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From Cardano to Ethereum, 2020 Could Be Deciding Year for Proof-of-Stake

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From Cardano to Ethereum, 2020 Could Be Deciding Year for Proof-of-Stake

2020 will be the year proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchains finally break out. Maybe. Two of the industry’s most hotly anticipated PoS networks are scheduled to (re)launch in Q1 – namely ethereum and Cardano.

The second-largest blockchain platform in the world by market capitalization, ethereum has been looking to shift to PoS since 2014. Co-founder Vitalik Buterin sees PoS as key to ethereum reaching maturity.

“Ethereum 1.0 is a couple of people’s scrappy attempt to build the world computer; Ethereum 2.0 [with PoS] will actually be the world computer,” he has said.

Conceptually, PoS has been around since 2012, but its applications thus far on blockchain platforms, such as EOS, Tezos, Cosmos, and others, haven’t been proven to outperform proof-of-work (PoW) platforms in usage or market value (bitcoin or ethereum, for instance).

With PoS, validators must own currency they are verifying: “forgers” always own the coins being minted. There is no mining, meaning no heinous use of electricity to solve maths problems. Supporters argue that PoS will be magnitudes more scalable, sustainable and secure than traditional PoW blockchain systems, but the jury is still out on its comparative strengths and whether governance can be made to work.

Cardano, rather than launching a new PoS system, is looking to upgrade its own pre-existing PoS platform as a public network.

The 12th largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Cardano is currently governed by a federated system of transaction validators made up of three organizations: the Cardano Foundation, IOHK and Emurgo, a structure that drew criticism for being over-concentrated. The public network will have 100 times more people running its software than bitcoin, ethereum or any other PoW system, said Charles Hoskinson, CEO IOHK, the company behind Cardano, in an interview.

“This marks the starting point for handing the [Cardano] protocol completely to the community,” Hoskinson said of next year’s network upgrade, dubbed “Shelley.”

Tim Ogilvie, founder, and CEO of multi-blockchain staking service Staked, argues that 2019 has already been a big year for PoS.

“You’ve had millions of dollars of proof-of-stake assets running without a hitch and not spending billions on electricity costs,” he stated. “Now, you’re going to see big projects like Cardano and ethereum taking these results even further. We’re definitely excited.”

Ogilvie added:

“There’s probably five or six what we call large-market-size proof-of-stake coins and Cardano is one of them. It’s why we got into this business. All these big, exciting projects are either moving to PoS like ethereum or launching with PoS like Cardano.”

Cardano as a test case

Cardano is a running test case of the viability of PoS systems for a global audience. Hoskinson, himself one of the initial co-founders of ethereum, said the past two years of “research and engineering” have all been leading to this point.

Rather than relying on external computational cost and energy to power the network, as with PoW, PoS systems rely on internal incentive mechanisms to encourage user participation.

Coordinating the right amount of network rewards versus penalties to keep a PoS blockchain running smoothly and securely has taken years of academic research to get right, Hoskinson says.

Speaking to Cardano’s long roadmap, Kathleen Breitman, co-creator of public PoS blockchain Tezos, said:

“I can tell you for a fact it’s extremely unromantic and extremely unpleasant to watch a proof-of-stake network evolve. … It’s an extraordinarily hard task to switch to a PoS network or to launch a PoS network. The reason why is because there’s so much more coordination cost, more than anything else. It’s not a trivial task.”

Soon after the Shelley upgrade, Cardano plans to add smart contract functionality enabling decentralized applications (a development phase it calls “Goguen”). Following that, it hopes to increase scalability (the “Basho” phase) enabling upwards of 10,000 transactions per second. Ethereum, in contrast, presently processes about 15 transactions per second. Full development of the Cardano platform from Shelley to Basho, and an additional phase dubbed “Voltaire,” which is dedicated to on-chain governance, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

The challenges

Cardano raised $63 million dollars in an ICO in early 2017. Then, in 2018, Hoskinson stated IOHK had earned “nine figures” in revenue acquiring new corporate and government partnerships for the Cardano blockchain. The most recent corporate partnership with sneaker manufacturer New Balance was announced last month during the annual Cardano Summit.

Hoskinson is constantly on the move, flights between locations and projects. Hoskinson says he travels between 200 and 250 days a year. As well as Goguen, Shelley, and Basho, his company, Input Out Hong Kong (IOHK) is also developing an enterprise blockchain solution (Atala). Hoskinson is more focused on the developing world than most crypto executives, piloting projects in Mongolia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

Hoskinson has grown his team of two in 2015 to now 200 contractors and employees worldwide. Hoskinson is confident IOHK has amassed the technical know-how to bring the full Cardano project to full fruition.

Bob Summerwill, executive director of the Ethereum Classic Cooperative, called it a “world-class development team” with a strong focus on academic peer review. Though Buterin and Hoskinson spar over the particulars of their PoS projects, Summerwill stated personal rivalries distract from the fundamental similarities between Cardano and ethereum, which he described as “sibling projects with a lot of common genetics.”

As well as technical challenges, Hoskinson will have to stay in good stead with his project partners, something he has not always been good at.

Hoskinson was an original member of the ethereum founding team until June 2014 but was asked to leave the project. Hoskinson wanted a corporate structure for ethereum while Buterin favored a foundation.

Hoskinson also fell out with the Cardano Foundation, which was set up as part of the initial five-year contract to build the blockchain, signed with a group of Japanese businessmen in 2015. The independent nonprofit was set to manage community growth until 2018 saw a power struggle between Hoskinson the foundation, leading the nonprofit to adopt leadership from Hoskinson’s pool of business partners. 

If Hoskinson succeeds, he will need to keep everyone happy and probably for a significant amount of time. Pulling off such a complicated set of projects, making PoS work, and solving the governance challenges will probably take years. 2020 will be just the start.

As Hoskinson himself says:

“It’s still very early days.”

 

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California Man Sues AT&T Over Loss Of Crypto Accounts

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California Man Sues AT&T Over Loss Of Crypto Accounts
California Man Sues AT&T Over Loss Of Crypto Accounts

California resident Seth Shapiro has filed a lawsuit against wireless service giant AT&T alleging that its employees helped to perpetrate a SIM-swap which resulted in the theft of over $1.8 million in total, including cryptocurrencies. The complaint filed on Oct. 17 claims that Shapiro is “a two-time Emmy Award-winning media and technology expert, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.” The lawsuit alleges that between May 16 and May 18 AT&T employees transferred access to Shapiro’s mobile phone to outside hackers:

“AT&T employees obtained unauthorized access to Mr. Shapiro’s AT&T wireless account, viewed his confidential and proprietary personal information, and transferred control […] to a phone controlled by third-party hackers in exchange for money. […] The hackers then utilized their control over Mr. Shapiro’s AT&T wireless number […] to access his personal and digital finance accounts and steal more than $1.8 million.”

The document states that these actions allowed the hackers to also access Shapiro’s accounts on several cryptocurrency exchanges:

“While third parties had control over Mr. Shapiro’s AT&T wireless number, they used that control to access and reset the passwords for Mr. Shapiro’s accounts on cryptocurrency exchange platforms including KuCoin, Bittrex, Wax, Coinbase, Huobi, Crytopia, LiveCoin, HitBTC, Coss.io, Liqui, and Bitfinex.”

The plaintiff also claims to have chat logs in which AT&T employees and hackers discuss how the stolen money should be routed and brag about how much they took.

Shapiro also claims that he fell victim to SIM-swapping multiple times, therefore his personal information and online accounts were already leaked in the past. The complaint states:

“AT&T’s Repeated Failures to Protect Mr. Shapiro’s Account from Unauthorized Access Are a Violation of Federal Law.”

More precisely, Shapiro alleges that AT&T violates the Federal Communications Act for failing to protect the confidentiality of his account information. He also claims that the telecom giant violated several California state laws, including the Unfair Competition Law, the Constitutional Right to Privacy and the Consumers Legal Remedy Act. Lastly, Shapiro also accuses AT&T of two acts of negligence.

Notably, this is not the first lawsuit against AT&T over SIM-swapping. As it was reported on July 27, the federal judge overseeing the Terpin v. AT&T case dismissed the motion. At the time, this was the latest development in a legal battle about cryptocurrencies stolen via SIM-swapping that has been going on for almost a year.

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A New Trend in Crypto Funding Campaigns: IEOs

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The second quarter of 2019 demonstrated growing popularity of the initial exchange offering (IEO), which has replaced the outdated initial coin offering (ICO) model. The new trend — the key role of which is played by a cryptocurrency exchange auditing projects and organizing token sales — has established itself positively among startups.

Crypto market stats show that over 65 IEOs have been launched in the past six months, with about 40 of them have reached their soft cap or even hard cap successfully. About 15 IEOs will be launched in the next three months. Notably, half of them are conducted by projects that have already completed their IEOs. All told, 245 projects conducted an IEO and managed to collect $3.4 billion over the past three years.

One, two, three IEOs

However, it can’t be said whether IEOs are still the latest trend in the crypto market, even though they have outperformed ICOs and security token offerings (STOs) in recent months, such as a certain IEO attracting investments that amounted to 79% of all funds raised from ICOs, IEOs and STOs.

While more crypto exchanges announce their support of IEO projects, a new crowdfunding trend is emerging on the crypto market: a shift to multiple IEOs. This resembles the initial public offering (IPO) market a few years ago when large companies repeated rounds to expand their pool of investors.

As the crypto market is constantly evolving, many projects consider repeating their IEO rounds, especially if the previous one turned out to be successful. It’s a trend for which an exact name has not yet been established. Some call it a “second IEO,” while others refer to several IEOs being conducted by the same project on different exchanges as a “multilaunchpad IEO.”

One of the blockchain-backed international investment services that are conducting a multilaunchpad campaign, Roobee, is preparing for its third IEO. The company’s co-founder, Artem Popov, explained that this strategy is best when a company needs to expand its business globally:

“When promoting a real product, it is very important to offer it to a large audience. If you really have a strong and interesting idea behind your project, you need to give equal opportunity to users from different regions to participate in it. For this purpose, conducting IEO on different exchanges is a perfect match.”

Another new IEO subspecies that have appeared on the market is the security token exchange offering (STEO). The founder of this trend is Dreamr Inc., a social media and crowdfunding platform, which in September announced the world-first STEO on the IDCM exchange. Chris Adams, the CEO of Dreamr Inc., shared his thoughts about the trend created by the company:

“Inspired by IEO benefits we were seeking an effective way to adapt to the changing market. IEO has replaced the outdated ICO and has established itself as an all-in-one method of attracting investment, which meets security standards and serves as a reliable way to issue, offer and trade a token. STEO is just an extended version of IEO combining the exchange offering security and the investment attractiveness of the STO model. I guess many traditional exchanges have been looking to do something like this for years.”

Multiple IEOs and STEOs vs. an IPO: Who wins the race?

Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida and IPO expert, spent many years studying the development of the IPO market and has come to the conclusion that the market has been shrinking over the past few decades. Companies with an income of $100 million or less can no longer afford to promote and establish a new brand as others could 30 years ago.

Picture 1Notably, most IEOs are held by projects focused on trading and investing (over 70%), payments (about 9%) as well as commerce and the Internet of Things (IoT). Meanwhile, companies resort to STOs and ICOs to raise money for the development of products in markets such as mining, social network, the marketplace, content management, data storage, and AI.

According to the statistics, the number of investments attracted through IEOs from April 2019 to September 2019 comprised 5% of the amount attracted for the same period from IPOs. This is 50 times more than last year, equal to 0.001%.

Picture 2As analysts predict, with the advent of STEOs and multilaunchpad IEOs, the share of investments in IEO can become much larger, catching up with IPO market indicators.

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TRON Plagued By Infestation Of dApp Bots

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TRON Plagued By Infestation Of dApp Bots

AnChain is a new analytics startup, and it’s on a mission: to uncover dApp bots wherever they hide. During Q1 of 2019, the firm surveyed TRON’s top ten gambling dApps and found a large number of bots. Roughly 31% of surveyed accounts and 19% of transactions were bot-driven, accounting for a whopping $270 million of dApp volume.

For TRON’s critics, this is an enticing follow-up to reports about TRON’s bot-driven Twitter traffic. However, AnChain isn’t pointing fingers at any single blockchain. It previously found that on EOS, bots accounted for 51% of surveyed accounts and 75% of transactions. The firm plans to examine Ethereum as well, according to a representative.

AnChain’s goal is to promote better data and bring transparency to all blockchains. Though it makes recommendations for all sectors of the blockchain industry, it’s particularly focused on rating sites. “All DApp rating sites ought to leverage sophisticated bot detection engines,” AnChain says—and it’s in a good position to get this done.

Finding Elusive TRON Bots

AnChain’s report explains that it is quite difficult to detect blockchain bots. For one thing, blockchain addresses can be rapidly generated, meaning that static blacklists of bots aren’t too useful. Plus, bots are hard to distinguish from humans if they behave in complex ways, meaning that rule-based bot detection isn’t always effective.

For instance, single bots often behave according to simple, regular, and obvious patterns. However, AnChain has observed that TRON allows multiple accounts to be created quite inexpensively. As a result, many TRON bots are “group bots,” and their coordinated behavior patterns only become apparent when accounts are examined together.

AnChain used machine learning techniques to sort through thousands of accounts and find these group bots. This has proven to be quite effective: AnChain was able to identify unusual activity that it initially missed, raising the detected number of bot accounts from 18% to 31%—a substantial increase, and one that is not easy to achieve.

It’s not all bad news: TRON’s top three gambling apps were largely human-used. On the flip side, this means that bots were concentrated among lower-ranking dApps: over 70% of the discovered bot accounts were found in the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th largest dApps.

Ultimately, the severity of TRON’s bot problem depends on how you slice it.


Good Stats Are Hard To Find

AnChain is an analytics firm—despite its advice, live data sites aren’t yet diving into bot statistics. State of the DApps, DAppReview, and Dapp.com do not appear to have ever commented on the presence of bots. DAppRadar, meanwhile, claims that it excludes bot data from its stats, but it’s not clear how its data has been adjusted.

DAppTotal does a better job: it removes bot data in a clear way. It offers a toggle that hides and shows bot data, and it also shows a column that displays how much dApp activity is “real.” DAppTotal’s bot-detecting systems may or may not be as advanced as AnChain’s systems, but it is making an effort while few other sites are doing the same.

In fairness, other sites are more concerned with other statistics. DApp.com, for example, has noted that humans can falsely drive up usage statistics: many daily “active” users actually log into a dApp without using it. DAppRadar, likewise, has noted that airdrops can attract inactive users.

Basically, bots aren’t the only way to inflate statistics.


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em?

As AnChain observes, trading bots were a precursor to what is currently happening in the dApp world. However, AnChain may be picking the wrong side of the fight: although many complain that trading bots are causing widespread market manipulation, bots are also useful tools for traders. Often, human beings just can’t compete with bots.

AnChain does acknowledge that “good bots” exist, but only for QA testing and gameplay purposes. It doesn’t seem to endorse the general mainstreaming of bots, a trend that Dropil, Hummingbird, and other bot services are capitalizing on. It’s possible that similar services will be targeted at dApp users, though none seem to exist right now.

Unfortunately, bots can be used for evil as well: they can create false data, mislead customers, and prop up token values in an unsustainable way. It’s particularly bad if dApp creators or investors use bots to raise a dApp’s ranking.

Thanks to AnChain, the rest of us might not need to surrender to a bot takeover—at least, not yet.

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