Eclipse Attacks on Bitcoin’s Peer-to-Peer Network

02 Nov
Monday, 11/02/2015 12:30pm to 2:00pm
Computer Science Building, Room 150 & 151
Special Event
Speaker: Ethan Heilman

We present eclipse attacks on bitcoin's peer-to-peer network. Our attack allows an adversary controlling a sufficient number of IP addresses to monopolize all connections to and from a victim bitcoin node. The attacker can then exploit the victim for attacks on bitcoin's mining and consensus system, including N-confirmation double spending, selfish mining, and adversarial forks in the blockchain. We take a detailed look at bitcoin's peer-to-peer network, and quantify the resources involved in our attack via probabilistic analysis, Monte Carlo simulations, measurements and experiments with live bitcoin nodes. Finally, we present countermeasures, inspired by botnet architectures, that are designed to raise the bar for eclipse attacks while preserving the openness and decentralization of bitcoin's current network architecture.

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Ethan Heilman is a PhD student in Boston University's Computer Science Department and a member of the security research group BUSec. He is advised by Sharon Goldberg, and has done research on novel attacks on hash functions, differential cryptanalysis, Intelligent Transit Systems and cache based side channel attacks. He broke the SHA3 contestant Spectral Hash. His current focus is on the RPKI and Bitcoin.

Prior to graduate school, Ethan worked as a software engineer at the Broad Institute where he wrote microbial bioinformatics annotation software. He also worked as a software developer at two successful startups, Pubget and Jumptap. In his free time, he writes games, experiments with web application technology, and blogs about security.

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