Bitcoin Core Developer Cory Fields Revealed as Finder of Vulnerability in Bitcoin Cash Consensus

Cory Fields finally revealed his identity as the finder of a consensus vulnerability, which was publicly disclosed by Bitcoin ABC in May 2018.

A vulnerability in the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) consensus that could have fatally harmed the network was found and pointed out by Bitcoin Core developer Cory Fields. He went on to share the debacle in a lengthy blog post, once again stirring the debate of responsible disclosure in open source projects.

“On April 25, 2018, I anonymously and privately disclosed a critical vulnerability in Bitcoin Cash, one of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrencies — not to be confused with Bitcoin. A successful exploit of this vulnerability could have been so disruptive that transacting Bitcoin Cash safely would no longer be possible, completely undermining the utility (and thus the value) of the currency itself,” Fields announced.

The problems with the bug was that it allowed for a material exploitation of the Bitcoin Cash network, and Fields was worried if he disclosed the bug and someone exploited it soon afterwards, he could be blamed for the attack. This raised the issue of a mechanism of responsible disclosure and the containment of fatal flows in rapidly developing protocols.

The vulnerability discovered by Fields could be called a “chain-splitting bug”. Because of an omitted check in transaction verification, users of different versions of the code could find themselves on two incompatible chains. Depending on how the versions were distributed among nodes and users, achieving consensus again and agreeing on which transactions are valid could be highly complex, or downright impossible. The exploit could have split Bitcoin Cash into two networks, in effect destroying the coin’s value, believes Fields.

Fields works at the Digital Currencies Initiative at MIT Labs, and his main work is focused on Bitcoin Core development. His disclosure led to further criticism of the Bitcoin Cash project, which according to some has been developing too fast. Recently, the Bitcoin ABC team announced the upcoming release of updates, to be included in a planned November hard fork.

The BCH market price remains depressed, down more than 16% this week, to under $600 on Friday. At the moment, more than 61% of all BCH trades happen against Tether (USDT), indicating speculative trading and an expectation for a further slide in prices.

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