Double-Spend Counterattacks: Threat of Retaliation in Proof-of-Work Systems

Presented at the Cryptoeconomic Systems Summit 2020. Publication forthcoming in the Cryptoeconomic Systems Journal Edition 1


Proof-of-Work mining is intended to provide blockchains with robustness against double-spend attacks. However, an economic analysis that follows from Budish (2018), which considers free entry conditions together with the ability to rent sufficient hashrate to conduct an attack, suggests that the resulting block rewards can make an attack cheap. We formalize a defense to double-spend attacks. We show that when the victim can counterattack in the same way as the attacker, this leads to a variation on the classic game-theoretic War of Attrition model. The threat of this kind of counterattack induces a subgame perfect equilibrium in which no attack occurs in the first place.

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