What Are Hard Forks vs. Soft Forks in Cryptocurrency?

In software development, a fork is a branching or splitting of code into separate projects. Cryptocurrency forks happen all the time, and there’s generally nothing to worry about. As all blockchain projects (what is blockchain?) involve software of some kind, that’s what we mean when we talk about forking. By forking a project, you are taking a copy of the code at a specific moment in time, and then building on that code as a separate project. An example of a fork is Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. Bitcoin Cash started from the Bitcoin codebase, but now runs as an independent…

Read the full article: What Are Hard Forks vs. Soft Forks in Cryptocurrency?

In software development, a fork is a branching or splitting of code into separate projects. Cryptocurrency forks happen all the time, and there’s generally nothing to worry about.

As all blockchain projects (what is blockchain?) involve software of some kind, that’s what we mean when we talk about forking. By forking a project, you are taking a copy of the code at a specific moment in time, and then building on that code as a separate project.

An example of a fork is Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. Bitcoin Cash started from the Bitcoin codebase, but now runs as an independent project. Any changes made to Bitcoin do not transfer across to Bitcoin Cash, and each set of tokens are separate.

Forking doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Many companies fork their own software. This could be to maintain support for two very different operating systems, for example, or to maintain an old or outdated version alongside a more up-to-date version.

Cryptocurrency forks are no different to any other software fork. For example, developer A believes a blockchain project should do X, but developer B believes it should do Y. If X and Y are too far removed from each other, developer A or B may choose to make a fork. Each developer can go and develop their own features without interfering with each other.

Forks may also happen with risky or experimental features.

If the developers get along with each other, or an agreement or compromise occurs, the forked version may merge back into the original code later on, or the original code might be abandoned in favor of the new, forked code.

This all sounds good, but what’s it got to do with cryptocurrency users like you and me? Well, as many cryptocurrency projects are open source, forks can and do happen all the time—sometimes for legitimate reasons (like improved speed or security), sometimes for selfish reasons (like making mining easier on certain hardware).

Hard Forks vs. Soft Forks in Cryptocurrency

A soft fork often involves minor code changes. This could be terminology or changes which don’t alter the way a given blockchain operates. Soft forks are often non-intrusive and can co-exist alongside the unforked version.

With soft forks, miners may choose to switch to the new code. As there are no major changes, any nodes running older software should still be able to accept blocks generated by the new nodes—however, new nodes will reject blocks generated by old nodes. If enough miners switch to the forked version, there won’t be enough nodes on the old code to get any transactions processed. The new nodes would all reject the blocks by the old nodes, forcing them to switch over.

Here’s where it gets problematic: If a soft fork is risky or unpopular, miners may not switch to it. If only a minority of nodes run the new code, it may die out and get replaced in the code.

A hard fork is often much more troublesome. Hard forks usually need the whole network to switch over to the new code. If some nodes were to run the unforked code, the nodes may generate data in different ways and fall out of sync. While it is possible to run hard-forked and unforked nodes on the same blockchain together, it’s rarely done. Each set of nodes would reject each other, and you’d get into a heap of trouble.

So much trouble, in fact, that blockchain developers may insist that every node upgrades to the fork. This is often done at a date in the future after the mining of a specific block. This allows every node time to upgrade.

If a hard fork happens in the code but some developers disagree with the change, things can get messy. The miners themselves may find themselves in the middle of a bitter battle and be forced to pick a side. If things get really bad, a brand new project may arise—based on the original code, with the changes made by the hard fork. The unforked code continues as it always has, and the hard forked code has to start again.

This is called a chain split, and such a divorce of code can often be bad news. The original project may lose supporters, nodes, or financiers to the hard-forked project, but the new project may also need to find a source of revenue or a collection of nodes to run the network. This bitter battle rarely ends well for either party.

When a chain split happens, the developers may choose to keep a copy of the records alongside the code, meaning anyone who has tokens on the original network will also have tokens on the new network. Free cryptocurrency may sound awesome, but there are some potential hazards that can severely impact such a project.

Without careful fork management, network users may be able to double spend coins. If a transaction happens before the fork but does not get recorded until after the fork, you may have tokens on the new network which were not present on the old network. For this reason, most hot wallets, exchanges, and nodes will stop processing transactions for a small maintenance window before and after the designated forking time.

If you’re using your own secure cryptocurrency wallet, you may need to migrate your coins depending on the fork.

Cryptocurrency Forks: Wrapped Up

One of the core values behind public, open-source cryptocurrency projects is security. Forking often increases security, but hard forks can be problematic.

If you’re a cryptocurrency user, you often won’t have anything to worry about. If you’re a miner running your own nodes, then you’ll need to keep track of the project’s development status and current community consensus.

What are your experiences with forking? Maybe you’ve been running a node when a fork happens, or perhaps you’re the person on the development team making the fork. Let us know in the comments section below!

Read the full article: What Are Hard Forks vs. Soft Forks in Cryptocurrency?

How to Buy Your First Cryptocurrency: A Step-by-Step Guide

buy-first-cryptocurrency

Starting out in crypto can feel daunting, but purchasing your first Bitcoin (or any other altcoin) is much easier than you think. For most first-time buyers, Coinbase is pretty much the cryptocurrency exchange of choice to use because Coinbase is secure, easy to navigate, and packed with decent features that’ll make things easier. Here’s our guide to purchasing your first cryptocurrency using Coinbase. What Is Coinbase? Coinbase is a cryptocurrency broker. Coinbase trades several cryptocurrencies in exchange for regular fiat currency: Bitcoin Bitcoin Cash Ethereum Ethereum Classic Litecoin Coinbase is definitely one of the easiest cryptocurrency brokers to use. It is also…

Read the full article: How to Buy Your First Cryptocurrency: A Step-by-Step Guide

buy-first-cryptocurrency

Starting out in crypto can feel daunting, but purchasing your first Bitcoin (or any other altcoin) is much easier than you think.

For most first-time buyers, Coinbase is pretty much the cryptocurrency exchange of choice to use because Coinbase is secure, easy to navigate, and packed with decent features that’ll make things easier. Here’s our guide to purchasing your first cryptocurrency using Coinbase.

What Is Coinbase?

Coinbase is a cryptocurrency broker. Coinbase trades several cryptocurrencies in exchange for regular fiat currency:

  • Bitcoin
  • Bitcoin Cash
  • Ethereum
  • Ethereum Classic
  • Litecoin

Coinbase is definitely one of the easiest cryptocurrency brokers to use. It is also one of the most popular crypto-brokers. However, before other crypto-users jump on me: Coinbase is by no means the best crypto-broker.

The thing is, Coinbase has a number of stop-checks in place for new users, and that means it’s forgiving. You can use Coinbase as temporary storage for your cryptocurrency, but you shouldn’t use it for long-term storage. For that, you’d be better off with a cryptocurrency cold wallet instead.

Step 1: Create a Coinbase Account

Head over to Coinbase and hit the Sign-up button in the top-right corner.

Enter your details in the account creation panel. Use a strong single-use password. Then head to your email account and verify your email address.

When you come back to the Coinbase site, you need to add a phone number to secure your account. Coinbase then sends you a verification code. Next up, add your personal information. The information Coinbase requires varies slightly by locale, but you will need to confirm your date of birth, an address, your source of funds, and so on.

Finally, you need to use an official photocard document to complete your verification. In the US, Coinbase only accepts state-issued driving licenses or identification cards. A US passport is not acceptable. However, outside the US, Coinbase will accept your passport.

For more information, check out the official Coinbase documentation on identity verification.

Account verification time varies hugely. Coinbase verified the account I’m using for this tutorial within five minutes, but I have other Coinbase accounts that use the same verification image and phone number. Coinbase may request extra information from you, so be sure to check your email account frequently.

What Is Coinbase Pro?

Coinbase Pro is Coinbase’s crypto-exchange, formerly known as GDAX. You use Coinbase Pro for “advanced” cryptocurrency trading. In this case, advanced means more options than the regular Coinbase site. For instance, you can make a purchase order for a price above or below the current market rate for a cryptocurrency, or directly trade your Bitcoin for Litecoin (or the other cryptocurrencies Coinbase and Coinbase Pro support).

Step 2: Add a Payment Method

When your Coinbase account finally verifies, you arrive at the Coinbase dashboard. The dashboard displays the current price of the cryptocurrencies available for purchase through Coinbase, your current portfolio, and any information regarding account updates. For instance, you can see in the image below that Coinbase recently added support for several UK bank accounts.

In the bottom-right corner, select Complete your account. Depending on your locale, you now have two or three options:

US residents can add: a bank account, their debit card, or add details for a wire transfer.

UK and EU residents can add: an EU bank account, a UK bank account, or a debit card. Furthermore, UK and EU residents can use SEPA payments or make instant crypto purchases using a 3D Secure debit or credit card.

Note that Coinbase no longer supports the linking of new credit cards! Also, some credit card providers are refusing cryptocurrency purchases or adding additional charges to existing cards. Coinbase won’t remove existing credit cards but does suggest using a debit card or regular bank account instead.

Debit cards and bank account come with a small verification charge. Unfortunately, the account verification process can also take up to three business days.

Step 3: Buy Cryptocurrency Using Coinbase

Once Coinbase verifies your bank account or debit card, and you have some funds available, you can purchase some cryptocurrency. Coinbase is a crypto-broker that exchanges Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, and Litecoin.

Select Buy/Sell from the Coinbase dashboard. Select the cryptocurrency you want to purchase. Enter either the amount of cryptocurrency you want to buy in your local currency. Alternatively, if you have a specific amount of cryptocurrency you want to buy regardless of cost (for example, 1.2 BTC), enter that and then check the cost.

When satisfied, press the Buy Cryptocurrency button at the bottom of the panel. The description of this button changes depending on your payment method. I’m using my authorized debit card in the UK, meaning I can make an instant purchase of any of Coinbase’s cryptocurrencies. Payment methods have different delays.

When you head back to your Coinbase dashboard, your portfolio will show your new cryptocurrency, and your Recent Activity panel should show your purchase.

Step 4: Sell Cryptocurrency Using Coinbase

Want to sell the cryptocurrency you bought? Head back to the Buy/Sell tab.

Using the Sell From drop-down menu, select your cryptocurrency. Then, from the Deposit To drop-down menu select the currency wallet where you want to deposit your funds. Note that you have to deposit your funds to a currency account before withdrawing to your bank account.

Just like the purchasing panel, you can enter either the amount of cryptocurrency you want to sell in your local currency or specify the amount of cryptocurrency. The cryptocurrency box also has a Sell Max button you can use to enter the maximum account of cryptocurrency while accounting for Coinbase’s transaction fee.

Step 5: Withdraw Funds From Coinbase

Once your funds clear into your Coinbase local current wallet, you can withdraw them from the site entirely, back into your bank account.

Select Accounts from the Coinbase dashboard. It will display your current holdings across all of your accounts. Find the local currency you want to withdraw and hit the Withdraw button. The withdraw panel pops up and asks for the amount you want to withdraw. It also has a Withdraw All option. Select the bank account you want to withdraw your Coinbase funds to and press Continue.

It can take up to five business days before your funds appear in your local currency account. In my experience, it is usually faster than that, but don’t depend on withdrawing funds to pay a pending bill on its due date.

Congrats, you’ve bought your first cryptocurrency!

Coinbase is a great place to start your cryptocurrency adventure, even if it does leave a little to be desired in some areas. Its interface is easy to use, it offers the core cryptocurrencies you need to get started, and it’s secure enough that you don’t have to worry.

Read the full article: How to Buy Your First Cryptocurrency: A Step-by-Step Guide

The 21-day bitcoin challenge

There is a documentary series currently airing on iQiyi, China’s Netflix equivalent, about a Chinese bitcoin enthusiast who attempts to survive 21 days by merely living on 0.21 bitcoin, or $1,300, without any help or donations. He You Bing is traveling and carrying nothing with her, and she has to retrieve food, housing, and basic […]

There is a documentary series currently airing on iQiyi, China’s Netflix equivalent, about a Chinese bitcoin enthusiast who attempts to survive 21 days by merely living on 0.21 bitcoin, or $1,300, without any help or donations.

He You Bing is traveling and carrying nothing with her, and she has to retrieve food, housing, and basic necessities all through bitcoin transactions done on her phone. Interestingly, she is also doing this challenge in some of China’s largest cities including Beijing and Shenzhen.

Her name is something of a nom de guerre – a nickname, with “You Bing” directly translating to “having a disease,” and the whole name alludes to the girl’s over-enthusiasm for bitcoin.

It’s a fascinating time for making this attempt. In the last few weeks, there have been numerous reports of China’s crypto bans – including Beijing and Shenzhen banning public cryptocurrency-related speeches, events, or activities, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Also included in the purported ban were a number of WeChat media accounts that promoted cryptocurrencies, which have been permanently blocked. Furthermore, Beijing blocked access to the websites of over 120 offshore exchanges in the mainland and banned large crypto purchases through popular Chinese payments platforms Alipay and WeChat transactions.

Given the sheer number of these bans, readers who live outside of China may be led to think that there is a bleak outlook for the cryptocurrency environment on mainland China. But He You Bing’s Bitcoin challenge reveals a refreshing perspective on the crypto awareness of people living in these local cities as well as the power of WeChat. $1,300 may not sound like much for 21 days of travel in the U.S., but in China, where a cheap meal costs just $1, it can go a long way. The real question is, will people accept bitcoin?

Finding acceptance with bitcoin

Through daily video-log like documentaries, Bing is filmed running around asking different business vendors whether they accept bitcoin. The vendors, varying from small hole-in-the-wall eateries to employees from large chain stores like Uniqlo, express their reactions that are telling of their preconceived notions, or lack thereof, of bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Similar to the U.S., people’s attitudes vary from ignorance and distrust to welcoming. It’s eye-opening to see how different Chinese people think about bitcoin.

On the first day of her challenge, Bing arrives in Beijing, where she wants to go to an amusement park. The entrance fee is 2 Chinese Yuan, or around 30 cents in USD, but the park didn’t accept bitcoin. Bing also asked several fast food restaurants whether they accepted bitcoin so she could buy food, but neither of them did.

As she approaches these vendors, rather than paying in bitcoin, she often has to explain what a bitcoin is in the first place, and finds very little success along the way. One feat on her first day is that she was able to find an unlocked Ofo bike, a dockless bike that can be unlocked and paid for with one’s cellphone. With it, she biked around in an attempt to reach out to more vendors. By the end of the first day, Bing didn’t succeed in finding a food place that accepted bitcoin, and she subsisted on four packets of ketchup and food samples from a supermarket. She slept in a 24-hour McDonald’s on her first night.

The second day, Bing foraged for food. She grabbed fruits from wild trees. Her food intake for the second day consisted of some fruits on a tree and someone else’s leftover burger at a McDonald’s. She ended up getting a stomach ache and threw up, sleeping in another 24-hour McDonald’s. 

Bing was becoming hopeless by the third day. She was on the the verge of fainting and the filmmakers sent her to a hospital. At this point, the challenge had gathered some attention, and supporters were able to contact the filmmakers. They then brought Bing food and she paid for it by bitcoin. On the third night, she slept in an art gallery.

It’s not the currency, it’s the community

Bing’s story soon spread and people started finding her through WeChat where they would offer to exchange bitcoin to fiat. At that point, the challenge would have become too easy, so the filmmakers changed the rules so that Bing had to transact offline and exchange Bitcoin with people in real life.

On the sixth day, Beijing was having the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit, so the filmmakers moved to Shenzhen to continue the challenge. The audience started getting suspicious of the filmmakers, asking whether they were related to scam projects. The filmmakers said that they were approached by crypto projects but that they declined them. By then, six support groups in WeChat had been created to support Bing, with every WeChat group having 500 people (500 is the max number of people one can have in a WeChat group). These chatroom participants included bitcoin believers, real estate agents, and advertising salesmen.

Despite the current ban on crypto activities, the documentary shows that bitcoin is alive and well in China within digital communities, albeit not prevalent in the physical world. Most of Bing’s days are documented on iQiyi. And her encounters are telling of what is actually happening in China when it comes to cryptocurrency and mobile technology adoption. Notably, Bing was able to get through living in China simply through her phone. The power of WeChat brought her supporters directly to her.

By day seven, Bing got in contact with some of her WeChat supporters and was able to purchase face wash from them. The next day, she found a restaurant that accepted bitcoin. She got someone to buy her clothes at Uniqlo by exchanging bitcoin with them and then also found someone who was willing to book a hotel for her by exchanging bitcoin.

Gradually, Bing’s bitcoin challenge started a small movement, where her supporters would also approach shops to ask whether they accepted bitcoin and relay the information to her.

On a daily basis, the filming team recorded how many business and pedestrians Bing reached out to and the number of successful bitcoin transactions she made. From the initial ten days to now, Bing has gradually gained confidence. She now has a strategy on how to find people to exchange her bitcoins and what to exchange them for. Over time, the number of inquiries Bing did increased from ten to twenty a day to over a hundred per day. The number of successful transactions was still only a handful a day, however.

Bing’s story continues, and she is now at day 19. She and the filmmakers have migrated to the southern city of Guangzhou. As she assimilates into this new lifestyle, Bing found people to exchange Bitcoin to fiat with her to purchase her train tickets, her hotel rooms, and her meals. Nonetheless, more often than ever, the pedestrians and small business vendors she approached were ignorant, skeptical, and did not want to be part of the filming.

Finding utility in bitcoin

Recently, China Daily covered Bing’s challenge. The documentary has gotten some media attention in China, and companies and institutions have asked to donate and sponsor the filmmakers. They have claimed that they have turned them all down.

In the last year, the narrative around bitcoin has gradually centered on becoming a “store of value” in the U.S. given the increasing transaction costs on the blockchain. Bitcoin transaction prices have increased from 30 cents at the beginning of 2017 to $40 at end of 2017 during the peak of bitcoin prices. As a result of such large fluctuations in fees, transactions no longer happened as frequently as before. Bitcoin’s transaction cost is now back down to about 60 cents this year.

However, as the market has come down in the last few months, bitcoin has once again become a “safe haven” for individuals to go to, and as a result, bitcoin now makes up more than 56% of the total cryptocurrency market cap, up from 34% at the beginning of January 2018.

Bing still gets people suspecting that she is trying to scam them. Since the rise of crypto prices and bitcoin reaching almost as high as $20,000 at the end of 2017, there have been numerous scam coins coming out everywhere. In China, there are often obscure and random coins that appear with no real value-add, no relationship to any blockchain, and are devised purely to fool non-savvy citizens who think they can make a quick buck. In fact, one of the purposes of Beijing’s ban on commercial venues hosting cryptocurrency events was aimed at purging coins from scamming the public.

Bing will continue and finish her bitcoin challenge, but the greater challenge is on all of us in the blockchain community to continually improve this technology for broader consumption.

What Is Cryptojacking? How Websites Secretly Use Your CPU to Mine Cryptocurrency

cryptojacking-avoid

The rise of cryptojacking didn’t take those in the crypto-and-security worlds by surprise. In fact, the only surprising thing was perhaps the length of time it took malicious actors to use cryptojacking to mine for cryptocurrency. As the cryptocurrency boom took hold at the end of 2017, so did a sudden surge in malicious cryptojacking incidents. The phenomenal peaks of the cryptocurrency boom are long gone; cryptocurrency markets are somewhat stable, albeit still unpredictable. Has the decreased price correlated with a reduction in cryptojacking incidents? Do they relate at all? Here’s what you need to know. What Is Cryptojacking? Cryptojacking…

Read the full article: What Is Cryptojacking? How Websites Secretly Use Your CPU to Mine Cryptocurrency

The rise of cryptojacking didn’t take those in the crypto-and-security worlds by surprise. In fact, the only surprising thing was perhaps the length of time it took malicious actors to use cryptojacking to mine for cryptocurrency.

As the cryptocurrency boom took hold at the end of 2017, so did a sudden surge in malicious cryptojacking incidents.

The phenomenal peaks of the cryptocurrency boom are long gone; cryptocurrency markets are somewhat stable, albeit still unpredictable. Has the decreased price correlated with a reduction in cryptojacking incidents? Do they relate at all? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is the coverall term given to a malicious attack where unsuspecting users have their system hardware hijacked to mine cryptocurrency. The basic premise of a cryptojacking browser attack is:

  • An unsuspecting user lands on a compromised webpage.
  • The webpage has a small piece of JavaScript containing the cryptojacking code.
  • The cryptojacking code hijacks the system CPU and puts it use mining cryptocurrency, usually Monero.
  • In some cases, the JavaScript opens a minimized, hidden browser window. When the user leaves the site, the illicit crypto-mining continues.
  • However, most cryptojacking attacks end when the website tab closes.

Cryptojacking isn’t just browser-based. There are several types of malware out there that will mine cryptocurrency after infecting your system. Most malware attempts to stay silent, but cryptojacking malware is more silent than most. The longer a cryptojacking malware variant can remain silent, the larger the potential reward for the attacker.

Cryptojacking, then, is theft. The unsuspecting users aren’t directly losing money, but they are losing system resources to power someone else’s financial gain. And while cryptojacking is malicious, it doesn’t leave any long-term damage to the target system, despite running the CPU at maximum or near-maximum capacity for a short amount of time.

Why Does Cryptojacking Use System Resources?

Cryptocurrency doesn’t grow on trees. No, it grows on servers, waiting for the right miners to come along and release it. Cryptojacking scripts primarily use the system CPU to do this.

Crypto-networks manage transactions through the blockchain. Each network transaction is added to a block. The block is distributed to a network of connected miners for verification. Each miner has a copy of the cryptocurrency specific blockchain and can validate and process transactions for that network.

When the new block arrives, the miner’s system processes complex equations to verify the block contents. On verification, the block adds to the blockchain, and the miners receive a pay-out reward for their efforts. In the case of Bitcoin, the reward is 12.5 BTC, shared between whoever contributes.

The key to crypto-mining success is speed and processing power. How quickly can your system verify the transactions within the block? Bitcoin mining is essentially useless for anyone not using specialized crypto-mining hardware. The sheer volume of mining power simply drowns out a tiny home desktop computer.

If Not Bitcoin, What Are They Mining?

Even as the Bitcoin price dropped from the heady $19,000+ mark back toward its current peaks and troughs, Bitcoin mining is inaccessible. Furthermore, Ethereum and ERC-20-based tokens use GPUs to mine cryptocurrencies. So just what are the cryptojackers attempting to mine?

For the most part, browser cryptojacking scripts and cryptojacking malware are mining Monero. The lightweight, privacy, and anonymity-focused cryptocurrency is easier to mine that Bitcoin and theoretically provides the crypto-mining thieves with protection after the fact. But not all. As you’ll read further down the article, several advanced cryptojacking threats mine Bitcoin.

But even though Monero is infinitely easier to mine than Bitcoin, it still requires raw computing power. Raw computing power requires investment in hardware. And let’s face it, if the mining thieves can steal the hardware with a tiny piece of JavaScript, why wouldn’t they try to maximize the profits?

JavaScript Cryptojacking

The first widespread cryptojacking JavaScript came from CoinHive, a company that wants to alter how we interact with the internet and the advertising profits that essentially underpin everything that takes place.

CoinHive’s vision was for authorized crypto-mining to replace advertising. Websites could still make an income based upon page views and the time spent on the site and users could avoid adverts without feeling awful for using an adblocker (and thus essentially robbing content creators of their fair dues).

Infamous content pirating and torrenting site, The Pirate Bay, was one of the first to experiment with the CoinHive model.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before malicious actors realized they could easily repurpose CoinHive’s mining script for more nefarious means. The original script has a CPU mining use percentage command. Originally set to 30% so users could happily continue using their browser, cryptojackers bumped this up to the full 100% on all cores, to maximize profits for the presumably short time most users linger on a malicious landing page.

To be fair to CoinHive, they realized what was going on and issued an update to their script. The newer version, known as AuthedMine, offers users the chance to opt-in to the crypto-mining process, regaining its peaceful-and-original purpose as an advertising alternative. That said, the opt-out is still opt-out. That is to say, website owners don’t have to use AuthedMine, and they’re under no obligation to inform you as to what is eating your CPU alive.

Cryptojacking Evolution

Cryptojacking is evolving. Like all profitable and largely risk-free cyber-attacks, malicious actors always want bigger gains for their investments and are prepared to shift cryptojacking forward to do so.

  • In the early days of cryptojacking, one of the easiest methods to boost profits was to use a redirect loop. Unsuspecting victims are sent through a number of web pages before landing on one that has a crypto-mining script installed.
  • Another already-mentioned technique is opening a new browser window that is minimized and hidden behind the taskbar. The minute browser window is hidden behind the system clock and is then “free” to run until the user notices something is afoot.
  • Some browser extensions were found to conceal crypto-mining scripts without notifying the user. Some extensions were stolen from their developers, had the cryptojacking script injected, then were reuploaded or updated to the extension store. (In fact, Google swiftly banned all Chrome extensions abusing cryptojacking scripts.)

But that’s not all. Home users have relatively low power computers. Those running cryptojacking campaigns quickly realized there are bigger cryptojacking fish to fry: enterprises with powerful super-computers.

In February 2018, electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla announced they were the victims of a cryptojacking attack. RedLock Cloud Security Intelligence revealed that a vulnerable Kubernetes administration console exposed login credentials for a Tesla Amazon Web Service environment, and the hackers immediately turned the massive computing power to crypto-mining. British insurance provider, Aviva, and international digital security firm, Gemalto, also fell foul to the same cryptojacking vulnerability.

Other reports suggest that already vulnerable Internet of Thing devices are a prime target for cryptojacking, too. The Fortinet Threat Landscape Report [sign-up, PDF] found that 23 percent of its respondents were exposed to cryptojacking malware. IoT devices make an attractive, easy target due to their poor security, huge volume, and always-on status.

Cryptojacking Malware Explosion

However, other security leaks also contribute to the cryptojacking landscape. Remember the massive WannaCry ransomworm of 2017? WannaCry was the direct result of a liberated trove of previously unknown zero-day exploits that the NSA developed and amassed covertly. The Shadow Brokers, a hacking group with alleged ties to the Russian government, leaked numerous exploits, including EternalBlue (also styled ETERNALBLUE) which was crucial in spreading the WannaCry ransomworm at such a rapid pace.

Hackers around the world take notice when a tool causes such devastation (only saved by security researcher Marcus Hutchins, aka MalwareTech, who now faces a string of hacking allegations in the US). Combine EternalBlue with a malware payload that mines cryptocurrency and viola: suddenly we have WannaMine. WannaMine was first picked up by Panda Security and, like its ransomworm cousin, is extremely difficult to detect and block.

Nation-State Cryptojacking Malware Campaigns

But it isn’t just “regular” hackers putting cryptojacking malware to use. The North Korean state-sponsored hacking group, Lazarus (of Sony hack infamy), put a cryptojacking trojan to work against several high-profile banking institutions. Aside from the notable direct targeting of banking and financial organizations, the Lazarus “AppleJeus” attack almost uniquely targeted macOS systems, with a Linux exploit said to be in development.

Furthermore, since the presumably moderately successful AppleJeus attack, Lazarus is directly linked to the Ryuk cryptojacking malware which, at the time of writing, had stolen over $600,000. It isn’t just outlandish speculation; the Ryuk cryptojacking malware bears hallmarks of the Lazarus group Hermes malware variant (the same variant used to distract security services during the attempted $60 million heist on Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank). The Ryuk malware is interesting in that the targets appear to be hand-picked. That is to say, each ransom-note is different, makes a different demand, and so on. A personal service, almost.

Will Cryptojacking Get Worse?

Well, the rate of cryptojacking directly relates to the price of cryptocurrencies, as you might expect. The Fortinet Threat Landscape Report (linked above) illustrates this with the following chart:

As the price of Bitcoin dropped, so did the incidents of cryptojacking.

Other reports don’t offer the same borderline positive information, though. The McAfee Labs Threats Report June 2018 [PDF] state that the “count of total coin miner malware rose by 629% in Q1, to more than 2.9 million samples.” The report elaborates further, confirming that in comparison with “well-established cybercrime activities such as data theft and ransomware, cryptojacking is simpler, more straightforward, and less risky.”

In that, you can see the appeal of browser-based cryptojacking and cryptojacking malware variants, especially in comparison to other financially motived attacks. Ransomware requires initial investment to spread the infection to enough victims, while victims still have the option to ignore the ransom and not pay, especially if the victim frequently takes system backups.

Cryptojacking isn’t going anywhere. And if cryptocurrency prices begin to rise in earnest, expect more malware to appear rapidly.

Read the full article: What Is Cryptojacking? How Websites Secretly Use Your CPU to Mine Cryptocurrency

What Are the Differences Between Bitcoin and Ethereum?

ethereum-bitcoin

Over the course of 2017, the price of 1 BTC shot up from $963 to $19,694. Similarly, the price of 1 ETH rocketed from $8 to $747. Since that time, the price of Bitcoin and Ethereum has dropped significantly, but at the time would-be investors and enthusiasts were going crazy for crypto. But aren’t cryptocurrencies just virtual money? What’s the difference between these two? And why is there still so much interest even after the massive price drops? This article will answer all of those questions and more. How Bitcoin Works Bitcoin is a digital currency that aims to be:…

Read the full article: What Are the Differences Between Bitcoin and Ethereum?

Over the course of 2017, the price of 1 BTC shot up from $963 to $19,694. Similarly, the price of 1 ETH rocketed from $8 to $747. Since that time, the price of Bitcoin and Ethereum has dropped significantly, but at the time would-be investors and enthusiasts were going crazy for crypto.

But aren’t cryptocurrencies just virtual money? What’s the difference between these two? And why is there still so much interest even after the massive price drops? This article will answer all of those questions and more.

How Bitcoin Works

Bitcoin is a digital currency that aims to be:

  • Decentralized (no organization controls the creation or flow of the currency)
  • Anonymous (one’s ability to make transactions isn’t tied to identity)
  • Transparent (all transactions can be viewed by anyone at any time)

All of this is possible through the blockchain and peer-to-peer networking.

The Bitcoin blockchain is just a file that keeps tracks of all valid Bitcoin transactions ever made. Every 10 minutes, all new transactions are recorded together in a block and then added to the end of the file. Hence, blockchain.

This means some database value doesn’t determine your current Bitcoin balance. Instead, your current balance is simply the tracing of all past transactions to the present time. Currency never actually trades hands.

Bitcoin doesn’t reside on a single server or cluster of servers. Rather, it’s distributed across thousands and thousands of computers around the world (called nodes) and anyone can join that network whenever they want.

Whenever a transaction is made, it gets distributed to all the nodes on the Bitcoin network, and each node exists to verify that the transaction is valid. This is what Bitcoin mining is: you dedicate your machine’s computational power to help keep the blockchain validated and in return, you can earn some Bitcoins.

To send or receive transactions, you need a Bitcoin wallet. A wallet is just a public key (the address that others use to send you Bitcoins) and a private key (basically a signature that authenticates transactions made from your wallet). Anyone can create a new wallet at any time, which is what makes Bitcoin an anonymous currency.

Since the blockchain is distributed across all nodes, it’s entirely public and transparent. Anyone can view the entire blockchain and see every single transaction ever made.

How Ethereum Works

Ethereum is a massive worldwide network that’s distributed across thousands of computers around the world in peer-to-peer fashion. The Ethereum platform incorporates blockchain technology in much the same way that Bitcoin does, but expands upon it in several ways.

The key component of Ethereum is the smart contract.

The Ethereum platform comes with its own special programming language—called Solidity—that allows people to write Ethereum scripts, and these scripts are called smart contracts. Smart contracts are distributed to the network and, when requested, are executed on all Ethereum nodes.

Ethereum also involves a digital currency called Ether. Since executing smart contracts costs computational resources, node owners are compensated with Ether. The more computation-heavy the smart contract, the more it costs to execute. If it costs too much, it won’t be allowed to complete. This encourages the creation of efficient smart contracts.

The Ethereum blockchain is similar to Bitcoin’s blockchain, but instead of only containing Ether transactions, it also contains the results of executed smart contracts.

Every node on the Ethereum network maintains a copy of the blockchain just like Bitcoin does, and the process of verification is similarly called Ethereum mining. Miners spend computational resources to verify that every Ether transaction and smart contract result is valid. In return for their efforts, they earn Ether.

You can also directly send and receive Ether from wallet to wallet.

Ethereum is proof that the blockchain concept is expandable to areas outside of financial technology. Because of this, Ethereum is often called “programmable money.” Yes, it is a digital currency, but money that can execute code.

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum in a Nutshell

In short: whereas Bitcoin is just a digital currency, Ethereum is far more than that. Bitcoin and Ethereum have fundamental differences in their long-term aims, as well as differences in their underlying technology that influences their value and perceived use in the wider world. For instance:

  • Bitcoin’s average block time is 10 minutes, whereas Ethereum’s average block time is 15 seconds. Ethereum transactions can be confirmed much faster.
  • The amount of Bitcoin earnable as a mining reward is cut in half every four years. The total number of minable Bitcoin is set at 21 million. When miners reach that number, mining for new Bitcoin will cease. The amount of Ether earnable through mining is capped at 18 million per year, so there is always new Ether entering circulation.
  • Bitcoin is best mined using ASICs, dedicated hardware that is vastly superior to regular hardware. The need for specialized hardware pushes miners into large mining pools that consolidate mining power, while simultaneously consolidating Bitcoin mining rewards to “mining cartels” that dominate the market. Ethereum, however, is best mined using GPUs, which are more readily available and arguably more equal, even with the rises to GPU prices because of Ethereum mining.
  • Bitcoin is often referred to as “digital gold” because it has a holding value and many other cryptocurrencies are “pegged” to the Bitcoin price. Ethereum is more often seen as “digital currency” because it has a spending value and lower entry point.

However, the main difference between the two cryptocurrencies is the ease of making programmable smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. Initially, the Bitcoin network was unable to process smart contracts. As Bitcoin and its blockchain evolved, support for smart contracts was added, though Bitcoin continues to play second-fiddle to Ethereum in this regard.

Ethereum advocates point to this ease of use as one of the main reasons Ethereum is the future of cryptocurrency. Also, Bitcoin has traditionally been slow to implement new changes and, in many people’s eyes, is only still around because it was the first cryptocurrency.

While the cryptocurrency industry is still in its infancy, there’s no doubt that blockchain technology is slowly transforming the world. There are hundreds more cryptocurrencies, too, each attempting to decentralize and disrupt the status quo within their given industry (like a completely decentralized internet).

But remember: not all cryptocurrencies are what they seem. Many are straight-up scams, as evidenced on multiple occasions. Need help deciding? Check out our article on avoiding cryptocurrency scams—it’s a great starting point.

Read the full article: What Are the Differences Between Bitcoin and Ethereum?

Public vs. Private Blockchains: Understanding the Differences

public-private-blockchains

Private blockchains (also called permissioned blockchains) may be controversial, but they have their advantages. Here’s how they compare to public blockchains. As discussed in our What Is Blockchain? article, public blockchains are very open: anyone can join, become a node, or look at the transactions history. There’s no verification process before acceptance, and if you no longer wish to verify transactions, you can stop without penalty. If you change your mind, you can come back, start a node, and get a full record of everything that changed while you were gone. Private blockchains apply several restrictions. These vary depending on the…

Read the full article: Public vs. Private Blockchains: Understanding the Differences

public-private-blockchains

Private blockchains (also called permissioned blockchains) may be controversial, but they have their advantages. Here’s how they compare to public blockchains.

As discussed in our What Is Blockchain? article, public blockchains are very open: anyone can join, become a node, or look at the transactions history. There’s no verification process before acceptance, and if you no longer wish to verify transactions, you can stop without penalty. If you change your mind, you can come back, start a node, and get a full record of everything that changed while you were gone.

Private blockchains apply several restrictions. These vary depending on the blockchain, but such restrictions include who can join, how much processing power you have to offer, or how much transaction information you can see.

Those are the basics, now let’s dive into it a bit deeper.

The Benefits of a Private Blockchain

There are many different types of blockchain that come under the private umbrella. The restrictions may vary from blockchain to blockchain, but the important thing is that restrictions exist and said blockchains aren’t accessible to all.

By imposing restrictions, private blockchains have several benefits over public blockchains:

Trust. By verifying nodes, or only allowing trusted partners to run a node, there may not be a need for verifying transactions more than once. A single node could verify, and then all other nodes update their records.

Speed. If only specific users can run nodes, it’s possible to enforce stringent requirements on processing power and hardware specifications. No more long transaction times. Private blockchains also avoid peak demand during high-profile times. Private blockchain developers may often be able to plan for periods of high demand, and surprising spikes in traffic are unlikely to happen.

Security. While public blockchains provide some security, it is possible to trace transactions to accounts with a public model. By running a private blockchain, it’s possible to hide some of the data in each transaction. For example, the transaction amount or confidential contact details of account holders.

Cost. By controlling nodes, private blockchains may not need to pay miners. If businesses own the hardware, there’s no need to pay themselves to verify transactions. And while public blockchains need a lot of processing power, private blockchains can get away with far fewer verifications due to the lesser load.

Reliability. By regulating the network and running the nodes, private blockchains can reduce downtime. Sure, a public blockchain with thousands of nodes may be impossible to stop, but a spike in transactions or a loss of nodes can reduce the overall network power. Tight control of a private blockchain can help to maximize uptime.

The Drawbacks of a Private Blockchain

With all these benefits, private blockchains may sound like the best thing ever… but that’s not always the case.

Stunted growth. Without public nodes, a private blockchain won’t gain resources as public interest grows. When someone hears about Bitcoin for the first time, they can go and start a node if they want to—and with increasing users and nodes, public blockchains can scale fast. Private blockchains may involve significant time and money to get new nodes online.

Control and manipulation. If public users or paying customers are using a private blockchain, they are at the mercy of the developers or network owners. Without public visibility, developers are free to abuse the system. This could involve manipulating transactions, blocking users, or other dirty tactics.

For these reasons, many blockchain purists reject the idea of a private blockchain. If it’s possible to secure data on a public blockchain, why bother keeping everything locked away? I personally believe private blockchains can be useful and aren’t totally worthless.

Who Uses Public and Private Blockchains?

Bitcoin and Ethereum are the two highest-profile public blockchains, but there are hundreds of others. If you want a secure yet open network, or you’re concerned about malicious node interference, then a public blockchain is the way to go. While they are susceptible to 51 percent attacks (see our blockchain and cryptocurrency glossary), you’re unlikely to see any major problems with a large network.

Private blockchains are often used by businesses and banks. There’s no way serious money-making organizations will store their data on a public blockchain where everything is visible by all. Even worse, a single entity wouldn’t have control over all the nodes, so a private blockchain is pretty much the only viable choice.

Private blockchain owners may often invite other users to start nodes. These users may store confidential business secrets or customer details on the network. For example, consider an international chain of video game shops. This company may use a private blockchain to store customer reward points and then invite competing stores to share the network. This blockchain could be very fast, and users would be able to spend their points at any video game store, no matter the brand.

In this example, none of the video game companies would want any other company to have complete control of the network, nor would they want any random company joining in as a node. By sharing a private blockchain, each business can verify transactions and ensure the other companies aren’t cheating or committing fraudulent actions.

Some permissioned blockchains, like Ripple, are semi-private. Anyone can use Ripple to send XRP tokens to anyone else, but not everyone can run a node. Instead, Ripple invites huge organizations and other financial institutions to run nodes. They have to agree to the rules and requirements, but then have control over a percentage of the network. For this reason, many people hate blockchains like Ripple.

That’s pretty much it for the fundamentals of public and private blockchains. Generally speaking, private blockchains are better for businesses while public blockchains are better for everyone else. What do you think?

Image Credit: monsit/Depositphotos

Read the full article: Public vs. Private Blockchains: Understanding the Differences

Cryptocurrency mining attacks using leaked NSA hacking tools are still highly active a year later

It’s been over a year since highly classified exploits built by the National Security Agency were stolen and published online. One of the tools, dubbed EternalBlue, can covertly break into almost any Windows machine around the world. It didn’t take long for hackers to start using the exploits to run ransomware on thousands of computers, […]

It’s been over a year since highly classified exploits built by the National Security Agency were stolen and published online.

One of the tools, dubbed EternalBlue, can covertly break into almost any Windows machine around the world. It didn’t take long for hackers to start using the exploits to run ransomware on thousands of computers, grinding hospitals and businesses to a halt. Two separate attacks in as many months used WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware, which spread like wildfire. Once a single computer in a network was infected, the malware would also target other devices on the network. The recovery was slow and cost companies hundreds of millions in damages.

Yet, more than a year since Microsoft released patches that slammed the backdoor shut, almost a million computers and networks are still unpatched and vulnerable to attack.

Although WannaCry infections have slowed, hackers are still using the publicly accessible NSA exploits to infect computers to mine cryptocurrency.

Nobody knows that better than one major Fortune 500 multinational, which was hit by a massive WannaMine cryptocurrency mining infection just days ago.

“Our customer is a very large corporation with multiple offices around the world,” said Amit Serper, who heads the security research team at Boston-based Cybereason.

“Once their first machine was hit the malware propagated to more than 1,000 machines in a day,” he said, without naming the company.

Cryptomining attacks have been around for a while. It’s more common for hackers to inject cryptocurrency mining code into vulnerable websites, but the payoffs are low. Some news sites are now installing their own mining code as an alternative to running ads.

But WannaMine works differently, Cybereason said in its post-mortem of the infection. By using those leaked NSA exploits to gain a single foothold into a network, the malware tries to infect any computer within. It’s persistent so the malware can survive a reboot. After it’s implanted, the malware uses the computer’s processor to mine cryptocurrency. On dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of computers, the malware can mine cryptocurrency far faster and more efficiently. Though it’s a drain on energy and computer resources, it can often go unnoticed.

After the malware spreads within the network, it modifies the power management settings to prevent the infected computer from going to sleep. Not only that, the malware tries to detect other cryptomining scripts running on the computer and terminates them — likely to squeeze every bit of energy out of the processor, maximizing its mining effort.

At least 300,000 computers or networks are still vulnerable to the NSA’s EternalBlue hacking tools.

Based on up-to-date statistics from Shodan, a search engine for open ports and databases, at least 919,000 servers are still vulnerable to EternalBlue, with some 300,000 machines in the US alone. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — that figure can represent either individual vulnerable computers or a vulnerable network server capable of infecting hundreds or thousands more machines.

Cybereason said companies are still severely impacted because their systems aren’t protected.

“There’s no reason why these exploits should remain unpatched,” the blog post said. “Organizations need to install security patches and update machines.”

If not ransomware yesterday, it’s cryptomining malware today. Given how versatile the EternalBlue exploit is, tomorrow it could be something far worse — like data theft or destruction.

In other words: if you haven’t patched already, what are you waiting for?

Crypto’s second bubble, Juul has 60 days and three Chinese IPOs

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. After a long run of having guests climb aboard each week, we took a pause on that front, bringing together three of our regular hosts instead: Connie Loizos, Danny Chrichton, and myself. Despite the fact that there were […]

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

After a long run of having guests climb aboard each week, we took a pause on that front, bringing together three of our regular hosts instead: Connie Loizos, Danny Chrichton, and myself.

Despite the fact that there were just three of us instead of the usual four, we got through a mountain of stuff. Which was good as it was a surprisingly busy week, and we didn’t want to leave too much behind.

Up top we dug into the latest in the land of crypto, which Danny had politely summarized for us in an article. The gist of his argument is that the analogies relating crypto as an industry to the Internet may work, but most people have their timelines wrong: Crypto isn’t like the Internet in the 90s, perhaps. More like the 80s.

On the same topic, crypto companies formed a team lobbying effort, and a high-flying crypto fund is struggling to once again post strong profit figures.

Moving along, Juul is back in the news. Not, however, for raising more money or posting quick growth. Well, sort of the latter, as the government is after it. The Food and Drug Administration has put Juul on a countdown to get its act together regarding teens and smoking. That the financially-impressive unicorn is in as much trouble as it is nearly surprising.

Finally, we ran through the three most recent Chinese IPOs that hit our radar. Here they are:

  • Meituan Dianping: The Tencent-backed group buying, delivery, and everything company raised over $4 billion in its debut, which was impressive, but also short of expectations. The firm won’t begin trading until the 20th, but it’s one more massive deal that got done in 2018.
  • 111: We spent a minute on the show discussing what counts as a technology company thanks to 111. We voted that the Chinese online-to-offline pharmacy startup did in fact count. So, it’s in our list. Some notes on its debut can be found here.
  • NIO: Finally on our list was NIO, a Chinese electric car company with, as we have discussed on Equity before, a shockingly short history of revenue generation. Whether the company is a gamble or not, it did raise $1 billion in its own offering. And its stock is off like a rocket to boot.

And that was the end of things. Thanks for sticking with us, as always. Speaking of which, our 100th episode is coming up. Who should we bring onto the show to celebrate?

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

What Are Decentralized Apps? DApps Explained With 5 Examples

decentralized-apps

Decentralized apps (DApps) run on top of and integrate with blockchain technology. Want an example of a DApp? Bitcoin itself is one. Bitcoin is a decentralized distributed blockchain solution that allows financial transactions. In that, you can probably garner an idea of what defines a DApp. The Ethereum White Paper that defined the early Ethereum network split DApps into three main categories: Financial Applications. Provide users with methods to manage finances, both fiat, and crypto-based, including savings, wills, and “even some classes of full-scale employment contracts.” Semi-Financial Applications. Involve money, but finance is not the main focus; the given example…

Read the full article: What Are Decentralized Apps? DApps Explained With 5 Examples

Decentralized apps (DApps) run on top of and integrate with blockchain technology.

Want an example of a DApp? Bitcoin itself is one. Bitcoin is a decentralized distributed blockchain solution that allows financial transactions. In that, you can probably garner an idea of what defines a DApp.

The Ethereum White Paper that defined the early Ethereum network split DApps into three main categories:

  • Financial Applications. Provide users with methods to manage finances, both fiat, and crypto-based, including savings, wills, and “even some classes of full-scale employment contracts.”
  • Semi-Financial Applications. Involve money, but finance is not the main focus; the given example is for “self-enforcing bounties for solutions to computational programs.”
  • Non-Financial Applications. Do not involve money at all, such as an identity verification process, voting system, governance tool, or even decentralized file storage system.

What Makes It a Decentralized App?

According to The General Theory of Decentralized Applications White Paper, an application is only considered a DApp if it meets the following criteria:

  • Open Source: The DApp must be completely open source, operate autonomously, and have no single controlling entity for its tokens. Adaptation and improvements are possible, but all changes need the consensus of the DApp stakeholders.
  • Decentralized: Cryptographically store all data in a publicly accessible decentralized blockchain.
  • Tokens: Offer a token/coin native to the blockchain that allows both access to the network and contributes value from miners and users.
  • Algorithm: Use a standard cryptographic algorithm to enable mining through the node network.

Again, Bitcoin provides the easiest example for a decentralized application. While there is some discontent of the direction of Bitcoin’s development, it still ticks all those boxes. The whitepaper continues, explaining that there are three types of DApps:

  • Type I: The DApp has its own blockchain.
  • Type II: The DApp uses the blockchain of a Type I DApp. Type II DApps are protocols that issue tokens necessary for them to run.
  • Type III: The DApp uses the protocol of a Type II DApp, but are also protocols that issue and require tokens.

Confused? Think about it another way.

A Type I DApp is like an operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux, and so on. Type II DApps are similar to “general purpose software programs” like a word processor or spreadsheet program. Type III DApps are similar to specialized software that uses one of the proceeding types of software, “like a mail-merge tool that uses a word processor.”

5 Notable Examples of Decentralized Apps

Now that you understand the definitions and characteristics of a DApp, let’s consider some examples. These examples will give you a better understanding of how DApps function as well as their use.

The following example also illustrates the three categories above.

1. Augur

Augur combines decentralized networking and financial prediction markets to create powerful forecasting. It’s built upon the Ethereum blockchain. In its current guise, Augur allows you to make predictions about real-world events not limited to financial markets. The platform turns your prediction into “shares” that other users can buy or sell.

Augur is a Type II DApp.

2. Golem

Golem was one of the first global marketplaces for your idle computing power. The platform styles itself as a “global, open source, decentralized supercomputer that anyone can access.” What does that mean? Well, it means that if you have any unused computing power, you can lend it to the network. In turn, that unused or idle computing power is available for purchase from the Golem network as part of a combined bundle.

Any user can share their computing power and earn Golem Network Tokens. The first Golem use case is for GCI rendering, enabling artists to process massive computationally intensive Blender and LuxRenderer scenes.

Golem is a Type II DApp.

3. Aragon

Aragon is an ambitious decentralized management platform, also built on the Ethereum blockchain. It wants to break down the traditional barriers that restrict the creation and maintenance of organizational structures. In other words, Aragon wants to make it easier to create private Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), along with everything you need to succeed. This means arbitration, token management and transfers, role assignments, fundraising, and much more.

The Aragon Network Token, ANT, allows users to join in the operation and decision making processes for their network.

Aragon a Type II DApp.

4. Sia

Sia is a promising decentralized storage platform that leverages “underutilized hard drive capacity around the world,” creating a first-of-its-kind blockchain-based data storage marketplace. The platform turns those empty hard drives into cheap cloud storage that almost anyone can use. Prices are cheap, especially when compared to other major cloud storage providers.

There are still a few issues with the Sia platform, plus new features set to arrive. But Sia is a popular project that will end some of the dominance of major cloud hosting providers, and give some power back to individual users. SIA CEO David Vorick even has dreams of partnering with Netflix as “one of [his] personal goals for our three-year timeline.”

Sia a Type I DApp.

5. SAFE Network

The SAFE Network uses a decentralized approach to protecting consumer data and private communication. SAFE, which stands for Secure Access For Everyone, uses peer-to-peer technology to share that computing power between connected users. This creates a secure private network, rather than relying on centralized servers.

The SAFE Network wants to protect users from heavy-handed governments, censorship, data collection, criminals, and more. If you contribute your storage space and network capacity, you’ll earn MaidSafe, the SAFE Network token. In turn, you can trade this for Bitcoin (and then fiat currency if you wish).

The SAFE Network is a Type III DApp.

New DApps are being developed all the time, and we can’t cover them all, so if we’ve missed your favorite off the list we’re sorry. Let us know if you’re involved in any cool DApp projects!

Read the full article: What Are Decentralized Apps? DApps Explained With 5 Examples

Where to Buy Cryptocurrency: The 5 Best Crypto Exchanges

best-cryptoexchange

It can be tough enough to purchase BTC, ETH, or any other cryptocurrency using cold hard cash, so in this article we’ll guide you through the best cryptocurrency exchanges to use. But before handing over your hard-earned cash, there are a few things to consider when choosing an exchange. Are you looking to buy coins with a credit or debit card, or do you want to trade coins for other coins? Do you want to interact with an exchange, who will hold the coins on your behalf, or are you happy to configure wallets and negotiate the deal yourself? And…

Read the full article: Where to Buy Cryptocurrency: The 5 Best Crypto Exchanges

It can be tough enough to purchase BTC, ETH, or any other cryptocurrency using cold hard cash, so in this article we’ll guide you through the best cryptocurrency exchanges to use. But before handing over your hard-earned cash, there are a few things to consider when choosing an exchange.

Are you looking to buy coins with a credit or debit card, or do you want to trade coins for other coins? Do you want to interact with an exchange, who will hold the coins on your behalf, or are you happy to configure wallets and negotiate the deal yourself?

And here are a few more things to consider:

Reputation. Before anything else, is the cryptocurrency exchange reputable? Does it have a solid history without bungling payments, withholding user funds, or stealing everyone’s currency? The big exchanges listed below may have occasional minor issues, but they have generally proven themselves to be trustworthy and reliable.

Fees. Next up, how much is it going to cost you to use the exchange? The vast majority of exchanges charge a nominal percentage of your transaction, varying between exchanges. You don’t want to pay over the odds. But sometimes paying more secures a better overall experience, so it is about finding a happy balance.

Payment Types. How many different ways can you purchase cryptocurrencies on the exchange? Do they accept bank transfers? Debit and credit cards? Few sites accept PayPal as a valid payment type due to the high risk of fraudulent transactions (stolen accounts and so on).

Verification The vast majority of sites require at least some form of user identification. Verification varies between sites but usually involves a driver’s license, passport, or similar. Some sites require multiple forms of user identification before allowing access.

Geography. Does the exchange have any geographical limitations? Some cryptocurrency exchanges only serve customers in certain locations.

1. Binance

Binance exchange

Binance is one of the top cryptocurrency exchanges by both trading volume and usability. Often the first of the big exchanges to list a new coin, Binance offer a substantial number of cryptocurrencies

Binance has traditionally been a strictly crypto-to-crypto exchange, with all trading pegged relative to Bitcoin, Ethereum, USDT (Tether), or Binance’s in-house currency, BNB. Recently, Binance has started opening fiat trading pairs in selected countries. Hopefully, this will open up around the world given time.

The Binance interface is slightly clunky, but advanced users will quickly find their way around. Newcomers might need some extra time, but it isn’t overwhelming. Finally, Binance trading fees vary between 0.05% and 0.1%, which is quite reasonable.

Useful for: Intermediate users and onwards, day traders.

Not useful for: Trading fiat currency, beginners.

2. Bitfinex

Bitfinex exchange

Bitfinex is another huge exchange. Trading over $300 million a day, you can be sure to find a buyer here. With an interface very similar to Coinbase Pro (see below), you’ll soon pick up the basics.

Not only can you trade a huge variety of coins, but Bitfinex allows funding via wire transfer, and trading of fiat currencies USD, EUR, GBP, and JPY.

Bitfinex fees start at 0.1% for selling and 0.2% for buying. While not the lowest around, this is still very reasonable. If you’re a big spender, then fees continue to go down the more you trade every month.

There is one blot on Bitfinex’s record, however. Bifinex lost 120,000 Bitcoins through a hack in 2016. This was worth $72 million at the time and is the second largest hack of all time. Bitfinex issued an “IOU” in the form of the BFX token. While there was some skepticism around this, Bitfinex were true to their word and redeemed 100% of the BFX tokens. Want to know more? Read about the biggest cryptocurrency hacks.

Useful for: Intermediate users and onwards, day traders.

Not useful for: Absolute beginners.

3. Bittrex

Bittrex exchange

Founded in 2015, Bittrex has a reputation for stability and reliability.

With a very similar interface to Bitfinex, you’ll have no problem making trades if you’ve used any other exchange.

All trades have a 0.25% commission, which is higher than most exchanges. This is still insignificant, as it’s almost low enough to trade without concern.

Bittrex has recently introduced USD trading pairs, which continues to be accessible to more and more countries, as Bittrex rolls this out in a staggered release.

Useful for: Intermediate users and onwards, day traders.

Not useful for: Absolute beginners.

4. Coinbase/Coinbase Pro

Coinbase broker

Coinbase was one of the first websites to let you use your bank account to buy cryptocurrencies. While technically Coinbase is a broker, their exchange subsidiary Coinbase Pro (formerly GDAX) handles trading.

Coinbase fees are on the high side compared to many other websites, and there have been rumors of inside trading when listing new coins (such as Bitcoin Cash), but you’ll find Coinbase is generally a good place to start for an absolute beginner, as well as a good way to cash out to your local currency.

The Coinbase interface is easy to use, and you can transfer finances between Coinbase and Coinbase Pro without incurring any fees.

Coinbase Pro market

To keep things simple, Coinbase only lists four cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin. If you’re worried about security, but don’t want to store your own coins, then Coinbase Pro insure all their accounts, up to $250,000 per customer.

Coinbase is often used as a starting point. A good place for a beginner to buy from, and an easy entry point to trade fiat currency for cryptocurrency, and then shuffle those coins onto another exchange.

Useful for: Absolute beginners.

Not useful for: Day traders, those looking for altcoins.

5. Local Bitcoins

best cryptocurrency exchanges - LocalBitCoins

The final cryptocurrency exchange to check out is LocalBitcoins. LocalBitcoins is a peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchange. Users contact the buyer or seller listing Bitcoin at a price they agree with, as well as a payment or sale method. LocalBitcoin vendors accept a staggering range of transaction methods, including gift card codes, PayPal, altcoins, wire transfers and more.

The combination of sales and payment methods, and vendors working in “248 countries” makes LocalBitcoins one of the most popular Bitcoin exchanges around.

Furthermore, LocalBitcoins is an instant trade platform. Depending on your payment method, your transaction might be over in minutes. And finally, the LocalBitcoins interface is one of the easiest to use, allowing you to sort vendors by country, payment type, currency type, and more.

Useful for: Quick fiat-Bitcoin transactions, some altcoins, all user abilities.

Not useful for: Swing trading, crypto-to-crypto, day trading.

Are Other Cryptocurrency Exchanges Worthwhile?

There are more cryptocurrency exchanges out there. A lot more, in fact. Some users won’t agree with the cryptocurrency exchanges on this list, either, because everyone has their preferences. But these five exchanges represent a blend of beginners-to-advanced tools, tools for day and swing trading, and quick crypto-fiat transactions.

The most important thing to remember is remaining secure with a solid cryptocurrency wallet!

Read the full article: Where to Buy Cryptocurrency: The 5 Best Crypto Exchanges