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Monero Moves Against Bitmain in ASIC War

March 27, 2018

The history of distrust and conflict between mining hardware manufacturer Bitmain and blockchain developers is continuing with the latest clash between Bitmain and the Monero cryptocurrency development team.


Bitmain recently announced a new processor model, the Antminer X3, an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) designed specifically for mining monero. Though consumer-grade laptops can profitably mine Monero's current algorithm, the Antminer X3 could be used by a mining pool to take over the majority of Monero's hashrate, allowing payment censorship and double spending of monero coins.


In response, Monero (market cap $3 billion) is developing an emergency software upgrade that changes the rules of its network to render Antminer X3 ineffective. The algorithm upgrade maintains ASIC resistance, thus defending Monero's low-barrier-to-entry mining system.


Monero plans to implement frequent algorithm updates to keep Bitmain from catching up. Monero developer Riccardo Spagni said on GitHub: “I will do everything in my power to help the community prevent the proliferation of centralization-inducing ASICs on the Monero network.”


Anonymous Monero developer ‘binaryFate’ said: “I believe this has set a precedent that we are serious about ASIC resistance, can react quickly if we are forced to and do not mind manufacturers losing money. In the foreseeable future, I doubt any ASIC manufacturer will want to give a try at monero again.”


The other side of the argument is that, ultimately, ASIC resistance is futile. While Monero's ‘easy’ proof-of-work algorithm makes the monero accessible to the average computer owner, the low barrier to entry lowers the cost of attack. Monero is a favorite target of cryptocurrency mining botnet operators who use their malware to infect and control zombie CPUs. The Coinhive cryptojacking malware, a javascript implementation of the Monero protocol, infected half a million computers in February.


Philip Daian, an ethereum researcher, tweeted about the Monero community's moves to stop ASICs: “In which a small-cap cryptocurrency desperately tries to destroy their security by fighting actively against economies of scale.”

There are also concerns that continuous edits to the underlying algorithm will weaken the code and open vulnerabilities.


“This is a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils,” Spagni wrote on Github, weighing ASICs against botnets. Spagni later said on Twitter: “It might entirely be less secure, but the community has made the hard call. I don't decide anything, the community does.”




By: BGN Editorial Staff


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