You must understand how networks and devices operate to attack a crypto network. A computer system consists of two main components: hardware (e.g., servers) and software (e.g., databases, operating systems). In addition, there may be various connections between those components (e.g., the internet).
The fundamental challenge in attacking a crypto network is the same as with any computer system
You need to bypass security controls. For example, one can exploit any weakness in the cryptographic algorithms or their implementation by compromising other parts of the software stack (or hardware).
The network must also be economically viable to attack, so the cost/benefit ratio of doing so should be favorable
For example, suppose an attacker can only profit $5,000 from a successful attack and spends $10,000 in resources to do so (for example, by purchasing computing power). In that case, there is no incentive for them to attack.
Similarly, if an attacker gains more than $5,000 but spends just as much time and money on the upkeep of their infrastructure, there’s still no incentive for them to go ahead with the attack. So, nothing has changed regarding its potential financial reward versus cost implications.
If we add reputation risk into this equation, too—whether it’s legal or a social reputation risk— we start seeing where things get interesting. Attackers will sometimes want to conduct attacks even though they might not result in any direct financial gain for themselves!
That could happen because some attacks might help an individual or organization achieve political goals unrelated to their business objectives. For example, such goals may include damaging competitors’ reputations or enabling government entities that share similar ideologies with your adversary faction(s).
Targeting end users and their devices
Popular attack vectors include replacing genuine software updates with fake ones containing malicious code or manipulating software used by clients (e.g., wallets). An attacker can access your device and then use it for malicious purposes.
For example, a crypto wallet app is a piece of software that’s usually downloaded from the official app store. Unfortunately, that approach requires deception, social engineering (e.g., tricking victims into giving up sensitive information), or malware (e.g., Trojan horses, viruses).
Social engineering often involves a malicious actor attempting to convince a victim to perform an action that ultimately leads to the attacker gaining access to the victim’s system, data, or network.
Attack a crypto network by targeting people, not just machines
The trick to attacking a crypto network is attacking people, not the machines. That means you can target any of the following:
- The network itself
- The blockchain (the distributed ledger)
- The miners who process transactions and verify blocks of transactions on computers all over the world
- Nodes (computers that store parts of or entire copies of a blockchain)
As you can see, attacking a crypto network is no joke.
There are many tools and techniques for doing so, but it’s essential to understand these consequences before engaging in such activities.
The cost/reward ratio for attacking major networks is always unfavorable. It is why Bitcoin’s network has never been hacked directly. There is no viable incentive to do so, as gaining and retaining network control is too expensive and resource-intensive.