Blokt – Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency https://blokt.com Sat, 13 Mar 2021 14:43:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 MoonCats: Almost-Free NFT Collectible Felines Are Selling for a Huge Markup https://blokt.com/news/mooncats-almost-free-nft-collectible-felines-are-selling-for-a-huge-markup https://blokt.com/news/mooncats-almost-free-nft-collectible-felines-are-selling-for-a-huge-markup#respond Sat, 13 Mar 2021 14:43:53 +0000 https://blokt.com/?p=55858

What the hell are MoonCats? MoonCats, Ethereum-based collectible NFTs deployed on August 9th, 2017, have now all been rescued and are now finding their way onto marketplaces like OpenSea. Users could rescue cats (from the moon, naturally) at just the gas fee cost up until yesterday when all 25,600 had been rescued. MoonCatsRescue employs an […]

MoonCats: Almost-Free NFT Collectible Felines Are Selling for a Huge Markup was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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What the hell are MoonCats?

MoonCats, Ethereum-based collectible NFTs deployed on August 9th, 2017, have now all been rescued and are now finding their way onto marketplaces like OpenSea. Users could rescue cats (from the moon, naturally) at just the gas fee cost up until yesterday when all 25,600 had been rescued.

MoonCatsRescue employs an off-chain algorithm that requires users’ CPU resources to find cats. This allowed the MoonCats to be more equally distributed. At the time of writing, there are 1,644 holders.

The MoonCats contract allowed only 25,600 MoonCats to be added out of a possible 4 billion unique combinations. After this point, no more cats could be rescued. Users that have rescued MoonCats can name them, but only once; once a MoonCat has been named, it is permanent.

Interestingly, there are not really any rare cats. This is different from other collectibles such as CryptoPunks and may mean we see less extremely valuable cats, but all cats may hold a similar, equally good value.

Genesis MoonCat Sells for 100 ETH

There are 256 Genesis MoonCats, which are particularly rare cats that could not be rescued like the others. These Genesis cars are currently selling for 100 ETH on OpenSea, and others are listed for over 420 ETH. The average price for each non-genesis cat is 0.6673 ETH, significantly higher than the roughly $40 gas cost required to rescue the carts.

How can I get MoonCats?

Unfortunately, there are no more MoonCats available to rescue, but MoonCats can be purchased from marketplaces such as OpenSea or Rarible.

MoonCats: Almost-Free NFT Collectible Felines Are Selling for a Huge Markup was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Best Bitcoin Gambling Sites https://blokt.com/guides/best-bitcoin-gambling-sites https://blokt.com/guides/best-bitcoin-gambling-sites#respond Fri, 11 Dec 2020 12:11:37 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=50598 Discover the best Bitcoin gambling sites

When Bitcoin was first created in 2009, it didn’t take long before some clever individuals started exploring its use for online gambling. Now, over a decade later, many different cryptocurrencies can be used for gambling, and hundreds of different crypto casinos have launched to fill this huge new demand. Out of the land-rush to create […]

Best Bitcoin Gambling Sites was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Discover the best Bitcoin gambling sites

When Bitcoin was first created in 2009, it didn’t take long before some clever individuals started exploring its use for online gambling.

IN A RUSH?

Go straight to our expert’s top pick. For the best all-around Bitcoin gambling experience, Bitstarz is our top pick.

Now, over a decade later, many different cryptocurrencies can be used for gambling, and hundreds of different crypto casinos have launched to fill this huge new demand.

Discover the best Bitcoin gambling sites
Discover the best Bitcoin gambling sites in our expert’s top picks.

Out of the land-rush to create the best Bitcoin casino, a few sites emerged as leaders in the new crypto-powered gaming industry. In 2021, these sites continue to evolve, offering new ways to play and pushing innovations in crypto gambling.

Best Option for Your Country

NOTE: Many gambling sites restrict certain countries from using their services. Although some users may choose to use a VPN to access the sites, its probably a better idea to find a site that doesn’t exclude your country.

The table below lists the best sites for users from countries that are sometimes excluded.

Country Working Casino Play
United States fortunejack
United Kingdom Stake.com
Australia mbit
France fortunejack
Netherlands
Spain fortunejack
Italy bitcasino
Sweden fortunejack
Israel fortunejack

If you’re a user in a country not listed above then you can ignore this table and continue on to read our selection of the best overall sites below.

Crypto Gambling vs. Traditional Gambling

Here, we’re going to explore some of the best Bitcoin gambling sites the industry has to offer and discover the unique player experience each casino brings.

But before we get started, let’s find out why you might want to use cryptocurrency for gambling in the first place.

You might be wondering, why use cryptocurrency to gamble, when you could just use traditional currency and payment types?

It’s a great question, and it’s best answered with a list of the pros and cons of crypto gambling vs. traditional gambling.

Pros of crypto gambling

  • Transaction speeds – Deposits and withdrawals are usually much faster compared to traditional methods such as bank transfers, because of the speed of blockchain transactions. Most withdrawals can be processed in 1 hour or less.
  • Higher limits – Many crypto gambling sites will have higher deposit and withdrawal limits for crypto customers, meaning you can withdraw more of your winnings in a shorter amount of time.
  • Anonymity – Some, but not all, crypto casinos and gambling sites will allow you to deposit funds and play without verifying your identity, which is great if you’re privacy-conscious.
  • Transparency – If you play using a dedicated crypto gambling site, most of the transactions that you make will be on the blockchain, meaning that they are traceable and immutable, and reducing the likelihood of the ‘house’ cheating.
  • Amazing bonuses – Often, crypto casinos and gaming sites are able to offer bonuses and promotions which simply wouldn’t be possible using regular fiat currencies!
  • Better odds – Everyone knows that casinos have a slight advantage over their players called ‘house edge’, and it’s needed to keep casinos profitable. But with Bitcoin gambling sites, the house edge can be lower because of decreased costs – and with some crypto casinos, there’s no house edge at all.

Cons of crypto gambling

  • Less choice – At the moment, there are fewer crypto gaming sites than traditional online casinos, so players have access to fewer games, but this is changing, and may even flip in the future.
  • Some technical know-how required – To gamble with crypto, you’re going to need to buy crypto! Not everyone is tech-savvy enough to do this at first, but this guide will teach you how.
  • Volatility – As Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are volatile, with their value fluctuating throughout the day, the value of your winnings could be eroded by market forces. However, you should remember its value can also go up!

How can you use crypto to gamble?

Naturally, to start gambling with crypto, you’ll first need to buy some coins or tokens from an exchange. Bitcoin is by far the most popular choice for crypto gambling, although many online casinos will also accept ‘alt-coins’ such as Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, or even Dogecoin.

To buy Bitcoin, you’ll first need to make an account with an exchange where you can buy crypto with fiat currency, such as Coinbase. These exchanges let you buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which you can then transfer to your favorite crypto gambling site!

We explain some of the best and easiest ways to buy cryptocurrency in our ‘How to Buy Bitcoin’ guide, so check it out if you need help buying your first Bitcoin.

Some of the casinos we’re going to look at here also allow you to buy crypto using a credit or debit card, instead of buying crypto on an exchange and transferring it over.

However, many crypto gambling sites will require you to send crypto to your casino wallet to play, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with this process first!

When you’re playing on a Bitcoin gambling site, unless you’re a real big player, you usually won’t be betting whole Bitcoins! Instead, most Bitcoin betting sites will let you place bets in ‘milli-bitcoin’ or ‘mBTC’, which is 0.001 BTC. Naturally, you can also place bets lower than this on most sites.

Best Bitcoin Gambling Sites

So, you’ve decided you want to gamble with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and you’ve got your crypto ready to go. But how do you choose the best gambling site? Use the table below to take a look at our top picks, or scroll down to read a detailed review on each site.

Casino Noteworthy Features Play
1 Over 1,800 games, crypto + fiat accepted, good promos + tournaments, fast payouts, provably fair, good support.
2 fortunejack Great range of games, sportsbook feature, multiple cryptos supported, provably fair, good support
3 bitcasino Niche game types, crypto + fiat accepted, buy BTC directly.
4 cloudbet Transparent custody, trustworthy, great security, sportsbook feature, esports betting.

Hopefully, you’ll be ready to decide after reading this guide, but there are a few general things to keep in mind. Many sites have different games on offer, different supported currencies, and will accept players from different jurisdictions.

Make sure you pay attention to these key features:

  • Game choice – Not every Bitcoin gambling site will have the same games, as each casino works with a variety of game providers. As a result, some will have more types of certain games, such as slots – so choose a provider with plenty of your favorite game type.
  • Funding – Some crypto casinos will only support cryptocurrency deposits, or perhaps just Bitcoin deposits, whereas others will also support traditional payments. Before you create an account, make sure you can play with your crypto of choice.
  • Security – Is the Bitcoin casino you’re sending your crypto to safe and trusted? Some less well-known casinos might not have adequate security, and your funds could be at risk. The casino’s we’re going to discover here are all trusted and transparent.

So, without further ado, let’s explore our top crypto gambling site picks for 2021!

1. BitStarz

BitStarz is one of the most popular Bitcoin gambling sites in the world

BitStarz is perhaps the most popular crypto gambling site in the world, mainly due to its huge range of slots games – a firm favorite among many online casino players.

BitStarz’s collection of slots games is so large that it’s earned the nickname ‘King of Slots’, and in total there are over 1,800 games to choose from on the casino!

Aside from Bitcoin, players can deposit and play with Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Tether on BitStarz, although some games may not accept every currency type.

If you’re new to Bitcoin or crypto, you’ll also be pleased to find out that BitStarz accepts all major credit cards and multiple other payment processors for depositing euros. Bear in mind that if you’re from a country that doesn’t use the euro, you might be charged a foreign currency exchange fee by your bank.

Choosing to credit your account in euros will require identity verification, so if you’re not comfortable with this, try crediting your account with Bitcoin. Using cryptocurrency will also allow for much faster withdrawals, with 90% of crypto withdrawals processed in under 10 minutes on BitStarz.

BitStarz Slots

Dubbed the ‘King of Slots’, there’s an enormous variety of slots games on BitStarz

As we’ve briefly mentioned, BitStarz has become such a popular exchange largely because of its huge range of slots games.

Although every online casino has its fair share of slots titles, BitStarz has some of the very best titles from industry-leading game providers. BitStarz slots games are based on a huge amount of themes, from classic fruit reels to the popular TV-show Narcos, and Wild West fantasy games – every slots fan is sure to find a favorite.

Many BitStarz slots games also generate huge jackpots, sometimes worth millions of euros, which one lucky player can scoop up. At any one time, there are at least 20 slots games with massive jackpots available, with most worth a few thousand to tens of thousands of euros!

To find out more about this popular Bitcoin casino site, read our full Bitstarz review.

BitStarz Tournaments and Promotions

Promotions are tournaments are a regular occurrence on BitStarz

Experienced crypto casino players may associate BitStarz with regular tournaments, promotions, and prizes, which are often the biggest and best in the industry – and the most numerous!

If you head over to BitStarz, you’ll see that they currently have three tournament types that run all year round. These are Slot Wars, Table Wars, and Last Man Standing.

As the name suggests, Slot Wars pits players against each other across BitStarz’s huge range of slots games, automatically entering players into a points-based race to the top of the leader board.

The more you wager, the more points you gain. Top players take home a cash prize, with first-place scooping a €300 prize and hundreds of free spins. This is the same for Table Wars, which rewards the top table game players with a huge cash prize of €3,000!

BitStarz also gives players the chance to earn free spins every Wednesday and matches deposits by 50% every single Monday. The casino also regularly runs competitions, such as the chance to win a brand new Tesla car.

Bitstarz have recently upgraded their welcome offering for new players, which is already one of the best in the Bitcoin gambling world. BitStarz have now added the ‘welcome freeroll’, which transforms new players’ 20 free spins into a slice of €1,000 – without the need to make a deposit.

Is BitStarz Safe?

When it comes to fairness, BitStarz takes transparency and provability very seriously. Every game on the casino comes with its own provability widget, which shows players the client seed and hash value for each round of the game.

Players can check this value using a hash calculator, to make sure the game hasn’t been rigged in BitStarz’s favor.

BitStarz doesn’t share details of how their player’s funds are secured within the exchange, however, they do enable two-factor authentication (2FA) through Google Authenticator, which makes logging in and protecting your account much safer.

Overall, BitStarz has a good safety track record, with no major security incidents in its history.

How good is customer service on BitStarz?

BitStarz absolutely excels in customer service, hiring only experienced online casino professionals to handle customer issues and provide 24/7 live chat support throughout your Bitcoin gambling experience.

According to the BitStarz website, all of their customer service representatives must have at least three years’ experience at other casinos before they work for BitStarz. There are also extensive FAQs on the BitStarz website, which will answer most players’ questions.

BitStarz summary

Since its launch, BitStarz has become both the most popular Bitcoin gambling site and a major rival to traditional online casinos. With thousands of innovative games to choose from and a mega-collection of slots games. BitStarz has got enough to entertain even the most demanding of players.

However, if you’re a big sports gambler, you’ll be disappointed to learn that BitStarz doesn’t have a sportsbook feature, nor do they currently support betting on Esports.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of BitStarz is their regular and generous tournaments, jackpots, and promotions, which reward frequent players and keep the casino experience feeling fresh and exciting.

BitStarz’s award-winning customer service team is one of the best in the industry, so if you’re looking for a safe and easy-to-use casino experience, BitStarz is the perfect choice. You can read more about Bitstarz in our extensive Bitstarz Review.

Pros

Cons 

  • Over 1,800 games
  • Incredible number of slots games
  • Both crypto and fiat accepted
  • Regular tournaments and promotions
  • 90% of payouts processed in less than 10 minutes
  • Provably Fair
  • Industry-leading customer service
  • Supports a limited range of cryptos
  • No sportsbook feature
  • No Bitcoin dice games

2. FortuneJack

FortuneJack is one of the most well-established Bitcoin gambling sites in the world, first launched in 2014.

Formed by an expert team of real casino professionals, FortuneJack has become a highly-popular Bitcoin gambling spot, loved for its simplicity and the huge range of games.

If you want to play on FortuneJack, you’re going to need cryptocurrency. There’s currently no fiat currency support on FortuneJack, and likewise, you can’t buy cryptocurrency through the casino using a credit or debit card.

Crypto gambling
FortuneJack supports a number of popular cryptocurrencies

However, as you can see from the screenshot above, FortuneJack does support a wide range of cryptocurrencies which most other casinos featured here don’t. These include:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • Monero (XMR)
  • Dogecoin (DOGE)
  • Tron (TX)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Zcash (ZEC)

They also support their own loyalty token, the FJC token, which players earn as they use the casino. The casino currently accepts players from most jurisdictions, however, users from the United Kingdom, the U.S, Australia, Sweden, Spain, and Italy are restricted.

As FortuneJack is a crypto-only casino that doesn’t require identity verification, some users have reported being able to bypass these restrictions using a VPN service.

If you’re a true crypto fan, you’ll love FortuneJack. Let’s discover some of FortuneJack’s best features.

FortuneJack sportsbook

Bitcoin gambling
You can gamble on a huge number of games with FortuneJack’s sportsbook

Like traditional betting shops or bookies, online casinos with sportsbook features let players place a bet on live sporting events. Just like regular betting, these bets can be placed on anything from a game outcome, to how many points are scored in the first half.

FortuneJack has an amazing, feature-rich sportsbook, which offers Bitcoin betting on both upcoming sports matches, live in-play games, and virtual sports.

Players can bet on well-known sporting events such as football premier leagues, NBA basketball, and NFL American football; or more niche sports such as table tennis, winter sports, and badminton.

Occasionally, FortuneJack also lets players bet on cultural events, such as the outcome of the next UK general elections.

Since its launch, the FortuneJack sportsbook has become the most popular bitcoin sports betting service, likely because of its user-friendly interface and a massive range of sports. It’s even come to rival that of traditional betting sites, such as Coral and Betfair.

FortuneJack Dice

Dice games have become increasingly popular among Bitcoin gamblers, as their simplicity and high-odds make for an interesting game.

Players can bet Bitcoin, up to a maximum bet of 1 BTC, on the outcome of a virtual dice roll, betting on the roll either being above or below a certain number. Players can set their ‘win chance’, which will decide how likely a certain roll outcome is to occur.

Naturally, as FortuneJack’s dice game is entirely online, players may question if it’s truly random and fair. Luckily, FortuneJack has thought carefully about transparency, and have built a verification system which players can use to track their rolls.

Each roll generates two separate seeds, a server seed and a client seed, which together decide the value of each roll and guarantee it’s not manipulated. Players can then independently inspect the SHA256 hash of the seed to determine if it’s random – and it is, every time.

FortuneJack Casino Games & Live Casino

Crypto gambling
Choose from a huge range of live table games on FortuneJack

Aside from their sportsbook and dice features, FortuneJack also has a huge range of slots and table games for a classic casino experience.

FortuneJack’s range of slots games includes both classic titles such as fruit themed games, and also a huge range of 3D slots games which fully engage their players. Their 3D games are fairly unique, with titles based on popular films such as Gladiator and Frankenstein.

The online casino’s live games, of which there are over 45 different titles, are streamed from live tables where dealers give out hands in real-time. These include games like baccarat, poker, blackjack, and roulette, but also specialty game types like Deal or No Deal and Dice Duel.

Is FortuneJack Safe?

FortuneJack only uses cryptocurrency deposits, so there’s no risk of your personal payment information being lifted by criminals in the event of a security breach.

When it comes to web security, FortuneJack uses SSL encryption for player credentials, and the casino hasn’t been hacked or successfully attacked since its launch.

As all of FortuneJack’s games are provably fair, there’s also no risk of being treated unfairly when it comes to odds or placing bets. As a result, FortuneJack is a very safe and secure Bitcoin gambling site to play on!

How Good is Customer Service on FortuneJack?

FortuneJack has a dedicated live-chat service

FortuneJack operates a 24/7 live chat feature for players experiencing technical problems, or even those who just want to know more about a certain game.

As you can see from the screenshot above, FortuneJack’s live chat support responds in seconds with a real representative. The casino also has extensive FAQ guides if you need more general help with deposits and withdrawals or games.

FortuneJack have recently launched Jack’s Club, an exclusive club for VIP customers, who can get access to personal VIP managers, better comp points, and better rollover requirements.

Jack’s Club members also get showered with regular gifts – some of which are real tangible rewards – and exclusive games just for members! To join Jack’s Club, players simply have to have been a long time member of FortuneJack, or wager a high amount of cryptocurrency.

The most exciting part of Jack’s Club is that you’ll never know when you’ll become a member – FortuneJack will simply contact you when you qualify!

FortuneJack Summary

Overall, FortuneJack is one of the most trusted and provably fair crypto gambling sites in the world. We particularly enjoy their stylish and modern interface, which adds a touch of class to your Bitcoin gambling experience.

FortuneJack’s winning feature is definitely their sportsbook, which has one of the most impressive collections of sporting events of any crypto gambling site. It’s also one of the easiest to use, and their live in-play feature lets you place bets even if you missed the start of a match.

Crypto deposits and withdrawals are easy and quick, and there are no waiting days for payouts on those big wins! In summary, FortuneJack is a great online Bitcoin casino to play, and constantly adds new and interesting games and sports to their casino.

Pros

Cons 

  • Huge range of games
  • Excellent sportsbook feature
  • Supports multiple cryptos
  • Multiple live table games
  • Provably Fair
  • Great customer service
  • Bitcoin dice games
  • Only supports crypto payments
  • May exclude players who aren’t familiar with crypto wallets

3. Bitcasino

Bitcasino has a huge range of slots games on offer

Established in 2014, Bitcasino is a Curaçao licensed online casino, where you can play using multiple cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tron, Litecoin, and Tether.

In April 2020, Bitcasino announced support for Ripple (XRP), with minimum deposits starting from just 50 XRP, and minimum withdrawals from just 100 XRP.

Users can also deposit and play with Japanese Yen (JPY) using a credit or debit card, so there’s no need to just use crypto if you want to play on Bitcasino. It’s unclear whether Bitcasino also accepts other fiat deposits, but you can buy Bitcoin using a credit card directly through the casino.

Players from Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the U.S., Netherlands, Spain, Australia, and Italy are currently restricted from using Bitcasino, though all other jurisdictions are welcome.

In late 2019, Bitcasino took part in an environmental initiative to plant 101,000 trees, costing $1 per tree. This was in association with #TeamTrees, and players could pledge their unused loyalty club points to the scheme – so if you’re looking for a Bitcoin casino that’s also committed to doing good, Bitcasino is a great choice.

Bitcasino makes an effort to keep its users informed about recent developments in the cryptocurrency space. It’s refreshing to see a casino with an interest in the cryptocurrency side of the business, having published recent articles such as:

  • Serenity is here: Everything you need to know about ETH 2.0
  • Crypto in Asia: Top developments for 2021
  • Best Bitcoin banks: top Bitcoin-friendly banks you should know

Bitcasino has some really fun and unique games, such as Monopoly Live, multiple lottery games, and a large range of bingo games.

There are also great rewards for regular players through the Bitcasino Loyalty Club, so it’s a casino that’s worth checking out. Let’s take a closer look at some of Bitcasino’s features!

The Bitcasino loyalty and VIP club

Have you got what it takes to become VIP?

One of the features we love about Bitcasio is its loyalty club, where players can grow their rewards as they play in return for awesome prizes and rewards.

With seven levels to progress through, starting at ‘Beginner’ all the way to ‘Hero’, players simply have to place bets in order to gain points. Although it takes some time to reach the top levels, players will be rewarded throughout their journey with free spins, free chips, and even cashback rewards.

Bitcasino’s cashback rewards range from 5 – 10% based on what level you are, and how often you play, but for regular gamblers the Bitcasino Loyalty Club can be a great way to get some extra cash to bet!

There’s also a VIP members area, which is an invitation-only club for dedicated Bitcasino players. Once you’ve been invited to the VIP club, you’ll get access to your own personal assistant, unique offers and promotions, and even get invited to special VIP events.

Bitcasino video bingo

Bingo games aren’t offered by many online casino operators

A pretty unique feature of Bitcasino is its ‘Video Bingo’ games. These titles, similar to the original physical game of bingo where players match their numbers to those called by the dealer, are a popular choice among Bitcasino players.

It’s one of only a handful of Bitcoin gambling sites to offer bingo games, and Bitcasino has multiple titles to choose from. Bitcasino’s bingo games range from monkey mayhem themes to crazy circus, and even genie themes!

For those who are used to playing more traditional casino games like roulette and blackjack, bingo can be a fun and light-hearted new gambling experience. Bitcasino is also a great place for regular bingo players who want to try their hand at Bitcoin gambling too, as their games are similar to those found at Mecca or Gala bingo.

Bitcasino lottery

Bitcasino is one of the few crypto gambling sites to offer lottery games

Another niche game type found on Bitcasino that many other online casinos don’t usually offer is a range of lottery games, which just like a traditional lottery lets players choose numbers that are pulled out of a random number generator.

Bitcasino have multiple lottery types, all of which are instant win – meaning the balls are drawn in front of you, and you can win during a single session, no need to wait for a future draw!

Users can either randomly choose how many numbers they want to be selected like a lotto lucky dip, or pick their own winning numbers. It’s a great game type for gamblers who like the thrill of live lottery calls, from the comfort of their own home.

Bitcasino Bitcoin poker

Buy-in to a live poker game using Bitcoin on Bitcasino

Another popular feature of Bitcasino is its multiplayer Bitcoin poker games, where users can buy-in to live tables and play against other players in real-time across the world.

These games require a buy-in in Bitcoin, which makes the game exactly like sitting and playing at a real poker table. Once you’re in, you can buy chips using Bitcoin, and play as many hands as you like. Other players can join and leave the game as it’s in play.

Is Bitcasino safe?

Bitcasino doesn’t specifically list the precautions they take to protect user’s Bitcoin and crypto deposits, however, they do assure players that their funds are safe.

Nevertheless, without details of Bitcasino’s custody methods, it’s difficult to say for certain how secure deposits are on the casino. That said, there’s never been any loss of funds or hacks of the casino since it’s launch, and it used SSL encryption to protect personal data on the site.

Bitcasino offers its players the option to enable 2FA to log in to their account, through Google Authenticator.

How good is customer service on Bitcasino?

Bitcasino has a dedicated live chat support feature, which like other Bitcoin casinos, makes it easy and quick to get help when you need it.

There are some detailed articles in the Bitcasino help center, but these are a little limited in scope and mainly deal with problems players might have with deposits and payment options.

It’s also not as easy as some other casinos to navigate through help topics, but there’s generally a good level of support, and players can always email the Bitcasino team for further help.

Bitcasino summary

For those who don’t want to navigate exchanges, crypto wallets, and Bitcoin addresses, Bitcasino is a perfect choice – players can simply purchase Bitcoin using their credit card once they’ve made an account. But remember, you will need to validate your identity if you choose this method.

The number of games on Bitcasino is limited compared to some of the other casinos we’ve reviewed here, but it makes up for that with niche lottery and bingo games. Bitcasino’s live poker matches, which function just like a real table game of poker, are a great way for classic casino lovers to buy-in with Bitcoin.

Compared to other crypto casinos like FortuneJack and BitStarz, Bitcasino’s user interface does feel slightly dated, and it’s somewhat more difficult to navigate between the sections and find your favorite games than other casinos.

However, overall Bitcasino is a good crypto casino for those who want access to a decent amount of games and perhaps aren’t as interested in a huge range of slots games.

Pros

Cons 

  • Niche game types like bingo and lottery
  • Both crypto and fiat accepted
  • Players can buy Bitcoin directly through the casino
  • Fewer games than FortuneJack or BitStarz
  • No sportsbook feature
  • No Bitcoin dice games
  • Less engaging user interface

4. Cloudbet

Cloudbet are the oldest but one of the most innovative Bitcoin gambling sites

Cloudbet might be one of the longest-running Bitcoin gambling sites, but there’s plenty of innovative features to keep players coming back for more.

Launched in 2013, Cloudbet is regulated and licensed in Montenegro and Curaçao, and serves customers in most countries, except for the U.S., the UK, and a handful of European countries.

Currently, Cloudbet only supports deposits in Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash.

Cloudbet prides itself on offering better odds than traditional fiat casinos, which has been one of its unique selling points since launch. On their website, Cloudbet claims that the disintermediation of third-party payment processors through Bitcoin has allowed them to provide fairer and more transparent gaming.

Recently, Cloudbet has pivoted its attention towards the enormous Esports industry, which has attracted many new users for the casino. Let’s find out how Cloudbet has evolved since it’s launch and its focus for 2020.

Cloudbet table and slots games

Cloudbet has over 1,000 slots games and 100+ table games

With thousands of table games, virtual games, and slots titles to choose from, players are sure to find a classic and immersive casino experience at Cloudbet.

Cloudbet has over 1,000 slots games, over 100 classic casino games including roulette, baccarat, blackjack, dice, and craps.

Their range of slots games, despite not being as numerous as BitStarz, are from many of the same games providers, so there’s a lot of familiar titles available to play on Cloudbet.

Cloudbet Esports

Bet big on Esports tournaments with Cloudbet

Electronic sports, or ‘Esports’, are gaming tournaments played online using multiplayer video games. These can be anything from team games, to shooters, or even electronic versions of real sports like soccer.

Cloudbet is one of the few crypto gambling sites to offer Esports betting, on some of the biggest competitive video gaming titles in the world. Although competitive Esports is still fairly new, they’ve attracted a huge and dedicated fan base, and many spectators are eager to place bets on the outcomes of games.

Cloudbet currently offer sports betting on the following Esports tournaments:

  • Call of Duty
  • Counter-Strike
  • Dota 2
  • FIFA
  • King of Glory
  • League of Legends
  • Starcraft

It’s estimated that 1.57 billion tuned in to at least one Esports match in 2019, and this number is likely to grow in the future. Gambling sites like Cloudbet, who have offered Esports betting for a long time, are a great choice if you’re looking to place a crypto bet on an upcoming game or tournament.

Cloudbet sportsbook

Bet on a huge variety of real-life games with Cloudbet’s sportsbook

Cloudbet also has a decent range of sportsbook betting, which has been running since its launch in 2013. Similar to FortuneJack, Cloudbet offers betting on all the major spectator sports like soccer, NBA, and NFL, but also covers some niche sports too.

Players can place bets on table tennis matches, volleyball, badminton, and even ice hockey matches. Also, classic sporting events like darts and boxing are available to bet on through Cloudbet, all in Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.

Is Cloudbet Safe?

Cloudbet keeps user deposits in cold storage, which provides the highest level of fund security available, and makes Cloudbet one of the safest exchanges on our list. Cloudbet only uses hot wallets – those connected to the internet – when it needs to process withdrawals.

This means that when not in play, your funds are kept in an offline wallet, which is highly resistant to hacks and theft – even if the Cloudbet site itself is compromised. You can read more about hot and cold Bitcoin wallets here.

At any one time, should the casino be attacked by hackers, there would only be a small amount of Bitcoin available to steal, which makes Cloudbet an unattractive target and a safe casino.

Cloudbet Customer Service

Cloudbet uses ZenDesk, a third-party help desk software provider, to provide extensive FAQs for players in need.

However, this is incredibly hard to find in the standard casino interface and does require some searching around the site to get help. There’s a live chat feature within the help desk, but this isn’t shown on the site except in live table games where you might need immediate assistance.

This does make it a little harder to get instant help on Cloudbet if you run into any issues, in contrast to BitStarz or FortuneJack where an assistant is just the touch of a button away.

Cloudbet Summary

With a huge Esports section, Cloudbet is a stand-out competitor, offering access to an entirely new niche of Bitcoin gambling. As a result, the casino has attracted many new users who wouldn’t normally place bets using cryptocurrency.

It’s a smart move by Cloudbet to attract new users, and if you’re an Esports fan, we highly recommend you try out Cloudbet’s easy to use betting experience for your next Esports wager!

Cloudbet’s sportsbook, while easy to navigate and providing in-play betting, generally offers more limited betting options than FortuneJack. Nevertheless, it still covers a great range of sports, including MMA matches, which many other crypto sportsbooks don’t currently provide.

While Cloudbet’s range of casino-style games is somewhat lacking compared to the mega slots of BitStarz or the huge variety of live table games on FortuneJack, there’s still plenty of variety to choose from, with hundreds of popular titles from leading game providers.

Cloudbet really excels in fund safety and security, providing dedicated cold storage to customer’s Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash deposits, and only using hot wallets to process customer withdrawals.

Many other Bitcoin casino sites don’t provide details about their fund security, so if you’re safety-conscious it’s good to know that your Bitcoin is secured with Cloudbet.

Pros

Cons 

  • Fantastic Esports betting options
  • Decent variety of sporting events for sportsbooks bets
  • Best-in-class cryptocurrency and bitcoin fund security
  • Highly transparent custody and provability
  • Well-established and trusted
  • Limited crypto payment options
  • Less engaging user interface
  • No fiat payment options

Our Verdict

The crypto gambling site you choose will mainly depend on what type of player you are. That said, some of the online casinos we’ve reviewed offer more features than others, or excel in a certain area. Let’s have a look at the best casino’s in each category, then choose an overall winner!

Best crypto gambling sites for slots

For big-time slots lovers, then it’s hard to beat BitStarz huge range of slots titles, who have truly earned their place as the ‘King of Slots’.

Their massive amount of slots games has even drawn players from traditional casinos, earning the Bitcoin gambling site a 10/10 rating on AskGamblers for its huge variety. BitStarz also works with some of the leading game providers in the industry, so there are constantly new titles and types of slots games available to play.

Best site for niche games

If you’re a fan of bingo or lottery games, then Bitcasino is an excellent choice.

Although they don’t have the range of slots that competitors BitStarz and FortuneJack have, their unique game types make this crypto gambling site well worth considering if you’re looking for a change of scene from the usual range of games.

Best sportsbook features

FortuneJack’s sportsbook is easily the best sports betting option for crypto players on the market. Not only does it feature an enormous range of real-life sports to choose from, including all major soccer premierships and games, but it’s also got niche sporting events and even elections to bet on.

FortuneJack is also the best choice if you’re looking for a crypto gambling site that is dedicated to only using cryptocurrencies. With support for 9 different cryptocurrencies, and no need to verify your identity to play, FortuneJack is the go-to exchange for crypto enthusiasts who want to protect their identity.

Cloudbet is a close second when it comes to sportsbook betting, with a similar range of sports on offer, but not quite as many current games and tournaments available to gamble on at the time of writing.

Best casino for Esports

For Esports fans, Cloudbet is the best bitcoin gambling site we’ve reviewed hands-down, as it provides unparalleled gambling access to some of the most popular Esports tournaments in the world.

It’s also an easy way to access Esports betting for crypto investors who aren’t familiar with the industry, as many tournaments aren’t highly televised on mainstream media, so it can be hard to keep up to date with events.

Most secure Bitcoin gambling site

Cloudbet is also a clear winner when it comes to fund security, as they’re the only casino that is highly transparent about their custody solutions and wallet storage. By using cold wallets for the majority of players’ Bitcoin funds, Cloudbet can say with certainty that they’re taking all the necessary steps to protect their customers.

Similarly, in almost 8 years of operation, Cloudbet has never had a significant security breach, which should give peace of mind to players. If you’re particularly security conscious, or you want to use a casino which takes the principles of crypto seriously, Cloudbet is definitely the best option.

Best overall winner

As the Highlander franchise taught us, there can only be one!  The overall winner and best Bitcoin gambling site for 2020 is BitStarz! 

BitStarz’s huge range of games is impossible to beat, and even the most dedicated players would struggle to get bored with the different games on offer. This, paired with regular tournaments, giveaways, and amazing prizes, combine to make BitStarz one of the most exciting crypto gambling destinations.

Likewise, we just love the speed, friendliness, and professionalism of the BitStarz customer service team. There’s no better service on any gambling site online, which makes BitStarz easy to use even for beginners.

The icing on the cake is BitStarz lighting-fast withdrawal speeds, with 90% of customers receiving their winnings in 10 minutes or less, which is one of the fastest in the entire industry!

Ready to give BitStarz a try? Sign up today for free and start playing from as little as 0.01 BTC!

Key takeaway

Bitcoin gambling is a highly personal experience, and every player has their own favourite game or betting product.

All of the casinos we’ve reviewed here have their own strengths. No matter what crypto casino you choose, remember to have fun and stay safe!

References

Disclosure: Blokt strives to provide transparent, honest reviews, and opinions. The writer of this article is a user of the product(s) or service(s) mentioned in this article and was not influenced by the respective owners.

We rarely run ads, but sometimes earn a small commission when you purchase a product or service via a link on our site. Thank you kindly for your support.

Read more or donate here.

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An Epic Beginners Guide to Uniswap [2020] https://blokt.com/guides/uniswap https://blokt.com/guides/uniswap#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2020 14:58:24 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51956 Beginners Guide to Uniswap

With so many new decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols emerging almost daily on the Ethereum blockchain, those in the crypto space hear almost every day about newly minted millionaires, huge returns on tiny investments, and also the occasional rug pull. The DeFi hype is centered around protocols that offer lending solutions, or other traditional centralized financial […]

An Epic Beginners Guide to Uniswap [2020] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Beginners Guide to Uniswap

With so many new decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols emerging almost daily on the Ethereum blockchain, those in the crypto space hear almost every day about newly minted millionaires, huge returns on tiny investments, and also the occasional rug pull.

Beginners Guide to Uniswap
Beginners Guide to Uniswap

The DeFi hype is centered around protocols that offer lending solutions, or other traditional centralized financial products on the blockchain in a decentralized manner, with a particular focus on yield-farming protocols. These apps allow users to ‘lend out’ their cryptocurrency assets in return for fixed high yields, and the associated tokens of these platforms have driven a bull market throughout 2020.

As a result, one of the most frequently asked questions from new entrants into the DeFi space is where can you buy the latest DeFi tokens? Well, the easy answer to that question, and indeed the most trusted solution, is Uniswap. But what is Uniswap, and how does it work?

What is Uniswap?

Uniswap main
Uniswap provides decentralized swaps, liquidity pools, and yield farming.

Uniswap is a decentralized, peer to peer exchange developed specifically for the Ethereum network, also described as a decentralized protocol for automated liquidity provision on Ethereum. Launched in November 2018 by Ethereum developer Hayden Adams, Uniswap uses an automated market-making system powered by smart contracts to match orders on any ERC-20 token across the entire Ethereum blockchain.

Essentially, Uniswap is a smart contract for the exchange of ERC-20 tokens. It draws liquidity from liquidity pools, which we will explore later.

At the date of writing, Uniswap has over 8,484 unique assets that can be traded on the protocol. Here, we are going to explore how you can get started on the Uniswap protocol, but first let’s examine some of the core concepts behind the decentralized exchange.

What are Liquidity Pools?

Liquidity pools, which power the Uniswap platform, are essential to decentralized finance. Each liquidity pool is a pool of tokens locked inside a smart contract. These tokens, which are otherwise inaccessible to regular traders, are used to facilitate trading through the provision of liquidity.

Traditionally, most decentralized exchanges rely on these liquidity pools in order to match open orders on their books – as there always has to be a both a buy side and a sell side when a user places an order.

In traditional exchanges, such as stock exchanges and large, well-funded cryptocurrency exchanges like Binance, it is easy to match orders between users, and market makers are also used to ensure that there is adequate liquidity on the exchange at any given time.

However, with decentralized exchanges, who have fewer users, there is no guarantee that there will be someone willing to buy or sell the asset you wish to trade. Likewise, as decentralized exchanges work through the blockchain, using a traditional order book model would be incredibly slow and inefficient – because blockchains still only process a few transactions per second.

Instead, liquidity pools can be used to provide instant and price-steady trading between two assets within a decentralized exchange. Users can supply their ‘liquidity’ to a pool by supplying tokens, which generates a yield for the user via fees while their tokens are locked in the liquidity contract.

This has created both lucrative opportunities for yield-farming, enabled better liquidity on decentralized exchanges, and provided passive returns to long-term token holders. Uniswap leverages these pools to allow users to quickly swap between ERC-20 tokens, and as such it has become one of the most popular places to trade new tokens.

How Popular is Uniswap?

Although Uniswap got off to a somewhat slow start as users made their way tentatively into the DeFi space, it’s seen a huge upsurge in activity during 2020, powered in part by the rising interest in Ethereum-based DeFi protocols such as AAVE and DMM DAO.

In 2020, total liquidity on Uniswap reached $300 million, and 24-hour trading volume regularly exceeds over $200 million collectively on various pairings on the platform—even occasionally surpassing Tether in generated gas fees.

On August 30, 2020, Uniswap overtook Coinbase in daily volume, processing some $426 million in a 24 hour period, compared to just $349 million on Coinbase in the same period.

Also contributing to Uniswap’s popularity has been the launch of their native token, UNI. Let’s explore UNI below.

The UNI Token

UNI Claim
If you haven’t already, claim your UNI tokens now!

Introduced on the 16th September 2020, the Uniswap token, or UNI, is a governance token that allows users to take part in the future of the Uniswap protocol. Over 60% of the total UNI supply was distributed to community members, making it a fairly decentralized token, with only 21.5% given to team members and roughly 17.8% given to investors.

Around 150,000,000 UNI tokens were claimed by previous liquidity providers on the protocol, and 430,000,000 tokens were retained as governance treasury tokens. Around 5,000,000 community UNI tokens will also be available for yield farmers to claim through various stablecoin yield farming pools.

Uniswap will use the UNI governance tokens to promote community initiatives, provide liquidity mining, and fund other programs for the good of the protocol. If you have used Uniswap, you should be eligible to claim up to 400 UNI tokens just for connecting your wallet.

How to Find Uniswap Gems

Often, you may find cryptocurrency community members talking about ‘Uniswap gems’. As Uniswap offers easy peer to peer trading between any ERC-20 token with low gas fees, it’s often the first place users can access brand new Ethereum-based tokens, such as the latest DeFi protocol or utility token for example.

As a result, many crypto traders keep a close eye on new additions to Uniswap to make the most of brand new trading opportunities. These are often called ‘Uniswap gems’, and although most accept that these type of tokens are somewhat of a gamble, they usually share similar characteristics, such as low market capitalization, a small daily traded volume, and a relatively small number of existing token holders – all characteristics which give tokens a high upside potential, if they are sound projects.

There is little doubt that the number of Uniswap gems and the returns they have netted for users, has significantly contributed to the protocol’s success, especially during the more bullish 2020 market.

How to use Uniswap

There are a couple of things you will need before you get started on Uniswap. Firstly, you will need to have a browser extension or plugin installed which lets you interface with web 3.0 applications. The most common of these, and the one best supported by Uniswap, is Metamask.

Wallet Uniswap
Choose your preferred wallet to connect to Uniswap.

There are also options to use WalletConnect, Coinbase Wallet, Fortmatic, and Portis wallets for ease of access. Coinbase wallet is a great option for users who are relatively new to cryptocurrency and have assets stored in the Coinbase mobile app. You can learn how to use Coinbase here.

This should make it much easier to transfer your assets across from Coinbase and swap them for ERC-20 tokens easily. Be careful though, as you can only use ETH and Ethereum-based tokens on Uniswap – don’t try and use Bitcoin, for example.

The swapping experience is simple on Uniswap. First, connect your chosen wallet extension. Once connected, in the top box, simply select the asset you want to swap and enter the amount, or click ‘max’ if you want to swap all of your asset. In the example below, we will swap ETH for UBT.

Uniswap
A basic Uniswap transaction.

Select the asset you want to swap for from the list in the bottom box. Occasionally, you may have to manually search for the asset you want to swap to. The easiest way to do this is to paste the contract address of your desired token. This is also the safest way since tokens can have the same name as others and you can’t guarantee you are buying the real one without the contract address.

Once you are happy with the exchange rate and slippage tolerance, go ahead and click ‘Swap’. You will be shown another lightbox with more details of the swap. If you are happy to go ahead, click ‘Confirm Swap’. You will now be prompted to confirm the swap via your wallet plugin and select your gas price. We will explore more on this below.

If you’re already familiar with Metamask or using other Ethereum plugins for interacting with decentralized applications, or DApps, then using Uniswap should be a pretty easy and familiar experience, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Let’s explore the most common things new Uniswap users stumble on when using the decentralized liquidity protocol.

Uniswap Slippage

UNI slippage
Be careful of slippage on Uniswap.

Slippage occurs when the price you have opened a trade at, or wish to swap assets for, isn’t available anymore at the time of the execution of your order. This can happen for a number of reasons, especially in periods of high market volatility when many other users are trying to buy into a token – prices move quickly.

To make sure you don’t lose your transaction to slippage, which is particularly annoying on Uniswap because sometimes you will still be charged gas fees for initiating the transaction, navigate to the cogwheel in the upper right-hand corner of the exchange interface.

Clicking the cogwheel will show a lightbox with multiple settings, but at the top, you will see ‘slippage tolerance’. The general concept of slippage is simple. If you set a slippage tolerance of 0.1%, the most you will pay for your assets is 0.1% above the spot price – the current market price of the asset.

If you set 0.5% you are willing to go that much higher than the spot price to secure your assets, and so forth. You can choose from 0.1% to 1% slippage from the pre-set options, or set your own slippage tolerance using the manual section.

Sometimes, in rare circumstances and at times of high market volatility, you may even have to go up to 5% slippage to successfully process a transaction. This is only recommended if you really feel you need to get an entry into a token, and you want to make sure you get a good position. Setting slippage tolerances above 5% isn’t recommended, as you are essentially just paying a premium for the asset.

Gas fees

Like everything powered by Ethereum, you will have to pay gas fees in ETH to process transactions on the Uniswap protocol. Even though you are able to swap one ERC-20 asset for any other supported ERC-20 asset directly, this transaction would still cost you gas payable in ETH, so you need to ensure you have some ETH handy in your linked wallet to successfully process this transaction.

Gas fees on the Ethereum network can get incredibly high at busy periods, or in times of high network congestion, and indeed the recent Uniswap and DeFi craze have added to the rising gas costs on the Ethereum blockchain.

Setting gas fees too low on Uniswap can cause your transaction to stall, or fail completely. Be warned, even if your transaction fails due to low gas, you may still lose some ETH funds for initiating the transaction.

Instead, it’s best to either use the network recommended gas prices at the time (medium speed), or opt to pay more gas for a faster transaction to ensure your swap completes successfully. If you aren’t in any rush to swap your assets, consider checking back in on Uniswap when gas prices are down, to bring down your costs.

Transaction deadlines

As we described above, settling too low of a gas fee, or insufficient slippage tolerances, can cause your transaction to stall, or in the worst case, fail completely. You do have to use caution setting a transaction on Uniswap and simply leaving your computer.

In periods of high market volatility or high gas prices, you may pay the initial transaction fee but your swap won’t process – and you will lose some funds. In periods of high gas, this can be quite a significant sum of money.

As a result, you may want to set transaction deadlines. Navigate to the same cogwheel menu as you did for setting slippage, and you will see the option to change the transaction deadlines. The default is 20 minutes, although this might still be too high for some. Essentially, if your swap hasn’t been filled in 20 minutes or the given amount of time, it will be automatically canceled.

We recommend everyone ensures they have a transaction deadline set up. The exact length is up to your risk profile and slippage tolerance, but it is a great tool to ensure your transaction doesn’t get lost in the ether!

Expert Mode

Here’s a little disclaimer before we teach you about Expert mode – if you’re not an expert, don’t use it! Expert mode allows ultra-high slippage trades, which can often result in poor rates of exchange between assets, and even make you lose part of your original asset or funds.

So, why might you use Expert mode in the first place? If you are an experienced trader, there may be opportunities that arise which you just don’t want to miss. For example, some DeFi coins have made astronomical daily gains during the past couple of months, and it can be difficult to get a position in a coin using normal slippage tolerances in a fast-moving market.

Instead, by setting high slippage and turning off confirmation transaction prompts, you can settle swaps far quicker than the average user. However, it’s highly likely that you will get less of the asset you are swapping for in terms of current market value. Therefore, Expert mode really is only for experienced traders who are sure they can turn a profit from a trade, despite the unrealized losses they may make on the initial swap.

Conclusion

If you are familiar with using decentralized applications through a browser extension, such as Metamask or Portis, then you should have little trouble navigating Uniswap. However, do make sure you are careful to avoid some of the common mistakes new users make on Uniswap to avoid losing your funds or missing out on a great trading opportunity.

Just getting started and want to buy ETH to swap for the latest DeFi coins on Uniswap? Find out how you can buy Ethereum here.

An Epic Beginners Guide to Uniswap [2020] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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What is Ethereum? The ULTIMATE Research-Backed ETH Guide https://blokt.com/guides/what-is-ethereum-eth https://blokt.com/guides/what-is-ethereum-eth#respond Sat, 19 Sep 2020 14:48:57 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=1457 So what exactly is Ethereum?

Ethereum is the leading blockchain app platform that was proposed in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin and went live on July 30, 2015. There are many different strands to this project and getting your head around it all can be quite the challenge. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide for those of you […]

What is Ethereum? The ULTIMATE Research-Backed ETH Guide was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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So what exactly is Ethereum?

Ethereum is the leading blockchain app platform that was proposed in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin and went live on July 30, 2015.

So what exactly is Ethereum?
So what exactly is Ethereum?

There are many different strands to this project and getting your head around it all can be quite the challenge. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide for those of you wondering “What is Ethereum?” and “How does Ethereum Work?”

As the harbinger of the second generation of blockchains and home to the second largest digital currency in the world, Ether (ETH), the Ethereum project has started a new era of blockchain development that enables a global community of developers to unleash their creativity in the space.

The ability to craft smart contracts gave developers a chance to think about new use cases for blockchain technology that previously remained largely connected to cryptocurrencies.

Ethereum, the blockchain app platform – Source: Ethereum.org

Ethereum also gave enterprises, organizations, and startups the ability to issue their own tokens, and build their own unique blockchain ecosystem using the Ethereum framework.

Till date, Ethereum-based ERC20 tokens have been the most popular means for launching Initial Coin Offerings.

Of course, Ethereum is still in development and has faced some hurdles. It has faced problems related to scalability, which was highlighted when the popular game dedicated to internet-bred cats called CryptoKitties managed to clog its network in December 2017.

However, with a unique concept, upcoming developments, a strong developer community and the first-mover advantage (second only to the mighty Bitcoin), Ethereum is one blockchain project that continues to remain at the forefront of DLT and crypto development.

So… What is Ethereum?

In a nutshell, Ethereum is an open source Smart contract and Decentralized Application Platform.

The Ethereum whitepaper describes the project as the next generation distributed computing platform, that provides a decentralized virtual machine known as the Ethereum Virtual machine EVM.

The latter is able to execute Peer-to-Peer contracts by means of Ether (ETH), its proprietary crypto fuel.

Blockchain technology is used as a tool of shared consensus, while Ether is the digital asset that is used to pay for transaction fees and computational services.

What’s the Difference Between Bitcoin and Ethereum?

Ethereum vs Bitcoin graphic – Source: Shutterstock.com

Since the advent of the Ethereum project in late 2014 and its explosion of popularity within the confines of the nascent crypto space and beyond, Ethereum has always been compared to Bitcoin.

All being similar to the use of Blockchain as the underpinning technology, both projects are fundamentally different. The main difference between them is the purpose of each one.

In fact, Bitcoin was built as an alternative to regular money. Bitcoin can be used as a medium of value exchange, a means of payment and a store of value with no central authority to issue or control it and no intrinsic value or physical existence.

On the other hand, Ethereum is rather a platform for developers to build and run Peer-to-Peer executable contracts and decentralized applications.

Block time generation (seconds in the case of Ethereum and minutes in the case of Bitcoin), the rate at which new coins are mined (constant in Ethereum and halves every 4 year in the case of Bitcoin), the proof of work hashing algorithm (Ethhash in Ethereum, and Sha 256 in Bitcoin), and the total supply (capped to 21 millions in the case of Bitcoin and uncapped in that of Ethereum) are the other differences that set both projects apart.

Ethereum Bitcoin
Release Date July 30, 2015 January 9, 2008
Release Method Presale Genesis Block Mined
Founder Vitalik Buterin Satoshi Nakamoto
Blockchain Proof of Work (Will transition to Proof of Stake) Proof of Work
Purpose Blockchain app platform, smart contracts & digital currencies Digital Money & store of value
Native Cryptocurrency Ether (ETH) Bitcoin (BTC)
Algorithm Ethash SHA-256
Block Time 12 – 14 seconds 10 minutes

The Ethereum Virtual Machine

The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), is a 256-bit quasi-turning-complete virtual state machine that forms the runtime environment for smart contracts and specifies the execution model for such contracts.

Note: “quasi” in here comes from the fact that computation is intrinsically bounded by a parameter, which is gas. The latter limits the amount of computation done

The machine is stack based, altogether separate from the main Ethereum Network, and has its own independent storage model.

In fact, all the nodes on the Ethereum Network run the EVM in addition to validating transactions.

The EVM could be seen as a testing ground for Smart contracts because once these contracts are deployed to the mainnet, such a step can’t be reversed.

Any developer that wants to build on Ethereum, could deploy his/her untested code on this network of computers and see how it muddles along.

The most powerful aspect of the EVM is that it can be implemented into various different programming languages. So far, EVM iterations have been deployed in C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, Haskell, Rust, Erlang, WebAssembly and more – promoting adoption and ensuring all developers can have fair access.

This is particularly important for interoperability with other blockchains, as it means that any other blockchain could essentially run and iteration of the EVM which could power smart contracts and DApps on their chain, without building a specific virtual machine for their own chain.

Blockchains which currently use or offer versions of the EVM include Telos, Hyperledger Fabric, EOSIO, and others – and blockchains like Tron use virtual machines which are based on or compatible with EVM.

Ether (ETH) and Gas

Ether (ETH) and gas illustration – Source: Shutterstock.com

In Ethereum each operation or work performed by the network has a cost assessed by the network which is known as a gas limit.

In order to execute a smart contract, for example, developers need to pay for all the operations featured in their code.

Sending Ether from one wallet to another one involves four gas units.

These gas units are checking your balance, transferring ETH to a receiving address, subtracting ETH from your balance and adding ETH to the receivers.

So gas units refer to the smallest measurement of work needed to settle a given operation but don’t have a monetary value.

The cost is paid in Ether. Gas is that unit that translates into Ether.

Since Ethereum can only compute a limited number of gas units at any given time, miners are sort of bribed by network users to pace up the stream of request that is being sent over to the network.

To pay miners, small fractions of ETH named Gwei are attached to each gas unit, which sets the gas price.

What everyone should remember is that the gas price is how much you pay per gas unit, and the gas limit is how much work you are requesting from the network.

Smart Contracts – What Are They and How Do They Work?

What is Ethereum smart contracts?

Smart contracts refer to computer codes that facilitate the exchange of value whether it is money, property or content.

They are called contracts because they translate the terms of an agreement, and smart because they automatically execute themselves once specific triggers are met.

The notion of smart contracts was around way before the advent of Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Quick Fact: Nick Szabo a computer scientist, cryptographer, and law scholar, started pioneering work on the concept in 1977, with the aim to establish a distributed ledger for storing contracts.

Simply put smart contracts are just like regular contracts in the real world, where two parties or more agree to specific terms of an arrangement and commit to sticking to it once signed.

The main difference is that Smart contracts are fully digital.

Furthermore, when running on a Blockchain like the Ethereum Network, a smart contract acts as a self-operating computer code that automatically executes itself once specific conditions are met.

Blockchain-based smart contracts are immutable and would run exactly as programmed once deployed without any possibility of censorship, downtime, reversing, or third-party interference.

Other Blockchains Which Utilize Smart Contracts

Smart contract enabling Blockchains are regarded by many as the “real deal,” this whole Blockchain revolution came up with since its rise to prominence.

Put by Nick Szabo, the blockchain pioneer, himself:

“New institutions and new ways to formalize the relationships that make up these institutions are now made possible by the digital revolution. I call these new contracts “smart” because they are far more functional than their inanimate paper-based ancestors. No use of artificial intelligence is implied. A smart contract is a set of promises, specified in digital form, including protocols within which the parties perform on these promises.”

We crafted a list of ten blockchains, other than Ethereum, that support Smart Contract programming and deployment.

  • Cardano: a project that caught a lot of media attention, and that is allegedly developing a smart contract platform that seeks to deliver more advanced features than its competitors do.
  • EOS: a Smart Contract platform for industrial scale dApps deployments through a DAO model, commonly referred to as the alternative to Ethereum.
  • NEM: written in Java, the NEM platform is arguably one of the simplest to use since no specific platform programing language is required to code and deploy smart contracts on it.
  • Waves: the underdog of this list, it is an open source smart contract platform that focuses on scalability and speed of settlements.
  • Other interesting blockchain projects that could play an important role in the future of smart contracts, are Hyperledger Fabric, Lisk, NEO, Qtum, Stellar Lumens, and Tezos.

Ethereum Use Cases

Smart contracts make Ethereum flexible, providing it with more real-world use cases than its predecessor Bitcoin.

A combination of smart contracts and dApps keep developers intrigued and users interested in the network.

According to ConsenSys, some industries and sectors where use cases for Ethereum can be found include:

  •   Banking and Financial Services:

Large banks routinely spend more than $200 million per year on cybersecurity. If the servers of a central bank were to go down, you would see the collapse of a country’s payment clearing system.

However, if every bank within a payment network instead transacted through a blockchain, there would be no single point of failure.

Therefore, a country’s interbank payment network could be maintained even if multiple servers were to go down.

Also, because the basic idea behind blockchains- creating a distributed, public and immutable ledger with a never-to-be-tampered with the record of transactions remains the same, the data behind the credit score of a user becomes more reliable for financial companies.

Related industries like insurance can also be hugely benefitted as they can disburse payments more easily to their customers.

  •   Startups and ICOs:

Ethereum empowers startups by letting them launch their own Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

These tokens, usually created using the ERC20 protocol, help startups in raising the funds needed to realize their goals.

Interestingly, one of the largest crypto exchanges and companies in the world, Binance, used funding generated through the sale of BNB, a coin that follows the ERC20 standards.

Even Tron, one of the largest blockchain projects in the world started out with an ERC20 token offering.

  •   Digital Identities:

Since data and identity theft is such a menace, a smart contract solution is a good fit for this problem.

Using information hidden behind a dedicated smart contract, users could not only take their identities digital but rest assured that they do not reveal more than what they are comfortable sharing.

Services like uPort allow users to take back control of their identities and share only the information they choose through their mobile devices.

Information can only be shared upon authentication from the user and the data is always stored safely on the Ethereum blockchain.

  •   Supply Chain:

A major application for Ethereum smart contracts looks set to be in supply chain management where it could benefit both consumers and suppliers through more efficient tracking.

Whether you want to know about the freshness of produce or the origins of the diamonds you bought for your wedding, blockchain-based smart contracts can help to deliver this. The supply chain system of the world is currently broken but not beyond repair.

Using an extensive network of smart contracts, companies can track their raw materials and the transportation of goods. They can accurately measure their manufacturing processes, related logistics and the process through which a product reaches a consumer.

The consumer, on the other hand, is provided with reliable information that instantly proves whether a product is fresh, authentic, fair trade, locally produced and more.

  • Other major industries and applications where Ethereum could find many uses include Real Estate, Law, Oil and Gas, Energy Grid, Government, and Commodity Trade Finance and more as stated by ConsenSys.

Ethereum’s Most Popular dApps

Here are some of the most popular dApps that run on the Ethereum blockchain:

  •   CryptoKitties:

The internet’s obsession with cats knows no bounds and when CryptoKitties was launched, it was evident that there would be more than a handful of interested players.

The game allows players to buy, sell, collect, and breed digital cats. Each cat is unique and has its own value.

CryptoKitties received widespread attention from the media, the crypto community and the “uninitiated” people who may have never heard about cryptocurrencies and blockchains before when cats on the game started selling for thousands of dollars.

CryptoKitties remains one of the most popular dApps and should be credited for evolving the scope of dApps from “work” to “play” while adding value to “digital asset ownership.”

  •   LocalEthereum:

The second-generation blockchain cousin of LocalBitcoins, LocalEthereum solves one BIG problem for buyers- removing middlemen from the crypto ecosystem.

You buy ETH over the counter using smart contracts and escrow services available on the platform.

The seller’s Ethereum is locked via a smart contract and is released only when they receive the agreed fiat currency from the buyer.

  •   IDEX:

The IDEX decentralized exchange is considered by some a thing of beauty, especially as it introduces Ethereum users to the idea of giving up on “centralized exchanges.”

Some of the most popular dApps on Ethereum are decentralized exchanges- they are new, innovative and remove a big hurdle from the world of digital currencies, providing more power to the users.

The first adopters of IDEX were speculators, and the exchange enables a huge range of Ethereum and ERC20 tokens to be traded and exchanges.

However, popular cryptocurrencies such as XRP, Litecoin, Bitcoin and Tron is not possible.

  •   Ethlance:

Giving other freelancing job platforms a run for their money, Ethlance allows users to work on gigs or projects of their choice without paying a hefty fee.

This could mark the beginning of the end of freelancers having to give away over 20% of their earnings to centralized platforms such as Upwork in “fees” and part with even more dollars to get the money in their local currency.

Ethlance, the decentralized freelance hiring platform allows you to work for zero fees. The only payment here is the gas utilized on Ethereum.

  • Uniswap Protocol 

    Part decentralized application and part decentralized protocol, Uniswap provides automated liquidity on Ethereum, for Ethereum-based tokens – such as ERC20 tokens and certain ERC721 non-fungibles.Uniswap has quickly become one of the most popular apps on Ethereum, and many developers and liquidity providers use the protocol to make trading low market cap tokens easy and simple.

    Users can integrate Uniswap with Ethereum wallets such as MetaMask, which automatically links users tokens with the Uniswap protocol and lets traders easily swap their tokens for others.

  • AAVE 

    One of the most popular decentralized finance (Defi) lending protocols, AAVE has taken the crypto finance world by storm. AAVE is an open-source money market protocol build atop Ethereum, which lets users borrow assets, and lend out their assets in order to gain fixed interest back.AAVE, which means Ghost in Finnish to show the protocol’s transparency, has over $1.8 billion staked with it in assets which include DAI, USDC, TUSD, USDT, BUSD, ETH, BAT, LINK, REP, and a whole host of other popular assets.

    Users have either a ‘Deposit APY’, which is the interest that they will earn on their deposited assets and ‘Variable APY’ which is the amount borrowers pay back into the lending protocol.

    Many users leverage the AAVE protocol to borrow assets for short-term trading opportunities and to take advantage of market swings.

  • Other popular Ethereum dApps include FCK, Kyber, ForkDelta, Etheroll, and more.

Pros and Cons of dApps

Pros and Cons illustration – Source: Shutterstock.com

The pros – Here are some of the key benefits of decentralized applications:

  1. Fault tolerance – Systems use redundancy to remove the risk of accidental failure. If one element goes down the network still works, this means applications can run with zero downtime.
  2. Attack resistance – There is no single point of failure, as the applications run on the blockchain. This makes them impervious to denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
  3. Tamper & corruption proof – Applications run precisely as programmed removing the possibility of fraud, censorship or third-party interference. This makes it more difficult for an individual or group to act for its own benefit at the expense of everyone else.
  4. No middlemen – This removes exuberant fees and allows users to interact directly with each other (peer-to-peer). This can lead to greater transparency, trust, and privacy.
  5. Open source –  An open-source protocol enables anyone interested in the dApp to collectively contribute to its development for the benefit of everyone.

The Cons – Here are some of the negatives of decentralized applications:

  1. Speed – Currently the dApps can be quite slow with transactions also taking a long time.
  2. Scalability – The limit on how many transactions can be processed per second might be quite low which limits the dApps scalability.
  3. Fees – While in some ways the ‘compensating system’ is a benefit, it also means users have to pay each time they use the dApp.

It’s worth noting that solutions and new innovations are constantly occurring in the nascent dApp and blockchain industries, so the current ‘cons’ may well be overcome in the future.

The DAO Hack

The DAO was a project that crystallized most of what blockchain technology stood for since its inception, in both its business model and management structure.

The DAO (Organization) logo

It was created in 2016 by members from within the Ethereum community, notably the Slock.it developer team.

The DAO was conceived as a form of investor-oriented, stateless, decentralized venture capital firm after raising a record-breaking crowdfund sale of around $150 million worth of Ether in May 2016.

Unfortunately, when things were looking up for the project, it turned out that there was a flaw in its source code, and that flaw was eventually preyed on.

On June 17, 2016, some hacker(s) exploited a loophole in the DAO smart contract and drained as much as 3.6 million ETH (around $70 million at the time) to a subsidiary account in just a few hours of the attack.

In fact, the attack was found to be made possible when the hacker(s) realized that the smart contract was mistakenly coded to check the internal balance after sending coins not the other way around.

The attacker(s) proceeded by requesting funds from the smart contract several times before the smart contract could update its balance.

The hack marked the beginning of the end for the DAO and had far-reaching consequences on the Blockchain space that are still tangible today.

Besides delisting the DAO token off major exchanges in the months following the hack, and hard forking the Ethereum main chain, the incident caught the eye of regulatory watchdogs all over the world, and put a special emphasis on the necessity of placing the crypto sphere under close scrutiny.

Ethereum Classic Fork

In the wake of the DAO hack, the Ethereum community gathered and debated on the proper actions the foundation should take in order to handle the disastrous situation the hacking incident has cast over the project.

The community split into two fundamentally opposed groups.

Ethereum and Ethereum Classic – Source: Shutterstock.com

While one side suggested a hard fork to contain the hack, reverse it, and send the stolen funds back to their original wallets, the other side strongly opposed the move invoking ideological reasons, and arguing that prevailing with the code and trusting the smart contract under all circumstances, is the philosophy behind Blockchain, and failing to commit to it, could open the door for similar actions in the future.

A vote took place in July 2016 and the decision to implement a hard fork to the Ethereum code and move the stolen Ether away to a new smart contract was agreed upon by a vast majority of the community including co-founders Gavin Woods and Vitalik Buterin.

Consequently, a hard fork occurred on the main Blockchain at height 1,920,000, right before the hacking incident took place.

The offshoot kept the name Ethereum and named its fuel Ether, ETH.

However, the other group, or “the code is law” advocates, decided to stick with the original chain, which became known as Ethereum Classic.

Ethereum Mining

Did you know that Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s 11-year-old son mines Ethereum? The young one, Pichai says, understands a lot about cryptocurrency and has corrected him on occasion.

Do you know as much about Ethereum mining as Pichai’s son?

Well if not, don’t worry as we have all the information you need here to boost your knowledge on the subject.

In a nutshell, Ethereum mining is similar to Bitcoin mining.

The concept of mining, i.e., giving rewards to “miners” who create new blocks in the network in the form of a native cryptocurrency of the blockchain, is the same.

However, the Ethereum blockchain is faster than Bitcoin’s, which means that blocks are created at a faster rate.

In the Bitcoin Network, a new block is created every 10 minutes while Ethereum achieves the same in 15 seconds.

Miners on the Ethereum network receive ETH tokens along with all the gas contained within their block (gas is the fuel of all Ethereum transactions which manifests as code-processing and transaction fees on the blockchain).

Can You Mine Ethereum With ASIC?

Yes, it is currently possible to mine Ethereum with ASIC.

However, an Ethereum Core Development meeting recently pushed forward a proposal called ‘ProgPoW‘ that would make Ethereum ASIC resistant.

How Many Ethereum Nodes Are There?

According to Ethernodes.org, the Ethereum mainnet hosts about 8,752 nodes at the moment. However, this figure changes on a daily basis.

Of these, the largest majority of nodes are based in the USA while China, Canada, Germany, the UK, Russia, and more trail quite far behind.

The total amount of Ethereum nodes as of Feb 20, 2019, and their distribution around the world – Source: Ethernodes.org

Are These Nodes Full Nodes?

A full node is any computer that enforces all the rules of consensus on the Ethereum network and is connected to it.

A full node must have the entire Ethereum blockchain downloaded on its computer.

By definition, all miners in the Ethereum network have to be full nodes. However, all full nodes do not have to mine the currency.

The nodes have a few important functions.

  1. They have to ensure that all the miners are given the correct block rewards.
  2. They must ensure all transactions have the right signatures.
  3. They must check that all blocks and transactions are in the right data format.
  4. They must make sure there is no double-spending in the blocks.

How Can I Use Ether (ETH)?

Ether is one of the most versatile coins available in the cryptocurrency space today.

As the second-largest cryptocurrency in the world, Ether has many holders.

Top 5 cryptocurrencies by market cap as of Feb 25, 2019 – Source: CoinMarketCap

Per the most recent CoinMarketCap data, Ether is valued at over $15 billion with 104 million coins in circulation currently.

Here are a few of the common uses of ETH:

  •   For making transactions:

Ether can be used as an alternative to using credit cards and wire transfers. However, to make a transaction with Ether both the sender and receiver must have an Ether wallet set up. For cross-border payments, Ether could work to be much cheaper and faster than traditional methods.

  •   For buying ICO tokens:

When participating in token sales, Ethereum is often a popular cryptocurrency of choice. As a large number of Initial Coin Offerings are offered using the Ethereum blockchain, it means that buying tokens from these projects using ETH becomes easier.

  •   For making purchases in the real world:

Several cryptocurrency startups are pushing for the adoption of digital currencies and helping in the installation of PoS machines and other methods that enable purchases using ETH.

  •   For making digital purchases:

Many websites now accept payment in Ether, and your dApps could also accept ETH payments, enabling you to purchase anything from extra lives in games to subscriptions of a magazine.

  •   For trading/investing:

Ether is one of the most commonly available trading pairs for digital currencies used in exchanges around the world. You can purchase Ether and hold it as an investment or exchange it directly for other cryptocurrencies.

How Can I Store Ether (ETH)?

Once you have bought Ether, you will need an Ethereum wallet to store it securely.

You have the option to use hot wallets, cold wallets, hardware wallets, paper wallets, desktop or mobile wallets. There is one for all platforms; some options will be better suited in comparison to others.

Note: Hot Wallets are connected to and can be accessed on the internet, whereas, cold wallets are very rarely or never connected to the internet. Due to this many consider cold wallets to be more secure than hot wallets.

Let’s look into each option:

  •   Hot wallets- exchange wallets:

You will most likely buy ETH on an exchange like Coinbase or Binance. These exchanges will provide you with a wallet where you can store your ETH.

Exchange hot wallets are easy to use, very simple and it’s usually easy to liquidate your holdings since your coins can be accessed on the exchange’s website.

Therefore, exchange wallets can usually be accessed from multiple devices as long as you have a connection to the internet.

The problem with these wallets is that they could be more vulnerable to theft than others depending on the security of the exchange and your account.

If you trade regularly, then this is likely the best and most convenient option.

  •   Cold wallets- hardware wallets:

Hardware wallets can offer their users extremely strong security when used correctly.

They are usually USB devices, and the market-leading provider of hardware wallets currently is Ledger.

You can store your Ether holdings on a hardware wallet for as long as you wish and rest assured that they cannot be reached by a hacker.

Just make sure that you do not lose the device or tell anyone else your passwords.

  •   Cold wallets- paper wallets:

Paper wallets are considered the most secure way of storing your Ether safely away from malware and cyber-attackers.

With a paper wallet, you print your private keys, and Ether addresses and store them in a safe location.

However, to many, this can seem like a big inconvenience when compared to using an exchange wallet for example.

Again, like with hardware wallets, it’s important to keep your paper wallet somewhere safe and never share the information with anyone else.

  •   Desktop and mobile wallets:

As the name suggests, desktops and mobile wallets can be distinguished based on the devices where they are being used.

Desktop wallets can be more functional, while mobile wallets provide more convenience.

Mobile and desktop wallets can usually only be used on the device where they are installed. Therefore, if you lose the device, this will put your funds at risk.

Some mobile/desktop wallets will be specifically designed for storing Ether and ERC20 tokens, whereas some will allow you to hold a wide range of cryptocurrencies together.

Which Is the Best Ethereum Wallet?

Given that there is such a wide range of wallet options out there, it begs the question, which ones are best?

Well, to help answer that question, here are some of our handpicked favorites:

  •   Hardware wallet – Ledger Nano S

The Ledger Nano S squeezes both advanced security and ease of use into one package.

Our guide to storing cryptocurrencies securely on a Ledger Nano S can be found here.

  •   Desktop wallet – MetaMask

This simple, easy to install and easy to use browser-based wallet lets you connect to Ethereum and a host of dApps hosted on the blockchain instantly.

MetaMask is a highly popular wallet which has also received funding and support from ConsenSys and Ethereum.

Fake versions of this wallet are out there so be sure to download a legit version.

  •   Basic Wallet – Mist Wallet

If you are looking for nothing but the bare basics, then the Mist Wallet is the right choice for you.

It was created by the Ethereum Foundation for a no-frills, no-distraction experience and is listed as the most basic wallet available on ethereum.org.

  •   Multicurrency Wallet – Exodus

If you hold numerous cryptocurrencies and want a well-designed wallet that eliminates the need for multiple crypto wallets, then Exodus could be a good choice.

Exodus is is fairly popular amongst crypto users and some cool features, including the portfolio feature where you can track your holdings.

  •   Web Wallet – MyEtherWallet

MyEtherWallet is one of the most popular Ether wallets out there.

As a web wallet, it allows you to log in from any device, which does bring some security risks.

However, these risks can be mitigated if it’s paired with a hardware wallet such a the Ledger Nano S.

  •   Mobile Wallet – Trust Wallet

Trust Wallet is now Binance’s official cryptocurrency wallet, and the app is available to download on both iOS and Android devices.

It supports Ether and all Ethereum network tokens such as ERC20 tokens, as well as many other leading cryptocurrencies such as Dash, Tron, Litecoin, Bitcoin, and more.

Where Can I Buy or Sell Ethereum?

Cryptocurrency exchanges are the most common choice for buying or selling Ethereum.

Cryptocurrency exchanges can be centralized or decentralized.

The world’s three largest cryptocurrency exchanges are:

  1. Binance
  2. OKeX
  3. Huobi
Screenshot of Ethereum trading on Binance – Source: Binance.com

Other prominent exchanges include:

  • Coinbase
  • Bitfinex
  • Upbit
  • Kraken
  • Digifinex

Ether is available to buy, sell, and trade on all of these exchanges. As Ether is a leading digital coin, it is available on most cryptocurrency exchanges.

Different payment methods for purchasing Ether on exchanges include by credit/debit card, with fiat currencies, and with cryptocurrencies or stablecoins. The fees charged by different exchanges will vary and will also depend on the payment method.

Other options include cryptocurrency ATMs where you can buy Ether with cash, trading Ether peer-to-peer on LocalEthereum, and using conversion exchanges like Changelly and Shapeshift to swap fiat-to-ether or crypto-to-ether instantly.

Is Coinbase Safe?

Coinbase is a leading and popular cryptocurrency exchange based in the US. Currently, over 18% of the platform’s volume comes from ETH/USD trades.

For people using the exchange’s services, Coinbase provides a hot wallet which can be used to store currencies.

Coinbase holds over 98% of its user’s funds offline and takes other security measures, which prevents thefts and hacks from damaging user’s holdings.

Any funds stored online by Coinbase are covered by insurance.

Source: Coinbase.com

Coinbase also enables two-factor authentication for the users, further protecting them from unauthorized access of accounts.

Source: Coinbase.com

Coinbase also runs a bug bounty program with an active community of security researchers that help to keep the platform safe.

None the less, some users still may want to take full control of their security rather than rely on an exchange. If so, using one of the secure methods mentioned above such as a hardware wallet or paper wallet would be a good option.

How Much Is Ethereum Worth?

Ether’s price and market cap from Aug 7, 2015, to Feb 21, 2019 – Source: CoinMarketCap.com

As of February 21, 2019, the price of Ether currently stands at $143 with a market capitalization of  $15.2 billion.

In November and December 2015, Ether traded below the $1 mark.

However, a year later, between October and December 2016, Ether’s price was nearing $10.

In June 2017, prices went as high as $377.56 with market capitalization reaching over $34 billion.

on January 13, 2018, the price of Ether reached an all-time high near $1,400, with a market capitalization of $133 billion.

Since then, Ethereum has witnessed a massive sell-offs and tumbling prices in an unwavering bear market.

However, like with all markets, a boom and bust cycle exists, and now everyone is waiting for a new bull market, with hopes that Ether could one day make an all-time high again.

Ethereum Price Predictions From Big Names

Ethereum has caught the attention of many crypto enthusiasts as well as prominent personalities from the traditional finance sector. Some have also made predictions about Ethereum’s price. Let’s look at what they had to say.

Jeff Reed considers Ethereum more valuable than Bitcoin:

Crypto author Jeff Reed believes that Bitcoin and Ethereum have little in their way to stop them from becoming alternative currency systems. He said:

“You can conceivably trade anything using Ethereum, but this is not Ethereum’s strength in comparison to other cryptocurrencies – they can all do this. It’s rather the computing language that allows the smart contracts to exist that makes Ethereum more valuable than BTC (in my opinion).”

Steven Nerayoff predicted $3,000:

Co-creator of Ethereum, Steven Nerayoff noted that billions of dollars were being poured into the Ethereum ecosystem in Jan 2018, through ICOs. He was vouching for a $3000 price tag on Ether by the end of 2018, but unfortunately, this did not materialize.

Nigel Green sticks to $2,500:

deVere Group CEO Nigel Green suggested that Ethereum could reach $2500 by the end of 2018, followed by further increases in 2019 and 2020.

He said:

“The price of Ethereum is predicted to increase significantly this year, and could hit $2,500 by the end of 2018 with a further increase by 2019 and 2020. This general upswing will be fueled by three mains drivers. First, more and more platforms are using Ethereum as a means of trading. Second, the increased use of smart contracts by Ethereum. And third, the decentralization of cloud computing.”

Who Is the Founder of Ethereum?

Russian-Canadian programmer Vitalik Buterin is the co-founder of Ethereum.

Vitalik conceived the idea of Ethereum and released a white paper in 2013 describing in detail its design and rationale.

Vitalik had already been interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies since 2011. He co-founded the news website named ‘Bitcoin Magazine’ where he published hundreds of articles and was also involved with the privacy-focused Dark Wallet project.

It was during this time that Vitalik came up with the idea of a single blockchain that could be reprogrammed to create custom decentralized applications rather than having to develop a whole new blockchain.

In January 2014 Vitalik formally announced Ethereum at the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami and started working with Dr. Gavin Wood who he went on to co-found Ethereum with.

In July 2014 they launched a 42-day public sale of Ethereum tokens known as ‘Ether’ raising more than $18 million, which was the most successful ever crowd sale at the time.

The Ethereum platform went live and launched a year later on June 30, 2015, allowing developers to start creating and running decentralized applications.

The Founding Team

Apart from Vitalik Buterin, other people were also involved in designing and perfecting the concept of Ethereum.

The most prominent among them is doctor Dr. Gavin Wood who wrote the “technical bible” called Ethereum yellow paper, which outlines the details of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

Dr. Joseph Lubin is another prominent name who later built ConsenSys, a Brooklyn-based startup focusing on the Ethereum ecosystem.

When the project was publicly announced in 2014, the core team consisted of Vitalik Buterin, Mihai Alisie, Anthony Di Lorio and Charles Hoskinson.

Ethereum Co-Founders – Vitalik Buterin, Joseph Lubin, Charles Hoskinson, Gav Wood, Anthony Di Lorio & Mihai Alisie – Source: Twitter.com

How Can Programmers Use Ethereum?

Ethereum is a single blockchain with a built-in programming language. It serves as a platform where programmers can create, use and run many different types of decentralized applications.

This has led to Ethereum being described as ‘The World Computer’ where just like with conventional computers the potential uses depend in part on the creativity of its users.

To get started, programmers can start learning more about the foundational concepts of blockchains- decentralization and cryptography.

They must familiarize themselves with the key feature of the Ethereum blockchain, smart contracts, as well as other components like GAS, Ether (ETH), and the Ethereum Virtual Machine.

Programmers will also need to learn Solidity, the programming language used for Ethereum.

What is Solidity?

Solidity is the programming language used for creating smart contracts on Ethereum.

According to Blockchain Council, Solidity is a high-level programming language, and the syntax is similar to the JavaScript scripting language.

What is Solidity? – Source: Blockchain Council

Solidity was initially proposed by Gavin Wood in August 2014.

It was then developed by Gavin Wood, Alex Beregszaszi, Christian Reitwiessner, Yoichi Hirai, Liana Husikyan, and other former Ethereum core contributors.

It was designed to enable the writing of smart contracts on platforms like Ethereum.

For programmers who are well versed in JavaScript or C, Solidity will seem relatively proverbial.

While Solidity is a fairly new language, there are numerous experts working on it, and there is ample documentation available to help new programmers who want to learn the basics.

Ethereum 2.0 Update

Ethereum has struggled with some scalability issues which could be a hurdle to the widespread adoption of the platform and Ether.

Ethereum wants to overcome these hurdles with Ethereum 2.0, also called the ‘Casper’ Upgrade. The upgrade was originally expected to arrive in 2019, although there are still many technical hurdles to overcome.

In August 2020, Ethereum 2.0 developers outlined several issued with the Medalla testnet, which was the first testnet that Ethereum 2.0 community members could use. The first issue was staking participation, which was fairly low – especially with Nimbus and Lodestar clients failing to verify some blocks and causing a 10% gap in expected staking – with a 57% staking participation. This number was also lower because some staking participants were offline when the network went live.

It will include concepts like sharding which is expected to make the blockchain faster and more efficient. We will examine more on sharding later in this article. Once successfully upgraded, Ethereum 2.0 will then start on its journey moving towards Ethereum 3.0 which will provide the network with security against the power of quantum computers.

Scaling

Scaling could be considered the Achilles’ heel of the Ethereum network; however, a lot of work is being done in the background to try and overcome this.

As Ethereum is not just a single blockchain, it also allows users to create their own blockchain-based projects on the original Ethereum blockchain.

Furthermore, over 1400 dApps are running on Ethereum currently which means that the network already has a large number of users and processes millions of transactions.

The problem begins when the number of apps, projects, and users increases to a level where the Ethereum blockchain nodes are unable to handle the ever-increasing amount of transactions.

In fact, when the CryptoKitties game on the Ethereum network went viral in late 2017, the network became congested and saw a 600% increase in pending transactions. This surge resulted in the network slowing down and expensive transactions fees, therefore, reducing the usability/viability of Ethereum applications.

The solutions currently being developed to overcome the scaling issue include:

  • Casper – The upgrade that will set to bring about Ethereum 2.0 and move Ethereum to a Proof-of-Stake protocol. It is expected to occur in 2019.
  • Sharding – Splits up the entire network into separate ‘shards’. Each independent shard and its allocated nodes can process certain transactions, rather than the entire network processing each transaction, therefore, increasing throughput.
  • Serenity – A new blockchain system that would be connected to Ethereum. The goal would be to move all the existing Ethereum applications here where they would be “sort of folded into a contract on one shard of the new system.”

Proof of Stake vs. Proof of Work

Proof of Stake (PoS) and Proof of Work (PoW) are two popular types of blockchain consensus mechanisms.

A consensus mechanism is used to verify and validate the information that’s being added to the blockchain ledger. This ensures that there is no double-spending or other invalid data is being added to the blockchain. It also prevents the networks from being harmed through constant forking.

There are pros and cons to each consensus mechanism, but, they all aim to serve the same purpose. A primary difference between consensus mechanisms is how the verification of transactions are delegated and rewarded.

Proof of Work vs Proof of Stake infographic by 3iQ Research Group

Ethereum currently uses a Proof of Work system, but the Casper upgrade will start the transition of Ethereum to a Proof of Stake system. The new system will also have a penalty system built in to punish malicious actors.

Good Audience state that:

“The penalty system has the additional benefit of deterring 51% attacks. In a PoW system, a 51% attack is costly but repeatable as long as enough hashing power has been collected. With PoS, the attackers run the risk of losing their stake should the attack fail. In such a case, the only way to relaunch an attack would be to acquire new Ether.”

Casper, Sharding & Ethereum 2.0

The roadmap to Ethereum 2.0 consists of two combined upgrades, which are Casper and Sharding, as is designed to bring scalability and security benefits to Ethereum. It may take several years for these both to be implemented fully and form Ethereum 2.0.

Despite that Casper and Sharding will be combined to form Ethereum 2.0, both are separate projects that will have different phases and implementation and completion times.

The Casper protocol is a proof of stake consensus mechanism that forms a major part of Ethereum 2.0 roadmap. With Casper, validators will have to set aside part of their Ether as a stake.

When blocks are discovered by validators which they think should be added to the Ethereum blockchain (validated), they will make a bet on it in Ether. If the block is appended to the chain then the validators are rewarded based on their bet sizes.

As mentioned above it will have built-in mechanisms for punishing malicious actors on the protocol which will ensure that they cannot game the system and that the system remains trustless. Validators acting badly will have their stakes removed.

Sharding, on the other hand, will divide the network into separate shards. Each shard will be designated to process specific transactions, which it can do so on its own.

Currently, the entire network is needed to process each transaction, which is likely an excessive use of the network’s resources. That’s why implementing sharding could significantly increase throughput on Ethereum and enable greater scaling.

This is how Vitalik Buterin explains sharding:

“Imagine that Ethereum has been split into thousands of islands. Each island can do its own thing. Each of the islands has its own unique features, and everyone is belonging on that island, i.e., the accounts, can interact with each other AND they can freely indulge in all its features. If they want to contact other islands, they will have to use some sort of protocol.”

Conclusion

Ethereum’s contribution to the blockchain/crypto world is enormous. Ethereum has opened up new possibilities with blockchain through the introduction of smart contracts, decentralized applications, and tokenized economies.

There is no doubt that Ethereum is still a work in progress. It has some issues, especially those related to scaling and the solutions needed will not just come overnight.

The future of Ethereum depends on how widely adopted and powerful the network becomes as well as the creativity and talent of the developers who use the platform. Ethereum indeed appears to be heading in the right direction, gaining the attention of many large corporations and institutions.

Amsterdam, Netherlands - October 1, 2018 Website of The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance or EEA, a platform connecting Fortune 500 enterprises and startups with the Ethereum blockchain project.The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance currently has over 386 members that support and back Ethereum related developments. Members include heavy hitters like Intel, JPMorgan, Microsoft, BP, and even the Indian Government.

No one can predict for sure what impact Ethereum will have, just like in the 1990’s no one knew how much the internet would impact the world. It’s still early days for Ethereum, but it certainly has the potential to be a revolutionary platform.

References & Resources:

What is Ethereum? The ULTIMATE Research-Backed ETH Guide was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA) – 2020 Comparison was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Virtual Private Networks offer exceptional levels of security and privacy to browse the internet in essence anonymously. Using an encrypted internet connection from your computer to a network ensures the privacy of any sensitive data transmitted over the internet. It keeps unauthorized people from spying on your internet traffic and allows you to work remotely.

Which is better: ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access? Find out below!

There are many popular VPN providers available today. This review discusses two phenomenally popular VPN services: Private Internet Access otherwise known as PIA and ExpressVPN. We’ll compare their features and focus on categories such as privacy, security, pricing, performance and more.

Private Internet Access Features vs. ExpressVPN Features

Two of the most popular VPN providers available today are Private Internet Access (PIA) and Express VPN. Let’s look at some of their features and see how they compare to each other.

Private Internet Access (PIA)

PIA offers a lot of features essential to your internet security. Unlike ExpressVPN, PIA chose the United States as its base. This location may be considered bad in terms of data retention laws.

While the U.S. doesn’t have a mandatory law on data retention, it shouldn’t be surprising to find out that the government can obtain access to any stored data under the SCA or Stored Communications Act. PIA is smart however and doesn’t keep user logs.

PIA – Protect your privacy with a VPN Tunnel

This VPN also provides vital features for anonymity such as DNS protection and a Kill Switch. PIA also ensures a better browsing experience by supplying protection from malware and ads. We all know how annoying ads are and how dangerous malware is, so these are great features to have. PIA offers OpenVPN which many consider the securest protocol of all.

Private Internet Access also gives you the option to choose your preferred level of encryption. It includes port forwarding, a common technique that redirects computer signals between the internet and LAN computers.

PIA has apps for Android, MacOS, Windows, Linux, and iOS. It provides cost-efficient high performance.

Pros of PIA Features

  • DNS Leak Protection
  • Kill Switch
  • Port Forwarding
  • Options to Choose Encryption Level
  • Protection against trackers, malware, ads
Why should you use PIA?

Cons of PIA Features

  • Location
  • Fewer Server Locations
Get PIA
PIA
Recommended
PIA

VPN Service

Get It

ExpressVPN

Some say that ExpressVPN picked a better location, by being in the British Virgin Islands because there are no data retention laws.

We agree, for us privacy is of paramount importance. For the ultimate privacy you need to be in the right jurisdiction.

A government that isn’t infamous for snooping won’t ask for the information, and if it did, ExpressVPN has no legal responsibility to comply. Location is definitely a plus in this aspect. Even if PIA doesn’t keep user logs, a site further away from the U.K. or U.S. adds an extra security layer.

 

ExpressVPN – Amplify the Entire Internet

Like PIA, ExpressVPN offers Kill Switch and DNS Leak Prevention as well as IPv6 Leak Protection. ExpressVPN has a server speed test integrated into its software and it allows you to automatically or manually choose a server.

While PIA has more servers, ExpressVPN has more locations for its servers, which is excellent because it increases the number of available locations users can choose from nearby. This feature is critical since you should choose a server in a different country, but one that is still close. Just make sure to look at the server list since this can change for every user.

ExpressVPN has apps for macOS, Linux, Windows, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, and Android. It also has great 24/7 live customer support through chat.

ExpressVPN has become such a trusted and reliable VPN operator that global computer hardware and software manufacturer HP have officially partnered with ExpressVPN to offer their customers internet privacy solutions. As a result, since late 2019, all HP computers have come pre-loaded with ExpressVPN.

And it is always either 1 or 2 on our top VPN lists. Besides Nordvpn (our top choice), we would say it is one of the best VPN’s in the world today.

Pros of ExpressVPN Features

  • Location
  • Integrated Server Speed Test
  • Kill Switch
  • Servers in 94 Countries
  • Split Tunneling

Cons of ExpressVPN Features

  • Fewer Servers
  • No Additional Protection from Ads and Malware
Get ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN
Recommended
ExpressVPN

VPN Service

Get It

Speed, Reliability, and Performance

First, PIA has high performance at a low cost while ExpressVPN has great unblocking capabilities. Many experts consider ExpressVPN more ideal to use with home-based routers.

PIA’s blocking of trackers, ads, and malware certainly enhances the experience and performance. The unlimited bandwidth also contributes to its quality performance.

ExpressVPN’s split tunneling enhances performance by allowing you to route some of your traffic through a VPN while directing the rest through the internet. It has over 160 server locations in those 94 countries previously mentioned which also boosts its performance.

ExpressVPN Split Tunneling

Both have great performance at high speeds. ExpressVPN claims to have incredibly-fast VPN speeds and remember it has that integrated speed test to help you choose the fastest server in your network. PIA says it has gigabit VPN port speeds and unmetered VPN transfer. Reviewers testing the speed loss on both networks’ VPNs found a 7 percent loss of speed with ExpressVPN and PIA has an 11 percent speed loss.

PIA and ExpressVPN are known for their reliability and quality. It’s why they are so popular. You can’t go wrong with a fast VPN tunnel connection.

Both of these VPN’s are very reliable. You can enjoy content from blocked and censored websites from virtually anywhere in the world. In the world of peer-to-peer downloads, both ExpressVPN and PIA are among the highest rated VPNs for torrenting.

Security and Privacy

ExpressVPN protects your data with 256-bit AES encryption. Use one of ExpressVPN’ s secure servers to mask your true location and IP address. It lets you browse anonymously, and you can even use this VPN with Tor for extra security and privacy online.

ExpressVPN also lets you pay with Bitcoin, which is still a rarity and brings its own privacy benefits. Also, there is no need to worry about your private data being shared as ExpressVPN doesn’t ever log DNS queries, traffic data, or any identifying information.

Privacy and Security

Your ability to choose your own VPN protocol or let ExpressVPN select one for you is an excellent security feature. Also, ExpressVPN operates its own encrypted and private DNS on every server guaranteeing you faster and safer connections.

PIA has a lot of great security features as well. The fact that it doesn’t keep traffic logs make up for its location in the U.S. The malware, tracker, and ad blocking also serve as a critical security and privacy function.

PIA allows you to enable Wi-Fi security with their service and use a hidden IP to browse anonymously. Utilizing anonymous VPN tunnels is one of the securest ways to protect your privacy. Your PIA VPN account is secure and safe.

Price

ExpressVPN and PIA both have three different subscription plans. They have very different pricing terms, however.

The subscription periods for ExpressVPN are 1 month, 6 months, and 1 year while PIA’s periods are 1 month, 1 year, and 2 years. ExpressVPN costs $12.95 a month. If you choose a 6-month plan billed every 6 months the price per month lowers to $9.99. A 12-month plan paid yearly brings the cost per month down to just $8.32.

ExpressVPN accepts credit card payments, such as Visa and Mastercard, electronic payment options such as Bitcoin and Alipay, but users can also pay for their subscription in Bitcoin if they are particularly privacy focused.

ExpressVPN Pricing Plans

PIA costs just $9.95 a month if you choose its monthly option. The cost lowers to $5.99 a month if you pick the yearly option and if you decide on PIA’s 2-year plan the price equals just $3.49 a month.

PIA Pricing Plans

Both companies offer a money-back guarantee. PIA’s is only 7 days while ExpressVPN’s is 30 days. Each company offers discounts with certain subscriptions such as the steep discount for purchasing their highest plans. PIA provides a 58 percent discount on its 2-year plan. In addition to the discounts that ExpressVPN gives for buying a longer-term plan, it offers 3 months free with its annual subscription.

Private Internet Access lets users pay for their subscription through traditional methods, such as credit card, but also allow users to pay using PayPal, Google Play, and iTunes. PIA also has Bitcoin and Ripple payment options – but this is only available for one-time purchases and not subscriptions.

The Verdict

The choice of which one of these VPNs is the best can be difficult. They both have excellent security features and pricing plans. Each company offers something that the other one doesn’t.

Even though PIA is less expensive for a fantastic VPN service, the choice for the best VPN goes to ExpressVPN. Several factors led us to this choice.

First, the company location is a significant asset. It is based in the British Virgin Islands which is about as good a location you can get. Although PIA doesn’t keep logs, it is still based in the USA which is a major disadvantage in our opinion. If you are very concerned with privacy when choosing a VPN then we always recommend looking at jurisdiction before anything else.

Even without jurdistion, Expressvpn still comes out on top. ExpressVPN has the most server locations. It has excellent speed and less speed loss than PIA. It may be more expensive, but its service is still excellent value for the price.

Verdict – Source: Shitterstock.com

ExpressVPN also has a 30-day money-back guarantee. The company gives you 3 months free if you sign up for the longest subscription which is an excellent incentive.

ExpressVPN also has some great educational features on navigating VPNs. There are step-by-step how-to privacy guides on anonymous browsing. Its blog provides awesome information on digital freedom, security tips, and global internet privacy news. It even has guides on how to stream your favorite sports online. And when it comes to streaming, ExpressVPN also happens to be one of the most best VPNs for Netflix.

Note: You can also read our ExpressVPN review if you would like a more detailed rundown on what this VPN service can offer.

The critical thing when choosing the right VPN for you lies in the specific features that you need. No matter which one you select, make sure that you find out about its server locations and other pertinent information before you make your choice.

VPN Services
ExpressVPN
PIA

Disclosure: Blokt strives to provide transparent, honest reviews, and opinions. The writer of this article is a user of the product(s) or service(s) mentioned in this article and was not influenced by the respective owners.

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ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA) – 2020 Comparison was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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What Is Proof of Stake (PoS) & How Does it Work? Ultimate Coin Staking Guide https://blokt.com/guides/proof-of-stake https://blokt.com/guides/proof-of-stake#respond Mon, 24 Aug 2020 09:20:29 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=40825 Proof-of-Stake

The recent rise of blockchains based on Proof-of-Stake (POS) has provided a new way for crypto holders to increase their holdings for relatively little work. Once unproven and untested, POS is now becoming more and more common among top blockchain networks. As an alternative to Proof-of-Work (POW), this POS allows more users to participate in […]

What Is Proof of Stake (PoS) & How Does it Work? Ultimate Coin Staking Guide was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Proof-of-Stake

The recent rise of blockchains based on Proof-of-Stake (POS) has provided a new way for crypto holders to increase their holdings for relatively little work. Once unproven and untested, POS is now becoming more and more common among top blockchain networks.

Proof-of-Stake
The ultimate guide to Proof-of-Stake

As an alternative to Proof-of-Work (POW), this POS allows more users to participate in maintaining and validating the network without the need for expensive equipment and high electricity usage. In this article, you will learn how POS and POW are similar, how they differ, and how you can start earning rewards through staking right away.

Consensus

Both POS and POW are different methods for reaching the same end goal, which is to coordinate agreement in a decentralized network. Consensus simply means a general agreement, but on a peer-to-peer network of computers that have no hierarchy, manager, coordinator, or director, reaching consensus requires the right combination of cryptography, rewards, and punishments.

Consensus
Consensus

These computers in the network, also known as nodes, must have some basic set of rules of how to agree or determine what is true. The rule set in which they agree to participate in is called a consensus protocol, mechanism, or algorithm.

The nodes are allowed to participate in the network by running software that has the same underlying consensus protocol at its root. In general, the consensus mechanism is how these nodes come to an agreement even if some (normally up to 1/3) of those nodes disagree or behave badly. This is also known as a Byzantine Fault Tolerant system.

Proof of Stake (POS) vs Proof of Work (POW)

Proof-of-Work (POW) was a breakthrough technology because it provided, for the first time, an effective and reliable mechanism for reaching consensus in a way that was secure and decentralized. Therefore, to truly understand Proof-of-Stake (POS), it is important to understand how POW works.

Note: Blokt has created an in-depth Ethereum mining guide, which will help you understand the basic concepts of how its current POW system works.
POS vs POW - Source: Shutterstock.com
POS vs POW – Source: Shutterstock.com

POW Costs

If POW works and works very well, then why does there need to be POS at all? The answer is electricity. The primary input of a POW system is electricity and this real material cost to our environment and planet is one of the main reasons why so many of the major existing and upcoming blockchain networks have plans or are already dedicated to alternative consensus mechanisms such as POS.

POW Costs
POW Costs

Bitcoin was the first application to use POW and did not consume massive amounts of energy in its initial years. However, as the Bitcoin asset became more valuable and thus more profitable to mine, competition increased and so did the electricity needed to mine profitably. Bitcoin mining has now reached the point where the entire mining process consumes more electricity than many small and even some medium-sized countries.

Bitcoin Electronic Waste Gereration
Bitcoin Electronic Waste Generation

In addition to the massive energy costs involved in POW, the process also requires highly specialized computers called ASICs, which has resulted in massive electronic waste when the ASICs become obsolete or unprofitable. These very real and significant costs to our environment will likely increase as POW blockchain assets like Bitcoin rise in value.

Similarities Between POW and POS

Like POW, POS requires a minimum amount of participants to secure or maintain the network. If there aren’t enough participants then the network will be easily attacked and not very secure. In addition, the asset on the network needs to have a minimum amount of value.

Similarities - POS vs POW - Source: Shutterstock.com
Similarities – POS vs POW – Source: Shutterstock.com

The fact that the crypto asset has value makes the network more secure because the POS or POW systems can reward participants with coins produced by the consensus mechanism. The rewards for participating in consensus combined with the transaction fees on the network, which generally go to POS and POW participants, are the necessary financial incentives that keep a blockchain growing.

Differences

Proof-of-Work Proof-of-Stake
Significant Costs Equipment + Electricity Crypto Asset
Hardware ASIC / GPU General Computers
Rewards Fixed Variable
Cooperative Options Cloud Mining / Mining Pools Delegating / Staking Services
Disadvantages High Energy Consumption, High Barriers to Entry Less Proven and Test
Participants Miners Validators

The primary difference between POW and POS is the activity that participants engage in in order to secure the network. In POW, participants are called miners, and they must solve complex and difficult mathematical equations through a process of trial and error.

The mining process relies heavily on powerful computers and large amounts of electricity consumption. In a POW system, new tokens are produced to reward miners thus keeping a fixed supply of new tokens that enter the economy with every block mined.

In POS, validators must stake or deposit their crypto assets in order to engage in proposing and voting on the next block in the chain. Instead of investing electricity like miners, validators stake their capital in the form of network coins and the network rewards these validators by producing new coins over time as a reward for validators. Because the barriers to entry are much lower than in POW, nearly anyone is able to participate in POS.

Centralization

Because it is easier to become a validator than a miner, more people are likely to run nodes and become validators, which means a more diverse and decentralized group are securing the network. In order to be profitable more regularly, miners in POW tend to pool resources into mining pools. As a result, three mining pools already control more than 51% of the Bitcoin network.

Best Bitcoin Mining Pools
Best Bitcoin Mining Pools

Validators

Though there are many different types and designs for POS systems, with a variety of different terms, the most general name for participants in POS is validators.

Validators - Source: Shutterstock.com
Validators – Source: Shutterstock.com

Validators are users who stake or deposit their crypto assets for a certain length of time and run specialized software in order to validate and maintain the blockchain network.

What is Staking?

Staking is generally done by sending some minimum amount of crypto assets into a smart contract or specific destination that is used for validating. These stakes are coins of the POS network and are essentially deposits that are frozen and cannot be moved for a certain amount of time. This freezing of assets leaves the validator vulnerable to slashing as a way to deter bad behavior.

Staking - POS - Source: Shutterstock.com
Staking – POS – Source: Shutterstock.com

There is normally also a period of time when a validator wants to stop staking tokens, but cannot move them. This time period is called an unbonding period where crypto assets are not being staked, but are also still frozen. All blockchains differ on the length of the unbonding period, which can last from three days with EOS or up to three weeks with Cosmos Hub.

Rewards

Validators are incentivized to lock up their precious capital because they will be rewarded, generally in both network transaction fees and staking rewards. The reward amount in POS systems is usually variable and can change depending on how many total validators are participating at the same time.

Rewards - Source: Shutterstock.com
Rewards – Source: Shutterstock.com

If the rewards are too low, there won’t be enough validators participating and if the rewards are too high, it will cause the value of the crypto asset to decrease because it will increase the supply of coins too quickly. The economic and monetary incentives must be carefully balanced.

Punishments

In POS, because there is no electricity being sacrificed to secure the network, there needs to be another deterrent used to prevent attackers from trying to cheat the system. Therefore a necessary component of an effective POS system is a penalty mechanism used to punish those that are misbehaving or simply breaking the rules of the protocol.

Breaking the rules could mean trying to disrupt the consensus of the system or simply not running the software during the validating process. It does not have to be intentionally harmful.

Punishments - Source: Shutterstock.com
Punishments – Source: Shutterstock.com

This penalty or punishment is sometimes referred to as ‘slashing’. Each POS protocol has its own rules for what actions are punishable and how severe the punishment is, but in general, the punishment is removing a part of the stake that a validator has locked into the network.

The risk of losing crypto assets should be significant enough to prevent harmful actors in the system. Many POS systems also have reputation systems attached so that good validators who have a long history of good action will be seen as more trustworthy.

POS Costs

The primary cost in POS is the value of the crypto asset which must be purchased or staked in order to participate in POS. The cost of validating on the network is in running the equipment and software. Though, not nearly as intensive and costly as in POW, it does still require some cost. For example, in Ethereum’s upcoming POS system, the cost of staking is around ‘$120/year for a beacon node and $60/year per validator client’.

Costs - Source: Shutterstock.com
Costs – Source: Shutterstock.com

Besides the material cost, there is an opportunity cost of not being able to access your crypto assets, which can be used in other decentralized financial application such as lending. These alternative uses for your crypto assets may offer higher returns but must be given up in order to participate in staking.

Selection

Not all validators produce the same blocks at the same time. Instead, validators are chosen individually or as a set to determine which one will produce and validate the next block. Each POS design has its own method of determining, which validator(s) is chosen, but the election process is normally a combination of random selection or the total value of the validator’s stake.

Risks

Participants have to trust the POS system that they are locking their precious crypto assets into. If the network has a fatal flaw or bug then you could easily lose your staked coins. At the very least, the discovery of a major bug in the system will mean that your coins lose significant value and because you are locked in the system for a certain amount of time, you will likely not be able to sell very quickly.

Risks - Source: Shutterstock.com
Risks – Source: Shutterstock.com

You are also trusting that the POS design’s slashing and punishment mechanisms work as intended and you are not mistakenly slashed.

Staking in a network that promises higher yields usually means staking in smaller networks that are less proven and therefore have higher risks. POS protocols have not had to deal with anywhere near the amount of value in existing POW protocols such as Bitcoin or Ethereum so it is a valid argument to say that POS has not been tested against attackers in the same way that POW has been.

Known Issues With PoS

Some cryptographic researchers have pointed out some pressing issues with PoS consensus. These issues don’t afflict every PoS blockchain, and there are some which have effectively solved many of these limitations – which we’ll discuss later.

These issues include:

  • The nothing at stake problem – As there’s no hashing power required to build a PoS blockchain, and therefore no or little computational effort, blockchain validators can exploit the network. They do this by building on all of the past versions of the blockchain, which allows them to claim fees for validating transactions on both the chain that becomes the most used, and any legacy chains which continue to be used.
  • Negative feedback loop – Proof of stake encourages the staking of coins or tokens, which effectively removes them from the circulating supply. This means there are less tokens to be used as digital cash within a blockchain ecosystem, potentially negatively affecting the economics of the underlying network. However, scarcity via staking could also increase the price of the token.
  • Goldfinger attacks –  Goldfinger attacks can seek to bribe the node operators or staking pools, rent more stake to launch an attack on the protocol, or build a pool to try and seize a majority. Goldfinger attacks are named after the James Bond villain, who undermined the US Treasury to his own gain.

Certain blockchains have sidestepped these issues. For example, third-gen blockchain protocol Cardano use the Ouroboros consensus mechanism, which uses sidechains to avoid Goldfinger attacks, and solves nothing at stake issues by using forkable strings.

Similarly, Tezos uses a security deposit to ensure that double staking or validating on simultaneous chains is prevented.

Delegating

The easiest way to get involved and start earning rewards in most POS systems is not through validating directly, but through delegating. Delegators participate in POS by staking their crypto assets with a trusted or reliable validator who runs the software and equipment, but pools the capital from different delegators.

Compound Your Crypto
Compound Your Crypto

In other words, instead of running the software yourself, you can send your tokens to a validator who will do it for you for a small fee and share of the rewards.

Like with ‘validators’ and even ‘staking’, many different terms are used when a user must trust another party to handle the technical staking, but we will stick to delegating. As a delegator, there is a risk in choosing and trusting validators because you will both share in the rewards and the punishments if they occur. As with validating directly, there is the danger of getting punished or slashed if the validator that you are delegating to misbehaves.

Delegating can normally be done on-chain so that the validator does not own or control the delegator’s tokens and can only use those tokens in staking. Delegating to participate in POS involves the same basic steps:

  • Step 1: Get Coin
  • Step 2: Download Wallet
  • Step 3: Delegate to Validator

Staking Comparison

The blockchain networks below are active today and anyone can become a validator or delegator to earn rewards on them. We will describe the unique POS mechanisms of each one as well as how to start staking in them.

Cosmos

 

Tezos

 

TRON

 

EOS

 

Dash

 

Native Coin Atom (ATOM) Tez (XTZ) Tronix (TRX) EOS (EOS) Dash (DASH)
Consensus Mechanism Tendermint Liquid Proof of Stake Delegated Proof of Stake Delegated Proof of Stake Proof of Work + Masternodes
Market Cap (as of 2 May 2019) $874 Million $800 Million $1.5 Billion $4.5 Billion $1 Billion
Annual Staking Yield (as of 2 May 2019) 13% 7% 4% 2% 6%
Minimum Staking Requirements 1 ATOM 1 XTZ 1 TRON 1 EOS 1,000 DASH
Active Validators (as of 2 May 2019) 109 Validators 220 Bakers 27 Super Representatives 21 Block Producers 4800 Masternodes
Annual Token Supply Growth 7% 5.5% 336,384,000 TRX 5% 8%

Cosmos

The Cosmos network aims to become an interoperable blockchain protocol that allows many different blockchains to communicate, share data, and transact with each other. Cosmos also easily allows developers to build their own specialized blockchain on their Tendermint consensus protocol, which uses POS.

Cosmos Internet of Blockchains
Cosmos – Internet of Blockchains

One of the biggest and best crypto exchanges in the world, Binance has created its own blockchain, Binance Chain that is built on the Tendermint protocol.

Binance Chain
Binance Chain

ATOMs

The Cosmos Hub is the first hub that will connect many different blockchains and its native token is ATOM. Holders of ATOMs are able to participate in POS to earn more ATOMS as well as vote on governance decisions on Cosmos Hub.

Validators

There are currently over 100 validators on Cosmos, but there are plans to have up to 300 over time. Validators are chosen based on their own self staked ATOMs and the ATOMs of those who have delegated tokens to them. The top 100 validators with the most self and delegated stakes are chosen as the validators of the system so it is important for a successful validator to attract stakes through delegators.

If you want to start running your own validator on the Cosmos network, you can follow its instructions using command line.

Delegators

All validators in the Cosmos network can be delegated to and this happens as an on-chain function. To become a delegator, you must hold ATOMs and send a ‘delegate transaction’ indicating how many ATOMs to stake and to which validator.

The top active validators on the Cosmos network can be seen below:

Active validators on the Cosmos network
Active validators on the Cosmos network

Polychain Labs is the top validator on Cosmos and delegating your ATOMs to Polychain Labs can be done on-chain via the command line interface:

How to Delegate
How to Delegate

Tezos

Tezos is a smart contract platform where holders of the Tez (XTZ) tokens are able to participate in POS and governance decisions.

Tezos - Source: tezos.com
Tezos – Source: tezos.com

Baking

The Tezos POS system works through ‘baking’ in which holders of XTZ tokens sign and publish blocks to the Tezos blockchain. Bakers in Tezos are basically the validators that we have been describing in other POS systems. Bakers get the right to create a new block by being randomly selected.

MyTezosBaker - All You Need To Know To Choose A Baker
MyTezosBaker – All You Need To Know To Choose A Baker

The baker is notified that they have the right to bake blocks weeks in advance and is required to place a deposit or ‘bond’ that changes depending on how many blocks the baker needs to create. The rewards for baking changes depending on the total number of bakers, but the system will create roughly 5.5% of the total token XTZ supply each year in baking rewards.

A list of active bakers and tools for calculating rewards based on how much XTZ is staked and which baker is chosen can be found at mytezosbaker.com.

Delegating

Like Cosmos, Tezos also allows its coin holders to delegate their crypto assets to chosen validators or bakers. To get started delegating, you need to download and use a wallet, which will likely have a delegation feature from which you can choose the baker that you want to trust to bake for you and share rewards with you.

Tezos software-wallates
Tezos software-wallets

Delegating can be done through the Galleon Wallet by following these simple instructions:

Dash

DASH is meant to be a private and secure cryptocurrency that can be transferred quickly and easily.

Dash Digital Cash
Dash Digital Cash

Dash has a consensus system that is a hybrid of POW and POS so it still has miners maintaining the network. However, we will focus on the POS portion of the DASH protocol, which revolves around a concept known as Masternodes.

Masternodes

Masternodes are servers that are dedicated to maintaining the DASH network. These Masternodes host full copies of the DASH blockchain and must contain a minimum stake of 1000 DASH in order to earn network rewards. In order to host a DASH Masternode, you will need 1000 DASH, a wallet that stores DASH, and a Linux server. For complete steps on how to run a DASH Masternode, please see the instructions here.

DASH Masternode
DASH Masternode

Hosting Service

Delegating your stake of DASH to another party to do the difficult technical work is known as a ‘hosting service’ in DASH. There are several hosting services available that are recommended on the official DASH website such as CrowdNode, SID Hosting Service, and AllNodes.

Masternode Hosting Service
Masternode Hosting Service

TRON

TRON is a fork or copy of Ethereum that was redesigned to be optimized for performance. Specifically, TRON is much faster than Ethereum, being able to handle up to 2000 transactions per second compared to Ethereum’s 15 transactions per second. TRON is able to accomplish this speed and throughput because it uses a delegated POS protocol while Ethereum still uses POW.

TRON - Decentralize The Web
TRON – Decentralize The Web

Super Representatives

TRON has implemented a delegated POS consensus protocol and staking occurs through 27 validators that are called Super Representatives (SR). Staking in TRON is done through a system of freezing TRX tokens and voting for SRs. You can see all the current Super Representatives as well as the SR candidates on the tronscan.org block explorer:

Super Representatives
Super Representatives

Delegating your TRX to an SR is done by ‘voting’ for them. The top 27 SRs with the most votes gets to participate in the block producing process. To start delegating or voting, you can follow these instructions.

EOS

Like TRON, EOS is also a smart contract platform that has become scalable by using the Delegated POS system.

eosio - Blockchain software architecture
eosio – Blockchain software architecture

Block Producers

The EOS delegated POS system relies on 21 elected Block Producers to actively maintain and build the network. The system is also similar to TRON in that Block Producers are voted on or selected by EOS holders. Voting happens in rounds where the 21 Block Producers are selected by EOS holders and the more EOS tokens a voter has, the more their vote is weighted.

You can participate in voting on EOS through a wallet such as SimpleEOS, EOS Voter, or Scatter.

SIMPLEOS-EOSRIO- Your simple and secure EOS wallet
SIMPLEOS- Your simple and secure EOS wallet

For a comparison between EOS, Ethereum, and TRON, check out our in-depth guide.

Cardano

In July 2020, Cardano completed its move to a fully decentralized blockchain with the release of the Shelley era. The blockchain underwent a continuous hardfork which welcomed the beginning of staking and delegation on the network.

ADA holders can currently delegate their stake through the official Daedalus wallet, and soon the Yoroi wallet from Cardano’s partners, EMURGO; and also eventually through Binance!

Although staking has been live for less than a month, there’s already almost one thousand stake pools live, making Cardano one of the most decentralized blockchain protocols almost overnight.

Staking has proven very popular on Cardano, and although it’s currently too early to give a detailed breakdown of staking rewards here, you can find out how much you could earn through ADA staking by checking out their staking calculator.

Ethereum 2.0 Staking Plans

Ethereum 2.0
Ethereum 2.0

The world’s largest crypto network after Bitcoin is Ethereum and the protocol plans to switch to POS in what is being known as Ethereum 2.0. Though the plans for Ethereum 2.0 are constantly changing, the first step in the POS specification is being planned for completion by 30 June 2019.

At the latest specification, a validator would need a minimum of 32 ETH staked in order to participate in POS on Ethereum. The amount of ETH designated as rewards for staking will depend on the total number of validators in the system. Though exact figures are still unconfirmed, resources are available to estimate how much return can be expected by staking a certain amount of ETH.

Staking Rewards - ETH validating
Staking Rewards – ETH validating

Adjustable calculators can be used to view interest rates and returns depending on different things like total staked and supply. Since the final release of Ethereum 2.0 is still probably at least a year away, many of these parameters will likely continue to change.

The Future of  POS

The environmental impact and cost of POW have meant that POS is becoming the preferred consensus protocol for both new and existing blockchain networks. By allowing coin holders to participate in maintaining the network and incentivizing them with rewards in the form of native tokens, POS is a simple way to earn money without selling your crypto assets.

Future POS - Source: Shutterstock.com
Future POS – Source: Shutterstock.com

As POS becomes more well-known and popular, we will also likely see a rise in staking services that will offer easy user experience and handle all the intricacies and work of staking for the user while sharing the rewards for a small fee. The blockchain industry continues to evolve rapidly in all aspects from basic infrastructure to the user interface.

References

What Is Proof of Stake (PoS) & How Does it Work? Ultimate Coin Staking Guide was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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ExpressVPN vs NordVPN – [2020 Comparison] https://blokt.com/guides/expressvpn-vs-nordvpn-comparison https://blokt.com/guides/expressvpn-vs-nordvpn-comparison#respond Wed, 29 Jul 2020 09:45:10 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=36032 ExpressVPN vs NordVPN Comparison

While there are hundreds of VPN services available today, there is a handful that stands out from the rest of the pack. ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two of those standouts. In this ExpressVPN vs NordVPN article, we’ll be comparing these two quality services head-to-head to help you decide which is the best option for your […]

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN – [2020 Comparison] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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ExpressVPN vs NordVPN Comparison

While there are hundreds of VPN services available today, there is a handful that stands out from the rest of the pack. ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two of those standouts.

Read our full ExpressVPN review and NordVPN review if you’re looking for a deep-dive into each service.

In this ExpressVPN vs NordVPN article, we’ll be comparing these two quality services head-to-head to help you decide which is the best option for your particular needs and circumstances.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are always in our top 5 best VPNs in every category. There is a reason for this, they never stop innovating and improving. However, in a head-to-head comparison which one comes out on top?

ExpressVPN and NordVPN Comparison
ExpressVPN or NordVPN – Which one is the best?
Note: There is intense competition in the VPN space. Details like average download speeds, numbers of servers in the network, and specific features change frequently. The information in this report was current as of June 2020.

Introducing the Contenders

Here’s a really quick introduction to the two VPNs we are looking at in this article:

ExpressVPN

expressvpn-logoExpressVPN is a premium no-logs VPN at a premium price.

Based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), ExpressVPN is known for state-of-the-art features, top-notch encryption, high performance, and excellent customer support.

Frequently touted as the best VPN, ExpressVPN supports the Windows, Mac, and Linux desktop operating systems, along with the Android and iOS mobile operating systems, including the iPhone.

They also have browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Beyond this, ExpressVPN can run on many different routers and assorted other devices, such as routers, tablets, games consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and even e-readers like the Barnes & Noble Nood HD and Amazon’s Kindle.

ExpressVPN guarantees access to streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu, and also sports streaming channels from around the world such as ESPN, SkySports, and European channels such as BBC and ITV.

ExpressVPN Supported Devices

NordVPN

nordvpn-logoNordVPN is a quality no-logs VPN service with very attractive pricing on multi-year subscriptions.

Based in Panama, they are known for top-notch encryption, strong privacy and security protections, and a generous connection policy.

NordVPN supports the Windows, Mac, and Linux desktop operating systems, along with the Android and iOS mobile operating systems.

They also have browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Beyond this, NordVPN can run on Android TV, many different routers and other devices, including Raspberry Pi.

NordVPN also provide access to a huge number of streaming services, which includes Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and more.

If you have many devices on many different operating systems then NordVPN has you covered.

NordVPN Supported Devices

How We Compared Them

We compared these two great services using the following criteria:

  • Speed – Which one is the fastest head to head?
  • Security and Privacy – One of our top criteria: do they keep logs? is there any DNS leaks? And so on.
  • Geographic and Legal Considerations – Another very important criteria, are they based in a country which would force them to give up data, or would actively spy on them?
  • Global Coverage – Do they have enough servers in different countries and regions?
  • Streaming and Torrenting – Do they allow streaming and torrenting, which is a important feature for many users.
  • Connections, Price, and Value – How does the price compare vs others in the space
  • Customer Support – If something goes wrong, can you expect them to fix it quickly?

Ready? Let’s start.

Speed

Source: Shutterstock.com

Testing the speed of a VPN is difficult. There are so many variables to take into account. Some factors that can affect the results include:

  • The location of the computer doing the testing
  • The location of the VPN server (or servers) being tested
  • The time of day
  • The type of data used in the test

Happily, in 2018 AV-TEST GmbH published its VPN Comparative Test report. This report was commissioned by AnchorFree, the publisher of HotSpot Shield Elite. For this test, they compared 12 VPNs, including both NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

In these tests, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN scored well for latency and download speed. NordVPN also did well on upload speed, with ExpressVPN several percent behind. See page 10 of the report for the full performance breakdown.

While neither of these VPNs are the fastest in the world, they are both better than average performers that should be adequate for any use.

Update June 2020 – With the release of NordLYNX we can finally say that NordVPN is the fastest VPN around. They have managed to hack Wireguard to make it perform at amazing speeds that are faster than OpenVPN. At the same time they have also managed to do it while getting around privacy issues associated with using Wireguard. Well done NordVPN, very impressive.

Security and Privacy

Privacy and Security – Source: Shutterstock.com

How well they protect your security and privacy are two of the key things to look for in a VPN. Let’s look at how these two products stack up.

Security and Privacy Technology

Both of these products offer high-end encryption technology and the industry-standard OpenVPN protocol. They both protect against IP and DNS leaks.

Recently NordVPN made some big advances in both speed and security by releasing NordLynx which is built using wireguard and NordVPN’s own NAT (Network Address Translation) system. Basically this means that it is even faster than before, but with all the same security and privacy features we have come to expect. According to Nordvpn, it is the fastest VPN protocol they have ever used.

While ExpressVPN is secure against WebRTC leaks, NordVPN did sometimes leak during the 2018 AV-TEST testing program. Based on this blog post, NordVPN seems to have the WebRTC leak issue under control now.

ExpressVPN does have a big advantage over NordVPN when it comes to Kill Switch technology. Network Lock is ExpressVPN’s Kill Switch. When triggered by a problem with the connection to the VPN network, Network Lock blocks prevent any traffic from entering or leaving your device.

Network Lock is enabled automatically when you launch the VPN client. By automatically blocking all traffic to and from your device, ExpressVPN prevents your real IP Address from being exposed.

NordVPN Kill Switch technology doesn’t protect your privacy, as well as Network Lock, does. Instead of blocking all message traffic, NordVPN shuts down applications you specify when the VPN connection is lost.

The NordVPN team recognizes the limitations of this approach and are working on a solution that will shut down all communication automatically.

ExpressVPN is definitely ahead in this area for now.

Privacy Policies & Confirmation of No-Logs Status

Both of these services have solid “no-logs” policies. There is some controversy over the use of the term “no-logs” because all VPNs have to keep some logs to function properly.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to treat, “no-logs” as short for, “no connection or activity logs that could be used to connect a specific user to specific activities.”

Using this definition, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are confirmed as no-logs VPNs.

This was shown for ExpressVPN in 2017 when the Turkish government tried to get user data from them.

ExpressVPN – “The best anonymous VPN protection”

After the company refused to cooperate with Turkish authorities because it felt the Turks had no jurisdiction over them, the Turkish police raided the data center and seized the server.

Even with the server in hand, the authorities were unable to get any useful information since ExpressVPN doesn’t log that information.

NordVPN took a more proactive approach to confirm its no-logs status. In 2018, they engaged PriceWaterhouseCoopers AG to audit their claim.

According to this post in the NordVPN blog:

“The auditors’ goal was to see if our service lives up to our claims of providing a no-logs VPN service, and we believe we’ve passed the test.”
NordVPN – “5 reasons why NordVPN is the best service for privacy”

While we do not have access to the results of the audit, we have not seen anything that contradicts NordVPN’s claim of providing a no-logs VPN service.

NordVPN recently passed a second audit, in June 2020, again commissioned by third-party assurance firm PwC Switzerland, which confirmed a second time that NordVPN never kept user information on file.

Call this one a tie, with both services ranking near the top among all VPNs when it comes to protecting your privacy.

Geographic and Legal Considerations

Source: Shutterstock.com

While we seldom think about real-world geography when doing things online, geographic considerations are important when it comes to your VPN. There are several reasons why this is so. They include:

  •   Legal Jurisdiction:
Source: Shutterstock.com

Where a VPN service is located determines whose laws they are governed by. ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), while NordVPN is located in Panama.

Neither of these countries imposes any mandatory data retention policies on VPN services.

However, because the BVI is part of the British Commonwealth, there is some small chance they could be pressured into applying England’s policies. Those policies are not privacy-friendly at all.

In the meantime, Panama is a privacy-friendly jurisdiction but imposed an extremely strict copyright law in 2012. This law can result in huge (as in $100,000 US dollars huge) fines for downloading copyrighted material. In theory, the government could someday pressure NordVPN to log user activity in an attempt to collect more fines from their citizens.

A good way to reduce the risk that you will be affected by jurisdictional issues is to never use a VPN based in your home country. The odds of a country going after a non-citizen for violating local laws are far smaller than for a citizen.

Neither of these services is legally located on United States territory, which provides a little protection against US government snooping. But it is probably best not to use a VPN server that is physically located on US territory since that makes the data on that server subject to US surveillance laws.

  •   Physical Distance:
Source: Shutterstock.com

When you use VPN signals travel back and forth between your computer and the particular VPN server you are using.

The further apart these are physically, the longer it takes to pass information back and forth. Using a VPN with servers located physically close to you allows you to minimize this delay.

Each of these services has thousands of servers distributed across dozens of countries around the world.

You should be able to connect to a VPN server close to you or to the website or other resources you want to view, thereby minimizing the impact of this factor.

  •   Censorship and Surveillance:
Source: Shutterstock.com

In some countries the government censors news and information that it doesn’t want the local populace to see.

In other countries, you may not be prevented from viewing certain content, but the police and intelligence agencies watch everything you do.

No good can possibly come of the government recording your actions for future use.

To minimize the risks of this, it is best to avoid using a VPN service that is based in your home country.

Call this one a tie as well.

Global Coverage

In general, you want your VPN service to have as many servers as possible, located in as many different countries as possible. This gives you the most options for access to content that might be geo-blocked.

Results are mixed on this one. While these numbers fluctuate, ExpressVPN has servers in far more countries, but NordVPN has far more servers overall.

Number of Countries Number of Servers
ExpressVPN 94 3,000+
NordVPN 60 5,200+

Further complicating things, both services provide multiple server locations within specific countries.

For example, NordVPN has over 1,800 servers in the USA, spread across 20 locations.

NordVPN Server Locations USA

ExpressVPN has its USA servers spread across 32 locations.

ExpressVPN Server Locations USA

To add yet another layer of confusion to what once seemed simple, not all servers are the same. Both services offer general-purpose servers.

But they also offer servers that are optimized for specific protocols, for torrenting (P2P), for people who need a dedicated IP Address, and so on. Users can choose an IP from a wide selection of countries, meaning they can access geo-locked services such as streaming, gaming, or using a Bitcoin casino.

What’s the final call?

If you are a general VPN user, both of these services provide thousands of servers spread across the countries you are most likely to be interested in.

If you have specialized VPN needs you will need to contact the support team at each company. Alternately, you can investigate their server locations and capabilities yourself.

Streaming and Torrenting

The first thing that people look for when talking about streaming and torrenting is the speed of the VPN.

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are generally fast enough for this, in that they both provide fast connections, with no bandwidth limits or throttling. They are both frequently referenced as the best VPN for torrenting.

ExpressVPN – “Use a uTorrent VPN for safe, fast downloading”

According to the 2018 AV-TEST GmbH report, both were far faster for torrenting than most VPNs tested, with NordVPN just slightly the faster of the two (see page 13 of the report).

NordVPN was also faster when it came to streaming, although the difference in speed was only about 1% (page 12).

But things can quickly get complicated. How you connect to the source of the content you want to download is one factor.

If you connect using a VPN server that is physically further from the source than you are, it can slow things down. If you use one of your VPN’s servers that are optimized for streaming, it can speed things up (relative to an unoptimized server).

NordVPN – “Best VPN for streaming”

In some rare cases, using one of these VPNs may even speed up your connection when streaming. Sometimes ISPs will throttle your connection to streaming services to reduce the load on their network, or even completely block certain sites due to local laws.

In these cases, the encryption provided by the VPN may let you avoid this throttling and deliver higher downloads speeds than otherwise.

Speed Isn’t Everything

While speed is important for streaming and torrenting, it is not the only consideration.

When torrenting in particular, you want to be sure that your VPN will never expose your real IP Address. Both of these VPNs have you covered here. With their automatic kill switches and IP leak protection, a glitch might kill your download, but it won’t expose your identity.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have proven over time that they can unblock Netflix. Netflix goes to great lengths to try to force you to use the Netflix library assigned to your physical location.

Use NordVPN or ExpressVPN to unblock Netflix – Source: Shutterstock.com

In other words, if Netflix thinks you are in the UK for example, it will try to force you to use Netflix UK, and block you from using logging into your Netflix US account.

While this kind of blocking may serve Netflix’s contractual obligations to their content providers, it only makes your life more difficult.

You may have a paid subscription to Netflix US, but if they think you are in the UK right now, they are going to try to force you to watch only Netflix UK. And pay for that too!

ExpressVPN – How to watch Netflix with a VPN in 2020

In their ongoing war with Netflix, both of our contenders have generally done a good job of getting past the blocks Netflix tries to impose.

If you log into a server located in the USA (continuing our example from a moment ago), both of our VPN services do some techno trickery to convince Netflix that you are in the USA, so you can log into the account you pay for.

In other words, while we can’t give you hard numbers or 100% guarantees, we believe you will find both of these VPN services to be fast enough for streaming or torrenting, good enough at getting past blocks to give you the access you want, and secure enough to protect your identity while doing so.

NordVPN – “Enjoy the internet with no restrictions”

Connections, Price, and Value

While all the technical details we’ve looked at are important, they aren’t the only things to consider when choosing a VPN.

Let’s look at three more characteristics that could help you choose between ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Connections

These days, most of us have several devices that we want to protect with a VPN. At a minimum, a computer and a smartphone. Or maybe two computers. And what about the rest of the family? It is easy to see how the need for connections can multiply.

NordVPN – Connect up to 6 devices with 1 account

VPN services normally place a limit on the number of simultaneous connections they allow. You can have the VPN client installed on any number of devices. But only a certain number of them are allowed to connect to the VPN at any one time.

  • ExpressVPN gives you five (5) simultaneous connections.
  • NordVPN gives you six (6) simultaneous connections.

Assuming you have a need for more than 5 simultaneous connections, NordVPN offers one more so that might work better for you.

ExpressVPN – 1 Subscription. 5 Devices

What about running the VPN on your router?

But what if you need more than 5 simultaneous connections and you prefer ExpressVPN? Or what if you need more than 6 simultaneous connections?

If your router runs the VPN software, then every device connected to the router will automatically be connected.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have apps that can be installed on routers. Not all models of routers are supported by either company and setting this up is more complicated than installing the VPN app on your computer or phone.

If you want to explore this further, follow these links:

Unless you are willing and able to install VPN software on your router, give NordVPN the win for this feature.

Price

Price is another area where NordVPN tends to lead ExpressVPN. Here are their prices as of March 2020:

ExpressVPN Pricing
NordVPN Pricing

As you can see, while their pricing models don’t match exactly, for 1-year and longer plans, NordVPN is significantly less expensive than ExpressVPN. It might seem risky to sign up for NordVPN’s multi-year plans to get the lowest price, but try running the numbers.

ExpressVPN would cost you $99.95 for 15-months of service, then $99.95 ever 12 months thereafter.

NordVPN would cost you $95.75 for their 24-month (2 years) Plan. Even signing up for NordVPN’s 3-year plan costs only a few dollars more than ExpressVPN’s 15-month special.

NordVPN is definitely the less expensive option.

Note: Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer 30-day money-back guarantees, so you can test them out for a bit without being locked in.

Value

We can’t give you a definitive answer for this one. With a lower price and double the number of connections, NordVPN looks like the better value. But that assumes that all other factors are equal.

As we’ve seen throughout this article, while these services are similar, they each have unique characteristics that may make one or the other more suitable for your particular situation. You’ll need to do that evaluation yourself.

What we can say is that both of these are quality VPN services, and for typical usage patterns (browsing the web, streaming content) both offer good value.

If you are on a budget, or you want a cost effective and cheap way to cover the entire family’s devices, then NordVPN is a clear winner on price, costing just a fraction of ExpressVPN over a longer subscription period.

Customer Support

customer support expressvpn vs nordvpn vpn services
NordVPN and ExressVPN customer support – Source: Shutterstock.com

While you hope to never need it, the odds are good that at some point you will need to contact customer support. When you do, you’ll be glad to know that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer a full range of support options. But which is best out of ExpressVPN vs NordVPN?

We’re talking about 24/7 support with:

  • Live Chat
  • Email
  • Knowledge Base
  • FAQ

NordVPN also have a special email address for business users, so if you need a VPN to cover a whole office or your business computing infrastructure, you can get put through to a specialist team straight away. This service is called ‘NordVPN Teams‘, and it offers a number of cost effective ways to cover your work communications.

While we haven’t used either service’s Customer Support very much, both teams have a good reputation. We would rank them both to be better than practically any other VPN support team.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN – Which Should You Choose?

There isn’t a clear-cut winner here. As we’ve seen, there are only a few areas where one of these services is clearly better than the other. So what we’ve done here is put together two tables.

One summarizes the case for choosing ExpressVPN over NordVPN and the other summarizes the case for choosing NordVPN over ExpressVPN.

The Case For and Against ExpressVPN vs NordVPN

For Against
Premium reputation Premium price
Better Kill Switch than NordVPN Thousands of fewer servers than NordVPN
No WebRTC leaks Based in BVI, part of the British Commonwealth
Servers in more countries than NordVPN Five (5) connections per subscription
Turkish court case confirmed No-Logs VPN claim

That’s the case for and against ExpressVPN. Now let’s flip things around and look at the case for and against NordVPN.

The Case For and Against NordVPN over ExpressVPN

For Against
Outside auditor confirmed No-Logs VPN claim Kill Switch needs to be updated
Low price than ExpressVPN Servers in fewer countries than ExpressVPN
Thousands of more servers than ExpressVPN Reported WebRTC leaks (fix being developed)
Six (6) connections per subscription

You now have all the information you need to choose between the two services.

If you are still not sure, remember that both offer 30-day money-back guarantees. Install the one that looks best to you and try it out for a few weeks. If you are happy with your choice, perfect.

If you are not happy with your initial choice, grab the refund and install the other VPN. Since these are both quality products, one or the other of them will almost certainly satisfy you.

References

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN – [2020 Comparison] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Namecheap VPN Review – Does It Live Up To The Hype? https://blokt.com/guides/namecheap-vpn-review https://blokt.com/guides/namecheap-vpn-review#respond Fri, 17 Jul 2020 09:55:47 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51558 Namecheap VPN Review

Namecheap is best known as an American domain name registrar and web hosting provider, who have been operating for 20 years since the early days of the internet. With over 11 million users and a highly trusted reputation, Namecheap has grown into one of the largest registrars in the world. Namecheap has long been an […]

Namecheap VPN Review – Does It Live Up To The Hype? was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Namecheap VPN Review

Namecheap is best known as an American domain name registrar and web hosting provider, who have been operating for 20 years since the early days of the internet. With over 11 million users and a highly trusted reputation, Namecheap has grown into one of the largest registrars in the world.

Namecheap has long been an advocate of private and free internet access, campaigning for net neutrality and open communications for all. They’ve proven their commitment to this cause through various fundraising efforts and shows of support for internet freedom causes – which should come as a great accolade for those users concerned with their privacy online.

Namecheap VPN Review
Namecheap VPN Review – Does It Live Up To The Hype?

More recently, Namecheap has begun offering other services, one of which is their VPN solution. Although Namecheap’s VPN started life as a relatively simple service, it’s been built upon and seriously upgraded over the last few years. It can now hold its own against other leading VPN services.

As a result, we don’t think that current reviews do Namecheap’s new-and-improved VPN justice. So, we’re going to explore what makes Namecheap’s VPN an excellent choice for 2020 and examine some of the leading features this VPN service has to offer.

Namecheap VPN Special Features

Namecheap is loaded with great features at an affordable price.

Namecheap’s VPN does all the things you would expect of a regular VPN service. Still, there are a few extra features that Namecheap offers, which make it stand out from the competition and rub shoulders with the most popular VPN providers like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, etc. These include:

  • Over 1,000 servers – Unlike some smaller VPN operators, Namecheap uses over 1,000 server locations so its users can always enjoy uninterrupted access to VPN connections all over the world. This includes popular locations in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
  • DNS leak protection – Domain name systems, or ‘DNS’ is described as the ‘phonebook’ of the internet, and it can reveal specific information about you when you connect to websites. Namecheap’s VPN service prevents this information from being leaked when you surf the web.
  • Strong data encryption – Namecheap uses leading VPN protocols to ensure that user data is encrypted. These include OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, which provide military-grade traffic encryption.
  • Unlimited device support – One of the best features of Namecheap’s VPN service is its unlimited amount of connected devices. This means customers can connect any device, regardless of the operating system, in their home, or even share their connection with friends and family.
  • ISP throttling avoidance – Some ISPs use ‘packet sniffing’ to examine your data and restrict browsing while you’re using a VPN. With Namecheap, ISPs are prevented from restricting your internet access using these methods.
  • Random IP addresses – Some VPN providers will simply use the IP address of the data center or server you connect to, which makes it obvious you’re connecting via a VPN. However, Namecheap assigns each user a random IP address while keeping your true IP and location hidden.

Useful Extra Features

In addition to its core features, Namecheap’s VPN service has a range of other features which make it even better value for money, including:

  • Strict no-logs policy – Namecheap promises that it never keeps logs on its customers’ browsing history, nor does it track or store data from your VPN sessions.
  • Round the clock live support – There’s 24/7 live support available from Namecheap, so if you’re having any problems with installation or connecting to your VPN, you can chat with a representative.
  • Kill switch – If your VPN connection suddenly drops out for any reason, Namecheap will block all incoming and outgoing traffic to ensure none of your data leaves your device unencrypted.

How Fast Is Namecheap’s VPN?

If you’re a power user, or you regularly use VPNs to stream content, you’ll want to know how fast Namecheap performs – and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

As Namecheap owns the servers they run their VPNs on, they can guarantee better speeds than some other leading providers, which is great for those who want uninterrupted connections when streaming video content or gaming.

There’s also unlimited bandwidth available through Namecheap’s VPN, which means that you’ll never have your streaming restricted to save on data.

As we’ll look at below, Namecheap also displays the ping of each server next to it within their desktop apps, which is great for seeing at a glance what the fastest server for your location is.

Which Operating Systems Does Namecheap’s VPN Work With?

All major operating systems can use Namecheap’s VPN service, with full clients for Windows, iOS, macOS, Android, Linux, and most brands of router.

These clients are easy to download – once you’ve started your membership, either with a paid plan or free trial, Namecheap will prompt you to download the client that’s right for you or show you how to manually set-up their VPN on your device or router.

Namecheap has a full client for every major operating system.

Namecheap’s VPN was quick and easy to install on Windows, as you can see in the screenshot above. Their user interface is very simple to navigate, offering a huge range of server locations to choose from at the click of a button.

Beside each server location is a live and updated ‘ping time’ – the time it takes to communicate with each server. This is great for power users who want to connect to the fastest possible VPN server, and it’s a feature we haven’t seen elsewhere.

Clicking on the drop-down menu at the side of each server location will reveal additional options for selecting a specific city location within that country – for example, within the US, users can select multiple cities such as Boston, Las Vegas, Seattle, and more. Alternatively, you can simply click ‘connect VPN,’ and Namecheap will connect users to the fastest server available.

On all clients and devices, Namecheap’s VPN opens at startup, and there’s a handy option to auto-connect as soon as the app is launched – which means you’ll always be protected when you browse.

You can also use the client to change which VPN protocol you connect to, such as IKEv2 or OpenVPN.

How Much Does Namecheap’s VPN Service Cost?

Namecheap is one of the most affordable VPN services in the world, and it’s also one of the few that offers a completely free trial for a month to new users.

A one-year subscription costs just $1 per month for the first 12 months, billed at $12.00 for the first year and then $34.56 for each year after that.

Personally, we recommend taking advantage of Namecheap’s 3-year plan. At just $1.88 per month, users can save 68% on the normal monthly subscription price, billed in a single lump sum of $67.68.

Whichever plan you choose, Namecheap’s VPN works out as one of the most cost-effective VPN services on the market, rivaled only by the likes of SurfShark, which is very affordable too.

If you choose to start a free trial, you will need some payment information, but you won’t be billed until your first month is up. Most other VPN providers offer a couple of days free protection or restrict usage by data – but Namecheap’s free trial offers all of the features you’d get in the full version.

There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means even if you change your mind about Namecheap’s service, you won’t be out of pocket.

Subscription Length

Cost Per Month

Monthly

Free month, then $5.88/Month
Yearly

$1/month for the first year, then $2.88/month

3 Years

$1.88

Namecheap VPN – Our Verdict

Overall, Namecheap’s VPN offers amazing value for money and a very comprehensive VPN service, which is both easy to use and provides plenty of protection for any level of user.

One of our favorite features has to be Namecheap’s huge range of servers – over 1,000 in total based in over 75 locations – which not only contributes to a stable and secure VPN connection, but they also offer a good level of location variety for users.

Likewise, we think that Namecheap’s unlimited device support offers great value for money as it can essentially be used to cover a whole household of devices using just one subscription, or shared among friends.

Unlimited devices and a huge range of servers are also available from other providers, but only really the top few. As a result, Namecheap’s VPN service is above average. When comparing other budget VPN options, it’s incredibly difficult to find a provider that offers the same amount of servers as Namecheap does for the same price.

Although we only reviewed their Windows client, it was easy to use and incredibly fast to install. The user interface was easy to navigate even for beginners, while also providing plenty of advanced options for users who demand more from their VPN. We expect this is similar across all operating systems and clients.

Namecheap’s 24/7 live chat support, where you can speak to a real representative, is also a great feature that many other VPN providers at this price point don’t currently offer.

Most current reviews on Namecheap’s VPN service were written before many of these new features were added, and we really think that Namecheap deserves more attention – as it provides all-round performance for any level of user, and brings Namecheap’s long experience and trustworthiness to a VPN service.

Namecheap VPN Review – Does It Live Up To The Hype? was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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How to Short Bitcoin – A Simple Guide [2020] https://blokt.com/guides/how-to-short-bitcoin https://blokt.com/guides/how-to-short-bitcoin#respond Tue, 14 Jul 2020 14:20:52 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=33002

When Bitcoin made its dramatic decline in 2018 from all-time highs, many traders may have wished that they could profit from the thousands of dollars that were wiped off Bitcoin’s market cap and spot price. Well, it may surprise you to learn that many traders did – and they still are in 2020. Trading a […]

How to Short Bitcoin – A Simple Guide [2020] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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When Bitcoin made its dramatic decline in 2018 from all-time highs, many traders may have wished that they could profit from the thousands of dollars that were wiped off Bitcoin’s market cap and spot price.

Well, it may surprise you to learn that many traders did – and they still are in 2020. Trading a derivative of Bitcoin allows traders to profit from both positive and negative price movements in the market, but how is this possible, and how can you get started?

Find out in our how to short Bitcoin in 2020 guide, where we’re going to break down the fundamental concepts behind ‘shorting’ the market.

Shorting Bitcoin

So, you’ve decided you want to open a short position on Bitcoin. How would you do this? The first step is to identify and sign-up for a cryptocurrency derivatives platform. We’re going to review some of the best ones below.

For this, you’ll need to have some Bitcoin ready to deposit to the exchange. There’s plenty of options to buy BTC with fiat, such as USD or EUR. We review the best ways to buy Bitcoin in 2020 here, so make sure you’re ready to deposit before you start.

Once you’ve got some BTC, open a cryptocurrency derivatives exchange account and deposit your Bitcoin. Unlike traditional exchanges, most crypto derivatives exchanges don’t require KYC or identity verification, so you can start trading in minutes.

Top Exchanges for Shorting Bitcoin in 2020

As the cryptocurrency markets have matured, the number of derivatives exchanges launched to meet demand has increased, and there are now plenty of trusted options available for traders looking to short Bitcoin.

Let’s look at some of the top trading platforms:

Rank Exchange Deposit Methods Fiat Accepted Cryptocurrency Supported HQ
1 BitMEX [Full Review] Crypto None BTC, ETH, LTC, BCH, EOS, XRP, ADA, TRX Hong Kong
2 FTX (Full Review) BTC, ETH, Stable coins None BTC, ETH, LTC,BCH Hong Kong

 

BitMEX

BitMEX Homepage

One of the longest-serving and most trusted Bitcoin trading platforms, BitMEX is a peer-to-peer trading platform for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and a handful of other cryptocurrencies.

BitMEX was established in 2014 and has consistently remained as one of the top-volume crypto derivatives exchanges in the world since its launch.

There are a number of Bitcoin options contracts available on BitMEX, which allow traders to open long or short positions.

Traders can utilize up to 100x leverage on BitMEX, which boosts your position size when opening a trade. There’s also an insurance fund that prevents traders from getting liquidated unfairly in the event of high volatility.

BitMEX’s fees are 0.075% for takers regardless of their leverage. They charge 0.01% on long funding trades, and -0.01% on short funding, with funding intervals of 8 hours. There is a 0.05% settlement fee on traditional Bitcoin futures.

Deposits on BitMEX are made in Bitcoin, which uses the ticker symbol ‘XBT’ for the purposes of BitMEX’s futures contracts.

BitMEX is one of the most well respected Bitcoin trading platforms, and we highly recommend it for opening a short position on Bitcoin. You can read our full BitMEX review here.

FTX.com

FTX.com is one of the most advanced trading platforms for shorting Bitcoin.

Established in 2019, FTX.com has quickly become one of the most popular crypto derivatives exchanges in the world. Built by the quantitative trading team of blockchain professional services firm Alameda Research, FTX.com has been developed from the ground-up and offers advanced trading with low fees.

Traders can use FTX.com to short Bitcoin with up to 100x leverage, with options contracts for Bitcoin and a range of other top cryptocurrencies.

Another innovative feature of FTX.com that we haven’t seen implemented on other exchange platforms is their ‘BULL & BEAR’ leveraged tokens.

These are ERC20 tokens which represent either a long or short position in an underlying asset, including Bitcoin, and it’s an incredibly quick and easy way to take a position in the market.

FTX has a tiered fee structure for traders. At tier 1, taker fees are 0.07%, and this is reduced to 0.04% at the highest tier – which can be achieved by holding FTX tokens. There are no fees on futures settlements.

Deposits on FTX.com are made in Bitcoin. Overall, FTX.com is a great option for opening Bitcoin shorts. You can read our complete guide on FTX exchange here.

Huobi Global

Huobi Global is a trusted and long-serving exchange from Singapore.

Huobi Global is a Singaporean spot and derivatives exchange launched in 2013. It’s one of the highest volume exchanges in the world and has long been a favorite among East Asian cryptocurrency traders.

There are multiple derivatives and options contracts available for Bitcoin on Huobi Global, which include weekly, bi-weekly, and quarterly futures – which refers to the point at which the contract expires.

Huobi offers greater leverage than some of its competitors, with up to 125x on its bi-quarterly futures contracts, which let traders open short positions on Bitcoin.

You can deposit BTC and a range of other cryptos on Huobi for opening short positions. Huobi has an interest rate on margin of 0.098% and a 0.04% taker fee on Bitcoin futures contracts.

As one of the safest and most frequently used sites in the world, Huobi Global is a great choice for opening a Bitcoin short position. Find out more about Huobi Global in our complete guide here.

What is Shorting?

When you buy an asset or a derivative of an asset with the intention of profiting from the asset going up in price, you are said to be ‘going long’. On the other hand, a trade placed with a view to profit from an asset’s decline in price is called ‘going short’ or ‘shorting’ the market.

While it’s typical to buy an asset at spot price and physically hold it to open a long position, it’s not as simple to open a short. This is because you’ll need to sell Bitcoin in order to repurchase it at a lower price. For this, you’ll need to use a Bitcoin derivatives exchange, and trade a futures or options contract.

Traditional Market

Some of the options for shorting Bitcoin in crypto trading are known as ‘naked shorts’ – meaning you don’t have to own the asset before you sell or short it. However, for most crypto derivatives exchanges, you will need to deposit some Bitcoin to the platform before you can open a short.

Short sells can often be opened with leverage, which is the act of borrowing against your original capital in order to increase your position size. This can magnify gains, but also increase losses. You can read more about that here.

We’ll explore some of the most popular crypto derivatives exchanges below, but first let’s look at some of the pros and cons of shorting Bitcoin.

Benefits of Shorting Bitcoin

There are a few benefits of shorting Bitcoin, mainly for short-term traders but long-term holders may also want to consider opening a short. These benefits include:

  • More opportunities for profit – If the market turns bearish, you can open a short position to profit from the downward movement. In the short-term, this means you don’t have to be left holding a bag of BTC in a bear market.
  • Portfolio diversity – If you’re bullish on the blockchain industry as a whole, but not Bitcoin, then shorting Bitcoin can be a great way to maximize profits from alt-runs while also profiting from a decline in BTC price.
  • Derivatives over ownership – This can be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it. When you short Bitcoin, you’re trading a derivative. This means you don’t own the underlying asset, and so positions are sometimes easier to close or open, and you don’t have to worry about Bitcoin custody.
Bitcoin / USD derivatives illustration – Source: shutterstock.com

Negatives of Shorting Bitcoin

While shorting opens up possibilities to profit from periods of Bitcoin price decline, there are a few considerations you should know before opening a position:

  • Effect on the market – If you’re bullish on Bitcoin overall, but you want to profit from short-term bearish action, then you should consider that the number of short positions open influences the overall trading sentiment on Bitcoin as a whole.
  • Risk of liquidation – Trading platforms that allow traders to short the market also offer options for leverage. Trading with leverage allows you to borrow against your initial funds and trade with a much larger position. However, the risk for losing funds is also greatly magnified and you should keep this in mind while trading.
  • Fees – When you short, you’re essentially borrowing money from the exchange in order to place a trade. Unlike buying Bitcoin at ‘spot’ price where the asset belongs to you, when shorting you don’t own the underlying Bitcoin. As a result, you must pay fees – such as ‘overnight funding’ – on your position. This makes it unsuitable for long-term holds.
  • Volatility – Just as the market moves quickly into a bearish phase, it can move quickly back into a bullish trajectory. Only open a short if you’re sure the price of Bitcoin has a significant degree of downside potential.
Bitcoin Trading

Key Things to Remember When Shorting BTC

Hopefully, this guide will have helped you decide if shorting Bitcoin is right for you, and help you choose a trading platform on which to open a short.

As derivatives trading is a fairly technical process and comes with some risk, we recommend you take the time to read our in-depth guides for each exchange, linked in the descriptions above.

Likewise, if you’re a seasoned trader with plenty of short experience looking to move into the crypto markets and you need advice on the best ways to buy Bitcoin in 2020, read our complete guide here.

What are your thoughts on shorting Bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below!

References

How to Short Bitcoin – A Simple Guide [2020] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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CEX.IO Review [2020] – A Safe, Proven Crypto Exchange https://blokt.com/guides/cex-io-review https://blokt.com/guides/cex-io-review#respond Mon, 29 Jun 2020 01:14:15 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=35317

CEX.IO manages to balance the provision of an exchange platform with advanced services and an interface that is visually appealing, easy-to-use, and accessible to newer crypto investors. CEX.IO has been in the cryptocurrency business since 2013, starting as a cloud mining provider, and claims to currently have over a million users, ranging from “Bitcoin beginners […]

CEX.IO Review [2020] – A Safe, Proven Crypto Exchange was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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CEX.IO manages to balance the provision of an exchange platform with advanced services and an interface that is visually appealing, easy-to-use, and accessible to newer crypto investors.

CEX.IO has been in the cryptocurrency business since 2013, starting as a cloud mining provider, and claims to currently have over a million users, ranging from “Bitcoin beginners to institutional traders.”

Here’s our CEX.IO exchange review for 2019

That said, CEX.IO does not offer all the features that some crypto traders expect from an advanced digital asset trading platform and it only supports a limited number of cryptocurrencies and trading pairs, so it definitely cannot satisfy the needs of all investors.

If CEX.IO sounds like it could be the right fit for you, then please read on.

CEX.IO’s time-proven stability and security

In this CEX.IO review we will cover all the key facts about the exchange, its main distinguishing features, the registration, and verification process, its fee schedule and then summarize everything we have learned with a quick pros and cons list at the end – where you can decide if it’s the best cryptocurrency exchange for your needs.

“Even when Bitcoin price is experiencing harsh times, the Bitcoin index is still hundreds (or at least dozens) times higher than that of a US dollar, Euro, or other fiat currency. If a trader can read charts and draw conclusions based on what he sees, if he can look at the market as a system and clearly see the trends playing a significant role in the Bitcoin price establishment, or simply if he trusts his intuition, then this person can easily join the trading lot. In this case, the opportunity to earn a pretty big sum is worth all the risk.”
CEX.IO Blog
CEX.IO Blog

Quick Facts

CEX.IO Facts Sheet
Exchange Type: Centralized
Fiat-to-Crypto: Yes
Crypto-to-Fiat: Yes
Crypto-to-Crypto: Yes
Number of Fiat Currencies Traded: 4
Number of Cryptocurrencies Traded: 10
Number of Countries Supported: 150+
Number of Fiat Currencies Supported: All
Bank Transfers/Deposits: Yes
Credit/Debit Cards: Yes
Wire Transfers: Yes
PayPal: No
Exchange Wallet(s): Yes
Account Size Limits: No
Spending Limit Periods: Yes
Margin Trading: Yes
Trading Fees: 0.25% or less taker and 0.16% or less maker
Deposit/Withdrawal Fees: 2.99% deposit and 3% + $5 withdrawal for credit cards, 1% withdrawal for bank/wire transfers
Headquarters: UK
Incorporated: UK

CEX.IO Features

CEX.IO lists several key benefits and features it has to attract clients including a range of payment options, strong security, worldwide coverage, legal compliance, margin trading, reasonable commissions, cross-platform trading, advanced reporting, and high liquidity as can be seen in the screenshot below:

Screenshot of CEX.IO homepage – “Why choose CEX.IO?”

Let’s take a look at some of these features and others in a bit more detail.

Advanced Orders

CEX.IO allows users to place advanced order types, specifically limit and stop orders.

While this may not sound like much to the uninitiated, these advanced order types are essential for anything beyond the most basic investment strategies.

However, some variations of these order types such as a trailing stop that are not yet available on CEX.IO.

“If you’re a day trader, then you’ll need to know about stop-loss and take-profit points. These are the price levels where you are going to exit a trade. For example, if you think that the price of bitcoin has reached a support level that it has come to in the past and there are no signs that it will be able to break through that support and go lower, then you may want to place a buy order.”
CEX.IO Blog
CEX.IO Blog

Low Commissions

CEX.IO has very low and simple transaction costs. At 0.25% or less for takers and 0.16% or less for makers, CEX.IO is easily competing for the top spots in the industry for lowest transaction fees.

Low transaction fees mean more trading strategies become viable, and your trades need to work less hard to make a profit.

Note: Maker and taker fees are a way to differentiate between orders that provide liquidity (Makers) and those that take away liquidity (Takers).

A market maker is placing an order that may or may not be filled. This standing order adds ‘liquidity’ to the market by adding more potential volume that can be traded.

A market taker, by contrast, is choosing from existing orders set by market makers and closing these orders down, thereby removing liquidity from the market by removing some of the potentially tradeable volumes.

Since exchanges like more liquidity, as it attracts more traders to their venue, they are willing to reward market makers with lower, and sometimes even positive, transaction fees.

Go to CEX.IO
CEX.IO
Recommended
CEX.IO

Exchange Service

Go!

Slick Interface

If you are new to crypto exchanges, then you probably can’t do much better than CEX.IO’s market interface.

Many newer crypto traders and investors may be intimidated by all the flashing lights and scrolling numbers of an advanced trading platform, however, CEX.IO’s interface is the right balance of simplicity and function.

Low Credit Card Deposit and Withdrawal Fees

The value of low deposit and withdrawal fees for credit card users is hard to overstate.

Many crypto investors highly prize the convenience and privacy of using their credit cards to make cryptocurrency transactions.

However, not all digital asset exchanges offer this option and those that do often charge extremely high fees for the privilege.

CEX.IO Low Fees

While not the most competitive in the industry, CEX.IO’s credit card fees (2.99% for deposits) are still well below the market average, and this is a major advantage to a huge range of crypto investors.

Note: You can find more information about buying cryptocurrencies with a credit card at CEX.IO and other recommended exchanges in our “How to buy Bitcoin with a Credit Card” guide.

Margin Trading

CEX.IO has its own margin trading platform called CEX.IO Broker, which is currently in beta.

The platform offers cryptocurrency trading via contracts for difference (CFDs) and has advanced trading tools, technical analysis instruments, and different order types available.

Users will be able to trade Bitcoin and Ethereum with up to 10x leverage when the platform goes live.

CEX.IO Broker – Margin trading cryptocurrency CFD platform

CEX.IO Affiliate Program

CEX.IO allows its users to earn 30% of the commissions from exchange transactions for anyone they refer to the platform.

CEX.IO Affiliate Program

CEX.IO Listed and Tradable Cryptocurrencies

CEX.IO currently has 10 cryptocurrencies listed and available to trade on the exchange. This includes:

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, Dash, Litecoin, Ripple’s XRP, Stellar, Zcash, and Gemini Dollar.

In April 2020, CEX.IO also announced support for Chainlink (LINK), which is one of the most exciting projects and most-traded assets in the crypto market.

Trading of LINK/USD, LINK/EUR, and LINK/GBP are supported on CEX.IO, and users can withdraw LINK from the platform.

Registration, Verification, and Crediting Your Account

CEX.IO’s verification process is among the most onerous in the industry.

Not only does CEX.IO manage to drag the industry-standard verification process of identification documents and proof of address out over more details and pages than its competitors, but it also requires additional selfies be uploaded for each stage and the provision of a tax identification number.

CEX.IO Proof of Identity

This excessive verification process continues with your payment card, with several additional photos being required, whereas most other crypto exchanges simply require your payment card details.

There is also a third level of verification for increased limits and services based on personal income and assets, but in this regard, CEX.IO manages to come closer to the industry standard.

CEX.IO have recently introduced Skrill payments, an online payment provider who process fast fiat transfers, which enables customers to credit their CEX.io accounts with British pounds (GBP) and euros (EUR). 

Users with enhanced and corporate accounts can use Skrill to easily transfer funds to their trading account without the need to wait for lengthy bank transfers.

Fees

CEX.IO has some of the best fees in the industry, both in terms of transactions and deposit/withdrawal fees.

Transaction Fees

CEX.IO’s transaction fees are 0.25% or less for takers and 0.16% or less for makers.

These fees decline toward zero based on your 30d trade volume.

For a breakdown of what taker/maker fees are, please see the note in the Features section above.

Credit Card Fees

CEX.IO’s deposit and withdrawal fees for credit cards are variables based on the supported currency used (USD, EUR, GBP, RUB) and the volume transacted.

You are encouraged to follow the link above to see for yourself in detail, but the most important numbers are the 2.99% deposit and up to 3% + $5 withdrawal fees for USD and 2.99% deposit and up to 1.2% + €5 withdrawal fees for EUR.

These are very competitive numbers, though not the best in the industry.

Bank Transfer Fees

The bank transfer fees are 0 for deposits in all currencies and 1% for USD and €1 for EUR withdrawals.

The €1 withdrawal fee is nominal and competitive with the best in the industry, while the 1% fee for USD withdrawals can actually be quite high for large sums, as many competitors will charge zero or flat rate for bank/wire transfers.

Pros and Cons

Let’s briefly examine how all these factors stack up for CEX.IO with a pros and cons list.

Pros

  • Slick interface
  • Good exchange for newer crypto traders and investors
  • Good credit card fee rates
  • Very good transaction fee rates
  • Well established exchange with 0% users funds theft
  • Good knowledge resources for people looking to learn advanced crypto investment and trading
  • Margin trading
  • Affiliate program

Cons

  • Low deposit and withdrawal limits for credit cards
  • Lacking features that professional crypto traders would expect from an advanced trading platform
  • Onerous verification process
  • Only 10 coins supported

Closing Thoughts

CEX.IO is an interesting exchange with some nice feature that will appeal to many cryptocurrency investors and traders.

CEX.IO – “Bitcoin exchange you can trust”

This includes its safe crypto cold storage, the fact that it’s well-established and never lost any users funds to theft, it has a mobile application, a 24/7 support team, and offers margin trading.

In addition, the low transaction and credit card fees make CEX.IO an excellent choice for anyone looking to buy Bitcoin or any other major cryptocurrency using their credit cards. The same can be said if someone wants to sell them, as long as they don’t mind the onerous verification process.

Go to CEX.IO
CEX.IO
Recommended
CEX.IO

Exchange Service

Go!

References

Disclosure: Blokt strives to provide transparent, honest reviews, and opinions. The writer of this article is a user of the product(s) or service(s) mentioned in this article and was not influenced by the respective owners.

We rarely run ads, but sometimes earn a small commission when you purchase a product or service via a link on our site. Thank you kindly for your support.

Read more or donate here.

CEX.IO Review [2020] – A Safe, Proven Crypto Exchange was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Top 16 Best Ethereum Wallets [2020] – ETH & ERC20 Crypto Wallets https://blokt.com/guides/best-ethereum-wallet https://blokt.com/guides/best-ethereum-wallet#respond Fri, 26 Jun 2020 01:17:58 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=35127

Ethereum is the blockchain protocol with the most active developers and the most projects built on top of its platform. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide to help you choose the best Ethereum wallet for you. Its native cryptocurrency, Ether, has the second-highest market valuation behind the original cryptocurrency Bitcoin, so it is no surprise that loads of people […]

Top 16 Best Ethereum Wallets [2020] – ETH & ERC20 Crypto Wallets was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Ethereum is the blockchain protocol with the most active developers and the most projects built on top of its platform. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide to help you choose the best Ethereum wallet for you.

In this extensive guide, we look at 16 of the best Ethereum wallets

Its native cryptocurrency, Ether, has the second-highest market valuation behind the original cryptocurrency Bitcoin, so it is no surprise that loads of people have become interested in investing and trading Ether and Ethereum tokens.

There has also been a surge in decentralized finance (Defi) Dapps built on on Ethereum which has opened it up to far more users. ETH heads can now use stablecoins such as Dai which are pegged to the US Dollar but use ETH as collateral.

However, before we can start trading and investing, we need to understand the basic principles of how an Ethereum or general crypto wallets work.

Private Keys and Addresses

Blockchain-based assets and currencies are normally called cryptocurrencies, crypto assets, or simply cryptos because they all depend on cryptography.

On a very simplistic level, cryptography is the use of mathematics to send, receive, conceal, or reveal information.

Private keys are essentially the secret code that controls your information, which in this case, would be your crypto assets.

Knowing an account’s private key means users have complete control of that account’s assets without having to go through any intermediaries.

3a1076bf45ab87712ad64ccb3b10217737f7faacbf2872e88fdd9a537d8fe266

(Ethereum private key example)

Using cryptography and with access to the private key, we are able to generate — through many complicated steps — an address, which represents your account.

It can be thought of like a mailbox or an email address that people can send things to, but you can only send things from it if you have the private key.

The address is the public face of your account and can be shared with anyone but no one can figure out your private key from only knowing your address thanks to the genius of cryptography. An Ethereum address always begins with 0x.

0xc2d7cf95645d33006175b78989035c7c9061d3f9

(Ethereum address example)

What is a Wallet?

The term “wallet” is kind of a misnomer in that crypto wallets don’t actually hold any assets. Wallets can only contain access to private keys, which in turn control crypto assets.

Functionally, wallets allow users to create new accounts and send assets, although different wallets have different features and functionality.

It would be more accurate to call a wallet, a keyring or keychain because it controls and has access to different types of keys but we’ll go with ‘wallet’ seeing as everyone else does.

The differences between different types of wallets revolve around how each wallet deals with private keys.

Paper Wallets

The most basic type of wallet is known as a “paper wallet,” which is a piece of paper with your private keys written or printed on it.

The information on this piece of paper is all that is needed to control all the assets on an Ethereum account.

A paper wallet is secure in that it is possible to keep it from every other person or system on the planet and only you can know about its existence, its location, or how to access it.

Paper wallets are insecure though because if you lose it or it gets damaged beyond recognition, there is no possible way to recover your funds. You have lost those assets forever.

To counteract this vulnerability, some people make multiple copies of their paper wallet and put them in different locations or keep the paper wallet in a secure spot such as a safety deposit box at a bank.

Paper Wallet generated using MyCrypto
Paper Wallet generated using MyCrypto

Hot vs Cold Wallets

Paper wallets fall under the category of ‘cold wallets,’ which means that they are completely disconnected from the internet. This makes cold wallets more secure and less vulnerable to software-based attacks.

Hot wallets, on the other hand, are connected to the internet, so they are more accessible and useful for frequent transactions but are also more vulnerable to hackers.

In general, cold wallets are better for securing large amounts of funds and hot wallets are better for everyday transactions and usage.

Software Wallets

Exchanges Ethereum-Specific Ethereum Interfaces
Coinbase Binance MyEtherWallet MyCrypto Mist MetaMask
Private Keys Platform Controlled Platform Controlled User-Controlled User-Controlled User-Controlled User-Controlled
Backup/ Recovery Options Yes Yes No No No No
Cold or Hot Wallet Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot
Interact with Dapps No No No No Yes Yes
Ethereum Software Wallets
The table above will help you choose a software wallet to store your Ether.

Cryptocurrency Exchanges

The most common way for people to buy their first crypto asset is through an exchange which allows people to trade between fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies.

Exchanges also act as wallets because the platform controls the private keys on behalf of the user.

The benefit of having a platform control your private keys is that your funds or assets are recoverable if you lose your password.

Coinbase

Coinbase is one of the oldest and most trusted exchanges. It was founded in 2012 and has over 20+ million users as well as backing from some of the most respected investors in the world.

Coinbase is also one of the most legally compliant cryptocurrency exchanges globally.

It is connected to the traditional banking system in Europe and the United States, so it is fairly easy to convert fiat currencies such as the US Dollar and the Euro to Ether.

Coinbase platform and app
Coinbase platform and app

Binance

Binance is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world in terms of trading volume.

While Coinbase is mainly available in the U.S. and Europe, Binance is accessible across continents and has even made progress expanding to Africa.

Furthermore, Binance has many more crypto assets available for trading when compared to Coinbase, which has a much stricter process for listing new crypto assets.

Both Binance and Coinbase control private keys on behalf of their users, so funds are controlled by the username and password used to access the platform.

Binance platform and app
About Binance platform and app

Ethereum-Specific Wallets

MyEtherWallet and MyCrypto are wallets that are used specifically for Ether and Ethereum tokens so they do not interact with cryptocurrencies from other blockchains such as Bitcoin or XRP.

Ethereum tokens are assets or currencies, which have been created on top of the Ethereum platform.

Tokens can have a wide variety of purposes and are different from Ether itself, which is the fuel that runs the Ethereum network.

The most popular type of Ethereum token is called an ERC20, which is a token created using a common standard that allows any ERC20 token to be easily traded with another ERC20 token.

The second most common token is called an ERC721 or a non-fungible token, which is unique and cannot be broken up into smaller parts.

For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to both ERC20 and ERC721 tokens as just Ethereum tokens.

MyEtherWallet (MEW)

One of the oldest and most popular web-based, Ethereum-specific wallets is MyEtherWallet (MEW).

MEW does not control private keys on behalf of the user and instead allows users to create new accounts and access existing accounts to send transactions.

Myetherwallet is the best Ethereum wallet
Myetherwallet

MEW also has a smartphone app called MEWconnect that allows users to access the functions of MEW from their mobile devices.

My Ether Wallet platform and app
MEWconnect

MyCrypto

Taylor Monahan, the co-founder of MyEtherWallet, started MyCrypto in February 2018 as a fork of the MyEtherWallet codebase.

A fork means that both products have the same software or code up to the point in which they split. Once separate, two distinct products are born from the different coding decisions made by the teams.

MyCrypto claims to have started in 2015, but it is difficult to say which product or team is the original. It has very similar core features, such as the ability to create new accounts and send transactions on existing accounts.

MyCrypto platform and app
MyCrypto platform

MyCrypto has also developed a desktop application, which is more secure because it doesn’t have to be connected to the internet to function and is capable of doing things like accessing an account via a private key, which the web version does not allow any more.

MyCrypto platform and app
MyCrypto platform and app

Ethereum Interfaces

The primary purpose of Ethereum is to be a platform that runs smart contracts or decentralized applications (dapps), which means that Ethereum is meant to be more than simply a way to send and receive assets or currency.

Its true potential is in enabling the creation of computer programs that can control value that executes automatically when certain pre-defined conditions are met.

In order to access these dapps, an interface is required that can send data to the dapp, and a wallet with Ether is required in order to pay for transactions on the dapp.

Mist

The original Ethereum wallet was Mist, which functions as both a simple wallet and as an Ethereum browser.

Like traditional web browsers such as Chrome or Safari that allow users to interact with regular websites, Mist enables users to interact with dapps on Ethereum.

Mist is a desktop application in which the user controls private keys. It also allows the user to run a node, which is a critical component of Ethereum’s infrastructure and keeps a record of all the transactions that have happened on the network.

When Ethereum was first released, and Mist was the only wallet available, users had to wait for their nodes to sync before being able to make any transactions, which sometimes took hours or even days!

Though popular when Ethereum was first released, Mist has declined in popularity in recent years due to the explosion of competing Ethereum interfaces, wallet programs, and applications.

Mist node syncing in 2016
Mist node syncing in 2016

MetaMask

MetaMask is the most popular Ethereum interface with over 1 million downloads.

It works as a browser extension instead of a standalone desktop program and allows users to interact with dapps.

The user controls the private keys, and it functions as a wallet because it also allows users to manage their funds and crypto-assets.

MetaMask has become the preferred option for interacting with Ethereum dapps.

MetaMask have recently been working on the launch of version 8.0 of their Chromium wallet extension, and have launched the Metamask Mobile beta version which is due for full release very soon, with over 100,000 downloads already.

MetaMask Extension Log In Screen
MetaMask Extension Log In Screen

Hardware Wallets

Hardware Wallets Mobile Phones
Ledger Trezor KeepKey Sirin Finney HTC Exodus Samsung Galaxy S10
Private Keys User-Controlled User-Controlled User-Controlled User-Controlled User-Controlled User-Controlled
Backup/ Recovery Options Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cold or Hot Wallet Both Both Both Both Both Both
Interact with Dapps No No No Yes Yes Yes

Hardware wallets are self-contained devices with specially designed hardware that is optimized for security. Unlike software wallets, hardware wallets can function as either cold or hot wallets.

Hardware Wallets Which Support Ethereum
There are a few leading hardware wallets which support Ethereum

Hardware wallets allow users access to their private keys without having to be connected to the internet. However, they also have the option of connecting to the internet when assets transfer or crypto-related functions need to happen.

Hardware wallets are essentially a portable hard drive that stores your private keys and helps manage or secure crypto assets. There is commonly a digital display and some kind of interface on the device.

Hardware wallets usually come with the ability to have a passcode, which adds a second layer of security, before being allowed to access it.

These companies also offer the option of holding a backup copy of a user’s private keys, which allows you to recover your private keys in case the device is lost or stolen.

As opposed to all the wallets mentioned above, hardware wallets cost money.

Ledger Wallets

The Ledger line of hardware wallets is one of the oldest and most popular hardware wallets on the market with over 1 million products sold.

They support over 1000 different crypto assets, including Ethereum and Ethereum tokens. They have even created a software application that is compatible with all their hardware devices called Ledger Live.

Ledger’s three main products are the:

Ledger Nano S

  • Cheapest and most popular product
  • A USB device with a simple display and two buttons
  • Funds are protected via a secret PIN
Ledger Nano S
Ledger Nano S

Ledger Nano X

  • All the features and simplicity of the Ledger Nano S
  • Can be connected securely via Bluetooth
  • Compatible with their Ledger Live mobile app
Ledger Nano X
Ledger Nano X

Ledger Blue

  • Ledger’s most advanced wallet, which includes a large touchscreen interface
  • Compatible with the Ledger Live app
  • Capable of installing additional apps on the device
Ledger Nano Blue
Ledger Nano Blue

Trezor

Trezor, like Ledger, is also a well-established and trusted hardware wallet company having supported Bitcoin before Ethereum and other blockchains became popular.

Now, it also supports Ethereum, Ethereum tokens, and hundreds of other crypto assets. They offer simple interfaces, security-focused technology and extra layers of protection using passwords and PIN numbers, as well as backup and recovery options.

The Trezor team have worked hard to match the simplicity of Ledger’s devices, recently bringing out the ‘Trezor Wallet’, which functions a lot like Ledger Live and makes it easier for users to manage and control the assets stored on their Trezor device. 

Trezor Wallet is plug-and-play, so users can start using their Trezor device straight out of the box without any complex setup process.

The Trezor wallets have a unique and distinctive design. Their wallets include the:

Trezor One

  • A USB device with a simple display and two buttons
  • Emphasizes quick and easy use
  • Integrates with MyEtherWallet

Trezor Model T

  • Similar to the Trezor One with an interactive touchscreen display and interface
Trezor One Trezor Model T

KeepKey

KeepKey was developed by online crypto exchange, ShapeShift, and is fully integrated with ShapeShift so that users can exchange different crypto assets from the device.

There is only one KeepKey product on the market so far, but like Trezor and Ledger, it offers an isolated and secure device with a simple display and button interface that is capable of functioning as a cold wallet.

KeepKey also features PIN or password protection as well as backup and recovery options.

SelfKey recently acquired web 3.0 interface application Portis, which functions similarly to MetaMask and lets users securely interact with dapps.

It’s likely that in the future, KeepKey users will be able to easily access dapps through Portis without revealing their private keys.

KeepKey Wallet
KeepKey Wallet

Mobile Apps

Many wallets are also available as applications on mobile devices such as Coinbase, Binance, MyEtherWallet, and Ledger.

Lumi Wallet

Lumi Wallet is available as an app for IOS and Android, as well as on the web. All the configurations are client-side, meaning that private keys are stored only on the users’ devices.

Lumi ETH Wallet
Lumi Wallet has a nice. simple interface

Initially developed as a Bitcoin wallet, Lumi shortly integrated BCH, Ethereum, and more than 1200 Ethereum tokens. Lumi Technologies, the company behind the wallet, recently announced adding an in-app browser to Lumi to interact with Ethereum dapps. At the moment, it is introducing full EOS support, which will grant users the opportunity to create new EOS accounts for free. Lumi wallet is a soon-to-be-open source.

Lumi is recognized for its eye-catching and straightforward interface. Users can buy and sell a wide range of available digital assets via an in-wallet exchange. It is entirely anonymous and doesn’t require users to provide any personal information.

Lumi Technologies has additionally released the Lumi Collect app for ERC721. This wallet is equipped with a browser for Ethereum dapp interaction and sidechain support.

Guarda Wallet

Guarda supports various platforms, including Android and Apple mobile devices. It supports over 40 blockchains and thousands of tokens, including BTC, ETH XRP, BCH, BSV, XMR and many more. Supported cryptos can be purchased directly from within the wallet, and coins can also be exchanged using the built-in exchange service.

The Guarda Wallet is custody-free, so private keys are not stored by the company, meaning users are responsible for keeping their keys safe.

Others

As we mentioned above, MetaMask is currently developing its own mobile app. The app is currently in beta release, available on Android and iOS.

The functionality of these apps are generally the same as the web versions, and there are hundreds of other mobile apps available that function as crypto-asset exchanges, Ethereum wallets, and Ethereum interfaces so we won’t go over all that in too much detail right now.

Blockchain Native Phones

The next and most exciting phase of Ethereum wallets will be wallets that are native to smartphones or smartphones built with blockchain functionality specifically in mind.

These phones will combine the security features of a hardware wallet, with the familiar interface of a mobile app on a device that we are all so dependant on already.

The difference between these phones and other smartphones is not only specialized hardware but also that they have blockchain applications such as wallets already built-in so users will not have to download any extra applications in order to send or receive crypto assets.

Sirin Finney

The Finney by Sirin Labs is the most blockchain-focused smartphone on the market.

The Sirin Labs team initially created the Solarin, which they branded as the “world’s most secure mobile phone” costing over $14,000, so the team is no stranger to security.

It has created everything on the Finney from the ground up including its own operating system and cryptocurrency called the Sirin Token.

It was even launched through a crowdsale or Initial Coin Offering, which raised $157 million, making it a genuinely blockchain-native phone.

The Finney can interact with decentralized applications and has cold wallet capabilities.

The wallet, which pops up at the top of the phone is its most distinctive feature in both looks and functionality.

For security, the wallet has its own hardware, which is separate from the general hardware of the phone.

Tech Radar Hands-On Review of the Finney
Tech Radar Hands-On Review of the Finney

Reviews have been somewhat mixed, with the general consensus being that this is a niche phone for the crypto enthusiasts with decent features.

A ZDNet review states:

“No-one, least of all Sirin Labs, is claiming that the Finney will occupy anything other than a niche in the smartphone firmament — although the company is forecasting sales in the hundreds of thousands. If you’re not a cryptocurrency enthusiast, you can certainly get a better phone for $899. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Finney, which is a well-built handset.”

Sirin Labs have recently indicated that they may abandon production of their ultra-luxury blockchain phones, and instead focus on selling the encrypted software to other smartphone companies – so be aware these handsets may not receive updates in the future.

Digital Trends Sirin Finney Review
Digital Trends Sirin Finney Review

HTC Exodus

The HTC Exodus is the first blockchain native phone built by a major well-established corporation, HTC.

Like the Finney, it emphasizes security to protect your crypto assets and allows users to easily interact with decentralized applications as well as exchange different crypto assets.

The HTC Exodus uses a specially designed secure hardware or “vault” called Zion, which protects the private keys of users.

Its marketing is centered not only on protecting the user’s crypto assets, but also the user’s private data.

The HTC Exodus includes an exciting concept for backup and recovery called “social key recover” in which you split your recovery keys among 3 to 5 of your most trusted contacts.

Wired HTC Exodus 1 Review
Wired HTC Exodus 1 Review

Samsung Galaxy S10

The newest smartphone with native blockchain support will be the Samsung Galaxy S10.

This will be the most mainstream or popular product line to have a pre-installed crypto wallet and blockchain-specific features.

Furthermore, the Galaxy S10 will support both Ether and Ethereum tokens, but not Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency.

The release of the Galaxy S10 is a massive leap in terms of mainstream adoption of Ethereum.

The most explicit blockchain feature of the Galaxy S10 is their “Blockchain Keystore” app, which allows for features such as crypto payments and transfers, secure crypto storage, and digital signatures.

This Blockchain Keystore is where the phone securely stores the user’s private keys and generates new private keys and addresses.

Samsung also keeps a backup of users private keys in case they lose the phone or accidentally delete their password.

Samsung recently announced the arrival of their S20 smartphone, coinciding with the start of the new decade, which will support Bitcoin, Ethereum, and TRON (TRX) in its native wallet from factory settings.

“Security: Galaxy S10 is built with defense-grade Samsung Knox, as well as a secure storage backed by hardware, which houses your private keys for blockchain-enabled mobile services.”

https://news.samsung.com/us/samsung-galaxy-s10-more-screen-cameras-unpacked-2019/

Which Is the Best Ethereum Wallet?

There are a wide variety of Ethereum wallets with more being developed every day. Moreover, the ones that are used have overlapping functionality and features, which are constantly changing.

This has been an attempt to cover a wide variety of Ethereum wallets in limited depth. The best wallet really depends on what you value and how you plan to manage your crypto assets.

Paper wallets have maximum security from hackers but are also one of the most vulnerable to human error or physical damage.

Centralized exchanges such as Coinbase and Binance offer customer service and allow users to recover their funds in case of lost passwords, but you have to trust that they are and will continue to be reliable.

Ethereum-specific wallets and interfaces such as MyEtherWallet, MyCrypto, and MetaMask offer more functionality and keep private keys in your control, but will be unable to help if you ever lose those private keys.

Hardware wallets and blockchain native phones seem to offer the best of both worlds, allowing user control of private keys along with backup and recovery options, but they cost money.

I hope this guide helps, but as always, do your own research and choose wisely.

References

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Top 16 Best Ethereum Wallets [2020] – ETH & ERC20 Crypto Wallets was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Best Bitcoin Dice https://blokt.com/guides/best-bitcoin-dice https://blokt.com/guides/best-bitcoin-dice#respond Tue, 23 Jun 2020 16:03:13 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51422 Best Bitcoin Dice Sites

Bitcoin Dice is one of the most popular crypto gambling games, and even though these games are fairly simple, they are one of the most customizable forms of betting you can play with cryptocurrency. This is because Bitcoin dice sites typically allow players to set their own odds, alter risk and reward, and also determine […]

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Best Bitcoin Dice Sites
IN A RUSH?

Go straight to our expert’s top pick. For the best all-around Bitcoin dice experience, Primedice is our top pick.

An Introduction to Bitcoin Dice

Bitcoin Dice is one of the most popular crypto gambling games, and even though these games are fairly simple, they are one of the most customizable forms of betting you can play with cryptocurrency.

Best Bitcoin Dice Sites
Our expert’s picks of the best Bitcoin dice sites and games available this year.

This is because Bitcoin dice sites typically allow players to set their own odds, alter risk and reward, and also determine the level of the house edge. Naturally, the lower house edge will mean less reward, but many players like the opportunity to tailor their gambling experience and therefore win more regularly and consistently with dice games.

Because of its simplicity, many crypto gambling players have come to regard Bitcoin dice and other dice games as one of the purest forms of wagering, changing little in their long history.

Here, we’re going to explore some of the best Bitcoin dice websites in the world, and also highlight some of the best Bitcoin faucets available. But first, let’s look at what a Bitcoin dice faucet is, and discover some of the most popular strategies for winning at Bitcoin dice.

What is a Bitcoin Dice Faucet?

In this article, we’re going to be looking at ‘Bitcoin Dice Faucets,’ but what are they, and why do Bitcoin dice players love them so much?

Certain Bitcoin Dice websites will give players a tiny amount of BTC, like a faucet would leak a little water, to try out Bitcoin dice games without risking their funds. Some Bitcoin dice faucets offer substantially more Bitcoin than others, or they dispense at more regular intervals – so some players like to maximize their free BTC through Bitcoin dice faucets!

This free BTC or other cryptocurrencies can either be saved up or used to bet on Bitcoin dice games to try and gamble up your crypto holdings.

In the article below, we’re going to look at some of the best Bitcoin dice faucets so that you can make the most of your dice experience.

Which is the Best Bitcoin Dice Strategy?

We should start by saying that Bitcoin dice is a game of chance – ultimately, it’s a gambling game, and the house always has a slight edge. However, players can follow strict strategies to improve their odds of winning and increase their takings over time.

Here are a few of the most popular strategies:

  • The Paroli Strategy – A method that helps players maximize winning streaks and minimize losses, the Paroli strategy sees players determine a base stake amount, then double their bet after each win until they achieve three consecutive wins.
  • The Martingale Strategy – A tried and tested strategy from the 1700s; Martingale strategy players gradually increase the amount they bet when they are in a losing streak. The idea behind this strategy is that the increased bets will recover the losses incurred during the losing streak when the player wins.
  • The D’Alembert Strategy – This easy to remember strategy simply increases your bet amount by 1x after each consecutive roll.
  • The Inverse Martingale Strategy – As you might have guessed, this is the opposite of the regular Martingale strategy. Players increase their wagering size during a winning streak rather than a losing streak, which maximizes the takings from a successful win.

Our Picks – The Best Bitcoin Dice Sites

Now you’re armed with some knowledge of the best Bitcoin dice strategies, let’s dive in and review some of the best places to play Bitcoin dice! Check out the table below for a quick overview of the top sites or scroll down to see a detailed review of each.

Site Noteworthy Features Play
1 Primedice Great design, easy to use, feature-rich, strong history, large range of crypto supported.
2 Trustdice Great user interface, top crypto and Bitcoin faucet, good competitions.
3 DuckDice Great looking site, user-friendly, many features..
4 OneHash Easy to use, good faucet, provably fair.
5 BitDice Easy to use, provably fair.

1. Primedice

Primedice is one of the longest serving Bitcoin dice websites.

Established in 2013, Primedice is one of the most popular Bitcoin dice venues where users can stake their Bitcoin bets. Primedice is owned and operated by Slice Media, the same company as popular crypto casino Stake.com – one of our top 10 best Bitcoin casinos for 2020.

With provably fair dice games, one of the lowest house edges in the industry of just 1%, and instant bitcoin deposits and withdrawals, Primedice is an incredibly easy-to-use Bitcoin dice website.

Primedice is open to players in most jurisdictions, but they restrict players from the USA, Australia, and other countries where online gambling is illegal.

Primedice Bitcoin Dice

Visually, Primedice has one of the best Bitcoin dice interfaces of any provider, with no fluff or unnecessary options – it’s a simple and easy to use game set-up which does precisely as bitcoin dice players would expect.

There’s a simple slider bar to change the wagering requirements, which makes it incredibly easy to change the win chance from 98% all the way down to just 2%. There are also options to quickly wager either half or the entirety of your Bitcoin holdings, and there are more options for automated betting – where players can simply set up their rolls and watch it go.

If you choose to play with automated betting, you can set your wagers to stop once a certain amount of profit or loss is reached, so if you’ve got a set amount of Bitcoin to spend, this is an excellent option for placing your bets while you do something else.

Primedice’s Bitcoin dice is provably fair and verifiable, providing both client and server seeds for each game.

Primedice Bitcoin Faucet

Unfortunately, Primedice doesn’t offer a Bitcoin faucet anymore.

However, they do let players try-out dice games by placing zero bets, which allows users to experiment with different game methods.

Supported Cryptos

Primedice lets players gamble in the following cryptocurrencies:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • DogeCoin (DOGE)
  • Tron (TRX)

Primedice Additional Features

Become a VIP Primedice member for huge rewards and prizes.

Primedice has some exciting extra features which have contributed to its popularity, including a VIP status for regular players that awards unlimited rake backs, gifts and rewards, and exclusive bonuses.

VIP status is obtained through Primedice’s loyalty progression, the final level of which is ‘Diamond’ status for the highest wagering players. For VIP players, Primedice claims there are ‘limitless’ opportunities for rake backs, which refunds players some of the money they’ve wagered so they can continue playing.

There are also challenges tailored to each player, which are unique based on the kinds of wagers you place and the frequency you play on Primedice.

We also liked Primedice’s chat feature, which is a live community chat where players can exchange tips, pass the time while their automated wagers run, and share their big wins!

Our Verdict

It’s straightforward to see why Primedice has become one of the most popular Bitcoin dice sites, as it’s one of the best designed, easiest to use, and most feature-rich sites in the world. It’s also achieved veteran status among the crypto community, becoming highly respected during its seven-year history.

We liked the broad range of cryptocurrencies that Primedice supports, which is excellent for those who wish to gamble using altcoins. However, compared to some of the other sites we’ll be reviewing below, Primedice doesn’t have a Bitcoin faucet feature, which is disappointing for those who like to receive free BTC to bet with periodically.

Overall, Primedice is provably fair and highly trusted Bitcoin dice operator, which has a proven track record of delivering a fantastic crypto gambling experience.

2. TrustDice

TrustDice.Win is a newer arrival to the Bitcoin Dice scene, with some great features.

Trustdice are primarily a Bitcoin dice provider, but they also have a range of traditional crypto casino games, like Blackjack, Baccarat, and Roulette.

Established in 2018, TrustDice is licensed in Curaçao, and run by Satoshi Gaming Group. The site has almost 200,000 players worldwide, with 62 million total bets placed and nearly $185,000 paid out in prizes.

TrustDice supports players from most jurisdictions but excludes those from the USA, France, and the Netherlands.

TrustDice.Win Bitcoin Dice

TrustDice has an enjoyable and easy to use interface, which lets players place a wager in seconds. Like other sites on our list, there’s a slider bar that players can use to change their bets quickly.

Players can see all the bets other users are placing on the game, as well as what they’ve won and what they rolled – which is great for keeping track of how often the Bitcoin dice is paying out.

There are also quick-press buttons for placing a minimum bet, max bet, or half of your total holdings. It’s not easy to find information on how provably fair the games are within the gaming interface. However, digging a little deeper does reveal that games on TrustDice are provably fair.

TrustDice.Win Bitcoin Faucet

TrustDice has one of the most generous faucets of any Bitcoin dice website.

TrustDice.Win uses the Coinbox faucet, which offers a vast range of free crypto to players, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, EOS, Tether, and other tokens. New players can claim from the Coinbox faucet every six hours, and for regular players, the faucet pays out more often.

All crypto claimed from TrustDice’s faucet can be immediately wagered on dice games with a minimum bet of just 10 Satoshi. As players can get 50 sats every six hours from TrustDice’s faucet, you can make 20 free wagers every day just from faucet crypto!

TrustDice.Win Supported Cryptos

TrustDice.Win lets players gamble in the following cryptocurrencies:

  • Bitcoin
  • Ethereum
  • EOS
  • Tether

TrustDice Additional Features

TrustDice.Win lets players access a range of other crypto casino games, but they also keep their dice players interested through contests and prizes.

For example, players can take part in TrustDice. Win’s weekly wagering contest, to be in with a chance of winning up to $3,000.

Our Verdict

TrustDice has one of the best user interfaces of any Bitcoin dice site, and it’s also got the best crypto and Bitcoin faucet hands down.

There’s a decent range of competitions, including level-up rewards and plenty of opportunities for rakebacks. Overall, TrustDice.Win is a great option for Bitcoin dice players who also want to explore betting with altcoins.

3. DuckDice

DuckDice is one of the best designed Bitcoin dice websites available.

A growing Bitcoin dice website, DuckDice.io is a well-designed site licensed in Curaçao. As a Crypto Gambling Foundation member, DuckDice provides provably fair dice games in a range of cryptocurrencies.

The site has implemented plenty of exciting features that have contributed to its popularity, and these have assisted in setting DuckDice apart from other Bitcoin dice operators in recent years. There’s a couple of different games on DuckDice, including their main Dice feature, and also some lottery games.

Signing up to DuckDice.io is one of the most effortless experiences in crypto gambling – you simply click ‘sign-up,’ and DuckDice generates a username for you. There’s no need to enter an email address, and you can get started straight away.

Users from the United States, the Netherlands, Russia, France, and Ukraine are not currently allowed to play on DuckDice.io.

DuckDice.io Bitcoin Dice

With a focus on design, DuckDice’s crypto dice games are well laid out and easy to play, with a fun ‘egg’ theme to show how much players have wagered.

There are auto modes if you’re the kind of player who likes to set up their games and watch them go, or a ‘Flashbet’ mode, which lets power-players place hundreds of bets per second.

Flashbet lets players set their wagering parameters and then executes hundreds of bets at the fastest speed possible. Once a Flashbet session is in play, there’s no way to stop it, unless one of your pre-set criteria is reached, or you run out of balance.

DuckDice’s Flashbet is an excellent way for regular players who like to wager a set amount per day to play, so if you’ve got limited time on your hands, check it out!

DuckDice.io Bitcoin Faucet

DuckDice has both a generous Bitcoin faucet feature and ‘rain’ events where cryptocurrency is distributed to certain players.

Their faucet feature allows players to collect free satoshis, which are immediately available to gamble on their dice games. It’s easy to collect BTC from DuckDice’s faucet – you either beat another player in a tic tac toe minigame or play three games in succession to win! However, the faucet feature is only available when you have no funds in your account.

Players can choose to make it ‘rain’ on other members of their chatroom by clicking the cloud icon at the top of the site. This will distribute small amounts of crypto to everyone in that room, so it pays to know some high-rollers on DuckDice!

DuckDice.io Supported Cryptos

DuckDice lets players gamble in the following cryptocurrencies:

  • Bitcoin
  • Litecoin
  • Dogecoin
  • Dash
  • Bitcoin Cash
  • Ethereum Classic
  • Ethereum
  • Bitcoin Gold
  • Zcash
  • Monero
  • Ripple
  • Tether

It’s incredibly easy to credit your account on DuckDice, only requiring a deposit address for your chosen asset.

DuckDice.io Additional Features

DuckDice’s Banking feature is a great way to minimize how much you spend.

In addition to their feature-rich dice games, DuckDice also has a currency exchange, a ‘bank’ feature, awards, and regular contests.

Users can transfer any supported crypto to any other cryptocurrency using DuckDice’s currency exchange feature, for instance, BTC to LTC, which takes just seconds and is great for quickly swapping the currency you’re betting with.

There are regular contests, such as daily wagering contests for dice players with prizes up to 0.01 BTC.

DuckDice’s bank feature is an exciting way to make sure you’re setting aside a portion of your winnings rather than leaving them all on the table. Players can deposit their crypto into DuckDice’s bank, which removes it from the available funds when placing a bet.

Our Verdict

A great-looking Bitcoin dice site, DuckDice is leading the way in terms of innovation and user-friendliness.

They are jam-packed with features that other Bitcoin dice sites don’t have, like banking features, huge bonuses, and crypto exchanges, which transform DuckDice into more than just a standard Bitcoin dice site.

Overall, we think DuckDice.io is one of the best choices for Bitcoin dice players regardless of skill level or wager amount.

4. OneHash

OneHash’s Bitcoin dice game is very easy to play.

OneHash is a Bitcoin dice, casino, slots, and sportsbook casino based in Curaçao. Its Bitcoin dice game is one of the most popular in the industry, and it’s also one of the easiest to use.

OneHash is open to all players that are legally allowed to gamble online in their jurisdiction.

OneHash Bitcoin Dice

OneHash’s Bitcoin dice is an easy to play game, with a well laid out interface and plenty of customization for your wagers. Like other Bitcoin dice games we’ve reviewed, there’s a simple slider to change the odds, and auto roll features to set up games.

Each game contains ‘seed settings,’ where players can view the SHA256 hash of the game’s server seed to verify that the game is provably fair. Users can also change the seed to one of their choosing if they want more control over their game.

Overall, OneHash’s Bitcoin dice has most of the same features as other sites, but its interface is a little cleaner and easier to navigate.

OneHash Bitcoin Faucet

Players will be pleased to find out that OneHash does have a Bitcoin faucet, which pays out 0.000001 BTC. The faucet button can be found in the top right corner of the Bitcoin dice gaming interface.

There’s no information as to how many times users can claim free Bitcoin from OneHash’s faucet, but it’s definitely available to new players.

OneHash Supported Cryptos

At the moment, OneHash only accepts Bitcoin deposits and payments.

There’s no information about any new cryptocurrencies coming to One hash.

OneHash Additional Features

OneHash has daily wagering contests to reward their top players.

OneHash has regular dice wagering contests, where the most frequent players are rewarded with cash prizes. Contests run every day from midnight, and the top 10 users all receive a reward. The top player takes home 0.015 BTC!

There’s 24/7 live chat support for customers, and users can suggest upcoming events to wager on, which the OneHash team will review and potentially let players bet on them.

Our Verdict

The Bitcoin dice game at OneHash offers everything crypto gamblers would need from a dice game, and it’s also simple and easy to use.

We liked how easy it was to see verification for the fairness of each roll on One hash, and likewise how quickly players can receive free Bitcoin through their faucet feature.

It’s not quite as feature-rich as TrustDice.Win or DuckDice.io, but it’s still going to be a great choice for most Bitcoin dice fans.

5. BitDice

BitDice has a simple and easy to use Bitcoin dice interface.

Established in 2014, BitDice is a long-running Bitcoin Dice website that’s remained popular among crypto enthusiasts for many years.

Licensed in Curaçao, BitDice offers other games for crypto gambling, too, including blackjack and slots. BitDice is best known for its exciting leveling system, generous rake backs, and it’s loyalty token.

BitDice Bitcoin Dice

A nice feature of BitDice is their’ session stats’, where players can quickly see their wins and losses, the amount in BTC they’ve won, and how much total BTC they’ve wagered in that session. You can also see who is placing the largest bets and who is getting the biggest winnings on the leader board.

BitDice also has a handy feature where players can see if a game is provably fair at the touch of a button. This is at the bottom of the dice interface, and clicking the button displays the secret hash and client seed of each game.

BitDice Bitcoin Faucet

BitDice does have a Bitcoin faucet, but it’s limited to BTC and only gives out small amounts. Its primary use is to let players try out games without first depositing crypto to the casino.

Although it’s not as generous as some of the other casinos we’ve reviewed here, it’s still a nice feature, and if you’re dedicated enough, your faucet rewards can build up over time.

BitDice Supported Cryptos

Bitdice supports the following cryptocurrencies:

  • Bitcoin
  • DogeCoin
  • Litecoin
  • Ethereum

BitDice Additional Features

BitDice has a massive range of levels that players can reach – all with unique bonuses.

There are substantial rake backs available for BitDice players, which you can earn by progressing through the levels – made by playing regularly on the site. Other bonuses for regular players include daily chests that contain huge bonuses and random bonus wins of either free spins or extra funds.

Every bet you make on BitDice will award a small amount of the casino’s loyalty token, ‘BitDice Tokens.’ These tokens can be converted to Bitcoin at the rate of 1,000 BitDice Tokens to 1 BTC. However, players can only spend this inside the BitDice casino, either by wagering or on raffles and competitions.

Our Verdict

Overall, BitDice is a decent site to play Bitcoin dice games, and it’s simple and easy to use, as well as being a very trustworthy site.

However, compared to some of the other sites we’ve reviewed, BitDice is a little dated looks-wise, and it’s Bitcoin faucet is also somewhat limited – essentially only functioning as a way to try out games without committing your funds.

Nevertheless, BitDice is a great Bitcoin dice site overall, and we think their easy-to-view secret hash and client seed for each game is a very important feature for those concerned with fairness.

Best Bitcoin Dice Faucets

With up to 20 free wagers per day, Trustdice’s faucet is definitely one of the best ways to claim free Bitcoin, and a range of other cryptocurrencies.

We were impressed with how many different types of crypto could be claimed through TrustDice.Win’s faucet, which is considerably more than any other Bitcoin dice site we’ve reviewed here.

Which Is The Best Bitcoin Dice Game?

Overall, we liked DuckDice’s gaming interface and range of features the most. Its Flashget system is perfect for those who play dice games regularly, as you can get all your daily bets done in an instant.

DuckDice’s banking feature is also a great way to limit how much you wager, so if you’ve had a decent winning streak you can easily take these winnings off the table without transferring them to an external wallet.

TrustDice is also a great choice, and its faucet for multiple cryptocurrencies is a perfect option for those who like to collect free Bitcoin. We recommend TrustDice for beginner players who don’t want to commit a high level of funds to a Bitcoin dice site and want to try out some new games with free crypto.

Nevertheless, for an all-round excellent Bitcoin dice experience, DuckDice is one of the best and most feature-rich Bitcoin dice sites!

Disclosure: Blokt strives to provide transparent, honest reviews, and opinions. The writer of this article is a user of the product(s) or service(s) mentioned in this article and was not influenced by the respective owners.

We rarely run ads, but sometimes earn a small commission when you purchase a product or service via a link on our site. Thank you kindly for your support.

Read more or donate here.

Best Bitcoin Dice was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Tails OS – An Actionable Guide for Regular Folks https://blokt.com/guides/tails-os https://blokt.com/guides/tails-os#respond Sat, 06 Jun 2020 13:34:32 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51476 Tails OS Guide

When whistleblower Edward Snowden was communicating with Glenn Greenwald back in 2013 about the goings-on at the NSA, one of the tools he used to protect himself was Tails. But that was a long time ago. Does Snowden still like Tails? Here’s what he had to say on the subject in this December 13, 2017 […]

Tails OS – An Actionable Guide for Regular Folks was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Tails OS Guide

When whistleblower Edward Snowden was communicating with Glenn Greenwald back in 2013 about the goings-on at the NSA, one of the tools he used to protect himself was Tails. But that was a long time ago. Does Snowden still like Tails? Here’s what he had to say on the subject in this December 13, 2017 tweet:

Even if you don’t understand exactly what he’s talking about (yet), this Tails thing is important. Keep reading to learn what it is and why it has become so popular.

What is Tails, and why do privacy fans love it?

Tails is a unique computer operating system. It is designed to help you use the Internet anonymously and get around censorship. Tails is a live system (live operating system) that runs from a USB stick or DVD. It lets you connect to the Internet using virtually any computer while leaving no trace of your activities after you are done.

Even better, Tails is free software that anyone can install and use whenever and wherever privacy and anonymity are important.

What makes Tails safer than other operating systems?

Because Tails was designed from the beginning to provide privacy and anonymity, it differs from other operating systems in several areas:

  • Tails forces all Internet connections to go through the Tor network. Tor is a worldwide distributed network that prevents people from watching your network connection from knowing what websites you visit while keeping those websites from knowing your physical location. For more details on how this works, visit the official About Tor page.
  • Tails connects to the hardware of a computer but doesn’t use the operating system or disk drives. That means there is no permanent record of your activities on that computer. Once you remove the Tails USB Stick or DVD and restart the computer, there will be no way to tell Tails was used there.
  • Tails comes with state of the art encryption technology. From PGP and OTR support for secure communications to the automatic use of HTTPS when visiting websites, to the ability to encrypt the files on your USB stick or DVD, Tails has you covered.

With all these privacy and anonymity features together in a package that you can literally carry in your pocket, it is easy to see why privacy fans love Tails.

This all sounds great, but you may still be wondering, “Is Tails safe to use?” Tails is far safer than the typical operating system, but it is not foolproof. There are various ways bad guys can get around the protections built into Tails. Here is a detailed explanation of Tails’ security limitations.

Watch the following video for a more detailed introduction to Tails:

One of the great things about Tails is that you can create your own Tails USB Stick or DVD and try it for yourself. And since it is free software, all it will cost you is the USB Stick or DVD you install it on.

In the next few sections, we’ll talk about the process of creating and configuring a Tails System using a USB Stick. We won’t walk you through the process step by step, as the details depend on the type of computer you install from and the media you are going to install to.

We do encourage you to create your own Tails System by following the instructions on the Download and Install Tails page that applies to your situation.

Once we’re done, you’ll be able to see for yourself how Tails and its included software work.

We’re going to:

  1. Download and verify Tails
  2. Install Tails on a USB Stick
  3. Configure Tails & Tor

Downloading and Verifying Tails

We used a computer running Linux to create our Tails System. Clicking through the options on the Download and Install Tails page led us here:

Tails Install
Tails Install

Once we were ready, we clicked the big green “Let’s Go” button, which led us to the detailed instructions. From here on out, it was just a process of following the detailed instructions provided by the Tails team.

We downloaded the Tails USB image then verified it using the Tails Verification browser extension. Verifying your download is vitally important. This will tell you if your download is somehow corrupted.

Downloads are sometimes incomplete, or part of the download might not be 100% identical to the original. And sometimes, hackers break through the security on a website and replace the original with a hacked version. Verifying your download will spot any of these problems for you.

Once we had a verified version of the Tails USB image on our computer, we followed the instructions for installing it on the USB stick.

Installing and Running Tails on a USB Stick

Installing Tails might be overstating things a bit here. All that we really need to do is copy the verified Tails USB image onto your USB Stick. The instructions will tell you exactly how to do this for the computer you are using to install Tails.

Running Tails for the first time may actually be harder than downloading and installing it. That’s because most computers are not configured to run from a USB Stick.

We had this problem and had to spend some time figuring out how to get our computer set up properly. The Tails does not start at all troubleshooting guide helped us deal with this.

Configuring Tails

There isn’t a lot of configuring to do with Tails initially. When you start Tails, you see a screen that looks like this one:

Configuring Tails
Configuring Tails

After you press Enter (or several seconds with no input) the Tails Greeter screen appears:

Welcome to Tails
Welcome to Tails

Here you tell Tails the Language you want to use, the Keyboard Layout, and the Formats to use for things like the date and time.

In addition, you can activate a full range of Accessibility options from the Universal Access menu:

Tails Accessibility
Tails Accessibility

NOTE: The Tails team configured Tails to be as safe as possible by default. If you need to deviate from the defaults, the Additional Settings section of the Greeter is where you make those changes. We recommend you avoid making any changes here, if at all possible.

Once you are done setting things up in Greeter, you click the Start Tails button.

A Quick Intro to the Tails Desktop

Tails uses the GNOME graphical user interface. GNOME is used in several versions of Linux and is one of the more popular user interfaces. In Tails, the GNOME desktop looks like this:

Tails Desktop
Tails Desktop

The Top Navigation Bar contains the two main Tails menus, along with a group of icons with various functions. Here is a quick summary of what you’ll find in this navigation bar, from left to right:

  • The Applications menu gives you shortcuts to the software that comes pre-installed on Tails, along with some utilities for configuring the desktop. You’ll find all the basic applications you need to get things done here, along with some specialized stuff related to the privacy and anonymity features of Tails.
  • The Places menu has shortcuts to folders on the system, as well as any storage media like disk drives that might be connected.
  • The Calendar and Notifications appear together in the top center of the window.
  • The OpenPGP Applet comes next. You’ll use this to encrypt and decrypt text for greater privacy.
  • The Tor Status icon looks like an Onion, and you can click it to see the Open Onion Circuits Tails knows about.
  • We talked about the Universal Access icon and menu back in the Configuring Tails section.
  • The System menu contains information on your network connection, the status of the computer’s battery, and other settings.

Connecting Tails to Your Network and the Internet

Tails is of little use unless it is connected to the Internet. But before it can connect to the Internet, Tails needs to connect to your network. You can see the status of your connection to the local network in the System menu:

Tails Networking
Tails Desktop

We had no problem connecting Tails to our local network. Once we did, it automatically connected itself to the Tor network and through that to the Internet.

You can quickly see if you are connected to the Tor network by looking at the Tor Status icon in the top Navigation Bar.

If Tails is connected to the Tor network, the Tor Status icon looks like this:

 

If Tails is not connected to the Tor network, the Tor Status icon looks like this:

 

While we had no problems, connecting Tails to the Internet doesn’t always go so smoothly. If you have problems, the Tails documentation has detailed instructions on how to connect to the Internet anonymously.

The Tor Browser

The Tor Browser is based on the popular Firefox browser. But it has been heavily modified, with your privacy and anonymity in mind. The developers stripped out services like JavaScript and cookies that can be used to defeat the anonymity provided by the Tor network. This makes the Tor Browser safer for you to use, but you may find that some websites don’t work right without these services. You can learn more about the differences at the Tor Browser page.

Tails Tools for Privacy

The Tor network and browser provide you with anonymity when using the Internet. But anonymity doesn’t guarantee privacy. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the most useful encryption tools that Tails gives you to boost your privacy.

Why You Need Encryption Too

This can be confusing, so let’s look at an example. Let’s say I want to send a message to my wife, Ruth. I don’t use an encrypted application to create it, so the message starts out in plain text. Before the message leaves my computer, Tor wraps it up in three layers of encryption. That’s an essential part of how Tor works.

As my message passes through the network, Tor strips off layers of encryption. When my message leaves the Tor exit mode and goes to its destination, all the layers of encryption that Tor added are gone. What Tor has done is make it impossible to trace my message back to the computer it came from. This provides anonymity.

But what about the contents of my message? The contents are now in the same state that it went into the Tor network. Since I sent a plain text message into the network, a plain text message comes out of the network.

This might be fine, but it might be disastrous. When in doubt, it is best to be safe and use the encryption tools provided by Tails. That way, your messages, and data can only be read by the people who are supposed to read them. Even if they were somehow able to intercept your messages en route, all any snoop would see would be incomprehensible gibberish.

Keeping Your Communications Secure

Tails gives you several ways to keep your communications secure from prying eyes.

Encrypting, Decrypting, and Verifying Messages with the OpenPGP Applet

If you want maximum privacy, you should use the OpenPGP applet. Encrypting and decrypting messages is riskier if you do it in the web browser. To use the applet, you can compose your message in a text editor, then use the applet to encrypt it. Likewise, you can receive an encrypted message and import it into the applet before decrypting it.

Using OpenPGP can be labor-intensive. If you are sending lots of encrypted messages by email, Thunderbird, an email program that comes pre-installed on Tails, might be a better option than OpenPGP. If you want to go this route, you can find more information at the Thunderbird Help page.

Chatting Securely with the Pidgin Instant Messenger and OTR Encryption

Pidgin Instant Messenger is a chat application that can connect to several different chat systems simultaneously. When combined with OTR (Off-the-Record) messaging, you get encryption and more. If you want to be able to chat securely while using Tails, get all the details at the Chatting with Pidgin page.

Keeping Your Data Secure

Normally Tails only stores data until you shut down. But if you are running Tails on a USB Stick with additional space available, you can create a Persistent Storage area on the USB Stick to retain data long term.

There are pros and cons to creating a Persistent Storage area, and the Tails team advises against doing so in most cases. Still, if you need to store data securely, or add additional applications beyond those that come pre-installed, this is your best option.

The Pros and Cons of Using Persistent Storage with Tails

Pros Cons
Allows you to store encrypted data on the Tails USB Stick The Persistent Volume is visible to anyone who has access to the USB Stick.
You can install additional applications Installing non-default applications can break Tails security
You can change the configuration of applications Changing configurations of default applications can weaken anonymity
You can open the Persistent Storage from other operating systems Accessing Persistent Storage from other operating systems can compromise security

To further minimize the risks of using Persistent Storage, you get to specify exactly which types of files Tails can store there.

Tails Persistent Volume
Tails Persistent Volume

If you still want to go ahead after looking at the pros and cons, you’ll want to head to the Encrypted Persistence page for detailed instructions.

Managing Passwords

One of the best uses for Persistent Storage is to keep track of all your passwords. Using a different, strong password for each website and application that needs one is a must, but keeping track of them all without computerized help is almost impossible.

To address this problem, Tails comes with KeePassX, an open quality password manager. You can use it to keep track of all your passwords while only needing to remember the single password that unlocks this application.

Tails and Cryptocurrencies Make a Great Team

If you are interested in cryptocurrencies and are familiar with crypto exchanges, you definitely want to check out Tails. Its privacy and anonymity make it a safer place to keep your cryptocurrency wallets than a standard computer. Tails includes a Bitcoin wallet in its pre-installed software.

Built-in Bitcoin Support with the Electrum Wallet

The Electrum Bitcoin Wallet comes standard with Tails. With only a little work, you can transfer your Bitcoin keys into Electrum. Once you do, your keys will be safer, and your Bitcoin transactions will gain the anonymity of the Tor network. To learn more about the Electrum Bitcoin Wallet, visit the Electrum Home Page.

What about using Monero with Tails?

Monero is a secure, private, and untraceable cryptocurrency. That makes Tails a natural place to store your Monero. If you want to keep your Monero on Tails, you’ll need to set up Persistent Storage on your Tails USB Stick. That’s because Tails does not have a pre-installed wallet for Monero as it does for Bitcoin.

Here are the instructions for setting up Persistent Storage. Once you have that setup, here are the instructions for installing the Monero wallet on Tails.

If you want the ultimate in security for your Monero, you’ll store it in a cold wallet. Tails is an ideal tool for creating such a wallet. Tails leaves nothing behind on a computer that could help a bad guy get access to your cold wallet or even know it exists. And by using Tails, you’ll be creating your cold wallet on a safer system.

Check out this link if you are interested in creating a Monero cold wallet using Tails.

Is Tails always the best solution for privacy and anonymity?

While Tails is a great privacy operating system, it isn’t the only one available, or even the best for every situation. In particular, people interested in online privacy and anonymity often use Whonix or Qubes.

So which is the best? As usual, the answer is, “it depends.” Let’s see how each one stacks up against Tails.

Is Whonix better than Tails?

Whonix typically runs as two VirtualBox virtual machines. You do your work in one virtual machine(the Workstation). The other (the Gateway) handles all connections between the Workstation and the Internet by passing them through the Tor network.

This design means that any computer that can run VirtualBox should be able to run Whonix. This makes it easy to install Whonix, but there are some big security implications to this design.

When you run Tails from a USB stick or DVD, it is the only operating system running on the computer. To run Whonix, you need to have the host operating system running too. You can easily jump back and forth between the private and anonymous Whonix workstation and the host computer.

While this is convenient, it makes it all too easy to do something in the host when you should be doing it in Whonix and vice versa. Even worse, Whonix can’t force communications between the host and the Internet to go through Tor. If you do slip up and do something in the host that you shouldn’t, you’ve lost your anonymity.

While Whonix has some advantages, we think Tails is a better privacy solution than Whonix.

Is Qubes better than Tails?

In some ways, Qubes is more like Tails than Whonix is. That’s because when you run Qubes, it is the only operating system running on the computer. This is inherently more secure than the Whonix approach since there is no way to accidentally get “outside” the secure Qubes environment.

Qubes contains its own virtual machines with differing levels of trust for running applications. The virtual machines are completely isolated from each other by Qubes. This limits the damage that a bad app (like spyware or a virus) can do by confining that damage to one virtual machine.

Qubes itself doesn’t provide any real anonymity. To address this, people sometimes run Whonix inside of Qubes.

One big drawback of Qubes (with or without Whonix) is that there isn’t a Live USB version of it. This means that when you use Qubes, there will likely be traces of it leftover on the host computer once you end your session.

As with Whonix, while Qubes has some benefits, we think Tails is a better solution overall.

Is Tails right for you?

Whether Tails is the “right” operating system for you depends on what you plan to do with it. You probably don’t want to use it as your main operating system. The features that make it such a good privacy tool can make it clumsy for full-time use. Installing your favorite software can be a hassle and may break the privacy protection that Tails provides. Making all your connections to the Internet go through the Tor network will slow down your browsing.

But there are many situations where Tails is extremely useful for anyone concerned with online privacy and anonymity:

  • Does it bother you that ISPs and websites watch what you do online and sell that information to marketers or hand it over to spy agencies? If so, using Tails can keep them from finding out anything useful about you.
  • Have you ever had your personal data stolen from some poorly protected websites by hackers? Using Tails can minimize the amount of data sites have about you. They can’t lose what they don’t have.
  • Do you need to visit sensitive websites that your government doesn’t want you to see? With Tails, you can anonymously get around the blocks they put up to stop you.
  • Does your government have a system like China, where everything you do online is monitored and used to decide whether you are a good citizen or not? You can use Tails to anonymously do the things the government doesn’t like.
  • Do you want to keep your cryptocurrencies safe? Keeping your cryptocurrency wallets on a Tails USB Stick adds layers of protection to your cryptos.

In short, virtually anyone reading this can think of situations where they could use the privacy and anonymity that Tails can give you. We think it is a great tool, as long as you remember that nothing is 100% safe and secure. Check out the Tails warnings page to be sure you understand the limitations, then give Tails a try.

And in case you were wondering why they call this thing “Tails,” the name is an acronym. It stands for “The Amnesic Incognito Live System.” Now you know.

Tails OS – An Actionable Guide for Regular Folks was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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The Biggest Leaks Revealed by Edward Snowden https://blokt.com/guides/edward-snowden-leaks https://blokt.com/guides/edward-snowden-leaks#respond Sat, 06 Jun 2020 13:34:12 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51469 Edward Snowden Leaks

When 2013 began, the general public had no idea who Edward Joseph Snowden was, but by the end of the year, everyone knew his name. Snowden, a former CIA employee who spent time working with the NSA, decided to share highly classified information with several leading journalists, who then broke the news to the world. […]

The Biggest Leaks Revealed by Edward Snowden was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Edward Snowden Leaks

When 2013 began, the general public had no idea who Edward Joseph Snowden was, but by the end of the year, everyone knew his name. Snowden, a former CIA employee who spent time working with the NSA, decided to share highly classified information with several leading journalists, who then broke the news to the world.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Snowden’s astonishing revelations have changed the world as we know it, shedding damning light on intelligence agencies and systems all over the world and making countless people think long and hard about their own privacy, anonymity, and security.

“We had a cyber Pearl Harbor. His name was Edward Snowden.”Ashton Carter, Former Secretary of Defense

Countless stories have been written, and debates have raged in the years since the leak began, and everyone has their view on Snowden and the mind-blowing information he shared with the world. His actions even led to the development of the USA Freedom Act, which was designed to limit the amount and type of data that could be monitored and recorded.

However, the fact of the matter, as Snowden’s leaks revealed, is that there’s a whole lot of spying and secret data-gathering going on behind-the-scenes of our lives. There’s still probably plenty that we don’t even know, but Snowden’s info helped to blow the whole thing open. Here are some breakdowns of some of the biggest and most important revelations he shared.

The NSA Can Demand Call Records And Data From Telephone Companies

This was actually one of the first major stories to come out in the wake of the Snowden leaks, but it’s still one of the most important. The initial story showed that Verizon, one of the biggest telephone companies around, was forced to provide the NSA with data and records for almost all of its customers.

Later on, we saw that Verizon wasn’t the only company involved in this sort of thing. Other major telephone companies like Sprint and AT&T were also handing over phone records and info to the intelligence agency without customers having any idea what was going on.

This revelation was enormous and generated significant debate at the time, with many of those debates still ongoing to this day. Then-President Barack Obama announced plans to overhaul the NSA’s data collection programs in what would eventually lead to the development of the USA Freedom Act.

Triggering A Wave Of Privacy Concerns

“When you give up your privacy, you give up your power.” – Thor Benson, Journalist
This first major leak from Snowden also had a big effect on public views about surveillance and privacy. Before then, many people had laughed off the thought of the NSA spying on their phone calls and taking their data behind their backs.

The whole notion seemed like something out of a conspiracy theory, but Snowden’s leaks proved that it was very real. From there, the public began to put more focus on protecting their mobile privacy in any way possible, as well as thinking more deeply about privacy and anonymity online through the increased use of VPNs.

The Power Of Smurfs

Sticking with the phone theme, Snowden’s leaks also taught us that the GCHQ, which is essentially the British version of the NSA, has the terrifying ability to actually control people’s phones, even when they’re switched off. To do this, they make use of a series of tools named after Smurfs, the little blue cartoon characters first created in an old Belgian comic series.

The Smurfs And What They Do

“There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me.'”Philip K. Dick, Author

Snowden revealed that the GCHQ had a whole list of Smurf tools, each with its own use and purpose. Here are some examples:

  • Dreamy Smurf – Has the ability to turn phones on or off remotely
  • Nosey Smurf – Has the ability to make use of the phone’s microphone to listen to conversations and noise in the local area
  • Tracker Smurf – Has the ability to precisely track your position
  • Paranoid Smurf – Works to hide the activities of the other Smurfs to prevent detection

As we can see, the power of these ‘Smurfs’ is quite terrifying. Naturally, these tools and software programs are only designed to be used against criminals and suspected terrorists, but the very fact that such technology exists was enough to send a shiver down the spine of many members of the general public.

PRISM

“The government doesn’t want any system of transmitting information to remain unbroken unless it’s under its own control.”Isaac Asimov, Tales of the Black Widowers

By far, one of the scariest revelations for the American public was the existence of PRISM. PRISM was the code name given to an NSA program in which the agency could effectively demand data from major tech and internet companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple.

PRISM, it turned out, has been a major source of intelligence for NSA reports, and it was a terrifying thing for the general public to learn about. People did respond, however, through protests, debates, and demonstrations, as well as encouraging each another to start focusing more strongly on protecting privacy and anonymity online.

The sorts of content the NSA could collect included search histories, downloads, emails, and more. The focus of the program was to track potential terrorism suspects, but the system effectively allowed for the data of almost any internet user to be taken, making it a huge threat to people’s privacy.

The NSA Can Intercept Packages Before They Reach Your Home

An astonishing report published in the German newspaper ‘Der Spiegel’ revealed that the NSA has a whole list of scary surveillance systems and methods in place to keep their eyes everywhere and spy on people without them being any the wiser.

The report showed that the NSA was able to intercept package deliveries that were on their way to a person’s home. From there, intelligence agents could open up the packages and see what was inside, as well as adding their own espionage tools and software programs.

That way, they could effectively find packages that were going into suspects’ homes, add bugs and traces to the items inside, and monitor what the suspect was using the equipment for and what was going on behind closed doors.

The ANT Catalog

Der Spiegel’s report went on to highlight some of the tools that could be used, comparing the list to a ‘mail-order catalog.’ The tools were all grouped under the acronym ANT, which stands for Advanced Network Technology. Each tool has its own codename and product listing in the ‘catalog,’ which describes its functions and uses.

ANT Tool Examples:

  • SURLYSPAWN – Able to log keystrokes on a computer and transmit them wirelessly, even when the computer isn’t connected to the internet
  • CANDYGRAM – Able to imitate a GSM cell phone tower to monitor cell communications
  • FIREWALK – Designed to look just like a regular RJ45 internet socket, this tool can inject and monitor device data via radio waves
  • MONKEYCALENDAR – Able to transmit a cell phone’s geolocation via a secret text message
  • COTTONMOUTH – Designed to look like USB and Ethernet connectors, these tools can hack into computers and provide remote access

Again, just like the Smurf tools used by the GCHQ in the United Kingdom, these code named espionage tools and pieces of equipment were very scary to learn about for many people as they proved that NSA agents had access to gear that could make surveillance incredibly easy for them and almost entirely undetectable for their targets.

The NSA Can Even Hack Tech Giants

An article in The Washington Post stated that the NSA had actually hacked into data centers of major tech giants Google and Yahoo in order to monitor communications and traffic at these centers.

This was a particularly scary revelation for members of the general public as it proved that there were almost no limits to what the NSA’s spy tools were capable of. If even the biggest internet companies on the planet could be hacked with such apparent ease, was anyone really safe?

It was also shocking for people to see that the NSA was prepared to use its wealth of hacking tools against big American companies. Google and Yahoo both released statements to deny any awareness of the surveillance and express their shock and dismay, with Yahoo even taking action to encrypt its connections.

The former CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Meyer, stated that Yahoo would not provide the NSA with any access to its data centers and never had in the past. This helped to reassure many members of the public and general internet users, but a lot of people still worried that big companies were making shady deals behind their backs.

Britain’s NSA Spies On Fiber Optic Connections All Over The Globe

The GCHQ, Britain’s NSA equivalent, was also revealed to use various surveillance tools to hack into fiber optic cables and connections all over the globe. This is all done under the code name ‘Tempora,’ which is a surveillance system that has been running since 2011.

This system essentially involved the GCHQ placing interceptors on several hundred fiber optic cables going in and out of the United Kingdom. These interceptors could seize data directly from the cables, with intelligence agents then closely observing and analyzing that data for anything that they might deem interesting or worthy of further investigation.

According to Snowden’s leaks, the information gathered by GCHQ via Tempora could also be shared with the NSA, with hundreds of thousands of NSA contractors being able to look at this data.

The NSA Collects Contact Lists

“There has never been a time in human history where so many people routinely carry recording and surveillance devices.”Steven Magee, Author

Part of the NSA’s surveillance and anti-terrorism measures also include the collection of countless email and contact lists from internet and smartphone users. Snowden’s leaks showed that up to 250 million of these contact lists could be taken each year.

It’s important to note that this system was only used overseas and aimed at non-US citizens, but the fact of the matter is that when literally hundreds of thousands of these lists are being collected all over the globe, and a lot of Americans also happen to be traveling in foreign places, it’s inevitable that their data is also going to be at risk.

Boundless Informant Proved That The NSA Spied On Americans

Boundless Informant (or BOUNDLESSINFORMANT) is the code name given to a big data analysis tool used by the NSA. This tool basically tracks all of the metadata collected by the NSA around the world and makes a kind of ‘heatmap’ of that data to show where it came from and which countries are targeted most frequently.

The tool showed that billions of pieces of information were being collected every single month, and it also showed that several billion pieces were being taken from citizens of the United States. This was despite the fact that the NSA had specifically stated to Congress that it did not gather data on millions of American citizens and didn’t even have the capacity to do so.

XKeyScore Allows The NSA To Track Anyone’s Online Activity

“You could read anyone’s email in the world, anybody you’ve got an email address for. Any website: You can watch traffic to and from it. Any computer that an individual sits at: You can watch it. Any laptop that you’re tracking: you can follow it as it moves from place to place throughout the world. It’s a one-stop-shop for access to the NSA’s information.”

That’s how Edward Snowden describes the power of XKeyScore, which is perhaps the most powerful NSA internet espionage tool of them all. Also known as XKS, this computer system is designed to search through and analyze internet data from users all over the globe, and huge amounts of that data are being collected each and every day.

What’s more, all of that data can then be shared with other intelligence agencies as part of the ‘Five Eyes‘ and ‘Fourteen Eyes’ alliances, so agencies like the GCHQ in the United Kingdom or the Defense Intelligence Headquarters of Japan could also get access to information on a person’s browsing habits, search history, and general internet usage.

Fighting Back Against Internet Surveillance

With so many harrowing revelations coming out of the Snowden leaks, especially in regard to internet surveillance through systems like XKeyScore, many people want to take action to be safer online and keep their data private.

That’s why statistics are showing a big leap in the number of people making use of virtual private networks (VPNs). VPN providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN are essentially able to encrypt your internet connections and hide your presence online, meaning that even if attempts were made to track your activity, they wouldn’t be successful.

Other VPNs Worth Checking Out:

Pros And Cons Of Using A VPN

Pros Cons
Hide your online presence and encrypt your connections for total anonymity Monthly/Annual subscription fees
Stay safe from hackers and malicious software. Connection speeds can sometimes vary, depending on the VPN you choose
Access region-locked or restricted content and services like Netflix
Enjoy total security when traveling.

The NSA Spies On Global Leaders

We’ve seen that giant tech companies like Google and Apple aren’t safe from the NSA’s spy tools, and the same can be said for world leaders like presidents and prime ministers. Many documents from Snowden’s files have revealed that the NSA has targeted over 120 different global leaders over the years, spying on their communications and actually listening in on their phone conversations.

Examples Of Leaders Who Have Been Hacked:

The likes of former Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and current German Chancellor Angela Merkel have all been victims of the NSA’s surveillance. The NSA was even able to spy on meetings between multiple world leaders at the likes of the G8 and G20 summits.

The Knock-On Effect

This sort of surveillance doesn’t directly affect the average member of the general public, but the revelations have already led to rising tensions between the United States and several other countries around the world. For example, when Snowden revealed that the NSA had been spying on China, the relationship between the two countries was dealt a big blow.

The NSA Actively Works Against Internet Encryption

Again, we can see another scary revelation for internet users all over the world as Snowden’s leaks also revealed that the NSA had teams of agents tasked with breaking down widely-used encryption and security measures used online.

A document from the GCHQ stated: “For the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used internet encryption technologies… Vast amounts of encrypted internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable”.

This NSA program was nicknamed Bullrun and made use of different hacking tools like brute-force attacks in order to break through standard encryption systems like HTTPS and SSL, which are used all over the internet for systems like online banking and purchases.

The NSA Has Its Own ‘Special Forces’ Team Of Hackers

As well as having a myriad of remarkably powerful hacking tools and systems at its disposal, the NSA can also call on the services of the “Tailored Access Operations” team. Abbreviated to TAO, this team is made up of elite hackers who can make use of various tools (like those seen in the ANT catalog, above) in order to hack into computers with astonishing ease.

With an arsenal of hacking systems and devices to choose from, the TAO team is able to break into computers regardless of whether they’re online or offline. From there, they can monitor location, internet activity, keystrokes, communications, and more, as well as infecting the device with Trojan horses and other forms of malware.

Intelligence Agencies Can Even Spy On You Through Angry Birds

It might sound too crazy to be true, but the reports and leaks have also stated that intelligence agencies like the NSA or the British GCHQ can actually make use of flaws in the designs of certain apps, including popular mobile games like Angry Birds, to spy on smartphone users. These apps are nicknamed ‘leaky apps,’ and there are millions of examples out there.

Just by opening a simple game, the sort of thing that millions of people are doing every single day while riding the train to work or taking a quick coffee break, you could be providing intelligence agencies with personal data like your age, sex, name, email address, and even your current location.

How Does It Happen?

These information ‘leaks’ are all down to the fact that many apps often demand access to some of your personal information in order to provide additional functionality like social media integration and the ability to share your high scores or play with friends. These apps aren’t being made by security experts, so they can come with a few little holes for intelligence agencies or malicious hackers to exploit.

The extent to which intelligence agencies can use apps to obtain information about a user isn’t fully clear, but it is believed that as well as basic info and current location, agents could also use apps to learn about your political alignment, sexual orientation, income, marital status, education level, and more!

Leaky App Examples:

  • Twitter
  • Google Maps
  • Flickr
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

The Biggest Leaks Revealed by Edward Snowden was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Which Linux Distro Is Best for Privacy? We’ve Done the Research [Guide] https://blokt.com/guides/best-linux-privacy-distro https://blokt.com/guides/best-linux-privacy-distro#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2020 13:33:29 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51472 Best Linux Privacy Distro

This article is for people who want more online privacy and security. If you are in a hurry to find your distro, skip ahead to “How to Choose Your Best Linux Privacy Distro.” Why is Linux better than Windows or macOS? Independent security experts favor Linux over either Windows or macOS, explaining all the reasons […]

Which Linux Distro Is Best for Privacy? We’ve Done the Research [Guide] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Best Linux Privacy Distro

This article is for people who want more online privacy and security. If you are in a hurry to find your distro, skip ahead to “How to Choose Your Best Linux Privacy Distro.”

Why is Linux better than Windows or macOS?

Independent security experts favor Linux over either Windows or macOS, explaining all the reasons why is an article in itself. We’ll touch on two of the big reasons most pros favor Linux over Windows and macOS, then zoom in on Linux distros.

Two of the biggest reasons experts say Linux is more secure than Windows or macOS are that Linux:

  • Is Built on Open Source Software
  • Is a “Small” Target for Hackers

Linux is Built on Open Source Software

The code that Linux is built on is open-source software. That means anyone can read or modify the code. While that may sound like a privacy nightmare, it is actually the opposite. Independent programmers from all over the world work on Linux code. That makes it almost impossible for a bad actor to add malicious code to Linux without someone seeing it.

Contrast this to proprietary operating systems like Windows or macOS. The proprietary source code is controlled by the company and hidden from outsiders. If you use a proprietary operating system, you have to trust the company. Will they ensure that no malicious code gets added by outsiders? Will they add malicious code themselves?

Windows 10, for example, has code in it that records all sorts of information about how you use your computer. Microsoft inserted this code intentionally to gather this information for their own use. In the Linux world, a small army of programmers guards the source code against this kind of behavior.

Linux is a “Small” Target for Hackers

According to Statistica, in 2017, there were over 1.3 billion users of Microsoft Windows in the world. They also stated there were over 170 million users of MacOS 10.

What about Linux? Around 28 million users. In other words:

  • There are about six times as many MacOS users as Linux users.
  • There are almost 50 times as many Windows users as there are Linux users.

If you were a hacker, which target would you choose? The 1.3 billion Windows users or the 28 million Linux users?

Social Engineering May Be the Biggest Threat of All

While the operating system you use is important to your online privacy, social engineering might be an even bigger threat than some piece of malicious software.

“The key to social engineering is influencing a person to do something that allows the hacker to gain access to information or your network.” Kevin Mitnick, Internet security expert and “world’s most famous hacker.”

Bad guys of all types use social engineering techniques to get around the protections built into your operating system. They take advantage of your trusting nature or curiosity to trick you into giving them the information they want.

See this article to learn about various social engineering attacks and how you can protect yourself from them.

Okay, so what exactly is Linux?

We’ve been talking about Linux and how it differs from Windows and macOS. But we haven’t said exactly what Linux is. Let’s do that now.

Linux is a family of free and open-source operating systems. It is based on core software called the Linux Kernel. Because the Kernel is free and open-source, anyone can use it to create their own version of Linux. When someone bundles together the Kernel and the rest of the software to make a fully functional operating system, it is called a Linux Distribution, or Linux Distro.

Developers have created hundreds of Linux Distros for a wide range of purposes. Some can replace Windows and macOS on the typical user’s desktop computers. Others run everything from the print server in your office to the most powerful supercomputers. Even the Android operating system running your smartphone is based on Linux.

While it is cool that Linux is used in so many places, that doesn’t help us much right now. So for the rest of this article, we’ll concentrate on Linux Distros that run on personal computers and are used for typical personal activities. We’ll ignore the versions running on smartphones, supercomputers, and other places.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Linux from Windows or macOS

Pros Cons
Most Linux Distros are free. Support can be limited/disorganized.
Linux is considered more secure. Most of the world runs Windows or macOS.
There is a Linux Distro for virtually any use case. The most popular software runs on Windows.
There are free and open-source programs that work like most popular Windows programs.
Less malware is written for Linux.
Linux Distros are usually faster/more efficient.

How to Choose Your Best Linux Privacy Distro

Choosing the best privacy distro is a personal thing. Perfect privacy is impossible to guarantee. And the greater the privacy you want, the more tradeoffs you will need to make.

In an ideal world, all our Personally Identifiable Information (PII) would be private. We would control who gets to see our information. The same goes for records of what we do and where we go when online.

Instead, all sorts of groups are trying to get their hands on this information for their own uses. You have to decide how much online privacy you need and how much you are willing to sacrifice to get that privacy.

The most popular operating systems and programs usually have the weakest privacy protections. But they also work with the most websites and have the most support. This makes them ideal targets for the bad guys.

Worse, the makers of these operating systems and programs often want your PII for their own uses. Remember the uproar when people saw what data Windows 10 collects about its users?

Moving to a Linux Distro eliminates many privacy and security problems. That said, every distro has its strengths and weaknesses. Read on to learn about several popular Linux Distros and the kind of privacy they give you.

Regular Linux Distros for Basic Privacy

If you use Windows or macOS, you can boost your privacy simply by moving to Linux. In this section, we’ll look at the privacy strengths and weaknesses of three popular Linux Distros.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is the most popular desktop Linux Distro. It is supported by a company called Canonical Ltd. Canonical funds development of Ubuntu with money earned, providing Ubuntu support to businesses. Unfortunately, Ubuntu has a spotty record when it comes to user privacy.

In 2012, Ubuntu recorded what users searched for in the files on their computers. It then sent that information to Canonical. Canonical used the information to run targeted Amazon ads on the user’s computer.

This prompted Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation, to call for the free software community to shun Ubuntu for spying on its users. Canonical eventually disabled this monitoring after much public pressure.

In 2018 Ubuntu began collecting a range of data from user’s computers and sending it back to Canonical. They say the data is anonymized, but the fact that they began collecting the data upset a lot of people. So did the way they set things up. New installations of Ubuntu 18.04 were set up to collect and send the data. Users should have to opt into giving up their data, not opt-out of Canonical taking it automatically.

Given this history, we recommend you look at other Linux distros if you value your privacy.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint is perhaps the version of Linux that Windows users will find easiest to adjust to. In particular, Linux Mint Cinnamon looks and feels much like Windows 7 did.

But what about privacy? This could have been a problem since Linux Mint is built on Ubuntu code. However, in their April 2018 newsletter, the Linux Mint team announced, “Ubuntu ships with “ubuntu-report,” which collects metrics and usage data. This package won’t be present in Linux Mint, and no data will be collected or sent.”

Linux Mint
Linux Mint

While Linux Mint doesn’t have the potential privacy issues that Ubuntu does, it certainly doesn’t provide the ultimate in privacy protection. Among other things, while it comes with all open-source software by default, Linux Mint does allow you to install proprietary video drivers and other software. This increases the risks to your privacy.

Linux Mint also uses unencrypted, non-anonymized connections to the Internet by default. This gives you the maximum in compatibility with websites and other online resources. But it leaves you exposed to all sorts of snooping unless you install and correctly configure tools like a VPN of Tor.

But if you are looking for a more private open-source operating system that’s easy to switch over to from Windows, Linux Mint could be a good option. One of our team has been using Linux Mint for several years now on multiple computers and remembers the switchover from Windows 7 as being very easy.

Debian

Debian is a Linux Distro that offers significant privacy improvements over Ubuntu or Linux Mint. But those improvements come at the price of some compatibility issues. Debian does not support any proprietary drivers or other components. This means that some popular commercial software won’t run on Debian.

On the other hand, the Debian community has created open source replacements for most any proprietary product you might need. As we said, there is some tradeoff of convenience for privacy.

Debian ships with Firefox-ESR (Extended Support Release) as its web browser. The personal version of Firefox ships with Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Firefox-ESR doesn’t include some of the privacy-threatening features that the personal version has. This makes the ESR version safer, but it may not work with some websites.

Emphasizing the Debian focus on user security and privacy, the team maintains a very detailed,

“step-by-step guide for setting up a personal computer with Debian from scratch to a fully configured system with high security, usability, convenience, and privacy protection.”

This SecurePersonalComputer guide is designed to help you go as far as you wish in securing your system from basic installation to advanced topics like:

  • Installing the OpenVPN client and using it with a commercial VPN service
  • Hardening the Linux Kernel against attacks
  • Installing an Intrusion Detection System and Security Auditing Tools
  • Installing Electrum, a free and open-source Bitcoin wallet

If you are looking for solid privacy and are willing to put up with some inconvenience and incompatibilities with the latest and greatest stuff on the Internet, Debian could be the Linux Privacy Distro for you.

Specialized Linux Distros for Privacy, Anonymity, and Security

The following three Linux Distros are specialized ones for people with more serious privacy needs.

Tails

Tails OS
Tails OS

Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) is a Linux Distro designed to keep you anonymously and safe while online. So what’s with the crazy name? It will actually make sense if we look at each piece in reverse order:

  • Live System – A live system is an operating system that can runs from a USB Stick or DVD without being installed on the computer where it is running. A live system is also sometimes called a live OS.
  • Incognito – Tails uses the anonymous Tor network to connect to the Internet. Only the most powerful adversaries have the money and tech to defeat the Tor network. That means Tails can travel the Internet “incognito.”
  • Amnesic – Tails does not leave any traces of its presence on the computer you are using. Not only that, but by design, Tails itself doesn’t remember anything either. All the data from your current session in Tails is in the RAM of the computer you are using. As soon as you power down the computer, everything is forgotten, making Tails “amnesic.”

Just from decoding the name, we can see that Tails is off to a good start when it comes to protecting your privacy. Beyond those in its name, Tails has these additional privacy features:

  • Tails are based on Debian, itself a strong privacy distro.
  • Tails comes with state of the art encryption tech built-in, including PGP and OTR support, automatic HTTPS, the KeePassX password manager, and much more.

With all this built-in privacy and anonymity in a mobile, use-anywhere package, Tails far surpasses distros like Linux Mint and even Debian. In case you’re still not convinced that this is a powerful Linux Privacy Distro, you should know that Edward Snowden used Tails to keep himself safe when he was passing NSA secrets to reporters a few years ago.

This doesn’t mean that Tails is foolproof. Researchers find security issues in Tails from time to time. The Tails team fixes them, of course, but there is no guarantee that all the possible issues have been found and fixed.

How safe you are when using Tails (or any other privacy distro) depends in part upon who wants you, and how badly they want you. If you want to protect yourself from a typical threat (you ex’s lawyer perhaps), Tails is likely more than sufficient.

But if you want to protect yourself from a global adversary (like the NSA) who wants you really badly, it isn’t clear that Tails is sufficient to save you. To help you understand the risks, the Tails team has a page dedicated to warnings.

To summarize, if you need robust privacy protection, and you’re not being pursued by the NSA, the 5 Eyes, or some other gigantic adversary with a global reach, Tails could be your answer.

Whonix

While you are running a live system like Tails, it is the only operating system running on your computer. You don’t have to worry about the security of the operating system and programs that usually run on the computer.

At the same time, running from a live system has drawbacks. You are limited to the software that comes with the live system. This software is designed to give you privacy but usually doesn’t include the latest features and technologies.

Normally, a live system like Tails won’t even keep data from session to session (remember the Amnesic part of the name). Setting up a Persistent Storage partition gives Tails the ability to remember data from session to session, but introduces its own security vulnerabilities.

Whonix isn’t a live system. It typically runs as two VirtualBox virtual machines (VMs) on top of the computer’s normal operating system. It relies on the VirtualBox virtualization program to keep the software running in Whonix isolated from the rest of the software on the computer.

Like Tails, Whonix is based on a modified version of Debian.

Whonix protects you by dividing communications and your workspace between the VMs. Whonix-Gateway is the communications part of the system. It uses the Tor network to handle all connections with the outside world. The other VM is called Whonix-Workstation. This VM comes with common applications that are installed and configured and ready to run. You do all your work within the Workstation VM.

Because it uses VirtualBox VMs, Whonix can run on the vast majority of computers. You can work in the secure Whonix Workstation and still use the computer normally. This is convenient but dangerous.

Have you ever accidentally typed in the wrong window on your computer? Imagine doing this on a computer running Whonix. Only the software running in the Workstation VM is secure. The software outside Whonix is just as vulnerable to spyware, keyloggers, and other spying as ever.

And remember, any programs using the Whonix Gateway communicate through Tor. But programs running outside Whonix do not. Your ISP and anyone else who happens to be monitoring your computer will be able to see these communications.

We think Whonix by itself is risky due to running on the (probably insecure) regular operating system of the computer you use it on. However, there is a pretty elegant solution to this problem. We’ll tell you about it shortly. But before we do, we need to talk about Qubes.

Qubes

With much of the Western security apparatus (spy agencies) out to get him, Edward Snowden is one guy who has to stay on top of Internet privacy and security. As you just saw, Snowden used Tails when he was first leaking information from the NSA.

But Edward Snowden has stopped using Tails and now relies on the Qubes OS. While the Qubes team bills their product as “a reasonably secure operating system,” Snowden and other experts take it much further:

Qubes OS
Qubes OS

Qubes protect you using the “Security by Isolation” approach. Using Qubes, you define security domains, each of which runs in a virtual machine. This lets you isolate programs and even components of Qubes from each other. Things running in one security domain can’t affect things running in other domains.

Say you use a normal computer for personal banking. But you also use it to visit dodgy websites sometimes. If something on one of those dodgy websites manages to compromise your computer system, everything on it, including your banking information, is at risk.

What if you were running Qubes? You would likely have one security domain for banking, and another for visiting those dodgy websites. Now, if something from one of those sites compromises your computer system, it can only touch things in the same security domain. Your banking information stays safe.

To make this all happen, Qubes replaces your old operating system with the Xen hypervisor. The Xen open source, type-1 hypervisor runs on bare metal. In other words, it runs directly on your computer’s hardware.

Because Xen doesn’t run on top of Windows or some other operating system, it is fast and efficient. It also eliminates the risk that the underlying operating system might be compromised (since there is no underlying operating system).

As far as each security domain virtual machine (called an AppVM in Qubes documentation) can tell, it is its own separate operating system. Most AppVMs run Linux, but there is support for Windows AppVMs too. Qubes provides tools for securely passing data from one domain to the other.

As you can see, Qubes is quite a step up in complexity from even Tails or Whonix. At the same time, Qubes itself doesn’t provide anonymity or privacy. To add these capabilities, people sometimes run Whonix inside of Qubes or Tails inside of Qubes.

If high-end privacy protection is what you need, and you are willing to make a radical shift in your computing environment, Qubes could be your answer.

How much privacy do you really need?

Choosing the best Linux Distro for your own privacy is a balancing act. Each of the Distros we’ve looked at here offers a different balance of privacy vs. convenience.

We suggest you start by picking the Linux Privacy Distro that looks like the best fit for you. Read the detailed review you’ll find on this site or dive right in and test it out for yourself.

Which Linux Distro Is Best for Privacy? We’ve Done the Research [Guide] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Social Engineering: A Major Threat to Your Privacy https://blokt.com/guides/social-engineering https://blokt.com/guides/social-engineering#respond Sat, 06 Jun 2020 13:33:06 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51482 Social Engineering

Protecting your privacy takes more than running a privacy-oriented Linux distro and using a password manager. Many security experts believe the weakest link in any system is the human that operates it. In this article, we’ll learn what social engineering is and why it is such a threat. Then we’ll look at some of the […]

Social Engineering: A Major Threat to Your Privacy was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Social Engineering

Protecting your privacy takes more than running a privacy-oriented Linux distro and using a password manager. Many security experts believe the weakest link in any system is the human that operates it.

In this article, we’ll learn what social engineering is and why it is such a threat. Then we’ll look at some of the social engineering attacks that bad guys can use against you, both online and offline. We wrap it up with a few tips for protecting yourself from social engineering attacks.

What is Social Engineering?

Merriam-Webster defines social engineering as the “management of human beings in accordance with their place and function in society.” That sounds a little creepy in itself. But in recent years, the phrase has taken on a more manipulative, sinister meaning.

Today, social engineering means something like “manipulating people to give you confidential information.” When we talk about social engineering here, this is the sense that we’re using.

Why Social Engineering is Such a Threat

Criminals use social engineering because it is easier than hacking into a computer system. Tricking someone into telling you something they shouldn’t is relatively easy. Most people are trusting of others.

It doesn’t matter how secure your computer system is. Or where you stashed your personal documents. Or how many guards are in front of your offices. Social engineering attacks sidestep all that.

Famous ex-hacker Kevin Mitnick often used social engineering attacks to get into “secure” computer systems.

“Anyone who thinks that security products alone offer true security is settling for the illusion of security.” – Kevin D. Mitnick, The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security

Criminals use social engineering attacks, both online and offline. Now we’ll look at some of the most common types of attacks and what you can do to defend yourself against them.

Let’s start with some of the online social engineering attacks beloved by hackers.

“A hacker is someone who uses a combination of high-tech cyber tools and social engineering to gain illicit access to someone else’s data.”John McAfee

Some Online Social Engineering Attacks

Here are a few of the most common online social engineering attacks:

  • Phishing
  • Spear Phishing
  • Baiting

Phishing

According to the Department of Homeland Security website, a phishing attack “uses email or malicious websites to solicit personal information by posing as a trustworthy organization.”

You’ve seen this kind of attack. We all get emails from official-sounding organizations claiming there’s a problem with our account, or they need to verify our credit card information.

The goal is to get you to click on the link in the email. That link will take you to a legitimate-looking, but phony, website for the organization. The website will be set up to trick you into entering your credit card data, Social Security number, or whatever it is that the crooks want to steal.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a type of phishing attack where the attacker customizes the phishing email using personal information about the intended victim. In December 2018, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a warning about several spear-phishing scams.

These scams were meant to gather the information that goes on IRS Form W-2. The target for these scams was small businesses. The bad guys would use the information to open credit card accounts, file fraudulent tax returns, open lines of credit, and so on.

Spear phishing attacks rely heavily on Pretexting attacks. We cover Pretexting attacks in the next section.

Baiting

Baiting attacks are somewhat similar to phishing attacks. The difference is that baiting attacks offer the target something they want instead of resolve a problem. In these kinds of attacks, you might get offered free music, copies of new movies, or any other kind of prize. To get the prize, you would be required to enter whatever type of personal information it is that the crook is after.

Baiting attacks can also occur offline. One such attack involves leaving USB sticks lying around somewhere employees of a target company might find them. The chances are good that someone will pick one up and plug it into their computer, letting whatever malicious software it contains loose inside the organization.

Some Offline Social Engineering Attacks

Here are some common types of offline social engineering attacks:

  • Pretexting
  • Tailgating/Piggybacking
  • Vishing (Voice Phishing)

Pretexting

Pretexting is using some form of a lie to trick someone into giving up information they should not share. Pretexting attacks can be run both online and offline. They are often used to get the personal information needed to set up Spear Phishing attacks.

An offline example might be someone who calls you, pretending to be from a lawyer’s office. You’ve just inherited a lot of money from a distant relative. All you need to do is provide certain information to prove your identity, and the lawyer will wire you the money. The pretext for the call is the phony inheritance.

Tailgating/Piggybacking

Tailgating usually involves passing through some sort of electronic security system using someone else’s access. Someone following close behind you when you pass through electronic security might not be a fellow employee at all. Instead, they might be someone tailgating on your access to go somewhere they don’t belong.

Vishing (Voice Phishing)

Vishing, or Voice Phishing, is the offline equivalent of a Phishing attack. There are several versions of this attack, but all use the telephone system. They aim to get the victim to divulge a credit card number or some other personal information in response to an official-sounding phone call.

These scams usually use VoIP (Voice over IP) technology to simulate the automated phone system that a real company might use. Phone systems used to be considered safe and trustworthy, making people more vulnerable to Vishing scams.

How to Defend Yourself from ONLINE Social Engineering Attacks

We’ve looked at some of the more common online social engineering attacks in use today. But what can you do to protect yourself from them?

Here are some practices that will reduce your chance of getting scammed:

  • Don’t open unexpected email attachments. If you receive an unexpected attachment, the chances are good that it is malicious. Contact the company IT department (if at work). If not at work, contact the sender (if you know them). Find out why you received it before opening any unexpected attachment.
  • Look up websites on your own. Remember that phishing-type attacks usually direct you to a fake website. You can avoid their trap by looking up the website address yourself rather than clicking on a link in an email message or attachment. If you do find yourself on a website you are unsure about, check out the URL (the address) that appears in the browser address box. While it is possible to make an exact duplicate of a legitimate website, no two sites can have the same URL. Looking up the company in a search engine should get you to the real site.
  • Never reveal your password to anyone online. No legitimate organization is going to ask a user for their password.
  • Use a VPN for additional privacy when browsing the web.

How to Defend Yourself from OFFLINE Social Engineering Attacks

We’ve also looked at common offline social engineering attacks. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from offline attacks:

  • Don’t give personal information to callers. This may have been safe many years ago, but is not now. If someone calls you and says they need you to confirm some personal information, hang up on the creeps!
  • Don’t let anyone tailgate you to get past security. Regular criminals or ex-employees have been known to use this technique to get back onsite and steal things or exact vengeance.
  • Always demand an ID from anyone who shows up asking you for information.
  • Never plug anything into your computer if you don’t know where it came from!

Social Engineering: A Major Threat to Your Privacy was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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How To Encrypt Files And Documents https://blokt.com/guides/how-to-encrypt-files https://blokt.com/guides/how-to-encrypt-files#respond Sat, 06 Jun 2020 13:32:56 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51467 How to encrypt files with securedoc

With all the snoops trying to get their hands on, well, every bit of information they can, encrypting sensitive content makes perfect sense. But there are various kinds of encryption you can use to protect yourself and your data, each with its pros and cons. In this article, we will look at two types of […]

How To Encrypt Files And Documents was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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How to encrypt files with securedoc

With all the snoops trying to get their hands on, well, every bit of information they can, encrypting sensitive content makes perfect sense. But there are various kinds of encryption you can use to protect yourself and your data, each with its pros and cons.

In this article, we will look at two types of encryption:

  • Disk encryption – The encryption of a Disk drive (or another storage device). To read any data on the disk, you need to know a password or a secret key.
  • Document encryption – The encryption of a complete document (or another file). To read the document, you need to know a password or a secret key.

We’ll take a quick look at how each type of encryption works, and talk about when you would want to use each type.

How To Encrypt Files With Disk Encryption?

Disk encryption works by encrypting part or all of a disk drive or other storage device. When you encrypt the entire disk, it is known as Full Disk Encryption (FDE). When only parts of the disk are encrypted, you have Encrypted Partitions on the disk.

FDE Basics

In a system using FDE, all the data on the disk is encrypted. When a user starts the system, they enter the encryption key, and the encryption software uses the key to encrypt/decrypt data on the fly.

Whenever data is read from the disk, it is decrypted before being used. Likewise, whenever data is written to disk, it is encrypted. Since the data on the disk is always encrypted, it is always inaccessible to anyone without the proper key, even if they physically take possession of the disk. And since the entire disk is encrypted, there is no way that sensitive data can find its way to an unencrypted file on the disk.

Encrypted Partition Basics

In a system using Encrypted Partitions, data automatically gets encrypted/decrypted only when it is stored on an Encrypted Partition. The user must take care to store documents and other files in the proper partitions.

The necessity to decide whether or not each file belongs on an Encrypted Partition means there is a chance that the user will make a mistake and leave sensitive data exposed. It is also possible for data stored in an Encrypted Partition to simultaneously appear in unencrypted form in a cache or swap file elsewhere on the disk.

Should I Encrypt My Disks?

In most cases, the answer is yes. You should encrypt your disks using FDE. It provides a basic level of protection with little or no performance impact once the disk is encrypted. Since the encryption is automatically applied to everything on the disk, you can’t forget to encrypt something, and the encrypted data can’t appear in an unencrypted file on the disk.

However, FDE does have some weaknesses. Perhaps most important, if the key is lost, the entire disk becomes unreadable. This makes the loss of the key much more damaging than when each document is encrypted individually with its own key. Some sort of key management system is almost mandatory to avoid eventual data loss.

Another weakness is that the system is vulnerable to hostile software while it is running. Reading and writing the encrypted disk is transparent to software once the disk is unlocked.
Finally, remember that FDE only protects files while they are stored on the encrypted disk. Sending a document to another computer by email, or even to an unencrypted disk on the same computer will leave the document unencrypted at its destination.

How to encrypt files with securedoc
How to encrypt files with SecureDoc

How To Encrypt Individual Files With Document Encryption

Document encryption (more properly file-level encryption) involves encrypting each document before it is saved. Ideally, every file will be encrypted with a unique key. This has several advantages over FDE or Encrypted Partitions.

Document encryption gives you fine control over who has access to which documents. Users only have access to the specific documents for which they have a key. On a system using FDE or Encrypted Partitions, a user with access to the disk or partition has access to every file on that disk or partition.

Encrypted documents remain encrypted when you email them or copy them to another disk. Only someone with the correct key can read an encrypted document, regardless of where it is located.

But the strength of document encryption is also a weakness. Anyone who needs to decrypt the document needs a copy of the key. Within an organization, distributing keys shouldn’t be a problem. Large companies and many small ones have Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems, Digital Asset Management Systems, or other tools that handle encryption and internal key distribution transparently.

But sending encrypted documents to external destinations can create a strange situation. While an encrypted document can be sent without worries, the key for decrypting it must be sent securely. Encrypting the key using PGP or some other Public-Key encryption system and the related Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to send the key to the destination is one approach.

Pros and cons of file-level encryption
Pros and cons of file-level encryption

When Should I Encrypt My Documents And Other Files?

This is a hard one to answer. If you are in a corporate environment, this is all probably handled for you, or there are policies in place to tell you what to do.

On a personal level, you should ask yourself questions like these:

  • How good is my current network security?
  • How valuable is my data to outsiders?
  • How sensitive is the information in any particular document?
  • Is FDE sufficient, or do I need to take it further?
  • Will I be storing any sensitive documents online, sending them through email or social media, or storing them in the cloud?

While you will need to figure out an approach that is right for you, we have some general suggestions:

  • If a document contains sensitive information, and it will be leaving your computer or network, encrypt it.
  • If it is so sensitive that it could impact your career, your marriage, or your bank balance, encrypt it.
  • If you have reason to believe that you are being specifically targeted by someone or some government agency, encrypt it.
  • If it contains random information of little value or information that is already out on social media, you probably don’t need to bother encrypting it.

Beyond those suggestions, figuring out the right balance is up to you.

Increasing Your Privacy with a VPN or Tor

There is one last thing to consider before you decide on your document encryption policies. NSA documents released by Edward Snowden show that they consider anything that is encrypted to be suspicious. They can keep copies of any encrypted document as long as they like.

This reasonably raises the concern that sending an encrypted document somewhere simply paints a target on your back for the spies. While we aren’t sure whether that is true or not, there is something you can do to reduce your risks: use a VPN or Tor when sending encrypted documents anywhere.

While neither type of tool provides perfect protection, both VPNs and Tor encrypt all data passing to and from your computer. Because anyone monitoring the connection between your computer and the Internet can see only encrypted data passing back and forth, they have no way to tell you are transmitting encrypted documents as well. NordVPN is worth looking into, should you decide to start using a VPN.

Should I use disk and document encryption together?

Here is a quick summary of the main strengths and weaknesses of disk encryption (FDE) and document encryption:

FDE Document Encryption
Protects all data stored on a disk automatically Yes No
Protects data that leaves your computer or network No Yes
Result if key lost Entire disk inaccessible Specific document inaccessible
Vulnerable if an attacker has access to the computer while it is running Yes It depends on how document keys are distributed or managed.

Computer security experts recommend using disk encryption and document encryption together. By using FDE and document encryption together, you are creating a defense in depth. Using both types of encryption takes advantage of the strengths of each approach while minimizing some of their weaknesses.

An attacker would need to get past your disk encryption to even see that you have an encrypted document on the disk. Then the attacker would have to get past the document encryption to actually read any sensitive data.

How To Encrypt Files And Documents was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Flare | Data Visualization for the Web https://blokt.com/tool/prefuse-flare https://blokt.com/tool/prefuse-flare#respond Sat, 06 Jun 2020 13:32:34 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=51485

Flare makes it easy to create interactive data visualizations To begin making your own visualizations, download flare and work through the tutorial below. Need more help? Visit the help forum (you’ll need a SourceForge login to post). Flare is open-source software released under a BSD license, meaning it can be freely deployed and modified (and […]

Flare | Data Visualization for the Web was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Flare makes it easy to create interactive data visualizations

To begin making your own visualizations, download flare and work through the tutorial below. Need more help? Visit the help forum (you’ll need a SourceForge login to post).

Flare is open-source software released under a BSD license, meaning it can be freely deployed and modified (and even sold for $$). Flare’s design was adapted from its predecessor prefuse, a visualization toolkit for Java.

Applications

Announcements

  • 2010.10.07: Flare development has been opened up to the community and the source has moved from SourceForge to a new home on GitHub. flare 2009.01.24 is still last official release and (at least for now) the tutorials and documentation reflect it. The development version on GitHub now contains better support for Flash Player 10 as well as many other small fixes and changes.
  • 2009.01.24: flare 2009.01.24 has been released. This is a maintenance release with a number of bug fixes and updates. See the release notes for more details. This is the last planned released for Flash Player 9 — future versions will migrate to version 10.
  • 2008.07.30: flare 2008.07.29 has been released. This is a major release introducing many new features and architectural improvements. See the release notes for more details.
  • 2008.07.30: flare 2008.08.08 has been released. This release includes improved legend support, named transitions, bug fixes, and a refactoring to reduce coupling and consolidate utility classes. See the release notes for more details.

Tutorial

A step-by-step tutorial for learning ActionScript and Flare.

Getting Started

The first step is to get your development tools set up.

  1. Setup a working flash development environment. There are two approaches. We recommend the first for simplicity, but more advanced users are welcome to use the second approach.
    • Option 1 (simpler): Install Adobe Flex Builder.
      • This is a full development environment for ActionScript/Flex applications. It is available for all the major platforms (Windows, Mac, Unix). Users who already use the Eclipse IDE can also install Flex Builder as an Eclipse plug-in.
      • The caveat to using Flex Builder is that it is commercial software and will only work for a limited trial period. However, Adobe provides free Flex Builder licenses to university students, faculty, and staff.
    • Option 2 (more complicated): Install the free Flex SDK
      • This will install the basic ActionScript/Flex compilers: mxmlc and compc. You can then setup your own build environment, for example, using the make or ant build systems. Flare is packaged with a build.xml file for use with the Apache Ant build system. Once ant is installed, just open the build.xml file in a text editor, change the first couple lines to point to your Flex SDK installation, and then use ant to compile the libraries. We make use of Adobe Labs’ ant tasks for Flex development.
      • The advantage of this approach is that all the software is free, and will not expire on you. However, you lose out on features like automatic compilation, project management, and auto-complete provided by Flex Builder.
  2. Download the prefuse flare libraries.
    • The download is a zip file containing a set of ActionScript library projects. Unzip the files into your primary workspace directory if you are using Flex Builder. During the tutorial we will import them into Flex Builder and use them to build visualizations!
    • The software is currently an alpha version, and so some bugs and limitations are to be expected. We will fix problems as soon as we can, and the link above will always point to the most recent version.

Introduction to Flash and ActionScript 3

Flash is a great environment for interactive graphics and with the recent addition of the ActionScript 3 programming language, it just became a lot more powerful and efficient. While a complete introduction to AS3 is beyond the scope of this tutorial, here are some resources you will find useful:

  • Adobe provides an Overview of AS3, with links to additional resources.
  • Essential ActionScript 3 by Colin Moock from O’Reilly publishing is a great book to help you get started. You can access it online here (some institutions, such as universities, provide access for free).
  • The Adobe Flex API Reference is invaluable for understanding the different classes and methods available. We will be focused only on the classes in the flash.* packages.

This tutorial assumes a basic familiarity with ActionScript syntax and types, as well as concepts of object-oriented programming.

Part 1: DisplayObjects

Introduction

Flash models a 2D visual scene using a scenegraph. Visual objects are organized in a hierarchy, with child objects defined in the coordinate space of the parent. You’ll often see this scenegraph referred to as the display list in both Adobe’s documentation and in books on Flash programming.
The node at the top of the display list is always the Stage object. The stage always has one and only one child. This is called the root, and all visual items are underneath the root. Typically, the root is your actual Flash application. We’ll come back to this soon.
All visual items that can be added to the display list are instances of the DisplayObject class. Subclasses of DisplayObject include Bitmap (for images), TextField (for interactive text areas), and Video (think YouTube). The most common instances, however, are the Sprite and Shape classes. For reference most of these classes can be found in the flash.display package (though eventually you’ll likely find the flash.text package of use, too).
The Sprite class is the most useful, general visual object used by the Flash Player. Sprites are visual objects that contain both drawing content and can serve as a container for sub-nodes in the display list (the Sprite class subclasses the flash.display.DisplayObjectContainer class). In contrast, the Shape class can contain drawing content, but can not hold sub-nodes. As a result, Shapes use up less memory, but are much less flexible. For simplicity, we’ll focus on Sprites in this tutorial.

Create A New Application

First, let’s create a new Flash application. To do this, open Flex Builder and make sure you are in the “Flex Development” perspective (often reached by clicking the black and white “Fx” icon in the upper right).
In the “Navigator” pane on the left, right click the display and select “New > ActionScript Project”. In the resulting dialog, type “Tutorial” as the project name, then click “Finish”. This will create a new project for you.
You should now see a “Tutorial” folder in the “Navigator” pane. Within this folder, you should see a file named “Tutorial.as”. This is your main application file. Open it, if it is not open already.
Inside the file, you’ll see the basic scaffolding for this class:

package {
    import flash.display.Sprite;
 
    public class Tutorial extends Sprite
    {
        public function Tutorial()
        {
        }
    }
}

Notice that this class extends the Sprite class. Because this is our main application class, when we run the application an instance of the Tutorial class will automatically be added to the display list as its root (the one and only child of the Stage).
Notice also that a constructor has been automatically created. This constructor will be called when the application launches. For those familiar with programming languages such as C, C++, or Java, the constructor for the application class acts much like a main function in those other languages.
With this new application scaffolding in place, we can start playing with visual objects. However, there is one thing we want to do first. Add a new line directly above the class declaration (”public class Tutorial…”) line that says:

[SWF(width="800", height="600", backgroundColor="#ffffff", frameRate="30")]

This line defines default settings for your application (which is compiled and saved as a .swf file in your project’s “bin” directory). Above, we set the size, background color, and target frame rate (in frames per second) for our application.

Sprites

Like all DisplayObjects, Sprite supports a number of visual properties right out of the box. This includes the x, y, scaleX, scaleY, rotation, and alpha properties. These respectively change the position, size, orientation, and transparency of a sprite (and all its children! Remember, we’re using a scenegraph here).
However, these values don’t mean much yet, as sprites don’t contain anything by default. We’ll start by drawing our own content.
Every Sprite also has a graphics property. We can use this to draw graphics for the Sprite. The graphics property is an instance of the flash.display.Graphics class, which provides a number of vector drawing commands.
In the example below, we do a number of things.

  • First, we create a new Sprite.
  • Second, we use the sprite’s graphics to draw a circle with gray fill and black outline.
    • beginFill sets the current fill color and style. The first argument is the color, in hex notation, and the second argument is the alpha value, which ranges from 0 for fully transparent to 1 for fully opaque.
    • lineStyle sets the current stroke color and style. The first argument is the line width, the second argument is the color.
    • drawCircle draws a circle of radius 10 at the point 0,0 in the coordinate space of our sprite.
  • Third, we add the sprite as a child of our main application (a Tutorial sprite).
  • Fourth, we set the x and y position of our sprite.
  • Fifth, we add some debugging output. trace prints a string to the console. This output only shows up when running the app in “debug” mode.

Here’s the code:

package {
    import flash.display.Sprite;
 
    [SWF(width="800", height="600", backgroundColor="#ffffff", frameRate="30")]
    public class Tutorial extends Sprite
    {
        public function Tutorial()
        {
            var sprite:Sprite = new Sprite();
 
            sprite.graphics.beginFill(0xcccccc, 0.5);
            sprite.graphics.lineStyle(1, 0x000000);
            sprite.graphics.drawCircle(0, 0, 10);
 
            this.addChild(sprite);
 
            sprite.x = 50;
            sprite.y = 50;
            trace("our sprite is at: "+sprite.x+", "+sprite.y);
        }
    }
}

Run the application (right click “Tutorial.as” and select “Run As > Flex Application”). You should see a gray circle with black outline in the upper left corner, centered on the point 50, 50. If you run the application in debug mode (select “Debug As > Flex Application”), you should also see the string “our sprite is at: 50, 50” in the output console.

Nested Sprites

Now let’s make our scene a bit more interesting. Let’s start by moving our Sprite generation code to a new method. We’ll add this method to our class:

        private function createCircle(x:Number, y:Number):Sprite
        {
            var sprite:Sprite = new Sprite();
 
            sprite.graphics.beginFill(0xcccccc, 0.5);
            sprite.graphics.lineStyle(1, 0x000000);
            sprite.graphics.drawCircle(0, 0, 10);
            sprite.x = x;
            sprite.y = y;
            return sprite;
        }

Next, we replace the code in our constructor. First, we create a new sprite called container which we’ll use to hold a collection of circles. We place it in the center of our stage. Second, we use a loop to create a bunch of circles. Here, we line up the circles symmetrically around the 0,0 point of the parent container. Our new constructor now looks like this:

        public function Tutorial()
        {
            var container:Sprite = new Sprite();
            container.x = 400;
            container.y = 300;
            this.addChild(container);
 
            for (var i:int=0; i<10; ++i) {
                var x:Number = (i/5<1 ? 1 : -1) * (13 + 26 * (i%5));
                container.addChild(createCircle(x, 0));
            }
        }

Run the new version of the application. You should see a line of ten circles in the middle of the application.
We can now modify the container to update all the circles within it. Try playing with setting different visual variables on the container sprite. For example, modify the x, y, scaleX, scaleY, rotation, and alpha properties.

Other Topics

There’s a lot more you can do with the basic options Flash provides. Unfortunately, they are a bit beyond what we have time for here. Some things to explore include image filters (see the flash.filters package), which allow you to add visual effects to display objects using their filters property, and the different options available in the flash.display.Graphics class, including fill and line styles, and many more 2D drawing routines.

Part 2: Animations

Now that we can create visual objects, it’s time to start giving them some life. Flare includes the flare.animate package to help make this easy. First, we need to import the flare libraries for use in Flex Builder.

Importing Libraries

Before proceeding, make sure you have the flare libraries loaded as projects within Flex Builder. You should have already unzipped the flare files into your main Flex Builder workspace directory. The next step is to import them into the Flex Builder environment:

  • Make sure you are in the “Flex Development” perspective.
  • Right click the navigator pane on the left.
  • Select “Import…” in the popup menu.
  • In the dialog, select “General > Existing Projects into Workspace” and click the “Next” button.
  • Use the “Select root directory” widgets to navigate to your Flex Builder workspace directory
  • You should now see the flare projects listed in the “Projects:” panel.
  • Select the “flare” and “flare.demos” projects and then click the “Finish” button.

You should now see the flare projects in the Navigator pane. You can now browse the source code for each both the library and the demos.

Overview of the flare library

Here is a quick overview of the flare toolkit. Inside the flare project, look inside the “src/flare” folder. You’ll find a number of packages providing different features:

  • analytics: operators for computing statistics and analyzing data
  • animate: tools for creating animations
  • data: methods for reading and writing data sets
  • display: DisplayObject types that extend those provided by flash.display
  • flex: a wrapper for embedding Flare visualizations in Flex applications
  • physics: a physics engine for physical effects or force-directed layout
  • query: a query processor for ActionScript objects
  • scale: classes for handling data scales, such as linear, log, and time scales
  • util: a set of utility classes providing commonly needed functions
  • vis: the flare visualization components and operators

There is also the flare.demos project, which provides a number of examples of how to create Flare components.

Importing a library within another project

To make use of flare in your own projects, you will need to update your project settings. Here’s how to do that:

  1. In the Navigator pane, right click the top folder of the “Tutorial” project
  2. Click “Properties” in the context menu
  3. In the resulting dialog, click “ActionScript Build Path” in the left panel (it should be the 3rd item from the top)
  4. Click the “Library path” tab in the right panel
  5. Click the “Add Project” button
  6. You should now see a list of projects, including flare.
  7. Select “flare” and then click “OK”

You’ve now added the flare libraries to your project, and can use any of the classes it provides.
One thing to note about the Flex compiler – by default, it only includes the classes that you actually you use in your application. So even if you import a very large library, the size of your final .swf file can still be quite small. However, beware that this can cause issues if you use reflection to perform dynamic class loading in your application (a more advanced feature not covered in this tutorial).

Basic Animation: Tween, Sequence, and Parallel

Ok, now let’s animate! The flare.animate.Transition class is the base class for all animations. Important subclasses of Transition are the Tween, Sequence, and Parallel transitions. Tweens are used to animate properties of a single object. Sequences are used to run a series of animations in order. Parallel transitions run a collection of transitions simultaneously. Let’s start with Tween.

Tweening Object Properties

The basics of the Tween class are simple: we take an object, give a set of property values we would like to change over time, and specify the time duration for that change. Using the Tutorial application from Part 1, let’s rotate the container object. Add the following line to the end of the Tutorial class constructor:

    var tween:Tween = new Tween(container, 3, {rotation:360});
    tween.play();

Also, make sure that you have a new import statement at the top of your class, so the compiler knows what you’re talking about. Add this to the list of imports:

    import flare.animate.Tween;

(NOTE: sometimes Flex Builder will automatically add an import statement for you as you type a new class name. If not, another technique is to put the text cursor at the end of the new class name and type “Ctrl-Space” – this should create a new import for you for the class.)
Now run your application–the points should rotate in a circle over a 3 second period.
Here’s what the Tween constructor is doing:

  • The first argument is the object whose values should be tweened
  • The second argument is the length of the animation, in seconds
  • The third argument is an Object instance listing the properties to animate and their target values.
    • The property names must exactly match the properties of the input object.
    • Nested properties are allowed, but must be enclosed in quotes. For example, {“data.profit”:50} is a legal input if the input object has a property named data which in turn has a property named profit.

The play method then runs the animation. The play method can also be called with a single Boolean parameter indicating whether or not to run the animation in reverse.
You may have noticed that the rotation animation exhibits some acceleration. This is because the default setting for Tween instances is to use “slow-in slow-out” animation. You can control these behaviors using Easing functions. These functions take as input the current animation progress as a fraction between 0 and 1. They then return a manipulated progress fraction to change the pace of the animation, often in a non-linear fashion.
To remove easing (i.e., use a linear easing function) you can write: tween.easing = Easing.none. Just make sure you import the flare.animate.Easing class at the top of the file.
Feel free to experiment with other easing functions. For example, easing functions may involve easing in (manipulate the start of the animation only), easing out (manipulate the end of the animation only), or both. For example, try this: tween.easing = Easing.easeOutBounce. This should make the rotation bounce at the end.
Before moving on, try animating other properties of the container, such as position, scale or alpha values.

Composite Animations

The Sequence and Parallel classes allow you to group animations together. Sequence runs a set of animations one after the other. For example, try this:

    var t1:Tween = new Tween(container, 1, {y:100});
    var t2:Tween = new Tween(container, 1, {scaleX:2});
    var t3:Tween = new Tween(container, 1, {y:300});
    var t4:Tween = new Tween(container, 1, {scaleX:1});
 
    var seq:Sequence = new Sequence(
        new Parallel(t1, t2),
        new Parallel(t3, t4)
    );
    seq.play();

You’ll also need to add some new import statements at the top of the file:

    import flare.animate.Parallel;
    import flare.animate.Sequence;

This creates four tweens: t1, t2, t3, and t4. It then creates two parallel transitions that run t1 and t2 together and run t3 and t4 together. The parallel transitions are then run one after the other in a sequence. In this way, it is easy to build more complicated animations.
For more advanced composite animations, take a look at the FlareLogo and flare.demos.Animation classes in the flare.demos project.

Batch Animation with Transitioners

Using the Tween, Parallel, and Sequence classes, you can make any number of animated transitions. However, when dealing with large collections of objects (common in visualization) it can be a pain to manually handle a similarly large set of tweens. Furthermore, it should be easy to run separate routines for encoding visual properties like layout, color, size, shape and not have to worry about handling animation. Perhaps you want to animate changes or perhaps you want a static update. Either way, you should be able to reuse the same code for assigning values.
To address these concerns, Flare provides the Transitioner class. Transitioners simplify the process of creating animations for collections of objects. You simply take an object and set the desired properties one-by-one. Behind the scenes, the transitioner will automatically generate and reuse the necessary tweens to model the full animation. Furthermore, if animation is not desired, the transitioner can be configured to instead set the property values immediately. In short, the transitioner provides a layer of indirection for updating object properties – these updates can be collected and then animated, or applied immediately.
Here’s a simple example of using a transitioner in our tutorial app.

    var t:Transitioner = new Transitioner(2);
    for (var j:int=0; j<container.numChildren; ++j) {
        var s:Sprite = container.getChildAt(j) as Sprite;
        t.$(s).y = 200 * (Math.random() - 0.5);
        t.$(s).scaleY = 1 + 2*Math.random();
    }
    t.play();

This example animates all the sprites in container to a new random y position and random vertical scale factor. We first create a new Transitioner that should create a 2-second animation. We then loop through each child sprite and use the transitioner to set the properties to Tween.
The Transitioner’s $ operator indicates that we want to set a target value for the input object. By default, either a new Tween is created, or an existing Tween is found for the current item. The $ operator then returns an object upon which to set the tween’s target property.
Furthermore, transitioners can be used to create static (non-animated) transitions. If a transitioner’s immediate property is set to true, it will not create new Tweens. Instead, the $ operator will simply return the input value. This means you can create methods that update values using a transitioner, and then later control whether or not you want those values updated. The standard “immediate-mode” Transitioner is retrieved using the static Transitioner.DEFAULT property. That way you don’t need to allocate a new Transitioner when performing immediate updates.
Transitioners are used extensively throughout the flare.vis package, allowing visualization designers to control which updates should be animated and how.

Part 3: Visualizations

Loading Data

The basic data representation for Flare simply uses the built-in Flash data types: Object and Array. For example, a table of data can just be represented as an array of objects, which each object containing the names and values of each data field. While more efficient representations are possible, this approach provides the most flexibility while also taking advantage of existing Flash development conventions.
To load data into the Flash player, there are a number of approaches. A simple approach is to embed your data into the application itself. That way, the data gets downloaded along with the application, which is fine for static data sets. For example, you can use ActionScript’s object notation to define the data set directly as a variable:

var data:Array = [
    {id:"Q1", sales:10000, profit:2400},
    {id:"Q2", sales:12000, profit:2900},
    {id:"Q3", sales:15000, profit:3800},
    {id:"Q4", sales:15500, profit:3900}
];

However, in many cases you will want to load your data dynamically, either from within a web page (you can use JavaScript in the browser to pass values into Flash), or from a server on the internet. There are many approaches to doing this and you should pick whatever works best for your particular application. For example, ActionScript provides additional data types and syntax for working with XML data using the ECMAScript for XML (E4X) standard.
Flare also provides some utilities for loading external data sets. It supports loading data from any server on the internet and converting that data into internal ActionScript objects. The currently supported file formats are tab-delimited text (“tab”, a standard file format for exporting data from tools such as Excel), JavaScript Object Notation (“json”, a common data format for web applications), and GraphML (“graphml”, an XML format for representing networks with nodes and edges).
Remote data is loaded by flare using the flare.data.DataSource class. Here’s an example of using it to load a tab-delimited data file:

var ds:DataSource = new DataSource(
    "http://flare.prefuse.org/data/test.tab.txt", "tab"
);
var loader:URLLoader =  ds.load();
loader.addEventListener(Event.COMPLETE, function(evt:Event):void {
    // function to handle data once loading is complete
    var ds:DataSet = loader.data as DataSet;
    // now do something with the data...
});

The DataSource constructor has two required arguments: the url of the data set, and a string indicating the file format. Right now the supported formats are “tab” (tab-delimited), “json” (JavaScript Object Notation), and “graphml” (GraphML).
For data sets whose schema (the names and data types of the fields) may be unclear, there is also a third, optional constructor argument which takes a DataSchema type. See the flare.data.DataSchema and flare.data.DataField classes for more. The schema can be helpful for ensuring that data values are properly named (e.g., for a tab delimited file missing a header row) and converted into the proper data types (e.g., for JSON data in which numeric values were wrapped in quotes).
To actually load the data, the DataSource load method is called, returning a flash.net.URLLoader instance. The loader can be used to track the progress of the download (e.g., if you wanted to provide a progress bar) and provides a notification event when the download is completed. In the example above, we add an event listener to be notified when the download completes. The DataSource will automatically parse the input data, map it into ActionScript objects, and store the results in a flare.data.DataSet object. The DataSet class can represent both table and network (node/edge) data.

Creating and Managing Visual Objects

Now we would like to visualize a data set. To do this, we map individual data records into visual items. Flare provides a set of visual objects to represent the data. Here’s an overview of the basic classes provided by the flare.vis.data package.

  • DataSprite: Base class for sprites that visually represent data. DataSprite is a subclass of the Flash Player’s Sprite class. DataSprite includes a data property where the data tuple (an ActionScript Object) is stored and also provides additional visual variables beyond those supported by basic sprites, including color, shape, and size fields, and support for setting positions in polar coordinates.
  • NodeSprite: DataSprite instance representing a node. This is the default type used for visualizing data. NodeSprite instances can be connected within network or tree structures by EdgeSprite instances.
  • EdgeSprite: DataSprite instance representing an edge. An EdgeSprite connects two NodeSprites. The nodes are accessible through the source and target properties. EdgeSprites are used to create graphs and trees, as well as to represent lines, such as in time-series graphs.

Typically, NodeSprites and EdgeSprites are created and stored in the flare.vis.data.Data class, which manages all the visual items for a single visualization. The Data class provides methods for creating new visual objects for data tuples and for representing a graph structure.
The Data class also provides methods for traversing and updating the contained data items. The nodes and edges properties return lists of the nodes and edges contained within the data. Each of these lists includes a visit method that allows you to pass in a function that will then be called with each node or edge. Also, the setProperty and setProperties methods allow you to set property values for all nodes or edges at once. These methods optionally take a Transitioner as an argument, so you can animate the property update.
For example, the following code results in a one second animation in which the line color for all nodes is set to blue. (Note that the hex notation for DataSprite color values include the alpha as well as red, green, blue channels).

data.nodes.setProperty("lineColor", 0xff0000bb, new Transitioner(1)).play();

Node and edge lists also support default property values, using the setDefault, setDefaults, removeDefault, and clearDefaults methods. Default values will be set on a node or edge newly created using the Data class’ addNode or addEdgeFor methods.
The Tree class is a subclass of Data, specialized to represent a tree rather than a general graph. The Data class supports the automatic creation of a Tree instance by computing spanning trees of a general graph. A number of spanning tree creation methods–including breadth-first, depth-first, and minimum spanning tree algorithms–can be passed in as a parameter. These calculations are performed using the flare.analytics.graph.SpanningTree class.
To actually create node and edges objects, we use the addNode and addEdgeFor methods.

  • addNode takes an input data tuple (an Object) and creates a new NodeSprite for visualizing that data.
  • addEdgeFor takes two existing NodeSprites and adds an EdgeSprite connecting them. The method also optionally excepts a data tuple (again, an Object representing any data fields) for the edge.

Here is a simple example for creating NodeSprites for a tabular data set, assuming we have an array of data objects:

var list:Array; // an array of data objects we have already loaded
var data:Data = new Data(); // a new data container
for each (var o:Object in list) {
    data.addNode(o);
}

The result is a Data object populated with visual DataSprite (nodes or edges) instances.
In practice, you don’t always need to populate the visualized data manually. To create a Data object for visualizing a loaded data set, you can often use a convenience method instead. The Data.fromArray() function creates a Data instance for tabular data stored as an array of ActionScript objects, while the Data.fromDataSet() method similarly creates a Data instance from a loaded DataSet object.

Constructing a Visualization

Now let’s put this all together to start making visualizations. The Visualization class represents a single visualization, including visual marks (stored in a Data instance) and axes. To create a visualization, we load a data set, add the data to a visualization, and set up operators that determine how to visualize the data. Here is an example. Look over the code first, then read on to understand what each part is doing.

package {
    import flare.data.DataSet;
    import flare.data.DataSource;
    import flare.scale.ScaleType;
    import flare.vis.Visualization;
    import flare.vis.data.Data;
    import flare.vis.operator.encoder.ColorEncoder;
    import flare.vis.operator.encoder.ShapeEncoder;
    import flare.vis.operator.layout.AxisLayout;
 
    import flash.display.Sprite;
    import flash.events.Event;
    import flash.geom.Rectangle;
    import flash.net.URLLoader;
 
    [SWF(width="800", height="600", backgroundColor="#ffffff", frameRate="30")]
    public class Tutorial extends Sprite
    {
        private var vis:Visualization;
 
        public function Tutorial()
        {
            loadData();
        }
 
        private function loadData():void
        {
            var ds:DataSource = new DataSource(
                "http://flare.prefuse.org/data/homicides.tab.txt", "tab");
            var loader:URLLoader = ds.load();
            loader.addEventListener(Event.COMPLETE, function(evt:Event):void {
                var ds:DataSet = loader.data as DataSet;
                visualize(Data.fromDataSet(ds));
            });
        }
 
        private function visualize(data:Data):void
        {
            vis = new Visualization(data);
            vis.bounds = new Rectangle(0, 0, 600, 500);
            vis.x = 100;
            vis.y = 50;
            addChild(vis);
 
            vis.operators.add(new AxisLayout("data.date", "data.age"));
            vis.operators.add(new ColorEncoder("data.cause", Data.NODES,
                "lineColor", ScaleType.CATEGORIES));
            vis.operators.add(new ShapeEncoder("data.race"));
            vis.data.nodes.setProperties({fillColor:0, lineWidth:2});
            vis.update();
        }
    }
}

Let’s look at each method.
The constructor is simple: it just calls the loadData method.
The loadData method creates a new data source and loads it using the methods described earlier. In this case, the data set is reported homicides in Los Angeles county in 2007, stored in tab-delimited format. When the load is complete, the loaded data tuples are added to a Data instance using the fromDataSet convenience method. Under the hood, this results in the creation of NodeSprites for visualizing each data item. Finally, the visualize method is called.
The visualize method sets up the visualization. Here’s what is happening in each step:

  • Part 1: Initialization
    • A new visualization is created for the data
    • We set the bounds for the visualization. This determines the layout area.
    • We set the x and y position of our visualization and the add the visualization to the display list.
  • Part 2: Specifying Visual Encodings
    • We use an axis layout, placing “date” on the x-axis and “age” on the y-axis. The AxisLayout operator also automatically configures the axes for the visualization. We use the syntax “data.date” to denote the data variables, as they are located within the NodeSprite‘s data property.
    • We add a color encoding, so that a node’s line color represents the “cause” (cause of death) variable. We also tell the color encoder that the values of the “cause” variable represent categories (ScaleType.CATEGORIES). The color encoder will use this information to automatically pick an appropriate color palette. As we will see shortly, you can also provide your own color palette.
    • We add a shape encoding, so that an object’s shape represents the “race” of a victim.
    • We set default properties – we set nodes’ fill color to full transparent, and set the line width to 2 pixels.
    • Finally, we call the update method. This runs all the operators in order.

Updating a Visualization

Once a visualization has been created, we may want to update it. For example, maybe we would like to change the color encoding to instead visualize people’s gender.
First, let’s add a new method to the class:

        private function colorByGender():void
        {
            var color:ColorEncoder = ColorEncoder(vis.operators[1]);
            color.source = "data.sex";
            color.palette = new ColorPalette([0xffff5555, 0xff8888ff]);
            vis.update(new Transitioner(2)).play();
        }

This method:

  1. Retrieves the second operator (the operator at index 1) and casts it to a ColorEncoder
  2. Changes the source property for the color encoder to use the “data.sex” variable
  3. Sets a new color palette (in this case, red for females, blue for males – the color order matches the alphabetical order of the labels)
  4. Animates the change by calling update with a Transitioner set for a two second animation. The vis.update method returns the Transitioner, so we can call play on the return value of the update. (Note: you can also omit the Transitioner and just pass the number 2 as an argument to update. A new Transitioner will be created automatically and returned.)

Now we need to wire up the application so we can interactively trigger the update. To do so, add the following code to the constructor:

            // add a clickable label
            var button:TextSprite = new TextSprite("Color by Gender");
            addChild(button);
            button.x = 710;
            button.y = 50;
            button.buttonMode = true;
            button.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK,
                function(evt:MouseEvent):void { colorByGender(); }
            );

This code:

  1. Creates a new text label (TextSprite is a helper class from the flare.display package)
  2. Adds the label to the application and sets its position
  3. Sets buttonMode to true (this makes a hand cursor appear when you mouse over the label)
  4. Adds an event listener that is triggered when the label is clicked. We add a callback function that calls the colorByGender method.

For the above code to work, we’ll need to include these additional import statements at the top of the file:

    import flash.events.MouseEvent;
    import flare.animate.Transitioner;
    import flare.display.TextSprite;
    import flare.util.palette.ColorPalette;

Now you should be able to compile and run the application. Clicking the “Color by Gender” label should animate the change in color encoding.

Next Steps

The above examples show the basics of Flash and the Flare library, but there are many more features that have yet to be covered. Going forward, we recommend (a) inspecting both the Flash and Flare API documentation to get a sense of all the available classes, and (b) digging through the Flare demos to see how the same principles shown here can be used to construct a number of other visualizations. Or, better yet, dig through the Flare source code to learn what’s going on under the hood.
To aid in this process, here is a general overview of the sub-packages in flare.vis:

  • flare.vis.axis: provides axes, labels and gridlines
  • flare.vis.controls: interaction handlers for selection, zooming, and more
  • flare.vis.data: visual objects that represent data elements
  • flare.vis.data.render: pluggable renderers that draw DataSprites
  • flare.vis.events: event types used in the flare framework
  • flare.vis.legend: represents legends for describing visual encodings
  • flare.vis.operator: building blocks for defining visualizations
  • flare.vis.palette: palettes for color, shape, and size values
  • flare.vis.util: general utility classes

You should now know enough to make sense of the demos in the flare.demos package. Feel free to play with, modify, copy, paste, and build upon the demos to gain a better understanding of how Flash and Flare work.

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Flare | Data Visualization for the Web was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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What Is an IEO? Initial Exchange Offerings [2020 Guide] https://blokt.com/guides/what-is-an-ieo-initial-exchange-offerings-explained https://blokt.com/guides/what-is-an-ieo-initial-exchange-offerings-explained#respond Tue, 02 Jun 2020 01:00:16 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=38365

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs) are both forms of crowdfunding that use crypto assets. In more traditional fundraising such as venture capital, a small number of people would provide large amounts of money. In crowdfunding, small amounts of money are raised from a large number of people. The most popular crowdfunding […]

What Is an IEO? Initial Exchange Offerings [2020 Guide] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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What is an Initial Exchange Offering (IEO), and how does it compare to ICOs? Find out below!

An Introduction to Crowdfunding

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs) are both forms of crowdfunding that use crypto assets. In more traditional fundraising such as venture capital, a small number of people would provide large amounts of money. In crowdfunding, small amounts of money are raised from a large number of people.

Crowdfunding

The most popular crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo, mainly showcase projects from the U.S. and Europe and only accept payments via credit cards and traditional fiat currency. These mainstream crowdfunding platforms are also focused on supporting products, projects, and causes, but do not offer the ability to purchase a share of an organization or network.

When you ‘invest’ in a platform like kickstarter you only get some benefits in the form of early access to products, promotional gifts or other benefits. This means that they really are not good investments, but more of a vote of confidence in a products development.

The ICO: An Evolution of Crowdfunding

The Initial Coin Offering (ICO) was a leap forward in terms of access. Anyone in the world who had an internet connection and some crypto asset was able to participate in an ICO.

Participants in an ICO were able to own a share of a crypto network, which was basically a startup in a completely new technological arena with very high potential returns if the token appreciated in value. These coins or tokens were also provably rare, could be owned and exchanged without restriction, and could be tied to how that network functioned.

Evolution of ICO – Source: Shutterstock.com

In the past, investing in a startup was limited to only venture capitalists that had a strong network and enough capital to participate in venture capital funding rounds. Furthermore, being the first to own an exchangeable share of a business meant participating in Initial Public Offering (IPO), which is an initial sale for a company on the stock market. IPOs are limited to certified investors in certain jurisdictions.

The ICO was a completely new innovation in that anyone could participate in a sale that was like a combination of an IPO and a venture capitalist funding round.

ICO History

The Good

ICOs were able to raise unprecedented amounts of money at their peak, which eclipsed both traditional venture capital funding and incumbent platforms such as Kickstarter. Of the highest funded crowdfunding projects in history, blockchain ICOs dominate; occupying 17 of the top 20 positions including the three highest funded projects.

Pace of ICO Fundraising

In the summer of 2017, during the peak of the ICO craze, the amount of money raised by ICOs surpassed angel and seed VC funding for the first time.

It was clear that the value proposition of the ICO: the possibility of massive returns on investment, the completely unrestricted access, and the immense demand at the time was truly changing how fundraising worked. The excitement around this new innovation would be short-lived.

The Bad

The ICO or crowdfunding, in general, was the first use case for live blockchain networks that truly tested the networks’ capacities. Because most ICOs launched their initial sales or conducted their sales on the Ethereum platform, the Etheruem network was pushed to its maximum limits. Even now, Ethereum remains the platform on which most crypto projects are built on top of.

Ethereum – Undisputed Leader

During some of the largest and most popular ICOs, the Ethereum network ground nearly to a halt and at times very large asset holders were able to manipulate the network by pushing through huge transaction fees so they could buy their tokens before everyone else.

For example, during the Brave ICO, $35 million worth of Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) sold out in less than 30 seconds. In that sale, one buyer paid more than $6,000 in gas fees, and five buyers were able to buy up half of the supply. The hotly anticipated Status ICO raised nearly $100 million in a day, and the enormous demand led to congestion on the Ethereum network, which increased wait times and fees for all other non-ICO related transactions.

Total Funds Raised

The high demand, limited supply, and rapidly closing sales times are being repeated on the Initial Exchange Offerings that we are seeing today, but without the network-wide slowdown effects.

The Ugly

Scams, fraud, and legal issues were the worst part of the ICO boom of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. One of the triggers that spelled the end of the ICO era and also the end of the crypto bull market was the regulatory or legal crackdown on ICOs by regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

There were many outright frauds and scams that simply stole people’s money and had no intention of building a real product, but there were also legitimate projects that faced legal action because they were unregistered.

The SEC even started taking action against celebrities such as Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled who were profiting from the ICO craze.

China completely outlawed crypto ICOs and exchanges. Even many of the ICOs that legitimately tried to build real products were either not able to deliver or saw their asset prices plummet from their original ICO prices.

The IEO: An Evolution of the ICO

Though ICOs have been in decline, the Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs) have been gaining a lot of attention recently because of the rise in popularity and the rapid sales cycles that are reminiscent of ICOs.

Funds Raised Through IEO

The objective of ICOs and IEOs are essentially the same, which is to offer tokens to a large group of investors. An IEO is basically an ICO except that it is launched and managed by an existing exchange instead of the organization that created the token. The exchange holds and sells the token on behalf of the project team. This small change has significant effects on the entire process.

IEO Differences

Centralization

In a typical ICO that takes place on the Ethereum network, the developers create a smart contract and investors send crypto assets to the smart contract in exchange for a set number of tokens at a fixed price. In a typical IEO, developers send their tokens to the exchange, and the exchange sells them to its platform users at a fixed price.

Centralization

The ICO format is completely permission-less for absolutely anyone to launch and participate in. There are no gatekeepers. The IEO reinserts the middle man and central authority in the form of an exchange. This reintroduction of centralization can be seen as counter to the basic ideology that created Bitcoin and open blockchains in the first place, which was to be a completely peer-to-peer network.

Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”
Satoshi Nakamoto, Creator of Bitcoin
Satoshi Nakamoto

Platform Tokens

Many of the top exchanges who are hosting IEOs have different requirements that involve holding or using their own platform tokens in order to participate in the IEO. By creating this condition, exchanges create demand for their internal tokens, which increases its value.

For example, Binance requires participates to use Binance Coin, Huobi requires participants to hold Huobi Token for a certain amount of time, and OKEX requires OKB tokens to be held.

Source: Huobi

Fees

With an ICO, there were generally no fees for either the investor or the token creating teams since projects were sold directly on a blockchain network with no intermediaries. The only fees were the standard transaction fees to the network. With the IEO, the exchange performs many functions, including serving as the intermediary, facilitator, manager, marketer, and all these services are paid for by the organization that is launching the IEO.

Streamlined Listing Process

The goal of most tokens or coins after they launch a coin offering is to get listed on at least one major exchange. Getting listed on an exchange brings credibility to a project as well as liquidity and may potentially increase the token’s value.

For example, the effect of Bitcoin Cash getting listed on Coinbase and Bitcoin SV getting delisted from major exchanges had a profound impact on their prices.

Bitcoin SV Charts

Though not all projects are interested in being traded, many are and by doing an IEO, getting listed on a major exchange is an automatic process that happens after the IEO is completed.

Marketing Synergy

Binance Launchpad – Prepare for Launch

Exchanges have an existing community and promotional resources, which the IEO teams can take advantage of.

The exchange’s existing audience and resources for marketing make it easier for a new project to get discovered by a larger audience and thus launch its token offering successfully. Ideally, with exchanges assisting with fundraising and marketing, project teams can focus more on building a great product.

The exchanges benefit in that they receive new interest from those people who want to invest in the IEO, but were not already on their platform. Essentially, both the exchange platform and the IEO project are promoting each other in a way that wouldn’t have happened during a normal ICO.

Non-Technical Investors

It is likely that being on an exchange from the start will bring more types of investors who would not have normally participated if it involved a direct, smart contract interaction. The user experience of an exchange is far more familiar to most people than participating in a pure ICO.

Non-Technical Investors – Source: Shutterstock.com

This may or may not be an advantage for the IEO teams because they may receive a more diverse token holder base, but they may also receive token holders who are purely speculating with no long term interest in the token or project.

Legitimacy

Projects that choose to launch an IEO are curated and vouched by the exchanges. Though every exchange has a different reviewing standard, this process is a major difference from ICOs, which commonly had no external review processes at all, leading to greater risks for investors.

Legitimacy

In general, if you believe that an exchange is trustworthy, there is a reason to believe that it will select projects that have some degree of trustworthiness or credibility.

Advising

Exchanges are one of the only services or products in the crypto industry that have consistently generated revenue and do not rely solely on the appreciation of crypto assets. The teams behind exchanges may offer unique insight from running a legitimate revenue-generating blockchain business as well as being exposed to such a wide variety of different crypto projects that would greatly benefit the IEO teams.

Advising

In traditional venture capital funding, the venture capitalists provide funding as well as advice and guidance. In IEOs, the exchanges offer a platform for raising capital and potentially valuable advice and guidance for the IEO team. Because of their experiences with a variety of different projects, exchanges may have a better idea of how much an IEO should raise or what their token limit and prices should be.

Legal Protection

Exchanges will commonly have a well-organized legal structure that protects them from regulatory consequences. For a young startup seeking initial funding, this is a protection that they normally would not have access to or resources for. Well-developed exchanges can offer legal advice and clarity as well as access to a full legal team to help nascent startups traverse through the minefield that is the blockchain industry.

Legal Protection

The exchange will also commonly have some kind of Know-Your-Customer (KYC) verification required in order to use its services. With ICOs, all you needed was an Ethereum address.

Though IEOs are more restricted than ICOs, it does not mean that they are safe from regulators completely. If anything, they may be more vulnerable, but exchanges and projects have also learned their lessons. For example, Binance is based in Malta, where it has guarantees of protection and restricts users from certain countries such as the United States, Venezuela, and North Korea from participating.

Speed

The speed of centralized exchanges and technology far eclipse those of the completely decentralized platforms such as Ethereum where ICOs were commonly launched from. This evolution in user experience seems to be a natural maturation of the technology. As we shall see, exchanges have been closing token sales in minutes and sometimes in only a matter of seconds thanks to their streamlined and centralized systems.

Major Exchange Platforms:

Exchange IEO Platform Platform Token
Binance Binance Launchpad Binance Coin (BNB)
KuCoin KuCoin Spotlight KuCoin Shares (KCS)
OKEx OK Jumpstart (OKB)
Huobi Huobi Prime Huobi Token (HT)
Bittrex Bittrex International None

Binance Launchpad

Binance is well-known for being one of the best cryptocurrency exchanges, and it has also been an innovator in the area of IEOs. Binance has recently popularized the concept with the success of its Binance Launchpad platform. Binance’s founder, Changpeng Zhao (also known as CZ), believes that fundraising is ‘a killer app for the blockchain’ and its potential will be ‘many times bigger than the VC industry in the future.’

Binance Launchpad

Binance Launchpad is essentially a streamlined platform and process for new projects to launch their initial token offerings and then get subsequently listed on the Binance exchange. Binance Launchpad offers full advisory services for startups using its platform for an IEO.

In order to participate in an IEO on Launchpad, users must complete verification so that they conform to a user’s jurisdiction as well as use specific coins such as BNB in order to participate.

BitTorrent Token

Binance Launchpad’s first IEO was for Bittorrent Token (BTT) and ended on 29 January 2019. BitTorrent was acquired by TRON in July 2018 so the BTT token is built on the TRON network.

BitTorrent Token

The BitTorrent technology is already widely known and used by over 100 million people across the world, and the BTT token will reportedly be integrated into the popular uTorrent client to reward users for seeding or sharing files.

A total of 50 billion tokens were sold out in less than 15 minutes for a total value of over $7.1 million. There were two sessions in which users could participate; one for purchases using BNB tokens and the other using TRON tokens.

But in a surprise move the token was de-listed from Binance in November 2019.

Fetch.AI

Less than a month later, Binance Launchpad concluded its sale of the Fetch.AI (FET) tokens. Participants were only able to use BNB tokens for the FET sale, which generated $6 million dollars for 69 million tokens within 22 seconds.

KuCoin Spotlight

The crypto exchange KuCoin launched its own IEO platform called KuCoin Spotlight. In order to participate, KuCoin users must complete KYC identity verification before the offering. Like Binance, certain jurisdictions or countries are not allowed to participate in its IEOs.

MultiVAC

KuCoin Spotlight’s first offering was MultiVac, which is a blockchain scalability solution that emphasizes sharding technology. The MultiVac IEO sold out on the KuCoin Spotlight platform in only 7 seconds.

OK Jumpstart

The platform launched by the OKEx exchange is called OK Jumpstart.

OK Jumpstart – OKEx Token Sale Platform

OKEX only accepts its internal OKB tokens for payment in an IEO. OK, Jumpstart uses a subscription and allotment model that is determined before the actual sale that limits the number of sales that can be conducted. Participants are allowed to purchase more of the IEO’s tokens if they have more OKB tokens held in their accounts.

Formula for calculating User Allotment and table for Allotment Coefficient

Blockcloud

Blockcloud is a blockchain-based architecture that was recently launched on the OK Jumpstart platform as the first IEO venture selling 1 billion tokens and raising a total of 8 million dollars.

Huobi Prime

Huobi Global is one of the longest-running crypto-asset exchanges in the world having started in 2013. Huobi Tokens(HT) are essential to using the Huobi Prime token sale platform. The limits of what participants are allowed to purchase during the IEO are also directly tied to how many HT they are holding for a certain period of time.

Huobi Prime Average Daily Holding and Trading Limits

Initial offerings are conducted in rounds that consist of five-minute intervals. The IEO tokens will be freely available for trade on the main Huobi exchange after the supply of tokens from the IEO get sold out, or three rounds of IEO trading are completed.

TOP Network

Huobi Prime’s first token launch was on 26 March 2019 for the TOP Network. The rounds for the TOP tokens were met with phenomenal demand with each one ‘with the first round selling out of available tokens in 7 seconds, the second round in 5 seconds, and the third in 7 seconds.’

Only 3% of the total 130,000 participants wound up being able to buy the TOP tokens. Like many of the other IEO platforms, there has been concern about bots that prevent many investors from being able to participate.

Huobi Prime X TOP

Bittrex

Bittrex is also a well-known and established crypto-asset exchange. The exchange platform was founded in 2014 and is based in the United States. However, its IEO platform is Bittrex International, which is based in Malta because Malta offers crypto exchanges the regulatory certainty that the U.S. does not.

Bittrex users need to be fully verified in order to participate in these initial offerings.

Bittrex International

VeriBlock

The first Bittrex offering was with VeriBlock (VBK), and since Bittrex does not have its own native token, Bitcoin was the only accepted crypto asset in which you could buy VBK tokens. Another thing that makes this IEO unique is its settlement and vesting schedule, where 50% of VBK tokens are held in escrow by Bittrex for a certain time period.

VeriBlock

RAID Token

To showcase the due diligence and review process of the IEO system, Bittrex actively removed one of its IEO projects right before it was scheduled to take place. The RAID team had a major partnership that was canceled before the IEO event, so Bittrex decided to cancel the offering.

If this was an ICO, an external source could not stop or prevent an initial offering since all the decision making would be in the hands of the founding team. The IEO process has checks and balances that did not exist with ICOs.

Raid IEO

Lessons Learned

Wishful thinking suggests that the blockchain industry has learned a lot from the first ICO craze and this new system of IEOs is an improvement on the past iteration of mass blockchain-based fundraising. Tested and grizzled veterans in crypto exchange businesses have seen what works and what doesn’t work and are able to use their accumulated industry knowledge to weed out the worst and most fraudulent projects.

These exchanges have also learned how to effectively protect themselves from regulators and market their products to a large group of users, both necessary components on the path to widespread adoption.

Lesson Learned – Source: Shutterstock.com

The IEO projects themselves have also learned not to have such extreme or uncapped funding rounds. Each IEO is limited to some specific and limited supply, which increases the demand. The more restrained funding model drip feeds these young projects the resources that they need without burning out all the investors or underlying asset value, which should also be a sign of a maturing industry.

The Next Big Thing?

Is this type of more restrained, orderly, curated, and serviced crowdfunding the next standard in the blockchain industry? Perhaps the idealism of the very early crypto adopters was too extreme, and the resistance to centralization is softening in order to accommodate more mainstream users, adopters, and builders.

Perhaps the ICO craze, bull market, and subsequent crash was simply a necessary step in order to get to our current IEO stage, which will drive new investment and fuel promising projects in the industry.

The Next Big Thing – Source: Shutterstock.com

The danger is that this is another hot crypto fad with no real substance. Considering that most ICOs failed after launch or saw their tokens drop significantly in value, this is not an overly pessimistic outlook. The breakneck speed of investing where initial offerings are selling millions of dollars of tokens in minutes or even seconds is something we have seen before.

However, it could also be taken that this is the ecosystem maturing and offering much-needed improvements in standards and user experience. It could also be argued that the regulators and extreme market conditions had stopped the initial ICO craze too early when in reality there was still underlying demand that was simply being suppressed.

The energy and speed in which new IEOs (IEO list here) are being launched and closed could signify that this is just an outlet for the demand that had been simmering beneath the surface this entire time.

Update for March 2020:

When this article was written in 2019 we were witnessing the height of the IEO boom. It was almost like ICO money and had come back. But it was just another bubble and many people lost a lot of money while very few profited immensely. Today as I write this in May 2020, IEOs are no longer really talked about. Although as with ICOs they are still happening, they are no longer the main focus of the crypto world.

We were right to caution that it may just be another crypto fad without real substance as that is indeed how it has turned out. Will such a fad every come back again, i am sure it will as the crypto space has a short term memory when big money is to be made.

Disclosure: Blokt strives to provide transparent, honest reviews, and opinions. The writer of this article is a user of the product(s) or service(s) mentioned in this article and was not influenced by the respective owners.

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What Is an IEO? Initial Exchange Offerings [2020 Guide] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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How to Make & Setup A VPN Server – 2020 DIY Guide https://blokt.com/guides/how-to-make-a-vpn-server https://blokt.com/guides/how-to-make-a-vpn-server#comments Tue, 26 May 2020 00:29:59 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=48429

The Internet is no longer a safe place. Sometimes it seems that the Internet was designed to make it easy for governments, businesses, and snoops of all sorts to spy on regular people. So it is no surprise that vast numbers of people are using VPNs to protect themselves. But even the best commercial VPN […]

How to Make & Setup A VPN Server – 2020 DIY Guide was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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The Internet is no longer a safe place. Sometimes it seems that the Internet was designed to make it easy for governments, businesses, and snoops of all sorts to spy on regular people. So it is no surprise that vast numbers of people are using VPNs to protect themselves.

How to set up your own VPN

But even the best commercial VPN services have their weaknesses. That’s why more and more people are looking to create their own VPN.

It is also 2020 and with everything that is happening in the world you may be tight on money, looking to pass the time in lockdown etc.

In this article, we’ll look at the various reasons to set up your own VPN as well as reasons not to do so. We’ll also talk about three ways to get the job done and look at one of them in more detail.

By the end of this article, you should have a good sense of whether or not setting up your own VPN makes sense for you, and which approach you would like to take.

Reasons to Setup Your Own VPN

There are lots of reasons to use a VPN in today’s world. But since you are here, we assume you already know why you need a VPN. We further assume that you are trying to decide between using a commercial VPN Service like ExpressVPN or NordVPN or creating your own VPN.

To help you make that decision, here are some good reasons to setup your own VPN instead of subscribing to a commercial service:

  • You want the benefits of a VPN Service without the monthly payments.
  • You don’t want to take the chance that your online activities will be logged by a VPN Service. (Although, services like ExpressVPN have proven themselves to be zero log time and time again in various legal battles)
  • You want access to your home network from anywhere in the world.
  • You want access to local resources (your home Netflix account, for example) when you are in a different geographic location.
  • You want to give other people access to resources on your home network.

Reasons Not to Setup Your Own VPN

While there are some good reasons to set up your own VPN, there are also a lot of reasons not to do so. These include:

  • You don’t have a fast Internet connection – You need both fast upload and download speeds wherever your VPN Server is located or it will slow down everything connected to your personal VPN.
  • You need a VPN to connect to resources in other geographic locations – VPN Services with multiple servers let you make it appear you are located in any of dozens, even hundreds of locations around the world. Since your VPN would have only one server you can only appear to be located in one place.
  • You want to hide your IP Address – If you build your VPN Server on your own hardware, it will have an IP Address associated with your home network.
  • You don’t want to handle the maintenance – It falls on you to maintain and update the VPN Server as well as the hardware and software it runs on.
  • You have to have the technical ability to set up the VPN Server and clients.
  • You want to hide your payment and identity information fully. The VPN you setup yourself might be safe from logging, but if you purchased the server you tunnel through, with your real name and payment details you are much more vulnerable than using a VPN service.

VPN Basics

If you are considering setting up your own VPN, you’ve probably got all the basics down already, but just in case, we’re going to start at the beginning. If you are clear on this stuff already, go ahead and skip ahead to, “Three Ways to Setup a VPN of Your Own.”

When you connect your device to an Internet resource without a VPN, the contents of the messages going back and forth are potentially visible to snoops. In addition, for the Internet to know where to send the messages, each message must expose a header that contains your IP Address as well as the IP address of the Internet resource you are connected to.

Your IP Address Can Be Seen If You’re Not Using a VPN

So everything is visible to snoops with the right tool.

Many Internet resources try to stop snoops with HTTPS. This is an Internet protocol that automatically encrypts the contents of messages. This can definitely help since it prevents snoops from seeing the contents of the messages going back and forth.

But HTTPS doesn’t do anything to prevent snoops from seeing that you (a device at your IP Address to be more precise) are communicating with that particular Internet resource. Using a VPN eliminates this problem. Here’s why:

A VPN addresses this problem by putting a VPN Server in the middle of the conversation. The VPN Server sits between your device and an Internet resource. Your device only connects to the VPN Server. The Internet resource only connects to the VPN Server. The VPN Server passes messages back and forth between your device and the resource.

This helps because the VPN Server uses its own IP Address when communicating with the resource on behalf of your device. Anyone spying on the connection between the server and the resource would only see the IP Addresses of the VPN Server and the Internet resource. Your privacy is protected on this part of the connection because no one looking at this connection can see your IP Address.

VPN Diagram

But that still leaves the connection between the VPN Client and the VPN Server. To address this part of the problem, the client and server encapsulate messages passing between them. That is, they encrypt the entirety of the messages between the device and the resource. Then they include the encrypted messages inside another message. This second message is what goes back and forth between the client and the server.

The advantage of doing this is that only the second message’s header information needs to be visible to the world. And all that message’s header can reveal is that your device and a VPN Server are communicating with each other. Snoops can’t see anything of the original message because the whole message, including the header, is encrypted in the body of the outer message.

At the VPN Server, messages coming from your device are extracted from the body of the outer message and decrypted. Then, in the header of your device’s message, the IP Address of your device is replaced by the IP Address of the VPN Server. This modified message is what gets sent to the Internet resource.

Messages coming from the Internet resource arrive at the VPN Server. There, the IP Address of the VPN Server gets replaced by the IP Address of your device. This modified message then travels down the tunnel to the VPN Client in your device, where it is extracted, decrypted, and passed along to your device as if the VPN wasn’t in the middle of everything.

Guide on How to Setup Your Own VPN

As we’ve just seen, the VPN Server is the core of a functional VPN. In the rest of this article, we will look at ways to set up your own VPN Server and ignore the VPN Client. There are two reasons for this.

  • The VPN Server you set up will dictate how you need to set up your VPN Clients.
  • There are way too many devices you can connect to your VPN. If we tried to talk about the VPN Clients for each we would never finish writing this article.

As it turns out, setting up your own VPN Server is plenty complicated enough for one article. We’ll start exploring this topic by looking at the three ways to set up a VPN server of your own.

Three Ways to Setup a VPN Server of Your Own

There are three ways to setup your own VPN Server. The way you go will depend on what you plan to do with the VPN and what hardware you will be using. You can set up the VPN Server:

  • On your router – If you are using a router with built-in VPN capabilities, or your router supports custom firmware like DD-WRT or OpenWrt, you can set up the VPN Server on your router.
  • On your own computer – If installing the VPN Server on your router isn’t an option, you can set up a VPN Server on a spare computer, even something tiny and low-powered like a Raspberry Pi. This is relatively easy to do, particularly if you use a computer running Microsoft Windows, which has built-in VPN capabilities. Of course, if you go this route, you will need to keep the computer that hosts your VPN Server running whenever you want to use the VPN.
  • On a cloud service – This approach doesn’t require you to have any additional hardware. However, if you host your VPN Server on a cloud service, you need to keep in mind that the cloud service will be able to see whatever you do with the VPN.

Let’s look at each of these options in more detail.

Setting Up a VPN Server on Your Router

Some home and business routers have a VPN Server built right into them. To use it, you simply need to log into the router, then turn on and configure the VPN Server. If your router has this capability, the manual that came with it should give you instructions on how to activate it. If not, a search formatted something like this should lead you to those instructions:

Router name VPN configuration

A more common situation is where your router doesn’t have a built-in VPN Server but “supports” one. This typically means that you can install third-party firmware on the router and that when the right firmware is installed, the router will be able to function as a VPN Server.

Three types of third-party router firmware are the most popular. These are:

Not all routers support these firmware packages. To find out if yours does, you’ll either need to dig through your router’s documentation or check the site of the firmware you want to use.

  • DD-WRT has a Router Database where you can search for your router to see if it is supported.
  • The main Tomato page linked above lists the routers that are known to work with this firmware.
  • OpenWrt has a Supported Devices page with the information you need.

Even if your router does support one of these firmware packages, installing new firmware on a router is not a job for a computer beginner. While the sites provide detailed instructions for installing their firmware, there is a lot more involved than running an install program.

And one possible result of making a mistake is turning your router into a useless piece of junk that you can only throw away.

Here’s a high-level view of the DD-WRT installation process:

DD-WRT installation process

As you can see, this isn’t a spur of the moment project. But if you do decide you want to give it a go, you’ll find more information in our guide on ‘How to Set up a VPN on a Router.’

Setting Up a VPN Server on Your Own Computer

If your router doesn’t support third-party firmware, or you don’t want to take the chance of wrecking it, you can install a VPN Server on one of your own computers. Doing this will allow you to have access to files on the computer that hosts the VPN Server, as well as resources on your network that are accessible from the computer.

The easiest route is to use a Windows or Mac desktop that you are willing to leave running 24 hours a day. After all, a VPN Server does you no good if the computer it runs on is turned off when you need it.

Turning a Single-Board Computer into a Dedicated VPN Server

A slightly geekier approach is to take a small device like a Raspberry Pi and turn it into a dedicated VPN Server. This approach has the advantage of not tying up a larger, more expensive, more power-hungry computer for this single task.

Raspberry Pi – Photo courtesy Ruth Salinas Correa

Even a Raspberry Pi is potent enough for a basic VPN Server.

While this is a cool way to go and appeals to the geek side of your author, there are a few disadvantages to this approach:

  • You need a Raspberry Pi to dedicate to the task.
  • It adds an additional level of learning to the project if you aren’t already familiar with these devices.
  • The performance of the VPN could suffer. Encrypting, encapsulating, and decrypting messages takes a lot of computing power and small devices like this will do the job slower than full-sized machines.

If this approach appeals to you, we suggest you visit the PiVPN site. It shows you how to set up OpenVPN on a Raspberry Pi with a minimum of fuss and bother. Or watch this video:

Setting Up a VPN Server on a Cloud Service

Setting up a VPN Server on a cloud service eliminates the need for your own hardware. You don’t need to hack your router or dedicate a computer to playing the role of VPN Server. This can be a convenient way to go.

But there are drawbacks to this approach as well. When you set up a VPN Server on a cloud service, you do so by installing software on a virtual machine running on the cloud services servers. This means that your VPN Server will be slow since it will be running on distant, simulated hardware.

It also means that you need to trust the cloud service completely. Everything you do will happen on their hardware, using their virtual machines. This leaves you with the same problem as using a commercial VPN Service: you need to trust a third-party.

The difference here is that commercial VPN Services sell themselves on their commitment to protecting your privacy. Services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN base themselves in jurisdictions where your privacy rights are protected. They cannot easily be forced to log your activities and share that information with the NSA, MI6, or whoever else is out there trying to spy on you.

Cloud services have a very different business model and are often based in places like the USA, where your privacy is not well protected. In our opinion, the chances that a cloud service would log your activities on their own, or be pressured into it by their local government, are much higher than with a top-notch commercial VPN Service.

How to Set Up a Personal VPN Server on DigitalOcean

One of the triggers for writing this article was seeing some online claims that it is quick and easy to set up a VPN Server on a cloud service. With people claiming you could have a VPN Server up and running in 10 minutes for only a few dollars a month (or even free for the first year), we thought we should investigate.

What we found was not encouraging.

The approaches we found a FOSS VPN Server called Algo. Algo seems to be a great software and works as advertised. It provides encrypted communications between your devices, and the Algo VPN Server running on Amazon EC2, DigitalOcean, Microsoft Azure, and other similar services.

Algo VPN

But it doesn’t give you anonymity, and it doesn’t support the commonly-used OpenVPN protocol.

The problems come in with fast and easy claims. Unless you are a computer tech with Linux experience, setting up Algo isn’t easy or fast. It takes around 20 steps, many of which are done on the Linux command line. We had an experienced engineer set up Algo on DigitalOcean, and it took about 45 minutes.

To give you an idea of what you will need to deal with if you decide to install Algo on a cloud service, here are selected screenshots of the process.

First, you need to set up an account at the service (DigitalOcean in this example):

DigitalOcean Dashboard

Clicking the Get Started with a Droplet (the DigitalOcean version of a virtual machine) gave us the options shown in the next screenshot. We created a Droplet running Ubuntu 18.04 by clicking the relevant button and selecting the plan we wanted:

Create Droplets – DigitalOcean

After a few minutes of waiting while DigitalOcean created the Droplet for us, we had a virtual machine running Ubuntu 18.04 ready to roll:

Virtual Machine running Ubuntu 18.04

We logged into the Droplet and followed the instructions in the Algo Github repository to download and extract the Algo files, install Algo core and remaining dependencies. Then we opened the Algo Config.cfg file and edited it to include the list of users who would be able to log into the VPN:

Algo Config File

With all that out of the way we launched the Algo installer, and selected the DigitalOcean option:

Algo Installer

The Algo installer uses the DigitalOcean API to do most of the configuration work, so we sat back and waited about 15 minutes for the installation to finish.

As mentioned in the following screen capture, there are several values you must copy from the console once the installer finishes its work. Without these, you will not be able to add new users later:

Algo Installer – Last Step

With that, the Algo VPN Server is installed in a DigitalOcean Droplet.

Now all you have to do is manually configure every client device that will connect to the server. Depending on the device, setting up the client could be pretty easy, or not so easy. As with setting up the server, the Algo Github page has links to the details of setting up clients on various popular types of devices.

When you finish that task you will have a fully functioning VPN Service of your own. It will be a slow VPN. You will need to trust that DigitalOcean won’t snoop on you as we discussed earlier. And because it has only a single server, it will be of limited use compared to commercial VPN Services, but it will be yours.

Despite the articles talking about the benefits of doing so, we really can’t see much reason to create your own VPN using a cloud service other than as an exercise for hardcore techies.

Conclusion

There are some privacy and security advantages of setting up your own VPN. These are most pronounced when you set up a VPN Server on your own hardware. In this article, we looked at three ways to get the job done, two of which involve setting up the server on your own hardware.

This table summarizes the pros and cons of each of the three approaches, as well as those of using a commercial VPN Service.

Pros and Cons for Setting Up Your Own VPN

VPN Server on Your Own Router VPN Server on Your Own Computer VPN Server on Cloud Service Using a Commercial VPN Service
Protects Entire Network Specific Devices Specific Devices Specific Devices or entire network depending on service selected
Privacy No need to trust third-parties No need to trust third-parties Cloud Service could log activities VPN Service could log activities
Security Good Good Low Best
Speed Medium Slow Slowest Fastest
Ease of Setup Medium Low Low High
Ease of Maintenance Medium Low Low High

As we’ve seen, while setting up a VPN Server for your own use is doable, it can be a lot of work and requires much more technical expertise than simply subscribing to a commercial VPN Service.

If you do decide to go this route, remember that you’ll also need to set up VPN Clients for each device you want to connect to your server. If the VPN Server documentation doesn’t have instructions you need, you should be able to find them with a quick web search.

If setting up your own VPN isn’t for you, we suggest you check out our review of the Best VPN Services for 2019. To help you decide between them, we organized them by use case, best VPNs for beginners, best for streaming, best for use on mobile devices, and so on.

References

What is a VPN Server?
What is Internet Protocol?
What is Network Encapsulation?

Note: This article was last updated In April 2020.

How to Make & Setup A VPN Server – 2020 DIY Guide was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Best VPN For Windows https://blokt.com/guides/best-vpn-for-windows https://blokt.com/guides/best-vpn-for-windows#respond Fri, 22 May 2020 12:04:36 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=50901 Find the Best VPN for Windows

Surfing the web unprotected is dangerous. Even on a trusted network, websites you visit will track your session, serving you tailored and often annoying adverts, and collecting data about the sites you visit. If you’re a regular traveler who works on the go, connecting to public networks is even more dangerous. As a result, many […]

Best VPN For Windows was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Find the Best VPN for Windows

Surfing the web unprotected is dangerous. Even on a trusted network, websites you visit will track your session, serving you tailored and often annoying adverts, and collecting data about the sites you visit.

Find the Best VPN for Windows
Find the best available VPNs for Windows in our detailed guide.

If you’re a regular traveler who works on the go, connecting to public networks is even more dangerous. As a result, many Windows users choose to protect themselves using a virtual private network, or VPN, which encrypts your browsing data when you’re connected to the web.

VPNs route your Windows computer’s traffic through a third-party data center, often located abroad, to obfuscate key elements of your traffic – such as IP address, DNS address, and other critical information.

Here, we’re going to discover the very best VPNs for Windows in 2020. But before we dive in, let’s explore in better detail why you might choose to protect your Windows device with a VPN.

Why Would You Use a VPN?

If you surf the web without a VPN, you’re being tracked. Even if you use browser extensions like AdBlock, it’s highly likely that websites are tracking your IP – an address which reveals your approximate location – and other data, and using it to show you relevant adverts.

You might think that this isn’t a problem – you’re not using the web for anything nefarious after all. But, some websites will sell data about their users to advertising agencies or data aggregation companies, who may use it to build a consumer profile about you.

Likewise, if you regularly connect to unsecured public networks, such as airport WiFi or your local cafe, then there’s a high chance that the data you send over these networks can be intercepted by hackers.

Say for instance you need to do some last-minute internet banking before you jet off on holiday. If you use the airport WiFi to access your account, then hackers might be able to lift information like your email, passwords, and even card or payment information.

Instead, if you used a VPN client for Windows, all the data going in and out of your computer would be passed through an external server, encrypted, and protected from prying eyes.

Using VPNs For Streaming and Other Services

VPNs are also great tools for accessing services, such as streaming, torrenting servers, casinos & crypto exchanges to name a few, that may be blocked or geo-restricted in your country.

For example, if you live in Europe but you want to catch the latest shows on Netflix USA, you can use a VPN service to trick streaming sites into thinking you’re based in another country.

Good VPN services will have multiple servers to enable their customers to by-pass geo-restrictions, and not compromise too heavily on bandwidth and speed. Many users buy a VPN subscription specifically to access geo-restricted content, so that’s one of the areas we’ll be looking at throughout this guide.

Best VPN For Windows Users in 2020

Now you know why it’s essential to browse the web with the protection of a VPN.  So, without further ado, let’s find out what the best VPN for Windows in 2020 is!

ExpressVPN

Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is one of the largest VPN services in the world, serving millions of customers worldwide. Established in 2009, the ExpressVPN team has over a decade of experience in delivering leading VPN solutions.

ExpressVPN has a full-client for Windows devices, for operating systems Windows 7, 8, and 10 – and if you’re tech-savvy there may be ways to configure ExpressVPN with earlier versions of Windows.

There are no restrictions on device type, if you’re a Windows user with one of the supported operating systems then ExpressVPN will work. Downloading and installing the Windows client takes just a few minutes, and the client connects automatically each time you start Windows.

The ExpressVPN team is committed to maintaining the privacy of their users, keeping strictly to their ‘no-logs’ policy, and holding no user data on file.

ExpressVPN has been rated by the Trustpilot community at 4.5 stars, or ‘Excellent’.

Read our full ExpressVPN review for a more detailed write-up.

ExpressVPN Server Features

ExpressVPN are known for their large range of servers, which provide a stable and reliable VPN service for their users. There is also a large range of special server options, such as TrustedServer, which makes ExpressVPN an exceptional choice for security.

Some of the best features of ExpressVPN include:

  • Over 3,000 servers – With servers based in 94 countries around the world, ExpressVPN encrypts users’ traffic through hundreds of data centers and over 3,000 servers to keep data private.
  • AES-256 encryption – Using the latest military-grade encryption, ExpressVPN ensures that any traffic passing through their servers is encrypted to the highest level. This prevents IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
  • TrustedServer – A proprietary feature of ExpressVPN, TrustedServer technology ensures that data is wiped every time servers are rebooted, and never writes data to a hard disk. Each TrustedServer is run by ExpressVPN and only uses RAM.
  • Zero-Knowledge DNS – Domain name systems can still leak your data even when you’re connected to a VPN tunnel. ExpressVPN uses a separate DNS server to ensure that no activity logs are held and DNS data isn’t leaked.
  • Split-tunneling – If you regularly visit sites that you know are secure, or you would rather save your login credentials for, then ExpressVPN lets you use ‘split-tunneling’. This connects you to a VPN for a portion of your traffic, but other traffic remains un-encrypted as you choose.
ExpressVPN Extra Features

As one of the most feature-rich VPNs for Windows, there’s a whole range of other interesting options available for ExpressVPN users, including:

  • Speed optimization – ExpressVPN has consistently ranked as one of the fastest VPN services in the world, so much so that the service even includes a ‘speed test’ for Windows and Mac users to test their latency and download speed.
  • Reliability – ExpressVPN style themselves as the industry leader of VPN connection reliability, with very few instances of VPN downtime or connection issues.
  • Network Lock Killswitch – In the rare event that your VPN connection drops out, ExpressVPN will instantly block your internet traffic automatically.
Can You Stream On ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN guarantee access to streaming services in multiple countries.

ExpressVPN advertises compatibility with a huge number of streaming services and other online apps on its website, including popular video channels like Prime Video, Disney +, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and HBO.

Users can bypass geo-restrictions for these services using ExpressVPN, and gain access to shows and channels that wouldn’t normally be available in their country.

Additionally, ExpressVPN provides secure logins for popular social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, so you can connect risk-free over public WiFi networks.

ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee, so if for any reason your favourite website or app isn’t accessible through ExpressVPN, you can get your money back.

Does ExpressVPN Work On Windows?

You can access ExpressVPN on all major devices, regardless of OS, which is perfect for those who have both Mac and Windows devices. ExpressVPN supports Microsoft, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android, as well as most major router brands and leading games consoles.

For Windows users, the following clients are available for download:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 10

It’s possible that you can get ExpressVPN to work on an earlier version of Windows with some modification, but we wouldn’t recommend this as you may not be adequately protected.

How Much Does ExpressVPN Cost?

It has to be said that ExpressVPN is one of the priciest VPN services, at $12.95 per month when you pay on a month-by-month basis. It’s slightly cheaper to subscribe in one lump sum for a year, at $99.95, an average price of $8.32 per month.

There are no cheaper subscription options currently available for ExpressVPN even if you sign-up for a long-term plan, unlike some of the other VPN providers we’ll be looking at in this guide.

You can use ExpressVPN on up to 5 different devices in the same household, so if you consider the subscription cost spread over multiple devices, it’s really quite reasonable.

Contract Length 

Monthly Price 
Monthly

$12.95

Yearly

$8.32

 

ExpressVPN Verdict

Overall, ExpressVPN is one of the most robust and trusted providers in the world. With military-grade traffic encryption, TrustedServer technology, and access to thousands of server locations, your browsing data will be highly secure through ExpressVPN.

The full-clients for Windows users are easy to download and provide protection for your entire machine – encrypting all of the traffic coming and going through your device, rather than just your browsing session.

However, ExpressVPN is a fairly expensive service. At a minimum of $8.32 per month, it’s the most expensive VPN service we’ll be reviewing here. Nevertheless, we think it’s worth it – no matter what kind of user you are.

For the premium price tag, users get guaranteed access to a range of streaming services, which many other VPN providers can’t promise you’ll be able to get. This is great news for those looking to bypass geo-restrictions, and it makes ExpressVPN a very attractive product.

NordVPN

Connect to multiple countries around the world with NordVPN.

Launched in 2012 in Panama, NordVPN is a major challenger to ExpressVPN, and one of the most subscribed to VPN services. Their success has grown in recent years due to a popular advertising campaign aimed at everyday users, and a very affordable subscription cost.

As NordVPN is based in Panama, the service is under no legal obligation to store data on its users, which makes it a reliable service for those concerned with protecting their privacy.

NordVPN’s desktop application, which is available to Windows users, is incredibly easy to use, and it’s full of privacy-enhancing features which some other VPNs don’t currently offer.

Customers currently rate NordVPN at 4.5 stars, or ‘Excellent’, on TrustPilot. We consistently rate it as the best VPN in the world.

Read more here: NordVPN review

 

NordVPN Server Features

NordVPN is well known for their huge variety of special servers, which provide extra layers of security for privacy-conscious users. These include:

  • Onion over VPN – Onion Routers, or ‘Tor’, obfuscates traffic and protects user’s identity more rigorously than a normal VPN connection. NordVPN’s ‘Onion over VPN’ server routes traffic through a third-party server before routing through the tor network to prevent people from tracking your data.
  • Obfuscated servers – Obfuscated servers bypass network firewalls and internet restrictions at a national level – so if you live somewhere that restricts certain sites, you should be able to access them as normal with NordVPN, especially useful for Westerners working in China for example.
  • Double VPN – Route your traffic through not one, but two separate VPN servers for double the protection. NordVPN is one of the few providers to offer this server type, and it’s a great option for those who need to protect their privacy.
  • Dedicated IP Servers – If you frequently need to login to a work or school account, you may want a fixed IP address. NordVPN offers fixed IPs for $70, which provide a single dedicated IP address.
  • 5,500+ servers – Out of the large VPN operators, NordVPN has one of  the largest range of servers, with almost 6,000 in total. This allows NordVPN to offer a stable and secure VPN connection to users around the world.

NordVPN Extra Features

In addition to their special servers and advanced privacy features, NordVPN also have a number of extra features which make their VPN service one of the best on the market.

These include:

  • Built-in Killswitch – Killswitches are essential to protect your communications in the rare event that your VPN loses service. If this happens, NordVPN will automatically stop your device from accessing the internet.
  • SmartPlay – As we’ll examine in detail later, NordVPN’s SmartPlay enables streaming without restrictions worldwide.
  • CyberSec – Websites known for hosting malware and spam are blocked by NordVPN’s CyberSec feature, which users can turn on using the Windows app.

Can You Stream On NordVPN?

NordVPN SmartPlay lets you easily stream videos no matter where you are.

According to their website, NordVPN supports access to a wide range of streaming services, and other geo-restricted services, through their huge range of servers in multiple jurisdictions.

They achieve this through their own leading technology called ‘SmartPlay’, which lets users access geo-restricted content without having to manually configure your connection or DNS.

Instead, SmartPlay configures both your IP and DNS location for you when you open a NordVPN connection. All users have to do is connect to a server in the right location – e.g. American servers for USA shows and services.

For average users who want a VPN just for streaming, this is one of the killer features of NordVPN, as other VPN providers require a long and complicated manually set-up to bypass geo-restrictions.

SmartPlay is available through NordVPN’s Windows app. So, NordVPN is a strong contender for streaming services!

Does NordVPN Work on Windows?

NordVPN supports all major operating systems and has a full-client desktop app for Windows users.

The native NordVPN app – the recommended way to access a NordVPN server – is available to users of Windows 7 and newer, although you can connect manually on older operating systems.

Windows users don’t need to manually connect to NordVPN, if your VPN connection was live when you shut down, it will automatically reestablish on startup – handy for making sure you’re always protected.

NordVPN does not support Windows XP or Vista users, but it may be possible to connect to the OpenVPN protocol through NordVPN if you’re using these operating systems.

How Much Does NordVPN Cost?

One of the most affordable VPNs, NordVPN offers membership options from just $3.49 a month, paid in a single installment of $125.64 – providing you with three years of cover!

They also offer monthly subscriptions for $11.95 per month, although it makes far more sense to pay for three years, which will save you 70% on the monthly subscription cost.

Students get up to 15% off subscription fees, and all users can have a 30-day money-back guarantee if they don’t like the service.

NordVPN covers up to six devices at once, which equals great value for money if you’re looking to cover devices for all the family or multiple computers.

Contract Length 

Monthly Price 

Monthly

$11.95

Yearly

$6.99

Three Years

$3.49

 

NordVPN Verdict

For Windows users, NordVPN delivers a cost-effective and comprehensive VPN service, with a dedicated and easy to use full-client.

The desktop app makes connecting to any server across the globe incredibly fast and intuitive, and it’s also easy to connect to NordVPN’s huge range of special servers. The ease of access to robust and private servers has earned NordVPN a respected place among technical users.

Subscription costs for NordVPN are incredibly affordable, especially given the level of service that’s offered, which has been a major factor in the VPN provider’s success in recent years.

If you’re looking for a VPN that supports streaming services, then NordVPN is one of the best choices on the market. Their SmartPlay technology, paired with their low subscription costs, make NordVPN a perfect choice for the average user.

 

SurfShark VPN

SurfShark (Detailed review) is an award-winning VPN service based in the British Virgin Islands, with servers based all over the world.

Established in 2016, it’s a fairly new addition to the VPN scene, but in its short history it’s attracted a large and dedicated user base, and has received excellent reviews both from its community and VPN experts alike.

In 2019 SurfShark won the best newcomer VPN award, and was also nominated for the Best Overall VPN award and the Best Value VPN award.

At the time of writing, SurfShark has almost 4,000 Excellent reviews on Trustpilot and a score of almost 5 stars.

SurfShark VPN Server Details

Despite being relatively young as far as VPN providers go, SurfShark has hit the ground running, offering highly secure servers that rival that of more established brands. Some of their best features include:

  • Thousands of servers – SurfShark provides access to over 1,700 servers in 63 countries. This is significantly more than some of the smaller VPN operators, providing uninterrupted protection for your traffic.
  • Private DNS & Leak Protection Each SurfShark server has its own private DNS, so this common flaw in VPN security is secured. When using IPv4 stacks, SurfShark ensures that there are no leaks, giving user complete encryption.
  • MultiHop – Similar to NordVPN’s Double VPN feature, MultiHop routes your traffic through separate VPN servers in multiple countries to fully obfuscate your digital footprint.
  • AES-256-GCM Encryption – Like other provides, SurfShark guarantee military-grade traffic encryption for all users, regardless of which VPN server they connect to.

SurfShark Extra Features

Alongside their robust server technology, SurfShark has also been busy developing multiple extra features, some of which can’t be found with any other VPN provider. These include:

  • Camouflage mode – A unique feature to SurfShark, camouflage mode masks the fact that you’re connecting to a VPN, so even your ISP doesn’t know that your traffic is being encrypted.
  • Unlimited Devices – Not only is SurfShark very affordable as we’ll discover later, but it’s also one of the only VPN providers to extend VPN coverage to unlimited devices! One account can cover a whole household’s devices without slowing down your connection.
  • Kill Switch – Protect your traffic against VPN server outages. If your VPN connection is dropped for any reason, SurfShark will ‘kill’ all traffic leaving your device.

Does SurfShark Work With Streaming Services?

 

Yes, SurfShark offers access to streaming services through their VPN, enabled by the large range of servers they have access to.

SurfShark guarantees their users will be able to access Netflix, although they don’t detail any other paid streaming services that definitely work with their VPN. However, they do support Amazon Fire TV stick and Android TV devices.

According to their website, users streaming content via the SurfShark VPN can be sure that they won’t have to wait for buffering videos, and their VPN connections are ‘optimized for streaming’ offering top download speeds.

Does SurfShark Work With Windows?

SurfShark has an easy-to-use full client for Windows users.

If you’re running Windows 7 or up, SurfShark has a full client available to download.

Their Windows client is easy to download and installs with one click. Once installed, the client will launch at start-up and connect to whichever VPN server you last used. This is a great feature as it makes sure you’re always protected.

Windows client users also get access to SurfShark CleanWeb, safe-browsing software that protects users from trackers, malware, phishing attempts, and blocks ad tracking.

How Much Does SurfShark VPN Cost?

One of the cheapest VPN services in the world, SurfShark has some enticing subscription offers which make it competitive with larger providers.

For a 24-month subscription, users pay just $47.76 – equivalent to just $1.99 per month! If you opt for a shorter subscription length, you can buy a year’s plan for $71.88, or $5.99 a month, or buy a month by month subscription for $11.95.

You can buy a 2-year plan for less than a 1-year plan, so it truly is better value for money to go for a longer subscription.

Users can pay for their subscription in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Ripple – which is the largest range of crypto payments of any provider we’ve reviewed here!

Contract Length 

Monthly Price 

Monthly

$11.95
Yearly

$5.99

Two Years

$1.99

 

SurfShark Verdict

As a newcomer to the VPN industry, SurfShark has had to work harder than most – and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. Their highly competitive pricing and their unique range of features make SurfShark an attractive and interesting VPN service.

Although they’ve got fewer severs than ExpressVPN or NordVPN, they still allow users to access thousands of servers in multiple locations, and they maintain enough servers to make streaming and torrenting fast and secure.

We really liked the ability to pay in a range of cryptocurrencies, which will no doubt appeal to users who take their privacy seriously. It also makes SurfShark a great choice for blockchain company teams, who likely work regularly on the go and can pay in common cryptocurrencies.

It’s also the most affordable VPN we’ve reviewed on this list, which makes it a great option for casual users who simply want protection while connecting over public WiFi networks.

PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN was established in 2009 in Sweden, and it claims to be one of the fastest-growing VPN networks in the world.

The service has a good track record, with a 99.98% server up-time, over 15,000 TB of total data protected, and almost 45,000 customers. PrivateVPN offers fairly fast download speeds and unlimited bandwidth at an affordable price, which has contributed to its early success.

PrivateVPN have full-clients for Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, and Kodi, but how to they stack up against the larger VPN operators like NordVPN and ExpressVPN? Let’s find out!

PrivateVPN has a Trustpilot score of 4.5 stars, which is an ‘Excellent’ rating.

See our detailed PrivateVPN review for even more information on it.

PrivateVPN Server Features

Generally, PrivateVPN is lacking compared to larger VPN providers when it comes to server locations and the number of servers available. However, it still has some great features for its price, including:

  • 100 Servers – PrivateVPN has servers in 60 countries, including the USA, Canada, multiple countries in the Asia Pacific, and European, African, and Middle Eastern nations.
  • Multiple encryption protocols – Some VPN providers only offer connections to a couple of VPN protocols, however, PrivateVPN lets users connect to OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2, and IPSec – this is one of the largest selections of any provider.
  • Peer-2-Peer protocols – Users can connect to P2P traffic servers and anonymously torrent without fear. PrivateVPN buys network capacity from IP transit providers.
  • 2048-bit Encryption – PrivateVPN uses AES-256 and 2048-bit military-grade encryption for users traffic.

PrivateVPN Extra Features

There’s not a whole load of extra features offered by PrivateVPN that truly make it stand out against its competitors, but there are a few extra features it offers which are similar to other providers, including:

  • Zero Logs – Swedish privacy laws don’t require PrivateVPN to keep traffic logs, so there’s no user data ever stored on file. The service claims even they don’t know what you access through their servers.
  • Pay in Bitcoin – If you’re concerned about the privacy of your payment information, you can pay for your subscription in Bitcoin.
  • Unlimited Bandwidth – PrivateVPN promises their users fast downloading speeds and no buffering on streaming sites, and there’s no limit on data use over their VPN connections.

Does PrivateVPN Work with Streaming Services?

PrivateVPN guarantees access to Netflix.

PrivateVPN claims that their services work with major streaming services, including Netflix. The service has a purpose-built server to allow users to bypass Netflix geo-restrictions, with unlimited bandwidth to maintain quality.

The service also supports Kodi, the open-source home theatre software.

However, we’re not so sure that PrivateVPN could deliver unrestricted access to the same range of streaming services as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, as they simply don’t have the same amount of servers or country locations.

Likewise, they don’t guarantee access to a large range of streaming services, so we have to assume PrivateVPN can’t always deliver access to any streaming channel.

Does PrivateVPN Work With Windows?

PrivateVPN have a full client for Windows users, and they also support a decent range of Windows operating systems.

These include:

  • Windows 10
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 7
  • Windows XP

This is a fuller range of Windows OS’ than other VPN providers, which is good for users running older systems of Windows for things like retro gaming or downloading abandonware.

One feature we thought was particularly interesting about PrivateVPN was their remote control help for users. If you have the Windows client on your device, and anything stops working, a live member of the team will be there to help you in minutes.

Likewise, the PrivateVPN team can also help users set up their client on their device remotely. Other VPN providers have live chat help, but they can’t see exactly what problem you’re having like PrivateVPN.

How Much Does PrivateVPN Cost?

One of the more affordable VPN providers, PrivateVPN offers plans from just $3.82 per month when paid upfront for 12 months – and at the time of writing you get a free month thrown in with this deal too.

A month by month subscription will cost you $7.67, and paying upfront for 3 months is $14.63, or $4.88 per month. Every plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is great for trying out the service before you commit to a full ongoing plan.

Users can also pay in Bitcoin. This isn’t processed through a payment provider, so you will need to have your own Bitcoin wallet and some knowledge of how to buy and send crypto to pay this way.

Contract Length 

Monthly Price 

3 Months

$4.88

12 Months

$3.82

 

PrivateVPN Verdict

An all-round affordable and fairly robust VPN, we think PrivateVPN is a ‘fair’ VPN overall. There’s no reason to think that user’s traffic would be compromised over this VPN connection, and through their strict no-logs policy, PrivateVPN protects their customers’ data.

However, compared to NordVPN, ExpressVPN or SurfShark, there’s not the same range of special servers, which is disappointing if you’re a pro-user or using the service to protect your business.

Nevertheless, PrivateVPN does allow connection to a more diverse range of VPN protocols than others on our list, which is a feature some users may want to experiment with to see which protocol offers the best protection.

The ability to pay in Bitcoin is an attractive feature for users concerned about their privacy, and as it’s not processed through a third-party payment provider, there’s absolutely no need to divulge any sensitive personal data through your payment methods, so PrivateVPN is a great option if this is a concern.

The Best VPN Provider for Windows Users

Taking home the top spot as the best VPN for Windows users in 2020, it’s got to be NordVPN.

Their affordable service is among the cheapest of any VPN provider, and their Windows desktop app is incredibly easy to download, install, and use straight out of the box – even for beginners.

We particularly liked that the NordVPN Windows client automatically opens at startup, and connects to a VPN network before your PC starts sending and receiving data and traffic. This ensures that every single bit of data you send is encrypted at all times.

In terms of speed, NordVPN is easily one of the fastest VPN providers, and most times users won’t notice they are browsing through a VPN tunnel at all. They achieve this through their large network of servers in almost 60 countries.

Professional and tech-savvy users will find plenty to love about NordVPN too. Their special servers, leading privacy technology, and no-logs policy make it a great choice when privacy is a must.

But the main reason NordVPN takes the 2020 top-spot is that it has all of the features that other VPN providers pride themselves on – high amount of servers, streaming services, and affordability – in a single, easy to use Windows app.

However, we also highly recommend both SurfShark and ExpressVPN. While ExpressVPN is the most expensive VPN we’ve reviewed here, it’s undoubtedly a robust and highly-secure VPN service with plenty of industry-leading features.

We especially like the wide range of streaming services and websites that you can access through ExpressVPN and NordVPN, which smaller VPN providers like PrivateVPN simply can’t guarantee their users access to.

SurfShark’s highly affordable monthly price, at just $1.99 per month, and the ability to pay in a range of cryptocurrencies, will suit cryptocurrency advocates and those looking to protect their payment information. We also liked that both NordVPN and PrivateVPN offer the opportunity to pay in Bitcoin too.

For most Windows users though, NordVPN will certainly go above and beyond expectations, and provide a consistently reliable, fast, and trustworthy VPN service – that’s why NordVPN is the best VPN for Windows users in 2020. 

Disclosure: Blokt strives to provide transparent, honest reviews, and opinions. The writer of this article is a user of the product(s) or service(s) mentioned in this article and was not influenced by the respective owners.

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Best Bitcoin Sports Betting Sites [2020] https://blokt.com/guides/best-bitcoin-betting-sites https://blokt.com/guides/best-bitcoin-betting-sites#respond Mon, 18 May 2020 20:19:08 +0000 http://blokt.com/?p=50763 Best Bitcoin Betting Sites

When online betting first emerged, it changed the way players wagered on game outcomes forever, opening the doors to 24/7 betting regardless of where the match or tournament was being held. Now, Bitcoin is shaking up the way we place bets – lowering fees, shortening withdrawal times, and making foreign exchange fees a thing of […]

Best Bitcoin Sports Betting Sites [2020] was originally found on Blokt - Privacy, Tech, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.

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Best Bitcoin Betting Sites

When online betting first emerged, it changed the way players wagered on game outcomes forever, opening the doors to 24/7 betting regardless of where the match or tournament was being held.

Short on time?

Go straight to our top pick. For the best all-around Bitcoin betting experience, FortuneJack is our top pick.

Now, Bitcoin is shaking up the way we place bets – lowering fees, shortening withdrawal times, and making foreign exchange fees a thing of the past.

Best Bitcoin Betting Sites
Scroll down to view our list of the best Bitcoin sports betting sites of 2020.

But there are so many bitcoin betting sites to choose from, that sometimes it’s impossible to find one which is secure, fun to play, and offers a wide variety of sports to bet on.

That’s why we’ve reviewed five of the top bitcoin betting sites for 2020, and we’re going to give you our complete breakdown of their pros and cons.

But first, let’s take a quick look at what Bitcoin sports betting is, and why you should give it a try!

What is Bitcoin Sports Betting?

Like crypto gambling and bitcoin casinos, sports betting lets you gamble and place bets with cryptocurrencies. The most popular crypto used for betting is Bitcoin, however, there are multiple operators that let you place bets with a variety of cryptocurrencies.

Just like placing bets on traditional sportsbook operators, such as Coral or William Hill, Bitcoin sports betting lets players place a bet on the outcome of a real-world sporting event.

When we say ‘real-world’, we mean any event played competitively between two or more players – because as we’ll find out a little later, you can also use Bitcoin betting to speculate on video game tournaments, or ‘Esports’.

Sometimes, bet makers will let players place wagers on other events, such as the outcome of an election, the results of reality TV series, or even the weather.

Bitcoin sports betting generally offers lower or non-existent fees for deposits and withdrawals, much faster transaction processing times, and greater transparency. This means that players will often get their winnings instantly, without waiting days for withdrawals like on many traditional betting sites.

There are also huge benefits to those who want to protect their privacy online, as most Bitcoin betting websites won’t require personal or payment information from you in order to start playing.

Our Picks – The Top Bitcoin Sports Betting Sites

So, what are the top Bitcoin sports betting sites for 2020? Let’s find out! See our top picks in the table below, or scroll down to read a review of each site.

Betting Site Noteworthy Features Play
1 FortuneJack Multiple cryptocurrencies supported, comprehensive sportsbook feature, niche sports, one of the longest-serving sportsbooks.
2 Sportsbet.io Great sportsbook features, attractive and easy to use, esports betting, good reputation.
3 CloudBet BTC and BCH supported, bet on major tournaments, esports betting, good security.
4 Stake.com Great range of sports, modern-looking and visually-appealing, good range of cryptocurrencies supported, esports betting, Crypto Gambling Foundation verified operator.
5 1xBit Huge range of supported cryptocurrencies, massive variety of both popular and niche games, special bets, esports betting.

1. FortuneJack

fortunejack sportsbook
FortuneJack’s sportsbook is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world.

Established in 2014, FortuneJack is a hybrid crypto casino and bitcoin betting site, with a massively popular sportsbook feature.

Self-styled as the ‘number one’ bitcoin betting and gambling site, FortuneJack is indeed one of the largest and best-known crypto gambling sites on the web, attracting thousands of users every day.

Unfortunately, FortuneJack restricts access to players from the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and the United States – although you may be able to bypass these restrictions with a VPN.

Which Cryptos Does FortuneJack Support?

You can only place bets on FortuneJack using cryptocurrency. There are no other ways to credit your account, so if you want to start using the site, make sure you know how to buy Bitcoin – if you don’t, follow our guide here.

One of the features many players love about FortuneJack is their huge number of supported crypto assets, which is particularly useful if you have a lot of crypto dust leftover in your wallets. These include:

  • Bitcoin
  • Ethereum
  • Dash (DASH)
  • Litecoin
  • Dogecoin (DOGE)
  • Monero (XMR)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Tron
  • Zcash (ZEC)

Many of the sites on our list accept a range of different cryptos, which is handy for those who also hold digital assets as a speculative investment – as some days it might make more sense to place a bet with an alt-coin rather than Bitcoin, or vice versa.

FortuneJack Sportsbook

FortuneJack Sportsbook
Place bets on FIFA, the Premier League, UEFA and more on FortuneJack.

FortuneJack has a hugely comprehensive sportsbook feature, with access to more games and tournaments than most people probably ever knew existed!

Players can place bets on popular football leagues from around the world, such as FIFA, the Premier League, and national leagues like the German Bundesliga and the Belarusian Premier League.

There’s also betting opportunities for other popular sports, such as American football NFL leagues, the NBA basketball league, tennis matches, and baseball.

If niche sports are your favorite to place bets on, you won’t be disappointed. FortuneJack offers plenty of choice, including:

  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Snooker
  • Darts
  • Volleyball
  • Badminton
  • Handball

There’s also the opportunity to bet on cultural events, such as upcoming elections, reality TV results, and much more at different times of the year.

With such a large variety of events to choose from, it’s easy to see why FortuneJack has become the most popular Bitcoin betting platform.

Is FortuneJack Safe?

As one of the longest-serving sportsbooks and bitcoin casinos, FortuneJack has built a solid reputation for transparency and safety, both with user’s funds and with the stability of their betting platform.

Deposits and withdrawals are processed instantly on FortuneJack, which is great news following a big win, or when you’re racing to place your bets ahead of a match – there’s no waiting for lengthy bank transfers, and FortuneJack never withholds your winnings.

FortuneJack Verdict

Not only is FortuneJack easy to sign-up and get started with, but it’s also one of the safest and most well-established crypto betting sites – easy to use even for beginners.

Although FortuneJack doesn’t offer Esports betting, it’s Bitcoin sports betting is one of the most comprehensive and feature-rich in the world.

We don’t feel that a lack of Esports makes FortuneJack any less enticing – in fact, it’s the perfect Bitcoin sports betting site for those who know exactly which sports games they want to place a bet on, and want the opportunity to do it in Bitcoin.

2. Sportsbet.io

With a license in both the United Kingdom as a standard betting site, and in Curaçao for Bitcoin betting, Sportsbet.io is one of the leading Bitcoin gambling and casino sites.

The site is owned by mBet Solutions, the same provider who runs Bitcasino.io, a highly popular crypto gambling site.

The Sportsbet.io team has years of experience delivering sportsbook solutions to traditional fiat betting, and now they’ve pivoted to provide betting solutions for Bitcoin holders.

Sportsbet.io accepts players from multiple jurisdictions and offers free cryptocurrency deposits and withdrawals.

Which Cryptos Does Sportsbet.io Support?

Like other crypto betting sites on our list, Sportsbet.io supports a range of cryptocurrencies in addition to Bitcoin.

Players can deposit and play with the following cryptocurrencies:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Tron (TRX)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Tether (USDT)

It’s easy to create an account on Sportsbet, and all you need to provide is your email to get started – so there’s no need to reveal your personal information.

Sportsbet.io Sportsbook

Sportsbet Bitcoin betting
Sportsbet.io has a huge range of games and tournaments.

With one of the largest sportsbook features of any Bitcoin betting site, Sportsbet.io offers some of the best opportunities for players who enjoy betting on anything from huge football matches to chess tournaments, or even horse racing.

Sportsbook.io have created an attractive and easy to use Bitcoin sports betting platform, which has one of the best user interfaces out of all the Bitcoin betting sites. Along the top of the site, there’s an easy to navigate bar where players can access all of the sports betting options.

It’s easy to see the odds of any bet, and players can also place multiple bets at one time using Sportsbet’s ‘Multibet’ feature – which makes it quite easy to set all your bets for the day at once.

Sportsbet.io Esports

Esports stands for ‘electronic sports’, and covers any game or tournament played through video games rather than a traditional ‘real-life’ game. A huge and growing spectator sport, in 2019 an estimated 1.57 billion people watched at least one Esports match.

These multiplayer games, where single players or teams compete for huge cash prizes, are becoming a popular game type to place bets on, and cryptocurrency lends itself particularly well to this new digital sport.

Sportsbet.io were among the first Bitcoin betting sites in the world to offer players bets on Esports titles, first for eSoccer – virtual football games played around the world – and more recently they’ve added a whole host of other popular Esports titles.

Now, Sportsbet offers multiple major Esports games that players can place a bet on, including:

  • CounterStrike: GO (CS:GO)
  • Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2)
  • King of Glory
  • League of Legends
  • Rainbow Six
  • StarCraft 2

Placing a bet on an Esports game is similar to other real-life sports betting, and players can also place bets mid-game through Sportsbet.

Is Sportsbet.io Safe?

As part of the mBit group, Sportsbet.io is considered one of the most professional and safe Bitcoin sports betting sites in the world.

The site is registered in the Isle of Man and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission – one of the strictest and most trusted gambling regulatory bodies in the world, so customers can rest assured that they are protected when playing.

Likewise, Sportsbet’s regulated nature means it’s open to players in the United Kingdom through the Sportsbetio.uk site, which many other Bitcoin betting sites aren’t. If you need a hand, Sportsbet.io offers 24/7 live chat support to all customers.

Sportsbet.io Verdict

Sportsbet.io is a feature-rich Bitcoin betting site, with plenty of game options, tournaments, Esports, and sportsbook features to keep players entertained.

The winning feature of Sportsbook.io has to be its regulation status. As one of the few Bitcoin betting sites registered and regulated in the UK, it’s not only one of the safest sites, but it’s also open to UK players without jumping through hoops – a huge plus.

3. CloudBet

Cloudbet bitcoin betting
Cloudbet has a traditional sportsbook betting interface and plenty of game choice.

CloudBet is one of the longest-serving Bitcoin sports betting and casino sites, launched in 2013. The site offers traditional sports betting, Esports, and a large Bitcoin casino which you can read more about here.

The site has recently started offering Bitcoin betting on Esports matches, which has made the site hugely popular, and seriously enhanced the betting experience CloudBet offers.

A true Bitcoin betting site, CloudBet supports just two cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin and one of its early forks, Bitcoin Cash. This is somewhat disappointing, as it restricts players who prefer to buy and use altcoins.

CloudBet Sportsbook

Cloudbet eSports sportsbook
Choose from sports betting, esports, or casino games on Cloudbet.

CloudBet was among the first operators to offer Bitcoin sports betting, with their sportsbook feature launching at the same time as their casino in 2013.

Over the past seven years, CloudBet has constantly remained at the forefront of crypto sports betting, offering a huge range of sporting events and all major tournaments.

Major tournaments players can bet on at CloudBet include:

  • NBA basketball tournaments
  • NFL American football
  • Rugby Union matches
  • UEFA and other major football tournaments

Players can also place Bitcoin bets on darts, boxing, mixed martial arts, table tennis, and a huge range of other sports on CloudBet.

One of the features we think is particularly useful is CloudBet’s ‘In-Play’ section. This view shows players every single live game taking place around the world, and while games are still in play, CloudBet users have the opportunity to place a bet with the latest odds.

Odds are constantly changing for live games, indicated by green and red flashing bars on the odds table for each game. It’s quite an innovative feature, as it allows players to make the most of opportunities when odds suddenly change.

CloudBet Esports Betting

Cloudbet esports
There’s a massive range of Esports matches on Cloudbet, including e-soccer!

CloudBet’s range of Esports titles is outstanding, which is one of the key reasons the site still remains so popular even into 2020.

Alongside all of the popular Esports titles that other sites offer, such as Dota 2, CS:GO, and League of Legends, CloudBet also lets players place bets on FIFA cyber matches, NBA cyber, and other niche Esports.

The Bitcoin betting site has such a focus on Esports, that they’ve even launched their own dedicated Discord server to discuss upcoming tournaments, share tips about bets, and discuss the outcomes of games.

Is Cloudbet Safe?

It’s fair to say that Cloudbet has one of the most transparent and trusted user safety protocols of any Bitcoin sportsbook.

As we mentioned, Cloudbet is one of the oldest Bitcoin gambling sites, staying true to its roots in the early blockchain scene and sticking to Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. When you trust your assets with Cloudbet, they use their hard-earned expertise to keep your funds safe.

They achieve this through dedicated cold storage wallets, which keep your funds offline in highly secure hardware wallets, virtually impervious to would-be attackers and Bitcoin thieves.

Cloudbet only uses hot wallets to process user withdrawals, moving just a fraction of their player’s pool of assets online at any one time. This protects each user against losses, even in the event of an attack.

Cloudbet Verdict

There’s a reason this veteran Bitcoin gambling site has powered on all the way into 2020 – it’s a feature-rich site with a massive range of popular sports, Esports, and unique games to bet on.

If you’re an Esports fan who likes to feel part of the action, then Cloudbet is definitely the place for you, why not check out their Discord server to see which games are in play right now?

Built by blockchain experts, Cloudbet can easily claim to be one of the safest destinations to bet using Bitcoin, and its transparency on fund security is refreshing.

4. Stake.com

Stake.com Bitcoin betting
A new competitor, Stake.com have created one of the best user experiences in Bitcoin betting.

Launched in 2017, Stake.com is one of the youngest Bitcoin sportsbook sites on our list. The site offers a massive range of Bitcoin sports betting, as well as a casino section dedicated to crypto gambling, with a decent range of games.

Originally a pure Bitcoin casino, Stake.com launched its brand-new sportsbook feature in December 2019 after signing a two-year deal with Sportradar – a leading sports data company based in Switzerland – to license their Betradar software.

Players will immediately notice that Stake.com is one of the most modern-looking and visually-appealing Bitcoin betting sites, with a really simple and intuitive user interface – making this Bitcoin sportsbook site perfect for beginners.

So, is this newcomer to the Bitcoin betting space poised to be a serious competitor in the future? Let’s find out.

Which Cryptos Does Stake.com Support?

Like some of the other crypto betting sites on our list, Stake.com only supports payments in cryptocurrencies on their site – there are currently no ways to credit your account in fiat.

But,