2020: Least Authority’s Year in Review

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Before highlighting Least Authority’s accomplishments from 2020, I must first acknowledge that this year has been a difficult year for so many people around the world, and on many levels. There has been suffering from health issues and significant economic consequences, and as a result we all see 2020 as a year like no other.

As a global team, the difficulties of the world around us impacted many of us as individuals and we had various struggles this year, but the common theme has been that despite the challenges we face as individuals, we’re grateful to have work and to be working together on our shared goals. We hope that amidst the currently changing world, we have made some positive impact on it – to improve the security of our systems and to change the paradigm of privacy enabled by our technologies. 

With that in mind, I feel very fortunate to say that it has been a good year for Least Authority—both in terms of the volume and quality of the work we’ve been able to deliver.

This year, Least Authority focused on continuing to grow in three main areas: 

  1. Security Consulting 
  2. Product Development 
  3. Community-Contribution Projects 

We’ve pursued these areas knowing they are complementary and offer various ways for us to contribute to our mission: we enable more people to use secure and privacy-respecting technology. Our consulting efforts allow us to advance the security of systems and contribute to the community of developers who build them. We developed products built on open source software to expand the access to them and provide sustainability that is built on ethical business models. And beyond these two areas of business, we engaged in a variety of special projects that focus more on the community contributions they accomplish.

Security Consulting

We offered security consulting services to help other teams improve the security of their projects. This is a meaningful contribution not only to the projects themselves, but also to the advancement of the technologies we review and the communities that use them. This is especially true for our clients who choose to publish the reports of the reviews we completed for them. 

In 2020, we published 19 audit reports, including our review of the Ethereum 2.0 specifications for the Ethereum Foundation, along with reports for Metamask, Centrifuge, ChainSafe and others. We also worked closely with the Tezos Foundation to audit projects like TzBTC and many more in an effort to support security efforts in the Tezos ecosystem. We also consulted for projects beyond the blockchain space, including through organizations like the Prototype Fund

Product Development

This year also focused on further development of our products with the goal of usable tools that enable users to better control their privacy and are supported by ethical business models. We worked on multiple aspects: Secure Storage (based on Tahoe-LAFS and Gridsync), Secure File-Transfer (based on Magic Wormhole) and Secure Payments Data (based on our ZKAPs technology).

Throughout the year, we progressed towards our goal of launching PrivateStorage, including gathering feedback from user testing. We also just completed our “Magic Wormhole for All (MW4ALL)” project funded by NGI Trust and we have started the second phase project, which you’ll hear more about next year. Additionally, we expanded our global reach by completing the Next Step Asia program followed by the German Accelerator Southeast Asia program, where we concentrated on a product-market fit for ZKAPs

Community-Contribution Projects

We recognize the importance of contributing to the broader community of users and other beneficiaries by working on special projects as another way to pursue our mission. This year we completed a project funded by the Open Technology Fund to address the needs of human rights organizations when utilizing Tahoe-LAFS for secure storage. In October we started another project, “Building the B.A.S.E. (Bridge, Adapt, Secure, Empower) for Secure Communications on Mobile Devices,” which will further advance Tahoe-LAFS and Magic Wormhole for use by human rights organizations. We also started a MoonMath Manual to help developers learn about zk-SNARKs and encourage their use in tools, which is being supported by a Gitcoin campaign. By working with a diverse set of communities on such projects, we were able to cultivate a deeper understanding of how technology can better serve users, along with increase awareness and access to secure technologies.

A New Year 

In 2021, we’re eager to continue our efforts in these areas of security consulting, product development and special community contribution projects. We look forward to helping even more projects improve their security with our consulting work and publishing some of those reports to the community. We are excited to launch PrivateStorage to the public in 2021 and make progress on our other product development efforts with secure file-transfer and ZKAPs. And we’ll also work to better meet the needs of at-risk users, in an effort to increase the security and privacy of the tools they use.

Staying Connected

Without the usual freedom to travel and with the necessary isolation, many of us feel the distance between us more than ever before. However, our shared goals, an Internet connection and the software we use brings us together. 

As a remote-first company since its founding, we are very familiar with the tools and skills necessary to work remotely as a team, and we benefit from a diverse team that spans across 9 time zones. It is reassuring to see many more teams discovering the benefits of such flexibility, especially considering the current challenges in the world. 

When bigger gatherings and travel become possible again, I look forward to newly meeting or reconnecting with many of you at conferences and meetings in person. In the meantime and in the spirit of remote connections, I invite you to reach out and stay in touch with us through our newsletter, our blog, and our job announcements.

From all of us at Least Authority, we wish you a happy and healthy 2021!