Ethereum’s MetaMask Wallet and Infura Cut Off Users in ‘Certain’ Sanctioned Countries

In brief

  • MetaMask and Infura said they were blocking access to “certain jurisdictions.”
  • Venezuelan users, Infura says, accidentally got blocked.

On Thursday, two widely used ConsenSys software products, MetaMask and Infura, announced that they “are unavailable in certain jurisdictions due to legal compliance.” 

The post did not give further information about the compliance issues or the affected jurisdictions, but subsequent tweets point to U.S. and international sanctions on Russia regarding the war in Ukraine. Decrypt has reached out to ConsenSys for clarification regarding its policy of geoblocking IP addresses.  (Disclosure: An editorially independent Decrypt receives funding from ConsenSys Mesh.)

The announcement took on added importance after Venezuelans found themselves all but cut off from the Ethereum network today, with many reporting they had been blocked from their wallets.

Infura, which hosts Ethereum nodes and operates the blockchain infrastructure on behalf of companies, tweeted that the outage resulted from reconfiguring settings to comply with fresh sanctions. “We mistakenly configured the settings more broadly than they needed to be.” The project says it’s since resolved the issue and restored access.

Around the same time, MetaMask explained that the Infura reconfiguration resulted in a knock-on effect for wallet users. “MetaMask relies on Infura as the default endpoint,” tweeted its official account, adding, “but this setting can be modified by users if desired, or in case of any service interruptions.”

The U.S., European Union, and other jurisdictions have implemented heavy sanctions against Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In addition to freezing hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign reserves and severing individual Russian banks’ ties with the SWIFT communications network, Western countries have also levied restrictions on state-tied companies, government officials, and oligarchs.

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U.S. sanctions apply to companies doing business in the U.S., including ConsenSys and its products, to make sure no assets can make their way to prohibited governments, companies or individuals. 

But transactions of cryptocurrencies between most private citizens are not supposed to be directly affected as the sanctions are meant to be targeted. Therefore, the Infura blockade of “certain jurisdictions” has raised fears that ConsenSys has restricted access to innocent people in a bid to comply with government directives. 

Ethereum watchers have long complained that the project, which has been estimated to support most of the traffic on Ethereum applications, is already too centralized—though it does have competitors, among them Alchemy. 

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Venezuelan government and banking sector have also long been on the receiving end of U.S. sanctions, though individual Venezuelans are not targeted.

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