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Antminer Firmware Update – February 2019

At Bitmain, security of end users is our top priority and we are committed to ensuring this as new risks emerge. Our team closely monitors the technology ecosystem to identify new and evolving threats. As part of that vigilance, we have recently been made aware by the open source community of a potential vulnerability relating to our firmware. In response, and as a matter of priority, our team has released new firmware updates for the Antminer S15 and Antminer T15 to fix this vulnerability.

Despite our continuous efforts, absolute protection from all possible attacks remains an elusive goal, and therefore, a collaborative effort of the global community is imperative for the strongest defence. We are most grateful to the open source community for continuing to identify and responsibly report new vulnerabilities.

As contributors and users of open-source code, we recognise and respect its ethos. To ensure continued compliance with the requirements of open-source code, we have formed a special team and created new internal procedures.

Installation guides and new firmware releases can be downloaded from https://service.bitmain.com/support/download

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Firmware to Activate “Overt AsicBoost” in BM1387-based Antminer Models

We’re very pleased to share that last night our developers released the firmware for the Antminer S9 to enable what is popularly called the “overt AsicBoost” functionality. We will also release in one week the firmware to activate this functionality in other BM1387-based models namely the Antminer R4, S9i, S9j, T9 and T9+. This step will increase future effectiveness of several Antminer models and provides the framework for a strong long-term network.

 Initially, we decided against activating this mathematical function in mining hardware produced by us, largely because of the legal uncertainty surrounding the use of AsicBoost. As an organization, we didn’t want to violate patent laws or act in any way that was untoward. Instead, we continued to focus our efforts on R&D and building the industry’s most efficient mining chips. It’s worth noting, as outlined in a April 2017 blog post, our ASIC chip BM1387 has the capability built into the chip technology.  

In March 2018, we noticed new manufacturers of hardware advertising the use of “AsicBoost” and soon after that we noticed blocks being mined on the blockchain using AsicBoost. To give users of our mining pools the option to mine using AsicBoost we added support for it on both BTC.COM and Antpool. 

 Now we are pleased to give Antminer users whose miners have the capability to support this function a choice to avail this advantage without any negative impact on the Bitcoin protocol. This variant of the “overt AsicBoost” simply uses version bits different from those that other manufacturers have been using. It is equally transparent because it can be seen in the blockheader of boosted blocks.

With regard to patent rights, we continue to respect third parties’ IP right and take actions accordingly. Based on legal opinions from various jurisdictions, we believe that there isn’t and may never be a patent right over AsicBoost. Thus, all miners should be entitled to make their own choice on whether to use AsicBoost technology without anybody having an exclusive right over it.  

Bitmain is committed to creating the industry standard for the most efficient and effective miners on the market. After testing AsicBoost on the Bitmain testnet, we found that the functionality does improve mining efficiency. 

One of Bitmain’s top priorities and guiding principles is to provide our customers with the best mining technology in the industry and after extensive internal conversations, we have decided to activate this functionality to achieve two main objectives

  1. Future Effectiveness: We recognize that cryptocurrency mining technology is rapidly evolving, innovating, and improving, and hardware depreciates rapidly. By activating AsicBoost, our customers’ hardware will increase in effectiveness while the future hardware we make continues to be the industry gold standard. 
  2. Stronger Network: We have been very transparent that we have activated AsicBoost in the miners on our testnet and have found that it improves efficiency in mining operations. Utilizing this technology will be very beneficial for the mining. AsicBoost has the potential to reduce the J/TH cost and increase the total hashrate of the network. By activating this upgrade widely, we are making the Bitcoin network stronger than ever before. 

 The new firmware can be downloaded at https://service.bitmain.com/support/download

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Antminer Firmware Update -April 2017

There is a new controversy regarding a feature in the firmware of Bitmain’s Antminer series of Bitcoin miners which allegedly claims that Bitmain can remotely shut down Antminers. This feature was designed and coded by the same team that is responsible for the firmware of Antminers. As the firmware has always been open-source, the feature was never intended to be malicious.

We need to clarify the intention of having this feature. We planned to add this feature to the code to empower customers to control their miners which often times can be hosted outside their premises. This was after more than one incident of miners being stolen from a mining farm or being hijacked by the operator of the mining farm:

  1. In 2014, around 1,000 Antminers were withheld from the owner by a hosting service provider in Shenyang, China.
  2. In 2015, around 2,000 units of Antminers were withheld from the owner by a hosting service provider in Georgia.
  3. In 2017, Bitmain’s own miners were withheld and sold without its consent in Canada.

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.

However, this feature was never completed. We started to develop this feature since Antminer S7 and wanted to finish its development on the Antminer S9. We hoped to make it a useful feature that we could advertise to our customers. But, due to some technical problems, we were unable to finish the development of this feature and shut down the testing server in December 2016.  It is a bug to leave the code there before the feature is fully complete and acknowledged to the users. This bug has now been pointed out in context of Bitcoin’s scaling roadmap debate and has caused considerable misunderstandings within the Bitcoin community. We apologize for this.

Following are the models affected by this bug:

  • Antminer S9
  • Antminer R4
  • Antminer T9
  • Antminer L3
  • Antminer L3+

Since MITM and DNS hijacks can exploit this bug we would like to apologize to our customers for a degraded level of security caused by this. We should also note that the existing stratum protocol is vulnerable to MITM and DNS hijacks, and that the mining industry needs to work together on design of the next generation mining protocol.

Moving on, we have released the new updated source-code on GitHub and new firmware on our website which removes this bug. We recommend all Antminer owners to upgrade their firmware to the updated firmware from the list below and strongly advise to not download any firmware provided by a third-party which can lead to unexpected outcomes in function and can also be potential phishing attacks.

Antminer S9 firmware
Antminer T9 firmware
Antminer R4 firmware
Antminer L3 firmware
Antminer L3+ firmware

Source code on GitHub

Source-code for Antminer S9, T9 and R4: https://github.com/bitmaintech/bmminer-mix
Source-code for Antminer L3 and L3+: https://github.com/bitmaintech/setup-A8 which includes https://github.com/bitmaintech/ltc_frimware inside.

Alternatively, we advise owners of mining farms that run Antminers to set the DNS record on their routers of auth.minerlink.com to 127.0.0.1 in the /etc/hosts file by the following method:

1. Use ssh to login to the miner
2. Run command:   echo “127.0.0.1     auth.minerlink.com” >> /etc/hosts
3. Run command:   sync

 

The controversy around this code has brought our attention to improve the design in order to address vulnerabilities that were pointed out by the community recently. For this, we thank the community for pointing out bugs and contributing to our open-source codebase. We would also like to take this opportunity to express our solidified belief in the open source community and express our renewed commitment to improving the quality and testing methods of our code.

We will continue the development of this feature to provide a technical protection for mining rig owners to host their miners in remote locations. We will add a switch to this feature, and this switch will be closed by default. Customers will be able to set up and configure their own authentication server. Before we finish this development, such a code will not be in the firmware we release from now on.

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