Bitcoin Origins, Operations, Happenings, Objectives and Offerings (uh, BOOHOO for short?)
The Who, What, When, Why and How of Bitcoin Being Bought (Bot), Sold (Souled) or Mined (Mine-d. As in, "Mine! It's ALL Mine! Muahahaha!")
The first thing that should be covered is, “Who came up with Bitcoin?” followed by, “Who actually gives a darn about Bitcoin?” The answer to the first question is complicated, but in short involves the name Satoshi Nakamoto. Anyone wanting to honor the founder(s) of Bitcoin should know that name, and it matters because nobody really knows for sure who Satoshi Nakamoto really is. The name is universally considered a pseudonym (meaning it is very likely not the real name of whoever came up with Bitcoin.) Maybe the real Satoshi Nakamoto is the guy who was supposedly handed over the keys to Bitcoin shortly before Satoshi Nakamoto was never heard from again (Popper, 2016).
Maybe the original developer of Bitcoin really is the well-known Australian programmer, Craig Wright, who was purported to be one of the persons behind the Satoshi pseudonym (Sharma, 2019). His claim has since been doubted, discounted and semi-debunked by various sources (Mullen, 2016). He is considered, for the most part, nothing more than an elaborate hoaxer (Greenberg, 2015). Then again, the billions of Bitcoins Satoshi allegedly mined could have paid for the supercomputer that Wright has indeed had custom-made for himself (Chanthadavong, 2015). The speculation over who is Satoshi has certainly entertained quite a few people over the years, and more than a few rumors have persisted that something terrible must have befallen Nakamoto (something along the lines of foul-play) for him to have given up that kind of prestige and control over the Bitcoin vehicle (that is, if he is not still the driving force behind Bitcoin and maintaining the wheel behind the scenes.)
With that said, another pertinent question you could ask would be, “Who runs Bitcoin?” No person or organization has complete control over the cryptocurrency. The locomotion of the Bitcoin-train is given momentum by, and in the hands of, the users. You might say, “Well, alright. Then who continues to create, program and implement the code that has been morphing into what Bitcoin is today?” If my facts are correct, then that would involve a team of developers now led by a Dutch programmer, a person by the name of Wladimir van der Laan (Shubber, 2014). Gavin Andresen previously led the team, and personally founded the Bitcoin Foundation after Satoshi Nakamoto supposedly handed the reins over to him (Popper, 2016). Andresen was a lead developer of the main Bitcoin Project prior to it having gone mainstream. Gavin made Bitcoin his main career (even leaving a prominent software development role in order to manage the cryptocurrency) shortly after it gained in popularity. Now that Laan is leading the team, Andresen has moved on to Bitcoin XT and Bitcoin Cash - intimating that those currencies mirror his vision for what Bitcoin originally should have been (Lee, 2017).
Personally, my money is on Andresen being Nakamoto, because it all fits together too perfectly - and I wouldn’t blame the guy one bit (one bit, get it?) for wanting to avoid all that publicity, attention, and possible threat to his security. That and nobody wants to up and leave a good thing for something that hasn’t taken off yet. The smart man waits until something better comes along – especially if that involves something we created. My choice for runner-up on the matter would probably be Laan (this is just speculation on my part, but his sentiments about nobody owning Bitcoin could mirror the original driving factor in how the currency was created.) All in all, that is why it is considered a mystery. Maybe it’s truly a combination of several people that have since had a major falling-out because some went public despite a verbal agreement to keep it secret. One thing to consider is even if the real Satoshi came forward and declared themselves, the world is poised to doubt without insurmountable proof - especially when inconsistencies (however minor) are discovered and pointed out. Maybe Nakamoto is none of the people previously mentioned and is comfortably living somewhere quiet, peaceably enjoying an anonymous retirement, and spending his or her days relaxing on a beach somewhere private.
Another “Who?” question you might ask is, “Who invests in Bitcoin?” The answer is easy. Everyone. For all you know, your grandmother could have stock in Bitcoin. Your brother might have a virtual wallet brimming with the cryptocurrency. Your cousin could be a cryptominer. From personal investors, currency collectors to big-name companies such as Tesla, Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, PayPal, Visa and MasterCard - the market is wide open and full of buyers and sellers trading in Bitcoin (Roberts, 2021). Let’s face it, the cryptocurrency phenomenon is here to stay.
The second set of questions you have is probably, “What exactly is Bitcoin?” Well, Bitcoin is a means to making money – an investment (Hong, 2021). If you did not know, it is based off the recent concept of e-currency (cryptocurrency, or crypto for short, is a digital asset that can be traded electronically for just about anything.) It is considered the original cryptocurrency, the real deal.
Bitcoin is widely considered the first open source, peer-to-peer digital cryptographic currency (Bitcoin Project, 2021). Cryptographic means secure, hidden, or otherwise protected information that is usually communicated in some way (in this case, shared over the internet through a peer-to-peer network.) Peer-to-peer sharing means that the communication happens from one personal computer or network to another personal computer or network over the internet. Which, understandably, is not always as secure and protected as in the case of Blockchain (Conway, 2020b). A Blockchain is the public ledger database that is distributed to everyone in the Bitcoin peer-to-peer network. That way there is no central authority overseeing Bitcoin. Everyone serves that oversight role. There can be many unsolved blocks for Blockchain at any given time for interested miners to try to earn Bitcoin for solving.
“What does that mean to me?” The short answer to this is that bitcoin can be profitable. The long answer is that someone developed a currency that is shared across a vast network and created (mined) by those that took it on themselves to use their own equipment to double-check the accuracy of transactions made using Bitcoin (Conway, 2020b). The network and the currency are self-sustained – but also limited. It is limited by the power of the hardware and software used (the overall computing power) to mine the data inside any given block. It is also limited by how many bitcoins are rewarded to the lucky miner who verified the most transactions AND solved the hash problem. The number of bitcoins being awarded today is limited to a set amount and is less now than what it was at inception, and in the coming years will be even less - this is called Bitcoin Halving (Conway, 2020a). It is speculated that even if technology grew more advanced and efforts to mine increased, new Bitcoin will still be entering circulation for over a hundred years. We shall see about that.
The third set of questions you might have is, “When was Bitcoin first created?” and, “When is the BEST time to get Into Bitcoin?” The answer to the first question is easier, because it involves a fact and not an opinion. The fact is, the first mention of Bitcoin was in 2008, bitcoin.org was registered shortly after that and the cryptocurrency was launched early January of 2009 (Frankenfield, 2021). The concept of Bitcoin was probably created years before it became public, but one thing is for sure – Bitcoin is here and has dominated the market for being the original cryptocurrency. Speculation would dictate that like most originals, something better will eventually take its place and as yet that has not happened. That leads me into the next question mentioned above. The best time to get into Bitcoin is similar to that Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” For those wanting to get into Bitcoin, the best time was ten years ago. But that does not mean it’s too late, now is the time to invest in and collect Bitcoin by those that are so inclined.
The fourth set of questions many people ask is, “Why is Bitcoin so desirable?” and, “Why care about Bitcoin?” Those questions are related and interlinked, so I will be addressing both in this paragraph. Bitcoin is not overseen by any government as a currency managed by an official, state-owned treasury. It is managed by the users of Bitcoin (Frankenfield, 2021). There are only so many Bitcoins that are available, new currency cannot just be printed up by a treasury or bank. Every transaction is confirmable by the end user, it is not hidden and obfuscated behind the scenes like with what happens in traditional banking. Bitcoin is widely accepted in the world today, so you can pretty much spend it everywhere. Because of the finite availability of Bitcoin, it appeals to collectors and investors alike because it is unique and valuation of it will only go up.
Another “Why?” question you might want an answer to is, “Why was Bitcoin created to be like it is?” The answer goes hand in hand with the other “Why?” questions above. Trust. You do not have to trust in a business or other entity operating behind the scenes, you can confirm for yourself every Bitcoin transaction (Frankenfield, 2021). You are in control over your cryptocurrency wallet, whether that is directly on a secured device that you personally own, or online (Kenton, 2020b). The first variety of wallet is technically more secure, and yet still at risk because you must link it to the internet to receive funds. These wallets are called Cold Wallets because hackers do not have access to them when they are offline. Hot Wallets are those that are stored on the internet at a participating and trusted intermediary website. These wallets are usually secured with standard (and in some cases military-level) encryption and can usually be transferred into a Cold Wallet at will and vice versa.
Best practice is to not store more Bitcoin tokens in your Hot Wallet than you intend to spend immediately or in the very near future - for security reasons (Kenton, 2020b). Keep the rest of your tokens in a Cold Wallet that is on a removable (portable/external) drive that you only connect to your computer when needed. If you mine your own tokens, have your Hot Wallet receive the Bitcoin initially and transfer to your Cold Wallet when it reaches a certain acceptable threshold (make sure to factor in risk of higher balances being more likely to get targeted by attempted theft through hacker attacks or other means when determining how much coin to leave online.)
These questions are all followed up with, and trumped by, “How can I benefit from Bitcoin?” or a more pertinent question might be, “How can I mine bitcoin?” Mining is no secret, but it does take the right hardware and software to get started in (Kenton, 2020a). The average person with a decent PC (Personal Computer) can use their CPU (Central Processing Unit, or Brain of the Computer) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit, otherwise known as a Graphics Card) to mine most cryptocurrency found in the world today (Hong, 2021). They need a program that will utilize these aspects of their computer to compute the information found in a blockchain ledger. In performing this service to the cryptocurrency community, they are awarded with Bitcoin tokens that they can add to their digital wallet. The variety of mining that uses CPU and GPU can be difficult to use for mining Bitcoin today, because the requirements are a challenge for the typical CPU or GPU to compute fast enough to win out on getting a Bitcoin award. That does not mean it’s impossible, especially if you enter a pool, but there are other cryptocurrency alternatives that you can try if you want to go it alone. Many people pool together and share a proportion of the Bitcoin award (Alkurd, 2020) – that is, if they solve a block first (the award is split according to computational power that each user contributed.)
“How can we mine Bitcoin faster?” There is an option of stacking multiple GPUs into one machine. There are PCs specifically built to mine crypto. There are relatively new devices called A.S.I.C.s (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) that have made it a bit easier to mine Bitcoin (Alkurd, 2020). Especially if you link or chain many ASICs together into a mining rig specially built for grinding crypto out. Supercomputers are also a good (albeit NOT cheap) alternative to the mining aficionado wanting to get an edge in mining.
There is an inherent danger in subjecting your PC to new software. Many forums have discussions about certain mining software being pegged as Viruses or Trojans by Security and Antivirus Software. Some are false positive flags because the software is engineered very similarly to the data-mining viruses that have plagued the internet throughout the years. These mining programs sometimes use the same technology that was used to steal personal information, but instead of data theft the cryptomining programs are designed differently. Their intent is to solve computations utilizing the CPU and GPU of the computer they are installed (and configured properly) on. Also, downloads from unverified or untrusted sources are often infected with malware. If they do not come infected from the website itself, sometimes malicious code attaches itself to a file in transit (or once it has been fully downloaded on an already compromised computer.)
For the sake of this article, I decided to try a few of the better-known cryptomining software programs (well, the ones that do not require joining the service first.) My own antivirus software immediately detected and cleaned a trojan from two of the text documents included with the Awesome Miner archive right after downloading from the developer website. Whether this was attached in transit or beforehand is unknown. What I do know for sure was that it wasn’t because my computer was compromised beforehand. When attempting to install, my security software flagged and quarantined Awesome Miner and Cudo Miner. There are several forums (found on zcashcommunity.com and bitcointalk.org to name a few) that describe the Awesome Miner software as a virus. The reviews on trustpilot.com for Cudo Miner are mixed, and there is an entire guide on how to remove the Cudo Miner trojan (Folkner, n.d.). BUT. Something to consider is that many credible sources (including Microsoft) vouch for these mining programs as completely safe. So, all that considered, I advise caution at the very least when looking to get involved with cryptomining.
Do your research, and only download from trusted developer sites. Another option is downloading your choice of the above or another mining program (like EasyMiner if you want to try that.) Install it onto a designated mining rig that is only for crypto mining. Such a designated setup should never have stored nor transmitted your personal information or sensitive data except information involving the mining, storage, and transfer of cryptocurrency. This cuts down on the risk of Identity Theft and varieties of Fraud that you could experience from a computer compromised while mining crypto.
Only download mining (or any other) software from reputable sources. Determine this (for anything that you ever download) by using https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ before downloading anything from off the internet. Do research with a search engine about the company, website, and products that you’re considering downloading. Scroll past the paid-advertisements and mainstream reviews that come at the top of a search, ignore what the company has to say about itself and their products, and look for forums where problems, concerns and real experiences are brought up and addressed. If the software is opensource or can be vouched for by end-users, the risk for causing infection and compromised data is (typically) less severe. Avoid products with little or no information about them besides what the company says about itself. The more the reviews the better, and do NOT ignore the bad reviews.
Regardless of whether you are wanting to mine crypto or not be careful when using the internet, especially when viewing webpages, downloading files, and installing programs. This author suggests that you setup protective add-ons (such as Ghostery, Privacy Badger, Adblocker Ultimate, minerBlock and NoScript to name a few) for your web browser. Adding too many Add-Ons can sometimes slow down your browser (on older machines) and put a hamper on your internet experience, so only install what you need.
To mitigate risk to your equipment and the security of your personal information, make sure that your computer has a firewall and security software that is capable of heuristic scanning (make sure the heuristics are properly configured and running) and utilizes real-time protection (this author prefers Comodo Antivirus in conjunction with Microsoft Defender and GridinSoft.) Be aware that some security software is passive and only active when you utilize their scan features (which is fine, but not ideal to serve as your only security solution.) Double-up on threat detection software whenever possible. More is (usually) better so long as there are no conflicts between the programs as they are running. But I must state that you should not trust every security program on the internet.
The process to remove phony “Security Software” from your system can get quite involved. Removing severe infections (caused by any number of things, it does not have to involve illegitimate security programs) may even take formatting the HD/SSD (Hard Drive/Solid State Drive) and reinstalling the OS (Operating System) to remove the infection completely (but this option is like nuclear war, every other option available should be attempted first and it’s used only as a last-resort protective measure to wipe your drive - eliminating the good, the bad, everything. With this action, nothing is left.) Trust nothing until you have done your own research into user reviews and customer complaints for any product you might be interested in.
Note: This article will likely be followed up with later by other articles on related and unrelated topics. Hopefully, one will be detailing Bitcoin again, and explaining in more detail the best ways that you can get Bitcoin. If I do that it would be my first attempt at a How-To-DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Guide, but for now I believe I have included enough in this paper to satisfy the average reader. The likelihood of doing a follow-up guide would ultimately be determined by how popular this first article gets.
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Citations and References:
Alkurd, I. (2020, July 23). An Overview Of Mining: CPU, GPU And ASIC. https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2020/07/23/an-overview-of-mining-cpu-gpu-and-asic/
Bitcoin Project (2021). Bitcoin is an innovative payment network and a new kind of money. Bitcoin.org. https://bitcoin.org/en/
The Bitcoin Foundation (2021). Bitcoin explained. Bitcoin Foundation. https://bitcoinfoundation.org/
Chanthadavong, A. (2015, December 11). SGI denies links with alleged bitcoin founder Craig Wright. ZDNet. https://www.zdnet.com/article/sgi-denies-links-with-alleged-bitcoin-founder-craig-wright/
Conway, L. (2020, May 11). Bitcoin Halving. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/bitcoin-halving-4843769
Conway, L. (2020, November 17). Blockchain Explained. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blockchain.asp
Folkner, S. (n.d.). [SOLVED] Trojan Cudo Miner.exe coming back.Virus Removal Guide. https://virus-removal-guide.net/47941-solved-trojan-cudo-miner-exe-coming-back/
Frankenfield, J. (2021, January 30). Bitcoin. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bitcoin.asp
Greenberg, A. (2015, December 11). New Clues Suggest Craig Wright, Suspected Bitcoin Creator, May Be a Hoaxer. WIRED. https://www.wired.com/2015/12/new-clues-suggest-satoshi-suspect-craig-wright-may-be-a-hoaxer/
Hong, E. (2021, January 7). How Does Bitcoin Mining Work? Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/tech/how-does-bitcoin-mining-work/
Kenton, W. (2020, October 1). Bitcoin Mining. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bitcoin-mining.asp
Kenton, W. (2020, July 30). Hot Wallet. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/hot-wallet.asp
Lee, T. (2017, November 12). Bitcoin rival doubles in price in four days as Bitcoin price slumps. Ars Technica. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/11/bitcoin-rival-doubles-in-price-in-four-days-as-bitcoin-price-slumps/
Mullen, J. (2016, May 4). Craig Wright promises “extraordinary proof” that he is Satoshi, coming soon. Ars Technica. https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/05/purported-bitcoin-creator-loses-an-ally-but-says-hell-show-more-proof/
Popper, N. (2016, January 14). A Bitcoin Believer’s Crisis of Faith. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/business/dealbook/the-bitcoin-believer-who-gave-up.html
Roberts, D. (2021, February 11). How crypto adoption by companies like Visa, PayPal, and Tesla is creating a network effect. Yahoo Finance. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/how-crypto-adoption-by-companies-like-visa-pay-pal-and-tesla-is-creating-a-network-effect-214639389.html
Sharma, R. (2019, June 25). Three People Who Were Supposedly Bitcoin Founder Satoshi Nakamoto https://www.investopedia.com/tech/three-people-who-were-supposedly-bitcoin-founder-satoshi-nakamoto/
Shubber, K. (2014, April 8). Gavin Andresen Steps Down as Bitcoin’s Lead Developer. CoinDesk. https://www.coindesk.com/gavin-andresen-steps-bitcoins-lead-developer
VirusTotal (n.d.). Analyze suspicious files and URLs to detect types of malware, automatically share them with the security community. VirusTotal.com. https://www.virustotal.com/gui/