Late last night something went horribly wrong somewhere in the darkness of Bitcoin’s deepest mining wells. A rig drilling for bitcoins incorrectly validated a bad block spawning the creation of a secondary bitcoin blockchain chock-full of fake bitcoins.
These vapor coins are worthless and will never become “real bitcoins”, yet many hard working miners are still furiously drilling away on the wrong chain, collecting bushel baskets full of unspendable play tokens. According to a red alert notice posted today on Bitcoin.org, the currency’s official website, mining losses thus far have reached into the five figures.
Note that the roughly 50% of the network that was SPV mining had explicitly indicated that they would enforce the BIP66 rules. By not doing so, several large miners have lost over $50,000 dollars worth of mining income so far.
The message also warns that a double spend window has opened whereby an attacker could potentially spend 1 bitcoin on both chains thereby doubling its value. To make sure you don’t fall victim to this exploit, you are encouraged to wait for at least 30 confirmations before considering a payment valid.
Web wallet users should wait an additional 30 confirmations more than you would normally wait, unless you know for sure that your wallet is secured by Bitcoin Core 0.9.5 or later.
Luckily, Bitcoin’s core development team noticed the situation early and was able to track down a living alert key holder. An alert key is a secret key that allows its owner to broadcast security alerts and update notices to every bitcoin client.
This is the first time the alert system has been used since April, 2014. Gavin’s recent departure left Bitcoin’s core team without a working key. You can continue monitoring this emergency situation live at Bitcoin.org .
Do you think at least one core developer should have a working alert key? Can Bitcoin survive its latest meltdown? Log in below using your favorite network to weigh in on the discussion.