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Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
The Undiscovered Facts Behind Money Laundering, Cryptocurrency, and Banks
A week ago, a lot of documents known as the FinCEN documents were delivered, enumerating how the absolute greatest banks on the globe move trillions of dollars in dubious exchanges for suspected psychological militants, kleptocrats, and drug top dogs. Also, the U.S. government has neglected to stop it. https://preview.redd.it/lme57jyyx1r51.jpg?width=1200&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=014ead7b7b812b3d6cbaf4a141eeec123589121b The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ("FinCEN"), an agency inside the Treasury Department, accused of battling tax evasion, psychological militant financing, and other monetary violations. An assortment of "dubious movement reports" offers a window into budgetary debasement, and how governments can't or reluctant to stop it. Benefits from destructive medication wars, fortunes stole from creating nations, and hard-earned investment funds taken in Ponzi plans, all course through money related establishments, in spite of admonitions from bank workers. These reports are available to US law enforcement agencies and other nations’ financial intelligence operations. Although FinCEN is aware of the money laundering activities, it lacks the authority to stop it. Money laundering is more than a financial crime. It is a tool that makes all other crimes possible - from drug trafficking to political crimes. And banks make it all possible. In a detailed expose, BuzzFeedNews named several of the most trusted banks. Current investigations show that even after fines and prosecutions, well-known JPMorgan Chase JPM (+0.9%), HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of New York Mellon BK (+0.8%) are all involved in moving funds for suspected criminals. The current money related framework generally protects the banks and its heads from the indictment, inasmuch as the bank documents a notification with FinCEN that it might be encouraging crime. The dubious movement alert adequately gives the banks a free pass. Thus, unlawful finances keep on moving through banks into different businesses from oil to amusement to land, further isolating the rich from poor people, while the banks we have developed to trust, make everything conceivable. As indicated by the United Nations, the assessed measure of cash laundered universally in one year is 2 to 5% of the worldwide GDP, or $800 billion to $2 trillion, with more than thank 90% of illegal tax avoidance going undetected today. Simultaneously, the cryptocurrency industry has likewise been condemned for being an apparatus for tax evasion, in spite of insights expressing something else. It is assessed that solitary 1.1% of all digital currency exchanges are illegal. During its initial days, Bitcoin was generally connected with the Silk Road, an online dim net commercial center, where clients could buy weapons and unlawful medications namelessly. Be that as it may, with the developing utilization of the Bitcoin organization, 42 million Bitcoin wallets, and checking, it is getting progressively conceivable to follow exchanges on open blockchains, while private financial exchanges stay covered up on display. This week, I had a chance to plunk down with Chanpeng Zhao "CZ", the Founder and CEO of Binance, the biggest cryptographic money trade by volume on the planet, to get his interpretation of illegal tax avoidance both in the customary and the computerized fund universes. Coming up next are a couple of features from our meeting: Much obliged to you for going along with us today, CZ. As you would see it, for what reason is illegal tax avoidance especially destructive to our economy? CZ: As monetary administration suppliers, it is our obligation to battle unlawful action. Everybody shares this duty. Yet, regularly once the principles are set up, individuals will attempt to get around the guidelines. What's more, there are individuals who simply need more business, and knowing or unconsciously will encourage these exchanges. We live in an intricate world, where one nation may see a go about as criminal and the other may not. Many individuals have a high contrast see, yet the world is really dim. Not all banks are honest and not all crypto organizations are terrible. The digital currency industry has experienced harsh criticism for encouraging unlawful exchanges. How would you think conventional money and digital currency businesses analyze in such manner? CZ: If you are utilizing Bitcoin, it is a straightforward record. When you have a couple of exchanges, you can follow the assets right back to where the coins were mined. So along these lines, blockchain really gives a straightforward record to everybody to dissect. In the event that you piece together a couple of information focuses and do a group examination, it isn't that difficult for a calculation to break down the beginning. Security coins are more earnestly to follow, yet their market top isn't unreasonably high, making bigger exchanges more troublesome. So to be completely forthright, it is a lot simpler to make illegal exchanges utilizing fiat than utilizing crypto. How might you analyze the volume of illegal exchanges in crypto versus fiat? CZ:It's likely a thousand times less. Essentially, for any important measure of cash you need to move in the crypto, it is exceptionally difficult to move it namelessly. There are outsider checking devices and information bases that can coordinate a considerable lot of the addresses to known people. The digital currency market top is little to the point, that in the event that you are moving a $100 million dollars, you can't do as such without experiencing an incorporated trade, making it considerably simpler to follow. The cryptographic money space overall was begun by Satoshi Nakomoto as to some degree a campaign against the defilement of banks. Remarkably, the beginning square of Bitcoin contained a commentary tending to the bailouts of banks in 2008 and 2009 ["The Times 3 January 2009 - Chancellor on edge of second bailout for banks."] Is that ethos still alive in the digital currency space today, the drive to bring down the enormous person? CZ: I have even more a fair view here. Some in the crypto space are against banks, fiat, and so forth., while others think digital forms of money are utilized by drug masters. Those are two extraordinary perspectives. My view is that digital money offers opportunities - a further extent of opportunity in exchanges, ventures, property, reserve funds, and so on. We are simply offering another choice for clients who esteem that opportunity and control. I'm not against any bank or any single individual. I think crypto offers a higher opportunity of cash, and thusly we need to give more individuals admittance to crypto… If I don't care for the banks, I simply don't utilize them. Where do you feel the equalization lies between the legislature securing its residents as opposed to encouraging advancement? CZ: I accept governments ought to be public administrations. They ought to give streets and fire departments...Whenever there is government intercession, it is awful for the economy. At whatever point an administration encourages one gathering, it naturally harms another. The administration influences the parity of the economy giving assistance to a gathering that isn't sufficiently serious to remain alive. So at whatever point an administration rescues huge banks, or any business so far as that is concerned, they just appear as though they are making a difference. I have confidence in a free economy, and I buy into that way of thinking unequivocally. Much obliged to you for your understanding, CZ. More information about PrivateX: www.privatex.io PrivateX is a private wallet for sending, receiving, and storing your Bitcoin and Ethereum. If you are interested in services, contact us [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]) #moneylaundering#privatex#buybitcoin24#binance#huobiglobal#kraken#crypto#bitcoin#consulting24#buybitcoin#buybitcoinnow#blockchain#startacompanyinestonia#companyinestonia#estonia#cryptoexchanges#privatexcoin
The events of a SIM swap attack (and defense tips)
Posted this on Coinbase and someone recommend it also be posted here. The information below on an attempted SIM swap attack was pieced together through a combination of login and security logs, recovering emails initiated by the attacker that were deleted and then deleted again from the trash folder, and learning from AT&T’s fraud representatives. The majority if this is factual, and we do our best to note where we are speculating or providing a circumstantial suspicion. TLDRs at the bottom. The full story: We were going about our business and received a text from AT&T that says “…Calls & texts will go to your new phone/SIM card. Call 866-563-4705 if you did not request.” We did not request this, and were suspicious that the text itself could be a phishing scam since we searched the phone number and it wasn’t overtly associated with AT&T. Thus, we tried calling AT&T’s main line at 611 but all we hear is beep beep beep. The phone number is already gone. We use another phone to call AT&T and at the same time start working on our already compromised email. While we didn’t see everything real time, this is what the recovered emails show. In less than 2 minutes after receiving the text from AT&T, there is already an email indicating that the stolen phone number was used to sign into our email account associated with Coinbase. 2 minutes after that, there is an email from Coinbase saying: "We have received your request for password reset from an unverified device. As a security precaution, an e-mail with a reset link will be sent to you in 24 hours. Alternatively, if you would like your password reset to be processed immediately, please submit a request using a verified device. This 24 hour review period is designed to protect your Coinbase account." This is where Coinbase got it right to have a 24 hour review period (actually a recovery period) before allowing the password to be reset. However, the attackers knew this and planned to steal the second email from Coinbase by setting email rules to forward all emails to a burner address and also have any emails containing “coinbase” re-routed so they don’t appear in the Inbox. 5 minutes later, they request a password reset from Gemini and the password was reset to the attacker’s password within a minute after that. The next minute they target and reset DropBox’s password followed immediately with Binance. Less than 2 minutes later, an email from Binance indicates that the password has been reset and another email arrives a minute later indicating a new device has been authorized. It’s at this point that we begin locking the attacker out by (1) removing the phone number as 2FA (2) changing the email password, (3) and three forcing a logout of all sessions from the email. There was a bit of back and forth where they still had an active login and re-added the stolen phone number as 2FA. They added only one more password reset to a gaming account that was not deleted. I can only suspect that was a decoy to make it look like the attack was directed at gaming rather than finances. The Gemini and Binance accounts were empty and effectively abandoned, with no balances and inactive bank accounts (if any), and no transactions in 1-3 years. DropBox had no meaningful files (they probably look for private keys and authenticator backups) and the phone number they stole from us was suspended, so as far as the attacker is concerned, there is no meat on this bone to attack again… unless they had inside information. This is where I suspect someone internal at Coinbase receiving wire deposits has been compromised in tipping off ripe accounts – accounts with new and somewhat large balances. We had completed a full withdrawal of funds from Coinbase earlier in the year, and had a balance of less than $20 heading into May. Deposits to Coinbase staggered in to get above six figures through mid-May then stopped. The attack occurred 7 days after the last large wire deposit was made to Coinbase. From the perspective of an attacker that had no inside information, we were a dead end with abandoned Gemini and Binance accounts with zero balances and stale transactions, no DropBox information, and the suspended phone number access. Our Coinbase deposits were known to no one except us, Coinbase, and our bank. We were also able to stop the hacker’s email forwarding before Coinbase’s 24 hour period to send the password reset, so this one didn’t work out for the attackers and it would make sense for them to move on to the next rather than put efforts into a second attack only for Coinbase - for what would appear to be a zero-balance Coinbase account based on the other stale accounts. Then…23 hours and 42 minutes after the first attack, another message from AT&T “…Calls & texts will go to your new phone/SIM card. Call 866-563-4705 if you did not request.” Here we go again. We had been confident in AT&T’s assurances that our account had been locked and would not be SIM swapped again, so we unwisely added the phone number back to our email account as a backup (it’s now removed permanently and we use burner emails for account recovery like we should have all along). Upon seeing that our phone number had been stolen again I knew they were after the Coinbase reset email that was delayed by 24 hours from Coinbase as part of their security. We did 4 things within 2 minutes of that text: (1) removed the phone number again from the email account – this time for good, (2) market sell all Bitcoin on Coinbase, (3) withdraw from Coinbase, (4) have AT&T suspend service on the phone line. In speaking with AT&T, they were floored that our SIM would be transferred again in light of all the notes about fraud on the account and the PIN being changed to random digits that had never been used by us before. Based on the response of disbelief from AT&T on the second port, I suspect that this attack also involved a compromised AT&T employee that worked with the attacker to provide timely access to the Coinbase password reset email. Apparently, this has been going on for years: https://www.flashpoint-intel.com/blog/sim-swap-fraud-account-takeove with phone carrier employees swapping SIMs for $80s a swap. Remember that most of this was hidden in real time, and was only known because we were able to recover emails deleted from Trash by the attacker. Since we require any withdrawals to use Google Authenticator on Coinbase, our funds may have been secure nonetheless. However, under the circumstances with attackers that were apparently working with insiders to take our phone number twice in attempts to steal Bitcoin, and it being unknown if they had additional tools related to our Google Authenticator, we decided it was safer on the sidelines. The coins were held on the exchange for a quick exit depending on whether Bitcoin was going to break up or down from $10,000. A hardware wallet is always safest, but we were looking to time the market and not have transaction delays. For some some security recommendations: AT&T: If you are going to send a text saying that calls and texts are moving to a new number, provide a 10 minute window for the phone number to reply with a “NO” or “STOP” to prevent the move. This can escalate the SIM dispute to more trusted employees to determine who actually owns the line. Don’t let entry level employees swap SIMs. Coinbase: Do not default to phone numbers as 2FA. Also, if someone logs in successfully with the password before the 24 hours are up, the password is known and there is no need to send the password reset email again for attacker to have forwarded to them. At least have an option to stop the password reset email from being sent. We did not tag our account at Coinbase with fraud because of the stories of frozen funds once an account is tagged. I’m not sure what the solution is there, but that is another problem. Being a trader, it would be nice to think of Coinbase as any other type of security brokerage where your assets are yours (someone can’t steal your phone number and transfer your stocks to their account). We fell into that mindset of security, yet this experience has reminded us of the uniqueness of cryptocurrency and the lack of custodial assurance and insurance from exchanges because of the possession-is-everything properties of cryptocurrency. As many have said before, 2FA with a phone number quickly becomes 1-factor authentication as soon as that phone number is associated with password recovery on your email or other accounts. Our overall recommendation is to avoid having a phone number associated with any recovery options across all your accounts. TLDR on the process: Scammers will steal your phone number (in our case twice in 24 hours) and use your phone number to access your email and accounts. They will use your email to reset passwords at financial accounts and file hosting such as DropBox. They will then use that combination to transfer any assets they can access from your accounts to theirs. They will do their best to hide this from you by (1) not resetting your email password so as to raise suspicion, (2) immediately delete any password reset emails you may receive from financial accounts to hide them from you, (3) attempt to forward all emails sent to your address to a burner email, and (4) set email rules to forward emails containing “coinbase” to an email folder other than your Inbox so that you don’t see the transactions and password reset emails that arrive to your inbox. TLDR on defense tips: If your phone stops working or you receive a text of your number being ported do the following as soon as possible: (1) log into your email account(s) associated with your financial accounts and remove your phone number as 2FA immediately (2) change your email password, (3) force a logout of all sessions from your email (at this point you have locked them out), then (4) check your mail forwarding settings for forwards to burner addresses, (5) check your mail rules for rerouting of emails from accounts such as Coinbase, and (6) call your carrier to have them suspend service on your lost phone number and ask them to reinstate your SIM or get a new SIM. This will require a second phone because your personal phone number has been stolen. We hope this helps some others be safe out there in protecting their coins. The more we know, the more we can protect ourselves. Wishing you all the best!
The events of a SIM swap attack directed at Coinbase (and defense tips)
The information below on an attempted SIM swap attack was pieced together through a combination of login and security logs, recovering emails initiated by the attacker that were deleted and then deleted again from the trash folder, and learning from AT&T’s fraud representatives. The majority if this is factual, and we do our best to note where we are speculating or providing a circumstantial suspicion. TLDRs at the bottom. The full story: We were going about our business and received a text from AT&T that says “…Calls & texts will go to your new phone/SIM card. Call 866-563-4705 if you did not request.” We did not request this, and were suspicious that the text itself could be a phishing scam since we searched the phone number and it wasn’t overtly associated with AT&T. Thus, we tried calling AT&T’s main line at 611 but all we hear is beep beep beep. The phone number is already gone. We use another phone to call AT&T and at the same time start working on our already compromised email. While we didn’t see everything real time, this is what the recovered emails show. In less than 2 minutes after receiving the text from AT&T, there is already an email indicating that the stolen phone number was used to sign into our email account associated with Coinbase. 2 minutes after that, there is an email from Coinbase saying: "We have received your request for password reset from an unverified device. As a security precaution, an e-mail with a reset link will be sent to you in 24 hours. Alternatively, if you would like your password reset to be processed immediately, please submit a request using a verified device. This 24 hour review period is designed to protect your Coinbase account." This is where Coinbase got it right to have a 24 hour review period (actually a recovery period) before allowing the password to be reset. However, the attackers knew this and planned to steal the second email from Coinbase by setting email rules to forward all emails to a burner address and also have any emails containing “coinbase” re-routed so they don’t appear in the Inbox. 5 minutes later, they request a password reset from Gemini and the password was reset to the attacker’s password within a minute after that. The next minute they target and reset DropBox’s password followed immediately with Binance. Less than 2 minutes later, an email from Binance indicates that the password has been reset and another email arrives a minute later indicating a new device has been authorized. It’s at this point that we begin locking the attacker out by (1) removing the phone number as 2FA (2) changing the email password, (3) and three forcing a logout of all sessions from the email. There was a bit of back and forth where they still had an active login and re-added the stolen phone number as 2FA. They added only one more password reset to a gaming account that was not deleted. I can only suspect that was a decoy to make it look like the attack was directed at gaming rather than finances. The Gemini and Binance accounts were empty and effectively abandoned, with no balances and inactive bank accounts (if any), and no transactions in 1-3 years. DropBox had no meaningful files (they probably look for private keys and authenticator backups) and the phone number they stole from us was suspended, so as far as the attacker is concerned, there is no meat on this bone to attack again… unless they had inside information. This is where I suspect someone internal at Coinbase receiving wire deposits has been compromised in tipping off ripe accounts – accounts with new and somewhat large balances. We had completed a full withdrawal of funds from Coinbase earlier in the year, and had a balance of less than $20 heading into May. Deposits to Coinbase staggered in to get above six figures through mid-May then stopped. The attack occurred 7 days after the last large wire deposit was made to Coinbase. From the perspective of an attacker that had no inside information, we were a dead end with abandoned Gemini and Binance accounts with zero balances and stale transactions, no DropBox information, and the suspended phone number access. Our Coinbase deposits were known to no one except us, Coinbase, and our bank. We were also able to stop the hacker’s email forwarding before Coinbase’s 24 hour period to send the password reset, so this one didn’t work out for the attackers and it would make sense for them to move on to the next rather than put efforts into a second attack only for Coinbase - for what would appear to be a zero-balance Coinbase account based on the other stale accounts. Then…23 hours and 42 minutes after the first attack, another message from AT&T “…Calls & texts will go to your new phone/SIM card. Call 866-563-4705 if you did not request.” Here we go again. We had been confident in AT&T’s assurances that our account had been locked and would not be SIM swapped again, so we unwisely added the phone number back to our email account as a backup (it’s now removed permanently and we use burner emails for account recovery like we should have all along). Upon seeing that our phone number had been stolen again I knew they were after the Coinbase reset email that was delayed by 24 hours from Coinbase as part of their security. We did 4 things within 2 minutes of that text: (1) removed the phone number again from the email account – this time for good, (2) market sell all Bitcoin on Coinbase, (3) withdraw from Coinbase, (4) have AT&T suspend service on the phone line. In speaking with AT&T, they were floored that our SIM would be transferred again in light of all the notes about fraud on the account and the PIN being changed to random digits that had never been used by us before. Based on the response of disbelief from AT&T on the second port, I suspect that this attack also involved a compromised AT&T employee that worked with the attacker to provide timely access to the Coinbase password reset email. Apparently, this has been going on for years: https://www.flashpoint-intel.com/blog/sim-swap-fraud-account-takeove with phone carrier employees swapping SIMs for $80s a swap. Remember that most of this was hidden in real time, and was only known because we were able to recover emails deleted from Trash by the attacker. Since we require any withdrawals to use Google Authenticator on Coinbase, our funds may have been secure nonetheless. However, under the circumstances with attackers that were apparently working with insiders to take our phone number twice in attempts to steal Bitcoin, and it being unknown if they had additional tools related to our Google Authenticator, we decided it was safer on the sidelines. The coins were held on the exchange for a quick exit depending on whether Bitcoin was going to break up or down from $10,000. A hardware wallet is always safest, but we were looking to time the market and not have transaction delays. For some some security recommendations: AT&T: If you are going to send a text saying that calls and texts are moving to a new number, provide a 10 minute window for the phone number to reply with a “NO” or “STOP” to prevent the move. This can escalate the SIM dispute to more trusted employees to determine who actually owns the line. Don’t let entry level employees swap SIMs. Coinbase: Do not default to phone numbers as 2FA. Also, if someone logs in successfully with the password before the 24 hours are up, the password is known and there is no need to send the password reset email again for attacker to have forwarded to them. At least have an option to stop the password reset email from being sent. We did not tag our account at Coinbase with fraud because of the stories of frozen funds once an account is tagged. I’m not sure what the solution is there, but that is another problem. Being a trader, it would be nice to think of Coinbase as any other type of security brokerage where your assets are yours (someone can’t steal your phone number and transfer your stocks to their account). We fell into that mindset of security, yet this experience has reminded us of the uniqueness of cryptocurrency and the lack of custodial assurance and insurance from exchanges because of the possession-is-everything properties of cryptocurrency. As many have said before, 2FA with a phone number quickly becomes 1-factor authentication as soon as that phone number is associated with password recovery on your email or other accounts. Our overall recommendation is to avoid having a phone number associated with any recovery options across all your accounts. TLDR on the process: Scammers will steal your phone number (in our case twice in 24 hours) and use your phone number to access your email and accounts. They will use your email to reset passwords at financial accounts and file hosting such as DropBox. They will then use that combination to transfer any assets they can access from your accounts to theirs. They will do their best to hide this from you by (1) not resetting your email password so as to raise suspicion, (2) immediately delete any password reset emails you may receive from financial accounts to hide them from you, (3) attempt to forward all emails sent to your address to a burner email, and (4) set email rules to forward emails containing “coinbase” to an email folder other than your Inbox so that you don’t see the transactions and password reset emails that arrive to your inbox. TLDR on defense tips: If your phone stops working or you receive a text of your number being ported do the following as soon as possible: (1) log into your email account(s) associated with your financial accounts and remove your phone number as 2FA immediately (2) change your email password, (3) force a logout of all sessions from your email (at this point you have locked them out), then (4) check your mail forwarding settings for forwards to burner addresses, (5) check your mail rules for rerouting of emails from accounts such as Coinbase, and (6) call your carrier to have them suspend service on your lost phone number and ask them to reinstate your SIM or get a new SIM. This will require a second phone because your personal phone number has been stolen. We hope this helps some others be safe out there in protecting their coins. The more we know, the more we can protect ourselves. Wishing you all the best!
This is where you can find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. If you can't find what you are looking for then perhaps try browsing our WIKI, or one of our past AMA Recaps! The "most asked" questions are listed first. These will consistently change to reflect Kava's current landscape.
Relevant Questions (Timely)
When will Kava’s DeFi Lending Platform become available?
Kava’s DeFi Lending Platform will go live on June 10th (pending the approval of the current governance vote)
How/where can I access the new DeFi Lending features
The new features will be accessible via integrated wallet and exchange applications such as Cosmostation, Forbole, Trust Wallet, and Frontier.
When is the first Crypto Payday?
On July 15th, 74,000 KAVA tokens (95k USD as of Jul 2020) will be distributed amongst a pool of USDX minters.
How many “Crypto Paydays” will there be?
There will be a new Crypto Payday every wednesday for an entire calendar year - each Payday pool will be composed of that week's USDX minters.
What does the future hold for Kava's DeFi Lending Platform?
The next step will be to adopt new assets.
The governance group will vote for which asset Kava’s DeFi Lending Platform will support next.
Likely candidates are BTC, XRP, or ATOM.
How do I qualify for Crypto Payday?
Use Kava's DeFi Lending Platform to mint USDX.
Currently USDX can only be minted w/ BNB.
When are Crypto Paydays?
Staring July 15th, 2020
Ending July 16th, 2021
Where can I go to mint BNB?
The new features will be accessible via integrated wallet and exchange applications such as Cosmostation, Forbole, Trust Wallet, and Frontier.
Technical: A Brief History of Payment Channels: from Satoshi to Lightning Network
Who cares about political tweets from some random country's president when payment channels are a much more interesting and are actually capable of carrying value? So let's have a short history of various payment channel techs!
Generation 0: Satoshi's Broken nSequence Channels
Because Satoshi's Vision included payment channels, except his implementation sucked so hard we had to go fix it and added RBF as a by-product. Originally, the plan for nSequence was that mempools would replace any transaction spending certain inputs with another transaction spending the same inputs, but only if the nSequence field of the replacement was larger. Since 0xFFFFFFFF was the highest value that nSequence could get, this would mark a transaction as "final" and not replaceable on the mempool anymore. In fact, this "nSequence channel" I will describe is the reason why we have this weird rule about nLockTime and nSequence. nLockTime actually only works if nSequence is not 0xFFFFFFFF i.e. final. If nSequence is 0xFFFFFFFF then nLockTime is ignored, because this if the "final" version of the transaction. So what you'd do would be something like this:
You go to a bar and promise the bartender to pay by the time the bar closes. Because this is the Bitcoin universe, time is measured in blockheight, so the closing time of the bar is indicated as some future blockheight.
For your first drink, you'd make a transaction paying to the bartender for that drink, paying from some coins you have. The transaction has an nLockTime equal to the closing time of the bar, and a starting nSequence of 0. You hand over the transaction and the bartender hands you your drink.
For your succeeding drink, you'd remake the same transaction, adding the payment for that drink to the transaction output that goes to the bartender (so that output keeps getting larger, by the amount of payment), and having an nSequence that is one higher than the previous one.
Eventually you have to stop drinking. It comes down to one of two possibilities:
You drink until the bar closes. Since it is now the nLockTime indicated in the transaction, the bartender is able to broadcast the latest transaction and tells the bouncers to kick you out of the bar.
You wisely consider the state of your liver. So you re-sign the last transaction with a "final" nSequence of 0xFFFFFFFF i.e. the maximum possible value it can have. This allows the bartender to get his or her funds immediately (nLockTime is ignored if nSequence is 0xFFFFFFFF), so he or she tells the bouncers to let you out of the bar.
Now that of course is a payment channel. Individual payments (purchases of alcohol, so I guess buying coffee is not in scope for payment channels). Closing is done by creating a "final" transaction that is the sum of the individual payments. Sure there's no routing and channels are unidirectional and channels have a maximum lifetime but give Satoshi a break, he was also busy inventing Bitcoin at the time. Now if you noticed I called this kind of payment channel "broken". This is because the mempool rules are not consensus rules, and cannot be validated (nothing about the mempool can be validated onchain: I sigh every time somebody proposes "let's make block size dependent on mempool size", mempool state cannot be validated by onchain data). Fullnodes can't see all of the transactions you signed, and then validate that the final one with the maximum nSequence is the one that actually is used onchain. So you can do the below:
Become friends with Jihan Wu, because he owns >51% of the mining hashrate (he totally reorged Bitcoin to reverse the Binance hack right?).
Slip Jihan Wu some of the more interesting drinks you're ordering as an incentive to cooperate with you. So say you end up ordering 100 drinks, you split it with Jihan Wu and give him 50 of the drinks.
When the bar closes, Jihan Wu quickly calls his mining rig and tells them to mine the version of your transaction with nSequence 0. You know, that first one where you pay for only one drink.
Because fullnodes cannot validate nSequence, they'll accept even the nSequence=0 version and confirm it, immutably adding you paying for a single alcoholic drink to the blockchain.
The bartender, pissed at being cheated, takes out a shotgun from under the bar and shoots at you and Jihan Wu.
Jihan Wu uses his mystical chi powers (actually the combined exhaust from all of his mining rigs) to slow down the shotgun pellets, making them hit you as softly as petals drifting in the wind.
The bartender mutters some words, clothes ripping apart as he or she (hard to believe it could be a she but hey) turns into a bear, ready to maul you for cheating him or her of the payment for all the 100 drinks you ordered from him or her.
Steely-eyed, you stand in front of the bartender-turned-bear, daring him to touch you. You've watched Revenant, you know Leonardo di Caprio could survive a bear mauling, and if some posh actor can survive that, you know you can too. You make a pose. "Drunken troll logic attack!"
I think I got sidetracked here.
Bears are bad news.
You can't reasonably invoke "Satoshi's Vision" and simultaneously reject the Lightning Network because it's not onchain. Satoshi's Vision included a half-assed implementation of payment channels with nSequence, where the onchain transaction represented multiple logical payments, exactly what modern offchain techniques do (except modern offchain techniques actually work). nSequence (the field, but not its modern meaning) has been in Bitcoin since BitCoin For Windows Alpha 0.1.0. And its original intent was payment channels. You can't get nearer to Satoshi's Vision than being a field that Satoshi personally added to transactions on the very first public release of the BitCoin software, like srsly.
Miners can totally bypass mempool rules. In fact, the reason why nSequence has been repurposed to indicate "optional" replace-by-fee is because miners are already incentivized by the nSequence system to always follow replace-by-fee anyway. I mean, what do you think those drinks you passed to Jihan Wu are, other than the fee you pay him to mine a specific version of your transaction?
Satoshi made mistakes. The original design for nSequence is one of them. Today, we no longer use nSequence in this way. So diverging from Satoshi's original design is part and parcel of Bitcoin development, because over time, we learn new lessons that Satoshi never knew about. Satoshi was an important landmark in this technology. He will not be the last, or most important, that we will remember in the future: he will only be the first.
Incentive-compatible time-limited unidirectional channel; or, Satoshi's Vision, Fixed (if transaction malleability hadn't been a problem, that is). Now, we know the bartender will turn into a bear and maul you if you try to cheat the payment channel, and now that we've revealed you're good friends with Jihan Wu, the bartender will no longer accept a payment channel scheme that lets one you cooperate with a miner to cheat the bartender. Fortunately, Jeremy Spilman proposed a better way that would not let you cheat the bartender. First, you and the bartender perform this ritual:
You get some funds and create a transaction that pays to a 2-of-2 multisig between you and the bartender. You don't broadcast this yet: you just sign it and get its txid.
You create another transaction that spends the above transaction. This transaction (the "backoff") has an nLockTime equal to the closing time of the bar, plus one block. You sign it and give this backoff transaction (but not the above transaction) to the bartender.
The bartender signs the backoff and gives it back to you. It is now valid since it's spending a 2-of-2 of you and the bartender, and both of you have signed the backoff transaction.
Now you broadcast the first transaction onchain. You and the bartender wait for it to be deeply confirmed, then you can start ordering.
The above is probably vaguely familiar to LN users. It's the funding process of payment channels! The first transaction, the one that pays to a 2-of-2 multisig, is the funding transaction that backs the payment channel funds. So now you start ordering in this way:
For your first drink, you create a transaction spending the funding transaction output and sending the price of the drink to the bartender, with the rest returning to you.
You sign the transaction and pass it to the bartender, who serves your first drink.
For your succeeding drinks, you recreate the same transaction, adding the price of the new drink to the sum that goes to the bartender and reducing the money returned to you. You sign the transaction and give it to the bartender, who serves you your next drink.
At the end:
If the bar closing time is reached, the bartender signs the latest transaction, completing the needed 2-of-2 signatures and broadcasting this to the Bitcoin network. Since the backoff transaction is the closing time + 1, it can't get used at closing time.
If you decide you want to leave early because your liver is crying, you just tell the bartender to go ahead and close the channel (which the bartender can do at any time by just signing and broadcasting the latest transaction: the bartender won't do that because he or she is hoping you'll stay and drink more).
If you ended up just hanging around the bar and never ordering, then at closing time + 1 you broadcast the backoff transaction and get your funds back in full.
Now, even if you pass 50 drinks to Jihan Wu, you can't give him the first transaction (the one which pays for only one drink) and ask him to mine it: it's spending a 2-of-2 and the copy you have only contains your own signature. You need the bartender's signature to make it valid, but he or she sure as hell isn't going to cooperate in something that would lose him or her money, so a signature from the bartender validating old state where he or she gets paid less isn't going to happen. So, problem solved, right? Right? Okay, let's try it. So you get your funds, put them in a funding tx, get the backoff tx, confirm the funding tx... Once the funding transaction confirms deeply, the bartender laughs uproariously. He or she summons the bouncers, who surround you menacingly. "I'm refusing service to you," the bartender says. "Fine," you say. "I was leaving anyway;" You smirk. "I'll get back my money with the backoff transaction, and posting about your poor service on reddit so you get negative karma, so there!" "Not so fast," the bartender says. His or her voice chills your bones. It looks like your exploitation of the Satoshi nSequence payment channel is still fresh in his or her mind. "Look at the txid of the funding transaction that got confirmed." "What about it?" you ask nonchalantly, as you flip open your desktop computer and open a reputable blockchain explorer. What you see shocks you. "What the --- the txid is different! You--- you changed my signature?? But how? I put the only copy of my private key in a sealed envelope in a cast-iron box inside a safe buried in the Gobi desert protected by a clan of nomads who have dedicated their lives and their childrens' lives to keeping my private key safe in perpetuity!" "Didn't you know?" the bartender asks. "The components of the signature are just very large numbers. The sign of one of the signature components can be changed, from positive to negative, or negative to positive, and the signature will remain valid. Anyone can do that, even if they don't know the private key. But because Bitcoin includes the signatures in the transaction when it's generating the txid, this little change also changes the txid." He or she chuckles. "They say they'll fix it by separating the signatures from the transaction body. They're saying that these kinds of signature malleability won't affect transaction ids anymore after they do this, but I bet I can get my good friend Jihan Wu to delay this 'SepSig' plan for a good while yet. Friendly guy, this Jihan Wu, it turns out all I had to do was slip him 51 drinks and he was willing to mine a tx with the signature signs flipped." His or her grin widens. "I'm afraid your backoff transaction won't work anymore, since it spends a txid that is not existent and will never be confirmed. So here's the deal. You pay me 99% of the funds in the funding transaction, in exchange for me signing the transaction that spends with the txid that you see onchain. Refuse, and you lose 100% of the funds and every other HODLer, including me, benefits from the reduction in coin supply. Accept, and you get to keep 1%. I lose nothing if you refuse, so I won't care if you do, but consider the difference of getting zilch vs. getting 1% of your funds." His or her eyes glow. "GENUFLECT RIGHT NOW." Lesson learned?
Payback's a bitch.
Transaction malleability is a bitchier bitch. It's why we needed to fix the bug in SegWit. Sure, MtGox claimed they were attacked this way because someone kept messing with their transaction signatures and thus they lost track of where their funds went, but really, the bigger impetus for fixing transaction malleability was to support payment channels.
Yes, including the signatures in the hash that ultimately defines the txid was a mistake. Satoshi made a lot of those. So we're just reiterating the lesson "Satoshi was not an infinite being of infinite wisdom" here. Satoshi just gets a pass because of how awesome Bitcoin is.
CLTV-protected Spilman Channels
Using CLTV for the backoff branch. This variation is simply Spilman channels, but with the backoff transaction replaced with a backoff branch in the SCRIPT you pay to. It only became possible after OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY (CLTV) was enabled in 2015. Now as we saw in the Spilman Channels discussion, transaction malleability means that any pre-signed offchain transaction can easily be invalidated by flipping the sign of the signature of the funding transaction while the funding transaction is not yet confirmed. This can be avoided by simply putting any special requirements into an explicit branch of the Bitcoin SCRIPT. Now, the backoff branch is supposed to create a maximum lifetime for the payment channel, and prior to the introduction of OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY this could only be done by having a pre-signed nLockTime transaction. With CLTV, however, we can now make the branches explicit in the SCRIPT that the funding transaction pays to. Instead of paying to a 2-of-2 in order to set up the funding transaction, you pay to a SCRIPT which is basically "2-of-2, OR this singlesig after a specified lock time". With this, there is no backoff transaction that is pre-signed and which refers to a specific txid. Instead, you can create the backoff transaction later, using whatever txid the funding transaction ends up being confirmed under. Since the funding transaction is immutable once confirmed, it is no longer possible to change the txid afterwards.
Todd Micropayment Networks
The old hub-spoke model (that isn't how LN today actually works). One of the more direct predecessors of the Lightning Network was the hub-spoke model discussed by Peter Todd. In this model, instead of payers directly having channels to payees, payers and payees connect to a central hub server. This allows any payer to pay any payee, using the same channel for every payee on the hub. Similarly, this allows any payee to receive from any payer, using the same channel. Remember from the above Spilman example? When you open a channel to the bartender, you have to wait around for the funding tx to confirm. This will take an hour at best. Now consider that you have to make channels for everyone you want to pay to. That's not very scalable. So the Todd hub-spoke model has a central "clearing house" that transport money from payers to payees. The "Moonbeam" project takes this model. Of course, this reveals to the hub who the payer and payee are, and thus the hub can potentially censor transactions. Generally, though, it was considered that a hub would more efficiently censor by just not maintaining a channel with the payer or payee that it wants to censor (since the money it owned in the channel would just be locked uselessly if the hub won't process payments to/from the censored user). In any case, the ability of the central hub to monitor payments means that it can surveill the payer and payee, and then sell this private transactional data to third parties. This loss of privacy would be intolerable today. Peter Todd also proposed that there might be multiple hubs that could transport funds to each other on behalf of their users, providing somewhat better privacy. Another point of note is that at the time such networks were proposed, only unidirectional (Spilman) channels were available. Thus, while one could be a payer, or payee, you would have to use separate channels for your income versus for your spending. Worse, if you wanted to transfer money from your income channel to your spending channel, you had to close both and reshuffle the money between them, both onchain activities.
Poon-Dryja Lightning Network
Bidirectional two-participant channels. The Poon-Dryja channel mechanism has two important properties:
No time limit.
Both the original Satoshi and the two Spilman variants are unidirectional: there is a payer and a payee, and if the payee wants to do a refund, or wants to pay for a different service or product the payer is providing, then they can't use the same unidirectional channel. The Poon-Dryjam mechanism allows channels, however, to be bidirectional instead: you are not a payer or a payee on the channel, you can receive or send at any time as long as both you and the channel counterparty are online. Further, unlike either of the Spilman variants, there is no time limit for the lifetime of a channel. Instead, you can keep the channel open for as long as you want. Both properties, together, form a very powerful scaling property that I believe most people have not appreciated. With unidirectional channels, as mentioned before, if you both earn and spend over the same network of payment channels, you would have separate channels for earning and spending. You would then need to perform onchain operations to "reverse" the directions of your channels periodically. Secondly, since Spilman channels have a fixed lifetime, even if you never used either channel, you would have to periodically "refresh" it by closing it and reopening. With bidirectional, indefinite-lifetime channels, you may instead open some channels when you first begin managing your own money, then close them only after your lawyers have executed your last will and testament on how the money in your channels get divided up to your heirs: that's just two onchain transactions in your entire lifetime. That is the potentially very powerful scaling property that bidirectional, indefinite-lifetime channels allow. I won't discuss the transaction structure needed for Poon-Dryja bidirectional channels --- it's complicated and you can easily get explanations with cute graphics elsewhere. There is a weakness of Poon-Dryja that people tend to gloss over (because it was fixed very well by RustyReddit):
You have to store all the revocation keys of a channel. This implies you are storing 1 revocation key for every channel update, so if you perform millions of updates over your entire lifetime, you'd be storing several megabytes of keys, for only a single channel. RustyReddit fixed this by requiring that the revocation keys be generated from a "Seed" revocation key, and every key is just the application of SHA256 on that key, repeatedly. For example, suppose I tell you that my first revocation key is SHA256(SHA256(seed)). You can store that in O(1) space. Then for the next revocation, I tell you SHA256(seed). From SHA256(key), you yourself can compute SHA256(SHA256(seed)) (i.e. the previous revocation key). So you can remember just the most recent revocation key, and from there you'd be able to compute every previous revocation key. When you start a channel, you perform SHA256 on your seed for several million times, then use the result as the first revocation key, removing one layer of SHA256 for every revocation key you need to generate. RustyReddit not only came up with this, but also suggested an efficient O(log n) storage structure, the shachain, so that you can quickly look up any revocation key in the past in case of a breach. People no longer really talk about this O(n) revocation storage problem anymore because it was solved very very well by this mechanism.
Another thing I want to emphasize is that while the Lightning Network paper and many of the earlier presentations developed from the old Peter Todd hub-and-spoke model, the modern Lightning Network takes the logical conclusion of removing a strict separation between "hubs" and "spokes". Any node on the Lightning Network can very well work as a hub for any other node. Thus, while you might operate as "mostly a payer", "mostly a forwarding node", "mostly a payee", you still end up being at least partially a forwarding node ("hub") on the network, at least part of the time. This greatly reduces the problems of privacy inherent in having only a few hub nodes: forwarding nodes cannot get significantly useful data from the payments passing through them, because the distance between the payer and the payee can be so large that it would be likely that the ultimate payer and the ultimate payee could be anyone on the Lightning Network. Lessons learned?
We can decentralize if we try hard enough!
"Hubs bad" can be made "hubs good" if everybody is a hub.
Smart people can solve problems. It's kinda why they're smart.
After LN, there's also the Decker-Wattenhofer Duplex Micropayment Channels (DMC). This post is long enough as-is, LOL. But for now, it uses a novel "decrementing nSequence channel", using the new relative-timelock semantics of nSequence (not the broken one originally by Satoshi). It actually uses multiple such "decrementing nSequence" constructs, terminating in a pair of Spilman channels, one in both directions (thus "duplex"). Maybe I'll discuss it some other time. The realization that channel constructions could actually hold more channel constructions inside them (the way the Decker-Wattenhofer puts a pair of Spilman channels inside a series of "decrementing nSequence channels") lead to the further thought behind Burchert-Decker-Wattenhofer channel factories. Basically, you could host multiple two-participant channel constructs inside a larger multiparticipant "channel" construct (i.e. host multiple channels inside a factory). Further, we have the Decker-Russell-Osuntokun or "eltoo" construction. I'd argue that this is "nSequence done right". I'll write more about this later, because this post is long enough. Lessons learned?
Bitcoin offchain scaling is more powerful than you ever thought.
A HISTORY OF HUOBI Huobi was founded in 2013 by their current CEO and chairman, Leon Li. Li’s background includes having attended Tshingua University, specializing in Automation. Before starting the Huobi Group, Li spent time as a computer engineer at Oracle. In December of 2013, Huobi was named as the largest digital asset exchange operating in China. 2017 saw Huobi extend their limbs into Korea, Singapore, and Japan. Currently, Huobi has headquarters of various financial sectors based in: Singapore; South Korea; Japan; Australia; Indonesia; Russia; Argentina; Thailand; and China. The company has strived to give customers not only a great exchange, but a great resource for any service one may need. Despite the many difficulties faced with Chinese government in regards to cryptocurrency laws, Huobi has managed to adapt to the changes and thrive globally, eventually branching off into various sectors including venture capital, a cryptocurrency wallet project, and a division dedicated to working with mining pools. HUOBI'S PLATFORM spot trading : Huobi offers several different platforms to serve any customer’s needs. For starters, Huobi offers a standard spot trading platform that operates similarly to many other spot trading platforms in the industry. The platform features a multi-timeframe chart, a depth chart, and integration with TradingView (including their tools). Customers are able to view the order book and the asset trading history, as well as their own personal order history. Limit orders, Market orders, and Stop-Limit orders are all available options for traders. margin trading : For the trader that prefers to trade with a little more volume or risk, Huobi offers a Margin trading platform. Customers can apply for loans through Huobi to trade a greater quantity of cryptocurrencies and profit from the price spread. The original loan must be paid back, and accounts can be liquidated if the risk ratio falls below 110% (calculated as: [(Loaned Amount + Tradable Balance) Total Asset] / [(Interest Payable + Loaned Amount)] x 100%.) Traders can margin trade with Bitcoin; Ethereum; XRP; Litecoin; Bitcoin Cash; and EOS. These assets can be traded with USDT or BTC. futures trading : Huobi also offers a Futures trading platform. While margin trading can be risky, trading contracts is said to be very high-risk. With that being said, Huobi offers Weekly, Bi-Weekly, and Quarterly contracts in Bitcoin; Ethereum Classic; Ethereum; EOS; Litecoin; Bitcoin Cash; XRP; TRX; and Bitcoin SV. OTC(P2P) - The OTC, or over-the-counter, section of Huobi offers potential buyers and sellers a way to move large quantities of coins without exposure to the fickle exchange market. Certified merchants can register here, and slippage can be minimized by matching buyers and sellers directly instead of creating market orders. HUOBI APPS While you do have the online trading interface, Huobi does have computer programs and mobile apps that you can use. I found that the PC programmes were more functional as they did not have to rely on the PC browser and were hence much faster. They also have better charting and you are in more control of your trading parameters. These programs are available on Windows and Mac devices. However, if you are a trader that is always on the go, that is where the Huobi mobile apps come in. These were developed for the main exchange but you can switch to the derivative markets on the futures and swaps platform. This was a pretty well designed application and you have one-touch ordering as well as some basic charting functionality. The app is available in iOS and Android and you can head on over to the respective app stores to get a sense of the feedback. EXCHANGE SECURITY Huobi operates a hot and cold wallet storage procedure. This means that they keep the vast amount of their coin holdings in an offline environment away from hackers. They then have a smaller percentage in “hot” wallets with multisig capability. They also operate a decentralized server structure around the world which can ensure uptime irrespective of whether one of the servers goes down. You can think of this as effective load balancing. Finally, they have anti DDoS measures in place. We all know that crypto exchanges are prime targets for Denial of Service attacks and it can be quite frustrating when these are perpetrated in peak market times. IS HUOBI TRUSTWORTHY? Huobi, like many exchanges in the space, has had, at one time, some shady history, but for the most part, has managed to maintain a clean reputation. Historically, Chinese exchanges have shown to operate in accordance with different standards, with many exchanges having to suffer at the will and whim of the Chinese government. Some of the controversy Huobi has seen in the past has been a result of this (particularly with the Chinese ban on ICO tokens). It should be noted that in 2017, the exchange did invest into “wealth-management products” using idle customer funds. This sort of activity shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, with that being said, the exchange continues to turn over a large amount of volume. For the most part, the exchange can be considered a trustworthy platform to trade popular and exotic cryptocurrencies. This does not mean it is entirely safe to store user funds on the exchange, as the exchange (or the user funds) can be susceptible to risk at any given moment. No matter how comfortable one may be with the internet, one should always remember that the internet is not as safe as many would like to believe. Huobi does have measures in place in the unfortunate event that an account is breached, and if verifiable, the customer may be able to retrieve lost funds. A unique feature offered on Huobi is their Official Media Authenticator. This essentially lets users enter the URL of a content channel to see if the channel is authentic. A feature like this, while seemingly simple, could save anyone from potentially losing their funds due to a scam or phishing website. HUOBI REVIEW VERDICT Huobi Global offers a signficant host of features to its users and has maintained its credibility over a long period of time. This is largely one of the main reasons it a ranked as a top 4 exchange by liquidity as its users trust their funds there. After establishing itself in Asia, Huobi is trying to branch out and take on other areas of the globe which is great news for Western traders. Additionally, the Huobi prime platform could provide some great opportunities for the exchange users moving forward. Huobi Website: https://www.huobi.com/topic/invited/?invite_code=q7g23 Huobi Indian Community: https://t.me/huobiglobalindia Huobi Global Community: https://t.me/huobiglobalofficial
What is Quant Networks Blockchain Operating System, Overledger? And why are Enterprises adopting it at mass scale?
Overledger is the world’s first blockchain operating system (OS) that not only inter-connects blockchains but also existing enterprise platforms, applications and networks to blockchain and facilitates the creation of internet scale multi-chain applications otherwise known as mApps. In less than 10 months since launching Overledger they have provided interoperability with the full range of DLT technologies from all the leading Enterprise Permissioned blockchains such as Hyperledger, R3’s Corda, JP Morgan’s Quorum, permissioned variants of Ethereum and Ripple (XRPL) as well as the leading Public Permissionless blockchains / DAGs such as Bitcoin, Stellar, Ethereum, IOTA and EOS as well as the most recent blockchain to get added Binance Chain. In addition, Overledger also connects to Existing Networks / Off Chain / Oracle functionality and it does all of this in a way that is hugely scalable, without imposing restrictions / requiring blockchains to fork their code and can easily integrate into existing applications / networks by just adding 3 lines of code. https://preview.redd.it/3t3z6hkbxel31.png?width=1920&format=png&auto=webp&s=ac989c2752c726e10d2291eb271721ceaa332a30
What is a blockchain Operating system?
You will be familiar with Operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS, Google’s Android etc but these are all Hardware based Operating Systems. Hardware based Operating Systems provide a platform to build and use applications that abstracts all of the complexities involved with integrating with all the hardware resources such as CPU, Memory, Storage, Mouse, Keyboard, Video etc so software can easily integrate with it. It provides interoperability between the Hardware devices and Software. Overledger is a Blockchain Operating System, it provides a platform to build and use applications that abstracts all of the complexities involved with integrating with all the different blockchains, different OP_Codes being used, messaging formats etc as well as connecting to existing non-blockchain networks. It provides interoperability between Blockchains, Existing Networks and Software / MAPPs
How is Overledger different to other interoperability projects?
Other projects are trying to achieve interoperability by adding another blockchain on top of existing blockchains. This adds a lot of overhead, complexity, and technical risk. There are a few variants but essentially they either need to create custom connectors for each connected blockchain and / or require connected chains to fork their code to enable interoperability. An example of the process can be seen below: User sends transaction to a multi sig contract on Blockchain A, wait for consensus to be reached on Blockchain A A custom connector consisting of Off Chain Relay Nodes are monitoring transactions sent to the smart contract on Blockchain A. Once they see the transaction, they then sign a transaction on the Interoperability blockchain as proof the event has happened on Blockchain A. Wait for consensus to be reached on the Interoperability Blockchain. The DAPP running on the Interoperability Blockchain is then updated with the info about the transaction occurring on Blockchain A and then signs a transaction on the Interoperability blockchain to a multi sig contract on the Interoperability Blockchain. Wait for consensus to be reached on the interoperability Blockchain. A different custom connector consisting of Off Chain Relay Nodes are monitoring transactions sent to the Smart Contract on the Interoperability Blockchain which are destined for Blockchain B. Once they see the transaction, they sign a transaction on Blockchain B. Wait for consensus to be reached on Blockchain B. https://preview.redd.it/xew1eu1exel31.png?width=1558&format=png&auto=webp&s=df960ded46d40fc9bf0ae8b54ff3b3b86276708a Other solutions require every connecting blockchain to fork their code and implement their Interoperability protocol. This means the same type of connector can be used instead of a custom one for every blockchain however every connected blockchain has to fork their code to implement the protocol. This enforces a lot of restrictions on what the connected blockchains can implement going forward. https://preview.redd.it/pe166qyexel31.png?width=1561&format=png&auto=webp&s=d4c982089276e64cd909537c9ce744b59e168b6d Some problems with these methods:
They add a lot of Overhead / Latency. Rather than just having the consensus of Blockchain A and B, you add the consensus mechanism of the Interoperability Blockchain as well.
Decentralisation / transaction security is reduced. If Blockchain A and Blockchain B each have 1,000 nodes validating transactions, yet the Interoperability Blockchain only has 100 nodes then you have reduced the security of the transaction from being validated by 1000 to validated by 100.
Security of the Interoperability Blockchain must be greater than the sum of all transactions going through it. JP Morgan transfer $6 Trillion every day, if they move that onto blockchain and need interoperability between two Permissioned blockchains that have to connect via a public Interoperability blockchain, then it would always have to be more costly to attack the blockchain than the value from stealing the funds transacted through the blockchain.
Imposes a lot of limitations on connected blockchains to fork their code which may mean they have to drop some existing functionality as well as prevent them from adding certain features in the future.
Creates a single point of failure — If the Interoperability blockchain or connector has an issue then this affects each connected blockchain.
It doesn’t scale and acts as a bottleneck. Not only does building complex custom connectors not scale but the Interoperability blockchain that they are forcing all transactions to go through has to be faster than the combined throughput of connected blockchains. These Interoperability blockchains have limited tps, with the most being around 200 and is a trade off between performance and decentralisation.
But some Interoperability blockchains say they are infinitely scalable?
If the interoperability blockchain is limited to say 200 tps then the idea is to just have multiple instances of the blockchain and run them in parallel, so you benefit from the aggregated tps, but just how feasible is that? Lets say you want to connect Corda (capable of 2000+ tps) to Hyperledger (capable of up to 20,000 tps with recent upgrade). (Permissioned blockchains such as Hyperledger and Corda aren’t one big blockchain like say Bitcoin or Ethereum, they have separate instances for each consortium and each is capable of those speeds). So even when you have just 1 DAPP from one consortium that wants to connect Corda to Hyperledger and use 2000 tps for their DAPP, you would need 100 instances of the Interoperability blockchain, each with their own validators (which maybe 100–200 nodes each). So, 1 DAPP would need to cover the costs for 100 instances of the blockchain and running costs for 10,000 nodes…This is just one DAPP connected to one instance of a two permissioned blockchains, which are still in the early stages. Other blockchains such as Red Belly Blockchain can achieve 440,000 tps, and this will surely increase as the technology matures. There is also the added complexity of then aggregating the results / co-coordinating between the different instances of the blockchain. Then there are the environmental concerns, the power required for all of these instances / nodes is not sustainable. https://preview.redd.it/yz2wvnhgxel31.png?width=1070&format=png&auto=webp&s=e6cb66e362b18e9924245a6a99e0eac4c9083308 It’s not just transactions per second of the blockchain as well, its the latency of all these added consensuses along the path to reach to the destination and not knowing whether the security of each of the hops is sufficient and can be trusted. To see examples of how this potential issue as well as others effect Cosmos you can see my article here. I recommend also reading a blog done by the CEO of Quant, Gilbert Verdian, which explains how Overledger differs here as well as detailed in the whitepaper here. https://preview.redd.it/2cwj4k7hxel31.png?width=1169&format=png&auto=webp&s=d6fc49086f944089cef7ffa1dfc9d284107ad2e3
In 1973 Vint Cerf invented the protocol that rules them all: TCP/IP. Most people have never heard of it. But it describes the fundamental architecture of the internet, and it made possible Wi-Fi, Ethernet, LANs, the World Wide Web, e-mail, FTP, 3G/4G — as well as all of the inventions built upon those inventions.
Wired: So from the beginning, people, including yourself, had a vision of where the internet was going to go. Are you surprised, though, that at this point the IP protocol seems to beat almost anything it comes up against?Cerf: I’m not surprised at all because we designed it to do that.This was very conscious. Something we did right at the very beginning, when we were writing the specifications, we wanted to make this a future-proof protocol. And so the tactic that we used to achieve that was to say that the protocol did not know how — the packets of the internet protocol layer didn’t know how they were being carried. And they didn’t care whether it was a satellite link or mobile radio link or an optical fiber or something else.We were very, very careful to isolate that protocol layer from any detailed knowledge of how it was being carried. Plainly, the software had to know how to inject it into a radio link, or inject it into an optical fiber, or inject it into a satellite connection. But the basic protocol didn’t know how that worked.And the other thing that we did was to make sure that the network didn’t know what the packets had in them. We didn’t encrypt them to prevent it from knowing — we just didn’t make it have to know anything. It’s just a bag of bits as far as the net was concerned.We were very successful in these two design features, because every time a new kind of communications technology came along, like frame relay or asynchronous transfer mode or passive optical networking or mobile radio‚ all of these different ways of communicating could carry internet packets.We would hear people saying, ‘The internet will be replaced by X25,’ or ‘The internet will be replaced by frame relay,’ or ‘The internet will be replaced by APM,’ or ‘The internet will be replaced by add-and-drop multiplexers.’Of course, the answer is, ‘No, it won’t.’ It just runs on top of everything. And that was by design. I’m actually very proud of the fact that we thought of that and carefully designed that capability into the system.
This is the approach Quant have taken with their Blockchain OS, Overledger to solve Blockchain interoperability. Compared to other Interoperability platforms that are trying to achieve interoperability at the transaction layer by connecting two blockchains via another blockchain, these will be ultimately be made redundant once faster methods are released. Overledger is designed to be future proof by isolating the layers so it doesn’t matter whether it’s a permissioned blockchain, permissionless, DAG, Legacy network, POW, POS etc because it abstracts the transaction layer from the messaging layer and runs on top of blockchains. Just as the Internet wasn’t replaced by X25, frame relay, APM etc, Overledger is designed to be future proof as it just runs on top of the Blockchains rather than being a blockchain itself. So, if a new blockchain technology comes out that is capable of 100,000 TPS then it can easily be integrated as Overledger just runs on top of it. Likewise, with protocols such as HTTPS, SSH etc these will also emerge for blockchains such as ZK-Snarks and other privacy implementations as well as other features made available, all will be compatible with Overledger as its just sitting on top rather than forcing their own implementation for all. It doesn’t require blockchains to fork their code to make it compatible, it doesn’t add the overhead of adding another blockchain with another consensus mechanism (most likely multiple as it has to go through many hops). All of this adds a lot of latency and restrictions which isn’t needed. The developer can just choose which blockchains they want to connect and use the consensus mechanisms of those blockchains rather than forced to use one. Overledger can provide truly internet scale to meet whatever the demands may be, whether that be connecting multiple red belly blockchains together with 440,000 tps it doesn’t matter as it doesn’t add its consensus mechanism and uses proven internet scale technology such as that based on Kubernetes, which is where each task is split up into a self-contained container and each task is scaled out by deploying more to meet demand. Kubernetes is what runs Google Search engine where they scale up and down billions of containers every week. Due to this being more of a summary, I strongly recommend you read this article which goes into detail about the different layers in Overledger. https://preview.redd.it/1lpt98cixel31.png?width=1126&format=png&auto=webp&s=3928cf66cfe25bfce7dc84be7b6db670ac952ccf
But how does it provide the security of a blockchain if it doesn’t add its own blockchain?
This is often misunderstood by people. Overledger is not a blockchain however it still uses a blockchain for security, immutability, traceability etc, just rather than force people to use their own blockchain, it utilises the source and destination blockchains instead. The key thing to understand is the use of its patented technology TrustTag, which was made freely available to anyone with the Overledger SDK. Please see this article which explains TrustTag in detail with examples showing how hashing / digital signatures work etc A quick overview is if i want to send data from one blockchain to another the Overledger SDK using Trusttag will put the data through a hashing algorithm. The Hash is then included in digital signature as part of the transaction which is signed by the user’s private key and then validated through normal consensus and stored as metadata on the source blockchain. The message is then sent to the MAPP off chain. The MAPP periodically scans the blockchains and puts the received message through a hashing algorithm and compares the Hash to the one stored as metadata on the blockchain. This ensures that the message hasn’t been modified in transit, the message is encrypted and only the Hash is stored on chain so completely private, provides immutability as it was signed by the user’s private key which only they have and is stored on the blockchain for high availability and secure so that it can’t be modified, with the ability to refer back to it at any point in time. Despite Overledger being a very secure platform, with the team having a very strong security background such as Gilbert who was chief security information officer for Vocalink (Bank of England) managing £6 trillion of payments every year and classified as national critical security (highest level you can get), ultimately you don’t need to trust Overledger. Transactions are signed and encrypted at client side, so Overledger has no way of being able to see the contents. It can’t modify any transaction as the digital signature which includes a hash of the transaction would be different so would get rejected. Transaction security isn’t reduced as it is signed at source using however many nodes the source blockchain has rather than a smaller amount of nodes with an interoperability blockchain in the middle.
Multi Chain Applications (MAPPs)
What Overledger will allow with Treaty contracts is to use popular programming languages such as Java and create a smart contract in Overledger that interacts with all of the connected blockchains. Even providing Smart contract functionality to blockchains that don’t support them such as Bitcoin. This means that developers don’t have to create all the smart contracts on each blockchain in all the different programming languages but instead just create them in Overledger using languages such as Java that are widely used today. If they need to use a different blockchain then it can be as easy as changing a line of code rather than having to completely rewrite the smart contracts. Overledger isn’t a blockchain though, so how can it trusted with the smart contract? A Hash of the smart contract is published on any blockchain the MAPP developer requires and when called the smart contract is run its run through a hashing function to check that it matches the Hash value stored on the blockchain, ensuring that it has not been modified. By running the Smart contract off chain this also increases Scalability enormously. With a blockchain all nodes have to run the smart contract one after another rather than in parallel. Not only do you get the performance benefit of not having to run the code against every single node but you can also run them in parallel to others executing smart contracts. You can read more about Treaty Contracts here
The different versions of Overledger
The current live version is the Enterprise version as that is where most of the adoption is taking place in blockchain due to permissioned blockchains being preferred until permissionless blockchains resolve the scalability, privacy and regulatory issues. Please see this article which goes into more details about Entereprise blockchain / adoption. The Enterprise version connects to permissioned blockchains as well as additional features / support suited for Enterprises.
The community version is due to be released later this year which will allow developers to benefit from creating MAPPs across permissionless blockchains. Developers can publish their MAPPs on the MAPP Store to create additional revenue streams for developers.
Where does Overledger run from? Is it Centralised?
Overledger can run from anywhere. The community version will have instances across multiple public clouds, Enterprises / developers may prefer to host the infrastructure themselves within a consortium which they can and are doing. For example SIA is the leading private Financial Network provider in Europe, it provides a dedicated high speed network which connects all the major banks, central banks, trading venues etc. SIA host Overledger within their private network so that all of those clients can access it in the confinement of their heavily regulated, secure, fast network. AUCloud / UKCLoud host Overledger in their environment to offer as a service to their clients which consist of Governments and critical national infrastructure. For Blockchain nodes that interact with Overledger the choice is entirely up to the developer. Each member within a consortium may choose to host a node, some developers may prefer to use 3rd party hosting providers such as Infura, or Quant can also host them if they prefer, its entirely their choice. Overledger allows for higher levels of decentralisation by storing the output across multiple blockchains so you not only benefit from the decentralisation of one blockchain but the combination of all of them. Ultimately though decentralisation is thrown around too much without many actually understanding what it means. It’s impossible to have complete decentralisation, when you sign a transaction to be added to a blockchain ultimately you still connect through a single ISP, connect through a single router, or the input into a transaction is done through a piece of software etc. What matters to be decentralised is where trust is involved. As i have mentioned before you don’t need to trust the OS, it’s just providing instructions on how to interact with the blockchains, the end user is signing the transactions / encrypting at client side. Nothing can be seen or modified with the OS. Even if somehow the transaction did get modified then it would get rejected when consensus is done as the hash / digital signature won’t match at the destination blockchain. Where the transaction actually gets put onto the blockchain is where decentralisation matters, because thats what needs to be trusted and conensus is reached and Overledger enables this to be written across multiple blockchains at the same time.
The team are very well connected with a wealth of experience at very senior roles at Global enterprises which I will include a few examples below. Gilbert Verdian the CEO was the Head of security for the payment infrastructure for the Bank of England through his CISO role with Vocalink (Mastercard)managing £6 trillion every year. This is treated by the government as critical national infrastructure which is the highest level of criticallity because its so fundamental to the security of the country. They have experience and know what it takes to run a secure financial infrastructure and meeting requirements of regulators. Gilbert was director for Cybersecurity at PWC, Security for HSBC and Ernst & Young as well as various government roles such as the CISO for the Australian NSW Health, Head of Security at the UK government for Ministry of Justice and HM Treasury in addition to being part of the committee for the European Commission, US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England. Cecilia Harvey is the Chief Operating Officer, where she was previously a Director at HSBC in Global Banking and Markets and before that Director at Vocalink. Cecilia was also Chief Operating Officer at Citi for Markets and Securities Services Technology as well as working for Barclays, Accenture, IBM and Morgan Stanley. Vijay Verma is the Overledger platform lead with over 15 years of developer experience in latest technologies like Java, Scala, Blockchain & enterprise technology solutions. Over the course of his career, he has worked for a number of prestigious organisations including J&J, Deutsche, HSBC, BNP Paribas, UBS Banks, HMRC and Network Rail. Guy Dietrich, the managing director of Rockefeller Capital (manages $19 Billion in assets) has joined the board of Quant Network, and has recently personally attended meetings with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with Gilbert https://preview.redd.it/1x25xg78efl31.png?width=566&format=png&auto=webp&s=abea981ff40355eed2d0e3be1ca414c5b1b8573c As well as advisors such as Paolo Tasca, the founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Blockchain Technologies (UCL CBT) at University College Londonfounder and executive director as well as Chris Adelsbach, Managing Director at Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars has partners such as Amazon, Barclays, Boeing, Ford, Google, Honda, IBM, Microsoft, PWC, Sony, Target, Total, Verizon, Western Union etc. Due to client demand they are expanding to the US to setup a similar size office where board members such as Guy Dietrich will be extremely valuable in assisting with the expansion. https://twitter.com/gverdian/status/1151549142235340800 The most exciting part about the project though is just how much adoption there has been of the platform, from huge global enterprises, governments and cloud providers they are on track for a revenue of $10 million in their first year. I will go through these in the next article, followed by further article explaining how the Token and Treasury works. You can also find out more info about Quant at the following: Part One — Blockchain Fundamentals Part Two — The Layers Of Overledger Part Three — TrustTag and the Tokenisation of data Part Four — Features Overledger provides to MAPPs Part Five — Creating the Standards for Interoperability Part Six — The Team behind Overledger and Partners Part Seven — The QNT Token Part Eight — Enabling Enterprise Mass Adoption Quant Network Enabling Mass Adoption of Blockchain at a Rapid Pace Quant Network Partner with SIA, A Game Changer for Mass Blockchain Adoption by Financial Institutions
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