Securing the Bitcoin network against Censorship with WSPR

Bitcoin WSPR Test Setup
Bitcoin WSPR Test Setup

If you didn't know already Bitcoin is the top cryptocurrency which in 2017 has begun gaining traction with the general public and skyrocketing to a value of over $19,000 US per coin at one point. In addition to providing secure digital transactions, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are intended to help fight and avoid censorship. But despite this there is no real protection from the Bitcoin internet protocol being simply blocked and censored by governments with firewalls or by large ISP/telecoms companies.

One idea recently discussed by Nick Szabo and Elaine Ou at the "Scaling Bitcoin 2017" conference held at Stanford University is to use the something similar to WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporting Network) to broadcast the Bitcoin network, thus helping to avoid internet censorship regimes. To test their ideas they set up a HackRF One as a transmitter and RTL-SDR and used GNU Radio to create a test system.

Other ideas to secure the Bitcoin network via censorship resistant radio signals include kryptoradio, which transmits the network over DVB-T, and the Blockstream satellite service which uses an RTL-SDR as the receiver.

If you're interested in the presentation the talk on WSPR starts at about 1:23 in the video below. The slides are available here.

Scaling Bitcoin 2017 Stanford University - Day 2 Afternoon

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Bendail Vam

Interesting, but people seem to be blind to the fact that this is NOT a US or any other sovereign entity backed or qualified “currency”, if markets/exchanges (with accompanying oversight) want to place a “value” per se on each units, that entirely up to them. That’s why you don’t see the US’s Feds doing anything, because they can’t. If it were to get banned – they buy/sellers would just go to ouf of US grip. And there exchanges wouls lose.

Money, it's a gas

a US or any other sovereign entity backed or qualified “currency”, the amount of which is in circulation is based upon how much is in circulation, there is no hard limit, just print more, or these days just add more numbers into a database file. Where as at least in the case of bitcoin there is a fixed limit of 21 million bitcoins “hard-wired” in to the protocol. So in some ways bitcoin is akin to gold in that there is a fixed supply (in the case of gold ~171300 tons or ~0.000000000000003% of the earth’s mass).

If you look as money as a storage pool for life, you exchange hours of your life doing some tasks and that is converted into a locally or globally agreed tokens that can be exchanged with others for the produce of their lives work. In a sovereign or government controlled currency the value stored in each unit is depreciating with time as the quantity in circulation is increasing. And you could say the opposite about bitcoin, that the value stored in each unit is appreciating over time, indirectly through global population growth. One currency is ultimately based on faith that the system is honest, the other has every transaction in a ledger for all to see, but both rely on blind faith that they will hold future value to others.


I still haven’t seen them clarify exactly what spectrum they intend to use… Last time I saw this pointed out it was brought up that using the 40 and 80 meter bands as suggested in the slides would be illegal… And while official entities maybe slow to persue common violators… If you’re trying to bypass financial regulations (or censorship, they seem to be interchangeable to this group) they’ll be without a doubt tracked down and probably incure negative impacts on the ham community as a whole.

Bendail Vam

I think yes if licensed hams were to use this on allocated bands it would be very illegal for them, as we are prohibited from using amatuer license for commercial gain AND are also not authorized to “broadcast”(except in certian very specific reasons). I would never jeopardize my license for something like this. However as a jon doe citizen I could utilize ISM bands in an AD-HOC type system 🙂

Bendail Vam

Ha sorry press post to soon. I would imagine It would end up being like torrent protocol meshed nodes but by RF. And having a constant data stream in digital I would also assume, would require some sort of CODEC2 type vocoder/decoder as well as supernodes to FIFO, Store And Forward and then you have the time of arrival of delayed off transactions and also the grey line factors of HF comms….but hey where theres a will theres a way.