Understanding the Test and Risk in Bitcoin

The term proof of work was adopted in 2008 by ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency proposal. Proof of work is a test, yet the most significant test of our time was probably not created by a professional Tester. Understanding this test underpins any attempt to adopt blockchain technology.
The genesis Bitcoin block created on 3rd January, 2009 contained a protest message regarding the devaluation of fiat currencies by politicians. Bitcoins first traded at just $0.003 but a new era dawned for currency, distributed data, and the use of cryptography in testing. Speculation in crypto-currencies and new blockchain applications has subsequently become a gold rush.

There are many risks to be considered, but the reductionist ‘impact x likelihood’ pseudo-calculation has multiple limitations. Complex, opaque, non-linear, and subtle risks don’t fit abstract labels, simplified matrices, or linear scales. Time undermines fixed-state approaches that are unable to amplify and dampen feedback, yet appear deterministic.

Understanding risk underpins testing. Yet beneath conventional risks lies another layer, and the unproven assumption that solving a cryptographic problem (proof of work) must take longer than verifying the solution. It takes longer to solve a Sudoku problem than check the solution , so common sense says solving hard problems belongs to a different set than checking the provided solution. If you could prove that you would win the Clay Mathematics Institute $1,000,000 Millennium Prize. If you could disprove it, you would destroy all blockchain applications. These are computing problems and testing problems. It’s time to talk.

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    Declan O'Riordan - Director , Testing IT, united_kingdom

    Declan O’Riordan is an NCSC certified Security & Information Risk Advisor. In 2014, he won the EuroSTAR prize for best conference paper and his debut talk was voted the ‘do over’ session. In 2015 Declan won the best conference paper prize at STAR East, and was on the EuroSTAR programme committee. In 2016 Declan was a joint EuroSTAR best paper prize winner, and implemented the UK’s first real-time Interactive Application Security Testing solution. He also built his own house that year! In 2017 Declan was co-chair of UKSTAR and a contributor to the EuroSTAR ‘Little Book of Testing Wisdom’.

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