Blockchain Disciples Have a New Goal: Running Our Next Election
Amid vote-hacking fears, election officials are jumping on the crypto bandwagon — but cybersecurity experts are sounding an alarm
At democracy’s heart lies a set of paradoxes: a delicate interplay of identity and anonymity, secrecy and transparency. To be sure you are eligible to vote and that you do so only once, the authorities need to know who you are. But when it comes time for you to mark a ballot, the government must guarantee your privacy and anonymity. After the fact, it also needs to provide some means for a third party to audit the election, while also preventing you from obtaining definitive proof of your choice, which could lead to vote selling or coercion.
Building a system that accomplishes all this at once — and does so securely — is challenging enough in the physical world. It’s even harder online, as the recent revelation that Russian intelligence operatives compromised voting systems
in multiple states makes clear.
In the decade since the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto published an infamous white paper
outlining the idea behind bitcoin, a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” based on a mathematical “consensus mechanism,” more than 1,500 new cryptocurrencies
have come into being.
definition: Nathan Heller in the New Yorker, in which he compares the blockchain to a scarf knit with a single ball of yarn. “It’s impossible to remove part of the fabric, or to substitute a swatch, without leaving some trace,” Heller wrote. Typically, blockchains are created by a set of stakeholders working to achieve consensus at every step, so it might be even more apt to picture a knitting collective creating that single scarf together, moving forward only when a majority agrees that a given knot is acceptable.
Unlike bitcoin, a public blockchain powered by thousands of miners around the world, most voting systems, including Votem’s, employ what’s known as a “permissioned ledger,” in which a handful of approved groups (political parties, election observers, government entities) would be allowed to validate the transactions.
there’s the issue of targeted denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, in which a hacker directs so much traffic at a server that it’s overwhelmed and ceases to function.
Although a distributed ledger itself would likely withstand such an attack, the rest of the system — from voters’ personal devices to the many servers a vote would pass through on its way to the blockchain — would remain vulnerable.
there’s the so-called penetration attack, like the University of Michigan incursion, in which an adversary gains control of a server and deliberately alters the outcome of an election.
While it’s true that information recorded on a blockchain cannot be changed, a determined hacker might well find another way to disrupt the process. Bitcoin itself has never been hacked, for instance, but numerous bitcoin “wallets” have been, resulting in billions of dollars in losses
. In early June 2018, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange was penetrated
, causing the value of bitcoin to tumble and resulting in a loss of $42 billion in market value. So although recording the vote tally on a blockchain introduces a new obstacle to penetration attacks, it still leaves holes elsewhere in the system — like putting a new lock on your front door but leaving your basement windows open.
A blockchain is only as valuable as the data stored on it. And whereas traditional paper ballots preserve an indelible record of the actual intent of each voter, digital votes “don’t produce an original hard-copy record of any kind,”
In the end, democracy always depends on a certain leap of faith, and faith can never be reduced to a mathematical formula. The Economist Intelligence Unit regularly ranks
the world’s most democratic counties. In 2017, the United States came in 21st place, after Uruguay and Malta. Meanwhile, it’s now widely believed that John F. Kennedy owed his 1960 win to election tampering in Chicago. The Supreme Court decision granting the presidency to George W. Bush rather than calling a do-over — despite Al Gore’s popular-vote win — still seems iffy. Significant doubts remain about the 2016 presidential race.
While little doubt remains that Russia favored Trump in the 2016 election, the Kremlin’s primary target appears to have been our trust in the system itself. So if the blockchain’s trendy allure can bolster trust in American democracy, maybe that’s a net positive for our national security. If someone manages to hack the system, hopefully they’ll do so quietly. Apologies to George Orwell, but sometimes ignorance really is strength.
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Explaining Bitcoin with Pokemon cards
the double-spending problem
when exchanging digital goods, how do you know somebody hasn’t sent the same asset to two people simultaneously?
use a ledger (a record of transactions) to track our trade.put our trust in this third party.we gave a copy of the ledger to every pokemon trader
if I had duplicated my card, sent one copy out earlier then tried to send the second one to you, the history of that trade would already exist, so my second trade to you would conflict and be rejected.
that digital signature that gets put on each block? That is actually generated based on the info in the block, so changing the data (i.e removing my trade) automatically changes the signature.
an open, decentralised, non-reversible, tamper-proof digital network for trading valuable assets.
This is a simplified version of how blockchain technology works, but it’s easy to see how this tech gives Bitcoin its unique and fascinating properties.
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Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are useless
For blockchains, the jury is still out
Aug 30th 2018
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How Data Privacy Lessons in Alternative Reality Games Can Help Kids In Real Life
Ubiquitous social media platforms—including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—have created a venue for people to share and connect with others. We use these services by clicking “I Agree” on Terms of Service screens, trading off some of our private and personal data for seemingly free services. While these services say data collection helps create a better user experience, that data is also potentially exploitable.
The news about how third parties obtain and use Facebook users’ data to wage political campaigns and the mounting evidence of election interference have shined a spotlight on just how secure our data is when we share online. Educating youth about data security can fall under the larger umbrella of digital citizenship, such as social media uses and misuses and learning how not to embarrass or endanger oneself while using the internet.
Darvasi’s students in Toronto can pool together 55 faux bitcoins to purchase and launch the BOTTING protocol against an opponent. The student targeted at Fallon’s school in Connecticut would then have 48 hours to record audio of 10 words of Darvasi’s students choosing and send it back to them through an intermediary (Darvasi or Fallon). For a higher price of 65 faux bitcoins, students can launch MORPHLING, which would give the opponent 48 hours to record a one-minute video explaining three ways to stay safe while using Facebook, while making their school mascot (or a close approximation of) appear in the video in some way during the entire minute.
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Beginning Monday, authorities are rolling out a replacement for the apparently unironically named “strong” bolivar, swapping it out for a “sovereign” bolivar that will be pegged to the government’s proposed cryptocurrency, the petro. In the process they are devaluing Venezuela’s physical currency more than 95 percent and radically weakening its exchange rate
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How The Tiny Nation Of Georgia Became A Bitcoin Behemoth.
April 23, 20188:15 AM ET ANDREW NORTH https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/04/23/597780405/how-the-tiny-nation-of-georgia-became-a-bitcoin-behemoth
Georgia is now ranked second in the world for cryptocurrency mining — behind only China.
A single U.S.-based technology company called Bitfury has been accounting for much of this mining activity, from a vast data center filled with computer servers which it opened on the outskirts of the capital Tbilisi. It has generated plenty of controversy too over claims that it received overly generous terms for its electricity bills. But scores of smaller data centers have now sprouted up, with many more people mining from home with processors bought online from China.
making an average of $800 a month mining a currency called Zcash, with the extra electricity load costing about $80.
Bitfury has also been talking to the authorities in nearby Ukraine about using blockchain technology to run future elections there.
When supporters log on to its website, they are given the choice of allowing their computer processors to be used to mine Monero, a newer virtual coin being marketed for its extreme anonymity.
Facebook groups now regularly advertise conferences and gatherings to share ideas, addressed by people who call themselves “blockchain evangelists.”
Like the original Klondike, Georgia’s digital gold rush has attracted some colorful characters hoping to make their fortune.
Take Andrew Thornhill, an energetic financial entrepreneur from Chicago and founder of a cryptocurrency startup called Spotcoin. He first came to Georgia a decade ago to provide Internet-banking advice. In 2011, he was briefly imprisoned for fraud, but he says his conviction does not restrict him from running a financial business either there or in Georgia.
Concerns that cryptocurrencies are being used as a money-laundering vehicle have been overdone, Thornhill says when we meet at Spotcoin’s Tbilisi headquarters. “Criminals are using dollars and euros every day, but we don’t blame the currencies,” he says. And blockchain technology has the potential to make financial transactions far more secure, he maintains.
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In a consortium blockchain, the consensus process is controlled by a pre-selected group – a group of corporations, for example. The right to read the blockchain and submit transactions to it may be public or restricted to participants. Consortium blockchains are considered to be “permissioned blockchains” and are best suited for use in business.
Semi-private blockchains are run by a single company that grants access to any user who satisfies pre-established criteria. Although not truly decentralized, this type of permissioned blockchain is appealing for business-to-business use cases and government applications.
Private blockchains are controlled by a single organization that determines who can read it, submit transactions to it, and participate in the consensus process. Since they are 100% centralized, private blockchains are useful as sandbox environments, but not for actual production.
Anyone can read a public blockchain, send transactions to it, or participate in the consensus process. They are considered to be “permissionless.” Every transaction is public, and users can remain anonymous. Bitcoin and Ethereum are prominent examples of public blockchains.
Russia’s Sberbank plans cryptocurrency exchange in Switzerland
PUBLISHED 03:43 FEBRUARY 6, 2018
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5 key reasons bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies have lost a stunning $370 billion in 10 days
Published: Jan 17, 2018 3:58 p.m. ET
Here’s a quick rundown of the factors contributing to the carnage:
1). South Korea
Seoul has said that the government intends to crack down on the trading of cryptoassets. Officials have also floated the idea of taxes on crypto trading and other measures to tighten its grip on market considered by some as supporting money laundering and dangerous speculative investing. By some measures, South Korea represents about a fifth of the virtual-trade volume.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that more oversight of cryptocurrencies may be needed “This is the prerogative of the Central Bank at present and the Central Bank has sufficient authority so far. However, in broad terms, legislative regulation will be definitely required in future,” he said, according to Russian news agency TASS.
Beijing, which already has taken a hard line against the bitcoin community, which uses computing power to support the network and create new bitcoin through mining, has said it also is exploring further regulations or restrictions around digital-asset trading.
4). Bitconnect $BCC
The cyber currency known as Bitconnect, which has long drawn a critical eye from cryptocurrency investors because of its use of loans and the manner in which it solicits new investors, shut down. Bitconnect also promised a return of a quarter of a percentage point daily.
5). Bitcoin futures
Futures for bitcoin on exchange platforms are set to expire this month.
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