Bitcoin Is Built To Last: How The Network Defends Against Attacks

Bitcoin is one of the most robust decentralized systems in human history. We’ve been going block by block for 15 years, and in the first few years he’s only had two disruptions, which were dealt with very quickly by responsive developers the moment they arose. Ta. Apart from that, it continues to generate blocks almost every 10 minutes without interruption.

This reliability has set a gold standard of expectations for Bitcoin users, who have come to view Bitcoin as a completely unstoppable system. Bitcoin has already won in the minds of many people, and the world is just catching up to that realization. Many people will say, “Bitcoin is inevitable.”

However, this does not mean Bitcoin is literally unstoppable, and events can occur that could cause massive damage or disruption to the network if they occur. Today we’ll look at some of these examples and see how they play out.

government intervention

Bitcoin poses a serious challenge to governments around the world in many ways. First, it acts as a system that allows global payments to flow from one user to another, regardless of national borders or financial controls.

However, while governments cannot stop the entire Bitcoin system from continuing to function, they can introduce regulations that affect participants. To truly disrupt the Bitcoin network itself, governments would need to track the miners who actually add new blocks to the blockchain to keep the system moving forward.

This was done previously in 2021 when the Chinese government banned Bitcoin mining. Almost 50% of the network’s hashrate went offline as Chinese miners began migrating to other parts of the world.

The network kept moving.

In a worst-case scenario, the Chinese government could force the confiscation of mining hardware. That way, the Chinese Communist Party will remain in control of all these miners and will use them to Attack power 51% on the network. But that didn’t happen. Even if a confiscatory approach had been taken, rather than simply enforcing a mining ban, an attack on the network would have been highly unlikely to succeed, given the complexity of coordination between collaborators. .

For example, one of the places where a large amount of hashrate moved was Iran. There were many rumors at the time that miners were bribing Iranian military officials to get their machinery through Iranian customs and into Iran.

If a government attempts to seize mining equipment or closes borders that prevent the international transport of equipment, economic incentives may make it possible to bribe government officials or illegally smuggle mining equipment. Sex is very real. For such a seizure event to pose an existential risk to the network itself, the government would need to be able to seize more than 51% of the active network hashrate. All that is needed is a small enough percentage to sneak across the border to ensure that nothing confiscated exceeds that 51% threshold and the network remains secure.

As the hashrate becomes more decentralized around the world, the likelihood that such behavior poses a risk to Bitcoin itself continues to shrink. It’s still a possibility, but the more governments that need to work together to make such a move a reality, the less likely it is that such an event will occur. Bitcoin’s resilience shines through, as demonstrated by the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in 2021.

power grid failure

Bitcoin miners cannot function without electricity. They are computers, after all, so that’s an obvious reality. This poses a significant risk for miners that rely on power generation and delivery infrastructure.

Many natural disasters can cause power outages and power grid problems. Extreme weather events such as hurricanes, wildfires, and cold snaps can disrupt power infrastructure. A prime example of such an event impacting hashrate was seen in Texas during the 2021 winter storm Uri. However, the scale of these events does not pose a direct systemic risk to the Bitcoin network. A power outage in Texas would not bring down or destroy the Bitcoin network, even if up to 30% of the network hashrate was within the state.

As demonstrated during China’s mining ban in 2021, the network continued to function even though up to 50% of the network hashrate went offline in an incredibly short period of time. Yes, the block time interval has increased dramatically, causing massive spikes. transaction fees Although it was needed to quickly confirm transactions, the network itself functioned without interruption and continued to process transactions.

Even if you imagine a much larger event, such as a massive solar storm knocking out power to half the planet, the other half would still have functioning power. Miners halfway around the world will continue to mine, transactions will continue to be verified, and the network will continue to function flawlessly across half the world. People half the world without power can access their funds whenever power is restored or they can move to a location with a functioning grid, as long as they maintain a physical backup of their seed phrases. can.

To actually destroy Bitcoin, you would basically have to cut off the power to the entire planet. Otherwise, Bitcoin will continue to run in some corner until power comes back online and it can be “regenerated” and expanded around the world.

internet interruption

The Internet is made up of decentralized protocols similar to Bitcoin, but the actual infrastructure underlying it is primarily owned by large multinational corporations and governments (which also rely on Bitcoin infrastructure such as miners). structure). Ownership of this infrastructure is still relatively distributed among many players around the world, but not to the same degree as a highly decentralized system like a mesh network.

Significant chokepoints and bottlenecks still exist, and if disrupted or attacked can cause significant reductions in reliability and functionality. Almost everyone connects to the broader Internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP), and in most parts of the world this market is dominated by a few large providers in a given region. There aren’t many choices between providers, and this is a big bottleneck for people using the Internet. Problems arise when your ISP filters or denies access and there are no other providers to choose from.

Similarly, it’s possible to have a conversation with someone halfway around the world thanks to massive “backbone” networks run by major companies and underwater fiber optic cables along the ocean floor. These cables are highly centralized choke points for communication between different countries and continents. If carriers started filtering the information being communicated, or if someone physically cut the cables themselves, there could be massive disruption to global internet traffic.

So what can you actually do if one of these things happens? If your ISP starts filtering Bitcoin traffic to your users, you will have your nodes disconnected from the network. Depending on how heavily your ISP filters your traffic, broadcast transactions may not be possible. However, the rest of the network continues to work. While services like Blockstream’s satellite feed exist, Bitcoin transactions are such small pieces of data that a momentary connection to an unfiltered network is enough to broadcast a payment.

Any large-scale disruption of connectivity between countries or regions would simply disrupt the overall picture. Suppose a country like Russia is completely cut off from its internet connection to the outside world.If Russian miners don’t shut down, blockchain will fork It was split into two separate chains because miners inside and outside Russia cannot receive each other’s blocks. Each time that connection is repaired, the group of miners that mined the long chain simply “overwrites” the short chain, erasing transactions made on other short chains.

In such a situation, there is a high possibility that even a chain split will not occur. Blockstream Satellite Service Provides a way to continue receiving blocks from other parts of the network in real time even when there is no internet. Combining this with satellite uplinks (which are not that easy to block) and wireless relays, Russian miners could potentially allow the rest of the network to continue mining a single blockchain during an outage. .

Once again, Bitcoin’s resilience may find its way here.


Bitcoin is not literally invincible, or unstoppable, but it is incredibly resilient in the face of network disruptions and hostile attacks. It’s literally designed to work this way. The whole point of a decentralized network is to be robust in the face of threats and disruption, and Bitcoin has been surprisingly successful at that design goal.

The world has experienced, and will continue to experience, incredibly destructive events on a large scale. Whether it involves weather events or cosmic events, intentional sabotage or war, or simply outdated government regulations, Bitcoin has already survived many of them. Perhaps they will continue to survive through everything.

We are not invincible, but we are resilient. The type of event or disaster required to actually take Bitcoin offline forever would be such a massive disruption that if it were to happen, we would be far more likely than Bitcoin to cease functioning. will face a big problem.

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