How do I read the Bitcoin source code

Dangerous bug discovered in Bitcoin code

No software or code is perfect. Even with Bitcoin, errors are regularly found in the code. In the past week, however, a vulnerability was discovered that was so serious that it could have sent the value of Bitcoin downhill.

On September 17th, a developer of the competing Bitcoin cash currency discovered a bug in the code. Since Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash are based on the same code, this error would also have affected the cryptocurrency. With the help of the bug, it would have been possible for companies mining Bitcoin to carry out so-called double-spend attacks. The underlying blockchain can be tricked into so that Bitcoins coins are issued multiple times. The miners could have generated new bitcoins in a short time - and thus enriched themselves. The maximum number of Bitcoins is actually limited to 21 million. Mining keeps adding new bitcoins until the 21 million bitcoins are finally reached around the year 2140.

A fraudulent increase in the Bitcoin number could have led to a sharp drop in prices. Because inflation and the loss of confidence in the security of the system would have caused a stir in the already volatile crypto markets.

Since a Bitcoin Cash developer reported the bug early on, the Bitcoin core team was able to react in good time and publish an update for the nodes. Other cryptocurrencies Litecoin, which are based on the Bitcoin code, were also affected. Due to the severity of the problem, the developers decided not to publish the complete problem immediately. Rather, miners were told that they should upgrade the software in order to be protected against a DoS attack. Only when over 50 percent of the miners had taken over the new software did the Bitcoin core team publish the entire problem report. Other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin were also updated quickly.

However, the process shows what problems can arise if there is a critical bug in the Bitcoin blockchain. Fortunately, this time the bug was found by a goodwill developer, but things could have turned out differently. The responsible Bitcoin developer apologized on Twitter.

I am responsible for the CVE-2018-17144 bug. https://t.co/BrPVivM296

- John Newbery (@jfnewbery) September 24, 2018

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Last week I was found short in my knowledge and in my judgment. I'm embarrassed and sorry.

- John Newbery (@jfnewbery) September 24, 2018

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This article first appeared on Kryptoszene.de.

Image: Getty / Jordan Mansfield