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Importing and exporting your validators' slashing protection history

This section explains how to import a slashing protection history file into Prysm as well as how to export your validators' slashing protection history to move between computers or between Ethereum consensus client implementations.

What is slashing protection?#

Validators in Ethereum are assigned to produce blocks and vote on other blocks in a scheduled, random assignment basis. Upon performing their roles, they submit their data to a beacon node which then broadcasts it to the network, which if done properly, will earn the validator rewards for validating correctly. Ethereum, however, also relies on a system of punishments to ensure that validators cannot take advantage of the system. There are few actions that, if performed by a validator, will lead to slashing. When validators get slashed, they lose a portion of their stake, get forcefully ejected from the validator set, and cannot rejoin the network! Unfortunately, slashing happens to innocent validators quite often which set up their system incorrectly, or are using complicated failover mechanisms for their validators.

We recommend running your validators in simple ways

Some stakers care a lot about the uptime of their validators, even going to great extents to set up failover beacon nodes or validators across different machines to make sure they are always online and making money. Unfortunately, this is very easy to misconfigure and you could easily end up slashed, missing out on a lot of rewards until you are able to withdraw your stake! We recommend running Prysm in the simplest way possible for you, and not worrying too much about potentially small downtime. A validator only needs to be online 2/3's of the time in a given timeframe to remain profitable.

To protect itself from accidentally being slashed due to some software bug or other problem in a user's system, validator clients keep a small database of data they have previously signed, such as blocks and attestations, to ensure they do not sign a slashable offense in the future. You can read more about slashing prevention tips in our blog post here.

This database is kept, by default, within the validator's wallet directory in a file called validator.db. However, instead of manually copying and dealing with this file, Prysm provides tools to export and import your slashing protection history into a standard format supported by all Ethereum consensus clients, such as Lighthouse, Teku, and Nimbus. This standard format is useful as well if you want to move your validator between computers securely. You can export your slashing protection history from one computer as a file and import it safely into the other.

How to use slashing protection#

Basic slashing protection is enabled by default using a database that keeps track of objects your validator has previously signed in order to prevent it from signing the same message again causing a violation and getting slashed. If you want to use a more advanced, remote slashing protection, see our section on how to use slasher here.

Slashing protection history standard format#

Slashing protection history has been standardized by the Ethereum consensus client teams into a common format we all comply with. This standardization is known as EIP-3076, which is a JSON file that looks as follows:

{ "metadata": {        "interchange_format_version": "5",        "genesis_validators_root": "0x04700007fabc8282644aed6d1c7c9e21d38a03a0c4ba193f3afe428824b3a673"    },    "data": [        {            "pubkey": "0xb845089a1457f811bfc000588fbb4e713669be8ce060ea6be3c6ece09afc3794106c91ca73acda5e5457122d58723bed",            "signed_blocks": [                {                    "slot": "81952",                    "signing_root": "0x4ff6f743a43f3b4f95350831aeaf0a122a1a392922c45d804280284a69eb850b"                },                {                    "slot": "81951",                }            ],            "signed_attestations": [                {                    "source_epoch": "2290",                    "target_epoch": "3007",                    "signing_root": "0x587d6a4f59a58fe24f406e0502413e77fe1babddee641fda30034ed37ecc884d"                },                {                    "source_epoch": "2290",                    "target_epoch": "3008",                }            ]        }    ]   }

Basically containing a simple history of the blocks and attestations your validators have signed before.

Exporting your validators' slashing protection history#

Stop the Validator

Ensure that you stop Prysm before exporting slashing protection in order to capture all validator actions.

To export your slashing protection history, you can use Prysm's built in commands which will work with any installation method.

Using the Prysm installation script validator slashing-protection-history export --datadir=/path/to/your/wallet --slashing-protection-export-dir=/path/to/desired/outputdir

Using Docker

docker run -it -v /path/to/outputdir:/output -v /path/to/wallet:/wallet -- slashing-protection-history export --datadir=/wallet --slashing-protection-export-dir=/output

You will then find the slashing protection JSON file in your specified /path/to/outputdir folder.

Using Bazel

bazel run //validator -- slashing-protection-history export --datadir=/path/to/your/wallet --slashing-protection-export-dir=/path/to/desired/outputdir

Importing a slashing protection history into your Prysm validator#

To import a slashing protection JSON file you obtained elsewhere, either from another Prysm instance or from another Ethereum consensus client, you can import it as follows using any installation method for your Prysm validator.

Using the Prysm installation script validator slashing-protection-history import --datadir=/path/to/your/wallet --slashing-protection-json-file=/path/to/desiredimportfile

Using Docker

docker run -it -v /path/to/desiredimportfile.json:/import/desiredimportfile.json -v /path/to/wallet:/wallet -- slashing-protection-history import --datadir=/wallet --slashing-protection-json-file=/import/desiredimportfile.json

Using Bazel

bazel run //validator -- slashing-protection-history import --datadir=/path/to/your/wallet --slashing-protection-json-file=/path/to/desiredimportfile

Frequently asked questions#

Can I just wait 2 epochs instead of exporting/importing my slashing protection history when I move from one machine to another?

We recommend exporting/importing instead of waiting. Waiting will reduce risk, but exporting/importing gives you even more protection than waiting.

Validators are constantly reading from and writing to their slashing protection history database, which lets validator nodes continuously audit their own blocks, attestations, and other network behavior. This functionality is designed to protect validators from accidental slashable events caused by conflicting proposals and attestations, software bugs, clock synchronization issues, and other edge cases. Exporting/importing your history will protect you from these risks.

Why do some people recommend waiting instead of importing/exporting the slashing protection DB?

Waiting for a couple epochs to pass reduces the risk that your validator accidentally uses the same validator key to propose or attest to two conflicting blocks at the same slot. Waiting allows the network to "flush" incoming proposals and attestations from the network's validators, ensuring that when your validator comes back online, it won't be able to accidentally commit a slashable proposal or attestation. Although this reduces some risk, exporting/importing your history reduces more risk.

What should I do if I can't export/import my slashing history?

We recommend waiting a couple epochs and running your validator node with the --enable-doppelganger flag set. This flag tells your validator client to try to detect duplicate instances of your validator on the network. This isn't foolproof, but it will reduce risk.

How will I know if I've successfully imported my slashing protection history?

Prysm will output a success message upon successful import. An error message will be displayed if your slashing protection history is either empty or corrupt.

I'm nervous about this procedure... can I have some help?

Absolutely - feel free to send us a message on Discord and someone from our team will be happy to help.