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What Do Eclipse Crypto Attacks Mean?

Every good thing in this world is bound to attract negative attention, which happened with Bitcoin’s launch in 2009. The token revolutionized the technological and finance world by introducing the world to the potential of blockchain technology. But, soon enough, people started using cryptocurrencies for many unlawful activities.

But these things went down with time only to make way for a more effective means for fraudsters to create complications in blockchain networks and compromise their security. The infamous eclipse crypto attacks are an excellent example of such devious means that result in adversities for many. 

But what exactly is an eclipse attack, and what’s more do you need to know about these attacks? So continue reading to learn more from these attacks.    

What Exactly Is An Eclipse Attack?

Eclipse attacks are facilitated by malicious actors who attack and interfere with nodes within a blockchain network. Consequently, this will obscure the user’s view of the blockchain, causing an unprecedented disruption. Fraudsters then take advantage of this disruption to execute even more complex or larger attacks on the peer-to-peer network.   

These attacks tend to share similarities with Sybil attacks, but the end goal of both these attacks varies greatly. For example, where an eclipse attack aims for a single node, Sybil attacks intent to hamper the overall reputation of the blockchain. 

A 2015 paper where researchers from the Hebrew University and Boston University reported their findings on eclipse attacks. This paper has deeply dived into these attacks to help everyone better understand and prevent them.     

How Do These Attacks Work?

Unlike Ethereum and other newer cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin still relies on the traditional Proof-of-Work (PoW) mechanism to validate transactions. Miners must use advanced computers to solve complex mathematical equations and create new blocks. 

But some non-mining nodes only require a little computer power. This makes Bitcoin decentralized since anyone can change a node with a simple device. The software program will then maintain the records of all the transactions and synchronize them same with all immediate peers within the network. 

Bandwidth is an important limiting factor for numerous nodes. Unfortunately, this limitation restricts most devices from connecting with nodes since the Bitcoin software allows only 125 connections and nothing more than that. 

The malicious attacker takes advantage of this by ensuring all the connections of the target are made on the nodes controlled by the attacker. This allows them to flood the target’s system with the attacker’s IP address since the victim will likely connect to it after restarting the software. Now, the attacker can either wait for a restart or force a restart with a DDoS attack.

After completing the restart, the victim has no option but to remain at the attacker’s mercy without any clue of mere suspicion. Since the victim now only has a partial view of the network, the attacker can feed incorrect data and scam the victim.      

Why Is It Important To Prevent Eclipse Crypto Attacks?

Unsurprisingly, attackers have ulterior motives for isolating a peer from a blockchain network. Therefore, the attacker hides the real state of the blockchain, intending to perform the following:

  • Double Spending: This is a simple tactic of creating a flaw in the digital cash scheme to spend one digital token more than once. In case of double spending with an eclipse crypto attack, things get a little more complex. For instance, suppose you are an attacker; your nodes account for 30% of the total power, the target node for 40%, and the remaining network has 30% hashing power.

Now, if you spend 5 BTC on any public network and inform every other node except the target node, the vendor will receive the payment while the victim loses 5 BTC. The attacker will then notify the target of the false transaction sending 5 BTC to the attacker’s account. 

Since the combined hashing power accounts for 70%, your mining speed will increase, making it the longest chain. The network will then validate the same, and 5 BTC will be transferred from the vendor’s account to the attacker’s account, allowing them to spend it again. 

  • Disrupting the Mining Power: In this case, the attacker will hide the information about mining a block from the target, which misleads the victim, and results in the wastage of computing power. This makes way for an orphaned block, a block solved in the blockchain but not accepted by the network.

This will increase the relative hash rate within the network and enable the block to win its race. The other way is to mine blocks more efficiently, similarly in the case of double-spending by collaborating the hash power of both attacker and the victim. 

How To Mitigate or Prevent Eclipse Crypto Attacks?

As long as the attacker has enough IP addresses, they have the potential to eclipse any they want. That said, there are still some ways to avoid these attacks, and the following two measures are your best bet.

  • Randomizing Node Selection: You must focus on designing your network so that every node is connected randomly. This means each node will remain connected to a random node set, especially when facilitating synchronization in a network. 
  • increase Your Node Connections: Another effective way to prevent these attacks is connecting nodes within a network with several other nodes. This will make it challenging for attackers to isolate and target specific nodes. This will mitigate your chances of falling victim to an eclipse crypto attack.                     

Final Thoughts

There is no denying that cryptocurrencies are here to stay for the long haul. Of course, there are many challenges in making cryptocurrencies safer, but there is still progress. 

As people learn more about things like the eclipse attack, it is only a matter of time before one finds an effective measure to manage these challenges. Nonetheless, this tug of war between the good and bad will continue, for the time being, making it more critical that you are aware of these things as a crypto user.

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