It’s not Friday the 13th, but today is Halloween. The team at Bison Trails would like to mark the occasion by addressing slashing: a true nightmare scenario for anyone running participation nodes on Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchain networks.
Slashing — a mechanism built into blockchain protocols to discourage validator misbehavior — is designed by protocol creators to incentivize security, availability, and network participation. While the specifics are defined within each protocol, the slashing mechanism is similar: a predefined percentage of the validator’s tokens are lost when it behaves abnormally on the network.
Most networks have two conditions that trigger slashing: one is validator downtime and the other is double-signing. Downtime and double-signing are counterbalanced considerations that we take very seriously. Typically, downtime results in a very small penalty (e.g. 0.1% tokens) whereas double-signing can incur a higher penalty (e.g. 5%).
Staking providers across the board do not cover slashing losses. Bison Trails works to reduce the chances of slashing by prioritizing double-signing prevention over downtime because the penalty for double-signing is higher. We ensure two signing nodes are not online simultaneously for any given customer’s cluster.
Infrastructure providers that prioritize downtime mitigation above all else — to avoid missing participatory rewards and to avoid downtime slashing — can be too aggressive. Bringing backup validators online when primary validators experience temporary issues, introduces the risk of double-signing. Both Cosmos and Terra suffered their own slashing incidents recently, when validators double-signed blocks.
Our platform only allows one signing node to be online at any given time for a customer’s cluster. As a result, our highly-available infrastructure solution provides signing nodes that are ready and waiting to be used, but not able to begin signing blocks until our block-signing monitor signals that it is safe to do so.
In the rare event of a cloud provider or regional signing infrastructure outage, Bison Trails verifies the primary validator cannot come back online first, before the signing node is moved to an available region. We use an intervention system with block signing lock software to prevent human error. Compared to a manual process, event response on the Bison Trails platform dramatically minimizes downtime and the risk of slashing for our customers.
We are in the process of adding additional protections to enhance our service and further reduce the likelihood of a critical event. In short, slashing is always a risk when participating on PoS networks — we do our best to ensure it doesn’t impact our customers. Don’t get slashed! Use Bison Trails.
Bison Trails is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service company, based in New York City, specifically focused on blockchain participation. We’ve built a platform for anyone who wants to participate in new chains effortlessly (e.g. by running Cosmos Validators, Tezos Bakers, and Libra Validators, etc.)—without having to invest time and resources into developing any of the engineering, protocol, dev ops, or security competencies in-house. Our goal is for the entire blockchain ecosystem to flourish by providing robust infrastructure for the pioneers of tomorrow.