The centralization of mining and the threat of a 51% attack

The Bitcoin community experienced a temporary panic Thursday when a mining pool became a little too powerful for comfort.

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The centralization of mining and the threat of a 51% attack

The Bitcoin community experienced a temporary panic Thursday when a mining pool became a little too powerful for comfort.

On Thursday, January 9, the pooled mining operation GHash.IO was estimated to have a 45% share of the entire world’s mining power.

That put the mining pool dangerously close to the 51% share that could disrupt the currency’s stability.

In what is known as a 51% attack, if a miner or a pool of miners can account for more than half of all mining power, it would have the ability to manipulate the blockchain at will. This would make it possible to rewrite the history of transactions and double spend Bitcoins, effectively destroying much of the currency’s value.

Many consider this a huge flaw in Bitcoin’s design.

A number of forums and news outlets quickly warned Bitcoin users against the growing threat, and more than a few people implored miners to pull out of the GHash.IO pool.

Shortly thereafter, GHash.IO issued a statement to assure the Bitcoin community that it was actively working to avoid acquiring 51% of all hashing power.

“Although the increase of hash-power in the pool is considered to be a good thing, reaching 51 percent of all hashing power is a serious threat to the Bitcoin community,” the statement read. “GHash.IO will take all necessary precautions to prevent reaching 51 percent of all hashing power, in order to maintain stability of the Bitcoin network.”

The company said it would stop accepting new miners for some amount of time.

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