by Nuno Menezes
On May 30 the Zcoin team announced it was introducing a working version of the Merkle Tree Proof (MTP) algorithm to help prevent miners using ASIC equipment to mine the coin. With this move, the team wants to reassure its community that there are they are also much concerned with this issue and are trying to do everything in their power keep Zcoin mining ASIC free.
Equihash Coins Come Under Attack
During early May 2018 Bitmain, a powerful mining conglomerate, announced the release of an ASIC developed to mine Equihash-based cryptocurrencies such as zcash (ZEC), zencash (ZEN), and zcoin (XZC), among others. This ultimately led to some concerns, and the team decided to act promptly and apply this new patch as an assurance to tackle ASICs.
On June 2, ZenCash revealed that a 51 percent attack was conducted against it with two instances of double spends. The cryptocurrency’s team is working on a solution and has stressed that exchanges should increase their number of confirmations to 100 in case of another attack.
With ASICs for Equihash coming online, a malicious actor controlling a large number of these specialized mining machines seemed to have tried to reorganize the ZenCash chain, in order to ‘double spend.’
Despite many commentators saying ASIC resistance is futile, Zcoin, similar to ZenCash, believes the battle is worth fighting:
“Although recent developments may indicate that companies like Bitmain can roll out ASICS for almost any algorithm, we doubt that the real boundaries of how far ASIC resistance can be taken have been tested.”
What is Zcoin?
Zcoin is a privacy-centric cryptocurrency and was designed to allow for complete anonymity. Zcoin uses the Zerocoin protocol to enable anonymous transactions allowing these transactions to be sent in a scalable way. The protocol itself was intended to be an extension of the Bitcoin protocol to ensure privacy as it would allow transactions to be made without leaving a transaction history.
Unlike the Bitcoin transaction ledger, in which the wallet addresses are only pseudonymous that can easily be linked to an identity or an IP address. Contrary to that, Zcoin, allows users to preserve the fungibility and privacy of their transactions.
What is Merkle Tree Proof (MTP)?
Merkle Tree Proof is an ASIC-resistant proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm; this algorithm was designed to be ASIC resistant and to safeguard centralization within the ecosystem. MTP was developed with the ultimate goal of making mining fair and in line with Satoshi’s original principles.
Alex Biryukov and Dmitry Khovratovich created MTP back in June 2016. The purpose of MTP was to avoid miner centralization caused by ASICs and incentivize the entry of CPUs and GPUs into the mining space. With this, they were hoping to demonopolize the space from ASIC mining.
One of the novelties introduced by MTP is that it is built to discourage the use of botnets. With its high memory usage, MTP would likely alert users of infected systems because this would have an undeniable impact on the system’s performance. While botnets are known to have taken advantage of ASIC-resistant algorithms, MTP uses its high memory to expand to protect against this kind of fraudulent mining.
ASIC versus CPU\GPU
Since its first appearance, ASICs have crushed CPU and GPU mining. Fearing centralization, developers deployed different algorithms but it has been much like playing a game of “cat and mouse” as companies producing ASICs would eventually catch up with the new algorithms. Sooner or later dedicated equipment was going to make life hard for the good old traditional miners that were still hooked up to GPU and CPU mining.
Investors could buy dedicated equipment with capabilities far beyond the ones expected from CPUs or GPUs making traditional Proof-of-Work mining unprofitable. Today, this is still a continuous struggle, and the latest Zcoin update is proof of that.
Many of the ASIC manufacturers do not have an incentive to sell their hardware at affordable prices according to the Zcoin team and also prevents individuals from using their existing hardware to mine cryptocurrency.
According to the announcement, Zcoin is now making its final checkups to its MTP code and entering the application extended testing phase. The team also announced it would also be launching a series of bounties for open-sourced miners and pool software before the official main net release.