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The scourge of the 51 percent attack has become worryingly common in crypto. From Bitcoin Gold to three successful attacks on Verge. As a result, developers at Dash have been hard at work coming up with a way round the attack.
The upcoming Dash upgrade, known as version 0.14, will make the cryptocurrency more reliant on its masternodes and, according to Dash COO Robert Wiecko, it will go live within the next two weeks. At the moment, the network currently is vulnerable to 51 percent attacks like any other blockchain. The switch, says Wiecko, would make 51 percent attacks impossible and give near instant transaction times. While all that sounds impressive, it does give rise to an all together different set of questions like: is Dash abandoning its decentralized ideals in favour of centralized control? More on that in a mo.
The masternode update, known as Long Living Masternode Quorums (LLMQs) involves electing masternodes whose responsibility it will be to monitor and verify transactions. So, instead of the having the entire network agree on a transaction, or even the entire masternode layer—just 240 masternodes can agree on a transaction for it to be confirmed.
By relying on fewer masternodes, Dash can deliver a host of new features that make the network faster and safer, as long as you trust the masternodes.
First up, version 0.14 provides an update to Dash’s InstantSend function. Previously you were able to send and receive Dash “instantly” but the receiver was unable to spend it for at least six block confirmations—about 20 minutes. Now, this limit will be scrapped and InstantSends will be, well, instant.
Second, Dash claims this new update will remove the possibility of 51 percent attacks. These are when a blockchain is reorganized by a group or individual who has more than 50 percent of the hashrate. That this possibility exists is typically seen as an instrumental part of a blockchain because it shows that each individual miner has an influence on the network—keeping it decentralized.
However, Dash is built slightly differently. It has two layers of miners and masternodes. Miners do the majority of the work which the masternodes oversee and are able to control—through actions like rejecting blocks.
“Miners have different roles in the Dash ecosystem. With Dash, miners are to secure the blockchain and provide hashing power. Masternodes are to provide additional functionalities and governance services,” Wiecko explained.
The new version will use the layer of masternodes to make sure that confirmed blocks cannot be altered.
“You will have no possibility to change the history of the blockchain. It’s our reaction to the threat of Ethereum Classic,” he told Decrypt, referring to the Ethereum Classic 51 percent attack where $270,000 was stolen through double spends.
But just as Dash has managed to force that door shut, a whole suite of others have flung open: How the masternodes are elected, can they be deposed, and what sort of monitoring is in place to prevent the (minimum of) 240 masternodes from forming cartels are all questions we’re waiting to be answered.
Please note: This article has been updated to reflect that it is an upgrade, not a hard fork and that the update requires 240 masternodes rather than the six masternodes initially set out in this article.