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The Large Bitcoin Collider Is Generating Trillions of Keys and Breaking Into Wallets – VICE

Since we first published this article, major security flaws in the Large Bitcoin Collider client have come to light. Check out our follow-up reporting on these issues here.

For nearly a year, a group of cryptography enthusiasts has been pooling their resources on a quixotic quest to brute-force crack one of bitcoin’s cryptographic algorithms for creating wallet addresses. This is thought to be impossible today, but if they succeed, at least one element of bitcoin’s cryptography will be instantly obsolete.

It’s probably due to the scope of the challenge that the project is called the Large Bitcoin Collider, after the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator. But instead of new physics, the Large Bitcoin Collider is hunting cryptographic collisions—essentially proving that a supposedly unique and random string of numbers can be duplicated. More on collisions and their ramifications for bitcoin later, but along the way the LBC is using its computing power to try and bust open bitcoin wallets owned by other people, and potentially taking the coins inside.

Read More: The Great Physical Bitcoin Robbery

The basics are this: bitcoin addresses containing funds can be accessed by private keys, which are generated at the same time as the address. Technically, a number of private keys could work with any given address, but you’d need a huge amount of computing power to brute force your way through enough possibilities to find any of them. The LBC attempts to accomplish this by recruiting the computing power of anyone who’s willing to download and run their software.

Finding a private key that works with an existing wallet is a fast-and-loose version of “cracking,” and gives the attacker access to all the funds inside. But when someone in the LBC pool finds a working private key, do they get to keep the coins?

“In principle yes, although there is a process defined where—if someone appears with an alternate key—the pool members consider him the owner of the address,” “Rico,” the pseudonymous lead of LBC, told me in an email. He would only tell me that he’s a computer programmer “past his 40s,” who lives in Europe.

As for the legality of all this, LBC advises participants with a rather laissez-faire attitude.

“Depending on your jurisdiction, this may be considered theft and is therefore illegal,” the site’s FAQ states. “However, there are many jusrisdictions [sic] where you could perfectly legally claim 5-10% of the value found. So you should consider if you want 100% and become a criminal or if you get 10% and still be a law abiding citizen.”

The LBC has been working for just under a year. So far, Rico claims, the project has generated over 3,000 trillion private keys and checked them against existing bitcoin addresses to see if they work, and has found three that do and contain bitcoin. They’ve found over 30 private keys in total, some of which are for so-called “puzzle” addresses that are suspected to have been generated as easy bait for crackers.

“This project has been called many things: Impossible, illegal, pointless, cool, etc.”

Cracking wallets may seem malicious on the surface—and if an LBC participant knowingly steals funds, it might just be—but it also has research value. Bitcoin security researcher Ryan Castellucci has done work cracking wallets as a proof-of-concept in order to model attacker behaviour and defend against it.

“The thing that disappoints me about this is that they’re only checking addresses that have a balance instead of all addresses that have ever been used,” he said in an interview over the phone. “For research, it’s much more interesting to check all addresses that have ever been used, because that will show you if there’ve been weak addresses created in the past and if they’ve been cleaned out by attackers.”

But cracking wallets is just one part of the LBC’s mission. The other is to find a genuine cryptographic collision, which would mean it’s possible to generate inputs that, when put through the bitcoin address hashing algorithm, generate an identical pair. If it were ever to happen, bitcoin would have to use a new cryptographic algorithm for addresses. This would be similar to Google creating a collision with the once-popular SHA-1 cryptographic algorithm, which ended its usefulness for good.

Read More: I Broke Bitcoin

“Finding a P2PKH-collision [one cryptographic method of creating bitcoin addresses] would probably mean the end of P2PKH but not bitcoin,” Rico explained, regarding the ramifications of finding a collision. “Bitcoin would evolve with new address types. Most certainly it wouldn’t ‘die’ because of this.”

Castellucci also urged caution when it comes to getting all riled up about the LBC’s search for a cryptographic collision in bitcoin.

“To effectively find [a collision], you would have to find some way to generate [keys] much, much faster than is currently known to be possible,” he said. “Unless they find some sort of breakthrough in cracking techniques, the brute force strategy they’re using poses no threat to anybody’s bitcoin.”

“Someone could play the lottery three weeks in a row and win every time,” he explained. “That theoretically could happen, but it’s safe to assume it won’t.” Castellucci isn’t alone in this belief. Others, on the /r/bitcoin subreddit for example, have been much less kind and called the LBC “pointless.” But that hasn’t deterred Rico.

“Since it’s inception [around] 8 months ago, this project has been called many things: Impossible, illegal, pointless, cool, etc.,” Rico wrote.

“I think there is more waiting to be uncovered by the LBC—including a collision,” he continued. “So with that in mind we really do not care much about what ‘someone on Reddit’ said.”

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Source: The Large Bitcoin Collider Is Generating Trillions of Keys and Breaking Into Wallets – VICE

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Warren Buffett: ‘Gambling Device Bitcoin Hasn’t Produced Anything’

Turns out 88-year-old Warren Buffett isn’t warming up to crypto after all. Speaking at what’s been dubbed the “Woodstock of Capitalism”, the billionaire investor told shareholders in Berkshire Hathaway how he really feels about bitcoin. His company’s annual shareholder event is being held in Omaha today, and he just couldn’t resist lamenting the digital currency that he just doesn’t understand. Buffett reportedly stated:

“It’s a gambling device… there’s been a lot of frauds connected with it. There’s been disappearances, so there’s a lot lost on it. Bitcoin hasn’t produced anything.”

At least Buffett didn’t call it “rat poison squared” like he did last year. His partner in crime, Charlie Munger, reportedly once compared crypto trading to “dementia.” Buffett’s shareholders probably come to Omaha just to hear what he’ll say next about the crypto revolution taking the economy by storm.

bitcoin

The bitcoin price is barreling for $5,700. | Source: CoinMarketCap

BITCOIN ‘ISN’T AN INVESTMENT’

Buffett didn’t stop there. He went on to insult investors who not only have benefitted from the peer-to-peer nature of bitcoin but he also suggested that it’s not an investment at all. Tell that to the 100-million strong crypto community, many of whom have seen their portfolios balloon since the bitcoin price hit a new 2019 high this week. Buffett is digging his own grave, so to speak, saying:

“It doesn’t do anything. It just sits there. It’s like a seashell or something, and that is not an investment to me.”

Bitcoin’s market cap is now $101 billion; it’s increased from $89 billion in the past two weeks or so. If that’s a seashell, then take us to the beach so we can start collecting them.

berkshire hathaway

Berkshire Hathaway shares are underperforming the S&P 500 year-to-date. | Source: Yahoo Finance

WARREN BUFFETT’S BUTTON ICO

He went on to seemingly poke fun at ICOs next because he couldn’t possibly mean bitcoin when he says:

“I’ll tear off a button here. What I’ll have here is a little token…I’ll offer it to you for $1000, and I’ll see if I can get the price up to $2000 by the end of the day… But the button has one use and it’s a very limited use.”

Hmm, let’s see. Bitcoin is a store of value that rivals gold. It is a peer-to-peer digital currency that gives migrants a way to send money to their families faster and cheaper than any money-transfer service without the blockchain can do. And it’s decentralized, so it’s not subject to the whims of any central bank or government that turns on the printing press and causes inflation.

IMF to crypto: “please be gentle with our house of cards” https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/11/cryptocurrencies-fintech-clearly-shaking-the-system-imfs-lagarde.html 

Cryptocurrencies are ‘clearly shaking the system,’ IMF’s Lagarde says

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said Wednesday that new technologies like digital assets and cryptocurrencies are having a clear impact on the banking sector.

cnbc.com

Whether he realizes it or not, Buffett is spreading FUD about bitcoin and the blockchain, saying:

“Blockchain…is very big, but it didn’t need bitcoin. J.P. Morgan, of course, came out with their own cryptocurrency.”

Blockchain pioneer Wences Casares once said that people who fail to recognize the value of bitcoin but believe in blockchain tech demonstrate an “ignorance for how the system works.” We’ll leave Warren with Wences’ words of wisdom:

“Blockchain doesn’t exist without bitcoin…If you were to remove the bitcoin, miners would disappear and so would the blockchain.”

Source: Warren Buffett: ‘Gambling Device Bitcoin Hasn’t Produced Anything’

Bitcoin Is The New Gold

I always write about this basic idea when it comes to any investing: which way is the market going, up or down?

If you know, you are in great shape; if you don’t, you should not be playing at all.

This is the question on bitcoin.

All last year I was saying, “It’s going down, hopefully to about $2,500.” It hit the low $3,000s.

Now bitcoin is going up and I will be saying “It’s going up.” I think it will hit $6,000 soon and go on to $10,000.

At $10,000 I will look to recalibrate.

For now the crypto winter is over.

Here is the chart:

The Bitcoin chart: the crypto winter is over

This is a simple chart with some guidelines and there is a clear pathway upwards.

There is apparently a lot of China interest in crypto right now, with tether selling at a premium. This makes sense if the market considers a yuan dollar depreciation on the cards. Tether has been shown to be resilient, even if it is still a controversial coin. It remains a good place to stash capital from short-term moves, be that from bitcoin volatility or ‘fiat’ privations.

Money flowing into stablecoins is going to lift bitcoin because fundamentally  money flowing into crypto is what sustains and raises prices.

Bitcoin and altcoins have to have positive money flow because they are “mined” and have their monetary bases expanded with every block. For bitcoin $9 million of new money must enter every day to match new supply. It’s not that straight forward because if miners hodl on to some or all of their bitcoin, less money needs to enter on a daily basis to prop up the price. In the end, however, supply and demand creates the price and for new supply to be matched at current levels, more than $3.3 billion dollars has to flow into bitcoin to make it go up.

That might seem a lot but it is not when you see the scale of modern markets. Gold production is $140 billion, so that’s the amount of fiat that most come into the system to keep its price around $1,300 an ounce.

Both assets have about the same emission as a percentage; the difference being the market cap of gold is about $5 trillion and bitcoin is $0.09 trillion.

Gold is the global asset to hedge against risk and investors are incredibly interested in it. It is a mainstream asset dwarfing equities and other assets in the mind of the man in the street as an “investment.”

Google searches for gold and Bitcoin in the US

Google searches for gold and bitcoin in the U.S.

Credit: Google

When you drill down into mindshare, when you look at interest in the financial news,  you can see what looks like bitcoin eating into the interest in gold, at least in the U.S.

If you look at the global picture this trend can’t be seen as clearly and when you appreciate global interest in gold is driven by countries with low tech penetration it suggests that as time passes, bitcoin and crypto will increasingly share the flight capital/risk asset crown with gold.

Google searches for gold and Bitcoin worldwide

Google searches for gold and bitcoin worldwide

Credit: Google

Even if bitcoin takes 20% of that market, bitcoin will be through its previous $20,000 high. That is without bitcoin continuing to be used for transactions or any other emergent use case or situation.

Bitcoin winter is over, the price is going up, the only question is how high. For now $6,000 is an easy target and $10,000 a coin this year is not such a hard target. I’m still accumulating.

Forbes Special Offer: Be among the first to get important crypto and blockchain news and information with Forbes Crypto Confidential. It’s free, sign up now.

Clem Chambers is the CEO of private investors Web site ADVFN.com and author of Be Rich, The Game in Wall Street and Trading Cryptocurrencies: A Beginner’s Guide.

In November 2018, Chambers won Journalist of the Year in the Business Market Commentary category in the State Street U.K. Institutional Press Awards.

 

Clem Chambers Clem Chambers Contributor

I am the CEO of stocks and investment website ADVFN . As well as running Europe and South America’s leading financial market website I am a prolific financial writer….

Intelligent Investing is a contributor page dedicated to the insights and ideas of Forbes Investor Team. Forbes Investor Team is comprised of thought leaders in the area…

Source: Bitcoin Is The New Gold

Bitcoin’s Improving Fundamentals Indicate a New Bull Market is in the Making, Weiss Ratings

Martin D. Weiss of Weiss Ratings says Bitcoin shares resemblance with Gold and with gold already bottomed and on its new bull cycle, Bitcoin is not far behind with its fundamentals strong. Meanwhile, he also talks about the upcoming bears in the stock market and if it will affect the “risk-on asset” crypto as well……..

Source: Bitcoin’s Improving Fundamentals Indicate a New Bull Market is in the Making, Weiss Ratings

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