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One of the most terrible things that could happen to a blockchain network is the dreaded 51 percent attacks. Several cryptocurrencies and their networks have been victims of this, with millions in assets stolen from users due to the ability of a single party to control the vast majority of an asset’s blockchain.
However, the attempted 51 percent attack on the Vertcoin system is one unlike any other attempt ever. On December 2, James Lovejoy, the lead maintainer of the asset, revealed in a report on GitHub that a malicious entity targeted popular crypto exchange Bittrex in a bid to gain control of the Vertcoin blockchain and steal assets from there. However, while the blockchain suffered a successful attack in December 2018, this one hit a bit of a snag.
In the post, Lovejoy claimed, “Based on the market prices during the attack’s preparation and the difficulty of the blocks the attacker produced, we estimate the attacker spent between 0.5-1 BTC to perform the attack.”
Due to this, it would appear that the hackers ended up losing between 0.06 BTC ($440) and 0.56 BTC ($4,100), instead of making any money off of their planned attack. Lovejoy confirmed that the entire value of block rewards gotten by the attackers was about 13825 VTC (~0.44 BTC), adding that the unprofitable nature of this specific attack made the motive for it difficult to discern.
This isn’t the first 51 percent attack to be perpetrated this year. Back in January, Ethereum Classic, an offshoot of the original Ether cryptocurrency, was hit in a similar attack that led to the loss of about $500,000 worth of tokens.
The hack was confirmed by popular asset custodian Gate.io, which revealed that the attack happened between 00:40 and 04:20 on January 7. The company added that all transactions involved in the hack were confirmed normally on the ETC blockchain. The hacker reportedly stole and spent 85,000 ETC tokens (worth roughly $500,000 at the time), then rolled the blockchain back with the majority compute power he had to recover the spent tokens.
A Litany of Cryptocurrency Threats
While very rare and difficult to pull off, the threat of the 51 percent attack is a present one that every blockchain network has to keep wary of. However, 51 percent attacks are definitely not the most pertinent threat that cryptocurrencies face. Thanks to the resurgence of the market this year, hacking methods such as cryptojacking and ransomware have been on the rise. In general, this has been a pretty good year for hackers.
Last week, crypto security and analytics firm CipherTrace published its Cryptocurrency Anti-Money Laundering Report for Q3 2019, which revealed that the total volume of crypto-related theft and fraud have led to losses amounting to about $4.4 billion. The amount has so far blown away the $1 billion that CipherTrace estate in its report for Q1, and we still have a financial quarter to go.