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Bitcoin

The CIA 'Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny' It Has Documents on Satoshi Nakamoto (vice.com) 66

An anonymous reader shares a report: Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? Ever since this pseudonymous person or group unleashed Bitcoin on the world in 2008, Nakamoto's real identity has been one of the biggest mysteries in the cryptocurrency world. And based on a response to my recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, if the CIA knows anything, it's not talking. [...] In 2016, Alexander Muse, a blogger who mostly writes about entrepreneurship, wrote a blog post that claimed the NSA had identified the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto using stylometry, which uses a person's writing style as a unique fingerprint, and then searched emails collected under the PRISM surveillance program to identify the real Nakamoto. Muse said the identity was not shared with him by his source at the Department of Homeland Security. [...] I figured it couldn't hurt to ask some other three-letter agencies what they know about Nakamoto. [...] I received a terse reply that informed me that "the request has been rejected, with the agency stating that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the requested documents."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin's Price Was Artificially Inflated Last Year, Researchers Say (nytimes.com) 207

A concentrated campaign of price manipulation may have accounted for at least half of the increase in the price of Bitcoin and other big cryptocurrencies last year, according to a paper released on Wednesday by an academic with a history of spotting fraud in financial markets. From a report, first shared to us by reader davidwr: The paper by John Griffin, a finance professor at the University of Texas, and Amin Shams, a graduate student, is likely to stoke a debate about how much of Bitcoin's skyrocketing gain last year was caused by the covert actions of a few big players, rather than real demand from investors. Many industry players expressed concern at the time that the prices were being pushed up at least partly by activity at Bitfinex, one of the largest and least regulated exchanges in the industry. The exchange, which is registered in the Caribbean with offices in Asia, was subpoenaed by American regulators shortly after articles about the concerns appeared in The New York Times and other publications. Mr. Griffin looked at the flow of digital tokens going in and out of Bitfinex and identified several distinct patterns that suggest that someone or some people at the exchange successfully worked to push up prices when they sagged at other exchanges. To do that, the person or people used a secondary virtual currency, known as Tether, which was created and sold by the owners of Bitfinex, to buy up those other cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin

Wells Fargo Bans Cryptocurrency Purchases On Its Credit Cards (bloomberg.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Wells Fargo customers hoping to use their credit cards to buy Bitcoin will have to look elsewhere. While putting a prohibition on such cryptocurrency purchases for now, Wells Fargo "will continue to evaluate the issue as the market evolves," Shelley Miller, a spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. Wells Fargo joins Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, which limited cryptocurrency purchases on their credit cards in February, citing market volatility and credit risks. Lenders have said they're worried they'd be left on the hook if a borrower lost money on a digital currency bet and couldn't repay. A study conducted by LendEDU last year found that roughly 18 percent of Bitcoin investors used a credit card to fund the purchases. Of those, 22 percent couldn't pay off their balance after buying the digital coin.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Tumbles Most in Two Weeks Amid South Korea Hack (bloomberg.com) 87

Bitcoin extended losses for a third day, tumbling as much as 6 percent Sunday as South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinrail said there was a "cyber intrusion" in its system. From a report: The largest cryptocurrency declined 4.6 percent to $7,277 as of 10 a.m. time, the biggest drop since May 23, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from Bitstamp pricing. That widens Bitcoin's losses for the year to 49 percent. Peer cryptocurrencies Ethereum and Ripple fell 5 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.
Bitcoin

Blockchain's Once-Feared 51% Attack Is Now Becoming Regular (telegra.ph) 168

Monacoin, bitcoin gold, zencash, verge and now, litecoin cash. At least five cryptocurrencies have recently been hit with an attack that used to be more theoretical than actual, all in the last month. From a report: In each case, attackers have been able to amass enough computing power to compromise these smaller networks, rearrange their transactions and abscond with millions of dollars in an effort that's perhaps the crypto equivalent of a bank heist. More surprising, though, may be that so-called 51% attacks are a well-known and dangerous cryptocurrency attack vector. While there have been some instances of such attacks working successfully in the past, they haven't exactly been all that common. They've been so rare, some technologists have gone as far as to argue miners on certain larger blockchains would never fall victim to one.

The age-old (in crypto time) argument? It's too costly and they wouldn't get all that much money out of it. But that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. NYU computer science researcher Joseph Bonneau released research last year featuring estimates of how much money it would cost to execute these attacks on top blockchains by simply renting power, rather than buying all the equipment. One conclusion he drew? These attacks were likely to increase. And, it turns out he was right. "Generally, the community thought this was a distant threat. I thought it was much less distant and have been trying to warn of the risk," he told CoinDesk, adding: "Even I didn't think it would start happening this soon."

United States

5 Years on, US Government Still Counting Snowden Leak Costs (apnews.com) 172

National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid off U.S. government surveillance methods five years ago, but intelligence chiefs complain that revelations from the trove of classified documents he disclosed are still trickling out. From a report: That includes recent reporting on a mass surveillance program run by close U.S. ally Japan and on how the NSA targeted bitcoin users to gather intelligence to combat narcotics and money laundering. The Intercept, an investigative publication with access to Snowden documents, published stories on both subjects. The top U.S. counterintelligence official said journalists have released only about 1 percent taken by the 34-year-old American, now living in exile in Russia, "so we don't see this issue ending anytime soon." "This past year, we had more international, Snowden-related documents and breaches than ever," Bill Evanina, who directs the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at a recent conference. "Since 2013, when Snowden left, there have been thousands of articles around the world with really sensitive stuff that's been leaked."
Communications

Ticketfly Temporarily Shuts Down To Investigate 'Cyber Incident' (engadget.com) 26

Earlier today, ticket distribution service Ticketfly shut down after a "cyber incident" compromised its systems. A hacker reportedly defaced the company's website and claimed to have compromised the "backstage" database where festivals, promoters and venues manage their events. Engadget reports: The intrusion might have started through Ticketfly's Wordpress blog -- the hacker claimed to have downloaded and posted this on Ticketfly's site before it was taken down. The firm hasn't said when it expects services to return to normal, and it has yet to gauge the full extent of the breach. It took everything down out of an "abundance of caution," according to a spokesperson. According to Motherboard, the hacker apparently demanded a single bitcoin to divulge the vulnerability that left Ticketfly open to attack. You can view the FAQ page for more information on the incident.
Bitcoin

Chinese President Xi Jinping Calls Blockchain a 'Breakthrough' Technology (cnbc.com) 82

Even as cryptocurrencies continue to draw skepticism from some, at least the underlying technology, blockchain, has found yet another high-profile admirer: Chinese President. Xi Jinping said in a speech this week that blockchain has "breakthrough" applications. From a report: "A new generation of technology represented by artificial intelligence, quantum information, mobile communications, internet of things and blockchain is accelerating breakthrough applications," he said Monday, according to a translation of his remarks. Xi also emphasized the need for China to focus on technological development and become the global center of science and innovation.
The Internet

Mary Meeker's 2018 Internet Trends Report (recode.net) 33

Mary Meeker has published her anticipated internet trends report of 2018. This year, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner released 284 slides in rapid succession, covering everything from smartphone behavior in the U.S. to tech company competition in China. Some takeaways: 1. 2017 was the first year in which smartphone unit shipments didn't grow at all. As more of the world become smartphone owners, growth has been harder and harder to come by. The same goes for internet user growth, which rose 7 percent in 2017, down from 12 percent the year before. With more than half the world online, there are fewer people left to connect.
2. People, however, are still increasing the amount of time they spend online. U.S. adults spent 5.9 hours per day on digital media in 2017, up from 5.6 hours the year before. Some 3.3 of those hours were spent on mobile, which is responsible for overall growth in digital media consumption.
3. Despite the high-profile releases of $1,000 iPhones and Samsung Galaxy Notes, the global average selling price of smartphones is continuing to decline.
4. Mobile payments are becoming easier to complete. China continues to lead the rest of the world in mobile payment adoption, with over 500 million active mobile payment users in 2017.
5. Voice-controlled products like Amazon Echo are taking off. The Echo's installed base in the U.S. grew from 20 million in the third quarter of 2017 to more than 30 million in the fourth quarter.
6. Tech companies are facing a "privacy paradox." They're caught between using data to provide better consumer experiences and violating consumer privacy.
The most popular courses on learning platform Coursera last year were (in descending order): Machine Learning (Stanford), Neural Networks & Deeper Learning (Deeplearning.ai), Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects (UC San Diego), Introduction to Mathematical Thinking (Stanford), Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency Technologies (Princeton), Programming for Everybody (University of Michigan), Algorithms, Part I (Princeton), English for Career Development (University of Pennsylvania), Neural Networks / Machine Learning (University of Toronto), and Financial Markets (Yale).
Bitcoin

How WIRED lost $100,000 in Bitcoin (wired.com) 127

An anonymous reader writes: Back in 2013, the halcyon days of at-home Bitcoin mining, staffers in the WIRED San Francisco office turned on one of Butterfly Labs' mining machines and let it whir away, amassing a horde of 13 bitcoins -- now worth $100,000. But today we have nothing to show for our efforts. What happened to our loot?

The same thing that has happened to millions of other unfortunate miners, actually: We lost our private key, a 64-digit string of random numbers that not one of us remembers. And we've got basically no chance of recovering it: "Originally I was going to say that the closest metaphor I have is that we dropped a car key somewhere in the Atlantic," says Stefan Antonowicz, WIRED's then-head of engineering. "But I think it's closer for me to say we dropped the key somewhere between here and the Alpha Centauri."

Bitcoin

Bitcoin Backlash as 'Miners' Suck Up Electricity, Stress Power Grids in Central Washington (seattletimes.com) 212

An anonymous reader shares a report: Public hearings for rural electric utilities are rarely sellout events. But the crowd that showed up in Wenatchee two weeks ago for a hearing about Bitcoin mining in Chelan County was so large that utility staff had to open a second room with a video feed for the overflow. The turnout wasn't surprising. Chelan County, along with neighboring Douglas and Grant counties, has been at the center of the U.S. Bitcoin boom since 2012, when the region's ultracheap hydropower began attracting cryptocurrency "miners."

[...] As a result, an area famous for apples, wheat and conservative politics has been transformed into a kind of cyber-boomtown, with Bitcoin mining operations that range from large-scale, state-of-the-art warehouses to repurposed cargo containers to backyard sheds. By the end of this year, according to some estimates, the Mid-Columbia Basin could account for as much as 30 percent of the global output of new Bitcoin and large shares of other digital currencies, such as Litecoin and Ethereum. But as in any boomtown, success has come at a cost. As the cryptocurrency industry morphs into larger, more energy-intensive operations, the Basin's three public utilities districts (PUDs) are reassessing how they deal with it, and whether they can -- or should even try to -- keep up.

Bitcoin

About $1.2 Billion in Cryptocurrency Stolen Since 2017 (reuters.com) 53

Criminals have stolen about $1.2 billion in cryptocurrencies since the beginning of 2017, as bitcoin's popularity and the emergence of more than 1,500 digital tokens have put the spotlight on the unregulated sector, according to estimates from the Anti-Phishing Working Group released on Thursday. From a report: The estimates were part of the non-profit group's research on cryptocurrency and include reported and unreported theft. "One problem that we're seeing in addition to the criminal activity like drug trafficking and money laundering using cryptocurrencies is the theft of these tokens by bad guys," Dave Jevans, chief executive officer of cryptocurrency security firm CipherTrace, told Reuters in an interview.
Bitcoin

US Launches Criminal Probe Into Bitcoin Price Manipulation (bloomberg.com) 48

The Justice Department has opened a criminal probe into whether traders are manipulating the price of Bitcoin and other digital currencies, dramatically ratcheting up U.S. scrutiny of red-hot markets that critics say are rife with misconduct, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. From the report: The investigation is focused on illegal practices that can influence prices -- such as spoofing, or flooding the market with fake orders to trick other traders into buying or selling, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the review is private. Federal prosecutors are working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a financial regulator that oversees derivatives tied to Bitcoin, the people said. Authorities worry that virtual currencies are susceptible to fraud for multiple reasons: skepticism that all exchanges are actively pursuing cheaters, wild price swings that could make it easy to push valuations around and a lack of regulations like the ones that govern stocks and other assets.
The Almighty Buck

First Government Office in the US To Accept Bitcoin As Payment (orlandosentinel.com) 42

Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes the Orlando Sentinel: If cash, check or credit card seems too old-fashioned, Seminole County, Florida Tax Collector Joel Greenberg said this week his office will begin accepting bitcoin as payment for new IDs, license plates and property taxes starting next month. Greenberg said accepting bitcoin and bitcoin cash as a payment method will promote transparency and accuracy in payment.

"There's no risk to the taxpayer," said Greenberg, who has often raised eyebrows since his 2016 election by moves including encouraging certain employees with concealed-weapons permits to carry a firearm openly as a security measure. "Blockchain technology is the future of the whole financial industry."

A spokesperson for a neighboring county's tax collector said they had no plans to follow the move. "Frankly, I think the currency is so volatile that I donâ(TM)t think it makes sense."

And an official at a nearby county said bitcoin payments were "not on our to-do list", adding that no one in the county had requested the ability to pay their taxes in bitcoin.
Encryption

IBM Warns Quantum Computing Will Break Encryption (zdnet.com) 197

Long-time Slashdot reader CrtxReavr shares a report from ZDNet: Quantum computers will be able to instantly break the encryption of sensitive data protected by today's strongest security, warns the head of IBM Research. This could happen in a little more than five years because of advances in quantum computer technologies. "Anyone that wants to make sure that their data is protected for longer than 10 years should move to alternate forms of encryption now," said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research... Quantum computers can solve some types of problems near-instantaneously compared with billions of years of processing using conventional computers... Advances in novel materials and in low-temperature physics have led to many breakthroughs in the quantum computing field in recent years, and large commercial quantum computer systems will soon be viable and available within five years...

In addition to solving tough computing problems, quantum computers could save huge amounts of energy, as server farms proliferate and applications such as bitcoin grow in their compute needs. Each computation takes just a few watts, yet it could take several server farms to accomplish if it were run on conventional systems.

The original submission raises another possibility. "What I wonder is, if encryption can be 'instantly broken,' does this also mean that remaining crypto-coins can be instantly discovered?"
Earth

Floating Pacific Island Is In the Works With Its Own Government, Cryptocurrency (cnbc.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Nathalie Mezza-Garcia is a political scientist turned "seavangelesse" -- her term for an evangelist in favor of living off the grid -- and on the ocean. Mezza-Garcia spoke with CNBC's Matthew Taylor about what she sees as the trouble with governments, and why she believes tech startups should head to Tahiti. This seavangelesse is a researcher for the Blue Frontiers and Seasteading Institute's highly-anticipated Floating Island Project. The project is a pilot program in partnership with the government of French Polynesia, which will see 300 homes built on an island that runs under its own governance, using a cryptocurrency called Varyon.

"Once we can see how this first island works, we will have a proof of concept to plan for islands to house climate refugees," she said. The project is funded through philanthropic donations via the Seasteading Institute and Blue Frontiers, which sells tokens of the cryptocurrency Varyon. The pilot island is expected to be completed by 2022 and cost up to $50 million. As well as offering a home for the displaced, the self-contained islands are designed to function as business centers that are beyond the influence of government regulation.

Bitcoin

Investors Have Placed $1 Billion in Cryptocurrency Offerings Rampant With Red Flags For Fraud (cnbc.com) 49

Investors have sent $1 billion into digital coin projects that flash warning signs for fraud, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The revelation comes a day after the SEC created its own fake ICO to teach investors a lesson. From a report: In a review of 1,450 digital coin offerings, the Journal said it found 271 bore red flags such as plagiarized documents or fake executive information. Investors have already claimed losses of up to $273 million in these projects, the newspaper said, according to lawsuits and regulatory actions. The coin sales, or "initial coin offerings," give investors the chance to buy into a new digital token while letting developers get easy access to funding. The process may be a little too easy for many projects that are unproven or outright scams.

Coin offerings have raised roughly $9.8 billion in the two years through mid-March, according to financial research firm Autonomous Next. The Journal found widespread plagiarism in 111 projects' online whitepapers, including word-for-word copies of marketing plans and technical features.

Bitcoin

Nobody Knows How Much Energy Bitcoin Is Using (vice.com) 161

dmoberhaus writes: A new report published in 'Joule' today claims Bitcoin may use up to 0.5% of the world's energy by the end of this year. We often hear about how bad Bitcoin is for the environment -- it already uses the same amount of energy as the country of Ireland -- but these numbers are usually just the /minimum/ amount of energy the network must be using. The actual amount of energy used by the Bitcoin network is likely substantially higher, but getting an accurate reading on that energy level is hard. The only researcher trying to quantify Bitcoin's energy use spoke to Motherboard about opening Bitcoin's 'black box.'
Facebook

Facebook Plans To Create Its Own Cryptocurrency: Report (cheddar.com) 90

Facebook is "very serious" about launching its own cryptocurrency, news outlet Cheddar reported Friday. It's not the first time the idea of a Facebook coin has been floated, but it seems more apparent now in wake of Facebook's reshuffled executive structure and newly formed blockchain group. From the report: Facebook started studying blockchain almost a year ago, when a member of its corporate development team, Morgan Beller, began looking at how the social platform could use the emerging technology. At the time, Beller was the only Facebook employee devoted to studying blockchain, the digital and decentralized ledger that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Her work was thrust into the spotlight this week when Facebook announced that the vice president in charge of the Messenger app, David Marcus, would lead a new team to "explore how to best leverage blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch."
Bitcoin

The New York Stock Exchange Teases Plan To Launch Cryptocurrency Trading (thenextweb.com) 68

Wall Street's interest in integrating cryptocurrencies with their business seems to be on the rise. From a report: Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) -- the parent company of the world's largest stock exchange desk, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) -- is working on a Bitcoin exchange for large investors, The New York Times reports. ICE is also reportedly planning to set up swap contracts with other financial institutions, which will allow customers to own Bitcoin without an immediate trade with the backing and security of the exchange. The move follows an earlier interest in cryptocurrency trading by Nasdaq and Goldman Sachs.

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