Crossing Borders with Cryptocurrencies at Defcon26 and Bitcoin Lightning Hackday

Reading Time: 4 minutes As your typical start up tech company might do, we travel a lot to network and make new connections around the world. We understand the importance of learning and we always strive to learn new things. That being said, we are constantly looking for ways to learn new things, and we know that sitting in the office and coding all day won’t get us there. Also, we always look for a good excuse to travel. Even though we always try and learn new things and explore new areas of innovation, we also want to bestow some knowledge ourselves. We do that by talking mostly, that and creating PowerPoint slides. I’d like to run you, fine readers, through what we learnt during Defcon, what was so special about it for us. In addition, I would also like to explain what we were showing from GloBee, and why Defcon and the Bitcoin Lightning Hackaday are the best places for us to be at. What we Learnt in Defcon One particular point of interest at Defcon was Sarang Noether’s talk about security within cryptocurrencies and breaking them down (The Good, the Bad, and the Private: Building and breaking safe cryptocurrencies).To summarise Sarang’s talk, he had put out these following goals:
  1. Understand different fungibility design principles and methods
  2. Review a sample of attacks on cryptographic assets
  3. Appreciate the variety of current research areas
Sarang explains that an attack on a protocol or a design can affect the following properties: Anonymity, privacy, fungibility, censorship resistance, and decentralisation. Not to the really interesting bit of the talk. Monero Case Study Sarang first gave some basic background regarding Monero. Explaining that it is a modified implementation of the CryptoNote transaction protocol. Monero uses a combination of cryptographic techniques to make a level of anonymity and fungibility by using the following:
  1. Stealth addresses
  2. Ring signatures
  3. Amount commitments
Sarang further explains that in Monero, addresses do not appear on the blockchain. As they provide a “spend authority” for outputs. The neat thing is that observers cannot link an output to its destination stealth address. As for ring signatures. A ring signature is explained as a type of zero-knowledge proof that one of a group of public keys is the signer of a message. Meaning that there is no way of really knowing who might be sending funds depending on the amount of people who you may mix with. However, this small anonymity set is fine as long as outputs are not known to be spent. For example, outputs in a 1-ring are known to be spent. Outputs spent on a fork are known to be spent or unspent. Outputs which are repeated in an identical ring are likely controlled. And, remote nodes can mess with outputs to gain information. So what’s next for Monero? Sarang explains that Monero is moving carefully towards enhancing its security features by adding:
  1. Zero-knowledge framework (to enhance privacy)
  2. Sublinear ring signatures (for larger sender anonymity)
  3. Better churn/diffusion analysis (how not to stand out)
  4. Secure atomic swaps (to play nicely with others)
  5. Off-chain solutions (payment networks and the like)
The conclusion of Sarang’s talk was that although there are points of security issues with cryptocurrencies, and each has different problem areas (apparently everything for Verge, but that’s a point for another article) there are also ways to amend these problem areas, as pointed out with Monero. What we Taught at Defcon Our own Bearded Warrior and project architect gave an interesting talk about creating a point of sale using GloBee as the payment processor. The message we aimed to establish during Defcon is that if we up the transactional value of cryptocurrencies by making it accessible in everyday life situations the adoption rate for cryptocurrencies will increase. We used a physical metaphor of using a candy machine that one can buy candy from using cryptocurrency through an interactive point of sale interface. Our Experience at Defcon Defcon was definitely fun. There was a lot to see, and many people to talk to. However, it was a good experience to understand the different levels of privacy and the measures one can take to keep themselves secure. Both in the digital realm, and physical. Between the Monero/BCOS village, which is where we spent most of our time, and the many, many other villages, we learnt both how to increase our security, personally, and what some of our merchants and their customers are looking for in terms of privacy. During Defcon we had a tip jar at the Monero/BCOS village for people to make donations towards the Monero Research Labs. That tip Jar was powered by GloBee. Having done this allowed us to gage the reaction of users that are more privacy, and security conscious than most. What we learnt was that most people don’t, in fact, like to give away any of their personal details. However, we did ask for an email address as a part of the donations was a bit of a competitions that Tari, our beautiful sister company, was running. The competition was called #WinFluffysWatch. For the competition Tari has created a one of a kind Non-Fungible Token of FluffyPony’s watch to give away to the highest donator. As the donations were processed via GloBee, we needed to figure out a way of keeping track of the donators, we did so by using email addresses as identifiers for the donators. Even that, was too much information to give away for some. Though, a free selfie drone with each donation did make the decision of giving away their email addresses seem as though it was a good enough incentive.
Bitcoin Lightning Hackaday Starting with a Lightning Network nerds meetup at Room 77 in Berlin our small team of two developers (who do not know a word in German) had a lot of fun finding a common ground with other nerds who are interested in the Lightning Network, and anything cryptocurrency related. They had a good time sharing ideas about what they would like to hack during the Lightning Hackathon and how they would like to accomplish that. During the Hackathon itself, one of our good GloBees had helped a group accomplish their dream of creating a lottery system operated through Lightning payments. In addition, a company to be on the lookout for is Exchange Union. They are currently working on cross chain atomic payment swaps using the lightning network. Which sounds really exciting. As for our talk, feel free to check it out at the link bellow.

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