1

One of the arguments made in favor of relying on ASIC mining hardware to secure the Bitcoin blockchain is that commodity hardware is more prone to a 51% attack since an attacker could easily infect millions of computers through a malware attack and use the computer's resources to execute a 51% attack against the network.

It's very hard to.. hack into someone's SHA256d ASICs

Are ASICs really resistant to malware attacks? If so, why?

1

Resistance to malware really just comes down to the security practices of the hardware's operator.

Simply put, we might expect that the admin of a mining farm would be quite vigilant in terms of security, compared to your average person with a PC at home. Thus, we could expect that it is easier to infect and control the average PC, compared to a mining farm.

1

I think you're misinterpreting the argument.

It is this: in an ASIC-mining ecosystem, where mining with commodity hardware is ridiculously unprofitable, there is little incentive for attackers to go infect non-miner's computers with mining code. This is about the millions of end-user PCs on the internet that are under control of botnets. If it was remotely profitable, people would pay botnet operators to let the victim computers do mining for them. In an ASIC-dominated world this is just too unprofitable to bother with.

It isn't about infecting ASICs, or conversely about infecting computers of actual CPU miners (in a world where all mining is done using generic purpose CPUs). People who want to participate in mining intentionally as a form of income would notice if their system was infected regardless, as they'd see their income fall.

Of course, at the same time, it is probably true that infecting ASIC-based infrastructure is harder, as ASICs tend to come in pre-packaged devices with their own embedded controller that does the network/pool interaction, rather than on end user's home systems. I think this is a distraction from the point though, because if CPU mining had continued and risen to the level of professional effort that ASIC mining is now, solutions to this would have been found to it.

0

Mining ASICs are controlled by ordinary computers, so all someone needs to do is gain control of the computer sending the ASICs their commands and they will be able to control the ASICs.

While you might expect the companies running these computers to have higher-end security practices than a home user would, it also means that there is a single point of failure: take out a small handful of these controllers and you control a significant number of ASICs.

5
  • @_ieatpizza thanks! So unlike the majority of answer here you disagree with the notion that ASICs are unequivocally less likely to be infected by malware compared to ordinary computers.. as each one has it's own weaknesses and point of exploitability. Did I understand you correctly?
    – S.O.S
    Jan 26 at 16:32
  • Yeah, well, an ASIC is controlled by an ordinary computer. However, also re-reading your question, 1 more thing to add: it's probably easier for an attacker to exploit 100,000 random computers and install a Monero miner, and make a good profit. It would probably be more challenging for the attacker to target the few specific computers that are controlling Bitcoin ASICs.
    – ieatpizza
    Jan 26 at 17:32
  • An ASIC can per definition not be infected. It is a CHIP, it does not run "code that is loaded", it runs code that is burned into it at the factory. This "code" can not be changed - it would require changing the physical layout of the chip. What you can infect (only) are the machines CONTROLLING the ASICs.
    – TomTom
    Jan 27 at 22:52
  • @TomTom That's what I said. But considering how the controlling computers are not optional (even the control card built into each ASIC miner counts as a computer that can run malware), it's kind of pointless and pedantic IMO to focus on that distinction.
    – ieatpizza
    Jan 27 at 23:16
  • Except that the question is pretty specific and words have specific meaning.
    – TomTom
    Jan 27 at 23:39
0

Are ASICs really resistant to malware attacks? If so, why?

They are better than computers using backdoored hardware and malware infected OS/Applications or backdoored OS. Open source ASICs will make things even better: https://lists.linuxfoundation.org/pipermail/bitcoin-dev/2021-January/018371.html

If interested to read about the incidents related to malwares used in mining:

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=botnets+malware+hackers+monero

https://bravenewcoin.com/insights/hackers-suspected-of-using-supercomputers-to-mine-monero

0

Per definition, ASIC are never affected by malware that is loaded onto them - much as a pizza box can not be taken over by malware. ASIC do not execute a program you can load - they have no "code". ASIC are specialized chips, and the wiring is determined by the factory. They are VERY specialized. They also lack any higher function, so any ASIC miner will combine ASIC with controlling computers. But the ASIC itself can not be affected by loading malware on it because the ASIC can not be changed. It is simple like that. As comparison, open the engine compartment of your car and turn your car engine (not the computer, the engine block) into a TV - by loading malware on it, not by starting installing hardware.

When you make an ASIC, you technically write a program, but the compiler then does not generate machine code, it generates the layout of the chip to execute the program. And the chip factory creates this chip. The "wiring" is hardwired. It is not a general chip running a program that is loaded later (as is any regular computer).

Commodity hardware is more easy to take over because millions of computers on the internet are run by people that are not smart enough to run even the most basic security on them, and millions are taken over already. So, it is easy to install minders on them.

The main point, though, is not to take them over - it is that ASIC are BRUTALLY more efficient than computers at mining bitcoin. At the moment you could take over half all infected computers and I doubt you could do a 51% attack with them because yes, ASIC run the show and are that much more efficient.

1
  • 1
    I considered answering something in this direction myself, but while correct, I don't think it actually addresses OP's question. After all, CPUs are also not affected by malware. In both cases it's the software controlling them that it's in question here. Jan 28 at 0:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.