Bitcoin 2022, hosted in Miami, Florida, on April 6-9, featured a panel titled “Preventing Attacks on Bitcoin” with three Bitcoin Core developers: Luke Dashjr, Bryan Bishop and Jameson Lopp (substituting for Peter Todd). The panel was moderated by Shinobi.

The panelists discuss technical and social attack vectors, primarily in the development process of Bitcoin Core, that could hinder or wholly derail Bitcoin’s sole mission as immutable money. The purpose for openly brainstorming attack vectors is to formulate appropriate defense measures and, as Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” strategizes:
The following is a summary of said panel with a quick overview of the Bitcoin Core development process.

BRIEF BITCOIN CORE OVERVIEW

The Bitcoin Core developers work through a development process to offer the Bitcoin protocol bug patches, software optimizations and enhanced features; they then publish these updates following community consensus via Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs). To successfully engineer an attack against the development process, on either a technical or social level, would potentially impede (sometimes critical) protocol updates and instill distrust between developers.

To clarify, Bitcoin Core is a free and open-source software implementation of a Bitcoin full node, referred to as a client. Although misleading in name, Bitcoin Core does not have centralized or “core” control over the Bitcoin network, but rather serves as just one possible client that people are free to use at their discretion. As well, the Bitcoin protocol consensus rules require that all Bitcoin full nodes and economic participants unfailingly enforce those rules when considering the validity of a block.

Additionally, Bitcoin Core updates are not downloaded automatically but rather manually, as automatic software updates provide an attack vector for a mischievous actor to compromise all the nodes and miners in a single stroke.

The Bitcoin Core team of developers do not pedestal a single leader or spokesperson — thus distancing the client and development process from personal character exploitation due to faults all earthly leaders inherently possess. For example, narcissistic leaders can be weakened by creating unrest within their fan base, or short-tempered leaders can behave irrationally when provoked with insults. To overturn an upstart movement, one must cleverly dispose of its leader or fracture their following.

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