This week’s newsletter summarizes a proposal for remotely controlling LN nodes using a hardware signing device, describes privacy-focused research and code for allowing LN forwarding nodes to dynamically split LN payments, and looks at a proposal for improving LN liquidity by allowing groups of forwarding nodes to pool funds separately from their normal channels. Also included are our regular sections announcing new releases and describing notable changes to popular Bitcoin infrastructure software.
● Secure remote control of LN nodes: Bastien Teinturier posted to the Lightning-Dev mailing list about a proposed BLIP that would specify how a user could send signed commands to their LN node from a hardware signing device (or any other wallet). The signing device would only need to implement the BLIP plus BOLT8 peer communication and the LN node would only need to implement the BLIP. This is similar to Core Lightning’s commando plugin (see Newsletter #210), which allows almost complete remote control of an LN node, but Teinturier envisions his feature as primarily being for control of the most sensitive node actions, such as authorizing a payment—the type of actions where a user would reasonably be willing to go through the hassle of connecting and unlocking a hardware security device and then authorizing the action. This would make it easier for an end user to secure their LN balance with the same hardware signing device security as their onchain balance.
● Payment splitting and switching: Gijs van Dam posted to the Lightning-Dev mailing list about a plugin he’s written for Core Lightning and some research he’s performed related to it. The plugin allows forwarding nodes to tell their peers that they support payment splitting and switching (PSS). If Alice and Bob share a channel and both of them support PSS, then when Alice receives a payment to be forwarded to Bob, the plugin may split that into two or more payment parts. One of those payments may be forwarded to Bob like normal, but the others may follow alternative paths (e.g., from Alice to Carol to Bob). Bob waits to receive all parts and then continues forwarding the payment like normal to the next hop.
The main advantage of this approach is that makes it harder to execute balance discovery attacks (BDAs) where a third party repeatedly probes a channel to track its balance. If done frequently, a BDA can track the amount of a payment passing through a channel. If done on many channels, it may be able to track that payment as it crosses the network. When PSS is used, the attacker would need to track not just the balance of the Alice-and-Bob channel, but also the Alice-and-Carol and Carol-and-Bob channels in order to track the payment. Even if the attacker did track the balance of all of those channels, the computational difficulty of tracking the payment increases, as does the chance that parts of other users’ payments that simultaneously pass through those channels could be conflated with parts of the original payment being tracked. A paper by van Dam showed a 62% reduction in the amount of information an attacker was able to gain when PSS is deployed.
Two additional benefits are mentioned in van Dam’s paper about PSS: increased LN throughput and as part of a mitigation against channel jamming attacks. The idea of PSS had received a small amount of discussion on the mailing list as of this writing.
● Pooled liquidity for LN: ZmnSCPxj posted to the Lightning-Dev mailing list a suggestion for what he calls sidepools. This would involve groups of forwarding nodes working together to deposit funds in a multiparty state contract—an offchain contract (that is anchored onchain similar to an LN channel) that would allow funds to be moved between the participants by updating the offchain contract state. For example, an initial state that gives Alice, Bob, and Carol each 1 BTC could be updated to a new state that gives Alice 2 BTC, Bob 0 BTC, and Carol 1 BTC.
The forwarding nodes would also continue to use and advertise ordinary LN channels between pairs of nodes; for example, the three users described previously could have three separate channels: Alice and Bob, Bob and Carol, and Alice and Carol. They would forward payments across these channels exactly the same as they can today.
If one or more of the ordinary channels became imbalanced—for example too much of the funds in the channel between Alice and Bob now belongs to Alice—the imbalance could be resolved by performing an offchain peerswap in the state contract. E.g., Carol could provide some funds to Alice in the state contract contingent on Alice forwarding the same amount of funds through Bob to Carol in the ordinary LN channel—restoring balance to the LN channel between Alice and Bob.
One advantage of this approach is that nobody needs to know about the state contract except the participants in each particular contract. To all ordinary LN users, and all forwarding nodes not involved in a particular contract, LN continues to operate using the current protocol. Another advantage, compared to existing channel rebalancing operations, is that the state contract approach allows a large number of forwarding nodes to maintain a direct peer relationship for a small amount of onchain space, likely eliminating any offchain rebalancing fees between those peers. Keeping rebalancing fees minimal makes it much easier for forwarding nodes to keep their channels balanced, which improves their revenue potential and makes sending payments across LN more reliable.
A downside to the approach is that it requires a multiparty state contract, which is something that has never been implemented in production before (to the best of our knowledge). ZmnSCPxj mentions two contract protocols that might be useful to use as a basis, LN-Symmetry and duplex payment channels. LN-Symmetry would require a consensus change, which seems unlikely to happen in the near future, so a follow-up post by ZmnSCPxj appears to be focusing on duplex payment channels (which ZmnSCPxj calls “Decker-Wattenhofer” after the researchers who first proposed them). A downside of duplex payment channels is that they can’t be kept open indefinitely, although ZmnSCPxj’s analysis indicates they can probably be kept open for long enough, and through enough state changes, to amortize their cost effectively.
Releases and release candidates
New releases and release candidates for popular Bitcoin infrastructure projects. Please consider upgrading to new releases or helping to test release candidates.
- ● LND v0.17.0-beta is the release for the next major version of this popular LN node implementation. A major new experimental feature included in this release is support for “simple taproot channels”, which allows using unannounced channels funded onchain using a P2TR output. This is the first step towards adding other features to LND’s channels, such as support for Taproot Assets and PTLCs. The release also includes a significant performance improvement for users of the Neutrino backend, which supports compact block filters, as well as improvements to LND’s built-in watchtower functionality. For more information, please see the release notes and release blog post.
Notable code and documentation changes
Notable changes this week in Bitcoin Core, Core Lightning, Eclair, LDK, LND, libsecp256k1, Hardware Wallet Interface (HWI), Rust Bitcoin, BTCPay Server, BDK, Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs), Lightning BOLTs, and Bitcoin Inquisition.
● LDK #2609 allows requesting the descriptors used for receiving payments in past transactions. Previously, users had to store these themselves; with the updated API, the descriptors can be reconstructed from other stored data.