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A detailed summary of every reason why I am bullish on ETH.
This is an extremely long post. If you just want the hopium without the detail, read the TL;DR at the bottom.
ETH 2.0As we all know, ETH 2.0 phase 0 is right around the corner. This will lock up ETH and stakers will earn interest on their ETH in return for securing the network. Next comes phase 1 where the ETH 2 shards are introduced, shards are essentially parallel blockchains which are each responsible for a different part of Ethereum’s workload, think of it like a multi-core processor vs a single core processor. During phase 1, these shards will only act as data availability layers and won’t actually process transactions yet. However, their data can be utilised by the L2 scaling solution, rollups, increasing Ethereum’s throughput in transactions per second up to 100,000 TPS.
After phase 1 comes phase 1.5 which will move the ETH 1.0 chain into an ETH 2 shard and Ethereum will be fully secured by proof of stake. This means that ETH issuance will drop from around 5% per year to less than 1% and with EIP-1559, ETH might become a deflationary asset, but more on that later.
Finally, with ETH 2.0 phase two, each shard will be fully functional chains. With 64 of them, we can expect the base layer of Ethereum to scale around 64x, not including the massive scaling which comes from layer 2 scaling solutions like rollups as previously mentioned.
While the scaling benefits and ETH issuance reduction which comes with ETH 2.0 will be massive, they aren’t the only benefits. We also get benefits such as increased security from PoS compared to PoW, a huge energy efficiency improvement due to the removal of PoW and also the addition of eWASM which will allow contracts to be programmed in a wide range of programming languages, opening the floodgates for millions of web devs who want to be involved in Ethereum but don’t know Ethereum’s programming language, Solidity.
EIP-1559 and ETH scarcityAs I covered in a previous post of mine, ETH doesn’t have a supply cap like Bitcoin. Instead, it has a monetary policy of “minimum viable issuance”, not only is this is a good thing for network security, but with the addition of EIP-1559, it leaves the door open to the possibility of ETH issuance going negative. In short, EIP-1559 changes the fee market to make transaction prices more efficient (helping to alleviate high gas fees!) by burning a variable base fee which changes based on network usage demand rather than using a highest bidder market where miners simply include who pays them the most. This will result in most of the ETH being paid in transaction fees being burned. As of late, the amount which would be burned if EIP-1559 was in Ethereum right now would make ETH a deflationary asset!
Layer 2 ScalingIn the mean time while we are waiting for ETH 2.0, layer 2 scaling is here. Right now, projects such as Deversifi or Loopring utilise rollups to scale to thousands of tx/s on their decentralised exchange platforms or HoneySwap which uses xDai to offer a more scalable alternative to UniSwap. Speaking of which, big DeFi players like UniSwap and Synthetix are actively looking into using optimistic rollups to scale while maintaining composability between DeFi platforms. The most bullish thing about L2 scaling is all of the variety of options. Here’s a non exhaustive list of Ethereum L2 scaling solutions: - Aztec protocol (L2 scaling + privacy!) - ZKSync - Loopring - Raiden - Arbitrum Rollups - xDai - OMGNetwork - Matic - FuelLabs - Starkware - Optimism - Celer Network - + Many more
DeFi and ComposabilityIf you’re reading this, I am sure you are aware of the phenomena which is Decentralised Finance (DeFi or more accurately, open finance). Ethereum is the first platform to offer permissionless and immutable financial services which when interacting with each other, lead to unprecedented composability and innovation in financial applications. A whole new world of possibilities are opening up thanks to this composability as it allows anyone to take existing pieces of open source code from other DeFi projects, put them together like lego pieces (hence the term money legos) and create something the world has never seen before. None of this was possible before Ethereum because typically financial services are heavily regulated and FinTech is usually proprietary software, so you don’t have any open source lego bricks to build off and you have to build everything you need from scratch. That is if what you want to do is even legal for a centralised institution!
Oh, and if you think that DeFi was just a fad and the bubble has popped, guess again! Total value locked in DeFi is currently at an all time high. Don’t believe me? Find out for yourself at: https://defipulse.com
NFTs and tokeniationNFTs or “Non-Fungible Tokens” - despite the name which may confuse a layman - are a basic concept. They are unique tokens with their own unique attributes. This allows you to create digital art, human readable names for your ETH address (see ENS names and unstoppable domains), breedable virtual collectible creatures like crypto kitties, ownable in game assets like Gods Unchained cards or best of all in my opinion, tokenised ownership of real world assets which can even be split into pieces (this doesn’t necessarily require an NFT. Fungible tokens can be/are used for some of the following use cases). This could be tokenised ownership of real estate (see RealT), tokenised ownership of stocks, bonds and other financial assets (which by the way makes them tradable 24/7 and divisible unlike through the traditional system) or even tokenised ownership of the future income of a celebrity or athlete (see when NBA Star Spencer Dinwiddie Tokenized His Own NBA Contract.
Institutional AdoptionEthereum is by far the most widely adopted blockchain by enterprises. Ethereum’s Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) is the largest blockchain-enterprise partnership program and Ethereum is by far the most frequently leveraged blockchain for proof of concepts and innovation in the blockchain space by enterprises. Meanwhile, there are protocols like the Baseline protocol which is a shared framework which allows enterprises to use Ethereum as a common frame of reference and a base settlement layer without having to give up privacy when settling on the public Ethereum mainnet. This framework makes adopting Ethereum much easier for other enterprises.
Institutional InvestmentOne of Bitcoin’s biggest things it has going for it right now is the growing institutional investment. In case you were wondering, Ethereum has this too! Grayscale offers investment in the cryptocurrency space for financial institutions and their Ethereum fund has already locked up more than 2% of the total supply of ETH. Not only this, but as businesses transact on Ethereum and better understand it, not only will they buy up ETH to pay for their transactions, but they will also realise that much like Bitcoin, Ethereum is a scarce asset. Better yet, a scarce asset which offers yield. As a result, I expect to see companies having ETH holdings become the norm just like how Bitcoin is becoming more widespread on companies’ balance sheets.
The state of global marketsWith asset prices in almost every asset class at or near all-time highs and interest rates lower than ever and even negative in some cases, there really aren’t many good opportunities in the traditional financial system right now. Enter crypto - clearly the next evolution of financial services (as I explained in the section on DeFi earlier in this post), with scarce assets built in at the protocol layer, buying BTC or ETH is a lot like buying shares in TCP/IP in 1990 (that is if the underlying protocols of the internet could be invested in which they couldn’t). Best of all, major cryptos are down from their all-time highs anywhere between 35% for BTC or 70% for ETH and much more for many altcoins. This means that they can significantly appreciate in value before entering uncharted, speculative bubble territory.
While of course we could fall dramatically at any moment in the current macro financial conditions, as a longer term play, crypto is very alluring. The existing financial system has shown that it is in dire need of replacing and the potential replacement has started rearing its head in the form of crypto and DeFi.
Improvements in user onboarding and abstracting away complexityEthereum has started making huge leaps forward in terms of usability for the end user. We now have ENS names and unstoppable domains which allow you to send ETH to yournamehere.ETH or TrickyTroll.crypto (I don’t actually have that domain, that’s just an example). No longer do you have to check every character of your ugly hexadecimal 0x43AB96D… ETH address to ensure you’re sending your ETH to the right person. We also have smart contract wallets like Argent wallet or the Gnosis safe. These allow for users to access their wallets and interact with DeFi self-custodially from an app on their phone without having to record a private key or recovery phrase. Instead, they offer social recovery and their UI is straight forward enough for anyone who uses a smart phone to understand. Finally, for the more experienced users, DApps like Uniswap have pretty, super easy to use graphical user interfaces and can be used by anyone who knows how to run and use a browser extension like Metamask.
The lack of an obvious #1 ETH killerOne of Ethereum’s biggest threats is for it to be overthrown by a so-called “Ethereum killer” blockchain which claims to do everything Ethereum can do and sometimes more. While there are competitors which are each formidable to a certain extent such as Polkadot, Cardano and EOS, each have their own weaknesses. For example, Polkadot and Cardano are not fully operational yet and EOS is much more centralised than Ethereum. As a result, none of these competitors have any significant network effects just yet relative to the behemoth which is Ethereum. This doesn’t mean that these projects aren’t a threat. In fact, I am sure that projects like Polkadot (which is more focused on complimenting Ethereum than killing it) will take a slice out of Ethereum’s pie. However, I am still very confident that Ethereum will remain on top due to the lack of a clear number 2 smart contract platform. Since none of these ETH killers stands out as the second place smart contract platform, it makes it much harder for one project to create a network effect which even begins to threaten Ethereum’s dominance. This leads me onto my next reason - network effects.
Network effectsThis is another topic which I made a previous post on. The network effect is why Bitcoin is still the number one cryptocurrency and by such a long way. Bitcoin is not the most technologically advanced cryptocurrency. However, it has the most widespread name recognition and the most adoption in most metrics (ETH beats in in some metrics these days). The network effect is also why most people use Zoom and Facebook messengeWhatsApp despite the existence of free, private, end to end encrypted alternatives which have all the same features (https://meet.jit.si/ for zoom alternative and Signal for the private messenger app. I highly recommend both. Let’s get their network effects going!). It is the same for Bitcoin. People don’t want to have to learn about or set up a wallet for alternative options. People like what is familiar and what other people use. Nobody wants to be “that guy” who makes you download yet another app and account you have to remember the password/private key for. In the same way, Enterprises don’t want to have to create a bridge between their existing systems and a dozen different blockchains. Developers don’t want to have to create DeFi money legos from scratch on a new chain if they can just plug in to existing services like Uniswap. Likewise, users don’t want to have to download another browser extension to use DApps on another chain if they already use Ethereum. I know personally I have refrained from investing in altcoins because I would have to install another app on my hardware wallet or remember another recovery phrase.
Overthrowing Ethereum’s network effect is one hell of a big task these days. Time is running out for the ETH killers.
Ethereum is the most decentralised and provably neutral smart contract platformEthereum is also arguably the most decentralised and provably neutral smart contract platform (except for maybe Ethereum Classic on the neutrality part). Unlike some smart contract platforms, you can’t round up everyone at the Ethereum Foundation or any select group of people and expect to be able to stop the network. Not only this, but the Ethereum foundation doesn’t have the ability to print more ETH or push through changes as they wish like some people would lead you on to believe. The community would reject detrimental EIPs and hard fork. Ever since the DAO hack, the Ethereum community has made it clear that it will not accept EIPs which attempt to roll back the chain even to recover hacked funds (see EIP-999).
Even if governments around the world wanted to censor the Ethereum blockchain, under ETH 2.0’s proof of stake, it would be incredibly costly and would require a double digit percentage of the total ETH supply, much of which would be slashed (meaning they would lose it) as punishment for running dishonest validator nodes. This means that unlike with proof of work where a 51% attacker can keep attacking the network, under proof of stake, an attacker can only perform the attack a couple of times before they lose all of their ETH. This makes attacks much less financially viable than it is on proof of work chains. Network security is much more than what I laid out above and I am far from an expert but the improved resistance to 51% attacks which PoS provides is significant.
Finally, with the US dollar looking like it will lose its reserve currency status and the existing wire transfer system being outdated, superpowers like China won’t want to use US systems and the US won’t want to use a Chinese system. Enter Ethereum, the provably neutral settlement layer where the USA and China don’t have to trust each other or each other’s banks because they can trust Ethereum. While it may sound like a long shot, it does make sense if Ethereum hits a multi-trillion dollar market cap that it is the most secure and neutral way to transfer value between these adversaries. Not to mention if much of the world’s commerce were to be settled in the same place - on Ethereum - then it would make sense for governments to settle on the same platform.
ETH distribution is decentralisedThanks to over 5 years of proof of work - a system where miners have to sell newly minted ETH to pay for electricity costs - newly mined ETH has found its way into the hands of everyday people who buy ETH off miners selling on exchnages. As pointed out by u/AdamSC1 in his analysis of the top 10K ETH addresses (I highly recommend reading this if you haven’t already), the distribution of ETH is actually slightly more decentralised than Bitcoin with the top 10,000 ETH wallets holding 56.70% of ETH supply compared to the top 10,000 Bitcoin wallets which hold 57.44% of the Bitcoin supply. This decentralised distribution means that the introduction of staking won’t centralise ETH in the hands of a few wallets who could then control the network. This is an advantage for ETH which many proof of stake ETH killers will never have as they never used PoW to distribute funds widely throughout the community and these ETH killers often did funding rounds giving large numbers of tokens to VC investors.
The communityFinally, while I may be biased, I think that Ethereum has the friendliest community. Anecdotally, I find that the Ethereum developer community is full of forward thinking people who want to make the world a better place and build a better future, many of whom are altruistic and don’t always act in their best interests. Compare this to the much more conservative, “at least we’re safe while the world burns” attitude which many Bitcoiners have. I don’t want to generalise too much here as the Bitcoin community is great too and there are some wonderful people there. But the difference is clear if you compare the daily discussion of Bitcoin to the incredibly helpful and welcoming daily discussion of EthFinance who will happily answer your noob questions without calling you an idiot and telling you to do you own research (there are plenty more examples in any of the daily threads). Or the very helpful folks over at EthStaker who will go out of their way to help you set up an ETH 2.0 staking node on the testnets (Shoutout to u/superphiz who does a lot of work over in that sub!). Don’t believe me? Head over to those subs and see for yourself.
Please don’t hate on me if you disagree about which project has the best community, it is just my very biased personal opinion and I respect your opinion if you disagree! :)
- ETH 2.0 - Huge scaling and better tokenomics.
- EIP-1559 and ETH scarcity - ETH issuance will be super low and could go negative in the coming years.
- Layer 2 Scaling - Literally dozens of different solutions/projects. Many of which are live on mainnet now.
- DeFi and Composability - Money legos and open source code allowing for fast development and unprecedented innovation in the world of finance.
- NFTs and tokenisation - Tokenise everything. No, seriously.
- Institutional Adoption - Ethereum has the most enterprise partners (EEA) + the Baseline protocol is bullish AF.
- Institutional Investment - Grayscale investments now owns 2% of ETH supply and growing. With institutional adoption comes awareness of the benefits of being an ETH holder and staker. ETH will complement the growing trend of companies holding Bitcoin.
- The state of global markets - Crypto is just about the only asset class not at an ATH and the system Ethereum wants to replace is looking very broken.
- Improving UX and abstracting away complexity - Human readable addresses and smart contract wallets which even your mother could use.
- The lack of an obvious #1 ETH killer - No ETH killer clearly sticks out from the rest. This makes it hard for one of them to create a big network effect.
- Network effects - Ethereum has by far the largest network effect and as Bitcoin has shown us, the network effect is extremely important.
- Ethereum is the most decentralised and provably neutral smart contract platform - Super secure under ETH 2.0, no more tolerance of DAO like forks and a neutral platform for adversaries like the US and China to transact on so that they don’t have to trust each other’s banks.
- ETH distribution is decentralised - Years of proof of work have put ETH in the hands of many. ETH supply is more decentralised than Bitcoin.
- The community - Super duper mega friendly. Don’t believe me? Check out the EthFinance daily.
How Ransomware Encryption Happens & 4 Methods for Recovery
Evaluating all options will include analyzing the encrypted files, and the least desirable option to pay the ransom demand if necessary. Our process helps provide critical insight into decrypting ransomware and the available options that clients have.
By the end of this piece, it is our goal to show you what is involved to successfully recover your files. This guide outlines what steps and research are necessary to decrypt or unlock your files from a ransomware attack.
You’re the victim of a ransomware attackYou arrive to work and start noticing suspicious alerts coming from your servers, and none of the databases are functional. Your co-workers are frantic and cannot access any of their data. You investigate further and find all of the files on your network are renamed and discover ransom notes, and a screen asking you to email someone if you want your data back. You finally realize that you are a victim of a ransomware attack, and all of your files are locked or encrypted.
3 Common Ways Your Files Were Encrypted or LockedRansomware succeeds when businesses have poor security hygiene. Organizations that lack policies & procedures around data security will have a higher risk of ransomware attacks. Here are some of the most common ways to fall victim to a ransomware attack:
Open Remote Desktop Protocol Ports (RDP)Businesses that have improperly configured network security may leave their Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) ports open. Unknowingly, this is the equivalent of leaving the front door unlocked when you leave your home: it provides an opportunity for cyber attacks to come through with little deterrence.
Once a hacker is connected to your network, they can install ransomware and additional back doors to access your network at a later date. A large percentage of ransomware attacks still use this method of attack because so many organizations are not even aware of this security vulnerability.
Phishing AttacksRansomware can infiltrate your network by a malicious email campaign known as a phishing attack. Ransomware operators use massive networks of internet-connected devices (botnets) to send phishing emails to unsuspecting victims. These emails intend to trick the receiver into clicking on a malicious attachment or link, which can secretly install the ransomware virus or other malware.
Phishing emails are becoming increasingly difficult to detect as cybercriminals find clever ways to make a malicious email look legitimate. This underscores the importance of security awareness training for everyone in the organization, not just the I.T. department.
Compromised PasswordsThe ransomware operators may have used previously compromised passwords from employees at your organization to gain unauthorized access to the networks. This derives from the poor security practices of reusing the same passwords for multiple accounts and authentication processes.
If your employees have been using old & weak passwords to access your business data, a cyber criminal can use a previously compromised password to initiate the attack. Remember to always to follow good password hygiene.
The variety of attack vectors highlights the importance of a digital forensics investigation that can help victims understand how the ransomware came onto your computer and what steps you can take to remediate the vulnerability.
4 Options for Ransomware RecoveryIn this section, we cover the options to restore files encrypted or locked by ransomware.
1. Recover files with a backupIf your files become encrypted in a ransomware attack, check to see if you have backups to restore and recover (in order).
- Off-site or offline backup. Having your backup stored in the cloud or offline would protect the data from the virus since it is not accessible at the time of the attack.
- Check your Windows Shadow Copies. Even though most ransomware will delete Windows Shadow Copies, you might get lucky and find them intact.
- Check your on-site backups. We observe that most on-site data is either manually deleted by the attacker, or encrypted by the ransomware virus.
2. Recreate the dataEven though your files are encrypted by ransomware, you might be able to recreate the data from a variety of sources as outlined below:
- Recreate the data from paper copies. When you have clean systems and physical copies of your data, you can re-enter the data manually from paper copies into your computers and servers.
- Piece together data from email. Email exchanges are a great way to salvage some of your data from email attachments.
- Database mining. Some ransomware variants only encrypt a small part of a database or backup files so you can pull out good, usable data.
3. Breaking the ransomware encryptionThe harsh truth is that the majority of ransomware encryption is unbreakable. This impossibility is a tough concept for many of us to accept, given the technological advances of our society.
Does this mean you should skip looking into whether the ransomware encryption can be broken? This option should always be explored if presented by a ransomware recovery firm, although the final choice is yours to make. We will lay out a real life example at Proven Data below to outline why this was a great decision for a company that was infected with ransomware.
While it tends to be rare, there are poorly constructed ransomware encryptions that have been broken by security researchers. If you can avoid paying a ransom, you should at all costs.
There can be flaws in the malware or weaknesses in the encryption. Businesses can look at these options, especially if time is on your side. There are also free ransomware decryption resources that provide tools for previously decrypted ransomware variants. A client of ours had hired a ransomware recovery company to recover their files until we discovered at the very last moment through our analysis that the encryption was breakable. With less than 20 minutes to spare, we saved the client out of paying a $450,000 ransom.
Why can’t most ransomware encryption be broken?Ransomware is a cryptovirus, which means it uses cryptography in combination with malware to lock your files. Modern cryptography uses sophisticated mathematical equations (algorithms) and secret keys to encrypt and decrypt data. If strong encryption is used, it can take thousands, if not millions of years to break the encryption given the strength of today’s computers.
Encryption is a security tool created with the intent of data protection. It is a defensive tool to provide security, privacy, and authentication. Sadly, ransomware attackers are using it as a weapon against innocent victims.
How do I know if the encryption can be broken?You can start off with this free ransomware identification resource to determine the feasibility of decryption. You will need to upload the ransom note and a sample file into the ID-Ransomware website, and it will tell you if there is a free decrypter or if it is an unknown ransomware variant. Please note that the tool is not always 100% accurate. If the variant is still under analysis, you will need a malware or encryption analyst to determine whether or not there is a possibility for decryption.
Encryption is designed to be unbreakable, which is why security researchers can’t simply make a tool for ransomware decryption. These unbreakable encryptions protect our bank accounts, trade secrets, government data, and mobile communications, among other things. It would be a significant security concern if there were a master decryption tool that could break encryption algorithms.
4. Paying the ransom to decrypt ransomware filesIf the encryption is too strong, the only way to obtain the decryption key for your files is to pay the ransom. Many ransomware victims don’t have time on their side because they are facing significant business disruption. Each minute that passes could be a lost client, or worse for a medical organization.
Here is a list of the most prevalent ransomware variants that are known to be “cryptographically secure,” which means that Proven Data or the security community has confirmed the encryption is unbreakable:
- Lockcrypt 2.0
- Cryptomix Revenge
- Mr. Dec
I don’t want to pay the hackers ransom.Businesses and individuals have the option of choosing not to pay the ransom in a ransomware attack to regain access to their files. For personal, political, or moral reasons, there has been resentment of the ransomware economy, and victims do not have to engage in extortion. If paying the ransom is the only option, you should know what to expect before considering moving forward.
How a ransomware recovery specialist can helpIf you do decide to use a ransomware recovery company and if there is one thing you get out of this article, it is this: You should always question how a ransomware recovery company is recovering your data. If you are unsure, asking the right questions will ensure a transparent experience:
- How are you recovering my locked / encrypted data?
- How much will ransomware recovery cost?
- Do you have experience with this variant?
- Understanding the ransomware variant and what to expect
- Malware analysis to determine if the encryption can be broken
- Consultation on the attack vector which caused the attack and preventative methods
- Compliance program that screens the bitcoin wallet for links to sanctioned entities
- Digital currency readily available to facilitate the ransom payment expeditiously
- Modification of non-functioning or poorly-functioning decryption programs that are causing delays in decrypting your files
- Repairing damaged databases or files
Our threat intelligence that we’ve gathered from the thousands of previous cases enable you to make informed decisions in helping restore your data after a ransomware attack. If you require a company with such experience, we’re standing by to assist 24/7.