In brief

  • The Verge blockchain was hit with an apparent 51% attack, according to Coin Metrics' researchers.
  • Verge contests that characterization.
  • Verge had a $400 million market cap as of this morning.

This morning, Antoine Le Calvez, a data engineer with blockchain research firm Coin Metrics, pointed out that something funny was happening over on the Verge (XVG) blockchain.

“Looks like $XVG (Verge) experienced a massive 560k+ blocks reorg,” he wrote. His colleague, Lucas Nuzzi, chimed in a few hours later: “The past 200 days worth of $XVG transaction history just vanished. This is likely the deepest reorg that has ever taken place in a 'top 100' cryptocurrency.”

Indeed, Verge was a borderline top-100 cryptocurrency, with a market cap above $400 million, before it was seemingly victimized by a 51% attack. In a 51% attack, an often malicious actor gains control of a majority of the hash power on a blockchain; they can then use that power to “reorganize” the blockchain and replace legitimate blocks with their own and “double-spend” funds. 

51% attacks can be hugely profitable on certain types of blockchains. Ethereum Classic experienced multiple 51% attacks last year. ETC Labs’ Terry Culver explained to Decryptlast October that “a combination of access to liquidity, a lot of exchange listings, and low hash rate” make a blockchain a good target for such attacks.

But Verge says that isn’t what happened here. A pinned message from an administrator in Verge’s Telegram channel reads:

“The official block explorer has been restarted and syncing now, the [database] was corrupted, and it looks like some malicious nodes attempted some [transaction] spam and failed at their goal of causing a fork, this is all the information I have currently, an official update will be coming soon, stay calm and be assured your coins are safe, and yes we will be communicating with the exchanges as soon as we have all the details, No there was not a 51% attack.”

Adult website Pornhub has been accepting Verge since since April 2018; in fact, it was the first cryptocurrency Pornhub embraced. That could be because XVG matched the website’s need for discretion; it was originally conceptualized in 2014 as a privacy-centric version of Dogecoin, called DogeCoinDark.

Turns out it’s a little too private. It made transactions disappear.