College Student Attacks Cryptocurrency

You would not think that a college freshman could be a threat to your cryptocurrency, but he proved us all wrong. This college student took to showing how easily accessible stealing cryptocurrency can be. You might be wondering why he is out to 51% attack your cryptocurrency? He stated that his main driving force was to show people how vulnerable your loot is.

A college freshman is coming after your cryptocurrency – but not to steal your coins, just to prove that someone could do so pretty easily.

According to a crypto enthusiast and security researcher going by the handle “geocold51,” most small-scale cryptocurrencies are at risk from the industry’s most feared vulnerability – the 51% attack. During this attack, a miner takes over more than half of a cryptocurrency’s mining power, which then allows them to erase a past transaction and replace it with another transaction – called a double spend.

While the ecosystem that’s been built up around bitcoin and other top-tier cryptos make them resistant to these kinds of attacks, other cryptocurrencies with less of a community of miners aren’t as secure.

Sure enough, on smaller coins, these kinds of attacks are getting more common. In a new report, Group-1B found $20 million worth of crypto theft accomplished with such attacks in 2018, as TNW reported.

On Saturday, October 13, geocold51 decided to display just how easy it was – livestreaming his attempt to 51% attack Bitcoin Private, a crypto with close to a $47 million market cap (at the time of writing).

Speaking to CoinDesk, geocold51 said, if a cryptocurrency can be so easily attacked, “it’s sort of a misvalue of a given currency by different investors.”

Geocold51 estimates he spent $100 to get to the point where he could have done a demonstration double spend on bitcoin private, but he stopped because his livestream got pulled.

Just to be clear, geocold51 wasn’t interested in stealing, and so he set up the demonstration where he’d send the bitcoin private he owned to two different wallets he owned. In that way, no user or exchange provider gets ripped off.

For him, it’s about displaying that many coins are vulnerable and, therefore, perhaps vastly over-valued.

That said, he estimates that to make a profit off a 51% attack, it would cost a malicious attacker roughly double – so around $200 – to buy some bitcoin on an exchange with his bitcoin private and then make another transaction on the longer chain that invalidates the first transaction, giving him his bitcoin private coins back and leaving the exchange coming up short.

While going through the exchange process costs more, the 51% attack has still become quite economical due to the rise of cloud computing. According to geocold51, without access to cloud mining, an attack like he did on bitcoin private would have cost him about $100,000 in hardware.

“Nicehash and the ability to rent hashing power fundamentally changes the landscape of 51% attacks,” geocold51 told CoinDesk, adding:

Because geocold51 announced the livestream on Reddit (the post got 1500 upvotes and 60,000 views, he said), the attempted attack got quite a bit of attention – even dogecoin creator Jackson Palmer tweeted about watching.

Still, the livestream didn’t work exactly as planned, and because of that, geocold51 said he would run a complete attack later. He told CoinDesk he will do it without a stream this week and release a recording of his demonstration on YouTube shortly after.

The inspiration

The young security researcher’s handle might remind some of another security guru.

According to geocold51, he was inspired by one of the most legendary hackers of recent years: geohot, who famously jailbroke the original iPhone, which means the restrictions on carriers and apps were removed.

These days, geohot likes to livestream himself searching for vulnerabilities.

And geocold51 figured he could start doing the same within the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Geocold51 has a good knowledge of crypto. Back when GPU hardware was still lucrative for hobbyist miners, geocold51 mined quite a bit of bitcoin. He then began trading money on Cryptsy, before the exchange’s CEO allegedly walked away with millions of dollars in its user’s money.

In that, he lost nearly all his bitcoin.

But he still remained interested in the space, and continued to study up on how it all worked. And as the industry divided into hundreds and thousands of different cryptocurrencies, geocold51 thought he might be able to shine some light on the security pitfalls.

And others were interested in that too. His Reddit post about the challenge garnered 1500 upvotes and over Twitch, he received $888 in donations.

The day of the attack

What’s also interesting is that bitcoin private wasn’t his first target.

Instead, geocold51 had intended to go after einsteinium, a volunteer-run litecoin fork with a $19 million market cap and $598,000 in trading volume per day, at the time of this writing.

He announced his intent publicly, and as he got ready for the attack, commenters within his Twitch feed noted that the cryptocurrency’s hash rate was spiking.

Because he had announced the attack in advance, the einsteinium community boosted the hash rate because it was worried that such an attack could cause a chain split and create a second blockchain that people could get stuck on, according to Ben Kurland, one of the project’s board members. At that time, einsteinium was in the middle of a wallet upgrade. If users or exchanges did not upgrade their wallets in time, the blockchain split could have caused property loss.

Seeing the increased hash power, geocold51 decided to attack bitcoin private instead.

According to geocold51, he got over 600 views during the Twitch livestream, before Twitch shut the stream down. The team at Twitch, he said, temporarily suspended him under the “attempts of threats of harm” section of its community guidelines.

He got another livestream up on Stream.Me a half-hour later.

Once broadcasting there, he was able to hire miners through Nicehash to mine bitcoin private. In fact, he almost immediately mined a block. And in very little time, he was controlling more than 50 percent of the hash power on the blockchain.

Pretty soon an account called “CommunityWatch” popped up in the stream and wrote: “Just a quick question: I’m assuming everything we are doing here is legal?”

Minutes later, geocold51’s video feed on Stream.Me cut out.

Geocold51 told CoinDesk that he had already gotten about two-thirds of the hash rate on bitcoin private. He’d transmitted his first transaction to a second wallet he controlled. And he had written another transaction onto an offline chain that went to a third wallet he controlled.

He was about to send this longer chain to the network, but since the whole point was to show people the attack could be done easily, he stopped once the livestreams shut off.

Protected in another way

Still, geocold51 is determined to follow through with his mission, and so will record his next attack to share on YouTube soon.

And while this vulnerability is likely to be worrying to many in the community, geocold51 noted that there is another way these coins are protected based on cryptocurrency game theory.

If someone tried to sell any significant volume of the coins, their price would likely plummet, since the community isn’t robust enough and doesn’t have huge amounts of liquidity. As such, geocold51 argued, even if it is easy to buy hash power and take over a network, it might not be feasible to make a lot of money from an attack.

Nevertheless, geocold51 is committed to continuing, using the donations he received to maybe even try to 51% attack more cryptocurrencies as well.

In fact, he told CoinDesk, he may intentionally attack some cryptocurrencies that have set up preventative measures for 51% attacks, to test them in production. For instance, the team developing Horizen (formerly zencash) believes it’s found a way to disincentivize 51% attacks by introducing certain miner penalties.

Geocold51 said he would be happy to fail against some of these measures.

Running the demonstrations privately and adding some production value on the final recording will likely make for more edifying content, according to geocold51, but he’s still a bit disappointed that his original plan didn’t pan out.

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/this-college-freshman-is-out-to-51-attack-your-cryptocurrency/

 

Increased Cryptojacking Malware Threats

There has been an increased level of cryptojacking malware since 2017. With such a high increase (of over 400%), it leaves experts wondering what the proper next steps should be. This article gives insight into why you should properly protect your cryptocurrencies as well as the repercussions improper protection can bring.

Instances of cryptojacking malware have jumped more than 400 percent since last year, a new report finds.

A collaborative group of cybersecurity researchers called the Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) published the report Wednesday, detailing the various and repercussions from cryptojacking – the illicit practice of hijacking a user’s computer to mine cryptocurrencies.

Most notably, CTA points out in the research that the number of instances of illicit mining malware found has sharply spiked in the months from the close of 2017 to end of July 2018.

The report states:

In the key findings document, the alliance points to a particular exploit that has been plaguing the security world for over a year, Eternalblue, as one of the leading causes.

Eternalblue is the infamous NSA exploit that was used in the Wannacry ransomware and NotPetya attacks.

The CTA’s analysis explains that a number of Windows operating systems remain vulnerable to the bug, despite a patch released by Microsoft. As such, these systems run a vulnerable network file sharing protocol dubbed SMB1.

Malicious actors target these susceptible machines for their processing power, which even simple cryptojacking software can hijack.

In fact, these actors have even begun repurposing existing software to specifically mine cryptocurrencies, the report said, explaining:

Further, by decreasing the mining rate, the malware can easily and cheaply be scaled across a network in large organizations and persist on the host computer for a longer time, resulting in a larger pay-out.

Palo Alto Networks, one the partners in the alliance, found that Coinhive dominates in terms of software used by malicious actors, with some 23,000 websites containing Coinhive source code.

Moreover, the group of security firms has noticed that malicious actors are shifting their focus from traditional systems and personal computers to Internet-of-Things devices like smart TVs.

The CTA also stressed that the presence of cryptojacking malware may just be an indicator of how insecure a system is, saying, “if miners can gain access to use the processing power of your networks, then you can be assured that more sophisticated actors may already have access.”

Mining image via Shutterstock

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/report-finds-cryptojacking-instances-jumped-400-in-a-year/

 

Bitcoin Price Surges Above $7,000

Within a one-hour period, Bitcoin soared over $600 today to reach a price point of $7,386. This has been the biggest jump the cryptocurrency has seen in over a month. An unexpected surge to say the least, but Bitcoin owners are hopeful for continuous growth over the next few months.

Bitcoin’s price shot well above $7,000 Tuesday in a dramatic move that took the cryptocurrency to a level it hasn’t seen in more than a month.

As of press time, the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalization was trading at $7,368.22, up more than $600 from the day’s open at $6,726.40. Indeed, the market moved quickly, posting the gains over the course of 45 minutes.

CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) registered a market high of $7,408.28 amidst the sudden spike upward. The last time the price was this high was on June 10, BPI figures reveal.

At press time, Bitcoin is the biggest gainer among the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization and is reporting a 16.19 percent week-to-week price increase, according to price tracking site CoinMarketCap.

Other major cryptocurrencies are following suit – a usual occurrence when bitcoin prices surge. Names like XRP, EOS, and litecoin (LTC) are all printing gains above 6 percent.

Per CoinMarketCap, the total market capitalization for the cryptocurrency market hit roughly $287 billion in light of the market uptick.

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/mastercard-wins-patent-for-speeding-up-crypto-payments/

Apple Stops Cryptocurrency Mining from Apps

Although mining from any type of mobile device isn’t likely because of the amount of power it takes to mine cryptocurrency, Apple is putting a stop to mobile mining all together. Apple took to its application store to create new rules and regulations that disallow mining within the App Store applications. Unless the processing is performed somewhere other than through an apple device, as in through a cloud provider or remote server, you will be unable to mine cryptocurrency through the App Store.

 

Apple has moved to put a stop to any crypto-mining apps that might be used on its mobile products.

In a recent update, the personal computing company expanded its initial guidelines on cryptocurrencies. Before, the guidelines specified apps facilitating cryptocurrency exchange and/or initial coin offerings (ICOs) must comply with all applicable state and federal laws.

Now, the guidelines specify more than that. In five bullet points, the guidelines run through Apple’s policy on wallets, mining, exchanges, ICOs, and rewards that take the form of cryptocurrency.

Most notable among them: the updated policy bars any apps used on an Apple product from mining for cryptocurrencies unless performed “off device”. The reasoning behind this change seems to be connected to Apple’s policies on hardware compatibility, where it reads:

“Design your app to use power efficiently. Apps should not rapidly drain battery, generate excessive heat, or put unnecessary strain on device resources. Apps, including any third party advertisements displayed within them, may not run unrelated background processes, such as cryptocurrency mining.”

However, as previously reported, comparisons of energy consumption as it relates to mining efficiency are evolving in light of expanding capabilities and capacities –thereby raising the concern over the precedent this ban sets for current and future mining activity.

The updates to Apple’s official policy on cryptocurrency also come in light of pre-emptive measures taken by the company in prior years to clamp down on app development facilitating cryptocurrency trade.

Back in 2014, Apple pulled an app by Blockchain that was geared towards bitcoin trading and storage on Apple devices. The year prior, another bitcoin wallet app by a cryptocurrency exchange company known as Coinbase was also de-listed. Apps for those startups have since returned to Apple’s online store.

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/apple-blocks-crypto-mining-apps-products/

Would Crypto Survive In A Global Market Meltdown?

Financial meltdowns have been the topic of discussion after Bitcoin’s price hit a 2-month low. How would cryptocurrency be affected in an extreme financial crisis? There are many different speculations rising and although the topic is growing in popularity, it is difficult to forecast an event that has not happened in over 10 years. Here are a few common thoughts that come to mind when discussing the survival of cryptocurrency:

A common thought experiment in the crypto community is to ponder how cryptocurrencies would fare in the event of another global financial meltdown.

It is not an idle question. There is a host of troubling developments in the global economy: the threat of a trade warjitters in Italian debt marketsproblems at Deutsche Bank and new emerging market crises in Turkey and Argentina.

Meanwhile, central banks, led by the U.S. Federal Reserve, are tightening or signaling tighter monetary policy. That’s putting a brake on the huge gains that low interest rates and quantitative easing had bestowed on global markets in the eight years since the end of the last crisis.

With this combination of risk factors already in play, there’s always a chance that some unforeseen trigger could set off another terrified rush for the exits among global investors.

What would the impact be on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies? Would their reputation as independent assets see them benefit from safe-haven inflows? Or would the market-wide reduction in risk appetite spread wide enough that crypto assets get caught up in the selloff?

Opposing scenarios

Some crypto hodlers salivate at the idea of market panic.

They contend that, unlike the 2008-2009 collapse, when Satoshi Nakamoto’s newly launched cryptocurrency was essentially out of sight and unavailable to the hordes seeking a haven from the fiat world’s chaos, bitcoin is now widely recognized as a more versatile alternative to traditional flight-to-safety assets such as gold.

In a crisis, they say, bitcoin could shine – as might other cryptocurrencies designed as alternatives to fiat cash such as monero and zcash. Unaffected by future monetary policy responses, immune from draconian interventions such as the Cypriot bank deposit freeze of 2013, and easily acquired, they could prove their value as digital havens for the digital age in such a moment. Accordingly, the bulls’ argument goes, their prices would surge.

On the other hand, if there’s enough of a market-wide departure from risky investments, it’s hard not to see this sector being swept up in it.

Just as the most extreme gains in crypto prices in the latter part of 2017 were inextricably linked to the rapid “risk on” uptrend seen in stocks, commodities and emerging-market assets, so too a major selloff could easily infect these new markets.

Cryptocurrencies and tokens are perceived by most ordinary investors as high-risk assets – you buy them with money you can afford to lose when you’re feeling upbeat about market prospects. When the mood sours, this class of investment is typically the first to be retrenched as investors scramble to get cash.

At $300 billion, according to Coinmarketcap’s undoubtedly inflated estimates, the market cap of the overall crypto token market is more than three times its value of a year ago (even though it’s down more than half from its peak in early January).

But it’s less than 1 percent of the end-2017 market cap of $54.8 trillion for the S&P Global Broad Market Index, which includes most stocks from 48 countries. If risk-hungry investors are panicking and looking for things to dump – or for that matter if they’re looking for something safe to buy – it won’t take much of their funds to move the crypto markets, one way or another.

Low correlations

Backing the bitcoin bulls’ argument is the fact that correlations between cryptocurrency and mainstream risk assets – the degree to which prices move in tandem with each other – are quite low.

90-day correlation matrix compiled by analytics firm Sifr put bitcoin’s correlation with the S&P 500 index of U.S. equities at minus-0.14. That’s a statistically neutral position since 1 represents a perfect positive correlation while -1 is a perfectly negative relationship.

But they say that in a crisis “all correlations go to 1.” The panicked state of the crowd, with investors selling whatever they can offload to cover debts and margin calls, means that everything could go out with the flood.

Intellectually, too, that sort of wholesale downturn would comfortably stand as a logical counterpoint to the conditions seen last year when market valuations reached excessive levels. We cannot separate the flood of money that flew into crypto at the end of the year from the fact that eight years of quantitative easing had driven a “hunt for yield” in once-obscure markets as the return shrank on now pricey mainstream investments such as corporate bonds.

With bond funds paying little more than, say, 2 percent for years, bitcoin looked attractive to mainstream investors. When that artificially-stoked liquidity disappears, the reverse could happen.

Despite all of this, I do believe a global financial crisis could be an important testing moment for crypto assets.

Perhaps there’ll be a two-phase effect. In the immediate aftermath of the panic, there would be a selloff as every market is hit by the liquidity squeeze.

But after things settle, one can imagine that the narrative around bitcoin’s uncorrelated returns and its status as a hedge against government and banking risk would gain more attention.

Just like the mid-2013 surge in bitcoin that accompanied the Cypriot crisis’ lesson that “they can come for your bank account but not for your private keys,” so too a wider financial crunch could spur conversation around bitcoin’s immutable, decentralized qualities and help build the case for buying it.

The wider point here is that, whether it’s as an aligned element that rises and falls in sync with the broader marketplace or as a contrasting alternative to it, cryptocurrencies can’t be viewed in isolation from the rest of the world.

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/what-would-happen-to-crypto-in-a-global-market-meltdown/

17 Millionth Bitcoin Officially Mined

Bitcoin’s limited supply is about to get a lot more limited. With the 17 millionth Bitcoin mined on April 26, this leaves only 4 million Bitcoin’s left before they reach their cap of 21 million. With the set number of allotted Bitcoin’s, this leaves over 100 years for the remaining 4 million to be mined, which is still significant.

Barring an unforeseen event, the 17 millionth bitcoin is likely to be mined in the coming day, data from Blockchain.info shows, a development that would mark yet another milestone for the world’s first cryptocurrency. That’s because as per bitcoin’s current rules, only 21 million bitcoin can ever be created.

Stepping back, the milestone, the first million-bitcoin marker to be crossed since mid-2016, is perhaps noteworthy as yet another reminder of the technology’s core computer science achievement – digital scarcity created and enabled by shared software.

In short, bitcoin’s code, since cloned and adapted by scores of other upstart cryptocurrencies, ensures that only a set number of new bitcoins are introduced to its economy at intervals. Miners, or those who operate the hardware necessary to track bitcoin’s transaction set, are rewarded with this scarce data every time they add new entries to the official record.

Still, there’s a lot of variability in the process.

Of note is that it can’t be precisely predicted when the 17 millionth bitcoin will be mined or who will mine it, due to the many minute variances that are created in keeping a common software in sync. That said, there’s a relative predictability. Each bitcoin block produces 12.5 new bitcoin, and as bitcoin blocks occur roughly every 10 minutes, about 1,800 new bitcoin are created each day.

As such, it’s perhaps best to view this event as a “psychological barrier,” Tetras Capital founding partner Alex Sunnarborg told CoinDesk, one that is interpreted differently by different communities.

Sunnarborg, for example, sought to stress that another way to interpret the result is that 80 percent of all the bitcoin that will be ever created have now been mined. In other words, only about one-fifth of the eventual supply remains for miners and future buyers.

Others see the milestone as one that’s ripe for appreciation of the technology and its achievements.

“I think it is awesome,” Tim Draper, the venture capitalist who bought millions of dollars worth of bitcoin seized by the U.S. government at auction in 2014, said of the coming milestone.

He told CoinDesk:

“I would bet the founders wouldn’t have imagined how important bitcoin would become in their wildest dreams.”

Way with words

Others sought to suggest the milestone is one that should be considered as an opportunity for education about both the features of bitcoin, and those of cryptocurrencies broadly.

For example, unless all of the humans who operate the computers running the bitcoin software decide to make a change (a perhaps unlikely scenario today), there’s really no way to ever introduce more new bitcoin. This achievement, a technical reality, has played a key role in bitcoin’s association with money, economics and other scarce, naturally occurring assets.

In this way, the goldbugs and readers of Austrian economics who piled into bitcoin early on were quick to realize the value of the feature, perhaps giving rise to the term “cryptocurrency” itself.

Trace Mayer, one of this group’s most vocal members, summed up the philosophy in a recent tweet, in which he argued governments might seek to prevent users from holding bitcoin in the future.

“Increasing money supply is a means to confiscate through inflation which is a form of taxation without representation or due process of law,” he wrote.

Even the new way new bitcoins come into being, called “mining,” is a nod to the gold analogy.

Rather than being issued by a central bank, bitcoin is created by a network through the work of maintaining the blockchain. When a miner finds a valid hash for recent transactions, solving the bitcoin protocol’s puzzle, he or she is rewarded with a “coinbase transaction,” bitcoin credited to her account.

A little bit of cryptocurrency is created and deducted from the final supply.

The bitcoin supply curve

How participants have been rewarded has, of course, changed over time.

When bitcoin’s founder Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first bitcoin block on Jan. 3, 2009, he created the first 50 bitcoins. This reward stayed the same for another 209,999 blocks, when the first “halvening,” or reduction in rewards, took place.

It didn’t come as a surprise. Every 210,000 blocks, according to a hard-coded schedule, the network reduces the block reward by 50 percent. Following the most recent halvening, in July 2016, the reward is 12.5 bitcoin.

That means that while there are only 4 million bitcoin left to mine, the network will not reach its final supply in anything like the nine years it’s taken to get this far. As the halvenings halven, the rate of monetary inflation – supply growth – slows.

BashCo, a pseudonymous moderator on the r/bitcoin subreddit, has plotted the trajectory of bitcoin’s total supply (blue curve) against its rate of monetary inflation (orange line).

Source: BashCo.

Assuming the bitcoin protocol remains the same (a new block is mined every 10 minutes on average and the halving schedule and supply cap are unchanged), the last new bitcoin will not be mined until May 2140.

The next 120 years

With this in mind, the chart hints at another common talking point when acknowledging the milestone – that bitcoin is programmed to run for a very long time.

Jameson Lopp, lead infrastructure engineer at wallet provider Casa, was quick to remind CoinDesk that bitcoins are divisible, and that as such, the smallest parts of each bitcoin can hold seemingly infinite value.

He said:

“While 17 million BTC may sound like a lot, it’s incredibly scarce – there won’t even be enough for every current millionaire to own a whole bitcoin. Thankfully, each bitcoin is divisible into 100 million satoshis, thus there will always be plenty to go around!”

But there are other quirks to the software as well.

For one, bitcoin will never actually reach 21 million units, partly for mathematical reasons, partly because miners have not always claimed the full reward. On May 17, 2011, for example “midnightmagic” claimed a 49.99999999 block reward, rather than an even 50.

Further, to be clear, bitcoin does not stop running when 21 million bitcoin are produced. At that point, the idea is that miners would be compensated purely through the fees, which they already collect. (Though some scientists have sought to project whether such a market would work in practice).

With so many questions left unanswered, if anything, the event serves as yet another reminder of how far bitcoin has come, and just how far it has to go.

In the words of long-time developer Adam Back:

“Another million down four more to go.”

A more detailed explanation of the bitcoin’s supply and digital scarcity can be found here

Bitcoin image via Shutterstock.

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/17-millionth-bitcoin-mined-means-matters/

What is next for Bitcoin Cash software?

The next update in Bitcoin Cash’s software is projected to be more aggressive than the first. With a slated date of May 15, new additions to block size and smart contracts are coming your way. These changes are aiming to help the network handle more transactions and to increase transaction size.

 

Bitcoin cash’s next software upgrade may be even more ambitious than its first – and that’s no small feat given last time it broke off from bitcoin in acrimonious fashion.

In fact, the update, announced in November and slated for May 15, packages together a number of features that all seem about helping the network process more transactions than the original bitcoin (while adding more variety to features). Perhaps most notably, the change will quadruple bitcoin cash’s block size parameter from 8 MB to 32 MB, allowing for vastly more transactions per block.

But while that might sound aggressive given bitcoin’s more limited approach, those who have been following the cryptocurrency might be surprised that such an aggressive shift wasn’t pursued sooner.

After all, last fall, bitcoin cash’s developers chose to ignore the protests of bitcoin’s more seasoned developers, who had long argued that increasing the block size and moving the cryptocurrency forward too fast could jeopardize the more than $157 billion network.

But that contrarian mentality has proved, at least partially, attractive – one bitcoin cash is going for a little less than $1,500 a coin, making it’s market cap more than $24 billion.

Indeed, Joshua Yabut, who contributes to the bitcoin cash protocol’s main software implementation, BitcoinABC, said he doesn’t expect any protest at all when users are finally given the choice to upgrade software.

Yabut told CoinDesk:

“Block size increases are kind of non-controversial at this point, but it’s nice to see on-chain scaling happen.”

Another area where the upcoming bitcoin cash hard fork looks to scale up is through the increase of the “OP_RETURN field,” where users can store added data on the blockchain, from 80 to 220 bytes.

It’s an easy change, but one that bitcoin cash developers say could have positive consequences, as the OP_RETURN function has been traditionally used by services that require time-stamping, asset creation, rights management and other use cases that expand the capabilities of blockchains

Return of the smart contracts

Not only did bitcoin cash developers pack in features, but they’ve also added back some of the old capabilities that bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto stripped from the protocol early on.

The most notable here is the addition of new kinds of smart contracts, or dynamic if-then programming statements that can give added functionality to how bitcoin cash tokens can pass between users.

In this case, the specific smart contracts in question were deactivated after Satoshi Nakamoto realized they could provide an attack vector, but bitcoin cash developers believe they’ve had enough time to seal up the holes.

“Essentially out of an abundance of caution and lack of time to fully explore and fix the edge cases that needed to be addressed, the decision was taken to simply disable any opcodes around which there were doubts or even hints of doubts,” said nChain developer Steve Shadders, in a blog postdescribing the features in bitcoin cash’s hard fork.

It’s notable that bitcoin cash is rolling these out now since bitcoin contributor Johnson Lau proposed re-adding these same smart contracts to bitcoin in February, a context that adds a bit of competition to the mix.

“Seven years have passed and the edge cases around these opcodes are much better understood now. Additionally, the decision to disable them was taken hastily and under duress,” Shadders continues in the blog post. “The [bitcoin cash] community now has had the luxury of time to address these issues thoroughly.”

Yet, since there are still potential vulnerabilities in some of the smart contracts, bitcoin cash will only be unveiling a few of them this time.

Yabut told CoinDesk:

“It’s the first step for enabling smart contracts with the protocol which will allow us to compete with ethereum later on.”

The future of bitcoin cash

But while most of the bitcoin cash community is excited about the change, there has been some pushback – or at least skepticism – from a minority of users.

Much of those concerns stem from the fact that these sweeping changes weren’t put to a community-wide vote before being coded. As such, some worry about the “governance model” of bitcoin cash, a term that denotes how developers and the miners of the cryptocurrency organize around the future upgrades.

Users, this group says, are simply not getting a chance to debate on the merits of specific changes.

Even still, the bundle of code changes doesn’t seem to be so controversial it puts bitcoin cash in any danger from something serious like the network split that created it.

All software implementations of bitcoin cash, including bitcoinABC, bitcoin unlimited and bitcoin classic, have agreed to upgrade. And there hasn’t been a huge uproar from miners, node, exchanges, wallets and other services, which will also need to upgrade to the new software to support the changes.

One of the reasons many feel good about this hard fork is that the developers decided to eliminate several features that were potentially more contentious.

For instance, OP_GROUP, a change aimed at launching features for asset creation on bitcoin cash, was thrown out when it became known that competing proposals for these features might be on the horizon. Yet, if those proposals don’t make it to the protocol relatively quickly, bitcoin cash developers don’t plan on waiting – putting the opcode up for consideration on the cryptocurrency’s next hard fork, slated for October.

Meanwhile, some bitcoin cash users wonder whether the block size parameter needs to be much (much) bigger to make room for an onslaught of data-heavy bitcoin cash projects, such as Memo, a recently launched censorship-resistant social network.

As such, bitcoin cash might continue to display ambition that can’t be slowed down.

Big metal fork image via Shutterstock

 Source: https://www.coindesk.com/bigger-blocks-better-contracts-whats-bitcoin-cashs-next-fork/

Bitcoin value back after mid-week market slump

After two weeks of gains, the market experienced a low that dropped Bitcoin below $9,000. With a gain of 5% within 24 hours, Bitcoin is back up to trading at $9,251 and is looking to experience more growth over the coming weeks. As of this morning the crypto market is back on track with the top 10 crypto currencies.

 

Having recovered from a five-day low hit yesterday, bitcoin (BTC) has potential for a move higher towards major resistance at $9,880, the technical charts indicate.

The cryptocurrency moved back above $9,000 in the Asian hours after the pullback from the recent high of $9,767 ran out of steam around the ascending (bullish) 4-hour 50-candle moving average (MA).

As of writing, BTC is trading at $9,251 on Bitfinex, representing marginal losses over the previous day’s close (as per UTC) of $9,270.

A bearish follow-through to Wednesday’s bearish outside-day reversal would have been bad news for the bulls, but BTC instead appreciated by 4.5 percent on Thursday, keeping them in the game. Had BTC closed yesterday below $8,765 (Wednesday’s low), the bears would have had the upper hand for the short-term.

Daily chart

The above chart also shows the 5-day MA and the 10-day MA are trending north, indicating a bullish setup. The fact that bitcoin found takers below the 10-day MA yesterday and jumped above the 5-day MA only adds credence to the bullish nature of the moving averages.

Moreover, pullbacks tend to be short-lived as long as the short-term averages are trending north, unless there is a major negative fundamental news.

4-hour chart

BTC bounced off the 50-candle MA yesterday, establishing it as a strong support. The major moving averages – 50, 100, 200 – are trending north in favor of the bulls.

View

The pullback seems to have ended at $8,652, leaving bitcoin set to scale the resistance at $9,280 (double top neckline) and rise towards the 200-day MA located at $9,878.

Bear scenario: A failure to take out $9,280 and a drop below the previous day’s low of $8,652 would establish lower highs and lower lows pattern (bearish setup) and would strengthen the case for a deeper pullback to $7,823 (April 17 low).

Bitcoin and USD image via Shutterstock

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/pullback-over-bitcoin-retakes-9k-eyes-further-gains/

Blockchain Investing Isn’t Foolproof

There has been a lot of buzz about Bitcoin and blockchain investing in the past several months.  However, the process involves more than just putting money into a ‘stock’ and getting a bigger return.  Especially because there are many new blockchains popping up almost every day.  People that are interested in getting involved in blockchain investing need to do their research and really understand the ins and outs of cryptocurrency.  The article below elaborates more on this topic.

Investing in the Next ‘It’ Blockchain Isn’t So Easy

Bailey Reutzel
Jan 31, 2018 at 08:30 UTC

Turns out too much money can be a bad thing.

Speaking at the Blockchain Connect conference in San Francisco last week, investors struck a surprisingly nervous note on the recent wave of initial coin offerings (ICOs) and the eye-popping funding rounds they’ve secured.

In fact, while ICOs and token-based blockchains have been touted as a way to circumvent the often tricky venture capital process, speakers like Linda Xie, managing director of crypto hedge fund Scalar Capital, went so far as to advocate for the industry and its decades-old approach to best practices.

Xie told the audience:

“It’s great that these ICOs allow thousands of people to invest in the project … but thousands of people aren’t going to give you the best advice on how to run this protocol or company.”

Speaking to more than 1,000 crypto enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, Xie argued traditional VCs aren’t interested in just giving startups money to build their platforms. Rather, she argued they’re just as focused on helping the entrepreneurs build a successful business from start to finish.

And with that, Xie and others worry about the entrepreneurs that raise exorbitant amounts of money in token sales – more money than they may ever need.

Echoing that skepticism was Rodolfo Gonzalez, a partner at Foundation Capital, who said, “It’s pretty obvious why folks are skeptical – 140 lines of code for $140 million raised; that wouldn’t happen in the traditional venture world.”

There’s no doubt that kind of raise will lead to failures, failures that Gonzalez said would make investors, both institutional and retail, demand better management of the crypto projects they put money towards.

And while that hasn’t shaken out just yet, the investors on the panel had some ideas of what that transparency in management might look like in the future.

Is this legit?

Others chimed in with words of warning as well. Take Huobi Capital, which thought everything was on the up with one of the startups it invested in through a token sale not long ago.

The venture arm of the cryptocurrency exchange Huobi is focused on a buy-and-hold strategy for projects that it thinks might become the next “it” blockchain, and the team believed this startup had potential.

Yet, shortly after closing the ICO, the founders of the company resigned, taking a good chunk of change with them and leaving the project in limbo.

“We had to liquidate,” Li Huo, head of Huobi Capital, said.

And that’s why the company now looks to invest primarily in token projects that instate some sort of lockup process for the tokens they raise.

“We get a better deal because [the token] doesn’t go onto the secondary market for speculators … and it shows that [the founders] are interested in working on the project longer term,” Huo said.

Xie agreed, explaining that Scalar also looks for longer-term lockups because the company is interested in investing in companies over three to five years.

She said:

“Even if there’s a liquidity event, we’ll hold.”

Continuing, Xie said she is interested in seeing more token projects develop a method for raising money in installments, like the traditional venture rounds, instead of raising a ton of money all at once. Plus, vesting periods for making tokens available to employees of the startup would also make institutional investors feel more secure.

A ‘beautiful’ business model

Having discussed all that, though, Huo admitted that liquidating the company’s position in the failed token it backed had its advantages.

In the traditional venture capital space it’s much harder because the positions aren’t that liquid, he said, but in crypto, investors can easily sell tokens on the secondary market.

Gonzalez echoed that, calling the current business model for VCs investing in token sales “beautiful.”

“You get in with discounts, then when it goes on the secondary market you’ve already made money,” he said. “If you can get into the presale of many of these things, you will get rewarded well.”

And while Gonzalez seemed very much the capitalist on the panel in this regard, he wondered what another crypto “winter,” where the hype dies down and the industry stagnates, will bring in terms of exit strategies for both the token issuers themselves and the hedge funds investing in them.

Overall, Gonzalez said, the real strategy was getting in at the earliest position possible and going along for the ride.

Changing agreements

But Gonzalez admitted investors could get mixed up in crooked deals with this approach.

And from that, Kavita Gupta, founding managing partner at ConsenSys Capital, said she believes token issuers shouldn’t be offering discounted periods with only very small lockups.

Not only that, but she and her team at ConsenSys are “completely against SAFT” now, a comment that refers to the Simple Agreement for Future Tokens framework.

Created by startup Protocol Labs and U.S. law firm Cooley, the living document was an effort to keep token issuers and their tokens away from the purview of the securities regulators, who are increasingly taking an interest in how these products resemble securities.

But instead, Gupta believes the Brooklyn Project, an initiative led by blockchain startup ConsenSys, will create a new framework for token issuers that is based on set deliverables, yet keeps with the ethos of ICOs that anyone and everyone can invest.

ConsenSys Capital has invested in three token projects.

And while Gupta said those investments were made based on stringent due diligence of the core concept and the founding team, she said there’s no standard to making the correct crypto token investment currently.

“I don’t have a very optimistic answer,” she said.

Hot topics

Yet, many of the investors on the panel did give some insight into what kinds of things they’re looking for before investing in a token project and what are concepts they’re researching heavily.

Xie said she asks three questions before moving forward with an investment – “Is this something that anyone would want to use? Does this actually need to be decentralized? Does this token actually make sense or can you replace the token with a more liquid coin like bitcoin or ether?”

She continued, saying that all the more traditional mechanismsare vetted too, such as the supply of tokens, the inflation rate, the community interested in the project, what percentage of tokens is being held by the founders and the governance structure. Plus, Xie’s co-founder is a developer who analyzes the codebases.

And in doing their research on the nascent crypto token space, what several investors have found most intriguing are protocol tokens, privacy tokens and decentralized exchange projects.

Both Xie and Huo mentioned decentralized exchange projects, which many in the industry believe are the way forward in stopping large repositories of customer information from catching the eye of hackers.

Aligning with this interest in securing people using crypto, Xie also mentioned privacy-oriented cryptocurrencies (projects like zcash and monero), which are getting quite a bit of attention of late as the technology used in those projects attracts developers from the top two cryptocurrency projects – bitcoin and ethereum.

In a separate fireside chat, Todd Chaffee, a general partner at IVP, which just recently invested in Coinbase, said the venture fund is looking for the core protocols that all other crypto applications will ride on in the future – similar to the underlying infrastructure of the internet itself.

All in all, though, Xie said she expects there to be some amount of “ICO burnout” in 2018.

The rampant pace of ICOs “is going to continue, but these projects are going to have to differentiate. They’re going to maybe have a platform or product already,” she said, adding:

“Many of these [entrepreneurs] this year will realize they don’t need a token and go the more traditional equity route.”

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Coinbase and Protocol Labs. 

 

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/the-new-it-blockchain-projects-investors-want-to-fund/

What To Expect This Year With Bitcoin

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency had a big year in 2017, and 2018 will be a year of more advancement and investing.  A lot of people across the country just learned about cryptocurrency for the first time in 2017, so this year you can expect that they will take the new-found information and run with it.  More blockchains will be created and more money will flow in and out of exchanges among other things.  Read more predictions in the article below.

 

Keep an Eye Out for These Bitcoin Tech Trends in 2018

Aaron van Wirdum

1:49 PM  JANUARY, 02 2018

In many ways, 2017 was Bitcoin’s best year yet. Most obviously, increased adoption made the pioneering cryptocurrency’s exchange rate skyrocket from under $1000 to well over 10 times that value.

But from a tech perspective, things seem to be just getting started: 2018 promises to be the year that a number of highly anticipated projects are either launched or adopted.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the most promising upcoming technological developments to keep an eye on in the new year.

Cheaper Transactions with Segregated Witness and a New Address Format

Segregated Witness (SegWit) was one of Bitcoin’s biggest — if not the biggest — protocol upgrade to date. Activated in August 2017, it fixed the long-standing malleability bug, in turn better enabling second-layer protocols. Additionally, SegWit replaced Bitcoin’s block size limit with a block weight limit, allowing for increased transactions throughout the network, thereby lowering fees per transaction.

However, adoption of the upgrade has been off to a relatively slow start. While some wallets and services are utilizing the added block space offered by SegWit, many others are not yet doing so. This means that, while Bitcoin is technically capable of supporting between two and four megabytes worth of transactions per ten minutes, it barely exceeds 1.1 megabytes.

This is set to change in 2018.

For one, the Bitcoin Core wallet interface will allow users to accept and send SegWit transactions. Bitcoin Core 0.16, scheduled for May 2018 (though this may be moved forward), will most likely realize this through a new address format known as “bech32,” which also has some technical advantages that limit risks and mistakes (for example, those caused by typos).

“To spend coins from the P2SH format currently used for SegWit, users need to reveal a redeem script in the transaction,” Bitcoin Core and Blockstream developer Dr. Pieter Wuille, who also co-designed the bech32 address format, told Bitcoin Magazine.

“With native SegWit outputs this is no longer necessary, which means transactions take up less data. Recipients of SegWit transactions will be able to spend these coins at a lower cost.”

Perhaps even more importantly, several major Bitcoin services — like Coinbase — plan to upgrade to SegWit in 2018 as well. Since such services account for a large chunk of all transactions on the Bitcoin network, this could significantly decrease network congestion, thereby decreasing average transaction fees and confirmation times, even for those who do not use these services.

The Lightning Network Rolling Out on Bitcoin’s Mainnet

While further SegWit adoption should provide immediate relief of fee pressure and confirmation times, truly meaningful long-term scalability will likely be achieved with second-layer solutions built on top of Bitcoin’s blockchain.

One of the most highly anticipated solutions in this regard — especially for lower value transactions — is the lightning network. This overlay network, first proposed by Joseph Poon and Tadge Dryja in 2015, promises to enable near-free transactions and instant confirmations, all while leveraging Bitcoin’s security.

The solution has been under active development for about two years now, with major efforts by ACINQ, Blockstream and Lightning Labs. Progress on the scaling layer has been significant all throughout 2017, with early software releases of different but compatible software implementations, useable wallets interfaces and test transactions happening both on Bitcoin’stestnet and even on Bitcoin’s mainnet on a regular basis now.

“I’d say we have solved the main technical problems and have a relatively good idea on how to improve on the current system,” Christian Decker, lightning developer at Blockstream, told Bitcoin Magazine. “One last hurdle that’s worth mentioning is the network topology: We’d like to steer the network formation to be as decentralized as possible.”

Given the current state of development, adoption of the lightning network should only increase throughout 2018 — not just among developers, but increasingly among end users as well.

“Integration and testing will be the next major step forward,” Lightning Labs CEO Elizabeth Stark agreed, noting: “Some exchanges and wallets are already working on it.”

Increased Privacy Through TumbleBit and ZeroLink

While it is sometimes misrepresented as such, Bitcoin is not really private right now. All transactions are included in the public blockchain for anyone to see, and transaction data analysis can reveal a lot about who owns what, who transacts with whom and more. While there are solutions available to increase privacy right now — like straightforward bitcoin mixers — these usually have significant drawbacks: They often require trusted parties or have privacy leaks.

This situation could be improved significantly in 2018. Two of the most promising projects in this domain — TumbleBit and ZeroLink — are both getting close to mainnet deployment.

TumbleBit was first proposed in 2016 by a group of researchers led by Ethan Heilman. It is essentially a coin-mixing protocol that uses a tumbler to create payment channels from all participants to all participants in a single mixing session. Everyone effectively receives different bitcoins than what they started with, breaking the trail of ownership for all. And importantly, TumbleBit utilizes clever cryptographic tricks to ensure that the tumbler can’t establish a link between users either.

An initial implementation of the TumbleBit protocol was coded by NBitcoin developer Nicolas Dorier in early 2017. His work was picked up by Ádám Ficsór as well as other developers, and blockchain platform Stratis announced it would implement the technology in its upcoming Breeze wallet, which also supports Bitcoin, by March 2018. Recently, in mid- December of 2017, Stratisreleased TumbleBit integration in this wallet in beta.

The other promising solution, ZeroLink, is an older concept: it was first proposed (not under the same name) by Bitcoin Core contributor and Blockstream CTO Gregory Maxwell, back in 2013. Not unlike TumbleBit, ZeroLink utilizes a central server to connect all users but without being able to link their transactions. As opposed to TumbleBit, however, it creates a single (CoinJoin) transaction between all participants, which makes the solution significantly cheaper.

This idea seemed to have been forgotten for some years until Ficsór (indeed, the same Ficsór that worked on TumbleBit) rediscovered it earlier this year. He switched his efforts from TumbleBit to a new ZeroLink project and has since finished an initial ZeroLink implementation.

Ficsór recently ran some tests with his ZeroLink implementation, and while results showed that his implementation needs improvement, Ficsór considers it likely that it will be properly usable within months.

“I could throw it out in the open right now and let people mix,” he told Bitcoin Magazine. “There is no risk of money loss at any point during the mix, and many mixing rounds were executing correctly. It is just some users would encounter some bugs I am not comfortable with fixing on the fly.”

More Sidechains, More Adoption

Sidechains are alternative blockchains but with coins pegged one-to-one to specific bitcoins. This allows users to effectively “move” bitcoins to chains that operate under entirely different rules and means that Bitcoin and all its sidechains only use the “original” 21 million coins embedded in the Bitcoin protocol. A sidechain could then, for example, allow for faster confirmations, or more privacy, or extended smart contract capabilities, or just about anything else that altcoins are used for today.

The concept was first proposed by Blockstream CEO Dr. Adam Back and others back in 2014; it formed the basis around which Blockstream was first founded. Blockstream itself also launched the Liquid sidechain, which allows for instant transactions between — in particular — Bitcoin exchanges. Liquid is currently still in beta but could see its 1.0 release in 2018.

Another highly anticipated sidechain that has been in development for some time is RSK. RSK is set to enable support of Turing-complete smart contracts, hence bringing the flexibility of Ethereum to Bitcoin. RSK is currently in closed beta, with RSK Labs cofounder Sergio Demian Lernersuggesting a public release could follow soon.

Further, Bloq scientist Paul Sztorc recently finished a rough implementation of his drivechainproject. Where both Liquid and RSK for now apply a “federated” model, where the sidechain is secured by a group of semi-trusted “gatekeepers,” drivechains would be secured by bitcoin miners.

If drivechains are deployed in 2018, the first iteration of such a sidechain could well be “Bitcoin Extended:” essentially a “big block” version of Bitcoin to allow for more transaction throughput. That said, reception of the proposal on the Bitcoin development mailing list and within Bitcoin’s development community has been mixed so far. Since drivechains do need a soft-fork protocol upgrade, the contention does make the future of drivechains a bit more uncertain.

“Miners could activate drivechains tomorrow, but they often outsource their understanding of ‘what software is good’,” Sztorc told Bitcoin Magazine. “So they’ll either have to decide for themselves that it is good, or it would have to make it into a Bitcoin release.”

A Schnorr Signatures Proposal

Schnorr signatures, named after its inventor Claus-Peter Schnorr, are considered by many cryptographers to be the best type cryptographic signatures in the field. They offer a strong level of correctness, do not suffer from malleability, are relatively fast to verify and enable useful features, thanks to their mathematical properties. Now, with the activation of Segregated Witness, it could be relatively easy to implement Schnorr signatures on the Bitcoin protocol.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Schnorr signature algorithm is that multiple signatures can be aggregated into a single signature. In the context of Bitcoin, this means that one signature can prove ownership of multiple Bitcoin addresses (really, “inputs”). Since many transactions send coins from multiple inputs, having to include only one signature per transaction should significantly benefit Bitcoin’s scalability. Analysis based on historical transactions suggest it would save an average of 25 percent per transaction, which would increase Bitcoin’s maximum transaction capacity by about 33 percent.

Further on, Schnorr signatures could enable even more. For example, with Schnorr, it should also be possible to aggregate different signatures from a multi-signature transaction, which require multiple signatures to spend the same input. This could, in turn, make CoinJoin a cheaper alternative to regular transactions for participants, thereby incentivizing a more private-use Bitcoin. Eventually the mathematical properties of Schnorr signatures could even enable more advanced applications, such as smart contracts utilizing “Scriptless Scripts.”

Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Wuille confirmed that there will probably be a concrete Bitcoin Improvement Proposal for Schnorr signatures in 2018.

“We might, as a first step, propose an upgrade to support Schnorr signatures without aggregation,” he said. “This would be a bit more straightforward to implement and already offers benefits. Then a proposal to add aggregation would follow later.”

Whether Schnorr signatures will already be adopted and used on Bitcoin’s mainnet is harder to predict. It will require a soft fork protocol upgrade, and much depends on the peer review and testing process.

Source: https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/keep-eye-out-these-bitcoins-tech-trends-2018/