San Francisco (CNN Business)Bitcoin is on the ropes again.
Nothing says the future of finance like a good old-fashioned meltdown, and the upcoming bitcoin cash hard fork has that in spades. This is thanks, in no small part, to a man named Craig Wright.
Wright, derisively known as “Faketoshi” for his dubious claim that he is in fact Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, has gone on a strange rant in support of his version of Bitcoin Cash’s (BCH) future known as Bitcoin SV (Satoshi’s Vision).
Deep into a rambling, multi-day tweet bender, Wright has taken it upon himself to spew invective at anyone he believes threatens his plans for Bitcoin SV — especially those defending the Roger Ver-backed rival project Bitcoin ABC.
But before we get too deep in the crypto weeds, some background is in order.
Those of you whose brains have yet to be rendered functionally useless by cryptocurrency-related inanity may remember that last year Bitcoin itself experienced a so-called hard fork. The split was the result of a disagreement regarding the best way to scale a digital currency on its way to becoming bogged down by increased transactions and associated high fees, and gave birth to Bitcoin Cash (BCH) in the process.
Bitcoin Cash is now poised to undergo its own Athena moment, scheduled for Nov. 15, with a totally new coin leaping forth from its progenitor’s head. More accurately, the fork will likely result in the creation of two separate coins — each updated from BCH in different ways — as the fight essentially boils down to what specific changes will be made to Bitcoin Cash (not whether to make changes at all).
With us so far? Oh, and just to make everything more confusing, there are a total of three different proposals for how to best move forward.
But while the end goal is to improve BCH, no one can quite agree on just what exactly that means. That’s left prominent members of the Bitcoin Cash community all vying for attention with their competing technical solutions.
And there’s a lot a stake. Bitcoin cash is the fourth largest cryptocurrency by market cap, and whichever proposal gets the most support will likely take a majority of mining power with it. Without that power, the left behind coin could potentially wither — dragging its dollar value down with it.
So with both money and prestige on the line, Wright has decided to fully freak out.
“And, no you ABSOLUTE cuck,” he tweeted on Nov. 13 in response to a defense of Bitcoin ABC. “Bitcoin IS not even close to a soy boy commitee. It is all use hard assed buggers bending you over to show you the light. It is capitalism. Enjoy”
Reassuring, right? That tweet was just one of many off-the-rails outbursts from the self-proclaimed Bitcoin creator, and definitely displayed the level of maturity you’d hope to find in someone attempting to steer a cryptocurrency to a brighter future.
And then there’s the supposed email he sent to Roger Ver. Ver, for those blissfully unaware, was an early promoter of and investor in bitcoin, who later became a full on bitcoin cash evangelist. He now supports Bitcoin ABC. In a Nov. 8 YouTube video, Ver shared what he said was an email to him from Wright.
In the supposed email, Wright once again pushes the questionable claim that he is Satoshi, and threatens Ver with “war.”
Ver, at least, appears willing to admit that maybe — just maybe — he screwed up by aligning himself with Wright in the past.
“It’s never easy to admit that you’ve been fooled,” he says in the YouTube video. “Maybe I’ve been fooled.”
The video, embedded below, continues with Ver making a tortured analogy about Bitcoin ABC’s attempt to exist separately from Bitcoin SV.
“If you wife wants a divorce, you don’t lock her in the closet and say ‘no.'”
So, with just a few days to go until the planned hard fork, the Bitcoin Cash community is faced with an embarrassing meltdown and threats of “war.”
And while whether Bitcoin ABC or Bitcoin SV will ultimately reign supreme is presently anyone’s guess, one thing is for sure: Dogecoin is starting to look a lot more reasonable.
You know you’re in trouble when you’ve lost Carlos Matos.
The walking meme made famous by his unbridled enthusiasm for Bitconnect, a cryptocurrency project strongly resembling a Ponzi scheme that shut down its lending and exchange platform in January, is now here to offer some measured words of caution. Namely, stay the hell away from bitcoin.
“Bitcoin Is A Scam,” he tweeted on October 26. “Sell Everything It’s NEVER Going Back Up”
Bitcoin Is A Scam. Sell Everything It’s NEVER Going Back Up
— Carlos Matos (@CarlosMatos80) October 26, 2018
Matos, of course, is best known for promoting a likely scam himself. He launched into meme infamy in October of 2017 after a video of him singing Bitconnect’s praises went viral.
Importantly, this was all before the price of a BCC token shot up to around $437, and then crashed back down to its current price of $.67.
If you haven’t seen the clip, recorded at a Bitconnect gala in Thailand, you should go ahead and watch it now. We’ll wait.
His proclamations of “I love Bitconnect!” were endlessly remixed, and Matos — a self-proclaimed Bitconnect investor — quickly became the face of the project.
Needless to say, none of this worked out so well for him. Even John Oliver took a swing at Matos on Last Week Tonight.
And while Matos surely regrets the day he heard of Bitconnect, you can’t say he didn’t learn anything from the mess he helped create.
Which, to be clear, is that bitcoin is a scam.
People are definitely spending bitcoin, just maybe not the kind of people proponents of cryptocurrency adoption had in mind.
A lengthy indictment from the Justice Department dropped today, accusing seven Russian intelligence officers of conspiring to hack anti-doping agencies around the world in retaliation for their efforts to expose Russian athletic doping. And, at least according to the US officials, the GRU hacking group mined bitcoin to fund its efforts.
“The pool of bitcoin generated from the GRU’s mining activity was used, for example, to pay a United States-based company to register the [phishing] domain wada-arna.org through a payment processing company located in the United States,” reads the indictment. “The conspirators used the same funding structure—and in some cases, the very same pool of funds—to purchase key accounts, servers, and domains used in their anti-doping related hacking activity.”
As a result, the Justice Department is charging the seven Russian officers with “[conspiring] to launder money through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.”
Clearly, the GRU officers’ efforts at anonymity failed in the longterm. Their hacking efforts, on the other hand, appear to have largely succeeded.
The indictment lays out how the group stole the medical information of around 250 athletes, and released that information — sometimes in altered form — to “damage the reputations of clean athletes from various countries by falsely claiming that such athletes were using banned or performance-enhancing drugs.”
Interestingly, the officers — operating under guise of a hacking group named Fancy Bear — aggressively courted reporters in an effort to spread their propaganda. The indictment claims they hit up around 116 reporters on Twitter offering access to the hacked and secretly altered docs, and exchanged emails with around 70 reporters.
The list of the GRU’s targets, at least in this specific campaign which reportedly began as earlier as 2014, include organizations based in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, and Mexico. Specifically, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the International Association of Athletics Federations, The Court of Arbitration for Sport, and FIFA were all targets.
But there was more. The same hackers also hit a Pennsylvania nuclear energy company, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Spiez Swiss Chemical Laboratory. The latter had done work analyzing “the chemical agent connected to the poisonings of a former GRU officer and others in the United Kingdom,” notes the indictment.
Essentially, it reads as if this crew was out for revenge on behalf of the Russian government. It just so happens that bitcoin paved the particular road there.
New York (CNN Business)Who owns and trades bitcoin? Young, relatively well-off men living in big cities.
If you need to carry a substantial amount of cryptocurrency on you at all times, but you just don’t trust the average smartphone, a company called Sikur might have a solution.
On Wednesday, Sikur launched the SIKURPhone, a customized variant of a Sony smartphone, its Android enhanced with the secure, crypto-oriented SikurOS software.
SikurOS comes with a cryptocurrency wallet and numerous security-oriented features, such as the ability to remotely wipe the device, and Sikur’s own Secure App Store (launching later this year) which should host only vetted and thoroughly checked apps. A security-oriented chat app and browser are also on board.
The phone comes in two flavors: One is based on Sony’s XZ1, a 5.2-inch smartphone with a Snapdragon 835 chip, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 2,700mAh battery and a 19-megapixel camera on the back paired with a 13-megapixel selfie camera.
The other is based on Sony’s mid-range XA2, which has a Snapdragon 630 chip, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 23-megapixel rear camera, and 8-megapixel selfie camera, and a 3,300mAh battery.
Neither of these devices are particularly new — Sony launched two more XZ-series flagships after the XZ1 — but their specs are still good enough to hold their own against most modern phones.
If you’ve followed Sikur over the past couple of years, this launch is probably quite confusing. The company’s original SIKURPhone, launched in February 2018, had both its hardware and software built by Sikur. Now, the company appears to have pivoted to building only software which it will deploy on phones made by other manufacturers.
To build the new, Sony-based SIKURPhone, Sikur joined Sony’s Open Devices Program, which allowed the company to built its software on top of Sony’s hardware, the company COO Alexandre Vasconcelos told me via e-mail.
“We are already talking to other manufacturers to port the SikurOS for other devices,” he said.
In its promo materials, Sikur claims that the pivot to software is an advantage, but one could argue that controlling both the hardware and the software can ensure better security. Furthermore, using a Sikur device to store your cryptocurrency, or any sensitive data (Sikur positions the device as a tool for businesses and governments, not just crypto users) means placing trust in a very young company to be able to protect it.
To test the security of its software, Sikur employed the penetration testing company HackerOne which, according to Sikur, was unable to penetrate the SikurOS’ defenses.
“SIKURPhone has a clear separation between hardware and software layers, the solution is very consistent. Even though the hardware/software layers are apart, we plan to run a permanent bounty program so that we keep the high-quality product level,” Vasconcelos said.
The new SIKURPhone devices are already available with Sikur resellers. The recommended price for the XZ1 is $850, while the XA2 costs $650.
As for the original SIKURPhone, it’s still out there and supported for existing customers. “A new version should be available in mid-October, following the same software features that the SIKURPhone is delivering now,” Vasconcelos said.
UPDATE: Sept. 26, 2018, 10:44 a.m. CEST The post has been updated to clear up the confusion between the original SIKURPhone, the new SIKURPhone and the GranitePhone, an earlier Sikur device.
Read more: https://mashable.com/article/sikurphone-xz1/
The cruise ship wasn’t big enough for the both of them.
On September 10, somewhere in the Mediterranean, two well-known rivals in the cryptocurrency space stood awkwardly poolside. A crowd, sporting a mix of cryptocurrency-themed t-shirts and bikinis, lounged nearby on the ship’s upper deck. One man, sweatpants sloshing in the water, steadied a tripod. The Bitcoin versus Bitcoin Cash debate was about to begin.
It only took 37 seconds to spiral out of control.
The CoinsBank Blockchain Cruise, chartered to take cryptocurrency die-hards from Barcelona, to Monaco, to Ibiza, and then back, was in its fourth day, and a highly billed event had managed to drag a few likely hung over attendees out from their below-deck cabins. Jimmy Song, a venture partner at Blockchain Capital LLC, was to argue the relative merits of Bitcoin (BTC). Early Bitcoin adoptee and Bitcoin Cash evangelist, Rover Ver, was to speak on behalf of Bitcoin Cash (BCH).
Bitcoin Cash was born following a 2017 Bitcoin hard fork, and despite BTC’s and BCH’s shared history, the two cryptocurrencies and their respective boosters have become the blockchain’s very own Montagues and Capulets — each disparaging the other at every conceivable opportunity, with both sides lobbing accusations of fraud and deception.
It was perhaps to be expected that the debate wouldn’t go smoothly, but just how quickly it went off the rails surprised even those in attendance.
Song, cowboy hat atop his head and microphone in hand, attempted to introduce the format of the event — a “Lincoln-Douglas style debate” — but was soon interrupted by Ver.
Shouts of “no Roger” emanated from the crowd, as Ver told the audience to “calm down.”
It quickly spun out from there, with Song repeatedly telling Ver to “sit down” as Ver angled for the microphone.
“Do you want to debate me or not,” Song demanded. “OK then sit down,” he repeated as he stood behind the podium.
Bickering over whether or not Ver would get a one-minute introduction before the official start of the debate continued on, with Song addressing the crowd and Ver shouting at the top of his lungs.
They heatedly yelled over each other as the crowd jeered.
Three minutes had passed, and things were not going well. And then someone handed Ver a mic.
You better believe Song wasn’t having that, and so he stormed offstage saying he was “refusing to do the debate.”
Finally with the stage all to himself, Ver attempted to speak but was immediately shouted down by an angry, shirtless man yelling from the pool. And that’s all just the first five minutes. The video is over 40 minutes long.
In the end, despite all the bullshit, one clear consensus did manage to emerge: If these people are the future of finance, then we should all pray for a return to the past.
Proponents of Bitcoin and its competing cryptocurrency Bitcoin Cash, which was created as a “fork” of Bitcoin’s code and history, aren’t exactly in love with each other. Social media channels are full of squabbles over which coin is better and which one is more deserving of the “Bitcoin” name.
But one Bitcoin Core developer — meaning, a person who develops code for Bitcoin — rose above the petty quarrels and did a big favor for Bitcoin Cash.
In April, Cory Fields discovered what he describes as a “critical vulnerability” in Bitcoin Cash, and alerted Bitcoin Cash developers which implemented a fix before a malicious actor could exploit it.
After Fields had noticed a suspicious change in Bitcoin Cash’s code, it took him “less than 10 minutes” to find the bug, which was serious enough to cause a chain split, which (if unintentional) can cause huge damage to a cryptocurrency.
But it wasn’t just a simple matter of finding the bug and reporting it. “This was a bug in publicly-available, open-source software; any number of people could have already discovered it. There was nothing to stop anyone else from making the same discovery and taking advantage of it before a fix could be fully deployed,” he wrote in a Medium post published Friday.
“Suppose that I privately disclosed the bug using my name — only for someone else to find it independently and exploit it anonymously the next day,” he wrote. “…billions of dollars could have been lost as a result of this exploit. People have been killed for much less. So not only was anonymity important, I considered it a necessity for my safety.”
Fields decided to report the bug anonymously, and luckily, he was able to reach Bitcoin Cash’s dev team before anyone else had noticed the bug (or, at least, had time to exploit it).
Bitcoin ABC (the name of Bitcoin Cash’s software implementation) has posted an incident report after the bug was fixed in May, and promised it would take “several actions in order to prevent such an event from occuring again,” as well as set up a formal bug bounty system.
Fields’ move was lauded by several notable cryptocurrency figures, including Civic CEO Vinny Lingham who tweeted that “Responsible and ethical behavior by everyone in the community, regardless of ideological beliefs, should be applauded.” Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, retweeted Lingham’s tweet.
Once the second most valuable cryptocurrency, Bitcoin Cash has dropped to fourth place by market cap according to CoinMarketCap, and is roughly eleven times smaller than Bitcoin. And while there’s still a lot of friction between fans of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, Fields’ example shows that it’s still possible to help each other out to the ultimate benefit of all.
A new pilot program in West Virginia aims to take voting into the technological future. In doing so, the state has cast its eye toward one of the most popular tech buzzwords of 2018.
West Virginia has contracted the Boston company Voatz to enable voting via smartphone for troops overseas in the 2018 midterm elections, according to CNN. Members of the military will be able to cast their ballots using an app, with voting data recorded on a blockchain.
Troops will still be able to cast paper ballots if they prefer.
To use the app, voters will have to submit a photo of their government issued ID, as well as, um, a selfie video. Voatz’ facial recognition technology will ensure that the person voting in the selfie video matches the ID.
But the use of smartphone-, app-, and blockchain-based voting prompts concerns, because these technologies may not be consistent with the recommended way to secure an election. Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, even told CNN that it was a “horrific idea” because of the security vulnerabilities it opens up.
The industry standard for election security is to use devices that produce a paper trail. That way, there is a non-digital, and non-vulnerable back-up, should anything go awry. Facilitating voting via a (hackable) smartphone, and aggregating that data digitally sans paper trail — whether on much-evangelized blockchain technology or not — opens up too many avenues for attack, Lorenzo Hall said.
And attack is nowhere near out of the realm of possibilities for the 2018 midterms. U.S intelligence agencies concluded that in the 2016 election, Russian hackers attempted to hack the voting systems in 21 states, and were successful at accessing voter data in at least one, Illinois (however, there’s so far been no evidence the data was altered or votes were changed).
Federal officials warn Russia is now attempting to interfere with the 2018 midterms. And while they do not see hacking election machines as the main vulnerability, they’re keeping an eye on it.
But the U.S. may not be doing enough to bolster the digital integrity of election infrastructure. Last week, the Senate voted down a bill that would provide $250 million to states to modernize and secure the voting process, because they said it was not clear how states had used the $380 million already allocated. Still, experts say the initial funds are nowhere near enough to fully secure America’s elections.
It might just be too soon to rest our faith in American democracy on the blockchain.
Recent news that Starbucks has partnered with Microsoft, the International Exchange, and a few other companies to launch a cryptocurrency venture called Bakkt has fueled reports that Starbucks is getting ready to start accepting Bitcoin in its stores.
Speaking to Motherboard, however, the company has stated that this is not true.
“Customers will not be able to pay for Frappuccinos with bitcoin,” a Starbucks spokesperson told the outlet, refuting a CNBC story published Friday.
Starbucks’ press release, dated Aug. 1, said Bakkt will be a “regulated, global ecosystem for digital assets” that will enable customers and institutions “to buy, sell, store, and spend digital assets on a seamless global network.”
But Bakkt will initially only let users trade and convert Bitcoin into fiat currencies, which (obviously) can be used at Starbucks.
Being the first significant foray the cryptocurrency space by Starbucks, as well as a platform that will likely bring Bitcoin to the attention of mainstream users, Bakkt is a boon for cryptocurrency proponents. But right now, it appears Starbucks is more interested in helping customers turn bitcoins into dollars than actually using them for purchases at its stores.
A Starbucks spokesperson told Motherboard that the company will “continue to talk with customers and regulators as the space evolves,” but it appears that directly spending Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency at Starbucks is still ways off.
Bitcoin’s price has been on the decline since late July, when it hit a two-month high of $8,340 according to CoinMarketCap. Right now, Bitcoin is trading at $6,993 with a market capitalization of $120 billion.
Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH.