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Half-Measures? Facebook Warning Users of State Sponsored Attacks

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In perhaps a subtle stab at the NSA and other surveillance agencies, Facebook has joined Google in informing users when it suspects they are being victimized by state-sponsored hacking.

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Users who fall into this category will now receive a warning when they login to Facebook along with information regarding “approved logins,” a form of two-factor authentication Facebook uses. Approved logins work like many two-factor systems, sending a text message to the user with a login authorization code.Like

Facebook isn’t disclosing how it differentiates between a state-sponsored hack and a regular hack, but it also advises users to replace their operating systems when such compromises happen.

More likely than not, the thinking goes, the Facebook account is not the only thing the malicious actor has access to at that point. Certain things, no amount of password hygiene can prevent. With catch-all nexuses now in existence which make copies of all traffic and then proceed to try and decrypt it, it’s difficult anymore to know exactly how much privacy anyone can expect online. More and more the cultural attitude veers toward expecting none.

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Also read: Mark Zuckerberg Confirms Facebook’s Foray into Augmented Reality

Services like Facebook and webmail have been huge contributors to the problem, in that their business models rely on knowing as much as possible about their userbase. Thus, users are encouraged to surrender details and trust that the companies, such as Facebook, are not somehow vulnerable to compromise. In any case, no one can fault Google and Facebook for being loyal enough to their users to let them know. It’s unclear as of yet what backlash there might be from various regimes as a result.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Facebook Chief Security Officer said, “We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts.”

Certain countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, and even the United States and the United Kingdom would certainly like to know more about the social media goings-on of their citizenry. In recent times, Palestinian resistance movements have been organized via social media, rather than locally, and Mossad could gain serious insight into the plans of Palestinian activists simply by gaining access to their Facebook accounts.

New, decentralized, cryptographically unbreakable systems are required so long as repressive regimes exist. Facebook’s actions are only anecdotally in the right direction since the existence of centralized servers means that they must eventually answer to the authorities if they want to stay in business at all. Alternative models which have no central point of failure and are difficult to trace from hub to spoke would be better in terms of promoting human freedom.

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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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5 stars on average, based on 2 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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Yale Economist Robert Shiller Has Little Faith in Cryptocurrencies

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Yale economist Robert Shiller warns that for all their innovation, the new money that is cryptocurrencies is an experiment that in the end may fall short. According to Shiller in a blog post posted today, computer programmers are the only ones who get cryptocurrencies enough to explain them, which he suggests “creates an aura of exclusivity”, attaches a certain “glamour” to this “new money” and inspires the devout loyalty within blockchain circles.

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It’s déjà vu for Shiller, who has seen this all play out before in the history books, each time over the past 100-plus years ending in utter failure. This time it’s the rise of some 2,000 digital currencies and millions of believers who are not deterred by the smoke signals that regulators are sending up. Cryptocurrencies aside, money “is rich in mystique,” he says, and fueled by the faith that people and institutions place in it.

Shiller harkens back to the Cincinnati Time Store, which was a retail store in the 1800s founded by Josiah Warner and fueled by labor notes as well as “time money” surfaced shortly thereafter, which relied on time instead of precious metals. Neither of those experiments succeeded.

The revolution, he says, is nothing new, and the shine associated with reinventing money eventually grows dim.

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“The cryptocurrencies are a statement of faith in a new community of entrepreneurial cosmopolitans who hold themselves above national governments, which are viewed as the drivers of a long train of inequality and war.” – Shiller

Shiller taps into the emotional case for cryptocurrencies, suggesting that the allure of new money is shrouded in the mystery of “advanced science.” Perhaps.

But while payments are a key application of cryptocurrencies, they’re not the only use case. And blockchain and cryptocurrencies have a symbiotic relationship, one in which neither wouldn’t exist without the other. But not once in his epilogue does he mention blockchain, the very technology that sets cryptocurrencies apart from historical attempts at new money, or the $143 billion market cap achieved by bitcoin alone currently.

‘A Clever Idea’

Shiller is a Nobel prize winner for his theory on asset prices. His Twitter profile evokes Alan Greenspan’s Fed with a description as being “irrationally exuberant.” Shiller actually shines when he is predicting doom and gloom, having presciently called both the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the housing crisis.

As economists go, Shiller has been more open-minded about bitcoin than his peers, his prediction for a “total collapse” notwithstanding. Shiller once called bitcoin a “clever idea.”

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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 7 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. Full disclosure, she's invested in bitcoin.




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How Monetary Goods Compare: Bitcoin, Gold and the U.S. Dollar

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One of the most common arguments against the value of cryptocurrencies, and monetary ones like bitcoin in particular, is how they compare to current assets. Gold and the U.S. dollar are the two counter-examples which get used the most, which is why it can be helpful to compare each of their attributes to figure out where each one shines.

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Monetary goods can be compared on a few different terms. Gold was the original “money,” but we presently use fiat currency, and are talking about the bitcoin as being the future of monetary assets.

Scarcity and Verifiability

The first thing that needs to be compared is whether they are scarce or not. In this regard, fiat currency is actually the least scarce. The last few decades have seen many politicians print more money to create short-term solutions, but this means the scarcity is almost non-existent.

Gold fares better, as there is a limited amount available at any time, but if there were any innovations in mining technology, the supply could increase immediately. Bitcoin is actually the most scarce (despite what detractors might say) because there will only ever be 21 million bitcoins and the schedule of their mining is relatively fixed.

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In terms of verifiability, bitcoin also beats both gold and fiat currency. Counterfeits of both exist, but there are no passable counterfeits for bitcoin. In terms of durability, gold triumphs over all since it is relatively robust, but fiat can be destroyed quite easily. Bitcoin falls in the middle, as it can be destroyed if the network is destroyed or the private keys are lost.

Portability

This plays in a bit with being scarce and verifiable, but is most of all about the ability to cross borders with the coin or send money all the way across the world. It is hard to argue that gold or fiat currency are easier to do either of these with.

The capital controls and government regulations present in the world make it very hard to send fiat currency to other countries. However, with cryptocurrency, you can just put the money on a USB drive and go anywhere.

Censorship Resistance

One of the key factors that makes bitcoin so powerful is its inability to be censored or controlled. The First Amendment is all about free speech and the right to say what you want, and there needs to be a corresponding right that applies to currencies. Being able to fund what you wish without gaining the permission of another entity is what makes the network so valuable.

The presence of gatekeepers in the fiat system is a lot of what has created such strong demand for a censorship resistant currency. Governments have outlawed certain uses of currency (e.g. illicit drugs or sex trafficking), which is clearly a good for the world. But at the same time, if one was trying to flee China, it would not be possible to do so while maintaining a hold on all their fiat currency. This is where the opportunity for bitcoin begins.

Understanding Monetization

Now that we’ve compared these goods on several different dimensions, we can see that bitcoin has merit compared to gold or USD in some respects. The only thing that it lacks is an established history, having been created in 2009. This is important because it enables the path from inception to widespread use. which is referred to as monetization. The process can take a long time, but there are a few things we can expect.

The prices will naturally continue to go up above the intrinsic value of the good, as a monetary premium is necessary. Monetary premiums are the difference between the market value and intrinsic value of a cryptocurrency. A dollar is worth far more than the paper it is printed on and the utility of a bar of gold is less than 10% of its current market value.

The increases in price are expected, since each monetary good must rise above its intrinsic value to a market derived value. Bubbles are a standard part of the monetization process, which is counter-intuitive to what we’ve heard so far. This can look like a bubble to doubters, but it is only a bubble if it pops. If it doesn’t it is just the market searching for an appropriate monetary premium for the cryptocurrency. In the end, there is no objectively correct monetary good in the world and network effects and evangelization are key.

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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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Opinion

The Principles of Money and How You Should Think of Bitcoin

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To really understand bitcoin and what it aims to do, you need to understand what money is. The two terms that get thrown around a lot in regards to whether bitcoin or any other digital currency is a good investment are “medium of transfer” and “store of value”. These are important components of monetary assets, but aren’t the end of the conversation.

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What Makes a Monetary Good

There are three main purposes you need to think of when you determine how useful a monetary good is: medium of exchange, store of value and unit of account.

Store of value means that users are comfortable storing their wealth in terms of that monetary good. This is generally a sign of stability and trust in the long-term value of the monetary good.

Next, you have medium of transfer, which is basically a “cash” use case. Everyone is willing to transfer value to each other by using the asset. They might not necessarily hold this for long, but it is widely used enough that you can trust in its usefulness.

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The less heard of quality for a currency to have is being a unit of account. This means that people value their goods in terms of that particular currency. If you were to ask someone how much something costs, chances are they would quote the value in terms of their local currency. That makes the local currency the unit of account.

Right now, bitcoin is not a unit of account because there is no set bitcoin price a good would be sold in. Instead, you have values quoted based on the current BTC/USD exchange rate, which is very different.

The Path of Monetary Evolution

It can take decades for a good to go through the full evolution of its use as a monetary good, and that use can change with shifts in the economy. For example, gold would have been used for all three purposes, but is now only used as a store of value. Similarly, PayPal captured the medium of transfer use case, but never developed a meaningful solution to become a unit of account or store of value.

So where is bitcoin now? Based on the way it is being traded, it is mostly a store of value. In the beginning, there were lots of situations where users would spend bitcoin on trivial objects, but now with the meme “HODL” and the number of rabid bitcoin supporters, it is mostly a long-term investment.

This is the standard path a new monetary good takes. Nobody would want to use it as a medium of transfer because the value is fluctuating so much that it is infeasible for daily use. Until the equilibrium amount of demand for the good comes online and the price somewhat stabilizes, it is unlikely to become a medium of transfer. The same applies to unit of account, as mentioned above.

No Defined Outcome

A common gripe against bitcoin is that it is not a useful currency because it does not fulfill the store of value condition, but this ignores the shortcomings of fiat currency. Nobody holds more than a small proportion of their net worth in fiat, because it is not a good store of value. Inflation is constantly eroding the value of the currency and that is its core weakness.

Additionally, when you look at unstable countries, such as Argentina, there are multiple monetary assets in use. They use the Argentinian peso as a medium of transfer, but opt for the US dollar as a store of value.

So there is no defined outcome for bitcoin’s evolution. It doesn’t have to fulfill all the use cases for it to be useful, it just has to be better than our current options for a use case.

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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