[bitcoin-dev] Completing the retirement of the alert system

Andrew C achow101 at gmail.com
Sat Sep 10 01:31:16 UTC 2016


Armory used to contain code for handling these alerts but that was
removed after the PR removing alerts from Bitcoin Core was merged.

On 9/9/2016 8:42 PM, Gregory Maxwell via bitcoin-dev wrote:
> The alert system was a centralized facility to allow trusted parties
> to send messages to be displayed in wallet software (and, very early
> on, actually remotely trigger the software to stop transacting).
> It has been removed completely in Bitcoin Core after being disabled for a while.
> While the system had some potential uses, there were a number of
> problems with it.
> The alert system was a frequent source of misunderstanding about the
> security model and 'effective governance', for example a years ago a
> BitcoinJ developer wanted it to be used to control fee levels on the
> network and few months back one of Bloq's staff was pushing for a
> scheme where "the developers" would use it to remotely change the
> difficulty-- apparently with no idea how abhorrent others would find
> it.
> The system also had a problem of not being scalable to different
> software vendors-- it didn't really make sense that core would have
> that facility but armory had to do something different (nor would it
> really make sense to constantly have to maintain some list of keys in
> the node software).
> It also had the problem of being unaccountable. No one can tell which
> of the key holders created a message. This creates a risk of misuse
> with a false origin to attack someone's reputation.
> Finally, there is good reason to believe that the key has been
> compromised-- It was provided to MTGox by a developer and MTGox's
> systems' were compromised and later their CEO's equipment taken by the
> Japanese police.
> In any case, it's gone now in Core and most other current software--
> and I think it's time to fully deactivate it.
> I've spent some time going around the internet looking for all
> software that contains this key (which included a few altcoins) and
> asked them to remove it. I will continue to do that.
> One of the facilities in the alert system is that you can send a
> maximum sequence alert which cannot be overridden and displays only a
> static key compromise text message and blocks all other alerts. I plan
> to send a triggering alert in the not-distant future (exact time to be
> announced well in advance) feedback on timing would be welcome.
> There are likely a few production systems that automatically shut down
> when there is an alert, so this risks some small one-time disruption
> of those services-- but none worse than if an alert were sent to
> advise about a new system upgrade.
> At some point after that, I would then plan to disclose this private
> key in public, eliminating any further potential of reputation attacks
> and diminishing the risk of misunderstanding the key as some special
> trusted source of authority.
> Cheers,
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