The number of reachable bitcoin nodes that run the network has surpassed 17,000 for the first time in a decade. According to Bitnodes, there are currently 16,814 publicly accessible nodes in the network, representing a 70% rise over the previous two years.
There were 10,000 nodes in 2020 and for most of the 2021 bull run, with Bitnode’s data going only as far as 2016 when there were 5,000 nodes.
The chart above is intriguing since it appears to suggest a trend in that every bull peak and cycle adds roughly 5,000 nodes.
Nodes reached 10,000 for the first time in years in November 2017, with nearly none of them using the Tor network at the time. IPv4 node numbers have now dropped to around 5,000, whereas Tor nodes have risen to 10,000 as of November.
Tor nodes increased by 2,000 in January 2020, just as the bull market was about to begin, while global node numbers stayed at 10,000. Tor nodes increased by another 5,000 in July 2021, 8,000 in December 2021, and 10,000 in March of this year during the banking crisis.
As a result, the new nodes correspond to an increase in bitcoin’s price, and hence to an increase in adoption. However, the fact that there are so many Tor nodes can be troubling because it is difficult to determine whether they are all managed by the same entity.
This network layer may or may not contain a 51% attack vector. There are, however, other possible attacks. Someone has to provide you with that history, another node, when you sync a new node. If only one individual has such history, they have the capacity to deceive, albeit it is unclear what the gains would be.
The solution is to sync from several nodes, however if just one person is running these ten thousand nodes, odds are that all of those multiple nodes are actually this one person.
A remedy is to declare that you only want to sync from IPv4 and IPv6 nodes, and only 10% of the time from Tor, or whatever percentage you wish.
This is especially crucial for Simplified Payment Verification (SPV) wallets, which rely on the node clients from whom they sync without full verification.
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In theory, if these tor nodes are operated by a single individual, they can target such wallets to show that a transaction has been validated when it hasn’t.
If you are an exchange or another company that handles big crypto quantities, it is critical that you run your own node. When it comes to retail, an easy approach is to check Blockchain.info or whatever bitcoin explorer you like to see if their complete node claims it has been validated.
As a result, the attack paths are limited, and none are decisive when it comes to the network. Tor nodes, on the other hand, may have advantages because they are difficult to DDoS.
There are numerous other advantages. A report given at the China Cyber Security Annual Conference in December 2022, for example, reveals deanonymization of node IPs via cyberspace search engines that specialize in broad network level cataloging.
This type of effort could provide an even more autocratic Chinese government with the ability to cut out bitcoin at the network level. That may be more challenging with Tor nodes, especially if bitcoin developers continue to work on increasing encryption at the bitcoin network layer.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that these Tor nodes are run by a single body; it is simply a theoretical possibility.
A bitcoin node, on the other hand, requires resources. Storage is one of them, but so is bandwidth to maintain all of these connections, but it’s unlikely that these 10,000 nodes would cost more than $1 million, or at most $10 million.
That’s chump change for a government organization, and it might even be reachable for someone with a plan and some accomplishments.
However, because there would be no network-level dangers, the cost-benefit ratio would be unreasonably skewed toward cost if monetary gains were the goal.
There are also an estimated 100,000 inaccessible nodes, much above this 10,000, and you may always run your own node and sync just from IPv4 if you want to be really safe in this regard.
Otherwise, assuming they are organic nodes because they appear to match bitcoin price gains, it’s still more proof of demand growth even during the bear. That is theoretically supported by ethereum, which has increased its node count from around 5,000 to 7,500.
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