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New MIT Paper Roundly Rejects Blockchain Voting as Solution to Election Woes

Encryption inventor and head of MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative are among authors of a new paper that points out why blockchain and voting are a bad pairing.

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As media outlets waited to announce a winner until the Saturday following the election day, calls for how blockchains would have made this process easier emerged, most prominently perhaps by  Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, as well as Vitalik Buterin, who added that, though there are technical challenges, the call for a blockchain-based, mobile voting app “is directionally 100% correct.”

A new report from MIT, however, strongly argues against the idea of blockchain-based e-voting, largely on the basis that it will increase cybersecurity vulnerabilities that already exist, it fails meet the unique needs of voting in political elections and it adds more issues than it fixes. 

The report’s authors are Ron Rivest, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) professor and one of the creators of RSA encryption; Michael Specter; Sunoo Park; and Director of MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) Neha Narula. The paper will be published in the Journal of Cybersecurity later this month. 

“I haven’t yet seen a blockchain system that I would trust with a county-fair jellybean count, much less a presidential election,” said Rivest in a blog post accompanying the report. 

Why online voting isn’t like digital banking

The report recognizes the desire for people to want the voting process to be faster and more efficient, but pushes back on the idea that just because we do things like shop or bank online, that means elections should be done in the same way. 

One reason is that those systems have “higher tolerances for failure.” For example, if an issue were to occur, such as credit card fraud, you could block your card and a bank might even reimburse you. But when it comes to election, there is little remedy if a vote is altered or not delivered, particularly given that online voting systems might not always recognize when one of these actions occurred. 

Read more: Overstock Touts Voatz ReBlockchain Voting App as Solution to US Election Fracas

Another is that anonymity, or at least detaching the way you voted from your identity, is an important part of any electoral process. While a bank or shop can offer you a receipt, proving you did something to detect or prevent fraud, with voting, it’s important no such receipt exists so votes can’t be coerced or sold. 

“For elections there is no insurance or recourse against a failure of democracy,” Rivest says. “There is no means to ‘make voters whole again’ after a compromised election.”

And the cybersecurity issues are numerous. 

Issues with cybersecurity in online voting

One issue with online voting is that it opens itself up to attacks that are both scalable and undetectable. 

In terms of scale, according to the report, a zero-day Android vulnerability only cost $60,000 to acquire in 2012. A zero-day vulnerability is a security flaw that is known about but for which a patch isn’t yet available. 

The authors estimate that testing and weaponizing such a vulnerability would increase the associated costs by two orders of magnitude, meaning an election exploit could cost $6 million. While that may seem like a large sum, it’s little for a nation-state adversary, especially in comparison with the roughly $768 million that was spent on the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. This makes a scalable attack on an election system attractive, in terms of getting a bang for your buck. 

Such an attack could also be undetectable, resulting in large numbers of votes being exploited. This is, in part, due to the number of vendors and devices that would have to be involved. 

“Voting system flaws might be introduced by the voting software vendor, the hardware vendor, the manufacturer, or any third party that maintains or supplies code for these organizations,” reads the report. 

“A voter using a phone to vote depends not only on the phone vendor, but on the hardware companies providing drivers for the device, the baseband processor, the authors of third-party code in the voting software, the manufacturer of the physical device, and the network or any other systems that the device relies upon to cast the vote.”

No concrete solutions to non-hypothetical problems

Even important tools like encryption don’t offer a concrete solution. While encryption does offer some protections, it doesn’t prevent system bugs. Plus, implementing it is difficult, not to mention there are numerous examples of flaws in a system allowing cryptographic protocols to become compromised. 

These concerns aren’t just hypotheticals. The report notes that  electronic-only voting devices at polling stations used in Georgia and Maryland, for example, have previously been shown to be vulnerable, and internet voting systems in cities like Washington, DC, and countries like Estonia and Switzerland were found to be vulnerable to serious failures. 

Read more: Downvoted: Security Researchers Slam Voatz Over Stance on White-Hat Hackers

For comparison, tried-and-true methods like mail-in ballots make a large-scale attack on them incredibly difficult to conduct with any ease because of substantial friction points, like needing physical access to the ballots.. 

When asked whether there were lessons that the U.S. could take from other countries when it comes to voting online, a MIT CSAIL spokesperson said, “None that are positive. Online voting systems will suffer from major vulnerabilities for the foreseeable future, given the state of computer security and the high stakes in political elections.”

The arguments for blockchain-based voting – and why they don’t hold up

The report lays out a number of arguments that have been held up by blockchain proponents. These include using coins as votes, using a permissioned blockchain, and employing zero-knowledge proofs for secret ballots. 

Voting with coins

Coins as votes is one model the report identifies as problematic. In it, a registered voter has a public/private key pair created by the voting authority, with each voter sending their public key to the voting registry. 

“Then, the voter registry spends one coin to each public key. To vote, each user spends their coin to the candidate of their choice. After a period, everyone can look at the blockchain, total up each candidate’s coins, and select the one with the most coins as the winner,” reads the report. 

Read more: Trump’s Post-Election Purge Reaches US Cybersecurity Agency

The issue here is that it doesn’t provide a secret ballot – all the votes are on a public blockchain. It also relies on users being able to get their votes on the blockchain in a certain amount of time, something that could be compromised through distributed denial-of-service attack, making the network unavailable to users. 

An adversary could drive up transaction fees on a public blockchain, further hampering the “vote.” Or the blockchain could be compromised if a majority of the miners or validators collude, creating multiple versions of the blockchain. 

Finally, it relies on private key management, something that is user-dependent and, as cryptocurrencies have shown, something people are often bad at implementing. 

Permissioned blockchains

Another proposal the report challenges is using a permissioned blockchain. A permissioned blockchain is one in which a central actor approves who can be a part of it. There is also usually a control layer that governs what actions participants have permission to perform.

Like voting with coins, use of this strategy would still suffer from key management vulnerabilities. Furthermore, permission parameters would also keep users from reading the blockchain to verify their votes were counted in order to preserve the secrecy of people’s votes. 

A permissioned blockchain would also likely run on a smaller number of servers, with most of them running the same operating system, meaning it would be easier to compromise. 

Zero-knowledge proofs

A final proposal that MIT examines is the use of zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs). ZKPs are a cryptographic technique that allows two parties on the internet, such as an app and a user, to verify information with each other without sharing the underlying data related to this information. This would seemingly help ease the tension between secrecy and making a vote publicly verifiable. 

But the report notes that, aside from the potential bugs in ZKPs and challenging cryptographic processes, it also doesn’t prevent physical monitoring by “coercers or vote buyers.” 

Additionally, the report argues that “zero-knowledge proofs are designed for a setting where the party with secret information wants to keep it secret (that’s why they’re using zero-knowledge proofs) – they generally do not prevent that party from revealing information voluntarily.”

Read more: ‘Snake Oil and Overpriced Junk’: Why Blockchain Doesn’t Fix Online Voting

A final and fundamental concern about any digital processes such as these, however, is that they rely on various vendors, hardware and software, all of which add additional complexities and likely vulnerabilities to the voting process. 

“The biggest issue is that blockchain-based approaches require that voters use software in which a single bug could undetectably change what they see – for example, showing them that their vote was cast for a certain candidate when it actually wasn’t,” said a MIT CSAIL spokesperson.  “Blockchain is ripe for situations where election results could be changed in ways that are undetectable, or, even if detected, would be irreparable without running an entire new election.”

The report also plays up that elections have stakes beyond just losing money, as would be the case if these online voting tools were compromised in regards to cryptocurrencies. 

Blockchain has lots of potential, just not for actual voting

The report notes that they aren’t addressing voting within a blockchain, such as EOS holders voting for validators in consensus networks, or Augur users using REP to vote on contract outcomes. These may fulfill some aspects of voting, but don’t map onto the system of political elections well, and leave many vulnerabilities that can’t be accounted for. 

The report also recognizes it’s focusing on voting, not areas such as voter registration management or auditing. 

In conclusion, the report notes that blockchain and online voting don’t address fundamental security concerns; instead, they introduce more vulnerabilities than are present in current in-person and mail-in ballot systems. 

“If vote-casting is entirely software-based, a malicious system could fool the voter about how the vote was actually recorded,” said Rivest in an accompanying blog. “Democracy – and the consent of the governed – cannot be made contingent on whether some software correctly recorded voters’ choices.”

Disclosure

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/mit-paper-rejects-blockchain-based-voting-systems-elections

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Crypto Irrational, but Not in Bubble, Says UBS Analyst

Not your grandma’s bubble The crypto market jumps back and forth hundreds of billions of dollars a day. In recent months, the net movement has been upward. When BTC’s price passed $20,000, few thought that it would double in only a few weeks’ time. But don’t sell the farm just yet. UBS analyst Mark Haefele … Continued

The post Crypto Irrational, but Not in Bubble, Says UBS Analyst appeared first on BeInCrypto.

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The crypto currency market has surged past a $1 trillion market cap. But is this fair valuation or is it a bubble? UBS thinks they know the answer.

Not your grandma’s bubble

The crypto market jumps back and forth hundreds of billions of dollars a day. In recent months, the net movement has been upward. When BTC’s price passed $20,000, few thought that it would double in only a few weeks’ time.

But don’t sell the farm just yet. UBS analyst Mark Haefele said that while the risk of the bubble may be real, everything is (probably) going to be okay.

In a note on Friday Jan. 15, 2021, Mr. Haefele said that, “all bubble preconditions are in place.” Financing costs are at record lows. New participants are entering the market (perhaps from Robinhood?), and low interest rates have left market participants thirsty for returns.

The result is that investors have nowhere to turn but equities (and cryptocurrency). With interest rates negative in parts of Europe, and CD’s scraping the bottom of the barrel, not investing in equities is little better than holding cash.

That’s not to mention the stimulus money pumping out of the USgovernment, to businesses and investors’ pockets, and then back into businesses, valuations and skyrocketing.

Inflated currency, but inflated valuation?

Haefele said that crypto markets, as well as IPOs and SPACs, are the hottest they’ve been, “in two decades.” Investors eagerly awaited recent IPO launches by Airbnb (which jumped 155% on the first day of trading) and DoorDash (which opened 78% higher than launch price) despite the lull in the hospitality industry.

SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies) are companies that do not have any operations, but work like a shell allowing investors to buy-in on private equity. These entities are often used in acquisitions and mergers.

Nonetheless, Haefele says that the “irrational exuberance” seen in these markets is not out of control.

The chief investment officer of global wealth management says the likes of Guggenheim’s Scott Minerd have predicted Bitcoin may hit $400,000. Despite this incredible jump in price, almost 10x the current Bitcoin valuation, a bubble has yet to set in.

On a Historical Backdrop

Haefele points out that the overall price growth of the market is driven by large-cap companies. Take out the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and other major tech giants, and the S&P 500 only rose 6% in 2020. This means that room for growth across many sectors remains.

Likewise, taking into account low interest rates and other indicators, stocks should be valued high, and they still look cheap compared to bonds.

Still, the executive warned about buying into narratives. Though sector narratives may be accurate, they do not always predict the price of individual companies.

Remember 2000

Haefele gave the example of the dotcom bubble in 2000. The narrative that the internet would change life as we know it was spot on. That didn’t stop the industry from crashing. In this way, narratives can be, “deceptive.”

Crypto Investors Chris Burnsike on Stocks vs Crypto. Twitter.

One can only be reminded of the promises of bankless, decentralized finance and egalitarian equity promised by blockchain technology. Just because a technology may change the world, it does not mean individual companies or coins are actually worth their valuations.

Finding Alpha

Haefele reiterated that the excitement was based in fact. He said investors may catch the upside of the IPO/SPAC/Crypto trends, but they must diversify for safety’s sake.

Of course, there are few industries with great potential for growth. He pointed out fintech (which includes crypto), greentech, and healthtech. UBS is also bullish on emerging markets, he said.

Since cryptocurrency is international, permissionless, and new, one could argue it is emerging.

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Harry Leeds is a writer, editor, and journalist who spent much time in the former USSR covering food, cryptocurrencies, and healthcare. He also translates poetry and edits the literary magazine mumbermag.me.

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Source: https://beincrypto.com/crypto-irrational-but-not-in-bubble-says-ubs-analyst/

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Bitcoin Worth $140 Billion Lost Says UK Council

Keys lost, coins lost The UK’s National Cyber Security Council broached the topic of unreachable BTC in its weekly threat report. The report attributes the loss to password or key deletion caused by mistaken hard drive disposal or reformatting.  They go on to cite the recent story of a programmer in the United States who … Continued

The post Bitcoin Worth $140 Billion Lost Says UK Council appeared first on BeInCrypto.

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The UK’s National Cyber Security Council says over $140 billion worth of Bitcoin is “lost or inaccessible” in its weekly threat report.

Keys lost, coins lost

The UK’s National Cyber Security Council broached the topic of unreachable BTC in its weekly threat report. The report attributes the loss to password or key deletion caused by mistaken hard drive disposal or reformatting. 

They go on to cite the recent story of a programmer in the United States who lost the password to a hard drive that contained roughly $200 million in Bitcoin.

The programmer has a couple of attempts at guessing the password remaining before he is permanently locked out. 

Stories like this are common in the UK too. Computer engineer James Howells recently offered his local council a share of the Bitcoins stored in a hard drive he threw away if they help him excavate a landfill site. 

The Bitcoins on the hard drive are worth over $312 million, which could mean Newport Council receiving a $78 million collection fee.

A liquidity crisis

Users lost access to 20% of all bitcoins in existence, according to a blog post from cryptocurrency data company Chainalysis.

The report says that the majority of these losses occur because of misplaced private keys or erroneous transactions (transactions made to the wrong address). 

At the top cryptocurrency’s current value, this represents over $134 billion in unrecoverable value. 

As the bitcoin in circulation nears 89% of its total supply, some in the cryptocurrency community forecast an impending liquidity crisis. Demand for the top cryptocurrency, they say, will far outstrip its supply. 

Recent investments from large institutions such as Grayscale and MicroStrategy compound the potential crisis. Grayscale recently revealed it owns just over 3% of all the Bitcoins in existence.

Some in the community warn of the effect on decentralization. Others point out that such a crisis will only lead Bitcoin to future highs. For those who lost considerable Bitcoin fortunes, this comes as little consolation. 

However, there are an increasing number of custodial service providers who purport to offer a way for cryptocurrency owners to store their holdings with ease of mind.

Are custodial services the answer?

Maybe. Custody services like that offered by Coinbase, put the task of storing and securing cryptocurrencies into the hands of professionals. 

This bears a resemblance to the traditional approach to storing value. People trust institutions such as banks and funds to use their in-house expertise to keep their savings safe.

One could argue that in the cryptocurrency space, where things can become quite technical, there is even more of a need for professional handling what sometimes could be massive fortunes. 

However, this contrasts starkly with Bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision. Bitcoin’s principal purpose is to wrestle away the control such institutions have over an individual’s finance. 

This motivates a common saying in the crypto-world that warns users against reliance on centralized exchanges; not your keys, not your coins. 

Nevertheless, 20% of the top cryptocurrency’s supply is lost. Maybe a slow transition between trusting third parties and trusting ourselves is needed before individuals can truly be in control.

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Emmanuel entered the cryptocurrency space in 2013 as a cryptocurrency broker. He is a crypto-enthusiast, entrepreneur, and investor, who has built and led several projects and communities in the space. Interests include: DeFI, CBDCs and investing.

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Source: https://beincrypto.com/bitcoin-worth-140-billion-lost-says-uk-council/

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Litecoin, VeChain, Ethereum Classic Price Analysis: 17 January

Litecoin struggled to break above its current resistance, and sellers pushed prices towards $133.03 support. VeChain retested $0.026 and moved lower as buyers struggled to maintain control of the pric

The post Litecoin, VeChain, Ethereum Classic Price Analysis: 17 January appeared first on AMBCrypto.

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Litecoin struggled to break above its current resistance, and sellers pushed prices towards $133.03 support. VeChain retested $0.026 and moved lower as buyers struggled to maintain control of the price while ETC traded within a restricted channel and relied on broader market cues for its path forward.

Litecoin [LTC]

Source: LTC/USD, TradingView

Most of Litecoin’s gains since the start of the month were negated after Bitcoin’s correction dragged LTC towards its $124.7 support. In fact, LTC’s weekly fall of over 22% was the highest among the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap. At the time of writing, LTC’s price was trading between $133.03 and $150.2 and seemed bearish. On the flip side, a broader market rally could boost its price above the upper ceiling and push them towards $155.5.

The Relative Strength Index was moving lower from the neutral zone, a sign of the price being bearish.

The Bollinger Bands indicated that the price could remain constricted over the next few sessions, as the bands were compressed.

VeChain [VET]

Source: VET/USD, TradingView

After a breakout from the $0.026 resistance, VeChain retested the level once again. For now, sellers seemed to be in control and the price moved back towards its $0.024 support. On the other hand, a bullish scenario could see prices head towards the next resistance mark at $0.030.

Although the Awesome Oscillator registered two points of bearishness, it indicated a potential shift of momentum towards the market bears.

Lastly, Chaikin Money Flow suggested that capital inflows could keep prices from falling below their present support level.

Ethereum Classic [ETC]

Source: ETC/USD, TradingView

At press time, Ethereum Classic was trading at $7.43, up 1.48 percent in the past 24 hours. Despite the move into green territory, ETC has been largely uneventful in the last few days. Prices have traded between a thin channel of $9.66 and $8.34, with momentum resting with neither the bulls nor the bears. The period of inactivity could perhaps be justified by slow growth in market leaders BTC and ETH, since the correction. A broader market trend could define a path forward for ETC, but for now, prices could continue to trade within their present channel.

The MACD was bearish-neutral as the red bars stayed below the zero line.

If the Stochastic RSI continued its trajectory into the oversold zone, and prices could fall and test the next support at $$7.77.

Source: https://ambcrypto.com/litecoin-vechain-ethereum-classic-price-analysis-17-january

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Bitcoin Cash Price Analysis: 17 January

Disclaimer: The findings of the following analysis are the sole opinions of the writer and should not be taken as investment advice Bitcoin Cash’s price has been noting a fall that began on the 16

The post Bitcoin Cash Price Analysis: 17 January appeared first on AMBCrypto.

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Disclaimer: The findings of the following analysis are the sole opinions of the writer and should not be taken as investment advice

Bitcoin Cash’s price has been noting a fall that began on the 16th of January and as the Bitcoin market fell under $35k, the BCH’s price has also mirrored this drop on the charts. At press time, BCH was trading at $473, however, it may note a further drop.

Bitcoin Cash one-hour chart

Source: BCHUSD on TradingView

The above chart indicated that the price of BCH has been sloping down within a descending channel, while the 50 moving average moves above the price bars. This highlighted the downtrend of the coin and the current price has remained close to the support at $472 with growing bearishness that could push the price even further down.

This provided the market an opportunity to short the asset, but as the price is already falling it may not provide a good enough margin to profit from.

Reasoning

As Bitcoin continued to fall lower, the BCH price is likely to mirror its price and fall by a larger margin. Meanwhile, the Awesome Oscillator suggested that the momentum had already shifted from favoring the short-term trend to favoring the long-term trend. As the selling continued, the momentum may favor the sellers even more, as has been highlighted by the indicator.

Meanwhile, the Awesome Oscillator suggested that the momentum had already short-term from favoring the short-term to the long-term. As the selling pressure increases the momentum may favor the sellers’ as noted earlier in the market.

Crucial levels

Entry: $472.48
Stop-Loss: $479.97
Take-Profit: $459.78
Risk-to-Reward: 1.7

Conclusion

As the market sides with the bears at the given time, the selling of BCH may increase. This could provide an opportunity to short and make a profit. The traders may want to enter the market as the coin breaches the support at $472, and the downward push may result in the asset’s value to hit the $459 price level.

Source: https://ambcrypto.com/bitcoin-cash-price-analysis-17-january

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