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The Lessons Of Meltdown And Spectre

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The discovery of the twin flaws Meltdown and Spectre and the events related to the information leak that followed carry a huge message: we all need to do something to regain control of our digital identity. Blockchain technology is the most compelling option.

A few days back we wrote about the computer chip flaws named Meltdown and Spectre found largely in Intel and AMD products. The discovery of these flaws leaked into public hands leading to a possible public relations mess if not disaster for the worlds largest chip fabricators as well as Microsoft.

The PR Template

The history of public relations has formulated a strategy that calls for the affected company CEO to issue an apology and offer the promise of a quick and reliable solution.

On Monday January 7 Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced an update all of Intel’s products within a week covering 90% or more with the balance available by month end. This sounds reassuring until you get a closer look. After that everything quickly breaks down.

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Limited Coverage

The updates only cover products introduced in the past five years. What about the rest of the user base? There are uncountable data centers in existence with equipment dating back to 2013 and before. My still totally awesome iMac was build in 2011.Five years is not all that long.

The Meltdown and Sprectre flaws affect every computer, server and mobile devices since the dawn of the digital age. Since there is no known fix for Spectre, we must assume the update only covers Meltdown.

Opening The Door

Krzanich stuck to the company line that the updates would not drastically affect computer performance for the average user. The operative word here is “average user”. But even this claim contradicts Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who warned their Meltdown fix would result in processing speeds 20%-30% slower than normal.

Before updates and security fixes are in place, bad actors have some valuable time to do their deeds. The Intel release insures that every hacker will have his or her very own guide to both Meltdown and Spectre.

Intel even attached the security researchers released documentation of critical vulnerabilities of Meltdown and Spectre. Only GPS could have been better.

Protecting Your Digital Identity

Just for fun, I opened the Apple Store and into the search window I typed “Passwords”. Immediately I was presented with 10 different categories so I picked “Password Manager”. There were no fewer than 75 apps to hide your passwords.

In addition there is Apples own Keychain and Google Passwords so we are getting closer to 80 in total. Conclusion: if anyone was all that good there would hardly be a need for this many.

Can All 80 Apps Be Wrong?

It didn’t take long to realize the “raison d’ etre” for so many password managers offered nothing to do with superior performance. They just created another layer of usernames and passwords. These days when we forget a password it sets in motion a whole chain reaction that includes changing and manually resetting everything in the password manager.

We have all been through this massively frustrating process that never seems to change. Is our personal data safer with almost 80 password managers to choose from? Obviously not just look at the data breech at Equifax or Target Corp.

The answer as to why nothing has basically changed since the days of the dialup Internet is that the possession and control has shifted from over 315 million Americans and billions more elsewhere to a handful of corporate controllers.

Frequent and well-publicized breeches prove that the controllers of our identity never really protected our privacy. They simply did a good job convincing us they had our backs.

Guarded By The Phantom

This phantom layer of security was breaking down long ago when data storage companies began popping up across the country. But in many cases they kept data spread over several different locations.

This is until the birth of cloud storage when two things changed. The entirety of corporate data could be centralized making it rich bounty for hackers. Then for server efficiency multiple corporate client data was loaded onto a single server. Yum, this is like a Thanksgiving feast.

Weaknesses from centralization of data go beyond cloud storage. Look no further than the security vulnerabilities in Meltdown and Spectre.

Regaining Control

If ever there was a good reason for government to protect its citizens, this is one of them. Unfortunately the problem is too big for a mere regulation or two to do the full job.

Using blockchain technology for digital identity holds the power to regain ownership of our data. It has the power to create a new model of online data management. The fact that it frees companies from the liability of data ownership should make for a receptive audience. And of course the cost savings is an added bonus.

The Benefits of Ownership

When the ownership of our digital identity returns to the hands of individuals, you will have the power to decide who has access, under what conditions and for how long. Proponents of this idea believe it creates an incorruptible digital record and can be used for virtually any peer-to-peer transfer of any asset.

Pronouncing anything incorruptible or totally secure is foolish especially given overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Security has always and will always be a comparative state. There are no absolutes. It is true however that the decentralized architecture of blockchains make for much less interesting prey for hackers compared to those big cloud storage facilities.

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 81 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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Cryptocurrency Theft Reaches $1.1 Billion This Year: Carbon Black

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The cryptocurrency market continues to be extremely lucrative for cyber criminals. Through the first five months of 2018, they managed to steal roughly $1.1 billion worth of digital assets, according to a new study conducted by Carbon Black.

Dark Web Targets Crypto

In a newly released study, analysts at Carbon Black estimated 12,000 marketplaces and 34,000 offerings targeting crypto theft.  Their weapon of choice: malware.

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

McElroy later told CNBC in an interview that malware costs an average of $224, though it can be had for as little as $1.04. Although small on the surface, the malware market has grown to become a $6.7 million economy.

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The crypto universe, which includes initial coin offerings and exchanges, is being ever more targeted by cyber criminals. Although dark web elements have been exploiting digital assets for several years, their efforts have increased since the bull market began in January 2017.

Earlier this year, hackers made off with $530 million worth of NEM tokens in a coordinated attack on Coincheck, a Tokyo-based digital currency exchange. The attack is the second largest on record in terms of monetary value.

The first high-profile attack on an exchange occurred in 2014 when thieves stole 750,000 bitcoins from Mt. Gox, another Tokyo-based platform. The exchange filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter.

Privacy Coins and the Dark Web

While bitcoin may be the most popular cryptocurrency on the market, the dark web would much rather deal with privacy coins such as Monero.
A recent study by Recorded Future found Monero to be the most popular cryptocurrency on the dark web. Dash was second, followed by Ethereum, Litecoin and bitcoin.  Coins like Dash have attracted a larger following for their ease of use and low fees.

Despite Monero’s popularity, it is accepted only by a tiny minority of dark web vendors. Interestingly, Litecoin had the highest acceptance rate for coins other than bitcoin. Virtually every dark web vendor accepts bitcoin as a method of payment.

When it comes to absolute privacy, Zcash is considered one of the best cryptocurrencies on the market – at least, when compared with other major assets. However, when it comes to fungibility, Zcash is said to have limitations relative to bitcoin, Monero and others.

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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4.5 stars on average, based on 453 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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Coincheck Hackers Launder 40% of Stolen NEM Funds, Experts Say

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The hackers behind Coincheck’s massive NEM heist have successfully offloaded 40% of the stolen funds, according to new research by Tokyo-based consultancy group L Plus. The successful money laundering campaign highlights the ongoing challenges authorities face in bringing cyber criminals to justice.

Hackers Launder NEM

Analysts at L Plus believe that roughly 200 million NEM tokens, worth $79 million, have already been laundered through the dark web. However, the hackers likely pocketed a much smaller amount amid ongoing efforts to blacklist the tokens.

Nikkei Asian Review reported Monday that Coincheck was targeted with “suspicious traffic” for weeks leading up to the Jan. 26 heist. Citing a person close to the investigation, Nikkei said the attackers hacked an employee email and stole a private key needed to transfer the NEM tokens to the desired accounts. L Plus indicated that the attacker must have repeatedly accessed the Coincheck server to obtain the private key.

When the hack took place, the stolen NEM tokens were worth more than $400 million. Today, they are worth less than half that amount. The identity of the attackers remains unknown to this day. However, authorities have speculated that North Korea may have been responsible for the attack.

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Coincheck plans to resume operations this week following a government-mandated freeze on all trading activity.

Japan Boosts Oversight

The attack has prompted Japan’s financial regulators to step up their oversight efforts of the cryptocurrency market. Last week, regulators penalized seven exchanges after deeming their internal controls insufficient to deal with a cyber attack.

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) slapped two exchanges – FSHO and Bit Station – with month-long suspensions. The remaining five exchanges – Bicrements, Coincheck, GMO Coin, Mr. Exchange and Tech Bureau – were given business improvement orders.

The FSA began conducting on-site inspections in late January following the Coincheck attack. Regulators have uncovered several issues, including a lack of customer protection measures and insufficient anti-money laundering controls.

Japan remains one of the most welcoming jurisdictions for cryptocurrency trading, but repeated attacks may prompt regulators to reconsider their relatively lax approach. Digital currency exchanges in Japan and elsewhere face a growing threat from cyber criminals looking to capitalize on the rising value of digital assets.

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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4.5 stars on average, based on 453 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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Skepticism Grows Over BitGrail’s Supposed $167 Million Hack

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A relatively unknown cryptocurrency exchange by the name of BitGrail has informed its users of a coordinated cyber attack targeting Nano (XRB) tokens. However, the incident does not appear to be holding up to scrutiny after the founder of the exchange made an odd request to the developers of Nano shortly after discovering the alleged theft.

BitGrail Exchange Allegedly Compromised

The Italian exchange issued a notice to its clients last week informing them that 17 million XRB tokens were compromised in a cyber attack. The XRB token, formerly known known as Raiblocks, is valued at $9.80 at the time of writing for a total market cap of $1.3 billion. That puts the total monetary loss of the supposed heist at nearly $167 million.

Parts of the notice have been translated into English from the original Italian by Tech Crunch, a media company dedicated to startups and technology news. According to the agency,  BitGrail has stated the following:

“… Internal checks revealed unauthorized transactions which led to a 17 million Nano shortfall, an amount forming part of the wallet managed by BitGrail… Today a charge about those fraudulent activities has been submitted to the competent authorities and now is under police investigation.”

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The notice indicated that all transactions have been put on hold until authorities complete their investigation.

Very little is known about BitGrail, as it is not listed among the 183 exchanges whose volume is ranked by CoinMarketCap.

Suspicion Grows

Unlike other crypto heists, the circumstances surrounding the alleged BitGrail attack have been met with widespread suspicion. As David Z. Morris of Fortune rightly notes, this isn’t the first time BitGrail has suspended Nano withdrawals. The same thing happened in early January when the exchange halted not only Nano, but Lisk and CryptoForecast transactions as well.

The suspension was followed by an announcement that the exchange was taking measured steps to verify users and enforce anti-money laundering requirements. It was around this time that users became suspicious that BitGrail was going to cut and run with their tokens.

BitGrail founder Francesco Firano made an unusual request to the developers of Nano following the alleged attack: he asked them to fork their record, a move that would essentially restore the stolen funds.

Nano officially rejected the request on Friday, the day after Firano supposedly discovered the stolen coins. In a post that appeared on the Nano Medium page, the team said:

“We now have sufficient reason to believe that Firano has been misleading the Nano Core Team and the community regarding the solvency of the BitGrail exchange for a significant period of time.”

Last month, hackers made off with more than $400 million worth of NEM tokens stolen from Coincheck, a Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange. The coins have yet to be recovered and the perpetrators remain at large. In 2014, a cyber heist brought down Mt Gox, which was the world’s largest exchange.

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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4.5 stars on average, based on 453 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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