BitCoin Lightning Network: adding more layers of software increases the surface area of attack

Please do some more research […] when the LN (Lightening (sp) Network) comes out it will address these issues and maintain the 1mb block size which will help it remain decentralized.

The lightening (sp) network coming soon will solve many current problems with Bitcoin.

I don’t think you understand.

“I don’t think you understand.” — the battle cry of die-hard crypto advocates whose air of superiority is suffocating rational debate.

Let’s step away from the emotional non-arguments and see what the Lightning Network really is at a macro level.

At the micro-level, apart from doing a full code review of what I expect to be tens-of-thousands lines of code, I will simply assume the developers can implement the functionality they intend to as stated on their webpage.

But at a macro-level, I will assume it is going to share some common characteristics with any other large-scale software project.

Software engineers are aware that the more layers of complexity you add, the greater surface area of attack there is in terms of security.  The greater surface area of attack combined with the rapidly growing stakes means that the underlying code must be rock solid. One mistake will have multi-billion dollar consequences.  This is not affecting just a single corporation anymore, this is affecting a whole bunch of lay-investors that have no idea what they are getting into.

Software engineers are also aware that developers are humans, and there is no such thing as perfect code.  No software project, this rushed, makes it through rock solid and bug free.  In fact, this argument holds in general, outside of the introduction of the Lightning Network.

If the foundation is shaky (as is with the scalability problems with BitCoin), and it begets band-aid solutions like Lightning Network, the natural evolution is to patch everything wrong with the Lightning Network with more band-aid solutions in the future.  This repeats ad infinitum for this type of software that cannot roll out constant updates while requiring backwards compatibility.

If development goes the route of “starting from scratch”, as does many over-bloated software projects, what does that say about the value of BitCoin relative to other cryptocurrencies that simply replicate what BitCoin is trying to do, but are much more leaner and efficient from the start?

If lay-people have a difficult enough time understanding (there’s that word again) the technical aspects of cryptocurrencies, they should be even more afraid of the increased complexity introduced by the Lightning Network.  When, not if, an exploit is found, at any stage of a BitCoin transaction, it will slide under the radar for quite sometime while the exploiters maximize their profits off of unsuspecting crypto users.

People inherently know how to defend themselves physically (or know how to call the police) if they are being mugged for their money.  Will they know how to defend themselves technically when digital thieves target them?  This is how the whole “I don’t think you understand” argument backfires: complexity makes “software as a currency” worse.  No one should be forced to understand how BitCoin works, or how the Lightning Network does off-blockchain transactions, just to perform the simple task of bartering their productivity for someone else’s productivity.

My complexity argument also extends to fiat and Keynesian economics. The fact that people are trusting the rationalizations of Keynesians in the ivory towers to control monetary policy is a reason to get rid of it altogether.  It is opening up channels of exploitation for those that supposedly “understand” it to indirectly steal money from those that “don’t understand”.  The Keynesians are in control of fiat, just as cryptocurrencies are centralized and controlled by BitCoin and Lightning Network engineers and designers.

If you get stiffed by either system, well, I guess you just didn’t understand it from their perspective.

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If you want to get in to the cryptocurrency frenzy without risking a dime, check out my guide on how to mine Monero.

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