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Cisco Claims New Patent Could Apply to Bitcoin Mining

Network tech giant Cisco won a patent on Tuesday that could be applied to the bitcoin mining process.

Cisco submitted a patent application back in September 2015 for a “Crowd-sourced cloud computing” system, according to information from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The patent outlines how computer owners may be able to offer up their unused processing power for certain processes – including the energy-intensive mining process.

The filing describes how a user could partition their resources to create dedicated computing power for a cloud application. The cloud application would then be used for various purposes, Cisco notes, going on to explain:

“This model is suitable for, among other things, offering distributed processing and services that can be optimized for speed, volume, scale and resiliency, cost, and regulatory compliance–for example, distributed neighborhood theft protection systems, or cluster, city or municipality county relevant services… One such case involves bitcoin mining, which may be very computational intensive and is typically more convenient for every participant when done in ‘mining pools.'”

Cisco touts the benefits of distributed processing in the filing, noting that its system could be easily scaled and would be resilient against certain forms of attack. Further, “the service provider can use geographic distribution to offload or optimize network loading, as well as to resell large-scale, low-cost computing and storage capacity,” the company notes.

As previously reported, Cisco is one of a number of enterprise technology firms researching applications of blockchain, particularly in the area of connected devices or the Internet of Things.

The firm has also sought patents for other uses of blockchain, including one that would leverage the tech in order to track data for group chats.

Mining computer image via Shutterstock

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Cisco Imagines Group Chats on a Blockchain in Patent Filing

Cisco is looking at blockchain technology as a way to make confidential group messaging easier and more secure, public filings show.

In a patent application released Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the company described how a blockchain could enable people to form groups spontaneously and share files and other information while keeping track of membership.

This would solve “common problems” faced by ad-hoc messaging teams, Cisco said, namely:

“how group membership is established, communicated, updated, and secured from unauthorized tampering … in the context of dynamic, decentralized, and self-organizing groups.”

The document, which was filed in December 2017, proposes using cryptographic keys shared among group participants to establish a peer-to-peer network – in other words, creating a decentralized group chat with only those members authorized to join it.

The first participant’s device would create the genesis block, and subsequent communications would generate their own blocks as each member of the conversation adds on.

The first block would “define the initial set of group members” in one possible version of this system, according to the filing.

In this version, the blockchain would specifically be used to record the group members. Subsequent blocks would chiefly record new members being added and old members being removed.

Other versions of the system could enable secure file sharing or instant messaging, according to the filing, which continued:

“In summary, presented herein is a method for achieving authorization in confidential group communications in terms of an ordered list of data blocks representing a tamper-resistant chronological account of group membership updates … There are many applications of these techniques. One such application is enabling end-to-end encryption of instant messaging, content sharing, and streamed media. This is useful in developing a protocol or application designed to enable confidential group communications.”

A previous patent application released by the USPTO showed Cisco has been looking at other use cases for blockchain technology.

In that filing, published last October, the company outlined using a blockchain network to track Internet of Things devices.

Cisco image via Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

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Cisco: Bitcoin Phishing Scam Bagged $50 Million Over 3 Years

Security researchers at Cisco have released new information about a bitcoin phishing scam that involves websites masquerading as Blockchain.info, the popular online wallet service.

In a blog post published Wednesday, Dave Maynor and Jeremiah O’Connor detailed the Coinhoarder phishing scam, which they said Cisco has been investigating in the past six months in partnership with the Ukrainian Cyberpolice. All in all, they said that those behind the scam had netted $50 million in cryptocurrency over a three-year period.

“The campaign was very simple and after initial setup the attackers needed only to continue purchasing Google AdWords to ensure a steady stream of victims,” they wrote. “This campaign targeted specific geographic regions and allowed the attackers to amass millions in revenue through the theft of cryptocurrency from victims. This campaign demonstrates just how lucrative these sorts of malicious attacks can be for cybercriminals.”

As shown in the blog, those behind the attack would create websites similar to Blockchain but with different domain names – “block-clain.info” and “blockchien.info” among them – that the casual user may not notice. They then “leveraged Google Adwords to poison user search results in order to steal users’ wallets,” thereby directing more traffic to those pages.

Cisco traced the group’s activity back to as early as 2015 and estimated that “tens of millions of dollars” in cryptocurrency had been stolen since that year. They indicated that as much as $50 million had been stolen, including $2 million in less than 4 weeks during one period last year.

“What is clear from the COINHOARDER campaign is that cryptocurrency phishing via Google Adwords is a lucrative attack on users worldwide,” the firm concluded.

Image via Shutterstock

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Cisco Seeks to Protect Blockchain System for IoT Device Tracking

Tech conglomerate Cisco Systems has proposed a blockchain system to track Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

In an application released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, the technology giant outlined a blockchain platform that can identify different connected devices, monitor their activity and evaluate how trustworthy the device is when connected to a network.

The system is also said to be able to automatically register and assess new devices as they are added to the network, by comparing their performance to devices already on the blockchain.

The filing specifically refers to “low-power and lossy networks” (LLNs), which usually run smart grid-type systems and may be composed of sensors, according to the release. Due to their environments and general design, these devices may suffer from reliability issues.

LLNs may be composed of anywhere “from a few dozen and up to thousands or even millions of LLN routers,” it explains. The number of LLNs is growing as well, as previously non-networked sensors and devices become increasingly connected to the internet.

As a result, the proposed system aims to improve the process by which devices are monitored, something the concept’s authors say is “key” for the Internet of Things:

“Particularly in the context of the IoT and similar networks, device identity and management is a key building block for a viable end-to-end solution. Depending on the particular use case, a ‘thing’ may have to register or authenticate its identity with different service enablers that may use various service-specific procedures.”

Automating the system using a blockchain is just one of Cisco’s proposed solutions for efficiently adding devices to different networks.

Back in April, Cisco was one of several companies to announce an IoT protocol that registers devices using a blockchain-compatible application program interface, or API.

Network cables image via Shutterstock

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