Bitmain Debunks Antbleed Bitcoin Miners Claim, Apologizes For Bug

An apology has been tendered by the world’s top Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer as it refutes claims it can remotely shut down its Antminer series of miners owing to a new feature in their firmware. China-based Bitmain on Thursday April 27 released a statement to say that the Antbleed feature was never intended to be malicious as claimed but to empower customers to control their miners particularly at times when the machines are hosted outside their premises.

The Jihan Wu-led company was accused of having the capability to use the Antbleed backdoor to “shut off a large section of the global hashrate (estimated to be at up to 70% of all mining equipment)” and “to directly target specific machines or customers.” If true, this implies that Bitmain could be able to track and control every Bitcoin miners they have sold out to the point of shutting them down remotely.

However, in the statement issued by the mining equipment company, it suggests that the purpose of the feature has been misunderstood. Its latest blogpost says:

“This feature was intended to allow the owners of Antminer to remotely shut down their miners that may have been stolen or hijacked by their hosting service provider, and to also provide law enforcement agencies with more tracking information in such cases. We never intended to use this feature on any Antminer without authorization from its owner. This is similar to the remote erase or shutdown feature provided by most famous smartphone manufacturers.”

But the feature was never completed due to some technical problems, the company added. This incomplete state makes it become a bug. As a result, Bitmain apologizes for the bug now being pointed out in the context of the ongoing Bitcoin’s scaling roadmap debate and for the considerable misunderstandings it has caused within the Bitcoin community.

Truly, many in the community have clamoured for Bitmain to come up with an explanation on the issue. Some commentators hold varying views on the issue too.

An industry insider, Tuur Demeester, notes that the Antbleed disclosure would make Wu lose a huge amount of leverage and would “indeed crush probability of BU fork”. For the CEO of Shapeshift, Erik Voorhees, he says in a tweet that he’ll give Bitmain the “benefit of the doubt that AntBleed was a non-malicious feature. Regardless: HUGE security problem, shouldn’t have been done.”

One of the reasons that the issue may not go away quickly is that it follows a series of accusations that have recently been levied against Wu and Bitmain. Wu and his company have been accused of running covert ASICBoost, blocking moves to activate SegWit which has been very controversial in the Bitcoin community and the perception of centralizing the mining chip distribution.

On the ASICBoost, Bitmain was accused of hiding the fact that it has been secretly mining Bitcoin in its own farms with the incompatible and patented hardware which gives miners a 20% advantage over others by exploiting a patchable vulnerability in the network’s protocol. The company denies the claim, cites a smear campaign.

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