Parity Team Publishes Postmortem on $160 Million Ether Freeze

Parity has released new details on how a critical code flaw resulted in the freezing of $160 million worth of ether.

AccessTimeIconNov 15, 2017 at 3:05 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 11, 2022 at 7:36 p.m. UTC

The team behind the Parity ethereum software client has released new details on how a critical code flaw resulted in the freezing of $160 million worth of ether.

As it stands, there remains no immediate solution to renewing access to those funds – a situation which Parity acknowledged has caused "distress and anxiety" within the community. According to the post, there is "no timeline" for the release of the locked-up ETH – a move which may require a platform-wide upgrade to restore functionality to the more than 500 affected wallets.

The hack, which saw the "accidental" deletion of the code library which supports Parity's multi-signature wallets (those that require multiple keys to issue transactions), was due to an oversight in the wallet code, the blog post states. While the risk was identified on Github back in August, it was misinterpreted by the Parity team, and no action was taken to further secure the wallets.

As for the process of finding a solution, Parity said that it would work on ethereum improvement protocols that might offer a way to bring back access. Following the attack, discussion has been circulating as to whether updating the code to unwind the problem would constitute a "bail-out" akin to the DAO controversy from last year.

Regarding the potential release of the locked millions, Parity says it intends to "follow the will of the community" in deploying the code fixes.

The team explained:

"Parity Technologies will handle much of the development work around these proposals and work constructively with the Ethereum Foundation team and the community towards further protocol layer development."

Going forward, Parity argued that "more extensive and formal procedures" are necessary for contract security, which applies not only to Parity, but is relevant to the entire ethereum platform.

Last week's developments impacted as many as 584 wallets, according to Parity's tracker website. Some of these belonged to high-profile startups, including Parity founder Gavin Wood's Polkadot, which had $98 million in ether frozen in the attack.

To prevent any additional problems, Parity said it removed the ability for users to deploy multi-sig wallets "until we feel we have the correct security and operations procedures in place."

Frozen branch image via Shutterstock


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