The strength of a cryptocurrency is the share of global processing power it can muster in service of its ledger. An attack by a significant computational resource (botnet, mining pool, government supercomputer, etc.) could potentially reverse recent transactions or cause a fork of the currency. The reason the global share matters is that computational power is fungible, and may be used in service of any cryptocurrency.
The less computational power dedicated to mining a crypto, the more vulnerable it is to attack. Alt-coins that do not command as much hash power as Bitcoin would be first in line.
Processing power over time is governed by the price per computational unit and by the price of electricity. For example, a spike in electricity prices or transistor prices would increase mining costs, and therefore transaction fees, possibly disrupting the usability of the currency. A sudden drop in electricity prices or transistor prices would reduce mining costs, increasing the chance of attacks on a currency’s ledger.
Such attacks could be orchestrated, not necessarily to steal the underlying wealth of currency holders, but to accomplish secondary effects beneficial to the attacker. For example:
- A large investor in a particular crypto may attack a competing (smaller) crypto intruding in the space. This implies a first-mover advantage in the cryptocurrency space and stratification of crypto, with one per defensible economic niche. Eventually, the market may consolidate into one global crypto.
- Momentarily disrupt the functioning of a crypto at a critical moment in its development, for maximum PR effect, to spread fear & uncertainty to potential investors and adopters.
- Momentarily disrupt recent transactions to create uncertainty for retailers accepting the currency & consumers using it.
- Permanently disrupt or fork a smaller currency.
You would only need to bid on computing power for a short time to cause a major disruption. Miners are very sensitive to transaction fees, so would quickly respond to any change in market demand. Furthermore, cloud mining operations, and cloud computing in general, provide an easy way to quickly spool up computing power for a short time, disrupt the target crypto, and spool down, thus minimizing costs.
Alt-coins based on a permissionless, global blockchain are very vulnerable to this type of attack. Eventually, even Bitcoin itself may come under attack should there be a revolutionary development in computational hardware, exploited by a group of early adopters, or a government willing to throw massive fiat to kill it once and for all.
All “cryptocurrencies” based on artificial limits are inherently pump-and-dump schemes. If they were true free market currencies, the money supply would grow with demand. Instead, they are artificially restricted. Why? To create the illusion of limited supply and therefore expectation of future scarcity and speculative profit.
They are fiat currencies, based on nothing but this speculation. The Bitcoin price chart shows this. Bitcoin fanboys point to the skyrocketing price as a badge of honor, but all it shows is that it is a speculation, not a store of value. It has no price stability, and cannot be considered a “currency”.
In the short term, the price will keep going up for various reasons. Mining is getting more expensive and less profitable, driving out miners and restricting supply. Use as a pseudo-anonymous money transfer scheme is increasing on the dark web. A method of circumventing Chinese capital controls. An investment vehicle for Chinese with not enough local investment options.
But eventually, people will realize NOTHING holds up the value of Bitcoin. No petrodollar, no USG taxation. And it will collapse, as will the rest of the currencies that will inevitably fork off this one. This is even ignoring the major security and regulatory issues that plague Bitcoin.
Currency is a form of social credit. It’s an implied debt, that someone will pay off with goods & services in the future. This should be the basis of any cryptocurrency, not arbitrary and artificial limits on supply, and fancy math for its issuance.