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ADR 013: Slashing on the provider for consumer equivocation


  • 1st Sept. 2023: Initial draft




This ADR presents some approaches on how to slash on the provider chain validators that performed equivocations on consumer chains. Currently, the provider chain can receive and verify evidence of equivocation, but it cannot slash the misbehaving validator.

In the remainder of this section, we explain how slashing is performed on a single chain and show why slashing on the provider for equivocation on the consumer is challenging.

Note that future versions of the Cosmos SDK, CometBFT, and ibc-go could modify the way we slash, etc. Therefore, a future reader of this ADR, should note that when we refer to Cosmos SDK, CometBFT, and ibc-go we specifically refer to their v0.47, v0.37 and v7.3.0 versions respectively.

Single-chain slashing

Slashing is implemented across the slashing and staking modules. The slashing module's keeper calls the staking module's Slash() method, passing among others, the infractionHeight (i.e., the height when the equivocation occurred), the validator's power at the infraction height, and the slashFactor (currently set to 5% in case of equivocation on the Cosmos Hub).

Slashing undelegations and redelegations

To slash undelegations, Slash goes through all undelegations and checks whether they started before or after the infraction occurred. If an undelegation started before the infractionHeight, then it is not slashed, otherwise it is slashed by slashFactor.

The slashing of redelegations happens in a similar way, meaning that Slash goes through all redelegations and checks whether the redelegations started before or after the infractionHeight.

Slashing delegations

Besides undelegations and redelegations, the validator's delegations need to also be slashed. This is performed by deducting the appropriate amount of tokens from the validator. Note that this deduction is computed based on the voting power the misbehaving validator had at the height of the equivocation. As a result of the tokens deduction, the tokens per share reduce and hence later on, when delegators undelegate or redelegate, the delegators retrieve back less tokens, effectively having their tokens slashed. The rationale behind this slashing mechanism, as mentioned in the Cosmos SDK documentation

[...] is to simplify the accounting around slashing. Rather than iteratively slashing the tokens of every delegation entry, instead the Validators total bonded tokens can be slashed, effectively reducing the value of each issued delegator share.

This approach of slashing delegations does not utilize the infractionHeight in any way and hence the following scenario could occur:

  1. a validator V performs an equivocation at a height Hi
  2. a new delegator D delegates to V after height Hi
  3. evidence of the equivocation by validator V is received
  4. the tokens of delegator D are slashed

In the above scenario, delegator D is slashed, even though D's voting power did not contribute to the infraction.

Old evidence

In the single-chain case, old evidence (e.g., from 3 years ago) is ignored. This is achieved through CometBFT that ignores old evidence based on the parameters MaxAgeNumBlocks and MaxAgeDuration (see here). Additionally, note that when the evidence is sent by CometBFT to the application, the evidence is rechecked in the evidence module of Cosmos SDK and if it is old, the evidence is ignored. In Cosmos Hub, the MaxAgeNumBlocks is set to 1000000 (i.e., ~70 days if we assume we need ~6 sec per block) and MaxAgeDuration is set to 172800000000000 ns (i.e., 2 days). Because of this check, we can easily exclude old evidence.

Slashing for equivocation on the consumer

In the single-chain case, slashing requires both the infractionHeight and the voting power. In order to slash on the provider for an equivocation on a consumer, we need to have both the provider's infractionHeight and voting power. Note that the infractionHeight on the consumer chain must be mapped to a height on the provider chain. Unless we have a way to find the corresponding infractionHeight and power on the provider chain, we cannot slash for equivocation on the consumer in the same way as we would slash in the single-chain case.

The challenge of figuring out the corresponding infractionHeight and power values on the provider chain is due to the following trust assumption:

  • We trust the consensus layer and validator set of the consumer chains, but we do not trust the application layer.

As a result, we cannot trust anything that stems from the application state of a consumer chain.

Note that when a relayer or a user sends evidence through a MsgSubmitConsumerDoubleVoting message, the provider gets access to DuplicateVoteEvidence:

type DuplicateVoteEvidence struct {
VoteA *Vote `json:"vote_a"`
VoteB *Vote `json:"vote_b"`

// abci specific information
TotalVotingPower int64
ValidatorPower int64
Timestamp time.Time

The "abci specific information" fields cannot be trusted because they are not signed. Therefore, we can use neither ValidatorPower for slashing on the provider chain, nor the Timestamp to check the evidence age. We can get the infractionHeight from the votes, but this infractionHeight corresponds to the infraction height on the consumer and not on the provider chain. Similarly, when a relayer or a user sends evidence through a MsgSubmitConsumerMisbehaviour message, the provider gets access to Misbehaviour that we cannot use to extract the infraction height, power, or the time on the provider chain.

Proposed solution

As a first iteration, we propose the following approach. At the moment the provider receives evidence of equivocation on a consumer:

  1. slash all the undelegations and redelegations using slashFactor;
  2. slash all delegations using as voting power the sum of the voting power of the misbehaving validator and the power of all the ongoing undelegations and redelegations.

Evidence expiration: Additionally, because we cannot infer the actual time of the evidence (i.e., the timestamp of the evidence cannot be trusted), we do not consider evidence expiration and hence old evidence is never ignored (e.g., the provider would act on 3 year-old evidence of equivocation on a consumer). Additionally, we do not need to store equivocation evidence to avoid slashing a validator more than once, because we do not slash tombstoned validators and we tombstone a validator when slashed.

We do not act on evidence that was signed by a validator consensus key that is pruned when we receive the evidence. We prune a validator's consensus key if the validator has assigned a new consumer key (using MsgAssignConsumerKey) and an unbonding period on the consumer chain has elapsed (see key assignment ADR). Note that the provider chain is informed that the unbonding period has elapsed on the consumer when the provider receives a VSCMaturedPacket and because of this, if the consumer delays the sending of a VSCMaturedPacket, we would delay the pruning of the key as well.


The following logic needs to be added to the HandleConsumerDoubleVoting and HandleConsumerMisbehaviour methods:

undelegationsInTokens := sdk.NewInt(0)
for _, v := range k.stakingKeeper.GetUnbondingDelegationsFromValidator(ctx, validatorAddress) {
for _, entry := range v.Entries {
if entry.IsMature(now) && !entry.OnHold() {
// undelegation no longer eligible for slashing, skip it
undelegationsInTokens = undelegationsInTokens.Add(entry.InitialBalance)

redelegationsInTokens := sdk.NewInt(0)
for _, v := range k.stakingKeeper.GetRedelegationsFromSrcValidator(ctx, validatorAddress) {
for _, entry := range v.Entries {
if entry.IsMature(now) && !entry.OnHold() {
// redelegation no longer eligible for slashing, skip it
redelegationsInTokens = redelegationsInTokens.Add(entry.InitialBalance)

infractionHeight := 0
undelegationsAndRedelegationsInPower = sdk.TokensToConsensusPower(undelegationsInTokens.Add(redelegationsInTokens))
totalPower := validator's voting power + undelegationsAndRedelegationsInPower
slashFraction := k.slashingKeeper.SlashFractionDoubleSign(ctx)

k.stakingKeeper.Slash(ctx, validatorConsAddress, infractionHeight, totalPower, slashFraction, DoubleSign)

Infraction height: We provide a zero infractionHeight to the Slash method in order to slash all ongoing undelegations and redelegations (see checks in Slash, SlashUnbondingDelegation, and SlashRedelegation).

Power: We pass the sum of the voting power of the misbehaving validator when the evidence was received (i.e., at evidence height) and the power of all the ongoing undelegations and redelegations. If we assume that the slashFactor is 5%, then the voting power we pass is power + totalPower(undelegations) + totalPower(redelegations). Hence, when the Slash method slashes all the undelegations and redelegations it would end up with 0.05 * power + 0.05 * totalPower(undelegations) + 0.05 * totalPower(redelegations) - 0.05 * totalPower(undelegations) - 0.05 * totalPower(redelegations) = 0.05 * power and hence it would slash 5% of the validator's power when the evidence is received.


With the proposed approach we can quickly implement slashing functionality on the provider chain for consumer chain equivocations. This approach does not need to change the staking module and therefore does not change in any way how slashing is performed today for a single chain.


  • We definitely slash more when it comes to undelegations and redelegations because we slash for all of them without considering an infractionHeight.
  • We potentially slash more than what we would have slashed if we knew the voting power at the corresponding infractionHeight in the provider chain.
  • We slash on old evidence of equivocation on a consumer.