Marathon Digital mines invalid block due to bug

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Even the largest min­ers and min­ing pools can occa­sion­al­ly make mis­takes, as evi­denced by Marathon Digital’s error ear­ly Wednes­day morning.

The pub­licly trad­ed com­pa­ny mined an invalid block. This means that Marathon sub­mit­ted a block — which is made up of 2,000 trans­ac­tions on aver­age — that the rest of the net­work reject­ed because it didn’t align with com­mon protocol. 

If the oth­er nodes on the net­work detect an invalid trans­ac­tion with­in the block, they can come togeth­er to reject using the con­sen­sus mech­a­nism built into Bitcoin. 

Jame­son Lopp, a bit­coin engi­neer and chief tech­nol­o­gy offi­cer and co-founder of Casa, told Block­works that Marathon min­ing an incor­rect block doesn’t present a prob­lem for the net­work. It’s more just a mat­ter of for­feit­ed profit. 

“It’s not a prob­lem for the net­work, it’s only a prob­lem for the mon­ey because [Marathon] gave up over $100k in rev­enue,” Lopp said. 

The issue with block 809478 was first flagged by X user @0xB10C, but Bit­Mex Research pin­point­ed the error: Marathon mis­placed two trans­ac­tions with­in said block. This mis­or­der­ing led to the block’s rejec­tion by oth­er net­work participants.

Marathon con­firmed what hap­pened on Wednes­day after­noon in a post on X, for­mer­ly Twit­ter. The com­pa­ny chalked the mis­take up to an unfore­seen bug that com­pro­mised its devel­op­ment pool, not its main pro­duc­tion pool. 

“We uti­lize a small por­tion of our hash rate to exper­i­ment with our devel­op­ment pool and research poten­tial meth­ods to opti­mize our oper­a­tions,” the com­pa­ny wrote. “The error was the result of an unan­tic­i­pat­ed bug that came from one of our experiments.”

The inci­dent, it fur­ther explained, was “unin­tend­ed” and not meant to alter the inher­ent rules gov­ern­ing Bit­coin Core, the orig­i­nal and most wide­ly adopt­ed soft­ware client used to oper­ate nodes on the Bit­coin network.

Marathon also took this oppor­tu­ni­ty to hype up its view that Bit­coin is secure, say­ing that this “under­scores the robust secu­ri­ty of the Bit­coin net­work, which reject­ed and rec­ti­fied the anomaly.”

This isn’t some­thing that’s only hap­pened to Marathon, however. 

Bit­Mex Research flagged an invalid block seem­ing­ly mined by AntPool in July 2019. A sim­i­lar occur­rence was not­ed in April 2023 involv­ing f2pool.

Accord­ing to mul­ti­ple blockchain explor­ers, Foundry was the one to ulti­mate­ly mine block 809478 correctly.

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