If you Want to use Bitcoin

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El Salvador has become the first country in the world to officially classify Bitcoin as legal currency. Experts have warned it could also complicate matters with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where El Salvador is seeking a more than $1 billion programme. Update 2016-11-12: A couple of people mentioned using HD wallets: I initially tried using an HD wallet, but the mechanism for interacting with it was more inconvenient than generating keys manually – especially considering that you might have to generate hundreds of addresses in a row that never receive a payment. If you find it easier to run it using an HD wallet, then that’s a perfectly good alternative. A better option is to create a watch-only wallet, watching the payment addresses, and then query the wallet for its history. By parsing this JSON we can learn the value (which is given in satoshis in the output of electrum gettransaction; the example shown is 0.2 BTC) transferred to our addresses, and the number of confirmations.

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1000 addresses. If your service is successful enough that you have to watch over 1000 addresses, you can probably afford to run a full node. Using a payments service also means trusting that service (a) not to steal your money, and (b) not to lose your money. This means there are no Bitcoin keys available on the server, so previous payments can’t be taken. But mainly it means asking permission: if the payments service doesn’t like you, or you can’t provide enough identity verification, or you flag up the wrong security check, they can simply deny you service. Accepting Bitcoin payments for an online service can be daunting at first (I worked out how to do it, for SMS Privacy, a couple of months ago). Accepting Bitcoin payments without relying on a payments service is feasible for any sufficiently-motivated developer. But that doesn’t mean previous payments need to be vulnerable. You will also need to do some programming to automate the process. You will most likely need some prior experience of at least using Bitcoin. The best solution is to run a full node so that you have a local, indexed copy of the blockchain that you can query at will.

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The Electrum user interface has a tool to sweep private keys: just paste a list of private keys in there and it will sweep them to your wallet. When I sweep the payments, I decrypt using the private key which is kept in my “cold storage” (i.e. on a USB stick). Simply running “keyconv -G” generates an address and private key and outputs them. I use RSA, with only the public key present on the server, to encrypt the Bitcoin keys before writing them to disk. And on security: anybody who compromises your server can simply modify your web app to display their own payment addresses to users, regardless of what security measures you put in place surrounding the generation/storage of the Bitcoin keys. Bitcoin addresses to “electrum restore”. The solution I use is to check for payments in a 1-minute cron job using electrum. The output of “electrum history” is some JSON describing the history of transactions for the wallet. And in case it’s not obvious: make sure you ignore transactions that spend from your users’ addresses – this happens when you sweep the balance into your wallet.

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To spend your money, just periodically sweep all of your payments into your own wallet so that you can spend the money conveniently. If your server gets compromised, you can probably assume that any subsequent payments can be stolen. And there isn’t anyone who can stop you. The network relies on full nodes – without full nodes there is no network – but for me the cost of running a working full node is just too high, so for now I find it easier to work without one. Running a full node is preferable where possible, but if you can’t run a full node, you’re not automatically SOL. Running a full node is the “correct” thing to do. But I’ve tried to run a full node before and always been plagued by crashes and corruptions long before it had finished syncing. Why not run a full node? Why handle payments yourself? Third-party Bitcoin payments services typically take a 1% fee (update 2016-11-12: this is not accurate).

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