attack remain a mystery.
Vertcoin, however, remains vulnerable to these kinds of attacks in the future, despite the unprofitability of the recent attempt.