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The Bitcoin White Paper: Stealing Bitcoin

Written by:
Aaron Goldstein
Published on:
Apr/05/2021

In the video discussion about the second paragraph of the Bitcoin white paper between Dr. Craig S. Wright and Ryan X. Charles, the topic of honesty arose with regards to nodes and the security of the system. While there are a number of security features built in to blockchain, the idea of a rogue or criminal node stealing transactions is thwarted from an economic standpoint.  

It has been stated time and time again that Bitcoin encourages honesty. As long as the majority of nodes are honest and produce good work, the system remains secure.  

Let’s look at why that makes sense.  

We know that CPU power is what makes Bitcoin mining competitive. Miners are paid for the number of transactions their node processes. The more CPU the node has, the more transactions and earnings, etc. If a node does not have lots of CPU power, it won’t be profitable. Building a strong mining node today is extremely expensive and will possibly, or more likely, cost in the millions or perhaps billions of dollars in the near future.  

Knowing this, a criminal would not only have to make the massive investment to build a node but would then have to steal far more than the investment for it to make economic sense.  

Let’s say that a thief does invest in building a powerful node with the idea they will steal Bitcoin. There is a possibility they might be able to perform some double spending in the short term, but nowhere near the amount to offset their investment.  

Then there is the need to get away with it long enough to spend the money which is virtually impossible. Even if the dishonest node were able to rewrite a minimum of one hundred blocks, they would still have left a trail that would lead back to them. It’s not comparable to robbing a bank or another type of merchant, for example. 

Your investment to do that might be a ski mask and a note--minimal investment with a potentially large take. The similarity between the two is that you can’t erase the bank’s video surveillance and you can’t erase the blocks left behind. With both crimes you will ultimately be caught and face serious criminal charges. 

Dr. Wright believes criminals are far more rational than the average person. He has published papers on this topic as well. That said, when it comes to stealing Bitcoin through establishing themselves as a node, rational thinking thieves would not find it profitable. In fact, they would find that honest work as a node would be profitable in the long term without risk of jail.  

To learn more about Bitcoin, head over to Bitcoin for Beginners, where you can find comprehensive resources that will allow you to gain deeper understanding about Bitcoin and blockchain.

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