An overview of Bitcoin´s invulnerability to extreme assault
Bitcoin represents much more than what can be written in lines of code. It is a social consensus, a thought virus, a set of ideas and a social contract. I would go as far as to say that Bitcoin is a teacher, one which summons the idea of freedom to our thoughts, and challenges us to hold in mind the future we are creating for those who will live long after our time has passed.
Bitcoin uses the internet to function effectively, and so there are many folks with natural concerns about it´s integrity against hackers. It is not a sufficient argument to say, “Bitcoin has been standing strong for over 13 years.” Rather, I believe a basic understand of Bitcoin´s invulnerability would be of greater service to our collective mission.
The three central pillars of Bitcoin´s invulnerability are:
- Bitcoin has a maximum supply of 21 million. There is a finite amount that can and will ever exist.
- Bitcoin is very data-efficient, so running a node is very user-accessible, compared to other crypto currencies like ETH which require huge central data centers.
- “The UTXO set is the comprehensive set of all UTXOs existing at a given point in time. The sum of the amounts of each UTXO in this set is the total supply of existing bitcoin at that point of time” Read More.
With this in mind, let´s have a look at various strategies which those with malicious intentions may use to attack Bitcoin, and why they would fail.
Method 0: Fear Media Misinformation
The most obvious method of attack would target public perception. By abundantly publishing misinformation to scare people away from studying Bitcoin, and distract from its fundamental philosophy and function, the attacker can attempt to hide the value behind horror stories, so their victims may never know of the fruitful applications of Bitcoin.
In other words, they would use the base plot of practically every Scooby-Doo episode; whereby, the villain (usually a trusted authority figure) warns travelers to leave town quick, because there is a monster terrifying the locals, and those who pass through are in grave danger! In truth, the villain is living a double life, actively spreading fearful fiction of their own creation, to accomplish a greedy goal. Once the gang catches the monster, and exposes their true identity by removing its mask, the villain loses all their manipulative power, because they lose control over the people´s acquiescence. In all cases, the solution and defence to fear mongering media, and what all liars fear the most, is the truth.
Note to beginners: If you happen to be new to the Bitcoin space, breaking through the fear-media´s barrier to entry, and are interested in learning more: well done and congratulations! If you´re looking for somewhere to begin, I recommend differentiating Bitcoin from all other crypto currencies by studying money, how fiat currencies came to be, the philosophy of Bitcoin and how it can contribute to the coming golden age. I recommend this documentary.
Method 1: Altering the source code
Bitcoin uses open source code. Therefore, someone could copy and alter the code legally, and start their own version of Bitcoin, but they cannot copy the social consensus of the decentralized Bitcoin community. Such endeavors, like Bitcoin Cash (which has consistently lost value against Bitcoin over time), are inevitable failures. People will dump the tampered version to buy more of the authentic.
In the meanwhile, nodes running the tampered version would be completely excluded from the authentic BTC network, and would have no effect on Bitcoin users. The two would exist in completely different leagues, without interaction or conflict, as public interest in the cloned network sooner or later sinks into extinction.
Method 2: Replace network with huge volume of controlled nodes
If the FBI, NSA, or CIA were to attack Bitcoin, backed by bottomless government funding, they may approach the assault by running a huge number of nodes in an extreme case of method 1 – 500,000, a million, 2 million, a billion nodes; it does not matter. In order to prevent people from simply dumping the tampered coins in favor of authentic BTC, they would need to make it programmable – a CBDC which prevents the direct exchange for authentic BTC. They could use this huge node base to run a new network using the tampered code, but for the same reasons that “method 1” would fail, this would fail also.
The Bitcoin community, beholden to our libertarian values and shared vision, would not join our nodes onto the government network, and we would carry on our way, as if nothing ever happened; remaining on our own robust, decentralized, and global 100,000 node network, using authentic Bitcoin code, and there would be no interaction between Bitcoin and the dirty government spin-off. The only way to convince people to use their inferior centrally controlled system, would be to hold us at gun point. Sound familiar? *cough petrol dollar*
Loyalists and Bitcoin Pirates alike would find a way to dump any CBDC coins for material wealth, and then trade that material to miners and pier-to-pier vendors for authentic BTC. In this way, we could easily navigate around any programmable code which would prevent us from exchanging it directly, and fill up the wallets on our un-tracked de-googled phones, to shop at the new black market of private and lawful goods and services.
We are many, they are few, and every action creates an equal-opposite reaction. When governments become tyrannical, by amounting an unreasonable amount of power, the people will take that power away. Parasites depend on a host, but the host does not depend on the parasite. They know this; the grasshoppers fear the ants.
Method 3: A Quantum attack!
Now it´s getting extreme. In the event of an attack on Bitcoin with a quantum computer, we would snapshot the UTXO set, and restart the program with a new quantum-resistant encryption. This would be a messy situation, but we could get through this. If the quantum attacker was not specifically interested in bringing down Bitcoin however, it would be more rewarding for them to target the more vulnerable bounty of the US banking system, or hack into secret government files, since Bitcoin has a comparatively small $400 billion economy.
Method 4: 51% attack
A 51% attack targets the tip of the blockchain, and would allow the attacker to double-spend their own coins. This is possible if the perpetrators control 51% or more of the hash rate, which relates to the active Bitcoin miners. This would require huge funding and resources, and the damage would be limited, since the attacker could only double-spend the coins which they themselves own – that is until the network very quickly notices and blacklists them.
Again, the attacker could not double spend or steal any of our coins, and the defensive strategy would be to snapshot the UTXO set, restart the system with a new hashing algorithm, which would brick all the SHA-256 ASIC mining machines, including those the attackers used to obtain 51%+ of the hash rate, because these machines are specifically designed for the current SHA-256 algorithm. This defence would put them back to zero, and they would waste an unfathomable amount of resources and time against an inconvenient but relatively simple and costless defence.
The result of this crisis may be a Bitcoin arms race unlike anything we have seen before, immediately dominated by more traditional rigs like GPU miners, until replacements to the bricked SHA-256 ASIC miners make their way onto the field.
I believe this entire scenario is extremely unlikely, but nevertheless a fascinating thought experiment.
Method 5: Take out the internet!
Just for fun, lets explore a doomsday scenario, in which life as we know it would cease to exist. What if the internet went down for a prolonged period of time? Alongside an alien invasion, engineered food scarcity, and or a medico-criminal “vaccine” bioweapon campaign, this is one of the most extreme scenarios for a Bitcoin doomsday event, and far exceeds the threat of methods 0 to 4 combined.
Fortunately, unless they were part of a globalist death cult, it is unlikely that an attacker would do this, because of the resources required, and the resulting collateral damage. If the internet went down, within weeks we would see mass social unrest, running water and electricity would stop working, shops and gas stations would be stripped bare, rioting and starvation would break out, and there would be a gradual break-down of emergency services as policemen, healthcare workers, firemen, etc. understandably leave their disintegrating positions to protect their own families. In this situation, gold and silver would still be good bartering items/store of wealth, but only in a prolonged post-industrial world after some amount stability/civility is established by survivors. In the short to mid-term, land, food, water, tools, firearms, ammo, and other prep items will be far more valuable than shiny rocks, and Bitcoin ownership would likely be irrelevant.
How would Bitcoin survive? We would again snapshot the UTXO set and continue if and when the internet comes back. In the meanwhile, we could run Bitcoin on a local meshnet by connecting computers together, but in the chaos this will likely not be realistic or prioritized for the sake of survival. Meanwhile, Bitcoin could run on a number of separate networks if the internet is not down globally (we call this network partition). Ultimately, when the internet comes back up and all these partitions reconnect, the partition with the longest chain (the most proof of work) will win, and is the authentic Bitcoin blockchain going forward. It is possible to neutrally resolve network partition, because Bitcoin is Proof of Work, not Proof of Stake.
Provided mankind survives an internet-down scenario, and society is restored, Bitcoin can and will survive too. If not, so long as we remember the foremost fundamental social contract of not eating each other, the Antarctic Race may return our preserved technologies to those of us who survive the apocalypse.
Ideas are bullet proof
Bitcoin is not just code. It is an idea, and a social consensus. You cannot kill a timely idea, or rewrite a social consensus like lines of code, and you cannot stop people from accessing a permissionless open network. I believe Bitcoin is one of our greatest tools of freedom and decentralization, and gives us a chance to fight the fast approaching Central Bank Digital Currencies. However, Bitcoin is not a saviour, the choice is our own. Like so many things in this great cosmic play, it is a question of fear, comfort, and security, or freedom. Bitcoin represents freedom. Choose.