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Cryptocurrency – What’s It All About?

What is cryptocurrency? Or you may call it Bitcoin. Where does it come from? How does it work? Is it real money? In case you haven’t heard we are in the midst of a monetary revolution. Many people are raving about Bitcoin. Some say it’s the money of the future. Others are saying it’s a scam or worse. So what’s it all about?

First of all lets clear up the definition. Bitcoin is cryptocurrency but not all cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. As a matter of fact there are as many as 1,000 different brands of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is just the most valuable.

What is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a digital form of currency that is different from real money. Money or currency is produced by banks and nations who create the money’s value based economic strength. This money is managed through a central banking system of that nation.

How is cryptocurrency different?

Transactions of traditional money are controlled, taxed and tracked by banks and nations.  Cryptocurrency transactions are made with no banks or governmental interference.  Some economist and investors like to say that transactions are frictionless. Cryptocurrency users are anonymous . So essentially cryptocurrency is stateless money with no banks and the users are completely unknown. That is until they change Bitcoin into real cash. 

Where did cryptocurrency come from?

Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor, created Bitcoin in 2009. He has never been seen. No one even knows who or where he is. He may not even be a single person but a group of programmers. No one really knows. So cryptocurrency’s origin is a mystery. However, some believe that the National Security Agency has identified him. As usual the NSA has declined comment.

How is it created?

Cryptocurrency is created or “mined” using computers to solve incredibly complex math problems. Performing this work eats up a lot of electricity. So much electricity that you could never make a profit with the average computer. Cryptocurrency “miners,” as they are called, have begun building their own computers or hijacking other people’s computers to create Bitcoins. This has become known as Cryptojacking.

Mining a Bitcoin is not easy or cheap. Bitcoin’s value is about $6,000. How many Bitcoins would you have to produce to deal with a monthly $6,000 electricity bill and still make a profit? 

After a computer solves a series of problems it becomes known as a block. The blocks is then verified by other users and, once confirmed, are added to what is called the blockchain. The blockchain grows rapidly with a new block being added about every 10 minutes. A blockchain is a record of the Bitcoins created. It also records Bitcoin transactions that can never be changed. The blockchain never ends and is not hosted in single location making it immune to hackers.

How do you store or spend Bitcoins?

Bitcoin transactions move between users like email. Each transaction is digitally signed using cryptography and goes to the entire Bitcoin network for verification. These transactions are open to the public and can be found on the blockchain. All Bitcoin transaction leads back to the point where the Bitcoins were first mined.

Bitcoins are kept in a bitcoin wallet or the digital equivalent of a bank account. You can download the Bitcoin wallet from the Google Play store or iTunes. Your wallet allows you to send, receive and store Bitcoins. 

To complete a Bitcoin transaction you need two things; a public encryption key and a private encryption key.

Public keys or Bitcoin addresses, are random sequences of letters and numbers that work the same as an email address or username. Public keys are safe to share. You must give your Bitcoin address to receive Bitcoin. The private key must keep secret. This private key allows you to spend the Bitcoin.

Is Bitcoin real money?

Well, that is where Bitcoin may run into problems. First of all Bitcoin must meet the current standard of what money is. There are four basic standards for money.

ScarcityThere can be a only a limited amount available to secure its value. There can only be 21 million Bitcoins in the world. Right now there are about 9 million Bitcoins. Once it reaches 21 million no more Bitcoins can be mined.

Durability It must stand up to constant handling with no maintenance or special treatment. Bitcoin is completely digital and is never actually touched but human hands. However, Bitcoin is vulnerable. User error can cause the loss or destruction of Bitcoins. Users have lost or forgotten their private key making access to the currency impossible. Recently a a single user error caused the destruction of over $300 million worth of Bitcoin. So durability is an issue as well as security.

FungibilityIs every Bitcoin worth the same.  Let me make this simple for you. According to CoinMarketCap.com there are 1,037 different cryptocurrencies available. So not every one is worth the $6,000 I spoke about earlier. 

PortabilityCryptocurrency can be carried anywhere you carry your smartphone just like cash. So it is portable.

Breaking It Down.

Cryptocurrency is growing in acceptance but is not yet considered a viable currency. Its value is unstable and it is considered  an unacceptable risk by most financial experts and the coin of the future by others. In addition, governments are now examining the cryptocurrency phenomenon. Its anonymity makes it useful for crimes such as drug dealing, terrorism, money laundering and tax dodging. So the future right now depends on the view world governments take. A single law or crime could bring the whole thing to a halt or change the very definition of cryptocurrency.

 

ALERT! – Cloudflare Discovers Major Bug – ALERT!

Cloudflare, a content delivery and security service, announced a major bug has been discovered that may have exposed users sensitive data on millions of websites. The bug, dubbed ‘Cloudbleed’, was discovered in Cloudflare’s content optimization systems. Exposed data includes passwords, session cookies, authentication tokens and even private messages. The consequences are considerd extremely dangerous. Web users are urged to change their passwords on ALL websites immediately!

You may not have heard of  Cloudflare but it is one of the world’s largest Internet security companies. Cloudflare’s technology is running on millions of websites and in Fortune 500 compnaies. Cloudflare describes itself as a “web performance and security company.”

Cloudfare’s systems modifies HTML pages passing through its servers in order to rewrite HTTP links to HTTPS. This process hides certain content from bots, conceals email addresses, enables Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and more. Cloudflare’s clients include huge companies like Uber, OKCupid,  FitBit and 1Password. 1Password claims its user data is safeBut with the millions of websites using the service it makes this bug an extremely serious threat.  The result is that massive amounts of sensitive data has potentially been compromised.

The data leak was accidently discovered on February 18th by Google security engineers. They immediately alerted Cloudflare. The company responded by quickly assembling an incident response team and shut down the feature causing most of the data leakage within hours. By the 2oth a complete fix was in place. The rest of the time, until the incident was publicly revealed, Cloudflare worked with search engines like Yahoo! Bing and Google to remove the sensitive data from their caches.

According to a blog post from John Graham-Cumming, Cloudflare’s CTO, the leaks could have been going on since September 22. However the period of greatest impact was between February 13 and February 18, when the email obfuscation feature was being migrated. Cloudflare estimates that around one in every 3.3 million HTTP requests that passed through its system potentially resulted in memory leakage.  That equals roughly 0.00003 percent of all requests.

But that does not negate the seriousness of the data leak. Sites that don’t use Cloudflare’s service, but have a lot of Cloudflare users, might have compromised data on their servers. This means the problem has spread all over the Internet. 

In an interview with Gizmodo Cloudflare CEO and co-founder Matthew Prince said, “This is a big deal for us. This is a really bad bug. This is something that our customers should be very cognizant of and should take very seriously.”

Everybody that uses any website is strongly urged to change your passwords immediately. As in right now!

 

Breach Brief – Nationwide Voter Database

 voting-boothA massive and mysterious voter database has been exposed online and no one knows who it belongs to, how it got there or when it will be removed.

An independent security researcher by the name of Chris Vickery discovered the database. The files contain the names, phone numbers home addresses, birth dates, genders, ethnicity, dates of voter registration, party affiliation, e-mail addresses belonging to 191 million Americans from all fifty states and Washington, DC.  To make matters worse the database contains information on who the voters voted for since 2000. The voting records do not include driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, financial records or any kind of familial information. Vickery reported the discovery to DataBreaches.net, which keeps track of massive online security blunders. 

The FBI and the California Attorney General’s Office have been contacted regarding the breach. These organizations have the power to remove the database but have not done so yet. The researchers have not revealed where they found the database.

 

 

Don’t get Doxxed!

The sad truth about the Internet is that it is the greatest tool for good … and evil. Let’s face it; the Internet has put everybody’s business in the street. And for black people that is simply not a game we play.

canstockphoto20663283The word “doxx” is one of those techno-words that actually means something. Its means “dropping documents”. The word entered the modern lexicon first as a verb about ten years ago. It refers to a malicious hacker’s act of collecting personal and private information, including home addresses, email, phone numbers, social security numbers and other personal financial information and sometimes even personal medical information. The data is released publicly often on some social media site where as many eyes as possible can see it. It is the digital equivalent of being dropped off naked in the street. Sometimes before the doxxing the victim is extorted by the hacker.  This activity is obviously frowned upon by users of the Internet, social media and most decent people. But the act is not solely that of a skilled hacker. People have been doxxed by ex-lovers, former friends and even angry co-workers.

Doxxing could be considered a form of bullying but is closer to terrorism. It is far more dangerous since the victims total identity is being thrown out on the Internet. Doxxing frequently goes hand-in-hand with threats of violence, sexual assault or murder. Those animals that do the doxxing want their victims to know; we know all about you,where you live and we’re out to get you. Some women in the technology industry have left their chosen profession rather than deal with continued threats. This is especially so in the gaming industry where a major problem has exploded into a scandal known as Gamersgate that is targeting female game developers.

For a person who is married with a family the danger increases tenfold as they now have to be concerned about the safety of their family.

Women have especially been targeted by hackers and others who have doxxed them. Often times it is the result of a failed relationship. A spurned lover or spouse may decide the best way to get even is to tell everything they know about the person online. Sometimes the scorned lover will post compromising images and even reveal details about the woman’s sexuality and sexual activity. This is known as revenge porn and is a common threat to women online. Needless to say this can be extremely humiliating.

Not only are ordinary women being victimized by doxxing but you can find plenty of celebrities being doxxed as well including JayZ and Beyonce. A skilled hacker will invade a victim’s email or hack personal devices. We have seen the results of those hackers who stole images of Gabrielle Union and Jill Scott.

Few people understand just how much information can be found about them online. Not just public information but plenty of private and personal information as well. And a really good hacker can find even more information about a person. African-Americans are as sensitive about our personal information as any one else. But we display a bit more anger when we believe our private affairs have been compromised. In other words we don’t like anyone in our business. So displaying personal information online is a reason to really flip. But for people who want to make sure their business stays their business there is something you can do.

Computerworld.com has released an extensive list of data brokers who allow you to remove your personal info. It includes instructions how to do it and how long it takes. It may take some time and work but you can reduce the amount of information about you on the Internet. You may not be able to remove it all but with these sites you can get a good start and possibly avoid being doxxed.

You can take further steps to preserve your privacy by deleting and disabling your Google map history. And those images of your home can also be blocked by following the instructions on BlogHer.com.

Now you know.