ECDSA Security in Bitcoin and Ethereum: a Research Survey

Elliptic curve cryptography is becoming more and more popular. One of its main supporters is the cryptocurrency system Bitcoin which uses an elliptic curve scheme for their digital signatures. Smaller key size, a more efficient implementation than the RSA system, and a similar level of security make elliptic curve cryptography an interesting alternative to RSA.

Signatures based on elliptic curves are, mathematically speaking, currently very safe. There are, however, well-known attack strategies available, most prominently Pollard’s rho method, which one should take into account when choosing an elliptic curve. The SEC Group’s curve secp256k1, which is currently used in Bitcoin and Ethereum, has no known mathematical vulnerabilities, although it is more vulnerable to small design flaws than others. A private key has already been successfully extracted with a side-channeling attack and an invalid-curve attack might also be possible.

Those who want a deeper exploration of the security level of the signature scheme used in Bitcoin and Ethereum can read our full survey, complete with references to other articles here.