With hot projects Okay Bears and DeGods raising demand for Solana NFT collections, there has also been an increase in malicious programs. Such programs, called bots, sent an automated barrage of transactions – 6 million per second – on April 30 crashing the entire Solana network.
Sources say it was an attempt to beat out legitimate users during the minting process, wherein collectors buy newly generated NFT collectibles from a project. The so-called bots overloaded the Candy Machine taking down the entire network as a result. The Solana network blacked out, prompting a rush among validators and contributors to diagnose the issue and bring the network back online. It took seven hours for the network to get back up.
The Solana network is second only to the favorite Ethereum, which has the largest ecosystem yielding billions of dollars in NFT trading volume each month. Solana NFTs, in April, collectively yielded $295 million in sales. This marked a 91% month-over-month jump, as per data from DappRadar. Solana network has recorded over $2.2 billion worth of NFT trading volume to date. It is driving significant user and developer activity to the platform.
Solana’s traction, especially in the NFT space, is attributed to speedy transactions and extremely low fees. But Nhan Phan, the CTO of Metaplex Studios says this makes the network kind of amenable to bots. The factors that make the network appealing also make the platform susceptible to attack.
The April crash wasn’t Solana’s first. In September 2021, Solana network collapsed under enormous strain. This was due to a token launch at a Defi protocol which lasted over 17 hours and was the first to be pinned on NFT-related activity. Metaplex and Solana Labs, after the crash, began sharing plans to address the NFT botting situation in an effort to avoid the issue in the future. Metaplex’s botting penalty charges such malicious programs a “tax” for submitting invalid transactions. Its identified as coming from an automated program that is blindly trying to mint per tweets from the company. Previously, there was no real downside to people using botting programs to flood Candy Machine mints to buy new non-fungible tokens.
Phan explained that they are trying to hammer the Candy Machine program when the mint was opening so that none of the users could get in. They would leave their bots on forever. As such, there is a 0.01 SOL tax attributed to such transactions that are identified as bots. There is a small fee of $0.50 – and it could pile up for anyone trying to overwhelm NFT mints on Solana.