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Double-spending prevention for Bitcoin zero-confirmation transactions


Zero-confirmation transactions, i.e. transactions that have been broadcast but are still pending to be included in the blockchain, have gained attention in order to enable fast payments in Bitcoin, shortening the time for performing payments. Fast payments are desirable in certain scenarios, for instance, when buying in vending machines, fast food restaurants, or withdrawing from an ATM. Despite being quickly propagated through the network, zero-confirmation transactions are not protected against double-spending attacks, since the double-spending protection Bitcoin offers relies on the blockchain and, by definition, such transactions are not yet included in it. In this paper, we propose a double-spending prevention mechanism for Bitcoin zero-confirmation transactions. Our proposal is based on exploiting the flexibility of the Bitcoin scripting language together with a well-known vulnerability of the ECDSA signature scheme to discourage attackers from performing such an attack.

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  1. Although it can be argued that Bitcoin transactions are not final since blockchain forks may always occur, throughout this paper, to simplify the discussion, we assume that once a transaction appears in the blockchain it is final.

  2. Notice inputs do not contain any value. The whole value of an output is consumed when it is used as an input of a new transaction. The difference between the amount claimed by the inputs and the ones specified in the new outputs is the fee collected by the miner.

  3. An interested reader could refer to [14] for additional information about Bitcoin smart contracts and script types.

  4. See [14] for all the validation details.

  5. Notice that this only affects transactions in the mempool, since transactions included in the blockchain are final and thus not replaceable.


  7. Here we assume that the price of the goods is equal to the value of the goods. If the price paid is higher than the cost, B’s payoff is positive and reflects the benefit obtained from the sale.

  8. Note, however, that Bob may also act as an observer himself, being able to create a penalty transaction and trying to gain the observer’s payoff.

  9. Since \(\hbox {Pr}[\tau _{f} \in \mathcal {B} ]+ \hbox {Pr}[\tau _{d} \in \mathcal {B} ] + \sum _j \hbox {Pr}[\tau _{p_j} \in \mathcal {B}] = 1\), fixing the first two probabilities uniquely determines the third operand.



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This work is partially supported by the Spanish ministry under grant number TIN2014-55243-P and the Catalan Agència de Gestió d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca (AGAUR) Grant 2014SGR-691.

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Correspondence to Cristina Pérez-Solà.

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Pérez-Solà, C., Delgado-Segura, S., Navarro-Arribas, G. et al. Double-spending prevention for Bitcoin zero-confirmation transactions. Int. J. Inf. Secur. 18, 451–463 (2019).

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  • Double-spending
  • Bitcoin
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Blockchain

Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 68M14