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I've seen some messages in the daemon about MoneroPulse - what is it and what does it do?

The only reasonable reference I can find online is this Tweet that says "MoneroPulse: a loosely distributed checkpoint alert system. Normal nodes occasionally check and warn, but you can also force the right fork." Obviously I'd like some clarification and specifics.

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MoneroPulse is a DNS based system which regularly checks for a list of blockchain checkpoints stored in the DNS TXT record for a few monero domain names. This system allows emergency checkpoints to be set to mitigate an attack or accidental fork in the chain.

By default, this check is advisory (ie, you will get warnings if you are not on the chain that these records hold). The intent is to leave the choice to node administrators which chain they consider "the" chain, since those servers are under the core team's control. You can elect to have those checkpoints be authoritative by running bitmonerod with --enforce-dns-checkpoining instead. This is encouraged for nodes running unattended.

Several servers are used, and the code checks for both the chain of trust (if available via DNSSEC) and for differences in the records supplied by the DNS servers, to give some degree of resilience against attacks and network reliability issues.

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MoneroPulse purpose is to alert the user if he is following the network consensus (right fork). It has block hash checkpoints that can work as guides for the network in case of attacks like the one that happened at block 202612. You can run a node with the --enforce-dns-checkpointing flag to enforce following checkpoints from MoneroPulse.

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