Bitcoin, Meet Darwin: Crypto Currency's FutureFirst-movers rarely survive, but some experts see a real future for government-issued crypto currency.
example when it comes to advancing the use of trusted platform modules (TPMs) to ensure that a small amount of data can be stored securely and not get hacked. "We've been talking about TPMs for ages, and it doesn't work for normal users, and it barely works for security professionals," he said. "Bitcoin says your Mom needs a TPM that she can work with, and there are actual investments going on to make that happen, and I'm fascinated by that."
Such TPMs would allow crypto-currency holders to store their virtual currency not only offline, but in a system that can't be directly connected to the Internet. "That's how I store my bitcoins when I purchase or mine them... and I'm pretty confident that they won't get stolen," said Joe Stewart, director of malware research at Dell SecureWorks, in an interview at the recent RSA conference in San Francisco.
Stewart noted that two hardware-based Bitcoin wallets -- HW-1 and Trezor -- are being developed for this express purpose. More technically astute types can roll their own, using a Raspberry Pi computer. Any transactions then get carried from a PC over to the homemade wallet, where they're signed, before being brought back to the computer. "As long as you keep that Raspberry Pi from ever connecting to the Internet, it's safe," he said.
These types of hardware wallets could become the norm for all online banking, regardless of the currency being used. "This same transaction-technology verification works great for banks, because you could use it even with a fully compromised PC," Stewart said. In other words, today's must-have Bitcoin accessory could become tomorrow's de rigueur defense against sophisticated banking Trojans.
Why wait? "Commercial accounts should be demanding this type of technology," Stewart said. "Our hope is that perhaps the adoption of Bitcoin hardware and wallets showing how transaction integrity verification works will drive them to say: 'Why isn't this how my bank works?'"
Likewise, the better aspects of Bitcoin -- the block-chain system, partial anonymity, and overall system integrity -- are already leading more and more people to ask: Why isn't this how tomorrow's government-issued currency will work?
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Mathew Schwartz is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer, as well the InformationWeek information security reporter.
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