Source: Dell SecureWorks. Feb, As always, attacks supersede the speed at which wallet vendors are capable of developing new secure features. The Bitcoin security space is definitely one of the growing niches of the cryptocurrency. It's not only wallets under attack, but any trading system that stores Bitcoins.
In April, Finnish trading platform Localbitcoins was under attack and, once again, about a month ago. The truth is, at this point, most Bitcoin startups including wallets are developed by volunteers — no money is being earned from them and security is expensive. As long as there's no business model behind Bitcoin wallets, it will continue to be difficult to get funding for them, although that might be about to change.
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Surprisingly, while Bitcoin acceptance in the media and in broader circles is growing rapidly, the pace of Bitcoin startup adoption isn't exactly keeping up. The lack of a selection of Bitcoin wallet software is shocking.
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Although there are several new wallets coming out every couple of months, most remain relatively unknown or lack important functionality. The following is a list — by no means complete — of the major Bitcoin wallets in existence. We played with some of them to get a feeling of how they worked. Each of them have their pros and cons, but only with time and funding will the winner reveal itself. Hive thin client : It's probably the slickest of all the wallets we tried. Great interface and user experience but they might have sacrificed too much functionality, especially security mechanisms, for the sake of usability.
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Hive is developed by European developers, mainly from Krakow. MultiBit thin client : Nice thin wallet client based out of London. It allows more control than Hive but has a rather basic user interface. So far, it doesn't support the euro currency, but most importantly, any new wallet created with MultiBit comes unencrypted by default.
Some basic usability improvements are needed on MultiBit. Despite this, it's currently the top wallet by installations worldwide. Electrum thin client : It's a very bare-bone client out of Germany and Amsterstam. It's hard to use with such a minimal user interface and there's really no user experience to talk about.
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Although I have to say, despite its looks, Electrum is one of the few to implement advance wallet capabilities. My guess is, the moment they hire a good designer, the wallet will improve drastically. Bitcoin-Qt full client : This is the original Bitcoin client and has a slicker interface than the previous two but still quite spartan on what you can do with it. The feeling is that this client has been used as template for all the other ones.
Hopefully though, wallets such as Hive are showing that you can design a wallet differently. The major problem with this client is that it requires downloading the whole Blockchain, that is, 20GB of data. It also doesn't encrypt the wallet by default, which poses a security risk. Armory full client : Definitely my favourite of the bunch by far. Designed with security-by-default in mind, it strikes a nice balance between usability and security. Armory was also one of the the first to innovate on the wallet side by implementing things such as watch-only wallets.
The major drawback, again, is that it relies on the Bitcoin-Qt client to work, which means going through the hassle of downloading the Blockchain. After the initial Bitcoin client was released, people started to realize that for Bitcoin to spread, you couldn't rely on desktop wallet adoption.
While desktop wallets are more secure, it requires very technical early adopters. Larger adoption requires easier solutions and that's what online wallets provide. They offer users ease-of-use by — for the most part — taking care of security for them, but can also expose them to major security breaches like that of Paytunia. As you can imagine, there are plenty of online wallets, some of them more advanced than others, of course.
These wallets are a blend between online and desktop wallets. It's a step up in security from standard online wallets. Essentially, these wallets encrypt private keys in the user's browser and then send them to the online site for storage. This way, even if the online wallet is breached, the attackers still need the user's password to decrypt the wallet's keys.
Some examples are Strongcoin , Blockchain or Carbon Wallet. These new types of wallets are definitely growing in popularity — to the point that they're being integrated as browser plugins like KryptoKit or its competition, the Dark Wallet , which is already in alpha testing.
Of course, this list wouldn't be complete without the mobile counterparts. Some mobile wallets are basically another version of previously-mentioned wallets, like Blockchain or Coinbase. Bitcoin Wallet thin client : A very neat application covering the basics. I exported the address through the QR code into Hive and it worked like a charm.
You can't do advanced operations but for the basic payment operations, it's more than enough. It also allows the user to backup the wallet and send it anywhere you want for storage. Mycelium thin client : This is another option that is very simple, although I found it harder to use than Bitcoin Wallet. Mycelium could use some user interface love, but it works — which is the important thing. Wallet protection has become a very important issue in the Bitcoin industry.
In this realm, wallet theft protection is a chief issue — anyone that has access to your wallet file is, effectively, in possession of your Bitcoins. One of the obvious steps to prevent this, is to encrypt the wallet file and only unlock it when you need to transfer something. While this is a good security measure, it's not enough. Many experts recommend storing the wallet offline, either on a USB drive or an offline computer. Another good option, suggested by Armory , is to print your private keys onto a paper wallet.
Obviously, then you would need to physically store that paper in a secure location. Wallet theft protection has sparked some new ideas for security solutions.
There's cold storage , or the secure storage of specific amounts of Bitcoins offline via mechanisms like 'hardware security modules' , which are the same instruments financial institutions use to protect their private keys. It started as a theft countermeasure for Bitcoin exchanges, where they would move most of a customer's Bitcoins to cold storage while making a portion of them available for immediate transfer.
Currently, there are four hardware wallet providers — Pi Wallet , Trazor wallet , Butterfly's labs BitSafe and the more experimental Bitcoincard.
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For customers that don't want to carry yet another real wallet, there are some companies that specialize in deep cold storage, like Seedcamp company Elliptic or Swiss-based iceVault. Wallet backups are also problematic. As market makers and takers trade on the Ethfinex platform, they incur standard trading fees. Of these trading fees, a proportion are collected and directed into a smart contract. Alternatively, rather than claiming the collected rewards, a market maker can choose to hold their tokens, or sell them on to another whitelisted market maker. If no tokens are redeemed at the end of a 28 day cycle, the total supply of NEC will grow.
Initially Ethfinex will retain the majority of the tokens in order to refine the reward and issuance mechanism; over time, however, as more of the ownership becomes decentralised to users, the governance model will allow larger token holders or coalitions of token holders to elect representatives who will sit on an advisory board. We have received a phenomenal amount of community interest about how the token will be implemented in practice, and so we will provide here an overview of the token issuance and reward mechanism, followed by some specific details on some of the most unique aspects of the Nectar token, such as address whitelisting.
For a more detailed analysis of the Token Economic Model, please refer to the Ethfinex whitepaper. The design of the NEC insures that, at the time of issuance, the reward value of the NECs issued if redeemed instantly at the end of the 28 day cycle is always less than the fees paid by the maker. This works to prevent system manipulation, whereby users could earn tokens through high volumes of unprofitable trading in order to redeem the collected platform fees.
The issuance is a function of total monthly trading volume, the previous token supply, and total number of fees previously in the contract.
Ethfinex will initially retain a majority stake in Ethfinex to refine token and governance mechanisms. Over time, however, as the total token supply increases, the Ethfinex ownership percentage will fall. The exact governance mechanism will be particularly important in ensuring the details and implementation of the token can be refined in time for the Ethfinex launch.
Defining the perfect liquidity incentive mechanism will be impossible without continuous testing and feedback in real markets, and the governance will complete the loop in allowing improvements to take place. Following community feedback, we have decided against the internal redesign of the chosen governance mechanism; instead, we will look to adopt the industry best practise.