- Ethereum network experienced an unannounced hard fork.
- The developers confirmed that they were working on a critical bug.
Sudden technical issues of Ethereum infrastructure provider Infura spooked the cryptocurrency community on Wednesday. Numerous trading platforms and wallet service providers, including Binance and MetaMask, were forced to suspend ETH deposits and withdrawals, citing price updates. Read more details here.
The mystery explained
While Infura has been investigating the issue and figuring out how to fix it, Peter Szilagyi, the team leader of Ethereum developers, confirmed that the network experienced an unannounced fork in his Twitter account. The team has been working silently on a dormant bug, and the resultant update triggered from a buggy chain to a good one.
Technically you are correct that it was an "unannounced hard fork" (from a bad chain to the good one). That said, silently fixing a bug dormant for 2+ years has a much lower chance of causing a disruption than raising awareness to it. We strive to minimize potential damage.— Péter Szilágyi (@peter_szilagyi) November 11, 2020
The developer explained that the damage from raising awareness to a bug that had been dormant for over two years might have been much more significant.
Unexpected fork, unexpected errors
Meanwhile, Nikita Zhavorinkov, the lead developer from Blockchair, explained that the code change silently introduced by ETH developers split the chain starting from block 11234873. Those nodes that failed to upgrade on time got stuck in a minority chain. Blockchair, Infura, and some miners were among them.
(1/2) Ok, so what happened today on #Ethereum:— Nikita Zhavoronkov (@nikzh) November 11, 2020
1. At some point Ethereum developers introduced a change in the code that led today to a chain split starting from block 11234873 (07:08 UTC)
2. Those who haven’t upgraded (@Blockchair, @infura_io, some miners, and many others)… pic.twitter.com/mbRYFU5tgn
Zhavorinkov also added that the consensus failure should not be taken lightly as it is the most severe issue Ethereum has faced since the DAO debacle four years ago.
But Ethereum is not the only one. Monero developer Riccardo Spagni confessed that his team has been doing the same thing on many occasions, secretly fixing bugs and not disclosing the issues for fear they can be exploited before the fix is ready.