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In this episode of “The Van Wirdum Sjorsnado,” hosts Aaron van Wirdum and Sjors Provoost discussed CVE-2021-31876, a bug in the Bitcoin Core code that affects replace-by-fee (RBF) child transactions.
The CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) system offers an overview of publicly known software bugs. A bug in the Bitcoin Core code was recently discovered and disclosed by Antoine Riard, and added to the CVE overview.
Van Wirdum and Provoost explained that the bug affects how RBF logic is handled by the Bitcoin Core software. When one unconfirmed transaction includes an RBF flag (which means it should be considered replaceable if a conflicting transaction with a higher fee is broadcast over the network) any following transaction that spends coins from the original transaction should also be considered replaceable — even if the second transaction doesn’t itself have an RBF flag. Bitcoin Core software would not do this, however, which means the second transaction would in fact not be considered replaceable.
This is a fairly innocent bug; in most cases the second transaction will still confirm eventually, while there are also other solutions to speed confirmation up if the included fee is too low. But in very specific cases, like some fallback security mechanisms on the Lightning Network, the bug could in fact cause complications. Van Wirdum and Provoost tried to explain what such a scenario would look like — badly.