Detectability of selfish mining

Supervisor(s)Univ.-Prof. Dr. Rainer Böhme


Selfish mining is a strategy for participation in blockchain-based protocols that has been identified as a threat to the fairness, and potentially the security, of systems using proof-of-work. It remains unknown if (and to what extent) miners in deployed systems use this strategy.

The objective of this thesis is to give an overview on how selfish mining can be detected under various assumptions and information sets (e.g. stale block rate, block release times, peer-to-peer network topology). Key questions include the statistical detectability as a function of selfish mining power, i.e. how long does a small selfish coalition stay undetected? Potential extensions include new variants of the strategy which achieve other tradeoff between profit and detectability.

The approach should be analytical to the extent possible, supported by simulations where necessary, and complemented with empirical measurements on Bitcoin.


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  • Gervais, A., Karame, G.O., Wüst, K., Glykantzis, V., Ritzdorf, H., and Capkun, S. On the Security and Performance of Proof of Work Blockchains. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer and Communication Security (CCS). 2016, pp. 3–16.
  • Sapirshtein, A., Sompolinsky, Y., and Zohar, A. Optimal Selfish Mining Strategies in Bitcoin. In J. Grossklags and B. Preneel, eds., Financial Cryptography and Data Security. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 9603, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2016, pp. 515–532.