Who paid me? Follow a blind route to send bitcoins in Lightning

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Imagine sending a payment through the Lightning network and at the last moment the path that your satoshis (bitcoins or BTC) traveled to reach their final destination is hidden.

This is the “blind route” proposal (blind path), that It consists of cryptographically hiding the path traveled by the satoshis of a payment in the Lightning network. to reach your addressee or recipient.

The “blind paths» were briefly explained by developer Olaoluwa Osuntokun, in the bitcoin developer mailing list of the Linux Foundation.

The developer gave a summary of a Lightning developer conference that took place in the city of Oakland, United States, at the end of last month. The event was attended by more than 30 specialists to propose and discuss new developments on the Bitcoin Lightning network.

«The blind routes [blinded paths] are a new proposal to solve the privacy problem of the ‘last mile’ when receiving payments in LNOsuntokun wrote. This refers to how the recipient of a payment can know exactly which nodes transmitted the transaction.

Eventually, the recipient of a payment in Lightning might even discover the address on-chain from which a Bitcoin wallet or purse was connected to a Lightning node, he notes.

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Who paid me? Follow a blind route to send bitcoins in Lightning
Olaoluwa Osuntukun is the chief technology officer at Lightning Labs.
Olaoluwa Osuntukun is chief technology officer at Lightning Labs. Source: forbes.com

The developer comments that currently, Lightning invoices, which indicate the route of payments or jumps [hop hints] that the satoshis must follow, and the transferable amount, reveal a path of nodes to follow in the network and with this, they can reveal the channels they have open and “where” the node is located with respect to the rest of the Lightning network.

“Blind routes solve this node-level privacy issue by replacing hop hints with a cryptographically obfuscated route. At a high level, the receiver can build a route of 1 or more hops [hop hints, saltos entre nodos]gather the public keys of each node, and then obfuscate them so that the payment issuer uses it to find its path, but doesn’t really know how many nodes or hops are part of it”

Olaoluwa Osuntukun, Lightning developer.

Nevertheless, the developer comments that this proposal has several challenges ahead. First, it explains that “blind routes” are currently only supported by the Lightning BOLT 11 invoice standard, so only a limited number of routes can be stored on an invoice.

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This could hinder a payment as an abstracted invoice in a QR code might not include all the necessary information to take the satoshis to their final destination.

On the other hand, he points out that a change in some policy of a node or a channel could invalidate a route completely, making an invoice blind path not be effective for a long time.

“A proposed solution is that nodes could give a grace period for their policies and blind routes have an explicitly defined expiration date,” the developer notes.

It also indicates that if a wide enough set of routes is not sent, the payment issuer could lose track of the path to follow to deliver some bitcoins in Lightning.

Lightning channels growing but their privacy can be improved

Although the privacy of the Lightning network can be improved, liquidity (ability to send bitcoins) has been growingas well as the number of open channels and the tools to manage them.

CriptoNoticias has reported how with tools like Umbrel it is now easier to run a Lightning node on devices other than a Raspberry Pi computer.

Similarly, Lightning’s existing 88K+ channels can now send up to 4,000 BTC. There is even a market where these channels can be swapped between its different owners, and which has grown by 600% in the last month.

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