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51% assault query, can somebody purchase up the highest mining swimming pools?

Silly query, apologies:

Can somebody simply purchase up the highest mining swimming pools after which management 50%+ of the hashrate and do an assault on Bitcoin?


9 thoughts on “51% assault query, can somebody purchase up the highest mining swimming pools?”

  1. A pool is not a single entity, usually it consists of hundreds or thousands individual miners. So while some hypothetical entity could buy the pool business/operator, they don’t get to dictate the actions of all the individual miners that are contributing to the pool. The individual miners can leave the pools at will, and will certainly do so if the pool operator starts misbehaving.

    But even if the hypothetical attacker could actually somehow buy/bribe all the individual miners, it’s not the end of the world. Things to consider:

    – a 51% attack needs to be sustained over time, and during of all that time it costs massive amount of resources
    – the attack possibilities are limited: you can censor transactions or try doublespend your own coins. You cannot do anything to the coins of other people or to the rules of the network
    – people can simply choose to wait out this attack, because no entity has unlimited resources to sustain it indefinitely
    – other options include changing the mining algorithm, rendering the attacker’s massive investment in equipment/energy completely obsolete
    – it is much more profitable for an entity able to acquire such gigantic amounts of hashing gear/energy to simply mine bitcoin according to the network rules and profit from it very directly
    – every bitcoiner/miner has an incentive to protect “their” network, so any such attack might be met with “counterattack”, stopping the attacker from acquiring the 51% hashpower in the first place

  2. So your plan is to offer the pool enough money to compensate for lost revenue and since their reputation would be permanently trashed, replacement revenue for running a pool for the next 120yrs….so you cough up billions and gain control….within a couple of blocks the word gets out and every miner jumps to an uncontrolled pool.
    So let’s say you 51% for 6 blocks better start double spending like mad to make up the billions you paid out.

  3. Short answer: no.

    Long answer: Can someone convince the owners of 51% of the network’s hashpower to sell their rigs? I suppose, but it will cost them several billion dollars based on the market rate for new and used ASIC miners. The buyer would definitely need to offer a rate significantly higher than market price since miners would be giving up their future revenue streams, which in many cases is their livelihood. Many won’t sell at any price.

    And then what? The buyer, having spent billions and billions of their own money, owns more than 51% of Bitcoin’s hash computing capacity. They can censor (block) new transactions or invalidate new transactions from minority miners, but only for as long as they’re willing and able to afford the millions of dollars per hour it takes to power, cool and operate their mining empire. How long can they sustain that? What’s the incentive?

  4. A bigger risk is government regulation of mining pools — if enough governments pass laws saying pools are criminally liable if they mine a transaction including a blacklisted address, then eventually 51% of the hashrate will either have to comply or risk prison.

    And yes, I’m aware that a “pool” can be a zillion individuals pointing decrepit Butterfly Labs rigs at the pool. IP addresses can be traced, more addresses can be blacklisted, etc., etc.

    Eventually it will morph into “unregistered addresses” instead of just specific blacklisted addresses.

  5. The real problem with a 51% attack on btc is that the blockchain is public. Every transaction is there, and many eyes are watching. If anyone does a 51% attack and changes anything, btc instantly becomes zero. Its like mutually assured destruction – the cost to obtain 51% of the mining pool to do this makes it undesirable for anyone who wants to use crypto / btc. The only people who would do this are people who want to ruin crypto, and that’s a steep price tag for that…


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