Bitcoin in Brief: Halting 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple?

Bitcoin in Brief: An End to 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple?

The last 24 hours have been action-packed for the cryptocurrency markets, with digital assets rising off the SEC’s pronouncement that ethereum is not a security. But while most hodlers were toasting the agency’s announcement, one top five coin that failed to respond favorably was ripple. In today’s Bitcoin in Brief we consider where the SEC’s statement leaves XRP and examine a proposed solution to 51% attacks.

Also read: Get Them While You Can Gamers, Graphics Cards Prices Have Crashed

While Cryptos Leap, Ripple Stagnates

We live in strange times when an agency tasked with stamping out market manipulation is responsible for causing the biggest green candle in weeks. Two years ago, many cryptocurrency traders would have struggled to tell you what the SEC did, let alone named its chairman Jay Clayton. But in this new era of blanket regulation, not only is the crypto community familiar with the inner workings of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, but they’re dependant on it to boost their flagging portfolios.

Bitcoin in Brief: A Solution to 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple?

Around the same time an SEC executive was opining that ethereum does not constitute a security, EOS finally reached the 15% voting threshold required to launch the network. This dual infusion of bullish news saw most major cryptos leap in price, with ETH and EOS the biggest beneficiaries. But while crypto hodlers partied, one altcoin community was left to stew in a corner. Ripple has seen a slender increase of just 0.5% in the past 24 hours, as the SEC’s definition of securities has left its status unclear.

Bitcoin in Brief: A Solution to 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple?
XRP was one of the few coins that failed to respond positively to the SEC’s news

The full speech from the SEC’s head of the Division of Corporate Finance William Hinman includes a series of questions for identifying whether an asset is likely to be deemed a security. These include:

  • Is there a person or group that has sponsored or promoted the creation and sale of the digital asset, the efforts of whom play a significant role in the development and maintenance of the asset and its potential increase in value?
  • Has this person or group retained a stake or other interest in the digital asset such that it would be motivated to expend efforts to cause an increase in value in the digital asset?
  • Has the promoter raised an amount of funds in excess of what may be needed to establish a functional network, and, if so, has it indicated how those funds may be used to support the value of the tokens or to increase the value of the enterprise?
  • Does the promoter continue to expend funds from proceeds or operations to enhance the functionality and/or value of the system within which the tokens operate?
  • Do persons or entities other than the promoter exercise governance rights or meaningful influence?

It’s unlikely that the SEC is going to start making a habit of naming which coins do and don’t constitute a security. But it’s also unlikely, going by those questions, that ripple could be interpreted as as utility token.

Bitcoin in Brief: A Solution to 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple?

An End to 51% Attacks?

Another altcoin that had a very good Thursday was Zencash. It’s bounced back from a recent 51% attack, jumping 17% off the news that Grayscale, led by Barry Silbert, will be making the coin its ninth investment. The group’s portfolios start at $400 million, rising to over $1.2 billion for bitcoin core. The Grayscale news helped the price of ZEN soar, but the more important story was the new whitepaper the team released on Thursday, which has implications for all Proof of Work coins.

Bitcoin in Brief: A Solution to 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple?

In the document, Zencash propose changing Satoshi Consensus, also known as the longest chain rule, to a method that makes it “both technically infeasible and economically disastrous to attempt double spending”. ZEN aims to achieve this by introducing a penalty “in the form of a block acceptance delay in the amount of time the block has been hidden from the public network”. The team now hopes that other PoW coins will adopt this proposal with a view to mitigating further 51% attacks.

Bestmixer on the Difficulties of Maintaining Anonymity

Bitcoin in Brief: A Solution to 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple?
Bextmixer has responded to concerns about its mixing technology

You won’t find KYC on Coinmarketcap, but in the SEC-led compliance era, you’ll find that abbreviation at most on and off-ramps to the world of cryptocurrency. A couple of weeks ago, we reported on Bestmixer, a new bitcoin tumbler trying to restore privacy to cryptocurrency users who desire it. The team behind the project has since contacted news.Bitcoin.com to reassure users that Bitmixer’s coin mixing code is not used to track them.

They explain: “This functionality is necessary for any mixer…without such functionality any mixer can not be considered anonymous…We have to mark transactions because without marking transactions, we would not understand whether it is your money or not when you repeat mixing; it would be technically impossible. Thus, we protect our clients from return of their old coins to them during subsequent mixing. The marking excludes our clients’ deposit from the common pool, so that they can not use it if the BestMixer code is applied.”

They add: “The BestMixer code is necessary to protect a client from getting his old coins back under any circumstances – this is one of the key points on which the system is based. As for the use of the [premium service] Gamma pool there is no need to use the BestMixer code in this pool at all, since it is a separate pool, not tied in any way to either Alpha or Beta pool. How are the funds formed in this pool? It’s either investors’ money or our own reserves. And this pool is really going to be a big problem for startups like Chainalysis.”

Bitcoin in Brief: A Solution to 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple?

Today Was a Good Day

All told, this week has ended a lot better than it began for cryptocurrency holders, unless you’re one of the five Floridians indicted for an $800,000 bitcoin home invasion robbery. Elsewhere, with decentralized cryptocurrencies such as BTC and ETH reveling in their non-security status, Xapo relishing its New York Bitlicense, and Zencash hopeful of a breakthrough in defending 51% attacks, there’s a lot of reasons to be cheerful right now. Don’t get too comfortable though: tomorrow’s a new day, with the potential to bring joy or jet lag to the restless cryptocurrency markets. As always, you’ll find the best and worst of it here in Bitcoin in Brief.

Do you think ripple is a security token and what are your thoughts on Zen’s proposal for stopping 51% attacks? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Zencash and Twitter.


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The post Bitcoin in Brief: Halting 51% Attacks and Where Now for Ripple? appeared first on Bitcoin News.

SEC Executive: ‘Cryptocurrencies with Decentralized Structures Not Securities’

SEC Executive: 'Cryptocurrencies With Decentralized Structures Not Securities'

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s head of the Division of Corporate Finance, William Hinman, stated during the Yahoo All Markets Summit today in San Francisco that cryptocurrencies like BTC and ETH are not securities. Soon after the SEC executive made the statements, cryptocurrency markets saw some gains as BTC rose $350 immediately after the news went public.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

SEC Executive: Decentralized Cryptocurrencies Are Not Securities

The SEC executive who is in charge of overseeing the cryptocurrency and initial coin offering (ICO) landscape, William Hinman, stated today that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin core (BTC) and ethereum (ETH) are not considered securities. Hinman stated that some ICOs may be considered securities but the decision is based off a factor of decentralization.

“Central to determining whether a security is being sold is how it is being sold and the reasonable expectations of purchasers,” Hinman explained at the Yahoo Summit. “This also points the way to when a digital asset transaction may no longer represent a security offering. If the network on which the token or coin is to function is sufficiently decentralized – where purchasers would no longer reasonably expect a person or group to carry out essential managerial or entrepreneurial efforts – the assets may not represent an investment contract.”

Moreover, when the efforts of the third party are no longer a key factor for determining the enterprise’s success, material information asymmetries recede. As a network becomes truly decentralized, the ability to identify an issuer or promoter to make the requisite disclosures becomes difficult, and less meaningful.

SEC Executive: 'Cryptocurrencies With Decentralized Structures Not Securities'
William Hinman at the Yahoo Summit said some positive statements today and said cryptocurrencies with decentralized structures are not securities.

A Digital Asset That Involves a Third Party and Drives the Expectation of a Return Is Likely a Security

Hinman noted that some ICOs tout that they are decentralized and are clearly not while others are obviously fraudulent. The SEC executive further emphasized that he believed networks like BTC and ETH are decentralized which makes them not fit within the definitions of a standard security.   

“Based on my understanding of the present state of Ether, the Ethereum network, and its decentralized structure, current offers and sales of Ether are not securities transactions.”  

SEC Executive: 'Cryptocurrencies With Decentralized Structures Not Securities'
Immediately after the announcement, BTC/USD markets spiked well over $350 USD in an hour. Many other cryptocurrency markets like ETH have seen gains as well.

Hinman also details some of the main factors people should consider when assessing whether or not a cryptocurrency is a security. “Primarily, consider whether a third party — be it a person, entity or coordinated group of actors — drives the expectation of a return,” Hinman states.  

The Division of Corporate Finance executive concludes that there are exciting legal times ahead and he is pleased to be a part of the process. Hinman’s speech was very positive towards cryptocurrency solutions and blockchain technology adding:

What I believe may be most exciting about distributed ledger technology — that is, the potential to share information, transfer value, and record transactions in a decentralized digital environment. Potential applications include supply chain management, intellectual property rights licensing, stock ownership transfers and countless others.

What do you think of William Hinman’s statements today? Let us know in the comment section below.


Images via Pixabay, Yahoo Finance, and Bitcoin Wisdom. 


Want a comprehensive list of the top 500 cryptocurrencies and see their prices and overall market valuation? Check out Satoshi Pulse for all that hot market action!

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Not just another decentralized web whitepaper?

Given all the hype and noise swirling around crypto and decentralized network projects, which runs the full gamut from scams and stupidity, to very clever and inspired ideas, the release of yet another whitepaper does not immediately set off an attention klaxon.

But this whitepaper — which details a new protocol for achieving consensus within a decentralized network — is worth paying more attention to than most.

MaidSafe, the team behind it, are also the literal opposite of fly-by-night crypto opportunists. They’ve been working on decentralized networking since long before the space became the hot, hyped thing it is now.

Their overarching mission is to engineer an entirely decentralized Internet which bakes in privacy, security and freedom of expression by design — the ‘Safe’ in their planned ‘Safe Network’ stands for ‘Secure access for everyone’ — meaning it’s encrypted, autonomous, self-organizing, self-healing. And the new consensus protocol is just another piece towards fulfilling that grand vision.

What’s consensus in decentralized networking terms? “Within decentralized networks you must have a way of the network agreeing on a state — such as can somebody access a file or confirming a coin transaction, for example — and the reason you need this is because you don’t have a central server to confirm all this to you,” explains MaidSafe’s COO Nick Lambert, discussing what the protocol is intended to achieve.

“So you need all these decentralized nodes all reaching agreement somehow on a state within the network. Consensus occurs by each of these nodes on the network voting and letting the network as a whole know what it thinks of a transaction.

“It’s almost like consensus could be considered the heart of the networks. It’s required for almost every event in the network.”

We wrote about MaidSafe’s alternative, server-less Internet in 2014. But they actually began work on the project in stealth all the way back in 2006. So they’re over a decade into the R&D at this point.

The network is p2p because it’s being designed so that data is locally encrypted, broken up into pieces and then stored distributed and replicated across the network, relying on the users’ own compute resources to stand in and take the strain. No servers necessary.

The prototype Safe Network is currently in an alpha testing stage (they opened for alpha in 2016). Several more alpha test stages are planned, with a beta release still a distant, undated prospect at this stage. But rearchitecting the entire Internet was clearly never going to be a day’s work.

MaidSafe also ran a multimillion dollar crowdsale in 2014 — for a proxy token of the coin that will eventually be baked into the network — and did so long before ICOs became a crypto-related bandwagon that all sorts of entities were jumping onto. The SafeCoin cryptocurrency is intended to operate as the inventive mechanism for developers to build apps for the Safe Network and users to contribute compute resource and thus bring MaidSafe’s distributed dream alive.

Their timing on the token sale front, coupled with prudent hodling of some of the Bitcoins they’ve raised, means they’re essentially in a position of not having to worry about raising more funds to build the network, according to Lambert.

A rough, back-of-an-envelope calculation on MaidSafe’s original crowdsale suggests, given they raised $2M in Bitcoin in April 2014 when the price for 1BTC was up to around $500, the Bitcoins they obtained then could be worth between ~$30M-$40M by today’s Bitcoin prices — though that would be assuming they held on to most of them. Bitcoin’s price also peaked far higher last year too.

As well as the token sale they also did an equity raise in 2016, via the fintech investment platform bnktothefuture, pulling in around $1.7M from that — in a mixture of cash and “some Bitcoin”.

“It’s gone both ways,” says Lambert, discussing the team’s luck with Bitcoin. “The crowdsale we were on the losing end of Bitcoin price decreasing. We did a raise from bnktothefuture in autumn of 2016… and fortunately we held on to quite a lot of the Bitcoin. So we rode the Bitcoin price up. So I feel like the universe paid us back a little bit for that. So it feels like we’re level now.”

“Fundraising is exceedingly time consuming right through the organization, and it does take a lot of time away from what you wants to be focusing on, and so to be in a position where you’re not desperate for funding is a really nice one to be in,” he adds. “It allows us to focus on the technology and releasing the network.”

The team’s headcount is now up to around 33, with founding members based at the HQ in Ayr, Scotland, and other engineers working remotely or distributed (including in a new dev office they opened in India at the start of this year), even though MaidSafe is still not taking in any revenue.

This April they also made the decision to switch from a dual licensing approach for their software — previously offering both an open source license and a commercial license (which let people close source their code for a fee) — to going only open source, to encourage more developer engagement and contributions to the project, as Lambert tells it.

“We always see the SafeNetwork a bit like a public utility,” he says. “In terms of once we’ve got this thing up and launched we don’t want to control it or own it because if we do nobody will want to use it — it needs to be seen as everyone contributing. So we felt it’s a much more encouraging sign for developers who want to contribute if they see everything is fully open sourced and cannot be closed source.”

MaidSafe’s story so far is reason enough to take note of their whitepaper.

But the consensus issue the paper addresses is also a key challenge for decentralized networks so any proposed solution is potentially a big deal — if indeed it pans out as promised.

 

Protocol for Asynchronous, Reliable, Secure and Efficient Consensus

MaidSafe reckons they’ve come up with a way of achieving consensus on decentralized networks that’s scalable, robust and efficient. Hence the name of the protocol — ‘Parsec’ — being short for: ‘Protocol for Asynchronous, Reliable, Secure and Efficient Consensus’.

They will be open sourcing the protocol under a GPL v3 license — with a rough timeframe of “months” for that release, according to Lambert.

He says they’ve been working on Parsec for the last 18 months to two years — but also drawing on earlier research the team carried out into areas such as conflict-free replicated data types, synchronous and asynchronous consensus, and topics such as threshold signatures and common coin.

More specifically, the research underpinning Parsec is based on the following five papers: 1. Baird L. The Swirlds Hashgraph Consensus Algorithm: Fair, Fast, Byzantine Fault Tolerance, Swirlds Tech Report SWIRLDS-TR-2016-01 (2016); 2. Mostefaoui A., Hamouna M., Raynal M. Signature-Free Asynchronous Byzantine Consensus with t <n/3 and O(n 2 ) Messages, ACM PODC (2014); 3. Micali S. Byzantine Agreement, Made Trivial, (2018); 4. Miller A., Xia Y., Croman K., Shi E., Song D. The Honey Badger of BFT Protocols, CCS (2016); 5. Team Rocket Snowflake to Avalanche: A Novel Metastable Consensus Protocol Family for Cryptocurrencies, (2018).

One tweet responding to the protocol’s unveiling just over a week ago wonders whether it’s too good to be true. Time will tell — but the potential is certainly enticing.

Bitcoin’s use of a drastically energy-inefficient ‘proof of work’ method to achieve consensus and write each transaction to its blockchain very clearly doesn’t scale. It’s slow, cumbersome and wasteful. And how to get blockchain-based networks to support the billions of transactions per second that might be needed to sustain the various envisaged applications remains an essential work in progress — with projects investigating various ideas and approaches to try to overcome the limitation.

MaidSafe’s network is not blockchain-based. It’s engineered to function with asynchronous voting of nodes, rather than synchronous voting, which should avoid the bottleneck problems associated with blockchain. But it’s still decentralized. So it needs a consensus mechanism to enable operations and transactions to be carried out autonomously and robustly. That’s where Parsec is intended to slot in.

The protocol does not use proof of work. And is able, so the whitepaper claims, to achieve consensus even if a third of the network is comprised of malicious nodes — i.e. nodes which are attempting to disrupt network operations or otherwise attack the network.

Another claimed advantage is that decisions made via the protocol are both mathematically guaranteed and irreversible.

“What Parsec does is it can reach consensus even with malicious nodes. And up to a third of the nodes being malicious is what the maths proofs suggest,” says Lambert. “This ability to provide mathematical guarantees that all parts of the network will come to the same agreement at a point in time, even with some fault in the network or bad actors — that’s what Byzantine Fault Tolerance is.”

In theory a blockchain using proof of work could be hacked if any one entity controlled 51% of the nodes on the network (although in reality it’s likely that such a large amount of energy would be required it’s pretty much impractical).

So on the surface MaidSafe’s decentralized network — which ‘only’ needs 33% of its nodes to be compromised for its consensus decisions to be attacked — sounds rather less robust. But Lambert says it’s more nuanced than the numbers suggest. And in fact the malicious third would also need to be nodes that have the authority to vote. “So it is a third but it’s a third of well reputed nodes,” as he puts it.

So there’s an element of proof of stake involved too, bound up with additional planned characteristics of the Safe Network — related to dynamic membership and sharding (Lambert says MaidSafe has additional whitepapers on both those elements coming soon).

“Those two papers, particularly the one around dynamic membership, will explain why having a third of malicious nodes is actually harder than just having 33% of malicious nodes. Because the nodes that can vote have to have a reputation as well. So it’s not just purely you can flood the Safe Network with lots and lots of malicious nodes and override it only using a third of the nodes. What we’re saying is the nodes that can vote and actually have a say must have a good reputation in the network,” he says.

“The other thing is proof of stake… Everyone is desperate to move away from proof of work because of its environmental impact. So proof of stake — I liken it to the Scottish landowners, where people with a lot of power have more say. In the cryptocurrency field, proof of stake might be if you have, let’s say, 10 coins and I have one coin your vote might be worth 10x as much authority as what my one coin would be. So any of these mechanisms that they come up with it has that weighting to it… So the people with the most vested interests in the network are also given the more votes.”

Sharding refers to closed groups that allow for consensus votes to be reached by a subset of nodes on a decentralized network. By splitting the network into small sections for consensus voting purposes the idea is you avoid the inefficiencies of having to poll all the nodes on the network — yet can still retain robustness, at least so long as subgroups are carefully structured and secured.

“If you do that correctly you can make it more secure and you can make things much more efficient and faster,” says Lambert. “Because rather than polling, let’s say 6,000 nodes, you might be polling eight nodes. So you can get that information back quickly.

“Obviously you need to be careful about how you do that because with much less nodes you can potentially game the network so you need to be careful how you secure those smaller closed groups or shards. So that will be quite a big thing because pretty much every crypto project is looking at sharding to make, certainly, blockchains more efficient. And so the fact that we’ll have something coming out in that, after we have the dynamic membership stuff coming out, is going to be quite exciting to see the reaction to that as well.”

Voting authority on the Safe Network might be based on a node’s longevity, quality and historical activity — so a sort of ‘reputation’ score (or ledger) that can yield voting rights over time.

“If you’re like that then you will have a vote in these closed groups. And so a third of those votes — and that then becomes quite hard to game because somebody who’s then trying to be malicious would need to have their nodes act as good corporate citizens for a time period. And then all of a sudden become malicious, by which time they’ve probably got a vested stake in the network. So it wouldn’t be possible for someone to just come and flood the network with new nodes and then be malicious because it would not impact upon the network,” Lambert suggests.

The computing power that would be required to attack the Safe Network once it’s public and at scale would also be “really, really significant”, he adds. “Once it gets to scale it would be really hard to co-ordinate anything against it because you’re always having to be several hundred percent bigger than the network and then have a co-ordinated attack on it itself. And all of that work might get you to impact the decision within one closed group. So it’s not even network wide… And that decision could be on who accesses one piece of encrypted shard of data for example… Even the thing you might be able to steal is only an encrypted shard of something — it’s not even the whole thing.”

Other distributed ledger projects are similarly working on Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerant (AFBT) consensus models, including those using directed acrylic graphs (DAGs) — another nascent decentralization technology that’s been suggested as an alternative to blockchain.

And indeed AFBT techniques predate Bitcoin, though MaidSafe says these kind of models have only more recently become viable thanks to research and the relative maturing of decentralized computing and data types, itself as a consequence of increased interest and investment in the space.

However in the case of Hashgraph — the DAG project which has probably attracted the most attention so far — it’s closed source, not open. So that’s one major difference with MaidSafe’s approach. 

Another difference that Lambert points to is that Parsec has been built to work in a dynamic, permissionless network environment (essential for the intended use-case, as the Safe Network is intended as a public network). Whereas he claims Hashgraph has only demonstrated its algorithms working on a permissioned (and therefore private) network “where all the nodes are known”.

He also suggests there’s a question mark over whether Hashgraph’s algorithm can achieve consensus when there are malicious nodes operating on the network. Which — if true — would limit what it can be used for.

“The Hashgraph algorithm is only proven to reach agreement if there’s no adversaries within the network,” Lambert claims. “So if everything’s running well then happy days, but if there’s any maliciousness or any failure within that network then — certainly on the basis of what’s been published — it would suggest that that algorithm was not going to hold up to that.”

“I think being able to do all of these things asynchronously with all of the mathematical guarantees is very difficult,” he continues, returning to the core consensus challenge. “So at the moment we see that we have come out with something that is unique, that covers a lot of these bases, and is a very good use for our use-case. And I think will be useful for others — so I think we like to think that we’ve made a paradigm shift or a vast improvement over the state of the art.”

 

Paradigm shift vs marginal innovation

Despite the team’s conviction that, with Parsec, they’ve come up with something very notable, early feedback includes some very vocal Twitter doubters.

For example there’s a lengthy back-and-forth between several MaidSafe engineers and Ethereum researcher Vlad Zamfir — who dubs the Parsec protocol “overhyped” and a “marginal innovation if that”… so, er, ouch.

Lambert is, if not entirely sanguine, then solidly phlegmatic in the face of a bit of initial Twitter blowback — saying he reckons it will take more time for more detailed responses to come, i.e. allowing for people to properly digest the whitepaper.

“In the world of async BFT algorithms, any advance is huge,” MaidSafe CEO David Irvine also tells us when we ask for a response to Zamfir’s critique. “How huge is subjective, but any advance has to be great for the world. We hope others will advance Parsec like we have built on others (as we clearly state and thank them for their work).  So even if it was a marginal development (which it certainly is not) then I would take that.”

“All in all, though, nothing was said that took away from the fact Parsec moves the industry forward,” he adds. “I felt the comments were a bit juvenile at times and a bit defensive (probably due to us not agreeing with POS in our Medium post) but in terms of the only part commented on (the coin flip) we as a team feel that part could be much more concrete in terms of defining exactly how small such random (finite) delays could be. We know they do not stop the network and a delaying node would be killed, but for completeness, it would be nice to be that detailed.”

A developer source of our own in the crypto/blockchain space — who’s not connected to the MaidSafe or Ethereum projects — also points out that Parsec “getting objective review will take some time given that so many potential reviewers have vested interest in their own project/coin”.

It’s certainly fair to say the space excels at public spats and disagreements. Researchers pouring effort into one project can be less than kind to rivals’ efforts. (And, well, given all the crypto Lambos at stake it’s not hard to see why there can be no love lost — and, ironically, zero trust — between competing champions of trustless tech.)

Another fundamental truth of these projects is they’re all busily experimenting right now, with lots of ideas in play to try and fix core issues like scalability, efficiency and robustness — often having different ideas over implementation even if rival projects are circling and/or converging on similar approaches and techniques.

“Certainly other projects are looking at sharding,” says Lambert. “So I know that Ethereum are looking at sharding. And I think Bitcoin are looking at that as well, but I think everyone probably has quite different ideas about how to implement it. And of course we’re not using a blockchain which makes that another different use-case where Ethereum and Bitcoin obviously are. But everyone has — as with anything — these different approaches and different ideas.”

“Every network will have its own different ways of doing [consensus],” he adds when asked whether he believes Parsec could be adopted by other projects wrestling with the consensus challenge. “So it’s not like some could lift [Parsec] out and just put it in. Ethereum is blockchain-based — I think they’re looking at something around proof of stake, but maybe they could take some ideas or concepts from the work that we’re open sourcing for their specific case.

“If you get other blockchain-less networks like IOTA, Byteball, I think POA is another one as well. These other projects it might be easier for them to implement something like Parsec with them because they’re not using blockchain. So maybe less of that adaption required.”

Whether other projects will deem Parsec worthy of their attention remains to be seen at this point with so much still to play for. Some may prefer to expend effort trying to rubbish a rival approach, whose open source tech could, if it stands up to scrutiny and operational performance, reduce the commercial value of proprietary and patented mechanisms also intended to grease the wheels of decentralized networks — for a fee.

And of course MaidSafe’s developed-in-stealth consensus protocol may also turn out to be a relatively minor development. But finding a non-vested expert to give an impartial assessment of complex network routing algorithms conjoined to such a self-interested and, frankly, anarchical industry is another characteristic challenge of the space.

Irvine’s view is that DAG based projects which are using a centralized component will have to move on or adopt what he dubs “state of art” asynchronous consensus algorithms — as MaidSafe believes Parsec is — aka, algorithms which are “more widely accepted and proven”.

“So these projects should contribute to the research, but more importantly, they will have to adopt better algorithms than they use,” he suggests. “So they can play an important part, upgrades! How to upgrade a running DAG based network? How to had fork a graph? etc. We know how to hard fork blockchains, but upgrading DAG based networks may not be so simple when they are used as ledgers.

“Projects like Hashgraph, Algorand etc will probably use an ABFT algorithm like this as their whole network with a little work for a currency; IOTA, NANO, Bytball etc should. That is entirely possible with advances like Parsec. However adding dynamic membership, sharding, a data layer then a currency is a much larger proposition, which is why Parsec has been in stealth mode while it is being developed.

“We hope that by being open about the algorithm, and making the code open source when complete, we will help all the other projects working on similar problems.”

Of course MaidSafe’s team might be misguided in terms of the breakthrough they think they’ve made with Parsec. But it’s pretty hard to stand up the idea they’re being intentionally misleading.

Because, well, what would be the point of that? While the exact depth of MaidSafe’s funding reserves isn’t clear, Lambert doesn’t sound like a startup guy with money worries. And the team’s staying power cannot be in doubt — over a decade into the R&D needed to underpin their alt network.

It’s true that being around for so long does have some downsides, though. Especially, perhaps, given how hyped the decentralized space has now become. “Because we’ve been working on it for so long, and it’s been such a big project, you can see some negative feedback about that,” as Lambert admits.

And with such intense attention now on the space, injecting energy which in turn accelerates ideas and activity, there’s perhaps extra pressure on a veteran player like MaidSafe to be seen making a meaningful contribution — ergo, it might be tempting for the team to believe the consensus protocol they’ve engineered really is a big deal.

To stand up and be counted amid all the noise, as it were. And to draw attention to their own project — which needs lots of external developers to buy into the vision if it’s to succeed, yet, here in 2018, it’s just one decentralization project among so many. 

 

The Safe Network roadmap

Consensus aside, MaidSafe’s biggest challenge is still turning the sizable amount of funding and resources the team’s ideas have attracted to date into a bona fide alternative network that anyone really can use. And there’s a very long road to travel still on that front, clearly.

The Safe Network is in alpha 2 testing incarnation (which has been up and running since September last year) — consisting of around a hundred nodes that MaidSafe is maintaining itself.

The core decentralization proposition of anyone being able to supply storage resource to the network via lending their own spare capacity is not yet live — and won’t come fully until alpha 4.

“People are starting to create different apps against that network. So we’ve seen Jams — a decentralized music player… There are a couple of storage style apps… There is encrypted email running as well, and also that is running on Android,” says Lambert. “And we have a forked version of the Beaker browser — that’s the browser that we use right now. So if you can create websites on the Safe Network, which has its own protocol, and if you want to go and view those sites you need a Safe browser to do that, so we’ve also been working on our own browser from scratch that we’ll be releasing later this year… So there’s a number of apps that are running against that alpha 2 network.

“What alpha 3 will bring is it will run in parallel with alpha 2 but it will effectively be a decentralized routing network. What that means is it will be one for more technical people to run, and it will enable data to be passed around a network where anyone can contribute their resources to it but it will not facilitate data storage. So it’ll be a command line app, which is probably why it’ll suit technical people more because there’ll be no user interface for it, and they will contribute their resources to enable messages to be passed around the network. So secure messaging would be a use-case for that.

“And then alpha 4 is effectively bringing together alpha 2 and alpha 3. So it adds a storage layer on top of the alpha 3 network — and at that point it gives you the fully decentralized network where users are contributing their resources from home and they will be able to store data, send messages and things of that nature. Potentially during alpha 4, or a later alpha, we’ll introduce test SafeCoin. Which is the final piece of the initial puzzle to provide incentives for users to provide resources and for developers to make apps. So that’s probably what the immediate roadmap looks like.”

On the timeline front Lambert won’t be coaxed into fixing any deadlines to all these planned alphas. They’ve long ago learnt not to try and predict the pace of progress, he says with a laugh. Though he does not question that progress is being made.

“These big infrastructure projects are typically only government funded because the payback is too slow for venture capitalists,” he adds. “So in the past you had things like Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet — that was obviously a US government funded project — and so we’ve taken on a project which has, not grown arms and legs, but certainly there’s more to it than what was initially thought about.

“So we are almost privately funding this infrastructure. Which is quite a big scope, and I will say why it’s taking a bit of time. But we definitely do seem to be making lots of progress.”

Ripple Wants People to Stop Calling Its Coin ‘Ripple’

Ripple Wants People to Stop Calling Its Coin ‘Ripple’

What’s the difference between Ripple the company and ripple (XRP) the cryptocurrency? Many people would assert “Not a lot” given that the former owns most of the latter and its founders were responsible for creating ripple in the first place. Ripple the company has other ideas though, and is on a mission to separate the two ripples – big and small – once and for all.

Also read: May Breaks 2018’s Down-Trend in Monthly Total Raised by ICOs

The Disambiguation of Ripple and XRP

Ripple Wants People to Stop Calling Its Coin ‘Ripple’For several months, Ripple has been on a mission to dispel the notion that it is responsible for the XRP currency it issues. Just as Prince once changed himself into a symbol, the project would like to turn its currency into a symbol and keep it that way. This is despite the fact that ‘XRP’ is simply a currency ticker derived from an abbreviation of the word ‘ripple’, just as XMR is an abbreviation of monero. To mark the distinction, a new logo has been proposed that is clean, minimalist and, tellingly, looks nothing like that of Ripple.

There’s even a community-run Twitter account for the new XRP symbol and Github which explains: “In order for XRP to be perceived as a ‘currency,’ it needs its own symbol. Just like the dollar sign ‘$,’ XRP needs a universal sign that denotes units of XRP. The current logo being used works great when referencing the company, and it should not be changed, but a character should be created to represent actual units of the digital asset.” The final logo has yet to be decided, but whatever version the community plumps for, it will look very different from the current shared logo of the company and coin.

Ripple Wants People to Stop Calling Its Coin ‘Ripple’
One of the proposed new logos for XRP

Why the Rebrand?

It has been theorized that the company is seeking to distance itself from its eponymous currency in  order to “desecuritize” it. The likelihood of XRP being a security, given the fact that Ripple has a majority holding, is strong. In the event of XRP being classified as such by the SEC it would have a major impact on XRP’s price and its availability on US exchanges. Given the foregoing, it makes sense for the company to emphasize the distinction between the company and XRP. It is likely to encounter significant difficulties, however, in convincing people that this is the case.

When Are We Decentralized Yet creator Jackson Palmer was petitioned to start referring to Ripple’s cryptocurrency as XRP, he issued a strong response:

Ripple Wants People to Stop Calling Its Coin ‘Ripple’

Semantics or Separate Things?

The case for why the company and XRP are separate entities, according to the company, revolves around the fact that the XRP ledger is open source, and thus any company can use it for their own purposes. While this is true, third party development has been few and far between, and the vast majority of XRP’s code commits have been performed by staffers. If the company can successfully separate itself from its currency, it is possible that the XRP ledger could become more attractive to companies wishing to utilize it for their own purposes. It seems unlikely, however, that the XRP ledger, for all its efficiencies, will become the Hyperledger of enterprise.

Ripple Wants People to Stop Calling Its Coin ‘Ripple’
Other community proposed logos for XRP

As cryptocurrency critic Preston Byrne has pointed out, the notion that “There’s not a direct connection between Ripple the company and XRP”, as stated by the company’s Director of Regulatory Regulations Ryan Zagone, simply doesn’t fly. The connections between the two are written all over the website, and every other third party news source. The Wikipedia page for Ripple (payment protocol) points out that “The network can operate without the Ripple company”, but evidence suggests that it would struggle to function if the company bowed out. For one thing, operating an XRP node requires obtaining permission from one of Ripple.com’s servers.

With 55 billion XRP locked in the company vaults, the simplest way for Ripple to rid itself of association with the cryptocurrency would be to burn the bulk of its supply of XRP. That wouldn’t look too good on its balance sheet though, and thus the campaign to rebrand ripple as XRP intensifies.

Do you think Ripple and XRP should be regarded as separate entities? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Ripple, and XRP Symbol Twitter.


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Cryptocurrency Exchange Verification Is Getting Weird

Cryptocurrency Exchange Logins Are Getting Weird

Back in the day, before cryptocurrency was worth anything, an email address and a password was all you needed to login to an exchange. Then came 2FA, using email verification or Google Authenticator. Then came the third generation of secure sign-in methods, and that’s when things started getting weird.

Also read: Darknet Market Rapture Has Been Down for a Week — Users Grow Leery

From Fit the Puzzle to Make the Gesture

Cryptocurrency Exchange Logins Are Getting WeirdAs attackers have gotten more sophisticated, so have the measures cryptocurrency exchanges have taken to keep them at bay. These are designed to fulfill a range of objectives, including spam and bot deterrence, as well as to perform increased due diligence for legal reasons.

Binance with its “Fit the puzzle piece carefully” which has spawned numerous memes, and kept its customer support busy attending to users who can’t fit the puzzle. Kucoin, meanwhile, began asking odd questions of its customers a few weeks ago, and then repeating those questions every time they went to login, much to their annoyance.

Cryptocurrency Exchange Verification Is Getting Weird
Kucoin asks the important questions

Bittrex will force you to log in twice after clicking a link in your email, stating that it doesn’t recognize your IP – even when you’re signing in from your usual location on your usual device. The quirks of logging into major exchanges have been assimilated into cryptocurrency culture, and while users may grumble, they accept that these measures are in place for their own benefit. Gate.io’s latest verification trick, though, has gotten traders talking:

Cryptocurrency Exchange Logins Are Getting Weird
Gate.io’s new KYC

Prove You’re Human

Completing KYC for Gate.io in a public place is no longer viable, but perhaps that’s part of the plan: to embarrass users into upping their opsec by logging in at home. As part of the verification process, users are required to recreate four out of a possible nine gestures before their webcam. From a security perspective, it’s certainly effective: bots have yet to master human gestures while pulling gang signs.

In no other industry would the public tolerate such bizarre security measures. Cryptocurrency is different though. Undergoing unorthodox procedures is the price that must be paid for trading on an exchange. Traders can complain, but if they want to withdraw their funds, they have no option other than to comply.

Do you think enhanced verification measures heighten exchange security, or do they simply inconvenience users? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Binance, Gate.io, and Kucoin.


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Hebron Resident Accused of Laundering Millions From Stolen Credit Cards With Bitcoin

Hebron Resident Accused of Laundering Millions From Stolen Credit Cards With Bitcoin

The Tel Aviv District Court has received today an indictment against Halmi Git, a 33-year-old from the Palestinian city of Hebron, for a wide-ranging affair involving the management of forums for the sharing and sale of stolen credit card details. His forums have allegedly involved about 1,300,000 users from around the world, leading to massive fraud.

Also Read: Bitcoin in Brief Monday: New EU Rules Kill Another Crypto Venture

Stealing Even From the Moon

Hebron Resident Accused of Laundering Millions From Stolen Credit Cards With Bitcoin

According to the indictment, the defendant established the forums in 2008 and managed them until his arrest at the beginning of the month. The entrance to the forums was free of charge, but users could purchase a VIP status to receive stolen details of “fresh” credit cards, which are more likely to be still working. Additionally he published manuals and guides that provided information and tools on how to commit various computer offenses, remotely hacking computers and taking over remote computers or servers.

Halmi also allegedly committed crimes of fraud against users of his own forums. The defendant would offer selling cell phones at discounted prices, but once a user transferred him money he would block the user from the site and take his money without providing compensation. He would then publish a message, supposedly in the name of the deceived user, in which he thanked the defendant for providing the cheap mobile phone.

Apparently trying to convince investigators his actions were not motivated by specific malice towards Israelis, many of which were his alleged victims, Halmi is quoted as saying: “We are thieves, from wherever we can take money, we will take it – it does not matter where, from Israel, the US or even the moon, we will reach it and use it.”

1,071 BTC Seized

Hebron Resident Accused of Laundering Millions From Stolen Credit Cards With BitcoinAccording to the indictment, the defendant demanded that all payments to him be made through Bitcoin, to make it more difficult to locate him. In addition, Halmi acted consistently to disguise his identity by technological means, made many money transfers between different Bitcoin wallets for the purpose of covering his tracks, used online masking services to distance himself from his various accounts, and recorded parts of his property in the name of his relatives.

The Israeli State Prosecutor’s Office attributes to the defendant money laundering of at least 1,071 BTC, estimated at NIS 31,000,000. During the interrogation, in a precedent-setting move, the defendant’s Bitcoin wallet was seized and the amount found in it was transferred to a police wallet. The State Prosecutor’s Office intends to confiscate all the contents of the defendant’s Bitcoin wallets, if and when he is convicted. The case was investigated by investigators of the Israeli national cyber unit at Lahav 433.

The offenses with which Halmi is charged are: credit card fraud under aggravated circumstances (multiple offenses), receiving a thing fraudulently under aggravated circumstances, providing means for committing a crime, violating the Computers Law and money laundering.

What should be the punishment for such an alleged crime? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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A Look at the Credit Card Shaped Hardware Device Called ‘Coolwallet’

A Look at the Credit Card Shaped Hardware Device Called 'Coolwallet'

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts take security and storage seriously, and there are a bunch of different hardware solutions out there. One startup has released a different kind of digital asset hardware wallet that is the same size and shape as a credit card. Due to the design of the new ‘Coolwallet S,’ the wallet can be hidden very easily alongside the option of being carried effortlessly in your back pocket.

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Warren Warned By Billboards, Coinbase Tempted by Banking

The Credit Card Size and Shaped Coolwallet S Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet

Coolbitx is a Taiwanese financial-tech company founded by Michael Ou in 2014 that creates digital asset hardware wallets as well as smart contract development platforms. Back then the wallet creators started an Indiegogo campaign featuring the credit card shaped hardware wallet that allowed the secure storage of bitcoin private keys. During the Indiegogo campaign, the team raised $21,686 USD through 184 backers, 108 percent of their goal. Moreover, the startup Coolbitx is backed by firms such as Bitmain Technologies, SBI Holdings, Kyber Capital, Midana Capital, and more.

A Look at the Credit Card Shaped Hardware Device Called 'Coolwallet'
The Coolwallet S specs.

Basically, the Coolwallet S is the size of a traditional credit card at roughly 85.60 × 53.98 mm with rounded corners. It has a display on the upper left side which shows the wallet’s data like sending and balances. The creators of the Coolwallet S device claim that cryptocurrencies are held in an isolated offline environment and the card’s tactile button ensures an owner’s two-factor authentication process. The Coolwallet S holds five popular digital assets such as Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Core (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), and an assortment of ERC-20 tokens.

A Look at the Credit Card Shaped Hardware Device Called 'Coolwallet'
What you get for $189 USD.

Coolwallet is NFC & Bluetooth Compatible and Also Works With Mobile Phones

The wallet developers have made the card flexible, waterproof, and fire resistant as well. The Coolwallet S syncs data via encrypted Bluetooth technology and its NFC (Near Field Communication) charger powers the device with its own power dock. Moreover, the new Coolwallet S can be tethered to a mobile application for Android and iOS devices.

“Keep it private, keep it safe, keep it Cool,” says the Coolbitx developers.

Have total, end-to-end control over your cryptocurrency with an EAL5+ certified Secure Element microchip on a tamper-proof physical device.

The Coolwallet S is a bit more expensive compared to other hardware wallets on the market like Keepkey, Digital Bitbox, Trezor, and Ledger. The Coolwallet S costs $189 but users can purchase a ‘Duo’ package for $299. One thing we noticed when proceeding to the checkout is the wallet has to be purchased with a credit card, as there was no option to pay for this product with a cryptocurrency. This post will be followed up with a step-by-step review of the Coolwallet S as soon as our device arrives.

What do you think about the Coolwallet S hardware wallet? Let us know what you think about this device in the comments below.

Disclaimer: Bitcoin.com does not endorse this product/service. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the mentioned company or any of its affiliates or services. Bitcoin.com is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, goods or services mentioned in this article.


Images via the Coolwallet.io website and Pixabay. 


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Openbazaar Enables Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Trading of 44 Cryptocurrencies

Openbazaar Enables Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Trading of 44 Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies can now be traded on the peer-to-peer online marketplace Openbazaar in addition to physical goods, digital goods, and services. Initially, 44 cryptocurrencies are supported but the development team plans to add more over time. There is no fee for trading cryptocurrencies and no need to register with any service.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

Crypto Trading on Openbazaar

Openbazaar Enables Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Trading of 44 CryptocurrenciesPeer-to-peer e-commerce platform Openbazaar’s development team, OB1, announced this week that fully decentralized, fee-free cryptocurrency trading is now available on the platform with the release of Openbazaar version 2.20. The platform previously had three types of listings: physical goods, digital goods, and services. “We’re now adding a fourth: cryptocurrency,” the team emphasized, elaborating about the new software version:

The biggest new feature is the ability to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Vendors are now able to use a special new listing type to sell cryptocurrencies on Openbazaar. They can choose from 44 different cryptocurrencies right now and more will be added over time.

The main benefits of using Openbazaar to trade crypto, as detailed in the announcement, is that there are “no fees, no need to register with any service, and no threat of an exchange getting hacked,” so users “aren’t forced to reveal any identifying information.”

Openbazaar Enables Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Trading of 44 Cryptocurrencies

“We’ve released this new feature with the goal of listening to the community about how they believe cryptocurrency trading on Openbazaar can be improved. We plan to rapidly iterate as we receive feedback from users,” the OB1 team conveyed. They also shared that since the launch of the crypto trading option, “we’ve seen users on the Openbazaar network from more than 60 different countries.”

Not an Exchange, No Order Book

However, the platform is “completely peer-to-peer” so “this is not an exchange,” Openbazaar developers admitted, adding that “the new feature only allows people to trade cryptocurrencies directly with each other at market prices.” It does not “include an order book with the ability to choose a target price for buying or selling,” the OB1 team clarified.

Openbazaar Enables Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Trading of 44 CryptocurrenciesCurrently, the platform uses 3 different cryptocurrency payment types: Direct, Offline, and Moderated. “If a buyer trusts a seller they can just send their coins directly to them in a direct payment,” the developers described. For sellers who are offline at the time of payment, the Offline option allows them to claim their coins when they return. The Moderated option can be used when buyers do not know or trust the vendors.

For crypto trading, the team reiterated:

“Payment must be settled in whichever coin they [vendors] have chosen for their Openbazaar store, either bitcoin, bitcoin cash, or zcash.”

What do you think of Openbazaar’s crypto trading option? Will you trade cryptocurrencies on Openbazaar? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Openbazaar.


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