Posted on 22 December 2023

In this post Niklas Gögge provides a writeup of two responsibly disclosed denial-of-service bugs he discovered in the LND software in 2021.

This is the security-focused Bitcoin research and development work that Brink is proud to support.

Discussion of these bugs is also available on the Delving Bitcoin forum.

This is a write-up of two denial-of-service bugs I found in LND at the end of 2021. Users do not need to take any action at this time, as the initial fixed versions are themselves superseded due to other exploited and disclosed vulnerabilities.

(1) Premature channel_update denial-of-service

LND prior to v0.14.0 was vulnerable to denial-of-service by running out of memory from unconditionally storing premature channel updates.


When a channel is first established between two parties, three gossip messages will be broadcast to the network: a channel_announcement and two channel_updates (one for each channel direction). During the propagation of these messages, a race may occur in which the channel updates are received prior to the channel announcement. The receiving node can not validate these premature channel updates, as the channel announcement contains the public keys that correspond to the signatures in the updates.

To address this race, LND used a buffer for temporarily storing premature channel updates until the channel announcement is received. Unfortunately the size of this buffer was unbounded and an attacker could fill it with entirely invalid updates, leading the victim to run out of memory. As with any crash bug in Lightning node software, this comes with a risk of losing funds.

The issue was fixed in PR #5902 by replacing the unbounded buffer with a limited cache that can hold up to 100 premature updates.

Fun fact: The issue was fixed earlier in Jan. 2021 by removing the buffer entirely but it is unclear whether or not that was intentional, as the fix was later rolled back due to flaky tests.

(2) channel_update signature validation after rate limiting

LND prior to v0.15.0 was vulnerable to channel update gossip censorship.


In the Lightning protocol, there is no inherent cost to creating and broadcasting channel_update messages besides having to sign them. To address this, all Lightning implementations rate limit how many channel updates they will relay within a given time frame (to prevent gossip spam on the network).

LND used to check signatures of channel updates after applying its relay rate limits. As consequence, an attacker could censor channel updates for any channel from propagating by creating invalid channel updates and spamming them to LND nodes (causing any new valid updates from the victim to be ignored).

The issue was fixed in PR #6278 by ensuring that signature validation of channel updates happens prior to applying the rate limits.


Disclosure timeline for both bugs:

About Brink

Brink is a Bitcoin research and development centre, founded in 2020 to support independent open source protocol developers and mentor new contributors. If you or your organization is interested in supporting open source Bitcoin development, feel free to email us,

Developers interested in the grant program can apply now.

Keep in touch

Subscribe to the Brink newsletter for future blog posts.