The Trail of Bits report makes a number of flawed claims which have been uncritically parroted by some sections of the media, including other crypto outlets.
To dig deeper, Be[in]Crypto caught up with Mow as he prepared to address attendees at upcoming crypto conferences in Panama and Mexico, and asked the JAN3 chief for his perspective on the Pentagon’s latest research project.
Clarifying mining pool confusion
One of the key tenets of the report is that mining pools can be treated as centralized entities, and that controlling just a handful of mining pools would allow a malicious actor to control the entire Bitcoin network.
That argument might instantly provoke skepticism among the crypto literate, but the report nevertheless treats these mining pools as vulnerable monoliths. Mow explained why attempting to hijack these mining pools is not as simple as Trail of Bits would suggest.
Nuance important in understanding Bitcoin security
“Reports such as this one often gloss over a great deal of nuance necessary to form an accurate opinion on Bitcoin’s security,” Mow told Be[in]Crypto.
“While it’s true that four or five mining pools can comprise 51% of Bitcoin network hashrate, a critical point is that miners can change pools in an instant. The feasibility of taking control of four pools and mounting an attack with no pool operator and no miner noticing is near zero.
“Any attack would need to be an ongoing and prolonged initiative, during which miners would not be paid. Good luck with that. It doesn’t matter if the pool operator was careless and taken over, or malicious and colluding to attack, the miners would quickly switch away.”
Having provided some much-needed clarity on the security of the Bitcoin network, Be[in]Crypto sought to discover what Mow’s plans were for the rest of the year.
Mow created JAN3 in April, a company focused on accelerating “hyperbitcoinization” – driving Bitcoin adoption, and depending on whom you ask, Bitcoin dominance.
Since then, the former Blockstream man has been working in El Salvador to help develop the nation’s Bitcoin strategy. Even as the work in El Salvador continues, Mow is moving to drive adoption elsewhere.
As Be[in]Crypto previously reported, the race to nation state Bitcoin adoption is only just beginning. We now gather that Panama and Mexico will figure prominently in Mow’s efforts over the coming year.
Following the bitcrumbs
The report Are Blockchains Decentralized? was written by a team of Trail of Bits employees and was commissioned by the research branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Trail of Bits is a security firm based in New York City which aims to provide “high-end security research with a real-world attacker mentality.”