According to a paper published on August 5 by researchers at The Hebrew University, the mining pool has been conducting a "consensus-level" attack on Ethereum for the past two years in order to gain an advantage over "honest" miners.

On Twitter, Wang responded, "we respect the *consensus* as is," implying that intentionally exploiting the system's rules does not always imply that rules have been broken.

Earlier this week, the researchers published what they claim is the first proof of a "consensus-level attack" on Ethereum, in which miners like F2Pool discovered a way to manipulate block timestamps to consistently receive higher mining rewards than when mining "honestly."

The research paper was written by cryptocurrency lecturer Aviv Yaish, software algorithm developer Gilad Stern, and computer scientist Aviv Zohar, claiming that the Ethereum mining pool F2Pool was one of the miners who used this timestamp manipulation strategy.

"While most mining pools produce relatively inconspicuous-looking blocks, F2Pool flagrantly disregards the rules and uses false timestamps for its blocks," Yaish explained, adding that the mining pool has been carrying out the attack for the past two years.

Wang also appeared to admit to Yaish's evidence, indicating that the timestamp manipulation was done on purpose.

F2Pool is a mining pool that is geographically distributed and primarily mines blocks on the Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin networks.

How the attack works

According to the researchers, Ethereum's existing proof-of-work (POW) consensus mechanism contains a vulnerability that gives miners a "certain degree of freedom" when setting timestamps, allowing for the creation of false timestamps.

"For instance, a miner can begin mining a block right now but set the block's timestamp to be 5 seconds in the past or 10 seconds in the future." According to Ethereum's consensus laws, the block is valid as long as this timestamp is within a reasonable bound."

The ability to generate these false timestamps gives miners an advantage in a "tie-breaking" scenario because a miner can replace another miner's block of the same block height by lowering the timestamp low enough to increase the mining difficulty of the block.

This vulnerability may be addressed after Ethereum switches to proof-of-stake (POS) following the upcoming Merge on September 19, which employs a different set of consensus rules.

"Moving Ethereum's consensus mechanism to proof-of-stake (PoS) is an obvious mitigation technique that will solve both this attack and any other PoW-related one."

"Other solutions that may be smaller in scope and thus easier to implement adopting better fork-choosing rules, using reliable timestamps, or avoiding the use of timestamps for difficulty adjustments entirely," the researchers added.


Brayden Lindrea

Aug 9, 2022
Crypto News

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