Selfish Mining Attacks Exacerbated by Elastic Hash Supply


Several attacks have been proposed against Proof-of-Work blockchains, which may increase the attacker’s share of mining rewards (e.g., selfish mining, block withholding). A further impact of such attacks, which has not been considered in prior work, is that decreasing the profitability of mining for honest nodes incentivizes them to stop mining or to leave the attacked chain for a more profitable one. The departure of honest nodes exacerbates the attack and may further decrease profitability and incentivize more honest nodes to leave. In this paper, we first present an empirical analysis showing that there is a statistically significant correlation between the profitability of mining and the total hash rate, confirming that miners indeed respond to changing profitability. Second, we present a theoretical analysis showing that selfish mining under such elastic hash supply leads either to the collapse of a chain, i.e., all honest nodes leaving, or to a stable equilibrium depending on the attacker’s initial share.

Shin'ichiro Matsuo
Shin'ichiro Matsuo
Research Professor of Computer Science

Cryptographer, and the acting co-chair of Blockchain Governance Initiative Network (BGIN).