After A Long Wait Bitcoin Secret Key Is About To Be Revealed
Satoshi Nakamoto's identity to this day remains unknown and almost everything that revolves around him remains hidden. But there are more and more clues about the creator of the bitcoin that can help us know its true identity.
There is a private key that the creator of the famous cryptocurrency entrusted to several bitcoin developers that activates the protocol alert system. It would be used to send a text warning to those running the software in the event of something that might affect the security of your funds. If you didn't know that bitcoin had such an alert system, it was withdrawn in 2016 due to security concerns and frequent confusion about its use.
“The alert system was a frequent source of misunderstanding about the security model and ‘effective governance,'” wrote Bitcoin Core contributor Greg Maxwell in a public e-mail in September 2016.
Some members of the bitcoin community thought that this could be used to change the network rules that bind users together, although this was not the case. A BitcoinJ developer once wanted to use the key to control fees, while a Bloq employee pressed Bitcoin Core developers to use the key to change the difficulty of operating the network.
The entire community and the developers were concerned that if a bad actor got hold of the key, they could convey false messages or potentially cause panic.
The Revelation Is Coming
The revelation is the last step in destroying the system. After Bitcoin Core developers released the new code in 2016 without the alert system, a final warning message was issued in January 2017 that, according to the code's law, meant that the message could not be overridden by any other message in the future. Even so, the private key must be publicly displayed so that there is no possibility of reputation attacks against the developers who own it.
As such, for some, the revelation – carried out by Bitcoin Core contributor Bryan Bishop – is coming. “Friends, it's going to be an interesting show,” tweets Bishop, followed by a series of tweets proving he's in possession of the secret code, not fully disclosed yet.
How Does It Affect Altcoins?
Revealing the key is potentially dangerous for any cryptocurrency that has used an earlier version of the bitcoin code to create its cryptocurrency and has not deactivated the alert key mechanism in its own code.
If the copycats have not disabled the alert system or changed the alert key (public key), and if they have not sent what is known as a final alert message, then once the keys are released, anyone can send alerts about those other networks.
This as such, has happened before. For example, the creator of Litecoin (LTC), Charlie Lee told on Twitter last week how the Feathercoin protocol that copied the Litecoin code, received LTC's alert about the update to Litecoin's latest client. Bishop and experts consider that controlling which alert messages are sent on multiple networks sounds dangerous.
As such, in Maxwell's 2016 e-mail, he said he had invested and would continue to invest time and effort searching through others cryptocurrencies codes databases. It also says that if it was found to contain the bitcoin alert key code, it would notify projects to remove that code.
“At some point after that, I would plan to disclose this private key in public, eliminating any other potential for reputation attacks and reducing the risk of misinterpreting the key as a special source of trusted authority.”
Two years have passed and neither Maxwell nor any other Bitcoin Core developer has revealed the key. But by now, projects susceptible to this vulnerability have already had time to remove the code and update it. Some of these projects may not have developers anymore, although users continue to exchange and use these cryptocurrencies, which could mean that there have been no updates.
Despite this, Bishop is giving these projects one last chance by sending messages through Twitter and other channels. Adding pressure could prioritize disclosure, however, Bishop and others are concerned about attacks on his reputation. That is, if the private key was compromised and used to sign a message with bad intentions, you could blame one of the developers of the Bitcoin kernel who is known to have the key.
No one knows the complete list of people who have access to the private key. A message could be signed by the private key, and the secret in this case is everyone's responsibility because some of the people who have the key are known in public to have it. Meanwhile the fact that a bad reputation is generated among developers is latent because those with the key who are not publicly known could blame known people to hold the key for sending hurtful messages.
Bishop recently used the alert key, without revealing it, to sign a simple text message that he then tweeted, showing how it could be used to mislead users or cause confusion within the community. In addition, he says there are other long-standing vulnerabilities within the alert key configuration that he plans to reveal when he discloses the key to the public.