Data for sale on eBay

When eBay launched it became the go-to place for buying electrical items at vastly reduced prices, amongst other things. Its auction bidding style provided an element of excitement where the user could become a ‘winner’ by making the best bid. Counting down the hours and minutes until the sale closed could be a nail-biting affair.

Since then eBay has vastly expanded the range of items for sale and it is a marketplace where any individual can set up their stall. Now something rather interesting about eBay has come to light, according to a Forbes article; around 42% of the hard drives sold on the site contain sensitive data.

The analysis came via Ontrack research for a Blanco Technology Group report. It revealed that hard drives bought in the USA, UK, Germany and Finland contained sensitive data as well as personal information.

Birth certificates, passports and more

The researchers spoke to sellers, all of whom claimed they had used proper “data sanitisation methods” to ensure no data remained on the drives. The report showed this was clearly untrue. It showed, “One drive belonged to a software developer “with a high level of government security clearance” that still contained scanned images of family passports and birth certificates along with financial records.” And they also found,” a drive with 5GB of archived internal office email from a major travel company, 3GB of data from a freight company including documents that detailed shipping schedules and truck registrations, university student papers and associated email addresses and school data that was comprised of photos and documents with pupil names and grades.”

Fredrik Forslund, vice-president of cloud and data erasure at Blanco remarked on the situation: “Selling old hardware via an online marketplace might feel like a good option, but in reality it creates a serious risk of exposing dangerous levels of personal data.”

This is not a case of widespread data theft, or intent to damage a specific business. For criminals to benefit from this information, they would have to buy a lot of hard drives and even then they cannot be sure what data they will get, or indeed if there is any on the hard drive.

But Tim Erlin, vice-president of product management and strategy at Tripwire, warns that although this might make it seem as if there isn’t a problem, “it might lower the concern, but it shouldn’t eliminate it.”

How to avoid selling data on eBay

Getting rid of a hard drive requires care and any business should have a process in place for removing any sensitive data. Old processes, such as using magnets are outmoded, and Solid State Drives (SSDs) require a different approach altogether. Tim Mackey, senior technical evangelist at Synopsys suggests that in order to ensure certainty data cannot be recovered, physically destroying, or shredding, the drive is the answer.

It is likely that large organisations have the systems in place to perform this kind of data sanitisation effectively, but small and mediums sized businesses may not. And it is likely that the majority of the hard drives for sale on eBay come from those businesses who see selling old hard drives on the site as a way to recoup some money.

We need to be more aware than ever of the value of data and the importance of data security. If you are getting rid of a hard drive connected to business use, ensure it is properly destroyed and that you have confirmation of its destruction. Don’t let it end up on eBay where you have no idea who might find that it still contains valuable information.

Do we need to know the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto?

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I’ve been thinking about this question over the last few weeks. I was prompted to do this by Craig Steven Wright and the battle between him and others, such as Hodlonaut, on Twitter. Then there was the announcement that Binance was delisting Bitcoin SV (BSV), a cryptocurrency that is connected to nChain, a Wright-affiliated blockchain and Coingeek run by Calvin Ayre.

The problem people have with Wright is that he claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto, or one of the people behind Satoshi and the creation of Bitcoin. Wright’s dramatic claim was backed by Gavin Andresen, former Bitcoin Core Lead Maintainer and executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation. However, Wright has never provided he is Satoshi, or one part of ‘him’, but that hasn’t stopped the claim.

Last week John McAfee also claimed to know the identity of Satoshi and boasted that it had been extremely easy to work out. But, for personal reasons, McAfee declined to reveal who it is. I use the present tense because McAfee claims to correspond with Satoshi, unless he talks to him via the services of a psychic medium. He certainly didn’t suggest it was Wright, but on the other hand he didn’t mention him at all, so perhaps, perhaps, perhaps?

Wright, like McAfee, is known for making big claims, and he has been called out on quite a few of them by big hitters in the crypto world, including Vitalik Buterin of Ethereum, Grag Maxwel of Blockstream and Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance. Even Charles Sturt University (Wright’s alma mater) informed Forbes that Wright had never received a PhD from the university, although Wright claimed he had.

Wright, like McAfee, lives for publicity; It is his oxygen. And by hitting back when he claims he is Satoshi, the crypto community is feeding his addiction by talking about him and sending Google Search trends soaring with searches about him and BSV.

If we want the crypto industry to be taken seriously, we need to focus less on personalities like Wright and McAfee, who potentially discredit it with fiction, and ask ourselves, do we really need to know the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. Is it not possible to admire the Bitocin network without knowing the identity of the person/s behind it? Does not knowing for sure the identity of the creator/s give the technology less legitimacy? Perhaps one of the Gods can give us an answer to that question.

Who is controlling your financial data?

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A decade ago, and even further back, none of us were aware that our personal data was so valuable. Now, we’ve certainly been made aware that companies are busy collecting as much data about each of us as they can, because the more they know about us, the more power they have over our decision making.

We know that social media channels like Facebook re focused on collecting data about our shopping habits and our political views amongst other things, and that has frightened not a few people, and angered them when they discovered the data was being sold to dark actors behind political lobbying. And while the majority of the public may be being guided by the media towards focusing on social media giants, the banks are busy collecting data about each of us as well.

And, like the social media guys, the banks want to hold on to our data; they don’t want to share it with fintech startups. Because these startups are better positioned to use the data and respond to consumer wants in a faster more flexible way. To that end, there is a battle going on by some of the biggest banks, such as JP Morgan Chase and the Silicon Valley fintechs for possession of data.

Big banks plan to stifle fintech access to data

Nizan Geslevich Packin at Forbes suggests that JP Morgan and Capital One actually have a campaign strategy to control, Silicon Valley fintech startups’ access to consumer financial data. She claims that there is a rising behind-the-scenes tension and “some banks have threatened to block fintech companies’ servers from accessing customer data, in order to improve their customer accounts’ safety and increase consumer protection.” The banks claim that this is in the consumer’s best interests because fintechs “often collect more data than they need, store it insecurely, sell it to third parties, and sometimes also get hacked, exposing account numbers and passwords.” It sounds a lot like political arguments these days, especially in countries with a two-party system, like the USA and UK.

Of course regulation and consumer protection are important; they are two of the cornerstone elements of the financial industry. And yes, cybersecurity is an issue these days, and we should be wary of sharing data with third-parties, but if anyone thinks the banks are occupying the higher moral ground and acting entirely for the benefit of the consumer, then they don’t know banks and bankers that well.

Banks claim to act for the consumer

Banks are acting in their own interest: they are afraid of the fintech newcomers who are currently taking a trickle of their customers, but that could become a major flow.

Not if the banks have their way and find a way to stop the sharing of data. As Nizan says, there are companies like Mint that provide consumers with an aggregated snapshot of their accounts from multiple financial institutions. Without access to the bank data, Mint’s business would collapse. Indeed, most fintechs are reliant on gathering traditional bank data; without it they will not be able to innovate.

The fintechs are not leaving things to chance. They are not waiting for the banks to reduces their access to APIs or stop access altogether. They are looking at technological ways to combat the banks’ blocking technology. And they are lobbying for open banking. This works by allowing fintech companies’ apps to ask consumers for permission to access their accounts, and then requiring that banks abide by that consent.

The battle between the banks and the fintechs is not confined to the USA. In Europe Payment Services Directive II encourages technological developments that disrupt existing businesses by collecting data on savings, spending, wealth management and more.

The struggle continues for control of our data, but has anyone ever asked you what you’d like to do with your financial information and who you are prepared to share it with?

What will drives Bitcoin’s future price?

In mid April Adamant Capital published an important paper, “Bitcoin in Heavy Accumulation”. It has been publishing these reports for some years now and as it says in the introduction, each time they did so was when Bitcoin was down 80% from an all-time high. In April 2019 it is 75% down from its 2017 high, and this is a good point for investors to enter the market according to Adamant Capital.

According to Adamant, Bitcoin is in an “accumulation phase” right now and its researchers expect BTC to trade at a range between $3,000 and $6,500 until there is a new bull market that “permanently cements the denarian cryptocurrency as a multi-trillion dollar asset.”

The market does appear to be picking up momentum and while it is still experiencing some slight setbacks every few days, the outlook feels brighter. But what is going to drive the price of BTC for the next five years? Adamant Capital suggests there are three key drivers that are worth our attention.

Hold on to decentralisation

Bitcoin must hold on to its promise of a decentralised ‘currency’. But, it also needs to work on its scaling and add more protocols. The Adamant report states, “Bitcoin stays close to its roots of being a lightweight, robust, and universally accessible protocol.” Watch out for Lightning Network developments as well as Taproot and Schnorr signatures that will “improve privacy and smart contract functionality on the network.”

Bring BTC closer to the financial industry

Adamant Capital point to the “financialisation” of BTC and how this may drive the price. For example, in 2017, LedgerX launched a physically settled bitcoin futures platform and CME launched its own bitcoin futures product. In 2018 we have seen partnerships between the New York Stock Exchange and Blockstream o create a cryptocurrency data feed and announced their bitcoin futures platform BAKKT and in 2019 Fidelity Digital Custody, Nasdaq bitcoin futures, and a crypto asset custody solution from Northern Trust are all expected to launch. These are just a few examples and not the whole picture. The report says: ““Bitcoin’s qualities of political neutrality, unparalleled security, globally accessible liquidity, and predictable financial policy are provably improving,” and adds, “As it matures, we expect for Bitcoin to disrupt the $100 trillion investment vertical of Liquid Store of Value, and become a globally used digital gold and reserve asset.”

Millennial power

And the last driver is the millennial generation. According to the report, this is the largest growing demographic in the world, whose disposable income is expected to supersede all other generations by 2029. This generation witness the effect of the banking crash and have also grown up with technology, so it is easier for them to get their heads around the concept of cryptocurrencies, and Adamant Capital suggests they will boost Bitcoin adoption and thus its price.

The report concludes by saying, “Supported by over 10 years of infrastructure development, we believe the stage is set for mass market adoption in the coming 5 years.” And, for those of you thinking of investing, it also suggests that this phase is an important moment of opportunity, because it won’t be long before BTC is widely recognised as a “portfolio hedging instrument and reserve asset, and will begin making significant inroads as a payment network.”