malicious mining or opportunistic websites?

A growing trend on the web is using Monero mining to monetize websites. What started with fringe sites like Pirate Bay, is now going mainstream. This has raised alarm in some circles, but I think it’s a positive development.

To be clear, I’m not talking up the malware that persists on your machine and mines. What I’m bullish on is including Javascript in the website to mine while the visitor is on the site.
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blockchain scam of the week

Yes, it’s a fair point – BitConnect deserves to be the scam of the week for many weeks running. The only interesting thing about BitConnect at this point is that it still survives and has a market cap of over 75 million USD. Let’s pick on another easy target.

The Molecule Project is a project designed, from the looks of it, to con Chinese speculators. There is a website for the project, well at least there is for Chinese nationals. The project website is at https://mol.one but don’t get your hopes up. The empty page only loads some JS libs to check your IP address, load (but not render) the page content, and so on.
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weekly blockchain security roundup

More scams, hacks and exploits this week – starting the new year out with lots of activity! First up – the biggest theft of tokens ever reported.

Japanese exchange Coincheck got hacked a couple days ago for $533 million USD worth of NEM tokens. Apparently the exchange was overwhelmed with activity and never got around to fixing their system, which was simply to conduct all trades from an online “hot” wallet. This is one of the classic fail moves memorialized by MT Gox back in the day – not keeping most money offline in cold storage, then getting hacked.
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Intro to Quantstamp

Quantstamp is a company building a smart contract auditing platform. The Quantstamp network will consist of validator nodes running tests against smart contracts, reaching consensus about the results, and producing audit reports from those results.

Quantstamp is also a network protocol, and there’s an ERC-20 token associated with the project trading by the symbol QSP. This token is used in the system to initiate audits and to reward participants, but more on that later. Let’s take a look at the protocol first.

Quantstamp’s stated goal is to create a protocol that can someday be merged directly into the Ethereum codebase. This protocol is basically a meta-protocol riding on Ethereum. That is to say, Ethereum network handles the transaction detail and publishing of blocks, and Quantstamp handles all logic for the security audit function.
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lesser known tokens

Thought I’d showcase some of the lesser known tokens. They’re lesser known for good reason in many cases, yet entertaining.

Bit20 (BTWTY) is the Berkshire-Hathaway of the token world, with the price of one token over a million USD. A closer look however, reveals the supply in circulation to be exactly one token, with a market cap of over a million dollars USD for those who can’t do the arithmetic.

Bitconnect (BCC) meanwhile, still enjoys a market cap well over $100 million USD somehow, for some reason which defies logic. Just goes to show that some ponzi schemes are better than others eh? Who is hanging onto these tokens at $18.57 each?

Pizzacoin (PIZZA) is currently trading for just over $0.0025 USD at the time of writing, with a market cap of $3496 USD. Sound like a better deal than an all you can eat at the local brick oven pizzeria? Well probably not, judging by the website, which is simply a domain name pointed at a closed hosting account. The block explorer seems to be out of commission as well, which makes it all the more strange that blocks are getting mined somehow and transactions are happening. In fact, $628 worth of trades were included in blocks in the past 24 hours.

Monero – a bullish outlook for 2018

Monero is a blockchain focused on providing an useful, secure, and anonymous currency above all else. How well they do that, or the details about their decidedly unique blockchain will have to wait. This post is all about why Monero will thrive in 2018.

The most common use for Bitcoin is to hodl it, since BTC has proven to be a resillient store of value in recent years, but not so with Monero. Monero is a much younger blockchain, and it’s all about being a usable currency – a useful means of exchange.

One indicator that a blockchain is viable in the marketplace is that usage is stable or increasing over time.

So how can we really tell actual use apart from speculating and other activity?

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Hardware wallets: Digital Bitbox

I’ve tried most of the hardware wallets out there, and I’m passing along my experience with them – one by one. I recently purchased a Digital Bitbox, and I’m loving it, so let’s begin there.

This device is an USB mass storage device with a micro-SD card that is used to backup the private keys to your wallets. The industrial designers did some amazing work here – its form factor is basically that of a slimmed down USB thumb drive with a slot in the side for the micro-SD card slot, an LED and a corner hole to let you carry this on a keychain.

For me, the Bitbox’s form factor is the best of any hardware wallet. Having said that it’s larger than the Opendime product and it does not have the graphic display of Trezor and Keepkey, and the added security that enables. Lacking a display and the wider footprint that goes along with it means this is lean and probably more durable over time.
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cryptokitties FTW!

Almost every blockchain enthusiast on Earth has encountered the feline frenzy called CryptoKitties in the past week or so. All the fun and games pretty much brought the Ethereum network on which it runs to a crawl.

Most commonly asked question seems to be, unsurprisingly, “What is it and how does it work?” I still wonder too, but find the whole thing fascinating. In a nutshell, you can buy, breed and sell these kitties. Oh yeah, they’re adorable.

How to get yourself an adorable cryptokitty?
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quickie: Bitcoin vs Ethereum

People ask about this a lot these days. Here’s my take on a quick, high-level comparison between these two blockchains.

Bitcoin was designed to be a digital money. Bitcoin has a huge address space, some of which have balances associated with them. These addresses are modified public keys, and the matching private keys are the one and only way to spend whatever Bitcoin there is. Note that “spend” means sending unspent outputs to some other address.

Ethereum was designed to be a full computer, all the nodes of which reach consensus about the state. Since this complexity exists already to save computational state, it saves account balances too. The token is issued in great quantities, which ensures the utility of these tokens but may not make them great stores of value. That utility I referenced is the ability to execute program logic on the network by sending tokens to contracts that cause them to execute code.

Bitcoin has a fixed supply of 21 million tokens, over 16 million of which have been issued. Ethereum does not have a fixed supply; the money supply inflates by around 10% a year currently.

I hinted at it before, but for 95% of the people asking this question are considering whether to invest. They really want to know about the relative strengths of these two as stores of value. Bitcoin is that high-risk, high-upside potential investment they’re looking for, and Ethereum is not as good a fit for their purposes.

Knockoff tokens, soundalike forks and a few scamcoins

I decided to go digital dumpster diving into the list of top 1000 cryptocurrencies by market cap to see how many Bitcoins I could find. And look how many Bitcoin knockoffs, wannabes, Bitcoin forks, and tricksters there are. Talk about brand dilution!

The whole spectrum is represented here; from early altcoins trying to tinker with basic assumptions about consensus mechanisms or block discovery times, all the way to some that are simply intended to confuse unwary investors.

Here’s the list, sorted by market cap, along with a bit of commentary. They might be sorted in terms of appeal as well, as there are some real stinkers in this bunch!

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