NFTs Are The Hope For A New Tomorrow!

Here at Hackaday, we’re always working as hard as we can to bring you the latest and most exciting technologies, and like so many people we’ve become convinced that the possibilities offered by the rise of the Blockchain present unrivaled opportunities for humanity to reinvent itself unfettered by the stifling regulations of a dying system. This is why today we’ve decided to join in with the digital cognoscenti and celebrities embracing Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, as a new promise of non-corporeal digital investment cryptoasset that’s taking the world by storm.

Crypto Non-Fungible Investment Gains!

Imagine for a minute, yourself owning a very expensive car. Skievl, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Imagine for a minute, yourself owning a very expensive car. Skievl, CC BY-SA 4.0.

An NFT is a digital token representing something in the real world, and coupled to a unique ID held in a secure entry in the Blockchain. It’s non-fungible, which means that it’s unique and not interchangeable in the manner of a traditional old-style cryptoasset such as Bitcoin. As it allows a real-world object to be tokenised in digital form it represents a way to own something that provides an irrefutable connection to it as as a digital cryptoasset.

It’s a complex system that’s maybe too difficult to explain fully in a single article, but think of an NFT as a way to invest in a cryptoasset in digital form with its uniqueness guaranteed by Blockchain security, without having the inconvenience of physically owning it. Instead your NFT is safely held on a server on the Internet, and can’t be physically stolen as it would from a bank vault because it has the Blockchain cryptosecurity baked in.

Non Fungible Blockchain Cryptoassets!

You don't own this. Yet.
You don’t own this. Yet.

NFTs have so far found a space in the creative markets, where they have provided a revolutionary opportunity for artists to expand their sales in the digital realm by selling NFTs of their work. A struggling artist can now access buyers all over the world, who can in turn now invest with confidence in creative talent to which they would never otherwise be exposed. It’s a win-win situation in which both cryptoinvestor and artist benefit from The Power of the Blockchain.

Hackaday is excited to offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to acquire a Blockchain-cryptosecured NFT representing one of our own articles; our first ever NFT is the only officially sanctioned digital copy of a Hackaday article presenting a novel method of handling toilet paper shortages. The original article will continue to exist on Hackaday.com with all rights reserved, but we will not make any other NFTs of it. We may also decide to update the original article to let everyone know you are the lucky owner of the only digital copy of this piece of greatness. That’s right, this NFT will let you prove you own a screenshot!

Having today sold you on the incredible cryptoinvestment opportunity offered by NFTs, we’ll be back on another date with a more sober and in-depth technical examination of the technology behind them. Meanwhile should our brief foray into NFTs garner any interest (and we really hope it does not), we will donate proceeds to the excellent Girls Who Code, a truly solid investment with a tangible bright future.

Thanks [Micah Scott] for some NFT consultancy during the making of this piece.

To Kill A Blockchain, Add Naughty Stuff To It?

Even if not all of us are blockchain savants, we mostly have a pretty good idea of how they function as a distributed database whose integrity is maintained by an unbroken chain of conputational hashes. For cyryptocurrencies a blockchain ledger stores transaction records, but there is no reason why the same ledger can not contain almost any other form of digital content. [Bruce Schneier] writes on the potential consequences of content that is illegal or censored being written to a blockchain, and about how it might eventually form a fatal weakness for popular cryptocurrencies.

It’s prompted by the news that some botnet operators have been spotted using the Bitcoin ledger to embed command and control messages to hide the address of their control server. There have already been cases of illegal pornography being placed within blockchain ledgers, as well as leaked government data.

[Schneier] uses these two content cases to pose the question as to whether this might prove to be a vulnerability for the whole system. If a government such as China objects to a block containing censored material or a notoriously litigious commercial entity such as Disney objects to a piece of copyrighted content, they could take steps to suppress copies of the blockchain that contain those blocks. Being forced by hostile governments or litigious corporations to in effect remove a block from the chain by returning to the previous block would fork the blockchain, and as multiple forks would inevitably be made in this way it would become a threat to the whole. It’s an interesting possible scenario, and one that should certainly be ready by anyone with an interest in blockchain technologies.

Only a few weeks ago we looked at another threat to blockchain technologies – that they might be legislated out of existence by environmental rules.

What Uses More Power Than Argentina But Doesn’t Dance The Tango?

There’s been a constant over the last few weeks’ news, thanks to Elon Musk we’re in another Bitcoin hype cycle. The cryptocurrency soared after the billionaire endorsed it, at one point coming close to $60k, before falling back to its current position at time of writing of around $47k. The usual tide of cryptocurrency enthusiasts high on their Kool-Aid hailed the dawn of their new tomorrow, while a fresh cesspool of cryptocurrency scam emails and social media posts lapped around the recesses of the Internet.

This Time It’s Different!

The worst phrase that anyone can normally say about a financial bubble is the dreaded phrase “This time it’s different“, but there is something different about this Bitcoin hype cycle. It’s usual to hear criticism of Bitcoin for its volatility or its sometime association with shady deals, but what’s different this time is that the primary criticism is of its environmental credentials. The Bitcoin network, we are told, uses more electricity than the Netherlands, more than Argentina, and in an age where global warming has started to exert an uncomfortable influence over our lives, we can’t afford such extravagance and the emissions associated with them.

Here at Hackaday we are more concerned with figures than arguments over the future of currency, so the angle we take away from it all lies with those power stats. How much energy does Argentina use, and is the claim about Bitcoin credible?

Continue reading “What Uses More Power Than Argentina But Doesn’t Dance The Tango?”

Bringing The Blockchain To Network Monitoring

If you need to make sure your computer isn’t being messed with, you’ll have a look at the log files. If something seems fishy, that’s grounds for further investigation. If you run a large network of computers, you’ll probably want to look over all of the logs, but you won’t want to run around to each computer individually. Setting up a central server to analyze the logs exposes an additional attack surface: the logs in transit. How do you make sure that the attackers aren’t also intercepting and sanitizing your log file reports?

The answer to this question, and nearly everything else, is blockchain! Or maybe it’s not, but in this short presentation from the 2019 Hackaday Superconference, Shanni Prutchi, Jeff Wood, and six other college students intend to find out. While Shanni “rolls her eyes” at much of blockchain technology along with the rest of us, you have to admit one thing: recursively hashing your log data to make sure they’re not tampered with doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. Continue reading “Bringing The Blockchain To Network Monitoring”

This Week In Security: Backdoors In Cisco Switches, PGP Spoofing In Emails, Git Ransomware

Some switches in Cisco’s 9000 series are susceptible to a remote vulnerability, numbered CVE-2019-1804 . It’s a bit odd to call it a vulnerability, actually, because the software is operating as intended. Cisco shipped out these switches with the same private key hardcoded in software for all root SSH logins. Anyone with the key can log in as root on any of these switches.

Cisco makes a strange claim in their advisory, that this is only exploitable over IPv6. This seems very odd, as there is nothing about SSH or the key authentication process that is IPv6 specific. This suggests that there is possibly another blunder, that they accidentally left the SSH port open to the world on IPv6. Another possibility is that they are assuming that all these switches are safely behind NAT routers, and therefore inaccessible through IPv4. One of the advantages/disadvantages of IPv6 is that there is no NAT, and all the network devices are accessible from the outside network. (Accessible in the sense that a route exists. Firewalling is still possible, of course.)

It’s staggering how many devices, even high end commercial devices, are shipped with unintentional yet effective backdoors, just like this one. Continue reading “This Week In Security: Backdoors In Cisco Switches, PGP Spoofing In Emails, Git Ransomware”

Radio Free Blockchain: Bitcoin From Space

Cryptocurrencies: love them, hate them, or be baffled by them, but don’t think you can escape them. That’s the way it seems these days at least, with news media filled with breathless stories about Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies, and everyone from Amazon to content creators on YouTube now accepting the digital currency for payments. And now, almost everyone on the planet is literally bathed in Bitcoin, or at least the distributed ledger that makes it work, thanks to a new network that streams the Bitcoin blockchain over a constellation of geosynchronous satellites.

Continue reading “Radio Free Blockchain: Bitcoin From Space”

Yes, You Can Put IoT On The Blockchain Using Python And The ESP8266

Last year, we saw quite a bit of media attention paid to blockchain startups. They raised money from the public, then most of them vanished without a trace (or product). Ethics and legality of their fundraising model aside, a few of the ideas they presented might be worth revisiting one day.

One idea in particular that I’ve struggled with is the synthesis of IoT and blockchain technology. Usually when presented with a product or technology, I can comprehend how and/or why someone would use it – in this case I understand neither, and it’s been nagging at me from some quiet but irrepressible corner of my mind.

The typical IoT networks I’ve seen collect data using cheap and low-power devices, and transmit it to a central service without more effort spent on security than needed (and sometimes much less). On the other hand, blockchains tend to be an expensive way to store data, require a fair amount of local storage and processing power to fully interact with them, and generally involve the careful use of public-private key encryption.

I can see some edge cases where it would be useful, for example securely setting the state of some large network of state machines – sort of like a more complex version of this system that controls a single LED via Ethereum smart contract.

What I believe isn’t important though, perhaps I just lack imagination – so lets build it anyway.

Continue reading “Yes, You Can Put IoT On The Blockchain Using Python And The ESP8266”