MIT Media Lab begins major effort to strengthen Bitcoin security of its operating systems and networks, and penetration defenses

A new Bitcoin Software and Security Effort through the MIT Media Lab. The four-year research and development program will seek to harden the Bitcoin network and guide the industry’s commitment to funding open source software. This will include contributing to Bitcoin Core development as well as  long-term research, such as investigations into the stability of fee-based rewards and software to provide strong robustness and correctness guarantees. It will also include attracting domain experts in network and operating system security, compilers, programming languages, and more to join the effort. A second goal of this effort is to reduce bottlenecks in the development ecosystem which might lead to centralization. Research will be directed around key processes, is systematically recorded and passed down to harden security and improve resilience. The objective  is to contribute neutral, expert resources to improving the robustness of the Bitcoin protocol. Bitcoin’s security is foundational to the underlying technology’s continued evolution, as well as the broad realization of the public-good promises of digital currencies.


Over the coming four years, the program will focus its contributions to the Bitcoin community in four core areas of R&D:

  • Sustaining a growing senior team of Bitcoin developers (Bitcoin Core and related infrastructure), moving from three to eight researchers and engineers, and expanding our expertise to meet new threats

  • Building up long-term defenses against layer-1 Bitcoin Core bugs by, for example supporting modularization efforts, researching safer programming paradigms and languages, and adding formal verification where possible

  • Preemptively investigating, monitoring, and strengthening the software against attacks, as well as researching the long-term economic security of the system  (e.g. the economic security of fees vs. inflation)

  • Improving automation, writing new tests and security tools, and decreasing reliance on scarce experts

Founding contributors to the DCI program include Alex Morcos (MIT ’98) and Suhas Daftuar (Chaincode), CoinShares, Meltem Demirors (MIT Sloan ’15), Jack Dorsey, Fidelity Digital Assets, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Gemini), Reid Hoffman, Michael Saylor (MicoStrategy, MIT ’87), and John Pfeffer.

Meltem Demirors, chair of the funding efforts, notes, “At CoinShares, we have a strong commitment to funding research and development that makes Bitcoin even more sustainable and secure. We’ve enjoyed collaborating with academic institutions like MIT, as well as hiring in-house researchers to further these goals. In the years ahead, I look forward to working with industry peers to promote a culture of sustainable open source funding in the Bitcoin community.”

Michael Saylor, Chairman and CEO of MicroStrategy, adds, “Bitcoin is the most important innovation since the advent of the internet, and it is our responsibility to invest not only in the asset, but also in the underlying infrastructure that is maintained and improved by open-source developers and nonprofit institutions like MIT’s DCI.”