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The Myth Of Using Cryptocurrencies For Asset Protection

Apr 04 2017

Article written for: Forbes.com
The Great Recession of the mid-2000s forced us to view economics, banking, wealth and security in new ways. The concept of asset protection, already a growing area, saw an explosion in popularity, which has given rise to an ever-evolving cat and mouse game between creditors and debtors and their respective advisors. Meanwhile, distrust in banks and governments fueled the creation and rise of Bitcoin, which spurred interest in new digital currencies relying upon similar technologies.

My firm practices asset protection, catering to professionals, entrepreneurs and investors who seek both domestic and international asset protection strategies. In this article, I will discuss the technology underlying virtual digital currencies and how it might play a role in asset protection.

What is cryptocurrency?
Virtual digital currencies (or “cryptocurrencies”) operate on decentralized databases called blockchains. Blockchains function as publicly distributed ledgers, verifying and permanently recording asset transfer transactions between buyers and sellers without the need for a trusted third party. These technological breakthroughs are enabling the new, digitized economy.

Blockchain introduced technology that solved a long-standing computer science problem, known as the “double-spend” problem, eliminating the potential for an unscrupulous or unknowing buyer to spend the same money more than once. A “trustless” ledger system employs public key cryptography to ensure transaction inputs are not duplicated. There is no need for third-party intermediaries. Transactions are grouped and recorded in blocks, then linked to the last block in the chain. A system of consensus and cryptography validate each of the transactions.

In the Bitcoin protocol, transactions are validated by “miners” who receive Bitcoins as a reward (or premium) for their processing efforts. Once a sufficient consensus of miners has validated the cryptographic hash of a transaction, the information is recorded in a “block.” Successive blocks of transaction data are built upon previous blocks to form a chain – hence the name “blockchain.” The process of recording transactions in interconnected blocks creates an immutable, time-stamped ledger that is not subject to manipulation by any person, company or government.

With the absence of a middleman and by existing on a distributed ledger in cyberspace, digital currencies are effectively borderless and can represent stores of value in all parts of the globe. Bitcoin, the most recognized digital currency, is not controlled by any centralized government entity or organization, but instead by willing participants (generally the miners) that build and maintain the chain.

Blockchain transactions are semi-anonymous – or “pseudonymous.” Each transfer of value on the ledger is publicly viewable, but parties to the transaction are known only by a string of numbers serving as a public key address. (Bitcoin transactions are publicly viewable in real time at www.blockchain.info.) Anonymous users manipulate ownership and transfer of Bitcoin with their private key, a separate string of numbers generally kept secret. This ability to engage in transactions pseudonymously (coupled with the absence of intermediaries) makes Bitcoin the currency of choice for gray and black market transactions. The infamous Silk Road website relied upon Bitcoin payments and, more recently, Bitcoin has become the preferred payment for cybercriminals, such as those engaged in the rising epidemic of cyber-ransom.

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Eric C. Boughman

Eric leads the firm's healthcare and technology practices.  He is a frequent writer and presenter on issues involving health law, privacy, technology, and asset protection. His writings have appeared in multiple American Bar Association publications, The Florida Bar Journal, Forbes, Daily Business Review, Accounting Today, Financial Advisor Magazine, Law360, and CEO World, among others.  Eric is rated AV–Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell.  He has been admitted to practice law in Florida and Nevada, as well as in the U.S. Tax Court, and in several other courts, nationwide, pro hac vice.  He is a member of the ABA’s Healthcare Law Section, Business Law Section, and Cyberspace Law Committee, the American Healthcare Lawyers Association, and American College of Healthcare Executives.  He graduated, magna cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School.  He also holds a Health Law Certificate from the University of Louisville, Brandeis School of Law.  Eric earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland while he was serving in the U.S. Air Force, during which time his duty included tours in Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of operations Desert Storm and Provide Comfort.

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