Category Archives: Technology

Greatest Online Hack And Attacks – How To NOT Become A Victim!

Greatest Online Hack And Attacks – How To NOT Become A Victim!

The Internet Is Amazing, Yet Ruthless!

While the commercialized version of the internet we know of today began to take shape from the late seventies to the early eighties, many forward thinking investors and entrepreneurs cemented themselves in history and generated a league of long term, generational wealth.

However it hasn’t been plain sailing, the internet has created opportunities for companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Amazon and so on but also for ‘bad actors’ and fraudulent entities seeking to manipulate, steal and take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities.

In this article, we will be looking at several examples of successful hacks, data breaches and attacks and solutions to help prevent it happening to yourself!

TalkTalk Data Breach

In late 2015, popular UK internet service provider Talktalk announced that up to 157,000 of customers’ data had been compromised.

Reports on the incident detailed the hackers had access to sensitive information such as account details, DOB, addresses and up to 15,000 bank account and sort-code numbers were stolen.

At the time, news of the event triggered Talktalk’s share prices to plummet by about a third of their original value!

The Conficker Worm Of 2008

While this is not the most detrimental example in comparison to others, its longevity is something worth noting.

The Conficker worm is malware software that replicates itself and compromises any machine it gets on to, creating havoc by spamming your device or opening backdoor vulnerabilities by becoming a keyboard logger, meaning any passwords or sensitive information entered on your computer are automatically stored and sent elsewhere without you knowing about it!

Another dangerous feature of this resilient bot, it can deactivate your anti-virus in order to protect itself, it has been going from computer to computer for over eight years and is indeed something to look out for.

Mt Gox Exchange Incident 

Quite possibly the most notorious event in the Bitcoin and Blockchain industry, up until early 2014 Japanese based Mt Gox handled over 70% of the transactional volume of the Bitcoin network and was at the time the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world.

This was brung to a sudden conclusion as the exchange fell victim to an unforgettable hack and bad actors managed to steal up to 850,000 Bitcoins!

The exchange shortly after declared bankruptcy and with the bulk of Bitcoin transactional volume gone and stolen Bitcoin circulating the eco system, it triggered an eighteen month bear market which effected the entire cryptocurrency markets up until late 2015 and early 2016.

Coincheck

Another cryptocurrency hack, Tokyo based exchange Coincheck experienced the theft of 523 Million NEM coins in early 2018, resulting in over $500 Million stolen from the exchange.

Reports from the exchange detailed that funds held in ‘hot’ (online) wallets had been compromised, since the attack Coincheck has announced it plans to reimburse victims and is in the process of tracking and retrieving the stolen NEM coins.

FBI Hacked By 15 Year Old

In November 2016 a 15 year old boy hacked the servers of the FBI and released detailed information about every undercover agent in the United States!

The data was released on the Dark Web with the most notable point about this hack being that the boy was a total amateur, yet managing to breach the data of what many thought was the most advanced and secure system used by the US Government!

Wannacry Ransomware Attack

An entirely avoidable incident, in May 2017 a worldwide attack was carried out by using the ransomware cryptoworm, which targeted computers running the Microsoft operating system and encrypting the data on the machine.

The hackers demanded Bitcoin if users wanted to restore their computers, and yes some people did pay the ransom! You can view the Bitcoin addresses here!

This rendered computers using older versions of Windows useless, leaving hospitals, businesses and many other computer-orientated industries at the mercy of the hackers, it was later announced that North Korea was behind the incident.

Global Ongoing DDOS Attacks

DDOS or Distributed Denial Of Service Attack is something which happens on a daily basis across the world, you can also view the biggest DDOS attacks online.

How a DDOS works is quite simple, an attacker will literally flood the receiving server with overwhelming amounts of data, overloading its connection and triggering a crash.

The online infrastructure of the West is bombarded with DDOS attacks on a daily basis and anyone from their home can launch an attack, it’s also very common for people to gain the IP of someone from Facebook and flood their internet connection with data.

In the most severe cases when an attacker has the resources a DDOS attack can be extremely disruptive, an example of this is when numerous popular websites, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix and many others became compromised as their servers were literally overloading from extreme levels of data.

Blockchain 51% Attacks And Network Spamming

Even a Blockchain can be rendered useless by similar attacks, a 51% attack is where ‘bad actors’ possess the majority or more than half of the processing power on the respective Blockchain.

With this they can mine empty blocks, slow down the network and generally cause chaos, however for this to be successful on a Blockchain such as Bitcoin or Ethereum’s the ‘bad actors’ will need considerable amounts of processing power, so far the largest Bitcoin mining pools only hold 20% each of the collective processing power.

Spamming the network is again another simple yet effective method of slowing down a Blockchain, providing vast resources are available.

Bitcoin throughout 2017 was spammed with useless transactional data, to the point that its transactional capacity was bloated, this triggered higher transaction fees as the blocks became full.

In late 2016 Ethereum was subject to a vulnerability which meant DDOS attacks could slow down the network’s ability to process information – this resulted in Ethereum forking to patch the vulnerabilities.

How To Avoid Becoming The Victim

Nothing online is 100% impregnable, but there are certain measures that help reduce the risk of being compromised online.

Run regular anti-virus sweeps, Trojans and malware (similar to the Conficker Worm) are extremely dangerous, your computers built in defences and some anti-virus software may not detect it.

Malwarebytes is a free anti-virus, which allows you to scan your device for any suspicious programs, you can delete it after scanning and it usually detects most types of malware, however there are no guarantees of this.

Don’t open suspicious emails, many keyboard loggers and spam bots can use your email to get into your computer, simply by you opening the email allows the malicious program to activate and record all your password entries, website history and even enable it to watch your screen.

Be mindful of who the email is from and keep personal and business emails separate, do not download files from unverified websites, these are likely fraudulent.

Have a work computer and personal computer, it helps to spread risk, having one computer for all your daily tasks can leave you open to being compromised.

If your work device is compromised due to the company being hacked, your personal documents and pictures remain unharmed and vice versa.

Another reason for keeping multiple devices is to prevent individuals from having access to your sensitive and private data.

Phishing, Fake websites and looking out for websites that don’t use HTTPS, in the top right corner of your address bar you will notice a padlock, meaning your information you put in is private (supposedly).

Also this is an excellent way to determine if a website is genuine or not, some websites will literally copy and paste the website template to a fake domain and pretend to be the desired website, many victims from this type of fraud are users of cryptocurrency exchanges.

With a fake login portal you are unwittingly providing bad actors with your username, password and much more!

Never store passwords or private data on a computer or server, for those with cryptocurrency, storing your private key of upmost importance, writing it down on paper and keeping it safe is the ultimate defence, but also not letting websites remember your passwords and debit/credit card information is also key.

Again, as mentioned earlier malware can store every keyboard stroke you enter, only enter financial and personal data on the most trusted and secure websites.

Always be cautious when online, do not trust anything you see and always conduct your own research before signing up or purchasing.

Coinbase Ordered by IRS to Hand Over 13,000 Users’ Data IMMEDIATELY!

Coinbase Ordered by IRS to Hand Over 13,000 Users’ Data IMMEDIATELY!

The Ongoing Battle Between Coinbase and the IRS!

It’s no secret that the IRS has been hot on the heels of Coinbase and its users’ transactional information for over a year, with Coinbase receiving a John Doe summons dating back to December 8th, 2016, with further demands throughout 2017 that transactional data from 2013-2015 was to be handed over.

Coinbase fought back and won a “partial” victory, reducing the amount of data demanded for submission. Unfortunately, while that battle was won, the war was not!

IRS Wins! Summons Will Affect Thousands of Users!

In November 2017, the San Francisco court ruled that Coinbase MUST hand over data of users who completed transactions of more than $20,000 through their accounts from 2013–2015!

“Moreover, Coinbase itself admits that the Narrowed Summons requests information regarding 8.9 million Coinbase transactions and 14,355 Coinbase account holders.

That only 800 to 900 taxpayers reported gains related to bitcoin in each of the relevant years and that more than 14,000 Coinbase users have either bought, sold, sent or received at least $20,000 worth of bitcoin in a given year suggests that many Coinbase users may not be reporting their bitcoin gains.

The IRS has a legitimate interest in investigating these taxpayers.”

Source: Petition to Enforce IRS Summons Pages 6-7

According to the recent notification sent out by Coinbase themselves, the categories of information demanded by the IRS range from private information to transactional data.

“On February 23rd, 2018, Coinbase notified a group of approximately 13,000 customers concerning a summons from the IRS regarding their Coinbase accounts.

The court ordered Coinbase to provide taxpayer ID, name, birth date, address, and historical transaction records for certain higher-transacting customers during the 2013-2015 period.

While Coinbase is unable to provide legal or tax advice, please refer to our Taxes FAQ for more information on taxes and digital currency.

Coinbase’s support article goes on to encourage affected users to seek professional advice on the matter.

If you have concerns about this, we encourage you to seek legal advice from an attorney promptly. Coinbase expects to produce the information covered by the court’s order within 21 days.”

Source: Coinbase Support

How Will This Affect Coinbase

While this latest development in the battle against the IRS does not come as a surprise, it leaves many unanswered questions.

As Coinbase is one of the leading exchanges in the world for purchasing Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum, will other regulatory authorities from other countries make an attempt to demand information about their citizens?

With the E.U. and other Western nations taking tax evasion via cryptocurrencies more seriously, the reality of this happening is actually a possibility!

It is likely that Coinbase will still trade and be “open” for business for many years to come, but as a business, it will probably take more steps to protect and make its customers aware of potential liabilities they could face in the years following.

Privacy Coins That You Stay Can Anonymous With

With Coinbase under the eye of the law and Bitcoin transactions being traceable by the addresses users send to, is there any privacy in the cryptocurrency space?

Below are some anonymous cryptocurrencies that use encrypted transactions to keep all activity on the network fully private and decentralized.

PLEASE NOTE that this is not investment advice, and when using these coins on a centralized exchange, the exchange will have the purchase history and know all data about the transactions and trades.

If you send via peer-to-peer without the exchanges, the personal sender and receiver only know the transaction!

ZcashThis cryptocurrency uses encrypted transactions to give the user full transparency on the network. This is achieved by using zk-SNARKS, which allows the encrypted transaction to be accepted on the network by miners.

Zcash is the result of the Zerocoin protocol, which is what Zcoin originally used. Zcash’s protocol is the 2.0 to Zcoin’s.

Where to buy:

Where to store:

 

MoneroThe primary currency used on the dark markets, Monero is another favourite in the privacy coin market. It is different to Zcash and other Zerocoin protocol-based cryptocurrencies, as it uses “ring signatures” and “stealth addresses.”

This works by creating one-time addresses for each transaction. The ring signature is a type of encrypted digital signature. A member of a group that each possess the keys can anonymously verify a transaction without it ever being traced back to them.

Where to buy:

 

Where to store

 

Always remember to fully research an exchange or cryptocurrency before purchasing or submitting your information, and research the respective laws of your country. Only invest what you can afford to lose, and be aware of potential tax liabilities in years to come.

Stellar Lumens (XLM): Is This the Year it Catches Up With Rival Ripple?

Stellar Lumens (XLM): Is This the Year it Catches Up With Rival Ripple?

What is Stellar?

Stellar is a blockchain network that can connect banks, payment systems, and people together using its native digital asset, Lumens. It seeks to make sending value as easy as sending an email.

While Bitcoin uses the proof-of-work algorithm, which requires miners to validate transactions on the network, Stellar uses the open source Stellar Consensus Protocol (SCP):

“The main differences between the Stellar network and Bitcoin are the following:

  • Stellar is based on a consensusalgorithm rather than mining. This means transactions confirm in a few seconds.
  • The supply of lumen increasesat a fixed rate of 1% a year.
  • Stellar aims to let you transact in your currency of choice (fiat or digital).”

Source: https://www.stellar.org/faq/#

Stellar Lumens (XLM): Is This the Year it Catches Up With Rival Ripple?

Source: https://www.stellar.org/papers/stellar-consensus-protocol.pdf

A simplistic way to describe Stellar is by saying that it is a more decentralized version of Ripple and its target user base is not aimed directly at financial institutions, but rather everyday users and technology businesses.

The SCP used by the Stellar network is derived from what Ripple uses, and as I’ll explain later in this article, it has a very intertwined history with Ripple!

Stellar’s Creation and its History With Ripple

Stellar was created from the Ripple protocol, and its co-founder, Jed McCaleb, was one of the original founders of Ripple.

While these two protocols are ultimately attempting to innovate global payments, they take different approaches to it.

Ripple’s primary focus is on innovating the financial institutions’ ability to settle cross-border payments (the very institutions Bitcoin seeks to make obsolete). Stellar is aiming at payment providers, technology companies, and individuals, making its technology available to the community.

The image below, from Bitcoinist.com, compares the differences between these rival digital assets. Interestingly, each time Ripple has experienced a price breakout, Stellar usually follows, similar to the relationship between Bitcoin and Litecoin.

Stellar Lumens (XLM): Is This the Year it Catches Up With Rival Ripple?

“Stellar.org connects people to low-cost financial services to fight poverty and develop individual potential.”

Source: https://www.stellar.org/about/

 

Decentralized Vs. Centralized

Key fundamentals separate these two networks. Stellar is a non-profit organization, and its technology is open source. It uses reserves to fund the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF), which is dedicated to the development of Stellar’s technology and application development within its ecosystem. As pointed out earlier, its target market is the retail user and technology companies.

In contrast to this, Ripple has 60% of its token supply locked up. It’s a for-profit organization that is building a global payment network (RippleNet) with the very institutions that drive down the purchasing power of nations and trigger economic implosions.

As mentioned earlier, Stellar’s technology is based on similar code to Ripple, and while Ripple is clearly the more centralized of the two, it remains to be seen which will emerge as the most efficient protocol. As they each evolve and move into different ecosystems (decentralized and centralized), so will their protocols and the technological requirements to thrive.

Morally and ethically, Stellar is the superior blockchain designed for the people, and it has the innovative ability to stay relevant and compete with Ripple’s technology. It can scale and bridge multiple fiat and cryptocurrencies together at a cost-effective rate.

Stellar’s Innovation and Scalability

The blockchain sector has always embraced entrepreneurism and innovation, as they’re vital for its growth and survival. Stellar embraces this as well, encouraging application and scalability development on its network.

Enter Mobius, a new payment application built on top of the Stellar network. By using the Stellar Consensus Protocol as its foundation, it allows for scalability, speed, and cost-effective transactions in a decentralized manner.

Price Behavior in 2017 and 2018

In 2017, Stellar experienced price growth of over 20,000%, making it one of the top-performing blockchain protocols.

Stellar suffered a brief downturn after peaking at the $0.90 region, as the cryptocurrency markets overall suffered a sharp pullback.

However, against Bitcoin, Stellar has been a strong asset to hold, and it has performed better during this turbulent January 2018 than many other digital assets.

Stellar Lumens (XLM): Is This the Year it Catches Up With Rival Ripple?

Five Reasons to Purchase Stellar Lumens

  • In late 2017 IBM revealed the successful results of a partnership with Stellar, it successfully settled transactions using the native digital asset of the Stellar network, Lumens (XLM).
  • Stellar’s asset Lumen (XLM) is becoming more liquid as the Blockchain space evolves, you can find it listed on most trusted exchanges. This creates a more resilient price and reduces the likelihood of price manipulation.
  • Something which is a hot topic in Blockchain is the regulations on digital assets and how it influences the cryptocurrency sector, Stellar is already compliant with regulators and its foundation is fully active and above board.
  • It has the technology to issue any asset, making it flexible with who can use it while providing the service in a secure and cost effective manner.
  • XLM allows any financial instrument to transfer as a form of money, by digitally representing existing currencies and assets on a fast and scalable network. Scalability is something the Blockchain sector is striving to solve and Stellar’s technology is setting the pace in this regard.

Where to Buy

Poloniex

Kraken

Binance

Bittrex

(Most exchanges will list Stellar Lumens)

Where to Store Privately

Ledger Hardware Wallet

Official Stellar Wallets

 

Disclaimer

This is not investment advice; full critical research is recommended before making any investment decisions.

Please always read the white paper before taking action. Research will provide confidence and help your judgement in these highly-volatile markets.