BitMEX Launches Research Site, Finds Potential Bug In Ethereum Parity Full Node

Despite being “several hundred thousand blocks” behind the Ethereum blockchain tip, the Parity full node is reporting to be in sync at least some of the time.

The Hong Kong-based bitcoin futures exchange BitMEX has announced the launch of its research department’s new website, Nodestats.org, meant to provide data analysis related to the “computational resources each Ethereum node requires.” Although the research site has only been collecting data for Ethereum node client implementations Parity and Geth since the beginning of March, BitMEX is reporting a potential bug found in the syncing of the Parity full node with the Ethereum blockchain.

Developed in collaboration with blockchain analysis firm TokenAnalyst, Nodestats highlights key data for Parity and Geth clients, comparing different node configuration requirements related to CPU usage, memory, bandwidth, and storage space. The site is connected to five different Ethereum nodes, collecting updated data every five seconds before then displaying the rolling averages.

While the site collects data for Parity and Geth, BitMEX’s announcement focuses on the information that is already being gathered for Parity. According to BitMEX, the Parity full node has still not completely synced with the Ethereum blockchain and is about 450,000 blocks behind the blockchain’s tip. At the moment, the slow sync isn’t necessarily an issue. BitMEX states:

“[B]ased on its current trajectory, it should catch up with the main chain tip in a few days. … While the slow initial sync is a potential problem, at least for this system setup, Ethereum has not yet reached a point where the node cannot catch up, as the synch is faster than the rate of blockchain growth.”

However, despite the fact that the Parity node is 450,000 blocks behind the Ethereum blockchain tip, BitMEX’s researchers are finding an irregularity in how much of the blockchain the Parity node is reporting to be synced with. According to BitMEX, Nodestats “reports that the node is fully synced 0.02% of the time, indicating the node falsely thought it was at the tip for some periods of time.”

BitMEX clarifies that Nodestats is “very much a work in progress,” and that the “‘% of time in sync’ metric may not be reliable,” but the exchange does note that the potential Parity bug could be a concern for Ethereum users. While highly unlikely, BitMEX explains that the bug could be exploited by a bad actor double-spending at the block the vulnerable node wrongly thought was the chain tip and capitalizing on the non-tip block’s lower proof-of-work requirement.

At the very least, BitMEX states the early analysis indicates initial sync issues may be a greater concern for the Ethereum network, rather than post-sync issues like block propagation. Nodestats itself is set to receive multiple features as the site grows. According to the announcement, throughout the coming months, BitMEX and TokenAnalyst will add charts and tools for analyzing longer-term trends, create fork detection systems, and develop calculation methodologies to make the site less reliant on what nodes are reporting.

Nicholas Ruggieri studied English with an emphasis in creative writing at the University of Nevada, Reno. When he’s not quoting Vines at anyone who’s willing to listen, you’ll find him listening to too many podcasts, reading too many books, and crocheting too many sweaters for his dogs, RT and Peterman.

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