On April 6th, at 16:44:02 UTC (block 1546000), the privacy-oriented cryptocurrency Monero successfully performed its scheduled hard fork. Which, among other updates, hardened the cryptocurrency against ASIC miners.

As a result of the PoW change, various forks have appeared that intend to maintain the old blockchain, stating that the existence of ASICs for the cryptocurrency is good.

ASIC Resistance

The Monero community first began to suspect that an ASIC was in play in January, when the hashrate began to increase rapidly. Though at the time, the Monero community believed that developing an ASIC for CryptoNote would be prohibitively expensive.

Monero reported hash rate – bitinfocharts.com

The suspicions were proved correct when Bitmain announced its AntMiner X3 ASIC in mid-march alongside other ASIC announcements. Though these announcements occurred not long after the Monero team announced that it would be changing the PoW algorithm to set back any ASIC miners.

Other features added

One of the notable changes made over the hard fork is support for the ledger nano hardware wallet. Otherwise, sub-addresses and multi-signature wallets were added to the reference wallet.

You can read the full changelog on the Monero team’s blog post.

Results

While the full extent of the hashrate drop is still unknown, the difficulty algorithm has begun to lower the difficulty. At the time of writing, monerod reported a network hashrate of 645.63 MH/s and a difficulty of 77475745059. It is expected that the difficulty and therefore reported hashrate will have normalized around block 1546720.

ethereum mining

A proposal to adopt a hard fork to maintain ASIC resistance is quickly building support among Ethereum users in response to reports that the first Ethash ASIC miners are already in production.

Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 958, submitted by Ethereum developer Piper Merriam on Thursday, proposes that Ethereum take measures to maintain ASIC resistance and ensure that the network’s hashrate remains decentralized.

“I believe it is the accepted wisdom that ASIC based mining leads to increases [in] centralization when compared to GPU mining,” Merriam wrote.

The proposal was sparked by recent reports that Chinese mining hardware manufacturer Bitmain has developed and is currently producing an Ethash miner that uses Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) chips.

ASIC miners are vastly more efficient than GPU miners, but — as Merriam noted — their development tends to centralize mining hashpower into the hands of a small group of miners and mining pools, particularly since Bitmain is by far the dominant ASIC manufacturer.

Since Ethereum is one of several cryptocurrencies that use the Ethash Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm, the release of an Ethash ASIC miner promises to fundamentally alter the nature of Ethereum mining.

However, since ASICs are only useful for a single purpose, they can be rendered obsolete (or “bricked”) by adopting a hard fork to modify the mining algorithm.

Monero, for instance, recently modified its instance of the Cryptonight PoW algorithm after Bitmain released the first Cryptonight ASIC, and its developers have said that they will preemptively alter the consensus algorithm every six months to discourage manufacturers from attempting to develop Monero-compatible ASICs in the future.

There are varying opinions about whether ASICs are helpful or harmful — Bitcoin mining has been dominated by ASICs for years — but forking to maintain ASIC resistance appears to have support in the Ethereum community.

At the conclusion of the EIP, Merriam asked users to up- or downvote the EIP to indicate whether they support adopting a fork to improve the network’s ASIC resistance. At the time of writing, the hypothetical fork had overwhelming support, with 550 votes in favor and just 26 against.

That’s a small sample size, but it’s not the first informal survey to find broad support for preserving ASIC resistance. A day prior, Ethereum developer Vlad Zamfir asked a similar question on Twitter, and his poll found that 57 percent of the 6,903 respondents favored a hard fork while just 13 percent opposed it.

Featured Image from Pixabay

Cryptojacking – which involves hackers exploiting code vulnerabilities to allow the installation of malicious code into computer programs that are then used to mine for cryptocurrency – has become a widespread phenomenon affecting everyday consumers and major businesses alike. A new report of cryptojacking from cyber-security firm Trend Micro has emerged, that’s among the largest documented yet, resulting in just under $75,000 in Monero to be mined from people’s computers from across the globe.

A vulnerability discovered in the Network Weathermap plugin for Cacti – which is, ironically, an open-source network monitoring tool – was used to infect Linux servers with malware that enables hackers to utilize computer resources to mine for Monero.  Monero is often used in cryptojacking schemes, due to its ease of mining and its privacy-centric design that helps to keep the hijackers anonymous.

This specific cryptojacking campaign is using malicious code dubbed “watchd0g.sh” and is focusing on x86-64 Linux servers in the United States, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, and much of the rest of the world.

Vulnerability “CVE-2013-2618” has had a patch available for nearly five years, and allows the hackers to gain control of code execution on the servers its hosted on, enabling a customized version XMRig to be installed. The hackers have modified XMRig’s open-source code in such a way to avoid detection, by limiting the amount of CPU resources it uses as to not set off any red flags and continue to fly under the radar. The advanced code runs every time the computer is fired up, runs every three minutes, and is designed to automatically re-download itself if deleted.

Trend Micro was able to tie the malicious mining software to two Monero wallets, totaling just under $75,000 in the privacy-focused cryptocurrency. The firm also believes that this campaign is connected to another cryptojacking campaign on Windows computers that resulted in over $3 million in XMR being mined.

Trend Micro explains that users must keep their machines up-to-date with all patches, and that “data from Cacti should be property kept internal to the environment.” Since the vulnerability is so old, many users will unknowingly remain affected. For more technical details on the vulnerability, Trend Micro has a full breakdown on their blog.

Bitcoin Mining

A city in New York has imposed an 18-month bitcoin mining ban in an attempt to stop miners from using the city’s cheap electricity, making it the first city to do so.

Earlier this month, a law was proposed by Plattsburgh city Mayor Colin Read which sought a moratorium on bitcoin mining.

Speaking to the New York Times in February, Read said that bitcoin mining consumed around 10 percent of the city’s fixed supply of cheap electricity in January and February. Yet, Plattsburgh only has 104 megawatt-hours per month. As a result, Plattsburgh has been forced to purchase more electricity on the open market at higher prices.

With residents complaining about fluctuating electricity bills in January, Read said:

I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints that electric bills have gone up by $100 or $200. You can understand why people are upset.

According to a report from Motherboard, it is due to a hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence River that residents of Plattsburgh have access to the ‘cheapest electricity in the world,’ according to Read. Compared to the U.S. average of just over 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, the citizens of Plattsburg only pay 4.5 cents.

The concern, though, is that the city’s cheap electricity will draw more bitcoin mining operations to the city to use its power.

Read added:

We could use 100 megawatts in two months’ time if we opened up the floodgates. And then there would be no cheap power left for our residents. Some of the proposals we’ve been seeing, they want to take 20 or 30 megawatt bites of power, and we don’t have that.

Over the next 18 months, city officials will work with residents and bitcoin mining operations in the city to find a solution. Several suggestions include increasing the kilowatt rate for miners or getting them to pay for the excess of the city’s power budget.

A study conducted earlier this month has found out how much it costs to mine for one bitcoin from a list of 115 countries.

Compiled by Elite Fixtures, it discovered that South Korea is the most expensive costing $26,170 for one coin. Second place went to Niue, a small island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, at $17,566; Bahrain, which costs $16,773; and the Cook Islands at $15,861, rounding out the top five.

Of the least expensive nations Venezuela was the cheapest at $531, followed by Trinidad and Tobago at $1,190; Uzbekistan, which costs $1,788; Ukraine at $1,852; and Myanmar, costing $1,983 to mine one bitcoin.

The study showed that the U.S. was the 41st cheapest at $4,758, while China, a major mining location, took 17th cheapest at $3,172.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Monero (XMR) is a privacy-oriented cryptocurrency that aims to keep all transactions on its blockchain private from others. It does this in two ways, stealth addresses, and ring-CT. Monero uses the CryptoNote algorithm, first used in the now infamous ByteCoin. CryptoNote is an ASIC resistant algorithm, intending to make mining long-term feasible on consumer computers, thus helping to decentralize the network. GPUs still have somewhat of an advantage, but the gap is nowhere near that in Scrypt (Litecoin) or SHA256 (Bitcoin) coins.

Mining

Any computer can mine Monero, though the newer the better. Older CPUs may not have the required AES instruction set. There are various options for mining software, including the infamous CoinHive javascript based miner. XMR-Stak is recommended by the community for simultaneous mining on a CPU and one or more GPUs. Please note that the mining software MinerGate is a scam, it lies about your current hash rate, thereby skimming your profits. You can find a list of other scams on the Monero subreddit

ASIC Resistance

Monero’s algorithm, CryptoNote, is ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circut) resistant, this is due to its use of large amounts of processor cache. Cache is expensive to manufacture compared to other parts of an integrated circuit, making developing an ASIC to mine CrytoNote difficult. Monero also has a bi-annually scheduled hard fork that could be used to change the algorithm, thereby staying ahead of  ASIC designers.

Scheduled hard forks

The developers of Monero execute a bi-annual hard fork. Changes to the algorithm and other internal parts of the cryptocurrency require hard forks. The next hard fork is scheduled for sometime in March 2018, the exact date will be decided later in the year.

Privacy and security

Monero users have always-on privacy – Transactions that are not private cannot be sent over the blockchain. When sending a transaction on the Monero blockchain, a ring signature is created that hides the true transaction in a list of others. All of them using stealth addresses to hide the target of the transaction. The only available information on the blockchain is that a transaction happened. The sender can decrypt the transaction using the transaction key and the target address, either with the GUI wallet or an online tool such as xmrchain or other block explorers. Though this does require you sharing your private keys for that transaction with the block explorer service.

There are only two ways to view the balance of a Monero address; owning the address or getting a view key from the owner of the address. A view key allows anyone to view the content of a Monero address without being able to spend said contents.

Wallets

Currently, the recommended desktop wallet is the official wallet, which supports both running a local node and connecting to a remote one. The MyMonero wallet is another, more convenient option, though you sacrifice some privacy for convenience, as your private keys are stored on MyMonero’s servers. This means that you must trust MyMonero with your money.