Unknown actors have performed a 51% attack on the Vertcoin blockchain, but they would appear to have ended up with a loss as the stolen $VTC isn't enough to cover their expenses, Cointelegraph reports on December 2nd.
This isn't the first time this Bitcoin fork suffered a 51% attack as more than USD100k worth of funds was stolen last December. However, according to the lead maintainer of Vercoin, James Lovejoy, the cost might have outweighed the benefits. Lovejoy said :“Based on the market prices during the attack's preparation and the difficulty of the blocks the attacker produced, we estimate the attacker spent between 0.5-1 $BTC to perform the attack. The total value of the block rewards the attack received is 13825 $VTC (~0.44 $BTC). Given the attack was likely not profitable to perform based solely on block rewards, the motivation for the attack is not certain.”
The 51% attacks present the only currently viable danger for a truly decentralized proof of work blockchain. In the event that an entity can establish control over more than 50% of the network's hash power, they gain direct control over the ledger. However, the costs of those attacks can be enormous, so they are mostly attempted against smaller coins, such as Vertcoin. In this case, its possible that the entity tried to repeat the success of the last year's attack, but their plan went wrong or they lacked preparation. Its also possible the attack served another purpose, but if there was one, its likely to remain a secret.