I PROMIS THERE’S NO BACKDOOR IN YOUR CRYPTO-CURRENCY
I PROMIS you there's no backdoor in your crypto-currency and that you have absolutely nothing to worry about, and that all central banksters are entirely trustworthy, have no powerlust whatsoever, that all governments are equally trustworthy and would never permit such a thing to be done, and that the bridges I have for sale in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island are cheap and yet very impressive structures. Have your people contact my people and let's work out a deal... cash only, no crypto.
Seriously, you may be wondering why I'm talking about crypto currencies and software backdoors, or what they used to call "trapdoors". It's because last week I gave an interview on Dark Journalist's show along with my cousin Marty, who had actually met Danny Casolaro and had a couple of beers with him on a couple of occasions. The unfortunate Casolaro, you'll recall, was the investigative journalist who was researching the whole PROMIS software story at the behest of Bill Hamilton, the CEO of a company called Inslaw which was developing the software for the Department of (Double and Triple standards of) Justice. PROMIS is yet another of those endless anagrams and abbreviations clotting the free flow of understandable communications in modern America, and stands for Prosecutors Management Information Software (and in some versions, the "S" in the abbreviation stands for "system"). The software was designed to track cases through the Department of Double and Triple Standards of Justice, and since several computer systems were in use in the government at the time, it had to be a "multilinguial" program, capable of reading any code, and compiling databases from them.
The software thus had enormous potential to track almost anything for which a computer record was generated, and to do so through a variety of databases and coding languages. One could track money flows, drugs, people... anything, making the software a valuable prize, especially for people up to no good, like former attorney general Ed Meese in Ronald Reagan's Department of Double and Triple Standards of Justice. The software was dutifully stolen from Mr. Hamilton's company (it's potential uses made it a national security issue, and hence they must have reasoned that its theft was "ok"), and then modified by various intelligence agencies to include a "backdoor" that would allow secret systems administrators covert access to it, such access presumably including typical "sysadmin" stuff like the ability to write special lines of code for special one-time operations, and so on. The Software, in that modified form, was then sold to various countries' intelligence agencies, or, in the case of the Soviet Union, was carefully arranged for it to be "stolen" by the Soviets, whence it was probably used to create gas pipeline explosions and, in my opinion, may have played a role in "uncouping" the hardliner coup d'etat against Mikhail Gorbachev, and bringing an end to the Soviet Union itself.
The lesson being, it's kind of hard to run a country (or anything else for that matter) when your database compilers are riddled with backdoors and secret systems administrators.
However, the course of that interview with Dark Journalist revealed something very disturbing, namely, the possibility that the software, before it was ever stolen by the Department of Double and Triple Standards of Justice, had already been modified by one of its programmers with such a backdoor or backdoors before it even left Inslaw, and without Mr. Hamilton's knowledge or approval. The implications are enormous, for wherever the software spreads, and throughout any of its iterations and modifications, this means there is a hidden player with systems administration access that no one knows about, and that this could even go so far as to infect crypto-currency systems.
Well, lo and behold, one of this site's regular readers and article contributors, M.D., followed up with a raft of more recent articles about the PROMIS software scandal, which raft included the following, and it's a very disturbing read:
Are You Sure There is No Backdoor to Your Coins?
Now note this carefully:
Ignorance of how cryptocurrencies and blockchains work is a big moneymaker, at least if the growth industry in articles, websites, and comparison tools dedicated to explaining crypto is indicative of anything. But it would also seem to be a profit-generator in another, more marginal way.
For example, in the beginning of June it was revealed that Singaporean company Soar Labs had used a 'backdoor' in the code of its Soarcoin token to steal back 6.6 million dollars' worth of the cryptocurrency.
On the one hand, this seizure underlines the risk that other altcoins have backdoors written into their code that would allow developers to reclaim tokens at will from their holders. But on the other, it also underlines the danger of assuming that cryptocurrencies and blockchains are 'trustless,' and it suggests that token holders may need to become more technically literate in order to protect their investments. (Italicized emphasis added)
Gee... what a shock, colour me completely surprised (NOT) that a company, investment bank, or what-have-you, would put a backdoor in its program allowing it to track crypto-transactions and steal back money. Why, weren't crypto-currencies supposed to be the most trustworthy thing to come along since sanctity itself?
And for those familiar with the mining of cryptos, what better type of software to do such a thing, and what is alleged that PROMIS was able to do, i.e., track things through multiple databases in whatever computer language?
And what's intriguing to me is that if you followed the PROMIS software story closely, Singapore was one of those places where it may have landed. While I cannot post anything here, the reader can do a search for "PROMIS software Singapore," and will discover some very odd results are returned, to the extent that it does make one wonder just to what extent the two stories - crptyo-currency back doors, and PROMIS - might be related.
But wait, the story does not stop there:
What's significant about this case is that Soarcoin is an ERC20, Ethereum-based cryptocurrency. It therefore highlights the possibility that other altcoins, based on Ethereum or other popular blockchains, have backdoors written into them.
There are certain currencies that are rumoured to have a backdoor (e.g. Zcash). However, in a blog published last year, bitcoin developer Udi Wertheimer confirmed that Bancor – an Ethereum-based platform/token that enables direct trading of cryptocurrencies – also contained certain undeclared backdoors that permitted its developers to "take anyone’s [Bancor] tokens arbitrarily," among other things.
While Bancor defended its implementation of such backdoors in terms of protecting token holders in the event of "a potential security breach," their existence nonetheless emphasises the fact that some cryptocurrencies remain relatively centralised, with godlike power remaining in the hands of a few actors. (Italicized emphasis added)
The article ends with this warning:
- Backdoors aren't ever noticed by the everyday users of a cryptocurrency/platform, but by a researcher or hacker who eventually takes the time to scrutinise its code;
- Despite the 'decentralisation' of crypto, there are still plenty of points at which centralisation can re-enter and exert control.
And as the above shows, many of these "points" reside in backdoor lines of code, which 99% of crypto holders are unequipped to check. While this raises concern over what the future of cryptocurrencies and altcoins might have in store for users, it's worth pointing out the the Soarcoin case is the only known example of a backdoor actually being used. At least for now.
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