Mining blocks in a row: A statistical study of fairness in Bitcoin mining

Sheng-Nan Li, Zhao Yang, Claudio J. Tessone

2nd IEEE International Conference on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency (ICBC 2020), Toronto, Canada, May 2020

Abstract

The Bitcoin system keeps its ledger consistent in a blockchain by solving cryptographic problems, in a method called “Proof-of-Work”. The conventional wisdom asserts that the mining protocol is incentive-compatible. However, Eyal and Sirer in 2014 have discovered a mining attack strategy called selfish mining (SM), in which a miner (or a mining pool) publishes the blocks it mines selectively instead of immediately. SM strategy would have the impact of wasting resources of honest miners. Scholars proposed various extensions of the SM strategy and approaches to defense the SM attack. Whether selfish mining occurs in practice or not, has been subject of extensive debate. For the first time, in this paper we propose a method to identify selfish miners by detecting anomalies in the properties of consecutive blocks’ statistics. Furthermore, we extend our method to detect the mining cartels, in which miners secretly get together and share timely information. Our results provide evidence that these strategic behaviors take place in practice

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