Stop using SMS for private messages

We all need to up our online security game, which is why I read a recent article by Zak Doffman, a cybersecurity expert, with great interest. He has advised his followers to stop using Facebook Messenger and switch to WhatsApp for security reasons. This is interesting because Facebook also owns WhatsApp, but the difference between the app and Messenger is one of security.

WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption. It’s so secure that as Doffman says, “lawmakers actually want weaknesses introduced to help them investigate crimes.” And if you think that perhaps Apple iMessage and SMS—including Google Messages –are safe, then Doffman says, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

Most messaging from your devices is encrypted, but the security depends on who holds the encryption keys. Doffman states, “When you end-to-end encrypt data or messages, keys are only held by the two (or multiple) endpoints of that link—you and the person you’re messaging, for example.” So, with WhatsApp, it can’t read what you send, which is the bonus, and it can be trusted to keep your messages safe and secure.

By contrast, Facebook’s Messenger is not end-to-end encrypted by default. Even Facebook recommended using WhatsApp instead of Messenger. Why don’t they fix the problem with Messenger you may ask? Well, apparently it’s technically complex.

SMS messages are another issue. Did you know “When you send an SMS, while it might be secure between your phone and your network, once there it can be easily intercepted and collected?” This makes SMS child’s play for hackers who can target senders and recipients. On the other hand, SMS is available on every single phone in the world, hence it’s popularity. However, it is used for “longer messages, MMS attachments, financial details, private data, sensitive information,” and that is where problems lie.

Whichever service you use, whether Apple or Android, there are SMS messages you will need to still receive—one time security codes, for example. But beyond texts from service providers, with security codes etc, you should not use SMS for your own private messages – stick to WhatsApp, or if you want even more security, use Signal, which is the app of choice for many working in the Cybersecurity sector.

China’s bid for world domination

The rumour that China plans to dominate the world has been circulating for decades. Its isolation from the West for a significant period of time made it even easier to turn the country into a Bogey Man. Some argued that it was a misunderstood country, whilst others held firmly to the view that China could never be trusted. These days, with greater media coverage of the world’s most populous country, we perhaps have a clearer view of its ambitions, and it seems some of the old rumours contain more than a grain of the truth.

Global expansionism is one of China’s tools. John Glynn writes that Beijing’s ‘Going Global’ strategy emerged in 1999, and it signalled the end of the “Mao-era mindset of self-reliance.” China suddenly started taking advantage of a boom in world trade and global market investments. Glyn says, “The idea that one government could commandeer sub regions in Asia, Europe and Africa, which account for 64 percent of world population and 30 percent of world GDP, might sound ludicrous. But try telling this to the Chinese government.”

Glyn also warns in his article that President Xi is engaged in an ideological and economic venture, and that it is clear the country has massive global ambitions, if its investments are anything to go by: “Between 2005 and 2017, the combined value of China’s global investment in construction was $1.8Trillion.”

What does it construct? The Chinese Government is making a concerted effort to increase infrastructural, economic, and political connectivity between China and the other countries of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Glyn calls it a “Belt and Road” initiative. But as he also says, it is essentially a new Silk Road connecting China to the rest of the world.

Glyn also remarks, “While other countries find themselves consumed by petty squabbles, Beijing officials discuss square footage, potential monetary gain, and militaristic strategies.”

It has invested widely in Energy, Transport, Real Estate and Metals — the key ingredients for developing infrastructure, and this has worried the Western governments, particularly the Trump presidency. That’s why he’s so keen to buy Greenland, an island mass that is rich in rare earth metals.

It is also the case that China has been involved in lending large amounts to other countries, and some fear that part of its strategy is to saddle these countries with “unimaginable levels of debt.” Furthermore a lot of this debt is “hidden” and that is especially worrying. Hidden debt means that the borrowing isn’t reported to or recorded by official institutions. A Kiel Institute study found that other countries’ debt owed to China has soared ten-fold since 2000, and it stated, “This has transformed China into the largest official creditor, easily surpassing the IMF or the World Bank.”

Much of this money is going to emerging markets. This is not because China wants to help grow these economies, but because it allows China to put those countries in a position of “indentured servitude.”

It is also looking to expand its military bases internationally. The US defence department expects China to add military bases around the world to protect its investments in its One Belt One Road initiative. Currently Beijing currently has just one overseas military base, in Djibouti. However, officials are planning others, including one in Pakistan.

This repressive regime has global ambitions and they are closer to being a reality than ever. Can China be stopped? The answer would appear to be — NO!

Why is Litecoin Doing so Well?

Today Litecoin is up 62% on the month, 24% on the week and a solid 200% on the year. Its price has dipped a tiny 2% at the time of writing, but it is still possible to say that Litecoin has been doing remarkably well during this latest surge in the crypto markets.

Litecoin began 2019 at around $30, representing a dramatic plunge in price during 2018. As ever, people are looking for explanations for this reversal of fortune. Billy Bambrough, writing at Forbes believes that it may in part be due to the upcoming halvening of bitcoin, which will happen in May next year. Halvenings always seem to trigger a price surge. The bitcoin event will result in he number of bitcoins awarded to miners for mining new bitcoin blocks will drop from 12.5 bitcoin to 6.25 bitcoin. “We are going to hoard bitcoin at this point in time,” Brian Kelly, a bitcoin and cryptocurrency fund manager told CNBC. “We’re not going to sell it. You generally have a rally a year into [a bitcoin halvening], and a year out of it. And so we’re just at the beginning of that stage […] a supply cut is generally bullish.”

A halving and more use of litecoin

Litecoin is due to halve its miner rewards in August of this year, and if the economic theory applied to bitcoin’s supply reduction due to the halvening are correct, it will also apply to litecoin, which will see its mining reward fall from 25 litecoin to 12.5 litecoin.

What has happened during previous bitcoin halvenings, which are fixed events that occur after every 210,000 blocks have been mined. For example, about one year after the first bitcoin halving event in November 2012, the bitcoin price reached what was then an all-time high of $1,000. And the 2016 halvening appeared to precipitate the bull run of 2017 when bitcoin touched almost $20,000.

But it isn’t just Litecoin’s upcoming halvening that has boosted its price. Over the last few months litecoin has gone through some technical improvements and it is being spent via Coinbase Visa cards at millions of locations worldwide. Coinbase users can choose which cryptocurrency is used on the card through a new app that supports all crypto assets available to buy and sell on the Coinbase platform. The app also offers instant receipts, transaction summaries, and spending categories, to help people keep track of their spending.

Litecoin has been seen as one of the most credible rivals to bitcoin for some time; perhaps this is the year when it finally asserts itself as a serious contender in the crypto market.