Game-theoretic analysis of DDoS attacks against bitcoin mining pools

Benjamin Johnson, Aron Laszka, Jens Grossklags, Marie Vasek, Tyler Moore

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

132 Scopus citations


One of the unique features of the digital currency Bitcoin is that new cash is introduced by so-called miners carrying out resourceintensive proof-of-work operations. To increase their chances of obtaining freshly minted bitcoins, miners typically join pools to collaborate on the computations. However, intense competition among mining pools has recently manifested in two ways. Miners may invest in additional computing resources to increase the likelihood of winning the next mining race. But, at times, a more sinister tactic is also employed: a mining pool may trigger a costly distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack to lower the expected success outlook of a competing mining pool. We explore the trade-off between these strategies with a series of game-theoretical models of competition between two pools of varying sizes. We consider differences in costs of investment and attack, as well as uncertainty over whether a DDoS attack will succeed. By characterizing the game’s equilibria, we can draw a number of conclusions. In particular, we find that pools have a greater incentive to attack large pools than small ones. We also observe that larger mining pools have a greater incentive to attack than smaller ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFinancial Cryptography and Data Security - FC 2014 Workshops, BITCOIN and WAHC 2014, Revised Selected Papers
EditorsMichael Brenner, Matthew Smith, Rainer Böhme, Tyler Moore
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783662447734
StatePublished - 2014
Event18th International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security - Christ Church, Barbados
Duration: Mar 7 2014Mar 7 2014

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Other18th International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security
CityChrist Church

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


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