One of the key selling points of the blockchain is that it’s immutable: Once data is processed, once a transaction occurs, it can’t be undone. One of the most painful downsides to the blockchain? It’s immutable. If human error causes something to be sold for the wrong price or money to be sent to the wrong place, there’s often nothing that can be done to reverse it.
That is the unfortunate place developers of the Juno cryptocurrency find themselves. A community vote had decreed that around 3 million Juno tokens, worth around $36 million, be seized from an investor deemed to have acquired the tokens via malicious means. (This in itself was a big crypto news story.) The funds were to be sent to a wallet controlled by Juno token holders, who could vote on how it would be spent.
But a developer inadvertently copy and pasted the wrong wallet address, as reported by CoinDesk, leading to $36 million in crypto being sent to an inaccessible address.
Andrea Di Michele, one of Juno’s founding developers, explained to the publication that he sent the correct wallet address to the developer responsible for the transfer, as well as a hash number. Hashes connect blocks to one another in the blockchain, and at a glance hash numbers can look very similar to wallet addresses. The developer accidentally copy and pasted the hash number, rather than the wallet address.
Di Michele didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Juno is a cryptocurrency on the Cosmos blockchain, which seeks to compete with Ethereum by being more scalable and efficient ().
Blockchain infrastructure is mostly designed to improve decentralization, for instance, by allowing a network of people around the world to process payments instead of centralized institutions like banks. The downside to decentralization is no entity can reverse human-errors like this. In December, someone accidentally sold their Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT— $3,000 instead of $300,000. Such “fat finger” errors aren’t uncommon.
There are ways the funds could be returned, but none of the solutions are easy. When a hacker exploited a smart contract in 2016 and stole $50 million in ether, Ethereum developers had to “hard fork” their blockchain to recover the funds — in essence they created a replica of the existing blockchain, keeping it identical in every way except that the stolen funds were transferred to a recovery address. It was a contentious episode. Some in the community thought it violated the principles of cryptocurrency and continued to operate the original blockchain at Ethereum Classic.
It appears Juno’s developers have a solution in mind. Its developers have plans to relocate the funds, according to a proposal put forth to token holders, though it’s not yet been explained precisely how.