Bitcoin’s Dark Side Could Get Darker –

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Investors see riches in a cryptography-enabled technology called smart contracts–but it could also offer much to criminals.     Some of the earliest adopters of the digital currency Bitcoin were criminals, who have found it invaluable in online marketplaces for contraband and as payment extorted through lucrative “ransomware” that holds personal data hostage. A new Bitcoin-inspired technology that some investors believe will be much more useful and powerful may be set to unlock a new wave of criminal innovation. That technology is known as smart contracts—small computer programs that can do things like execute financial trades or notarize documents in a legal agreement. Intended to take the place of third-party human administrators such as lawyers, which are required in many deals and agreements, they can verify information and hold or use funds using similar cryptography to that which underpins Bitcoin. Some companies think smart contracts could make financial markets more efficient, or simplify complex transactions such as property deals (see “The Startup Meant to Reinvent What Bitcoin Can Do”). Ari Juels, a cryptographer and professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, believes they will also be useful for illegal activity–and, with two collaborators, he has demonstrated how. “In …

MIT Media Lab Announces Launch of MIT Digital Currency Initiative, Headed by Former White House Senior Adviser

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A few days ago Bitcoin Magazine reported that Joi Ito, director of the prestigiousMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, was about to unveil a plan for the institute to become what he called an independent, neutral home to help with Bitcoin standards development. “I think within a couple of weeks we’ll be announcing something which will be a little bit more substantive,” said Ito. “And I’m not pushing it, but I’m offering MIT as a neutral academic home for some of the conversations and the technical coordination.” MIT has now formally announced the launch of a Digital Currency Initiative, to be directed by former White House senior adviser for mobile and data innovation Brian Forde, who joined the MIT Media Lab as director of digital currency. Forde will work with researchers across the institute and leading experts at other universities around the world to address some of the most critical challenges to creating a safe, stable and secure digital currency. “As a technologist, there’s no more exciting place to work than the MIT Media Lab,” said Forde. “The innovations that come out of the Media Lab have made a truly global impact. I look forward to working with the …