A new raft of crypto and blockchain analytics tools has just been launched by search giant Google. They will provide deep data sets for the top cryptocurrencies and aim to revolutionize blockchain search as the company did for information on the internet.Six New Blockchain Datasets AddedOver the past year Google Cloud has released blockchain transaction history datasets for Bitcoin and Ethereum. Yesterday the company announced the release of six more datasets in addition to a deeper set of queries that enables multi-chain meta-analyses and integration with conventional financial record processing systems.The six new blockchain datasets just released are Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Dogecoin, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, and Zcash. Google Cloud developer Allen Day told Forbes;“I’m very interested to quantify what’s happening so that we can see where the real legitimate use cases are for blockchain. So people can acknowledge that and then we can move to the next use case and develop out what these technologies are really appropriate for.”The company blog went on to explain that five of these particular crypto assets (BCH, LTC, DASH, ZEC and DOGE) have been chosen ‘because they all have similar implementations, i.e., their source code is derived from Bitcoin’s.’ The sixth one, ETC, is based on Ethereum – or as many will correct – is the original Ethereum blockchain. All datasets will update every 24 hours via a common codebase, the Blockchain ETL (extract, transform, load) ingestion framework, which will enable real time streaming transactions for all blockchains by implementing a low-latency loading solution.Google’s BigQuery data analytics platform started off with Bitcoin and Ethereum last year. During the period developers have been monitoring usage of the software in order to create the next six datasets. The search giant also has a machine learning (ML) tool which searches for patterns in transaction flows so it can provide basic information on how a crypto address is used.In what has been termed as a ‘unified schema’ the data has been structured in a easy to access method maintaining consistency across datasets. This will enable easier and smarter blockchain data comparisons for data scientists and researchers. The blog post highlights a number of example queries and applications for the data extracted.The first terabyte for these datasets will be free each month according to the report with costs charged per byte following for heavy users. Rival tech and retail giants Microsoft and Amazon have also entered into the cloud and blockchain space last year as the competition heats up. Google has been the leader in big data for several years at it clearly aims to remain there for the nascent crypto industry.“This is not some kind of dependency on government agency reporting,” Day added, “We have all the data, and we can pull metrics and and look at them and reason about them over time.”Image from Shutterstock
Archives for February 7, 2019
At the cutting edge of blockchain research is a potential $15 million dollar venture by the Ethereum Foundation centered around a technology called Verifiable Delay Functions (VDFs).
Acting as a source of computer-generated randomness that is unpredictable and unbias-able, VDFs are envisioned for use in a highly-anticipated “proof-of-stake”(PoS) system called Serenity which the ethereum network will migrate to in the next few years.
What’s more, the ability to generate secure randomized numbers – if implemented in Serenity – would be a feature that can be leveraged by all decentralized applications (dapps) on the platform once integrated into the ethereum codebase.
Speaking to current viability studies on VDF technology, Ethereum Foundation researcher Justin Drake told CoinDesk:
“We’re basically doing all this groundwork to make an informed go, no-go decision on the bigger project. The bigger project is 15 million dollars on that order of magnitude. So we want to make sure that if we do go ahead it’s going to be successful.”
And in terms of making the final decision on the technology, Drake stressed that the process of decision-making would be multi-layered.
“To an extent we need the buy-in from the wider ethereum community that this is a good idea and that the foundation should be spending this money,” said Drake. “This is something where we can reach rough consensus on public calls.”
For now, Drake told CoinDesk that a number of essential tests will be carried out by ethereum developers before a final “go, no-go decision” is made on the incorporation of the technology into Serenity.
One of these tests, called the RSA ceremony, will require hundreds of randomized individuals spread out across the globe to participate in an experiment which tests the security of random number generation by a VDF.
Outside of the RSA ceremony, there will also be a worldwide circuit competition requiring participants to test and create specialized firmware also called ASICs to run VDF computations.
As Drake elaborated:
“In the VDF, we basically need an ASIC which is very low latency, that is very fast. The so-called circuit – the way transistors connect in the ASIC – needs to follow a clever algorithm … We don’t need it to be the fastest in the world, just fast enough.”
‘A fundamental new primitive’
And it’s not just the Ethereum Foundation looking at hosting circuit competitions to build VDF technology.
To this end, the decentralized app network Chia completed their first-ever VDF open circuit competition, awarding a total of $100,000 to relevant participants. The company is said to be gearing up for a second round of competition by “incorporating the solutions from this first round,” as highlighted in a press release.
“If we don’t do a great job of optimizing performance … there are likely to be sudden jumps in performance of the best VDF that anyone has out there post-launch, which could result in significant network instability,” Bram Cohen, Chia’s co-founder, told CoinDesk.
Outside of Chia, there are a total of 11 other blockchain companies exploring VDF technology – each with unique plans of their own.
As Revealed to CoinDesk in interview, the ethereum sidechain POA Network plans to host “a public bounty” for a VDF implementation using the ethereum open-source collaboration platform Gitcoin.
Other than Chia and POA Network, some of the notable crypto projects researching VDF include file storage system Filecoin, smart contract platform Tezos, decentralized app network NEAR protocol and ThunderCore.
The imperative for increased collaboration between all these companies, according to Drake, is all the more needed given that VDFs are “like a fundamental new primitive.”
“It’s quite generic in that sense … It would be nice if the industry standardizes around a single VDF, partly because that would make the various blockchain projects more compatible with each other but it also means that we [wouldn’t] have to reinvent the wheel and [would collectively] pay less,” said Drake.
And while at least one company was previously reported to be in collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation on VDFs, Drake highlights that for now, the foundation is working independently.
Potential for partnership
Unveiled last November, Filecoin had tentatively agreed to split costs for a VDF viability study and reevaluate at a later date whether or not to move forward with the necessary firmware development to bring VDF ideas to life.
A protocol researcher from Filecoin, who wished to remain unnamed, told CoinDesk:
“We’re enjoying the collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation, but at this point it’s not certain that Filecoin needs a VDF. It could simplify things, but it’s one of a number of options we’re exploring.”
The representative also affirmed that, at present, Filecoin is moving ahead “separately” from the Ethereum Foundation but may “potentially co-fund third party proposals for exploratory VDF research with the Ethereum Foundation” in the months ahead.
As such, Drake highlights that, for now, “the Ethereum Foundation has moved on its own … [funding] various researchers, generally small grants to the order of 10 and 25 thousand dollars.”
But moving forward, Drake estimated that the foundation could come to a decision about whether or not to use the technology in as little as four months time.
“So the various studies that we’ve just kicked off should take four to six months but I think that in about four months we’ll be able to make an informed go, no-go decision,” Drake said.
Code image via Shutterstock
According to a disclosure made Tuesday by the development team behind ZCash, the most highly capitalized privacy-focused cryptocurrency (with a market cap in excess of $270M at the time of publication), has secretly fixed a critical security flaw in ZCash’s design, which was discovered by ZCash cryptographer, Ariel Gabizon, about a year ago.
Last March while preparing a presentation for a cryptography finance conference the following day, Gabizon discovered a crucial flaw in the cryptographic functions underlying zk-SNARKS, an implementation of zero-knowledge proofs used by ZCash and other privacy coins to give users the option of greater privacy though true cryptographic anonymity.
ZCash says the vulnerability (which was so subtle that the world’s top cryptography experts have overlooked it for years) did not threaten the network’s anonymity in any way but could have been manipulated by hackers to create an unlimited amount of counterfeit ZCash.
Had the security flaw been discovered by a more unscrupulous developer, it could have been exploited to steal potentially millions of dollars from ZCash users before being discovered and perhaps irreparably damaging the market’s trust in the privacy coin.
Because other cryptocurrencies employ the same algorithms the stakes were high. These include Komodo whose KMD tokens have a total market value in excess of $70 million and Horizen (formerly called ZenCash) whose ZEN tokens are valued at $22 million.
With so many millions of dollars of cryptocurrency users’ money exposed to theft and sabotage, Zcash remained tight-lipped about the vulnerable, and chose to secretly notify only Komodo and Horizen (the two highest market-cap coins that employ the flawed cryptography), and only after quietly slipping a fix for the vulnerability into ZCash’s Sapling network upgrade at the end of October.
Market Confidence in ZCash and Privacy Coins
Emin Gün Sirer, a Cornell Professor of computer science tweeted:
All the privacy coins have suffered from “infiinite counterfeit” bugs. These kinds of bugs seem endemic to these coins.https://t.co/pFu45PFs39
— Emin Gün Sirer (@el33th4xor) February 5, 2019
But it’s a stretch to characterize these bugs as “endemic” to privacy coins.
As Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd said (in a tweet storm that reveals he is hardly biased toward ZCash, whose developers he castigates for incompetence and deceit), this is only one of two counterfeit currency exploits Zcash has found:
(fixed) Zcash counterfeiting vulnerability: https://t.co/MhB39pRCfo
“This vulnerability is so subtle that it evaded years of analysis by expert cryptographers focused on zero-knowledge proving systems”
Reality is bleeding edge crypto is risky; second inflation bug they’ve had.
— Peter Todd (@peterktodd) February 5, 2019
It is also misleading to cast such shade at ZCash and privacy coins in particular, in such a way that implies they are the only cryptos to have found and patched security flaws that could have been exploited to create counterfeit crypto coins.
Last September, an update to Bitcoin Core included a fix for a different kind of design flaw that could have been exploited to create the same result for an unscrupulous actor– the ability to create an infinite amount of bitcoin without following the consensus rules or going to the expense that legitimate bitcoin miners have to.
But in all these cases, for Bitcoin as well as for blockchains that use zk-SNARKS to protect user anonymity, the vulnerabilities were discovered by the networks’ developers and remediated. These moments emphasize the risks of using new peer-to-peer financial technology, but they also reflect the integrity, skill, and tenacity of the developers behind cryptocurrencies, and should inspire confidence in these teams.
That’s why NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden praised ZCash Tuesday for how they discovered the flaw and took prudent steps to fix it while safeguarding millions of dollars worth of users’ crypto coins:
A lot of people wonder why I like #Zcash despite the Founder’s Reward. Here’s a reason: that tax funds a quality team that catches and kills serious bugs in-house, before they get exploited. Some other projects learn about bugs like this only AFTER people have lost money. https://t.co/i9MD1CpeNx
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) February 5, 2019
Edward Snowden, who is famous for blowing the whistle on NSA surveillance programs for violating Americans’ privacy, has praised ZCash in the past for its privacy features:
Agree. Zcash’s privacy tech makes it the most interesting Bitcoin alternative. Bitcoin is great, but “if it’s not private, it’s not safe.” https://t.co/HqwQOvSCiz
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 28, 2017
Zero Knowledge Proofs and True Anonymity
Inb4 “I’m interested in zkSnarks, the technology behind zcash”
— Andreas M. Antonopoulos (@aantonop) May 15, 2018
Although Bitcoin offers users a high degree of privacy and anonymity, all transactions on the Bitcoin network are publicly available information on the vast public ledger of accounts, amounts, and transactions maintained by Bitcoin miners.
Instead of hiding the information, Bitcoin publishes all of it (though without any person or institution’s name attached to any account number or transasaction).
This spreads the information so thin that it creates a nearly insurmountable obstacle to tracking financial activity, but there’s when it comes to financial privacy, crypto markets have described a vast difference between nearly and completely.
Using Zero-KnowledgeProofs ZCash actually conceals users’ financial information and activity by allowing them to verifiably prove to the rest of the network that they know a given value without disclosing anything about the value itself, or any other knowledge whatsoever.
ZCash’s Niche Within The Crypto Ecosystem
Ahem, bitcoin is not anonymous, not by a long shot. It is weakly pseudonymous if you apply perfect opsec, which can’t be done.
— Andreas M. Antonopoulos (@aantonop) October 23, 2013
ZCash is good for uses cases that require privacy, making it an ideal side chain in the crypto ecosystem, which can be used to make truly private and anonymous transfers of money.
The ZCash can then be converted back to Bitcoin to reduce exposure to the evident risks of holding coins in smaller alt coins with lower market capitalization, less development muscle, and fewer years spent discovering and fixing bugs.
Different crypto exchanges appear to be aligning themselves with different crypto projects. Binance is big on Tron and the new BitTorrent token it exclusively launched recently and Coinbase is now promoting Basic Attention Token through a new scheme called Earn which allows you to do exactly that.Launched today, Coinbase Earn allows those invited via email to complete a number of online lessons and tutorials regarding the BAT powered Brave Browser in order to earn some of its tokens. In a tweet the company said that up to $10 of BAT would be initially available to those taking the online educational lessons and interactive tasks;We’ve launched a new Coinbase Earn page where you can earn Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). Earn up to $10 worth of BAT today by completing educational lessons and interactive tasks. Visit: https://t.co/YheO7vhMCF— Coinbase (@coinbase) February 6, 2019It is clear that Coinbase is actively promoting the browser and BAT which it listed in early November last year. The Basic Attention Token aims to improve the efficiency of online advertising with the use of an Ethereum based token that can be issued between advertisers and publishers.The new venture is aimed at raising awareness for the Brave open source web browser which intends to de-clutter the web by removing intrusive advertising. The space is currently monopolized by Google whose ads are literally everywhere. Facebook, another internet monopoly increasingly seen as a scourge, has also morphed into an intrusive stream of scammy looking ads that have replaced what people originally signed up to see.The lessons have been launched on the Earn BAT page and are designed to raise awareness and increase adoption of the browser and its token.“We see these interactive, advanced lessons in cryptocurrencies and tokens as an important step toward building awareness and usage of utility use-cases in the crypto ecosystem–one where a beginner can quickly get up to speed on a token in a few minutes, actually engage with the product, and earn some of that token along the way,” the Coinbase blog added.It is one way to get people into crypto without them needing to buy it. Just like Binance, Coinbase views itself as a trusted source for crypto education and awareness. This unique venture provides a good alternative to airdrops which are also commonly used to raise awareness for a specific project, BitTorrent token being the most recent example.As expected, BAT pumped 30% on the announcement surging from $0.10 to over $0.13 in an hour or so. It has since pulled back but still posts a 13% gain on the day as volume jumped from $4 to $17 million. BAT is currently in 32nd place in the market cap charts with $140 million, a Coinbase endorsement such as this will no doubt help to improve on that.Image from Shutterstock
Market WrapCrypto markets have remained flat on the day; Binance Coin, Bitcoin Cash, SV and BAT still moving.There has been a very minor bounce for crypto markets following their $2 billion dump yesterday. It is still an insignificant move though since markets are weakened and total capitalization is still below $112 billion.Bitcoin seems to have found a new daily resistance level which appears to be $3,430. This has been hit twice since yesterday’s dump but twice Bitcoin has retreated back and is currently trading at just over $3,400, down a fraction of a percent on the day.Ethereum has recovered one percent on the day but it is trading at $105 and still dangerously close to dumping below that psychological $100 barrier. No movement in XRP has decreased the market cap gap back to $1 billion where it is likely to remain as long as Ethereum stays weakened.The top ten altcoins are a mixed bunch during today’s Asian trading session. Binance Coin has cemented its tenth position with a further couple of percent added today and Bitcoin Cash is having a rare gain, but just 3% on the day. Stellar continues to slide and is in danger of dropping out of the top ten all together if it keeps heading south.The top twenty is mostly green at the moment but gains are marginal and most altcoins are still very weak. Bitcoin SV has enjoyed an 8% spike but it has not been enough to get back into the top ten as BNB keeps gaining and is still $50,000 ahead in market cap. NEM has clawed back 5% following a week of losses and IOTA has pulled 2% back. The rest are plus or minus a percent at the time of writing.BAT is taking the fomo at the moment following Coinbase’s Earn venture supporting the Brave browser. The advertising based token has jumped 15% on the day. Quant has made an entry to the top one hundred with a big pump and Veritaseum is climbing well right now. ICON is also up there with an 8% gain on the day. There are no major dumps going on but Holo is at the end of things losing 7% at the time of writing.Total market cap is still at the same place it was yesterday, but with a tiny gain to just creep over $112 billion. Daily volume has dropped to $15 billion and momentum is lacking across all crypto assets right now. Since last Thursday crypto markets have shrunk by 3.5% and further losses are looking likely.Market Wrap is a section that takes a daily look at the top 20 cryptocurrencies during the current trading session and analyses the best-performing ones, looking for trends and possible fundamentals