Some analysts are warning that the Lightning Network is becoming a frequent target for thieves and hackers.
The Lightning Network Is Open to Attacks
The Lightning Network is a new platform designed to assist bitcoin and make it faster by processing several small transactions off-chain. As bitcoin is the biggest and most popular blockchain in the world, it is often bogged down by the amount of activity it witnesses. It has slowed down heavily over the years, resulting in too much traffic and heavy fees.
The Lightning Network aims to change all that, which has ultimately made bitcoin a more powerful tool in the long run. It can keep up with the times and retain its general popularity. However, it has also attracted the attention of several malicious actors, and crypto enthusiasts are worried about how serious the problem might become.
Lightning Network access points are up more than 30 percent since the end of 2019. This is a great change for the bitcoin community, but it also presents more openings for cyberattacks. Computer scientists like Jona Harris and Aviv Zohar have expressed:
Payment channel networks are known to be susceptible to blockchain congestion, which may not allow participants to withdraw funds in time if they are being attacked… In this attack, an attacker forces many victims at once to flood the blockchain with claims for their funds. He is then able to leverage the congestion that they create to steal any funds that were not claimed before the deadline… The attack can allow funds to be stolen from innocent users. Do not try it at home. Unfortunately, no obvious change to the protocol eliminates it entirely.
Currently, the Lightning Network houses more than $9 million in BTC tokens, which can be “looted” by attackers at any point without warning. If people are unable to pull their money out within a reasonable period, they risk losing all their funds to outside sources.
In addition, while problems like these are usually fixed quickly by a project’s developers, Zohar says that there will likely never be a full solution. He writes:
To some degree, we believe that there is no 100 percent fix, as the main principles at work here are the Lightning Network is there because the blockchain isn’t highly scalable, we are aware of no trustless second-layer mechanism that can avoid accessing the blockchain to resolve disputes, and the attack relies on overloading the blockchain via this exact mechanism.
The Platform Is Adapting
Still, Zohar says he’s hopeful about the future, explaining:
The Lightning Network is one of the best hopes for payment scalability in bitcoin. In the short run, these are real issues that may discourage users from using the system, but in the long run, we are optimistic. The lightning protocol is evolving fast to contend with multiple issues.