by Joseph Young
The Ethereum network is still struggling to deal with various DoS and transaction spam attacks that are causing delays for wallet platforms, exchanges, and users, whereby Ethereum may have to undergo another hard fork to solve the issue.
Jeffrey Wilcke, Ethereum co-founder and developer, recently stated:
I've begun work on a Gas Price HF in case that's the route we want to take #ethereum
— JΞFF (@jeffehh) October 7, 2016
To temper the attacks, the ‘gas price’, which is the amount of ether needed to be sent to run a contract on the network, must be adjusted. With some operations underpriced on the network, the attacker has taken advantage of this, making clients engage in more work or money than the ‘gas price’ necessary for the transactions.
A hard fork would fix the problem, but potentially open up lurking issues that developers are as of yet unaware of.
Since the emergence of a high severity out of memory bug that led all geth nodes to crash, the Ethereum network has been the target of increasing DoS attacks, where the attacker is using an array of DoS contracts and capitalizing on the underpriced operations. As a result, the Ethereum development team released a series of Geth and Parity updates to prevent further attacks from affecting the network.
However, Geth releases including “Into the Woods,” “Dear Diary,” and “Come at me Bro,” have all failed to mitigate and prevent the incoming DoS attacks. The inability of the Ethereum development team to deal with rising cases of security issues has made the network comparably inefficient, as exchanges including Kraken, Shapeshift and Bitfinex were forced to release announcements regarding the slow withdrawal and deposit processes of ETH.
Geth release “Dear Diary” was supposed to eliminate the “root cause” of most of the spam attacks that have slowed down the settlement of transactions. Due to the intensity and the sheer volume of the attacks, it is still in a completely one-sided brawl with an anonymous group of attackers.
Peter Szilagyi, an Ethereum developer, stated during an interview that the Ethereum development team has worked to propose a variety of short to long term fixes in order to protect the network from spam attacks, which have caused problems with prominent wallet applications like Mist.
While Szilagyi claims that the current attacks on the Ethereum network are beneficial for both the network and its users in the long run as the offensive makes the network more resilient to future attacks, an ongoing barrage of spam attacks are creating an impractical environment for Ethereum applications and platforms to carry out normal operations.
In theory, it is definitely true that analyzing current attacks and building viable fixes will prevent future cases of security issues and node exploitations. However, these attacks have been ongoing for nearly three weeks and their effect on the network remains as powerful as it was before.
Tuur Demeester, Adamant Research Editor in Chief, believes that such attacks are having a huge impact on the overall efficiency of the Ethereum network. He further noted that the variety of implementations of the Ethereum network will cause even more long-term issues.
“It’s my view that the multiplicity of implementations, in absence of an unambiguous specification, will lead to more problems down the road,” wrote Demeester.
The Ethereum network enables anyone on the network to send smart contracts and transactions at a much faster rate than bitcoin, simply because what it lacks in security is compensated through its higher functionality and scalability.
However, there is a precise reason why Bitcoin Core developers have been collaborating for years to introduce smart contract-based settlement solutions and instantaneous transactions, which is, the importance of maintaining proper security measures while exploring other areas to improve on.
Security must be the priority of any cryptocurrency networks like bitcoin and ethereum. Once the security measures and protocols are proven to be safe, then additional functionalities can be built to enhance flexibility and scalability.
Ethereum has focused on the development of a more flexible network rather than secure, which has ultimately led the team to prepare for yet another hard fork, named EIP 150, to balance gas costs to prevent DoS issues.
Ethereum co-founder and lead developer Vitalik Buterin stated:
“[EIP 150] is currently the leading candidate for a hard fork to rebalance gas costs to resolve remaining DoS issues. There are several proposed versions of the change: the most basic one increases gas costs.”
In the Reddit post, Buterin lays out two variants of this solution, whereby one will be much more effective against the attacks but comes with added complexity in the code required to implement the change. While the previous hard fork precipitated a lot of volatility in ether markets, a potential hard fork this time round is not expected to have much of an impact on the cryptocurrency’s price.
ETH-USD trades around $12.02 on the Kraken exchange at the time of writing.