The Joinmarket Community Wants to Improve Bitcoin’s Fungibility

Many people within the cryptocurrency environment are on a quest for fungible digital currency transactions. Some have opted to use altcoins while others patiently wait for Bitcoin implementations like Schnorr signatures and Tumblebit. For the time being, there is a platform that Bitcoiners can experiment with that uses coinjoin transactions called Joinmarket. Also read: Europe Lays

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Many people within the cryptocurrency environment are on a quest for fungible digital currency transactions. Some have opted to use altcoins while others patiently wait for Bitcoin implementations like Schnorr signatures and Tumblebit. For the time being, there is a platform that Bitcoiners can experiment with that uses coinjoin transactions called Joinmarket.

Also read: Europe Lays Out Roadmap to Restrict Payments in Cash and Cryptocurrencies

Coinjoin Transactions Using Joinmarket

Joinmarket was announced by Bitcoin developer Chris Belcher on Bitcointalk.org in January 2015. The platform operates on either Linux or Windows and aims to improve the privacy of bitcoin transactions. Joinmarket utilizes what’s called coinjoin transactions, which means the protocol mixes multiple people’s transactions together to create obfuscation against transaction analysis.

The Joinmarket Community Wants to Improve Bitcoin's Fungibility
The concept of coinjoin transactions was first proposed by Bitcoin developer Gregory Maxwell.

“A coinjoin transaction requires other people to take part,” explains Belcher’s announcement. “The right resources (coins) have to be in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity. This isn’t a software or tech problem, it is an economic problem. I propose a new kind of market is created that would allocate these resources in the best way.”

The protocol’s Github sources state that there are two groups within Joinmarket called market makers and market takers. By initiating a coinjoin transaction, takers pay a fee to the makers incentivizing both groups to perform the process.  “A form of smart contract is created, meaning the private keys will never be broadcasted outside of your computer, resulting in virtually zero risk of loss (aside from malware or bugs). As a result of free-market forces, the fees will eventually be next to nothing,” details Joinmarket.

The Joinmarket Community Wants to Improve Bitcoin's Fungibility
An example of a tested Joinmarket coinjoin transaction. Image courtesy of the Open Bitcoin Privacy Project.

Joinmarket’s Vulnerability This Past September

In September 2016, a vulnerability concern with Joinmarket was posted on Github. The announcement called “Joinmarket release 0.2.0 ameliorates this snooping attack” detailed that the platform’s privacy aspect was degraded.

“Joinmarket is a young project, there are some possible vulnerabilities which could be exploited to spy on every user,” explains Github issue #156. “It means that an attacker for free can learn what UTXOs belong to which maker, and can eliminate them when analyzing coinjoins on the blockchain. It’s not trivial to actually obtain all the UTXOs from a maker, but even learning a proportion of them is enough to spy on a large amount of coinjoins.”

This news caused concern towards using the project across many social cryptocurrency forums. However, crypto-privacy advocates still applauded the project and believed the platform was still in its infancy. Monero’s Riccardo Spagni had good things to say about Joinmarket when the vulnerability reached the public’s ears.    

I’ll still continue to promote Joinmarket as the best coinjoin implementation, and the best combination of trustlessness + privacy + ease-of-use + liquidity for bitcoiners who don’t want to use altcoins or OTC trades or mining.

Joinmarket is still a popular coinjoin application within the community. The platform’s developers had also addressed the snooping attack in a matter of days with Joinmarket’s release version 0.2 and asked the entire community to update.

The community of Joinmarket users has a very active subreddit, and IRC channel for issues with the platform and general development discussion. The protocol’s code is updated regularly and has a vast array of guides for users to implement Joinmarket to the Bitcoin client or Electrum wallet support. At press time, Joinmarket has 80 orders by 62 counterparties on the platform’s order book.

“[The] aim is to improve the confidentiality and privacy of bitcoin transactions, as well as improve the capacity of the blockchain, therefore reduce costs,” explains the platform developers. “The concept has enormous potential, but had not seen much usage despite the multiple projects that implement it.”

Have you tried Joinmarket? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Wiki commons, and the Open Bitcoin Privacy Project.


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Danish Police Surveil the Blockchain to Make Arrests

Danish law enforcement have arrested drug traffickers after an investigation that included surveilling the blockchain, according to the regional publication Berlingske. The Danish police’s cyber crime unit NC3 claim they have made arrests based on criminal activity tracked via bitcoin transactions.  Law enforcement officials are indeed working with blockchain surveillance software globally, and even warning

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Danish law enforcement have arrested drug traffickers after an investigation that included surveilling the blockchain, according to the regional publication Berlingske. The Danish police’s cyber crime unit NC3 claim they have made arrests based on criminal activity tracked via bitcoin transactions. 

Law enforcement officials are indeed working with blockchain surveillance software globally, and even warning against the use of digital currency mixers.

Also read: Basel Institute: “Take Action Against Digital Currency Mixers/Tumblers”

Danish Cyber Crime Unit Analyzes Blockchain to Prosecute Drug Traffickers

Authorities Are Prosecuting Criminals With Bitcoin Transactions
The headquarters of the Danish police’s cyber crime unit NC3.

The chief of the Danish cyber crime unit, Kim Aarenstrup, has revealed authorities in the region created a tracking system that analyzes bitcoin transactions. Aarenstrup details the tool has helped police with two narcotics convictions. One arrest took place in January when Danish police arrested a young man for purchasing ketamine, cocaine, and amphetamines on darknet marketplaces. (DNM)

“Bitcoin — and virtual currency in general — is used a lot for trafficking in weapons and drugs, ransom cases and extortion cases,” Aarenstrup said. “It has become a heavily used tool for criminals. — We are pretty much unique in the world at this point because they’re not really any others who have managed to use these trails as evidence.”

The Danish prosecutor who worked on the convictions, Jesper Klyve, explained their blockchain analysis worked because the drug traffickers had correlated bitcoin transactions. Many services that offer bitcoin purchasing platforms follow strict KYC policies and buyers typically have to verify their identification.

Aarenstrup told the press the new blockchain surveillance system was “ground-breaking.”

Blockchain Surveillance Rising

Authorities Are Prosecuting Criminals With Bitcoin Transactions
Last year, Chainalysis raised $1.6M from European investors and partnered with Europol.

The Danish cyber crime unit is not the only agency utilizing blockchain surveillance software to capture criminals. There are four known startups using bitcoin transaction analysis tools and collaborating with law enforcement worldwide. Companies utilizing blockchain surveillance software include Elliptic, Chainalysis, Numisight, and Skry. Both Elliptic and Chainalysis have been working with law enforcement agencies like the FBI, Interpol, Europol and KYC/AML platform providers.

Last summer, Chainalysis detailed that the company was working with global authorities to combat ransomware. Michael Gronager, CEO and co-founder of Chainalysis, said at the time, “Expect to see some arrests soon as law enforcement agencies wrap up their investigations into several ransomware operations.”

In January, the Basel Institute on Governance, Europol, Interpol, and officials from Qatar warned against the use of bitcoin transaction mixers.

“All countries are advised to take action against digital currency mixers/tumblers,” they explained.

Bitcoin Anonymizing Tools Increasingly Popular

Alongside the rise of startups and law enforcement deploying blockchain surveillance, software developers are also creating privacy-centric transaction tools and concepts for Bitcoin. Ideas like Tumblebit, Schnorr signatures, confidential transactions, and other protocols are being developed. There are also in-production mixing services like Joinmarket, and anonymizing wallets like Samourai.

The privacy activists behind the Samourai wallet recently introduced features like Ricochet, and reusable payment codes. Samourai rebukes warnings made by bureaucrats and law enforcement against privacy-enhancing tools. In a recent blog post called “The Bureaucrats Are Coming”, the privacy-centric wallet developers explain they are ready to fight the state.  

Samourai will not cower to these ivory tower elites — We will actively work to destroy the effectiveness of any legislation or policy that is produced.

What do you think about law enforcement officials tracking bitcoin transactions? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Danish Cyber Crime Unit, and Chainalysis.


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The History of Virtual Reality in 500 Words

history of VREven though the concept of virtual reality seems relatively new to a lot of people, VR has been around for quite some time now. In fact, one could argue the principle of virtual reality goes back all the way to the nineteenth century. That may come as a surprise to some, yet it is evident artists of that particular era had a knack for panoramic paintings. It is time to take look at how virtual reality came to be, many moons ago. The Brief History of Virtual Reality Stereoscopic viewers were created back in 1838 and serve as the foundation for

history of VR

Even though the concept of virtual reality seems relatively new to a lot of people, VR has been around for quite some time now. In fact, one could argue the principle of virtual reality goes back all the way to the nineteenth century. That may come as a surprise to some, yet it is evident artists of that particular era had a knack for panoramic paintings. It is time to take look at how virtual reality came to be, many moons ago.

The Brief History of Virtual Reality

Stereoscopic viewers were created back in 1838 and serve as the foundation for most VR headsets we can buy today. Viewing side-by-side images or photos creates a sense of depth and immersion. At the time, the stereoscopic viewer was quite a revelation, and it took until 1929 before more significant advancements were made.

During that year, the Link Trainer became the first commercial flight simulator allowing pilots-in-training to experience in-flight effects. One year later, Stanley G. Weinbaum predicted the creation of VR goggles, allowing users to experience touch, smell, and taste. The first step towards achieving that goal came in the 1950s when Morton Heilig created the Sensorama. Combining a vibrating chair, smell receptors, fans, and a stereoscopic 3D display created the first true VR environment.

A few years later, the world saw the first VR head mounted display, called the Telesphere Mask. Motion tracking head mounted displays followed a year later in the form of the Headsight. Ivan Sutherland shocked the world again in 1965 with his Ultimate Display capable of simulating reality. Over twenty years later, the name “virtual reality” was coined by Jaron Lanier. From that moment onward, virtual reality became an official industry warranting plenty of research and excitement.

It took until 1991 before VR devices became accessible to the public. Arcade machines launched by the Virtuality Group let users wear VR goggles and play games with immersive stereoscopic 3D visuals. Sega jumped on the VR bandwagon in 1993 by announcing the Sega VR headset, which was never released due to technical constraints. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy successfully harnessed this technology, yet it was a failure in the end due to a lack of proper in-game graphics and software support.

Perhaps the biggest “advancement” for virtual reality technology comes in the form of the “The Matrix” movies. Considering all characters live in a simulated world, it is not hard to see the parallels. The cultural impact of this movie caused a positive mind shift for VR technology as a whole.

Fast forward to today, and multiple manufacturers are competing to bring VR-capable head mounted displays to consumers all over the world. Pricing for these headsets is becoming more competitive as time progressive, which will make this technology more widely accessible to consumers all over the world moving forward. Rest assured the coming decade will be quite interesting for virtual reality.

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