BitCoin as a Bug Bounty

From Byrne Hobart at The Diff:

This is good news. The fact that cheesy Bitcoin scams work means that hackers have an incentive to break into vulnerable companies. But the fact that they work a lot better than more drastic exploits means that Bitcoin creates a sort of global bug bounty. If Bitcoin scammers hadn’t found this vulnerability, maybe North Korean hackers or the PLA would have.

If you’re a smart hacker who can break into Twitter and take over any account, bitcoin plus bragging rights may be the only payoff you have a reasonable chance to collect

The “drastic exploits” being referred to here are all of the fun (?) ways these hackers could have manipulated the stock market in order to make a killing. Using BitCoin, these folks captured ~$120k in value. The could have made billions with the right combination of tweets plus call/put options. However, the US regulatory regime makes that upside much harder to collect on! So in a way, BitCoin (where transactions are not regulated, users have some anonymity, and there is no reversal mechanism for undoing a payment) incentivizes these hacks to be used for lower-value gains. Instead of, say, having Trump tweet that thermonuclear war was imminent (harder to collect $$ doing that).

When interesting social benefits like this pop up as a result of some grass-roots, homegrown, tech-based idea (BitCoin today, Facebook a decade ago, The Internet way back when) I have to wonder if there are folks being paid to sit around and think of all the possible “what if?” scenarios that could play out as a result of just letting these ideas run wild. Would anyone evangelizing for BitCoin two to three years ago have claimed “it will work great as a bug-bounty program by providing a monetary incentive for hackers to give up their zero-days for a measly hundred grand instead of starting wars”. I don’t think so. But could someone have been paid to sit in a room and think up all of these possibilities? I do think so.

Related: can international trade stop wars? Probably! The next time someone claims China stole their job, ask them why they want more war.

Background on the Twitter Hack from The Verge.

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