Andreas Antonopoulos on the Canadian Senate Hearings and Mastering Bitcoin

By 6:00 pm on Wednesday night, a small crowd had begun to gather on the front steps of 64 Spadina, as excitement built in anticipation of Andreas Antonopoulos’s Skype address. By the time the highly-respected bitcoin guru and advocate began speaking, the crowd had filled every one of the 40+ chairs and taken over most of the standing room along the perimeter. Another 80+ watched the feed online.
Host and moderator, Anthony Di Iorio, encouraged general participation in the Q&A, in keeping with the decentralized theme of the evening. He initiated the discussion by asking Antonopoulos about his recent address to the Canadian Senate Committee on Business, Trade and Commerce and how he prepared for the event.
Antonopoulos said that the Senate approached him to speak in the same way that anyone else would: through a link on his website that fields requests for speaking engagements. So he looked into the previous senate hearings on the topic, and was encouraged to see that they seemed to have a fairly “open-minded” attitude. Then, in true grassroots style, Antonopoulos took to social media to ask the Canadian bitcoin community if they thought he ought to go. “The overwhelming respsonse was yes!” he said.
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As for preparation, Antonopoulos pointed out that his years of doing meet-ups and Q&As in front of community groups, bankers, developers, and newcomers to the bitcoin space had served as “continuous preparation” for addressing the Senate. None of their questions were surprising — he’d heard them all before.
As for follow-up from the event, he laughed about having to submit his expenses by fax (!) and then having to wait for someone in Ottawa to send him a paper cheque via snail mail so that he could deposit it in “an esteemed banking institution” where it would languish for 3-5 business days — thus poetically demonstrating the superiority of bitcoin as a payment system.
However, Antonopoulos later reminded the audience that because of infrastructure limitations, bitcoin isn’t ready to serve everyone around the world. This is especially true of developing countries where the disenfranchisement of the unbanked is most keenly felt. In order for a community to participate fully, it needs a decent infrastructure, as well as a certain level of economic and financial literacy. In turn, bitcoin technology itself needs to become less technologically complicated, perhaps following the mPesa model.
Antonopoulos described the way forward for bitcoin adoption as a continuous feedback loop. “We need to downtech bitcoin at the same time as these [developing] communities uptech.”
While Antonopoulos is now known as the fellow who “wrote the book on Bitcoin,” (literally — Mastering Bitcoin will be in stores in January 2015), his focus for the future seems to be shifting to accessibility and promoting educational opportunities around digital currencies. He spoke of the need to integrate cryptocurrency technology and coding into post-secondary and advanced degree programmes — even into high school curriculae. Some of his future projects might include working with the boards of educational organizations and curriculum developers. He was excited about the work of C4 — the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium with its mandate to provide guided education and continuous learning for aspiring cryptocurrency professionals. A repeated motif throughout the evening focussed on the importance of “investing in skills to develop for the future.”
“The most important investment you can make in digital currencies and decentralized currencies…is a skills investment, and that investment will generate a significant return on investment for many years to come.”
He added that “any time spent on developing skills is an investment” since no matter what turns the technology takes down the road, those skills will be universally applicable.
When asked earlier about the lack of developers in the space, Antonopoulos had stressed that those who develop these skills, especially new tech developers and engineers, will find themselves in high demand as start-up companies expand, creating more and more job growth opportunities.
The event concluded on a high note of optimism which continued in various conversations among meet-up guests who mingled and networked late into the evening.
If you want to attend one of Decentral’s future meet-up dates, please be sure to join the Bitcoin Decentral Meet-up group and reserve your spot, due to their increasing popularity.

Michael Perklin: All about security

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In 2010, Michael Perklin was a digital forensic investigator who focused his efforts on computer security and security theory. He first came across the term “Bitcoin” on a security mailing list. It was being touted as a “totally secure digital money system.”


“I scoffed at it,” says Perklin. As a graduate of Sheridan College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Sciences (BaISc) and a Masters degree in Information Assurance (MSIA), he and his classmates had toyed around with notions of digital currencies and decide that they weren’t feasible because a central ledger was always required.


“So I set out to prove how stupid it [the Bitcoin protocol] was.” At that point, bitcoins were selling for around $1.00. He spent the next few months reading everything he could about Bitcoin, and trying to find ways of discrediting it, drawing on his background in classical security. Over the course of that one long winter, he exhausted as many strategies – covering all seven classes of attacks – as he could.


Perklin’s conclusion: “I went from thinking it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard to thinking it was the most brilliant thing I’d ever heard.” In the meantime, the price of one bitcoin had gone up to $4.00.


As Bitcoin research started to consume all his off-hours after work, he began reaching out to the local bitcoin community and attended an early Toronto Bitcoin meet-up with his friend and colleague, Josh McDougall. Their first meet-up featured Peter Todd as a guest speaker who spoke about off-chain transactions: Perklin and McDougall peppered him with questions, challenging his points throughout the presentation. At the end of the session, meet-up organizer Anthony Di Iorio approached Perklin with a proposition.


“Anthony thought I made some good points and got the impression I knew what I was talking about. He told me about the new Bitcoin Alliance of Canada that was in the works — maybe I should run for a board member position.” Eventually, in June of 2013, Perklin was indeed elected as one of seven inaugural Alliance board members.


By that point, Perklin had begun to combine his two specialized areas of interest — Bitcoin and cybersecurity — and started up Bitcoinsultants in 2012. The company draws on the talents of a pool of professionals, including developers, cryptographers, source-code auditors, and penetration testers who are well-acquainted with the nuances of cryptocurrencies and their cybersecurity needs.


The company offers tech advice and consultation for companies who want their developers to integrate Bitcoin into their current ways of doing business. “People who know Bitcoin don’t always know classical security,” says Perklin. They may know that they want to integrate Bitcoin into their general payment processes, but they might not have considered storage options once they’ve collected the payments, for example. Bitcoinsultants can help companies create all the necessary related policies and procedures surrounding these integration issues.


They also offer investigative services, law enforcement support, and government/regulatory advice. Perklin himself is a popular and well-respected speaker on all things Bitcoin. He has spoken at conferences and information seminars, educating “anybody who needs to understand what [Bitcoin] is and how it works.” In October of 2014, he was one of three representatives who spoke before the Canadian Senate on behalf of the cryptocurrency community in Canada.


What began with Perklin approaching various exchanges and offering his services, has now grown to a business with a sterling reputation. It works with a number of gambling websites, but also counts CaVirtex and Ethereum among its most prestigious clients. Bitcoinsultants has operated out of the Decentral co-work space in Toronto since it opened in January 2014.