Category Archives: privacy

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Expert Says Quantum Computing Could Break Bitcoin’s Cryptographic Hashes

One expert has predicted Bitcoin’s cryptographic hashes could be forcefully broken with the use of quantum computing.

Spanish IT company Indra Sistemas’ digital business unit head in Brazil, Wander Cunha, said that while encryption solutions are made so that no conventional computer can break the key at ease, quantum computers may succeed in this within just a few years. This could affect the entire encryption system beyond Bitcoin.

”Quantum machines are very efficient in performing brute-force algorithms, such as factoring prime numbers and searching in unordered lists,” Cunha explained.

Is there any way to avoid this? Well, Cunha warns that the size of keys must be increased to postpone the problem and new encryption methods must be developed in the future that can withstand quantum computing power, saying the whole field requires a thorough risk management approach from the financial sector.

He also predicted that quantum machines would reach the market for the general public sooner than the next decade, noting that some lower processing power models have already but at very high costs.

It is not all bad news for the blockchain industry, however, as it has the potential to bring significantly higher levels of speed and development to the sector. Cunha gave the example of Lockheed Martin which purchased a D-Wave computer and was able to find F-16 source code flaws in six weeks which would have otherwise taken six months.

He also believes the growth of the technology will be unavoidable: “We understand that the benefits of using the quantum computer will be fundamental in research and development especially when applied to solve a problem in a very short time, such as simulating and optimizing processes such as building safer aircraft.”

 

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P2P Exchange Bisq: “It Doesn’t Get More Decentralized Than This”

With a recent surge in so-called decentralized cryptocurrency exchange platforms, peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange platform Bisq appears to be one of the very few to attempt serious decentralization.

Once the favored method of exchange, P2P volume has fallen over the years but with increasing privacy and security challenges on centralized exchanges, some like Bisq see a revival in the concept of direct exchange via P2P.

Felix Moreno is one of just a few individuals who work on the decentralized P2P exchange platform Bisq openly. Most people working on it volunteer their services anonymously and for free. Why? Because, as Moreno told Bitcoin News, it is the ”holy grail” of decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges.

Bitcoin News caught up with Moreno to discuss the logistics of running a nearly entirely decentralized exchange, why they will have to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way, and why know-your-customer (KYC) regulations are really just a way for the government to get into your pockets.

Moreno’s experience

He has been in the Bitcoin world for a long time, suffered through the Mt Gox fiasco and various hacks and scams before, and now wants to do his part in minimizing these experiences for others.

”What do we need that can make exchanging as decentralized as the Bitcoin network itself? This is the closest we have gotten to that ideal,” he said. This is one of the most interesting projects Moreno says he has worked on, both making him understand what makes Bitcoin special and what potential decentralization can unlock, Moreno explains his belief that Bisq’s founders really try and live up to this standard.

A return to private exchanges between crypto users

Bisq founder Manfred Karrer shared these comments about the platform: ”To enable a privacy protecting exchange between fiat currencies and Bitcoin, it is crucial to keep your Bitcoin untainted. Protection of privacy is here directly related to security. There is a long list of hacks of centralized Bitcoin exchanges. In such events, your personal financial data including your residency address can end up in the hand of hackers and criminals. The only protection is to not store user data.”

The Bisq project is open source, operating entirely with the help of informal collaborators besides the founders. There was no initial coin offering held to raise funds; the few who helped contribute the minimal funds pre-launch did not do so expecting to see their money again. The mission getting these people so excited is an ambition to create a platform like BitTorrent but instead of offering music, offering a cryptocurrency exchange for all coins, between people and users instead of companies and banks.

Right now, you can buy and sell Bitcoin and altcoins using dozens of fiat currencies but with more users, this could potentially become hundreds. The platform uses multi-signature transactions on Bitcoin smart contracts to block in escrow the Bitcoins that people use as a security deposit, so there is a mutually assured destruction for both partners in the trade if they don’t complete it correctly.

The privacy measures do not much change the process of using the platform, Moreno detailed: ”There is a local wallet in your computer under your control so there is no way that runners of the project can access it. You can fund the wallet at the moment you want to make the trade by just scanning the QR code and depositing funds straight away.”

Bisq Founder Manfred Karrer

In terms of decentralization, what makes Bisq so different from other exchanges?

Bisq does not require you to have an account or share your information with a third-party company. Your information is stored locally in the Bisq Client, an application that you need to download onto your computer, and only the minimum of this is shared with the trade counterpart and nobody else. For example, if you are trading with fiat, your bank details will be shared. A Bitcoin-Monero trade, on the other hand, will not even share your name with the trading partner, only your wallet address.

”There is no way we could turn into a KYC financial surveillance company because there is no company, there is no one the SEC can send a subpoena to. There is no one in charge,” Moreno explained.

Privacy is crucial for them. Moreno outlined the main issue with centralized businesses: ”Big companies leak large amounts of user data every week, and the ones who are not leaking are the worst offenders, accumulating social media and search engine data to sell to advertisers in the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is something from (the book) 1984.’

Privacy, he added, is especially important with finances due to the risks of theft, fraud, and rich Bitcoin traders that could become susceptible to phishing scams if their data is shared. He also recognized that there are different degrees of decentralization with Coinbase at one end, Hodl Hodl somewhere in the middle, and then Bisq.

”Ideally, Bisq is so successful that it will be copied by a lot of people and because it is open source code this will be easy. I’m fine with that, that’s the spirit of open source,” he explained.

A dying kind

Moreno pointed out that even companies that have tried to offer decentralized platforms, such as Shapeshift, reach a certain level of success and then have to ”ignore the ‘no account needed’ hashtag”. They may not want to impose KYC, he said in the case of Shapeshift: ”I know Eric (Shapeshift CEO), he’s a great guy, really believes in privacy. But once you run a company with dozens of employees and investors you cannot take the legal risk. Shapeshift is incorporated in Switzerland so technically the SEC doesn’t have anything to say about it in theory, but in practice, the long reach of American regulators extends at least over half the world if not more… I don’t think he has a choice.”

Bisq Co-Founder Chris Beams

It is not perfect

There are risks to this level of decentralization and the platform itself is not perfect. For one, it exposes Bisq to scammers that in some other places can be stopped with an identity check, but it uses a set of incentives and smart contracts to minimize this risk. Moreno says he has used nearly every trading platform there is and has realized it is much more detrimental to scammers to have a security deposit there to lose than to ask for identification. Bisq has a double security deposit, which when trade is completed, both parties recover but if there are any issues they can lose their money.

One aspect that people may also not like is the fact you have to download a program to run on your computer.

”That’s like early 2000s, who does that anymore?” Moreno joked, clearly aware that this is a problem for some people. It is, however, the only way to exchange completely securely and to let people really have control of their own node, he said.

Some people might also not enjoy the fact that because they are completely in control of their own funds as any mistake is on the user: ”It’s like in the early days of Bitcoin when you send funds to the wrong address – you’re screwed. But that’s your responsibility and some people don’t want that.”

And then there is the issue of speed. You can not simply buy with one click when making a market order as you can on some centralized platforms; the multi-signature which is on the Bitcoin blockchain requires at least 10 minutes for confirmation. Then the speed depends on your payment network; some ways such as through a Revolut account will be quick, but international bank transfers can sometimes take five days or more.

Fighting to stay online, and why regulations are really there

While Bisq may avoid most regulations because of its decentralized structure, the path ahead for them is not easy: ”Bisq is going to have a very hard time surviving the way it is doing things… We will have to fight like hell and use every technological advantage to keep it up.”

If there is a company behind it, Moreno says, every exchange will get a call from local regulators who want first: full KYC and the source of funds for counterterrorism measures especially over certain amounts, and secondly: automatic data sharing like banks already have with tax authorities so they can ”go on phishing expeditions to see who isn’t declaring all their Bitcoin income or whatever”.

Moreno continued, ”KYC is not there out of the goodness of their hearts; it’s a slippery slope towards first identifying you, then getting money out of you. If tax authority lobbyists win, they will allow crypto activities to continue but they will be taxed and if financial industry lobbyists win, they will exclude competition so only big financial companies can run exchanges with proper licenses.”

Industry self-regulation

So is industry self-regulation the way forward? Well, Moreno thinks it could work.

He explained that now, more than ever, there is the opportunity to do it well by using smart contracts and setting up things such as automatic penalties for people who break the rules. ”That can get us very very far, much farther than all the preventative KYC regs”, he said, adding that reputation networks too have always worked because people care a lot about return trade.

”If people are completely anonymous, it’s very easy to have a selfish attitude, but if it’s someone you have some sort of relationship with, it’s only the psychopaths that are going to give that up for a short-term gain,” Moreno remarked.

Bisq Co-Founder Christoph Atteneder

Set the date: 20th September

Right now, trading volumes are comparatively very small: ”Bisq is at 183 on Coincap, it’s tiny.”

For euros and dollars, trading is decent but for some other currencies such as the Argentinian peso, there is hardly anyone on the platform offering pairs. ”Argentina really needs it but again, most people will not do the work of finding decentralized exchanges until they suffer a hack or find their account frozen,” Moreno noted.

To try and encourage traders, Moreno has planned a kick start virtual event on 20 September 2018. He is asking everybody who is interested to go on Bisq and place an ad.

”If you don’t want to trade just say ‘I’m here, I’m interested and when the time comes to buy and sell I will be here,’ especially for lesser used currencies. If we can get 4/5 people for these currencies, other people can see there are people trading around them.”

It may not be the fastest platform, the most accessible or provide some of the assurances that KYC compliant exchanges do, but as Moreno believes, ”Right now, Bisq is the best we have got by far.”

To find out more about Bisq, or to contribute to the platform, join the Slack or follow them on Twitter.

 

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Image Courtesy: Bisq

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Future Firefox Browsers Will Block Cryptojacking Malware

In a move to help improve security in the crypto-sphere, Firefox has announced that all future versions of its web browser will automatically block crypto-jacking malware.

Cryptomining scripts that mine cryptocurrencies unknown to the owner of the device will be prevented from autorunning. While it may be a relatively small number of people that experience this themselves, a growing number of incidents have been reported this year. Firefox is providing a secure solution against this, which will help rid the cryptocurrency industry of the arguably undeserved stigma it has received due to negative media reports of incidents such as crypto-jacking.

The decision was made as part of Firefox’s anti-tracking initiative that goes live in the following few months. The aim is to target the negative impacts of unchecked online tracking. Future web browsers will protect users by default from this, and offer users more advanced controls over what information of theirs is shared with third parties.

In addition to blocking crypto-jacking malware, the initiative plans to prevent noticeable effects such as what it describes as ”eerily-specific targeted advertising”, as well as those that users are unable to spot such as unchecked data collection that can lead to major security breaches. Firefox cited a study that indicates a total of 55.4% of time spent loading a web page is actually spent sending information to third parties.

Opera also offers this service

The popular web browser Opera added a similar anti-crypto-jacking function to its desktop adblocker update in December last year, adding that in January it plans to include this feature in its mobile application also.

Opera has become an increasingly popular web browser of choice as earlier this month it announced plans to integrate a cryptocurrency wallet into its desktop web browser supporting a wide variety of tokens. Charles Hamel, Product Lead of Opera describes the integration as a key step in “making cryptocurrencies and Web 3.0. mainstream.”

 

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Blockchain Compatibility with GDPR’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’

The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policies place an emphasis on the ”right to be forgotten”, meaning that at any time an organization should be able to delete users’ personal data at their request. With immutable, decentralized blockchain technology, the question arises as to how blockchain projects will be able to comply with these principles.

Who is in charge of regulating blockchain data?

Indeed, the foundations of trust in blockchain comes from its immutability, something perhaps inherently contradictory to the new GDPR policies. Public blockchain configurations are decentralized, relying on peer-to-peer (p2p) transactions without any control or authorization. This means that anybody participating can be seen as a controller in the eyes of the law because of the copy on their computer.

While private blockchains make it easier to identify the administrator, it is still far different than the classic scheme considered by GDPR that easily identifies a data controller. So, legal responsibilities are transferred to people orbiting around the blockchain, considered as third services, giving them the responsibility to uphold the regulations.

Each blockchain project must be considered on an individual basis to identify the obligations imposed in regards to respecting data subject’s rights. There is yet to be a consensus in the blockchain community, however, how third services can respect and comply with the right to be forgotten.

Exploring immutability solutions: alternative blockchains

Business and innovation blockchain developers BTL judged a hackathon at the Consensus Conference in New York last month, where developers were challenged to build various applications capable of permanently deleting data on the Interbit blockchain platform.

Interbit differs from public blockchains such as Ethereum and Bitcoin, as it has been purpose-built for business enterprises and meeting GDPR’s requirement of the “right to be forgotten”, hence enabling the permanent removal of information.

BTL even believes that the future of data protection lies in blockchain solutions, arguing “we would go as far as to say that you can only truly meet this (GDPR) requirement with … a blockchain solution…Interbit allows data to be segregated across multiple chains within single applications. Delete a chain, (and the) data is gone, for good.”

The separation of data across several private chains both facilitates GDPR compliance and implements total data privacy that lacks on public blockchains. While Interbit is one just solution now, the industry is sure to follow with many more innovations to come.

 

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Jon Matonis – The Fincen Whistleblowers

Jon Matonis – The Fincen Whistleblowers:

Bitcoin Foundation board member Jon Matonis (@JonMatonis) writes a post on how the financial surveillance also occurring is no secret.  Excerpts:  

“The Fincen bureau conducts all of its surveillance activity out in the open and in plain sight, probably for its effect as a deterrent. Fincen even recruits banks and other agent financial institutions to participate in the direct surveillance that make serious and consequential judgment calls along the way.”

“Two generations of educated Americans, including some smart attorneys, have been conditioned to think of money laundering as a real and legitimate category of crime. Eradication of privacy is the goal and manipulation of the semantic crime debate is the tool.”

“Since the available cryptography and technical tools of today permit near absolutes on each side of the privacy-surveillance spectrum, each advancement from one side elicits an equally strong reaction from the other side.”

“As shameful as the existence of PRISM is, and it is monumentally shameful for a free society, it doesn’t even compare to the unprecedented level of financial surveillance the world is on the verge of witnessing.”

“Digital currencies with proper mixing services such as bitcoin become a viable option for preserving some transactional privacy, even if identification is required for its initial acquisition from licensed money transmitters.”

“A world where privacy isn’t sacrificed and all human transactions aren’t tracked is not only possible, but imperative. The alternative will be far worse than you can imagine.”

 – http://bit.ly/1anVlwV
 – http://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=236621.0 (Further discussion of the article)

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