A journey through Bitcoin Village.

Ever since around Thanksgiving, it’s been impossible to tune out all of the noise that Bitcoin is making in the media. First, it was Bitcoin’s meteoric rise to $20K, followed by an abrupt crash, downward spiraling all the way down to under $6K at one point. The widespread mania prompted (foolish) people to remortgage their homes to avoid missing out on the promise of Lambos and wealth beyond our wildest dreams. Dreams that quickly turned into nightmares for many, as FOMO turned to FUD in a mere few months.

Beyond the wild swings in price due to its volatile, speculative nature, those that have been embracing the cryptocurrency as a replacement for the almighty dollar, have begun to show the rest of the world what life using Bitcoin is like.

Bitcoin Village,” a small section of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is taking lead and showing the rest of the world that cryptocurrency is indeed a currency that can be used for everyday occurrences, like dining out at your favorite restaurant, visiting a theatre, ‘getting your hair did’, or shopping at a local mom and pop retail boutique.

The journey started with STREET, a casual dining restaurant that was featured on an episode of the Food Network’s ‘Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives’, entitled ‘Sausage, Seafood and Shawarma’. Flyers for Bitcoin that include a “quick-start guide” and references to a “world famous” Bitcoin tour. Marketing materials in the lobby call out that Bitcoin is “accepted here” and boasts that “people who paid with Bitcoin saw food prices drop by 75%” likely referencing Bitcoin’s parabolic value increase in 2017.

The signage boldly asks “can your money do that?”

STREET also accepts other cryptocurrencies, such as Dash, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin. When management was asked “why crypto,” the response was “there wasn’t a reason not to accept it,” citing how easy it was to integrate an app into their iPad-based point-of-sales system. STREET’s sister restaurant, an eclectic pizza parlor located in the same plaza called STREET’ZA also accepts the same cryptocurrencies.

Also on this famed Bitcoin “tour” was La Maison Navarre, a French pastry shop; Fresh Press, a 100% organic smoothie and foodie spot; Lair’s Bench, a brewpub; and Fezziwig’s Food and Fountain, which offers coffee, tea, crepes, milkshakes, and ice cream sundaes. And that only covers food.

Sol Sunwear, which was the first retailer to join the Bitcoin revolution that started in Portsmouth, takes a tongue in cheek approach to their accepting cryptocurrency. Like STREET, each shop accepting crypto in Bitcoin Village has unique signage to alert customers and passer-by that Bitcoin is accepted here. At Sol Sunwear, a shop that sells designer eyewear, the sign reads “Bitcoin millionaires prefer Prada and Valentino.”

Another fashion outlet, Cotillion Bureau, offers second-hand clothing selected for its craftsmanship.

As a tourism hotspot, Bitcoin Village is also home to a few gift shops that offer unique and interesting trinkets. Pickwick’s Mercantile is one of them. Their “feminine” counterpart is Lady Pickwick’s. Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium is chock full of oddities including crystal balls, costumes, antiques and more – a stark contrast to the technologically advanced nature of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. All of these places will accept cryptocurrency alongside traditional dollars and cents.

For entertainment, 33 Artspace offers a local value for live performances, and the Seacost Repertory Theatre is a historic venue for plays, musicals, and more. Portsmouth School of Ballet, Portsmouth Smoke and Vape, Oomph Hair Salon, Port City Coin and Jewelry, Pickwick’s at the Banke, and even Portsmouth’s local Lens Crafters franchise accepts Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Yoga classes at Bikram Yoga Portsmouth can be paid for using crypto. Crypto can buy you almost anything in this town.

Portsmouth is also home to the Blockchain Institute of Technology and offers hands-on education on blockchain development. Passing by the window, students were hard at work while unmanned computers had screensavers that flashed the images of various cryptocurrency tokens.

Last but not least, the tour ends at the Portsmouth Free State Bitcoin Shoppe. This is where it all started, the “Cryptoanarchy Mecca,” as the two founders define it. Their mission is to “help people use better money.” At the Free State Bitcoin Shoppe, everything from crypto related T-shirts, cold storage hardware wallets, books, and propaganda are available – but here, only cryptocurrency is accepted. That’s right, they’ll turn away fiat money and encourage you to use their crypto ATM if you don’t already own Bitcoin or one of the many other cryptocurrencies accepted here (including Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Zcash, Monero, Ripple, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Dogecoin). It’s the founders of the Free State Bitcoin Shoppe that encouraged other retailers in the area to get involved in the “movement.”

And what a job they’ve done. No other place on the planet offers such a wealth of diversity in its people and its businesses, yet also accept cryptocurrencies so widely and openly. Portsmouth, NH has always been an innovative community, but it’s the one place on Earth where the future of currency – a future led by cryptocurrencies – is already in practice.

Messaging app Telegram has become the latest victim of cryptocurrency mining malware, as researchers at Kaspersky Lab have revealed a now-patched vulnerability that allowed hackers to exploit a flaw in the platform’s file transfer service.

Kaspersky said that the vulnerability, which was first exploited in March 2017 and discovered by researchers in October, was a “classic right-to-left override attack.”

Simply put, this attack exploited the portion of Telegram’s software that enabled the messenger to recognize Arabic and Hebrew, languages which are read right to left. The hackers were able to use this feature to reverse the order of characters in filenames, which allowed them to disguise suspicious file extensions as images or other seemingly non-threatening file types.

After users downloaded the files, embedded scripts would silently unleash a malware payload on the target operating system. One of the most prominent payloads was malware that harnessed the target computer’s processing power to mine cryptocurrencies for the attackers.

cryptocurrency mining malware
Source: Kaspersky

These miners were primarily developed for the Equihash and Cryptonight mining algorithms, which are employed by privacy-centric cryptocurrencies Zcash (ZEC) and Monero (XMR), respectively.

Although the vulnerability affected all Telegram users, Kaspersky said that it appears only Russian hackers exploited it, which is why the vast majority of victims were Russian residents.

These types of attacks have become quite common in recent months, particularly since the development of CoinHive, a mining script that can be implemented into the background of websites and used to harness the computing power of visitors.

As BlockExplorer reported, more than 4,200 websites hosted by government agencies in the US and UK have recently been compromised through the use of a tool called BrowseAloud and injected with CoinHive-based mining malware scripts.

Telegram denied that exploit was the result of a “real vulnerability,” arguing that users bore responsibility for choosing to download the files.

“This is not a real vulnerability on Telegram Desktop, no one can remotely take control of your computer or Telegram unless you open a (malicious) file,” Reuters cited the company as saying in a statement.

Nevertheless, the timing of the vulnerability’s disclosure is awkward for Telegram, as the company is reportedly preparing to launch a record-shattering initial coin offering (ICO) that could raise up to $2 billion.

Featured Image from MaxPixel

zk-starks

A team of researchers has released a white paper for zk-starks, a much-anticipated blockchain privacy technology that has been lauded as a way to achieve zcash-level privacy without the risk of using a trusted setup.

One of the chief criticisms of using public blockchains like bitcoin to store monetary value is that they are the equivalent of making everyone’s bank account records publicly-accessible. Though the data is technically pseudonymous, it is often quite simple for governments and other powerful actors to associate addresses with their owners.

The zk-starks white paper, published on Jan. 12 by a team of researchers led by Eli Ben-Sasson of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, represents the latest attempt to use zero-knowledge (ZK) proofs to rectify the need for a public ledger to validate the integrity of the blockchain with the importance of protecting user privacy.

The white paper states:

“Human dignity demands that personal information, like medical and forensic data, be hidden from the public. But veils of secrecy designed to preserve privacy may also be abused to cover up lies and deceit by parties entrusted with Data, unjustly harming citizens and eroding trust in central institutions.”

The gripe with current ZK implementations — the most notable of which is the zk-snark technology currently used by the zcash cryptocurrency — is that they require the creation of a “master key.” The team behind zcash went to elaborate lengths to ensure that this key was not compromised during the launch of the network and was destroyed after its deployment.

However, the problem with such a trusted setup is that there is no way to conclusively verify that the key was destroyed without being compromised by a potentially hostile actor, who could use it to print new units of currency at will. The stakes of this trusted setup only increase along with zcash’s market cap, creating what some would term untenable systemic risk if zcash ever approached mass adoption.

“Public trust demands transparency from ZK systems, meaning they be set up with no reliance on any trusted party, and have no trapdoors that could be exploited by powerful parties to bear false witness,” Ben-Sasson and his co-authors continue, adding that unfortunately “no ZK system realized thus far in code (including that used by crypto-currencies like Zcash™) has achieved both transparency and exponential verification speedup, simultaneously, for general computations.”

Zk-starks (short for a zero-knowledge system that is a scalable and transparent argument of knowledge), if realized, could introduce transparency into the equation while also retaining the blockchain’s scalability.

The white paper includes a proof-of-concept in which police investigators prove that an allegedly-corrupt presidential candidate’s DNA does not appear in the department’s forensic DNA database, without compromising the integrity or confidentiality of either the candidate’s DNA or the database.

However, as the paper notes, zk-snarks are “roughly 1000x shorter” than zk-stark proofs, so more research will be needed to mitigate this problem through shorter proofs or another solution.

Notably, researchers are also exploring ways to implement ZK proofs into Bitcoin. Stanford University’s Applied Cryptography Group, for instance, recently released a white paper for Bulletproofs, a ZK protocol that could be used to increase the privacy of bitcoin transactions without a trusted setup.

Featured Image from Pexels

edward snowden on zcash

Edward Snowden has said on Twitter that Zcash is risky, but certainly has potential. Specifically, he stated: “It’s a moonshot”, ”certain to change everything if it succeeds.” Edward Snowden’s comments on the technology behind Zcash may be part of the reason why Zcash’s price has risen so much in recent days. As of 12/21/17, ZEC is currently trading at ~$679 according to the Block Explorer Market data. 

This is just the latest one of several tweets Snowden has made on the subject of Zcash, referring to its privacy technology, known as Shielded Addresses. In the past, Snowden has even gone so far as to compare Bitcoin and Zcash, stating: “if it’s not private, it’s not safe.”

Snowden’s comments on Zcash prompt privacy debate

As a result of this public “support” from Snowden, Zcash’s opt-in privacy has come under fire by Monero users, who state that Monero is the more private and secure of the two currencies. Whether that’s true remains to be seen. Private transactions are certain to change everything, if successful. Some users criticised the fact that Zcash is maintained by a for-profit company, and whether or not that is the best idea for a privacy-oriented currency. Snowden responded raising concerns about the “founder’s fee” that the Zcash company takes, but otherwise stating that because the cryptocurrency is open source, anyone could fork and remove any issues that the company may add. Multiple other responses pointed out that while Zcash transactions can be private, they are not implicitly, and according to one response as few as 0.3% of all Zcash transactions were of the private type. 

How Anonymous Transactions work in Zcash

Zcash gives its users opt-in privacy on the blockchain through its Shielded Address. A transaction between two shielded addresses is completely private, meaning that on the blockchain, all that is visible is that a transaction happened, the source, destination, and amount transferred are all hidden. When sending from a Shielded address to a transparent address, the target and the amount the target received are visible on the blockchain, while the sender and the amount sent are not, the inverse is true for sending from a transparent address to a shielded address. And transactions between two transparent addresses are similar to those on the bitcoin blockchain, both the source and destination are visible, as is the amount transferred. It’s worth noting though, that at the time of writing, only a very small percentage of Zcash is stored in shielded addresses.

The BlockExplorer Team is proud to announce the release of our Zcash blockexplorer. Please check out our new Zcash blockexplorer at https://zcash.blockexplorer.com.

How to use the Zcash Blockexplorer

If you’re wondering how to use the Zcash blockexplorer to view ZEC transactions or ZEC blocks. Simply click here for more information on how to use a Blockexplorer.