Ethereum, gnawed from the inside – On November 11th, Ethereum learned, at its own expense, the risks of relying on a centralised service. Service provider Infura went offline due to a bad update, which led to an unexpected hard fork on the Ethereum blockchain.
A “surprise” hard fork
You have probably already seen on social networks that Ethereum had encountered a major problem on November 11th.
The developer employed by Blockchair, Nikita Zhavoronkov, published a Twitter thread retracing the various events that led to this famous surprise hard fork by Ethereum.
In fact, Ethereum’s developers solved a bug that had been dormant for 2 years that affected the Geth client (the most widely used on the Ethereum network). To fix this old and cumbersome bug, they had to make available an update for Ethereum customers.
However, many service providers did not perform the update to the new version, which led to the creation of a parallel chain. Thus the surprise hard fork took place at block 11234873 of the Ethereum chain.
ETC Ethereum classic fork
According to Nikita Zhavoronkov, this failure of consensus should not be underestimated. He even goes so far as to compare this unfortunate event to the historic catastrophe of the DAO hack, which occurred in 2016 :
“In my opinion, the failure of today’s consensus on Ethereum should not be underestimated and should be considered the most serious problem Ethereum has faced since the DAO debacle four years ago. An investigation is currently underway. »
The developers have since fixed the bug and everything is back to normal. Nevertheless, this has not prevented Ethereum’s detractors from taking the lead.
Blessed bread for detractors
Following the incident (which has already been resolved), messages have multiplied on Twitter to question Ethereum’s security and its dependence on third party services, such as Infura, which has now been taken out of service. Infura in fact serves as a gateway for a significant part of the network actors to access the data of the Ethereum blockchain – without having to operate a complete node on their side.
Nevertheless, the problem of the potential dependence of the Ethereum network on Infura is nothing new in the crypto debate. Already in 2018, Gregory wrote an article on this subject, which warned of the importance that Infura was already assuming within the Ethereum ecosystem.
Although practical, the fact that many of the Ethereum protocols rely on Infura makes it a potential single point of failure, which can occasionally weaken the entire network.
Unfortunately, this debate has been going on for many years now. And if it is sometimes difficult to discern the true from the false in the midst of the various chapel quarrels, it is clear that yesterday’s episode raises questions, and with good reason. To be continued!