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Bitcoin Lightning Network and the “Blind Routes”

It is a functionality that hides a part of the payment routing. The proposal improves the privacy of the recipient of a transaction.

In Short

  • When you create a transaction, the system exposes the recipient’s public key to those with access.
  • Blind routes hide information for participants in a transaction.

Bitcoin’s Lightning network added the “blind routes” feature to the list of specifications under review and approval. This tool allows a network node to send payments through one or more routes without revealing the recipient’s identity or the whole route to the rest of the network.

The proposal’s author, known under the pseudonym t-bast, announced on Twitter that it had been included in the Lightning Network master repository under BOLT 4. BOLTs are the “foundations of Lightning technology” and specify the bitcoin (BTC) instant payment network operation.

Blind routing operation offers the main benefit of enhancing privacy by routing a payment created via an invoice on the Lightning network. That is, sending a transaction that “travels” through various payment nodes and channels.

With blind routing, the system hides the final part of a transaction’s path. The proposal isolates the information available to participants, including the nodes that transmit it.

Without this tool, the sender can know which nodes a transaction will pass through until it reaches the final recipient, which he also knows. Along the way, the recipient’s public key is visible to all nodes routing the payment.

Payment path in the Lightning network without using blind routes
Payment path in the Lightning network without using blind routes (Source: Voltage)

In contrast, with blind routes, each node can only see the information of the previous or next node. However, as was previously the case, they cannot identify the entire route or the final recipient.

Payment path in the Lightning network without using blind routes
Payment path in the Lightning network without using blind routes (Source: Voltage)

Blind routes, a privacy improvement on the Lightning network

In short, the “blind routes” feature allows payments over the Lightning network to be more private and secure. We noted in the past the thoughts of developers such as Olaoluwa Osuntokun, who explained:

“Blind routes solve the privacy problem at the node level by replacing ‘hop hints’ with a cryptographically obfuscated route. At a high level, the receiver can construct a route of one or more hops [hop hints, hops between nodes], collect the public keys for each node, and then obfuscate them so that the sender of the payment uses them to find his route, but doesn’t know how many nodes or hops are part of it.”

Olaoluwa Osuntukun, Lightning developer

As we mentioned, the idea t-bast in 2020 presented to the public was already included in the Lightning network’s master repository on GitHub. As the developer commented on Twitter, they have work to do with the different implementations that allow Bitcoin users to use the network.

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