The inner machinations of the mind of cryptocurrency markets are an enigma. Even traditional stock markets often seem to behave at random, to the point that several economists seriously suggest that various non-human animals might outperform one market or another just by random chance alone. The classic example is a monkey picking stocks at random, but in the modern world the hamster [Mr Goxx] actively trades crypto from inside his hamster cage.
[Mr Goxx]’s home comprises a normal apartment and a separate office where he can make his trades. The office contains an “intention wheel” where he can run in order to select a currency to trade, and two tunnels that [Mr Goxx] can use to declare his intention to buy or sell the currency he selected with the wheel. The wheel is connected to an Arduino Nano with an optical encoder, and the Nano also detects the hamster’s presence in the “buy” or “sell” tunnel and lights up status LEDs when he wants to execute a trade. The Nano also communicates with an intricate Java program which overlays information on the live video feed and also executes the trades in real life with real money.
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!
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!
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.
There is a scenario that keep security gurus up at night: Malware that can detect software compilation and insert itself into the resulting binary. A new Mac malware, XCSSET (PDF), does just that, running whenever Xcode is used to build an application. Not only is there the danger of compiled apps being malicious, the malware also collects data from the developer’s machine. It seems that the malware spreads through infected Xcode projects.
WordPress has a complicated security track record. The core project has had very few serious vulnerabilities over the years. On the other hand, WordPress sites are routinely compromised. How? Generally through vulnerable plugins. Case in point? Advanced Access Manager. It’s a third party WordPress plugin with an estimate 100,000 installations. The problem is that this plugin requires user levels, a deprecated and removed WordPress feature. The missing feature had some unexpected results, like allowing any user to request administrator privileges.
When you’re a nation state, secure communications are key to protecting your sovereignty and keeping your best laid plans under wraps. For the USA, this requirement led to the development of a series of secure telephony networks over the years. John McMaster found himself interested in investigating the workings of the STU-III secure telephone, and set out to replicate the secure keys used with this system.
[John] had a particular affinity for the STU-III for its method of encrypting phone calls. A physical device known as a Crypto Ignition Key had to be inserted into the telephone, and turned with a satisfying clunk to enable encryption. This physical key contains digital encryption keys that, in combination with those in the telephone, are used to encrypt the call. The tactile interface gives very clear feedback to the user about securing the communication channel. Wishing to learn more, John began to research the system further and attempted to source some hardware to tinker with.
As John explains in his Hackaday Superconference talk embeded below, he was able to source a civilian-model STU-III handset but the keys proved difficult to find. As carriers of encryption keys, it’s likely that most were destroyed as per security protocol when reaching their expiry date. However, after laying his hands on a broken key, he was able to create a CAD model and produce a mechanically compatible prototype that would fit in the slot and turn correctly.
Bitcoin’s great, if you sold at the end of 2017. If you’re still holding, your opinion might be a little more sour. The cost to compete in the great hashing race continues to rise while cryptocurrency values remain underwhelming. While getting involved at the top end is prohibitively expensive, you can still have some fun with the basic concepts – as [Jake] did, by calculating Bitcoin hashes on the ESP32.
It’s a project that is very much done for fun, rather than profit. [Jake] notes that even maxing out both cores, it would take 31 billion years to mine one block at current difficulty levels. Regardless, the underlying maths is nothing too crazy. Double-hashing the right data with the SHA256 algorithm is all that’s required, a task that is well within the ESP32’s capabilities. There’s hardware acceleration available, too – though this is weirdly slower than doing it in software.
Back in the early days of radio, it was quickly apparent that the technology would revolutionize warfare, but only if some way could be found to prevent enemies from hearing what was said. During World War II, the Allies put a considerable amount of effort into securing vocal transmissions, resulting in a system called SIGSALY – 50 tons of gear developed by Bell Laboratories with the help of Alan Turing that successfully secured communications between the likes of Churchill and Roosevelt during the war.
Now, a small piece of the SIGSALY system lives again, in the form of a period-faithful reproduction of the vocal quantizer used in the system. It’s the work of [Jon D. Paul], who undertook the build to better understand how the SIGSALY system worked. [Jon] also wanted to honor the original builders, who developed a surprisingly sophisticated system given the technology of the day.
SIGSALY was seriously Top Secret in the day, and most of the documentation was destroyed when the system was decommissioned. Working from scant information, [Jon] was able to recreate the quantizer from period parts, including five vintage VT-109/2051 thyratrons scrounged from eBay. The vacuum tubes are similar in operation to silicon-controlled rectifiers (SCRs) and form the core of the ADC, along with a resistor divider ladder network. Almost every component is period correct, and everything is housed in a nice acrylic case. It’s a beautiful piece of work and a great homage to a nearly forgotten piece of cryptographic history.
Interestingly, Bell Labs had a bit of a head start on the technology that went into SIGSALY, by virtue of their work on the first voice synthesizer in the 1930s.
Imagine you’re a general, camped outside a fortified city with your army. Your army isn’t strong enough to take the city without help. But you do have help: camped on other hills outside this city are a half dozen more generals, with their armies ready to attack. Attacking one army at a time will fail; taking this city will require at least three or four armies, and an uncoordinated attack will leave thousands dead outside the city gates. How do you coordinate an attack with the other generals? Now, how do you coordinate your attack if one of those other generals is Benedict Arnold? What happens when one of the generals is working with the enemy?
This situation is a slight rephrasing of the Byzantine Generals Problem, first presented in the ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems in 1982. It’s related to the Two Generals Problem formulated a decade prior. These are the analogies we use when we talk about trust over a communications channel, how hard it is to transmit knowledge, and how to form a consensus around imperfect facts.
This problem was upended in late 2008 when Satoshi Nakamoto, a person or group of people, published a white paper on the ‘block chain’. This was the solution to double-spending in digital currency. Think of it as having a digital thing that only one person could own. As a test of this block chain technology, Bitcoin was launched at the beginning of 2009. Things got more annoying from there.
Now, blockchain is at the top of the hype cycle. Every industry is looking at blockchain tech to figure out how it will work for them. Kodak launched their own blockchain, there are proposals to use the blockchain in drones and 3D printers. Medical records could be stored on the blockchain, HIPAA be damned, and there’s a blockchain phone, for reasons. This doesn’t even cover the massive amount of speculation in Bitcoin itself; thousands of other cryptocurrencies have also sprung up, and people are losing money.
The blockchain is a confusing thing, with hashes and Merkle trees and timestamps. Everyone is left asking themselves, what does the blockchain actually do? Is there an independent body out there that will tell me what the blockchain is good for, and when I should use it? You’re in luck: NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology released their report on blockchain technology (PDF). Is blockchain magic? No, no it is not, and it probably shouldn’t be used for anything other than a currency.