Bitmain, which was founded in 2013, is a company that mines Bitcoins and designs ASIC chips. They also operate Antpool which is one of the largest Bitcoin mining pools. Application-specific integrated circuit, popularly known as ASIC, is a hardware that is known to have mined Bitcoins for years now.
Bitmain released a new ASIC miner called the Antminer X3 also known as a CryptoNight miner on 15th of March 2018. It was originally designed to mine the CryptoNight hashing algorithm used by Monero [XMR].
Nevertheless, this act is not welcomed by Monero and they have opted for an update for their software to v0.12.0.0, which is due in April. This new update will change the rules of the system entirely which will block the hardware form of mining the cryptocurrency. They have also taken a step ahead by taking the decision to perform such an update twice a year.
The core developer of Monero, Riccardo Spagni declared on a forum:
“In my opinion, If SHA3 ASICs are commoditised to the point of being common place, our move to block this effort from Bitmain makes total sense.”
There is a possibility of the Antminer X3 leading to certain kinds of attacks such as; those ones in which the mining pool takes over the majority of a cryptocurrency’s hashrate. This leads to the creation of false transaction histories, double spending coins and censoring payments. Developers are of the opinion that forking away from ASICs is a bad move.
The reasons for the distrust between developers and Bitmain include the secret move from Bitmain which took advantage of a weakness in Bitcoin’s proof-of-work algorithm, through a process called ASCIBoost which enabled its three mining pools to perform 20% faster than its competitors and the discovery of a mining chip vulnerability called Antbleed.
Bitmain also built an ASIC that can be used in mining Siacon [SC], which is a small cryptocurrency. All these moves made Monero’s creator Ricardo Spagni to defend his cryptocurrency’s ASIC resistance.
“Their actions with the bitcoin community and more recently the sia community are clearly those of a bad actor.”
The Monero team added on the risks of ASIC centralization, including government bribery or even the introduction of a ‘kill switch’ that could shut down the miners remotely.
In response to a Twitter’s comment that ASICs are good for security, Ricardo replied:
“Really? Removing all of the hashrate distributed among tens of thousands of miners, in favour of a handful of miners that can afford an overpriced machine from a single manufacturer is GOOD for security? I doubt even you believe that.”
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