[Resource Topic] 2013/829: Is Bitcoin a Decentralized Currency?

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Is Bitcoin a Decentralized Currency?

Authors: Arthur Gervais, Ghassan Karame, Srdjan Capkun, Vedran Capkun


Bitcoin has achieved large-scale acceptance and popularity by promising its users a fully decentralized and low-cost virtual currency system. However, recent incidents and observations are revealing the true limits of decentralization in the Bitcoin system. In this article, we show that the vital operations and decisions that Bitcoin is currently undertaking are not decentralized. More specifically, we show that a limited set of entities currently control the services, decision making, mining, and the incident resolution processes in Bitcoin. We also show that third-party entities can unilaterally decide to “devalue” any specific set of Bitcoin addresses pertaining to any entity participating in the system. Finally, we explore possible avenues to enhance the decentralization in the Bitcoin system.

ePrint: https://eprint.iacr.org/2013/829

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