Marco Streng is a miner, though he does not carry a pick around his base in south-western Iceland. Instead, he keeps tens of thousands of computers running 24 hours a day in fierce competition with others across the globe to earn bitcoins.
In the world of the web-based digital currency, it is not central banks that add new money to the system, but rather computers like Streng's which are awarded fresh bitcoins in return for processing blocks of the latest bitcoin transactions.
Bitcoin can be used to send money instantly around the world, using individual bitcoin addresses, free of charge with no need for third party checks, and is accepted by several major online retailers.
Like many forms of encryption in use today, HTTPS protections are on the brink of a collapse that could bring down the world as we know it. Hanging in the balance are most encrypted communications sent over the last several decades. On Thursday, Google unveiled an experiment designed to head off, or at least lessen, the catastrophe.
In the coming months, Google servers will add a new, experimental cryptographic algorithm to the more established elliptic curve algorithm it has been using for the past few years to help encrypt HTTPS communications. The algorithm—which goes by the wonky name "Ring Learning With Errors"—is a method of exchanging cryptographic keys that's currently considered one of the great new hopes in the age of quantum computing. Like other forms of public key encryption, it allows two parties who have never met to encrypt their communications, making it ideal for Internet usage.
Ransomware - what hackers use to encrypt your computer files and demand money in exchange for freeing those contents - is an exploding global problem with few solutions, but a team of University of Florida researchers says it has developed a way to stop it dead in its tracks.
The answer, they say, lies not in keeping it out of a computer but rather in confronting it once it's there and, counterintuitively, actually letting it lock up a few files before clamping down on it.
"Our system is more of an early-warning system. It doesn't prevent the ransomware from starting ... it prevents the ransomware from completing its task ... so you lose only a couple of pictures or a couple of documents rather than everything that's on your hard drive, and it relieves you of the burden of having to pay the ransom," said Nolen Scaife, a UF doctoral student and founding member of UF's Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research.
Scaife is part of the team that has come up with the ransomware solution, which it calls CryptoDrop.
Ransomware attacks have become one of the most urgent problems in the digital world. The FBI issued a warning in May saying the number of attacks has doubled in the past year and is expected to grow even more rapidly this year.