Crypto exchange risks laid bare by Coinbase float

Common theories around the crypto founder’s identity include government intelligence agencies, academics, a lone programmer or a nefarious group of internet hackers.

Criminals, malicious actors and internet trolls often use anonymity to protect their identity on the internet, and the confusion around Nakomoto’s identity could still skewer bitcoin mania in a worst-case scenario.

In 2016, British-based Australian computer scientist Craig Wright claimed to be Nakamoto as the main designer in a team that developed bitcoin, but Wright has failed to provide cryptographic or other decisive proof for his claims.

Israeli spy service Mossad, British intelligence agency MI6, software programmer Gavin Andresen and US tech entrepreneur Jed McCaleb have all been regularly touted as potential bitcoin inventors.

It is also speculated Nakamoto drives a Tesla, with mercurial open-source computer coding and peer-to-peer payments expert Elon Musk another candidate. Two companies that Musk founded, Tesla and PayPal, have been the first to throw fiduciary duty to the wind by either directly investing in bitcoin or supporting payment services in it.

Beware the fork

How many of the 18.6 million bitcoins already in circulation that Nakamoto’s account owns is still unknown, and prices could crater if the founder decides to dump holdings on market.

As part of the risk warnings in its regulatory filing, Coinbase admits bitcoin’s decentralised status is vulnerable to “disruptions, hacks and splits in the underlying network, also known as forks”.

The potential for hard forks as symptoms of division has already produced multiple separate networks such as Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum Classic. According to Coinbase’s filing, the forks or divisions are both related to the informal governance of bitcoin’s networks led by unknown core developers.

The exchange said informal governance issues could “lead to revisions to the underlying source code or inactions that prevent network scaling”.

Over time, the self-determined participation in important infrastructure revisions could also lead to “new changes or updates that affect their speed, security, usability or value”.

Classic cyber security, theft and financial crime risks also exist. This includes hacking the cryptography used by bitcoin and ethereum as new technology in digital computing, algebraic geometry and quantum computing outsmarts existing cyber security measures.

Crypto-infrastructure is also not immune to traditional information technology bugs, according to Coinbase. “Many crypto networks are in the process of implementing software upgrades and other changes to their protocols, which could introduce bugs, security risks, or adversely affect the respective crypto networks.”

In Australia, rapid progress in fiat money peer-to-peer and real-time electronic payments industries also has potential to match the instant-settlement blockchain technology on which cryptocurrencies are based.

Last week, Australia’s eftpos payments network group revealed it would launch a real-time peer-to-peer payments network able to power the gig economy and allow instant payments for government rebates, restaurants and Uber drivers, among others.

As at December 31, Coinbase had grown its verified users 34.4 per cent in a year to 43 million verified users, with monthly transacting users nearly tripling to 2.8 million.

Its chief executive, Brian Armstrong, said the cryptoeconomy’s growth was just starting and would prove as revolutionary and widely adopted as the internet in delivering a decentralised and trustworthy means to exchange value between counter parties.

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