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Author Topic: Government vs Bitcoin ?  (Read 4977 times)
davout
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November 01, 2010, 12:30:10 AM
 #1

Maybe this is something that has been discussed before, but, what if a government, any government really, for any reason, decided to take down the bitcoin network or simply DOS the hell out of it ?

My calculation might be incredibly naive, but if I take the figures from bitcoinwatch[1], and fiddle a bit with the bitcoin calculator[2] :
 - Right now (block 88894), 180 blocks generated during last 24h
 - that's a block every 8 minutes on average
 - average of 8 minutes for block generation would require 25 ghashes/s

So if my logic isn't flawed, the network as a whole crunches at approximately 25,000 mhashes/s

So, that's 42 Radeon 5970 graphic cards if i take the advertised figures here[3].

So anyone with a little spare money (let's say 100k$) can successfully :

1. generate at full speed with tweaked client,
2. stop right after difficulty increase, significantly slowing down the block generation and transaction handling
3. repeat after difficulty decrease,
4. sell generated coins,
5. increase crunching power
6. finish by undermining trust in bitcoins, (advertise your attack, refuse to include transaction in generated blocks etc.)

I don't think there's much incentive for regular people to donate CPU time which would make such an attack really hard :
 - On regular computers, with most widespread OS, generating gets the fan to be really noisy (might seem like nothing, but I personnally hate loud computers)
 - Generation rate is really slow unless you know how to get your GPU to do the work

I think bitcoin security could come from millions of people donating a few khashes/s and not a few people giving a bunch of mhashes/s. My point is that I don't really see an incentive for regular people to generate.

Is my logic completely flawed or should I just dump my wallet on mtgox and run ? =)



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ShadowOfHarbringer
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November 01, 2010, 12:52:43 AM
 #2

I think bitcoin security could come from millions of people donating a few khashes/s and not a few people giving a bunch of mhashes/s. My point is that I don't really see an incentive for regular people to generate.

I like this idea.

Perhaps the client should generate khashes by default, using 25% of computer's cores (or 25% power of GFX cards) ?
This could strenghten the network a lot.

So everybody that downloads and starts bitcoin would automatically strenghten the network. Of course generation could be easily turned off, but a warning popup saying "are you absolutely sure to do that" should show up.

Also if the generation is OFF, a popup asking if You want to turn the generation on (because it strenghtens the network and is generaly advisablew) at 25% of PC's power should show every time the client is started.

brocktice
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November 01, 2010, 12:53:59 AM
 #3

With more people, myself included, doing dedicated mining on GPUs, this will become more difficult, now that an OpenCL miner has been made public.

Also, if we get to the point where we've got that much notice from the government, we'll have bigger problems.

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November 01, 2010, 01:10:04 AM
 #4

Perhaps the client should generate khashes by default, using 25% of computer's cores (or 25% power of GFX cards) ?
This could strenghten the network a lot.

At least it should be said somewhere how important it is to mine, not just to get some bitcoins, but above all to contribute to network security.
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November 01, 2010, 01:32:37 AM
 #5

Perhaps the client should generate khashes by default, using 25% of computer's cores (or 25% power of GFX cards) ?
This could strenghten the network a lot.

At least it should be said somewhere how important it is to mine, not just to get some bitcoins, but above all to contribute to network security.


There is a problem with that. Once BTC goes mainstream, this will happen:
- 75% of people won't even notice such notice
- 20% of people will, but still won't give a fuck about helping the network OR won't understand what it is about
- 2% will read the notice and turn generating on, but then turn it off later and forget about it.
- Remaining 3% will be either the people wanting to help the network OR miners.

So IMHO it is very important to do it by default. The 75% casual computer users won't mind it. Things work this way everywhere.

theymos
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November 01, 2010, 01:41:15 AM
 #6

Quote from: davout
2. stop right after difficulty increase, significantly slowing down the block generation and transaction handling

The available transaction fees will accumulate. Whoever generates the next block might get 2000+ BTC. This will encourage a return to something close to a normal rate of generation. Bitcoin won't become unusable, just more expensive.

Perhaps the client should generate khashes by default, using 25% of computer's cores (or 25% power of GFX cards) ?
This could strenghten the network a lot.

This would never work in the long-run. In a few years, being a generator will require amounts of disk space and bandwidth that are unreasonable for most users.

PayPal does 382,000 transactions per minute. If we want Bitcoin to do 100,000 per minute, every generator would need at least a 5.76 megabit (upload and download) connection.

If some irrational and wealthy organization (such as a government) wants to take Bitcoin offline, there's nothing that can be done to stop them. It will be very expensive for them to maintain this, though.

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November 01, 2010, 02:26:39 AM
 #7

This would never work in the long-run. In a few years, being a generator will require amounts of disk space and bandwidth that are unreasonable for most users.
PayPal does 382,000 transactions per minute. If we want Bitcoin to do 100,000 per minute, every generator would need at least a 5.76 megabit (upload and download) connection.

Interesting. This seems to be a weakness of the protocol.
So after bitcoin crosses let's say 500.000 transactions per minute barrier, generating coins will be only avaiable to rich bastards with 100mbit symmetrical connections ? This is actually not so good.

Also, somebody with lot of CPU/GPU power, money & bandwidth will be able to easily paralyze the network.


grondilu
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November 01, 2010, 02:37:43 AM
 #8

Interesting. This seems to be a weakness of the protocol.
So after bitcoin crosses let's say 500.000 transactions per minute barrier, generating coins will be only avaiable to rich bastards with 100mbit symmetrical connections ? This is actually not so good.

People should not focus that much on mining anyway.  Mining is just a marginal way to get bitcoins.   As it has been said many times here, it's the the same as for gold :  yes gold mines exist, and they allow some people to make a lot of money just by digging ground.  But the mined amount of gold in a year will always be ultra small compared to the overall existing amount of gold in circulation.


Personnaly I don't care if some people generate a lot of bitcoins.  I don't care at all.  I actually consider that those people are working for me, since I will buy their generated bitcoins.
davout
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November 01, 2010, 08:34:38 AM
 #9

I like this idea.

Perhaps the client should generate khashes by default, using 25% of computer's cores (or 25% power of GFX cards) ?
This could strenghten the network a lot.
I think generation should always remain on, the only thing that should be tweakable is the CPU usage.


With more people, myself included, doing dedicated mining on GPUs, this will become more difficult, now that an OpenCL miner has been made public.

Also, if we get to the point where we've got that much notice from the government, we'll have bigger problems.
People will do GPU mining until they realize that it isn't that profitable anymore with difficulty ramping up, electricity bills coming in, and an unexplainable urge to turn the loud fans onf their computers off.

I think that getting noticed enough, for a government to dedicate a 100k$, budget probably doesn't take as long as you'd imagine, and then I don't really see what the bigger problems would be.



Quote from: davout
2. stop right after difficulty increase, significantly slowing down the block generation and transaction handling

The available transaction fees will accumulate. Whoever generates the next block might get 2000+ BTC. This will encourage a return to something close to a normal rate of generation. Bitcoin won't become unusable, just more expensive.
If the difficulty ramps up a lot, and the attacker stops generating suddenly, having to wait hours between each block might be a problem. Transactions will be slowed down a lot and might get very expensive.



This would never work in the long-run. In a few years, being a generator will require amounts of disk space and bandwidth that are unreasonable for most users.
PayPal does 382,000 transactions per minute. If we want Bitcoin to do 100,000 per minute, every generator would need at least a 5.76 megabit (upload and download) connection.
If some irrational and wealthy organization (such as a government) wants to take Bitcoin offline, there's nothing that can be done to stop them. It will be very expensive for them to maintain this, though.

You're making two assumptions :
 - In the future you won't be able to generate without the complete block chain
 - In the future every transaction will hit the bitcoin network

I think both are wrong :
 - There seem to be lots of solutions around that address the disk space problem
 - In the future, most transactions will go through service providers, like when bitcoins are bought or sold on mt gox, no transaction happens, happens only at withdrawal/funding time.



If some irrational and wealthy organization (such as a government) wants to take Bitcoin offline, there's nothing that can be done to stop them. It will be very expensive for them to maintain this, though.
My point is that, it is, and will certainly remain dangerously cheap to do so. Much cheaper than what seems to be thought around here.






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November 01, 2010, 09:01:32 AM
 #10

I don't know how you are missing it, but the flip side of "very expensive" transactions is "huge incentive to process transactions".

Maybe the government will torture you to death or rape your daughters, but they are not going to attack you by generating blocks that don't include your transactions.

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davout
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November 01, 2010, 11:24:43 AM
 #11

I don't know how you are missing it, but the flip side of "very expensive" transactions is "huge incentive to process transactions".

Maybe the government will torture you to death or rape your daughters, but they are not going to attack you by generating blocks that don't include your transactions.
You're missing my point, I'm just saying it would be pretty easy to overpower the network as a whole, and even make money doing that.

And yes, maybe a couple of geeks will run to the store get a couple extra GPUs to get the fat transaction fees, but my opinion is that the network would be much safer with mandatory generation on the client with at least 10% CPU dedicated with low priority.



ribuck
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November 01, 2010, 11:33:17 AM
 #12

I think generation should always be off by default, on a fresh install.

Otherwise, people will start complaining in public "bitcoin makes your computer go really slow", "bitcoin sends your privatez across the internetz" etc, and bitcoin's reputation will go downhill.

It's much better that people, in their own good time, discover how to turn on generation and think "wow that's really cool, I'm helping the system to operate AND if I'm lucky I might get some cons".
FreeMoney
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November 01, 2010, 11:36:24 AM
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I don't know how you are missing it, but the flip side of "very expensive" transactions is "huge incentive to process transactions".

Maybe the government will torture you to death or rape your daughters, but they are not going to attack you by generating blocks that don't include your transactions.
You're missing my point, I'm just saying it would be pretty easy to overpower the network as a whole, and even make money doing that.

And yes, maybe a couple of geeks will run to the store get a couple extra GPUs to get the fat transaction fees, but my opinion is that the network would be much safer with mandatory generation on the client with at least 10% CPU dedicated with low priority.


"Mandatory" generation is silly since people who don't want to generate will just close it and like it less since it's annoying. Not to mention that anyone can write a client that doesn't do it automatically anyway.

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grondilu
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November 01, 2010, 11:37:36 AM
 #14

"Mandatory" generation is silly since people who don't want to generate will just close it and like it less since it's annoying. Not to mention that anyone can write a client that doesn't do it automatically anyway.

+1
ShadowOfHarbringer
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November 01, 2010, 11:55:52 AM
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I don't know how you are missing it, but the flip side of "very expensive" transactions is "huge incentive to process transactions".

Maybe the government will torture you to death or rape your daughters, but they are not going to attack you by generating blocks that don't include your transactions.
You're missing my point, I'm just saying it would be pretty easy to overpower the network as a whole, and even make money doing that.

And yes, maybe a couple of geeks will run to the store get a couple extra GPUs to get the fat transaction fees, but my opinion is that the network would be much safer with mandatory generation on the client with at least 10% CPU dedicated with low priority.


"Mandatory" generation is silly since people who don't want to generate will just close it and like it less since it's annoying. Not to mention that anyone can write a client that doesn't do it automatically anyway.

There is a problem with this approach.

Sooner or later, when generating coins becomes too expensive in both bandwidth & processing power, network will be easily overrun by governments, botnets, crackers & other attackers with powerful connection & hardware.
They will also try double spending attacks & different attacks.

The problem will only get worse as there are more and more transactions. So it is better to think of a solution now, instead of cry when the crisis hits.

ribuck
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November 01, 2010, 12:14:10 PM
 #16

Sooner or later, when generating coins becomes too expensive in both bandwidth & processing power, network will be easily overrun by governments, botnets, crackers & other attackers with powerful connection & hardware.
They will also try double spending attacks & different attacks.
We don't need to worry about those with commercial interests (such as the controllers of the botnets currently being used to send spam). For those people, it will always be more profitable to mine for bitcoins than to try tricks like double-spending.

And if those "bad guys" are mining bitcoins it helps protect against the other "bad guys" (those with political motives).
FreeMoney
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November 01, 2010, 12:22:39 PM
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There is a problem with this approach.

Sooner or later, when generating coins becomes too expensive in both bandwidth & processing power, network will be easily overrun by governments, botnets, crackers & other attackers with powerful connection & hardware.
They will also try double spending attacks & different attacks.

The problem will only get worse as there are more and more transactions. So it is better to think of a solution now, instead of cry when the crisis hits.

You have it backwards. The government of Tuvalu could run a double spend attack right now, I don't know their exact resource situation, but I'd bet that they won't be able to do it in 6 months. As generating becomes more difficult it will be that much more difficult to overtake the whole network.

We don't have to worry about governments for now because you can't get your name in the papers for taking care of a non-problem that no one cares about. If you want to do anything in government you need an ad campaign first (Yemen?). The ad campaign will ironically boost usage. If there ever is an attack there will be huge forces rallied for good (and profit). Government thrives when it can divide and conquer the population (first they came for... and then...). Maybe they will crush bitcoin, but they will have to beat every one at the same time.

The solution is built in. Pay people to generate and pay them even more if transactions pile up.

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ShadowOfHarbringer
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November 01, 2010, 12:28:12 PM
 #18

Sooner or later, when generating coins becomes too expensive in both bandwidth & processing power, network will be easily overrun by governments, botnets, crackers & other attackers with powerful connection & hardware.
They will also try double spending attacks & different attacks.
We don't need to worry about those with commercial interests (such as the controllers of the botnets currently being used to send spam). For those people, it will always be more profitable to mine for bitcoins than to try tricks like double-spending.

And if those "bad guys" are mining bitcoins it helps protect against the other "bad guys" (those with political motives).

Ok agreed, i haven't thought of that.

Your arguments satisfy me for today, thank You Wink

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November 01, 2010, 12:41:41 PM
 #19

- There seem to be lots of solutions around that address the disk space problem

It's possible for non-generators to store almost nothing. However, the purpose of the network is to verify that transactions are not double-spending, and this is only possible if the generators know all of the current unspent transactions.

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davout
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November 01, 2010, 01:24:10 PM
 #20

The solution is built in. Pay people to generate and pay them even more if transactions pile up.

Yep, assuming block generation reward won't decrease, and that the bitcoin economy will be very liquid with lots of transactions...

In my view, if bitcoin gains momentum and credibility, most transactions will take place inside dedicated services (some BTC bank credits the merchant account while charging the customer for example) and won't be going inside a block.

"Mandatory" generation is silly since people who don't want to generate will just close it and like it less since it's annoying. Not to mention that anyone can write a client that doesn't do it automatically anyway.
I don't really see how suggesting that a program, running in the background, and taking 10% CPU on really low priority is a silly idea. If 20% of the people actually close it, 80% will just click the cross, send it in the task bar and help secure the network without even knowing it. As long as the fan doesn't go nuts and my desktop remains responsive I personnaly don't care about 10% CPU more or less. So I'd be really interested in some elaboration on the sillyness of this idea.
And when I'm speaking about mandatory, I'm obviously speaking about the default widespread client, not about what the protocol should enforce.


- There seem to be lots of solutions around that address the disk space problem

It's possible for non-generators to store almost nothing. However, the purpose of the network is to verify that transactions are not double-spending, and this is only possible if the generators know all of the current unspent transactions.
Why would a generator need to check for double spending ? Actually, a client needs more disk space than a generator.
The only thing a "pure" generator needs is the hash of the previous block whereas a client that receives payments needs to actually check for double spending, be it with a trusted balance sheet or with the complete block chain.
So that's a non-issue.

EDIT : Well I guess a generator needs to check for double-spending when including incoming transactions, but that doesn't really change much since that could be solved with balance sheets, simply by network rejection of blocks that contain invalid transactions after they've been generated, or by a much smarter solution =) I didn't think of.

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