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After WannaCrypt, world faces massive cryptocurrency attack

After WannaCrypt, world faces massive cryptocurrency attack

"Adylkuzz attack" for cryptocurrency began on or before May 2, more than a week before "WannaCry" that hit 150 countries, including India

  An alternative to Bitcoin, cryptocurrency is being used for trading in drugs,

stolen credit cards and counterfeit goods. After facing a massive “WannaCrypt” ransomware attack that exploited a vulnerability in a Microsoft software and hit 150 countries, the same Windows vulnerability (MS17-010) has also been exploited to spread another type of malware that is quietly but fast generating digital cash from machines it has infected.

According to a report in The Registrar on Wednesday, tens of thousands of computers globally have been affected by the “Adylkuzz attack” that target machines, let them operate and only slows those down to generate digital cash or “Monero” cryptocurrency in the background. “Monero” — being popularized by North Korea-linked hackers — is an open-source cryptocurrency created in April 2014 that focuses on privacy, decentralisation, and scalability.

It is an alternative to Bitcoin and is being used for trading in drugs, stolen credit cards and counterfeit goods. “Initial statistics suggest that this attack may be larger in scale than WannaCry[pt], because this attack shuts down SMB networking to prevent further infections with other malware (including the WannaCry[pt] worm) via that same vulnerability,” US-based cyber security firm Proofpoint researchers were quoted as saying in the report.

How a cryptocurrency attack works?

The hackers need to mine cryptocurrency using computers/computing devices (IoT included). “Mining of cryptocurrency simply means solving complex cryptography problems designed within the algorithm of a cyber-currency that requires a lot of computing,” Saket Modi, CEO and Co-founder of Delhi-based IT risk assessments provider Lucideus, told IANS. To draw a parallel, there can only be 21 million Bitcoins that can be mined out of which 16 million have already been mined, informed Modi. “Monero”, on the other side, is slightly different than Bitcoin but for simplification’s sake, it can be assumed that it follows a similar architecture and similar mining process.

“Hence, there is a new wave of cyber attacks where the hacker is least interested in the personal information of the victim and instead his only motivation is to gain access to the CPU of the victim’s computer/mobile/IoT device so that they can use it to mine more currencies (and correspondingly make more money),” Modi told IANS. This looks like something more dangerous than “WannaCrypt” as the victim doesn’t come to know that they have been hacked, but, on the other side, “the good part is that the hacker here is not interested in the victim’s personal data,” Modi told IANS.

To achieve this, the hackers find a vulnerability in one of the servers in the targeted organization or they would infect a website which employees of a targeted organization often visit. “They would then infect the IT infrastructure of the target with malware and would identify where a server running SWIFT software is installed. They would download additional malware to interact with SWIFT software and would try to drain the organization’s accounts,” Altaf Halde, Managing Director of Kaspersky Lab (South Asia), told IANS. According to Proofpoint, the “Adylkuzz” attack is still growing.

“Once infected through use of the ‘EternalBlue’ exploit, the cryptocurrency miner ‘Adylkuzz’ is installed and used to generate cybercash for the attackers,” Robert Holmes, Vice President of products at Proofpoint, was quoted as saying. According to experts, the “Adylkuzz” began its attack on or before May 2, more than a week before “WannaCrypt” arrived and hit 150 countries, including India. “Indications are that the crooks behind ‘Adylkuzz’ have generated a lot more money than the ‘WannaCrypt’ ransomware fiends,” The Registrar report noted. According to cyberscoop.com, “Monero” doubled in price over the last month to around $23 while other digital currencies, including bitcoin, saw a mixed month. “Cybercriminals intrigued by the currency’s promises of greater anonymity are using it more often on black markets,” it said.

How to save your organizations from cryptocurrency attacks?

“If your organisation has software tools for conducting money transactions like SWIFT software, invest into additional protection and regular security assessment in addition to standard protection measures implemented in all other parts of the organization’s network,” Halde informed. Protect backup servers as they contain information that can be of use for attackers: passwords, logins, and authentication tokens. “When deploying specialized software for money processing follow recommendations and best security practices from your software vendor and security professionals,” Halde added. In a case of suspicion of intrusion, request for professional assistance with incident response.

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Top Reasons Why Bitcoin’s Price is Rising Right Now

Top Reasons Why Bitcoin’s Price is Rising Right Now

While Bitcoin’s market has been uncertain in the past week,

there is no doubt that the price is holding support surprisingly well. Even though there are quite a few issues that are hindering Bitcoin’s growth, there are also other events which are contributing to the cryptocurrency’s global adoption. This article will discuss the top 3 reasons why Bitcoin’s price is currently rising.

 Wanna Cry Ransomware

I am sure you have heard of the recent world’s largest ransomware attack by the name of Wanna Cry, aka Wana Decryptor. The aggressive ransomware has infected over 200,000 machines and so far has collected over $80,000, according to @actual_ransom – a twitter bot set up to track the ransomware. While it is unfortunate that Wana Decryptor has plagued cyberspace, its coverage in the media has brought attention to Bitcoin, the only payment method accepted by the malware. Furthermore, the fact that the ransomware attack began amid Bitcoin’s price rally only contributed to the positive momentum, which is probably why the current support at $1700 is holding so strong.

Even though using a ransomware to spread awareness about Bitcoin might not be beneficial to the cryptocurrency’s reputation, the idea that Bitcoin is used by criminals is not a new revelation by any means. Most people who know about Bitcoin already know that it is used on dark net markets for illicit purposes, so any more news about it being used by criminals most likely won’t have much of an affect on the market.

The Flippening

Altcoins existed ever since Bitcoin’s creation. Up until this year, they have been considered second-rate projects as they were perceived to be simply clones of Bitcoin. However, as Bitcoin’s scaling debate intensified and users sought a solution, alternative cryptocurrencies started to flourish. The Flippening is a paradigm shift where investors are starting to look at altcoins as having value in different ways compared to Bitcoin. While at first that may seem like bad news for Bitcoin, the whole ecosystem shares the benefits.

While Bitcoin’s dominance among altcoins is dropping, according to cornmarket cap, cryptocurrencies’ overall market cap has been rising exponentially, it benefits Bitcoin as well. Just like altcoins benefited from new money flowing into Bitcoin, BTC benefits from the curious investors interested in the cryptocurrency niche as a whole.

Japan’s Adoption

Last but not least, one of the biggest driving forces behind Bitcoin’s meteoric price rise is Japan’s adoption and legislation of crypto. After passing official KYC / AML laws regulating exchanges in Japan, the government essentially green-lighted the legal operation of cryptocurrency exchanges.

The new legislation increased Bitcoin’s popularity in the country and also invited Chinese investors who were looking to escape the country’s tight grip on the sector. In fact, withdrawals for Chinese exchanges have been suspended for a few months now. There is a light in the tunnel as the PBoC released a statement which hints that withdrawals may resume soon. While there is no definitive date, rumors have it that things may settle in June. Chinese news resource cnLedger had the inside scoop.

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Bitcoin to rocket to $4000 as blockchain infrastructure sets agenda for cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin to rocket to $4000 as blockchain infrastructure sets agenda for cryptocurrencies

ANALYSTS say the cryptocurrency Bitcoin could hit values of $4000 within the year after a new player entered the market.

  

The introduction of Litecoin,

another electronic online currency is adding to investor appetite as the rolling out of blockchain infrastructure gets set to revolutionize the future of the financial sector. Bitcoin has been making gains since April and is rallying in London has risen over 33 percent days, according to the Coindesk bitcoin price index. It comes after Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) and the World Economic Forum looked at how cryptocurrencies can be aided by distributed ledger technologies.

Bitcoin is leading the cryptocurrency market

It is better than currency because you don't have to be in the same place and of course for large transactions currency can be inconvenient

Bill gates

Global regulatory challenges continue to affect the market with a test case before The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) throwing up some new challenges. A bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss was declined by the US sector watchdog as Donald Trump looks at deregulating markets. However, the sector is gaining appeal, particularly in Japan, which legalized cryptocurrency as a payment method recently and is

Helping to get the yen involved.

  

France invented a cryptocurrency dispenser

Aurelien Menant, founder, and CEO of Gatecoin, a regulated blockchain assets exchange based in Hong Kong says confidence is strong in Asia. Meanwhile, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is keen on distributed ledger technology. He said: "Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be, it is better than currency because you don't have to be in the same place and of course for large transactions currency can be inconvenient.” bitcoin was created in 2009 and has a current Market Capitalization of $29,753,633,028.

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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Hackers mint crypto-currency with technique in global ‘ransomware’ attack

A computer virus that exploits the same vulnerability as the global "ransomware" attack has latched on to more than 200,000 computers and begun manufacturing digital currency, experts said Tuesday. The development adds to the dangers exposed by the WannaCry ransomware and provides another piece of evidence that a North Korea-linked hacking group may be behind the attacks.

WannaCry, developed in part with hacking techniques that were either stolen or leaked from the U.S. National Security Agency, has infected more than 300,000 computers since Friday, locking up their data and demanding a ransom payment to release it. Researchers at security firm Proofpoint said the related attack, which installs a currency “miner” that generates digital cash, began infecting machines in late April or early May but had not been previously discovered because it allows computers to operate while creating the digital cash in the background.

Proofpoint executive Ryan Kalember said the authors may have earned more than $1 million, far more than has been generated by the WannaCry attack. Like WannaCry, the program attacks via a flaw in Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Windows software. That hole has been patched in newer versions of Windows, though not all companies and individuals have installed the patches.

Digital currencies based on a technology known as blockchain operate by enabling the creation of new currency in exchange for solving complex math problems. Digital "miners" run specially configured computers to solve the problems and generate currency, whose value ultimately fluctuates according to market demand. Bitcoin is by far the largest such currency, but the new mining program is not aimed at Bitcoin. Rather it targeted a newer digital currency, called Monero, that experts say has been pursued recently by North Korean-linked hackers.

North Korea has attracted attention in the WannaCry case for a number of reasons, including the fact that early versions of the WannaCry code used some programming lines that had previously been spotted in attacks by Lazarus Group, a hacking group associated with North Korea. Security researchers and U.S. intelligence officials have cautioned that such evidence is not conclusive, and the investigation is in its early stages.In early April, security firm Kaspersky Lab said that a wing of Lazarus devoted to financial gain had installed software to mine Monero on a server in Europe.

A new campaign to mine the same currency, using the same Windows weakness as WannaCry, could be coincidence, or it could suggest that North Korea was responsible for both the ransomware and the currency mining. Kalember said he believes the similarities in the European case, WannaCry and the miner were "more than coincidence." "It's a really strong overlap," he said. "It's not like you see Monero miners all over the world." The North Korean mission to the United Nations could not be reached for comment, while the FBI declined to comment. (Fixes spelling of digital currency in paragraphs 11 and 14 to Monero not Moreno.)

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

$1,700? Bitcoin’s Price is Up Even as its Tech Progress Stalls

  

Referred to as the 'honey badger of money'

(after a famous viral video), bitcoin enthusiasts may find this comparison particularly apt of late. Since the beginning of the year, the network's value has nearly doubled – even while the community continues to be mired in debate. Market observers so far have offered a wide range of reasons for this uptick, though not all of them are good, with increasing prices causing concerns that the industry as a whole is entering a speculative bubble.

Supply and demand

Still, not everyone believes the boost is due to speculation. Redwood City Ventures founder Sean Walsh, for example, sent CoinDesk a bullet-pointed email summarizing the various global developments that could be contributing to the bitcoin price surge. He believes developments in South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China have all contributed. The price surge, according to Walsh, is simply supply and demand.

"Bitcoin is dramatically more scarce than most people realize, especially in the context of its total addressable market of nearly 3 billion internet-connected adults," he continued. Walsh framed the situation simply as one where the cryptocurrency is seeing increased demand, which looks to only increase in the future: "Once the global race to own bitcoin commences, the tiny supply of new bitcoins (just 54,000 new coins per month) will be completely overrun by demand,"

he said, adding:

“There just aren't anywhere near enough coins to go around, and pre-existing holders will grasp ever more tightly into this surging market, as perennially dictated by human nature.”

Tensions subsiding

Still, to those following day-to-day technical developments, it might seem odd that the digital currency's price has seen such an upswing amid its scaling debate and a stalled upgrade known as SegWit. Kristov Atlas, a security engineer at wallet and data firm Blockchain, for example, wasn't able to find technical reasons for the uptick in demand.

He told CoinDesk

"I don't see how the price increase could relate to tech changes; no big changes in long term projects like Lightning lately, and the block size stalemate is still status quo."

"It must be something outside bitcoin that investors have changed their minds about," he suggested. While developers, admittedly, might not be experts on economic market conditions, those that have been in the industry for a while are perhaps more aware of how technical developments could contribute to bitcoin’s price. When asked, some argued the state of the technology could have something to do with the recent increase, though, perhaps in surprising way.

For example, bitcoin’s block size debate took a weird turn a couple of months ago, when discussions about the possibility of forking bitcoin into two networks reappeared. This time around, some miners and developers suggested the idea of destroying the chain that didn't follow along with the majority of hashing power.

This has yet to happen, though, and worries about such an event happening have since died down. Some wonder if this could have given the price boost. "I think part of the rally is due to increased confidence that the risk of a contentious hard fork has all but evaporated," Reddit moderator BashCo said. Yet some expect to see a 'correction', where the price dips to a more reasonable place.

The emotion factor

The idea that raised tensions contribute to price swings fits with bitcoin developer and Nakamoto Institute director of research, Daniel Krawisz's view that the price has more to do with emotions. "The price of bitcoin never makes sense and it doesn’t have very much to do with the tech," he said. "It’s about emotion. It’s about greed." Krawisz also sees the price more aligned with bitcoin's original value proposition of giving users more control, rather than more granular tech additions or debates. “It’s not the new features of bitcoin that matter. What matters are the old features? People keep moving into bitcoin because it's a better alternative than their own national currency,”

he said, adding:

"Bitcoin doesn't really need new features, because it's already better."

Though, perhaps echoing other developer's sentiments about a reduction in fear, Krawisz went on to argue that the increase in demand probably has to do with bitcoin's apparent stability, since it’s been around for a long time compared with many cryptocurrencies. "It's the same reason that people always get into bitcoin now as ever," he concluded.

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Bitcoin plunges $200 after cyber attackers demand ransom using the digital currency

Bitcoin plunges $200 after cyber attackers demand ransom using the digital currency

  • Bitcoin fell from a record high after Friday's WannaCry cyberattack.
  • The digital currency hit an all-time high of $1,848.75 Thursday and on Monday traded near $1,676.42.
  • Analysts also pointed to increased Chinese selling.

A man talks on a mobile phone in a shop displaying a bitcoin sign in Hong Kong.

Bitcoin plunged from a record high hit last week to below $1,700 after cyber attackers locked up data in 200,000 computers Friday and demanded ransom in the digital currency. "It's a big hit to sentiment," said Brian Kelly, CEO of BKCM. "This is some negative publicity for bitcoin." Bitcoin fell more than $200 from an all-time high of $1,848.75 reached Thursday to a low of $1,644.64 Friday. The cryptocurrency steadied over the weekend and on Monday traded more than 5 percent lower on the day near $1,676.42.

One-month bitcoin performance

  

 

A virus called WannaCry hit 200,000 computers in at least 150 countries on Friday, according to the head of the EU police agency. The hackers demanded, for each computer, $300 in bitcoin within three days to unlock the files and threatened to double the fine after that, before permanently preventing access after seven days. Cybersecurity firm Check Point warned in a blog post Sunday, not to send any funds as no one who had paid had yet reported receiving their files back. Relatively few have paid the ransom. CoinDesk Research Analyst Alex Sunnarborg said Monday that $51,300 in 193 transactions were sent to the three bitcoin addresses connected to the malware.

Pickup in Chinese trading volume

In addition to profit-taking on the hacking, Kelly attributed bitcoin's decline on Monday to a drop in prices on the Hong Kong-based Bitfinex exchange, where prices had been artificially elevated due to withdrawal restrictions. Expectations that those restrictions will soon be lifted brought Bitfinex prices for bitcoin closer to the lower price of other exchanges. "A little bit of a price support has been removed," Kelly said. Chinese trading volume more than doubled its share, from 8.2 percent on May 1 to 22.8 percent Monday, according to analysis from Sunnarborg.

Even with the decline of the last few days, the volatile cryptocurrency has nearly doubled in value since the end of March.

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Watch the WannaCry bitcoin ransom trickle in

Watch the WannaCry bitcoin
ransom trickle in

The malware that's locked up hundreds of thousands of computers has netted roughly $70,000 so far. Why the WannaCry cyber attack is so bad and so avoidable

  

The WannaCry ransomware made on average $23,333 a day.

Monday was its most successful payday. In just four days, the WannaCry ransomware reeled in enough money to buy 8,750 servings of avocado toast (or maybe a modest house, if you're into that sort of thing). And now the ransom has doubled. The global ransomware plague started infecting computers on Friday, abusing an exploit discovered by the NSA that was leaked to the public by the Shadow Brokers hacker group. It breached computers through phishing emails and then spread through networks using a Server Messaging Block vulnerability on outdated Windows computers.

Before it was accidentally (and only temporarily) shut down, WannaCry had locked down more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries, affecting banks, universities, and hospitals, with a demand that the targets pay $300 worth of bitcoins by May 20. On Tuesday, the ransom doubled from $300 to $600, and the tally of WannaCry victims had reached more than 374,000 computers. In the last 72 hours, more than 261 people have decided they would rather pay the ransom than lose their important files forever, according to trackers analyzing the three known bitcoin wallets. (You can track the amount yourself here.) A majority of the payments came on Monday, just hours before the first deadline passed and the ransom rose.

In total, the hackers behind WannaCry made $69,535 by Tuesday morning, as payments continued to flow in. While the original ransomware has been slowed down, patched variations of the malware — pointing to the same bitcoin wallets — have appeared, this time without a kill switch. If every ransom ends up being paid, the hackers could make more than $1 billion from the breach. One risk analysis firm estimates that WannaCry could cost the world's economy $4 billion in damages and losses. It's unclear who is behind the massive attack, but researchers have found clues in the code linking the ransomware to North Korea.

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

DC Blockchain Advocates Seek Distance From Bitcoin Amid Ransomware Wave

 

Amid a flurry of negative publicity for bitcoin,

technology advocates are trying to distance themselves from the digital currency as part of a bid to protect the perception of more enterprise-facing blockchain initiatives. The change of public positioning follows an uptick in ransomware attacks using bitcoin as the medium of payment, the most recent of which (after causing major disruption within the UK's National Health Service and elsewhere) has sparked a global conversation.

At a briefing for congressional staff on Tuesday covering the potential uses of blockchain technology in the US healthcare system, the Chamber of Digital Commerce and a panel of other blockchain specialists acknowledged that the ransomware issue is again opening old wounds caused by the technology's association with illicit uses of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.

In response, panelists sought to draw clear lines between the two technologies. "A lot of these initial attacks have been on healthcare systems and healthcare companies. This has come onto our radar because the ransomware is asking for the ransom in bitcoin," Perianne Boring, president of the Digital Chamber of Commerce, told an audience of roughly 70 healthcare and technology-focused staffers from congressional offices.

Elsewhere, the panelists sought to categorize bitcoin as merely "one application" of blockchain technology. Srinivas Attili, senior vice president and partner at IBM Global Business Services,

told attendees:

"Blockchain [gets] a lot of bad rap because of bitcoin, in my view. Bitcoin is just one application of blockchain, and you can have hundreds of applications of blockchain."

Blockchain good, bitcoin bad

Just how much regulatory attention is being aimed at bitcoin in the wake of the incidents is unclear, though a member of Congress introduced a bill Tuesday ordering the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a threat assessment regarding the use of virtual currencies by terrorists and criminals. It's happened before, so advocates worry bitcoin's bad press will rub off on the blockchain.

Attili drew the comparison to Amazon being just one among a countless number of businesses built on the HTTP protocol and highlighted Hyperledger as a promising blockchain technology suite that he believes is isolated from any nefarious activity associated with cryptocurrencies. "It's built for business. There's no concept of cryptocurrencies on Hyperledger," he said. Yet, Micah Winkelspecht, chief executive of Gem, a blockchain solutions company, did defend bitcoin, asserting that it's serving a legitimate use as a means of exchanging value.

Winkelspecht said:

"Bitcoin is to those types of attacks as the dollar is to the drug trade. Just because the dollar exists doesn't mean that it's the cause of the drug trade. Bitcoin is just a tool that these criminals are using because it is a good form of exchanging value. It's actually serving a really good purpose as an exchange of value. They are leveraging it as a tool."

"Blaming bitcoin for ransomware would be like blaming the Federal Reserve for any illicit transaction that happens in cash," Boring added.

Recasting the narrative

Still, the damage dealt by the ransomware attacks, compounded by past black eyes like Mt Gox and Silk Road, may cut deeper than many in the cryptocurrency community may wish to recognize. Congressional staffers speaking privately after the event said the concept of blockchain must be, to all intents and purposes, disassociated from bitcoin to gain serious traction in the legislative arena. Boring tried to flip the narrative by saying that, instead of blaming bitcoin for the attacks, there should be a greater focus on the potential of blockchain to protect against ransomware and other cyber attacks in the future.

She said:

"I would even argue that when we talk about protecting our healthcare systems or other systems that might be vulnerable to ransomware or other types of cyberattacks, that blockchain technology could be the silver bullet to protecting our infrastructure."

Winkelspecht concurred, arguing that blockchain could provide a better, more secure way to store data as hackers become more sophisticated in the future. "Before we used to see attacks that were more DDoS – they were attacks on infrastructure trying to bring systems down," he said. "Now we're starting to see more infiltration. They’re basically putting a ransom on data because that data is so valuable and they know that people will pay to unlock it."

Winkelspecht predicted that the next phase of cyber attacks will be "data integrity" attacks that involve breaking into a system and actually altering existing data in a way that "tricks" downstream systems. "Those are the most dangerous and potentially the most costly types of attacks because you may not know it's happening for literally years," he explained. The immutability of blockchain technologies, though, could be the only true line of defense against such intrusions,

he said adding:

"One of the things that blockchains can provide is an immutable proof of data integrity. We can guarantee beyond a shadow of a doubt that data has not been modified or changed.”

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Bitcoin logos are displayed at the Inside Bitcoins conference and trade show

AP Explains:
What is bitcoin?
A look at the digital currency

  

Bitcoin logos are displayed at the Inside Bitcoins conference and trade show

In this April 7, 2014, file photo, Bitcoin logos are displayed at the Inside Bitcoins conference and trade show in New York. It's worth more than an ounce of gold right now, it's completely digital and it's the currency of choice for the cyber attackers who cyber attackers networks around the world in recent days. Bitcoin has a fuzzy history, but it's a type of currency that allows people to buy goods and services and exchange money without involving banks, credit card issuers or other third parties.

It's worth more than an ounce of gold right now, it's completely digital and it's the currency of choice for the cyber attackers who crippled computer networks around the world in recent days. When the attackers' "ransomware" sprang into action, it held victims hostage by encrypting their data and demanding they send payments in bitcoins to regain access to their computers. Bitcoin has a fuzzy history, but it's a type of currency that allows people to buy goods and services and exchange money without involving banks, credit card issuers or other third parties.

Here's a brief look at bitcoin:

HOW BITCOINS WORK

Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not tied to a bank or government and allows users to spend money anonymously. The coins are created by users who "mine" them by lending computing power to verify other users' transactions. They receive bitcoins in exchange. The coins also can be bought and sold on exchanges with U.S. dollars and other currencies.

HOW MUCH IS IT WORTH?

One bitcoin recently traded for $1,734.65, according to Coinbase, a company that helps users exchange bitcoins. That makes it more valuable than an ounce of gold, which trades at less than $1,230. The value of bitcoins can swing sharply, though. A year ago, one was worth $457.04, which means that it's nearly quadrupled in the last 12 months. But its price doesn't always go up. A bitcoin's value plunged by 23 percent against the dollar in just a week this past January. It fell by the same amount again in 10 days during March.

WHY BITCOINS ARE POPULAR

Bitcoins are basically lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they travel from one owner to the next. Transactions can be made anonymously, making the currency popular with libertarians as well as tech enthusiasts, speculators — and criminals.

WHO'S USING BITCOIN?

Some businesses have jumped on the bitcoin bandwagon amid a flurry of media coverage. Overstock.com accepts payments in bitcoin, for example. The currency has become popular enough that more than 300,000 daily transactions have been occurring recently, according to bitcoin wallet site blockchain.info. A year ago, activity was closer to 230,000 transactions per day. Still, its popularity is low compared with cash and cards, and many individuals and businesses won't accept bitcoins for payments.

HOW BITCOINS ARE KEPT SECURE

The bitcoin network works by harnessing individuals' greed for the collective good. A network of tech-savvy users called miners keep the system honest by pouring their computing power into a blockchain, a global running tally of every bitcoin transaction. The blockchain prevents rogues from spending the same bitcoin twice, and the miners are rewarded for their efforts by being gifted with the occasional bitcoin. As long as miners keep the blockchain secure, counterfeiting shouldn't be an issue.

HOW BITCOIN CAME TO BE

It's a mystery. Bitcoin was launched in 2009 by a person or group of people operating under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin was then adopted by a small clutch of enthusiasts. Nakamoto dropped off the map as bitcoin began to attract widespread attention. But proponents say that doesn't matter: The currency obeys its own internal logic. An Australian entrepreneur last year stepped forward and claimed to be the founder of bitcoin, only to say days later that he did not "have the courage" to publish proof that he is.

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The Intersection of Social Media and the Blockchain

The Intersection of Social Media
and the Blockchain

  

Every major social media platform has offered users

a way to communicate with others and earn social currency, such as followers, traffic to their content, likes and retweets. Now, a new breed of social media networks has emerged – one that uses blockchain technology to build platforms enabling users to control their data and escape the censorship imposed by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. In addition, these new social networks reward users with cryptocurrency.

One such new social media platform is Steemit , which runs on top of a decentralized network known as Steem. Steemit rewards users with its own cryptocurrency in addition to social currency. Much like Reddit and Facebook, Steemit uses its incentives to encourage users to post, share and react to content. When someone likes or upvotes a post, it becomes more visible on the site. Steemit rewards the original poster with Steem digital currency that can be exchanged for real cash via Bitcoin or reinvested into "Steam Power," a token that represents how much influence a person has on the Steemit platform.

So, the more Steem Power people have, the more their upvotes will count. Steem Power also allows users to earn additional Steem Power and Steem Dollars from the platform. Put simply, "Steem is a blockchain database that supports community building and social interaction with cryptocurrency rewards," according to the company. Last year, Steem issued a $1.3 million payout to Steemit users. Half was distributed in Steem Dollars, each worth about $1, and a half in Steem Power.

"Because it's based entirely on a blockchain, Steemit shows what social media can look like without censorship," said Steemit CEO Ned Scott at the time. "Everything we see on Steemit.com comes from the open source Steem blockchain, so the entire network is replicable on any front-end application." Another example of a decentralized social network based on the blockchain protocol is AKASHA, which uses the Ethereum blockchain to store user-created content.

AKASHA lets users publish, share and vote for entries, much like Medium and other modern publishing platforms. The difference, though, is that user content is published over Ethereum's decentralized network rather than on the company's servers. The votes are bundled with Ethereum microtransactions, so users can earn some Ethereum if their content is good and other users vote for it. It is "in a way, mining with your mind ." In the second and third quarters of this year, the company expects to open source the code powering AKASHA and run a community breakathon to find and fix the bugs that might have slipped by during development. The AKASHA team is aiming to launch the Ethereum main network in the fourth quarter of this year.

Blockchain startup Synereo is also creating a decentralized, next-generation social networking and content delivery platform. Recently, Synereo released Qrator, a tool that lets users monetize original content, get rewarded for sharing quality content with others and also discover the best content on the internet. Qrator is the first step toward Synereo's vision of a freer and fairer internet. The app will give users a look into the "Attention Economy" that puts creators and curators on top of the internet's "monetary food chain."

With Qrator, the company is looking to develop a cross-platform social graph, laying the groundwork for a fully-decentralized social content app based on blockchain and distributed storage technologies that will be built on the Qrator foundation later this year. Even as the world of social media is constantly evolving, blockchain technology is changing the world around us. Not just when it comes to financial transactions, but also by introducing decentralization that encourages free speech while doing away with the restrictions imposed by the social media giants.

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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member