Tag Archives: Blockchain

Data Encryption

How to Safely Encrypt Sensitive Data in Your Mobile App

In November 2014, cybercriminals perpetrated one of the biggest cybercrimes of the decade. They hacked into Sony’s computer systems, stole sensitive data, paralyzed the company’s operations, and gradually leaked embarrassing information to the media. The hackers threatened to continue until Sony agreed to pull the controversial comedy The Interview from its theatrical release.

As the headlines will tell you, the encryption of sensitive data is one of the most important investments a company can make. Facebook is currently under heat for data protection practices. The UK National Crime Agency called WannaCry a signal moment for awareness of cyberattacks and their real world impact. With the stakes higher than ever, the encryption of sensitive data in apps has never been more important.

Here are our top tips on how to safely encrypt sensitive data in your mobile app.

TIP #1: Coding and Testing

Writing secure code is fundemental to creating a secure app. Obfuscating and minifying code so that it cannot be reverse engineered is critical to keeping a secure environment. Testing and fixing bugs when they are exposed should be an ongoing investment of resources as it will pay off in the long run.

Tip #2: Scramble Data

Sometimes, the best method of encrypting data is scrambling. Software and web developers often become obsessed with storing every bit of data in databases and logs, assuming it may be useful later, but doing so can create a target for cybercriminals.

Cunning developers will only store a scrambled version of the data, making it unreadable to the outside eye, but still useful for those who know how to query it correctly.

For an in-depth dive into scrambling data, check out this awesome essay on how Amazon does it.

Tip #3: In Transit Vs. At Rest Encryption

There are two types of data to be encrypted: in transit data and at rest data. In transit data is moving data, be it in transit via email, in apps, or through browsers and other web connections. At rest data is stored in databases, the cloud, computer hard drives, or mobile devices. In transit data can be protected through the implementation of robust network security controls and firewalls. At rest data can be protected through systematically categorizing and classifying data with data protection measures in mind.

Tip #4: Secret Vs. Public Key Algorithms

Secret Key Algorithms are algorithms that use the same key for encryption and decryption. Public-key algorithms us two different encryption keys, one for encryption and the other for decryption. The public key is how the data is sent and the private key decodes it. Public-key algorithms are more secure, but require more computer processing power.

Tip #5: Blockchain Cryptography

We’ve covered the Blockchain in our past article on The Revolutionary Mechanics of the Blockchain. Blockchain cryptography has been on the rise because blockchain databases are distributed and thus more resilient in the face of a DOS attack.

Tip #6: Apps that Clean Up after Themselves 

Apps that collect sensitive information don’t necessarily need to store it. It is wise to delete sensitive data from mobile apps when the data is no longer in active use.

Tip #7 Choose the Right Algorithm

There are several popular pre-existing algorithms in existence that can be used to encrypt sensitive data in mobile apps. Check out UpWork’s awesome rundown:

  1. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
  2. RSA
  3. IDEA
  4. Signal
  5. Blowfish and Two Fish
  6. Ring Learning With Errors or Ring-LWE

Over the last 10 years, enterprise-wide use of encryption has jumped by 22 percent according to the Ponemon Institute. When building a mobile app, investing in encrypting sensitive data will pay off in the long run and haunt those that short-change it.

Litecoin: The Everyday Cryptocurrency

In our last piece, the Mystic Media Blog covered the up and coming cryptocurrency Ripple. This week, we’ll examine another major cryptocurrency player: Litecoin.

Litecoin is a swifter, more nimble adaptation of Bitcoin utilizing the Bitcoin Core protocol. As Litecoin founder Charlie Lee puts it: Litecoin is designed to be the silver to Bitcoin’s gold.

Charles Lee graphically denotes the relationship between Bitcoin and Litecoin on his Twitter profile using an image of Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z wearing the Litecoin insignia and Goku who wears Bitcoin’s insignia.

Charlie Lee graphically denotes the relationship between Bitcoin and Litecoin on his Twitter profile using an image of Vegeta wearing the Litecoin insignia, and Goku wearing Bitcoin’s insignia.

Litecoin was created in October 2011 by Charlie Lee, a former Google engineer. When creating Litecoin, Charlie Lee aimed to mimic the Bitcoin protocol while decreasing the block generation time and the maximum number of coins. In doing so, he reduced transaction times and fees. Litecoin processes transactions in only 2.5 minutes while Bitcoin takes about 10 minutes. Additionally, Litecoins are capped at 84 million, quadruple the cap of coins for Bitcoin. As of February 2018, the transaction fee for Litecoin averaged $0.30 while Bitcoin averaged $8.50.

The quicker transaction times, smaller fees, and larger number of coins make Litecoin a faster, more nimble cryptocurrency with more practical usages than Bitcoin. Charlie Lee has stated that his goal was to compliment, rather than compete with Bitcoin.

“The vision has always been that I wanted Litecoin to complement Bitcoin—not compete. Bitcoin can be used for  moving millions of dollars between banks, buying houses, buying cars. It’s really secure… Litecoin can be used for cheaper things.” – Charlie Lee

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Since Litecoin is modeled off of Bitcoin Core, it will benefit from improvements to the Bitcoin system while serving a complimentary purpose. While Litecoin is not a direct Bitcoin competitor, it does have competitors within the cryptocurrency sphere. Bitcoin Cash essentially offers the same proposition: A cryptocurrency based off of the Bitcoin system, but designed to be mobile for purchasing goods rather than simply functioning as a store of value. Charlie Lee himself has acknowledged the competition between Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin.

Many would say the main advantage that Bitcoin Cash has over Litecoin is not in its technology, but in its marketing. Bitcoin Cash has the Bitcoin name and its founder Roger Ver is the CEO of bitcoin.com, making him one of the most influential personalities in the cryptocurrency sphere.

If Litecoin can beat out Bitcoin Cash to become the ultimate compliment to Bitcoin, then it will be a cryptocurrency to watch. Litecoin has a tradition of adopting advanced technology like Segregation Witness and Lightning Networks early, which will certainly be to its advantage as it vies for consumer usage in the coming years. Whether or not it will beat out Bitcoin Cash in the long run remains to be seen, but there is no question Litecoin will be one of the top cryptocurrencies to watch.

Image via http://technolocheese.com/

Top Cryptocurrency Trends You Need to Know to Invest Wisely in 2018

In December 2017, Bitcoin reached just over $19,000 per coin, its highest all time value. After a brief, precipitous decline to $7,000, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency is now making its way up around $10,400 as of February 26th, 2018.

If last year was any indication, 2018 will prove to be a major year in the further development and stabilization of cryptocurrencies.  Here are the top trends to look out for in 2018:

THE TRANSACTION PROBLEM

Slow transaction times and high transaction fees plagued Bitcoin in 2017. According to CoinMetrics, fees started 2017 averaging $0.30 per transaction and eventually peaked at over $40 in December. Bitcoin will implement several potential enhancements to its system designed to lower transaction fees in 2018.

SEGREGATED WITNESS PROTOCOL

The Segregated Witness protocol was first activated in August 2017. It is an upgrade to the Bitcoin protocol replacing Bitcoin’s block size and weight limit to allow for increased transactions and lower transaction fees. While adoption has been off to a slow start, 2018 should see many more wallets and marketplaces adopting the SegWit protocol, including Coinbase, who recently announced they have finished testing SegWit and begun implementing it for customers.

LIGHTNING NETWORK

First proposed by Joseph Poon and Thaddeos Dryja in January 2016, the lightning network is an overlay network which could enable long-term scalability and near-free transactions for Bitcoin. After two years of development by ACINQ, Blockstream and Lightning Labs, the Lightning Network should find more adoption in 2018.

RIPPLE ON THE RISE

Among our top Cryptocurrencies to watch out for in 2018, we featured Ripple. Ripple has  gained traction and value fast in 2018. Recently, Western Union revealed they have been testing the Ripple blockchain for cross-border payments. Ripple currently offers two main payment products for banks: xCurrent and xRapid. Over 100 banking clients are testing xCurrent, which does not use the Ripple coin. Western Union’s announcement makes them the fifth customer to test xRapid.

Ripple has always catered to banks. Ripple’s consensus protocol makes it more scalable than other major cryptocurrencies. While Bitcoin can process seven transactions per second, Ripple can process up to 1500 transactions in the same second. Ripple’s network is designed to trade any asset with any other asset. If Ripple can entrench itself as a payment processor for banks, its value may shoot way up in 2018.

REGULATION, REGULATION, REGULATION

Anybody with significant money invested into cryptocurrencies knows that perhaps the biggest threat facing cryptocurrency is government regulation. While the US has not instituted regulations, South Korea recently created a ban on anonymous accounts.  Governments all over the world are still in the process of developing regulatory measures. These regulatory decisions can make or break the future of cryptocurrencies.

Check out Bitcoin Magazine’s comprehensive rundown on how countries are regulating cryptocurrency across the globe.

WATCH FOR ALT-COINS

With cryptocurrency fervor at an all-time high, 2018 will no doubt see many new players enter the cryptocurrency game as well as current players making big moves. With over 1,300 alt-coins on the market right now, understanding how to properly research a coin is key. Below, check out our brief guide for evaluating a new cryptocurrency:

  1. THE TEAM: While Satoshi Nakamoto may have chosen to remain anonymous, many other cryptocurrencies are prioritizing transparency. By examining the team behind a cryptocurrency, investors can determine how serious a cryptocurrency really is. For example, having Steven Seagal as a brand ambassador does not contribute any value to a cryptocurrency whatsoever. On the other hand, knowing that Litecoin’s creator Charlie Lee is an engineer at Coinbase only further validates our belief in Litecoin’s capacity for growth.
  2. THE “WHY?”: What is it about a specific cryptocurrency that will ensure it will retain its value and significance in the long run? Bitcoin is the original and most popular cryptocurrency. Ethereum automates smart-contracts. Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash are designed for commerce. Ripple is attempting to establish itself with banks as a lightning quick transaction network. Many coins don’t offer any real long-term value. It’s vital to understand the key benefit of a coin in making the decision to invest.
  3. THE “WHEN: How far along is the cryptocurrency in the development process? Is there an ICO? Are new features being released? Coins come and go, so it’s best to invest in coins with solid long term plans.

CONCLUSION

After a landmark 2017, all eyes are on cryptocurrencies in 2018 to see if they can sustain their growth or if it will prove to be a bubble soon to burst. It is an exciting time to be a wise investor!

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The Top 10 Cryptocurrencies of 2018: An Overview

Last week, we explored the revolutionary mechanics of the blockchain in the fourth installment of our series on cryptocurrencies. This week, we’ll take on the top 10 cryptocurrencies of 2018.

The surge of Bitcoin has led to a major boon for all kinds of cryptocurrencies. The discovery of blockchain technology has given rise to a plethora of cryptocurrencies outside of Bitcoin, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and variations. With constant volatility dictating the markets, it will be difficult to know what cryptocurrencies will play out in the long run; however, websites like WorldCoinIndex.com can help one keep in the loop on market trends.

Monitoring the highest valued cryptocurrencies is a great way of keeping tabs on what cryptos are on the rise and fall. Here are the top ten cryptocurrencies of 2018, including the top three your business should consider accepting.

WHAT CRYPTOCURRENCIES SHOULD MY BUSINESS CONSIDER ACCEPTING?

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $165.10B

There is no better place to begin the conversation about cryptocurrencies than at the beginning with the original: Bitcoin. Bitcoin saw a momentous rise in 2017 of over 1,500 percent. Since it is the most popular cryptocurrency on the market, there’s no question businesses might want to follow Subway’s lead in starting their cryptocurrency endeavor by accepting Bitcoin.

Check out this fairly comprehensive list of major merchants that accept bitcoin.

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $24.97B

Bitcoin Cash is a major cryptocurrency to watch out for. Bitcoin Cash was designed by its founder Roger Ver, the CEO of bitcoin.com.

While Roger Ver was an early investor in Bitcoin and has made hundreds of millions of dollars, he has insisted that Bitcoin is not a safe bet considering it has been plagued lately with rising transaction costs. Instead, he recommends Bitcoin Cash, which is designed to be a much more mobile cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin Cash was recently embroiled in controversy. When Coinbase began trading it on their platform, its value spiked up and Coinbase was almost immediately accused of insider trading. Regardless, if Bitcoin Cash can uphold its promise to be a fluid, mobile cryptocurrency with low transaction fees, it’s here to stay and it’s one businesses should consider accepting.

Learn about what merchants currently accept Bitcoin Cash via acceptbitcoin.cash.

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $8.44B

Litecoin is a fully decentralized peer-to-peer Internet currency that enables instant global payments. Litecoin was created by Charles Lee, a former Google engineer who now works at CoinBase.

Litecoin is designed to be the silver to Bitcoin’s gold. It is the third oldest cryptocurrency in existence. It has a total of 84 million coins, quadruple the 21 million Bitcoin currently on the market. It also was designed for smaller items with quicker transaction times. As Lee told Fortune: “Bitcoin can be used for like moving millions of dollars between banks, buying houses, buying cars. It’s really secure… Litecoin can be used for cheaper things.”

Litecoin is intended to be used for smaller purchases than Bitcoin, making it a great option for businesses looking to accept cryptocurrencies.

OTHER TOP CRYPTOCURRENCIES:

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $80.37B

Ethereum is a decentralized platform designed to run smart contracts and applications exactly as programmed without the possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud, or third-party interference. Ethereum is one of the top three cryptocurrencies in the world. Created by Swiss developer Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum sets itself apart as a platform that can be used to program applications and smart contracts.

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $38.59B

Ripple is a real time global payment network. Created by Ryan Fugger, Jed McCaleb, and Chris Larsen, it is designed as a compliment to Bitcoin to facilitate transactions quickly among any form of currency. Ripple grew by 37,400% in 2017, giving it one of the three highest approximate market caps of all cryptocurrencies.

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $3.30B 

Tron began 2017 with an approximate market capitalization at $2.8 billion and finished 2018 with over $18.7 billion. Tron is not only the sixth most valuable cryptocurrency, it serves a specific purpose: Tron is a blockchain-based decentralized protocol that aims to construct a worldwide free content entertainment system. Tron makes it possible for content creators to freely publish, store, and own data in a decentralized, autonomous form. Tron eventually hopes to cut out centralized platforms like Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

Tron was created by Justin Sun, creator of Peiwo—a live voice streaming platform considered China’s equivalent to Snapchat. Tron has attracted some detrimental attention, including from bitcoin.com which claimed Tron is “Vaporware”.

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $860.41M

Like Tron, Verge has been labeled “Vaporware”. Verge is designed with privacy in mind, their website states that: “Verge uses multiple anonymity-centric networks such as Tor and I2P. The IP addresses of the users are obfuscated and the transactions are completely untraceable.” Despite Verge’s claims of prioritizing privacy, a website recently appeared revealing the IP addresses associated with hundreds of Verge transactions. Despite being embroiled in controversy, Verge has managed to maintain its value and is currently one of the top 10 cryptocurrencies on the market.

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $2.27B 

The history of Ethereum and Ethereum Classic dates back to the early days of cryptocurrency to the $50 million DAO Hack of June 2016. DAO was a smart contract running on Ethereum and when a hacker managed to swindle $50 million from it, the Ethereum community held a vote and elected to change Ethereum’s code so they could return the money to its rightful owners.

One of the main principles of the blockchain is immutability, so the detractors who disagreed with the decision to change Ethereum’s code took action and created Ethereum Classic, which is a copy of the old version of the Ethereum blockchain featuring a few minor improvements in response to the hack. Ethereum Classic has the support of some big crypto players, but the majority of the Ethereum team stuck with Ethereum.

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $2.99B

QTUM is designed to mix the best of Ethereum and Bitcoin. It enhances the Bitcoin Core protocol, while allowing for businesses to execute smart contracts, like Ethereum. Created by Patrick Dai and based out of Singapore, QTUM has the ability to execute smart contracts in lite wallets via mobile applications, giving it the potential to bring blockchain-based applications to mobile devices.

While QTUM is currently seeking out their first major partner, its potential has many investors very optimistic.

Approximate Market Cap on January 17th: $8.27B 

EOS is considered a direct competitor to Ethereum. In fact, the founders of EOS and Ethereum have feuded on Twitter. Created by Hong-Kong-based entrepreneur Brendan Blumer and programmer Dan Larimer, EOS is a platform that executes smart contracts using an operating system-like construction upon which applications can be built.

The main difference between EOS and Ethereum is in their design philosophy. While Ethereum has neutrality in mind and does not offer common high-level use cases as intrinsic parts of the protocol, reducing bloat among applications but also reducing efficiency for app developers. EOS on the other hand recognizes that many different applications require the same functionality and seeks to provide these functions. Although it would be difficult to dethrone Ethereum, EOS has practical value for app developers that make it a cryptocurrency to watch.

CONCLUSION

While blockchain technology is here to stay, many alt-coins can fade away fast. If you are investing in cryptocurrency, research will pay off in the long run. Understanding the differences between each currency will help investors figure out where best to place their bets.

This is the final entry of our five part series on Cryptocurrency. Thank you for reading! Check out our previous articles below if you need to catch up.

Part 1: Should My Business Consider Accepting Cryptocurrencies? An Overview

Part 2: How Adopting Cryptocurrencies Could Benefit Your Business

Part 3: Secure Your Cryptocurrency with the Right Wallet

Part 4: How the Revolutionary Mechanics of Blockchain Could Serve Your Business

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How the Revolutionary Mechanics of Blockchain Technology Could Serve Your Business

In the last entry in our cryptocurrency series, we explored how to secure your cryptocurrency with the right wallet. This week, we’ll take a look at the mechanics of the Blockchain across industries.

While the debate over whether Bitcoin will become the dominant cryptocurrency is far from over, the mechanics behind Bitcoin are unquestionably revolutionary. Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt more than just currency, but industries ranging from healthcare to Wall Street.

The Blockchain is a secure ledger database shared by all parties participating in an established, distributed network of computers. The Blockchain decentralizes the process of validating transactions, allocating the duties to computers throughout the network.

Blockchain is revolutionary because it eliminates the need for a central authority, allowing for a real-time ledger that is not dependent on a single entity governing the transactions.

Imagine if in order to make changes to a text document, you had to email a colleague who would then update the document on Microsoft Word and send the updated file out to all relevant parties on the team. The updating of information would quickly become an inefficient process that is heavily dependent on the central entity (the colleague). Blockchain posits a workflow that is more like Google Docs in that it allows updates to be made in real time and shared across the network instantly without the need of a central authority. Blockchain enacts this principle by relying on computers within the network to independently validate transactions through cryptography. Thus, the validity of the ledger is determined by the many objective computers on the network rather than a single powerful entity.

The idea of decentralization can also be applied to WhatsApp, the popular messaging app that revolutionized texting and cut the cost of transactions globally. WhatsApp cut out the central authority of phone carrier companies by building the same functionality on a decentralized network (the Internet).

If you’re still confused about Blockchain, check out this awesome video by Wired breaking it down in 2 minutes:

Blockchain has already found usages in many different industries.

  • SMART CONTRACTS

Smart contracts are coded contracts embedded with the terms of an agreement. They are a method for businesses and individuals to exchange money, property, materials, or anything of value in a transparent way that avoids the services of a middleman (such as a lawyer). Smart contracts not only define the rules of an agreement, they automatically enforce the obligations provided in the terms of the contract.

Smart contracts have revolutionized the supply chain and threaten to eliminate the use of lawyers for enforcing contracts. Smart contracts and blockchain ensure data security that could also lead to the transferring of voting to an online system, potentially increasing voter turnout significantly.

  • HEALTHCARE

Within the healthcare industry, Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize data sharing between healthcare providers, resulting in more effective treatments and an overall improved ability for healthcare organizations to offer efficient care. A study from IBM showed that 56% of healthcare executives have a plan to implement a commercial blockchain solution by 2020.

  • SUPPLY CHAIN

Both within the Healthcare industry and elsewhere, blockchain is redefining supply chain management. Blockchain can provide a distributed ledger that tracks the transfer of goods and raw materials across wide-ranging geographical locations and stages. The public availability of the ledger makes it possible to trace the origin of the product down to the raw material used. For this reason, blockchain has also been applied to track organic produce supply chains.

The boon of the Internet of Things and smart objects means that blockchain technology can be extended to process data and manage smart contracts between individuals and their smart devices or even smart homes. Imagine a world where your refrigerator automatically orders eggs when it senses you are running low based on your egg eating habits. This world will be facilitated by a smart contract run on Blockchain technology embedded in an IoT device.

CONCLUSION

While the first blockchain was created for Bitcoin, applications for blockchain are constantly being implemented across industries. As Harvard Business Review smartly points out, the question in most industries is not whether blockchain will influence them, but when.

Many different cryptocurrencies are utilizing variations on Blockchain technology in order to process transactions—some of which are doing so in a more efficient manner than Bitcoin. Next week, we’ll explore the top cryptocurrencies on the market right now and which ones your business should accept.

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Secure Your Cryptocurrency with the Right Wallet

While blockchain technology ensures that cryptocurrency transactions are immutable, irreversible, and secure, where cryptocurrency is stored is a determining factor in how secure it is. Having a vulnerable cryptocurrency wallet is like storing money at a suspicious bank: it’s unsafe and it behooves the investor to do enough research to sleep at night knowing their assets are safe.

WHAT IS A CRYPTOCURRENCY WALLET?

Every transaction in the blockchain shared record is signed by a private key linked to the user’s account. As we covered in the first blog in our cryptocurrency series, the blockchain is the decentralized mechanism that prevents double spending and validates transactions. Cryptocurrency wallets store the private keys. Although cryptocurrencies are not stored within the wallet, they are protected by the address created and stored by the wallet. Deciding on the right wallet for your cryptocurrency is one of the most important decisions since it will make or break the security of your assets.

There are five different types of wallets to choose from: mobile wallets, desktop wallets, hardware wallets, paper wallets and online wallets.

PAPER WALLETS

Paper wallets are the most basic form of wallet. They are an offline wallet consisting of two QR Codes. One of the codes is the cryptocurrency address and the other is the associated encrypted private key.

The benefit of a paper wallet is that it cannot be hacked. It is essentially a piece of paper that is stored in a safe place like a safe or safety deposit box. Unfortunately, while paper wallets may be exceptionally safe since they are unhackable, they are not exceptionally nimble. If you are looking to buy and sell cryptocurrencies frequently, this may not be the option for you.

Learn how to set-up a paper wallet here.

ONLINE WALLETS

If you are new to cryptocurrency and have recently invested, chances are you are currently using an online wallet like Coinbase, Blockchain, or Xapo. Online wallets are run by third-party providers, so the security of currency is dependent on the company running the show. As the hack of NiceHash proves, this is not always the best thing. CoinBase insures their client’s investments and stores the majority of their cryptocurrency offline. While Online Wallets provide an easy avenue for buying and selling cryptocurrencies, storing cryptocurrency offline is significantly safer.

MOBILE WALLETS

Mobile cryptocurrency wallets are software wallets that make cryptocurrency available through mobile devices. One of the benefits of a mobile wallet is that merchants that accept cryptocurrency can use NFC technology to sync with their apps and provide wireless payments.

The most popular mobile wallets include Copay, breadwallet, and for Android users: Bitcoin Wallet. While mobile wallets make cryptocurrencies nimble, they are only as secure as the smartphone on which they are being used. Storing large amounts of cryptocurrency on mobile devices is not recommended, but they can be a good tool for investors who are buying and selling cryptocurrency on the go.

DESKTOP WALLETS

Like mobile wallets, desktop wallets are software designed for desktop computers. They are more secure than mobile wallets, but less nimble. Still, for those who want to secure their cryptocurrency and don’t mind being limited to their computer, desktop wallets are a great option.

Bitcoin Core is the original Bitcoin wallet, but it is somewhat techy and precarious to install as it requires downloading the entire blockchain.

Electrum is one of the most popular desktop bitcoin wallets. It’s easy to use and it can be configured for advanced features like TOR and cold storage, making it accessible to newbies with higher functionality for high-tech users.

Exodus features one of the best UIs available for a wallet. It allows users to instantly trade currencies stored within the exchange between themselves and it is partially open source.

HARDWARE WALLETS

Aside from paper wallets, hardware wallets are the most secure method of securing cryptocurrency. Hardware wallets are small computers, smartcards, or dongles created to generate private keys offline, securely signing transactions in the offline environment. Like paper wallets, hardware wallets cannot be hacked remotely and are as secure as the place in which they are stored. The only difference is that hardware wallets, like all technology, can lose functionality with age and improper upkeep.

The best hardware wallets are Ledger Nano and Trezor. Ledger Nano is a smartcard-based hardware wallet that can be used on any computer or Android phones with Mycelium or Greenbits mobile wallets. Trezor is a tiny computer, rather than a smartcard, but both upon set-up generate a random 24-word seed that backs-up the funds and can be used to recover all funds within the wallet. It is best to have a hardware wallet with its own screen, like Trezor, since hardware wallets that plug into the computer expose themselves to the security vulnerabilities of the computer.

TAKEAWAY

There are many ways to store cryptocurrency with varying levels of security. For those who are looking for the most secure method, hardware and paper wallets are the best route. For those who are looking to trade on the go, mobile and online wallets provide the best flexibility. Desktop wallets are the happy medium. So long as wallet options have been researched, cryptocurrency investors can rest easy knowing they made the informed decision.

Next week, for the next installment of our blog series on cryptocurrencies, we will explore the revolutionary mechanics of the Blockchain. Stay tuned!

How Adopting Cryptocurrencies Could Benefit Your Business

Bitcoin-Trading-featured-898x463Are you missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in on a currency that could continue to dramatically increase in value over time?

Whether or not the recent surge in value of Bitcoin is a fluke, many agree the idea of cryptocurrency is here to stay. With physical cash having already taken a backseat to credit cards, does it stand to reason that digital currencies will become more prominent in the years to come? Many people are betting big on the answer to that question being yes.

Last week, we explored an overview of cryptocurrencies. For businesses with their eyes on the bottom line, the question becomes: Should you accept cryptocurrencies?

Here are the major factors to consider in making your decision of whether or not to accept cryptocurrencies:

THE POSITIVES:

FRAUD PROTECTION

One of the biggest pros of cryptocurrency is the way in which it protects your business from the risk of fraud. When payments are made through credit cards and PayPal, merchants risk these charges later being reversed if they are deemed a fraudulent purchase. With Bitcoin, payments are irreversible, so the bill for fraud is no longer footed by merchants.

INSTANT INTERNATIONAL PAYMENTS

The internet enables the sending of cryptocurrencies overseas to be as easy as sending them across the street. With no central authority to verify transactions, not only do international payments come with no additional cost, they are instant. Cryptocurrencies offer international payments with no extra fees, 0 business days to transfer, and no minimum or maximum transaction amounts, making them an excellent payment option for businesses looking to expand to far-reaching markets.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN TRANSACTION FEES

Instead of paying fees per transaction, cryptocurrencies allow you to pay fees that determine the speed at which money is received. The processing power required to process transactions is distributed across computers on the internet. Network owners make money by allowing merchants and users to use their systems to process transactions. Thus, users can choose their fees based on how fast they require their payments to be sent.

NO PCI-COMPLIANCE NECESSARY

While accepting credit cards online typically requires PCI-Compliance to ensure credit card information is stored safely, cryptocurrencies require businesses to secure their wallets without necessitating the federally-imposed fees that come with processing sensitive information like credit cards. Blockchain technology ensures that cryptocurrencies are secure and that security is cheaper to maintain.

ACCESS A NEW CROWD

As an emerging market with niche followers, the cryptocurrency audience is known for their fervor for all things related to their passion. By adopting cryptocurrencies at an early stage in their development, a business can set itself apart and expand their market to receive visibility from the avid cryptocurrency crowd that has invested in cryptocurrencies at this early stage.

THE NEGATIVES:

MARKET VOLATILITY

Perhaps the greatest detriment to the cryptocurrency movement is the erratic nature of the value of the currency. Bitcoin is the staple cryptocurrency and with its value fluctuating wildly from day-to-day, most cryptocurrency owners would rather save their Bitcoin in hope that its value continues to spike than spend it on consumer goods.

What’s more, retailers may be afraid of accepting something that could lose value fast. When Square announced it was piloting a program to buy and sell Bitcoin through its app, Bitcoin’s price skyrocketed. If a major retailer like Amazon or Target were to elect to accept Bitcoin at their locations, no doubt Bitcoin’s value would spike once again. Thus, the silver lining of the market volatility is if a retailer does begin to accept it early, they could potentially make a large return on their initial investment.

REGULATORY LANDSCAPE

Another major issue for merchants to consider is forthcoming regulations and potential litigation relating to the cryptocurrency markets. With cryptocurrencies still in their infancy, lawmakers are working to enact regulations to govern and tax them. As cryptocurrency becomes more mainstream, merchants that accept cryptocurrencies will have to be adaptable to periodic changes in the laws which govern cryptocurrency.

BOTTOM LINE

While there are some risks in accepting cryptocurrencies, there are potentially massive rewards. Becoming an early adopter of major cryptocurrencies when they are low in value is an investment that could pay off big time if the value of the currencies continues to rise. For forward-thinking entrepreneurs who are ready to adapt to their business environment, the decision to accept cryptocurrency is an easy one. As they say: the early bird gets the worm.

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Should My Business Consider Accepting Cryptocurrencies? An Overview

Recently, Bitcoin has flooded the news cycle, rising in value from about 1,000 per bitcoin on January 1st 2017 to upwards of $16,000 as of December 7th 2017. Square, a prominent payment app, recently announced they will pilot a program that allows for Bitcoin trade. With Bitcoin on the rise, the all-important question becomes: Should your app or website accept cryptocurrencies?

Over the next several weeks, we will endeavor on a series of blogs to answer all of the questions necessary to make that decision, including:

  1. What cryptocurrencies are, how they work, and why they are important.
  2. The pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrencies on your app or website
  3. Choosing your cryptocurrency wallet.
  4. What Blockchain is, how it’s important to cryptocurrencies and its other revolutionary applications.
  5. An exploration of why Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency and of  other prominent cryptocurrencies.

In order to explore cryptocurrencies, we must start at the beginning. The first successful cryptocurrency was Bitcoin, created in 2008 by the still unknown inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. While Nakamoto’s identity is still a mystery, the significance of their invention is not. They initially announced it as a “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”. Past attempts at creating digital currency involved a decentralized system, however, Nakamoto attempted to decentralize the currency by mimicking the technique of Peer-to-Peer file sharing networks.

In order for a payment network to function, there must be a ledger to prevent fraudulent double spending—forged transactions. In the physical world, banks function as the central entity which keeps records about balances. With Bitcoin, Nakamoto created an alternate system. Since the network is decentralized, every entity on the network must have a list with all transactions to check if future transactions are valid. Not only that, there must be an absolute consensus about the records in order for them to become a part of an immutable record of historical transactions known as the “Blockchain”.

Nakamoto set in place a rule that only “miners” can confirm transactions. Miners take transactions, verify them in exchange for a token of cryptocurrency, validate them, and spread them in the network so that every node adds them to the database and the transaction becomes a part of the blockchain. The only way to create a valid Bitcoin is for a miner to complete this function.

Technically, anyone can be a miner. Since there is no central authority to regulate mining and prevent a ruling party from abusing it, Nakamoto set a rule that miners need to invest some of their computing power to the solving of a cryptographic puzzle using the SHA 256 Hash algorithm, in order to verify transactions. Without getting too technical, the miner must complete a cryptographic puzzle in order to build a block and add it to the blockchain, the reward for which is a specific number of Bitcoins depending on the difficulty of the puzzle. Miners compete to solve these problems and the first to solve it and validate the transaction receives the reward. This is part of the consensus that no peer can break.

While the system is complex, the use of the currency is ultimately quite simple. As outlined in BlockGeeks overview, 5 properties separate Bitcoin transactions from other transactions:

  • Bitcoin transactions are irreversible.
  • They are not tied to real-world identities but to pseudonymous addresses. This is one of the reasons Bitcoins are frequently used on the black market.
  • Transactions are enacted instantly and are global.
  • Cryptocurrencies are secured by a cryptography, making them extremely secure.
  • Without a central authority, cryptocurrencies are permissionless to use.

Cryptocurrencies often limit the supply of tokens, which is true of Bitcoin. The token supply of Bitcoin decreases in time and will reach its final number sometime around 2140. The monetary supply is controlled by a schedule written in code—in other words, purely through mathematics.

Whereas the statement on your bank account represents a debt owed to you by the bank, Bitcoins are not indicative of debts, they are literal currency with inherent value like a diamond. And the value of that currency has skyrocketed in the past year. Only 10 years after its creation, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are currently in an inchoate stage, making it all the more important for intelligent citizens to track their progress and global impact.

Next week, we will review the pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrencies through your app or website. Stay tuned!