It's Possible to Increase Bitcoin's Block Size Without a Hard Fork: Blockstream Co-Founder

Mark Friedenbach, a bitcoin developer and co-founder of the popular Blockstream company, has recently revealed a scaling approach he called “forward blocks,” which could essentially help increase BTC’s block size without a hard fork.

Currently, bitcoin can accommodate a small number of transactions per second, and is unable to compete with traditional payment networks such as that of Visa. While some believe the cryptocurrency should scale through a block size increase – which would require a hard fork - others argue this approach will lead to centralization, and prefer other solutions.

A hard fork is essentially a change to the network that isn’t backwards-compatible, meaning all of the cryptocurrency’s users need to upgrade to keep up with the change. A soft fork, on the other hand, can be backwards-compatible.

Friedenbach’s approach, according to a transcript of his presentation at the Scaling Bitcoin workshop, would be able to boost the flagship cryptocurrency’s on-chain transaction capacity through a Proof-of-Work (PoW) alternation achieved through soft forks and “privacy-enhancing alternative ledgers (side chains).”

According to Friedenbach, a former space apps developer at NASA, the forward blocks approach could ultimately help increase the cryptocurrency’s “settlement transactions volume to 3584x current levels,” while improving censorship resistance via sharding.

Here, the developer refers to sharding as a change to the PoW system and a series of developments that would see bitcoin’s blockchain scale. Most cryptocurrency users refer to sharding when mentioning Ethereum’s scaling solution, which would see multiple network computers divide transaction workload between them to scale the blockchain. These two, per Friedenbach, are “largely not” the same.

Speaking to CoinDesk, the former NASA employee noted his approach could help with the scaling debate, as the community often opposes hard forks because of how hard it can be to do them safely. He was quoted as saying:

Forward blocks makes that whole argument pointless. We don't need a hard-fork to scale bitcoin, if and when we decide to do so. It can be accomplished as a soft fork, like SegWit was.

SegWit, as CryptoGlobe covered, was launched one year ago and recently saw its usage go over 50%. During his presentation, he further suggested it could be good to replace bitcoin’s current halving mechanism, which halves block rewards every four years. To him, a more linear approach could be more beneficial to the cryptocurrency, as it wouldn’t suddenly affect the ecosystem.

Notably, Friedenbach reportedly got to his forward blocks approach by starting out thinking about a “development of a dual PoW change where you introduce a new PoW with a soft fork.” While he noted this wasn’t a proposal, it’s a “good place” to start thinking about the solution.

 

A Controversial Solution

While some could look at the former NASA contractor’s approach as revolutionary, CoinDesk reports not everyone is excited about it. Pseudonymous bitcoin developer “Shinobimonkey” was quoted as saying it was a “network attack being called an upgrade.”

Blockstream’s CEO Adam Back noted that “it’s OK,” as discovering mechanisms “can be useful and separate from whether it would be practical technically and in terms of user consensus.” To him, it’s so far just another tool.

Per the news outlet, Friedenbach isn’t advocating to use forward blocks on bitcoin either, but is merely trying to put the option out there. He’s reportedly set to test it on “Freicoin,” an altcoin he created.

'Big Spender' Bitcoin Wallet Exploit Is an 'Issue With BTC Itself', Says BCH Supporter

Michael LaVere
  • Crypto security firm ZenGo has identified a double-spend exploit dubbed "BigSpender" which affected popular bitcoin wallets.
  • Exploit allows an attacker to cancel a bitcoin transaction without the receiving user knowing. 

A crypto security firm has identified a double-spend exploit targeting popular bitcoin wallet providers. 

According to a report by ZenGo, the security firm has discovered a double and multiple spend wallet exploit for bitcoin dubbed “BigSpender.” The report claims the exploit allows an attacker to cancel a bitcoin transaction but still have it appear in a victim’s vulnerable wallet. 

The report reads, 

The core issue at the heart of the BigSpender vulnerability is that vulnerable wallets are not prepared for the option that a transaction might be canceled and implicitly assume it will get confirmed eventually.

As CryptoGlobe reported, ZenGo found that a user’s balance would be increased following an unconfirmed incoming transaction, without a subsequent decrease in the event the transaction being double-spent. The firm outlined how an attacker could use the exploit to cancel transactions of sent bitcoin while still receiving goods and services in return. 

The security firm tested nine popular cryptocurrency wallets and found BRD, Ledger Live and Edge to be vulnerable to the exploit. All three companies were notified by ZenGo of the threat and subsequently updated their products. However, the firm noted that “millions” of crypto users may have been exposed to the attack prior to the update. 

Bitcoin Cash supporter Hayden Otto told Cointelegraph the exploit is particularly concerning for bitcoin-accepting merchants. 

He said, 

The technique is facilitated by RBF (replace by fee), a so-called ‘feature’ added at the protocol level by the Bitcoin Core developers.The issue exists if you use BTC. Wallet software can only make some trade off, which results in a worse BTC user experience, in order to try to protect BTC users.

Otto claimed the exploit was derived from “an issue with BTC itself” and had little to do with wallet software. 

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