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Voting Begins For Canadian Digital Currency App

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the voting-on-dollars dept.

Canada 84

An anonymous reader writes "The Royal Canadian mint has been pursuing the creation of mintchip, a digital currency for Canada, through a publicly held app contest. App development and consideration is now complete, and the public can now vote on which phone or desktop digital payment apps should be endorsed and publicized by the mint. There has been multiple arguments that the mintchip could easily have the same security, privacy, and traceability concerns as current digital payment, rather than actually introducing the benefits of cash."

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84 comments

*facepalm* (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008077)

As a Canadian, I'd like to apologize for the insecure, amateur-hour embarrassment that is MintChip. Hopefully it will go away quietly.

Also, electronic voting? Seems fitting...

Re:*facepalm* (1, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008345)

Considering that Canadians call their currency "loonies", with straight faces, there is no need for apologies . . .

Re:*facepalm* (5, Informative)

Scott64 (1181495) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008457)

We don't "call our currency loonies". The one dollar coin is nicknamed the loonie because there's a loon on it and it rolls off the tongue better than "one dollar coin".

Re:*facepalm* (4, Informative)

GNU(slash)Nickname (761984) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008535)

Considering that Canadians call their currency "loonies", with straight faces, there is no need for apologies . . .

<pedant>

We don't call our currency any such thing. Nothing ever costs a "couple of loonies", it costs a "couple of bucks."

We do, however, call our $1 coin a loonie, based on the picture of the loon it carries. This is much like Americans who often refer to specific denominations by the name of the president pictured on it.

</pedant>

Re:*facepalm* (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | about a year and a half ago | (#41009893)

This is much like Americans who often refer to specific denominations by the name of the president pictured on it.

I don't know if I would say Americans do that "often". In fact, about the only time I've heard that is in rap like, "it's all about the Benjamins", and he wasn't even president.
One might even say you are a loonie for suggesting such at thing :)

Re:*facepalm* (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011137)

Rap did not invent the custom of referencing currency by the portrait of the President on it. It may hav popularized it among some segments of the culture, but it's neither new nor particularly inventive.

And having spend some time on ponds frequented by loons (the bird kind), beeing called a Loon is not the worst thing to happen to you.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011519)

I never said rap invented it, just that no one else in the US really refers to currency by the president shown on it. At least that's my anecdotal experience.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | about a year and a half ago | (#41013217)

You read his comment wrong. GNU said 'Americans who often refer" not "Americans often refer" : two different meanings.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | about a year and a half ago | (#41013751)

Did I? Because GNU also said "We do, however, call our $1 coin a loonie". I took this to mean that Canadians, in general, refer to the coin as a loonie. And then the implication would be that Americans, in general, refer to individual bills by president name (which I don't believe to be true).

If I did misread his comment, then his analogy is not very apt; why compare general Canadian culture to specific subcultures in the US?

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41010959)

in Toronto, two dollars is a Twooney.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

phoenix_rizzen (256998) | about a year and a half ago | (#41014963)

Maybe in the East (which tends to consider itself separate from the rest of Canada).

Here in the West, you hear "couple of loonies", "couple of twonies", "a loonie or two", and so forth for values under $5. You'll even see "loonie bin" and "twonie bin" for the value items in some stores.

Once you get over $5, though, then it's all dollars, bucks, etc.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

silentbrad (1488951) | about a year and a half ago | (#41015435)

Here in the West, you hear "couple of loonies", "couple of twonies", "a loonie or two", and so forth for values under $5. You'll even see "loonie bin" and "twonie bin" for the value items in some stores.

I don't know what West you're talking about, but in the Edmonton area (where I've lived my entire life), I've never heard anyone talk like that unless they were specifically referring to the coins (rather than the dollar amount).

Re:*facepalm* (1)

Sparton (1358159) | about a year and a half ago | (#41016475)

I don't know what West you're talking about, but in the Edmonton area (where I've lived my entire life), I've never heard anyone talk like that unless they were specifically referring to the coins (rather than the dollar amount).

Hm, perhaps it's more of a BC thing. In the lower mainland, a mix of terminology is used (to the point where you might see a store called "A Buck or Two" advertising items "for as low as a loonie!").

Twonies? (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about a year and a half ago | (#41015793)

The best is we call the one dollar coin a Loonie, because it has a picture of a "Loon" (which is a bird).

So what do we call the two dollar coin that came after that has a fracking POLAR BEAR on it? A Twonie... or Toonie, I don't even know how one would spell it.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008543)

It'll probably be like the electronic mailboxes (not to be confused with regular e-mail) that they rolled out just before the 2000s. Thirteen years later, and they're just starting to half-assedly advertise the service again.

Re:*facepalm* (4, Interesting)

chrb (1083577) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008871)

As a Canadian, I'd like to apologize for the insecure, amateur-hour embarrassment that is MintChip.

Perhaps you (or the people who are moderating you up) would like to expand on why MintChip is bad? Instant and irrevocable digital payments with no transaction fee sounds like a step up from many of the existing micropayment systems. The fact that it is a national standard means that it is going to be much more widely adopted than anything a private company would likely achieve (see CDMA vs GSM; GSM took off globally after being legally mandated as the common standard for the European Union).

I even think the app contest is quite an interesting approach - certainly much better than the usual "contract a single company to make an app". The summary does not make it clear, but the app is merely a front-end to a MicroSD card that also contains a secure IC for digital cash functions. The contest was not to create the underlying encryption protocols, these already exist, and the security therefore does not lie in the app itself. It sounds as though the MintChip protocol itself is more secure than Visa's NFC-based Contactless Payments.

Re:*facepalm* (4, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | about a year and a half ago | (#41009059)

Okay, so I just read the Bitcoin-fan objections to MintChip, and it seems it boils down to two points that they see as negatives: the currency is controlled by the Royal Canadian Mint, so they can make new digital coins, and if you can crack the secure chip then you can potentially double spend. However, these two points are what gives gives MintChip it's real world advantages: the currency is linked to a real currency and controlled by an authority that is overseen by the democratic institutions of the nation state, so it has value. Double spending is an unfortunate reality of allowing offline transactions, but in the real world being able to do offline transactions (like real cash) is very desirable.

Many encryption enthusiasts miss one important point when it comes to digital cash: security and convenience are a tradeoff, and the public will usually value convenience over security. With the right equipment, it is possible to copy and double-spend real cash. These are issues that society already has to deal with. The question is not whether it is possible to defraud digital cash - the question is whether it is worth a criminal's time to do so. A potential criminal is not going to use an electron tunnelling microscope to extract the cash from a micropayment card that is intended for payments of less than $10. Yes, it is theoretically possible, but in practice there are more profitable ways for criminals to make money.

Now, if there were an easy way to "empty" a payment card though some stupid exploit, then I can understand that being a problem, but that assumes that there is such an exploit. I would be willing to bet that a system that has been checked by the world's best cryptographers, using open protocols, would be more secure than physical cash notes. Not perfect, but more secure, and that is all we can really ask for. In the real world, it is trivially easy to steal the cash from someone's wallet. Digital cash doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be better than that.

Re:*facepalm* (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year and a half ago | (#41009227)

I think the stakes are way too high. The system can either support anonymous transactions, XOR it can verify that you actually have as much money as it says you do on the card. If it's truly anonymous, then there's no record of money changing hands. However, if there is no record of transactions, then the only source of how much money you have on the card is contained within the card. This is fine for things like transit passes, and photocopy machines, because it isn't worth the thief's time to scam the system for free rides on the bus. But when you can effectively create real cash out of thin air, then that is just too much incentive for people to defraud the system. If there is a way to double-spend cash, then it would probably be trivial to move up to triple-spend or million-spend. Cash works just fine for anonymous transactions, and we have enough trouble with people counterfeiting that. If they figure out how to counterfeit digital bits, then the digital money will be indistinguishable from the real deal.

Re:*facepalm* (2)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#41013475)

If they figure out how to counterfeit digital bits, then the digital money will be indistinguishable from the real deal.

Real money *IS* digital money: fictitious numbers held within databases. Cash is only a small percentage of the money, and it is just as fictitious. It's not like a small bit of paper with the ruler's picture is actually worth $20. The closest things to real worth is the nickel and the penny (which is being eliminated because it costs too much to produce). Everything else is just a token.

Since all we are exchanging is tokens, does it really matter if these tokens are made of metal or paper, or bits on a cell phone? All that matters is that they are hard as hard to counterfeit as the "real" digital tokens we hold as money.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011971)

Now, if there were an easy way to "empty" a payment card though some stupid exploit, then I can understand that being a problem, but that assumes that there is such an exploit.

You must be new around here.

We're dealing with hardware based encryption, not something which can be updated like software. There most certainly is a flaw, as there is in all encryption methods. They will be found out not because the criminals want to spend that $10, but because they want to spend that $10 - over, and over, and over again.

The basic premise, as I understand it, is that the MintChip is basically a hardware crypto key. It's used as an authentication token via something like RFID, bluetooth, or NFC to communicate with other devices. The MintChip is associated with an online account. The user then needs to authorize the MintChip for a transaction to the recipient: some form of checking is performed on the MintChip (all in software and/or Internet), and the user's credentials are also checked.

This doesn't appear to be much different than, say, Google Wallet. Or Paypal. Or for that matter, a credit card (which is basically the same idea but based on immature digital concepts from the 1970s). One thing it does do slightly differently than credit cards is that it requires the good security technique of "something you have and something you know". It's also available to the masses (eg. unlike Google Market, which requires a smartphone).

This really isn't that different than existing schemes. But it is mass market, and supported by the government (complete with all the 'guarantees' that's going to have to be backed by). If criminals can figure out how to exploit it and get away with it, they most certainly will. (When things like UFC is allowed and the SEC does nothing in the US to stop the obvious micro pump-and-dump going on, if the 'right people' steal something, they're usually allowed to get away with it.)

Off the top of my head, they'll be prone to the following attacks which cash is not:

* Physical man in the middle attack on the NFC/Bluetooth/RFID/etc. to duplicate keys and play them back
* reverse engineering and subsequent mass replication of the method used to create the chips
* an attack on the MintChip infrastructure itself. See: Paypal, Amazon, et al. This is by far the most significant and likely.
* theft of the MintChip with a parallel theft/monitoring of their security mechanisms

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41015441)

You're mistaken. This is not at all like a credit card with two-factor auth.

The "secure" hardware is not for authenticating to a service, it is for authneticating directly to other users!

IOW, transactions can be verified offline, so long as the tamper-resistent module stays secure. This is such an absurd premise that they aren't even bothering to claim it is tamper-proof; obviously it will be broken and double-spends will happen.

Why they are bothering with such an obviously futile system is a mystery.

Re:*facepalm* (2)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#41012435)

However, these two points are what gives gives MintChip it's real world advantages: the currency is linked to a real currency and controlled by an authority that is overseen by the democratic institutions of the nation state, so it has value. Double spending is an unfortunate reality of allowing offline transactions, but in the real world being able to do offline transactions (like real cash) is very desirable.

Hi, Bitcoin fan here (actually, a Bitcoin developer).

First up, let me say that I'm very happy to see MintChip and would happily have beers with the developers any day. I don't think it's stupid at all. MintChip is great because it's the first time a major government institution has stepped up and said, hey you know, cash has some pretty cool advantages, maybe we should replicate that in the digital world. Every other government simply wants to eliminate cash entirely (and free, irreversible, private transactions along with it) for tax collection / crime prevention / power / control reasons.

That said, I'd like to address your points.

Let's tackle your second point first, offline transactions. You can do offline transactions with Bitcoin. In fact, I implemented this in the Android wallet software along with Andreas at a recent hackathon in Berlin. The support hasn't shipped yet, it needs some polish and tuning, but basically it lets you send transactions to the recipient phone via Bluetooth. If the recipient has internet they can then relay it, or they can just keep it around until one of you reaches an internet access point. This obviously opens up the potential for double spends, but if you trust the sender to not defraud you, the system does work fine. One way you could get that trust, if you don't know the sender, would be via secure hardware (eg the sending phone could do a remote attestation to the receiving phone). There haven't been many use cases for remote attestation on phones in the past so unfortunately Androids generally can't do it, but there's no technical reason it can't be added. MintChip requires deployment of new hardware anyway, so they're equivalent in this respect.

As to your first point, I think it's fairly critical to point out that in most modern countries, issuance of the currency is explicitly not under the control of democratic institutions! That's the whole point of having an independent central bank with unelected heads. Historically the power to print money, when owned by governments, has been used to buy support or votes (eg by printing money then using it to fund work creation schemes in areas of the country suffering unemployment). This kind of inflation is effectively a silent tax on savers, but people don't tend to realize that, so it makes for very effective politics. When governments are forced to stop doing this you get "austerity" which is almost universally described in the press as painful, but what it actually means is, governments are under pressure to stop buying votes with newly created money.

The fact that whoever gets elected will naturally feel a desire to print money in order to pay for their campaign trail promises is the reason most countries have tried to build walls between elected representatives and heads of central banks. Making the situation even less democratic is the fact that private banks can also create new money, via the issuance of private loans. So you really can't get a situation less democratic than that.

Human society has always struggled with the question of how to control the power of those who can print money, and despite many attempts never found a truly satisfying solution. Bitcoin, for all its faults, does try to address this.

MintChip doesn't try and tackle this problem. That is not an issue for me. I think it's totally fine to tackle the smaller and arguably more achievable problem of building electronic cash. However, I wouldn't try and cast it as a strength beyond it being simpler and therefore more easily deployed.

The reason most people criticize MintChip is that it only takes one chip to be cracked, and whoever cracks the chip can proceed to create as much money as they want with no ability to detect it or track them down (it's basically the perfect crime). The Bitcoin equivalent is a 51% attack though at least it can be detected. If MintChip were to take off, cracking of the hardware is almost inevitable. Given its catastrophic failure mode, this understandably makes people nervous. I think in the end the systems will probably converge - Bitcoin can benefit a lot from trusted computing style hardware, but it doesn't require it, and MintChip could benefit a lot from online transaction logs that would restrict the power of people who crack the hardware.

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41021679)

I would be willing to bet that a system that has been checked by the world's best cryptographers, using open protocols, would be more secure than physical cash notes.

What makes you think the world's best cryptographers have looked at it? The cryptographers that I know who have looked at it have dismissed it as being way too fragile. People like you just keep ignoring them while you spout platitudes.

A potential criminal is not going to use an electron tunnelling microscope to extract the cash from a micropayment card that is intended for payments of less than $10. Yes, it is theoretically possible, but in practice there are more profitable ways for criminals to make money.

Yeah, that's a nice thing to say, except that's not how MintChip works. If one private key is extracted from any of the millions of MintChip devices that will be made, then you can generate an infinite amount of fake MintChip bucks. One leak to the Internet and the whole system collapses.

Security is not going to improve if people like you keep ignoring the experts.

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41012723)

IMO This is bad because it allows the government to track the movement and use of the digital currency 100%. With cash they cannot. Now if I believed 100% that my Canadian government was 100% uncontrolled/uninfluenced by corporations, foreign governments; that the government was 100% fiscally responsible with all tax revenues; spent said taxes in ways that improved the quality of life for all Canadians equally; and 100% of Canadian politicians were outstanding role models and humanitarians. Then I would change my mind and support the mintChip and tracking 100% of currency transactions; eliminate the black market economy that exists in protest of political control/interference of citizens.

Aside: Would it not be great to have a government that was so awesome that the citizens wanted to pay taxes?

Re:*facepalm* (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year and a half ago | (#41009113)

Also, the only criteria I have for deciding who to vote for is by watching a video about the app. I don't get to download and try out the app, so I don't know if it will even run well on my phone. Also, I'm not all "everything should be open source for ever and always" but it seems to me that something like this which is handling monetary transactions on my phone should either be open source, or under heavy government scrutiny. We shouldn't just let anybody put together some closed source app and claim it's doing everything right, especially going by the wonderful screen shots provided. Some of the apps look like they were developed by high school kids.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

Catbeller (118204) | about a year and a half ago | (#41010765)

Electronic money is used for tracking. They want cash dead, so little people can't hide. Big people will, of course, perform illegal acts with secret funds as they always do.

Electronic voting is used for cheating. Nothing wrong with the Canadian paper ballot system, except that it is impossible to cheat when two parties are staring at your every counted ballot. Your conservatives want to take over the counting just enough to insure they cannot lose in the future. Not that it seems necessary, as they are installing their own Fox News clone to redefine reality and have a leader in power with less than 30% of the popular vote. But it never hurts to make damned sure you can't lose critical counts.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011317)

Ditto. While Bitcoin was attractive for those who wanted to mint their own, electronic voting is most attractive because it lets you mint votes.

That, by the way, is why electronic voting is not ready for use. Period. Where it works currently is where it has not been cracked, and all the options ;'m aware of in the U.S. are crackable by high-schoolers working IBM's global help desks.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011577)

I don't expect it to gain any traction. Remember the firearm/gun owner registry? That went over so well.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011745)

Also, electronic voting? Seems fitting...

Especially electronic voting that requires you to come back and vote again every day for a month if you want to see your preferred project succeed. Ridiculous.

Re:*facepalm* (1)

HorizonXP (586587) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011827)

As the founder of taab, I'd be interested in hearing why you think the MintChip is an embarrassment. I'm personally impressed that the Royal Canadian Mint came up with this idea and project. Is it perfect? No, definitely not. Will it actually make it to market? Debatable, and likely not. But you can't fault them for trying. If nothing, society as a whole will learn from their successes and failures.

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41021635)

It's critically flawed. The idea behind MintChip is that users can trust each other's MintChip signatures without consulting with a third party because everyone's private key is stored inside tamper-resistant hardware. If a single private key ends up on the Internet, then anyone will trivially be able to defraud anyone who trusts the MintChip system, and the whole thing will need to be reduced to online verification like we already do with e.g. Interac.

Oh, and they won't give us any technical details about this hardware that critical to the security of the system. We're just supposed to trust that the Royal Canadian Mint's contractor managed to design and manufacture the strongest tamper-resistant hardware ever made, when they couldn't even see this glaring hole in the protocol.

lol fraud (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008089)

Taking bets on how long it'll take fraudsters to crash the Canadian economy if this gets implemented

Re:lol fraud (5, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008119)

So far, I was under the impression that our digital currency was Tim Horton's Gift Cards [timhortons.com], and they've stayed relatively secure.

MintChip... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008095)

...Canada's Bitcoin Holiday Special.

Grammar's nothing but a washed up hasbeen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008099)

...and before long you'll be able to say that there has been multiple arguments that the editor who vetted this article needs to brush up on some basic grammar.

Grammar nazi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008127)

There *have* been multiple arguments. Come on people, English isn't even my native language.

Government & Stealth Malware (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008145)

Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care - Government & Stealth Malware

In Response To Slashdot Article: Former Pentagon Analyst: China Has Backdoors To 80% of Telecoms 87

How many rootkits does the US[2] use officially or unofficially?

How much of the free but proprietary software in the US spies on you?

Which software would that be?

Visit any of the top freeware sites in the US, count the number of thousands or millions of downloads of free but proprietary software, much of it works, again on a proprietary Operating System, with files stored or in transit.

How many free but proprietary programs have you downloaded and scanned entire hard drives, flash drives, and other media? Do you realize you are giving these types of proprietary programs complete access to all of your computer's files on the basis of faith alone?

If you are an atheist, the comparison is that you believe in code you cannot see to detect and contain malware on the basis of faith! So you do believe in something invisible to you, don't you?

I'm now going to touch on a subject most anti-malware, commercial or free, developers will DELETE on most of their forums or mailing lists:

APT malware infecting and remaining in BIOS, on PCI and AGP devices, in firmware, your router (many routers are forced to place backdoors in their firmware for their government) your NIC, and many other devices.

Where are the commercial or free anti-malware organizations and individual's products which hash and compare in the cloud and scan for malware for these vectors? If you post on mailing lists or forums of most anti-malware organizations about this threat, one of the following actions will apply: your post will be deleted and/or moved to a hard to find or 'deleted/junk posts' forum section, someone or a team of individuals will mock you in various forms 'tin foil hat', 'conspiracy nut', and my favorite, 'where is the proof of these infections?' One only needs to search Google for these threats and they will open your malware world view to a much larger arena of malware on devices not scanned/supported by the scanners from these freeware sites. This point assumed you're using the proprietary Microsoft Windows OS. Now, let's move on to Linux.

The rootkit scanners for Linux are few and poor. If you're lucky, you'll know how to use chkrootkit (but you can use strings and other tools for analysis) and show the strings of binaries on your installation, but the results are dependent on your capability of deciphering the output and performing further analysis with various tools or in an environment such as Remnux Linux. None of these free scanners scan the earlier mentioned areas of your PC, either! Nor do they detect many of the hundreds of trojans and rootkits easily available on popular websites and the dark/deep web.

Compromised defenders of Linux will look down their nose at you (unless they are into reverse engineering malware/bad binaries, Google for this and Linux and begin a valuable education!) and respond with a similar tone, if they don't call you a noob or point to verifying/downloading packages in a signed repo/original/secure source or checking hashes, they will jump to conspiracy type labels, ignore you, lock and/or shuffle the thread, or otherwise lead you astray from learning how to examine bad binaries. The world of Linux is funny in this way, and I've been a part of it for many years. The majority of Linux users, like the Windows users, will go out of their way to lead you and say anything other than pointing you to information readily available on detailed binary file analysis.

Don't let them get you down, the information is plenty and out there, some from some well known publishers of Linux/Unix books. Search, learn, and share the information on detecting and picking through bad binaries. But this still will not touch the void of the APT malware described above which will survive any wipe of r/w media. I'm convinced, on both *nix and Windows, these pieces of APT malware are government in origin. Maybe not from the US, but most of the 'curious' malware I've come across in poisoned binaries, were written by someone with a good knowledge in English, some, I found, functioned similar to the now well known Flame malware. From my experience, either many forum/mailing list mods and malware developers/defenders are 'on the take', compromised themselves, and/or working for a government entity.

Search enough, and you'll arrive at some lone individuals who cry out their system is compromised and nothing in their attempts can shake it of some 'strange infection'. These posts receive the same behavior as I said above, but often they are lone posts which receive no answer at all, AT ALL! While other posts are quickly and kindly replied to and the 'strange infection' posts are left to age and end up in a lost pile of old threads.

If you're persistent, the usual challenge is to, "prove it or STFU" and if the thread is not attacked or locked/shuffled and you're lucky to reference some actual data, they will usually attack or ridicule you and further drive the discussion away from actual proof of APT infections.

The market is ripe for an ambitious company or individual to begin demanding companies and organizations who release firmware and design hardware to release signed and hashed packages and pour this information into the cloud, so everyone's BIOS is checked, all firmware on routers, NICs, and other devices are checked, and malware identified and knowledge reported and shared openly.

But even this will do nothing to stop backdoored firmware (often on commercial routers and other networked devices of real importance for government use - which again opens the possibility of hackers discovering these backdoors) people continue to use instead of refusing to buy hardware with proprietary firmware/software.

Many people will say, "the only safe computer is the one disconnected from any network, wireless, wired, LAN, internet, intranet" but I have seen and you can search yourself for and read about satellite, RF, temperature, TEMPEST (is it illegal in your part of the world to SHIELD your system against some of these APT attacks, especially TEMPEST? And no, it's not simply a CRT issue), power line and many other attacks which can and do strike computers which have no active network connection, some which have never had any network connection. Some individuals have complained they receive APT attacks throughout their disconnected systems and they are ridiculed and labeled as a nutter. The information exists, some people have gone so far as to scream from the rooftops online about it, but they are nutters who must have some serious problems and this technology with our systems could not be possible.

I believe most modern computer hardware is more powerful than many of us imagine, and a lot of these systems swept from above via satellite and other attacks. Some exploits take advantage of packet radio and some of your proprietary hardware. Some exploits piggyback and unless you really know what you're doing, and even then... you won't notice it.

Back to the Windows users, a lot of them will dismiss any strange activity to, "that's just Windows!" and ignore it or format again and again only to see the same APT infected activity continue. Using older versions of sysinternals, I've observed very bizarre behavior on a few non networked systems, a mysterious chat program running which doesn't exist on the system, all communication methods monitored (bluetooth, your hard/software modems, and more), disk mirroring software running[1], scans running on different but specific file types, command line versions of popular Windows freeware installed on the system rather than the use of the graphical component, and more.

[1] In one anonymous post on pastebin, claiming to be from an intel org, it blasted the group Anonymous, with a bunch of threats and information, including that their systems are all mirrored in some remote location anyway.

[2] Or other government, US used in this case due to the article source and speculation vs. China. This is not to defend China, which is one messed up hell hole on several levels and we all need to push for human rights and freedom for China's people. For other, freer countries, however, the concentration camps exist but you wouldn't notice them, they originate from media, mostly your TV, and you don't even know it. As George Carlin railed about "Our Owners", "nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care".

[3] http://www.stallman.org/ [stallman.org]

Try this yourself on a wide variety of internet forums and mailing lists, push for malware scanners to scan more than files, but firmware/BIOS. See what happens, I can guarantee it won't be pleasant, especially with APT cases.

So scan away, or blissfully ignore it, but we need more people like RMS[3] in the world. Such individuals tend to be eccentric but their words ring true and clear about electronics and freedom.

I believe we're mostly pwned, whether we would like to admit it or not, blind and pwned, yet fiercely holding to misinformation, often due to lack of self discovery and education, and "nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care".

##

Schneier has covered it before: power line fluctuations (differences on the wire in keys pressed).

There's thermal attacks against cpus and temp, also:

ENF (google it)

A treat (ENF Collector in Java):

sourceforge dot net fwdslash projects fwdslash nfienfcollector

No single antimalware scanner exists which offers the ability to scan (mostly proprietary) firmware on AGP/PCI devices (sound cards, graphics cards, usb novelty devices excluding thumb drives), BIOS/CMOS.

If you boot into ultimate boot cd you can use an archane text interface to dump BIOS/CMOS and examine/checksum.

The real attacks which survive disk formats and wipes target your PCI devices and any firmware which may be altered/overwritten with something special. It is not enough to scan your hard drive(s) and thumb drives, the real dangers with teeth infect your hardware devices.

When is the last time you:

Audited your sound card for malware?
Audited your graphics card for malware?
Audited your network card for malware?

Google for:

* AGP and PCI rootkit(s)
* Network card rootkit(s)
* BIOS/CMOS rootkit(s)

Our modern PC hardware is capable of much more than many can imagine.

Do you:

* Know your router's firmware may easily be replaced on a hacker's whim?
* Shield all cables against leakage and attacks
* Still use an old CRT monitor and beg for TEMPEST attacks?
* Use TEMPEST resistant fonts in all of your applications including your OS?
* Know whether or not your wired keyboard has keypresses encrypted as they pass to your PC from the keyboard?
* Use your PC on the grid and expose yourself to possible keypress attacks?
* Know your network card is VERY exploitable when plugged into the net and attacked by a hard core blackhat or any vicious geek with the know how?
* Search out informative papers on these subjects and educate your friends and family about these attacks?
* Contact antimalware companies and urge them to protect against many or all these attacks?

Do you trust your neighbors? Are they all really stupid when it comes to computing or is there a geek or two without a conscience looking to exploit these areas?

The overlooked threat are the potential civilian rogues stationed around you, especially in large apartment blocks who feed on unsecured wifi to do their dirty work.

With the recent news of Russian spies, whether or not this news was real or a psyop, educate yourself on the present threats which all antimalware scanners fail to protect against and remove any smug mask you may wear, be it Linux or OpenBSD, or the proprietary Windows and Mac OS you feel are properly secured and not vulnerable to any outside attacks because you either don't need an antivirus scanner (all are inept to serious attacks) or use one or several (many being proprietary mystery machines sending data to and from your machine for many reasons, one is to share your information with a group or set database to help aid in threats), the threats often come in mysterious ways.

Maybe the ancients had it right: stone tablets and their own unique language(s) rooted in symbolism.

#

I'm more concerned about new rootkits which target PCI devices, such as the graphics card and the optical drives, also, BIOS. Where are the malware scanners which scan PCI devices and BIOS for mismatches? All firmware, BIOS and on PCI devices should be checksummed and saved to match with others in the cloud, and archived when the computer is first used, backing up signed firmware.

When do you recall seeing signed router firmware upgrades with any type of checksum to check against? Same for PCI devices and optical drives and BIOS.

Some have begun with BIOS security:

http://www.biosbits.org/ [biosbits.org]

Some BIOS has write protection in its configuration, a lot of newer computers don't.

#

"Disconnect your PC from the internet and don't add anything you didn't create yourself. It worked for the NOC list machine in Mission Impossible"

The room/structure was likely heavily shielded, whereas most civvies don't shield their house and computer rooms. There is more than meets the eye to modern hardware.

Google:

subversion hack:
tagmeme(dot)com/subhack/

network card rootkits and trojans
pci rootkits
packet radio
xmit "fm fingerprinting" software
"specific emitter identification"
forums(dot)qrz(dot)com

how many malware scanners scan bios/cmos and pci/agp cards for malware? zero, even the rootkit scanners. have you checksummed/dumped your bios/cmos and firmware for all your pci/agp devices and usb devices, esp vanity usb devices in and outside the realm of common usb devices (thumbdrives, external hdds, printers),

Unless your computer room is shielded properly, the computers may still be attacked and used, I've personally inspected computers with no network connection running mysterious code in the background which task manager for windows and the eqiv for *nix does not find, and this didn't find it all.

Inspect your windows boot partition in *nix with hexdump and look for proxy packages mentioned along with command line burning programs and other oddities. Computers are more vulnerable than most would expect.

You can bet all of the malware scanners today, unless they are developed by some lone indy coder in a remote country, employ whitelisting of certain malware and none of them scan HARDWARE devices apart from the common usb devices.

Your network cards, sound cards, cd/dvd drives, graphics cards, all are capable of carrying malware to survive disk formatting/wiping.

Boot from a Linux live cd and use hexdump to examine your windows (and *nix) boot sectors to potentially discover interesting modifications by an unknown party.

#
eof

forgotten to take your meds today, asspie? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008173)

forgotten to take your meds today, asspie?

There already is a tried and tested one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008197)

Why not adhere to the Bitcoin?

Re:There already is a tried and tested one. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008347)

Because there's no way the government can control that. You say that's an advantage? Well, the government thinks otherwise.

Re:There already is a tried and tested one. (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008431)

Let's not mention the results of the test though...

Re:There already is a tried and tested one. (1)

ais523 (1172701) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008857)

Perhaps the most obvious reason is that if someone gives you a bitcoin, although the transfer itself is instantaneous, it takes a noticeable amount of time before you can confirm whether you've received a genuine bitcoin or not. (It can take a while to verify whether or not the original bitcoin was owned by the person who tried to transfer it to you.) This can be a problem, in some cases; for instance in a shop, you don't want to wait in the shop for several hours after spending money for the shopkeeper to determine whether you've actually paid them or not.

Bypass the Bankers (4, Interesting)

tchdab1 (164848) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008355)

I'm terribly impressed that Canada is working on electronic payment systems that don't "donate" a portion of every transaction to the likes of Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, etc. Electronic payments and the defacto currency behind them are real, but "legal tender" offered by host countries has not kept pace with the technology and habits of citizens who use it. Let's hope Canadians can work through the problems with this, and we neandertals in the USA can learn from them. Next in line: national credit cards and checking accounts.

Re:Bypass the Bankers (1)

HorizonXP (586587) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011191)

I definitely thought it was a good idea, and was impressed that our government was able to foster this type of idea and competition. I can't say whether or not they will successfully bring this to market, but at the very least, it provides all of us with a unique learning opportunity. This way, we can figure out what works, and what doesn't.

Re:Bypass the Bankers (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#41012417)

I'm terribly impressed that Canada is working on electronic payment systems that don't "donate" a portion of every transaction to the likes of Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, etc. Electronic payments and the defacto currency behind them are real, but "legal tender" offered by host countries has not kept pace with the technology and habits of citizens who use it. Let's hope Canadians can work through the problems with this, and we neandertals in the USA can learn from them. Next in line: national credit cards and checking accounts.

You make the assumption that handling cash is free - it actually isn't.

For the mom and pop shop who runs maybe a thousand dollars a day to the bank, it's fairly cheap, even if you get robbed once a year or so (a quarter to a third of a percent in "transaction fees", though I'm not counting emotional "damages" and such).

But if you're running a somewhat larger business, it does cost money to handle cash. Take a big-box store who may easily do anywhere from $20k-50k in transactions per day per store. If that was cash, you'd probably want to run an armored car or so, which can run into $1000 or more per trip, or a 5% "transaction fee". If it's $50k, it goes down to a 2% "transaction fee" for the armored car service. And yes, when games like Halo come out, stores often have to pre-arrange for things like this because even $10k in cash is racked up by selling 200 copies in cash (for a big game release, the store can go through a thousand or more).

Plus cash handling in store requires trained people. Ever wonder why stores close the registers during a power outage? It's the same reason - the books are electronic, and the registers maintain a transaction journal. If the cashier were to process sales while the servers are down, they'd have to manually make entries in the journal and then at the end of the shift, reconsolidate the register journal (it's called a cash *register* because it does the journalling) with the actual contents of the cash box and the actual sales that happened. And yes, while the cash box contents and register values do disagree due to human error (short changed or too much), it's supposed to be a small value.

If you ever see your order or purchase not rung up on a register, you can bet it's being done under the table.

That's why electronic payment systems are embraced - sure they charge transaction fees, but if you do a lot of large value transactions, you save in not having to handle cash. And if you have lots of salespeople, you can have customers rung out by anyone since all the book-keeping's electronic and reconciled automatically, no special training required (of course, a cash register needs to be available for those paying in cash, but those paying electronically don't have to line up and wait).

This electronic payment systme is more akin to cash, which means no server anywhere can really know that Alice sent Bob $10, because that eliminates the benefit of cash and we might as well just revert to using existing systems because it's there. Then again, you run the risk of losing the device holding the wallet, so how you handle that becomes more interesting...

Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008461)

Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care - Government & Stealth Malware

In Response To Slashdot Article: Former Pentagon Analyst: China Has Backdoors To 80% of Telecoms 87

How many rootkits does the US[2] use officially or unofficially?

How much of the free but proprietary software in the US spies on you?

Which software would that be?

Visit any of the top freeware sites in the US, count the number of thousands or millions of downloads of free but proprietary software, much of it works, again on a proprietary Operating System, with files stored or in transit.

How many free but proprietary programs have you downloaded and scanned entire hard drives, flash drives, and other media? Do you realize you are giving these types of proprietary programs complete access to all of your computer's files on the basis of faith alone?

If you are an atheist, the comparison is that you believe in code you cannot see to detect and contain malware on the basis of faith! So you do believe in something invisible to you, don't you?

I'm now going to touch on a subject most anti-malware, commercial or free, developers will DELETE on most of their forums or mailing lists:

APT malware infecting and remaining in BIOS, on PCI and AGP devices, in firmware, your router (many routers are forced to place backdoors in their firmware for their government) your NIC, and many other devices.

Where are the commercial or free anti-malware organizations and individual's products which hash and compare in the cloud and scan for malware for these vectors? If you post on mailing lists or forums of most anti-malware organizations about this threat, one of the following actions will apply: your post will be deleted and/or moved to a hard to find or 'deleted/junk posts' forum section, someone or a team of individuals will mock you in various forms 'tin foil hat', 'conspiracy nut', and my favorite, 'where is the proof of these infections?' One only needs to search Google for these threats and they will open your malware world view to a much larger arena of malware on devices not scanned/supported by the scanners from these freeware sites. This point assumed you're using the proprietary Microsoft Windows OS. Now, let's move on to Linux.

The rootkit scanners for Linux are few and poor. If you're lucky, you'll know how to use chkrootkit (but you can use strings and other tools for analysis) and show the strings of binaries on your installation, but the results are dependent on your capability of deciphering the output and performing further analysis with various tools or in an environment such as Remnux Linux. None of these free scanners scan the earlier mentioned areas of your PC, either! Nor do they detect many of the hundreds of trojans and rootkits easily available on popular websites and the dark/deep web.

Compromised defenders of Linux will look down their nose at you (unless they are into reverse engineering malware/bad binaries, Google for this and Linux and begin a valuable education!) and respond with a similar tone, if they don't call you a noob or point to verifying/downloading packages in a signed repo/original/secure source or checking hashes, they will jump to conspiracy type labels, ignore you, lock and/or shuffle the thread, or otherwise lead you astray from learning how to examine bad binaries. The world of Linux is funny in this way, and I've been a part of it for many years. The majority of Linux users, like the Windows users, will go out of their way to lead you and say anything other than pointing you to information readily available on detailed binary file analysis.

Don't let them get you down, the information is plenty and out there, some from some well known publishers of Linux/Unix books. Search, learn, and share the information on detecting and picking through bad binaries. But this still will not touch the void of the APT malware described above which will survive any wipe of r/w media. I'm convinced, on both *nix and Windows, these pieces of APT malware are government in origin. Maybe not from the US, but most of the 'curious' malware I've come across in poisoned binaries, were written by someone with a good knowledge in English, some, I found, functioned similar to the now well known Flame malware. From my experience, either many forum/mailing list mods and malware developers/defenders are 'on the take', compromised themselves, and/or working for a government entity.

Search enough, and you'll arrive at some lone individuals who cry out their system is compromised and nothing in their attempts can shake it of some 'strange infection'. These posts receive the same behavior as I said above, but often they are lone posts which receive no answer at all, AT ALL! While other posts are quickly and kindly replied to and the 'strange infection' posts are left to age and end up in a lost pile of old threads.

If you're persistent, the usual challenge is to, "prove it or STFU" and if the thread is not attacked or locked/shuffled and you're lucky to reference some actual data, they will usually attack or ridicule you and further drive the discussion away from actual proof of APT infections.

The market is ripe for an ambitious company or individual to begin demanding companies and organizations who release firmware and design hardware to release signed and hashed packages and pour this information into the cloud, so everyone's BIOS is checked, all firmware on routers, NICs, and other devices are checked, and malware identified and knowledge reported and shared openly.

But even this will do nothing to stop backdoored firmware (often on commercial routers and other networked devices of real importance for government use - which again opens the possibility of hackers discovering these backdoors) people continue to use instead of refusing to buy hardware with proprietary firmware/software.

Many people will say, "the only safe computer is the one disconnected from any network, wireless, wired, LAN, internet, intranet" but I have seen and you can search yourself for and read about satellite, RF, temperature, TEMPEST (is it illegal in your part of the world to SHIELD your system against some of these APT attacks, especially TEMPEST? And no, it's not simply a CRT issue), power line and many other attacks which can and do strike computers which have no active network connection, some which have never had any network connection. Some individuals have complained they receive APT attacks throughout their disconnected systems and they are ridiculed and labeled as a nutter. The information exists, some people have gone so far as to scream from the rooftops online about it, but they are nutters who must have some serious problems and this technology with our systems could not be possible.

I believe most modern computer hardware is more powerful than many of us imagine, and a lot of these systems swept from above via satellite and other attacks. Some exploits take advantage of packet radio and some of your proprietary hardware. Some exploits piggyback and unless you really know what you're doing, and even then... you won't notice it.

Back to the Windows users, a lot of them will dismiss any strange activity to, "that's just Windows!" and ignore it or format again and again only to see the same APT infected activity continue. Using older versions of sysinternals, I've observed very bizarre behavior on a few non networked systems, a mysterious chat program running which doesn't exist on the system, all communication methods monitored (bluetooth, your hard/software modems, and more), disk mirroring software running[1], scans running on different but specific file types, command line versions of popular Windows freeware installed on the system rather than the use of the graphical component, and more.

[1] In one anonymous post on pastebin, claiming to be from an intel org, it blasted the group Anonymous, with a bunch of threats and information, including that their systems are all mirrored in some remote location anyway.

[2] Or other government, US used in this case due to the article source and speculation vs. China. This is not to defend China, which is one messed up hell hole on several levels and we all need to push for human rights and freedom for China's people. For other, freer countries, however, the concentration camps exist but you wouldn't notice them, they originate from media, mostly your TV, and you don't even know it. As George Carlin railed about "Our Owners", "nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care".

[3] http://www.stallman.org/ [stallman.org]

Try this yourself on a wide variety of internet forums and mailing lists, push for malware scanners to scan more than files, but firmware/BIOS. See what happens, I can guarantee it won't be pleasant, especially with APT cases.

So scan away, or blissfully ignore it, but we need more people like RMS[3] in the world. Such individuals tend to be eccentric but their words ring true and clear about electronics and freedom.

I believe we're mostly pwned, whether we would like to admit it or not, blind and pwned, yet fiercely holding to misinformation, often due to lack of self discovery and education, and "nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care".

##

Schneier has covered it before: power line fluctuations (differences on the wire in keys pressed).

There's thermal attacks against cpus and temp, also:

ENF (google it)

A treat (ENF Collector in Java):

sourceforge dot net fwdslash projects fwdslash nfienfcollector

No single antimalware scanner exists which offers the ability to scan (mostly proprietary) firmware on AGP/PCI devices (sound cards, graphics cards, usb novelty devices excluding thumb drives), BIOS/CMOS.

If you boot into ultimate boot cd you can use an archane text interface to dump BIOS/CMOS and examine/checksum.

The real attacks which survive disk formats and wipes target your PCI devices and any firmware which may be altered/overwritten with something special. It is not enough to scan your hard drive(s) and thumb drives, the real dangers with teeth infect your hardware devices.

When is the last time you:

Audited your sound card for malware?
Audited your graphics card for malware?
Audited your network card for malware?

Google for:

* AGP and PCI rootkit(s)
* Network card rootkit(s)
* BIOS/CMOS rootkit(s)

Our modern PC hardware is capable of much more than many can imagine.

Do you:

* Know your router's firmware may easily be replaced on a hacker's whim?
* Shield all cables against leakage and attacks
* Still use an old CRT monitor and beg for TEMPEST attacks?
* Use TEMPEST resistant fonts in all of your applications including your OS?
* Know whether or not your wired keyboard has keypresses encrypted as they pass to your PC from the keyboard?
* Use your PC on the grid and expose yourself to possible keypress attacks?
* Know your network card is VERY exploitable when plugged into the net and attacked by a hard core blackhat or any vicious geek with the know how?
* Search out informative papers on these subjects and educate your friends and family about these attacks?
* Contact antimalware companies and urge them to protect against many or all these attacks?

Do you trust your neighbors? Are they all really stupid when it comes to computing or is there a geek or two without a conscience looking to exploit these areas?

The overlooked threat are the potential civilian rogues stationed around you, especially in large apartment blocks who feed on unsecured wifi to do their dirty work.

With the recent news of Russian spies, whether or not this news was real or a psyop, educate yourself on the present threats which all antimalware scanners fail to protect against and remove any smug mask you may wear, be it Linux or OpenBSD, or the proprietary Windows and Mac OS you feel are properly secured and not vulnerable to any outside attacks because you either don't need an antivirus scanner (all are inept to serious attacks) or use one or several (many being proprietary mystery machines sending data to and from your machine for many reasons, one is to share your information with a group or set database to help aid in threats), the threats often come in mysterious ways.

Maybe the ancients had it right: stone tablets and their own unique language(s) rooted in symbolism.

#

I'm more concerned about new rootkits which target PCI devices, such as the graphics card and the optical drives, also, BIOS. Where are the malware scanners which scan PCI devices and BIOS for mismatches? All firmware, BIOS and on PCI devices should be checksummed and saved to match with others in the cloud, and archived when the computer is first used, backing up signed firmware.

When do you recall seeing signed router firmware upgrades with any type of checksum to check against? Same for PCI devices and optical drives and BIOS.

Some have begun with BIOS security:

http://www.biosbits.org/ [biosbits.org]

Some BIOS has write protection in its configuration, a lot of newer computers don't.

#

"Disconnect your PC from the internet and don't add anything you didn't create yourself. It worked for the NOC list machine in Mission Impossible"

The room/structure was likely heavily shielded, whereas most civvies don't shield their house and computer rooms. There is more than meets the eye to modern hardware.

Google:

subversion hack:
tagmeme(dot)com/subhack/

network card rootkits and trojans
pci rootkits
packet radio
xmit "fm fingerprinting" software
"specific emitter identification"
forums(dot)qrz(dot)com

how many malware scanners scan bios/cmos and pci/agp cards for malware? zero, even the rootkit scanners. have you checksummed/dumped your bios/cmos and firmware for all your pci/agp devices and usb devices, esp vanity usb devices in and outside the realm of common usb devices (thumbdrives, external hdds, printers),

Unless your computer room is shielded properly, the computers may still be attacked and used, I've personally inspected computers with no network connection running mysterious code in the background which task manager for windows and the eqiv for *nix does not find, and this didn't find it all.

Inspect your windows boot partition in *nix with hexdump and look for proxy packages mentioned along with command line burning programs and other oddities. Computers are more vulnerable than most would expect.

You can bet all of the malware scanners today, unless they are developed by some lone indy coder in a remote country, employ whitelisting of certain malware and none of them scan HARDWARE devices apart from the common usb devices.

Your network cards, sound cards, cd/dvd drives, graphics cards, all are capable of carrying malware to survive disk formatting/wiping.

Boot from a Linux live cd and use hexdump to examine your windows (and *nix) boot sectors to potentially discover interesting modifications by an unknown party.

#
eof

Re:Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008605)

Come on mods, send this to the fiery bowels of Hell from whence it came.

Re:Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#41009093)

What I find funniest is that he goes on with a lot of this tinfoil hat stuff (TEMPEST attacks on home networks? Infecting airgapped computers using satellites? Really?) and then blindly trusts corporations to not put malware or backdoors in their firmware for the governments (which if there's any firmware nastiness going on right now, is the most likely vector). His firmware hashing idea is a good one but this guy's paranoia is just all over the place.

Mintchip is designed to track you (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008501)

it's about time I clear my conscience...

The system keeps track of what funding sources you've been "in contact" with, kinda like Bitcoin's idea of "taint"

The implementation is quite clever, involving some modular arithmetic and the 24-byte "Transaction Authentication Code" detailed in the Mintchip Messages [mintchipchallenge.com] documentation. Or I should say, revealed... of course they're not telling you what the TAC does because they don't want to admit it's true purpose. It's also not just the TAC, all those supposedly random nonces generated by the hardware aren't going to be as random as you'd think. Basically you can use them as an additional way of stenographically hiding data between transactions that goes way beyond what they document.

I can't reveal too many details on how it works as they'd probably figure out who I am, but essentially that's enough bits to encode a probabalistic record of every Sender ID that has transfered funds that ended up in your balance. Then when you resend your balance, you "infect" subsequent Mintchip balances with that record.

I'll give an toy example to prove the point: lets suppose you assigned prime number to every user of the system. If the TAC were simply multiplied by each prime from every payer, you could then factor the resulting large product of primes to determine who the payers were. The actual implementation is more involved, and probabalistic, but you get the idea. Sure it essentially becomes a brute forcing problem, but when you have a rough idea of who might be paying who, brute forcing is a lot easier than you'd think. Canada's population is only a bit over 30 million...

Don't trust closed hardware or software. You have been warned. This may look like a anonymous Bitcoin competitor, but the mint isn't stupid, and they're not going to give back any of the anonymity cash provided that the government wants so badly to get rid of.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#41009141)

Huh, mod parent up...any cryptographers in here who can give a second opinion?

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (3, Insightful)

WillerZ (814133) | about a year and a half ago | (#41010239)

If you are identifying people from a population of 30 million you need ceil(log2(30 000 000)) bits for your person identifier; which is 25 bits in this case. However you are likely to need to identify corporations as distinct from persons, which will probably take another bit or so. 26 bits per trading entity into a 24-byte (192-bit) TAC goes 7.4 times.

No matter how you put those IDs into the TAC you can never fit more than 7.4 at a time. So if you are a criminal (or privacy nut) who wants to use this system, make sure there are 8 trades between you and any other party you interact with if you want deniability if someone has access only to the TAC used for the final transaction to you. This is not a very plausible tracking scheme because for practical reasons you will need a timestamp and other gubbins to be encoded in the TAC.

Of course, if you have access to all the TACs you only need to fit two IDs in there at a time to build a chain. This is IMO very plausible.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011979)

Also, it sounds like they wouldn't need to have enough bits to strictly guarantee uniqueness. If they could just track it down to a handful of possibilities, they can make a good guess. "And then the drug money went to either a 73-year old Grandmother in Saskatoon, or a 19-year old convicted felon in Vancouver."

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (2)

Robbat2 (148889) | about a year and a half ago | (#41012841)

You missed something critical posted by the AC. He said you have to assign a unique prime number to each user. Not simply a number.
The 30 millionith prime is 573259391. The 50 millionith prime is 982451653. I couldn't find the 60 millionith prime anywhere, and another 20M should be enough room for the corporations. In either case ceil(log2(573259391)) == ceil(log2(982451653)) == 30. The beauty of this is you can multiply two large primes, take the modulo and somebody with the primes can still verify/extract them later: This isn't very different from doing RSA crypto with very short primes...

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41014287)

Verify yes, extract no. There's a million miles of difference between them.

It's like a hashcode vs an encrypted file. A hashcode allows you to verify, eg., that the contents of a file haven't changed (within a certain margin of error, diminishing with increasing hash size). But, a hashcode can't yield the original data. Not even with "probabilistic" methods.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (1)

subreality (157447) | about a year and a half ago | (#41019327)

you can never fit more than 7.4 at a time

You can't fit more than 7.4 discrete IDs in a single transaction, but they're taking a statistical approach. If they can collect data from thousands of transactions within a dozen hops from you, it's plausible to correlate who you are and who you're transacting with. It might take a lot of data points to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, but far fewer to get a warrant signed.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (1)

McGregorMortis (536146) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011217)

People are always worrying about digital currency destroying the anonymity of cash. And certainly the government appears to have a number of motives for doing so, which fall at various points on the good/evil spectrum.

But I wonder if the government really, in its heart, wants to do that. The complete eradication of anonymous transactions changes the game entirely, and it would alter society in ways that are hard to predict.

There are a lot of activities that people want to keep secret, but that don't involve terrorism, drug-trafficking or pedophillia. Those less-than-squeaky-clean activities will become impossible. As long as humans have been around, it has been possible to deviate somewhat from socially-acceptable behaviour without too much fear. Suddenly, circa 2013, it becomes impossible. The government knows everything about everyone. By extension, everybody knows everything about everyone (because they can't keep their systems secure any better than anyone else.) So, what unintended consequences of that change might follow?

The people who make up the government are part of society, and they'll reap what they sow along with the rest of us.

The Mayor of Xyzzy may have liked to spark up a doobie now and then. But there'll be no more of that. Perhaps the Minister of the Frobnitz occasionally enjoys the company of those ladies who advertise in the back pages... sorry dude, that can be traced right back to you.

For selfish reasons alone, the government may want think twice about making anonymity impossible.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (2)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#41012661)

But I wonder if the government really, in its heart, wants to do that. The complete eradication of anonymous transactions changes the game entirely, and it would alter society in ways that are hard to predict.

"The government" is a huge thing full of people who disagree strongly on almost everything. In any given government you will find every angle on this issue. Law enforcement typically wants more power and more tracking not because they're evil or anything, but because they're judged on how well they tackle crime and naturally want any tools they can get. Financial regulators definitely want more power because it's their job to build the AML system and their personal career advancement basically depends on ever-increasing reach and complexity of their rules. Then you have people in intelligence services, they may or may not want to see this sort of thing because they want the ability to run large black programs and covert ops, which is more or less at odds with every value flow being identified and investigated.

Then finally you have politicians who are the least consistent and predictable of the lot, mostly because they're trying to figure out and respond to the general publics views on these issues, and those views are themselves mixed. Currently cash is still an everyday thing and for practical reasons it's rare to use it for large transactions anyway, so the effective elimination of cash for those transactions doesn't raise many eyebrows and many would support it on anti-crime grounds. Attempting to push the system a lot further will, IMHO, encounter heavy resistance as existing e-payment systems aren't very good: high fees, poor security/usability, inflexible protocols and high fraud rates are all common. And societies attitudes towards governments and government tracking evolve over time too.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (1)

Sparton (1358159) | about a year and a half ago | (#41016903)

The complete eradication of anonymous transactions changes the game entirely, and it would alter society in ways that are hard to predict.

The trick is that this doesn't completely eradicate anonymous transactions. If people don't want to be tracked, nothing's stopping them from trading or doing services for a completely different physical currency (such as, say, US Dollars).

Removing physical currency from a region will make some transactions much harder to hide. If you know everyone that does under-the-table stuff is using US Dollars, you can at least stem the tide of such transactions by looking at people who go out of the country/withdraw that kind of cash. But unless a certain critical mass of major countries also follows suit, it will be an inconvenience, not a fully blocking measure.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (1)

makomk (752139) | about a year and a half ago | (#41034521)

The Mint would be an idiot to set up Mintchip without some method of tracing transactions. Why? Because it relies on trusted hardware, and when someone inevitably extracts the secrets from one of those pieces of trusted hardware and uses it to print money they need a way to trace those funds back to the compromised device and revoke it.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41014011)

The system keeps track of what funding sources you've been "in contact" with, kinda like Bitcoin's idea of "taint"

You imply that the sender and the receiver is somehow linked to a physical entity, aka a person. The documentation states that these IDs are MintChip IDs (http://developer.mintchipchallenge.com/devguide/developing/common/mintchip-id.html [mintchipchallenge.com]). It's obvious that the Canadian Mint (or trusted broker) would have to some way to link my identity to this MintChip ID that they generate. From what I read, the idea is that I could go a trusted broker, hand over $20 no questions asked or identity given, and walk out with a MintChip. This is an anonymous transaction. Any following transactions involving that anonymous MintChip ID could tracked through the MintChip existence, but that tracking information only lists anonymous MintChip IDs and value/money exchanges. Such information is useful to ensure the integrity of the system, but useless in tracking real world entities as it's still anonymous. As long as the system is linked only to a physical MintChip (not a person), and there is no personal information provided in obtaining a MintChip, then it is the same as hard currency.

I can see the upsides for the Canadian Mint. I can also understand their view if the systems fails somehow. In their eyes, hacking the MintChip would be the same as counterfeiting except really difficult and not worth it if the MintChip can only hold a balance of $500 and can only do transactions $25 or so. Of course, this means that a MintChip is exactly like cash thus has the same problems for us consumers. Not so for the Canadian Mint.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41016315)

From an auditing perspective, you couldn't say you're 100% sure the system hasn't been compromised unless you can track every cent, where it came from and where it went. That's the fundamental problem with physical money, you can't be sure you didn't create it because you don't know where everything you created went.

Legally, I'm almost certain they would be required to do that sort of tracking. I hope your anonymous purchase of mint coins is how it will be implemented. I don't mind if they track that a "$10" chip was sold from this retailer, was transferred from chip 5 to 10 to 12 to 4 and cashed at this other retailer.

Re:Mintchip is designed to track you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41014409)

> probabilistic

FTFY

maple RED beast & the FALSE white light (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008511)

once they get used to digital currency, the mark of the beast won't be far behind.

deny the beast who charges through white
come to Jesus before it's too late
reject the mark
reject the beast

We have a choice? (2)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year and a half ago | (#41008727)

Just headed over thinking I would do my part as a Canadian to pick something that might be relevant in a few years, but its just a collection of EVERY finance app available on all platforms, I mean, they could have weened it down to maybe the top 10 apps, instead of a huge collection of crapware.

But you just know in spite of being offered a choice (which is a change from the usual Canadian government of picking "innovation" for us), Canada is notorious for seeing the successful products and services used everywhere else in the world and then offering it to Canadians with significantly less features and a pale imitation of the one the world uses, you know, like Netflix.

Re:We have a choice? (1)

flashme (923791) | about a year and a half ago | (#41012461)

I'm one of the contestants in the MintChip Challenge. Basically the idea was to explore what you can do with the MintChip, and all of these apps are prototypes, some more rough than others. The MintChip itself is still in an R&D phase. We had a little over 3 months to come up with our entries and most of us have day jobs as well. I had a great time working on my app and I explore different ways of transferring money between chips. One of the concepts I am demonstrating is sending money anonymously to someone you don't know through Game Center. I haven't seen this idea presented before, either by any of the other contestants in the contest, or elsewhere. I think it's pretty neat to be able to send a gift of as little as 1 cent to a stranger. Who doesn't need money these days? ;)

Here is my app:

http://mintchipchallenge.com/submissions/9448-mintchipd [mintchipchallenge.com]

Please watch the video and of course I would always appreciate votes.

Re:We have a choice? (1)

guttentag (313541) | about a year and a half ago | (#41012483)

...its just a collection of EVERY finance app available on all platforms, I mean, they could have weened it down to maybe the top 10 apps, instead of a huge collection of crapware.

[extreme sarcasm]That's why it's important that everyone vote for the apps that feature pictures of the toughest looking padlocks! That way you know you're voting for the most secure software. Direct democracy triumphs again![/extreme sarcasm]

(I'm going to go find some Tylenol and hope the next 27 days are Canada's version of the U.S. holiday called "April Fool's Day")

Re:We have a choice? (1)

Mozai (3547) | about a year and a half ago | (#41024601)

... offering it to Canadians with significantly less features and a pale imitation of the one the world uses, you know, like Netflix.

How is Netflix Canada operationally from Netflix USA? And what does the government of Canada have to do with it?

I'm guessing you're upset that Netflix Canada has fewer choices in the media catalogue offered. That is not due to the government of Canada nor even the government of your province instructing Netflix to restrict its catalogue -- that's due to the movie distribution companies (usually members of the MPAA) who own the rights to these movies telling Netflix "no u can not haz cheezbrgr."

Don't yell at the sales clerk if you bought a product that doesn't work as advertised, and don't yell at the landlord for the store you bought it from -- yell at the manufacturer. That means it's not Netflix, your internet provider and not the government of Canada that is keeping episodes of Adventure Time off Netflix -- it's Turner Broadcasting refusing to release it to Netflix Canada.

How do we vote "none of the above"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41008979)

I don't see a way on their website.

It's also non-obvious how valuable "vote once a day" is in a contest, unless it's like a will, and the last one counts...

--dave

Re:How do we vote "none of the above"? (1)

HorizonXP (586587) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011731)

Your vote only counts towards the Popular Vote category. The winners for the other categories are determined by a judging panel. Also, could you explain why you'd like to vote "none of the above"? I'm the founder of taab, and would love to hear your criticism.

Dissapointing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41010093)

Dissapointing. top 5 designs r crap. i think they missed the idea.

The only thing Mint Chip would be good for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41011001)

.. is buying bitcoins with it.

Shameless self-plug (1)

HorizonXP (586587) | about a year and a half ago | (#41011161)

As you'll see by my low UID, I've been on Slashdot for a while. I'm going to shamelessly self-plug my entry, called taab. You can visit our site at http://taab.co./ [taab.co.] Check it out, and watch the promo video. I'm hoping it can handle the Slashdot effect! You can vote for our entry here: http://mintchipchallenge.com/submissions/9458-taab [mintchipchallenge.com] And I'm more than willing to answer any questions you may have, including my experiences with the MintChip platform.

Neal Stephenson - The Great Simoleon Caper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41013233)

Sounds familiar to a story by Neal Stephenson. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Simoleon_Caper

Is there a BitCoin payment app for phones that people could select to vote for?

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