Bitcoin Core’s New 0.20.0 Update Promises Protection Against Large Nations and Corporates

Bitcoin Core, the software governing the earliest protocol of Bitcoin, received a facelift on June 3 after a 0.20.0 update was implemented. Among other features is the network’s ability to protect against attacks from large players, such as nations or big computing corporations. 

Bitcoin now More Protected

Termed “Asmap,” the implementation safeguards the basic peer-to-peer capabilities of the Bitcoin network. Nodes, which form the most significant architecture, are now mapped to tier-1 or tier-2 Autonomous Systems (AS). 

The latter is defined in the update as large internet players such as Google Cloud or Amazon Web, which could ply on the Bitcoin network with multiple routing plans. However, with 0.20.0, all connections to any single AS will be limited. 

The above fends off the “Erebus” attacks, defined by the National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers as one which allows AS networks to censor Bitcoin by “spoofing” connections. In a 2019 paper detailing the attack, researchers said the flaw could, theoretically, cripple the Bitcoin network and potentially cause an influential mining pool to be “cut off.” 

In the paper, Erebus involves malicious actors to connect to as many Bitcoin nodes as possible using sheer computing power and network capabilities. Then, attackers could “isolate” a single node, begin to influence a victim node by connects to peers, and finally pass eight connections of the victim through the malicious actor. 

What this leads to, is presenting an opportunity for bad actors to “cut off” exchanges or Bitcoin mining pools from the network, causing a fundamental shift in transactional behavior. 

NUS researchers explained at the time:

“Our attack is feasible not because of any newly discovered bugs in the Bitcoin core implementation but the fundamental topological advantage of being a network adversary.”

They added a large number of network addresses that could be utilized reliably over an extended period of time, while an AS can “target specific nodes such as mining pools or crypto exchanges.”

Other Cryptos at Risk Too

Research estimates 10,000 Bitcoin nodes were susceptible to such attacks before the 0.20.0 update was launched. Academics noted it would only take a five-to-six month period for a bad actor to successfully pull off such a stunt. 

Bitcoin Core contributor Gleb Naumenko told Coindesk:

“We are solving a problem of not your internet provider, but some internet providers in the world screwing you because that’s much more dangerous.”

For the uninitiated, Bitcoin operates in a similar manner to how torrents work – connecting to peers for data and using collective information from other nodes to determine the network’s working. However, if a single node connects with a malicious node, the AS can decide how that node connects to the rest of the network for that particular connection. 

Meanwhile, Naumenko said Bitcoin’s not the only one in trouble – “almost all” cryptocurrencies working on a peer-to-peer framework suffer from the issue. In fact, the NUS paper singles out DASH, Litecoin, Zcash, and others at risk. 

But the problem is not technical, explains Naumenko, saying its “peer-to-peer architecture and part of all the systems.”

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