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Lightning Network security took $23,000 from thieves says new report

Rebecca Campbell


A new report from BitMex Research found Bitcoin Lightning nodes took 2.22 bitcoin ($23,000) in so called “justice transactions” from bad nodes using the network.

The report, Lightning Network (Part 3) – Where Is The Justice, focused on ‘channel closures’, a security measure put in place to stop dishonest Lightning nodes from taking funds on Bitcoin’s second-layer network.

“By design, when a thief attempts to steal funds on the Lightning network, if caught, they not only lose the money they tried to steal, they lose all the funds in the relevant channel,” said the report.

Dating back to December 2017, BitMex identified 241 possible transactions, amounting to 2.22 bitcoin ($23,000)–around 0.7% of all transactions on the network–which warranted justice channel closures. However, the report concedes, there might have been a lot more than 241 if more sophisticated techniques were used to pore over the data.

BitMex states that the most active months for fraudulent activity peaked in February 2019, with around 0.67BTC ($7,000) being seized, followed by April and May, which had 0.40BTC ($4,210) and 0.20BTC ($2,105), respectively.

Decrypt Guide: What is the Bitcoin Lightning Network and how do I use it?

The study admits that the 2.22 bitcoin number is a best guess based on the information it could gather. It goes on to state that the number doesn’t necessarily mean that thieves “tried and failed to steal 2.22BTC, as the dishonest nodes may have punished thieves by an amount larger than the value they tried to steal.”

Not only that, but the 241 justice transactions may not be true dishonesty, as these transactions could have been partly made up by users testing the system. With less than 1% of all transactions on the Lightning Network being identified as suspicious, it suggests one of two things: Either Lightning Network users are surprisingly well behaved compared to other networks, or, nefarious actors are much better at covering their tracks. You decide.