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TxProbe: Discovering Bitcoin’s Network Topology Using Orphan Transactions

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNSC,volume 11598)


Bitcoin relies on a peer-to-peer overlay network to broadcast transactions and blocks. From the viewpoint of network measurement, we would like to observe this topology so we can characterize its performance, fairness and robustness. However, this is difficult because Bitcoin is deliberately designed to hide its topology from onlookers. Knowledge of the topology is not in itself a vulnerability, although it could conceivably help an attacker performing targeted eclipse attacks or to deanonymize transaction senders.

In this paper we present TxProbe, a novel technique for reconstructing the Bitcoin network topology. TxProbe makes use of peculiarities in how Bitcoin processes out of order, or “orphaned” transactions. We conducted experiments on Bitcoin testnet that suggest our technique reconstructs topology with precision and recall surpassing 90%. We also used TxProbe to take a snapshot of the Bitcoin testnet in just a few hours. TxProbe may be useful for future measurement campaigns of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency networks.

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  1. 1.

    There is a special case, called replace-by-fee (RBF) [7], in which a double-spending transaction replaces a previous transaction as long as the previous transaction is flagged to allow this and if the new transaction pays a larger fee. This does not affect the TxProbe technique.

  2. 2.

    Notice that some times the subset will be the actual set.

  3. 3.

    Notice that when traversing columns the number of elements in the set can be higher than w, in which case the algorithm will create \(\lceil h/w \rceil \) sets per column.

  4. 4.

    Fee to get transactions confirmed between 1–2 blocks on 27th August 2018 according to

  5. 5.

  6. 6.

    The maximum number of default connections is set to 125:

  7. 7.


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Correspondence to Sergi Delgado-Segura or Andrew Miller .

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© 2019 International Financial Cryptography Association

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Delgado-Segura, S. et al. (2019). TxProbe: Discovering Bitcoin’s Network Topology Using Orphan Transactions. In: Goldberg, I., Moore, T. (eds) Financial Cryptography and Data Security. FC 2019. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 11598. Springer, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-32100-0

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-32101-7

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