Bitcoin’s mining hash rate has seen exponential growth due to the massive increase in Bitcoin’s price long term combined with the advancement of mining chip technology. This has created a feedback loop where miners compete with each other to buy the most mining equipment possible to get the most profits, causing less profits for the same amount of hash rate, causing miners to buy more equipment to keep up, and so on and so forth. Bitcoin’s mining hash rate has grown so large that it would be quite easy for a large Bitcoin miner to conduct a 51% attack on any other SHA-256 cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin’s mining hash rate was 10 MH/s at the start of 2010, 125 GH/s in 2011, 10 TH/s in 2012, 23 TH/s in 2013, 10 PH/s in 2014, 300 PH/s in 2015, 800 PH/s in 2016, 2.5 EH/s in 2017, 15 EH/s at the turn of 2018, and since then, Bitcoin’s hash rate has increased further to over 40 EH/s. This means Bitcoin’s hash rate has been increasing almost exponentially every year.
This has created a dangerous situation for all other SHA-256 cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin uses the SHA-256 hashing algorithm, so Bitcoin miners can mine other SHA-256 crypto but for the most part, choose not to since Bitcoin is the gold standard of crypto. Therefore, SHA-256 crypto have very low hash rates relative to Bitcoin, making them easy targets for 51% attacks. A 51% attack is when a malicious miner has more than 51% of the network hash rate, sends a transaction to a crypto exchange or merchant, and then mines another blockchain that overtakes the original blockchain, without recording the transaction. Essentially, a hacker can reverse a crypto transaction with a 51% attack.
While a 51% attack is essentially impossible for Bitcoin, other SHA-256 crypto have such low hash rates that a 51% attack is a real possibility. The biggest SHA-256 crypto besides Bitcoin is Bitcoin Cash with a hash rate of 4.7 EH/s, Unobtanium and Crown are close behind with 4 EH/s and 3.6 EH/s respectively. For even these major SHA-256 cryptocurrencies, it would only take 5-10% of the Bitcoin mining network to split off and start mining their blockchains to conduct a 51% attack. There is plenty of animosity between some Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash supporters, so a large Bitcoin mining firm could single-handedly ruin Bitcoin Cash’s reputation with a 51% attack.
The situation is even worse for the other SHA-256 cryptos, which all have hash rates less than 100 PH/s, and many have hash rates less than 1 PH/s. It would take a single Bitcoin miner with a decent farm to 51% attack these crypto.
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