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Author Topic: Why is ASICs good for Bitcoin security  (Read 3008 times)
slothbag
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February 01, 2013, 09:42:58 PM
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Up until now someone who wanted to take control of the bitcoin mining network had to acquire the worlds supply of computers and GPU's which seemed like an impossible task.

Now with ASICs an attacker only needs to buy a relatively small quantity of ASICs or even set up a small manufacturing plant and churn out their own.. A large organisation could spend way more money than the bitcoin economy to out purchase us in ASICs..

Surely we are now more vulnerable to attack?
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February 01, 2013, 10:07:15 PM
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When all we had was GPUs all they needed was a few ASICs, when we have ASICs, they'll need a whole lot more ASICs.

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February 01, 2013, 10:29:52 PM
 #3

Up until now someone who wanted to take control of the bitcoin mining network had to acquire the worlds supply of computers and GPU's which seemed like an impossible task.

Now with ASICs an attacker only needs to buy a relatively small quantity of ASICs or even set up a small manufacturing plant and churn out their own.. A large organisation could spend way more money than the bitcoin economy to out purchase us in ASICs..

Surely we are now more vulnerable to attack?

Your point is correct but only in a limited timeframe. Once all mining becomes ASIC based and as the value of bitcoin rises, security will be better too.

Still, I am not sure that the ability to mine with ASICs is a good thing. I tend to think that it is easier for
people to start mining if they already have the equipment, just like I do. I already had a GPU and I started mining with that.
Would I buy an ASIC? Not yet, if at all. The GPU is more useful to me.
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February 01, 2013, 10:44:36 PM
 #4

It is a fact: GPU mining is dead once ASICs are common.

Also, it means that no one can develop asic and attack bitcoins while we are still based on old gpu mining. If everyone have asics, then attacking bitcoin will be harder. And mining is exactly about that: security.
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February 01, 2013, 10:52:09 PM
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It is a fact: GPU mining is dead once ASICs are common.

If everyone have asics, then attacking bitcoin will be harder.


That is the problem. I doubt that everyone will have asics.
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February 01, 2013, 11:01:12 PM
 #6

It is a fact: GPU mining is dead once ASICs are common.

If everyone have asics, then attacking bitcoin will be harder.


That is the problem. I doubt that everyone will have asics.

Gabi didn't litterally mean everyone.   He means that ASICs will replace GPU.

"Bad Guys" could ALWAYS have used ASICs.  Good Guys using them didn't suddenly unlock that option.  I mean your logic is like .... we know guns exist but if we use them we could be outgunned.  So instead we will use only rocks and thus our enemies will need to use rocks and we can beat them in a rock war.  No the reality is one guy with an automatic weapon would defeat your entire army of soldiers with rocks.

Moving to ASICs takes that "cheat card" away.  Sure an attacker could try to outspend the network (they always could) BUT now they can't cheat and build a small number of ASICs to defeat a huge number of GPUs (or an even huger number of CPUs had Bitcoin never moved to CPUs).

Maybe some numbers would help.  Lets say bad guys can use ASICs to build a 51% cluster at a cost of $12,000 per TH/s.  Which is more secure a network consisting of 25TH/s or one consisting or 25,000 TH/s?


TL/DR:
Bad guys will ALWAYS use the most cost effective attack vector.  You want the good guys using the most efficient hardware possible (someday hopefully even MORE efficient than Avalon) to ensure the bad guys have to pay the most possible.
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February 01, 2013, 11:05:53 PM
 #7

Every miner eventually will have only ASIC. Sure, it will take some months, but there is nothing we can do about that.
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February 01, 2013, 11:08:43 PM
 #8

I somewhat agree with the OP. The hashrate is not an absolute. Yes, ASIC are good to obtain big numbers, but the security is not only by having a big hashrate, but by having that big hashrate being divided by the most miners possible.

What feels the most secure? Having 500 THash/s divided between 10 miners, or having 30 THash/s divided between 5000 miners?

It's good the community to own ASIC, to prevent third-party disruption. If an external group want to attack the network with ASIC, at least, we have access to the same weapons. But I'm not too sure about the specialization of mining. If we specialized mining too much, we end up with less miners. And whatever the hashrate is, I don't see how less miners is good for security.
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February 01, 2013, 11:19:37 PM
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Hashrate is equally irrelevant.  What matters is the cost to the attacker.  Using GPU while attacker uses ASICs only ensures that the cost is much lower for the attacker.  Based on Avalon (assume 100% markup) the cost to attack the network using ASICs is ~$12,000 per TH/s.   Would you prefer it cost the attacker $300,000 (current 25TH/s defended w/ GPUs) or cost the attacker $30,000,000 (2.5 PH/s defending w/ ASICs).  

The attacker is ALWAYS going to use the most efficient method.  There is no gentleman's agreement to only attack a "GPU chain" with GPUs and not cheat with superior weaponry.

There was never a chance that a government or other entity large enough to attack Bitcoin was going to buy hundreds of thousands of GPUs from AMD and build warehouses of GPU farms.  That was never going to happen.  If they wanted to attack Bitcoin they would use the absolute most cost effective way to do so.  

If defenders are using a less efficient method then they are simply limiting how much computing power (and thus how expensive) it will be for the attacker.

Quote
What feels the most secure? Having 500 THash/s divided between 10 miners, or having 30 THash/s divided between 5000 miners?

The first one option is pathetically easy to attack by collusion and the second one is pathetically easy to attack by brute force.  Neither is truly secure.  How about 2,500 TH/s (or 25,000 TH/s or 100,000 TH/s) divided between a couple hundred miners?
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February 01, 2013, 11:45:59 PM
 #10

I somewhat agree with the OP. The hashrate is not an absolute. Yes, ASIC are good to obtain big numbers, but the security is not only by having a big hashrate, but by having that big hashrate being divided by the most miners possible.

What feels the most secure? Having 500 THash/s divided between 10 miners, or having 30 THash/s divided between 5000 miners?

It's good the community to own ASIC, to prevent third-party disruption. If an external group want to attack the network with ASIC, at least, we have access to the same weapons. But I'm not too sure about the specialization of mining. If we specialized mining too much, we end up with less miners. And whatever the hashrate is, I don't see how less miners is good for security.

Exactly my point.
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February 02, 2013, 12:26:45 AM
 #11

Up until now someone who wanted to take control of the bitcoin mining network had to acquire the worlds supply of computers and GPU's which seemed like an impossible task.

Now with ASICs an attacker only needs to buy a relatively small quantity of ASICs or even set up a small manufacturing plant and churn out their own.. A large organisation could spend way more money than the bitcoin economy to out purchase us in ASICs..

Surely we are now more vulnerable to attack?

There were roughly $20M worth of GPU mining equipment actively mining before ASIC, now those $20M will be selling the GPU equipment and buying ASIC equipment, nothing has changed.

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February 02, 2013, 03:01:32 AM
 #12

The first one option is pathetically easy to attack by collusion and the second one is pathetically easy to attack by brute force.  Neither is truly secure.  How about 2,500 TH/s (or 25,000 TH/s or 100,000 TH/s) divided between a couple hundred miners?

That's what I hope, a group of miners big enough to prevent collusion. ASIC is going to make the mining market harder to enter, reducing the number of miners. With CPU and GPU, everybody could enter the game and it helped decentralize the mining process. Now ASIC are going to centralize the mining process. My hope is that it doesn't centralize too much.

We'll see anyway, the game is evolving and it's pretty damn fun  Smiley
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February 02, 2013, 03:30:24 AM
 #13

Why is ASIC going to make mining market harder.  To have any meaningful amount of hashing power currently require a multi GPU rig or honestly multiple multi-GPU rigs.  You are talking a $2K to $10K investment.  To have any meaningful amount of hashing power post ASIC you are talking one or probably multiple fully upgraded Avalons so you are talking $3K+.   I don't see much difference.

The amount of hashpower generated by casual miners who earn fractional bitcoin pennies a day with a single NVidia gaming card are a rounding error for network security.  Maybe at one time that kind of casual decentralization existed but it hasn't been that way for a long time.  Just because someone can mine with just about any single low end GPU and contribute 1/100,000 of 1% of global hashing power doesn't mean it provides anything more than feel good security.

Now if the cheapest Avalon unit was 500 GH/s and costed $10K you might have a point but I don't see this massive centralization of hashing power.
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February 02, 2013, 12:07:18 PM
 #14

I don't see this massive centralization of hashing power.

I don't see it either. As the ASIC market becomes more robust, it will get even better. It might actually lower the bar for mining. Pick up a cheap ASIC unit, plug it into your UBS port, enter pool credentials and off you go!

Not masive, but slowly and steadily. It's only consequential as mining is continually professionalising. It's already pointless to mine with CPUs, it's gonna be with GPUs, and the margins are falling. So either you calculate very thorougly, or you lose money. Theres no way around centralisation, imho. Question is, how cetralised.
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February 02, 2013, 12:42:33 PM
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Another hidden advantage to  ASIC's is the fact that mining botnets will fail to be profitable at all. I've had enough of people asking about that 'Bitcoin virus' in their computer and what to do about it. Gives a bad image to Bitcoin IMO. Those botnet releasers can go die somewhere quiet and leave Bitcoin now.

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February 02, 2013, 01:02:34 PM
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I don't see this massive centralization of hashing power.

I don't see it either. As the ASIC market becomes more robust, it will get even better. It might actually lower the bar for mining. Pick up a cheap ASIC unit, plug it into your UBS port, enter pool credentials and off you go!

Not masive, but slowly and steadily. It's only consequential as mining is continually professionalising. It's already pointless to mine with CPUs, it's gonna be with GPUs, and the margins are falling. So either you calculate very thorougly, or you lose money. Theres no way around centralisation, imho. Question is, how cetralised.
I'm not convinced that mining is 'continually professionalising' if what DeathAndTaxes was saying is true in that 'amateur' mining has added very little in terms of security to the network for some time.  If anything ASIC has a smaller advantage from economies of scale than GPUs.  With AMD cards there was a definite advantage to buying bulk in temrs of MH/S/$.  Also, to be one of those big enough to make a difference large space was needed, substantial technical expertise and constant monitoring and tweaking.

In contrast, the competing ASICs products available look to have very little difference in GH/S/$ and the difference for instance per $ with BFL for instance (assuming they come through) between their Mini Single and the Mini Rig is much less than bulk-buying GPUs.  The ASIC producers have very little incentive to sell quantity at a substantial discount because every unit they sell reduces the value of subsequent units to their prospective buyers.

And that's without considering a growing Bitcoin user base pool from which miners come.  At the beginning the total number of users was so small everybody needed to be mining so CPU was appropriate.  The proportion of an immensely larger user base mining would have to be tiny for the total number of miners to be as low as they were not so long ago.

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February 03, 2013, 02:33:37 PM
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I don't see this massive centralization of hashing power.

I don't see it either. As the ASIC market becomes more robust, it will get even better. It might actually lower the bar for mining. Pick up a cheap ASIC unit, plug it into your UBS port, enter pool credentials and off you go!

Not masive, but slowly and steadily. It's only consequential as mining is continually professionalising. It's already pointless to mine with CPUs, it's gonna be with GPUs, and the margins are falling. So either you calculate very thorougly, or you lose money. Theres no way around centralisation, imho. Question is, how cetralised.
I'm not convinced that mining is 'continually professionalising' if what DeathAndTaxes was saying is true in that 'amateur' mining has added very little in terms of security to the network for some time.  If anything ASIC has a smaller advantage from economies of scale than GPUs.  With AMD cards there was a definite advantage to buying bulk in temrs of MH/S/$.  Also, to be one of those big enough to make a difference large space was needed, substantial technical expertise and constant monitoring and tweaking.

In contrast, the competing ASICs products available look to have very little difference in GH/S/$ and the difference for instance per $ with BFL for instance (assuming they come through) between their Mini Single and the Mini Rig is much less than bulk-buying GPUs.  The ASIC producers have very little incentive to sell quantity at a substantial discount because every unit they sell reduces the value of subsequent units to their prospective buyers.

And that's without considering a growing Bitcoin user base pool from which miners come.  At the beginning the total number of users was so small everybody needed to be mining so CPU was appropriate.  The proportion of an immensely larger user base mining would have to be tiny for the total number of miners to be as low as they were not so long ago.

Interesting argument. Certainly GPUs are easier to get by (huge distribution network and huge company developing/producing them, compaired to atm very few developing and only one distributing asics. But this is also some kind of centralisation, not  for miners but for suppliers. Still, as these are the firsts asics, prices will fall and in the end having a couple asics won't suffice and more and more will be necessary imho.

But then comes your other point, which is also very interesting. Are you suggesting that it might be economically better for asics producers to cap distribution to keep the prices up for as long as possible? With a partial monopoly on production, as it is now, this might be true...

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February 03, 2013, 03:08:36 PM
 #18

Another interesting possibility in all of this is that if the price of Bitcoin rises substantially, the profitability of miners might not be determined by how cheap they can get electricity, but by how cheaply they can purchase mining hardware.  If the price rises by enough, then the demand for mining equipment may increase by such a degree that the manufacturers are unable to keep up with the demand.  Then, either the manufacturers will substantially raise prices, or the secondary market will.  Either way, the hardware gets a lot more expensive.

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February 03, 2013, 03:41:51 PM
 #19

An advantage of ASIC is that they are easy to use. Plug and play, really. No need to have computers with GPUs busy at mining. You buy ASIC and you are ok.
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