Below is an abstract of a scientific article, which has been accepted for publication by a prestigious journal. The findings are related and useful for the funded project of the team. Their project in TruBlo is called FogBlock4Trust. Findings from the work below are used in the project.
Hamza Baniata, Ahmad Anaqreh, Attila Kertesz
DONS: Dynamic Optimized Neighbor Selection for Smart Blockchain Networks”, Future Generation Computer Systems
- We propose DONS for enhancing Blockchain networks in terms of Finality and Fidelity.
- We propose AnoLE, a privacy-aware method for leader election in public Blockchains.
- DONS showed optimum message propagation in different network models and sizes.
- Our methods provide high security and privacy measures compared to current methods.
Blockchain (BC) systems mainly depend on the consistent state of the Distributed Ledger (DL) at different logical and physical places of the network. The majority of network nodes need to be enforced to use one or both of the following approaches to remain consistent:
- (i) to wait for certain delays (i.e. by requesting a hard puzzle solution as in PoW and PoUW, or to wait for random delays as in PoET, etc.)
- (ii) to propagate shared data through the shortest possible paths within the network.
The first approach may cause higher energy consumption and/or lower throughput rates if not optimized, and in many cases, these features are conventionally fixed. Therefore, it is preferred to enhance the second approach with some optimization.
Previous works for this approach have the following drawbacks: they may violate the identity privacy of miners, only locally optimize the Neighbor Selection method (NS), do not consider the dynamicity of the network, or require the nodes to know the precise size of the network at all times.
In this paper, we address these issues by proposing a Dynamic and Optimized NS protocol called DONS, using a novel privacy-aware leader election within the public BC called AnoLE, where the leader anonymously solves the “The Minimum Spanning Tree” problem (MST) of the network in polynomial time.
Consequently, miners are informed about the optimum NS according to the current state of network topology. We analytically evaluate the complexity, security and privacy of the proposed protocols against state-of-the-art MST solutions for DLs and well-known attacks. Additionally, we experimentally show that the proposed protocols outperform state-of-the-art NS solutions for public BCs. Our evaluation shows that the proposed DONS and AnoLE protocols are secure, private, and they acutely outperform all current NS solutions in terms of block finality and fidelity.
Fig. 1. Phases and steps of the proposed DONS protocol. Each step is performed by one (or more) system entity(s).
A step may depend on the result of a preceding step of the current round, or on the result of a subsequent step of the previous round.
DONS: Dynamic Optimized Neighbor Selection for Smart Blockchain Networks”, Future Generation Computer Systems, Volume 130, May 2022, Pages 75-90 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.future.2021.12.010
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives License (CC BY NC ND).
##TruBlo Open Call starts today
Today we are starting the 2nd of three open calls. The call will be open until September 10, 2021. Find all the information [to apply on our website](https://www.trublo.eu/apply/).
If you have questions, please contact us at [firstname.lastname@example.org](mailto:email@example.com)
Updates this week:
##How did the FBI recover Bitcoins paid in a ransomware attack?
The recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in the US worried many people that the supply of gas would be threatened. In such an attack, hackers gain access to the IT system of a company and block further usage. In this case, the company paid 75 Bitcoins worth around $4 million.
Surprisingly, the US justice department has now recovered most of these Bitcoins by tracing and later seizing them. It is surprising because so far many would have assumed that such coins could be very difficult to trace and to recover, once paid. It is unclear whether the authorities had information from an insider or were able to trace it by technical means.
Quote from a report in the New York Times.
> “Federal investigators tracked the ransom as it moved through a maze of at least 23 different electronic accounts belonging to DarkSide, the hacking group, before landing in one that a federal judge allowed them to break into, according to law enforcement officials and court documents.”
Another question, asked in the article linked below from VentureBeat: Why did the hackers use Bitcoin (where information can be traced, to some extent) and not another cryptocurrency where this would have been harder? And as important: How can one avoid such ransomware attacks by securing the IT system?
##Sustainability as a driver for blockchain adoption in the fashion industry
Producing fashion is a global business with complex supply chains. As a result, it is almost impossible for a consumer to check how the clothes are produced. This includes where and how materials are sourced, which shop did manufacture them and how they are shipped. The process is so far difficult to document for the fashion companies as well. But the need for transparency and the potential gains for productivity might change this. Blockchain records of supply chains are in demand because more and more consumers demand information about sustainability from fashion brands.
##Can you spot a dark pattern?
A dark pattern is a website design used to confuse users. For example, such a design aims to keep people from ending a subscription.
There are many tricks and practices. What they have in common is that specific placement of options, words and buttons is combined to make it difficult for you to do what you want. Do you think you can detect such a pattern? Test it. The Markup has a short quiz – very helpful to learn a bit more when to be careful.
##News sources reconsider theory that coronavirus spread from a lab in China: How is this done well?
Here is a difficult, but interesting question: What are the best ways to change the opinion and the reporting about a disputed theory?
Example: So far, there is a theory that the coronavirus has infected patient zero from a wild animal purchased at a Chinese market in Wuhan.
But another, controversial theory is that the virus might have escaped from a medical facility located in that city. In 2020 the majority of media outlets reporting about this topic dismissed the lab story as a potential conspiracy theory.
This year, though, the story is investigated again. While no substantial new facts are available, the view is now that the lab theory could potentially be true. US President Biden has ordered an investigation by intelligence agencies.
What is interesting and relevant here is: How do news institutions communicate such a turn of opinion? What is a good way to be transparent and open about such changes? Such as: “We reported this, and it might be wrong. Instead, this might be the truth.”
This case could be a test.
>“New information often casts out old, but it is unusual for news outlets to acknowledge so publicly that they have changed their understanding of events.”
##How to use disappearing messages on WhatsApp or Signal
On both services, there are settings to let some messages disappear after some days. Signal offers richer features. On WhatsApp, the feature is new.
When can you use this feature?
>“Disappearing messages are an ideal tool for people who are concerned their chats could be checked – especially if there is anything about themselves they want to keep private, says Scott Sammons, information and data specialist Lighthouse IG. “This could apply to a domestic abuse setting or someone, for example, hiding the fact they are LGBTQ.”
On Signal, you can select the time when a message should disappear, between one second and four weeks. The timer starts when the message is read. There is a similar feature for photos and videos.
On WhatsApp, the feature only lets you set a time span of seven days.
More advice if you follow the link.
##Politicians from South America use Bitcoin announcement for self-promotion
First: It is not yet clear whether countries in South America will adopt cryptocurrencies such as blockchain. But for politicians from the region, the idea is currently attractive and a way to boost one’s profile. This started with El Salvador issuing a law to make Bitcoin a legal tender in the country.
>“El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele set off a movement for political opportunists and crypto-enthusiasts alike.”
In Europe, Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central bank, reaffirmed that the position of the ECB has not changed. Lagarde had warned about Bitcoin in January 2021:
> “It’s a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity.”
Regarding the position of the ECB towards Bitcoin after the new development in El Salvador, she is quoted to have said:
>“That certainly does not change our approach to crypto-assets and to regulations, supervision, and proper classification that they should be under to avoid misinformation and misleading representations.”
On the other side: In the Netherlands Pieter Hasecamp, the director of the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, which is part of the country’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, has voiced much stronger concerns about the dangers of Bitcoin. In an article, he recommends banning cryptocurrencies in the Netherlands:
>“Cryptocurrencies are unsuitable as a unit of account and means of payment outside the criminal circuit; its use as a store of value is based on the hope that cryptocurrencies will one day replace real money. But that’s not going to happen.”
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision recommends very careful handling of crypto assets by banks, the goal is to avoid that institutions expose themselves to high risk. The Basel Committee sets standards for banking policies, such as how high the number of own assets must be for a bank related to the sum of credits and loans.
The Basel Committee published a paper called [“Prudential treatment of crypto-asset exposures”](https://www.bis.org/bcbs/publ/d519.htm). For cryptocurrency exposure, the Basel Committee proposes a 1250% risk weighting, which is very high.
##Amazon wants to hire DeFi expert(s)
According to a job ad in the US, Amazon is searching for staff with experience in decentralized finance (DeFi). The position is for a Blockchain Head of Product. Amazon has recently added a “Managed blockchain” offering.
##China aims to be a global leader in Blockchain by 2025
Top telecom and internet regulators in China jointly published guidelines on how the country can transform into a global leader in blockchain as early as 2025. At the same time, Chinese authorities are blocking and curbing cryptocurrency mining operations in the country.
The expectation is that blockchain will be a key building block for the digital economy and a way to modernize governance systems.
Thank You for reading.
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TruBlo Project Update
We are getting closer to NGI Forum 2021 on May 18-19, 2021. Please join us for presentations and discussions. Register NGI Forum 2021
Updates this week:
Don’t ignore ransomware
The way this happens: Attackers hack the IT system of a company, a police force or a even hospital. Then the only way to regain access to the system is by paying huge amounts of money.
Despite being a thread for some time, the situation around ransomware has not improved. There is a lack of policies and actions for the active prevention of this threat.
From an interview in The New York Times:
What is the United States doing to stop or slow ransomware? We’re not trying very hard. The United States is the most targeted country by cybercriminals and nation-states, but we’re not acting like it. We’re mostly outlining guidelines for companies and government agencies to prevent ransomware attacks and hoping for the best. It’s not working.
Related: How the US United States Lost to Hackers LINK ($)
Newsmax, a conservative news channel, posts an apology
The news outlet had accused an employee of Dominion Voting Systems of manipulating results in the 2020 US presidential election. The person received a wave of insulting messages, including death threats. Now the news outlet published an apology.
Degrees of Uncertainty: Documentary
How sure are scientists about global warming? Why are they coming to current conclusions and predictions?
“Degrees of uncertainty” is a data-driven documentary by Neil Halloran. The video educates about certainty and uncertainty occurring around complex issues.
EU vs. Apple: App store sales fee results in antitrust
The key point is that a competing music service like Spotify has no alternative as to paying a fee of 30% on all transactions, if it wants to offer a music subscription using devices by Apple, such as iPhones, iPads or computers.
From The Guardian:
“By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition,” Margrethe Vestager said. “This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App Store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options.”
This is the first step of an EU antitrust investigation. It is likely to take years until this issue will go through the courts.
Microsoft planning to reduce fees to 12 per cent
Confidential documents submitted in the ongoing Apple vs. Epic Games case reveal that Microsoft has been planning to cut Microsoft Store on Xbox fees to just 12 per cent.
Microsoft reducing the Microsoft Store on Xbox cut for games to just 12 per cent could be a big deal as this would mean that game developers would get 88 per cent of the revenue share. All other major stores take a 30 per cent cut on game sales, including Sony’s PlayStation Store and Nintendo’s online store.
Clubhouse popular in the Middle East
The social networking app is booming in authoritarian countries, where users are speaking freely about otherwise taboo topics.
NewsBreak app successful with local news
Protocol reports about NewsBreak, a popular news aggregation app that uses Artificial Intelligence to find and display local news for users:
News Break has succeeded using tactics imported from China, where news delivered via algorithm — a practice pioneered by ByteDance’s Toutiao — has flourished.
An “interest-based engine” powered by AI selects articles readers are likely to enjoy based on past engagement.
Content aggregators like News Break aren’t just winning in the U.S. market. Opera News, owned by Beijing Kunlun Tech, and Scooper News, developed by Shenzhen-based Transsion Holdings, have both made significant inroads into Africa and Europe.
Medici Land Governance partners with Rwanda
Medici Land Governance(MLG) has partnered with the Government of Rwanda to pilot a project that aims to make land transfers a paperless process. For the pilot, MLG has built a land transaction platform on blockchain called Ubutaka, which will be integrated with Rwanda’s existing land registry infrastructure.
Inefficient and inaccurate land registry systems are a common challenge in many developing countries. The loss of paperwork often prevents landowners from proving ownership, making people hesitant to invest in developing properties. Additionally, the lack of standardization and auditing in land management leaves the door open to corruption and fraud.
MLG already has projects in Mexico and Liberia.
Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway is highly critical of Bitcoin
“I don’t welcome a currency that’s so useful to kidnappers and extortionists and so forth, nor do I like shuffling out a few extra billions and billions of dollars to somebody who just invented a new financial product out of thin air.”
Blockchain technology simplifying cross-border payments
From the World Economic Forum:
It’s no secret that the cross-border payments landscape using traditional rails is fraught with fees, hurdles and delay.
Individual senders incur outsized fees for the billions of dollars sent in personal remittances every year.
Part of the problem is that systems are not interoperable. To send money to different corners of the world without blockchain, a whole patchwork has been haphazardly knitted together over the decades to achieve some semblance of financial interoperability between financial institutions, correspondent banks and money transfer operators along the value chain.
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