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Against the IFP

Centralizing control over a currency’s infrastructure is a seemingly obvious mistake.

One would think any Austro-libertarian worth their salt would be able to see thru such a charade. Yet here we are, again. Face to face with economic illiteracy. Not garden variety lefist economic illiteracy, but one far more stinging and painful - one which comes from within our own community, rather than from without. 

First, Bitcoiners faced the economic illiteracy of maximalism and small blockers. Attempts to masquerade money’s primary function as value storage (Ammous) or rejecting Menger’s Regression Theorem altogether (Szabo) are luckily demonstrably false. Nevertheless, the shock of our fellow Bitcoiners illiteracy was like an unexpected slap in the face. Suddenly, we were forced to confront the fact that the ignorance of our allies in the fight for sound money, had led them astray. Yet, thru BCH we were thankfully able to keep Satoshi’s dream of peer to peer cash intact. 
Well, crypto anarch…

Operational Security: A Counter-Economic Guide





*Note: For legal reasons, this article is for educational purposes only*


Operational security is a key aspect of counter-economics. In fact, its the only element common to all counter-economic operations.

As such, it's a shame opsec isn't discussed more often. The reluctance to lay the issue out bare may be due to either a naivety surrounding the topic, or an unwillingness of agorists to embrace their black market roots. But remember Laertes, to thine own self be true!

As agorists, it's incumbent upon us to lay out a guide for operational security that newcomers can use to engage with the counter-economy in a simple, safe & secure manner. This is a first attempt at such a guide. The New Libertarian will be updating this piece from time to time as technology continues to progress.

Feel free to jump to any section that suits your needs.





I. KYC

II. Coin Mixers & Privacy Coins

III. E2EE

IV. Password Protection

V. Tor

VI. VPN


I. KYC

In the past, if two individuals wished to conduct a transaction who weren’t face to face, they required a trusted third party, such as Visa or a bank to verify both the transmission & receipt of funds.

During the age of private banking, there was a competitive market for this service & things functioned rather efficiently. As the market for this service became cartelized however, these third parties came to represent centralized points of failure.

Now, any malevolent actor seeking to censor or block your transactions only has to strong arm these firms. If they refuse to process your transaction, well, too bad for you!

The mechanism which these malevolent actors - aka politicians - use to accomplish this, are Know Your Customer laws, or KYC for short. This is why individuals have to provide a driver's license or state ID to open a financial account. By connecting your identity to PayPal or a bank, authorities can successfully monitor your transactions & block them as they see fit.

This changed on October 31, 2008.



Now, with the advent of Bitcoin, individuals who are not face to face can securely transact without the need for a third party intermediary. This is done by relying on a decentralized network of miners rather than one centralized firm. Thus, by choosing to use cryptocurrency rather than fiat, individuals no longer subject themselves to the KYC identity verification process.

This is the first & most basic step to achieving operational security.

II. Coin Mixers & Privacy Coins

Bitcoin transactions are preferable to fiat transactions because although the latter can be traced directly back to you, the former can only be linked to a pseudonymous Bitcoin wallet address. In the early days - the Wild West of Bitcoin - this was sufficient protection. Countless voluntary exchanges successfully occurred on the Silk Road securely cloaked in the pseudonymity of Bitcoin. But pseudonymity isn’t anonymity & nowadays, Bitcoin transactions are subject to more advanced blockchain analytics.

This means that if the feds reallllly wanted to link you to a Bitcoin transaction, they may be able to. There are several solutions to this.

Users of BTC and BCH can & should be using coin shuffling services. Check out this article to review some of the top coin mixers available.

Nevertheless, until coin mixing is integrated directly into wallets, or is in some other way more streamlined into the user experience, shuffling continues to represent an inconvenient, additional step. To remove this step, use a privacy coin.



Monero is your best option. Monero uses cryptographic tools like ring signatures to conceal the sender’s identity, stealth addresses to conceal recipients, & Ring Confidential Transactions (RCT) to hide the transaction amount. All of this means Monero transactions are private by default. For more on privacy coins, see this previous TNL article.

With your financial transactions now safeguarded, it’s time to think about communications.

III. E2EE

I truly can’t stress this enough: all counter-economic communication should use end-to-end encryption. You have several options, but at the end of the day, your best bet is Signal.

All messages on Signal use E2EE by default & thus there’s little to worry about. The only drawback is that you’ll be asked to provide a telephone number during the signup process. A quick workaround, is to pick up a cheap burner phone available from any convenience store. For all intents & purposes, it’s best not to use a local convenience store.

Other messaging services that use E2EE include Telegram & even iMessages. Text messages from one iPhone to another are secure, but if either user is backing up their messages to iCloud, there will be a record. Telegram’s secret chats use E2EE & are a great option. It’s important to understand however, that normal Telegram messages & channels DO NOT use E2EE & thus are inadvisable for counter-economic purposes.

To incorporate encryption with email, use protonmail. All emails from one protonmail address to another use E2EE. Messages to and from accounts outside protonmail use other, lesser forms of encryption, but encryption nonetheless.


IV. Password Protection

How inconvenient is having to remember a different password for each of your online accounts? It makes matters worse when each account has different requirements - add a symbol here, capital letter there, don’t forget a number!

Forget about being inconvenient, it’s also insecure. Most people wind up using simple words they can remember & many even use one password across multiple accounts. This leaves you vulnerable to brute force attacks.

SoloKeys, is an open-source FIDO2 USB Key
Gradually, this old & inefficient style of online password security is being replaced with the use of FIDO2 USB hardware authenticators.  These security keys use fingerprints, facial recognition, button pushes, or virtually any other trigger, to grant or deny access to your online accounts.

Since these devices grant access to so many accounts, it’s important they stay secure. The best way of doing this is by using DiceKeys. For more on DiceKeys check out the video below.


V. Tor

Tor is a network that can be accessed through a special browser. Tor protects both the operators & users of .onion sites by securing data moving through the network. However, recent vulnerabilities have allowed bad actors to steal Bitcoin transactions, and thus, TNL doesn’t recommend using Tor for counter-economic transactions until the issue is resolved. For more on Tor, check out this episode of the Techno-Agorist podcast.



VI. VPN

VPNs are a crucial component of operational security in the Agora. A counter-economic deal negotiated over E2EE and settled in Monero is a wasted effort if the IP traces back to your home address.



After consulting fellow agorists and cypherpunks & reviewing the technology ourselves, The New Libertarian is comfortable recommending vypyrVPN. Find out more about them here.

Conclusion

Operational security is a key aspect of counter-economics. As such, agorists need to provide a clear pathway for newcomers to operate securely & effectively. This is a first attempt, which I hope will inspire other, more capable agorists of building on.

Share your ideas in the comments below!




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