Ethereum Classic’s MESS Solution Won’t Provide ‘Robust’ Security Against 51% Attacks: Report

A solution being implemented to safeguard against so-called 51% attacks on the Ethereum Classic (ETC) network may not be as secure as other alternatives, according to a new analysis.

This summer, the ETC blockchain suffered three such attacks in a month. Soon after, ETC Labs – leading organization supporting the network – announced it would roll out the Modified Exponential Subjective Scoring (MESS) solution as an “innovative and low-risk” means to mitigate the risk of future 51% attacks.

But, according to a report from the ETC Cooperative and Cardano developer IOHK on Tuesday, an analysis concluded that “the ‘MESS’ solution will not provide “robust security” and there’s “no guarantee that further attacks will not succeed.”

Further, MESS doesn’t provide “high confidence for stakeholders to reduce confirmation times to desirable levels,” the report reads.

A 51% attack occurs when a nefarious actor gains the majority of a network’s computing power, allowing them to carry out a reorganization (“reorg”) of blocks on the chain and potentially double-spend transactions.

MESS is designed to make large block reorgs up to 31 times more costly, in theory negating any profit motive behind 51% attacks.

The firms looked at various solutions proposed by developer teams from across the ETC community for the analysis, and said checkpointing and timestamping solutions would provide superior security.

According to the report, timestamping enables ETC to base its security off another secure blockchain such as Bitcoin.

Meanwhile, checkpointing occurs when a “trusted authority” chooses a block to become the canonical chain all participants must follow, and cannot be later “dropped or reverted.”

ETC Co-op Executive Director Bob Summerwill said he hoped the report was the “first step” toward centralized decision making among ETC’s leadership, “allowing technical and other ecosystem proposals to be essentially peer-reviewed, improving them, and ensuring they are sound.”

The report also suggested the implementation of a “decentralized treasury,” providing an ongoing source of funding for the future development of the ETC platform.

“A democratic and transparent funding mechanism will also allow the ETC community to determine its future direction by allowing it to choose which innovations are incorporated into the ETC product offering,” it reads.

This, the report claimed, would ultimately allow ETC to “keep pace with and exceed the capabilities of other platforms.”

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