One hapless Ethereum user experienced astronomical transaction fees this week after their crypto bot went awry. The owner of a single address paid 3990 ETH (~$584,000) to send a handful of transactions—leading many to wonder exactly what happened.
What Went Wrong?
Amberdata, an analytics firm, noticed the problem after the incident drove the price of gas up by more than 1700%. The firm then looked more deeply and discovered that the unusual activity was produced by a single address.
At first, Amberdata suspected that money laundering was the motive. However, the firm then looked to see which miners had received the fee and found that the fee had actually gone to different mining pools, including Nanopool, Ethermine, and Sparkpool.
Amberdata then noticed that, in each transaction, the amount of ETH that the user had sent was the same as the gas price. The firm now believes that someone made an error while coding a bot and confused the two fields, causing the bot to send an overly generous transaction fee to the network.
Sparkpool, which received 2100 ETH (~$300,000), has also acknowledged the situation. The pool indicates that its emergency systems were automatically triggered by the incident and that it is waiting to be contacted by the rightful owner, at which point a course of action can be determined.
Solving the Problem
The Ethereum blockchain is immutable. Of course, mistakes happen, and there is usually a window of time during which transactions can be canceled. However, this is not what happened here: all of the transactions seem to have been confirmed.
Instead, at least one of the problematic transaction fees has been frozen by Sparkpool. In other words, it seems that Sparkpool has obtained the fee but is withholding it from mining pool participants. (It is not clear if other pools have done the same.)
According to official statements, Sparkpool is still holding onto the miner rewards and is waiting for the rightful owner to come forward. If no one makes contact in the next few days, Sparkpool will distribute the reward to the mining pool—and its lucky participants.
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