Vitalik Buterin is the co-founder of Ethereum (ETH). In addition to being an emblematic representative figure of the network, he is highly involved in its development. Thus, he does not hesitate to express his opinion on the ecosystem and its evolution.
A pessimist about cross-chain applications
Throughout 2021, the Ethereum network has experienced significant periods of congestion. One of its main consequences has been the drastic increase in transaction fees. Faced with this phenomenon, many so-called EVM-compatible blockchains have emerged to compete with Ethereum. At the same time, many inter-chain bridge projects have been set up.
As a result, these bridges allow for the rapid transfer of funds from network to network and provide a better distribution of liquidity across the ecosystem. However, while part of the community is very fond of these applications, Vitalik Buterin is “pessimistic about cross-chain applications”.
According to our man, these applications have significant security problems, especially in the case of a 51% attack.
A 51% attack fatal for small blockchains
While it would be catastrophic, a 51% attack wouldn’t necessarily mean a loss of assets for holders.
“Let’s say you have 100 ETH on Ethereum, and Ethereum is attacked at 51%, so that some transactions are censored and/or rolled back. No matter what happens, you will still have your 100 ETH. Even a 51% attacker can’t come up with a block that robs you of your ETH, because such a block would violate the rules of the protocol and thus be rejected by the network.”Vitalik Buterin
However, using cross-chain bridges in the context of a 51% attack can be far more harmful.
“Imagine what happens if you move 100 ETH on a bridge over Solana to get 100 Solana-WETH, and then Ethereum is attacked at 51%. The attacker deposited a bunch of their own ETH into Solana-WETH and then cancelled that transaction on the Ethereum side, as soon as the Solana side confirmed it. The Solana-WETH contract is now no longer fully guaranteed, and perhaps your 100 Solana-WETH is now only worth 60 ETH.”Vitalik Buterin
Obviously, the threat of a 51% attack is extremely low on Ethereum. Nevertheless, it is much more likely on smaller chains that do not have comparable security to Ethereum. For example, the ThorChain network has been the victim of 2 attacks directly targeting the protocol during 2021.
The risk of a systemic contagion ?
Let’s take the example of the Multichain protocol. This protocol offers an inter-chain routing service deployed across 13 different blockchains. In total, it accounts for more than $7 billion in deposited assets.
“The problem gets worse when you go beyond two chains. If there are 100 chains, then there will end up being dApps with many interdependencies between those chains, and an attack on the 51% even on a single chain could systemic contagion that threatens the economy on that entire ecosystem.”Vitalik Buterin
Buterin has also spoken out on lighter topics. Thus, on the occasion of the New Year, he returned to 9 years of predictions. An opportunity to come back on his lack of foresight regarding the deployment delays of Ethereum 2.0… but let’s conclude that he was not the only one to be wrong on this one!