French spy used darknet to sell access to national mass-surveillance databases

A cop working for the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (the French national domestic surveillance agency) used the darknet marketplace Black Hand to sell access to France's prodigious national surveillance apparatus to criminals: give him a phone number and he'd track its location; give him a name and he'd tell you whether that person was under police investigation and disclose the contents of the associated files; he'd also sell you everything you needed to forge papers and other official documents (he took payment in Bitcoin). Read the rest

Bitcoin’s software had a bug that could have wrecked the cryptocurrency

Bitcoin’s core developers discovered a vulnerability in its software that would have allowed a miner to insert a “poisoned block” in its blockchain, which would have crashed the nodes running the Bitcoin software around the world, reports Vice’s Motherboard. Read the rest

Cryptocurrencies hawked by celebrities mostly a bust

Some things in life are obvious. The Pope's catholic, the sky's is blue, cryptocurrencies hawked by celebrities were bad investments, if not outright swizzes.

STEVEN SEAGAL

Last year, the actor became the brand ambassador for the cryptocurrency called “Bitcoiin,” which was just one letter away from the original thing. This past March, New Jersey regulators sent the Bitcoiin founders a cease-and-desist order, saying the coin was never registered as a security in the state.

Soon after, Seagal and the anonymous founders parted ways with the coin. Since then, his Twitter account has been largely silent and so has his Instagram, except for a mysteriously incongruous post on Thursday asking for donations for a homeless shelter in Russia.

Read the rest

Porn blackmailers supercharge their scam with password dumps, make bank

The porn extortion scam works like this: you get an email from a stranger claiming that he hacked your computer and recorded video of you masturbating to pornography, which he'll release unless you send him some cryptocurrency. Read the rest

A hard look at the wastefulness of "proof of work," the idea at the core of the blockchain

David Gerard is a technically minded, sharp-witted, scathing critic of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies; his criticism is long, comprehensive and multipartite, but of particular interest is is critique of "proof of work" (an idea that is central to the blockchain, but which many cryptographers are skeptical of). Read the rest

People are stashing irrevocable child porn links, dox, copyright infringement, and leaked state secrets in the blockchain

By design, data placed in the blockchain is visible to everyone in the world and can never be removed; everyone who mines bitcoin makes a copy of the blockchain, and so any illegal content stashed in the blockchain ends up on the computers of every miner. Read the rest

Browser plugin replaces the word "blockchain" with "multiple copies of a giant Excel spreadsheet"

Cynthia Lee, inspired by a tongue-in-cheek request by Christopher Mims, created a Chrome browser extension that replaces the word "blockchain" with the phrase "mulitple copies of a giant Excel spreadsheet."

WHAT: This is a Chrome browser extension that can help readers contextualize news stories with hype about blockchain technology, by reminding you that blockchain is, in essense, a giant Excel spreadsheet.

WHY: For fun.

The results:

Read the rest

Excellent explainer: how consensus algorithms (including Bitcoin/blockchain) work

The creation of "public ledgers" -- like blockchain, popularized by Bitcoin -- requires "consensus algorithms" that allow mutually untrusted, uncoordinated parties to agree on a world-readable, distributed list of things (domain names, transactions, title deeds, etc), something that cryptography makes possible in a variety of ways. Read the rest

The true and complete story of Bitcoin

Bryce Elder's epic Twitter thread finally reveals the one true tale of Bitcoin's genesis ("invented by Satoshi Nakamoto, a developer at Nintendo who mysteriously disappeared in the 1990s"); the environmental cost of Bitcoin ("whenever you give a hacker money he will upgrade his graphics card") and the story the mainstream media refuses to tell you ("You will have seen the recent plunge in the price of Bitcoin. This was triggered by Bolgakov last week upgrading to an NVidia GeForce® GTX 1080 Ti, which can play Quake III in max resolution at 60fps with all the lighting and textures enabled," which means, "Bolgakov has been playing Quake III and not buying any Bitcoin"). Read the rest

If you bought something on Silk Road with bitcoin, the blockchain will remember it forever and possibly reveal your identity

A common misconception is that bitcoin transactions are anonymous. The truth is, unless you are very careful about covering your tracks, your bitcoin transactions can be connected to you. And the transaction records on bitcoin's public database (the blockchain) can never be changed or deleted, meaning they will forever be searchable by authorities or anyone else. Andy Greenberg of Wired reports that researchers were able to "connect someone's bitcoin payment on a dark web site to that person's public account."

[T]he Qatari researchers first collected dozens of bitcoin addresses used for donations and dealmaking by websites protected by the anonymity software Tor, run by everyone from WikiLeaks to the now-defunct Silk Road. Then they scraped thousands of more widely visible bitcoin addresses from the public accounts of users on Twitter and the popular bitcoin forum Bitcoin Talk.

By merely searching for direct links between those two sets of addresses in the blockchain, they found more than 125 transactions made to those dark web sites' accounts — very likely with the intention of preserving the senders' anonymity — that they could easily link to public accounts. Among those, 46 were donations to WikiLeaks. More disturbingly, 22 were payments to the Silk Road. Though they don't reveal many personal details of those 22 individuals, the researchers say that some had publicly revealed their locations, ages, genders, email addresses, or even full names. (One user who fully identified himself was only a teenager at the time of the transactions.) And the 18 people whose Silk Road transactions were linked to Bitcoin Talk may be particularly vulnerable, since that forum has previously responded to subpoeanas demanding that it unmask a user's registration details or private messages.

Read the rest

Your early darknet drug buys are preserved forever in the blockchain, waiting to be connected to your real identity

Blockchain transactions are recorded forever and indelibly, and that means that all the Bitcoin transactions on early Tor hidden service marketplaces like Silk Road are on permanent, public display; because many people who made these transactions later went on to link those Bitcoin wallets with their real identities, those early deals are now permanently associated with their public, identifiable selves. Read the rest

Bitcoin's high valuation has ruined it as a medium of exchange

Technological limitations in the design of the Bitcoin system means that the network only processes about seven transactions per second, unless you pay someone with a lot of compute-power to log your transaction, currently at the rate of about $20/transaction. Read the rest

Financial consultancy says that Bitcoin's value is speculative, and as a currency, it should be worth $810

Wall Street consultants Quinlan & Associates have published "Fool's Gold: Unearthing The World of Cryptocurrency," a $5000, 156-page report that predicts that Bitcoin will drop to $1800 by next December, and down to $810 by 2020 (it is currently trading in the $14,000 range). Read the rest

"Financial dominatrix" orders the rich men who submit to her to operate a "crypto slave farm" to mine bitcoin

Theodora is a "financial dominatrix," a woman who sexually gratifies rich and powerful men by humiliating them with orders to give her money; in the age of cryptocurrency, she says her clients are now operating a "crypto slave farm" of cryptocurrency mining rigs built to her specification, which mine bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for her. Read the rest

Bitcoin philanthropist donated $1 million to psychedelics research

The anonymous Bitcoin philanthropist behind the Pineapple Fund donated nearly 60 Bitcoins, approximately $1 million, to the psychedelics research and advocacy group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

"The Pineapple Fund's outstanding generosity exemplifies how the growth of cryptocurrency can be leveraged for profound social change," says MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D. "The blockchain community is helping to lead the way, not only in decentralized technologies and currencies, but in giving the gift of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to the world in order to heal trauma and bring greater compassion to psychiatry and medicine."

The philanthropist, known as Pine, has also:

• Donated $1 million to Watsi, an impressively innovative charity building technology to finance universal healthcare.

• Donated $1 million to The Water Project, a charity providing sustainable water projects to suffering communities in Africa

• Donating $1 million to the EFF, defending rights and privacy of internet users, fighting for net neutrality, and far far more

• Donated $500k to BitGive Foundation, a charity building projects that leverage bitcoin and blockchain technology for global philanthropy.

Previously: "An anonymous person with $86 million in bitcoin is giving it to charity" Read the rest

Cryptocurrency: From Basic Definitions to Expert Issues in One Interview

You’d have to be living in some kind of a news blackout not to have heard chatter about cryptocurrencies recently. The granddaddy of ‘em all – BitCoin – has appreciated roughly 2000% over the past twelve months. This puts the total value of all BitCoin close $300B, making it more valuable than roughly 490 of the companies in the Fortune 500 – and far more valuable than any of the banks that were deemed too big to fail during the financial crisis.

So what in the world is going on here? As with all large markets, nobody fully knows. But my interviewee in today’s podcast, Fred Ehrsam, knows this area better than almost anyone. In 2012, he co-founded Coinbase, which is by far the world’s largest consumer-friendly service for storing and trading cryptocurrencies (though its users include many large nonconsumers as well).

Although our interview is a spontaneous conversation, Fred and I both put methodical thought into sequencing our topics, as well as the level of depth that we treat each with. The result is a robust introduction for who know nothing about cryptocurrencies, which can also truly fire the neurons of experts in this field. Will AI’s start running on the block chain? Could a full-fledged Uber, Lyft, or AirBnB competitor exist as a cloud-based Smart Contract? And how might the emergence of Ethereum stand in certain a line of historic events that stretches back before the Bronze Age?

Those who don’t yet know what a blockchain or a smart contract are should be able to follow the entire conversation, clear through to its complex and rather mindbending conclusions, just by listening carefully (although probably not on 2x speed!). Read the rest

Ugly cryptocurrency sweaters

It seems whatever you're into, there's an ugly holiday sweater for it. Now, with the rise in interest in cryptocurrency, there's a collection of machine-knit "ugly crypto sweaters" available. For $59.99 apiece, you can show your (ironic?) pride for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, or Neo this winter. See them all over at Hodlmoon.

(Ufunk.net)

Previously: These ugly Christmas sweaters have special booze-bottle-holding pockets Read the rest

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