The Aptos blockchain is a layer-1 PoS (proof-of-stake) blockchain by Aptos Labs that utilizes an entirely new programming language called "Move". Furthermore, Aptos was initially developed to support the Diem cryptocurrency that Facebook (now Meta) would use. APT is the Aptos blockchain network's native token. Token holders can stake their tokens by delegating them to select validators to participate in the consensus process.

However, upon launching, the Aptos network was hit with a whirlwind of unfortunate events. With a Sybil attack, outraged investors, a plunge in price, and what seemed to be unkept promises from the Aptos blockchain developers, the network got a rough start.

In the following sections, we'll discuss Aptos' programming language, Move, and other aspects of the Aptos blockchain. Before we dig into all that, let's discuss how APT took a plunge in a matter of seconds from nearly $15 per token to a mere $6.

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Aptos Token Plunges

The Aptos token, APT, took a plunge in a matter of seconds from a value of $15 per token to just $6. According to on-chain data, a single hacker performed a Sybil attack on the network due to a vulnerability during the airdrop mechanism. The hacker collected over 6.1 million APT tokens and sold them for an average price of $8, making a $50 million profit. Naturally, the selling pressure caused a major plunge in price per token. According to a report, almost 40% of the 16.3 million distributed APT tokens were in seven Sybil addresses, and it is unclear how many tokens remain in these addresses. Moreover, the attacker could launch more selling pressure due to the number of unsold tokens.

Attacks within a network can be a double-edged sword. When an attack occurs, developers can immediately take note of the weaknesses within the network and find solutions to prevent them in the future. However, while it may take time for developers to come up with a substantial solution, investors may be reluctant to invest and trust the network in the future. Exchange platforms may also blacklist tokens that may put their investors at risk. Overall, while attacks won't completely wipe out a network and its supporters, they could create shaky ground to build on. Let's discuss this particular kind of attack in the following section.

Sybil Attack in Detail

A Sybil attack is a kind of computer security threat. The name comes from a woman named "Sybil Dorsett" (1923-1998), who was diagnosed with a multiple personality disorder. A Sybil attack happens when enough multiple fake identities or validator nodes are created in a network that can override the honesty of that network. When that happens, the network can deny honest transactions from other participants. In a large-scale Sybil attack, like what the Aptos network went through, a 51% attack can manipulate the transactions in the network by changing the order of transactions or denying transactions, effectively blocking users from the network.

What is Aptos and Its APT Token?

Aptos aims to deliver the world's most safe and secure layer-1 blockchain. Its native token, APT, currently has 130 million tokens in circulation with a max supply that is not yet available. What makes the Aptos network unique from other blockchain networks is its programming language, Move, and its ability to process parallel transactions. Move allows for the Aptos network to process a high number of transactions in a short amount of time without sacrificing security. For comparison, Aptos claims it will process 100,000 transactions per second, while Solana can process 60,000 before the network slows down. Also, Solana suffers system outages regularly due to scalability issues. It's also worth noting that Solana's former head of marketing, Austin Virts, is now in charge of Aptos' ecosystem building.

The Aptos network is a layer-1 network, similar to Ethereum and BNB Smart Chain, which means it can host dapps (decentralized applications). While it's still in development, Aptos boasts significant processing power and scalability that could quickly become a popular network among investors. Furthermore, its PoS consensus mechanism allows users to lock up or stake their tokens to participate in the consensus process.

Aptos' unique programming language, Move, was designed specifically for writing safe smart contracts and would also enable common libraries, tooling, and developer communities.

Challenges in the Network

One challenge that Aptos faces is its lack of transparency in its tokenomics. When Aptos' APT cryptocurrency first launched in early October, it did not include clear information about its total supply, distribution, or issuance rate. Naturally, APT investors were outraged, and the token price plummeted. Later, Aptos revealed APT's tokenomics to rectify its mistake. Despite their efforts for transparency, Aptos was again met by outraged investors once the community discovered that the majority of tokens had been distributed to early investors and the company. In other words, instead of allocating 51% of the tokens to the community via airdrops, rewards, or grants, Aptos distributed most of its tokens to Aptos Labs and Aptos Foundation.

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Proof-of-Stake Consensus

As we've illustrated in our proof-of-stake (PoS) article, this consensus mechanism proves to be time and energy efficient without the network having to sacrifice security or scalability. Furthermore, PoS could be the answer to scalability issues that most layer-1 blockchain networks face. Moreover, as blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption grows, scalability will play a crucial role in attracting potential participants and investors to the network. 

Consensus mechanisms often make it more difficult for hackers to gain control over the network. The more validator nodes in the network, the less likely a 51% attack could occur. Moreover, validators are often "randomly" selected by nodes that stake the most tokens. So, not only would a hacker need to create more validator nodes in the system to override the honest transactions, but they would also have to invest a significant amount of money in order to partake in the consensus process.

Aptos' consensus mechanism, combined with the unique programming language and the investors behind the project, make it a potential candidate to be on the list of "top cryptocurrencies". However, as with all new cryptocurrency projects, only time will tell its success, and with its recent attack on the network giving it a rocky start, Aptos still has a long way to climb.

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How Can a Network Avoid 51% Attacks?

A 51% attack occurs when a malicious participant in the network takes control over the majority of the network. Once the attacker gains control, they can take over the consensus mechanism. That would allow for the validation of multiple dishonest transactions. Taking control of the network allows the attacker to deny or reverse transactions. It also allows changes to the order of transactions. Simply, attackers can manipulate the network in a way that would benefit them. So, how can a network avoid such attacks? Is it possible to completely guard a network against attacks?

The possibility of an attack will always exist as long as malicious participants exist in the world. Blockchain technologies are still developing, and developers are learning from such attacks to build impenetrable networks. In the case of Bitcoin, the network is so large and mature that a 51% attack would require a significant investment. An attack would require heavy and expensive hardware and a ton of energy. Estimates of a 51% attack on Bitcoin are upwards of around $15 billion. That estimate doesn't even include the cost of hardware and energy.

Bitcoin's level of security illustrates the importance of having a strong community network to keep it secure. The more participants there are in a network, the more validator nodes can exist. When there is an overabundance of validator nodes, taking over the majority of the network can become complex and virtually impossible. Furthermore, when the network is still developing and accumulating participants in smaller and newer projects, networks are more prone to attacks, as in the case of Aptos.

The Move Language

Aiming to become "the JavaScript of Web3", the Move language was initially developed for Meta to support its Diem blockchain network. Meta eventually sold the Diem network, including the Move language, to Silvergate. When developers want to write code involving assets, they can use Move to create code safely. Moreover, the main difference in Move from other programming languages is its use of resources drawn from the mathematical idea of linear logic.

Thanks to its static type system, Move allows developers to create custom resource types that can not be replicated or deleted. Further, Move represents Aptos as a resource. Let's explain what that means in more detail below.

Engineers of the Move language aim to fix the blockchain trilemma. In analyzing the programming languages for Bitcoin and Ethereum, they note that assets such as cryptocurrencies are represented as integers. Worried that representing assets as integers could make it error-prone, the engineering team of Move chose to represent Aptos as a resource instead. 

Another key issue in blockchain programming languages that the Move engineers note is the inextensible scarcity. Bitcoin and Ethereum's code protect the scarcity of their respective tokens. The languages are not well-built for creating new assets with scarce qualities. In such a case, developers must create scarcity without the support of a programming language. Move aims to fix that.

A third issue that Move aims to fix is inflexible access control. Most blockchain development languages keep a tight grip regarding access to their main cryptocurrencies. This helps keep ownership and transfers tamper-free. However, it keeps developers from customizing access to other elements of the blockchain. Move seeks to be more versatile and extensible. Further, Move allows developers the flexibility to customize access and make the language more scalable.

Transaction Processing 

Transactions represent the exchange of data within the Aptos network. The Aptos network uses proof to verify the authenticity and accuracy of transactions in the blockchain. Each validator node must have a copy of the latest version of the global state of all accounts to execute any transaction. Anyone can submit a transaction into the network to modify the global state. Moreover, the illustration below depicts Aptos' transaction processing times compared to other blockchain networks.

Exploring Aptos and the APT Token - Conclusion

As a layer-1 blockchain network using PoS (proof-of-stake) consensus, Aptos has the potential to be the fastest network among all blockchains. Theoretically, Aptos provides security and true decentralization. While it currently holds a transaction processing time of 4,200 transactions per second (TPS), Aptos aims to handle significantly more in the near future. If Aptos does achieve its hefty goal of 160,000 transactions per second, it could be a pivotal moment in the history of cryptocurrency. Such scalability in blockchain technology could cause a massive move toward the global adoption of crypto.

The challenge with Aptos, as with many other networks, is maintaining security and decentralization while also providing scalability. Otherwise known as the blockchain trilemma, the issue of scalability, security, and maintaining decentralization has been a continuous challenge. No blockchain network has successfully solved this issue yet.

However, further developments, research, and building within the blockchain and computer programming languages could provide tools to tackle these challenges. Aptos' programming language, Move, aims to alleviate these challenges that developers face.