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Author Topic: Where do massive amounts of unconfirmed mempool transactions come from?  (Read 438 times)
Hydrogen
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November 11, 2017, 10:16:30 PM
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The Curious Case of Bitcoin’s “Moby Dick” Spam and the Miners That Confirmed It

The scaling debate has dominated the Bitcoin space for well over two years now. As a central issue, Bitcoin’s one-megabyte block size limit was often insufficient to include all transactions on the network. This ultimately led to the replacement of this block size limit for a block weight limit through Segregated Witness, allowing for up to four megabytes of transaction data. And a group of Bitcoin companies plans to deploy a hard fork to double this by November.

But there is reason to believe the “crisis” may have been fabricated, at least partly. A recent analysis by “LaurentMT,” the developer of blockchain analytics tool OXT, in cooperation with Antoine Le Calvez, creator of Bitcoin statistics resource p2sh.info, shows that the Bitcoin network has had to deal with a load of spam transactions throughout the past two years. Now, in a three-part blog post series dubbing the spam attacks “Moby Dick,” their findings suggest that several major Bitcoin mining pools may have had a hand in this.

“Six or seven pools have played a major role in stuffing blocks with spam transactions,” LaurentMT said. “And charts display what looks like a coordination between these pools.”

The Spam Situation

The very concept of “spam” in the context of Bitcoin is sometimes disputed. Differentiating between “good” and “bad” transactions can be controversial on a network designed for permissionlessness innovation and censorship-resistant payments.

But there is little doubt that certain transactions serve no other purpose than to stuff the Bitcoin network and blockchain. LaurentMT and Le Calvez more specifically define spam as transactions that send lots of tiny fractions of bitcoins to lots of different outputs (“addresses”). These kinds of transactions can’t feasibly have been used to make actual payments, while they do present a significant burden on the Bitcoin network: all nodes need to receive, validate, transmit and (at least temporarily) store all this data.

The analysts found that the Bitcoin network has seen many transactions that fit this category: almost three gigabytes worth of data within a two-year span, adding up to more than 2 percent of the total size of the blockchain, or the equivalent of about a month’s worth of normal Bitcoin use.

“We found that there were four waves of ‘fan-out transactions’ during summer 2015,” LaurentMT told Bitcoin Magazine, referring to the transactions that create lots of outputs. “We think that the first two waves were spamming users and services. The third and fourth waves instead mostly sent the fractions of bitcoins to addresses controlled by the attackers themselves.”

These four waves of spam have been relatively easy to notice, as sudden bursts of transactions clogged up the Bitcoin network for brief periods of time. In some cases these spam attacks were even announced as “stress tests” or “bitcoin giveaways.”

What’s more interesting about LaurentMT and Le Calvez’s analysis is that the two focused on the second half of the puzzle. Almost all the fractions of bitcoins that were sent to all these different addresses have slowly been re-spent back into circulation since. These “fan-in” transactions were not as obvious as the initial waves of spam — but were similarly burdensome.

And, LaurentMT explained, blockchain analysis suggests that most of this spam can be tracked down to one or two entities:

“We’ve identified two wallets that seem to have played a central role in the attacks. They’ve funded long chains of fan-out transactions during summer 2015, and they later aggregated the dust outputs.”

The analysts also suggest that the perpetrator(s) of the spam may have been customers of the Canadian exchange QuadrigaCX. But that’s where their analysis stops.

The Mining Pools

Perhaps what is more interesting is who used this spam to fill up Bitcoin blocks: Bitcoin mining pools.

The spam outputs, generated by the first four waves of fan-out transactions, had been starting to move since autumn of 2015 — sort of. Whoever controlled these addresses had been broadcasting transactions to spend these outputs over the network. However, for a long time, miners did not include these “spam broadcasts” in their blocks; the transactions were ignored.

Up until the second half of 2016, that is. At a very specific point in time, a group of seven mining pools started to suddenly accept these spam broadcasts and include them in the blocks they mined: 1-Hash, Antpool, BitClub Network, BTC.com, HaoBTC, KanoCKPool and ViaBTC.

“So, either these seven pools had an ‘aha moment,’ and suddenly discovered that Bitcoin is about censorship resistance. Or, they had another motivation to fill up blocks with these transactions — perhaps related to the block size debate,” LaurentMT suggested.

For more clues, LaurentMT and Le Calvez looked for notable events that happened around the time of the mining pools’ sudden change of heart. In their research, they did find some correlation with “strange” occurrences. The first is an open letter from HaoBTC (now rebranded as Bixin) to the Bitcoin Core development team. The second was a rumor about a group of Chinese pools planning to end their cooperation with Bitcoin Core: the Terminator Plan.

Of course, something notable happens in Bitcoin just about every week. These events may well be coincidences and, therefore, there could be a very different explanation for the mining pools’ behavior, LaurentMT acknowledged:

“An alternative explanation could be that the different mining pools adopted new mining policies for completely different reasons. I tend to think political motivations are more likely … but that’s just a personal opinion.”

Bitcoin Magazine reached out to the seven mining pools in question. The only mining pool willing to comment on the issue was KanoCKPool, which denied being involved with any sort of manipulation or coordination, stating it just confirms “any and all transactions available.”

UPDATE: After publication of this article (and on reading the comment from Kano CK Pool), LaurentMT pointed out that Kano CK Pool, along with 1Hash and Bitclub Network, are the only pools that had been confirming some of the spam transactions even before the second half of 2016, indicating that the pool could be telling the truth.

For a full analysis of the “Moby Dick” spam, read LaurentMT and Le Calvez’s three-part blog post series:

Part 1: https://medium.com/@laurentmt/good-whale-hunting-d3cc3861bd6b
Part 2: https://medium.com/@laurentmt/when-moby-dick-meets-the-terminator-d014c315af85
Part 3: https://medium.com/@laurentmt/the-canadian-connection-7f48cafe2369

Or watch Le Calvez’s presentation at Breaking Bitcoin in Paris earlier this month.

https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/curious-case-bitcoins-moby-dick-spam-and-miners-confirmed-it/

Re-post.

This is the best research and information I've seen on the topic of massive volumes of unconfirmed transactions flooding bitcoin's network. The rough analysis seems to confirm that miners are behind these attacks. The timing of attacks correlates with important events in bitcoin's history such as forks or other topics with political implications. In the past I've seen core developers unfairly blamed for this. Blaming core devs has never made sense. Unconfirmed transactions have always resembled a DDoS attack rather than a result of poor engineering on the part of core devs.

In the present, the latest attack of spammed transactions appears to coincide with the cancellation of segwit2x and perhaps a coordinated effort to boost bitcoin cash at the expense of btc.

It might be nice to have more discussion or research done on this topic. Its something that may be neglected at the moment.

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November 11, 2017, 10:54:50 PM
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This is the best research and information I've seen on the topic of massive volumes of unconfirmed transactions flooding bitcoin's network. The rough analysis seems to confirm that miners are behind these attacks. The timing of attacks correlates with important events in bitcoin's history such as forks or other topics with political implications. In the past I've seen core developers unfairly blamed for this. Blaming core devs has never made sense. Unconfirmed transactions have always resembled a DDoS attack rather than a result of poor engineering on the part of core devs.

In the present, the latest attack of spammed transactions appears to coincide with the cancellation of segwit2x and perhaps a coordinated effort to boost bitcoin cash at the expense of btc.

It might be nice to have more discussion or research done on this topic. Its something that may be neglected at the moment.

It seems that it has always been the case with these attacks. I remember before the bcash launch, about a month or so, there were heated debates about who had been behind them. And just before the actual event, August 2nd, the spam transactions suddenly stopped. This didn't look like a coincidence then, and it doesn't look like a coincidence today either. Anyway, miners and their benefactors are the only party who are profiting by flooding the network. Cui prodest?

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November 12, 2017, 01:18:27 AM
 #3

I feel like this was a powerplay by jihan and friends to take control of BTC. This is the information that I have been looking for... Thank you good sir.

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November 12, 2017, 02:32:22 AM
 #4

I feel like this was a powerplay by jihan and friends to take control of BTC. This is the information that I have been looking for... Thank you good sir.

It is sad that their own business interests more than anything else has been the main motivation for all of these things. They are just working for themselves and what they can get out of it regardless of what are the consequences. This is the sad state of cryptocurrency right now and I am now starting to think that maybe this whole thing will not be able to survive for the next 10 years under the same kind of environment.

How will thing thing affect the overall viability of Bitcoin? I am just wondering...

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November 12, 2017, 03:03:42 AM
 #5

this is great info here sir, thanks for the reading.

Every BCH / BCT scare fan should read this !!

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November 12, 2017, 03:04:12 AM
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To be honest, I think someone is really just attacking the network to prove a point that we really need an upgrade. It's either that or the network is indeed congested because of the sheer number of transactions per day. However, I don't think that is indeed the case, since sometimes the network just suddenly becomes empty, probably because the attacker's transactions has reached the point that it was all simultaneously dropped. Well, I hope to read an expert's opinion on the matter.

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November 12, 2017, 03:22:37 AM
 #7

it looks like that, it's almost the same as a deliberate or accidental DDoS attack. renewal of the blockchain system and mining blocks will benefit to miners.

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squatz1
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November 12, 2017, 03:28:56 AM
 #8

To be honest, I think someone is really just attacking the network to prove a point that we really need an upgrade. It's either that or the network is indeed congested because of the sheer number of transactions per day. However, I don't think that is indeed the case, since sometimes the network just suddenly becomes empty, probably because the attacker's transactions has reached the point that it was all simultaneously dropped. Well, I hope to read an expert's opinion on the matter.

Well it's not to prove a point that we need an upgraded / repaired networks. It's fact that if a network is under this sort of stress, it doesn't matter what is built in, they're going to have issues with a ton of ongoing spam. They can't handle it and no network is going to be able to handle it.

This is from one of the Bitcoin Forks (eyes on BCH here) in trying to convince the people who don't know much that they're the 'real bitcoin' which we all know they aren't.

Don't give BCH and the rest of the shills the time of die, let them die and support THE REAL BITCOIN FOREVER!

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November 12, 2017, 10:06:42 AM
 #9

I feel like this was a powerplay by jihan and friends to take control of BTC. This is the information that I have been looking for... Thank you good sir.

It is sad that their own business interests more than anything else has been the main motivation for all of these things. They are just working for themselves and what they can get out of it regardless of what are the consequences. This is the sad state of cryptocurrency right now and I am now starting to think that maybe this whole thing will not be able to survive for the next 10 years under the same kind of environment.

How will thing thing affect the overall viability of Bitcoin? I am just wondering...

I don't think that the Bitcoin versus Bitcoin Cash showdown bodes well for both.

Apart from that, businesses always pursue their own interests, so we can't really blame Jihan Wu or whoever for what they do. They are just taking an opportunity to grab control over Bitcoin, and that is what any genuine businessman would do given the circumstances. If not them, then someone else would do exactly the same.


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November 12, 2017, 01:10:58 PM
 #10

Definitely,this might be the logic reason for such huge loads of unconfirmed transactions which are created artificially to make users think that bitcoin is no more useful for transactions and its time to switch to BCH wher transaction fee is very low and very fast.Also,its price is increasing very high and so,it could also be used as an investment.At the same time,vigorous pumping of BCH price very high.It seems to be a very well pre planned attack.

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November 12, 2017, 08:10:47 PM
 #11

it looks like that, it's almost the same as a deliberate or accidental DDoS attack. renewal of the blockchain system and mining blocks will benefit to miners.

Exactly. Labeling it a "scaling issue" is incorrect terminology. Its more like a DDoS attack.

In addition to this, mining pools may not be producing blocks that are full to capacity. Many blocks with a 1MB size will only have 99KB of data in them, to slow transaction rates further. Evidence for that:

Quote
Recently, AntPool has been mining a number of blocks with sizes of around 99 KB, 369 KB and 860 KB. There were dozens of blocks mined around these specific sizes during the month of February. During the times these blocks were mined, everyone else on the network was filling blocks with transactions up to the 1 MB capacity limit.

In addition to the non-full blocks mined by AntPool, the mining pool also created 16 empty blocks in the month of February. The total amount of transaction capacity lost by the network during this time as a result of AntPool's small blocks is not difficult to estimate. Numbers shared by BitFury's Alex Petrov show AntPool's average mined block size in February was around 100 KB less than other mining pools of comparable size.

The number of transactions in a block can vary, but at an average transaction size of 500 bytes , 100 KB would amount to roughly 200 transactions. With 768 blocks mined, AntPool essentially included 153,600 less transactions in February than other large mining pools, such as BitFury or F2Pool , which would have mined with a similar share of the network. This is roughly half of the total number of transactions that are mined on the entire Bitcoin network per day.

http://www.nasdaq.com/article/something-odd-is-happening-at-bitcoins-largest-mining-pool-cm756139

There could be a campaign to restrict bitcoin's transaction speed and attack its network with unconfirmed transactions. To incorrectly blame "block size" and unfairly put the responsibility for it on core devs.

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November 12, 2017, 08:26:51 PM
 #12

Definitely,this might be the logic reason for such huge loads of unconfirmed transactions which are created artificially to make users think that bitcoin is no more useful for transactions and its time to switch to BCH wher transaction fee is very low and very fast.Also,its price is increasing very high and so,it could also be used as an investment.At the same time,vigorous pumping of BCH price very high.It seems to be a very well pre planned attack.
It's an ideal opportunity to hold BCH on the grounds that bitcoin have bring the BCH considerably more grounded on the grounds that it will reach to 5000$ soon so we have to hold BCH at this moment to get significantly more great benefit in light of the fact that on the off chance that we hold at the present time BCH then we will gain by that more.

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November 12, 2017, 11:45:57 PM
 #13

Also consider that the article is pretty much from the times that there were not so much bitcoin users.

At the moment, even when the mempool is about to be full, there is a large percent of unconfirmed transactions from regular users as the amount of bitcoin users is growing.

Even on spam attacks times, I don't think that it should be an excuse, bitcoin protocol should be holding all kinds of attacks including DDOS attacks sch as spam attacks.
I hope that the condition improves once lightning network comes out.


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November 13, 2017, 03:49:11 AM
 #14

This is ridiculous. I honestly think this is worse than a Segwit2x fork would have been. Fees are so high at the moment that Bitcoin is barely usable. I'm really surprised Bitcoin is still at $6000 at this point, but pretty much the entire community knows that this is an attack though, so they're just sticking around.

This really does highlight the problems with Bitcoin though. There's no way it's ready for current adoption at this state. Changes have to be made. Bitcoin Cash is out of the question as we'll be playing right into the coup.

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November 13, 2017, 04:10:53 AM
 #15

Spam attacks on the blockchain may come more from the supporters of BCC than from the supporters of 2x from my perspective. Its also the perfect time to make the BTC users think that we are in need of big blocks and that they have the solution. BitcoinCash.

Its also suspicious that BTC was dumped and BCC was pumped.



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Hell-raiser
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November 13, 2017, 10:42:35 AM
 #16

This is ridiculous. I honestly think this is worse than a Segwit2x fork would have been. Fees are so high at the moment that Bitcoin is barely usable. I'm really surprised Bitcoin is still at $6000 at this point, but pretty much the entire community knows that this is an attack though, so they're just sticking around.

This really does highlight the problems with Bitcoin though. There's no way it's ready for current adoption at this state. Changes have to be made. Bitcoin Cash is out of the question as we'll be playing right into the coup.

I don't think that this is so much an attack as it is just a transaction jam caused by a large number of miners switching to mining Bitcoin Cash. Look, it has grown a few times within just a few days and I think it has become insanely profitable to mine it now. But because miners who mine original Bitcoin are the same miners which mine BCash, Bitcoin mining is running dry right now. Thus less blocks get mined and more unconfirmed transactions accumulate with fees skyrocketing.

What do you think of this explanation?


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krishnapramod
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November 13, 2017, 11:39:34 AM
 #17

I don't know whether it was because of spam attacks, but it was obvious that miners were gaming on difficulty oscillations between Bitcoin and BCH which resulted in BCH having a higher hashrate than Bitcoin, but now as usual the profit-driven miners are returning. The backlog is clearing up. The good thing to come out of this is Slush Pool temporarily becoming the largest pool with 20.8%, simply great. The percentage of Segwit transactions is still around 10. LN implementation might take a few more months, but I am hoping there would be a much needed solidarity in the mining space, more non-chinese pools.

Rousse
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November 14, 2017, 10:32:53 AM
 #18

That was for sure a well organised move...
Jaming market transactions, moving miners on BCC pool, pumped BCC price real hard, i'm glad i was on train to get some free BTC and thanks for that roller coaster ride o/
omashi
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November 14, 2017, 12:58:01 PM
 #19

spam maybe, remind of what happened in May, prior to NYA.

gabmen
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November 14, 2017, 01:03:59 PM
 #20

That was for sure a well organised move...
Jaming market transactions, moving miners on BCC pool, pumped BCC price real hard, i'm glad i was on train to get some free BTC and thanks for that roller coaster ride o/

Lol what a weekend dude. Congratulations to everyone who made money from bch wagon Cheesy its interesting how some people can manipulate the market that systematically. I myself had my transaction stuck in the mempool for more than 24 hours

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