Ethereum’s ‘Unannounced Hard Fork’ Was Trying to Prevent the Very Disruption It Caused – CoinDesk

by crypto journalist

The two conflicting transaction histories meant Etheruem users were temporarily interacting with different versions of the Ethereum blockchain. More than causing delays, this put user funds at risk by knocking out the majority of Ethereum’s DeFi applications for a few hours.

Infura has fixed the issue, as have other service providers who were affected by the snafu, by updating their nodes. These stakeholders were running an older version of Geth, which contained a bug that Ethereum developers silently patched in recent update – an update which Infura and Blockchair, among others, ignored. 

“The Geth team indeed changed the consensus implementation in the v1.9.17 release, however the team did not create any new rules that the Ethereum community didn’t know about or agree to,” Szilágyi writes in the post, saying these rules were laid out in an Ethereum Improvement Proposal three years ago.

It’s because the downtime meant that users staking Ethereum in Keep Network couldn’t coordinate with the Ethereum mainchain; as a result, they risked having part of their stakes “slashed” for not meeting their fiduciary requirements.

Despite the problems the split caused, prices for ether, the Ethereum blockchain’s native cryptocurrency, rose 4.6% Wednesday after the news emerged, suggesting that traders see little systemic or long-term threat from the snafu.

Zhavoronkov said that the mess-up was not malicious, but that “if [Geth] knew such thing could happen, they should’ve prepared a guide for node operators.” Luongo shared similar frustrations, saying that the Geth team are “good developers” but that they lack “experience running infrastructure” and are “underfunded.”

The comments key in on a frustration some Ethereum stakeholders share pertaining to why Geth kept the consensus change a secret. Going further, why did Infura, the backbone of Ethereum’s decentralized finance ecosystem, among others, not know about a consensus-breaking bug in Ethereum’s code before it was triggered?

“In the case of Ethereum, it takes a lot of time (weeks, months) to get node operators to update even to a scheduled hard fork. Highlighting that a release contains important consensus or DoS fixes always runs the risk of someone trying to beat updaters to the punch line and taking the network down. Security via obscurity is definitely not something to aim for, but delaying a potential attack by enough to get most node operators immune may be worth the temporary ‘hit’ to transparency,” he continued.

“The most important thing here IMO is that the folks who made this call are transparent about the reasoning, own any mistakes, and grow,” Luongo said. “Monero has dealt with [consensus bugs] well in the past, as has Bitcoin and Zcash. There are many examples, and while it’s always tricky to coordinate across an industry, eschewing any sort of coordination is extremely dangerous. 

Update 00:36 UTC This article has been updated to better convey that the “hard fork” was not a deliberate code change, but a chain split which was triggered by the consensus bug that Ethereum developers quietly patched in the Geth v1.9.17 release.

This content was originally published here.

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