On May 15, Stellar's blockchain went offline for approximately two hours due to a “cascading failure”. Surprisingly, almost no one noticed.
On May 15, Stellar’s blockchain went offline for approximately two hours due to a “cascading failure”. Surprisingly, almost no one noticed.
Breaking: yesterday the Stellar network went down for about 2 hours… only those who run validators noticed it.
no new transactions were added for ~2 hours.
— Tim Swanson (@ofnumbers) May 16, 2019
Post Oak Labs head of research Tim Swanson was among who did. Naturally, he tweeted:
“What basically happened was that a critical mass of nodes went down causing a cascading failure and so the entire network went down but because it isn’t frequently used, few noticed.”
At around the same time, a representative of the Stellar Foundation took to Reddit to confirm the blackout. Currently, the blockchain is operating at normal pace.
A full explanation of what happened and why it happened is available here.
“The halt wasn’t because Stellar’s Consensus Protocol failed — in fact, it worked as intended. For a system like Stellar, a temporary halt is preferable to the permanent confusion of a fork. But yesterday shows that Stellar needs better tooling around uptime. […] In retrospect, some new nodes took on too much consensus responsibility too soon.”
Alternatively, cybersecurity experts cite Stellar’s dependancy on the limited number of transaction validators participating in the network.
“[…] if two centralized nodes can not receive or send any message because of DDoS, then all nodes in Stellar network wull be blocked and can not move to the next step in the consensus process,” the paper reads.
Stanford professor and chief Stellar scientist David Mazieres said that he is aware of the problem and the network’s decentralization issues. He wrote a blog post sharing his point of view an excerpt of which reads:
“To the extent that Stellar is centralized, the question is whether the validators at the center of the network actually reflect the most important anchors and exchanges,” he wrote in a blog post. “This is currently a weak spot in the Stellar ecosystem.”
Thankfully, the outage did not result in financial losses. Indeed, Stellar pointed out that the network was never in danger of being hacked. Despite that network’s inactiveness, no user funds were stolen.
“At 1:14pm Pacific time, May 15th, the Stellar network halted for 67 minutes due to an inability to reach consensus. During that time no ledgers were closed and no transactions were processed — basically, Stellar stopped.”