Bitcoin Optech Newsletter #34

This week’s newsletter summarizes a discussion about output tagging for BIP118 SIGHASH_NOINPUT_UNSAFE, announces merges that will make it possible to pair Bitcoin Core’s built-in wallet in watching-only mode with a hardware wallet, and describes the completion of the feature freeze for the next Bitcoin Core release. Also summarized are numerous code and documentation changes in popular Bitcoin infrastructure projects.

Action items

None this week.


  • Discussion about tagging outputs to enable restricted features on spending: The BIP118 SIGHASH_NOINPUT_UNSAFE (noinput) proposal allows the person generating a signature that authorizes the spend of one UTXO to optionally allow that signature to be reused (“replayed”) for spending other UTXOs sent to the same public key. This enables new features when used with protocols such as payment channels that all contain the same public keys (see the proposed Eltoo layer for LN), but it also makes possible replay attacks that can result in a loss of money when users reuse addresses. For example: Alice uses a coin she previously received to one of her addresses and signs a spend to Bob using SIGHASH_NOINPUT_UNSAFE. Later someone else pays money to that same address of Alice’s intending to send her some more money. Bob (or anyone else) can now send that output to Bob by replaying Alice’s earlier signature.

    One way to help avoid such accidents is simply by appending “UNSAFE” to the name of the feature, encouraging developers to learn about the protocol’s nuances before they implement it in their tools. However, some developers have been looking for additional ways to prevent problems. In December, Johnson Lau proposed only allowing noinput to be used if the output being spent had been specially tagged at its creation to allow the use of noinput. This would only allow the feature to be used when both the spender and receiver agreed (as in the case of a payment channel), preventing any miscommunications or misunderstandings from ending in loss of funds.

    Renewed discussion last week and this week saw analysis of the impact this would have on proposed layer two protocols such as Eltoo and Channel Factories. Although tagging increases complexity, the general opinion seems to be that it doesn’t fundamentally increase the cost or reduce the effectiveness of the described proposals, although it could make them a bit less private.

  • Bitcoin Core preliminary hardware wallet support: after months of incremental improvements, this week saw the merge of the final set of PRs needed for Bitcoin Core’s master development branch to support receiving and sending transactions in conjunction with a hardware wallet via the Hardware Wallet Interaction (HWI) tool. HWI is part of the Bitcoin Core project, but is not yet distributed with the Bitcoin Core software and is currently only accessible from the command line. It provides a solid foundation upon which to build tools that can make it easy to use an external keystore with Bitcoin Core’s native wallet and full verification node. Note also that it is already possible to connect a hardware wallet to an Electrum wallet connected to your full node using Electrum Personal Server.

    Organizations using advanced security techniques such as Hardware Security Modules (HSMs), cold wallets, and multisig may want to investigate the design of HWI and how it interacts with Bitcoin Core using output script descriptors and BIP174 PSBTs. These next-generation encodings of key and transaction data (and metadata), along with other advances such as the miniscript policy language, make it easier than ever to build and operate secure bitcoin storage solutions that interact with a full node for verification.

  • Bitcoin Core freeze week: as scheduled, the project has stopped accepting features for the upcoming release of major version 0.18. As often happens, this was preceded by a week or so of active last-minute review and merging of new features, which is reflected in the long list of changes in this week’s notable changes section below. The next two weeks will focus on developer testing and bug fixes, followed by the issuance of Release Candidates (RCs) for user testing. The RC cycle for a major release usually lasts two to four weeks before a final release.

    Related, the project prefers to merge major new features early in a new development cycle so that they get as much additional developer testing as possible. After the 0.18 branch is created around March 1st, anyone who wants to see a feature in 0.19 (estimated release October 2019) would be advised to either try to open a PR for it within the next two months or to assist in reviewing an existing PR for that feature. Some notable existing PRs that need more review or development include support for BIP156 Dandelion privacy-enhanced transaction relay, BIP151 encrypted P2P connections, BIP157/158 compact block filters, simplified reproducible builds using GNU Guix, improved support for external signers (e.g. hardware wallets), separating the wallet from the node, and allowing RBF on any transaction after it’s been in the mempool for more than a few hours.

Notable code and documentation changes

Notable changes this week in Bitcoin Core, LND, C-Lightning, Eclair, libsecp256k1, and Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs).

  • Bitcoin Core #15368 adds support for checksums to output script descriptors. Descriptors are used to monitor for received payments and generate new addresses, so checksums improve safety by preventing copying errors that could cause money to go missing or be sent to an unspendable address. A # character is added to the descriptor grammar for separating the descriptor from its 8-character checksum, e.g. wpkh(031234...cdef)#012345678 (see footnote1 for an extended example). All Bitcoin Core RPCs that return descriptors now include a checksum. RPCs that aren’t particularly at risk of losing money don’t require that input include the checksum, but RPCs that are safety critical, such as deriveaddress and importmulti, are updated to require users provide the checksum. Finally, a new getdescriptorinfo RPC is added that accepts a descriptor and returns a normalized form of it containing a checksum along with some other information about it.

  • Bitcoin Core #13932 adds three new RPCs for managing PSBTs: utxoupdatepsbt searches the set of Unspent Transaction Outputs (UTXOs) to find the outputs being spent by the partial transaction. If any of those outputs paid a native segwit address, it adds the details of that output to a field in the PSBT. This information is required by PSBT signers because the BIP143 signature format for segwit requires the signing of information that is not directly contained in the spending transaction or derivable from the signer’s private key, such as the value of the output being spent. joinpsbts combines the inputs from multiple PSBTs into a single PSBT. analyzepsbt examines a PSBT and prints the next step the user needs to take towards finalizing it.

  • Bitcoin Core #14075 adds a keypool parameter to the importmulti RPC that allows imported public keys to be added to the keypool—the list of keys that are used to create new receiving and change addresses. The option is only available for wallets that have private keys disabled (see PR#9662 described in Newsletter #5). This allows a user of a cold wallet or a hardware wallet to import their public keys into a watching-only Bitcoin Core wallet and then receive payments normally. When attempting to spend payments, the wallet can generate an unsigned transaction—including a change address—using a BIP174 PSBT and send that to a tool such as HWI that will connect to the external wallet for review and signing.

  • Bitcoin Core #14021 changes the importmulti RPC to store any key origin metadata included as part of an output script descriptor. The key origin information specifies what HD seed and derivation path was used to generate a public key. When key origin metadata is available in the wallet, any PSBTs generated by the wallet will include that data to allow hardware wallets or other programs to locate the private keys needed to sign the PSBT. See the footnote1 for an example of key origin information in a descriptor.

  • Bitcoin Core #14481 updates the listunspent, signrawtransactionwithkey, and signrawtransactionwithwallet RPCs to each contain a new witnessScript field. The first RPC returns the witnessScript and the other two can accept it as input. Previously Bitcoin Core overloaded the existing P2SH redeemScript fields for segwit witnessScripts, but this can be especially confusing in the case of P2SH-wrapped segwit. This change makes it clear what data goes where.

  • Bitcoin Core #15063 allows the wallet to fallback on BIP21 parsing of a bitcoin: URI if BIP70 support has been disabled. As specified by BIP72, the bitcoin: URI was extended in a backwards-compatible way to contain an additional r= parameter containing the BIP70 URL. This was done to allow services already using BIP21 URIs to upgrade to supporting BIP70 without losing existing users. However, now that many wallets are services are deprecating their BIP70 support, the same mechanism can be used in reverse so that services that previously supported BIP70 can allow their non-BIP70 users to continue to get payment details by just clicking on a bitcoin: link.

  • Bitcoin Core #15153 adds a GUI menu to open a wallet and #15195 adds a menu to close a wallet. This makes it much easier to use Bitcoin Core’s multiwallet mode from the GUI, although it’s not yet possible to create a wallet from the GUI without using the debug console (that todo is the final item on the dynamic wallet checklist).

  • Eclair #862 now supports payment requests (invoices) in all uppercase as well as all lowercase. Mixed case is not permitted, as per the BOLT11 specification (which bases the invoice format on BIP173 bech32).

  • BIPs #760 updates BIP158 compact block filters to add additional test vectors for correct processing of data carrier outputs (OP_RETURN outputs).


  1. An current example of the descriptor format with key origin information and an error-detecting checksum:

    $ bitcoin-cli getaddressinfo bc1qsksdpqqmsyk9654puz259y0r84afzkyqdfspvc | jq .desc

    Parsing this, we see the following:

    • The address is a Witness Public Key Hash wpkh(), otherwise known as P2WPKH. Descriptors can succinctly describe all common uses of P2PKH, P2SH, P2WPKH, P2WSH, and nested segwit.

    • The key origin is described between the square brackets [].

      • f6bb4c63 is a fingerprint that identifies the key at the root of the path provided. The fingerprint is the first 32 bits of its ripemd(sha256()) hash as defined by BIP32. This makes it easy for tools, such as those used with PSBTs, to work with multisig scripts and other cases where you have multiple signing devices using different keys.

      • /0'/0'/21' is the HD key path, corresponding to m/0'/0'/21' in standard BIP32 notation. This allows a wallet that doesn’t have all of its public keys precomputed to know which private key it needs to generate in order to produce the signature. (Bitcoin Core precomputes its public keys and so usually doesn’t need this information when used as a cold wallet—but hardware wallets with minimal storage and computational speed need HD path information in order to work efficiently.)

    • The actual public key used to generate the P2WPKH key hash is 034ed7...04f6

    • A checksum following a # protects the descriptor string against typos on import, mtdep7g7