Echoes of the Past: Recovering Blockchain Metrics from Merged Mining

  • Nicholas StifterEmail author
  • Philipp Schindler
  • Aljosha Judmayer
  • Alexei Zamyatin
  • Andreas Kern
  • Edgar Weippl
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11598)


So far, the topic of merged mining has mainly been considered in a security context, covering issues such as mining power centralization or cross-chain attack scenarios. In this work we show that key information for determining blockchain metrics such as the fork rate can be recovered through data extracted from merge mined cryptocurrencies. Specifically, we reconstruct a long-ranging view of forks and stale blocks in Bitcoin from its merge mined child chains, and compare our results to previous findings that were derived from live measurements. Thereby, we show that live monitoring alone is not sufficient to capture a large majority of these events, as we are able to identify a non-negligible portion of stale blocks that were previously unaccounted for. Their authenticity is ensured by cryptographic evidence regarding both, their position in the respective blockchain, as well as the Proof-of-Work difficulty.

Furthermore, by applying this new technique to Litecoin and its child cryptocurrencies, we are able to provide the first extensive view and lower bound on the stale block and fork rate in the Litecoin network. Finally, we outline that a recovery of other important metrics and blockchain characteristics through merged mining may also be possible.



We thank Georg Merzdovnik as well as the participants of Dagstuhl Seminar 18152 “Blockchains, Smart Contracts and Future Applications” for valuable discussions and insights. We thank Christian Decker, Roger Wattenhofer, Till Neudecker, and for the live monitoring data they kindly provided. This research was funded by Bridge Early Stage 846573 A2Bit, Bridge 1 858561 SESC, Bridge 1 864738 PR4DLT (all FFG), the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Security and Quality Improvement in the Production System Lifecycle (CDL-SQI), Institute of Information Systems Engineering, TU Wien, and the competence center SBA-K1 funded by COMET. The financial support by the Christian Doppler Research Association, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs and the National Foundation for Research, Technology and Development is gratefully acknowledged.


  1. 1.
    Decker, C., Wattenhofer, R.: Information propagation in the bitcoin network. In: Thirteenth International Conference on Peer-to-Peer Computing (P2P), pp. 1–10. IEEE (2013)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Gervais, A., Karame, O., Wüst, K., Glykantzis, V., Ritzdorf, H., Capkun, S.: On the security and performance of proof of work blockchains. In: Proceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGSAC, pp. 3–16. ACM (2016)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gencer, A.E., Basu, S., Eyal, I., van Renesse, R., Sirer, E.G.: Decentralization in bitcoin and ethereum networks. In: Meiklejohn, S., Sako, K. (eds.) FC 2018. LNCS, vol. 10957, pp. 439–457. Springer, Heidelberg (2018). Scholar
  4. 4.
    Eyal, I., Sirer, E.G.: Majority is not enough: bitcoin mining is vulnerable. In: Christin, N., Safavi-Naini, R. (eds.) FC 2014. LNCS, vol. 8437, pp. 436–454. Springer, Heidelberg (2014). Scholar
  5. 5.
    Nayak, K., Kumar, S., Miller, A., Shi, E.: Stubborn mining: generalizing selfish mining and combining with an eclipse attack. In: 1st IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy, 2016. IEEE (2016)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sapirshtein, A., Sompolinsky, Y., Zohar, A.: Optimal selfish mining strategies in bitcoin. In: Grossklags, J., Preneel, B. (eds.) FC 2016. LNCS, vol. 9603, pp. 515–532. Springer, Heidelberg (2017). Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bonneau, J.: Why buy when you can rent? Bribery attacks on bitcoin consensus. In: BITCOIN 2016: Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Bitcoin and Blockchain Research, February 2016CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Liao, K., Katz, J.: Incentivizing blockchain forks via whale transactions. In: Brenner, M., et al. (eds.) FC 2017. LNCS, vol. 10323, pp. 264–279. Springer, Cham (2017). Scholar
  9. 9.
    McCorry, P., Hicks, A., Meiklejohn, S.: Smart contracts for bribing miners. In: Zohar, A., et al. (eds.) FC 2018. LNCS, vol. 10958, pp. 3–18. Springer, Heidelberg (2019). Scholar
  10. 10.
    Zamyatin, A., Stifter, N., Judmayer, A., Schindler, P., Weippl, E., Knottenbelt, W.J.: A wild velvet fork appears! Inclusive blockchain protocol changes in practice. In: Zohar, A., et al. (eds.) FC 2018. LNCS, vol. 10958, pp. 31–42. Springer, Heidelberg (2019). Scholar
  11. 11. orphaned blocks., Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  12. 12. Bitcoinchain bitcoin block explorer., Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  13. 13. A web based interface to the bitcoin API JSON-RPC., Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  14. 14.
    Project, L.: Litecoin. Accessed 29 Mar 2016
  15. 15.
    Sompolinsky, Y., Zohar, A.: Accelerating bitcoin’s transaction processing. fast money grows on trees, not chains (2013).
  16. 16.
    Miller, A., LaViola, J.J.: Anonymous Byzantine consensus from moderately-hard puzzles: a model for bitcoin (2014). Accessed 09 Mar 2016
  17. 17.
    Garay, J., Kiayias, A., Leonardos, N.: The bitcoin backbone protocol: analysis and applications. In: Oswald, E., Fischlin, M. (eds.) EUROCRYPT 2015. LNCS, vol. 9057, pp. 281–310. Springer, Heidelberg (2015). Scholar
  18. 18.
    Pass, R., Shi, E.: FruitChains: a fair blockchain (2016).
  19. 19.
    Pass, R., Seeman, L., Shelat, A.: Analysis of the blockchain protocol in asynchronous networks. In: Coron, J.-S., Nielsen, J.B. (eds.) EUROCRYPT 2017. LNCS, vol. 10211, pp. 643–673. Springer, Cham (2017). Scholar
  20. 20.
    Croman, K., et al.: On scaling decentralized blockchains. In: Clark, J., Meiklejohn, S., Ryan, P.Y.A., Wallach, D., Brenner, M., Rohloff, K. (eds.) FC 2016. LNCS, vol. 9604, pp. 106–125. Springer, Heidelberg (2016). Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kiayias, A., Panagiotakos, G.: On trees, chains and fast transactions in the blockchain. In: Lange, T., Dunkelman, O. (eds.) LATINCRYPT 2017. LNCS, vol. 11368, pp. 327–351. Springer, Cham (2019). Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sompolinsky, Y., Lewenberg, Y., Zohar, A.: SPECTRE: a fast and scalable cryptocurrency protocol. Cryptology ePrint Archive, Report 2016/1159 (2016).
  23. 23.
    Sompolinsky, Y., Zohar, A.: PHANTOM: a scalable blockdag protocol. Cryptology ePrint Archive, Report 2018/104 (2018).
  24. 24.
    Bitcoin community: Bitcoin-core source code. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  25. 25.
    Miller, A., et al.: Discovering bitcoin’s public topology and influential nodes, May 2015. Accessed 09 Mar 2016
  26. 26. Chainz blockchain explorers. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  27. 27.
    Narayanan, A., Bonneau, J., Felten, E., Miller, A., Goldfeder, S.: Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies. Princeton University Press, Princeton (2016). Accessed 29 Mar 2016zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Judmayer, A., Zamyatin, A., Stifter, N., Voyiatzis, A.G., Weippl, E.: Merged mining: curse or cure? In: Garcia-Alfaro, J., Navarro-Arribas, G., Hartenstein, H., Herrera-Joancomartí, J. (eds.) ESORICS/DPM/CBT -2017. LNCS, vol. 10436, pp. 316–333. Springer, Cham (2017). Scholar
  29. 29.
    Jakobsson, M., Juels, A.: Proofs of work and bread pudding protocols (extended abstract). In: Preneel, B. (ed.) Secure Information Networks. ITIFIP, vol. 23, pp. 258–272. Springer, Boston, MA (1999). Scholar
  30. 30.
    Judmayer, A., Stifter, N., Krombholz, K., Weippl, E.: Blocks and chains: introduction to bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and their consensus mechanisms. Synth. Lect. Inf. Secur. Priv. Trust 9(1), 1–123 (2017)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Kiayias, A., Miller, A., Zindros, D.: Non-interactive proofs of proof-of-work. Cryptology ePrint Archive, Report 2017/963 (2017).
  32. 32.
    Namecoin community: Namecoin source code - chainparams.cpp. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  33. 33.
    Namecoin community: Namecoin source code - auxpow.cpp. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  34. 34.
    I0Coin community: I0coin source code. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  35. 35.
    Nakamoto, S.: Bitcoin: a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, December 2008. Accessed 01 Jul 2015
  36. 36.
    Courtois, N.T., Bahack, L.: On subversive miner strategies and block withholding attack in bitcoin digital currency. arXiv preprint arXiv:1402.1718 (2014).
  37. 37.
    Göbel, J., Keeler, H.P., Krzesinski, A.E., Taylor, P.G.: Bitcoin blockchain dynamics: the selfish-mine strategy in the presence of propagation delay. Perform. Eval. 104, 23–41 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Neo4J Developers: Neo4j (2012).
  39. 39.
    Andresen, G.: Bitcoin improvement proposal 34 (bip34): block v2, height in coinbase. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  40. 40.
    Corello, M.: Fast internet bitcoin relay engine. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  41. 41.
    Daftuar, S.: Sendheaders message. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  42. 42.
    Bowden, R., Keeler, H.P., Krzesinski, A.E., Taylor, P.G.: Block arrivals in the bitcoin blockchain (2018).
  43. 43.
    GeistGeld community: Geistgeld source code. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  44. 44.
    Ozisik, A.P., Bissias, G., Levine, B.: Estimation of miner hash rates and consensus on blockchains. arXiv preprint arXiv:1707.00082 (2017). Accessed 25 Sept 2017
  45. 45.
    Duffield, E., Diaz, D.: Dash: a payments-focused cryptocurrency, August 2013. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  46. 46.
    Van Saberhagen, N.: Cryptonote v 2.0, October 2013.
  47. 47.
    Hall, G.: Guide: merge mining 6 scrypt coins at full hashpower, simultaneously, April 2014. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  48. 48.
    United-scrypt coin: [ann][usc] first merged minable scryptcoin unitedscryptcoin, November 2013. Accessed 25 Sept 2018
  49. 49.
    Donet Donet, J.A., Pérez-Solà, C., Herrera-Joancomartí, J.: The bitcoin P2P network. In: Böhme, R., Brenner, M., Moore, T., Smith, M. (eds.) FC 2014. LNCS, vol. 8438, pp. 87–102. Springer, Heidelberg (2014). Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bartoletti, M., Pompianu, L.: An analysis of bitcoin OP\(\_\)RETURN metadata. In: Brenner, M., et al. (eds.) FC 2017. LNCS, vol. 10323, pp. 218–230. Springer, Cham (2017). Scholar
  51. 51.
    Matzutt, R., et al.: A quantitative analysis of the impact of arbitrary blockchain content on bitcoin. In: Meiklejohn, S., Sako, K. (eds.) FC 2018. LNCS, vol. 10957, pp. 420–438. Springer, Heidelberg (2018). Scholar
  52. 52.
    Grundmann, M., Neudecker, T., Hartenstein, H.: Exploiting transaction accumulation and double spends for topology inference in bitcoin. In: Zohar, A., et al. (eds.) FC 2018. LNCS, vol. 10958, pp. 113–126. Springer, Heidelberg (2019). Scholar
  53. 53.
    Judmayer, A., Stifter, N., Schindler, P., Weippl, E.: Pitchforks in cryptocurrencies: enforcing rule changes through offensive forking- and consensus techniques (short paper). In: Garcia-Alfaro, J., Herrera-Joancomartí, J., Livraga, G., Rios, R. (eds.) DPM/CBT -2018. LNCS, vol. 11025, pp. 197–206. Springer, Cham (2018). Scholar

Copyright information

© International Financial Cryptography Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Stifter
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Philipp Schindler
    • 1
  • Aljosha Judmayer
    • 1
  • Alexei Zamyatin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andreas Kern
    • 1
  • Edgar Weippl
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.SBA ResearchViennaAustria
  2. 2.Imperial College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Christian Doppler Laboratory for Security and Quality Improvement in the Production System Lifecycle (CDL-SQI), Institute of Information Systems EngineeringTU WienViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations