Lightning Network Exploits Continue to Hinder the Bitcoin Scaling Solution

While bitcoin has run-up to all new price highs in 2020, a great number of crypto supporters have been complaining about the mempool backlog and the high fees needed to send a transaction. Meanwhile, the Lightning Network is far from seeing widespread adoption, and a number of attack vectors have been revealed this year.

At the time of publication, the Bitcoin (BTC) mempool (backlog of transactions) shows 113,000+ unconfirmed transactions and the backlog hasn’t been this high since 2017. When the bull run took place three years ago, transaction fees and unconfirmed transactions shot through the roof. Currently, according to bitcoinfees.cash data on October 31, the next BTC block fee is $10.77 and the current median fee is $6.43.

Even with the high fees and the mempool clog, the greater bitcoin community is still transacting mostly onchain. The Layer 2 protocol built on top of Bitcoin called the Lightning Network (LN) was supposed to ease the problems, and it was assumed people would shift to the LN solution. However, this never came to fruition, as the LN software has been considered too difficult for the average user, many apps are custodial, and there have been numerous vulnerabilities disclosed this year.

Even though the LN total-value-locked (TVL) in 2020 has been at an all-time high ($14.3M), it hasn’t come close to the over $2 billion worth of bitcoin (BTC) held on Ethereum. The attack vectors have also been making crypto advocates leery of the Layer 2 protocol, as there’s been a number of vulnerabilities disclosed. For instance, Joost Jager, an independent Bitcoin and Lightning Network engineer tweeted about one on Sept. 22.

“Lightning is great, but can’t say it is battle-tested,” said Jager. “If script kids would be interested, they could take down those shiny new 5 BTC wumbo channels with negligible cost and no effort at all.” The fact that any script kiddie could leverage the ‘griefing attack’ to take…

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