Is Craig Wright the real creator of Bitcoin?

The internet has been blowing up since it was revealed on Monday that Craig Wright is the creator of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a new currency that was created in 2009 by a phantom developer that went by the name Satoshi Nakamoto. The currency is unique because it allows its users to make transactions without a bank, and has grown popular enough to allow Bitcoins to be used to buy items from pizza to websites.  Nakamoto’s identity has always been shrouded in mystery, and added to the allure of the culture around Bitcoin. As of Monday, it was revealed to the world that Nakamoto is really an Australian businessman with 9 degrees. But everyone is not convinced.

This isn’t the first time the the creator of Bitcoin was said to be revealed. Just last year Wired and Gizmodo magazines claimed that Wright was Nakamoto. The reports were immediately criticized, with Wired reporting that claims of Wright as the creator of Bitcoin was a hoax. This time, Wright wrote his own blog post staking the claim as Nakamoto himself. This post was backed up by Bitcoin Foundation chief scientist Gavin Andresen, who showed support by writing a blog post of his own.

So how can we tell if Wright is really the creator of Bitcoin? It all comes down to signed cryptographic keys. Wright claims to be in possession of cryptographic keys that only the real Satoshi Nakamoto would have access to. Encryption works by using two keys, a private and public key to move data safely over the internet. Wright is claiming to have a private key that shows that he is the real Nakamoto. But even the existence of a private key has been contested. Having a private key doesn’t prove identity, it just proves that the person that is signing has access to the private key.

While Wright has taken steps to prove that with his private key, he can link to a bitcoin address mined by Satoshi Nakamoto, it makes you wonder how much it matters. Satoshi Nakamoto left the Bitcoin project. Although his work is the backbone of Bitcoin, it isn’t necessarily important to know who the real creator of Bitcoin is as far as Bitcoin’s future is concerned. But at least for now, there will still be a hint of mystery attached to Bitcoin’s creator.

Article via Mashable, 2 May 2016

Photo Vires In Numeris by Zach Copley [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Social Impact Pitch

On April 5, Fruition Technology Labs held the Social Impact Pitch at the Urban Co-Lab in Austin. The Social Impact Pitch is an event for organizations to pitch project and business ideas that are focused on a SOCIAL, CIVIC or life-changing benefit.

Panelists and investors like Bob Bridge from Southwest Angel Network, Charlie Jackson from Diversity Fund, Wesley Okeke from Fruition Tech Labs, and Belinda Matingou from Texas Association of Business, Luemara Wagner of the Texas Family Justice Institute, and Preston James, and Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at the University of Texas at Austin, helped judge and organize the event.

Among the contestants was former Tech For Justice Hackathon+ Austin winner, Michael Curran, who left the event with the winning title.

Michael is a lawyer with experience in the field of legal technology, and he is currently focused on solving the growing problem of financial exploitation. Michael is also an officer with the State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section.

Michael’s pitch was based on his Guide Change business that started one year ago at the Tech for Justice hackathon sponsored by the Internet Bar Organization and others. Michael created the Guide Change platform to help institutions and administrators who seek to protect the financial estates of seniors and others who may be the targets of financial exploitation and abuse.


FBI hack to remain secret from Apple

The FBI has no plans to reveal how they hacked the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, not even to Apple.

In March, the FBI announced that they would be dropping their case with Apple after having purchased a hacking tool from a third party to aid in breaking into the phone. Apple had cooperated with the FBI, but would not create new firmware to break their own encryption. The high profile nature of this case brought the debate about privacy and security to the national stage. Although there was a judge assigned to rule on the case, the FBI’s purchasing of a hacking tool put the need for a ruling to bed.

Since then, the FBI has been mum on how this hacking tool was able to be successful and how it works. Prior to purchasing the tool, the FBI insisted that it needed Apple to update the firmware in order for them to do a hack on the shooter’s iPhone. The security on iPhone only allows 10 consecutive attempts to break the passcode before all data is erased on the phone.

Apple has a vested interest in understanding the hack, because the tech company would want to patch any vulnerabilities that allowed the FBI to use this tool to access the iPhone.  Hacking into this iPhone will make all iPhones vulnerable to the same sort of attack, which ultimately puts many iPhones around the world at risk.

An Apple attorney has stated that the company has no plans to sue the government to reveal how the San Bernardino iPhone was unlocked.

The government already has policies in place, called theVulnerabilities Equities Process, which governs disclosure of security problems to companies. This policy is notoriously shrouded in secrecy, but the government is generally supportive of vulnerability disclosure in order to ensure that vulnerabilities are not exploited by malicious hackers.

The FBI has found success with this tool, but it doesn’t mean that they are in a place to support vulnerability disclosure. The agency has already made plans to argue that it does not know enough about the hacking tool that it purchased to substantively explain how it works. FBI director James Comey has revealed that his agency spent more than $1 million to obtain the tool.

Article via TechCrunch, 26 April 2016

Photo El FBI no necesita a Apple para desbloquear un iPhone by iphonedigital [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

 


Tech boom coming to an end?

For the last few years Silicon Valley has been the darling of venture capitalists looking for the next big thing. The result has been huge investments and valuations for companies that often come with whimsical names (Think Twilio and Sprinklr). The rise of mobile has contributed to the belief that there should be and “app for that”, and paved the way for companies less than 10 years old to become part of the billion dollar startup club. But that seems to be coming to an end.

At least, that is what the data shows anyway. Since the end of 2015, venture capital has been pulling back on investing in Silicon Valley unicorns. Unicorns are Silicon Valley companies with valuations of a billion dollars or more. Funding fell 8 percent to $25.5 billion, extending a steep decline that began the quarter before, according to a report released Wednesday by KPMG, an accountancy, and CB Insights, a venture researcher.

“There’s a lot of cautiousness out there,” says Kerry Wu, an analyst at CB Insights. “It’s reflected in the data.”

What that data shows is the rate of new unicorn companies is slowing. In Q3 of 2015 there was a new unicorn showing up in the valley every four days. But by the end of 2015 that had tricked down to just 1 new unicorn that quarter. The report by KPMG points to a few key reasons for the slow down in venture capital funding.

  • Too many unicorns A unicorn is a unicorn because its rare, but there have been so many lately that it may have driven the value down. When the value goes down, the money starts to slow because investors don’t see the next app as the best way to make money fast.
  • Startups are still growing The unicorns that have received funding are continuing to get more, such as Uber. This is helping them to grow larger quickly. And spreading the money thinner for the new comers on the block.
  • American funding is cooling off  The total number of venture deals flatlined in the first quarter after plunging 15 percent a quarter earlier. The stagnation suggest that venture capitalist aren’t the excited to invest in this market.
  • California startups aren’t as exciting Funding has fallen by 1.5 percent. It’s down almost half from the $12.2 billion raised in the September quarter. Although these numbers don’t indicate trouble, it does confirm the latest data that suggest that the tech economy is slowing down.

Article via CNET, 13 April 2016

Photo Startup by Dennis Skley [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Facebook hires blind engineer to improve tech

Matt King joined Facebook in June as the company’s first blind engineer. His mission is to improve Facebook for the visually impaired. With Billions of daily users, Facebook is one of the most visited sites on the web. Yet, much of it’s content is driven by visuals and images that software isn’t designed to translate.

King’s first big project at Facebook is to improve this experience for the visually impaired. His software gives broad descriptions of what may be in the photos shared on a users feed. It is the first step in looping a user in on what is on their timeline beyond the artificial intelligence that dictates the words on the screen. This software was officially released by Facebook on Tuesday. At a demo for the new software, the artificial intelligence describes a friend’s photo in the timeline as, “may contain sky, tree and outdoor.” A second photo from another Facebook contact is said to include “pizza.” The references fill a void that was not being addressed. Before this software, a visually impaired user would not have any information about the photo.

Matt King didn’t come into the world completely blind. He was born with  a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which destroys the retina. This made him legally blind at birth, but still able to see well enough to do schoolwork and ride his bike. But by the time he graduated Notre Dame with and electrical engineering degree, he was totally blind. He joined IBM in 1998, met the accessibility team which worked on making computing more accessible to this with disabilities, and ended up working with them for nearly two decades.

IBM’s accessibility department was created in 1985, well before most of Silicon Valley was thinking about the issue, partly in response to an IBM researcher who had gone blind.“The sense that was happening was that every person who was blind on the planet was losing access to the computer. There was no solution. You couldn’t write an email. You couldn’t go to work. You couldn’t go to school,” says Schwerdtfeger, an early member of the accessibility team who later worked closely with King.

“There were other blind people and several of them provided good input from the standpoint of a user, but what Matt brought to the table was an understanding of the technology underneath,” says one current IBM staffer. Looking for a chance to make more of an impact, Matt King left IBM and joined Facebook. The decision was somewhat personal for him, as King remembers the disappointment in creating his own Facebook page, and not know what was in the pictures. “Here’s one more thing, just like driving a car. Here’s another barrier for people who are blind,” said King. Now he is in a position to change that, and improve the platform for all its users. Kings technology will help the visually impaired, as well as those in situations where they cannot easily see their screens, such as when driving.

“The fact that you have somebody who has worked on accessibility who actually has the disability, is in a leadership position at probably the most pervasive application on the planet and is willing to put themselves out there like that,” Schwerdtfeger says, “that’s a big deal.”

Article via Mashable, 5 April 2016

Photo: First Ever Braille Library in Paradise, Mauritius by Exchanges Photos


FBI hacks another iPhone, iPod

After all the stink made by the FBI about getting Apple to hack the iPhone, last week the FBI hacked the iPhone themselves. There are still no details on how the FBI was able to complete the hack. Their original request stated that they were in need of Apple’s help in order to avoid permanently erasing the phone. Now that there has been one successful attempt, the FBI is ready to hack again, this time for a murder case happening in Arkansas.

Cody Hiland, a prosecuting attorney in Faulkner County, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the FBI had approved a request from his office and the Conway Police Department to crack an iPhone and an iPod. The devices belong to two teenagers that are being accused of murder. The day after the FBI announced that they had hacked the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone without Apple’s assistance, an Arkansas judge agreed to postpone the trial of 18-year-old Hunter Drexler. Prosecutors in this case believe the devices may hold evidence related to the murders last July of Robert and Patricia Cogdell.

The actions of the government may be setting a dangerous precedent. Apple’s concern over hacking their own devices laid not only in their integrity as a company, but the privacy expected by their users. Now that the FBI has hacked the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone, and helping to do the same for other cases, there will be an expectation that phones and devices will be unlocked for trials in the future. This Arkansas case is not the only request. A Justice Department request to unlock an iPhone linked to an accused drug dealer in New York was denied in February, but the department is appealing that decision.

All of this leaves Apple in a bad position. No company wants their devices hacked, even if it is the government doing so in the name of justice. Since we don’t know how the government unlocked the phone, it is likely that their method may end up being used by hackers and criminals. This would put all iPhones at risk and challenge Apple to continue to prevent decryption attempts in the future without all the knowledge of how these phones are being hacked.

Article via CNET, 30 March 2016

Photo: iPixel by Francis  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]