Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blockchian.info review

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Blockchain.info is a bitcoin wallet and block explorer service. Launched in August 2011, the service provides data on recent transactions, mined blocks in the bitcoin block chain, charts on the bitcoin economy, and statistics and resources for developers. Information from and links to the website are common in media coverage and in bitcoin forums. The Blockchain.info mobile app for Android allows users to securely send and receive bitcoins and browse block chain information. In December 2013, the company acquired ZeroBlock LLC, makers of the leading mobile bitcoin app.

Blockchain.info was the world's most visited bitcoin website in 2013, with over 118 million page views and over 3 million unique visitors in November 2013, and in January 2014 Blockchain.info reached one million user wallets.


In February 2014, Apple Inc. removed the Blockchain app from the iOS App Store, prompting a harsh response from Blockchain and public outcry in the bitcoin community, most notably within the Reddit community. In July 2014, Apple reinstated the Blockchain app back into the iOS App Store.

In October 2014, Blockchain.info closed a $30.5 million initial fundraising round, which was the biggest round of financing in the digital currency sector at that time.

In December 2014, Blockchain.info became one of the first prominent Bitcoin wallets to offer a dedicated hidden service on the Tor network, for users who desire to conduct Bitcoin transactions with greater privacy and lesser third party surveillance, as well as to provide end-to-end encryption for Tor users who were previously vulnerable to malicious exit nodes sniffing their keys and stealing their Bitcoins.

In early 2015, the company passed 3 million wallets created using their services.

In August 2015, Blockchain.info's CEO Peter Smith was invited to accompany UK Prime Minister David Cameron on a tour throughout southeast Asia to engage with local representatives about the UK's leading role as a global fintech hub.

Also in August 2015, Blockchain.info passed 4 million wallets created using their services. 


Blockchain.info is an online financial service provider that works closely with the world’s most popular form of alternative, electronic currency, Bitcoin, including offering users an exchange platform and secure wallets.
Bitcoin is a form of “crypto-currency,” which means that it is an entirely electronic form of currency that must always be encrypted to be secure. Also, it only exists in a peer-to-peer format – there is no central authority either issuing the money or tracking the transactions.
Instead, all Bitcoin functions are tracked collectively by a network. The Blockchain is a database which holds information about all the Bitcoin transactions which take place over the network. 
In addition, they also claim to offer and operate Bitcoin’s largest and most secure wallet service. Bitcoin wallets were designed to assist their users in the very specific type of security that is required by such a distinct form of currency. 
In fact, in order to get started with Bitcoins, you purchasing a wallet is the very first step to investing and trading. The online wallet they choose is extremely important because it becomes their Bitcoin address, which is necessary for all transactions. 
Because Bitcoin wallets are not secured like online bank accounts, you will want to make sure that you are working with a wallet provider that prioritizes security. Blockchain.info says that this is their main goal for all their clientele, which currently numbers more than 110,000 registered users.
To meet that security goal, their security policy is to hold as little data as possible in the event that a security breach would affect their users so all passwords or personally identifying information wallet data is stored only in encrypted form.
They also run on privately owned hardware which can only be accessed by certain administrators and perform regular security reviews of both their code and servers.

 Important info

    Wallet Type:  Web, Android, iOS
    Verification:  Trusted Server
    Multisig:  No
    Open source:  Yes
    Privacy :  Poor
    Crypto supported:  bitcoin
    Vulnerability to malware:  Secure
    Private key stored:  client side

Pros and cons

    This industry stalwart is the most popular wallet out there
    Go to spot for block explorer tools
    Extremely well funded and working to enhance product

    Has fallen behind newer wallets
    Shares private info in certain circumstances
    Has had technical difficulties now and again

Summary

Blockchain.info set the bar for security in the bitcoin wallet industry for many years, but has fallen behind newer wallets that have been quicker to integrate new innovations in the market.

Still, blockchain remains the most popular stand-alone wallet service online, with over 1 million users, and with a recent fundraising round raising $30.5 million, blockchain is sure to maintain it's position as one of the most popular wallets in the bitcoin market.


The blockchain Wallet

Wallets are encrypted client-side using random number generation, and only the encrypted wallet is stored on the blockchain server. Passwords to unencrypt the wallet and approve transactions are held by the user and are unknown by blockchain.info. Blockchain offers passphrases for password retrieval, 16 and 6 words for first and second passwords respectively, but if a password is lost and the user has not recorded the passphrases, a client's wallet is effectively locked forever.

Random number private key generation allows one private key per address. Multiple addresses can be generated, but each address brings with it a new private key. If you plan to utilize a number of addresses, for bookkeeping and such, this makes the backing up process a much more cumbersome task as old backups will not have any record of newly generated addresses. Automatic encrypted backups can be sent from blockchain info to email or dropbox after every new address is set. Paper wallets would need to be regenerated. So it is manageable, but not the most convenient solution in the market.

There are a number of security features aiming to limit client side and server side breach risk.
Entering the account requires two-factor authentication, and PBKDF2, a function which stretches passwords to prevent brute force attacks, is available in 5000 increments up to 20,000. Basically, this increases the computational effort required to crack a password accordingly. Users are also able to set up a an IP whitelist, allowing transactions to be made only from included IPs.


Offline Wallet

There is an option to create a watching-only wallet, or a wallet with no corresponding online private key. This means that while coin can be sent to the wallet, transactions only can be authorized from a paper wallet. blockchain calls this "cold storage", but security experts would most likely disagree for two reasons.

First, the paper wallet must be generated online. Recently, it was discovered that the unencrypted private key associated with the paper wallet was actually stored in the browser history. What a massive hole for hackers to exploit. As of February 2015, this has not been addressed by blockchain.

Secondly, for transactions to be signed by the paper wallet, the QR code must be scanned on the connected computer - severing the total disconnect between on and offline systems. The most security minded among you would most likely want to generate a new address and new corresponding paper wallet after each transaction.

However for most, this is a sufficient solution.


Mobile

blockchain has very good ios and android apps, which are easily paired to the desktop account by scanning a QR code which is kept behind a user password. Once the mobile is paired, the wallet can be accessed simply by entering a four digit pin, and most important features - like sending and receiving funds, are available in app.

Bottom line

Blockchain has been around for years now, and is the most popular wallet in the market. However, it has not kept up with security trends and this has led, as of late, to a number of small security breaches resulting in lost coin. A number of user-friendly functionalities, like HD for instance, are missing from blockchain.info. Blockchain is useful for on-the-go mobile bitcoin needs, but there are other more convenient and perhaps safer options for storing coin.

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