Is There Such Thing as a Master Private Key for the Dash Ecosystem?

There has always been a certain degree of curiosity surrounding the Dash project. Many users often like to refer to the currency’s instamine, which has been addressed by the Dash team several times. A new discussion revolves around how Dash creator Evan Duffield allegedly holds a “master private key” which can invalidate some network features and potentially roll back transactions. These are some serious allegations, although it does appear there is some truth to the matter.

A Dash Private Master Key is Troublesome

Most cryptocurrency enthusiasts will recall how the Dash ecosystem had a big issue a few weeks ago. More specifically, the developers were notified about a potential bug which would wreak havoc upon the ecosystem. As a result, the Dash developers quickly disabled the InstantSend feature, which allows users to create anonymous transactions. Considering how this service is provided by masternodes, a lot of people questioned how the developers could effectively “turn off” the feature without introducing a client update or network fork.

Although this episode showed the Dash developers have some degree of centralized control over the network and its features, it begs the question as to what else they might be capable of. Speculation is one’s worst enemy in this regard, as it is pretty difficult to back up some of the more ludicrous claims people have tended to make. However, the Dash Github repository talks about “sporks”, which seemingly provide people such as Evan Duffield with a lot more control than others have realized to this very day.

We advise readers to check out the Github repository and information on the sporks concept themselves. One particular line in the code seemingly allows a person to “reprocess 24 hours of blocks to resolve any issues.” While this doesn’t necessarily mean nefarious activity can or will take place, it is evident this wording leaves a lot of room for speculation. One Reddit user claims that this means the team can roll back 24 hours worth of transactions, although it is nearly impossible to prove or deny that allegation right now.

Considering how these features were introduced by Evan Duffield, it is not surprising that some cryptocurrency community members are effectively labeling him responsible for this “centralized control” over Dash. While it is true the current governance model isn’t completely decentralized by any means, there is still a big difference between being able to make modifications to protect the network and having a “master private key.” Such possibilities will always raise a lot of (valid) questions from the cryptocurrency community as a whole, though.

Gregory Maxwell once commented on Dash as follows:

“The other cryptographically-private altcoin that people talk about is Dash… but it’s not cryptographically private at all. I had a slide about this that was just “Dash LOL”. It’s snake oil. I’m beside myself about it, personally. What they have is a system like coinjoin, they nominate nodes based on proof of stake to be coinjoin masters, and then they have done this insecurely many times in the past I have no idea if the current version is secure. It’s not on the same level as zcash or monero; maybe it’s better than doing nothing, I don’t know. LOL, right?”

If there is any truth to such a “master private key”, things would not look great for Dash. For the time being, this is mostly speculation, even though there is a precedent to back up such claims. Disabling some network functionality on a whim without any intervention by the community, a client upgrade or a network fork is pretty worrisome, even if it were done to protect the network as a whole. Sporks are an intriguing development in the world of cryptocurrency regardless. The current Dash roadmap plans to let masternodes control sporks, which will be a positive change overall.

  • Joshua Seigler

    As usual, when there’s a question in the headline, the answer is “no”. Because if the thing you’re asking was actually true, the headline would be much better as “There Is A Master Private Key For The Dash Ecosystem”.

    There is a key that can enable or disable some of a limited list of coin features, using a mechanism called “sporks”. When Dash developers add features with a new version, they leave the feature disabled until network adoption has stabilized. If the new code causes problems it can be disabled again by the spork mechanism, and recent blocks re-validated. This prevents accidental chain splits due to bugs or unanticipated attacks.

    Dash has indicated that it plans to migrate the spork mechanism to be controlled by masternodes, which would eliminate the already narrow possibility of misuse of this tool.

    • Erik

      Your post should be the article.

  • Daniel

    It would be nice if the author reached out to Dash for a comment. As far as I know it is impossible for Dash to roll back blocks. All that spork does is just asks network to reprocess (not delete them or change them) last 24 blocks just in a case of an accidental hard fork.

    • Erik

      As I understood it’s that command, it makes it possible to request a re-indexing and re-syncing of the past 24 hours for all nodes.

  • solowhizkid

    What a one sided article, poorly researched. Why does the author not compare this to how other coins update there code or turn on / off features? I would love to see how they do this. All this complaining about Dash, if everyone has a better way then why not share it? I mean how does Monero or another coin do it? Is it by Magic? Or do they bring in Harry Potter to wave his wand? Don’t they have a master private key that their lead dev’s hold? I say this article is totally bollucks.
    If you know how the selinux package works, then you will understand how sporks work and what they do. I say it’s brilliant, I love it and it help prevents hard forks and they have been designed brilliantly by the Dash core team. They even helped prevent a fatal bug from being executed and enabled the core developers to turn off a feature without causing any disruption to the network. I say hey bring on more of this stuff. Oh by the way DASH will most likely implement AI that’s right Articfical Intelligence at some stage to manage sporks and other features of the network so no one user is responsible for the network 🙂 Evan is a genius and that dude should be commended each time his name is mentioned! For future when you write articles make sure you research properly!!!

  • Tallyho

    This article loses all credibility in the very first paragraph: “the Dash developers quickly disabled the InstantSend feature, which allows users to create anonymous transactions”. InstantSend is for instant transactions. Anonymity is provided by PrivateSend, which has not been disabled. Unfortunately that level of accuracy continues throughout the badly-researched, one-sided article.

  • Erik

    What wrong with the TheMerkle, you guys sound like a bunch of trolls and fanboys with articles like this. Please do your homework, with work like this your opening the door for being charged with Slander.

  • A.I. Singularity

    Why didn’t the author do any basic journalism and reach out to Dash? There are so many inaccuracies and speculation here that could be easily cleared up just by asking Dash for clarification…

  • Waw, how embarasing. 1 paragraph in and the fud and ignorance is glaringly obvious.

    “Dash developers quickly disabled the InstantSend feature, which allows users to create anonymous transactions. ”

    Darksend is the anonimization mechanism. InstantSend just makes instant confirmations…

    If u can’t tell the difference you failed as a tech journo on this one anyways.

    But ey, FUD sells.