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The Bitcoin Wiki states "A profit-seeking person will always gain more by just following the rules, and even someone trying to destroy the system will probably find other attacks more attractive."

I'm always (!) wary when people claim "always" or "never". Similarly I challenge the above statement, that seems quicker to try to reassure than to really analyze the validity of "always" in the context of being a good/bad actor.

What about the situation whereby some entity builds up a hugely leveraged short BTC position. e.g. say two nations took a HUGE bet each on opposite sides of the bitcoin price. Then the nation on the short side could secretly collude with a 51% miner to destroy the network and profit from the resulting BTC crash, kicking back to the miner a slice of the winnings.

Possible? Impossible?

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    I didn't notice this post and asked a similar question some days ago in bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/64157/…, today it's much easier than in 2014 to get a short on the coin, I think. – user65934 Dec 6 '17 at 15:21
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The Bitcoin Wiki states "A profit-seeking person will always gain more by just following the rules, and even someone trying to destroy the system will probably find other attacks more attractive."

The statement from the wiki has since been proven false. If a pool has a large enough percentage of the mining power, then it can follow 'selfish mining' procedures to earn more than it's fair share of the block rewards. This was introduced in this paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/1311.0243.

That is one reason your doubt in the wiki's claim is justified. The reason you cite, the two nations taking a bet on the price of a BTC, may be another possible case, but it doesn't seem very realistic to me. I'm not sure why any nation would take part in such a bet, and I think there would probably be more cost effective ways to lower the price of a BTC rather than engaging in a 51% attack.

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    I don't think it's going to be a rogue gambler who leverages the weaknesses to their own ends. Like ghash.io it'll be another corporate interest who has far too much clout for peace of mind. Mining is so unregulated it's totally feasible that a conglomerate (be it nefarious from the outset or a mutually beneficial alignment of interests occurring over time). It's not even a matter of "if". Mining is clearly becoming centralised with ASIC farms. The other possibility is diversion of hashrate by corporate interest utilising their experience & deep pockets to achieve their goal. Very possible IMO – Wizard Of Ozzie Nov 11 '14 at 22:34
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Sure it's possible, but for how long would the miners want to continue mining for the 51% pool if it's destroying the exact same thing that is repaying them?

It's also worth noting that a 51% attack can only do certain things such as double-spend and stop transactions from getting confirmed. The attacker cannot reverse transactions.

Preventing transactions from gaining confirmations would surely cause a drop in the price, but soon miners would realize what's going on and the incentive mechanism would hopefully decentralize the mining once again.

Regarding slicing the winnings back to the miners, that's a really hard thing to setup. You'd have to convince an impossibly large portion of miners to trust you. From a technical point of view it's certainly achievable.

There are many theoretical possibilities to boycott the bitcoin network, however none have proven to work from a practical point of view because in my opinion there are sociological, economical and even psychological factors that come at play in securing a decentralized p2p blockchain system.

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