Introducing ForkWatch

Monitoring the NiceHash Rental Market

I would like to unveil, through this newsletter series I am starting that will focus on blockchain attacks, hard forks and chain splits, a new tool I have been working on for the past two weekends.

I would like to introduce you to ForkWatch, a proof-of-work monitoring and alerting tool for the NiceHash hash market. In its current initial version, it will focus on sending you email alerts when it detects anomalies in your algorithm of choice offered on NiceHash. A future version of ForkWatch will offer more insights and analysis on potential 51% attacks and how they can be mitigated.

If you have been following crypto news lately, beneath the promises of DeFi and yield farming and a rising bull market, you might have noticed that Ethereum Classic has experienced two recent 51% attacks. Yes, again.

And that’s why I haven’t really slept in the past few weeks. I wanted a solution to be able to detect these kind of attacks before they happen, or at least, to be able to predict their occurrences.

Ethereum Classic 51% Attacks

The first of the two 51% attacks on Ethereum Classic resulted in about $5 Million dollar double-spends. OkEx was the main victim among the exchanges. That’s a lot of money for exchanges to be dealing with, and it’s a problem that will continue happening in the future with all other Proof-of-Work chains.

Exchanges and mining pools need tools that can help them in predicting these attacks. This is what ForkWatch seeks to achieve, by gathering over time various signals from on-chain events to try to predict and prevent them. In this current alpha version, we monitor the NiceHash market. Later on, analysis of pools, chain events and other interesting data points will be included.

There is a clear need in the blockchain industry for off-chain defensive solutions to on-chain attacks. The goal of ForkWatch will be to help with this.

So Why A Newsletter?

As I monitor these attacks and build the ForkWatch app, I’ll be learning from users and stakeholders what features and tools they’re looking for to best protect their investments and network they’re contributing. Therefore, I will be writing about my findings and events happening in the blockchain space in relation to on-chain anomalies and critical events.

So, this will be a newsletter I will be using to discuss such attacks and ways to mitigate against them as well. This has been an aspect of the blockchain world that always fascinated me as I felt it has been dismissed by the larger networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum. They are simply too big to be attacked at this moment because their high price makes them too expensive to attack. Yet, there exists a lot of other coins out there that are also listed on those exchanges, and exchanges and mining pools need an updated set of tools and gadgets to help them protect their on-chain activity.

Data on attacks on blockchains is very useful for all the stakeholders involved as it will help them best prepare for it.

The current tool I’m running on ForkWatch for anomaly detection will be open-sourced soon on GitHub so more people can experiment with which techniques work better for their networks. Hopefully people can contribute to the engine as we continue improving it.

At the end of the day, I’m building a product that I personally want to use to help alert me on these attacks and how to predict and prevent them, and I hope others find it useful as well as more features are added over time.