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Cryptographers fight to keep ‘crypto’ prefix: ‘We all have hills we are willing to die on’ | Cryptocurrencies

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The stadium that is home to the Los Angeles Lakers is getting a new name: the Crypto.com Arena. The name reflects the arena’s new sponsorship agreement with a Singapore-based cryptocurrency trading platform. That may be good news for cryptocurrency fanatics – but perhaps not so much for another faction within the digital landscape: cryptographers.

Look up the word “crypto” in Webster’s dictionary, and you’ll see it refers to cryptography, which in turn is defined as “the computerized encoding and decoding of information”. Search “crypto” on Google, however, and you’ll see a host of top results pointing to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum.

This lexical shift has weighed heavily on cryptographers, who, over the past few years, have repeated the rallying cry “Crypto means cryptography” on social media. T-shirts and hoodies trumpet the phrase and variations on it; there’s a website dedicated solely to clarifying the issue.

“‘Crypto’ for decades has been used as shorthand and as a prefix for things related to cryptography,” said Amie Stepanovich, executive director of Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado Law School and creator of the pro-cryptography T-shirts, which have become a hit at conferences. “In fact, in the term cryptocurrency, the prefix crypto refers back to cryptography.”

It’s often a losing battle, and that appears to have played out in the case of crypto.com itself.

Beginning in 1993, as the Verge reported, the crypto.com domain was owned by Matt Blaze, a cryptography expert who repeatedly rejected would-be buyers – even as the rise of cryptocurrency meant he could have made millions of dollars.

“I think calling cryptocurrencies ‘crypto’ is a poor choice, with bad consequences for both cryptography and cryptocurrencies,” he tweeted in 2018. Ultimately, however, the domain was sold, and now if you go to Crypto.com you’ll see a giant video of Matt Damon indicating that investing in cryptocurrencies is roughly as courageous as scaling an icy cliff or blasting into space.

Yet there remains an internecine feud among the tech savvy about the word.

As Parker Higgins of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, who has spent years involved in cryptography activism, pointed out, the cryptography crowd is by nature deeply invested in precision – after all, designing and cracking codes is an endeavor in which, if you get things “a little wrong, it can blow the whole thing up”.

There are global debates over both cryptography – for instance, questions over whether chat services should offer “backdoors” that skirt encryption – and the regulation of cryptocurrency. “There is a need to distinguish between those two areas to avoid absolutely foreseeable confusion,” Stepanovich said, a particular issue when it comes to “legislators and regulators who are not always subject matter experts in these areas, even if they are charged with overseeing them”.

Higgins agreed. “Crypto as shorthand for cryptography really was in widespread use. You could talk about crypto even on Capitol Hill and people would know what you were talking about – that really did hold a lot of, forgive this, but currency.”

And at a time when many still aren’t sure what cryptocurrency is, the confusion over the terms just makes things muddier. “Strong cryptography is a cornerstone of the way that people talk about privacy and security, and it has been under attack for decades” by governments, law enforcement, and “all sorts of bad actors”, Higgins said. For its defenders, confusion over terminology creates yet another challenge.

Stepanovich acknowledged the challenge of opposing the trend, but said the weight of history is on her side. “The study of crypto has been around for ever,” she said. “The most famous code is known as the Caesar cipher, referring to Julius Caesar. This is not new.” Cryptocurrency, on the other hand, is a relatively recent development, and she is not ready to concede to “a concept that may or may not survive government regulation”.

She remains invested in the linguistic debate because it’s so closely linked to policy. “Allowing people to develop and use encryption is hugely important in protecting human rights, privacy and protecting the basis on which cryptocurrency has been built,” Stepanovich said.

“We all have hills we are willing to die on – this might be mine.”



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Amazon Web Services outage hits sites and apps such as IMDb and Tinder | Amazon

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Several Amazon services – including its website, Prime Video and applications that use Amazon Web Services (AWS) – went down for thousands of users on Tuesday.

Amazon said the outage was probably due to problems related to application programming interface (API), which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software, Reuters reported.

“We are experiencing API and console issues in the US-East-1 Region,” Amazon said in a report on its service health dashboard, adding that it had identified the cause. By late late afternoon the outage appeared to be partially resolved, with the company saying that it was “working towards full recovery”.

“With the network device issues resolved, we are now working towards recovery of any impaired services,” the company said on the dashboard.

Downdetector showed more than 24,000 incidents of people reporting problems with Amazon. It tracks outages by collating status reports from a number of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform.

The outage was also affecting delivery operations. Amazon’s warehouse operation use AWS and experienced disruptions, spokesperson Richard Rocha told the Washington Post. A Washington state Amazon driver said his facility had been “at a standstill” since Tuesday morning, CNBC reported.

Other services, including Amazon’s Ring security cameras, mobile banking app Chime and robot vacuum cleaner maker iRobot were also facing difficulties, according to their social media pages.

Ring said it was aware of the issue and working to resolve it. “A major Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage is currently impacting our iRobot Home App,” iRobot said on its website.

Other websites and apps affected include the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), language learning provider Duolingo and dating site Tinder, according to Downdetector.

The outage also affected presale tickets for Adele’s upcoming performances in Las Vegas. “Due to an Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage impacting companies globally, all Adele Verified Fan Presales scheduled for today have been moved to tomorrow to ensure a better experience,” Ticketmaster said on Twitter.

In June, websites including the Guardian, Reddit, Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Al Jazeera Media Network and the New York Times were hit by a widespread hour-long outage linked to US-based content delivery network provider Fastly Inc, a smaller rival of AWS.

In July, Amazon experienced a disruption in its online stores service, which lasted for nearly two hours and affected more than 38,000 users.

Users have experienced 27 outages over the past 12 months on Amazon, according to the web tool reviewing website ToolTester.



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South Korea sets reliability standards for Big Tech • The Register

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South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has offered Big Tech some advice on how to make their services suitably resilient, and added an obligation to notify users – in Korean – when they fail.

The guidelines apply to Google, Meta (parent company of Facebook), Netflix, Naver, Kakao and Wavve. All have been told to improve their response to faults by beefing up preemptive error detection and verification systems, and create back up storage systems that enable quick content recovery.

The guidelines offer methods Big Tech can use to measure user loads, then plan accordingly to ensure their services remain available. Uptime requirements are not spelled out.

Big techs is already rather good at resilience. Google literally wrote the book on site reliability engineering.

The guidelines refer to legislation colloquially known as the “Netflix law” which requires major service outages be reported to the Ministry.

That law builds on another enacted in 2020 that made online content service providers responsible for the quality of their streaming services. It was put in place after a number of outages, including one where notifications of the problem were made on the offending company’s social media site – but only in English.

The new regulations follow South Korean telcos’ recent attempts to have platforms that guzzle their bandwidth pay for the privilege. Mobile carrier SK Broadband took legal action in October of this year, demanding Netflix pitch in some cash for the amount of bandwidth that streaming shows – such as Squid Game – consume.

In response, Netflix pointed at its own free content delivery network, Open Connect, which helps carriers to reduce traffic. Netflix then accused SK Broadband of trying to double up on profits by collecting fees from consumers and content providers at the same time.

For the record, Naver and Kakao pay carriers, while Apple TV+ and Disney+ have at the very least given lip service to the idea.

Korea isn’t the only place where telcos have noticed Big Tech taking up more than its fair share of bandwidth. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) published a letter from ten telco CEOs asking that larger platforms “contribute fairly to network costs”. ®

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Twitter acquires Slack competitor Quill to improve its messaging services

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As part of the acquisition, Quill will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company.

Twitter has acquired the messaging platform Quill, seen as a potential competitor to Slack, in order to improve its messaging tools and services.

Quill announced that it will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company to continue its original goal “to make online communication more thoughtful, and more effective, for everyone”.

The purchase of Quill could be linked to Twitter’s new strategy to reduce its reliance on ad revenue and attract paying subscribers.

Twitter’s general manager for core tech, Nick Caldwell, described Quill as a “fresher, more deliberate way to communicate. We’re bringing their experience and creativity to Twitter as we work to make messaging tools like DMs a more useful and expressive way people can have conversations on the service”.

Users of Quill have until 11 December to export their team message history before the servers are fully shut down at 1pm PST (9pm Irish time). The announcement has instructions for users who wish to import their chat history into Slack and states that all active teams will be issued full refunds.

The team thanked its users and said: “We can’t wait to show you what we’ll be working on next.”

Quill was launched in February with the goal to remove the overwhelming aspects of other messaging services and give users a more deliberate and focused form of online chat.

In an online post, Quill creator Ludwig Pettersson said: “We started Quill to increase the quality of human communication. Excited to keep doing just that, at Twitter.”

The company became a potential competitor for Slack, which was bought by Salesforce at the end of 2020 for $27.7bn. The goal of that acquisition was to combine Salesforce’s CRM platform with Slack’s communications tools to create a unified service tailored to digital-led teams around the world.

Last week, Salesforce announced the promotion of Bret Taylor to vice-chair and co-CEO, just days after he was appointed independent chair of Twitter after CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down.

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