The seeming invulnerability of the blockchain concept has long been a major selling point of cryptocurrency, so investors were rightly concerned by the discovery of a potential vulnerability for Ethereum. That weakness could not have come at a worse time since the latest hard fork in the Ethereum cryptocurrency is looming just over the horizon.
The problem started with the release of the latest Geth software in conjunction with the upcoming Byzantium hard fork. That software release had barely taken place when a recall was necessary because of a vulnerability that would have left Ethereum open to denial of service (DoS) attacks.
When they discovered the bug, Geth developers immediately pushed out a new software release, but that was not the end of the problem. That is because the software currently has quite a low adoption rate, with less than 2% of Geth nodes applying the update.
That could turn out to be a massive problem for the Ethereum marketplace since Geth is responsible for some three-quarters of the cryptocurrency’s nodes. That could leave a significant portion of the Ethereum blockchain vulnerable to denial of service attacks once the latest hard fork has taken place.
In a worst-case scenario, hackers could exploit the vulnerability by planting malicious code, taking down vulnerable Ethereum nodes and putting the future of the popular cryptocurrency at risk. The fact that Geth acted so quickly gives investors reason for hope, but the very existence of the previously unreported probability should also give them pause.
The new release in question was the fourth iteration of the software that will ultimately govern the hard fork. This fourth version was designed to correct a so-called consensus bug, an error that could cause the network to partition off during the hard fork process.
The adoption rate for other clients is nearly as bad as that of the most significant player. As of this writing, fewer than 20% of the nodes have updated their software to the latest release, potentially making the previous vulnerability even worse. Hard forks are always risky, and the uncertainty surrounding this newest update to Ethereum has been particularly strong. Even so, many Ethereum watchers had convinced themselves that the latest hard fork would go off without a hitch.
Thanks to the discovery of a potentially devastating DoS vulnerability, that certainty is now in doubt. In the end, only time will tell what happens with the latest hard fork, but one thing is sure: everyone in the Ethereum marketplace will be watching closely to see if the potential vulnerability is a huge problem or just a minor blip on the radar.