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Crypto Conspiracies – Fact or Fiction?

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The following is a collection of speculative internet conspiracy theories and should not be taken as fact, or as the opinions of Hacked.

Cryptocurrency was born in mystery, and much of its young life thus far has been enveloped in the same enigma which followed its anonymous creator.

Such beginnings make fertile ground for conspiracy theories, and the noble denizens of the internet have not failed us on that regard.

There are probably too many crypto-conspiracies for any common journalist to cover in the space of one article; but we’ve got time for a few particularly juicy ones.

Before you go reaching for your tinfoil hat, be aware that some of these are tinged with a shadow of truth. Often times the theatre of the conspiracy theory distracts from the real issue at its core.

Bilderberg Bitcoin Conspiracy

This conspiracy has a few moving parts, but it can be summarized thus: The Bilderberg Group are really the ones behind Blockstream and the Lightning Network, and are responsible for crippling BTC so they can then control it via their own private methods.

If you remove the Bilderberg aspect from this equation then what you have is a fairly reasonable complaint. Depending on how you view it, you could easily make the case that Blockstream’s handling of Bitcoin has been poor; and big questions still remain over the Lightning Network’s ability to be truly decentralized.

Even back in 2016 community members were voicing these concerns, with Nodecounter releasing announcements like this:

“These Blockstream-paid Bitcoin developers (for the Bitcoin ‘Core’ software) are enforcing a limit on how much information can be transacted in Bitcoin. This is limiting the number of transactions to just 3 per second, approximately. Blockstream is concurrently developing a ‘solution’ to this problem, called the ‘Lightning Network’. This ‘solution’ is to be placed on top of the crippled Bitcoin network to allow it to scale. Blockstream will monetize the Lightning Network in the form of fees required to use their service.”

So where do the Bilderbergs come into it?

Well, in 2016, then president of AXA, Henri de Castries, invested $55 million in the Blockstream project. However, Henri was also president of another group – the Bilderbergs.

Another source of Blockstream’s funds was Digital Currency Group, which was headed up by Glenn Hutchins – Hutchins is also on the board of directors for the Federal Reserve.

So if we follow the money trail, then one could easily draw connections between the mainstream financial elites and Bitcoin.

Financial institutions have slowly started to dip in to the crypto pot in recent years; and the downside is that they bring their own methods along with them. Such shared interests and investments are common in the everyday business world – but crypto was supposed to be open-source; community driven and decentralized.

If one small group alone – Bilderbergs, or merely whales – can dictate the direction of Bitcoin, then what does that say for the ideals of the original whitepaper?

Corporate interference in blockchain and crypto tech is a growing concern which should worry us all, whether the Bilderbergs are involved or not.

NSA and SHA-256

According to this conspiracy, the NSA are behind the creation of Bitcoin is one that has been floated for years. The core proposition is that the NSA invented Bitcoin and have been using it as a way to observe and spy upon the population for years – with crypto users taking the role of guinea-pigs in a socio-economic experiment conducted by the government.

This theory hangs on the fact that the SHA-256 hashing algorithm used by Bitcoin was originally invented by the NSA, and published in a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) paper in the early 2000s.

It’s certainly true that the NSA was involved in the creation of the hashing algorithm, but that should come as no real surprise – the Tor Browser was created by the American military, and firms like IBM and Microsoft have been collaborating with government agencies on tech projects for years. IBM’s dealing with government groups (both domestic and foreign) goes back all the way to World War 2.

While it’s no stretch to imagine the government running rampant over basic human liberties, it’s also important to remember that governments want good cryptography to exist just as much, or more than, everyone else. And assuming the NSA could leave a backdoor in Bitcoin, how long would it be before it was discovered by the legions of hackers who pull open the hood of Bitcoin on a daily basis?

Another factor to take into consideration is that the Bitcoin code is freely available online in open-source form, and has been studied and pored over for almost a decade now.

Additionally, in 2016 the NSA revealed they were switching their cryptography methods to bolster them against the actions of hackers using quantum computing methods. This was accompanied by an announcement that they no longer considered SHA-256 to be secure.

Satoshi Nakamoto or CIA

In a video released by a group of anti-secrecy campaigners, it is alleged that the name Satoshi Nakamoto is actually a Japanese translation of Central Intelligence. According to this conspiracy, the idea is that Bitcoin has been a CIA project all this time, and they decided to play a joke on us by dropping hints about the name.

The truth about the translation of the name itself is not too far off: Satoshi is a Japanese name meaning wise, clear-headed, observant. While Nakamoto is a surname descending from the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan which means of central origin, or one from the middle.

Whether this constitutes proof in your eyes is completely up to you, but you should know that several Satoshi Nakamotos have been found both in America and Japan; including one Satoshi who claimed he was the enigmatic inventor of Bitcoin. However he was soon revealed to be no more than a lathe machinist.

Whatever your view of the conspiracies surrounding cryptocurrency, you’d be hard pressed to deny that they make for intriguing reading. More conspiracies are born every day; and it seems the lifespan of cryptocurrency may forever be enshrouded in the same mystery that characterized its invention, and its inventor.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 23 rated postsGreg Thomson is a full-time crypto writer and digital nomad. He eats ICOs for breakfast and bleeds altcoins. Wherever he lays his public key is his home.




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4/5 ICOs Conducted in 2017 Were Scams, New Report Claims

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A new study quantifying the impact of initial coin offerings (ICOs) has concluded that the vast majority of projects conducted in 2017 were scams.

ICO Market Statistics

An ICO consulting firm by the name of Statis Group examined hundreds of blockchain projects launched throughout 2018, concluding that 81% of said projects are scams. To be classified as a “scam,” a project must have solicited investment funds with no intent to fulfill its development duties.

While four out of every five ICO projects were deemed to be scams, only 11% of the investment funds went toward said projects. Based on Stratis’ numbers, that amounts to $1.3 billion.

“Over 70% of ICO funding (by $ volume) to-date went to higher quality projects, although over 80% of projects (by # share) were identified as scams,” the report said.

Interestingly, only three projects accounted for the lion’s share of the stolen funds – Pincoin ($660 million), Arisebank ($600 million) and Savedroid ($50 million).

Initial coin offerings (ICOs)

ICOs took the world by storm in 2017, raising a combined $6.1 billion, according to ICOData.io. Depending on who you ask, ICOs have generated between $6 billion and $13.7 billion this year (Stratis claims that number is $7 billion). In doing so, token raises have seemingly defied a broad market downtrend that has inflicted cryptocurrency prices for much of the year.

Since peaking near $840 billion in January, the cryptocurrency market cap has lost a staggering $600 billion in value.

PwC recently reported that demand for ICOs remains as strong as ever despite evidence to the contrary reported by Hacked. The consulting firm says the crowdfunding model demonstrates repeated cycles of fund circulation, with existing holders of bitcoin and Ethereum using their wallets to fund new projects on an ongoing basis.

That being said, ICOs continue to face a murky regulatory picture. On the one hand, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has declared Ethereum – the protocol used by the vast majority of ICOs – to be a non-ecurity. On the other hand, the head of the regulatory agency has stated publicly that most, if not all, ICOs fulfill a security function.

The SEC remains unconvinced by the ICO industry’s distinction between security tokens and those used for application – i.e., “utility tokens.” Until further guidance is provided, ICO regulation will continue to be a patchwork in progress as agencies look for a common framework.

In South Korea, lawmakers are working to fast-track a slew of cryptocurrency regulations that could reinstate ICOs sometime this year. At least three South Korean officials are planning to present draft legislation to the National Assembly sometime this month. The Assembly kicked off its 13-day session on Friday.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 499 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Op-Ed

Disrupting the Cloud: ANKR Network

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Since the creation of bitcoin and the introduction of the “Proof of Work” (POW) algorithm, many have been concerned about the vast use of computing power and energy and their negative side effects. Currently, cloud computing is projected to be a trillion dollar market, yet it is monopolized by some of the largest tech conglomerates in the world. Only giants in the likes of Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud can afford the high human capital cost and upfront server costs to run a successful cloud operation that spans the globe. However, the aforementioned companies tend to charge the customer with a higher margin of cost.

New developments in blockchain technology aim to resolve these issues by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of cloud computing. Being an innovative solution to this computing and consumer problem, Ankr Network brings the benefits of decentralization to cloud computing and balances value between buyers and sellers via crypto economics, Oracle service and distributed computing.

Ankr Network

Ankr Network is an innovative platform, which aims to create a resource-efficient blockchain architecture for a distributed cloud computing system and an easy-to-use infrastructure for the building of business applications. Ankr is the first cloud computing solution to leverage both blockchain and trusted hardware of Intel SGXs. The SGX hardware will allow developers of applications to protect data from unauthorized access and modification and preserve the confidentiality and integrity of information.

Technical solutions include:

  • Consensus Algorithm Proof of Useful Work (PoUW)
  • Platform for distributed cloud computing (DCC)
  • Oracle integrated service
  • Structural support for sidechains

The consensus looks like this:

Anrk upgrades mining with its consensus “Proof of Useful Work” (PoUW), which provides a sustainable block structure. Specifically, PoUW directs power and computing capacity which was used on hashes in POW algorithms such as bitcoin for processing tasks provided by businesses and consumers on the blockchain. Therefore, one can say Ankr upgrades mining to a higher level, allowing equipment holders to receive a financial incentive for block creation and real-world tasks processing.

To explain this better, consider the following: the golden standard algorithm is one where the nodes on the blockchain require:

1) That tasks performed to solve problems is actually quantifiable work;

2) That the processing of these tasks provides some form of value to any party on the network

The Ankr Network appears capable of achieving this gold standard. Alternatively, existing POW in networks such as bitcoin and Ethereum only achieve the first point – nodes use computing power and energy to prove that work was done (but such amount of work is wasted without any utility).

Ankr solves this key technical limitation in bitcoin and Ethereum by including a second point in its consensus algorithm, thus making all the work done by nodes directed on the processing of tasks that could bring added value utility to the network participants.

Ethereum processes all smart contracts on one chain in a serial sequence, which bottlenecks throughput and dramatically reduces the usability, especially when there are large contracts with complicated data on the chain. Plasma is a protocol to solve the scalability issue by building a tree structure of blockchains, where various application chains (Child or Plasma Chains) are connected to a single root chain (Main Chain). Plasma chains can allow applications to handle their specific smart contracts transactions on side chains, thus balancing potential overload of the network.

The efficiency of the main chain can be significantly improved by offloading a number of transactions from the main chain to Plasma chains, especially if proper incentives are given to Plasma operators. Currently, Oracle solutions exist separately from the blockchain framework and are limited in compatibility. Ankr proposes a user-friendly universal AP (application programming interface) I for each child chain to connect to off-chain entities. Existing business can build decentralized autonomous applications on the child chain with powerful computing power and native data feed service provided by the main chain.

 

The Native Oracle (NOS) service provides an authenticated data feed by using both cryptographic primitives and a trusted execution environment (TEE). Thanks to a standardized API for transferring data from existing data sources like websites, NOS allows customers to simplify business in the real world. Basically, this means that blockchain can allow integrating smart contract execution with data sources through a protected gateway.

Intel SGX

Intel SGX (Software Guard Extensions) is a new set of instructions that permits execution of an application inside a hardware enclave, which protects the application’s integrity and confidentiality against certain forms of hardware and software attacks, including hostile operating systems. This lowers entry barriers for miners and provides security and privacy.

Distributed Cloud Computing (DCC) Platform

As internet technology advances, massive amounts of data including text, audio, video, etc. have been created. However, most of this data is neither organized nor relevant to each other. Processing the data in a serial sequence (traditional blockchain) becomes less and less resource efficient and can’t be tolerated by the rapid velocity of business development.

Ankr overcomes these shortcomings through its DDC platform, which enables P2P transactions. Miners will provide their computing power to support the blockchain, as well as sending surplus power for cloud computing calculations.

A P2P network allows application owners and individual users (i.e., requesters) to rent computing power from other users (suppliers). Currently, the cloud computing resources in popular blockchain networks such as bitcoin or Ethereum are exclusively controlled by the centralized cloud service providers and are subject to rigid operation models. A decentralized cloud computing platform can incorporate a blockchain-based payment system, which can allow for direct payment among operators (requesters), sellers (suppliers) and software developers.

Now, we will cover what other projects in this field are doing in comparison to Ankr as a reference project.

Golem

Users of Golem are only incentivized for cloud computing and Golem is using third party computing containers like Docker.

SONM

This project is very similar to Golem, but with a different application field. Golem is focused on rendering, but SONM is focused on the adoption of existing architectures (currently server hosting).

IExec

This project is also similar to Golem and SONM, but its application focus is decentralized cloud computing in specific research applications.

In comparison with the projects above, users of Ankr have different incentives that come from mining, transaction (or smart contract) and cloud computing. Also, Ankr does not use third party platforms for computational power; instead, it uses the computing power of miners.

In my opinion, an additional limitation of Golem, SONM, and IExec is that they have based their development on traditional computing architectures, which are used in data centers, thus limiting their potential computing power and scope of tasks. The reason lies in the fact that data center architecture is working on one technical parameter, which is not optimal for distributed computing where the topology of each device changes frequently and will result in a costly overhead in data transfer and decrease the stability of the network. Ankr technology allows bypassing such limitations, which results in a wider applicability and scope of their network.

Overall, if the Ankr network team can create a network that uses PoUW to reach consensus by applying all the computational energy to useful use and not wasting it, then cloud computing services as Amazon Web, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure are likely to face serious competition soon.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.9 stars on average, based on 8 rated postsVladislav Semjonov has a legal and financial background. He has been involved in crypto space since early 2017 in both ICO advising positions in several ICO consultancy firms, and as an ICO analyst for VC. He began contributing for Hacked.com in April 2017.




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Stolen Cryptocurrencies “Three Times Bigger” This Year than Last Year: Report

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Theft of cryptocurrency exchanges surged in the first half of 2018 to three times the level seen for all of 2017, according to a new report from CipherTrace, a U.S.-based cyber security company.

Crypto Theft on the Rise

The report, which was released Thursday, showed that a total of $761 million was stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges in the first half of 2018, compared with about $266 million for all of last year. CipherTrace estimates that losses could rise to $1.5 billion this year as hackers set their sights on vulnerable exchanges.

In an interview with Reuters, CipherTrace chief executive Dave Jevans said stolen cryptocurrencies are being used to launder money to aid criminals in hiding their true identities. This has resulted in a three-fold spike in money laundering of digital currencies.

CipherTrace isn’t the only organization to estimate the size of crypto theft. Last month, cyber security company Carbon Black released a report showing $1.1 billion worth of digital currency was stolen through the first half of the year. The report’s authors remarked on “just how easy to is without any tech skill to commit cybercrimes like ransomware.”

Carbon Black’s security strategist Rick McElroy compared the theft of digital currency exchanges with criminal exploitation of the gold rush more than 150 years ago.

“As was the case during the physical gold rush in the mid-1800s, there are criminals looking to exploit innocent parties of their earnings,” he said. “Carbon Black has found that modern-day cybercriminals are increasingly using the dark web to facilitate cryptocurrency theft on a large scale.”

Governments Respond

South Korean exchanges have been the center of multiple hacks in recent months, the most recent being a $32 million heist of Bithumb. In response, South Korean lawmakers have expedited new regulations aimed at boosting anti-money laundering and know-your-customer requirements. The new regulatory framework has also prompted an investigation of three major financial institutions, which are known to provide bank accounts to exchanges and their users.

CipherTrace said exchanges are in constant dialogue with global law enforcement agencies about beefing up security requirements to prevent criminals from exploiting their networks.

“Now we are seeing the big guys coming together asking for cryptocurrency anti-money laundering regulation – it is inevitable, it will be unified, and it will be global,” Jevans said.

U.S. law enforcement agencies are actively monitoring criminal activity in the cryptocurrency sector. The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been especially active, having referred to research showing that $1.5 billion was stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges over a two-year period.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 499 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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