On the recent bout of malleated transactions

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In the last couple months people associated with Bitcoin "unlimited" have been arguing that mallability is a non-issue, a fake concern (with unspecified motivations) and opposing segwit on those grounds; in the BU forums where they've argued this no one even refuted the claim.

There is a certain kind of defective reasoning that easily results in insecure protocol designs– "no one is attacking it now, so its secure." (sibling to 'no one has attacked it yet…', or 'I wouldn't perform that attack…'). We can see that kind of defective reasoning through the proposals from the BU organization– a strong assumption that all miners will be "honest" all the time for whatever arbitrarily strong definition of honest is required to make their proposal make logical sense. This is why BU proposes to effectively let miners control the network's rule– not just blocksize, but a majority of hashpower can override signature validation in BU too.

But Bitcoin was never designed to blindly trust miners: From day zero, described in the whitepaper and built into the system Satoshi released, all network nodes impose virtually every rule of the system autonomously, without trusting miners– the whitepaper even describes a mechanism for lite clients to join in this enforcement (though due to other design short comings it isn't yet workable).

In Bitcoin miners are only trusted to order transactions and make the chain immutable; and because of these strong constraints the avenues for abuse are limited and hard to profit from. So, BU has it backwards: We don't trust miners because they're honest, they're generally honest because the system provides very little opportunity for them to not be. This isn't an insult to miners: the constrains protect them by making it less attractive to compromise them in order to compromise Bitcoin. Being trusted can be a really significant cost that people are wise to avoid.

The history of security is full of the corpses of systems that assumed all the users would follow their rules or made handwaving assumptions about what motivated their participants. Bitcoin was specifically designed to provide cryptographic security– "secured in a way that was physically impossible for others to [compromise], no matter for what reason, no matter how good the excuse, no matter what."– and to the greatest extent possible, as far as we know so far, Bitcoin achieves this.

It pains me to see people arguing to turn it into something much weaker on the basis of confusion (or worse). I have many times seen people confusing hashpower– a self selecting pay-to-vote– for democracy, and I've seen people being deluded into thinking that democracy is superior to autonomy, when at best democracy is the least awful option when autonomy and true personal freedom are not realistically possible. The major lesson of Bitcoin– just like that of strong encryption before it– is that autonomy is possible in many things where few suspected it was before, including in almost every aspect of the operation of the money we choose to use. We shouldn't let this kind of confusion go silently uncontested.

Yesterday a miner mined some blocks with malleated transactions. They were able to do this because the rules of the Bitcoin system, as imposed today, do not prevent it. This has been somewhat disruptive for some users– less than in the past because many client applications were hardened during the prior malleation incidents, and many — but not all– use cases can be made malleation indifferent. I'm glad they've apparently stopped but it is up to all of us to make Bitcoin strong enough that we're not depending on the total cooperation of every anonymous self-selecting party in the world to avoid disruption.

By providing a concrete disproof of the claims that segwit solves a non-problem this miner has in a sense done us a favor. Point taken, I hope. It also, no doubt, disrupted some of the long-chain spam attackers. But that isn't much consolation to everyone who knew there were issues already and suffered disruption due to it.

A year ago today measurements show 78{88c91daedd271a990a10650c05d769cae2765e0603edf30ca95f18704e5748e8} of Bitcoin nodes are segwit ready. Segwit's design was finished a year ago, followed by months of intense testing and review. If segwit had been active this kind of event would have been a rapid non-issue– malleation vulnerable users could simply use segwit, and would likely have been using it for that and its other benefits.

BU does have one point: Bitcoin does continue to work in the presence of malleation. If malleation never were fixed, Bitcoin would would still be awesome. But it's better with it fixed, and it can be fixed in a completely compatible and non-disruptive way that does not risk confiscating users' assets, splitting the network, or otherwise causing significant disruption or harm to any user.

The developers in the Bitcoin project have done their part: We created an complete and total fix to third party malleation that anyone who cares can choose to use, once the network has activated it. I believe its something that no earnest and well informed participant in Bitcoin has reason to oppose. We also have a partial fix for legacy transactions implemented and queued up behind it.

If you're waiting on us to lead the charge to push SW through, please don't: Bitcoin can't afford a widespread belief that anyone controls the system. The savvy among us know that no one does, but the general public has a hard time believing anything doesn't have a "CEO" and malicious parties have exploited that incredulity to handicap developer ability to advocate: if we vigorously advocate and are successful it supports their claims that we're in control. That outcome has costs both personally and for the system which are too high, the status quo is preferable.

(The pain here is especially acute to me, because of the vicious conspiracy theories and threats that I'm subjected to when I speak up about practically anything.)

I think all the contributors in the Bitcoin project are willing and eager to provide whatever explanatory air cover or technical support is needed to get SW turned on in the network. But the heavy lifting to get this addition to the system going to need to come from all of us: think of it as an investment. The more Bitcoin can advance through the widest collaboration, the less it depends on advocacy by charismatic authorities for improvement, and the stronger it will be against adverse changes now and into the future.

submitted by /u/nullc
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