On April 24, the first major event occurred on the Ethereum 2.0 network. An error was found in the software client Prysm, which prevented approximately 70% of validators on the network from generating blocks.
As a background, there are four main Ethereum 2.0 software clients: Prysm, Teku, Lighthouse, and Nimbus. In order to become a validator and get rewards on the network, users must download and run one of these software clients on other computer devices.
Last Saturday, the Ethereum 2.0 software client Prysm failed to correctly obtain data from the Ethereum blockchain, causing all validators running the Prysm client to miss the block reward.
Prysmatic Labs, the development team behind Prysm, said on Twitter that the incident caused a loss of approximately 15 ETH.
In this process, no verification procedures will be cut, which means that users will not be forcibly removed from the network due to malicious behavior. The damage is limited to the missed validator rewards
The accident lasted about two hours and missed 403 blocks. Since then, the Prysmatic Labs team has released a new version of the software and fixed this vulnerability. In the Discord message of Raul Jordan, the lead developer of Prysmatic Labs, he emphasized that all users running Prysm should update their software “immediately.”
Jordan said, “If we don’t have the highest confidence in the solution, we will neither issue an announcement nor a patch.”
Any Prysm validator who has not upgraded to the latest version is at risk of losing network rewards. Although the impact of the vulnerability was most widespread on April 24, it appeared on a smaller scale as early as January 20 and most recently, April 25.
For all Ethereum 2.0 validators that are not running the Prysm client software, no action is required. CoinDesk’s validator (nicknamed “Zelda”) runs on the Lighthouse client software. As a result, we found that the daily verification operations and rewards have hardly changed.
Teku developer Ben Edgington said that one of the biggest lessons from Saturday’s incident is that “everyone should take the diversity of the client seriously.” It is difficult to predict when and how another vulnerability in the Ethereum 2.0 client software will be discovered. But what can be controlled is the degree of damage.
By reducing the percentage of running Prysm client verifiers from 70% and increasing the use of other Ethereum 2.0 clients, you can ensure that verifiers and developers can ensure that these types of vulnerabilities only affect a few users on the network.
Edgington said: “If you are running most clients (now happens to be Prysm), then this is your call to action!”
New field: merged ETH2.0
On Friday, April 23, Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, gave a speech on the development roadmap of Ethereum after merging into Proof of Stake (PoS) at the Ethereum Expansion Summit.
In his speech, Buterin outlined a grand 3-5 year plan to upgrade and optimize Ethereum, even after the network has completely transitioned to an environmentally friendly and energy-saving PoS protocol.
Here are some highlights:
Clean up after merge
Developers currently estimate that the merger will be initiated at the end of this year or early next year through a backwards-incompatible system-level upgrade (also known as a “hard fork”).
Buterin described the need for a “post-merger cleanup (hard) fork” shortly after the code was released.
“Its functions are not very complete and not very attractive, but the clean-up work must be done. Once the accelerated merger is completed, the technical debt must be repaid.”
As the time to activate PoS on Ethereum has been accelerated, developers have ignored the problems of redundancy and network inefficiency in order to launch upgrades faster, in order to speed up the upgrade.
Once the merger is completed and the network is stable, the clean up hard fork after the merger will solve the unnecessary legacy functions in the hybrid Proof of Work (PoW) and PoS model. It will also provide long-awaited new features for validators on Ethereum 2.0, such as the ability to withdraw and transfer its ETH.
Sharding and Rollup
Next is another long-awaited feature of Ethereum: sharding.
By dividing its database into 64 new mini-blockchains, sharding expands Ethereum’s ability to process transactions. These micro-blockchains or “shards” can process transactions and data in parallel. In addition to sharding, rollup can also compress multiple transactions and reduce the transaction volume on any shard.
With 64 shards processing Ethereum transactions at the same time, each shard uses rollup technology to further optimize the speed at which these transactions are written to the block, which is expected to solve the problem of high fees and network congestion in the long-term.
Due to the potential dangers and risks associated with Ethereum’s “most promising strategy” for long-term scalability, Buterin emphasized the need for it as a separate upgrade for all other products.
Buterin said, “We don’t want to do all potentially dangerous things at the same time. You want to do the first one (the merger of Ethereum and PoS), and then do the other so that developers can focus and focus.”
In the case of simultaneous implementation of PoS and sharding, the next step is to make further adjustments to enhance the security of the Ethereum protocol. This includes adding anonymity functions to conceal the identity of validators after block proposals. It also includes the use of new technologies such as the Verifiable Delay Function (VDF) to further ensure the randomness of assigning verifier responsibilities, making it more difficult for malicious actors to disrupt the network.
Statelessness and status lapse
After improving the stability of Ethereum’s PoS protocol and sharding, Buterin suspects that developers will begin to deal with “mid-term” agenda items. I think the most important of these is the status of Ethereum.
The state of Ethereum keeps all Ethereum accounts, their data and transaction history. With the deployment of new user accounts and smart contracts on Ethereum, the state of Ethereum is getting larger and larger. According to Buterin’s estimates, the size of the state grows by approximately 30GB per year. With the increase of the latest gas limit, it grows even faster, possibly reaching about 35GB per year.
Ideally, anyone should be able to start their own computer (also called a node) and verify the transaction history of Ethereum. The more independent nodes in operation, the more decentralized and safe the blockchain network. The growth status of Ethereum makes it more time-consuming and resource-intensive for ordinary users to start their own nodes.
In addition, large databases that take longer and longer to verify are also more susceptible to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The purpose of this attack is to use the limited resource capacity of the network and make use of more data that cannot be processed. The network is overwhelmed.
For all these reasons and more, developers are working on solutions to the problem of Ethereum’s state scale. A solution called “statelessness” suggests the creation of two different Ethereum node categories. Some will not have any responsibility for storing state data, while others will be responsible for storing all data. Another solution is called “state invalidation”. It is recommended to reduce the state scale by archiving part of the state of Ethereum for more than one year.
Buterin said, “It sounds crazy, but it’s actually easier to do both at the same time than just stateless or state expiration. It’s interesting. So this is a big project. It does have quite a few Complexity, but it has great value and potential and can bring some important benefits to the ecosystem.”
More large projects
Casper CBC, SNARKs and Quantum resistance. The list goes on. Although it sounds broad, it seems to take many years to complete.
Even if PoS is successfully activated, Ethereum still has a long way to go before it enters the “maintenance mode” and reaches the same level of protocol stability currently maintained by the Bitcoin network.
The main takeaway from the newly updated roadmap for Ethereum development is that the transition to PoS is only the beginning. This is the starting point, not the end, and there are more important protocol level changes on the network.
Author/ Translator: Jamie Kim
Bio: Jamie Kim is a technology journalist. Raised in Hong Kong and always vocal at heart. She aims to share her expertise with the readers at blockreview.net. Kim is a Bitcoin maximalist who believes with unwavering conviction that Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency – in fact, currency – worth caring about.