Bitcoin developer Bryan Bishop has the Bitcoin alert keys to the public by posting them on the Bitcoin developers mailing list on 2 July 2018. He had earlier said on 14 June 2018 that it was time to reveal the secret keys.
The Bitcoin alert keys and system were retired in 2016 due to vulnerabilities in the code, and part of the original retirement plan was to release the keys to the public, which hasn’t been done until now. Originally, the Bitcoin alert key was used to issue critical notices in the event of Bitcoin emergencies. The keys were created by Satoshi Nakamoto and distributed to only a few people. In the years that followed, more Bitcoin developers obtained the keys via an accident, which is another reason for the retirement of the system.
“One of the reasons for disclosure of the keys is to mitigate the effects of unknown dissemination and proliferation of the keys. By broadcasting the values to make them available to everyone, the value of the keys is intended to be eliminated, since now everyone could feasibly sign messages, the value of the signed messages becomes zero”, said Bishop.
In current versions of Bitcoin Core, the alert system has been removed but Bitcoin Core versions 0.12.x and older still receive alerts broadcast with the alert keys. According to bitnodes, there are still hundreds of Bitcoin nodes that use software versions old enough to receive alerts.
Bitcoin Core developers did issue a final alert that said “URGENT: alert key compromised, upgrade required”, but due to a vulnerability in the code this final alert can be canceled and then fake alert messages could start rolling in, which may lead to some confusion. This is a good reason for people using older versions of Bitcoin Core to upgrade.
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