Is there an example of a single historical case of theft of bitcoin due to a flaw in the design of the bitcoin protocol?

When googling "is bitcoin secure?" it's easy to get confused because you can read endless stories about a lot of people having lots of bitcoins lost or stolen. As far as I can tell, most of these cases occur when the victim:

  1. Forgot their private key
  2. Lost control of their private key
  3. Gave their balance to a custodian, and that custodian lost control of their private key(s)
  4. Other user error

I'm also aware that, in the history of bitcoin, there have been fundemental flaws, such as the 1 RETURN bug that would allow anyone to spend anyone else's bitcoin with a maliciously crafted transaction.

My question is: is there a single documented case of theft happening due to such a flaw in the actual design of bitcoin that can't be attributed to user error?

  • To be clear - you are separating protocol flaws from software implementation flaws in any implementation including Bitcoin core? This might be problematic since some people regard Bitcoin core's code as part of the definition of handling network communications and applying rules to those communications. In other words, the Bitcoin protocol is arguably more than the list of messages and message formats. Nov 4, 2022 at 11:23
  • I'd maybe consider implementation flaws in Bitcoin Core (only) to be a "flaw in the actual design of bitcoin," but not third party wallets. Nov 4, 2022 at 14:45

1 Answer 1


One story I know:

Not long ago user has transferred 900 mBTC to address known as generated from empty string. This amount has been immediately transferred elsewhere.

Seems like someone has lost 900 mBTC because of poor implementation of their software.

  • "address known as generated from empty string" what? Please clarify what happened and on what software. And also please cite your source. Nov 8, 2022 at 14:56
  • You can use empty string to hash it to sha256, then base58check it and you have private key derived from empty string and that was used to sent 900 mBTC. That's all I know.
    – pbies
    Nov 8, 2022 at 17:30
  • Please delete your answer as it doesn't answer this question. Anyone can design a malicious or poorly-designed bitcoin wallet. This is not a flaw in the bitcoin protocol, so it is not a valid answer to this question. Nov 8, 2022 at 17:36
  • @MichaelAltfield it is valid because the BTC was stolen.
    – pbies
    Nov 8, 2022 at 17:58
  • did you read the question?? Has money ever been stolen in bitcoin due to a design flaw in the protocol? Bitcoin gets stolen all the time, we all know that. The purpose of this question was to identify a historical case where bitcoin was stolen due to a design flaw in the protocol. Your questions suggests an uncited case where an implementation of an unknown bitcoin wallet caused lost of funds. That is not a case of loss of funds due to a design flaw in the protocol. Nov 8, 2022 at 18:06

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