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What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital crypto-currency with no single point of failure due to its decentralized peer-to-peer architecture. The source code is publicly available and changes to the reference Bitcoin client are made via concensus within the community. Advantages of Bitcoin include irreversible transactions (i.e. no possibility of chargebacks as with credit cards), pseudo-anonymous, limited and fixed inflation, near instant transactions, multi-platform, no double-spend and little to no barriers to entry and more. It was created by an anonymous person known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Find out more at WeUseCoins.com.

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SegWit2X and the Case for Strong Replay Protection (And Why It's Controversial)

BTC1replay.jpg

Come November, the remaining signatories of the “New York Agreement” (NYA) plan to deploy the “SegWit2X” hard fork to double Bitcoin’s block weight limit, allowing for up to 8 megabytes of block space. Since not everyone supports this hard fork, this could well “split” the Bitcoin network into two incompatible blockchains and currencies, not unlike Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash (Bcash) did two months ago.

But this NYA hard fork is controversial and not only because it lacks consensus. It’s also controversial because of design choices made by the development team behind BTC1, the software client associated with the New York Agreement. Perhaps most importantly, this development team, led by Bloq CEO Jeff Garzik, has so far refused to implement replay protection, a measure that Bcash did take. Partly for this reason, at least one NYA signatory — Wayniloans — has backed out of the agreement.

So what is replay protection, why should BTC1 implement it … and why doesn’t it?

What Is Replay Protection? (And What Are Replay Attacks?)

Bitcoin could see another “split” by November. (It’s arguably more accurate to consider the “splitting” nodes and miners as an entirely new cryptocurrency with a new blockchain and token — not an actual split of Bitcoin itself.) For the purpose of this article, we’ll refer to the blockchain and currency that follows the current Bitcoin protocol as “Legacy Bitcoin” and “BTC.” The blockchain and currency that follows the New York Agreement hard fork is referred to as “SegWit2X” and “B2X.”

If this split happens, the two blockchains will be identical. All past transactions and (therefore) “balances” are copied from the Legacy Bitcoin blockchain onto the SegWit2X blockchain. Everyone who owns BTC will own a corresponding amount of B2X.

Without replay protection, new transactions will be equally valid on both chains as well. This means that these transactions can be copied or “replayed,” from one chain to the other — in other words, for them to happen on both. This is called a “replay attack.”

So, let’s say Alice holds BTC at the time of split, which means she also owns B2X after the split. Then, after the split, she wants to send BTC to Bob. So, she creates a transaction that spends BTC from one of her Legacy Bitcoin addresses to one of Bob’s Legacy Bitcoin addresses. She then transmits this transaction over the Legacy Bitcoin network for a Legacy Bitcoin miner to pick it up and include in a Legacy Bitcoin block. The payment is confirmed; all is good.

But this very same transaction is perfectly valid on the SegWit2X blockchain. Anyone — including Bob — can take Alice's Legacy Bitcoin transaction and also transmit it over the SegWit2X network for a miner to include in a SegWit2X block. (This can even happen by accident quite easily.) If this payment is also confirmed, Alice has inadvertently sent Bob not only BTC but also an equal amount of B2X.

And, of course, all of this is true in reverse as well. If Alice sends B2X to Bob, she might accidentally send him BTC as well. A lack of replay protection, therefore, is a problem for users of both chains. No one wants to accidentally send any money — not even if it was “free money.”

Technically, there are ways to “split” coins on both chains to ensure they can only be spent on one chain. This would, for example, require newly mined coins to be mixed into a transaction. Tiime-locks can also offer solutions. But this takes effort and is not easy, especially for average users — not to mention that many average users may not even know what’s going on in the first place.

To avoid this kind of hassle, at least one side of the split could add a protocol rule to ensure that new transactions are valid on one chain but not the other. This is called replay protection.

Why Should BTC1 Implement Replay Protection? (And Why Not Bitcoin Core?)

In case of a split, at least one side must implement replay protection. But many — Bitcoin Core developers and others — believe there’s only one viable option. It’s the splitting party — in this case BTC1 — that should do it.

There are several arguments for this.

First of all, it makes the most sense for BTC1 to implement replay protection because that requires the least effort. BTC1 is a new client that’s already implementing new protocol rules anyway, and it’s not very widely deployed yet. It would be relatively easy for BTC1 to include replay protection.

Meanwhile, it would not be sufficient for Bitcoin Core to implement replay protection on its own. While it is dominant, and even considered by some to be the protocol-defining reference implementation, Bitcoin Core is not the only Bitcoin implementation on the network. Bitcoin Knots, Bcoin, Libbitcoin and other alternative clients would all have to implement replay protection, too. (And that’s not even taking non-full node clients into account.)

But even more importantly, the reality of the current situation is that all deployed Bitcoin nodes do not have replay protection implemented. And logically, they can’t: Some of these nodes even predate the New York Agreement. So even if Bitcoin Core and other implementations were to implement replay protection in new releases of their software, it wouldn’t suffice. All users must then also update to this new version within about two months: a very short period of time for a network-wide upgrade.

If only some of the nodes on the network upgrade to these new releases, Bitcoin could actually split in three: Legacy Bitcoin, SegWit2X and “Replay Protected Bitcoin.” Needless to say, this three-way split would probably make the problem worse — not better.

Lastly, there is a bit of a philosophical argument. Anyone who wants to adopt new protocol rules, so the argument goes, has the responsibility to split off as safely as possible. This responsibility should not fall on those who want to keep using the existing protocol: They should be free to keep using the  protocol as-is.

Many developers — including RSK founder Sergio Lerner who drafted the SegWit2Mb proposal on which SegWit2X is based — have argued that BTC1 should implement replay protection. In fact, many developers think that any hard fork, even a hard fork that appears entirely uncontroversial, should implement replay protection.

But so far, the BTC1 development team will only consider optional replay protection.

What’s Wrong With Optional Replay Protection?

Implementing optional replay protection, as proposed by former Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen, for example, is currently on the table for BTC1.

In short, this type of optional replay protection would make certain specially crafted (“OP_RETURN”) Legacy Bitcoin transactions invalid on the SegWit2X chain. Anyone who’d want to split their coins could spend their BTC with such a transaction. These transactions should then confirm on the Legacy Bitcoin blockchain but not on the SegWit2X chain. This effectively splits the coins into different addresses (“outputs”) on both chains.

Such optional replay protection is probably better than nothing at all, but it’s still not a definitive solution.

One problem is that the Legacy Bitcoin blockchain would have to include all these OP_RETURN transactions. This would probably result in more transactions on the network and would require extra data for each transaction. All this data must be transmitted, verified and (at least temporarily) stored by all Legacy Bitcoin nodes. It presents a burden to the Legacy Bitcoin network.

But more importantly, it would probably still not be very easy to utilize this option. It might suffice for professional users — exchanges, wallet providers and other service providers — as well as tech-savvy individual users. But these are generally also the types of users that would be able to split their coins even without replay protection. Average users, if they are even aware of what’s going on, would probably find it much more difficult to utilize optional replay protection.

Optional replay protection, therefore, offers help to those who need it least and does little for those who need it most.

Does the NYA Preclude Replay Protection?

While it’s unclear what was (or is) discussed behind closed doors, the New York Agreement seems to be a very minimal agreement. Published on May 23, 2017, it really only consists of two concrete points:

  • Activate Segregated Witness at an 80 percent threshold, signaling at bit 4, and

  • Activate a 2 MB hard fork within six months.

With the first point completed through BIP91, the only remaining point is a hard fork to 2 megabytes before November 23. (This assumes that this hard fork wasn’t completed with the creation of Bitcoin Cash which is supported by a number of NYA signatories.)

Notably, a lot of details are not filled in. For example, the agreement does not even state that signatories must specifically run the BTC1 software: Any software implementation that implements a hard fork to 2 megabytes might do. This could even include a software implementation that implements replay protection. And, of course, nothing in the NYA stops BTC1 from implementing replay protection; some signatories may have even expected it.

Why Won’t BTC1 Implement Replay Protection?

There are really several reasons why BTC1 — both stated and speculated — might not want to add replay protection.

The first reason is that replay protection would require simplified payment verification (SPV) wallets and some other thin clients to upgrade in order to send and receive transactions on SegWit2X. Replay protection would, therefore, in the words of BTC1 developer Jeff Garzik, “break” SPV wallets; they wouldn’t be compatible with SegWit2X until upgraded.

This framing and choice of words is disputed. If SegWit2X were to implement replay protection (and if SPV wallets don’t upgrade), these wallets could still send and receive transactions on Legacy Bitcoin perfectly fine. On top of that, they wouldn’t accidentally spend B2X when they don’t mean to.

Meanwhile, if the SegWit2X chain does not implement replay protection (and if SPV-wallets don’t upgrade), users may not be sure if their wallet is receiving or sending BTC transactions or B2X transactions or both. They also may not be sure if the balance in their wallet is a BTC balance or a B2X balance or both. And if hash power moves from one chain to another over time, these wallets could even switch from displaying BTC balances to B2X balances or the other way round without users knowing. (This problem could be solved, to some extent, through another workaround, but this is not yet implemented in either.)

Indeed, not implementing replay protection on SegWit2X could arguably “break” SPV wallets much worse.

The only (plausible) scenario where implementing replay protection would perhaps not break SPV wallets much worse is if there is no Legacy Bitcoin to speak of. Indeed, the New York Agreement very specifically intends to “upgrade” Bitcoin, rather than split off into a new coin as Bcash did. And based on miner signaling and statements of intent by several big Bitcoin companies, some NYA signatories claim that Legacy Bitcoin will not be able to survive at all.

Implementing replay protection is, therefore, sometimes considered an admission that SegWit2X will split off from (Legacy) Bitcoin into something new and will not be considered the upgraded version of Bitcoin.

But the assumption that Legacy Bitcoin won’t be able survive is a big one. In reality, miner signaling is effectively meaningless, while Bitcoin Core — the dominant Bitcoin implementation — will not adopt the hard fork. There is also a significant list of companies that have not stated that they support the hard fork, including two top-10 mining pools. Similarly, it’s not clear if many (individual) users will support SegWit2X either. The implementation of wipe-out protection (another safety measure) also suggests that even BTC1 developers aren’t so sure that there will only be one chain.

And perhaps even more importantly, it’s not clear that replay protection would affect any of this. If miners, developers, companies and users are to consider SegWit2X an upgrade of Bitcoin, they will probably do so with or without replay protection.

This is why it has also been suggested that BTC1 is rejecting replay protection for the specific purpose of being as disruptive as possible. If the Legacy Bitcoin chain is effectively made unusable, SegWit2X might stand the best chance of being recognized as “Bitcoin.”

For more information and debate on replay protection, also see the the relevant threads on the SegWit2X mailing list.

The post SegWit2X and the Case for Strong Replay Protection (And Why It's Controversial) appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 12:11 pm

Strategist predicts bitcoin, digital currency trading volume will 'soon surpass' Apple's - CNBC


CNBC

Strategist predicts bitcoin, digital currency trading volume will 'soon surpass' Apple's
CNBC
Global daily trading volume between bitcoin and ethereum into traditional currencies has multiplied eight times this year, according to Jens Nordvig, founder and CEO of Exante Data. Cryptocurrency trading volume has topped $3 billion a day on average ...
Why are countries so afraid of bitcoin?Marketplace.org
Go Ahead and Ignore Bitcoin--with These 4 ExceptionsInc.com
Currency Guru Gets His Head Around Bitcoin's Capital Flow SignalBloomberg
Business Insider -South China Morning Post -CoinTelegraph
all 85 news articles »

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 10:27 am

Investor Doug Casey: Bitcoin May Be Money, But It Still Might Fail

Investor and anarcho-capitalist Doug Casey recently argued that bitcoin qualifies as money – but he's not sure it'll last in the long term.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 10:00 am

CFTC Sues New York Man Over Alleged $600k Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has filed a lawsuit against a New York-based man and his company for allegedly running a bitcoin scam.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 9:00 am

Vaultoro Continues on Its VC Funding Road to Future Growth With Finlab AG

Vaultoro Continues on Its VC Funding Road to Future Growth With Finlab AG

Vaultoro, a bitcoin-to-gold exchange, has secured funding from Finlab AG, a fintech company based in Frankfurt, Germany.

Vaultoro co-founder Joshua Scigala stated that the funding from Finlab will allow them to reach their goals faster. The first upgrade the company plans to implement will be a real-time gold-backed debit card. The card will allow the customers of the firm to hold their allocated gold — stored in a high-security Swiss bullion vault — while they can easily spend the funds anywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted.

This latest funding announcement is in keeping with Vaultoro’s history of seeking funding and support from venture capitalists and established players in the space, rather than following the recent ICO trend.

In 2015, Vaultoro conducted a BnkToTheFuture raise. The funds were raised primarily from VCs, as opposed to ICOs. That same year, it hit its first $1 million in gold traded on the platform and was one of three finalists from the blockchain space to compete for the BBVA Open Talent Competition in Barcelona, Spain. Most recently, Vaultoro was selected as one of eight startups for the 2017 Techstars Berlin program.

“We decided against an ICO because coins that pay a dividend are not really legal yet, equity taken absolutely illegal[ly], and we didn’t want to confuse the product with a utility coin when we don’t need one. Also, we found that so many ICOs are scams and we didn’t want to be associated with this kind of hype. We have been solidly working on making Vaultoro a name people can trust, a brand with the highest principles.”

However, Scigala is not opposed to ICOs in general:

“I’m not saying ICOs are bad,” he added. “In fact, I love them, I think they are the future of fundraising because they enable anyone to invest in startups. In fact, we want to launch an ICO later to enable our users to profit from our success, but we want it well thought-out and fully legal for our investors. For this reason, we decided on a standard VC funding round that would not only bring us money but also strategic contacts that will help us grow as quick as possible.”

Gold on the Blockchain

According to Vaultoro, the latest financial crises have been a cause for concern for citizens around the world. People are worried about leaving their fiat funds in a bank account while earning low or no interest. The Vaultoro debit card will allow its customers to hold their funds in gold without the need for a bank.

“We see gold as a gateway to crypto. Many people don’t trust crypto, they don’t understand it, but they understand the 3000+ years of value that gold has held. We are currently building an easy-to-use euro/gold wallet so people can easily buy and save in gold. But here is the kicker. They will see a little button, spend your gold as SEPA, SWIFT, debit card or bitcoin. So, many people will want to see what that is,” he said.

A Secure Store of Value

“Our goal is to have real asset vaulting,” said Scigala. “We have always been a bitcoin-only business but we will bring some other promising digital assets on board. IOTA, ETHEREUM and DASH will be the first. We will also be adding silver, platinum and palladium. The wallet software will enable you to tell the card which asset you would like to spend from.”

The firm emphasized that all gold is allocated in the users’ name as their legal property so that even if Vaultoro were to experience a negative event, users’ gold holdings would be protected: even liquidators wouldn’t be able to touch the assets of the company’s clients.

“The most important thing about Vaultoro is that all physical assets are allocated to the user and are not on the company balance sheet. That means if anything happens to Vaultoro as a company, no one, not even liquidators, can touch our clients’ property because it has nothing to do with us. It’s the full property of our clients. We are figuring out if digital currencies can also be allocated under bailment laws,” Scigala said.

By allowing users to purchase gold for bitcoins and back, Vaultoro customers can benefit from the ease of BTC payments while investing in a stable asset. Unlike bitcoin or a lot of fiat currencies, gold has a very low volatility rate. Investors can invest and trade in cryptocurrencies; however, many of them dislike the volatility associated with them — especially when there is an event that drives the prices toward the bottom, like the recent Chinese regulations on bitcoin exchanges and ICOs.

“We are also working on a maker-taker trading fee model for the marketplace so people that place orders into the market don’t pay as much fee[s] as people taking an order from the order book. We hope to lift liquidity drastically.”

The post Vaultoro Continues on Its VC Funding Road to Future Growth With Finlab AG appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 8:44 am

Gravity's Pull? Litecoin Is Down 50% from All-Time Highs and Looking Lower

Litecoin is again trading below $50, just three weeks after setting a new all-time high above $100.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 8:00 am

Mastercard Hints at Plans for Blockchain Settlement System

A new patent application from Mastercard indicates that the payments giant may be looking to integrate blockchain into its payments infrastructure.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 7:00 am

Uruguay's Central Bank Announces New Digital Currency Pilot

Uruguay is the latest country to see its central bank start experimenting with its own digital currency, according to statements from its president.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 6:00 am

Dimon Knocks Bitcoin Again: Crackdown Likely on 'Worthless' Cryptocurrency

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase bank, has expanded on his recent criticism of bitcoin, warning "it will end badly" for the tech.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:40 am

Radical Academy: Amir Taaki's New Hacker Team Is Spreading Bitcoin in Syria - CoinDesk


CoinDesk

Radical Academy: Amir Taaki's New Hacker Team Is Spreading Bitcoin in Syria
CoinDesk
But, through it all, the hacker – best known for writing crypto code in abandoned London flats and creating one of the earliest dark markets powered by bitcoin – has kept the technology at the forefront of his mind. Now, emerging from his latest ...

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:09 am

Radical Academy: Amir Taaki's New Hacker Team Is Spreading Bitcoin in Syria

Back from the front lines of Syria, infamous bitcoiner Amir Taaki plans a bitcoin-based economy in the war-torn nation, and he's looking for help.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:00 am

Australia's Origin Energy to Trial Blockchain Power Trading

One of Australia's largest power providers is working with blockchain startup Power Ledger on a platform aimed to facilitate energy trading.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:00 am

Former US Futures Commission Chair Says Regulation Solves Bitcoin Volatility: CNBC - CoinTelegraph


CoinTelegraph

Former US Futures Commission Chair Says Regulation Solves Bitcoin Volatility: CNBC
CoinTelegraph
The recent weeks of Bitcoin volatility, with Bitcoin price hitting an all-time high of $5,000, only to plummet back below $3,000, and then stabilize near $4,000, are a signal of what Bitcoin really needs - regulation. This, at least, is the opinion of ...

and more »

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 3:43 am

Bitcoin Developers Reveal Roadmap for 'Dandelion' Privacy Project - CoinDesk


CoinDesk

Bitcoin Developers Reveal Roadmap for 'Dandelion' Privacy Project
CoinDesk
The developers behind a bitcoin privacy solution called Dandelion have unveiled a new roadmap that addresses previously discovered code issues. Originally launched in January, Dandelion modifies the bitcoin network's payment protocol to conceal the ...

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 3:11 am

Bitcoin Developers Reveal Roadmap for 'Dandelion' Privacy Project

The developers behind a bitcoin privacy solution called Dandelion have unveiled a new roadmap that addresses previously discovered code issues.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 3:00 am

Raiden ICO: Ethereum Scaling Solution to Launch Publicly Traded Token

Ethereum's answer to bitcoin's Lightning Network will have one notable difference – a publicly traded token to be sold in a Dutch auction in October.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 2:00 am

A Beginner's Guide to Bitcoin - HuffPost


HuffPost

A Beginner's Guide to Bitcoin
HuffPost
It's possible that in the last few years, you've stumbled across a person or company that uses bitcoin. But what is it? Bitcoin is an emerging encrypted form of digital money, or cryptocurrency, that's growing in popularity and value internationally.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 7:47 pm

Op Ed: Lessons From a Cryptocurrency Hack (A Public Service Announcement)

Op Ed: Lessons From a Cryptocurrency Hack (A Public Service Announcement)

Cryptocurrency-related cyber attacks are on the rise. As cryptocurrency continues to explode in value and public awareness, we can only expect this trend to continue. I was recently the target of such an attack. I also personally know of multiple other cases of the same attack being successfully carried out. Even worse, this type of attack is becoming ever more common and is likely to see an even bigger boost thanks to the professional excellence of firms like Equifax, making it an urgent topic as almost everyone is at immediate risk.


This article describes this increasingly common attack vector and provides immediate steps you can take to protect yourself. I will also provide additional tools and best practices to further safeguard yourself and your funds more generally.


As a computer programmer active in the crypto ecosystem since early 2013, I’ve always been too aware of the constant threat of cybersecurity attacks and the possibility that I could be targeted at any time. Cryptocurrency is the perfect hacker pay day. Once it’s transferred away from your control it’s gone forever, and it’s easily liquidated in any number of ways. Black hats are constantly prowling for possible cryptocurrency holders.

As such, I’ve always taken the minimum precaution of keeping my coins off third-party accounts, and have always advised others to do the same. But what I couldn’t prepare for was how unnerving being the target of an attack could be regardless of your level of preparation. The hypothetical can become reality in a matter of seconds, and you never truly understand the personal value of putting proper security in place until it’s too late. For those with enough at stake, it can be ruinous. Ultimately none of my funds were compromised by this attack, but others have not been so lucky.

“But not all accounts are created equal for data thieves  —  and the most valuable online accounts to steal are like the ones belonging to Mr. Burniske, who is a cryptocurrency fan. In the few minutes it took to get control of his phone, the virtual currency investor saw his virtual currency password change and its accounts drained of $150,000.” -PYMNTS

The Attack

It started when I received a text message from my cellular service provider alerting me that my SIM card had been “updated.” Included in the text was a number to call if this “update” wasn’t in fact authorized by me. I read this text several minutes after it had been sent, and by the time I called the number provided a minute or two later, my cell service and data were suddenly cut off by what I began realizing must be an attacker. Almost immediately, I was also logged out of my Facebook messenger window right before my eyes. With control of my phone number, my attacker had managed to quickly reset my Facebook password and gain control of the account.

As the reality of what was happening to me sank in, I felt an initial wave of panic. Suddenly, I didn’t know if the years of precautions I had taken amounted to anything at all. I had no idea how robust the attack was, how deep the attacker had penetrated my numerous online accounts or what my first reaction should even be. I momentarily feared the worst. Could my coins be at risk?

I forced several deep breaths. Thankfully my coins were not at risk via a phone, social media or email hijacking. Reminding myself of this eased my fears and allowed me to focus on going on the defensive and taking back control of my accounts as quickly as I could.

Using FaceTime from my laptop, I was able to get a family member to call the number provided by my cellular provider’s text message and initiate the process to eventually retake control of my phone number. Using an old email strictly used as an emergency recovery email for situations such as these, I was also able to lock down my Facebook account and regain control soon after.

What I discovered once I logged back in confirmed that the attacker had specifically targeted me due to my public cryptocurrency involvement. In the brief span of time they controlled my Facebook account, they had sent the same message to several friends of mine also involved in the ecosystem, many of whom I’ve known for years. The messages claimed I had an emergency and needed to borrow several bitcoins or the equivalent value in alternate coins for a day. The attacker was in the middle of sending out many more such messages to even more of my friends when I regained control.

At the end of the day, the damage done to myself was limited to being spooked. Unfortunately, however, at least one of the recipients of my fake Facebook messages was later the target of the same attack. I’ve decided to learn from these events and share those lessons, and hopefully help some avert the worst. First and foremost is eliminating this specific and trivially easy attack vector completely.

How to Stop It Before It Happens

Text message two-factor authentication (2FA) is the default security precaution for most online accounts today, and cellular service providers are woefully unprepared for this reality. It is almost trivially easy for an attacker to contact your service provider and pretend to be you.

In all the cases I’ve personally observed, it began with the attacker identifying an individual likely to have cryptocurrency and contacting their cell provider. They impersonate their target using personal information like social security numbers and home addresses from any number of possible leaks, Equifax being the most obvious and concerning source.

After successfully convincing your cell provider that they are you, they then port your SIM card to a phone they control. This approach is known as a social engineering attack, and with today’s common security default of using text messages for 2FA, they immediately have the keys to the kingdom. With your phone number they can now reset the password to any account you have with text 2FA enabled, including cryptocurrency wallets and accounts.

The minimal action you should take right now to prevent this: Contact your cellular service provider and request restrictions to be placed on your account so that no changes can be made to it without special verification. This can include setting a password on your account or requiring you to physically visit a store with your ID to make any account changes. Call again once this is in place and attempt to change your own SIM card as a test to ensure the restrictions have indeed been put in place and are being properly enforced by your cellular provider.

This simple step means that no matter what information an attacker may have on you, socially engineering a takeover of your SIM card is no longer a trivially simple endeavor. However, this precaution isn’t ironclad, and there’s also a variety of other attacks you can be the target of.

Taking It a Step Further

Black hat actors tend to focus on the low-hanging fruit, which is why the social engineering SIM attack has become so prevalent. But it is by no means the only way to compromise your accounts, and as the low-hanging fruit become harder to find, attackers will move on to these other methods. I highly recommend everyone implement these precautionary steps to further secure yourselves. The upfront investment needed to set up these measures may seem tedious now, but can pay invaluable dividends in the future.

1. If you hold any significant amounts of cryptocurrency, invest in an offline hardware storage solution.

These devices contain your cryptocurrency private keys and can remain completely disconnected from the internet or any computer until you need to make transactions, so that your funds remain totally safe regardless of any of your other devices or accounts being compromised. These devices include OpenDime, TREZOR and Ledger. Even if you do not opt for any of these solutions, at a bare minimum do not store funds on third-party services such as Coinbase or exchanges, especially on any service or wallet that integrates email or a phone number to authorize access to funds.

2. Ditch text messaging 2FA.

Placing verification restrictions on your cellular service account is a big step up in security, but can still be circumvented by an insider or even just a careless customer service rep who doesn’t do their job properly. Text message authorization is also still too incredibly insecure to be relied on in any way, period. Recent research shows that intercepting text messages is a trivial task for someone with the right tools, and many other exploits are likely to be discovered in the future.

The first item on this list will protect your personal funds from theft, but as I learned the hard way your money isn’t the only thing at risk. With access to your social media accounts and emails, an attacker can trick your friends into giving them funds or exposing themselves in other ways. They’ll also obviously have a clear look into all your messaging and file history on those accounts, which can expose you and your social circle even more. Shoring up your 2FA is a big step in preventing this.

Eliminate all of your text messaging–based 2FA and at a minimum replace it with Google Authenticator. However, like storing cryptocurrency, you can take it a step further with a dedicated hardware solution. I highly recommend YubiKeys.

You can configure many major online accounts (not Coinbase yet) to require you to physically insert and activate your YubiKey as your 2FA authorization, eliminating the risk of a remotely compromised phone.

3. Use multiple emails with interlinked recovery options, and use completely different and robust passwords for those emails and other online accounts alike.

Luckily I did not have text messaging 2FA enabled on the email account associated with my Facebook profile; otherwise my attacker could have seized control of that as well. If they did, I have a chain of recovery emails I could have used to regain control of it, all with different passwords. This practice also means that having your password being captured or leaked for any one of your accounts won’t jeopardize all of them.

4. Stay vigilant, stay paranoid.

To quote the Onion Knight, “Safety is never a permanent state of affairs.” Don’t get lazy and begin recycling passwords or leaving funds on Coinbase or other third-party accounts. Be aware of the technology you are using and the tradeoffs you are making or exposure you are generating by doing so. Stay up to date on the latest breaches, exploits and technology. Opt to use end-to-end encrypted messaging services like Signal, Telegram or WhatsApp. Don’t answer calls from strange phone numbers, and use apps like Hiya to filter out known spam numbers to reduce the risk that you do. Ultimately, however, there is no easy fix for security and no list that can guarantee you won’t get hacked.

Make no mistake, there are individuals out there who want to harm you and are actively working to do so. The time needed to reasonably secure yourself can seem tedious and time-consuming up front, but can easily and quickly become a priceless investment as I and many others have learned firsthand. 

This guest post by Ariel Deschapell was originally published on Medium and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons License. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Media or Bitcoin Magazine.

The post Op Ed: Lessons From a Cryptocurrency Hack (A Public Service Announcement) appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 5:13 pm

Former CFTC Commissioner: Regulation Would Solve Bitcoin Volatility

Former Commodity Futures Trading Commission head Bart Chilton wrote that bitcoin's volatility indicates artificial inflation of its price.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 4:20 pm

US government sues over alleged bitcoin Ponzi scheme - CNNMoney


CNNMoney

US government sues over alleged bitcoin Ponzi scheme
CNNMoney
The CFTC, an independent agency that monitors U.S. derivatives markets, claims that Nicholas Gelfman of Brooklyn, New York and his fund Gelfman Blueprint, Inc., which primarily invests in bitcoin, "fraudulently solicited more than $600,000 from ...
A trader is being accused of running a bitcoin Ponzi scheme ...Business Insider
CFTC files civil charges over alleged Bitcoin Ponzi schemeReuters

all 7 news articles »

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 3:34 pm

Op Ed: How Blockchain Technology Could Save Struggling Artists Around the World

artonbc.jpg

To a complete outsider, the worlds of art and cryptocurrency do not appear to be linked. But for content creators of all kinds, blockchain technology provides an ideal solution to preserve intellectual property, create demand and increase value for digital content.

The digital revolution is often blamed for making life harder than ever for artists. We are always hearing stories of artists realizing their work has been ripped off by a major brand or that they are not being paid or credited for the content they create.

However, thanks to blockchains, ownership rights can be restored in favor of artists. The very digital landscape that proves so difficult for artists could well increase the possibility of profits for artists online.

Physical art was one of the first big applications of blockchain technology.

The concept of integrating blockchain technology into the art industry is not untested. Blockchains have already been a part of the physical art world for a few years now as a reliable way to verify creation and ownership details. The application of a trustworthy system of verification like the blockchain to artworks makes perfect sense.

A number of companies are actually already authenticating artwork with blockchain technology, including Verisart in Los Angeles, Tagsmart in London and Ascribe in Berlin. For both collectors and artists, they provide digital certificates of authenticity and provenance records that enable buyers to verify the authenticity of the artwork they purchase while creating an accredited ownership history for the artwork over time.  

What blockchain technology provides is its unmodifiable digital ledger which logs every single digital transaction. More importantly, this ledger is public so everyone can see its history. This means, for example, that you can see that the painting you are interested in has been purchased three times from buyers in London, Madrid and Milan. Because the log is decentralized and cannot be edited, there is no potential for lies or trickery — no one can sell you a fake copy if a digital record of the authentic piece exists.

By allowing records like provenance, authorship and ownership to be unmodifiable, blockchain technology potentially solves the issue of forgeries and thefts in the art world. According to the FBI, billions of dollars worth of art and cultural property go missing every year. Being able to prove and track the ownership of artwork could make it almost impossible to resell stolen artwork in the future.

By increasing trust in the art world, blockchain technology could also help increase the value of art. One important factor in art is scarcity — it is what drives demand. People covet beautiful things: the more unique, the better. The Mona Lisa wouldn’t likely be worth $2 billion if there were 10 originals on the market.

Blockchain technology may pave the way for a robust new market of digital art.

It is no secret that life for digital artists can be difficult. In the music world, for example, physical sales are almost non-existent. Artists earn less than a cent from each time their music is played. At Spotify, the average payout for a stream to labels and publishers is between $0.006 and $0.0084. By the time the label has taken its share, artists receive an estimated $0.001128.

The digital art and design world is arguably just as bad — or worse. While individuals can easily download a music file from a file-sharing website, it is even easier to screenshot or share digital art without any attribution or financial benefit for the artist. As long as people don’t consider digital assets “objects,” digital artists won’t be paid what their work is worth. However, being able to certify the ownership of digital assets through the blockchain could assure the value of digital art and change the behavior that it is okay to swipe art from the web without a thought. People already consume all kinds of creative content on digital screens, be it books, movies, media, or music. The time has come for them to value digital art they can appreciate just as thoroughly on their devices.

A new generation of blockchain-based art collections is bringing the digital art and cryptocurrency worlds together.

For many people, a painting on the wall is worth money; but a digital work of art online has no financial value. A new business model, however, is now emerging for digital art that could alter this perspective.

CryptoPunks by Larva Labs is one known example. The company has created 10,000 computer-generated digital characters, each one unique, with proof of ownership stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Each one is owned by a single person and verified by a smart contract. As the blockchain data is public, you can see exactly which of the characters have been purchased and which remain available. Some people have spent 10 ETH (around $3,000) on the rarest types of CryptoPunks on the secondary market.

Another example is the selling of “Rare Pepes,” crude depictions of the meme often used online as an alt-right symbol. Meme artists previously tried to watermark their memes; nevertheless, they continued to be downloaded and shared. The solution was to use the Counterparty platform, which allows users to make anything into a unique digital token. Now the Pepes can be bought and sold — the rarest costing $11,589 — with RarePepeWallet.com.

This is just the tip of the creative iceberg. Imagine the possibilities with digital art created by actual artists becoming desirable and more valuable. In addition, artists who otherwise would have been forced to use a large-scale centralized company to distribute their work are now able to distribute their work in a decentralized way and receive fair compensation.

Soon, people may begin collecting digital art in the very same way they collect it in its physical form. This may also require a cultural shift in the perception of digital art and its value, but this cultural shift could well be instigated by applying technology, thereby adding financial value and scarcity to digital art. This may well turn out to be a significant boon in the lives of artists all over the world who will be able to profit and take control of their creative output and their intellectual property in a dynamic, budding market.


The post Op Ed: How Blockchain Technology Could Save Struggling Artists Around the World appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 2:54 pm

It's time to address bitcoin's big blind spot—Bart Chilton—commentary - CNBC


CNBC

It's time to address bitcoin's big blind spot—Bart Chilton—commentary
CNBC
Former financial regulator Bart Chilton says if bitcoin's wild swings happened on his watch, he would've launched an investigation.
Former CFTC Commissioner: Regulation Would Solve Bitcoin ...CoinDesk

all 3 news articles »

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 1:10 pm

Zcash Audit Finds No Serious Issues in Launch Ceremony Security

A new audit of the complex and controversial zcash key generation ceremony has found any serious security compromises were unlikely.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 12:10 pm

Gold Investor John Hathaway: Cryptocurrencies Are 'Garbage'

A notable asset manager who focuses primarily on gold had a harsh word for the cryptocurrency market craze this week: "garbage."

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 11:15 am

Y Combinator President Calls ICOs A 'Bubble' – But His Firm Might Use Blockchain

Y Combinator, Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator, is looking at blockchain in order to boost access to startups for investors.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 10:15 am

Germany's Central Bank: Consumers Won't Use Blockchain for Payments

Germany's central bank has published a new blockchain research paper.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 9:00 am

Weak Demand? Bitcoin's Price Rebound May Be Starting to Fade

The rebound in bitcoin's price from the recent low of $2,980 has stalled, raising doubts as to whether the rally will continue.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 8:00 am

Urbit Is Moving Its Virtual Server Galaxy Over to Ethereum

Urbit, the galactically inspired network of cloud servers, has announced plans to rebuild its infrastructure based on ethereum tech.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 7:00 am

How bitcoin could overcome its wild reputation - CNBC


CNBC

How bitcoin could overcome its wild reputation
CNBC
A major problem for bitcoin is its extreme volatility, which is a cause of concern for many investors. A lack of liquidity may be to blame for the cryptocurrency's volatile nature, an expert tells CNBC. "The high volatility I think is due to the low ...

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 5:52 am

Decred Adds Atomic Swap Support for Exchange-Free Cryptocurrency Trading

Decred Adds Support for Atomic Swaps for Direct Cryptocurrency Trading Without Exchanges

Decred is announcing support for on-chain atomic swaps, which will allow cryptocurrency holders to trade directly, without having to rely on external exchanges. The cryptocurrencies initially supported are Decred (DCR), Bitcoin (BTC) and Litecoin (LTC).

“Support for on-chain atomic swaps is extremely useful,”Jake Yocom-Piatt, Decred Project Lead said in a statement. “Thanks to the foresight of the Lightning Network authors and developers, and the dedication of our own developers, it is our pleasure to deliver an important capability that has been discussed since the concept of cross-chain atomic transfers was proposed in 2013.”

Users can already begin performing exchanges between DCR, BTC and LTC using tools that the Decred developers have created. The tools are text-based at the moment, but will be integrated into the Decrediton GUI wallet in a future release.

According to the Decred team, this advancement disintermediates the exchange process, allowing for greater market fluency. It also delivers on the market desire for improved interoperability between currencies and the demand for new efficiencies that drive investor value.

"This is the first step in a progression toward high-utility, non-Turing complete smart contracts,” Yocom-Piatt told Bitcoin Magazine. “We look forward to a new generation of greater fluency between projects. It was a pleasure collaborating with the dev teams at Litecoin and Lighting Labs."

The concept of atomic swaps (or atomic cross-chain trading) were first described by Tier Nolan back in 2013. A previous Bitcoin Magazine article provides a step-by-step explanation of a simple example where two users agree to swap agreed amounts of BTC and LTC and use the multisig and time lock features available in both Bitcoin and Litecoin basic scripting to synchronize two transactions on two independent blockchains without having to trust each other.

Yesterday I did an on-chain atomic swap of 1.337 LTC for 2.4066 DCR w/ @_alyp_ of @decredproject. (See txns: https://t.co/BlxU1QBK2U) ⛓️⚛️💱🚀 https://t.co/wPqzdw40Gp

— Charlie Lee (@SatoshiLite) September 20, 2017

It’s worth noting that Lightning Network payment channels, now enabled by SegWit, make atomic swaps more powerful and easier to implement, and permit adding support for off-chain swaps.

“The addition of LN support allows for both on-chain and off-chain atomic swaps, meaning that trustless cross chain exchanges can occur,” noted Yocom-Piatt. “Since supporting LN does not break any existing functionality and only adds to Decred’s capabilities as a system of value storage and transmission, it is a very attractive target for addition to Decred.”

“On-chain atomic swaps are an important step towards enabling peer-to-peer cryptocurrency trading,” said Laolu Osuntokun, Lightning Network Daemon (LND) lead developer. “We are excited for this process to continue with off-chain atomic swaps over the Lightning Network in the near future. By taking this process off-chain, substantial latency and privacy improvements can occur.”

Decred (DCR) describes itself as “digital currency for the people,” completely independent, community funded and community owned. The project wants to build an open and progressive cryptocurrency with a system of community-based governance integrated into its blockchain,  including a hybrid consensus system to ensure that no group can control the flow of transactions or make changes to the currency without the input of the community.

“Decred is Bitcoin as it should have been,” noted crypto-investor Jon Creasy. “Bitcoin would be of the people, for the people. As great an idea as this was, however, Bitcoin soon became controlled by an ‘oligarchy,’ so to speak.”

It’s important to note that some countries, such as China, are attacking cryptocurrency exchanges as the weakest links in the crypto ecosystem. The Decred move shows that, at least for crypto-to-crypto trading (for example, exchanging bitcoin for litecoin), it’s perfectly possible to operate without exchanges. However, it doesn’t solve the problem of crypto-to-fiat and fiat-to-crypto trading, which is arguably of top concern for cryptocurrency users.

The post Decred Adds Atomic Swap Support for Exchange-Free Cryptocurrency Trading appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 20 September 2017 | 8:14 am

GoldMint and the Future of Gold Ownership

GoldMint Header

Reflecting gold’s historical repute as a scarce and valued resource, Bitcoin has become known in many investment circles as “digital gold.” With its unprecedented rise, Bitcoin’s worth is now estimated to be about twice that of an ounce of physical gold.

On August 7, 2017, the startup GoldMint was launched with the intent of ushering in a new digital era of gold as a store of value. This project aims to provide a unique set of gold ownership solutions for cryptocurrency investors and enthusiasts worldwide. It is holding an initial coin offering (ICO) that starts in less than 12 hours. 

The GoldMint project reaffirms the notion that physical gold is a respected method of payment and wealth preservation, all tied to its value and scarcity. Gold ownership, however, requires expensive security, safekeeping and insurance. GoldMint’s innovative approach seeks to address these inherent issues.

GoldMint purchases, sells and repurchases their native digital asset called

“GOLD,” which is 100 percent backed by physical gold. It features an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) which can be utilized as a payment and investment tool for both companies and individuals in hedging risk.

Capitalizing off of the inherent advantages of its physical counterpart,

GOLD tokens offer a stable, transparent, non-volatile means of buffering one’s crypto portfolio from wild market swings. Here, GoldMint is committed to ensuring that GOLD delivers consistent value through paper assets like ETFs and futures as well as through physical assets. Moreover, GOLD owners will be able to use their tokens to secure guarantees, loans and escrow services, all at a modest 5 percent purchase and 3 percent sale fee.

GoldMint will also deliver a utility token known as “MNT” to facilitate operations, implement smart contracts and incentivize block creation and transaction confirmation.

During the early stages of this project, MNT will be sold and distributed on the Ethereum blockchain. After the MNT distribution has taken place, Goldmint will launch its own Graphene -based Proof-of-Stake (PoS) blockchain that offers a safer, more productive and faster experience.

Minting the Blockchain

GoldMint utilizes a blockchain ledger to execute trades, loans and investments for profit. The following are what make the GOLD crypto asset unique:

  • 100 percent information transparency relative to all GoldMint GOLD. The company discloses its gold reserves, fostering the opportunity to buy back GOLD at its current trading price.
  • GoldMint utilizes the decentralized blockchain for smart contracts and for its crypto assets.
  • ETFs are used for liquidity and elasticity facilitating gold trades which are far faster than those of physical gold.
  • Secured loans can be leveraged with GOLD, like jewelry or coins. GoldMint assists in the storage of this collateral through its unique Custody Bot, a blockchain-connected robot used for inspection, temporary and long-term storage and the transfer of physical gold, jewelry, coins or gold bullion.
  • Members have the ability to earn passive income as the market price of GOLD rises.
  • An option which allows for the buyback of GOLD for fiat according to the current price of GOLD.
  • A fast and efficient user registration and identification system.

To support merchants and developers, GoldMint is in the process of releasing an application programming interface (API) for the development of third-party apps and other interfaces. Use of this API will allow online stores to accept GOLD as a payment method, enable loans to be secured by banks and provide access to services such as escrow accounts and financial guarantees.

The Goldmint Team

Goldmint is led by CEO Dmitry Plutschevsky, who co-founded Lot-Zoloto — a gold trading company based in Russia with trading transactions totaling $100 million in 2017 — with former banker Konstantin Romanov. Serg Umansky, head of portfolio management at Whiteridge Investment Funds, Alex Butmanov, managing partner at DTI and Julian Zegelman, managing partner at Velton Zegelman, are among the advisors of the company

GoldMint founders predict that its unique value proposition will disrupt the billion-dollar gold market, allowing GoldMint to establish itself as a market leader in the coming cryptocurrency revolution.

To learn more about GoldMint and participate in its token sale, visit its website, read the white paper and follow the company’s social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.

The post GoldMint and the Future of Gold Ownership appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 September 2017 | 3:51 pm

Consulting firm EY Switzerland accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 26 November 2016 | 12:47 am

Bitcoin Trading Bots

There have been a wide variety of situations in which algorithmic trading programs have proven to be beneficial for investors. However, investors who only trade a cryptocurrency can also take advantage of bitcoin trading bots. Through bitcoin bot trading, traders can become more flexible and prompt, minimize errors and process information more rapidly. At this… Read More »

Posted on 8 November 2016 | 6:20 pm

Steam accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 29 April 2016 | 1:09 am

Microsoft accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 11 December 2014 | 5:06 am

PayPal and Virtual Currency

Posted on 23 September 2014 | 9:52 pm

Wikimedia Foundation Now Accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 30 July 2014 | 3:14 pm

airBaltic - World’s First Airline To Accept Bitcoin

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 11:03 am

September 22, 2017 -
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