Hello everyone, I’m back! Someone asked a question recently on what exactly happened to XVG – Verge and if this could be a problem for DGB – DigiByte - Here: DigiByte vs Verge
It was a great question and there have been people stating that this cannot be a problem for us because of DigiShield etc… with not much explanation after that.
I was curious and did a bit more investigating to figure out what happened and why exactly it is that we are safe. So take a read.
Some Information on Verge
Verge was founded in 2014 with code based on DogeCoin, it was initially named DogeCoinDark, it later was renamed Verge XVG in 2016. Verge has 5 mining algorithms as does DigiByte. Those being:
However, unlike DigiByte those algorithms do not run side by side. On Verge one block can only be mined by a single algorithm at any time. This means that each algorithm takes turns mining the chain.
Prior to the latest fork there was not a single line of code that forced any algo rotation. They all run in parallel but of course in the end only one block can be accepted at given height which is obvious. After the fork algo rotation is forced so only 6 blocks with the same algo out of any 10 blocks can be accepted. - srgn_
Mining Verge and The Exploit
What happened then was not a 51% attack per say, but the attacker did end up mining 99% of all new blocks so in fact he did have power of over 51% of the chain. The way that Verge is mined allowed for a timestamp exploit.
Every block that is mined is dependent on the previous blocks for determining the algorithm to be used (this is part of the exploit). Also, their mining difficulty is adjusted every block (which last 30 seconds also part of the exploit).
Algorithms are not picked but in fact as stated previously compete with one another. As for difficulty:
Difficulty is calculated by a version of DGW which is based on timestamps of last 12 blocks mined by the same algo. - srgn_
This kind of bug is very serious and at the foundation of Verge’s codebase. In fact, in order to fix it a fork is needed, either hard fork or soft fork!
What happened was that the hacker managed to change the time stamps on his blocks. He introduced a pair of false blocks. One which showed that the scrypt mining algorithm had been previously used, about 26 mins before, and then a second block which was mined with scrypt.
The chain is set up so that it goes through the 5 different algorithms. So, the first false block shows the chain that the scrypt algorithm had been used in the recent past. This tricks it into thinking that the next algorithm to be used is scrypt. In this way, he was essentially able to mine 99% of all blocks.
Pairs of blocks are used to lower the difficulty but they need to be mined in certain order so they can pass the check of median timestamp of last 11 blocks which is performed in CBlock::AcceptBlock(). There is no tricking anything into thinking that the next algo should be x because there is no algo picking. They all just run and mine blocks constantly. There is only lowering the difficulty, passing the checks so the chain is valid and accepting this chain over chains mined by other algos. - segn_ Here is a snippet of code for what the time stamps on the blocks would look like:
SetBestChain: new best=00000000049c2d3329a3 height=2009406 trust=2009407 date=04/04/18 13:50:09 ProcessBlock: ACCEPTED (scrypt) SetBestChain: new best=000000000a307b54dfcf height=2009407 trust=2009408 date=04/04/18 12:16:51 ProcessBlock: ACCEPTED (scrypt) SetBestChain: new best=00000000196f03f5727e height=2009408 trust=2009409 date=04/04/18 13:50:10 ProcessBlock: ACCEPTED (scrypt) SetBestChain: new best=0000000010b42973b6ec height=2009409 trust=2009410 date=04/04/18 12:16:52 ProcessBlock: ACCEPTED (scrypt) SetBestChain: new best=000000000e0655294c73 height=2009410 trust=2009411 date=04/04/18 12:16:53 ProcessBlock: ACCEPTED (scrypt) Here’s the first falsified block that was introduced into the XVG chain – Verge-Blockchain.info
As you can see there is the first fake block with a time stamp of 13:50:09 for example and the next is set to 12:15:51, the following two blocks are also a fraudulent pair and note that the next block is set to 12:16:52. So essentially, he was able to mine whole blocks - 1 second per block!
The “Fix” This exploit was brought to public attention by ocminer on the bitcointalk forums. It seems the person was a mining pool administrator and noticed the problem after miners on the pool started to complain about a potential bug.
What happened next was that Verge developers pushed out a “fix” but in fact did not really fix the issue. What they did was simply diminish the time frame in which the blocks can be mined. The attack still was exploitable and the attacker even went on to try it again!
“The background is that the "fix" promoted by the devs simply won't fix the problem. It will just make the timeframe smaller in which the blocks can be mined / spoofed and the attack will still work, just be a bit slower.” - ocminer
Ocminer then cited DigiShield as a real fix to the issue! Stating that the fix should also stipulate that a single algo can only be used X amount of times and not be dependent on when the algo was last used. He even said that DigiByte and Myriad had the same problems and we fixed them! He cited this github repo for DigiByte:
DigiShield It seems that the reason that this exploit was so lucrative was because the difficulty adjustment parameters were not enough to reduce the rewards the attacker recieved. Had the rewards per block adjusted at reasonable rate like we do in DGB then at least the rewards would have dropped significantly per block.
The attacker was able to make off with around 60 million Verge which equals about 3.6 million dollars per today’s prices.
The exploit used by the attacker depended on the fact that time stamps could be falsified firstly and secondly that the difficulty retargeting parameters were inadequate.
Let’s cover how DigiShield works more in detail. One of the DigiByte devs gave us this post about 4 years ago now, and the topic deserves revisiting and updates! I had a hard time finding good new resources and information on the details of DigiShield so I hope you’ll appreciate this review! This is everything I found for now that I could understand hopefully I get more information later and I’ll update this post.
Let’s go over some stuff on difficulty first then I’ll try giving you a way to visualise the way these systems work.
First you have to understand that mining difficulty changes over time; it has to! Look at Bitcoin’s difficulty for example – Bitcoin difficulty over the past five months. As I covered in another post (An Introduction to DigiByte Difficulty in Bitcoin is readjusted every 2016 blocks which each last about 10 mins each. This can play out over a span of 2 weeks, and that’s why you see Bitcoin’s difficulty graph as a step graph. In general, the hash power in the network increases over time as more people want to mine Bitcoin and thus the difficulty must also increase so that rewards are proportional.
The problem with non-dynamic difficulty adjustment is that it allows for pools of miners and or single entities to come into smaller coins and mine them continuously, they essentially get “free” or easily mined coins as the difficulty has not had time to adjust. This is not really a problem for Bitcoin or other large coins as they always have a lot of miners running on their chains but for smaller coins and a few years ago in crypto basically any coin other than Bitcoin was vulnerable. Once the miners had gotten their “free coins” they could then dump the chain and go mine something else – because the difficulty had adjusted. Often chains were left frozen or with very high fees and slow processing times as there was not enough hash power to mine the transactions.
This was a big problem in the beginning with DigiByte and almost even killed DogeCoin. This is where our brilliant developers came in and created DigiShield (first known as MultiShield).
These three articles are where most of my information came from for DigiShield I had to reread a the first one a few times to understand so please correct me if I make any mistakes! They are in order from most recent to oldest and also in order of relevance.
DigiShield is a system whereby the difficulty for mining DigiByte is adjusted dynamically. Every single block each at 15 seconds has difficulty adjusted for the available hashing power. This means that difficulty in DigiByte is as close as we can get to real time! There are other methods for adjusting difficulty, the first being the Bitcoin/Litecoin method (a moving average calculated every X number of blocks) then the Kimoto Gravity Well is another. The reason that DigiShield is so great is because the parameters are just right for the difficulty to be able to rise and fall in proportion to the amount of hash power available.
Note that Verge used a difficulty adjustment protocol more similar to that of DigiByte than Bitcoin. Difficulty was adjusted every block at 30 seconds. So why was Verge vulnerable to this attack? As I stated before Verge had a bug that allowed for firstly the manipulation of time stamps, and secondly did not adjust difficulty ideally.
You have to try to imagine that difficulty adjustment chases hashing power. This is because the hashing power on a chain can be seen as the “input” and the difficulty adjustment as the corresponding output. The adjustment or output created is thus dependent on the amount of hashing power input.
DigiShield was designed so that increases in mining difficulty are slightly harder to result than decreases in mining difficulty. This asymmetrical approach allows for mining to be more stable on DigiByte than other coins who use a symmetrical approach. It is a very delicate balancing act which requires the right approach or else the system breaks! Either the chain may freeze if hash power increases and then dumps or mining rewards are too high because the difficulty is not set high enough!
If you’ve ever taken any physics courses maybe one way you can understand DigiShield is if I were to define it as a dynamic asymmetrical oscillation dampener. What does this mean? Let’s cover it in simple terms, it’s difficult to understand and for me it was easier to visualise. Imagine something like this, click on it it’s a video: Caravan Weight Distribution – made easy. This is not a perfect analogy to what DigiShield does but I’ll explain my idea.
The input (hashing power) and the output (difficulty adjustment) both result in oscillations of the mining reward. These two variables are what controls mining rewards! So that caravan shaking violently back and forth imagine those are mining rewards, the weights are the parameters used for difficulty adjustment and the man’s hand pushing on the system is the hashing power. Mining rewards move back and forth (up and down) depending on the weight distribution (difficulty adjustment parameters) and the strength of the push (the amount of hashing power input to the system).
Here is a quote from the dev’s article.
“The secret to DigiShield is an asymmetrical approach to difficulty re-targeting. With DigiShield, the difficulty is allowed to decrease in larger movements than it is allowed to increase from block to block. This keeps a blockchain from getting "stuck" i.e., not finding the next block for several hours following a major drop in the net hash of coin. It is all a balancing act. You need to allow the difficulty to increase enough between blocks to catch up to a sudden spike in net hash, but not enough to accidentally send the difficulty sky high when two miners get lucky and find blocks back to back.”
AND to top it all off the solution to Verge’s time stamp manipulation bug is RIGHT HERE in DigiShield again! This was patched and in Digishield v3 problems #7
Here’s a direct quote:
“Most DigiShield v3 implementations do not get data from the most recent blocks, but begin the averaging at the MTP, which is typically 6 blocks in the past. This is ostensibly done to prevent timestamp manipulation of the difficulty.”
Moreover, DigiShield does not allow for one algorithm to mine more than 5 blocks in a row. If the next block comes in on the same algorithm then it would be blocked and would be handed off to the next algorithm.
DigiShield is a beautiful delicate yet robust system designed to prevent abuse and allow stability in mining! Many coins have adopted out technology!
Verge Needs DigiShield NOW! The attacker has been identified as IDCToken on the bitcointalk forums. He posted recently that there are two more exploits still available in Verge which would allow for similar attacks! He said this:
“Can confirm it is still exploitable, will not abuse it futher myself but fix this problem immediately I'll give Verge some hours to solve this otherwise I'll make this public and another unpatchable problem.” - IDCToken
DigiShield could have stopped the time stamp manipulation exploit, and stopped the attacker from getting unjust rewards! Maybe a look at Verge’s difficulty chart might give a good idea of what 1 single person was able to do to a coin worth about 1 billion dollars.
Here’s DigiByte’s difficulty steady, even and fair:
Maybe our developers could help Verge somehow – but for a fee? Or it might be a good way to get our name out there, and show people why DigiByte and DigiShield are so important!
SOURCES Edit - Made a few mistakes in understanding how Verge is mined I've updated the post and left the mistakes visible. Nothing else is changed and my point still stands Verge could stand to gain something from adopting DigiShield!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my article! I tried to learn as much as I could on DigiShield because I thought it was an interesting question and to help put together our DGB paper! hopefully I made no mistakes and if I did please let me know.
-Dereck de Mézquita
I'm a student typing this stuff on my free time, help me pay for school? Thank you!
DISCLAIMER: The authors of this article by no means are advocating, advising or persuading anyone to invest in Cryptocurrencies, ICOs or any other form of investment. Investments are subjected to market risks and you must do your own research before investing and seek financial advise and help from qualified personnel. Any businesses or companies quoted in this article have not paid us financially or through any other means for profit or gain. The authors also do not intent to challenge, disrespect or disobey any specific government, institution or personnel of authority including Banks, Financial regulators, governing bodies and laws of the land. All viewpoints in this article are our own and does not relate to any company, partner, employment or body that we are associated with in our day to day life.
THE HEADLINE: As we reflect upon on 2017, it is probably fair to make a bold statement that it has been a phenomenal leap forward for the trio of Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and the ICO. Here is why: • Bitcoin (the most popular cryptocurrency and once defamed as a ‘hyper-coin’) hit another all-time high passing $8000. Today, Bitcoin is worth about $50 billion and has been accepted under the law and tax frameworks of Canada, Australia, and Japan. • Ethereum network (platform) and its own fuel ( coin) Ether has appreciated more than 2,800% since it was launched in 2015. • Underlying Blockchain technology is no more a hype, it is disrupting every industry through its secure public ledger • ICOs have raked in over 3.6 Billion Dollars, the largest ICO in 2017 has been Filecoin raising over 257 Million Dollars. This is the just beginning of the ICO revolution where IPOs and traditional stock exchanges are going to become a thing in the past.
Let’s admit it. We either have a tribe of people who love the whole concept of decentralized and autonomous Peer to Peer network completely secure and away from the control of the regulators and bureaucrats OR you still belong to the other tribe, you think Cryptocurrencies are dark alleys and ‘good’ people should stay away lurking in these areas. We respect views on either side and we would like to just attempt to demystify few basic practical concepts here that one should know if you are new to this so called “Crypto Tribe”.
EVOLUTION OF CRYPTO AND BITCOIN The first internet currency, known as DigiCash, was created by David Chaum and is said to have its origin from Netherlands. This was arguably the first attempt, but the idea failed and the company went bankrupt in 1998. Keeping up with the trend PayPal ( one of the global leaders in Payments Industry) was next to follow-up and became highly successful, but did not create an actual cryptocurrency. So history was made when the first real cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was invented by someone went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and went online in 2009. There has been several failed attempts to identify this person. This ground breaking and revolutionary makes it possible to take to replace central authorities, government, watchdogs bureaucrats and politicians with the decentralized blockchain, and take power away from Wall Street. Bitcoin has already broken its own records several times since it started. The chart below will obviously blow your mind if you have not tracked Bitcoin recently. In less than 8 years Bitcoin has given over 8000% return. From 0 to 8000 USD per coin. And ofcourse there are talks of the next bubble and market for Bitcoin crashing down anytime. Really? Let’s address them a bit later in this paper.
The legacy of crypto goes back to the days of World War II when cryptographic systems were devised to securely transmit messages between various parties. All has happened is the technology and evolution has progressed since with the advancement of Computer systems and underlying hardware and software. We hence now have a very powerful system on the network for anyone to harness.
WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN? A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. A blockchain can serve as "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way not in citation given. For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority. And that is the latest Wikipedia definition for you. However, in layman terms, what is the best way to explain it? Let’s think of a used-car for a purpose of illustration. The new buyer would like to ensure that the car is genuinely owned by the seller, that the car servicing history is fully up to date and any major issues has been picked up transparently in the car service history. In real world that may not be possible always. Let’s take another example. We go to our regular family doctor ( GP). Their computer has full history of our health records from illness, diagnosis, medicines and treatments. If we go to another city, it would be very important that the new doctor has full information as well. Sometimes things do not work that way. And this is where the power of Blockchain comes into play. Blockchain is like a decentralized and distributed computer or electronic database existing on multiple computers at the same time ( but not owned by any big company specifically atall). The database keeps growing continuously as new sets of key information, or ‘blocks’, are added to it. Each block contains a very important information - timestamp and a link to the previous block. These then actually form a chain, everyone in the network gets a copy of the whole database but the database is not managed by any particular body, person or corporation. Entire old block are preserved forever and new blocks are added to the ledger irreversibly, making it next to impossible to manipulate by faking documents, transactions and other information. And yes, hackers know this and they have no interest in this area as they cannot manipulate here. They will most likely to continue to pry on large private businesses and public sector for ransom not Blockchain for a very long time or may be forever! It is also worthwhile mentioning here that since Blockchain runs on a public network, there are concept of ‘mining’ and rewards to the ‘miners’. In simple terms, people are rewarded for allowing their computers to be used for harnessing the ‘processing power’ of Block execution. Every new transaction on a block ofcourse needs to be executed. Now that you have got a bit of history of the whole Cryptocurrency and Block chain technology mumbo-jumbo, you may be thinking what about another term ICO which everyone keeps talking at the Pub and every now and then on various websites and journals. What are ICO really? Let’s get that out of way as possible.
THE DAWN OF INITIAL COIN OFFERING ( aka ICO) You are probably already familiar with the traditional stock market and the concept of Initial Public Offering ( IPO), so we will not go too deep into it. But in a nutshell, until recently businesses have raised money from the public by listing their businesses on the famous stock exchanges. Ofcourse, it is not possible for Mr. John Smith from a little village selling his home made secret strawberry jam globally until he has deep pockets. Neither he can even dream of getting his business listed on a stock exchange to raise cash from public. Hence listing businesses and raising cash has remain the forte of the big and bold with the backing of Venture Capitalist firms, Private Equity firms and the Brokers. And ofcourse there has been the means of the “Angel Investor” who would give cash by taking significant equity stake in a business started by the entrepreneur with their blood and sweat. Then emerged the concept of “Crowd Funding”. Online project funding websites like kickstarter, crowdcube, seedrs emerged. They allowed entrepreneurs to request for funds from the public. But these methods have raised limited funds, grossly regulated by the local authorities and not everyone could raise money from here. So you may ask what IPOs and Crowdfunding has anything to do with Blockchain technology and ICOs? Well what if we say that there are investors out there who believe in the disruptive nature of Blockchain Technology and are also early adopters of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. Then there is whole liberal aspect of the unregulated market which makes the whole world shift towards a very different perspective. Now an entrepreneur could actually raise money for building their business from very early stages ( sometimes from just a concept level) and accepting the money not in traditional currency ( aka Fiat currency) but Cryptocurrency. And further, each of these new projects could even release their own version or token of an underlying cryptocurrency or digital currency. Now that’s sexy and awesome isn’t it? Well, we are not going to down the route here to inform the readers it is good or bad practice in this paper. We will leave that opinion formation to yourself. Now that you got a high level understanding of ICOs, the next thing you may want to know is that it is pretty straight forward to invest into an ICO ( we will cover more in this paper later). But you need to understand is ICOs just like an IPO are for short duration. Usually they last for few weeks (typically 4 weeks). You get bonus Tokens or the crypto coin to invest early. Once the ICO minimum target is reached ( Softcap) the coins gets listed on the CoinExchange and they start trading. Coinexchange? What are these then? Quite simple, just go back to the analogy between a traditional stock and traditional stock exchange. Very simple concept really. How you buy, sell and do the nitty-gritty just differs. Since there are no brokers or regulators involved here. The whole process is really simple and quick. It may worthwhile sharing a quick snapshot of the ICO market worldwide: It is mind boggling to see that new businesses in really concept stages are raising more money than traditional businesses in just few hours of ICOs getting listed. Obviously this is really bothering lot of people in high ranking posts. We are not here to again debate who is right or wrong here. What we essentially want you to understand is some of these ICOs are really shaping the next wave of revolution.
How many of you believed that a Smart Phone with a so called ‘mobile app’ would be worth billion of dollar? Look at Uber, Alibaba, Airbnb, Facebook. Why no one complains about their valuation? May be because these businesses have backing of very large venture capitalists, Private Equity firms? But who runs these VCs and PE firms? Do you really need 70 Billion Dollars to run a Taxi mobile app? We honestly do not know. But what we know for sure is disruptive technologies and businesses built on top of them always have an edge. And then you combine the technology and handover its power to the people you create a social eco-system that is so strong and powerful that it can override and form its own status. And that is what is happening with the ICOs. People are investing into their trust and belief. Now that’s more powerful than any single bank, government or institution !
If you have followed this paper so far, you should have started to get an idea of what is really going on here about the trio – Blockchain Technology, Cryptocurrencices and ICO. However, I am sure you still have may have zillion questions about how you do certain things. Let us try give you answers to some of the most common questions asked by those who really want to get involved.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Question 1: I am interested in buying and investing into a Cryptocurrency. Should I buy Bitcoin? Answer: Bitcoin is one of the most popular cryptocurrency. We can not advise you anything specific as you need to do your own research. The number of cryptocurrencies available over the internet as of 6 November 2017 was over 1172 and growing. A new cryptocurrency can be created at any time. By market capitalization, Bitcoin is currently (2017-08-19) the largest blockchain network, followed by Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple and Litecoin.
Question 2: I am interested in investing into a ICO that what research and due-diligence I need to do ? Answer: We are glad that you mentioned the two magical words “research” and “due-diligence”. That is the most important golden nugget that we want you to take-away from this paper. Never-ever invest into a ICO unless you have researched it for how long it takes to build a strong opinion. Here is a good article that gives some really good tips. One quick tip from us would be ensure that Team is really strong and they are genuine people. http://mashable.com/2017/10/25/survive-ico/#CDVyGFJOiiqF
Question 3: How do I find out about upcoming ICOs and useful related news and press releases? Answer: There are plenty of websites now that can give you early headsup and keep you well informed. Our favourites are ICOBENCH, COINDESK, ICOALERT.
Question 4: Where can we buy and sell ICO and cryptocurrencies? Answer: If you are newbie, it may be a good idea to ask someone in your close network to guide you. There are lots of information and instructional video available on Youtube and other social media network and blogs. Sometimes too much information leads to confusion. You may also want to look into tutorials and training available at UDEMY.COM. But please steer away from self-proclaimed gurus. Do not buy any quick rich scheme related courses and scams. We have found that for beginners https://www.myetherwallet.com/
are good starting point for Ethereum Blockchain related transactions.
Question 5: When is a good time to invest in Cryptocurrency? Answer: We wish we had the crystal ball to give you the answer. If we had this crystal ball in 2009 ( when Bitcoin started), we would be very rich people right now. But with a bit of research and education, you can master this. You need to make your own decision when is the right time for you.
Question 6: ICO and Cryptocurrency are all hype and dodgy? Answer: We are assuming you are a beginner, you do not know enough about Blockchain technology and how it works, you possibly have not spent enough time learning and tracking about cryptocurrencies. There is also a possibility you have never invested in a cryptocurrency or ICO. Or possibly you invested in a ICO that was a scam. You possibly could be a sophisticated investor in property, traditional shares, gold, forex and much more. But may be you do not want to know any more about Digital currencies or Technology as it is not your “comfort zone”. So the question is how much of homework you have done to assess if this whole concept for you is really interesting or completely ruled out? The decision end of the day is yours.
AUTHOR: Avijeet Jayashekhar: Has over 20 years of entrepreneurial, management consulting , Technology leadership in UK Financial Services Industry. He also has a long successful property investment business in UK. In his last stint, as Vice President of Barclays Bank UK, he managed large Technology Programme in next generation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process automation and Digital Payments including Blockchain. He has track record of setting up 3 successful global Technology businesses. Integrally part of the London Fintech and PropertyTech businesses, he is a popular mentor and speaker. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Electronic and Computer Science, a Business Management Qualification and Project Qualification from Stanford University. He is a British Citizen of Indian origin and lives near London with his family. Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/avijeetjs/
REFERENCES: https://icobench.com/stats https://www.coinbase.com/ https://www.icoalert.com/ https://www.coindesk.com/information/what-is-a-distributed-ledge https://tokentarget.com/the-evolution-of-the-ico-2017-and-beyond-2/ http://www.ilovegrowingmarijuana.com/the-basics-of-cryptocurrency/ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/cryptocurrency/ https://themerkle.com/top-10-cryptocurrency-icos-throughout-2017-to-date/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockchain http://mashable.com/2017/10/25/survive-ico/#CDVyGFJOiiqF https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cryptocurrencies https://en.insider.pro/tutorials/2017-09-04/what-blockchain-laymans-terms/
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