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Can A New Method for Monitoring Blockchains Stop Sybil Attacks?

A group of researchers has proposed a new way to more closely monitor the behavior of nodes that relay information on a blockchain network.

Published by academics at Zhejian University, the National University of Singapore and Tianji University, the paper, the authors believe, could one day help ease cybersecurity issues around the tech.

Within the context of bitcoin, nodes store the network’s transaction history, maintaining and sharing information about the blockchain with connected peers. Yet any peer-to-peer system faces unique kinds of cybersecurity concerns, including Sybil attacks, when fake identities are created and exploited on the network.

"Sybil attack[s] can be one kind of the [problems]. And there are many other [problems] that may show anomalous behavior patterns," researcher Zhenguang Liu told CoinDesk in an email, adding:

"For example, blockchain nodes that are captured by a hacker may periodically conduct fake transactions, a malignant node may perform frequent transactions with very small amounts to slow down the network."

Ultimately, they propose what they believe is a method for determining behaviors between nodes, which they think could solve some of those long-held issues – or, at least, provide a way for keeping a closer tab on a blockchain.

The concept is notable given the issues raised around cybersecurity and blockchain, especially by regulators including the EU's top securities watchdog, ESMA. Earlier this month, the agency said that it wouldn't move immediately to draft new regulations for blockchain, but that it still believed cybersecurity concerns to be a major impediment to wider adoption.

An IT regulator within the EU raised similar issues in a report published in January.

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