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These are some of the many questions this book answers. It begins by tracing the history and development of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, and then gives the conceptual and practical foundations you need to engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network as well as to integrate ideas from Bitcoin into your own projects.
The authors have a relaxed tone and this book could easily be incorporated into an undergraduate curriculum. If you want to get up to speed on this fast-moving technology, this book should be your first stop. Harvey, Duke University.
Strongly recommended. Illustration Package. Supplementary materials including video lectures and programming assignments. Illus: 11 halftones. Overview Author s Praise 5 Supplementary Materials. Arvind Narayanan is assistant professor of computer science at Princeton University. Second, the customer would have 90 days to dispute the charge, and the merchant would receive the money only after those 3 months! If that happens, the merchant will have to return the payment to the credit card company.
SET also avoids the need for customers to send credit card information to merchants, but it additionally avoids the user having to enroll with the intermediary. In SET, when you are ready to make a purchase, your browser passes your view of the transaction details to a shopping application on your computer.
The application encrypts it together with your credit card details in such a way that only the intermediary can decrypt it, and no one else can including the seller. The seller blindly forwards the encrypted data to the intermediary—along with their own view of the transaction details.
It was an umbrella specification that unified several existing proposals. It was an interesting company in many ways. In addition to credit card payment processing, they had a digital cash product called CyberCoin.
This was a micropayment system—intended for small payments, such as paying a few cents to read an online newspaper article. Yet, amusingly, they were able to get U. Back when CyberCash operated, there was a misguided—and now abandoned—U. However, CyberCash was able to get a special exemption for their software from the Department of State.
Finally, CyberCash has the dubious distinction of being one of the few companies affected by the Y2K bug—it caused their payment processing software to double-bill some customers. They later went bankrupt in Their intellectual property was acquired by Verisign, which then turned around and sold it to PayPal, where it lives today.
The fundamental problem has to do with certificates. A certificate is a way to securely associate a cryptographic identity, that is, a public key, with a real-life identity. Putting security before usability, CyberCash and SET decided that not only would processors and merchants in their system have to get certificates, but all users also would have to get one as well. Obtaining a certificate is about as pleasant as doing your taxes, so the system was a disaster. Over the decades, mainstream users have given a firm and collective no to any system that requires end-user certificates, and such proposals have now been relegated to academic papers.
Bitcoin deftly sidesteps this hairy problem by avoiding real-life identities altogether. In Bitcoin, public keys themselves are the identities by which users are known, as discussed in Chapter 1. In fact, the Consortium had a very general proposal for how you might extend the protocol, and one of the use cases that they had was handling payments. This never happened—the whole extension framework was never deployed in any browsers.
In , almost two decades later, the Consortium announced that it wanted to take another crack at it, and that Bitcoin would be part of that standardization this time around. I compared cash and credit earlier, and noted that a cash system needs to be bootstrapped, but the benefit is that it avoids the possibility of a buyer defaulting on her debt.
Cash offers two additional advantages. The first is better anonymity. Since your credit card is issued in your name, the bank can track all your spending. Bitcoin is not anonymous to the same level as cash is. Chapter 6 gets into the messy but fascinating details behind Bitcoin anonymity. Chapter 3 looks at tricks like green addresses and micropayments, which allow offline payments in certain situations or under certain assumptions.
The earliest ideas about applying cryptography to cash came from David Chaum in Consider this concept by means of a physical analogy. In fact, banknotes themselves got their start as promissory notes issued by commercial banks. I can do the same thing electronically with digital signatures, but that runs into the annoying double-spending problem—if you receive a piece of data representing a unit of virtual cash, you can make two or more copies of it and pass it on to different people.
Can we solve double spending in this world? When you receive such a note from someone, you check my signature, but you also call me on the phone to ask whether a note with that serial number has already been spent. This works. He figured out how to both keep the system anonymous and prevent double spending by inventing the digital equivalent of the following procedure: when I issue a new note to you, you pick the serial number.
This is called a blind signature in cryptography. This was the first serious digital cash proposal. It works, but it still requires a server run by a central authority, such as a bank, and for everyone to trust that entity. Moreover, every transaction needs the participation of this server to be completed.
If the server goes down temporarily, payments grind to a halt. A few years later, in , Chaum in collaboration with two other cryptographers, Amos Fiat and Moni Naor, proposed offline electronic cash. The clever idea is to stop worrying about preventing double spending and focus on detecting it, after the fact, when the merchant reconnects to the bank server.
The transaction processing happens later, when the airline is able to reconnect to the network. If you think about it, quite a bit of traditional finance is based on the idea of detecting an error or loss, followed by attempting to recover the money or punish the perpetrator. If you write someone a personal check, they have no guarantee that the money is actually in your account, but they can come after you if the check bounces. Conceivably, if an offline electronic cash system were widely adopted, the legal system would come to recognize double spending as a crime.
At a high level, what it achieved was this: every digital coin issued to you encodes your identity, but in such a way that no one except you—not even the bank—can decode it. But if you ever double spend a coin, eventually both recipients will go to the bank to redeem their notes, and when they do this, the bank can put the two pieces of information together to decode your identity completely, with an overwhelmingly high probability.
You might wonder whether someone can frame you as a double spender in this system. Suppose you spend a coin with me, and then I turn around and try to double spend it without redeeming it with the bank and getting a new coin with my identity encoded. Over the years, many cryptographers have looked at this construction and improved it in various ways. But a paper by Tatsuaki Okamoto and Kazuo Ohta uses Merkle trees to create a system that does allow you to subdivide your coins. The Chaum-Fiat-Naor scheme also leaves a lot of room for improvements in efficiency.
In particular, the application of something called zero-knowledge proofs to this scheme most notably by Stefan Brands in the s, and Jan Camenisch, Susan Hohenberger, and Anna Lysyanskaya in was very fruitful—zero-knowledge proofs have also been applied to Bitcoin, as discussed in Chapter 6. But back to Chaum: he took his ideas and commercialized them.
He formed a company in called DigiCash, probably the earliest company that tried to solve the problem of online payments. They had about a 5-year head start on other companies like FirstVirtual and CyberCash, just discussed. Some banks actually implemented it—a few in the United States and at least one in Finland. This was in the s, long before Bitcoin, which might come as a surprise to some Bitcoin enthusiasts who view banks as tech-phobic, anti-innovative behemoths.
That would then open a reverse web connection back to your computer. That means your computer had to have the ability to accept incoming connections and act as a server. Chaum took out several patents on DigiCash technology, in particular on the blind-signature scheme that it used.
His action was controversial, and it stopped other people from developing ecash systems that used the same protocol. But a group of cryptographers who hung out on what was called the cypherpunks mailing list wanted an alternative. Cypherpunks was the predecessor to the mailing list where Satoshi Nakamoto would later announce Bitcoin to the world, and this is no coincidence.
The cypherpunk movement and the roots of Bitcoin are discussed in Chapter 7. The cypherpunk cryptographers implemented a version of ecash called MagicMoney. It did violate the patents, but was billed as being only for experimental use. It was a fun piece of software to play with. The interface was all text based. You could send transactions by email. You would just copy and paste the transactions into your email and send it to another user.
Lucre tries to replace the blind-signature scheme in ecash with a nonpatent-encumbered alternative, and the rest of the system is largely the same. Yet another proposal, by Ian Goldberg, tried to fix the problem of not being able to split your coins to make change. But notice that this practice introduces an anonymity problem. So Goldberg came up with a proposal using different types of coins that would allow these transactions to occur, allow you to get change back, and still preserve your anonymity.
Why did DigiCash fail? The main problem was that it was hard to persuade banks and merchants to adopt it. It was really centered on the user-to-merchant transaction. So at the end of the day, DigiCash lost, and the credit card companies won. As a side note, Bitcoin allows user-to-merchant and user-to-user transactions.
There was something to do with your bitcoins right from the beginning: send them to other users, while the community tried to drum up support for Bitcoin and get merchants to accept it. In the later years of the company, DigiCash also experimented with tamper-resistant hardware to try to prevent double spending rather than just detecting it. The device would keep track of your balance, which would decrease when you spent money and increase if you loaded the card with more money.
The point of the device is that there should be no way to physically or digitally tamper with its counter. Many other companies had electronic cash systems based on tamper-resistant hardware. Another company based on this idea was called Mondex, and it was later acquired by MasterCard. Visa also had its own variant, VisaCash. In Mondex, the user had a smart card and a wallet unit, and could load either of them with cash.
To do a user-to-user payment, the giver would first put their card into the wallet and move money off of the card onto the wallet. This was a way to exchange digital cash, and it was anonymous. Mondex tested their technology in a bunch of communities. One community happened to be a city very close to where I grew up: Guelph, Ontario. In these scenarios, Mondex would typically eat the cost.
Of course, that can cost a company a lot of money. Furthermore, the wallet was slow and clunky. It was much faster to pay with a credit card or with cash. And retailers hated having several payment terminals; they wanted just one for credit cards. All these factors together did Mondex in. However, these cards were smart cards, which means that they have small microcontrollers on them, and that technology has proved successful. In many countries today, including Canada, where I live, every single credit card and every single debit card now has smart card technology on it.
The bank, rather than your card, keeps track of your balance or available credit. Instead, the chip is used for authentication, that is, to prove that you know the PIN associated with your account. But Mondex was using it long before this technology was adopted widely by the banking industry. But many different proposals described how to do this, and different companies did it differently. One far-fetched possibility: what if the government of a particular country actually authorized services to mint digital money, creating new cash out of thin air?
That was the idea behind NetCash, although it never got beyond the proposal stage. A different system, used by e-Gold, was to put a pile of gold in a vault and to issue digital cash only up to the value of the gold. All these ideas ultimately peg the value of digital cash to the dollar or a commodity. A radically different possibility is to allow digital money to be its own currency, issued and valued independently of any other currency. In fact, scarcity is also the reason gold or diamonds have been used as a backing for money.
In the digital realm, one way to achieve scarcity is to design the system so that minting money requires solving a computational problem or puzzle that takes a while to crack. Bitcoin mining, discussed in Chapter 5, implements this idea. The basic idea—that solutions to computational puzzles could be digital objects that have some value—is pretty old.
It was first proposed by cryptographers Cynthia Dwork and Moni Naor as a potential solution to reduce email spam back in What if, every time you sent an email, your computer would have to solve one of these puzzles that would take a few seconds to solve? A similar idea was later discovered independently by Adam Back in in a proposal called Hashcash. These computational puzzles need to have some specific properties to be a useful spam deterrent.
First, it should be impossible for a spammer to solve one puzzle and attach the solution to every email he sends. Second, the receiver should be able to easily check the puzzle solution without having to repeat the process of solving the puzzle. Third, each puzzle should be totally independent of the others, in the sense that solving one puzzle does not decrease the amount of time it takes to solve any other puzzle.
Finally, since hardware improves with time and solving any given computational puzzle gets faster and cheaper, recipients should be able to adjust the difficulty of the puzzle solutions that they will accept. These properties can be achieved by using cryptographic hash functions to design the puzzles—see Chapter 1. Bitcoin uses essentially the same computational puzzle as Hashcash, but with some minor improvements.
The seizures President Joe Biden is expected to announce an executive order to sanction those responsible for the military coup in Myanmar when he speaks about the U. Email: info devdiscourse. Home News Technology Article. Share Advertisement. China: A savior for emerging markets or a poison pill? BoE's Bailey warns EU not to pick a fight on finance Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey urged the European Union on Wednesday not to pick a fight with Britain over its huge financial services industry after Brexit, and said the bloc was demanding more of London than of other trade partner Cryptocurrencies are known for their volatile price swings, often crashing or soaring for no particularly good reason.
That's not the case today, because the blockchain-based sector actually has some solid news to share. On top of all that, business magnate and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been supporting the not-so-serious Dogecoin token in a series of tweets recently, but last night he said that those were all jokes.
In reality, Musk believes that "bitcoin is a good thing" and is a supporter of this specific token. He also said that bitcoin is "on the verge of getting broad acceptance by conventional finance people. Nobody knows where bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies are going next, especially since governments around the world are still developing their legal and regulatory frameworks for handling these innovative but risky digital assets. I happen to have a collection of various cryptocurrencies myself, all created from a very small bitcoin buy six years ago.
So far, I see these tokens more as a fun experiment than a serious investment. That could change as the regulatory system develops and the cryptocurrency market crystallizes into something solid. For now, I'm happy to watch the crypto stocks above from the sidelines. Investing Best Accounts. Stock Market Basics. Stock Market. Industries to Invest In. Getting Started. Planning for Retirement.
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