Starts: 2/6/18 Ends: 3/22/18

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Quick Summary

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PolySwarm wants to crowdsource virus protection and they would like to use cryptocurrency to do it.

Users on the PolySwarm network will receive rewards of its nectar utility token in exchange for identifying threat files, a critical step in protecting against viruses and other forms of hacking. The project’s creators hope that this will incentivize crowd-sourced solutions, improving both the speed and accuracy of efforts to identify threats as they emerge. The token is currently in its ICO, which will end on March 22.

The Problem and Solution

Cybercrime is one of the world’s biggest businesses. It costs the global economy over $450 billion per year in direct theft and businesses spend billions more to keep those losses from soaring ever higher. Threats are often creative and difficult to detect, with many experts not even aware of a problem until a hack has already occurred and the criminals have moved on to a new target. As a result, security experts constantly find themselves playing catch up, often one step behind emerging threats.

This is the problem that PolySwarm would like to address with a cryptocurrency.

The PolySwarm network is a dedicated anti-virus and threat detection system which puts out a reward for users who submit valid information about viruses and suspicious files. The network will work on a call and response model. Participating end users will request information on a suspicious file. The request will come with a bounty in PolySwarm’s utility token, the Nectar. Then participating experts will analyze and attempt to identify what, if any, threat the file poses.

The experts will work autonomously, with human users creating specific programs that respond to requests immediately. For any given request, the first successful expert(s) will collect the bounty of Nectars. PolySwarm’s goal with this is a just-in-time threat network able to respond as requests come in. 

The project’s whitepaper states: 

"PolySwarm defines a real-time threat detection ecosystem involving enterprises, consumers, vendors and geographically-diverse security experts. Experts develop and hone competing “micro-engines” that autonomously investigate the latest threats, attempting to outperform their competition. PolySwarm’s “Proof of Work” is threat detection accuracy: the market rewards experts who are best able to defend enterprises and end users."

Polyswarm’s model is competitive crowdsourcing. In operating this way it hopes to not only harness distributed talent but also distributed creativity. Instead of users relying on specific software which has different strengths and weaknesses, the designers of this system hope that across its network each expert’s strengths will counteract some other participant’s weaknesses.

Given the diversity, size, and technical skill typically attracted to similarly situated projects, this is a potentially successful model, although readers should be careful before endorsing the hype too enthusiastically. The unknowns to the PolySwarm model (most notably what expertise it attracts in practice) are substantial, and prior to an established track record of success, end users are likely to be cautious. 

This is the essential nature of the PolySwarm model. However, readers interested in the full complexity of their crowdsourced security model (including a third-party gatekeeper function introduced in the form of “ambassadors”) can read more about it in their whitepaper here.

The Team

PolySwarm has substantial and legitimate talent behind it.

Co-founder Steve Bassi has worked in the computer security field for over 15 years. Most recently before PolySwarm, he founded the security firm Narf Industries, a company which has served clients from academia to the United States military.

The project’s other co-founder Paul Makowski worked with Bassi at Narf as Chief Technology Officer, before which he served with the National Security Agency.

Finally, the project has pulled advisors from a variety of related fields, including former McAfee CIO Mark Tonnensen.

This is a team which has the credentials to understand both the technology and the business realities of the cybersecurity field.

The Token

Polyswarm will be run with a proprietary utility token called Nectar (NCT). This token will both fund the PolySwarm project and operate as the incentive system for participating experts who will collect bounties of the cryptocurrency for each correct assertion they make on a suspicious file.

The project will work on a two-party bid system. Working on behalf of end users, network participants known as ambassadors will request that the network identify a file as benign or suspicious. The ambassador will place a bounty on the given file, say 6 NCT.

Experts on the network who choose to respond will do so with their response (benign or malicious) as well as a bid representing their confidence in this claim. Say Experts A and B believe that the file is malicious, and bid 1 and 2 tokens apiece. Then experts C and D claim that the file is benign and bid 1 and 2 tokens on that assertion, respectively.

The network’s arbiters will review the claims and make a final decision, awarding the bounty proportionately to experts who get the right answer. In our example, suppose the file was benign (no threat). The total pot would be 8 NCT (5 + 1 + 2). Since Expert C represented 1/3 of the benign bid, she will get 3 Nectar tokens. Expert D, as 2/3 of the bid will receive 6.

End users and ambassadors can buy the token back to fuel their participation in the PolySwarm network, as they will need NCT tokens to pay for bounties. The team developing PolySwarm believes that this will drive value for the token, making it an effective unit of currency both for funding the project and creating effective bounties.

The token is intended as an absolutely fixed quantity. At the time of writing, PolySwarm intends to cap the lifetime number of NCT tokens to the initial coin offering. Of these tokens, 70 percent will be sold during the ICO. PolySwarm will retain the other 30 percent for project development.

The Community

PolySwarm maintains an active and diverse community presence. In addition to the project’s website, it has numerous repositories on its Github page and updates its Medium blog several times per month. Both the PolySwarm Twitter and Facebook pages are actively maintained on a daily or semi-daily basis, even if the content is chiefly marketing and promotional materials.

The project has even developed a series of instructional videos on a YouTube channel to describe its function.

Next Steps

The PolySwarm ICO is currently in process. The token is only available for purchase with Ether, so interested users will need to acquire this currency to participate.

Interested users can find more information on the sale of nectar tokens below. It is not available for sale in the United States.

For information about other current and upcoming ICOs of interest, visit our initial coin offerings page. While there, do not forget to subscribe to the Bitcoin Market Journal newsletter!

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