Catalonia & Blockchain – Help from Estonia

While separatists and anti-Separatists meet in Catalonia, the rest of Europe follows this spectacle with some displeasure. Would it even be possible to split off? Wouldn’t they also have to leave the EU and wouldn’t that be fatal for the economy? Interestingly, Estonia could help out here with its advanced technology.

The situation in Spain should be clear from the recurring efforts to achieve independence. Especially since the referendum on 1 October, the media have been reporting more about the autonomous region of Catalonia.

Yesterday evening new interesting topics came to the attention: the blockchain and the Bitcoin secret

The newspaper El País yesterday published an article on the Bitcoin secret cooperation between Catalan politicians and Bitcoin secret experts from Estonia. Immediately afterwards the page became the target of a DDoS attack. Estonia is known for its state-of-the-art blockchain technology, which protects the administration in the country with its 1.3 million inhabitants and allows a lean, cheap and efficient state.

The eResidency program from Estonia (see our Bitcoin & Blockchain report) allows anyone to open a digital citizenship in Estonia and thus access services within the EU. Finns, Russians, Ukrainians and Britons make up the vast majority of eResidency users, but many Turks and Greeks have also signed up recently, explained Kaspar Korjus, Managing Director of the eResidency initiative.

How need digitizes states

While Estonia was only dependent on digital opportunities because of its heavy Soviet past, Catalonia is considering enforcing its independence by withdrawing power from the central bank. According to Dani Marco, director of the SmartCatalonia initiative, he was inspired several times by visits to Estonia. For Marco, bringing out his own digital currency would probably be the most important step towards independence.

Estonia itself wanted to launch a so-called “estcoin”, but the idea seemed so dangerous that even ECB President Mario Draghi felt personally drawn to an answer:

“No member state can introduce its own currency; the currency of the euro zone is the euro.

Should Catalonia successfully split off, the region would initially be a member of the euro zone, which would not rule out the possibility of a digital currency. In fact, according to El País, the chief developer of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, has been approached in order to support the Eastern Spaniards in their project. At the “Becon” in Barcelona, Buterin is said to have proposed an ICO that could be linked to the identities of the eResidency platform. This would secure the identities of the Catalans and establish a digital payment system independent of the Spanish central bank.

In the course of this rapid development, the effects of the blockchain on our society and politics are slowly becoming clear. In Greece, Eva Maili, then a politician and now a FinTech consultant, advocated a “Plan B” for Greek monetary policy. According to the International Business Times, the conversion of all fiat currencies into digital currencies was considered in Greece at the time. Even though the plan would not have been so easy to implement, Maili explained:

“Just look at what happened in Cyprus; you’re sometimes not safe from your own government.”

Bitcoin vending machines: Robocoin 2.0 and the news spy

The Bitcoin vending machine manufacturer Robocoin sets new standards with its new Robocoin 2.0. The Bitcoin vending machine with a completely new software and a revised hardware with additional functions is ready for the international rollout. With the announcement of Robocoin 2.0, the Bitcoin vending machine manufacturer has taken a big step towards its goal of making the Bitcoin more user-friendly for the masses, for people without a bank account to be able to offer a financial service.

Bitcoin “Banking” with the news spy

By repositioning itself as a “bank” with various “branches” rather than as a Bitcoin machine, Robocoin offers a range of online services to the news spy, brokers and normal customers. Robocoin is now represented in 13 countries. The company also offers a wallet service in addition to the Bitcoin vending machines or “branches”. The wallet can therefore be seen as a kind of Robocoin account and makes the news spy transactions at Bitcoin machines via QR code superfluous.

With increasing public confidence, the company assures that the Bitcoins in the Robocoin Wallet are safely stored. This is not least due to the fact that the wallets are stored with the latest Multi Sig technology and in an offline memory.

Another point is the long wait at the Bitcoin machine until the transaction has been confirmed by the blockchain. Robocoin has solved this problem with a feature that separates the transactions from the blockchain. This allows users to deposit and withdraw Bitcoins in real time.

International Payments

The Bitcoin dispenser can accept and issue 12 different currencies. Money can also be sent to people who just give an e-mail or a phone number. Even to people without a Robocoin account. The recipients only have to go to the nearest “branch” and withdraw the amount. If you look at Money Gram or Western Union with the immense transaction fees (500 billion USD turnover per year), the Bitcoin variant can be very interesting especially for workers who want to send money to their families.

“Our goal is to send money faster, friendlier, cheaper and easier than any other company in the world,” said Jordan Kelly, CEO of Robocoin. He also added:

“Robocoin is expanding the Bitcoin market by making it easier. No one needs to download digital wallets, store a private key or remember a public address anymore. The new technology promises secure storage, fast withdrawals and the easiest way to send money internationally.”

The Hardware
With the announcement of the new Robocoin Bitcoin machine, Robocoin has also announced the reduced price for the standard version. At the same time two new Bitcoin machines with special features concerning speed and safety were introduced.

With the introduction of the new Robocoin 2.0 Bitcoin machine, the company has reduced the price of the old standard version from 20,000 USD to 15,000 USD. At the same time, the company insures the highest security standards of the “old” version.

How to protect your cryptos from hacking

The boom of crypto currencies has attracted not only many hungry investors, but also hackers. Some common attack vectors are now known, such as sim hijacking and clipboard hacking. Who knows how, can protect their money relatively easily against a cyber attack.

Sim hijacking bypasses the 2FA

The weak point in so-called Sim Hijacking or Sim Swapping is not the users, but mostly the mobile network operators. The attack could hit anyone who uses their phone number for a so-called 2-factor authentication (short: 2FA).

With the 2FA, the login requires two independent confirmations that it is actually the real user. On the one hand this is the usual login password, on the other hand it is a unique code which is displayed by e-mail, SMS or in an application. After logging in with the user name and password, you then have to enter the unique code.

If a telephone number is specified as the second factor, attackers can proceed as follows: They call the relevant mobile operator and ask it to rewrite the phone number on a new SIM card controlled by the hacker. In most cases, mobile operator customer service rejects such requests, but attackers can repeat the process until they get a service representative on the line to grant them the request. Once this hurdle has been cleared, the codes are now sent by SMS to a new SIM card. This bypasses the second factor and the hacker can dial into the foreign account.

You can only protect yourself against this attack to a limited extent, for example by being very careful about giving out your mobile phone number and not bragging about your own wealth. In principle, however, a 2FA via SMS is not advisable, and you should rather use an authenticator program such as Google Authenticator. This program often generates a new code per minute to authenticate yourself. A 2FA with an external application is the safest way to protect yourself against hackers.

Clipboard Hacking changes the receiving address

A further attack vector is changing the clipboard when a user copies receiving addresses of a crypto currency. The hacker replaces the copied address with an address of his choice and can thus, if necessary, direct the transaction to himself.

You can only protect yourself against such attacks with special care. It is therefore necessary to thoroughly check the receiving address before a transaction. Hardware wallets such as the Trezor and Ledger offer a further form of 2FA in that the receiving address is also shown on the display of the hardware wallet itself.

Do not be phished
Again and again, websites appear on the Internet that are identical with large crypto exchanges and wallet providers. MyEtherWallet and Trezor were already victims of such attacks in 2018. If the user does not pay attention to the authenticity of the website and enters his login data, he may serve the hackers his information – and the money associated with it – on a silver tray.

You can tell whether you are actually on the stock exchange’s website or not by the “https://” on the left side of the URL. The SSL certificate should be valid under all circumstances. Only then it is the right page. For the future you should save these pages as bookmarks.

Conclusion: Be careful!
Crypto currencies are a new form of money and have real value. Clearly that attracts the sharks. According to the motto “Be Your Own Bank” everyone is responsible for his own security. Most attacks can be prevented with caution and attentiveness. The security precautions should increase proportionally to the value to be secured.

For larger holdings it is always necessary not to keep them on a stock exchange, but to use a separate hardware wallet. The seed phrase for this hardware wallet should also be protected.