Bitcoin just misses major exploit – are alts next?
A bug has just been fixed that could have crashed older versions of Bitcoin Core, potentially bringing the network to its knees.
Bitcoin Core 0.16.3 was released on 18 September, patching a bug that could have caused mayhem for bitcoin. The update reads:
Security issue CVE-2018-17144: it was discovered that older versions of Bitcoin Core will crash if they try to process a block containing a transaction that attempts to spend the same input twice. Such blocks are invalid, so they can only be created by a miner willing to sacrifice their allowed income for creating a block of at least 12.5 BTC (about $80,000 USD as of this writing). This release eliminates the crash, allowing the software to quietly reject such invalid blocks.
This is pretty concerning. By sacrificing a block of coins, a rogue miner could have badly disrupted the network by preventing transactions from completing. The cost of that to the miner would have been around $80,000. That is not a large amount of money to destroy billions of dollars of value, which is what would have happened in the event of an exploit: traders would have sold immediately, crashing the market.
In fact, a smart miner could have taken out a leveraged short position on BitMEX, then attacked the network and made many, many times his ‘investment’ back.
For now, we can breathe a sigh of relief. Two problems remain:
- This was a zero-day exploit that could have destroyed Bitcoin’s utility and crushed its price. It was spotted before harm was done – this time. This particular problem was introduced back in 2017 and quietly sat there for 18 months before it was noticed. Are there other serious exploits that could be discovered by less benign researchers?
- Many alts are based on Bitcoin’s code. The same vulnerability is likely present in a large number of them – and now it’s publicly known. Expect an attack on any major alt that doesn’t hustle to fix it really fast.
Please update your nodes to 0.16.3 as soon as possible!
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