- Ethereum Classic community is discussing a possible change of the mining algorithm to prevent 51% attacks.
- The miners reject a shift away from the current proof of work algorithm and have proposed alternatives.
Ethereum Classic (ETC) has had difficult months while its security problems persist. In August alone, the Ethereum Classic network suffered three 51% attacks. Consequently, the pressure on the developers to take measures to resolve the situation is enormous. However, it is currently difficult to reach a consensus for a solution, so a heated debate is taking place in the community.
In a mid-August release, Ethereum Classic Labs has revealed a strategy to increase network security. According to the proposal, changes will be made for the short and long term that could be implemented in the next 3 to 6 months.
In the short term, ETC Labs will take the following 4 actions: a “defensive mining” in collaboration with mining pools to increase the hash rate, improved network monitoring to identify anomalies, coordination with exchanges to establish safe confirmation times and the implementation of a “permapoint” to “aggressively” prevent reorganizations from occurring without losing node consensus.
Switch to Ethereum or Monero mining algorithm?
For the long-term solutions, the publication returns to a topic that has been under discussion since at least February this year; changing Ethereum Classic’s mining algorithm. However, the issue is complicated and there are several factions with different views on this subject. First, there are those who propose to change the current ETC Proof of Work Dagger Hashimoto algorithm, known as Ethash, to the Monero RandomX mining algorithm. This proposal is called ECIP-1093 and was rejected a few days ago and then reinstated as a “draft” by its proponents.
On the other hand, ECIP-1049 proposes to change the network to Ethereum‘s SHA-3 or Keccak mining algorithm. This would allow specialized mining hardware (SHA-3 ASICs) to be introduced to increase the security of the Ethereum Classic network. On this proposal, the ETC Labs publication states the following:
Using Keccak256 from the SHA3 family would put Ethereum Classic in a unique position as potential leader with regards to hash rate of its own mining algorithm. This would enable ETC to become more independent from its Ethash-based sister chain, significantly reducing the risk of attacks as a result of a shared mining algorithm.
If the community decides to approve the change in ETC’s mining algorithm, its implementation would be carried out in 5 phases. The first phase would start this September to be introduced to Core Geth and Hyperledger Besu clients. The last phase would take place in January 2021 with the activation in the mainnet using the new mining algorithm.
Concerns of Ethereum Classic’s miners
However, Ethereum Classic community especially its miners have expressed concerns towards a possible change of the mining algorithm. Their main reason is based on the investment made by a significant number of miners in “equipment to support the ETC network”. One miner stated the following:
I ve invested 18’000 us to support ETC by purchasing Innosilicon A10 Master Pro 5g, if you change Algo I can put in the trash all money I spent to add hashing power in the ETC network, and we are thousand in the same situation.
The miners seem to be more in agreement with changes that allow the core of ETC’s current mining algorithm to remain, but change the PoW by using a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG). The latter proposal has been introduced under the name ECIP-1043. Together with the ECIP-1049 it will be part of a call by the developers of the ETC Core which will take place on 11 September 2020 at 4:00 pm UTC. The status of both proposals is currently “last call” and together with ECIP-1092 and ECIP-1097, it appears that one of them is most likely to be approved.