Bitcoin’s Secret Key to be Revealed

| Publish date: 06/27/2018

According to the latest news reports, the Bitcoin Core community is revealing a long-held secret – the private key that the protocol’s creator had handed over to the Core community’s developers which activated the alert system of the Bitcoin network. This alert system was created so that a text warning could be flashed to the entire Bitcoin community in case there was a danger to the security of the network in any way.

Phasing Out the Alert System

This reveal is actually the last stage of putting this alert system to its final rest. This alert system was developed by Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, so that important information could be sent out to the entire community in one go.

The challenge was that as the community grew – exponentially – access to the alert system became too widespread. There was no way with which to identify who was using the security key, and basically anyone who had the key could use it to send out an alert to the entire Bitcoin network.

According to Bitcoin Core’s regular contributor, Greg Maxwell, the alert system was becoming a source of misunderstanding about effective governance as well as the protocol’s security system. This meant that any member with access to the key could use the alert key for their own ends.

An example of this is when one BitcoinJ developer decided to use the key to control the fees charged on the network, or when another Bloq developer wanted to change the mining difficulty level of the system. Additionally, there was a very real threat that if the key fell into the hands of someone dangerous, they could really do damage to the entire Bitcoin ecosystem.

Thus, in 2016, the Bitcoin Core community began the process of dismantling this alert system. The first step was taken by releasing new code in 2016, one that did not have the alert system incorporated in it. In January of 2017, the final alert message was sent out to the entire using this key, which, by the very law of the code, rendered that last message permanent and could not be overridden by any other message in future.

Proceeding with Caution

This final reveal is being undertaken for the community by Bitcoin Core developer Bryan Bishop. And the need is for this private key to be made public so that possibilities of reputation attacks against the developers who have been holding that key. Bishop stated that they were looking at releasing the key to the public in early July, during the Building on Bitcoin conference.


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