O'Reilly logo

Mastering Bitcoin, 2nd Edition by Andreas M. Antonopoulos

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Chapter 11. Bitcoin Security

Securing bitcoin is challenging because bitcoin is not an abstract reference to value, like a balance in a bank account. Bitcoin is very much like digital cash or gold. You’ve probably heard the expression, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” Well, in bitcoin, possession is ten-tenths of the law. Possession of the keys to unlock the bitcoin is equivalent to possession of cash or a chunk of precious metal. You can lose it, misplace it, have it stolen, or accidentally give the wrong amount to someone. In every one of these cases, users have no recourse, just as if they dropped cash on a public sidewalk.

However, bitcoin has capabilities that cash, gold, and bank accounts do not. A bitcoin wallet, containing your keys, can be backed up like any file. It can be stored in multiple copies, even printed on paper for hard-copy backup. You can’t “back up” cash, gold, or bank accounts. Bitcoin is different enough from anything that has come before that we need to think about bitcoin security in a novel way too.

Security Principles

The core principle in bitcoin is decentralization and it has important implications for security. A centralized model, such as a traditional bank or payment network, depends on access control and vetting to keep bad actors out of the system. By comparison, a decentralized system like bitcoin pushes the responsibility and control to the users. Because security of the network is based on Proof-of-Work, not access control, the network ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required