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Routing Attack Meaning

Mar 8, 2024 | Updated Mar 13, 2024
A routing attack is a malicious entity’s attempt to exploit flaws in a network’s architecture to split it into multiple isolated components.

What Is a Routing Attack?

Think of a routing attack as someone altering road signs to misdirect you toward a dangerous zone. In the blockchain context, it describes a cyberattack that exploits the vulnerabilities of a blockchain network’s routing system.

A blockchain’s routing system handles the communication between on-chain nodes and those operating outside the chain. A rogue node can disrupt this communication by launching partitioning or delay attacks, leading to inefficient and less secure information exchange.

In partitioning attacks, the bad actor can potentially fragment the network into separate chains. They technically act as the bridge between these chains, meaning that all traffic goes through them. As a result, parallel chains emerge. This attack can lead to denial of service (DoS), double spending (i.e., the ability to spend the same cryptocurrency twice), and revenue loss.

In delay attacks, the attacker delays the delivery of a recently mined block to the targeted node for at least 20 minutes. Within this timeframe, the victim node remains unaware of the block and its included transactions, rendering the attack virtually undetectable. This delay can cause various issues, including double-spending and wastage of computational resources by miners.

What are the different types of routing attacks?

Some common routing attacks include:

  • Routing fee sniping: The attacker establishes exorbitant transaction fees on specific routes, forcing the users to either cater to the cost or seek alternative routes to complete their transactions.
  • Probabilistic payment fraud: The malicious node attempts to deceive the victim by either pretending that a successful transaction was unsuccessful or by refusing to provide proof of payment.
  •  Sybil attacks: The attacker creates multiple fake nodes on the network to gain control over a significant amount of the network. Successfully doing so allows them to exploit the network for personal gain or extort money.
  •  Route flapping: A malicious node regularly alters its channel fee structures or limitations, making it difficult for other nodes to establish stable and reliable connections.

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