Transaction signatures

Kuknos uses signatures as authorization. Transactions always need authorization from at least
one public key in order to be considered valid. Generally, transactions only need authorization
from the public key of the source account.

Transaction signatures are created by cryptographically signing the transaction object contents
with a secret key. Kuknos currently uses the ed25519 signature scheme, but there’s also a
mechanism for adding additional types of public/private key schemes. A transaction with an attached
signature is considered to have authorization from that public key.

In two cases, a transaction may need more than one signature. If the transaction has operations
that affect more than one account, it will need authorization from every account in question. A
transaction will also need additional signatures if the account associated with the transaction has
multiple public keys. For examples, see the operations guide.


Operations fall under a specific threshold category: low, medium, or high. The
threshold for a given level can be set to any number from 0-255. This threshold is the amount of
signature weight required to authorize an operation at that level.

Let’s say Diyang sets the medium threshold on one of her accounts to 4. If that account submits a
transaction that includes a payment operation (medium security), the transaction’s threshold is
۴–the signature weights on it need to be greater than or equal to 4 in order to run. If Diyang’s
master key–the key corresponding to the public key that identifies the account she owns–has a
weight less than 4, she cannot authorize a transaction without other signers.

Once the signature threshold is met, if there are any leftover signatures then the transaction will
fail. This will happen even if the signatures are valid. For example, if your transaction requires
۳ signatures, providing more than 3 signatures will result in a failed transaction with
an TX_BAD_AUTH_EXTRA error (even if they are all valid). The reason for this error is performance
related, as unnecessary signature verification has a large effect on performance before accepting
transactions in consensus.

Each account can set its own threshold values. By default all thresholds levels are set to 0, and
the master key is set to weight 1. The Set Options operation
allows you to change the weight of the master key and to add other signing keys with different

Low Security:

  • Transaction processing
    • Charging a fee or updating the sequence number for the source account
  • Allow Trust operation
    • Used to allow people to hold credit from this account without exposing the key that enables
      sending payments from this account.
  • Bump Sequence
    • Modify the account’s sequence number directly

Medium Security:

High Security:

  • Set Options to change the signers or the thresholds
    • Allows you to create a set of signers that give or revoke access to the account.
  • Account Merge to merge accounts

For most cases, it is recommended to set thresholds such that low <= medium <= high.

Additional signing keys

Accounts are identified by a public key. The private key that corresponds to this public key is
called the master key. Additional signing keys can be added to the account using the
Set Options operation.

If the weight of the master key is updated to 0, it cannot be used to sign transactions (even for
operations with a threshold value of 0), until restored by other signers meeting the high
threshold. If there are other signers listed on the account, they can still continue to sign

"Signers" refers to the master key or to any signing keys added later. A signer is defined as the
pair: public key, weight.

Each additional signer beyond the master key increases the account’s
minimum balance.

Alternate Signature Types

To enable some advanced smart contract features there are a couple of additional signature types.
These signature types also have weights and can be added and removed similarly to normal signature
types. But rather than check a cryptographic signature for authorization they have a different
method of proving validity to the network.

Pre-authorized Transaction

It is possible for an account to pre-authorize a particular transaction by adding the hash of the
future transaction as a "signer" on the account. To do that you need to prepare the transaction
beforehand with proper sequence number. Then you can obtain the hash of this transaction and add it
as signer to account.

Signers of this type are automatically removed from the account when a matching transaction is
properly applied. In case of error, or when matching transaction is never submitted, the signer
remains and must be manually removed using the Set Options

This type of signer is especially useful in escrow accounts. You can pre-authorize two different
transactions. Both could have the same sequence number but different destinations. This means that
only one of them can be executed.


Adding a signature of type hash(x) allows anyone who knows x to sign the transaction. This type
of signer is especially useful in
atomic cross-chain swaps which are needed
for inter-blockchain protocols like lightning networks.

First, create a random 256 bit value, which we call x. The SHA256 hash of that value can be added
as a signer of type hash(x). Then in order to authorize a transaction, x is added as one of the
signatures of the transaction. Keep in mind that x will be known to the world as soon as a
transaction is submitted to the network with x as a signature. This means anyone will be able to
sign for that account with the hash(x) signer at that point. Often you want there to be additional
signers so someone must have a particular secret key and know x in order to reach the weight
threshold required to authorize transactions on the account.


A transaction envelope wraps a transaction with a set of signatures. The transaction object is
the thing that the signers are actually signing. Technically, a transaction envelope is the thing
that is passed around the network and included in transaction sets.


To determine if a transaction has the necessary authorization to run, the weights of all the
signatures in the transaction envelope are added up. If this sum is equal to or greater than the
threshold (see below) set for that operation type, then the operation is authorized.

This scheme is very flexible. You can require many signers to authorize payments from a particular
account. You can have an account that any number of people can authorize for. You can have a master
key that grants access or revokes access from others. It supports any m of n setup.


Example 1: Anchors

You run an anchor that would like to keep its issuing key offline. That way, it’s less likely a
bad actor can get ahold of the anchor’s key and start issuing credit improperly. However, your
anchor needs to authorize people holding credit by running the Allow Trust operation. Before
you issue credit to an account, you need to verify that account is OK.

Multisig allows you to do all of this without exposing the master key of your anchor. You can add
another signing key to your account with the operation Set Options. This additional key should
have a weight below your anchor account’s medium threshold. Since Allow Trust is a low-threshold
operation, this extra key authorizes users to hold your anchor’s credit. But, since Payment is a
medium-threshold operation, this key does not allow anyone who compromises your anchor to issue

Your account setup:

  Master Key Weight: 2
  Additional Signing Key Weight: 1
  Low Threshold: 0
  Medium Threshold: 2
  High Threshold: 2

Example 2: Joint Accounts

You want to set up a joint account with Bilal and Carina such that any of you can authorize a
payment. You also want to set up the account so that, if you choose to change signers (e.g.,
remove or add someone), a high-threshold operation, all 3 of you must agree. You add Bilal and
Carina as signers to the joint account. You also ensure that it takes all of your key weights to
clear the high threshold but only one to clear the medium threshold.

Joint account setup:

  Master Key Weight: 1
  Low Threshold: 0
  Medium Threshold: 0
  High Threshold: 3
  Bilal's Signing Key Weight: 1
  Carina's Signing Key Weight: 1

Example 3: Company Accounts

Your company wants to set up an account that requires 3 of 6 employees to agree to any
transaction from that account.

Company account setup:

  Master Key Weight: 0 (Turned off so this account can't do anything without an employee)
  Low Threshold: 3
  Medium Threshold: 3
  High Threshold: 3
  Employee 1 Key Weight: 1
  Employee 2 Key Weight: 1
  Employee 3 Key Weight: 1
  Employee 4 Key Weight: 1
  Employee 5 Key Weight: 1
  Employee 6 Key Weight: 1

Example 4: Expense Accounts

You fully control an expense account, but you want your two coworkers Diyuan and Emil to be able
to authorize transactions from this account. You add Diyuan and Emil’s signing keys to the
expense account. If either Diyuan or Emil leave the company, you can remove their signing key, a
high-threshold operation.

Expense account setup:

  Master Key Weight: 3
  Low Threshold: 0
  Medium Threshold: 0
  High Threshold: 3
  Diyuan's Key Weight: 1
  Emil's Key Weight: 1

Example 5: Custom Currencies

You want to issue a custom currency and ensure that no more will ever be created. You make a
source account and issue the maximum amount of currency to a holding account. Then you set the
master weight of the source account to below the medium threshold–the source account can no
longer issue currency.

Source account setup:

  Master Key Weight: 0
  Low Threshold: 0
  Medium Threshold: 0
  High Threshold: 0

Note that even though the thresholds are 0 here, the master key cannot successfully sign a
transaction because its own weight is 0.