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Tran, M., Choi, I., Moon, G. J., Vu, A. V., Kang, M. S..  2020.  A Stealthier Partitioning Attack against Bitcoin Peer-to-Peer Network. 2020 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP). :894—909.

Network adversaries, such as malicious transit autonomous systems (ASes), have been shown to be capable of partitioning the Bitcoin's peer-to-peer network via routing-level attacks; e.g., a network adversary exploits a BGP vulnerability and performs a prefix hijacking attack (viz. Apostolaki et al. [3]). Due to the nature of BGP operation, such a hijacking is globally observable and thus enables immediate detection of the attack and the identification of the perpetrator. In this paper, we present a stealthier attack, which we call the EREBUS attack, that partitions the Bitcoin network without any routing manipulations, which makes the attack undetectable to control-plane and even to data-plane detectors. The novel aspect of EREBUS is that it makes the adversary AS a natural man-in-the-middle network of all the peer connections of one or more targeted Bitcoin nodes by patiently influencing the targeted nodes' peering decision. We show that affecting the peering decision of a Bitcoin node, which is believed to be infeasible after a series of bug patches against the earlier Eclipse attack [29], is possible for the network adversary that can use abundant network address resources (e.g., spoofing millions of IP addresses in many other ASes) reliably for an extended period of time at a negligible cost. The EREBUS attack is readily available for large ASes, such as Tier-1 and large Tier-2 ASes, against the vast majority of 10K public Bitcoin nodes with only about 520 bit/s of attack traffic rate per targeted Bitcoin node and a modest (e.g., 5-6 weeks) attack execution period. The EREBUS attack can be mounted by nation-state adversaries who would be willing to execute sophisticated attack strategies patiently to compromise cryptocurrencies (e.g., control the consensus, take down a cryptocurrency, censor transactions). As the attack exploits the topological advantage of being a network adversary but not the specific vulnerabilities of Bitcoin core, no quick patches seem to be available. We discuss that some naive solutions (e.g., whitelisting, rate-limiting) are ineffective and third-party proxy solutions may worsen the Bitcoin's centralization problem. We provide some suggested modifications to the Bitcoin core and show that they effectively make the EREBUS attack significantly harder; yet, their non-trivial changes to the Bitcoin's network operation (e.g., peering dynamics, propagation delays) should be examined thoroughly before their wide deployment.