How much would a 51 percent attack actually cost?

Attempting to hack Bitcoin would result in financial ruin for the attacking entity. Protected by hundreds of miners and verified by thousands of node operators, the blockchain has been running continuously since it was launched. So far, the proof-of-work blockchain has not been hacked.

A report from Kraken goes into the different consensus mechanisms. The data clarifies for the first time which specific requirements are necessary in order to be able to carry out a 51 percent attack on Bitcoin.

Prerequisites for a bitcoin attack

The numbers from Kraken quickly make it clear that anyone who wants to hack Bitcoin needs money. The 216 million ASIC mining devices alone would cost almost nine billion US dollars. Electricity costs are also a heavy hit at nearly $20 million a day.

In comparison, hacking the Bitcoin fork Bitcoin Cash (BCH) seems to be a lot easier. Bitcoin-Gold (BTG) – also a fork of the actual BTC blockchain – has already seen two such attacks. In 2018, a total of 388,000 coins disappeared after the 51 percent attack. Two years later another attack followed. Here, however, only 72,000 US dollars were stolen. You can find out more about Bitcoin hard forks here.

An attack on Bitcoin is therefore anything but likely. The cost-benefit effect would simply be too small. The miners, together with the node operators, form a solid foundation for this. In the future, the industry surrounding Bitcoin and the recently increased interest from an institutional point of view could contribute even more to securing the network. Only recently, the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock launched a private Bitcoin trust fund.

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methodology

The data refers to the ASIC model Bitmain Antiminer S 19, while the energy costs in the calculation are 0.1177 US dollars per kilowatt hour. This corresponds to the average electricity price for companies in the USA.

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