BITCOIN RESEARCH PROJECT REPORT

wallbroadSecurity

Dec 3, 2013 (3 years and 6 months ago)

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BITCOIN RESEARCH
PROJECT REPORT
INTRODUCTION OF WORLD'S FIRST
DECENTRALIZED ONLINE CURRENCY


G E O R G E B R O W N C O L L E G E

P R O F E S S I O N A L C O M M U N I
C A T I O N
I I

C O M M 1 0 3 5
P R O F E S S O R J O A N N A O R E N B A C H


P R O J E C T T E A M M E M B E R S

M D N A S S E R N A O S H A D ( 1 0 0 7 5 5 1 9 1 )
S H R U T I J O S H I ( 1 0 0 7 6 8 3 1 8 )
C H A N G Y O N G P A R K ( 1 0 0 7 8 9 6 5 0 )
B Y U N G H Y U N C H O ( 1 0 0 7 9 4 6 3 8 )
A N T O I N E D E V U Y S T ( 1 0 0 7 4 8 2 8 9 )


D A T E: A P R I L 1 0, 2 0 1 3


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Table of Contents
bitcoin fundementals ................................................................. 3
wallets .......................................................................................... 3
Transactions ............................................................................... 4
Mining ......................................................................................... 5
The Bitcoin Protocol ................................................................ 6
The Bitcoin Foundation ........................................................... 7
Usage of bitcoin ......................................................................... 8
SCALABILITY ........................................................................ 10
determining Security risks ...................................................... 15
Compare Bitcoin to Regular Money ..................................... 17
interview .................................................................................... 19
Conclusion ................................................................................ 24
Works Cited .............................................................................. 26





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BI TCOI N PROJ ECT ANALYSI S
REPORT
BITCOIN FUNDEMENTALS
This section covers core concepts required to comprehend bitcoins. These are: Bitcoin
clients, public and private keys, transactions, the blockchain, mining, the bitcoin protocol
and the bitcoin foundation. The idea behind bitcoin is that it is a purely peer-to-peer version
of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another
without going through a financial institution. (Nakamoto, S, 2013)

The easiest way to understand Bitcoin deeply is by first seeing how a regular user would go
about using it, and then exploring it in more fundamental detail. A new user first selects a
“wallet”, or Bitcoin Client, through which they receive a bitcoin address that allows them to
receive coins from other users. Sending and receiving bitcoins works a lot like sending and
receiving e-mails. It is nearly instant, can be done from any device, and it works whether the
recipient is online or offline.
WALLETS




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A wallet can keep any number of addresses, or public keys. For each public key there is a
secret private key, the function of which is explained below. Wallet data can be stored in
almost any medium, whether it be online, offline, on an external disk, or even printed out. If
the wallet data is lost on its storage location the bitcoins and all of their monetary value is
lost forever. If it is stolen then the attacker can send the bitcoins to any address in a way that
is untraceable. This is why backing up your wallet data and ensuring its security is absolutely
critical. Fortunately there are many easy ways to do so. The first thing to do is encrypt the
wallet with a password.
TRANSACTIONS

What happens when a user sends bitcoins to a specific address? First the sender's private key
is used to sign the transaction to prove they were the previous owner. Why is proof of
ownership required? Somewhat confusingly, actual bitcoins are not sent from one wallet to
another. Instead the bitcoin-wide shared public transaction ledger called the Blockchain gets
updated, assigning new ownership to the bitcoins that were “sent”. The blockchain is a
record of all past transactions in the history of bitcoin and shows who owns what.


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Ownership is determined by the latest transaction for a bitcoin or fraction of a bitcoin on
the blockchain. You can also see the entire history of ownership for any bitcoin.
Transactions are verified again and again in an ingenious proof or work process called
mining.
MINING

Transactions are verified by anyone who chooses to download software which performs
proof of work, or mining. This serves the dual purpose of confirming waiting transactions,
(6 confirmations before a transaction is considered fully confirmed) and ensuring that
nobody can do double spending. The incentive to do energy intensive mining comes with
the chance to win the 25 bitcoins that come with the creation of every new block in the
blockchain. This system distributes new bitcoins as equally as possible among the miners,
and creates bitcoins at a steady but diminishing rate. Ultimately, the mathematical limit to the
number of bitcoins in the year 2140 is 21 million. (Nakamoto, 2013)


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THE BITCOIN PROTOCOL

All of the software running the mechanisms that keep the bitcoin network running is present
in the bitcoin protocol. The full depth of the protocol is beyond the scope of this report.
The protocol basically consists of a description and code for the following things:

bitcoin transactions
transaction fees
rules for bitcoin clients
blockchain
proof of work process (mining)

The protocol is altered and updated by a core of developers. Controversial changes are
discussed by the developers and sometimes voted on before being implemented. Anyone
who wants to is free to join the development team. (Bitcoin developers, 2013)



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THE BITCOIN FOUNDATION

While bitcoin system is in principle decentralized, open source and neutral in principle, it can
still benefits from promotion and the security of human organizations. The Bitcoin
foundation did not create bitcoin, nor does it control it. Rather it emerged out of a perceived
need to help deliver and safeguard the tremendous potential of bitcoin as a technology. It's
stated mission is to standardize, protect and promote bitcoin in the interests of the entire
bitcoin community. They are outspokenly very keen on keeping Bitcoin rooted in its core
principles: non-political economy, openness, and independence. (The Bitcoin Foundation,
2013)



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USAGE OF BITCOIN

Bitcoin uses stay limited as of yet due to its unpopularity and limits in real-world
transactions, but it is slowly gaining hold as more and more businesses and companies realise
its potential. Some businesses now accept Bitcoins in exchange of real goods and services. In
the map of Bitcoin-accepting real world merchants compiled by Bitcoin.it, there is a
countable number of North American businesses accepting Bitcoins, which includes three
restaurants, four hotels, and a few other businesses. Canada only has three real shops


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accepting bitcoins, which include a used books store, a winery, and a massage centre. There
is a much higher number of European businesses that are accepting Bitcoins. These
businesses are challenging the view on Bitcoins as mere internet play money.

Majority of Bitcoin transactions, however, still remain online. Within the online world,
Bitcoins are proving to be advantageous, and some well-known websites such as
wordpress.com are now offering Bitcoin transactions as alternatives. Other online services
that are related to technology are continuing to support Bitcoins. This is because an online
transaction can occur anonymously, without the need to pay taxes or any other bank fees.
This anonymity is not possible with traditional debit and credit cards, or online paypal
transactions.

Bitcoins are peaking through the traditional banking world with promising developments in
European financial system. Paymium is a new service that offers a legitimate French
payment account to their customers through Aqoba, a French company. Consumers can buy
goods with European price tags with a debit card that is attached directly to their Bitcoin
account. Employees can even have their salaries paid into these accounts. A major challenge,
however, is still to explain the benefits of this technology to the banks. Mcleans.ca explains
that this is mainly because Bitcoins pose threat to the traditional banking industry due to the
ease with which transactions are possible with Bitcoins.

Canadian dollars can be exchanged for Bitcoins through a Calgary company named VirtEx.
Close to 3 million US dollars are exchanged with Bitcoins by a Tokyo based company. All


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these promising steps taken by companies are bridging the gap between Bitcoins and the real
world, and suggest that the uses of Bitcoins will only increase in the future.
SCALABILITY



According to Bitcoin users, and analysts, the proof of Bitcoin’s scalability is from number of
Bitcoin users continue to grow and rise in price. In fact, according to the figure below,


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Bitcoin prices has surged in the past 24 months, recently peaking at around $70 (USD) after
a 2011 low of around $2 (USD). One of the Bitcoin developers, named Andresen, predicts
that in next 40 years or so, Bitcoin will eventually be one dominant currency that is used for
80% of worldwide online transactions. And the most people will use their Bitcoin as a mean
of payment when purchasing goods and services from other people. And as the use of
Bitcoin has risen in popularity, it has received increasing mainstream attention. The websites
like Reddit, Wordpress.com have begun accepting Bitcoin as payment. Also, many online
gambling sites have increasingly begun to accept Bitcoin as a means of simplifying their
online payment methods.
Figure1.
A chart showing the USD market price. Adapted from “Blockchain”, by BlockChain 2011, Retrieved
April 8, 2013, from
http://blockc

hain.info/charts/market
-
price
. Copyright 2010 by
Qkos Services Ltd



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Figure 2.
A chart showing the Market Capitalization. Adapted from “Blockchain”, by BlockChain 2011,
Retrieved April 8, 2013, from
http://blockc

hain.info/charts/market
-
pric
e
. Copyright 2010 by
Qkos Services Ltd

Figure 3.
A chart showing the number of transaction per day. Adapted from “Blockchain”, by BlockChain 2011,
Retrieved April 8, 2013, from
http://blockc

hai
n.info/charts/market
-
price
. Copyright 2010 by
Qkos Services Ltd



13


Bitcoin is a sufficiently novel technology and it is naturally evolving. Reason for Bitcoin’s
popularity is the fact that it is a deflationary currency. Unlike dollars, Bitcoin does not have a
central issuing authority; “an algorithm on the Bitcoin network allows their supply to slowly
increase. They are distributed to Bitcoin miners who solve complex mathematical problems
that are expensive or time-consuming to solve and require a lot of trial and error. As the
Bitcoin network has expanded, these problems have become harder and harder to solve,
with one block of bitcoin requiring over a million times more work than it did when Bitcoin
was first beginning to gain popularity.”(Kapur, 2013) There’s hard limit of 21 million
Bitcoins to be mined, which is predetermined to be reached during the year of 2140. So as
Bitcoin demand and adoption continue to outpace its supply, its price will increase in
lockstep.

Figure 4.
A chart showing the my wallet number of users. Adapted from “Blockchain”, by BlockChain 2011,
Retrieved April 8, 2013, from
http://blockc

hain.info/charts/market
-
price
.

Copyright 2010 by
Qkos Services Ltd



14

Bitcoin’s viability can be seen by providing greater safety and increasing legitimacy. they are
the features that are touted as a plus for Bitcoin users. According to the Bitcoin developers,
the infrastructure for strong security technology is still production. They also stated that by
the end of this year, there will be easy-to-use and incredibly secure and convenient solutions
for storing and spending Bitcoin currencies. One of the major advantages that Bitcoin will
have is that you can conjunctively store your Bitcoins in two places at once. So in order to
use them, a person would need access to both storage sites. One location where he might
store your Bitcoins could be a secure website run by a bank which acts as the proverbial safe
deposit box for Bitcoins and the other could be his computer or smartphone.

Bitcoin, of course, has been around the world only four years, so it still does not have strong
credibility; however, It is designed with the ideals of the contemporary cyber movement in
mind: decentralization, peer to peer, cryptography. Easily transferable, it is storage of value
for a virtual society. As a payment system, it's a temporal store of money that can be easily
sent across the globe securely and speedily without counterparty risk. No matter the price of
Bitcoin, these benefits will always give it purpose.



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DETERMINING SECURITY RISKS

Bitcoin is an efficient and secured currency system. To find out why is that, first we have to
understand the answer of the question: why not the government prints more money to solve
economic crisis? We have to have a clear idea of the fundamental mechanism of currency in
relation to economy and marketplace to answer that question. Prices will go up after a drastic
increase in the money supply for two main reasons. Firstly, if people have more money, they
will divert some of that money to spending. As a result, retailers will be forced to raise
prices, or run out of product. Secondly, Retailers who run out of product will try to replenish
it. At the same time, producers will face the same dilemma of retailers that they will either
have to raise prices, or face shortages because they do not have the capacity to create extra
product and they cannot find labor at rates which are low enough to justify the extra
production. The inflation is caused by a combination of four factors. Those factors are:
o
The supply of money goes up.
o
The supply of goods goes down.
o
Demand for money goes down.
o
Demand for goods goes up.


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Now we should be able to understand, why an increase in the supply of money causes prices
to rise. Bitcoin was introduced in 2009 by Satoshi Nakomoto. It is the world's first and only
decentralized online currency that can be issued by anyone with a powerful personal
computer instead of a central bank. One or many powerful computers mints them by solving
extremely difficult mathematical problems. The problems are automatically made
incrementally harder to ensure that the overall supply of Bitcoins cannot grow too fast to
collapse the general system of currency (Economist, 2012). This is how bitcoin is a secured
and efficient currency system.

Bitcoin is a programming marvel that solves the problems that have frustrated the
development of an online currency, identity theft and counterfeiting. Current hi-tech power
gave hacker community a lot of power to steal people’s identity and increased online theft.
When people are becoming more technological dependent, they are becoming more inclined
to cloud services, online communications and digital transactions. This facility hands out our
own property in someone else’s control or supervision although there are strict privacy laws.
Simple example we can say, using Facebook, Google or online network made us an easy
target of targeted marketing and frequent victim of invasion of our privacy. The Bitcoin
solved the problem of identity theft through what's known as public key cryptography - a
method of encryption that many banks, militaries and e- mail providers use to make sure the
only computer that can decode a certain message is the computer that message is meant for
(Altstedter, 2011). This happens in point to point communication between two nodes.
Bitcoin is like any other currency but they are only traded online, with transactions
cryptographically authenticated which made it very secured and save us from identity theft
and counterfeiting.


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Bitcoin discourage currency hijacking. If someone tries to steal bitcoin or someone actually
steals bitcoin currency; cyber-crime protector can find the trace route of that crime. Because
all Bitcoin transactions are recorded, a determined cyber detective possibly could trace a
purchase. It reveals a security aspect of Bitcoin currency and how robbery can highly be
discouraged (Erdely, 2011). Intelligent software can detect where his/her money went?
Catching the bad guys will be a lot faster and cost effective.
COMPARE BITCOIN TO REGULAR MONEY

According to one of the biggest Bitcoin trade websites, Mt. Gox, one Bitcoin is priced at
about 100 dollars on April 1th Invalid source specified.. It is very fluctuating and
unpredictable, but the worth of Bitcoin is increasing.


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The following are some of the major advantages of using Bitcoin versus regular money
system. Bitcoin is borderless. Bitcoin can be secretly transported anywhere in the world
instantly for free unlike a traditional currency such as gold or fiat money, which is almost
impossible to get out of the country incognito. Secondly, the use of cryptography would
remove the need for trusted third parties to store and transfer funds (Braver, 2012).
Therefore there is no viable way to implement a Bitcoin taxation system. If some users
voluntarily send a percentage of the amount as a tax, it would be the only way to pay a tax.
Thirdly, it is impossible to trace transactions unless users publicize their wallet address. Even
though the wallet address is publicized, users can generate a new address easily, so no one,
except the wallet owner, will know how many Bitcoin they have. This makes privacy greatly
increase compare to the traditional currency system that the third parties potentially access to
personal financial data. Lastly, some merchants are intrigued by Bitcoin because, like cash, it
does not require them to pay interchange fees (Quittner, 2012). Bitcoin’s transactions require
users to keep the Bitcoin client running and connecting to other nodes. Basically, sharing the
burden of authorizing transactions greatly reduces transaction costs or makes them
insignificant.
On the other hand, there are disadvantages associated with using Bitcoin like any currency.
At first, Bitcoin is only accepted by a very small group of online merchants. Alternative
currencies need to get a greater degree of legitimacy and the legitimacy is earned by
widespread use (Quittner, 2012). This makes difficult to completely rely on Bitcoin as a
currency. Secondly, wallets can be lost. Once the wallet file is corrupted by a hard drive
failure or a virus, Bitcoin has been lost forever. There is no way to recover them. Even if a
user is a wealthy investor, the user could be bankrupted within seconds. The coins the
investor owned will be permanently orphaned in the system. Thirdly, Bitcoin does not


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provide buyer protection. Since there is no way to reverse the Bitcoin transaction, if a seller
does not send the promised products, a buyer cannot do anything. A third party escrow
service like ClearCoin can solve this problem, but Bitcoin would become similar to the
traditional currency because the escrow service is assumed as banks. Fourthly, because one
of Bitcoin’s selling points is anonymity, concern is arising that it could be used for illicit
purposes such as dealing drugs. Moreover, the anonymous transfer of significant wealth is
obviously a money-laundering risk (Braver, 2012). Lastly, Bitcoin is deflationary currency
because the total number of Bitcoins is capped at 21 million. Each Bitcoin will be worth
more and more as the total number of Bitcoins limited. This system is designed to reward
early adopters. Since each Bitcoin will be valued higher with each passing day, the question
of when to spend becomes important. This might cause spending surges which will cause the
Bitcoin economy to fluctuate very rapidly, and unpredictably (“Bitcoin FAQ”, n.d.).

INTERVIEW



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'Gweedo' is a web developer and member of the bustling forum “bitcointalk.org”. He did
not want to release his real name or any personal details. He was kind enough to answer
these questions for us.
[About Gweedo]
What do you do in relation to bitcoin?
I am a bot trader, and have been involved in a lot of sites that are bitcoin related.

I been involved in everything from a banking type of site to a faucet
(http://bitcoinaddict.com), and now I run on my own an address shortener/tip button at
http://qcl.me. I also developed http://bitcoinlister.com with a partnership. Alot the sites I
work on are non-bitcoin related but want to add bitcoin to them, so this allows me to work
on a lot of different types of sites, that I normally wouldn't have the chance too.
What aspects of bitcoin are you most knowledgeable about?
I am mainly knowledgable about the protocol, and how that works. I also know about alot
of the mining process, yet I am not a miner anymore. Trading again I know a lot about,
security as you can see from my site above I think about a lot. I know a lot about offline
transactions. Provability fair applications. I am not so much into economy that is why you
have friends in the community that know that so you can give them a quick pm.
[Bitcoin Protocol]


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Do you know about the core development of the bitcoin protocol? Are you involved
in it?
Yes I know about the core development of the bitcoin protocol, I read the git history. I also
have read a lot of the emails from the mailing list. I am not involved since my C++ and
python are not my strong programming languages, I be more of a headache to them.
Who is responsible for, updates, changes and the overall evolution of the protocol?
What does it take to join this group?
Currently Gavin (Gavin Andresen) is the lead developer so he is the one that makes the all
the big decisions but he also listens to a lot of the core developers. It takes just a strong
knowledge of C++ and python to join, they really never turn anyone away.
If development of the protocol is in the hands of a few, isn’t there potential for
corruption?
There is potential corruption but the protocol is so young that it needs this hands on, so
once it is running out of beta and really on it's own it can handle these unknown bumps in
the road better.
What is the best way for an interested person to learn about the protocol?
Sign up for github, and watch the repo. Sign up for the mailing list on sourceforge to keep
up with what they are talking about. Look at the code and try and figure out how it works.
Take small issues and try and fix them and pull request them.
[Bitcoin Developers]


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What are some major opportunities for bitcoin developers at the moment?
There are a lot of major opportunities for bitcoin developers. If you have a passion for
something, and there is no bitcoin site for it. Create it. This is like the internet bubble all
over again, don't wait for other companies in those other spaces to add bitcoin, find your
niche and be first to market.
What are some good ways for new developers to start learning about bitcoin?
Setup the testnet in a box on your development server takes no time to do. Just write code,
and playing see how things are return and how to get responses. For this I recommend using
bitcoin-qt because you can then look at the debug console window so you know what you
are expecting. Another good way is look at all the open source bitcoin software, some of it is
kinda old but again it will give you again a good view of bitcoin.
What are the major challenges bitcoin developers face?
The major challenge is security. Security of the bitcoind and the server in general, are
sometimes just not focused on as much as it should. Also if you create that niche site, is find
people who like bitcoin and that niche. I have many projects that just sit on my dev server,
until that community gets more involved in bitcoin, but the good news is everyday more and
more people are joining bitcoin so that should be a problem.
[Bitcoin and the economy]
If bitcoin gains widespread acceptance, do you think other cryptocurrencies will be
adopted along side?
- If not, what's special about bitcoin that can't be replicated?


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Yes of course, it is already happening bitcoin hit over $100 and litecoins just hit $1. While
they may not be as popular they will gain ground due to the success of bitcoin.
Some say bitcoin cuts banks out of the loop. What if banks (or even governments)
were to develop their own cryptocurrencies?
Some people would use them, but it is always great to have competition, as long as they
don't try to stop bitcoin which is very hard, I would welcome bank crypto-currenices, who
knows maybe for 1 chase coin I can trade 1000 bitcoins.
In your opinion, do you think the recent rise in price is a gathering snowball, or a
bubble about to be popped?
You can't call a bubble and a broken clock is right twice a day, so you just have to ride it out
and see what happens.
What do you think are the major existential threats which bitcoin faces?
How do we handle scammers and defaulters will be the next major problem we face coming
in the next years.
What is the most important thing everybody should know about bitcoin?
The most important thing about bitcoins that everybody should know is this a revolution of
the currencies and how we handle money. We are paving the way for our children to be able
to give them an option in the way they hold and spend there money. This is the freedom of
speech applied to money.
That's about it, thank you for answering my questions!


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No Problem!
CONCLUSION


Bitcoin seems strange to some and confusing in one way or another to almost everybody.
How does it work? Where is it headed? Even the most informed advocates of bitcoin are
quite vocal about the fact that they themselves cannot see into its future. Recently self
described bitcoin “insider” Erik Voorhees wrote: “My sentiment is the same today as it was
a year or two years ago: either Bitcoin is worth zero, or is worth thousands of dollars each.”

Bitcoin has truly revolutionary potential. Some have noted that it can do for currency what
e-mail did for communications. Bitcoin is not untroubled however, and since its users
inception it has been subject to a number of ponzi schemes thefts and hacks. Fortunately,
when properly done encryption is unbreakable, and the community surrounding bitcoin is
strong; it seems all such criminal activity is entirely preventable, and those who wish to part
bitcoins from their rightful owners must rely on the naivety or negligence of their victims to
do so.


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Though the future of bitcoin is uncertain, one thing that is clear is that if it does take off, it
will not be alone as an alternative currency to government issued fiat money. There are
already a number of other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin and Namecoin. Together they
may herald a new age of fast, cheap, anonymous and secure payment systems. The
implications of such technologies are essentially vast and unknowable, but those who are
able to speculate well may be poised to benefit immensly.
For anyone who inquires about investing in bitcoin, I tell them this: if you can, buy one
bitcoin. In 5 years time, owning just 1 bitcoin might be something to brag about.









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