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Archive for the ‘bitcoin’ tag

Jun 2, 2017

Wallet Security: Cloud/Exchange Services

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, finance, hacking

3½ years ago, I wrote a Bitcoin wallet safety primer for Naked Security, a newsletter by Sophos, the European antivirus lab. Articles are limited to just 500 hundred words, and so my primer barely conveyed a mindset—It outlined broad steps for protecting a Bitcoin wallet.

In retrospect, that article may have been a disservice to digital currency novices. For example, did you know that a mobile text message is not a good form of two-factor authentication? Relying on SMS can get your life savings wiped out. Who knew?!

With a tip of the hat to Cody Brown, here is an online wallet security narrative that beats my article by a mile. Actually, it is more of a warning than a tutorial. But, read it closely. Learn from Cody’s misfortune. Practice safe storage. If you glean anything from the article, at least do this:

  • Install Google Authenticator. Require it for any online account with stored value. If someone hijacks your phone account, they cannot authenticate an exchange or wallet transaction—even with Authenticator.
  • Many exchanges (like Coinbase) offer a “vault”. Sweep most of your savings into the vault instead of the daily-use wallet. This gives you time to detect a scam or intrusion and to halt withdrawals. What is a vault? In my opinion, it is better than a paper wallet! Like a bank account, it is a wallet administered by a trusted vendor, but with no internet connection and forced access delay.

Exchange and cloud users want instant response. They want to purchase things without delay and they want quick settlement of currency exchange. But online wallets come with great risk. They can be emptied in an instant. It is not as difficult to spoof your identity as you may think (Again: Read Cody’s article below!)

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May 30, 2017

How to Incentivize Bitcoin miners after all 21M BTC are awarded

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, innovation, internet, mathematics

Individuals who mine Bitcoins needn’t be miners. We call them ‘miners’ because they are awarded BTC as they solve mathematical computations. The competition to unearth these reserve coins also serves a vital purpose. They validate the transactions of Bitcoin users all over the world: buyers, loans & debt settlement, exchange transactions, inter-bank transfers, etc. They are not really miners. They are more accurately engaged in transaction validation or ‘bookkeeping’.

There are numerous proposals for how to incentivize miners once all 21 million coins have been mined/awarded in May 2140. Depending upon the network load and the value of each coin, we may need to agree on an alternate incentive earlier than 2140. At the opening of the 2015 MIT Bitcoin Expo, Andreas Antonopolous proposed some validator incentive alternatives. One very novel suggestion was based on game theory and involved competition and status rather than cash payments.

I envision an alternative approach—one that also addresses the problem of miners and users having different goals. In an ideal world the locus of users should intersect more fully with the overseers…

To achieve this, I have proposed that every wallet be capable of also mining, even if the wallet is simply a smartphone app or part of a cloud account at an exchange service. To get uses participating in validating the transactions of peers, any transaction fee could be waived for anyone who completes 1 validation for each n transactions. (Say one validation for every five or ten transactions). In this manner, everyone pitches in a small amount of resources to maintain a robust network.

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May 20, 2017

Bitcoin closes in on (US) $2000; Why it matters

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, finance, government

At the beginning of 2016, Bitcoin was fairly steady at $430. Richelle Ross predicted that it would finish the year at $650. She would have been right, if the year had ended in November. During 2016, Bitcoin’s US dollar exchange rose from $433 to $1000. In the past 2 months (March 24~May 20, 2017), Bitcoin has tacked on 114%, rising from $936 to $2000. [continue below image]…

If this were stock in a corporation, I would recommend liquidating or cutting back on holdings. But the value of Bitcoin is not tied to the future earnings or property value of an organization. In this case, supply demand is fueled—in part—by speculation. Yes, of course. But, it is also fueled by a two-sided network built on the growing base of utilitarian adoption. And not just an adoption fad, but adoption that mirrors the shift in our very understanding of bookkeeping, trust and transparency.

Despite problems of growth, governance and regulation, Bitcoin is more clearly taking its place as the future of money. Even if it never becomes “legal tender” in any country—and is used only as a mechanism of payments and settlement, it is still woefully undervalued. $2000 is not an end-game. It is a beginning.

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Mar 13, 2017

Perspective of a former “Bitcoin Maximalist”

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies

This pundit is very cogent, as he criticizes early Bitcoin adopters and evangelists. He believes that they are too wrapped up in the original blockchain implementation, and that what goes up must come down—or, at least, that the earliest implementation of a new technology cannot adapt and become the durable leader in the field that it launched.

It’s the 15-minutes-of fame argument. But, I disagree! There are plenty of reasons to support, repair and expand Bitcoin—rather than fragment goodwill and abandon and a viable, two-sided network into 3,000 altcoins and blockchain startups.

Still, the author is very very bright and defends his position.

Mar 5, 2017

Bitcoin ETF Buzz Offers Short Term Opportunity

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, finance, Mark Zuckerberg, policy

If you follow Bitcoin at all, then you know that its value is spiking. It has already surpassed a massive spike on Thanksgiving night 2013, and it has just surpassed the cost of an ounce of gold. [continue below image]

Like any commodity, the exchange value of Bitcoin is driven by supply and demand. But, unlike most commodities, including the US Dollar, the Euro or even gold, the eventual supply is capped. It is a mathematical certainty. Yet, demand is affected by many factors: Adoption as a payment instrument, early signs that it is being considered as a reserve currency, fascination by Geeks and early adopters and its use as a preferred tool by some criminals.

But chief among reasons for acquiring Bitcoin is speculation. Whether it is buy-and-hold or day trading, speculators still outnumber those who use Bitcoin to settle debts or to buy and sell other products and services. (Earlier this week, I argued that speculation is responsible for 85% of demand and of transactions—but that’s another story).

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Mar 4, 2017

Antonopolous Clarifies Blockchain’s Profound Leap

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, disruptive technology, economics, education, geopolitics

I use to hate it when my dad insisted that I read something longer than 2 paragraphs. (Something related to his interests, but not to my school work, his career or our family). That’s because it shouldn’t require a 30 minute read to determine if it piques my interest, as it does his.

But I am asking Lifeboat readers to invest 37 minutes in the video linked below. Even if you give it just 5 minutes, it will provide sufficient motive for you to stick around until the end. [continue below video]

I want you view it because we are on the threshold of something bigger than many people realize. Bitcoin and the blockchain is not just a new currency or a way of distributing books among network users. We are becoming involved with a radical experiment in applied game theory that is shockingly simple, but nascent. Opportunities abound, and the individuals who recognize those opportunities or learn to exploit them will benefit themselves as they benefit the global community. Because it is so radical (and because it clashes with deeply ingrained beliefs about authority, control mechanisms, democracy and money), it seems complex and risky—but it’s really not.

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Mar 3, 2017

What Fraction of Bitcoin Value is Driven by Speculators?

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, internet

At Quora, I occasionally play, “Ask the expert”. Several hundred of my Quora answers are linked here. Today, I was asked “How much of Bitcoin’s value is driven by speculation”. This is my answer…


This is a great question! While the value of any commodity is determined by supply and demand, speculation is one component of demand. Another is the unique utility value inherent in a product or process. This is sometimes called ‘intrinsic value’.

It’s ironic that when a high fraction of value is driven by speculation, short-term value becomes volatile and long-term value becomes less certain—and less likely to produce returns for those same speculators.

Editor’s Note: In the past few weeks, a significant spike in Bitcoin’s value and trading volume relates to a pending regulatory decision expected at the end of next week. This activity is certainly driven by speculation. But for this article, I am considering periods in which the demands of individual events are less clear.

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Feb 18, 2017

MIT is working on 3 BIG Blockchain Ideas

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, economics, innovation, internet, software

MIT has never stood stand still in the presence of change and opportunity. Their Media Lab Currency Initiative is at the forefront of Blockchain and Bitcoin research. With the fracture of the founding core team, MIT stands to become the universal hub for research and development.

The initiative now has a team of 22 people and at least
seven ongoing research projects, and it nurtures three startups that use cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology in a variety of ways. Blockchain research now sits alongside transparent robots that eat real-world fish, solar nebula research, and other imaginative, futuristic projects in progress at the university.

The initiative has already funded the work of bitcoin protocol developers and has supported research, going far beyond bitcoin—even partnering with Ripple Labs and developing enterprise data projects.

Now, the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative is working on 3 big Blockchain ideas:

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Feb 12, 2017

Distributed Objective Consensus: Beyond POW & POS

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, computing, cryptocurrencies, economics, innovation, privacy, software

At the heart of Bitcoin or any Blockchain ledger is a distributed consensus mechanism. It’s a lot like voting. A large and diverse deliberative community validates each, individual user transaction, ownership stake or vote.

But a distributed consensus mechanism is only effective and faithful if the community is impartial. To be impartial, voters must be fairly separated. That is, there must be no collusion enabled by concentration or hidden collaboration. They must be separated from the buyer and seller; they must be separated from the big stakeholders; and they must be separated from each other. Without believable and measurable separation, all sorts of problems ensue. One problem that has made news in the Bitcoin word is the geographical concentration of miners and mining pools.

A distributed or decentralized transaction validation is typically achieved based on Proof-of-Work (POW) or Proof-of-Stake (POS). [explain]. But in practice, these methodologies exhibit subtle problems…

The problem is that Proof-of-Work can waste an enormous amount of energy and both techniques result in a concentration of power (either by geography or by special interest) — rather than a fair, distributed consensus.

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Feb 7, 2017

Blockchain Scalability: Proof-of-Work vs BFT Replication

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, computing, cryptocurrencies, disruptive technology, economics, innovation

Research can seem bland to us laypersons. But, Marko Vukolić shares many of my research interests and he exceeds my academic credentials (with just enough overlap for me to understand his work). So, in my opinion, his writing is anything but bland…

Vukolić started his career as a post-doc intern at IBM in Zurich Switzerland. After a teaching stint as assistant professor at Eurecom and visiting professor at ETH Zurich, he rejoined the IBM research staff in both cloud computing infrastructure and the Blockchain Group.*

As a researcher and academic, Vukolić is a rising star in consensus-based mechanisms and low latency replicated state machines. At Institut Mines-Télécom in Paris, he wrote papers and participated in research projects on fault tolerance, scalability, cloud computing and distributed trust mechanisms.

Now, at IBM Zurich, Vukolić has published a superior analysis addressing the first and biggest elephant in the Bitcoin ballroom, Each elephant addresses an urgent need:

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