Use your node to make a difference

Benefits of running your own node - Part 4/4

“What powers does my node even have?”

Even without locking up any ETH, an Ethereum node still plays 2 very valuable roles:

  1. Provides computational power - spreads the load of processing transactions out to a larger number of nodes

  2. Relays information to other nodes - propagate transactions throughout the network.

The former prevents any node from becoming overloaded and leading to network congestion. The latter helps honest transactions be “processed” quicker, which gives users a better experience. Both outcomes will benefit you if you hold any ETH!

But more importantly, these roles act as weapons against 51% attacks.

Wait how does this work again?

Preventing 51% attacks as a node operator

By propagating honest transactions to other nodes, your node also alerts other nodes of dishonest blocks being “pushed” by another malicious node. In other words, you help to identify and weed out malicious validator nodes ASAP, preventing them from growing and taking over the network.

More specifically, there are 3 weapons at your disposal as a node operator:

  1. Weapon 1 - For the more technically adept, you can run a Slasher on your node to direct punish these malicious validator nodes - by slashing and claiming a portion of their staked ETH.

  2. Weapon 2 - Otherwise, your node can relay this information to the Slashers and this can happen quicker with more honest nodes in the network.

  3. Weapon 3 - Finally, your node can refuse to build and forward these dishonest blocks to other nodes. By doing this, you are basically saying you do not recognise the legitimacy of these transactions, which delays their propagation speed and eventually causes them to fail to finalise.

But won’t this lead to censorship via Sybil attacks?

Let’s look at the other (dark) side of the coin of the information relayer role.

If nodes can choose which transactions to propagate and ignore, what’s stopping Dr Evil from spinning up a gazillion nodes on the cloud and stealing everyone’s ETH by choosing to only propagate their own dishonest transactions?

(Now that hardware requirements are cheap after the move to proof-of-stake)

Well fortunately for us, there are 2 limitations to this plan.

The first limitation - only validating nodes (i.e. those with 32 ETH staked) can propose and attest to blocks.

Non-validating nodes can only relay these blocks to other nodes, which means the heist will likely cost more than the loot.

The second limitation - complete censorship can only be achieved if you continue to do it at every block.

This is extremely difficult and expensive.

Because if valid blocks don’t make it into the current time period, they will compete to get into the next time period, and the next, and so on.. Further, honest nodes can once again choose to only propagate valid blocks and ignore the blocks that are produced by Dr Evil.

This means that as long as there are honest nodes out there, valid transactions will be recognised eventually. It’s a continuously steepening uphill battle for Dr Evil!

(You can read more on the cost of continuous censorship here. Its a different issue but with similar effects to our thought experiment above)

What happens when a 51% attack somehow succeeds?

Alright let’s say that by some stroke of genius, Dr Evil somehow succeeds in pulling off a 51% attack and steals everyone’s ETH - Can your node still make a difference at this point?


Recall that your node basically provides computational power to some blockchain network and relays information (blocks & transactions) to other nodes.

When a catastrophic event with a clear adversary like this happens, all honest nodes (yourself included) can rally together to fork the blockchain into a version where Dr Evil’s heist never happened. All of his stolen ETH will now be worthless because no one recognises their legitimacy.

At this point, you have the power to decide which is the true chain for your node to provide its services to.

Closing thoughts

I hope I managed to convince you by now that running an ETH node is not only for those of hold >32 ETH. I see it as a way to retake control of your fate as long as you hold some ETH and intend to continue accumulating it.

There is definitely a learning curve to picking up this skill set. But this is what we at Stakesaurus are here for! Get in touch with us to join the cause

Thank you for reading part 4 of a 4-part series on the real and tangible benefits of running your own node. Click on the linked titles if you missed the previous issues!

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