The arrival of new technologies brings with them their share of new dangers. Everything is going too fast, we get lost, we are anxious… Hi-tech is often scary when we do not control it. Some take advantage of the confusion.
In February 2016, hackers digitally robbed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York through the SWIFT interbank network. They passed transfer instructions there for a total of almost one billion (!) US dollars from the Bangladesh Central Bank account.
Luckily, a simple spelling error in the name of a recipient of the diverted funds enabled one of the intermediary banks to spot the anomaly and stop the attack. In the end, only 5 of the 35 orders were executed and part of the funds could even be recovered, but the robbers finally disappeared with US $ 63 million.
Was this a problem due to the technology of the US dollar or the SWIFT computer network used by the biggest banks on the planet since the 1970s?
In reality, it was a human error. The Federal of New York did not have a live abuse detection system, and relied on spot checks made at random after payments were made. A poor understanding of the risks and the management of the system.
Even without being experts in banking cyber security, the readers of this post will no doubt be surprised by such a lack of preparation. It is all the more incomprehensible that this incompetence comes from a major player whose rigor and irreproachable expertise would be expected.
“Mistakes are human.” But at this point, it is almost equivalent to a password written on a sticky note stuck in plain sight on the computer screen. This technology is neither too complicated to understand nor too difficult to implement. IT is not even in question, because the vulnerability flaw, the weak link, is the lack of rigor of the humans in charge of the system.
There is no shortage of examples of similar cases, and a basic rule that applies everywhere in IT, and to which cryptocurrencies are no exception, is that these are only rarely problems due to technology.
Unfortunately, the human who has to manage these technologies on a daily basis is often you and me, both attracted by their wonderful usefulness, but frightened by our lack of knowledge which could make us vulnerable.
And precisely, among these new obscure worlds whose scandals and excesses captivate us and make the headlines, we regularly find Bitcoin, Blockchain, and cryptocurrencies.
So here is a new column to deal with the dark side of the world of cryptoactives of all kinds and the "Wild West" atmosphere in which evolve all kinds of individuals who do not want you only good.
In this section, I will illustrate with concrete examples a panorama of the various dishonesties which one can be confronted in the small world of cryptocurrencies and their blockchains, to better dismantle these risks with a little common sense. From monumental scams to little lies, from overwhelming ICOs to pseudo-miraculous financial schemes, via awkward disastrous recklessness and reckless risks, it is a universe where you find a little of everything and where it is therefore better to stay on your guards.
Or rather, to begin, relearn to be on guard.
But no need to panic, even with the most advanced technologies, the good old habits allow you to protect yourself effectively in most cases. These habits that our very (too?) Comfortable lifestyle made us neglect and then forget.
In reality, a little common sense and maturity are enough to protect yourself from a large part of these pitfalls that are not technological, and ultimately not that new. A simple hygiene of daily life which I propose to you to approach together here. While learning to better understand and understand the revolution of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
Adopt the right behaviors to avoid unpleasant surprises, on a human scale, the easiest for non-experts to manage.
Logging out of your email account when leaving a shared computer in an Internet cafe, not sending all your money to a “prince in exile”, not clicking on a link or a suspicious attached file in an email, do not not give your password to a stranger, check the address and the small green padlock when you log into your e-banking… Our habits have changed rapidly in recent years because we have been forced to adapt to new realities. Our new reflexes would seem extraterrestrial to our grandparents.
But the downside is that getting help with a dumpling has never been easier. When we digitized everything, we gradually found ourselves at the mercy of a symbolic “guardian” who took care of us and managed our problems and difficulties for us. So we easily rest on this comfort and forget to be careful.
The awakening is sometimes brutal. We have all heard a tragic story about an outrageous remark or a compromising photo on social networks for example.
And precisely, one of the new paradigms brought by Bitcoin is a return to individual sovereignty. We know that with Bitcoin, you no longer need an intermediary to make a peer-to-peer transaction. It's revolutionary, but it also means that a transaction is irreversible (NB there are exceptions, but that's not the subject here). As with cash, there is no way to object to a management organization in the event of abuse or error, for example. This is why one of the “sayings” regularly reminded by Bitcoin followers is: “Don't trust. Verify. "
Do not trust. Check.
This refers to the Blockchain mechanism, the ledger grouping together all transactions from the origin of Bitcoin, distributed and replicated identically to any user who can at any time check the integrity of his funds . But by extension, this applies to a way of thinking that obviously goes further than the Blockchain alone, and which calls into question our habit of delegating trust and responsibility to a third party.
Not to trust blindly is already a rule that most of us generally apply in real life. However, once online, many forget their good habits and are fooled by more than fanciful promises.
We must remember to apply to our digital world the same logic that we follow in the physical world, that what makes sense and logic for our “real” finances is also it for our investments and digital transactions, which are ultimately just as real. And this logic also applies to all other aspects of our life outside of finance.
A little common sense
If the security officials of the New York Fed had this reflex, they would doubtless have installed an alarm system constantly and in real time checking movements, as is the case in all physical banks, and as we do it to protect our homes or monitor baby when he sleeps…
You will understand, if it were necessary to retain only one basic principle, it would be to apply on the Internet the same rules and the same rigor that one imposes in the physical world. If it doesn't make sense in real life, then you suspect there is little chance that it will work online. This is a principle that will come up regularly in this column.
Until the next post, I strongly encourage you to post below your comments, questions, requests for topics to be discussed etc. and start a conversation useful to all.
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