Boing Boing 

A beginner's guide to the Redpill Right

The gnostic paradox of young, tech-savvy traditionalists, who see through everything except their own conspiracy theories

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Bitcoin is collapsing

Barry Silbert, creator of the Bitcoin Trust, says it's because there are "more sellers than buyers." What will make it go back up? "More buyers than sellers." [via]

The ruble is sinking almost as fast as bitcoin

The falling price of oil is causing problems for Russia's economy, says Matt O'Brien of the Washington Post. The ruble is down 50% against the dollar this year. The Russian central bank raised interest rates from 10.5 to 17 percent in an attempt to prop up the value of the ruble, but this move will "send Russia's moribund economy into a deep recession."

The only asset, and I use that word lightly, that's done worse than the ruble's 50 percent fall is Bitcoin, which is a fake currency that techno-utopians insist is the future we don't know we want. And this is only going to get worse. Russia, you see, is stuck in an economic catch-22. Its economy needs lower interest rates to push up growth, but its companies need higher interest rates to push up the ruble and make all the dollars they borrowed not worth so much. So, to use a technical term, they're screwed no matter what they do.

Sorry, Putin. Russia’s economy is doomed

Finnish national broadcaster will transmit blockchain over terrestrial digital TV network

The Finnish national broadcaster has partnered with Kryptoradio to broadcast the Bitcoin blockchain over the digital television network making it accessible over a non-Internet channel to 95% of the Finnish population.

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Bitcoins.com being sold at auction by Mt. Gox founder Mark Karpeles

Mt. Gox lost $600 Million in Bitcoins, but it hopes to make good by giving half the proceeds from its upcoming auction sale of the Bitcoins.com domain to people impacted by the Mt. Gox bankruptcy. The current high bid is $185,000.

"We are hoping, with the sale of Bitcoins.com, to provide some relief to the people impacted by the Mt. Gox bankruptcy,” said Mark Karpeles, founder of the failed Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, “and will be putting at least half of the sale amount toward that purpose.”

Heritage Auctions is expecting the high bid to be at least $750,000. Let's be generous and assume Karpeles gets $1,200,000 and gives half of that to former Mt. Gox customers. They would get 1/10th of a cent for every dollar they lost. For example, someone who lost $100,000 would get $100.

Cyber-crooks turn to Bitcoin extortion


Security journalist Brian Krebs documents a string of escalating extortion crimes perpetrated with help from the net, and proposes that the growth of extortion as a tactic preferred over traditional identity theft and botnetting is driven by Bitcoin, which provides a safe way for crooks to get payouts from their victims.

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A beginner's guide to Bitcoin

Andreas Antonopoulos explains what bitcoin is, and how you can start using it.

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A bitcoin knockoff for Insane Clown Posse fans: JuggaloCoin

Fuckin' cryptocurrencies, how do they work? Fans of ICP who are fed up with using actual US dollars to pay for all-you-can-slurp Faygo and ethanol cocktails at festivals can rejoice with the news of a new, bitcoin-y cryptocurrency. "According to juggalocoin.org, the currency is designed for the group’s substantial Juggalo community, and is available to purchase now." It was created by a juggalo named Papa Nutt. [Guardian. HT: Dean Putney]

Gweek podcast 140: Understanding Bitcoin

In each episode of Gweek, Dean Putney and I invite a guest to join us in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. Our guest is Andreas M. Antonopoulos. He has founded three bitcoin businesses and is currently the the Chief Security Officer of Blockchain. Dean and I asked him a lot of questions about bitcoin, and his answers were fascinating.

This episode is brought to you by NatureBox, makers of delicious, wholesome snacks delivered to your door. Go to NatureBox.com/gweek to get 50% OFF your your first box.

GET GWEEK: RSS | On iTunes | Download episode | Stitcher

Happy Mutant congressman: if Bitcoin should be banned, why not dollar bills?


Senator Joe Manchin delivered a grandstanding, technologically clueless, facepalm-inducing request to the Treasury Department to ban Bitcoin. In response, Rep Jared Polis (who proudly wears Boing Boing tee-shirts in his spare time, and rocks some snazzy duds on the floor of Congress) wrote a mock-serious request for dollar bills to be removed from circulation, pointing out that practically every objection that Manchin raised over Bitcoin applies equally well to paper money.

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TSA agents demand bag-search to look for "Bitcoins"

Davi Barker was flying from Manchester, NH when, he says, he was stopped by two men who identified themselves as "managers" for the TSA, who claimed they had seen Bitcoins in his baggage and wanted to be sure he wasn't transporting more than $10,000 worth. When he asked them what they thought a Bitcoin looked like, they allegedly said that it looked like a coin or a medallion. (via Hacker News)

Mt. Gox, Bitcoin exchange, files for bankruptcy

It lost 750,000 bitcoins to a "hacking attack", reports The New York Times, a haul worth some $400m at the present exchange rate. This site has some useful information on the cryptocurrency's fluctuating value.

Update: More from Cyrus Farivar at Ars:

Tsutomu Okubo, now a member of the Japanese parliament and a former banker at Morgan Stanley, told Ars that he had begun discussing new bitcoin-related regulation with the Financial Services Agency, the Ministry of Finance, and the Bank of Japan a year ago. "However, their response is that Bitcoin is neither currency nor regulated settlement in Japan," he said by e-mail. "Regarding exchanges like MtGox there is no regulation now."

Apple yanks last remaining bitcoin wallet

Above, a gentleman who was unhappy with Apple's decision to remove the Blockchain bitcoin wallet from the iTunes App Store shot holes through his iPhone with a rifle.

• Boing Boing presents a guest op-ed from the the Chief Security Officer of Blockchain, a Bitcoin wallet app recently removed from Apple's App Store.

On Wednesday February 5th, Apple yanked Blockchain, the last remaining bitcoin wallet from the App Store without notice, firmly establishing iOS as the bitcoin-hostile mobile operating system. In a terse email to the app’s developers, Apple cited an “unresolved issue”, without any further explanation. While Blockchain’s developers scrambled to get clarification, it appears the unresolved issue is that the application is a bitcoin wallet, something that cannot be “resolved.” Blockchain was the last of the bitcoin wallets, the others yanked months ago by Apple’s innovation gatekeepers.

Meanwhile, across the mobile market divide, Google’s Android OS is quite bitcoin friendly. More than a hundred bitcoin related apps, including a dozen different wallets, compete for attention in a crowded market. Clearly, Apple’s “unresolved issue” is not related to bitcoin’s legality, which has been firmly established in the US and almost all other jurisdictions. Presumably, Google’s lawyers arrived at the same conclusion as US law enforcement agencies and the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the United States, that the use of bitcoin is perfectly legal.

So if legality is not the problem, what is?

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Apple turfs biggest bitcoin app from store

Today in "You didn't see this coming?" news, Apple ejected "the world's most popular bitcoin app" from the walled garden. Robert McMillan:

Some believe that Apple may be dumping bitcoin wallets because of the emerging, somewhat confusing international regulations surrounding bitcoin. But like others, Blockchain’s Cary argues that his app was pulled because Apple sees bitcoin as a potential competitor. “I think that Apple is positioning itself to take on mobile payments in a way they haven’t described to the public and they’re being anti-competitive.”

Cryptocurrency soap


Liz writes, "I bet you never wished before that you had handmade soap with a glider from Conway's Game of Life, a doge, or the bitcoin logo on it. It's twee. It's vaguely punk rock. It's cryptocurrency soap!"

Interview with Andreas Antonopoulos, bitcoin entrepreneur

The Joe Rogan Experience podcast episode #446 has a long and informative interview with Andreas Antonopoulos, a bitcoin expert who does a good job of explaining how the bitcoin money platform works and why "trust by computation" is a lot better than trusting banks (like drug cartel money launderer HSBC) and the federal reserve (which basically gives free money to the rich people who own the banks).

(Above, a Disrupt Athens talk by Andreas Antonopoulos)

Bitcloud: Bitcoin-like "distributed autonomous corporations" that replace Youtube, Facebook, etc


Some Bitcoin enthusiasts have announced a new project called Bitcloud. The idea is something like the old Mojo Nation P2P architecture, in which individual Internet users perform tasks for each other -- routing, storage, lookups, computation -- in exchange for very small payments.

The Bitcloud protocol uses Bitcoin-style accounting to allocate those microtransfers, along with Bitcoin-style proof-of-work (they call it "proof-of-bandwidth") and the authors suggest that the potential for profit by individual members will create enough capacity to replace a large number of centralized commercial services ("Youtube, Dropbox, Facebook, Spotify, ISPs") with "distributed autonomous corporations," that obviate the need for centralized control in order to supply anonymous, robust, free services to the public.

The idea is an interesting thought-experiment, at least. The idea of "agorics" -- using market forces to allocate resources on the Internet -- is an old one, and I remain skeptical that this produces optimal outcomes. That's because its proponents seem to treat market efficiency as axiomatic ("everyone knows markets work, and that's why we should make them the basis of network resource allocation") and their proposals are substantially weakened if you don't accept the efficient market hypothesis.

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2600's HOPE X conference accepts Bitcoin signups

Emmanuel Goldstein from 2600 magazine writes, "The HOPE X conference (July 18-20, New York City) is now accepting Bitcoin for preregistration. It's believed this is the first time in North America that any conference (other than a couple of Bitcoin conferences) has accepted the digital currency. Quite a few people have been requesting this for a while - and a hacker conference is exactly the kind of place where such experiments should be tried out. In addition to allowing people to preregister with a minimum of identifying information, it also presents attendees and non-attendees alike with a way of making new projects at the conference possible by donating additional bitcoins if desired. It will be most interesting to see if this method of payment is embraced by HOPE X attendees."

Charlie Stross: Bitcoin should die in a fire

Charlie Stross's Why I want Bitcoin to die in a fire presents a set of scorching denunciations of Bitcoin based on its technical, political, and economic demerits. On the way, Stross takes some vicious shots at libertarianism. It's one of those Christmas-season hornet's-nest kickings that are fun to watch -- at a great distance.

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Tracking 96,000 stolen Bitcoin in realtime

Sheep Marketplace -- a Bitcoin-based market that grew sharply after Silk Road shuttered -- was the target of a 96,000 Bitcoin (~£60m) hack last weekend. It turns out that laundering that much Bitcoin is very tricky, and the denizens of r/sheepmarketplace on Reddit have been taking countermeasures against the thieves (or thief) to track and de-anonymize the Bitcoin as it moves through various "tumblers" -- services that obfuscate the origin and destination of Bitcoin fractions. It's an exciting chase across the darknet, full of math, intrigue, and crime.

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Apps come bundled with secret Bitcoin mining programs, paper over the practice with EULAs


Researchers at Malwarebytes have discovered that some programs covertly install Bitcoin-mining software on users' computers, papering over the practice by including sneaky language in their license agreements allowing for "computer calculations, security."

The malicious programs include YourFreeProxy from Mutual Public, AKA We Build Toolbars, LLC, AKA WBT. YourFreeProxy comes with a program called Monitor.exe, which repeatedly phones home to WBT, eventually silently downloading and installing a Bitcoin mining program called "jhProtominer."

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Bitcoin survival guide

Wired on the future of money.
Bitcoin is much more than a money service for illegal operations. It’s a re-imagining of international finance, something that breaks down barriers between countries and frees currency from the control of federal governments. Bitcoin is controlled by open source software that operates according to the laws of mathematics — and by the people who collectively oversee this software. The software runs on thousands of machines across the globe, but it can be changed. It’s just that a majority of those overseeing the software must agree to the change. In short, Bitcoin is kind of like the internet, but for money.

Virgin Galactic to accept virtual currency

Tickets to space? Pay for them with bitcoin. [The Guardian]

$147M Bitcoin transaction

A Bitcoin address with a history of large transactions just conducted a transfer worth $147M, more or less.

Man buys $27 of bitcoin, forgets about them, finds they're now worth $886k

"Kristoffer Koch invested 150 kroner ($26.60) in 5,000 bitcoins in 2009, after discovering them during the course of writing a thesis on encryption. He promptly forgot about them until widespread media coverage of the anonymous, decentralised, peer-to-peer digital currency in April 2013 jogged his memory." -- The Guardian

Cyber-crooks mail heroin to Brian Krebs


Brian Krebs is a security expert and investigative journalist who has published numerous ground-breaking stories about the online criminal underground, much to the consternation of the criminal underground. Krebs has been the victim of much harassment, including a dangerous SWATting (where someone called a SWAT team to Krebs's door, having told them that an armed gunman was inside).

Most recently, a Russian crook called Flycracker crowdfunded the purchase of a gram of heroin on the Silk Road, which he mailed to Krebs, having first called the cops to alert them that Krebs was a narcotics trafficker. Luckily for Krebs, he lurks in the same forums in which this was planned, and knew of it in advance and tipped off the local cops and the FBI.

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Ben Laurie on BitCoin

I wrote yesterday about Dan Kaminsky's excellent thoughts on BitCoin, and wished aloud for comparable work from Ben Laurie. It turns out such work exists: here's Ben's critique of BitCoin, and here's his proposal for an alternative. Both are short, clear, excellent reads.

Dan Kaminsky on BitCoin

Ever since BitCoin appeared, I've been waiting for two security experts to venture detailed opinions on it: Dan Kaminsky and Ben Laurie. Dan has now weighed in, with a long, thoughtful piece on the merits and demerits of BitCoin as a currency and as a phenomenon.

Bitcoin’s fundamental principle of fraud management is one of denial. If we drop our wallet on the street, the U.S. government is not going to compensate us for our lost cash. Bitcoin attempts to make the same deal, to the point where it calls its stores of keys, “wallets.” If we drop our wallet on the street — heck, if someone picks it out of our pockets — the money’s gone.

There have been bitcoin thefts. A few years ago, I tried to break Bitcoin, and failed quite gloriously. The system and framework itself is preternaturally sound. But it too is built on the foundation of buggy technologies we call the internet, and so Bitcoin must experience failures from the code around it. Hackers don’t care whose code they broke on their way to bitcoin, any more than pickpockets care that they’re exploiting the manufacturer of one’s jeans or leather wallet. So they break the server below the money, or the web interface above it. They still win.

At least, that’s the theory. Reality is more complicated. Of all the millions of dollars of purloined bitcoin that’s floating around out there, not one Satoshi of it has been spent. That’s because while most other stolen property becomes relatively indistinguishable from its legitimate brethren, everybody knows the identity of this particular stolen wealth, and can track it until the end of time.

Bitcoin Is Not as Secure, Unregulated, or Lucrative as You Might Think

Which makes more money: mining Bitcoins or writing about mining Bitcoins?

Joey deVilla joined a Bitcoin mining pool (where people collectively contribute their spare computer CPUs and share the Bitcoins they mine).

Since Saturday he's made about 4 cents mining Bitcoins and about $40 dollars from ads running on his article about mining Bitcoins.

"To summarize: I made 1000 times more money by writing about mining Bitcoins as I did by mining Bitcoins."

Which makes more money: mining Bitcoins or writing about mining Bitcoins?

Using Silk Road: game theory, economics, dope and anonymity


Gwern's "Using Silk Road" is a riveting, fantastically detailed account of the theory and practice of Silk Road, a Tor-anonymized drugs-and-other-stuff marketplace where transactions are generally conducted with BitCoins. Gwern explains in clear language how the service solves many of the collective action problems inherent to running illicit marketplaces without exposing the buyers and sellers to legal repercussions and simultaneously minimizing ripoffs from either side. It's a tale of remix-servers, escrows, economics, and rational risk calculus -- and dope.

But as any kidnapper knows, you can communicate your demands easily enough, but how do you drop off the victim and grab the suitcase of cash without being nabbed? This has been a severe security problem forever. And bitcoins go a long way towards resolving it. So the additional security from use of Bitcoin is nontrivial. As it happened, I already had some bitcoins. (Typically, one buys bitcoins on an exchange like Mt.Gox; the era of easy profitable "mining" passed long ago.) Tor was a little more tricky, but on my Debian system, it required simply following the official install guide: apt-get install the Tor and Polipo programs, stick in the proper config file, and then install the Torbutton. Alternately, one could use the Tor browser bundle which packages up the Tor daemon, proxy, and a web browser all configured to work together; I’ve never used it but I have heard it is convenient. (I also usually set my Tor installation to be a Tor server as well - this gives me both more anonymity, speeds up my connections since the first hop/connection is unnecessary, and helps the Tor network & community by donating bandwidth.)

Using Silk Road (via O'Reilly Radar)