As I spoke about in a previous post, I am fairly drawn to details about DEFCOIN, the cryptocurrency set to make its major debut at DEF CON 22.
Under the hood, DEFCOIN is just another altcoin, a find/replace of the litecoin source with the word defcoin instead. There really isn't much really exciting about it from that perspective.
As far as purchasing power goes, it likely isn't going to get you too far either - even at the conference. There are currently rumors of swag and beer buying abilities but outside of that it is hard to know what having any DEFCOIN at all will get you. Prices I have seen for a DEFCOIN range from $0.000365 to $0.01USD.
So why in the hell do I care about this?
In the four years I have been following Bitcoin, I have seen the DEF CON community slowly change each year regarding its attitude towards Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency space.
Four years ago, nothing at all. I don't think I remember more than one or two mentions of it.
Three years ago Bitcoin was barely mentioned. People would, at best, roll their eyes. That is, if they gave the conversation any attention at all to begin with.
Two years ago people were talking about it but it was pretty much the butt of every joke. Presenters made fun of it (although their talks were unrelated) and vendors scoffed at the idea of accepting it. I did start to meet some fellow miners though too but most folks would just laugh at our proudly discussed rigs.
Last year, things started to get better. It started before the conference even began with Dark Tangent (the founder of DEF CON) asking if there was an easy way to accept Bitcoin for conference dues. There is no pre-paying for DEF CON, it all happens from one crazy and insanely well run line-up that processes about 8,000 people in the matter of 4 hours, all handled with Cash. Unfortunately, it didn't materialize (which is completely understandable really) but it was still exciting to see.
At the conference itself, you also started to see fun new Bitcoin inventions such as The Bitcoin Briefcase - probably one of the first portable Bitcoin ATMs. People lined up to throw their loose change into the Bitcoin Briefcase and have it spit out a QR code with their fractions of our beloved cryptocurrency.
I have also purchased coin at the last three DEF CONs and have been greeted with a nice rise soon after I returned home. This could be an absolute coincidence... or it could be a collective sigh of relief after the technology survives yet another DEF CON without anybody destroying it.
So am I just excited that more people are accepting my hobby and not seeing me as some sort of crazy libertarian daydreamer? Am I excited that maybe I can buy some swag this year with my hard-earned coin or maybe even pay entry fees? Sure, all of those things would be nice but I really don't need either. What I am excited as hell about is the science :D
DEF CON gathers the worlds top security nerds together for a weekend where nothing is safe. While at the hotel, you are in what is considered as one of the most hostile networks in the world. Cell phones, computers, key Internet protocols and services, and even medical equipment (yes, including that bluetooth pacemaker in your body) are all fair game for discussion and demonstration at DEF CON.
Now Bitcoin is a huge beast, one of the most powerful distributed networks of computing power known to us civilians. Doing science on that is going to piss off a lot of people, and even be a bit difficult to pull off. But now we have a target that is much smaller and more malleable, DEFCOIN!
DEFCOIN is not going to just be awesome because of the swag you can buy.
DEFCOIN is not going to be sought out only because you can maybe trade it for a beer.
DEFCOIN is not going to be really entertaining just because of the games you can play using it or parties you can gain entry to.
DEFCOIN is going to be amazing because it is the Honeypot of cryptocurrencies
As a smaller network, you are going to have very public examples of the 51% attacks, or teams fighting to actively counter such events.
This is a chaotic conference with lots going on, making it a great place for DEFCOIN wallets to be targeted or DEFCOIN carries socially engineered.
This is not just another altcoin folks. This is where cryptocurrency will be put to a really heavy set of tests against some of the smartest and biggest (mostly well meaning) jerks there are.
If this sounds kind of scary, well it probably should. I love Bitcoin but I want it to be as secure as we believe it to be - which takes some time and effort. Having a smaller network be that target of awful things is probably for the best. It will allow mostly theoretical attacks to be studied and discussed; it will make people more aware and more interested overall. Through all of the attacks, it will start important conversations on how to protect yourself from theft attempts, and hopefully help establish better standards and practices for wallets and services.
So when bad things happen to DEFCOIN in August and the media get a hold of it, claiming the end of the world for cryptocurrencies, just remember, this is a good thing. This means an issue found and studied. This means a greater interest in the technology. This is progress - DEF CON just shows their love in interesting ways.
Disclaimer: I am not a part of the team that has brought DEF COIN to be, nor do my beliefs reflect their motives.