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Bitcoin investors hoping to make billions may end up with a sack of fool’s gold | Technology




Sifting the Yukon river for gold was a waste of time for most of the 100,000 prospectors seeking to make themselves rich in the 1890s. The same can be said of the bitcoin miners who dream of striking it rich by getting their hands on some of the extremely lucrative and painfully elusive electronic currency.

Relatively few people have managed to decipher the codes needed to extract bitcoins from the 21 million locked inside the mathematical problems set by its creator, the software engineer whose true identity is unknown but who goes by the name Satoshi Nakamoto.

Those who have employed enough computer power and code-cracking know-how can consider themselves rich now that the value of one bitcoin has soared from $753 last December to around $10,000. The rest have deployed huge amounts of energy and time for no return.

Should anyone be worried about this turn of events? Or will it go down as a moment in history when an asset was mined, some people got rich and … that was it?

The ambitions of the bitcoin community mean the creation of a new currency must be taken more seriously. Its stellar rise in the last 18 months is likely to have sucked in thousands of speculators, many of them ordinary investors.

And with mainstream financial exchanges looking to host bitcoin as a tradeable asset, or list derivatives of bitcoin on their trading boards, thousands more will be sucked in over the next 18 months.

Where ordinary investors, hunting in large numbers, seek a return on their savings in a high-risk environment, governments are usually minded to regulate.

The idea behind bitcoin was that it should be like any commodity that, once discovered, became increasingly difficult to extract. Like gold, it would become a store of value and make those clever enough to find it and believe in it very rich.

The distributed ledger designed to make each bitcoin account secure and accountable without the need for third parties, like banks, to be involved became for many participants a potential template for all future deposit saving and trading.

To that end, it was also viewed as a replacement currency to the dollar, euro or pound – one that could not be manipulated by central banks, which are only too keen to print extra notes, and thereby devalue the currency, in times of trouble. It is a seductive package that has led many in the banking industry – those most under threat – to call it a fraud.

Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein said so last week, adding his voice to JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon.

Dimon described it as fraud that would ultimately blow up and said the desire to hide funds from regulators and the police meant it was only fit for use by drug dealers, murderers and people living in places such as North Korea. Blankfein was more concerned that its volatile price, which dropped 20% in less than 24 hours after topping $11,000 last week, disqualified it from being a sensible currency.

Sir Jon Cunliffe, a deputy governor of the Bank of England, summed up the view of many in the City when he said calmly that bitcoin was a sideshow and too small to pose a systemic threat to the global economy.

To cover his flank against accusations that the Bank, which is the UK’s chief financial regulator, was too dismissive of the issue, he also cautioned that bitcoin investors needed “to do their homework”.

No doubt all bitcoin investors think they have done their homework. And regulators probably think they have enough work to do. But while it is easy to say that a fool and their money are soon parted, anyone who interacts with the financial services industry is a potential victim. And, with this in mind, regulators should be ready to impose all the usual tools of misselling rules and compensation schemes on this freshly minted industry.

At the moment, bitcoin is having a free ride. The tipping point is close. Regulators should be prepared.

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United Bitcoin May Be the Most Controversial Fork to Date 2018



Back on December 12 the well-known developer Jeff Garzik launched a Bitcoin Core (BTC) based fork called United Bitcoin (UBTC) after Segwit2x failed. At block height 498,777 the snapshot took place, and the UBTC network began just like the rest of the forks in existence, but claiming the tokens is far more complicated than one would think

The Promises of United Bitcoin

A few months ago we reported on the UBTC project created by Jeff Garzik, his partner at the blockchain company, Bloq, chairman Matthew Roszak, and Bitbank Group’s Songxiu Hua. The team says it plans to create a credit currency system pegged against various fiat currencies alongside a native smart contract feature. The entire network is modeled after the bitcoin core blockchain prior to December 12, and all active wallet holders are able to receive UBTC at a 1:1 rate. The catch is inactive wallets will go towards the UB Foundation to support innovative blockchain development.

Over the past few weeks, the UBTC team have made some videos detailing their project’s goals to be serious cryptocurrency contender. One particular documentary shows Garzik describing why he thinks UBTC can be a digital asset that engages and unites with the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem. “If I could start with a clean slate what technologies would I include?” Garzik asks an audience during the video. Matthew Roszak says that United Bitcoin will encompass three really important pieces technology, community, and tokenomics by relying on cross-industry innovation.

United Bitcoin: Jeff Garzik's Fork Represents a 'Clean Slate'

One Out of Only Two Miners Controls 70% of the Network’s Hashrate

United Bitcoin: Jeff Garzik's Fork Represents a 'Clean Slate'So far the network has minimal infrastructure and community support. At the time of publication, there are only two miners who are processing UBTC blocks; an unknown entity and the mining pool The mining pool has more than 70 percent of the network’s hashrate. The network’s total hashrate is only 50,811.47 TH/s and block intervals can range from an hour and a half, to occasional sporadic 20-40 minute blocks. The network has an extremely low amount of users as there are only 20 pending transactions right now. Blocks are averaging roughly 20-100 transactions, and most block sizes are well below 1MB even though UBTC has the capacity for 8MB blocks.

UBTC has its own full node wallet client for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh operating systems and the source code is available for review. According to the distribution repository, there will also be a lightweight client release soon. There are three other wallets that support the UBTC protocol. As far as exchanges most of them are based in Asia, and a great majority of them are unknown and exchange very little trade volume besides the exchange Okex. At the moment, according to Coinmarketcap statistics, one UBTC is worth $82 USD.

Required Identity Verification and Claiming Inactive Addresses: United Bitcoin Is the Most Controversial Fork to Date

The most controversial part of the project is the opt-in airdrop feature which basically means a bitcoin holder must give up some form of identification to obtain UBTC. In order to even get started with UBTC, a user must supply a valid email address and a mobile phone number. After this process, the registrant has to have a valid bitcoin address as well to receive the 1:1 distribution. Another contentious issue with UBTC is the Foundation’s claiming of “unused addresses” which means after a period of time inactive addresses will be used for future development. At the moment the team has added a “grace period” which has extended the timeframe so bitcoin holders can claim their UBTC.

Because of the ‘KYC-like’ requirements and the fact that the development team will claim Satoshi Nakamoto’s and the inactive addresses of many whales, makes UBTC one of the most vexed bitcoin forks to date. These two tendentious issues plus the fact that the network has very little infrastructure may have a hard time gaining the crypto-community it hopes to progress.

What do you think about the UBTC project? Would you claim these airdrop tokens knowing you have to tie your identity to the platform? What do you think about the development team claiming inactive addresses? Let us know what you think about this project in the comments below.

Images via Pixabay, United Bitcoin archives, and website.

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Report Claims 34,000 Ethereum Smart Contracts Are Vulnerable to Bugs



Over 34,000 ethereum smart contracts containing $4.4 million in ETH may be vulnerable to exploitation. That’s the conclusion reached by a quintet of researchers hailing from Singapore and the UK. Their technical report, which is currently undergoing peer review, suggests that millions of dollars in ether may be at risk from poorly coded smart contracts that contain a variety of bugs.

Smart Contracts Are Only as Smart as Their Creator

“Finding The Greedy, Prodigal, and Suicidal Contracts at Scale” is the provocative title of a research paper submitted by British and Singaporean students last week. Its authors have dived deep into ethereum smart contracts, “finding contracts that either lock funds indefinitely, leak them carelessly to arbitrary users, or can be killed by anyone”. This latter flaw is precisely what happened to Parity last November.

The dangers of relying on smart contracts that have not been independently audited are well-documented. In the past year, $500 million has been lost due to bad code, and around half of that figure involved ethereum. The most notorious case was the Parity bug which led to $168 million of ether being rendered permanently inaccessible, though there have been plenty of smaller incidents where inexperienced or inattentive developers have been caught out.

A Small Drop in a Big Ocean

The authors of the report claim to have used a tool to analyze almost one million smart contracts, of which 34,200 were found to be vulnerable, with 2,365 of these stemming from distinct projects. That means that around 3.4% of all smart contracts are potentially vulnerable to being hacked, broken, or otherwise exploited. Of the contracts that the research team flagged as being exploitable, “the maximal amount of Ether that could have been withdrawn…is nearly 4,905 Ether” worth $4.4 million.

The report continues: “In addition, 6,239 Ether (7.5 million US dollars) is locked inside posthumous contracts currently on the blockchain, of which 313 Ether (379,940 US dollars) have been sent to dead contracts after they have been killed.” One thing the report deliberately omits is the identity of the smart contracts flagged as being at risk. But with almost 1 in 20 contracts vulnerable, and a jackpot of over $4.5 million in ether up for grabs, determined attackers have every incentive to put this research to the test.

What do you think can be done to make smart contracts safer? Let us know in the comments section below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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The post Report Claims 34,000 Ethereum Smart Contracts Are Vulnerable to Bugs appeared first on Bitcoin News.

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