Developers Discuss Wallet Safety Under Hard Fork Conditions

A proposal for how bitcoin wallets could be protected under adversarial conditions is seeing discussion among Bitcoin Core developers.

Mar 22, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:10 p.m. UTC

Developers affiliated with the Bitcoin Core project have begun to discuss possible negative side effects that could result if bitcoin is split into two competing blockchain networks with different block sizes.

In a post to the bitcoin developer mailing list today, developer Luke Dashjr proposed a way that would allow consumer-friendly wallets continue to function securely, even if an attack on a smaller-block blockchain was launched in an effort to confuse their behavior.

While built on many if-then assumptions, the idea has nonetheless drawn praise as a clever solution that could mitigate a potential drawback of such a scenario, one that seems increasingly of interest to bitcoin startups and businesses.

As reported by CoinDesk, bitcoin miners and developers have been increasingly at odds on project direction, prompting talk that one party could go so far as to force a 'fork' or alter the rules and thereby create a new blockchain.

Should this situation arise, the idea is that miners involved in securing the new blockchain could go so far as to attack the old chain, thereby compromising the ability of nodes to record transaction history and act as an authoritative record.

At issue is that so-called SPV wallets (the kind that most average users have) do not download the full history of transactions, and therefore could be disrupted should miners seek to confuse them with data that's incorrect by their ruleset.

In response, Dashjr has coded a draft for how light wallets would be able to detect that certain blocks were too large given the ruleset of the smaller block blockchain.

In comments on reddit, Bitcoin Core developer Greg Maxwell lauded the proposal as a "moderately efficient proof" that doesn't require network rule changes.

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