Report from the Mineshaft - The Cost Of Success

With the explosion in dogecoin mining profitability, the previously mentioned Middlecoin pool has seen several days of record payouts. But what is the cost of success?

Generally speaking success breeds attention: either respect or contempt. Respect from the well-paid miners, and contempt from unknown competitors, hooligans, and sociopaths. Perhaps an additional category of attention can also be added: greed, here applying to both the respect and contempt sides of the coin. With the recent standout success of the Middlecoin pool, we have all these factors coming into play.

Hashpower explosion

First a note on hashpower. The pool has grown by over a factor of 3.5 since the dogecoin mining days began, from a total hashrate of approximately 2 GH/s to a current rate, as of Christmas Eve, 2013, of over 7 GH/s. Clearly the attention of the GPU miners has recently been held rapt. With many certainly choosing to direct-mine dogecoin, a growing number of miners appreciate the simplicity of the auto-trade and pay-direct-to-BTC pool design, and are apparently very willing to contribute the 3% fee that the pool requires.

But for anyone who remembers the first days of ChinaCoin, or of Feathercoin, or any other number of altcoins now too numerous to mention, a “good thing” in the spotlight- especially when it involves a highly fungible and possibly-anonymous-if-you-are-tricky-enough cryptofinancial instrument- quickly becomes a target for vandals, scammers, and outright thieves. This case is no different.

Denial of Service

Beginning December 21st, judging from circumstantial evidence, the denial-of-service attacks began on the Middlecoin servers. Stratum connections began to be dropped every ten to fifteen minutes- in some cases stalling machines to the point where a hard reboot would be required, or otherwise mangling cgminer (and related watchdog services such as CGwatcher) to the point where they no longer functioned correctly. Judging from the Middlecoin chart, these attacks persisted for some time and recurred even more severely the next day, December 22, 2013, with total pool hashrate dipping as low as 1.5 GH/s. The charts are somewhat misleading however as these disconnections persist to this day, albeit at not as high or severe a rate.

(Screengrab of chart created by coinGeek for Middlecoin)

Even without the ne'er-do-wells, with this explosion in hashpower and popularity, the underlying infrastructure begins to show any and all cracks under stress. What was once sufficient for a 1 to 2 GH/s pool becomes woefully underpowered at 7 GH/s, and I suspect the work going on behind the scenes by the pool operator (H2odysee) to maintain even the current level of semi-stability has been fast, somewhat stressful, and furious. It's like trying to keep an accelerating train that won't stop on the tracks. An additional server, located in Europe (Ireland) was released to Beta status in an attempt to balance the increasing server load.

A holiday incentive for hackers

The payout structure of Middlecoin is handled directly by a single BTC address- your actual miner username IS your BTC address. This is reminiscent of such BTC pools as Bitparking. This very much limits the possibilities around account hacking, as the actual mining rig configuration would likely have to be compromised, rather than a more-vulnerable user account residing on a web-based server.

Not all pools are so lucky, though. Hashcows, another auto-switching scrypt pool in the same vein as Middlecoin, was hacked and many (but not all) user funds drained over a two-hour period on December 24th. Merry Christmas from some random, motivated hacker? Details of the security breach have not yet been ascertained or reported by the pool operators; all sign-ins and withdrawals have been suspended while the mining pool itself remains open and functional.

And this brings up a final series of observations, and that is on the reaction of the miners themselves to such a security breach (especially the greenhorns). I'll save you the trouble of reading the lengthy, convoluted thread and summarize: some or most of these folks, clearly not willing or able to understand what it actually takes to design and run a growing pool as complex as this, simply hammer the admins about their supposed shortcomings. Others wail about lost amounts of BTC; many in fact demand (demand!?) repayment, restitution, fee-free mining for the next decade or two as compensation for their losses…

www.clipartguide.com_named_clipart_images_0511-1001-1705-4851_prospector_defending_his_gold_mine_clipart_image.jpg Over my dead body!

A public service announcement

News Flash To All You Greenhorn Miners: The Only BTC That Is Actually Yours is the BTC You Keep Under Your Mattress. With You In The Bed. With a Loaded Shotgun. All balances that are not in your *personally secured wallet* are not really balances at all, just potential ones. Transfer your balance DAILY, at minimum, even if it means paying more in transaction fees. Trust the chief on this one- this isn't the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last, and it isn't the end of the world. Exercise a little bit of personal precaution and haul your ore OUT of the mine REGULARLY lest the shaft collapse.

Otherwise you are probably in the wrong business- didn't anyone tell you this work was risky? Some men go down and never see daylight again…

Further reports from the Mineshaft

This is the third in a series of reports from the world of Cryptocurrency mining, including ASIC, GPU, FPGA, and Cloud mining. Any coin or development in this realm will be fair game, whether SHA256, Scrypt, Scrypt-Jane, or some algo I haven't even heard of yet. Stay tuned, it's an exciting time to be cracking blocks!

Previous report: DOGEing Bullets (during a Chinese Fire Drill)

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