Last week, at Thanksgiving dinners across the US, there were heated debates – about politics, the economy, and my favorite topic – Bitcoin! Is it a pyramid scheme? Is it a Ponzi? Is it a Bubble? Well – I don’t have answers to those questions. But, as my favorite Bitcoin evangelist (besides Yours Truly) Andreas Antonopoulus points out as a litmus test, you can ask two questions. Does it promise regular returns that exceed average market returns? It’s a Ponzi. Does it focus more on recruiting new people than any product? It’s a pyramid scheme.
Is it a bubble? Opinions vary – adoption drives prices, which drives further adoption and brings in larger investors. Bitcoin has a built-in scarcity that make it deflationary and drive its parabolic growth. There will only be 21 million ever created, about 16 million are in circulation now.
What it does appear to be is the beginning of a voluntary and global wealth exchange. As we saw the week after Thanksgiving, as leftovers were disappearing, “Late-adopter Tuesday” kicked in. New customers flocked in and the bitcoin community witnessed an epic day where bitcoin broke through the hard fought $10,000 barrier to hit another all-time high before unceremoniously correcting nearly $3,000. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but my bet is that #moneybadger don’t care. If we look at the bubble model below – we appear to be in the Awareness Phase, as large investors have announced intent to incorporate Bitcoin as an asset class. Mind you, this cycle can repeat on shorter and longer time frames.
What is the excitement about? There are several things: it’s the technology, it’s the future of money, it’s disruptive (everyone loves disruption, right?)
Other technologists can relate; it’s like Neal Stephenson’s books come to life — Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Reamde all rolled into one. There are aspects of security — it’s peer-to-peer, open source, and trustless. It uses encryption, hashing, and a distributed database. It’s “nerd money,” and it’s just darned cool (it’s not gold-pressed latinum from the Alpha quadrant, but it’s almost there)! Some see it as the next major transition in money — we’ve gone from bartering to precious metals, coins, paper, credit cards and now the open ledger built on the original blockchain. This opens up a can of worms about regulations, taxes, and who owns money (we can save that conversation for Citrix Summit).
How disruptive is it? How disruptive was the internet? How about cell phones and smart phones?
What about apps stores, Cloud, SaaS – where will IoT, ML, AI go? Buzzword Bingo! Bitcoin and blockchain have started disrupting inventory management, currency, and healthcare. But as you’ve heard me mention before – ad infinitum – Bitcoin is also disrupting cybercrime, whether it’s DDoS attacks or Ransomware (seriously, read the Ransomware post, it has Vikings in it!) They are coming for your Bitcoins, so if you have bought some to get yourself or company out of a pickle, then follow these steps to help you keep them instead.
- Backup – Have at least three copies of your data. Store the copies on two different types of media and keep one backup copy offsite in case of physical theft
- Educate – Raise individual and organizational awareness of unsolicited and suspicious emails and web links.
- Privilege – Operate under a model of least trust. Reduce privileges and don’t run applications in administrator mode. All hardware and software admin names and passwords should be changed and deleted immediately. Otherwise, you may be leaving an easy backdoor open.
- Sandbox – Sandbox the email client and web browser using virtualization or the cloud. This will prevent or decrease the likelihood of ransomware spreading to other machines.
- Block – Move from using blacklisting to whitelisting. Only allow known good domains instead of only blocking known bad ones. This ensures fewer bad actors can get in.
- Contain – Build security zones using network segmentation, trust levels, and access controls.
- Harden – Update and lockdown the OS and critical applications – disable macros and active content so files aren’t left out for the taking (or destroying).
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