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  1. LONDON (Reuters) - Bitcoin slumped more than 10% over the weekend to a two-week low as fears of a crackdown of cryptocurrencies grew on mounting scrutiny of Facebook’s planned Libra digital coin. Bitcoin fell 11.1% from Friday to $9,855 early on Monday, its lowest since July 2. The original cryptocurrency slumped 10.4% on Sunday alone, its second-biggest daily drop this year. It was last up 1.3% at $10,319. Politicians and financial regulators across the world have called for close scrutiny of Facebook’s Libra coin, with concerns ranging from consumer protection and privacy to its potential systemic risks given the social media giant’s global reach. In a sign of widening U.S. attention, a proposal to prevent big technology companies from functioning as financial institutions or issuing digital currencies has been circulated for discussion by Democratic lawmakers, according to a copy of the draft legislation seen by Reuters. U.S. President Donald Trump had last week criticized bitcoin, Libra and other cryptocurrencies, demanding that firms seek a banking charter and subject themselves to U.S. and global regulations if they wanted to “become a bank”. Bitcoin, which initially shrugged off Trump’s Tweet, fell sharply after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called for a halt to Facebook’s project until concerns from privacy to money-laundering were addressed. “Together they have increased the tail risk that the U.S. will look to crack down on it in some way,” said Jamie Farquhar, portfolio manager at crypto firm NKB Group in London. Underscoring the growing attention on Facebook’s plans, Japanese authorities have also set up a working group to look at Libra’s possible impact on monetary policy and financial regulation, government sources told Reuters. European Central Bank policymaker Benoit Coeure is due to deliver a preliminary report on the matter at a meeting of G7 finance ministers this week in Chantilly, north of Paris. Bitcoin climbed nearly 55% in nine days after Facebook unveiled its plans for Libra on June 18, touching an 18-month high of nearly $14,000. The project has boosted hopes among some investors that cryptocurrencies could gain wider acceptance. Source
  2. LONDON (Reuters) - Bitcoin tested 15-month highs on Monday after jumping more than 10% over the weekend, with analysts ascribing the spike to growing optimism over the adoption of cryptocurrencies after Facebook unveiled its Libra digital coin. The biggest cryptocurrency hit $11,247.62 on the Bitstamp exchange late on Sunday, its highest since March last year. It later pulled back, and was last up 0.7% at $10,917. Facebook said last week it planned to launch a new cryptocurrency called Libra, though the announcement immediately led to questions from regulators and politicians across the world. Mati Greenspan, an analyst at eToro, said bitcoin’s gains underscored growing optimism among retail investors that Facebook’s plans were part of a wider trend of major companies adopting cryptocurrencies. “Traders are speculating on future involvement of large players like Facebook,” he said. “They believe that Libra will create mass awareness of cryptocurrencies and act as a gateway to adoption.” Other traders cited geopolitical factors from tensions in the Gulf region to the U.S.-China trade war as fuelling interest in bitcoin, which has more than doubled in price since March. Some investors have looked to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a hedge against possible declines in domestic currencies, traders said. Cryptocurrency markets are opaque, and it is difficult to pinpoint exact catalysts for price moves. Between 2200 GMT Friday and 0300 GMT Saturday alone, bitcoin rose more than 10%. Thomas Puech of Enigma Securities, a London-based firm that specializes in larger size over-the-counter cryptocurrency deals, said growing tensions between the United States and Iran were “gas” for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In late March, bitcoin broke out of a spell of limited price moves. It has since risen more than 160%, an ascent peppered by double-digit price swings that have reminded some of its retail investor-fueled 2017 bubble. Bitcoin’s volatility has been a boon to larger investors such as hedge funds, and other investors searching for returns as central banks across the world lean towards lower interest rates, said Puech. Gold prices hovered near a six-year high on Monday, with demand for the safe-haven metal boosted by dovish signals from major central banks. Bitcoin, which accounts for over half of the cryptocurrency market, has more than trebled in price since touching its lowest this year in January. Source
  3. Bitcoin rises above $10,000 for the first time in a year Bitcoin's value has risen three-fold since December. Enlarge Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images Bitcoin's price has soared above $10,000 for the first time since early 2018, a new milestone in the virtual currency's latest comeback. The price has more than tripled since hitting rock-bottom last December around $3,200. That was after crashing from an all-time high around $19,500 in December 2017. As always, it's difficult to be sure what drives changes in bitcoin's price. But one obvious candidate is Facebook's announcement of its own cryptocurrency, called Libra, earlier this week. Libra is a potential bitcoin competitor, but the announcement also brings added legitimacy to the overall cryptocurrency market. Also, as the world's most valuable cryptocurrency, bitcoin frequently serves as a medium of exchange among other cryptocurrencies—much as the US dollar acts as the default medium of exchange for global trade. So the introduction of Facebook's new cryptocurrency next year—and perhaps copycat efforts down the road—could bolster bitcoin's value. Bitcoin's rise is part of a broader cryptocurrency boom. Ether, the currency of the Ethereum network, is now worth more than $290, a 2019 record. Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Monero, and Dash are all at or near 2019 highs. Source: Bitcoin rises above $10,000 for the first time in a year (Ars Technica)
  4. LONDON (Reuters) - Bitcoin’s price skidded 12% lower on Thursday to around $11,383 after hitting an 18-month high of nearly $14,000 earlier this week. FILE PHOTO: A bitcoin sign is seen during Riga Comm 2017 The world’s biggest cryptocurrency has surged in value since April and has risen more than 260%, although it remains below its all-time high of nearly $20,000 hit in December 2017. Analysts say Facebook’s announcement that it would offer its own cryptocurrency Libra has revived interest in digital currencies, while investors seeking safety have also pushed up bitcoin’s price. Source
  5. Hugh Haney was identified when he tried to cash out on an exchange. A man was arrested on July 18 for trying to launder $19 million of bitcoin earned on the darknet drug marketplace Silk Road, according to Homeland Security. Hugh Haney faces one charge of money laundering and one count of engaging in a financial transaction using illegally-gotten gains. If guilty, he could face up to 30 years behind bars. Homeland Security identified Haney after he allegedly moved stolen funds to an unidentified crypto exchange. Haney claimed the large amounts of bitcoin were proceeds from bitcoin mining, but Homeland Security says it has evidence which can trace transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain back to the Silk Road. Once the bitcoin—which was earned between 2012 and 2013—was transferred into cash, Homeland Security officers say that’s when they seized the money. Silk Road was one of the original and most popular darknet marketplaces for buying and selling drugs, and other illegal (and legal) items. It was shut down by the FBI in 2013 and its founder Ross Ulbricht was later sentenced to life in prison without parole. In its two and a half year lifespan, it was reported to have more than 100,000 customers. Source
  6. LONDON (Reuters) - Bitcoin fell 8% on Tuesday, breaching $10,000 for the first time in two weeks after U.S. lawmakers grilled Facebook on its cryptocurrency plans, as political and regulatory scrutiny of digital coins intensifies. The biggest cryptocurrency fell to $9828.89 by around 1630 GMT after David Marcus, the company’s top executive overseeing the planned Libra project, answered questions from the Senate Banking Committee. Earlier in the day, bitcoin had lost around 3%. Traders said the trigger for the selling was not immediately clear. During the testimony, a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money as the social media giant fights to get Washington onside for its planned Libra project, aimed for launch in 2020. Source
  7. The Presidential manure is causing Bitcoin’s price to come up roses. Please sir, may we have another? Crypto Twitter had a field day yesterday President Trump delivered his tuppence-worth about Bitcoin and Facebook’s Libra project. “I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air,” said the President, in his first-ever tweet on the subject. “If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks, both National and International,” he added. But for cryptocurrency, as a whole, his tweets were nothing except good news. Here’s why. 1. As Trump knows, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. For cryptocurrency, it’s all about adoption. But how can you adopt something if you don’t even know what it is? Trump’s tweet to his 62 million followers presumably reaches some millions of people who are, shall we say, not super sophisticated about crypto. Indeed, Google searches for Bitcoin spiked post-Trump tweet. Coinbase CEO, Brian Armstrong tweeted that the POTUS tweets mark the third stage in the four stages that will lead to adoption: “getting ignored, getting laughed at, getting fought, and then winning.” And Jeremy Allaire, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs-backed Circle, tweeted that Trump’s tweets could be the “largest bull signal” for Bitcoin of all time. Within half an hour of Trump’s tweet, Bitcoin had risen by 2%. 2. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. If Trump is for something, automatically, much of the U.S. and the rest of the world will take the other side. Presidential hopeful Democrat Andrew Yang is already on the side of ethical crypto. Trump being opposed to it will only make the issue political, and force the rest of the pack to declare themselves. Indeed, Trump’s ignorant rant might even force Rep. Maxine Waters to soften her hardline, anti-Facebook position. She sure doesn’t want to be Trump’s comrade in arms. 3. Trump will focus his attacks on Facebook History will not remember Donald Trump as a great intellect. It will be far easier for him to rail against Facebook—which he’s already targeted as being biased against the Right. That will only increase the onus of the social network to spend gazillions of dollars appeasing regulators—which will benefit bitcoin and the rest of the crypto industry. Pull up your lawn chair and grab some popcorn, kids while we watch this play out. Source
  8. Some of the brightest minds in America are pooling their brain power to create a cryptocurrency that’s designed to do what Bitcoin has proved incapable of: processing thousands of transactions a second. Professors from seven U.S. colleges including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley have teamed up to create a digital currency that they hope can achieve speeds Bitcoin users can only dream of without compromising on its core tenant of decentralization. The Unit-e, as the virtual currency is called, is the first initiative of Distributed Technology Research, a non-profit foundation formed by the academics with backing from hedge fund Pantera Capital Management LP to develop decentralized technologies. Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and the first payment network to allow parties to transact directly without needing to trust each another or to rely on a central authority. Yet, while it has built a following among developers, anarchists and speculators, mainstream adoption remains elusive. That’s in no small part the product of its design, where inbuilt restrictions have constrained its performance and scalability and, as a result, reduced its usefulness as an everyday unit of payment, DTR said in a research paper. The academics are designing a virtual coin they expect will be able to process transactions faster than even Visa. “The mainstream public is aware that these networks don’t scale,’’ Joey Krug, co-chief investment officer at Pantera Capital in San Francisco, who is also a member of the DTR council, said in an interview. “We are on the cusp of something where if this doesn’t scale relatively soon, it may be relegated to ideas that were nice but didn’t work in practice: more like 3D printing than the internet.’’ DTR plans to launch Unit-e in the second half of the year and aims to process as many as 10,000 transactions per second. That’s worlds away from the current average of between 3.3 and 7 transactions per second for Bitcoin and 10 to 30 transactions for Ethereum. It’s also multiples quicker than Visa, a centralized network, which processes around 1,700 transactions per second on average. Bitcoin’s scalability challenge is a function of its design: the frequency within which new blocks, as records of transactions are known, can be created and their maximum size are capped. To achieve greater speed and scalability, DTR deconstructed the blockchain technology that supports most cryptocurrencies and sought to improve almost every element of it, said Pramod Viswanath, a researcher on the project and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The group first sought to understand the blockchain’s performance limits so as to design technologies that operate as close to these limits as possible, said Viswanath. The academics have published research on all aspects of blockchain technology and are relying on new mechanisms they designed for reaching consensus, as well as new ways of sharding — a process whereby each node maintains only part of the blockchain, thus increasing speed — and new payment channel networks, to reach their targeted transaction speed. The cryptocurrency industry is also very aware of the issue and a number of initiatives are underway to increase transaction speeds. Key efforts include the Lightning Network, which is to supposed to make crypto payments faster and cheaper by removing the need to record every transaction on the blockchain, while another, Segregated Witness, or SegWit, also aims to make transactions faster. David Chaum, a pioneer of virtual currencies, is also working on a new platform that would allow digital money to be traded more quickly. Success for Unit-e is far from guaranteed. While in the long-term the best technology should win out, in the short-term there is a risk that the new currency fails to gain traction, said Andrew Miller, head of the Unit-e independent technical steering committee and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The Swiss-based foundation brings together professionals from the fields of economics to computer science and cryptography, and its members also include academics from Carnegie Mellon University and the Universities of Southern California and Washington. It is funded by Pantera and some private individuals, said foundation council Chairman Babak Dastmaltschi, while declining to elaborate further. Unit-e is the group’s first initiative and future work could cover so-called smart contracts, said Viswanath. “Bitcoin has shown us that distributed trust is possible but its just not scaling at a dimension that could make it a truly global everyday money,” said Viswanath. “It was a breakthrough that has the capacity to change human lives but that won’t happen unless the technology can be scaled up.” Source
  9. This probably isn’t the best way to get the FBI’s attention. Multiple outlets in India reported over the weekend that an unnamed 18-year-old boy from the Jalaun district is being charged with multiple crimes after he called the FBI about 50 times with bomb threats against the Miami International Airport. Local authorities were contacted by the American law enforcement agency and said an investigation revealed the boy was upset that the FBI was unresponsive to his claims that a fraudster had conned him out of around $1,000 worth of Bitcoin. A representative for the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) told reporters that investigators tracked down the accused through his IP address. They said that he’d photoshopped a fraudulent Aadhaar identity card which he then used to set up an email account under a false name. Using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), he reportedly proceeded to make about 50 calls to the FBI through the phony email account between October 2 and 31, and also called the Miami airport directly on five occasions. According to the Times of India, officials quoted the boy’s confession. He reportedly admitted: The Hindustan Times reports that the boy was given $1,000 by his father to invest in Bitcoin and he’d been doing well with the investment before meeting a stranger online promising to increase his returns. The person allegedly made off with all of his Bitcoin and the boy attempted to get the FBI to track the conman down, to no avail. But officials from the ATS claimed that the FBI had taken the case and was in the midst of its investigation when the threats started. The charges he faces do not require arrest and authorities pointed out that he’s known to be “a bright student.” As prices of cryptocurrencies have taken a dive over the last year, we’ve seen horror stories of people going into debt and losing their life savings in the failing market. Theft also continues to be rampant. In June, Carbon Black, a cybersecurity research firm, estimated that $1.1 billion worth of cryptocurrencies had been stolen in 2018. The boy in India’s reaction was obviously over the top, ridiculous, and counterproductive. But it’s an example of the ways in which the chaos of cryptocurrencies can have ripple effects across so many peoples’ lives. More at: [Times of India, Hindustan Times via The Next Web] Source
  10. Bitcoin just ended its worst-performing month in seven years in terms of month-over-month price declines. The world’s largest cryptocurrency began November at an average price across exchanges of $6,341, but as of 0:00 UTC on December 1 is trading at just $3,964, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index. As it stands, the near $2,400 drop in bitcoin’s price has created a -37.4 percent monthly performance, which is its worst on record since August 2011, when it fell from roughly $8 to $4.80 to print a -40 percent monthly loss, according to data from the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI). Since bitcoin is the largest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalization by a considerable margin, now comprising 53.5 percent of the total market, all other cryptocurrencies tend to follow its lead when it comes to price performance. As a result, the broader market suffered substantial losses in November, with just one of the world’s largest 25 cryptocurrencies able to post a monthly gain. The outlier was bitcoin SV, a fork off of the original bitcoin cash blockchain, yet it has only existed long enough to accrue 22 days of pricing data on CoinMarketCap. As can be seen in the above graph, double-digits losses were common among the world’s largest cryptocurrencies in November. Tezos (XTZ) was the worst performer of the month, reflecting a 61.5 percent loss with bitcoin cash (BCH) just 3 percent behind. What’s more, the average performance of the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization was -30 percent, while the average performance of all 25 was -37 percent. Market Cap Monthly Chart Since market capitalization is a function of the price of a cryptocurrency multiplied by its circulating supply, the capitalization of the total market takes a hit whenever prices experience a steep drop. At the beginning of November, the total market capitalization recorded a value of $203 billion, yet today that figure records $130 billion, a 35 percent loss. The total capitalization of the cryptocurrency market has now lost over $690 billion and 83 percent of its value since reaching its all time high north of $820 billion this past January, according to CoinMarketCap. Source
  11. Bitcoin hits $14,000 for the first time since early 2018 Bitcoin hit a low of $3,200 in late 2018. Enlarge Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images News 9 with 9 posters participating The price of one bitcoin rose above $14,000 on Saturday morning. It was the first time the virtual currency reached that level since January 2018. As I write this, the currency is trading for around $13,800. Bitcoin, a currency whose name has become synonymous with price volatility, has seen three major bull runs in the past. Bitcoin's price peaked around $30 in June 2011, around $1,100 in January 2014, and just below $20,000 in December 2017. Each peak was followed by a wrenching crash where the currency lost more than 80 percent of its value. After the last bubble peaked in December 2017, the price steadily deflated until it reached a low around $3,200 in late 2018. It reached a peak around $13,800 in mid-2019, fell to $4,000 in early 2020, and has now soared back to $14,000. Bitcoin fans are hoping for another boom that pushes the currency past the highs of 2017, but that's far from a sure thing. Bitcoin's price has risen even though early ideas didn't pan out Early excitement about bitcoin, from roughly 2010 to 2015, was based on hopes that it would become a mainstream payment network. That never panned out. During periods of heavy use, the bitcoin network can get congested, leading to sky-high fees and hours-long delays for lower-valued transactions to clear. Proposals to dramatically expand the network's capacity have been strongly opposed by bitcoin traditionalists. The third bitcoin boom in 2017 was driven by a proliferation of new cryptocurrencies and a fad for "initial coin offerings." People who wanted to invest in new blockchain-based currencies would often first purchase bitcoins and then swap the bitcoins for a new token, boosting bitcoin's price in the process. Many of these offerings turned out to be worthless, souring investors on the concept and triggering a crash in 2018. It's not clear what's driving bitcoin's latest resurgence. One significant development has been the emergence of "decentralized finance" services that offer blockchain-based alternatives to loans and other traditional bank services. While these services mostly aren't based on bitcoin, rising interest in other cryptocurrencies tends to push up bitcoin's price. Boosters hope that these new "DeFi" services based on smart contracts will disrupt the conventional financial system. I remain skeptical. Bitcoin also continues to attract interest from mainstream investors who simply want to diversify into a new asset class. Payment provider Square likely contributed to the current rally in early October when it announced it was buying $50 million in bitcoin—representing about 1 percent of the firm's assets—as a way of diversifying its investments. Square described bitcoin as an "instrument of economic empowerment," touting the technology's potential to expand access to financial services globally. Square has offered a bitcoin trading service since 2018. Bitcoin hits $14,000 for the first time since early 2018
  12. Ether tumbles below $100 as altcoins log double-digit losses Cryptocurrency prices fell sharply on Friday, as another bout of selling took digital currencies to fresh lows. Bitcoin, BTCUSD, -3.48% the world’s No. 1 digital currency, crashed through support at $3,500, falling more than 10% to a 15-month low at $3,230 on the Kraken exchange. A minor bounce has a single bitc,oin currently fetching $3265.00, down 9.3% since 5 p.m. Thursday. “The price of bitcoin has crippled on the back of this and I think it is likely that the price may not only drop below the $2K mark, but with this kind of momentum behind it, the price can test the 1500 level,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analysts at Think Markets U.K. in a research note. “Simply put, the bad news keeps coming just like cockroaches coming out of a hole.” But Aslam said the rout has to stop somewhere, which presents a golden opportunity for crypto believers. “This is a crypto market which has the ability to blow your mind and the downside is limited and the price at its current level represents an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. Bitcoin has now fallen 84% from its all-time high above $19,000. Altcoin collapse sees Ether trade below $100 Altcoins, or digital coins other than bitcoin, haven't fared any better. Ether, ETHUSD, -10.08% tumbled to a 19-month low at $82.44, down 13.2%, Litecoin LTCUSD, -8.14% was off 16.8% at $23.25, XRP, XRPUSD, -3.94% was down 10% at 29 cents and Bitcoin Cash BCHUSD, -9.16% made another record low, trading under $100 to $97,70, down 12.7%. The crypto-wide selloff shed a further $10 billion off the market value of all cryptocurrencies, which is at a 15-month low of $106 billion, according to data from CoinMarketCap. Bitcoin futures traded spot prices lower on Friday. The Cboe Global Markets December contract XBTZ8, -7.74% ended down 8.5% at $3,282.50 and the CME Group December contract BTCZ8, -7.78% finished Friday down 8.3% at $3,300. Source
  13. Richard Stallman, the fervently committed founder of the free software movement, is discussing the term “libertarian,” when he stops talking abruptly and says, “Hello?” I tell him I’m still listening, but he explains that the confused greeting wasn’t intended for me. Instead, he says a man’s voice – neither mine nor an echo of his – had just cut in with one word: “liberty.” “Does that sort of thing happen a lot?” I ask. I hadn’t heard anything. “Yes,” he says. “It wasn’t a voice I recognize.” He added, “It could be … ” Then a quick burst of static made his next words inaudible. It was a strange incident, but apparently not a new experience for Stallman, whose emails urge any NSA or FBI agents reading to “follow Snowden’s example” and blow the whistle. Stallman seems to check all of the old school cypherpunk boxes: in addition to being an Edward Snowden admirer, he’s a hacker of the original ’70s and ’80s generation, a privacy activist, and a frequent invoker of liberty. As a result, cryptocurrency enthusiasts could be forgiven for thinking Stallman was also head-over-heels for bitcoin. He’s not. Before his oration on libertarianism was interrupted, he said that the right-wingers who made up a significant portion of bitcoin’s early adopters don’t really deserve the label. His own pro-freedom views are more “libertarian” than bitcoiners’ “anti-socialism,” he argued. As we spoke, it became clear that Stallman doesn’t find the decade-old technology all that appealing, for more reasons than just politics. “I have never used it myself,” he told CoinDesk. If that’s surprising, keep in mind that fine distinctions matter a great deal to Stallman. For example, he wrote a 9,000-word explainer on the difference between the terms GNU and Linux. In 40-ish words: GNU, which Stallman proposed in 1983, is an operating system using exclusively free software. Linux, created years later by Linus Torvalds, is a kernel. Many refer to packages combining the two as “Linux,” but Stallman insists that the proper term is GNU/Linux or just GNU. He also wrote 3,000 words on the differences between free software and open source software. Advocates of both push for the freedom to use, study, change and redistribute software, but Stallman said that those similarities conceal “a deeply important moral disagreement” centered on freedom and human rights, which the free software movement stresses. The GNU Project, which Stallman founded, is working on an alternative digital payments system called Taler, which is based on cryptography but is not – forgive the hair-splitting – a cryptocurrency. The Taler project’s maintainer Christian Grothoff told CoinDesk that the system is, rather, designed for a “post-blockchain” world. Concerned with privacy… It doesn’t even seem like the technology has been around long enough to already be thinking of a world after it, but to Stallman, bitcoin isn’t suitable as a digital payment system. His biggest complaint: bitcoin’s poor privacy protections. He told CoinDesk, “What I’d really like is a way to make purchases anonymously from various kinds of stores, and unfortunately it wouldn’t be feasible for me with bitcoin.” Using a crypto exchange would allow that company and ultimately the government to identify him, he said. And as for mining the bitcoin himself, it’s a big investment and besides, he continued, “I’ve got other things I’d rather do.” Asked what he thought about so-called privacy coins, Stallman said he’d gotten an expert to assess their potential, and “for each one he would point out some serious problems, perhaps in its security or its scalability.” And speaking broadly, Stallman continued: …But not ‘perfect’ privacy That pessimism aside, the GNU Project’s Taler does share some aspects with cryptocurrency projects – most notably it aims to fill the same niche. Start with Taler’s intellectual lineage. It’s based on blind signatures, a cryptographic technique invented by David Chaum, whose DigiCash was among the first attempts at creating secure electronic money. Plus, Taler’s attempt to create a digital money that resists surveillance by governments and payments companies aligns it with many cryptocurrency projects. Yet, Taler does not attempt to bypass centralized authority. Payments are processed by openly centralized “exchanges” rather than peer-to-peer networks of miners because, Grothoff said, such a system “would again enable dangerous, money laundering kind of practice.” Indeed, in a break with the anti-government ethos that has tended to characterize bitcoin and some of its peers, Taler’s design explicitly tries to block opportunities for tax evasion. Speaking to this, Stallman told CoinDesk, “We need a state to do many vital jobs, including fund research, fund education, provide people with medical care – provide everyone with medical care – build roads, maintain order, provide justice, including to those who are not rich and powerful, and so the state’s got to bring in a lot of money.” What a break from the political leanings of many of bitcoin’s first adherents. Stallman continued: Privacy in the Taler system, then, is limited to users spending their digital cash. They are shielded from surveillance because, Grothoff said, “the exchange, when coins are being redeemed, cannot tell if it was customer A or customer B or customer C who received the coin, because they all look identical from the exchange.” “Nobody,” he added, “exactly knows who has how many tokens.” Merchants (or anyone) receiving payments, on the other hand, do so visibly and in the open, making it possible for governments to assess taxes on their income – not to mention harder for the recipients to participate in money laundering. A place for crypto? While Taler is not a cryptocurrency and doesn’t have a native asset (there are no talers or TalerCoins), as a new payment rail for existing assets, the system could support cryptocurrency at some point. Just as euros (the first currency that will be supported by the system), dollars and yen could all be sent using Taler, so could bitcoin. Similarly, while Taler is not a blockchain, a blockchain-based system could take the place of a bank within the system. For users to be able to move euros into the Taler wallet, though, Taler exchanges will need to interact with the traditional banking system to withdraw that money. In this same way, a blockchain-based system could work with Taler exchanges to allow users to get access to their cryptocurrency. Grothoff compared the act of moving bank deposits to a Taler digital wallet to taking cash out of an ATM. Coins in the wallet are stored locally on a user’s device, and if a user loses the key to their wallet, there’s nothing that can be done to recover it, much like the crypto space’s use of private/public key pairs. Currently, Taler is in talks with European banks to allow withdrawal into the Taler wallet and also re-deposit from the Taler system back into the traditional banking system. While the launch date on the project’s website still lists 2018, Grothoff said, it’s dependent of how quickly discussions with banks can be wrapped up. And he said, “The banks are not necessarily easy or cheap to deal with.” Although, nothing about the traditional banking system per se is essential to Taler’s functioning (except perhaps for regulatory compliance). In principle, the “register-based system” that Taler plugs into could be a bank account or, in theory, a blockchain, said Grothoff. If Taler gains traction, developers can experiment with different implementations and integrations – using banks or blockchains or whatever other register system they prefer. After all, Grothoff said: Source
  14. 10 bitcoin kidnapping and theft cases from around the world By Jai Pratap There have also been cases of stealing millions of dollars worth of bitcoins. Here's the list of 10 infamous bitcoin theft and kidnapping. Since the bitcoin has become mainstream, crime related to cryptocurrency has also risen around the world. There have been multiple cases when a kidnapper asks for ransom in cryptocurrency so that he can take advantage of the transaction’s nature. Some kidnappers managed to escape the police while others got caught. The unregulated and anonymous nature of cryptocurrency has attracted the attention of many organized criminal groups, and crimes related to it are continuously increasing around the world. There have also been cases where hackers have managed to steal millions of dollars worth of bitcoins. According to cybersecurity company carbon black, around 1.1 billion dollars worth of cryptocurrency was stolen alone last year. And apparently, it was easy for hackers to commit this crime, most of the hackers used malware that is readily available on the dark web, and it only cost around 1 dollar. Here’s the list of 10 infamous bitcoin theft and kidnapping that took place around the world. 1. American Businessman kidnapped for one million dollars in bitcoin In one of the most recent high profile kidnapping where kidnapper asked for a ransom in bitcoin took place in Costa Rica. According to reports, a local gang in San Jose kidnapped the American businessman William Sean Creighton Kopko on September 24 of last year and asked for one million dollars in bitcoin from the family. Kopko owns a gambling business “5Dimes’. After a few months of kidnapping, the family paid the kidnappers what they asked for, but Kopko never returned home. In January, police arrested 12 people as suspects, and 3 of them had already flown to Spain, but police managed to capture them too. As of now, there is no trace of the businessman, and the police are still investigating. 2. Kidnappers asked for 10 million dollars in the cryptocurrency in Norway. Anne-Elisabeth Falkevik Hagen, 68, disappeared from her home on 3st1 October, the wife of Norweigan business tycoon Tom Hagen, one of the wealthiest man of the country. This time kidnappers asked for 10 million dollars in cryptocurrency Monero. According to police, Mrs. Hagen was in her house in Oslo when she was kidnapped, and a note saying that” if the ransom is not paid, she will be killed” was found. Her husband was the first person to see the note. The police are still investigating the case and have told the family not to give in to the demands of the kidnapper. According to many reports, the chances of Mrs. Hagen being alive are very slim. As the case has become a high profile, police are also looking at the situation with different angles. Tom Hagen has a net worth of 200 million dollars and owns 70% of the electricity company Elkraft. The police went public with the case to generate tips, and they also mentioned that international authorities are co-ordinating to catch the kidnappers. 3. The kidnapping of a Teenage boy in South Africa. In May of last year, a teenage boy was kidnapped in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Kidnappers asked for a hundred thousand dollars in bitcoin for the safe return of the boy. After a few months of hard work by police, they managed to grab the kidnappers. In November one kidnapper was arrested from Germiston in Gauteng, while the second was arrested in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, on December 30. 13-year boy safely returned home to his family, and it was not disclosed whether the ransom was paid or not. This was the first kidnapping in the country where the payment was asked for to be paid in bitcoin. 4. Blockchain expert kidnapped in Ukraine On December 26, Pavel Lerner, a leading analyst and blockchain expert, was abducted by masked people. According to a local news website, Lerner encountered six people in masks, and they pushed him into a minibus on gunpoint. Lerner worked in EXMO, a Uk based crypto exchange firm. Kidnappers asked for one million dollars in bitcoins. Just a few weeks later Lerner was released by the kidnappers when they got the ransom amount. Police never found out who the kidnappers were and it also remained disclosed who paid the ransom money. 5. $840,000 Bitcoin ransom plot foiled in India A gang of 7 members in Rajasthan, India kidnapped two crypto traders Shaikh and Shazad and asked for 80 bitcoins worth of 850,000 dollars. But the plan did not succeed, and police arrested al the members of gangs in operation that went for 13 hours. Locals reported police about a man with a gun on a road, and police grabbed the man after 20 minutes of chase, and then he told the police about his partners that were near in building. After long search police on July 15, late-night arrested all members. Police said media that this gang had previously been involved in extortion and other crimes as well. 6. Kidnapping for bitcoin in NewYork Earlier last year, a businessman was kidnapped from a cab when he was heading home. The kidnapper on gunpoint asked the businessman to give his apartment keys and 24 digit password to his hardware wallet that stored his cryptocurrency. The businessman was able to escape from the cab, but he had given his keys and password to the kidnapper. Meza (kidnapper) went to his home and transferred half-million dollars worth of Ethereum to his account. Later he was captured by the police as he was caught on the apartment building’s surveillance camera. 7. Ransomware crypto locker In 2013, Crypto Locker gave its victims three days to pay the ransom via bitcoin or else their private key would be deleted permanently. As many as 40% of people gave bitcoin in ransom, and around 27 million dollars worth of transactions happened because of that malware. Some users got their money with the help of authorities. Scammer’s total ransom that he got away with is estimated to be around 3 million dollars and it was never found out who was behind the scam. 8. HC7 Planetary ransomware HC7 Planetary is ransomware increasingly affecting machines across the globe. The software infiltrates a computer and goes on to infect other devices on a given network. This ransomware asks up to 5,000 dollars in Ethereum to restore access to the affected system. This malware has affected many systems so far, but as security technology is getting better most of the ransomware is easy to detect. 9. Ryuk ransomware collected 3.75 million dollars in bitcoin Ryuk in just five months of this year has collected 705 bitcoin in ransom, which is worth of 3.75 million dollars. This ransomware encrypts all data of the host and locks it until the victim contacts the hacker and pays the ransom in Bitcoin. The highest ransom has been up to 99 Bitcoin. 10. Israelian hacker stole 1.7 million dollars from Europeans Gigi, a 31-year old from Israel, reportedly stole Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dash from various foreigners, including Belgians, Dutch, and Germans. So far, this cybercriminal has stolen 1.7 million dollars in multiple cryptocurrencies. Gigi used malware that would attack the victims’ computers and allow him to take cryptocurrencies. Gigi is currently under arrest and is yet to be convicted of his crimes. Source
  15. Founder and operator of defunct bitcoin exchange Bitfunder gets 14 months jail time for lying to regulators about the loss of more than 6,000 bitcoins. A crypto criminal case that dates back to 2013 has finally come to an end. The founder and operator of the now-defunct Bitcoin exchange Bitfunder, Jon Montroll, was sentenced yesterday to 14 months in jail for lying to federal regulators about a hack that cost his customers more than 6,000 bitcoins—worth nearly $70 million at today’s prices. Montroll allegedly defrauded his customers by failing to disclose a hack of the exchange in July 2013. The Bitfunder operator then attempted to cover it up by misappropriating their funds to hide the lost bitcoins, according to federal prosecutors. The ordeal initially caught the eye of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the fall of 2013. When questioned about his bitcoin exchange’s operations and the breach of its systems by the SEC in November 2013, Montroll allegedly misled regulators, assuring them that his exchange’s funds were safe through a phony screenshot of balance statements. Montroll pleaded guilty to federal charges of securities fraud and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 14 months in prison and three years probation by a federal judge in the Southern District of New York. But the trouble doesn’t end there for Bitfunder’s founder, who also faces civil charges stemming from the case. In February 2018, the SEC charged Montroll with “operating an unregistered securities exchange and defrauding users of that exchange” in a civil-enforcement action. The Commission also alleged that Montroll sold “unregistered securities” that were supposedly “investments” in his business, and absconded with those funds as well. Source
  16. The feds just seized Silk Road’s $1 billion stash of bitcoin Forfeiture comes two days after mystery party transferred 69,369 BTC out of wallet. BTC Keychain 51 with 44 posters participating On Wednesday, Ars reported that someone had transferred close to $1 billion in bitcoin out of a wallet likely associated with the Silk Road crime bazaar. Now we know who that mystery party is: the US Department of Justice, which in 2013 shut down Silk Road and went on to put its founder, Ross Ulbricht, behind bars for life. “The successful prosecution of Silk Road’s founder in 2015 left open a billion-dollar question. Where did the money go?” US Attorney David Anderson said in a news release, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Today’s forfeiture complaint answers this open question at least in part. $1 billion of these criminal proceeds are now in the United States’ possession.” Silk Road and Ulbricht were among the most popular and successful online crime figures in Internet history. Hosted on the anonymous Dark Web, the service brought together sellers and buyers of drugs, fake IDs, and just about any other kind of illicit good or service imaginable. There were thousands of dealers and "well over 100,000 buyers," US attorneys wrote in a civil complaint filed on Thursday. The complaint said that Silk Road generated revenue of over 9.5 million Bitcoin and collected commissions from these sales of more than 600,000 Bitcoin. Thursday's complaint came five years after Ulbricht was convicted and sentenced to two life terms plus 40 years. The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation arm assisted in tracking down the intricate scheme to obfuscate the recipients of the proceeds. The seizure came two days after blockchain analysts noticed someone had transferred 69,369 BTC—worth about $975 million—out of an account that had received them from Silk Road. The wallet, which remained quiet since 2015, was the world’s fourth biggest. “Criminal proceeds should not remain in the hands of the thieves,” said Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson in a news release, according to the Chronicle. “Through CI’s [Criminal Investigation] expertise in following the money, we were able to track down the illicit funds.” The feds just seized Silk Road’s $1 billion stash of bitcoin
  17. The suspect, only identified by the initials B.B.A., second from left, is presented at a press conference at the headquarters of the National Police in South Jakarta on Friday. (Antara Photo/Reno Esnir) Police arrested a 21-year-old man in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on Friday for allegedly using malicious software to extort victims and steal financial data for personal gain. Yogyakarta Police spokesman Senior Comr. Yuliyanto said the suspect, only identified by the initials B.B.A., sent phishing emails to at least 500 randomly selected addresses to spread ransomware, or software designed to block access to computer systems until a ransom is paid. The suspect had reportedly been acting alone since 2014 and collected 300 Bitcoins, or equivalent to around Rp 31.5 billion ($2.25 million), Yuliyanto said. He said the investigation started after a tipoff that the suspect had hacked the computer system of a company based in San Antonio, Texas. The suspect allegedly also stole credit card data from internet users for personal gain. The National Police's cybercrime unit is investigating the case. Yuliyanto said the Yogyakarta Police are assisting in the investigation and will forward evidence to the National Police headquarters in Jakarta. "The evidence includes a Harley Davidson motorcycle and several computers. We will send these [to Jakarta]," he said. The suspect has been in custody in Jakarta since his arrest. The suspect lived in a boarding house in Sleman for the past two years, Yuliyanto said, without providing further detail. Senior Comr. Rickynaldo Chairul, head of the police's cybercrime investigation unit, said separately in Jakarta that the suspect had sent emails containing hyperlinks that directed unsuspecting recipients to his webmail server, which would then install ransomware on recipients' computer systems and prevent them from accessing their data. In the case involving the US company, the suspect threatened to delete its data if it failed to pay the ransom within three days. "The suspect demanded the ransom be paid in Bitcoin before restoring access to the victim's mail server," Rickynaldo said. The suspect reportedly used the email address, [email protected], in his communications with victims. He faces up to six years in prison under the Electronic Information and Transactions Law. Source: Police Arrest Yogyakarta Man Who Used Ransomware Attacks to Amass 300 Bitcoins (via Jakarta Globe) p/s: For those who can understand Indonesian language, there's a news reporting on that. https://cyberthreat.id/read/3532/Pertama-Kali-dalam-Sejarah-Polri-Tangkap-Hacker-Ransomware
  18. Cyptocurrency is a prized tool for many cybercriminals, allowing them to profit anonymously from the sale of illegal goods and services, or from ransoms, as well as make purchases necessary to further their illicit schemes. But as anonymous as it may be, with users identified only by an indecipherable string of numbers and letters, cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin, is not untraceable. With all bitcoin transactions published in a public blockchain, investigators can still glean clues from patterns of exchanges, and home in on minute details that can tie a suspicious transaction to an unwitting suspect. “It’s follow the money. That statement from Watergate still applies,” said John Michener, chief scientist at Casaba Security, in an interview with Forensic Magazine along with Casaba co-founder Jason Glassberg. “It’s about collecting all these little bread crumbs and following the trail to make a more complete picture,” said Glassberg. “By collecting these various pieces of evidence, these little crumbs, you can follow the trail and make a pretty convincing case.” Links on the Blockchain A few of these “crumbs” left behind along the bitcoin trail were seen in the recent indictment of 12 Russian agents accused of hacking the Clinton Campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee using spearphishing tactics as well as malware to steal sensitive information and emails. The agents allegedly funneled much of this stolen information through rented servers—which they paid for, according to authorities, with bitcoin. It is unclear exactly how U.S. authorities first managed to identify who was behind each bitcoin address involved in the scheme, but the links become clear in the indictment—the same bitcoin address was used both to buy spearphishing domains, including qooqle.com and account-gooogle.com, and the dcleaks.com domain later used to leak the stolen emails. Another bitcoin address was used to purchase a VPN account used to log into the Twitter handle @Guccifer_2, a persona used to leak more DNC documents, and then the same address was used to lease a server that hosted dcleaks.com. This link is important, as Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks claimed to be separate entities. It is details like these that show how bitcoin transactions on the public blockchain can be an important investigative tool, revealing connections that may not have been detected otherwise. “The digital wallet is going to have a specific identifier, and if you see the same wallet being accessed or deposited into from a number of disparate or illegal sources, that gives you just another piece of tracing ability,” noted Glassberg. The ability to plainly see these transactions—where they came from, who they’re going to and in what precise amount—makes bitcoin even more traceable than another type of non-“crypto” currency. “Bitcoin is not cash (…) Cash is true anonymous and moves around,” explained Michener. “(Bitcoin is) a(n) observation-resistant, but not observation-proof, transfer mechanism.” Exposure Through Exchanges As mentioned, the Russia indictment does not reveal exactly how investigators managed to track specific bitcoin transactions back to the 12 agents, but there are ways of doing this, as Michener and Glassberg explain. “Under normal conditions, you’re going to buy and sell bitcoin through exchanges. The legal exchanges are registered, because the banking laws around the world have KYC requirements—know your customer. The problem there is that the exchanges, certainly the legal ones, are going to want to know name, identity, credit card numbers, stuff that you’d use for tracing individuals’ accountability,” Michener said. “If I buy cryptocurrency, bitcoin, and then go use it, or I receive bitcoin for some criminal operation, I typically want to exchange this for services, or cash. And that transition to cash exposes them to the most risk, because at some point, they have to identify themselves to some degree.” The application of anti-laundering laws to virtual currencies by the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2013 made it harder for those with criminal intentions to hide their identity, should they ever want to turn in their bitcoin for something more practical. And due to the fluctuating value of bitcoin, and the fact that bitcoin isn’t an accepted as a form of payment by many mainstream businesses, it makes sense that one would want to make use of one of these exchanges at some point. It was the use of a legal, legitimate bitcoin exchange service, Bitstamp, that tripped up disgraced Drug Enforcement Administration agent Carl Force in late 2013 when his suspicious actions and unusually enormous transactions caught the attention of Bitstamp general counsel George Frost, as reported by Ars Technica. While Force—who first tried and failed to use an undercover identity to register for the exchange—was illegally taking huge sums of money for his own personal gain from operators of the darknet marketplace Silk Road, Frost was monitoring his transaction activity, taking note of red flags and ultimately cooperating with authorities in investigating and prosecuting Force. For cybercriminals who don’t want to take the risk of using a legal bitcoin exchange, which may record their identity and cooperate with law enforcement, they can use an illegal bitcoin exchange, which, as Glassberg and Michener explain, has pitfalls of its own. “The mere fact that they’re illegal means (…) before you put your money into them, you have to take a leap of faith that these guys aren’t just going to take your money and run, because what are your alternatives? If I go deposit this cryptocurrency into this illegal exchange and the exchange, it shuts down and takes my money, who am I supposed to complain to?” Glassberg pointed out. “There’s a huge, huge risk.” “Black market exchanges are illegal. Operating one is criminal. The authorities crack down, find somebody—they may well continue running it as a front for a while, trying to track people down, so you don’t know you’re working with a compromised black market,” Michener added. This scenario has played out in the past, such as with the takeover of dark web marketplace Hansa, which law enforcement operated following the takedown of AlphaBay in order to collect information about users purchasing illegal drugs, weapons, stolen credit card information and more. Ultimately, bitcoin may only be as anonymous as the risk criminals will take to keep it that way. Source
  19. SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese state media urged investors to remain rational and not equate Beijing’s support for blockchain as a boost for virtual currencies, after comments by Chinese President Xi Jinping drove up shares in blockchain-related firms and the price of bitcoin. Xi said last week that China should accelerate the development of blockchain technology, a digital ledger that forms the backbone of many cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. His remarks sparked a rush into the shares of firms engaged in, or believed to be engaged in blockchain or digital currency-related businesses. “Blockchain’s future is here but we must remain rational,” the People’s Daily newspaper, which is published by China’s ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary late on Monday. “The rise of blockchain technology was accompanied by that of cryptocurrencies, but innovation in blockchain technology does not mean we should speculate in virtual currencies,” it said. The government cracked down on the country’s cryptocurrency industry in 2017 with regulators banning the practice of creating and selling virtual currencies or tokens and shutting local cryptocurrency trading exchanges, saying that they were facilitating illegal fundraising and pyramid schemes. Chinese officials, however, said at the time that the research into blockchain technology was still encouraged although Xi’s comments were the first time Beijing had publicly thrown such vocal support behind the sector. Beijing is also creating its own central bank-issued digital currency to cut the costs of circulating traditional paper money and boost policymakers’ control of money supply. Source
  20. The price of Bitcoin crashed again yesterday. But the worst may be yet to come, according to crypto industry insiders. We said last month to expect more pain ahead for Bitcoin and the cryptomarket, and here it is. In a trend that is fast becoming a pattern, Bitcoinprice crashed suddenly yesterday, losing as much as $200 of its value in 30 minutes. The cryptocurrency is currently trading below $7,000, a price band it recovered from this past May. This is not the first time that Bitcoin price has shocked analysts this year. A chart for Bitcoin’s price movement in 2019 displays an undulating and craggy pattern, drawing the cryptocurrency’s often perilous attempts to climb out of a protracted bear market. At the moment, one bitcoin is changing hands at $6648.16, a decline of 21.36% from its price 24 hours ago. The crypto market is tanking along with the original cryptocurrency, and all coins in the top 10 most-traded cryptos are in the red. The overall market capitalization of cryptocurrencies has plummeted by almost $10 billion to $178 billion in less than 12 hours. Did PlusToken scammers cause the crash? Various theories are doing the rounds as to the causes for the current crash in Bitcoin prices. One of the most plausible ones focuses on PlusToken—an alleged scam perpetrated earlier this year. A report released by crypto forensics firm Chainalysis yesterday implicated PlusToken promoters, who held considerable amounts of Bitcoin, for the selloff that led to a crash in Bitcoin prices. But that explanation is insufficient to explain Bitcoin’s price action when you consider Bitcoin’s low liquidity and diverse trading venues, stated Brian Kerr, CEO of Kava Labs—a decentralized finance (DeFi) platform for crypto leverage and hedging, in an email interview with Decrypt. According to Kerr, the Chainalysis explanation is suspect because crypto exchanges and OTC desks, which account for a majority of crypto volumes, do not disclose trading figures. “In both cases, onchain movements only correlate with movements rather than indicate them,” he explained. This means that wallet transfers displayed on a cryptocurrency’s blockchain, which were cited in the Chainalysis report, may not be the exact trading numbers for cryptocurrencies. A year-end liquidation by traders and fatigue from the prolonged bear market are also being cited as possible reasons for the price drop. “Many companies and individuals that hold Bitcoin or other crypto still need to liquidate to fund their day to day expenses, and the fear of Bitcoin crashing even further is likely causing people to sell off further,” Simon Yu, CEO of StormX, an e-commerce platform for micro-tasking, told Decrypt. Source
  21. MPs in UK say ‘wild west’ cryptocurrency industry is leaving investors vulnerable Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “wild west” assets that expose investors to a litany of risks and are in urgent need of regulation, MPs on the Treasury select committee have said. The committee said in a report that consumers were left unprotected from an unregulated industry that aided money laundering, while the government and regulators “bumble along” and fail to take action. The Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, the chair of the committee, said the current situation was unsustainable. “Bitcoin and other crypto-assets exist in the wild west industry of crypto-assets. This unregulated industry leaves investors facing numerous risks,” Morgan said. “Given the high price volatility, the hacking vulnerability of exchanges and the potential role in money laundering, the Treasury committee strongly believes that regulation should be introduced.” Crypto-assets are not covered by the City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and there are no formal mechanisms for consumer redress or investor compensation. The committee argues in the report that at a minimum, regulation should be introduced to add consumer protection and counter money laundering. It said that as things stood, the price of crypto-assets was so volatile that while potential gains were large, so too were potential losses. “Accordingly, investors should be prepared to lose all their money,” the committee said. The FCA said: “The FCA agrees with the committee’s conclusion that bitcoin and similar crypto-assets are ill-suited to retail investors, and as we have warned in the past, investors in this type of crypto-asset should be prepared to lose all their money.” A Treasury spokesman said: “We set up the joint Cryptoassets Taskforce earlier this year because we want to better understand the potential risks and benefits of crypto-assets to people, businesses, and the economy.” In 2017, the price of a bitcoin soared by more than 900%, hitting a peak of almost $20,000 in December. Its popularity has since waned, with one bitcoin now priced at around $6,270. The digital currency emerged after the financial crisis. It allows people to bypass banks and usual payment processes to pay for goods and services. Last year Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan, said bitcoin was a fraud and only fit for use by drug dealers, murderers and people living in places such as North Korea. He said: “The currency isn’t going to work. You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air and think that people who are buying it are really smart.” The Treasury committee said cryptocurrency exchanges were at increased risk of cyber-attacks, and some retail investors who lost their passwords had found themselves locked out of their accounts permanently. However, it said that if regulated and dealt with properly, the industry could be an opportunity for Britain. CryptoUK, which represents some cryptocurrency companies with operations in Britain, said it welcomed the report. “As an industry we have been calling for the introduction of proportionate regulation to improve standards and encourage growth,” said Iqbal Gandham, the chair of CryptoUK. “Self-regulation by the industry was always intended to be a starting point – this must now be matched by government action.” Source
  22. ‘CovidLock’ Exploits Coronavirus Fears With Bitcoin Ransomware Opportunistic hackers are increasingly seeking to dupe victims using websites or applications purporting to provide information or services pertaining to coronavirus. Cybersecurity threat researchers, DomainTools, have identified that the website coronavirusapp.site facilitates the installation of a new ransomware called “CovidLock.” The website prompts its visitors to install an Android application that purportedly tracks updates regarding the spread of COVID-19, claiming to notify users when an individual infected with coronavirus is in their vicinity using heatmap visuals. CovidLock ransomware launches screen lock attack on unwitting victims Despite appearing to display certification from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the website is a conduit for the ‘CovidLock’ ransomware — which launches a screen lock attack on unsuspecting users. Once installed, CovidLock alters the lock screen on the infected device and demands a payment of $100 worth of BTC in exchange for a password that will unlock the screen and return control of the device to the owner. If a victim does not pay the ransom within 48 hours, CovidLock threatens to erase all of the files that are stored on the phone — including contacts, pictures, and videos. The program displays a message intended to scare users into compliance with its demand, stating: “YOUR GPS IS WATCHED AND YOUR LOCATION IS KNOWN. IF YOU TRY ANYTHING STUPID YOUR PHONE WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY ERASED.” DomainTools claims to have reversed engineered the decryption keys for CovidLock, adding that they will publicly post the key. Coronavirus-themed website are 50% more likely to be malicious According to cyber threat analyst, Check Point, coronavirus-themed domains are 50% more likely to be a front for malicious actors than other websites. Since January 2020, the firm estimates that more than 4,000 domain names that relate to the coronavirus have been registered globally — 3% of which are deemed to be “malicious,” and 5% of which are described as “suspicious.” U.K. public lose $1 million to coronavirus scams On March 11, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority warned of an increasing proliferation of coronavirus-themed scams - including investment scams fraudulently offering investments in crypto assets. According to the U.K. National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), many malicious sites are offering maps and visualizations tracking the spread of coronavirus — much like CovidLock. An NFID representative stated: “They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in bitcoin.” The NFIB estimates that coronavirus-themed scams have already defrauded the British public out of roughly $1 million. Source
  23. The Gameover ZeuS Trojan has been updated with functionality targeting bitcoin wallets. Researchers with F-Secure spotted a variant of the malware that includes code to read and write to Bitcoin wallets. It also hooks into the process by which the wallet is encrypted, stealing the password and thwarting encryption. This is just another twist for Gameover, which has emerged as one of the most treacherous pieces of financial malware on the Internet. Gameover first appeared on the Internet in 2011. Recently, researchers at Dell SecureWorks dubbed the malware the most prevalent banking Trojan of 2013, noting that it accounted for 38 percent of the company's detections of financial malware. According to research from Sophos, a recently detected variant of the malware used a kernel-level rootkit known as Necurs to protect malware files on disk and in memory and make it difficult to remove the Trojan. That particular variant was seen spreading via a spam campaign that used messages with fake invoices. "Gameover is “privately” held by one gang – it’s a different fork from the ZeuS code which was open sourced years ago," explained Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure. "The sample we’ve analyzed is relatively new," he said. "But the botnet nodes themselves may have already begun to update." "[ZeuS] isn’t always first to adopt a new tactic, but it is generally 'best of breed'," he added. Certainly, bitcoin users and exchanges have been getting more attention from hackers lately. Earlier this month, bitcoin exchanges Poloniex and Flexcoin announced they had been hit by hackers. As a result of the attack, Flexcoin was forced to shut down. More malware targeting bitcoins has also been popping up, such as OSX/CoinThief.A, a Trojan targeting Mac users. "I’m somewhat surprised at how long it’s taken to incorporate wallet.dat stealers into big players – but then I suppose that means that Bitcoin may now be a 'real' industry," Sullivan said. "Not sure if that is a good thing for Bitcoin users in the long run." John Miller, security research manager at Trustwave, said that recent security events involving crypto-currencies serve as a reminder to users that criminals will hunt down financial assets regardless of their form. "Individual users are at risk when they store their wallets insecurely or entrust their coins to third-party services," he said. "Malware such as Pony can steal unencrypted wallets from unsuspecting users. Services can be scams intent on defrauding users or could suffer theft that results in financial loss to users. Safe browsing habits, anti-malware solutions, and gateway protection technologies can all help with the former, only proper consumer research can help with the latter." Source
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