There is no substitute in terms of security and trust for running a full node.
There are different "lightweight client" concepts. Some of them are...
BIP37 (bloom filter):
- [minus] With current used false-positive rates, peers may learn all wallet addresses
- [minus] Usually done over an unencrypted channel (p2p 8333), ISPs, etc. learn also all your addresses
- [plus] client can validate if the transaction(s) were in a block (merkleblock)
- [plus] clients keep a blockchain with headers only can at least check PoW
- [plus] uses only little bandwidth
- [minus] Hiding back transactions are possible
- [plus]"Impossible" to fake a transaction
Neutrino (Compact Block Filters BIP158):
- [plus] fewer privacy implications then BIP37 since filtering happens locally
- [minus] needs more resources (basic filters from the genesis block up to block 560000 require ~3.5GB space/bandwidth)
- [minus] more bandwidth consumption because full blocks must be downloaded (rather then Merkle-"blocks" in BIP37)
- [minus] Hiding back transactions are still possible (though more complicated) because the block filters are not committed to the blocks (would require a soft-fork). Not committed means, peers can fake filters and make you miss relevant transactions (can be [partially] mitigated by comparing filters from different peers)
- [minus] No solution for mempool filtering (can't show "incoming transactions" reliable)
- [plus] "Impossible" to fake a transaction
Centralized Validation (Bitpay, Samourai, etc.)
- [minus] Full trust in the company/server (they know all your addresses)
- [minus] Can hide back transactions
- [minus] Can artificially create transactions
- [plus] Minimal bandwidth consumption
Some application mix different approaches (like Electrum does Merkle-tree checks and keeps a headers-only-chain to mitigate the "can artificially create transactions" problem).
If you want to watch the blockchain without trusted third parties, you must run a full node (could be pruned though <10GB space requirement, but lightning implementations are not fully compatible yet).
If (and only if) BIP158 block filters get committed (though a soft fork, hash in blocks coinbase of similar), hiding transactions through peers, providing filters, would no longer be possible.
Recommended practical approach
- Buy a tiny computer (Raspberry, Odroid, Pine64)
- Buy a >500GB SSD (USB3 SSD, ~100USD in 2019)
- NO,.. don't use your old HDD (your sync time will be 20 times slower).
- Install Bitcoin Core (there are pre-build ARM64 binaries)
- Run with a large
-dbcache (if you have 2GB+ RAM)
- Sync the chain
- zzzZZZ (takes maybe a week)
- enjoy being a real Bitcoiner (by avoiding all trusted third parties)