On a Crash Course

Some interesting facts:

The wholesale price of gas went up 800% in 2021 (FT).
About as much as NVIDIA stock price or bitcoin market price went up in 3 years. The price of industrial sillicon has also surged by some 800% recently (as it did during the 2008-2009 financial crisis). In the same way, the price of Bitcoin and Ethereum have surged by roughly 800% in the last 3 years.

We hope the readers realize that all these events are related.

A UK Court Ruled that A Crypto Research Paper Should Be Censored

A Prominent Bitcoin Promoter is Punished for Sharing the Satoshi Original Paper and Bitcoin Core Developers Surrender

Sad day for freedom of speech in cryptography. The self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto Craig Wright has won a legal battle claiming copyright infringement on the part of bitcoin.org for hosting the Bitcoin original whitepaper.

After censorship of Garcia paper (Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft vs Garcia, et al, EWHC 1832, 25 June 2013). This is another very sad day for cryptography research in the UK.

A very curious statement was issued by Dr Craig lawyers:
“Dr Wright does not(?) wish to restrict access to his(?) White Paper. However, he does not agree that it should be used by supporters and developers of alternative? assets, such as Bitcoin Core, to promote? or otherwise misrepresent? those assets as being Bitcoin given that they do not support??? or align? with the vision for Bitcoin as he set out in his White Paper.”

This shows what it is all about, it is an attempt to challenge the reputation of bitcoin, as the main and the biggest implementation of Satoshi Nakamoto bitcoin. Most likely for profit: bitcoin market cap is 650 Billion US$ at the moment of writing.

Of course that Craig Wright wishes to restrict access to this paper, or at least to attack the vision created by this very paper. It is an attack on the bitcoin ecosystem, community and values. This paper, once published is a public good, and no one should be restricted from accessing it, or sharing it as part of their crypto currency research or development activity. It was initially published anonymously and with a clear intention of being published anonymously. This intention transpires from the paper, and is part of the Satoshi original vision. Bitcoin is expected to be a self-organising anarchic cooperative, controlled mainly by to those who represent the highest hashing power, which people can then decide or influence, basically through the longest chain rule and software updates, which bitcoin system blockchain or software will dominate the crypto payment market. Rather than an old-school private monopoly, controlled by one wealthy individual, unable to gather this type of strong majority support, and using the powers of the courts and the police in order to exclude and intimidate others. .

It is not the first time that Craig Wright is trying to restrict free speech, as in the recent infamous defamation lawsuit for calling Craig Wright a fraud on Twitter and two more defamation lawsuits against McCormack and Ver. Or even more problematic, in his notorious Florida lawsuit. All these litigation events, are clearly malicious and aggressive attempts, to intimidate others, to restrict the freedom of speech in cryptography, and indirectly, the freedom to engage in bitcoin transactions or to fork bitcoin software, as well as the freedom of propagating the original anonymous payment anarchy vision by Satoshi. This regardless whether Satoshi actually existed or not, and regardless what was the role of Craig Wright in early days of bitcoin many years ago.

The main fact about Satoshi, is that an anonymous paper was released in order to create bitcoin, and no one should try to destroy his legacy: of sharing this anonymous white paper and the ideas it contains. One can be critical about some major mistakes it contains (cf. slide 53 here and slide 50 here) of the fact that it talks about CPUs and it did not predict that the network will split into three almost entirely disjoint types of entities: peer nodes, miners, and transacting parties. Anyone can have their own interpretation, and their own blockchain. Everyone should be able to sharing this original file. It is very much like forbidding the church from preaching the gospel. Bitcoin developers are NOT acting as a publisher here, claiming to be or represent a certain Satoshi Nakamoto, or infringing any IP, but rather simply sharing the anonymous or pseudonymous crypto research paper which inspired them. This paper does de facto belong to the public domain. Crypto history knows primarily one single paper written by a mysterious anonymous author.

This is also very clearly how Satoshi intended his paper to be published. I think Satoshi wanted this paper to be viral, and a little bit underground, outside of the mainstream, rather than officially published in some crypto or security conference proceedings. Here the consensus of the academic research community rules, and no court in the world has jurisdiction in academic research ethics. Craig Wright is self-taught crypto entrepreneur, and officially a chief science officer at NChain, but, an interesting question is, is he a scientist or was he ever a scientist? Did he do a PhD in a technical field? Nope. How many papers in cryptography has Craig Wright published? Zero or close,except that he is trying to claim ownership of an old paper, and only after it became very famous. All these defamation cases hinge on one thing, the reportedly great “global reputation” Craig Wright has, which however he cannot demonstrate because it is rather inexistent. His primary academic background is being a lawyer, and his primary public activity is clearly not science, but a never ending stream of lawsuits.

In addition the defendant Cobra, who failed to defend himself properly, which probably he found difficult, expensive and in fact shameful and counter-productive, will have to pay 35,000 GBP to cover CW’s legal costs.

Courage and Resistance

The defendant Cobra has announced on bitcoin.org that he will continue hosting the bitcoin white paper which is published under the MIT licence on bitcoin.org, and that he will not be intimidated by Craig Wright and his UK lawyers. In contrast and sadly, bitcoin core developers on github have surrendered and removed this same paper, claiming that they are just doing a specific implementation of bitcoin. They are simply scared and intimidated to continue sharing this paper, claiming that there is no evidence the Satoshi has released this paper with intention for it to be shared freely. They have just decided to give up on trying to represent the mainstream bitcoin. As a result you should expect bitcoin dominance to decline in the future, and again it will be a somewhat self-inflicted misery.

Shame on you bitcoin developers who are visibly scared to live the Satoshi legacy in full out of fear of legal retaliation! I encourage all people to propagate, share, and copy the Satoshi visionary paper, as it was shared and propagated for more than a decade.

About Dubious Cryptographic Standards in Bitcoin Community

Open source development can be malicious, and for example it is extremely easy to infiltrate linux source code with dubious code, and banning university researchers from contributing to Linux does not help. It is like killing the messenger for bringing bad news.

This brings us to another question of censorship, cryptographic backdoors and wrongdoing at the very heart of bitcoin community.

It is June 2021, and why does the web site bitcoin.it, which is an extremely popular near-official bitcoin wiki website, still fraudulently claims today that “Bitcoin has a sound basis in well understood cryptography” see here, while omitting to simply mention the name of the peculiar bitcoin elliptic curve, namely the secp256k1 ??? Why the name is taboo??

They emphasise ECDSA, which is an already controversial crypto standard with deeply unclear and confused provable security status in crypto community, and they refer to payment standards endorsed by
by the US Government and used in credit card payments. However bitcoin precisely does NOT obey any of these traditional payment standards such as the elliptic curve endorsed and recommended by US government NIST and the NSA which was until recently a different curve secp256r1, also known as P-256, today replaced by its successor P-384.

Who will believe that the authors have just accidentally omitted to mention the name of the actual bitcoin elliptic curve secp256k1 here… Or was it in order to avoid a critical reader from finding information about this extremely controversial cryptographic primitive used in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies which however no one else in mainstream crypto engineering world world really vouch for or approve of?

Here is an old blog post on this topic and here are some slides from 2015. It seems that the bitcoin wiki is trying to hide some significant facts about bitcoin… from the users of the financial system called bitcoin. This is is simply irresponsible and this sort of dubious propaganda where bugs are presented as features has been going on for nearly a decade now.

Edward DeBono, the Precursor of Bitcoin Died

Edward de Bono, scientist and writer, inventor of the concept of “lateral thinking”, died on 9 June 2021, aged 88.

In 1994 he proposed the famous concept of IBM dollar, which is a bit like the father of bitcoin, in several ways:

  • It would be private money, not controlled by the state. Basically IBM would issue their own currency.
  • It would be essentially a claim on products of IBM like PCs.
  • It would be an intermediate thing between buying computer hardware and buying IBM stock. The author considered several variants of how this would work. In essence it would be like buying not the current but some future product from IBM.
    • As such, DeBono considered the risks: like IBM next computers could be bad or the company would collapse.
  • It would be an investment similar to a zero-coupon bond.
    • In the case of IBM it would be a high-tech investment, based on rapid advances in technology, basically holding it would be a bet on the future of technology and business.
    • IBM was viewed – at the time – as a key company capable of conquering the world or/and shaping the future of business and also of course capable generating substantial profits.
  • DeBono did not consider that banks were needed here.
    • He stressed that this would be a cheap, and simple way for IBM for raising money. Thus probably without any intermediaries or financial services incumbents endorsing this currency.
    • It would be a new and direct financial circuit, based on trust between a large company such as IBM, and their customers, who would buy and hold these tokens.
  • There was an element of customer choice, people would have a choice, and keep and use those currencies issued by companies they have chosen and they trust.
  • DeBono proposed that this type of instrument could be used to invest into selected sectors of the economy without causing inflation.
    • We need to think about it today when US and Europe are trying to boost or regain the telecom and silicon industries which went to Asia. Ethereum is also like this: you buy ETH, there is a shortage of GPUs to mine it, and new semiconductor making factories are being built.
    • Both bitcoin and ETH are like what DeBono thought IBM dollar would do. They preside over this type of crazy monetary expansion, happening at unexpected places outside of the normal financial system, which allows investors to invest or over-invest into high tech industry without causing inflation.
  • The author also thought that in general, an economy with multiple currencies would be more resilient.
    • He anticipated that there would be more than one such token in circulation.
    • It could be issued by any company which makes popular products and has a solid reputation.

This last component is maybe missing today: IBM was a rock solid industry player for a very long time. In contrast very few crypto companies have some sort of solid reputation and intrinsic market value outside of making crypto currency itself. Many crypto coins of today are bound to collapse tomorrow. Ethereum and Bitcoin are incredible and they are champions of the “network effect”, but their dominance is not certain, as their deficiencies are widely known. If so, tomorrow other crypto coins can easily dominate. Like Internet Computer, emerged in no time out of limbo, and already is one of the major players.

So far proper industry firms such as say Apple or Samsung, or proper customer-facing large businesses such as Starbucks, have not issued crypto currency. Swiss banks did not either. Only Facebook announced it will issue crypto currency, however Facebook does not make things which people want to buy, they are an opportunistic data-hungry troll factory aiming at controlling the whole world, and their reputation is not great. So as a matter of fact, we are still looking forward to see the IBMs of our times to actually issue some digital currency and fulfil the dream of DeBono. This has not yet happened.

Remark: If GPU makers NVIDIA and AMD profit from the crypto currency prices going to the moon, they do not officially endorse crypto currencies or not yet.

Crypto is Now Worth 1 Trillion Dollars and Why -Strangely- It Makes A Lot of Sense to Compare Bitcoin to Gold

Yes, the market cap of all crypto currencies combined has reached 1 Trillion US dollars, see also top line ticker here. I have predicted this 3 years ago, after the market collapsed, and now it is a fact: we are past 1T$, however much market cap valuations of this kind are highly questionable.

Unrealistic inflation of figures reported is common in competitive technology sector: look at all advertisements about speed of computer hard drives… totally unrealistic figures and fake news. However we accept the bitcoin market cap benchmark, simply because everybody uses and understands it. It is a de facto standard.

If we compare it to gold and some bankers actually agree with that, the total market cap of all gold on our planet is about 3 trillion (estimates vary). Gold is also subject to HODLing by US and Russian government etc. A tiny quantity of gold is actually ever exchanging hands: similar to bitcoin. An artificial valuable commodity manipulated by powerful actors.

Conspiracy theories suggest that All Time High (ATH) should happen on 9 January, anniversary of the bitcoin Genesis block, and here we are: bitcoin crosses 40 K exactly 3 years after reaching 20K. This confirms the idea that these markets are manipulated (by banks, governments and rich investors). Market manipulation is basically allowed!

Now both bitcoin and gold are actually valuable BECAUSE these powerful actors care about them and because of their tremendous brand value and popularity. Hundreds of millions have been spent on software development and on mining hardware etc. This alone explains the intrinsic value of bitcoin.

So far as of 2021 bitcoin lags behind gold. 12 years after creation bitcoin is still young. In fact, way fewer investors and bankers believe in bitcoin than in Gold, and it is going to stay that way in 2021. Bitcoin is a hard sell in the world of investment managers but eventually people see that no, Gold is not a great investment either but both can be used for portfolio diversification. We probably need another big cycle, wait until 2025 or 2030 for digital currency to become more important than gold. And the winner will probably not be bitcoin, but something technically vastly superior. The Google of cryptocurrency, doing the job right and achieving worldwide dominance… which has probably not yet been invented…

This will however inevitably happen in my opinion. One day crypto currency will reach 3 trillion and gold will continue being eroded. I can hardly imagine otherwise just for practical reason: digital currencies and gold are simply siting at two opposite sides of the spectrum on practicality and relevance in the modern economy.

In the long run, the winner is the digital currency. It will inevitably take over the world and pass the 3 trillion mark and I expect that this will happen in the next decade: before say 9 January of 2030.

An Anomalous Differential Attack on a Block Cipher

In this attack a differential propagates with difficulty for some 20, 40 and up to 64 rounds. We can say that the propagation encounters some “friction”, because the non-linear functions do not always behave as the attacker would like them to behave. Everything looks normal and this is what happens for all block ciphers all the time.

But then for 65, 80, 128 and more rounds, the propagation becomes easier and easier, the friction disappears, the differentials are reproduced MORE easily. This is for EXACTLY the same cipher spec, with different keys though. At the end of the day we discover that this block cipher configuration is not secure no matter how large is the number of rounds, and for any key.

The “friction” disappears totally

Interestingly when we study what happens locally, say for up to 32 rounds, nothing unusual is observed and the ciphers exhibits no unusual behavior when the number of rounds is small.

This result was presented at ICISC 2020 in Seoul, Korea on 3 December 2020. We call this type of behavior “Non-Markovian propagation” and it is quite rare.

In addition we are able to transform a bug, or an outlier, something which researchers normally discard as inconvenient and problematic, into a feature. We show that this property helps the attacker, and it helps absolutely a lot, to the point that the cipher is never actually secure.

Some most interesting results in cryptanalysis are when something quite unexpected happens… contrary to the intuition ans contrary to the philosophy of 99.999% of ciphers ever made or studied: where authors systematically and maybe naively assume that probabilities do multiply and that they will decrease exponentially when you iterate the cipher. If so, it is sufficient to test a reduced-round version for high probability differentials. Here the probabilities decrease initially at an exponential rate, but later they behave abnormally and stay bounded by a small constant forever.

A cipher can be insecure, even though it has no large probability differentials locally: it is a global long-term property only visible for a larger number of rounds like 64 or more, and only for very few special differences.

Here are the slides presented in normalextended version.
And here is a recorded video of my presentation.

Remembering Val Curtis

With great sadness we are are remembering our colleague professor Val Curtis from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She left us on 19 October 2020.

For a long time she was involved in the questions of hygiene and education in developing countries.

In July 2020 she became famous when she has described in an article published in the Guardian how
“the NHS has given up” on her and others, and anticipating that she will be the one of “35,000 extra cancer deaths” of this year in the UK.

She also said that she would like to see a plan for a better NHS, one that does not “needlessly lose lives”.

Val Curtis is no longer here but her ideas and her ideals will live forever.

A teacher who perished on the very same front of global public health to which she dedicated her life. Like French high school teacher Samuel Paty, she was a quiet hero, and then an unfortunate collateral victim on the public education front. They will join a pantheon of great teachers who seemingly are not here anymore, but in fact they taught THE most valuable and important lessons about life. We should never forget them.

Hacking a Linux PC at a Close Distance without Being Connected to a Network

The attack allows the attacker to execute arbitrary code on another PC running Linux. The exploit is possible due to an extremely serious vulnerability in Bluetooth stack inside Linux. The attacker literally can run an application of his choice on the other PC. The exploit was found by Andy Nguyen, a security researcher at Google. More info here.

The attacker can execute anything he wants on a second PC running Linux. It is a zero-click exploit: the victim does not need to do anything in particular, the PC just needs to be on.

What do We Learn From This

I have never EVER in the last 20 years believed that Linux could possibly ever be a secure trusted OS. The ecosystem is basically flawed.

First, it is clear that no security engineer have ever been involved in the design and maintenance of Linux, or it was already too late… Linux lacks any sort of defense in depth, and too many privileges are aggregated in too few places. This is a fatal mix from which it will maybe never recover.

Secondly, it is built around dangerous subversive ideology. It is based on the idea of free voluntary labor, which is in fact entirely illegal in many countries, e.g. in France, but is in fact tolerated (and frequently even promoted). Moreover the developers themselves sometimes behave like total losers. Some developers commit suicide on day one, through terms of various so called free software licenses they accept and promote. Then, all these super naive shame workers are ever asking for, is to be popular and famous, and for their names to be mentioned, which acknowledgment they don’t even get typically, work is just reused and authors are not always cited.

At the same time other people make a lot of money by reusing their work, to build and run powerful computer systems which are at the center of our economy, and which are huge profit makers.

It is NOT true that if I shared knowledge or some code with you I do not lost anything. There is an opportunity cost, human life is valuable, expertise is valuable. Almost every advanced business/tech activity is like this nowadays: it creates intangible goods which COULD be shared for free, or they COULD can benefit from sort of protection against theft and abuse.

In Linux we have an organised theft of intellectual property and it is a conspiracy against the same coders which are making Linux. Developers are tricked into working for some shrewd manipulators without being paid.

Is Open Source Secure?

In fact, possibly the contrary can be claimed. Open source means that malicious code can be injected by anyone. The long history of Linux shows that preventive security engineering failed at all times, and nobody noticed for 10 years or so. See for example here.

The supply chain infiltration is an interesting attack against Linux, against which it is, by design and by ideology, not defended (or not well). We should not and cannot trust open source developers. If they are not paid “officially”, why do they work so hard? One answer is of course, passion and hidden subsidies. But then another answer is that they are VERY likely to be recipients of some dark money from criminal or rogue state sources. Even when they are paid by Google out of altruism, this never was altruism. This was manipulation and exploitation worse than child labour, because in fact this is slave labor in disguise. There is a huge imbalance of power and information and profits made by Google from the tech developed and funded by others are here to prove, that the whole Linux community have probably been abused and infiltrated by influencer developers: Google will contribute a bit but of course they benefit a lot more. Profits or rather social and technical benefits from Linux development are basically privatized, and important work is supported by a larger unpaid community.

Facebook, is a business which is quite recent. It started making money only since around 2005, and not long ago, nobody was quite sure how it is possible that Facebook will ever be profitable. They have succeeded because they have literally hacked our society for their benefit: humans are hackable. They also have hacked our political system (by lobbying politicians behind the scenes) and our legal system (the whole planet was tricked into accepting the T&C based in California or similar). People were tricked to abandon their sovereignty and massively relinquished to be protected by their own governments laws and regulators. Facebook and similar Internet giant corporations have in particular hacked our social instincts and enrolled billions of naive individuals into a powerful money making machine.

In this process they were of course inspired by and imitated Linux! They have simply extended this perverse and subversive model, to a larger ecosystem of voluntary submission, digital censorship, manipulation and enslavement, for the sake of Facebook making a lot of money. Almost every aspect of our life is now prostituted for some Internet data hungry business to prosper at our expense. Transparency, or rather a one way transparency of the underdog population, implies that security such as strong cryptography is problematic, as it could potentially threaten the transparency which is an immense money maker.

Strong cryptography needs to be canalized for the benefit of the rich and powerful, but a larger population should rather be building and running systems which are somewhat rigged. Many open source projects have been built with powerful influencer participation which have worked hard in order to deceive a larger group of contributors and developers about who and how needs these systems and particular features, and who will profit from exploiting them, which is mainly large corporations. Being naive candid and generous contributors, and proud to be so, is at the very center of all this world of community developer tech. The situation is similar with how the press have evolved in the last 20 years. Nearly 100% of the press worldwide is in the pockets of corporate sponsors and journalists have very little freedom. The same applies to the so called benevolent computer tech. We are deceived about what we do, have hidden sponsor participants with deep pockets, and yet we somewhat naively believe that this tech is going to be neutral (and not malicious).

An interesting question is what is the impact of all this on information security. Maybe open source is secure because bugs are likely to be discovered? In fact opening your source code is sometimes just a placebo remedy in the area security. Security bugs are subtle type, and they are fundamentally extremely hard to find, and the amount of code to inspect and its complexity grows every day. We live in the world where a lot is hidden in plain sight and we are given a fake sense of security.

The problem of supply chain infiltration is particularly acute in bitcoin, when we do not even know who the developers are, you go there at your own risks and perils, and no one is blamed when something bad happens. Even though the mysterious Satoshi wrote just 2% of bitcoin code, all major and critical security decisions were made by this anonymous entity.

In reality , open source (e.g IBM PC, DES cryptography, SHA-256 etc) is almost never here for security reasons. It is rather a business decision, which is about managing the supply chain precisely. Open source allows businesses and governments to collaborate. However not all businesses and not all governments are equal, some benefit from this process, other are forced into submission and lose money. The winner takes it all again and again.

More critical discussion of open source, see slides 32-41 here. Open source is THE FAKE security mantra, and the real security principle is open design, [Saltzer and Schroeder 1975] and the two are NOT at all the same, see slide 51 here.

In 2005 Ross Anderson already claimed that open source and closed source are equivalent, see slide 57 here. Today and learning a bit more from history, and all the elaborate security deceptions we have known, and this dumb propaganda saying that Linux was very secure etc, for which have fallen so easily for decades, we should probably be a bit wiser.

Open source software can be truly dangerous, cf. slide 38 here. It makes it very easy to modify the software, which works both ways. It lowers entry barriers for improvement, but also for malicious versions to be produced (for example there have been many malicious versions of TrueCrypt). We help simultaneously those who want to improve security (yet poorly funded) and those who want to degrade it (typically more motivated and better funded). Given the imbalance in funding and motivation, and also because hacking is more fun than just building things, quite possibly, this is a working hypothesis, those who want to degrade the security of various systems will always prevail.

ADDED in May 2021: Researchers at University of Minnesota study how to insert malicious patches to Linux Kernel.