In this week’s episode, CoinDesk’s Christine Kim and Consensys’ Ben Edgington discuss mounting concerns over the potential for block reorganizations on Ethereum. They also discuss the lack of supply growth in the world’s largest stablecoin, tether (USDT), and the annual Ethereum conference in Paris, France, EthCC.
Time bandit attacks are a Miner/Maximal Extrable Value (MEV) strategy involving the reorganization of past blocks. If the reward is great enough, Ethereum miners may be incentivized to propose competing blocks containing altered transactions at the expense of users and other network stakeholders.
Edgington highlighted the negative effects these attacks would have on the network, saying, “You think your transaction is confirmed and then suddenly it goes away, and it may or may not be included in the next block. So it breaks user experience to a certain extent, and is not really good for the stability of the blockchain.”
Luckily, these types of network attacks are difficult to pull off. Kim said miners would need to “split the network” using vast amounts of computational power, also called hash power, in order to have their version of transaction history rewrite the main Ethereum chain.
Miners would need approximately 40% of total network hash power in order to reliably utilize a time bandit attack. This is an exceptionally difficult task, especially in a zero-sum game where miners are competing with each other for block rewards. However, in light of the fact all Ethereum miners will need to retire as the network upgrades to a proof-of-stake consensus protocol, certain miners may not be so resistant to collusion for short-term profit.
Early attempts to create an open-source application that facilitates time bandit attacks on Ethereum were met with backlash last week on social media. The negative community response to “open exploration” exposing the root of this issue on the network in Edgington’s eyes sets a bad precedent for transparent discussion about the ways Ethereum needs improvement.
This kind of reaction “discourages people from coming forward with creative ideas or speaking up about things and turns gray hats into black hats, which is not what we want,” Edgington said.
To listen to the full conversation between Kim and Edgington, check out this week’s episode of “Mapping Out Eth 2.0.”