06.12.2021

Ethereum blockchain is facing a massive disruption. What caused the network split?

The main component of the blockchain is the nodes. They keep copies of all transactions of a certain cryptocurrency and check the validity of new transfers, thus ensuring the security of digital coin networks.

Sometimes failures occur in their work, which can lead to financial losses of network participants and even the formation of a new blockchain. A similar incident happened on the Ethereum network last night.

First, a little clarification. Blockchain splits or so-called splits must be distinguished from hard forks. The main difference between the former is the unintentional nature of the network participants, which nevertheless sometimes ends in failure. That is, the block chain is split into two, but this is not done on purpose.

The consequences of separation can be severe. First of all, transactions carried out on the non-main network will not be synchronized with the main network, which means that users may have problems with their own crypto assets.

That is why, during splits, experts recommend not to carry out transactions and refrain from activity in the blockchain as a whole. Yesterday, such advice was given by André Cronier, a famous developer who created one of the most popular projects in the field of decentralized finance called Yearn Finance. Here’s a quote from him on Twitter.

Refrain from conducting transactions until the situation is clarified, unless you are sure that you are working with the latest version of the Geth client. Take a walk – we all need it.

Splits themselves on the Ethereum network are not the first time. The blockchain also crashed in November 2020. Read more about the situation in a separate article.

Fortunately, this time the situation ended painlessly.

Why did the Ethereum split come about?

Unlike Bitcoin, where the vast majority of network participants use Bitcoin Core to power the blockchain, Ethereum has many clients. These are Geth, Openethereum, erigon, nethermind, besu and others.

We have checked the latest data: Geth is the most popular customer of the Eth network. At the moment it is used by 74.6 percent of network participants.

Ethereum cryptocurrency clients

Ethereum Clients Popularity

It was he who caused the problems in the cryptocurrency blockchain. On August 18, Geth developers found a vulnerability in their own software. The project representatives did not disclose the details of the bug, but they asked other network members to prepare for a quick update to version 1.10.8, which was released on August 24.

This was announced on the official Twitter of the project.

After the release of the new version of the software, the representative of the Ethereum team, Peter Siladyi, noted that “a possible vector of an attack on network participants will be disclosed later.” Thus, the network participants will have time to update, which in turn will reduce the risks for the blockchain.

However, two unexpected events occurred here. Firstly, many node holders for some reason ignored the release of the update and did not update their clients. According to sources, at the time of the split, only 30 percent of the client’s users had upgraded to the latest version of Geth.

We have checked the actual data. According to Ethernodes, today the figure is 45.2 percent.

Ethereum cryptocurrency clients

Ethereum versions of the Geth client

Secondly, an unknown ill-wisher has studied the updated version of Geth and found a bug in the old program. After discovering the problem, he decided to take advantage of it to create problems for the Ethereum network.

The attack was carried out by this address, and the transaction itself in the blockchain is displayed in the tab of all transfers.

Ethereum blockchain cryptocurrency

Attacker Transaction on Ethereum Blockchain

The Geth developers allowed this scenario, but they hoped that users would quickly update clients and thus reduce the likelihood of an attack to naught .

Let’s clarify again: the details of the attack are unknown, and the hacker discovered the weak point of the old versions of the program on his own. If the owners of the nodes were updated faster and at once, then there would be no split.

The information was confirmed by Geth developer Marius Van der Weyden. Here’s a quote from Coindesk.

I knew that someone would find a bug sooner or later. But I was just hoping more people would update in time.

As a result, after the attack, the cryptocurrency network split. This was also facilitated by the miners Flexpool, BTC-com and Binance, who used an outdated version of the client. Note that 2Miners mining pool updated Geth on time.

Ethereum statistics

Ethereum network statistics

In the end, it all boiled down to ensuring that network members quickly update to the correct version of the client. As noted by the developer of the Ethereum Foundation, Tim Beiko, team representatives personally contacted the employees of the BTC-com and Binance pools.

BTC-com has already been updated and Binance is in the process of updating.

As a result, the problem was eliminated. At the moment, the Ethereum network is working normally, and blocks are being created as usual.

Ethereum blocks cryptocurrency

The last blocks in the Ethereum network

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