Bitcoin [BTC]’s new Improvement Proposal: What exactly are Schnorr signatures?

Signatures are one of the cornerstones of the Bitcoin [BTC] blockchain. They are what allow for the solution to the problem of double spending on the blockchain, albeit in an indirect way.

Signatures on the blockchain are what allow transactions to be verified. Once a user creates a hash of their transaction data, the hash for that transaction can be signed using their private key. This signature can be verified using anyone who knows the transacting parties’ public key.

However, the current signature system, known as Elliptical Curve Digital Signature Algorithm [ECDSA] is said to fall short when compared to a ‘superior’ signing method – Schnorr signatures.

A Schnorr signature, as the name implies, is a sign generated by a Schnorr signature algorithm. Its security is based on the intractability of discrete algorithms. To be used on the Bitcoin network, a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal has been submitted. This proposes a standard for 64-byte Schnorr signatures over an elliptic curve.

The security of the Schnorr signature is provable in the Random Oracle model, whereas ECDSA does not hold any similar proof. The ECDSA is also malleable, as a third party can alter valid signatures for a given public key.

Moreover, Schnorr signatures are said to reduce storage and bandwidth use by 25%, as they have the capacity to execute Multisig. Using a program such as MuSig, it is possible to produce combined public keys signed for by multiple participants. This improves privacy and efficiency and allows for the use of CHECKMULTISIG for batching of transactions.

Use of the standardized Schnorr signature will also result in spam attacks as seen on the Bitcoin blockchain during the blocksize debate. Since multiple addresses sent coins to the same address in that kind of attack, Schnorr signatures work in such a way that multiple addresses sending coins to the same address are batched with a single signature.

Overall, the Schnorr signature standard seems to be the way forward for the Bitcoin blockchain. Certain applications of this improvement also allow for atomic swaps, through blind signings.

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