I had the pleasure to interview Marco Peereboom. Marco is currently the New Systems Development Lead for Decred, a cutting-edge crypto currency that provides advancement in blockchain technology while also offering governance. He is an avid open source developer who has been actively involved in Decred since its inception. Prior to Decred he worked on and around several Bitcoin projects. He originated several innovations such as on-chain voting which set Decred apart from other digital currencies. He serves as the CTO of Company Zero and continues to hack on Decred’s next generation digital governance tools. When not plastered in front of a screen Marco enjoys cooking, brewing, baking and farming chickens.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story of how you got involved with the Regtech or Crypto markets?
I am a hardware guy who always wrote software (operating systems, drivers etc). I have worked in and around security for a long time and have always been fascinated by cryptography. I cofounded a company with a business partner that did secure online backups that was heavy on crypto and security and from there we pivoted into Bitcoin and eventually into Decred. It has been an interesting journey.
Can you share 5 ways that Regulation and Regtech can help stabilize the Crypto Economy?
I am unsure that it can or should try. The beautiful thing about crypto currencies is that they really can’t be regulated. Sure you put constraints around its use and therefore make it less attractive to segments of the population but the genie cannot be put back in the bottle. I believe that the US and various other governments have come to the conclusion that it is better to play along than actively fight it. I also am of the opinion that enough awareness has made it into corporate America and that now there are products being developed using the tech. It is my belief that the US government will take a sit and wait approach to crypto currencies.
What are the top concerns that crypto firms should be considering in order to have a competitive edge?
Human resources are by far the most scarce entity in the crypto currency space. The specialization is really 10 specializations and therefore there are not many folks that have the entire skillset. It’ll take years to get to a workforce that is large enough to go around and support a large number of projects. Thus attracting talent is the most important driver to get a competitive edge and unlike other segments, crypto currency is filled with ideologues that aren’t in it for the money and these people can only be attracted by cool, life-changing, tech.
Can you share examples of measures you take to prevent an internal data breach?
We take many and it is multi pronged. I cannot divulge all of these but I can point out several cogs in the machine.
We compartmentalize and restrict access to communication and information. People only have access on a need to know basis. Individuals that work with us are responsible for their own opsec and internet footprint. We adjust compartments based on someone’s risk profile.
We purchase hardware in person and disable cameras, mics, gps, me etc before using them. We try to not run any hardware that has firmware blobs on secure machines. We only run open source operating systems we have experience maintaining and writing code for.
That is about as much as I am willing and able to divulge.
Can you share a story of a time when things went south for you? What kept you going and helped you to overcome those times?
I have been writing software for many years and bad things happen. I am not a panicky type and what I tend to do is very dependent on the situation at hand. As an example when the heartbleed vulnerability was published we had to react fast because we used OpenSSL, literally, everywhere. What we did is power everything off and then started talking about the ramifications and plot a way to power-on again. We put a message on our front page explaining why the service was down. The steps that followed were: patch all systems; attack systems to see if we were vulnerable; analyze logs for signs of a breach; power infrastructure back on. Once everything was working again we attacked our old versions of code and tried really hard to see if we could extract any information using heartbleed. Turns out that we were never vulnerable because we had made some decisions prior to deployment that disabled large pieces of OpenSSL that we did not like; this turned out to be a blessing.
What are some things that you do on daily basis regardless of how busy you are?
Drink coffee and use the restroom!
Joking aside I try to cook and tend to my chickens. Can’t skip taking care of the chickens so that always happens regardless of how busy or focussed I am. I really appreciate being surrounded by these primitive creatures and It helps me to calm down and put things into perspective.
Cooking is a hobby that also helps me calm down. A meal well prepared that my family enjoys is huge gratification.
What are the top 3 upcoming conferences you are attending and are excited about?
Oh my gosh this is a hard one as these tend to shift quite a bit. I tend to only go to conferences where I have the opportunity to do a presentation. I always enjoy spreading the good word about Decred. Since I actively hack I only get to go to a few of these a year. I tend to do impromptu sessions as well based on where I am at. I happened to be in Portugal this summer so I did two sessions there. One in Lisbon and another in Faro. That was a lot of fun.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. — Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson is my favorite philosopher and he is a quote machine. His grit and independence has always been a giant inspiration throughout my life. Everything I have achieved has been the result of hard work and perseverance. I believe that this can be applied to many business situations and I tend to double down when there is a hard problem in front of me.