Major Blockchain Code Edits That Went Bad

Data & Research / 03.05.2021

While many people like to consider blockchain as infallible, the truth is much different. Blockchain
networks require constant updating to remain secure and functioning properly. The slightest code errors
in a smart contract can spell disaster for a blockchain. As you are about to learn, no blockchain is
immune.

Open-Source

It’s impossible to avoid the risk of coding errors completely. However, experts agree that sticking to
open-source projects can help protect you. Open source platforms make their coding available to the
public. This strategy allows the code to be vetted by other developers not associated with the project.
You can even review the code personally if you have the capabilities. Open source projects are more
transparent because you can see all the behind the scene processes as well. In this way, you gain an
added level of security.

Coding Debacles You Would Never Expect

There have been some major code edits made in the blockchain sector to date. Even the world’s first
cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, isn’t without its share of corrections. Here are just a few notable blockchain
code edits that made headlines and a few that should have but managed to stay under the radar.

Binance Code Error Freaks People Out

Binance is the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange in terms of trading volume. The platform
conducts billions in daily trades across hundreds of countries. Recognizing this, it’s easy to see why the
crypto community almost revolted against the platform when it suspended trading for days in February
2018.

The incident became a real fiasco after it extended a previously proposed 24-hour pause to trading.
At first, the developers were very hushed about the exact details. They posted a delay message
contributing the extra wait to “unforeseen slowdowns.” At this time, some big names in the
crypto market began to question if Binance had actually been hacked.

Internet security tycoon and long-time Bitcoinist John McAfee Tweeted the platform directly, asking for
clarification on the situation. In response, Binance’s CEO, Zhao Chengpeng, published a screenshot of
the coding error. He also agreed to provide timely updates on the incident until it that repaired.
Thankfully, Binance sorted everything out eventually, and traders incurred no direct financial losses.

Always Check Your Address

One of the most important aspects of any cryptocurrency is the wallet address. Entering the wallet
address is crucial in your transactions. There is no centralized authority for public blockchains, so
there’s no way to request a refund.

While this situation is great in terms of censorship, it’s horrible when discussing errors. Developers have
gone to great lengths to simplify address inputs to simple 3d barcodes for regular users. However,
developers still need to manually enter or copy and paste their addresses into smart contracts.

In August 2017, the decentralized peer-to-peer blockchain MLS service, REX endured a heart-wrenching
experience due to just such an error. The project was hot off a VC fundraising campaign that secured
$13 million to further develop the network. The developers decided to roll this momentum into a public
ICO.

The plan was solid except for a tiny little mishap. One of the developers entered the wrong Javascript
hex string into the ICO smart contract. This little error resulted in $1.3 million in ETH getting sent to an
inactive address. It essentially burned these coins since they will never return to circulation.
Thankfully, REX used a portion of its VC funding to cover the losses.

Parity Wallet God/SAINT Mode

When a hacker exploits an attack vector on the blockchain, developers must act swiftly to protect the
network. In most instances, this responsiveness results in saved funds. However, there have been cases
where developers introduced a new attack vector attempting to close security flaws.

For example, in 2017, Parity Wallet developers were forced to make blockchain code edits to prevent
further losses after a hacker exploited a vulnerability in the network’s multi-sig wallet coding. The hack
has gone down as one of the biggest in Ethereum’s history. The hacker made off with 150,000 ETH
before developers were able to close the loophole.

The swift response of the developers shut the hacker out but at the same time created a “God Mode” of
sorts. An Ethereum developer by the name of Devops199 realized the vulnerability first when he was
sent the coding. He noted that the coding gave him access to thousands of Parity multi-sig wallets.
Rather than drain the wallets and start a new life in the tropics, Devops199 took the high-road and
deleted the coding to prevent nefarious actors from using it.

However, good intentions don’t always equal good results. The decision to delete this coding had far-reaching effects. The removed coding actually froze all of the funds in those wallets indefinitely. In the
it lost end, $300 million worth of Ethereum forever.

Bitcoin Growing Pains

Most people think of Bitcoin as an unalterable and immutable blockchain. This is the case 99% of the
time, but some coding errors have been so great in scale that developers choose to revert the blockchain to the previous block. While these incidents are few and far between, they highlight that Bitcoin is human-made and requires constant development to ensure its security.

On August 8, 2010, a Bitcoin core developer named Jeff Garzik noticed something rather peculiar about
the value of one of the blocks. The block showed a value of 92 billion Bitcoin. This number was a real
problem considering that there is only 21 million Bitcoin to be minted.

Recognizing the seriousness of the matter, Garzik posted on bitcointalk explaining his discovery. Within
minutes, developers realized that a hacker had managed to exploit a number overflow error in the
coding. Rather than attempt to deal with the ensuing fiasco, Bitcoin Core decided to roll the blockchain
back to the previous block and patch the vector. This move refunded all transactions in the 92 billion
blocks.

Forked Up Hard

Another blockchain coding error that resulted in a reset occurred in March 2013. This incident started
due to an essential upgrade. Specifically, the developers wanted to upgrade from Version 0.7 to Version
0.8.  This code would help address scalability concerns at the time.

Within seconds following the upgrade, it became evident to developers that they had accidentally hard
forked Bitcoin’s blockchain. The new upgrade increased the block size and made the network
incompatible with the current version of Bitcoin. For a few minutes, there were two Bitcoin’s operating
in 2013. The developers quickly decided to roll the blockchain back to version 0.7 to mend the network.

Blockchain Code Edits – It Takes Work to Work

All of these blockchain code edits share one common thread, and it’s vital to have our coding vetted by the
community. Hacking in the blockchain sector is at all-time highs. The slightest coding error in a smart
contract can provide a hacker with enough wiggle room to cost users millions. For these reasons, it’s
critical to recognize the hard work, research, and upkeep that makes blockchain possible.

David Hamilton aka DavidtheWriter is a long time Bitcoinist and cryptocurrency journalist. Currently, he has over a thousand articles published on blockchain technology. His expertise and experience makes him one of the most reputable writers in the sector.