The Lightning Network has been touted as the next generation of Bitcoin transactions, but the second layer scaling solution still has some usability issues that make it incredibly easy to lose all of the Bitcoin you have staked in your node. One Reddit user by the name of ZipoTm lost around ₿4 and found out that by force closing channels using an older and invalid state of is LND node, the other channel member can take the Bitcoin while it’s timelocked if their node is online.
A Dangerous, Yet Simple Mistake
ZipoTm suffered a power outage, causing his node to drop offline for a period of time. When he rebooted his node, he was forced to recover from a backup that was several days old. However, backups are meant for channel recovery, not to restore the entire data directory. This meant that his node was stuck in an unsynchronized state and by using the closeallchannels –force function he inadvertently lost access to all of the Bitcoin in his channels. It might seem like common sense to people that even 2-minute old backups are old and out of date, but for newcomers to the Lightning Network world it might not be so clear.
It Ended Well – Thankfully
After several days of panicking and back and forth with LND experts, ZipoTm managed to recover most of his funds. He coop-closed channels with funds on seed, and initiated remote force-close with perCommit channels. This is just one lucky case where the person managed to recover lost funds, but the situation could have been considerably worse had he not had any technical knowledge. Your average user would not have had the skills to recover the lost Bitcoin using this method and would likely have to take the loss on the chin.
Is Lightning Too Complicated for Use?
While the Lightning Network does allow users to send Bitcoin to one another quickly and with a low cost, it’s still rather technical to use. For the time being, it’s still prohibitively difficult to use for your average guy on the street. Regular on-chain Bitcoin transactions are about the technical limit for the average person, with many still struggling. If Bitcoin and the Lightning Network are to become mainstream and take over the world, transactions and node management needs to become simpler. Until then, mass adoption looks like it could be on hold.