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Surely if there was a major bug discovered in the Bitcoin architecture, there is someone who would have the power to push an update and fix it.

Then I assume that they could also make changes for malicious purposes.

Who has the power to make changes to the Bitcoin architecture and what is the scope of their power?

Could they turn off the Bitcoin system completely?

4
  • 1
    Bitcoin - A protocol for a decentralized, censorship resistant and peer to peer network that creates consensus without needing a central authority to provide trust bitcoin - the currency (token) used in Bitcoin and issued as reward In proof of work mining process Bitcoin Core - One of the Bitcoin full node implementation and there are few others like btcd, bitcoinlib, bcoin, gocoin, knots etc.
    – Prayank
    Nov 8 '20 at 12:51
  • 1
    There can be bugs, vulnerabilities etc. in full node implementations and they are fixed like any other open source software
    – Prayank
    Nov 8 '20 at 12:52
  • Blockstream and bitcoin core are what are you looking for.
    – mpapec
    Nov 24 '20 at 20:48
8

Bitcoin has rules without rulers. Bitcoin has many groups of people who independently write software that implements those rules.

Software

There are many different groups of people who independently create Bitcoin software. For example there are many different wallet programs/apps.

The developers of any piece of software usually don't have the ability to force users of that software to upgrade. However such users are reliant on the honesty of the developers if they can't download and inspect the source code themselves. Many people rely on open-source software because it does mean ordinary users can inspect the code and verify that the software can be compiled from that code. Most users probably do assume that someone else will have done this and will let the world know of any malicious code.

When you choose to use a website or choose to install a Bitcoin program or app it is important that you are vigilant and diligently check the credibility of the source and the authenticity of the websites or programs.

Rules

There is no single person or organisation with the power to make changes to the Bitcoin network.

There is an open process for proposing changes to the Bitcoin rules but no-one has the power to force other people to adopt those proposed changes.


if there was a major bug discovered in the Bitcoin architecture, there is someone who would have the power to push an update and fix it.

No.

There are a group of people who could propose a fix. They cannot force anyone to implement the fix and cannot force people to upgrade to the fixed version.

I assume that they could also make changes for malicious purposes.

Proposals for rule changes that are malicious would quickly be seen because the whole proposal process is public. There are many different participants with a huge financial incentive to see that the rules are not malicious.

The developers of a closed-source wallet program or custodial-wallet service could make malicious changes. They could only affect their own software and not directly affect people using other software. This is one reason why those categories of software (closed-source and custodial) are regarded as the least trustworthy.

The nearest cases to this that I know of are

  • Multiple failures of custodial services (exchanges etc) where theft or fraud has occurred. MtGox, Quadriga-CX etc.
  • Fake wallets such as the Electrum hack a few years ago.

Who has the power to make changes to the Bitcoin architecture

You or I could propose a change. We would have to provide a well-reasoned case supported by evidence in order to convince many other independent groups of people in many countries to support and adopt that change.

Could they turn of the Bitcoin system completely?

No.

Even if you could somehow infiltrate and make several software products stop
working, people with other software would be unaffected and affected people would switch to unaffected software. Any damage made by malicious software to the "blockchain" public replicated journal of transactions would be ignored or undone by unaffected software. The malicious software and its damaged blockchain would form an unused fork.

0

Bitcoin is developed as an open source project managed by BitcoinCore. They write the code and review commits. They could push backdoors but there is peer review to circumvent this issue.

Also, nodes need to run their new software. As soon as someone outside BitcoinCore discovers the malicious code, entire mining pools would stop running the newest version of the software.

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  • This is partially false.
    – user253751
    Nov 9 '20 at 13:12
  • Wow, so helpful...
    – Silver
    Nov 10 '20 at 14:32
  • let's say BitcoinCore adds something to Bitcoin. Is it now in Bitcoin? Well actually no, it's not. What happens is that it's no longer Bitcoin (even though it's called BitcoinCore). It won't be able to agree with the rest of the Bitcoin network. So clearly they don't control Bitcoin.
    – user253751
    Nov 10 '20 at 14:33
  • That is what I stated in the second paragraph. Nodes need to run the new code.
    – Silver
    Nov 10 '20 at 14:50
  • 1
    Your first sentence is false. "Bitcoin" is the network as a whole and many of those nodes don't run the software managed by BitcoinCore. Bitcoin itself is what BitcoinCore has in common with other Bitcoin implementations. Nov 25 '20 at 21:11

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