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“Absolute Decentralization is not a Myth” - Interview With Dmitry Efremov on Russian Gangsters, Future of Crypto, and Design

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 12:08
“Absolute Decentralization is not a Myth” - Interview With Dmitry Efremov on Russian Gangsters, Future of Crypto, and Design
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Dmitry Efremov is a Russian designer and developer working on a cryptocurrency called Prizm. In its more than three years of existence, the project has fought off cruel attempts to steal their technology, numerous DDoS attacks and some other challenges but seems to be getting back on track with a lot more confidence. I’ve asked Dmitry to tell us more about these mysterious events worthy of becoming a Hollywood story. Let’s jump into the interview!


U.Today: So, Dimitry. You are a co-founder, designer and developer of the Prizm cryptocurrency. Can you tell us what this project is about and how it came into existence?

Prizm: Yes, that’s correct. For a long time, I remained on the sidelines for personal security reasons, because gangsters literally tried to steal our technology. But I’ll get to that later. 

In the beginning, Prizm, and perhaps it’ll be surprising for someone, was meant to be the world’s most secure messaging app for encrypted messages. And only a private key would open those messages. Additionally, to send messages users would have to pay a certain fee in the monetary units of this system.

Then we decided to develop a crypto instead. We wanted to come up with something that would surpass all cryptocurrencies on the market at the time. We ended up launching Prizm as a social experiment on introducing cryptocurrency into the community with a fair emission for every participant.

Naturally, we wanted to make a decentralized crypto. That’s how it was. Regarding the technological basis, Prizm runs on Proof-of-Stake, and each coin in the wallet is a kind of mining farm. This means you don’t need to buy any equipment to start mining coins. And that’s it, in a nutshell. You can find more details on our official website.

U.Today: How old is your project?

Prizm: We started it on February 17, 2017. We are still working on it.

U.Today: Okay. As it turns out, you occupy three positions at once: designer, developer, and you’re a co-founder too.

Prizm: If we chose this as a subject, that’d be a separate interview ... Right, I do lots of different tasks, but I mainly focus on design. That is, I can perform the volume of work an IT studio can do, a full package, so to speak, on my own.

That’s right, I am completely responsible for the design part of Prizm. We wrote a native mobile iOS app together with a mega-savvy developer and are still improving it. That’s my personal initiative because Prizm is decentralized, you see, and everyone can suggest any ideas. And the community will either accept or reject them. 

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U.Today:  Uh-huh.

Prizm: We also made Prizm Guard. That’s a defense system because Prizm gets attacked all the time. It’s a system for proxying and scanning requests to a network node. 

We also handle listings on exchanges, communication with strategic partners, social media presence, presenting all graphic content, generating that content. In short, that’s Inspector Gadget in the house. There’s lots to do, but we manage to cope with the main tasks. Our priority is network support, so the network is stable and we also maintain the work of Prizm Core, our software. We solve secondary tasks as they emerge.

U.Today: Yes. So you’ve already begun telling me your mysterious story, as I understand. In general, Prizm indeed looks like an anonymous project, perhaps for non-tech-minded people, because there is no information about your team on the Web. 

And as far as I know, the information was concealed deliberately to ensure your safety and due to the fact that your lead developer was kidnapped by some thugs determined to steal your technology. Can you tell me about that? Is there truth to this?

Prizm: This is true, you're not mistaken. Prizm indeed looks like an anonymous project. This is due to its high security. And as for the abduction of Yuri Mayorov, the head of the development department, that's also true.

Several thugs kidnapped him. They kept him in their car. Yuri was tortured and they tried to poison him. I know, it all sounds like some kind of action movie.

U.Today: It does, yes.

Prizm: Miraculously, he managed to survive, but they took all the valuables he had on him. The damage was more than one and a half million rubles (almost $22,000). It was just cash that he was taking somewhere to exchange. And they took it all. However, they were unable to get any Prizm files from him, because they thought you don’t carry stuff like that in a laptop case, and so they got away with nothing. 

Yes, Yuri managed to survive, but the gangsters are still on the loose. And - you can Google it - a lot of news reports emerged then, all of the top TV channels in Russia were discussing the case. An official investigation began, and the incident occurred only because Yuri was the only programmer who was known to the public out of our whole team.

If he had remained out of public view, none of this would have happened. Therefore, after this incident, we became worried and decided firmly against any publicizing. We sort of won, I mean, we protected the technology, but we also lost: we lost our image because the global crypto community has a very negative or indifferent attitude to anonymous crypto projects. Ultimately, our reputation and image were damaged. 

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U.Today: But ultimately did Yuri return to work? Is he back on the team?

Prizm: He did return and he became more careful. Besides, now we are quite competent in security issues. And here I am, in an interview with you only because I have no access to the Prizm source code. If I did, I would not be giving this interview. After that accident, we considered the situation thoroughly, and now everything is much safer.

Apart from physical threats to the team, hackers constantly attacked the DDoS. I mean, they literally flooded us with DDoS attacks, we had to fight them off literally for days.

Hackers of various levels attacked us, and someone even managed to cause some insignificant damage, which led to us enhancing the project’s security - we hired several auditors from various companies to examine our vulnerabilities - you can also see that on our website - and now Prizm is a project that is fully safe and autonomous.

U.Today: Well, I hope that situation of yours will never happen again to any of you. 

Prizm: Now the technology has been patented, so we are not too worried. 

U.Today: But overall, do you intend on releasing any new data, perhaps about the team members?

Prizm: A little later, we will gradually expose ourselves to the global crypto community. So far, we present it as an experiment and we’re emphasizing that. 

U.Today: And what exactly brought you to the world of cryptocurrency?

Prizm: I came because of a strong desire to keep up with the times and the sphere of my work. I’ve been in the IT industry for eleven years, been working in design, with interfaces, with all sorts of new tech features. You see, the appearance of the term “cryptocurrencies” was no surprise to me. I mean, I was already there before that word was even on the horizon.  

U.Today: Tell me, these days is it difficult to run a company in the crypto industry in particular and a company in general? Because as far as I know, I did not check the statistics, but there is the opinion that 95% of all companies close down five years after the launch. What do you think a CEO should do, what qualities do they need to have, so as not to be part of this 95%, or however many of them close down.

Prizm: Well, first of all, you shouldn’t take any malicious action nor be driven by bad motivation while creating a company, because, in that case, it will all end up badly. But if we look particularly at crypto projects, cryptocurrency, then I think it does not need to be managed. It must be created, must be given to the community, you need to educate the community about it, and then the project will start living its own life.

Because, you see, what cryptocurrencies are indeed about, what everyone has forgotten in this market, is that they let you use your assets without intermediaries. Now there is nothing of the kind here - there is two-factor authentication, personal accounts, storage of personal databases. That is excessive infrastructure, which is basically not necessary at all, and this is the whole problem.

To avoid this, I reckon that, when creating a company, you should go for aims of a planetary scale and you’d better want to be useful to humanity. The higher the goal, the better the project. You need to be able, of course, to have a sharp eye for people, to quickly get back up after failures, and, of course, being a bit of a fanatic is always good. That's it.

U.Today: So you mentioned the main idea of ​​cryptocurrency and in it was the most basic one - the idea of ​​decentralization. I would just like to speculate on what absolute decentralization is, because even Bitcoin is often questioned by the crypto community regarding its full decentralization, since the majority of the mining pools are China-based, and they constitute up to 65% of the hashrate. 

Prizm: I’m more than sure that absolute decentralization is not a myth, it’s quite a real concept, but it doesn’t exist in the present conditions. Because so many factors have been omitted, and we are now at the stage of digitizing the collective mind. The community, roughly speaking, is not ready yet. At Prizm, we have managed to create a technology that is ahead of its time, and many people simply fail to understand this. 

If we start reasoning and idealizing, I’ve prepared some notes that show what would happen if we lived in a world with an ideal balanced decentralized system that would work under certain conditions. Absence of a centralized system in the form of a management apparatus, no super administrators, superheroes nor other similar types of people. Absence of intermediaries represented by third-party services, two-factor verification, KYC, personal accounts and other things - for accessing your cryptocurrency.

The general system is independent of any particular number of nodes. That is, even if the network has only one node, the entire network should be running. It should be bulletproof, and therefore the tech level must be high and high data throughput too. A high level of security of both software and encryption algorithms at the stage of creating a private key. I mean, it should be secure at the side of the network and at the user’s end, to make any malicious attacks impossible to succeed, compromise the system in any way, etc.

There should be low hardware requirements, the software must be simple and fast to install. An easy and quick entry for absolutely anyone in the world. Simply put, this has to be easy even for a complete layman in the cryptocurrency field, not some expert in this technology. The system should be publicly available, and only that would make sense.

Autonomous educational programs for beginners within the community, that is, the community must educate itself. All this goes around in a closed circle. 

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The project should offer an ideology and fundamental values ​​satisfactory for all participants of the community, i.e. everyone should agree on them and have a common goal. 

High tech level, high speed, transparency of systems - I’ve already mentioned these. Easy, quick integration of the system into any business as a payment system, also for popularization, for commodity circulation, etc. The speculative effect on the volatility of the currency’s exchange rate must be excluded. I.e., people themselves should not be able to shoot themselves in the foot. When they understand this, everything will be okay.

I’ve already mentioned a commodity circulation, then there is a community united by a common goal ... It is impossible to close down this system, that is, it can only be closed if you cut off the HTTP protocol, but then we would switch off the entire web all around the planet. And then anarchy and collapse would arrive, which is much worse than what we can see now. Therefore, the focus must be on decentralization and scattering to the maximum number of nodes. 

Recognition and acceptance of the system by supreme authorities. So they don’t interfere, but help ... help integrate this into the economy ... and, I don’t know, maybe then humanity would change. The understanding would dawn on people ... they themselves would be happy to chip in to finish building new roads with no holes in them. This is a very important factor.

The legitimacy of the system and quick adaptation of it to economic and political changes. That is, if the system can work within the legal environment of a state, then everything is fine. If not, then somehow we have to adapt and maneuver. But, then again, if we come to be supported by supreme authorities, on the economy level and things like that, among other things, freemasons or someone else, then it would all be much simpler.

And, of course, the most important point and the last one is the formation of internal consumerism inside the crypto community, so that they don’t engage in selfishness, but would think at least ten years ahead, and not just prepare for what might happen tomorrow and consider why everything is happening this way and that ‘everyone is to blame’ for all global crises.

Overall, this is an ideal vision. But we all know that there is always good and evil, there is black and white, bad guys and good guys. So far, this ideal plan is unachievable. All we can do during the digitization stage is wait. Now is the perfect time to restructure the economy. Some may be happy about it and others may not be, but I think it would do us all good. It would be a sort of zeroing out and a reset.

U.Today: What, do you think, could push the governments of states, all over the world, to adopt such a concept? What could motivate them to do this?

Prizm: Well, take Bitcoin. How did it come to be acknowledged? It's just that the awareness grew. It is enough to achieve the maximum popularization of any project, any system, so that people start paying attention and see no sense in fighting with it. And see that only cooperating makes sense because fighting against so many adopters ... fighting the whole world is far from easy. So, I think, the wider the popularization of any system, the higher the chances it will be adopted at the legislative level too. 

U.Today: Okay. And what is the biggest challenge for you personally at work? What is the hardest part of it?

Prizm: The biggest challenge? For me, the most difficult thing ... well, it’s not the most difficult, but the one that gets me really excited ... let’s say, in the design field ... it’s hitting the desired result for a client at 100% accuracy after they set the task for the first time, with a minimum of input data. I mean, they just say a few words to me, and I begin generating ideas. This is if we are talking about regular work. On a global scale, for me, the challenge is to contribute to something or create something really great and amazing, something that will cause global changes and impact technological progress for all of humanity. This is the biggest challenge indeed. Otherwise, in design, I like to guess what the customer wants, and be something like a mind-reader in it. 

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U.Today: Let's move on to the environment. I recently interviewed Max Keiser. He is a famous American showman, journalist and financial analyst, and I found his point of view very interesting. Maybe it's true, I don’t know how it really is, that the cryptocurrency industry is one of the greenest in the world. What do you think about this?

Prizm: Well, you can interpret “green” as not very popularized around the world yet.

U.Today: No, no, it’s about the environment.  

Prizm: In terms of environmental friendliness, the word “green” contains two concepts. But, if we consider ecological safety, then I believe that on the whole, you can’t say the crypto industry is environmentally friendly. Everyone knows, and it would be stupid to deny this, that Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of electricity, it requires more and more powerful software and it generates a large amount of heat. All those rigs in China, which provide 65% of the total hashrate, they generate heat and affect the climate. 

Besides, this is an overspending of resources at the state level. In other words, imagine that someone has a power outage, while someone elsewhere is mining Bitcoin. I believe this is an irrational consumption of our planet’s resources. 

Prizm works on the Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithm. I believe Proof-of-Stake is the most environmentally friendly way to mine coins. It does not affect ... the production rate does not depend on software, it requires very little power, provides a high transaction speed. You remember that it is the opposite with Bitcoin. I have nothing against BTC, but it's just that ... BTC transactions take a long time, it fails to meet the current needs. So, I believe that only Proof-of-Stake will make it into the future. 

U.Today: How do you feel about Bitcoin in general?

Prizm: In general, I respect BTC as a progenitor because it was the first to appear, I respect it for what it has done, got the message across. I read a book about the long ways Bitcoin had to come. I mean, I don’t know if it was Satoshi Nakamoto, or if it was some kind of composite character in the form of a state, or if it was the Cicada 3301 team that released it as a social experiment. I simply respect Bitcoin.  

However, as a technology, BTC is already behind the times and it’s fulfilled its mission. It is time to step aside and make way for newer crypto.

U.Today: Do you invest in cryptocurrencies?

Prizm: I invest only in Prizm, because all other coins simply do not meet my needs regarding the speed of transactions. 

U.Today: I see. And what projects or who, if we're talking about people, do you most respect in the crypto space? 

Prizm: I can name three people here. The first is, of course, the creator of Bitcoin. For being the first to arrive. The second is Vitalik Buterin. For inventing Ethereum and for the highest contribution to raising cryptocurrency awareness in the world. And the third person, of course, is my mentor and partner Yuri Mayorov. I respect him for Prizm, for laying the new foundation for a new era of digital assets without intermediaries. That's all. The fourth is Elon Musk, though. 

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U.Today: Not quite a guy from the crypto space.

Prizm: I think he too will get there soon.  

U.Today: We’ll look forward to that. Okay. From what you said, you do not invest in cryptocurrencies, but maybe you use them in daily life? Do you use them as payment anywhere? 

Prizm: If you take such an area that has been popularized the most, then I use Bitcoin only to pay advertising agencies for their work. And in daily life I use Prizm. That is, there is a certain commodity circulation inside our community. Somebody sells something and they all accept Prizm. I also accept Prizm as payment for my work as a designer, developer, etc. I don’t use any other cryptos.

U.Today: Last question then. What will the price of Bitcoin be by the end of 2020?

Prizm: Okay, I get it. To be honest, I don’t feel like making one of those predictions by taking a shot in the dark. I think Bitcoin has reached its goal and the price in the future will hold, let’s say, at no more than $15,000.

U.Today: Well, sounds good enough, compared to the current BTC price.

Prizm: That’s true.