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What is a Crypto Currency?
A crypto currency is a digital currency that relies on complex and elaborate mathematical elements that give it such independence as it does without a central entity that regulates and controls the value of the currency. The principles and characteristics of crypto currencies give you three essential factors:
– Decentralization of a regulatory financial entity;
– “Anonymity” and immediacy of transactions and actions;
– Security of these same transactions and security of values in crypto currencies.
The oldest and most famous crypto currency is Bitcoin, it was this currency that started the imminent revolution that we are witnessing. Although it was created several years ago, based on cryptography and Blockchain, these are the technologies and systems that guarantee the crypto currencies, the unique features described above.
Encryption ensures that all transactions are encrypted. This transaction and movement encryption allows the “anonymity” of the players, but without losing track of the coins, which ensures security and integrity to the system. This transaction log and motion tracking is directly linked to Blockchain (a kind of ledger).
Blockchain is regularly metaphorized to a book where all transactions and movements of a certain crypto currency are noted. Given the finitude of existing units for each crypto currency, it is essential to track them and monitor all movements to ensure system integrity. It is up to this digital reason book to play this important role.
It is the Blockchain that lies at the heart of crypto currency decentralization and security. It is undoubtedly the foundation of the success this new system is having.
There is no doubt that Blockchain is a fashion term. Anyone who wants to look innovative and tech savvy can, from one idea to another, say that Blockchain solves this or that challenge. The problem is to define, in fact, how this technology works, which has existed for over 10 years.
Before talking about how Blockchain works, it’s good to remember how it was developed. The technology was first used as the basis for Bitcoin, the first crypto currency created in the world. Its operation is described in the famous paper by Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym that hides the inventor of virtual currency.
The important thing is that this ledger is decentralized. There is no single person or group responsible for entering and saving transactions, such as an accountant or bank. Registration is distributed across the computer network participating in the Bitcoin system. All transfers are processed and verified by thousands of computers around the planet. Solving the complicated calculations, the computers processing the system verify the veracity of the transactions: does the person who transferred that Bitcoin own the asset? Has she spent this money before?
Each of these computers has its own updated version of all transactions. As a reward for processing, the owners of these machines receive a reward in virtual currencies, they are called “Miners”.
Transactions are not recorded one by one, but in blocks. In Bitcoin, a block is formed every ten minutes, and contains all transaction information made during those ten minutes. Each block is interconnected to the next and previous blocks. Ensuring that you cannot change the information that was recorded in the previous block.
And although they are registered, transactions are encrypted, so they are not entirely public. You can verify that a Bitcoin was sent from one person to another at a certain time, but to know who was involved in the transaction, you must have a cryptographic key.
The same technology is used for other crypto currencies, such as Litecoin and Ethereum.
What makes this system secure, at least in theory, is decentralization. To “Hack” an operation, it would be necessary to change all transactions in that block, not just one computer, but millions of computers simultaneously, using encryption. The point is that to do this is very difficult or practically impossible.
There is an attack that is increasingly being discussed, known as the “51% Attack”. To put it into practice, you need to control more than half of the mining network. This would allow attackers to create an “Alternate Version” of the original block chain, reversing transactions that have already been made and “searching” for values that had already been used (Practice known as Double Spend). To do this, attackers need a large computer infrastructure.
Blockchain is designed to serve as the basis for a virtual currency, but its applications aren’t restricted to just that. Enthusiasts argue that technology can be used in any situation involving an intermediary or several parties who do not trust each other.
Ripple, for example, does this with international money transfers between “Banks” financial institutions, a process that has traditionally been time consuming and involves multiple intermediaries. In Belo Horizonte, the “City Hall” uses the Blockchain to register the revolving parking lot in the city.
There are also experiments using Blockchain to track the production of a food. For example, the customer may use a QR Code on the packaging and access information such as place and date of production, packaging and shipping. Another use would be to register documents without the need for a “Notary’s Office”, or even to count citizens’ votes on a Blockchain.