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  1. The threat actor who hacked Poly Network's cross-chain interoperability protocol yesterday to steal over $600 million worth of cryptocurrency assets is now returning the stolen funds. As the Chinese decentralized finance (DeFi) platform Poly Network shared two hours ago, the hacker has already returned almost $260 million worth of stolen cryptocurrency. In total, the attacker has transferred back $256 million Binance Smart Chain (BSC) tokens, $3.3 million in Ethereum tokens, and $1 million in USD Coin (USDC) on the Polygon network. To send back all the stolen funds, the hacker still has to return another $269 million on Ethereum and $84 million on Polygon. Motives behind returning the stolen assets unknown The threat actor explained the motivation for the hack by embedding Q&A messages in transactions (as Elliptic Chief Scientist and Co-founder Tom Robinson found), the motives behind their decision to give back the stolen cryptocurrency are not yet known. However, it could have been prompted by blockchain security firm SlowMist's claims that it traced the attacker's email address, IP address, and device fingerprint. SlowMist also discovered that the assets used to fund the attack were Monero (XMR) exchanged to BNB, ETH, MATIC, and other tokens. In a weird twist of events, Poly Network also urged the hacker to return the cryptocurrency stolen from "thousands of crypto community members" to avoid landing on law enforcement's radar. The biggest cryptocurrency hack ever Following a preliminary investigation of the attack, Poly Network said the threat actor exploited a vulnerability between contract calls which allowed them to gain ownership of funds and transfer them to attacker-controlled wallets: Ethereum: 0xC8a65Fadf0e0dDAf421F28FEAb69Bf6E2E589963 Binance Smart Chain: 0x0D6e286A7cfD25E0c01fEe9756765D8033B32C71 Polygon: 0x5dc3603C9D42Ff184153a8a9094a73d461663214 "This attack is mainly because the keeper of the EthCrossChainData contract can be modified by the EthCrossChainManager contract, and the verifyHeaderAndExecuteTx function of the EthCrossChainManager contract can execute the data passed in by the user through the _executeCrossChainTx function," SlowMist further explained. "Therefore, the attacker uses this function to pass in carefully constructed data to modify the keeper of the EthCrossChainData contract." After Poly Network disclosed the attack, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said the company was coordinating with security partners to remediate the situation. OKEx, Tether, and Huobi also added that their security teams were working on freezing cryptocurrency assets identified as stolen in the attack. Hacker behind biggest cryptocurrency heist ever returns stolen funds
  2. Over $611 million has reportedly been stolen in one of the largest cryptocurrency hacks. Decentralized cross-chain protocol and network, Poly Network announced today that it was attacked with cryptocurrency assets having successfully been transferred into the attackers' wallets. Largest DeFi hack to date: $611 million stolen Today, Poly Network announced getting hit by a major attack that led to attackers having successfully transferred Binance Chain, Ethereum, and Polygon assets into their wallets: The Block estimates that the value of stolen assets to be at least $611 million, making this the largest DeFi hack thus far. Poly Network was created by a collaboration between multiple blockchain providers, namely, Neo, Ontology and Switcheo to enable users to exchange tokens across different crypto platforms, including Bitcoin and Ethereum. The attacker wallet addresses associated with this incident are: ETH: 0xC8a65Fadf0e0dDAf421F28FEAb69Bf6E2E589963 BSC: 0x0D6e286A7cfD25E0c01fEe9756765D8033B32C71 Polygon: 0x5dc3603C9D42Ff184153a8a9094a73d461663214 The breakdown of the stolen assets is as follows: Ethereum tokens: $273 million Binance Smart Chain: $253 million Polygon Network (in USDC): $85 million Centralized stablecoin provider Tether has since blacklisted the USDT on Ethereum—worth $33 million of tokens, that was stolen in this attack. "We call on miners of affected blockchain and crypto exchanges to blacklist tokens coming from the above addresses. @Tether_to @circlepay." "We will take legal actions and we urge the hackers to return the assets," stated Poly Network in the same Twitter thread. Binance CEO, Changpeng Zhao also tweeted that the company was coordinating with security partners to remediate the situation but that there are no guarantees: The Block research team's Igor Igamberdiev believes the hack was caused due to a cryptography issue, which is a rare happening when it comes to cryptocurrency protocols. "It may have been similar to the Anyswap exploit, which saw $7.9 million stolen due to a hacker reversing the private key," surmised Igamberdiev. Blockchain security firm SlowMist claims they were able to trace the attacker's ID and have identified the attacker's email address, IP address, and device fingerprint. According to SlowMist, the attacker transacted in Monero (XMR) originally and exchanged the funds later for BNB, ETH, MATIC, and other tokens used to fund the attack. The complete damage and implications resulting from this incident are yet to be found out, but networks and pools relying on Poly Network may have to suspend their operations. That has already been the case with the O3 trading pool that uses Poly Network. O3 has halted its cross-chain functionality. Users posting money laundering tips Following the attack, BleepingComputer has come across transactions sent to the attacker with tips on how to launder the money and requests for free cryptocurrency. Some of the tips appear to be from threat actors or other scammers on ways the stolen funds can be laundered: Transactions have odd comments providing money laundering tips (BleepingComputer) Another tip was sent by a user warning the hacker not to transfer the USDT tokens as they have been blacklisted: Another transaction with hint that the blacklisted USDT token should not be used In return for the tip to not transfer blocklisted USDT, the threat actor sent the user 13.37 Ethereum tokens (the amount being an innuendo for "leet") worth $41,474.41, as seen by BleepingComputer. After receiving the money, the tipper began donating 1.337 ETH tokens or $4,148.32 to Binance Charity [transaction], Archive.org [transaction], Etherscan [transaction], and infura.io [transaction]. Other transaction comments seen by BleepingComputer are from people asking the threat actor to send them free cryptocurrency. "I come from a remote and impoverished Guizhou mountainous area in China, and I need money to study for my sister. My sister's name is July, and I thank you for her! Robinson," read another tip seen by BleepingComputer. "Respected Hacker... I'm a father of three, and my wife is in chemo for cancer. I sold my house and the car. Deposit O3 hopes to provide medical expenses for my wife, and help me better take care of them, but today your behavior causes me to bankrupt, I hope you can give me money 5 eth. 0xe3D....0b03c," read yet another comment. This is a developing story. Over $600 million reportedly stolen in cryptocurrency hack
  3. NVIDIA announced today that it's halving the hash rate for Etehereum cryptocurrency mining on the new GeForce RTX 3080, 3070, and 3060 Ti graphics cards to make them less desirable for miners. The company will add "Lite Hash Rate" or "LHR" identifiers to retail product listings and boxes for all these new nerfed graphics cards that will start shipping later this month. "Today, we're taking additional measures by applying a reduced ETH hash rate to newly manufactured GeForce RTX 3080, RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 Ti graphics cards," said Matt Wuebbling, NVIDIA's Global Head of GeForce Marketing. "This reduced hash rate only applies to newly manufactured cards with the LHR identifier and not to cards already purchased." According to Wuebbling, this decision was taken to make sure that more of these cards will be used by gamers worldwide instead of stacked in cryptocurrency mining farms. RTX 3060 cards' hash rate also halved in February This announcement comes after NVIDIA also nerfed the Ethereum hash rate for all shipped GeForce RTX 3060 cards shipped starting February. "To help get GeForce GPUs in the hands of gamers, we announced in February that all GeForce RTX 3060 graphics cards shipped with a reduced Ethereum hash rate," Wuebbling added. NVIDIA is also hoping to push professional mining operations towards its new range of CMP dedicated mining GPUs by deliberately reducing the new GeForce RTX's mining performance by 50%. The specs for the company's dedicated GPU for professional mining are available in the table embedded below. 30HX 40HX 50HX 90HX Ethereum Hash Rate 26 MH/s 36 MH/s 45 MH/s 86 MH/s Rated Power 125 W 185 W 250 W 320 W Power Connectors 1x 8-pin 1x 8-pin 2x 8-pin 2x 8-pin Memory Size 6GB 8GB 10GB 10GB Starting Availability Q1 Q1 Q2 Q2 "Our RTX 30 Series is built on our second-generation RTX architecture, with dedicated RT Cores and Tensor Cores, delivering amazing visuals and performance to gamers and creators," Wuebbling concluded. "We believe this additional step will get more GeForce cards at better prices into the hands of gamers everywhere." Source
  4. Here we go again — Dogecoin has risen 400 percent in the last week because why not Dogecoin rallied after Elon Musk tweeted a photo of "Doge Barking at the Moon." Enlarge peng song / Getty Dogecoin, a blockchain-based digital currency named for a meme about an excitable canine, has seen its price rise by a factor of five over the last week. The price spike has made it one of the world's 10 most valuable cryptocurrencies, with a market capitalization of $45 billion. Understanding the value of cryptocurrencies is never easy, and it's especially hard for Dogecoin, which was created as a joke. Dogecoin isn't known for any particular technology innovations and doesn't seem to have many practical applications. What Dogecoin does have going for it, however, is memorable branding and an enthusiastic community of fans. And in 2021, that counts for a lot. In recent months, we've seen shares of GameStop soar to levels that are hard to justify based on the performance of GameStop's actual business. People bought GameStop because it was fun and they thought the price might go up. So too for Dogecoin. Tesla CEO Elon Musk may have also played an important role in Dogecoin's ascendancy. Musk has periodically tweeted about the cryptocurrency, and those tweets are frequently followed by rallies in Dogecoin's price. Late on Wednesday night, Musk tweeted out this image: Dogecoin's price tripled over the next 36 hours. My editor suggested that I write about whether Dogecoin's rise is a sign of an overheated crypto market, but for a coin like Dogecoin, I'm not sure that's even a meaningful concept. Dogecoin isn't a company that has revenues or profits. And unlike bitcoin and ether, no one seriously thinks it's going to be the foundation of a new financial system. People are trading Dogecoin because it's fun to trade and because they think they might make money from it. The rising price is a sign that a lot of people have decided it would be fun to speculate in Dogecoin. Of course, the fact that lots of people have money to spend on joke investments might itself be a result of larger macroeconomic forces. The combination of stimulus spending, low interest rates, and pandemic-related saving means that a lot of people have more money than usual sitting in their bank accounts. And restrictions on travel and nightlife mean that many of those same people have a lot of time on their hands. Dogecoin has risen 400 percent in the last week because why not
  5. India’s finance minister reconsiders a ban on cryptocurrencies The Indian government might not completely ban cryptocurrencies. In an interview on March 5, country’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that she wants to foster innovation in crypto. “We want to make sure that there is a window available for all kinds of experiments which will have to take place in the crypto world,” she said during an interview on CNBC TV18, a business and financial news television channel in India. “We are not closing our minds.” The comments from Sitharaman counter a proposed bill from the Indian government in January of this year that would ban all private cryptocurrencies. The proposed law would also include a system for the creation and regulation of an official cryptocurrency issued by the country’s central bank and the promotion of blockchain, the technology underlying digital currencies. The Reserve Bank of India’s “digital rupee” is aimed at being similar to China’s “digital yuan“. Local business and lobbying groups like the Association for Blockchain, Crypto and Digital Asset Entrepreneurs and the Blockchain and Crypto Committee formed in response to the news of the potential ban in an effort to lobby the government and enhance its understanding of cryptocurrencies. In mid-February, Balaji Srinivasan, the former chief technology officer of the crypto trading platform Coinbase, compared the proposed law to “banning the internet”. ”It would be a trillion-dollar mistake for India, without exaggeration,” he said during an interview with The CapTable, an online business-news publication in India. While Sitharaman said the country’s central bank would take the lead on overseeing “unofficial cryptos”, her comments indicated a possible outcome of regulating cryptocurrencies instead of an outright ban. “There will be a very calibrated position taken,” she said. Source: India’s finance minister reconsiders a ban on cryptocurrencies
  6. LONDON (Reuters) - PayPal Holdings Inc PYPL.O joined the cryptocurrency market on Wednesday, allowing customers to buy, sell and hold bitcoin and other virtual coins using the U.S. digital payments company's online wallets. PayPal customers will also be able to use cryptocurrencies to shop at the 26 million merchants on its network starting in early 2021, the company said in a statement. PayPal hopes the service will encourage global use of virtual coins and prepare its network for new digital currencies that may be developed by central banks and corporations, President and Chief Executive Dan Schulman said in an interview. “We are working with central banks and thinking of all forms of digital currencies and how PayPal can play a role,” he said. U.S. account holders will be able to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies in their PayPal wallets over the coming weeks, the company said. It plans to expand to Venmo and some countries in the first half of 2021. Other mainstream fintech companies, such as mobile payments provider Square Inc SQ.N and stock trading app firm Robinhood Markets Inc, allow users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, but PayPal's launch is noteworthy given its vast reach. The company, based in San Jose, California, has 346 million active accounts around the world and processed $222 billion in payments in the second quarter. Cryptocurrencies tend to be volatile, making them attractive to speculators, but a lot less appealing to merchants and shoppers. Transactions have been slower and more costly than other mainstream payment systems. Cryptocurrency payments on PayPal will be settled using fiat currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, meaning merchants will not receive payments in virtual coins, the company said. Many central banks around the world have expressed their intention to develop digital versions of their currencies in the coming years, while Facebook Inc FB.O-led the creation of a cryptocurrency project called Libra in 2019. PayPal was a founding member but dropped out after a few months. PayPal, which has secured the first conditional cryptocurrency license from the New York State Department of Financial Services, will initially allow purchases of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies called ethereum, bitcoin cash and litecoin, it said. It partners with Paxos Trust Company to offer the service. Source Bitcoin extends gains after PayPal move to accept cryptocurrencies LONDON (Reuters) - Bitcoin extended its gains on Wednesday after PayPal Holdings Inc said it will allow customers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies. It was last up 3.2% at $12,305, just below its highest this year. Source
  7. IRS may put cryptocurrency question at the top of 1040 to catch cheaters Virtual currency profits are taxable under US law. Enlarge Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images News 127 with 63 posters participating, including story author The Internal Revenue Service is considering adding a question to Form 1040—America's primary income tax form—asking tax filers if they dealt in virtual currency in 2020. It would be the agency's latest attempt to crack down on underreporting of cryptocurrency profits. If an American buys bitcoin, ether, or another cryptocurrency and then sells it later at a profit, she or he will typically owe capital gains tax on the difference. But blockchains do not have the tax reporting infrastructure that has become standard for conventional financial institutions. So the IRS doesn't have an easy way to figure out who has received a cryptocurrency windfall. In the early years of the bitcoin boom, many taxpayers failed to report large bitcoin-related profits. In recent years, the IRS has increased pressure on cryptocurrency traders to comply with tax laws. A 2014 bulletin laid out the basic rules for paying taxes on virtual currency price gains. In 2016, the IRS sought transaction data about thousands of users of Coinbase, a popular US-based cryptocurrency exchange. Coinbase complied with the request in 2018 after some legal wrangling. But chasing down individual cryptocurrency investors after the fact is a lot of work for the IRS. The agency would much prefer American taxpayers voluntarily comply with the law. And that's where the new question on Form 1040 would come in. In the past, it was easy for taxpayers to leave out cryptocurrency earnings and then claim ignorance if the IRS catches them. It was hard for the IRS to prove that this was deliberate tax evasion rather than an honest oversight. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reports, the IRS added a question about cryptocurrency to tax forms. But it was in a part of the return that not every taxpayer had to fill out. On the 2020 version of the 1040, the cryptocurrency question could be the very first one taxpayers answer after giving their name and other identifying information. A draft of the 1040 posted to the IRS website asks taxpayers: "at any time during 2020, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?" If taxpayers check "yes," the agency can double-check that virtual currency transactions were reported correctly. If taxpayers check "no," they could be prosecuted for tax evasion if the IRS later discovers they were lying. The prominent placement of the question will make it harder for a taxpayer to convince a jury that a failure to report cryptocurrency profits was an honest mistake. Ed Zollars, a CPA with Kaplan Financial Education, told The Wall Street Journal that this strategy helped the IRS crack down on the use of offshore bank accounts a decade ago. Adding an explicit question about offshore bank accounts to tax forms increased compliance with reporting rules and has added billions of dollars to the federal treasury. IRS may put cryptocurrency question at the top of 1040 to catch cheaters
  8. Mysterious bitcoin wallet emptied of almost a billion dollars of cryptocurrency Recipient address becomes world’s second largest bitcoin wallet (Image credit: Shutterstock / Igor Batrakov) The owner of the world’s largest unattributed bitcoin wallet has emptied their account of almost $1 billion in cryptocurrency. The transaction saw 101,857 BTC (with a market value of circa $933m at the time of writing) delivered to two recipients, with first first receiving 5,000 BTC ($45.8m) and the second 96,857 BTC ($887.4m). The transfer made the latter bitcoin wallet the second richest in existence, behind a cold storage wallet owned by cryptocurrency exchange Huobi. The transaction was first registered on June 27 by an automated tracking service, and cost just $0.48 in associated fees. Bitcoin billionaire The sending wallet was first created on April 1 with a transfer of similar magnitude, after which it was logged among the most wealthy bitcoin addresses not owned by high-profile exchanges, whose bitcoin stock is owned primarily by clients. The identity of the wallet holder remains a mystery, by virtue of the anonymized nature of bitcoin transactions, though speculators have theorized it may have been owned by large scale investors such as the Winklevoss twins. It is also unclear whether all bitcoin held in the wallet was owned by a single individual, a group of individuals or even an exchange that had not declared its affiliation with the address. The identity of the transaction recipients is also unknown. Some have speculated that the sending and receiving wallets could be owned by the same entity, although it is unclear why that person (or group) might need to shift the location of their funds. Mysterious bitcoin wallet emptied of almost a billion dollars of cryptocurrency
  9. Treasury nominee Yellen is looking to curtail use of cryptocurrency Yellen argues many cryptocurrencies are used "mainly for illicit financing." Enlarge / Janet Yellen, Joe Biden's nominee to be Secretary of the Treasury, at a December press conference. Alex Wong/Getty Images 96 with 62 posters participating Cryptocurrencies could come under renewed regulatory scrutiny over the next four years if Janet Yellen, Joe Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, gets her way. During Yellen's Tuesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) asked Yellen about the use of cryptocurrency by terrorists and other criminals. "Cryptocurrencies are a particular concern," Yellen responded. "I think many are used—at least in a transactions sense—mainly for illicit financing." She said she wanted to "examine ways in which we can curtail their use and make sure that [money laundering] doesn't occur through those channels." Blockchain-based financial networks are attractive to criminals because they do not require users to identify themselves—as the law requires most conventional financial networks to do. Because no individual or organization controls these networks, there's no easy way for governments to force them to comply with money-laundering laws. So instead of trying to force the networks themselves to comply, regulators in the US—and many other jurisdictions—have focused on regulating bitcoin exchanges that help users trade between dollars and cryptocurrencies. Once a bitcoin exchange identifies who initially received a particular bitcoin payment, law enforcement can often trace subsequent payments through a blockchain network's open payment ledger. FinCEN In December, Trump's outgoing team at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network—a unit of the Treasury Department focused on money laundering—proposed a new set of rules to tighten the screws on cryptocurrency-based money laundering. Under the new rules, cryptocurrency-based exchanges would need to file transaction reports with FinCEN any time a customer made a cryptocurrency transaction worth more than $10,000. This would mirror existing rules requiring conventional banks to report when customers make cash withdrawals or deposits worth more than $10,000. Even more controversial in the cryptocurrency world, FinCEN wants to impose new record-keeping requirements for transactions involving users who manage their own private keys—dubbed "unhosted wallets" by FinCEN. Under FinCEN's proposal, if a cryptocurrency exchange's customer sends more than $3,000 to an unhosted wallet, the exchange would be required to keep a record of the transaction, including the identity of the customer who initiated the payment. These new rules didn't take effect before Trump left office, so the incoming Biden team will need to decide what to do with them. The Biden administration could sign off on the existing rules, rewrite them, or scrap them altogether. Yellen's Tuesday comments suggest that she is unlikely to scrap the rules. If anything, the Treasury Department is likely to consider additional regulations of the blockchain economy over the next four years. Treasury nominee Yellen is looking to curtail use of cryptocurrency
  10. Facebook’s libra currency to launch next year in limited format Long-awaited project to arrive as soon as January, with just one dollar-backed coin. Enlarge NurPhoto | Getty Images 79 with 64 posters participating The long-awaited Facebook-led digital currency libra is preparing to launch as early as January, according to three people involved in the initiative, but in an even more limited format than its already downgraded vision. The 27-strong Libra Association said in April that it had planned to launch digital versions of several currencies, plus a “digital composite” of all of its coins. This followed concerns from regulators over its initial plan to create one synthetic coin backed by a basket of currencies. However, the association would now initially just launch a single coin backed one-for-one by the dollar, one of the people said. The other currencies and the composite would be rolled out at a later point, the person added. Libra’s exact launch date would depend on when the project receives approval to operate as a payments service from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, but it could come as early as January, the three people said. Finma said it would not comment on libra’s application, which was initiated in May. First launched in June 2019, the scaling down of libra’s vision comes as it has received a skeptical reception from global regulators, who have warned that it could threaten monetary stability and become a hotbed for money laundering. While the restricted scope may appease wary regulators, critics have complained that a move to single-currency coins could hit users looking to convert currencies with additional costs, undermining its ambition to enable greater financial inclusion. Originally launched by Facebook executives, libra suffered a difficult birth when a wave of its founding members—including PayPal, Mastercard, Vodafone, and eBay—quit over in late 2019 and early 2020 and distanced themselves from the controversial project. The association then announced in April that it was overhauling its vision to address regulators’ worries, limiting its scope and promising extra measures to police its system for abuse. Image rehabilitation Libra had also come under fire for its close association with the social media network, which has faced multiple privacy scandals. But several Libra members said that they believed the appointment of HSBC legal chief and former George W. Bush-era terrorism finance tsar Stuart Levey in May as its first chief executive marked a turning point for the project, as it sought to cast itself as independent from Facebook. Since then, a handful of members have been racing to build and test their own products to launch on top of the digital currency network when it goes live. Among them is Novi, the Facebook subsidiary rebranded from Calibra that has been creating a digital wallet to allow Facebook users to hold the libra currency. One person involved in Novi said that the wallet was “ready from a product perspective” but would not be rolled out everywhere initially, with the company prioritizing “half a dozen high-volume remittance corridors” including the United States and some Latin American countries. Novi needed its own license in each US state, the person said, adding that it had been granted many of these but was still waiting on “as many as 10”—including a New York Bitlicense. It remains unclear how some of the major members of the consortium—such as Uber and Spotify—plan to wield the currency, with some telling the Financial Times that they would wait to see how it was received after its launch, before investing in use cases. “Inevitable” The news comes as bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, rallied to record highs of close to $20,000 this week, amid rising interest in digital currencies from professional investors and central banks and as the coronavirus pandemic has quickened a shift from cash towards digital payments. Meanwhile, PayPal, which was the first founding member to drop out of the libra initiative, announced last month that it would launch support for cryptocurrencies, including at the checkout, with Dan Schulman, chief executive, calling the shift to digital forms of currencies “inevitable.” The Libra Association and Novi declined to comment. Facebook’s libra currency to launch next year in limited format
  11. Another one bites the dust It appears the downturn of the cryptocurrency market is having a ripple effect (pun intended) on the industry. Numerous blockchain businesses have been forced to close down or lay off staff to survive – and the latest one is Bitmain. The mining giant is the latest to be hit by the cryptocurrency bear market and is shutting down its Israel-based development center, Bitmaintech Israel, Globes Israel reports. The development center was set up two years ago, and will close this week laying off its 23-people-strong staff in the process. Gadi Glikberg, head of Bitmaintech Israel and VP at Bitmain, will also be parting ways with the business, according to Globes. Bitmain blames the recent drop in the price of Bitcoin and general bear market across the cryptocurrency industry for the closure. Indeed, Bitmain is hardly the only blockchain company that has had to fire employees in order to stay alive. “The crypto market has undergone a shake-up in the past few months, which has forced Bitmain to examine its various activities around the globe and to refocus its business in accordance with he current situation,” Glikberg told Bitmain Israel employees today. Bitmain is the world’s largest manufacturer of ASIC mining devices and runs a mining pool under the Antpool name. Earlier this year, it was building a $500 million mining farm in the middle of Texas due to open in 2019, we’ll have to wait and see if that pans out as planned. It’s certainly a sign that the cryptocurrency bear market is impacting everyone. Welcome to the free market. Source
  12. Bitcoin tops $40,000 for first time, pushing cryptocurrency market value past $1 trillion KEY POINTS Bitcoin smashed through $40,000 to hit a new record high on Thursday as the cryptocurrency’s massive rally continues. Bitcoin’s resurgence has been attributed to a number of factors including more buying from large institutional investors. Bitcoin smashed through $40,000 to hit a new record high on Thursday helping to lift the total value of the entire cryptocurrency market above $1 trillion for the first time. The digital coin hit an all-time high of $40,188 at around 1:15 p.m. ET, just a few hours after blowing past the $39,000 level, according to data from Coin Metrics. Bitcoin was 13.1% higher from a day earlier. The cryptocurrency is up over 30% since the start of 2021 and in the past 12 months has surged 400%. Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya thinks the digital currency has a long runway ahead even after its massive rally. “It’s probably going to $100,000, then $150,000, then $200,000,” Palihapitiya told CNBC’s “Halftime Report.” “In what period? I don’t know. [Maybe] five or 10 years, but it’s going there.” “The reason [it’s going there] is because, every time you see all of this stuff happening, it reminds you that our leaders are not as trustworthy and reliable as they used to be,” he said. “So, just in case, we really do need to have some insurance we can keep under our pillow that gives us some access to an uncorrelated hedge.” The value of the entire cryptocurrency market, which is made up of bitcoin and other digital coins like ether and tether, surpassed $1 trillion for the first time earlier on Thursday, according to data from Coinmarketcap. Bitcoin is by far the most dominant cryptocurrency, with a market value of over $700 billion. Bitcoin’s resurgence has been attributed to a number of factors including more buying from large institutional investors. High-profile investors like Paul Tudor Jones, for example, have been buying the digital currency. Many bitcoin bulls say the cryptocurrency is akin to “digital gold,” a potential safe haven asset and a hedge against inflation. In a recent research note, JPMorgan said bitcoin could hit $146,000 in the long term as it competes with gold as an “alternative” currency. The investment bank’s strategists noted that bitcoin would have to become substantially less volatile to reach this price, however. Bitcoin is known for wild price swings. The idea of bitcoin as a hedge against inflation has continued to gain steam as governments around the world embark on large-scale fiscal stimulus programs. Analysts argue this could cause a spike in inflation. “This latest bull run in January is sure to attract the asset managers’ attention to diversify even more of their assets to crypto as they are keen on finding alternative investments, such as cryptocurrency or gold, to hedge inflation and geopolitical risks,” Simons Chen, executive director of investment and trading at cryptocurrency financial services firm Babel Finance, told CNBC. “A large number of retail investors have also joined the race recently as they fear to miss out on opportunities to make easy, quick gain from the latest bull run,” he added. Bitcoin’s rise has also been helped by moves in the space from big financial firms like PayPal and Fidelity. PayPal last year launched a feature that lets its users invest in cryptocurrencies, and is planning to offer crypto payments across its massive network of retailers later this year. Source: Bitcoin tops $40,000 for first time, pushing cryptocurrency market value past $1 trillion
  13. Razy Malware Attacks Browser Extensions to Steal Cryptocurrency The malware targets victims in multiple, sneaky ways as they move around the web. A Windows malware dubbed “Razy” has been uncovered that sports a toolbox of cryptocurrency theft and fraud tools. Razy works by weaponizing browser extensions in order to perpetrate a range of online scams on unwitting victims. According to researchers at Kaspersky Lab, the trojan targets Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Yandex Browser users. It’s an executable file that spreads in two ways. Those are via malicious ads online, or by purporting to be legitimate free software available on file-hosting services. Once downloaded and executed, Razy disables the integrity check for installed browser extensions on the victim’s computer (and blocks automatic updates for the targeted browser); then, it sets about installing a malicious browser extension. Multiple Scams Those behind Razy are accomplished scam artists, researchers said. The malware has an extensive bag of tricks for convincing online denizens to cough up funds for fake services, and it can also steal cryptocurrency – all via a weaponized extension. For instance, it can search for addresses of the victim’s cryptocurrency wallets on websites and replace them with the attacker’s wallet details, the researchers said. The aptly named “findAndReplaceWalletAddresses” function specifically searches for Bitcoin and Ethereum wallets that the victim might use. The malware crawls visited web pages, including social media sites like Instagram and Russian language site OK.RU – but it doesn’t work on pages located on Google and Yandex domains. Razy can also spoof images of QR codes on currency exchanges that point to wallets, which make mobile money transfer easier. When a user visits a page with a QR code hosted on GDAX/Coinbase Pro, EXMO or Binance – or when an element with src=’/res/exchangebox/qrcode/’ is detected on the webpage – its core malicious script (called main.js) substitutes a QR code that points to the threat actor’s wallet instead. Main.js can also modify the web pages of the EXMO and YoBit cryptocurrency exchanges. “These scripts display fake messages to the user about ‘new features’ in the corresponding exchanges and offers to sell cryptocurrency at above-market rates,” the researchers explained. “In other words, users are persuaded to transfer their money to the cybercriminal’s wallet under the pretext of a good deal.” And as if this weren’t enough, main.js also spoofs Google and Yandex search results, if the search request has to do with cryptocurrencies, cryptocurrency exchanges, music downloading or torrents. “This is how an infected user is enticed to visit infected websites or legitimate cryptocurrency-themed sites where they will see [a scam message],” said the researchers. Razy also shows malicious ads on popular sites to infected users. When the user visits Wikipedia for instance, main.js adds a banner containing a request for donations to support the online encyclopedia. “The cybercriminals’ wallet addresses are used in place of bank details,” according to the analysis. “The original Wikipedia banner asking for donations (if present) is deleted.” Similarly, when the user visits the Telegram.org, they will see an offer to buy Telegram tokens at an incredibly low price – with any purchases going straight to the cybercriminals. And when users visit the pages of Russian social network Vkontakte (VK), the trojan adds an advertising banner that redirects users to a scam site “where they are prompted to pay a small sum of money now to make a load of money later on,” according to the analysis. Browser-Specific Infection Routines Razy has different infection scenarios for each browser type. For Firefox, the trojan simply installs a malicious browser extension called Firefox Protection. For Yandex and Chrome, the process is a bit more in-depth: Razy edits the browser’s “browser.dll” or “chrome.dll” files in the application libraries in order to disable extension integrity checks. Then, it renames the original as “browser.dll_” or “chrome.dll_”, respectively, and leaves them in the same folder. In the case of Yandex it then installs an extension called Yandex Protect. In Chrome, it infects different existing legitimate extensions: For instance, the Chrome Media Router is present on all devices where the Chrome browser is installed, although it is not shown in the list of installed extensions. During some observed infections, Razy modifies the contents of the folder where the Chrome Media Router extension is located in order to inject malicious code. The malicious scripts it uses are the same, regardless of infection routine or which browser is being targeted, according to Kaspersky Lab researchers. “Irrespective of the targeted browser type, Razy added the following scripts it brought along to the folder containing the malicious script: bgs.js, extab.js, firebase-app.js, firebase-messaging.js and firebase-messaging-sw.js,” the team noted in a post on Thursday. “The file manifest.json was created in the same folder or was overwritten to ensure these scripts get called.” The scripts firebase-app.js, firebase-messaging.js and firebase-messaging-sw.js are legitimate: “They belong to the Firebase platform and are used to send statistics to the malicious actor’s Firebase account,” researchers noted. Intermingled with these are the malicious bgs.js and extab.js scripts, which are obfuscated with the help of the tool obfuscator.io. “The former sends statistics to the Firebase account; the latter (extab.js) inserts a call to the script i.js with parameters tag=&did=&v_tag=&k_tag= into each page visited by the user,” according to the report. This i.js script modifies the HTML page, inserts the fake advertising banners and video clips, and adds the scam ads into Google search results. The main element of the infection is the aforementioned main.js code however – a call to the script is added by the extension to each page visited by the user. Source
  14. 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
  15. The AchieVer

    Crypto for care homes - really?

    Crypto for care homes - really? Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image captionResidents of the Carlauren care homes can pay for their rooms with crypto-cash Thought the crypto-currency and blockchain craze had faded away? Think again. In recent weeks, messages about all sorts of schemes involving creating new coins and exploiting the wondrous blockchain technology have popped into my inbox. The most bizarre of all was from a company planning to get residents of upmarket care homes to pay for their rooms using a new crypto-currency. Carlauren Group, which describes itself as the "UK's leading innovator" of care services, was creating what it called the C-Coin. In the email's next paragraph the excitement mounted: "This breakthrough blockchain technology will provide all residents at Carlauren's Lifestyle Resorts and Care Homes with a safe and secure currency, whilst also removing the worry that's associated with carrying cash". 'Special risks' The scheme involves residents buying C-Coins for £70 each, the price of one night in a Carlauren care home or resort, separate from the costs of care. The company says the unusual thing about the coins is that it will always guarantee to buy them back at £63, so the risk of investing in any crypto-currency is largely avoided. This is painted as an innovative way of allowing well-off elderly people and their children to invest in their room for the long term - a kind of timeshare scheme which would then be tradable because the coins could be sold on an exchange. "I wanted to crystallize the payment of the room for the foreseeable future," Carlauren's chief executive Sean Murray explained to me. He outlined a membership scheme whereby residents who were currently paying between £1,250 and £1,500 a week would buy their room with the tokens, and it would be an asset for their children after they died. "We see an opportunity with family members that are obviously wisely aware of what's happening in the crypto-market - that has an intrinsic value." Image captionRory bought a coin to see how the system worked But for that intrinsic value to exist, the C-Coin has to be open to external investors through an Initial Coin Offering or ICO. Carlauren is issuing 500,000 coins raising £35m, although Mr Murray insists that his firm has no need to raise funds. There is a Carlauren Coins Exchange and a White Paper you can download full of purple prose about the wonders of blockchain technology - "arguably the largest technological revolution since the internet" - though with little detail about what role it plays here. We also learn that Carlauren was only founded in 2015 but is "now one of the UK's leading innovators of long-term residential later life and care services". This business does not, however, appear particularly lucrative. The very limited and unaudited accounts filed for Carlauren Group at Companies House show that it had net liabilities in 2017 of £610,475, up from £141,898 the previous year. The firm's chief financial officer, David Bruce, told me: "Carlauren Group has substantial assets under its control and it has an ambitious development programme aimed at delivering a high-end leisure and care service package to its residents. We are confident that this can be achieved with the resources at our disposal." The ICO White Paper does contain this warning: "The purchase of Carlauren coins may involve special risks that could lead to a loss of all or a substantial portion of the purchase amount. The purchase of Carlauren Coins is considered speculative in nature and it involves a high degree of risk." So that guarantee that coins will be bought back at £63 is not set in stone - if Carlauren goes bust, your coins will be worthless. Cautionary advice When I headed to the Carlauren Coin Exchange I found that anyone can sign up to buy coins, with no apparent checks, so I decided to try it out. The exchange showed there had been just a handful of transactions so far and nearly all of the 500,000 coins were still available to buy at £70. Curiously, the exchange also listed a market price for the coin of £189. So with a couple of clicks I bought one coin for £70 and immediately sold it - or so I thought - for £189. The next day I found that while £70 had been debited from my bank account, the £189 had not arrived. When I looked at my account on the exchange my sale was listed as "pending" - presumably nobody is going to buy my coin off me at £189 when there are still 499,953 available at £70. Minutes after my purchase, an email was sent to me - and I presume all of those who had signed up to the exchange - notifying us that someone had bought a coin. It read as follows: "We want to let you know that someone has just bought 1 C-Coins at £70/1 C-Coin. "The current market price of one C-Coin is £189.0017/1 C-Coin. "There are still available a total of 499,955 C-Coins on market at price of £70/1 C-Coin. "Is time to buy or to sell?" Now this struck me as misleading, an invitation to buy C-Coins on the understanding that you might be able to sell at an instant profit. Image copyrightREUTERS Image captionBitcoin has led the charge for crypto-currencies When I contacted Sean Murray he explained that this £189.0017 market price would only be available once all 500,000 coins had been sold. That price had been calculated using a formula I confess I did not fully understand, but he agreed that the wording on the exchange website needed to be clearer. I am well aware of how risky crypto-currency investment is, but are the elderly residents of care homes really ready to enter this world? I approached a number of regulators, from the Care Quality Commission to the Financial Conduct Authority for comment but they explained that as crypto-currencies are not regulated in the UK there was not much they could say. They did point me towards the Competition and Markets Authority which said it could not comment on any particular case but had this cautionary advice: "Requiring care home residents to pay for goods or services in crypto-currency may raise potential consumer protection concerns." I went back to Sean Murray with a simple question - how would he defend the marketing of the Carlauren Coin to his residents? "I believe that the future of how transactions are made for goods is changing towards crypto-type transactions," he told me. "No-one likes change but we have to move with the times , our younger generation will become older and it takes visionaries such as myself to make these changes." Throughout our conversation, Sean Murray repeatedly referred to himself as a visionary, insisting I had underestimated just how innovative Carlauren's plans were. He says 1,500 people a week are getting in touch to inquire about membership so we will find out soon how many buy into his vision. Source
  16. North Korea is developing its own cryptocurrency—at least according to Alejandro Cao de Benos, a Spanish aristocrat and IT consultant who serves as a sort of international liaison for the country’s totalitarian, militaristic government. Per a report in Vice News on Wednesday, North Korea threw a “first-ever blockchain and cryptocurrency conference in April,” with Cao de Benos saying the country now feels ready to dip its toes into the market with an offering of its own. Cao de Benos, who managed both the conference and works with the Committee for Cultural Relations for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), told Vice News it has not been named yet and will be “more like bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.” The project is in its initial stages, Cao de Benos told Vice, with North Korea’s United Nations embassy in New York (it lacks an actual U.S. embassy) declining comment: “We are still in the very early stages in the creation of the token. Now we are in the phase of studying the goods that will give value to it,” said Cao de Benos, adding that there are “no plans to digitize the [North Korean] won for now.” North Korea’s Embassy to the U.N. in New York would neither confirm nor deny Cao de Benos’s claim. “I am not in a position to give you an answer,” an embassy spokesperson said before hanging up. Cao de Benos also asserted that “big names” in fields like education, medicine, and finance have signed contracts with the North Korean government during the April conference, Vice News wrote, but that none of them have been announced “due to sanctions and fake news.” If Cao de Benos is not spreading his own fake news, possible partners include firms in Russia and China. As Vice noted, in 2017 the North Korean government launched a crash course in crypto at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, worrying some experts who have noted its alleged involvement in cyberattacks on crypto exchanges to pad its coffers. Last year, the Diplomat reported that its interest in the technology is primarily based on “high anonymity, difficulty in tracking funds, and easy cash flow,” all of which makes it ideal for a nation that has been accused of illicit activities ranging from the drug trade and counterfeiting to human trafficking and arms sales. Numerous reports have indicated that North Korea’s state-sponsored hacking operations are quite sophisticated, despite most of the nation’s threadbare at best connection to the global internet. Developing a cryptocurrency is on the easier end of the spectrum. On the other hand, Venezuela—currently facing heavy U.S. sanctions—tried its own hand at state-sponsored crypto with disastrous results and a resulting U.S. ban by the Trump administration. The much more intense sanctions on North Korea mean that any cryptocurrency it develops would with almost complete certainty be illegal to buy or sell in much of the world. “Washington’s use of sanctions now is reliant on the dollar’s role in the global financial system–U.S. sanctions have significant secondary effects because non-US banks can’t risk losing access to dollar transactions by doing business with sanctioned persons,” Anne Fixler, a sanctions expert at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Vice. “If transactions can flow easily around the world without touching the dollar, then nations like North Korea are insulated from U.S. sanctions.” In any case, a few points of advice for North Korea if it does delve into crypto: Definitely sink your entire life savings into it, remember that it only ever goes up in value, and if all else fails, repeat the phrase “This is good for [the North Korean] bitcoin” over and over and over. Source
  17. Binance says it's working to uncover the source of compromised photos following an extortion attempt. Affected users will receive special memberships. Hackers have taken a toll on Binance. In May, the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange by volume suffered a hack that saw roughly $40 million of its reserve funds disappearing into thin air. Then, just earlier this month, the company became the subject of a blackmailing and extortion attempt from a hacker who allegedly gained access to several users’ photo IDs originally used for KYC purposes. The hacker demanded a bitcoin ransom in exchange for the photos remaining safe and unseen. As a result, Binance today announced that the investigation into this latest breach remains ongoing. And that while the company maintains that many of the images are photoshopped or altered in some way, it now admits that some of the pictures correspond with those that it sent to a third party, which Binance contracted over a period of two months. Consequently, affected Binance users are set to special VIP memberships to the exchange for their troubles. This means they’ll have permanent access to all the company’s services and support features, as well as preferential trading fees. Users who have questions or concerns are advised to submit their inquiries to the Binance customer support center under the “security issue” tab. In terms of the investigation, Binance’s statement indicates that many of the images that the hacker claims to possess have had their watermarks removed. Binance utilizes a digital watermarking system to ensure images cannot be tampered with. Executives say these watermarks were visibly absent from many of the allegedly compromised images. Binance is currently in the process of notifying all victimized users and recommending that they process new identification documents in their areas to ensure their photos, names and private data do not fall into the wrong hands again. “Protecting our users and keeping our systems secure is our utmost priority,” the company’s statement read. “We will continue to improve our systems and processes in our service to the community in a fast-changing industry.” Source
  18. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Well, that's not entirely fair if you are a firm believer in the future of blockchain technology and crypto currencies in the end user space. That was the spotlight feature on the original HTC Exodus 1 and the same is true for the newly announced Exodus 1s. The phone doubles as a hardware ledger and this time around has a few other crypto tricks up its sleeve. But more on that in a bit. First thins first, however, the hardware itself. There really is no way around it, the 1s has pretty terrible hardware for 2019. You are looking at a Snapdragon 435 chipset, along with 4GB of RAM, pushing pixels on a 5.7-inch, 18:9 HD+ display. You also get 64GB of storage and and SD card slot. But the latter might not be meant for your multimedia. The phone still uses a microUSB port. But at least you get a 3.5 mm audio jack. In the camera department the Exodus 1s offers a single 13MP PDAF snapper on the back and one of the same resolution of the front - no autofocus, but complete with an LED flash light. Two SIM card slots with 4G plus 3G dual standby, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.1 and last, but not least, a 3,000 mAh battery keeping the lights on. Oh, and Android 8.1. Makes sense, we guess. HTC's product page is rather scare on details, but we think it is fairly safe to just check the HTC Desire 12s specs page for any additional info you might require. All of this can be pre-ordered today for EUR 219. Although HTC's website doesn't exactly make it clear if you can use "outdated" cash to fund that purchase, or they are still going to convert the price over to a Crypto currency during the final steps of checkout, as was initially the scheme with the original Exodus 1. Anyway, now that we're done making fun of the hardware, we should talk about the meat of HTC's product offer. The main added-value, crypto-enthusiast, added value attraction on the Exodus 1s is the ability to run a full Bitcoin node on the phone. Without going into too much detail, that means that the phone has the means of keeping the entire Bitcoin ledger in its memory. Well, on a microSD card, top be more precise with at least 400GB of storage, sold separately. That should be good for some time since the current Bitcoin ledger is about 260GB big and growing at a rate of roughly 60GB a year. The reason you would want the entire ledger in your pocket is that you can verify transactions for yourself and operate with more security, then, say, using the popular Simplified Payment Verification (SPV) wallet scheme, where a third-party website takes part in the validation process. You can also, apparently, query the ledger itself for transaction data, without sharing any info with the world. And last, but not least, you are actively contributing to the Bitcoin network, which definitely holds some allure to enthusiasts who believe in the future and viability of the network. There are some caveats, though, like the fact that currently only a Bitcoin node can run locally. No other currencies. Plus, running it apparently puts quite a strain on the three year old chipset, which is why HTC themselves only recommend running the node while connected to a wall socket or power bank. There is all the data usage involved as well, which can't help the battery situation either. Perhaps real enthusiast might have better luck with the new technology on the original and more powerful Exodus 1. It will also be getting the Bitcoin node feature as an update at some point. Other than that, just like its sibling, the Exodus 1s still has the HTC's hardware Zion crypto wallet with your keys hidden in the Snapdragon's security enclave. There is also the Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), which runs the Zion Vault software in a sandbox environment for extra security and also guards against common attack vectors, like third-party keyboards with key loggers. And if you lose the phone itself Social Key Recovery allows you to pick several trusted people in such a way that if they all come together, they can recreate your private key. This is called Shamir’s Secret Sharing or (as it’s better known in the crypto world) key sharding. No word on decentralized app or dApp support this time around. But we can only imagine that just like the Exodus 1 the 1s can run these as well. Honestly, do tell us in the comments if you think HTC is gambling a bit too fast and loose with the whole Exodus project as a last resort. Or, perhaps we are missing something and failing to see a bigger picture where the Exodus 1s is an important piece of the puzzle. Source: 1. HTC launches another blockchain phone - Exodus 1s (via GSMArena) 2. Introducing Exodus 1S (via HTC)
  19. Indeed, Bitcoin accounts for almost 70% of all the digital-asset global market value, but you’d be forgiven to think that it is the most widely used crypto in the world. While concrete data on trading volumes is hard to be revealed in this usually murky sector of finance, figures from CoinMarketCap.com indicate that the token with the most daily and monthly trading volume is Tether, which is 30 times smaller than Bitcoin in terms of market capitalization. Tether’s trading volume outpaced Bitcoin for the first time in April and has continuously transcended it since the start of August at around $21 billion per day, the data source revealed. With Tether’s monthly volume around 18% higher than Bitcoin, it’s arguably the most crucial coin the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Tether is also among the reasons why regulators view cryptocurrencies with a wary cautious eye, and have blocked crypto exchange-traded funds amid concern of market manipulation. “If there is no Tether, we lose a massive amount of daily volume — around $1 billion or more depending on the data source,” said Lex Sokolin, global financial technology co-head at ConsenSys, which offers blockchain technology. “Some of the concerning potential patters of trading in the market may start to fall away.” Coins with Biggest Daily Trading Volumes In billions of U.S. dollars Tether – 20,790,721,778 Bitcoin – 17,279,220,906 Ethereum – 7,725,511,214 Litecoin – 2,548,778,107 Bitcoin Cash – 1,917,335,827 EOS – 1,767,251,156 XRP – 1,353,675,702 Tron – 705,376,875 Ethereum Classic – 568,570,716 Paxos Standard – 367,122,707 Source: CoinMarketCap.com Values as of Sept. 27, 2019 Tether is the most used stablecoin in the world, and is also the pathway for the most of the world’s active traders into the cryptocurrency market. In countries such as China where cryptocurrency exchanges are barred, people can pay cash over the counter to acquire Tethers with very little interrogation, according to Sokolin. They can then trade Tethers for Bitcoin and other crypto. “For many people in Asia, they like the idea that it’s this offshore, opaque thing out of reach of the U.S. government,” said Jeremy Allaire, chief executive officer of Circle, which supports a rival stablecoin known as USD Coin. “It’s a feature, not a problem.” Tether, currently being sued by New York for allegedly mixing funds including reserves, claims using a KYC form and approval process is required to issue and redeem the cryptocurrency. According to Allaire, Asian traders account for around 70 percent of all cryptocurrency trading volume, and Tether was used in 40 percent and 80 percent of all transactions on two of the global leading exchanges, Binance and Huobi, respectively, Coin Metrics claimed earlier 2019. Theddeus Dryja, a research scientist at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, said that many people lack the basic knowledge of how to use Tether. And since traditional banking institutions worry that crypto don’t sniff out money launderers and criminals well enough, most cryptocurrency exchanges are still yet to open bank accounts and still can’t hold customers’ dollars. As such, they use Tether as an alternative, Dryja added. “I don’t think people actually trust Tether — I think people use Tether without realizing that they are using it, and instead think they have actual dollars in a bank account somewhere,” Dryja said, adding that some exchange platforms mislabel their pages to show the impression that customers are holding dollars instead of Tethers. The manner in which Tether is managed and governed makes it a complex offering. Whereas no one owns Bitcoin, Tether is issued by a Hong Kong-based private firm whose proprietors also run the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange. The exact way by which Tether’s supply is increased or reduced is not clear. The amount of the supply that is covered by fiat stocks is in unknown too because Tether is not independently audited. Tether revealed in April that 74 percent of the Tethers are covered by cash as well as short-term securities, while it previously stated it has a 100 percent reserve. This disclosure was part of an ongoing probe into Tether by the New York Attorney General, which accused the firms behind the stablecoin of a cover-up to hide the loss of $850 million of commingled client and corporate funds. Prof. John Griffin from the University of Texas at Austin said that nearly half of Bitcoin’s run-up in 2017 was caused by market manipulation by the use of Tether. Bloomberg reported last year that the U.S Justice Department is probing Tether’s role in this market manipulation. “Being controlled by centralized parties defeats the entire original purpose of blockchain and decentralized cryptocurrencies,” Griffin said. “By avoiding government powers, stablecoins place trust instead in the hands of big tech companies, who have mixed accountability. So while the idea is great in theory, in practice it is risky, open to abuse, and plagued by similar problems to traditional fiat currencies.” On the opposite end, since Tether is vital to their growth, many cryptocurrency exchanges would likely be much willing to bail it out if needed, according to Dan Raykhman, former head of trading technologies for Galaxy Digital and who is now developing a platform for issuing crypto. “There’s this implicit support from all these exchanges to help Tether stay afloat,” he said. Over the past year, multiple stablecoins have emerged, of which many of them are independently audited and regulated, but Tether is by far still the favorite. “Tether has been around since 2014 — ancient antecedents in crypto –and has retained its value,” said Aaron Brown, an investor and a writer for Bloomberg Opinion. “I don’t say it’s perfect, but its convenience outweighs its risk for many people.” Source
  20. It’s the first such auction in the UK. A UK police force auctioned off more than £240,000 of cryptocurrency that they confiscated from the teenage hacker behind the 2015 TalkTalk breach. In April 2018, police discovered that Elliott Gunton was stealing personal data in exchange for hundreds of thousands of pounds in cryptocurrency. According to BBC, he admitted to five charges, including computer misuse and money laundering. He was sentenced to 20 months jail time and ordered to pay back £407,359. Apparently he was also sitting on a pretty large stash of cryptocurrency. This is believed to be the first auction of this kind by UK police. The money raised will go toward fighting crime. It's also meant to show that there's no place to hide criminal assets, one officer said. This isn't Gunton's first run-in with the law. He played a key role in the 2015 TalkTalk breach that leaked 156,959 customers' personal details. In 2016, he was sentenced to a 12-month youth rehabilitation order. As The Guardian reported at the time, that sentence was meant to "draw him from the lonely confines of a bedroom and that lonely world of computing to a family where his knowledge and skills could be put to good use and to project that out to the wider world." In 2016, Gunton said he wasn't trying to profit from the TalkTalk breach. He was just "showing off." Apparently, he didn't learn his lesson the first time and moved on to full-blown money laundering. Source
  21. The US Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said yesterday that Facebook must overcome a “core of legal and regulatory challenges” before facilitating payments with its ‘cryptocurrency’ Libra. Brainard went on to note that life could become more complicated for central banks overseeing monetary policy if an external stablecoin like Libra gained mainstream adoption, Reuters reports. However, the governor said the Fed was not in a rush to issue its own digital currency, adding it raised “profound legal, policy, and operational questions.” “It should be no surprise that Facebook’s Libra is attracting a high level of scrutiny from lawmakers and authorities,” she said at an event in Washington. “Libra, and indeed any stablecoin project with global scale and scope, must address a core set of legal and regulatory challenges before it can facilitate a first payment,” she added. When Facebook unveiled plans for a global digital currency in June, Libra‘s co-founder David Marcus promised unprecedented co-operation among participants, which included some of the biggest names from the world of payments and technology. “Everyone will play their role,” said Marcus at the time, citing Libra‘s 28 founding members, some of which have recently withdrawn their support for the project. Some of Libra‘s supporters became increasingly wary of the project after regulators and politicians across the globe aired concerns about the potential impact the ‘cryptocurrency‘ could have on the global financial system. According to the Financial Times (FT), some of the members thought Facebook was underestimating the regulatory scrutiny the project would attract, and oversold their commitment to the project, which at that point entailed signing a non-binding agreement to pay a minimum of $10 million. Others, the FT notes, felt the project was not as independent from Facebook as the tech giant purported it would be at a time when it was facing several privacy-related scandals and antitrust investigations in the US and Europe. The final straw, several sources claimed, came after Mark Zuckerberg was asked to testify before Congress and several Democratic senators wrote to Libra‘s members encouraging them to rethink their involvement. This, the latest twist in Facebook‘s soap opera, comes after Germany finance’s minister said the withdrawal of several of its high-profile backers was a good sign, but the Libra Association countered on Twitter noting the cryptocurrency “shouldn’t and wouldn’t launch without the appropriate regulatory oversight and addressing legitimate concerns.” Source
  22. Malicious Tor Browser Steals Cryptocurrency from Darknet Market Users A trojanized version of the Tor Browser is targeting dark web market shoppers to steal their cryptocurrency and tracks the websites they visit. More than 860 transactions are registered to three of the attackers' wallets, which received about $40,000 in Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Careful impersonation The malicious Tor Browser is actively promoted as the Russian version of the original product through posts on Pastebin that are have been optimized to rank high in queries for drugs, cryptocurrency, censorship bypass, and Russian politicians. Spam messages also help the actor(s) distribute the trojanized variant, which is delivered from two domains claiming to provide the official Russian version of the software. Cybercriminals were careful with selecting the two domain names (created in 2014) since to a Russian user they appear to be the real deal: tor-browser[.]org torproect[.]org - for Russian-speaking visitors, the missing "j" may be seen as a transliteration from Cyrillic Furthermore, the design of the pages mimic, to some extent, the official site of the project. Landing on one of these pages shows the visitor a warning that their browser is updated, regardless of the version they run. Translated into English, the message reads: "Your anonymity is in danger! WARNING: Your Tor Browser is outdated. Click the button “Update" In Pastebin messages, the cybercriminals advertise that users would benefit from anti-captcha feature allowing them to get faster to the destination. This is not true, though. Underneath this Tor Browser impersonator is version 7.5 of the official project, released in January 2018. Getting the cryptocurrency The downloaded script can modify the page by stealing content in forms, hiding original content, showing fake messages, or add its own content. These capabilities allow the script to replace in real-time the destination wallet for cryptocurrency transactions. The JavaScript observed by ESET does exactly this. The targets are users of the three largest Russian-speaking darknet markets, the researchers say. For the payload they observed (image above), the script also alters the details for the Qiwi payment service provider. When victims add Bitcoin funds to their account, the script jumps in and changes the wallet address with one belonging to the attackers. Since cryptocurrency wallets are a large string of random characters, users are likely to miss the swap. Darknet profile with altered Bitcoin address At the moment of publishing, the three cryptocurency wallets controlled by the attackers recorded 863 transactions. These are small transfers, supporting the theory that the funds came via the trojanized Tor Browser. One of them received more than $20,000 from over 370 transactions. The largest balance, though, is currently around $50 in one wallet and less than $2 in the other two. The three wallets have been used for this purpose since 2017, the researchers found. Although the amount of Bitcoins that passed through these wallets is 4.8, the total proceedings for the attackers is likely higher because Qiwi payment details are also altered. Source: Malicious Tor Browser Steals Cryptocurrency from Darknet Market Users
  23. The true vulnerability at the heart of SIM-swap attacks on crypto accounts lies in crypto exchanges' and email providers' variable implementation of 2FA. Recently, I shared with you how alarmingly simple it was to not only "hack" my own email account but then to use that compromised account to hack my other online accounts. Given how SIM-swap attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges escalated in 2019, I wanted to better understand these modern-day bank heists as we go into the new year. My hunch was that SIM swappers were using hijacked phone numbers like a set of keys to open locked doors into a world of online crypto accounts. Would I (or a hacker) have the same success hacking my crypto exchange accounts using just my phone number? The first step in hacking my cryptocurrency accounts was gaining access to my personal email account with just a phone number. As I did in my first "hacking" experiment, I chose the "forgot password" option on my Yahoo account and was able to reset the password using only my publicly available username (my email address) and an SMS code sent to my mobile phone. The fact that I only needed to type in the SMS code sent to my mobile phone indicates that single-factor authentication was in place here, not two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA is the practice of authenticating to an account using (1) something you know, (2) something you have, or (3) something you are (biometrics). In the case of the SMS code, I simply had to type in "something I had" without a second factor proving my identity. This means a hacker who SIM-swapped my phone number would be able to reset my email account within a matter of minutes, even though I added my number to these accounts for added security. (You can read more about how SIM swapping works in my earlier experiment.) After resetting my email password with an SMS code sent to my phone number (which could have been swapped to a hacker), the next step involved using that email access to identify and reset passwords on my cryptocurrency accounts. For a cybercriminal, the end goal is transferring bitcoin or other crypto assets to the attacker's crypto wallet. I navigated to my first cryptocurrency account (let's call it Account #1), entered my publicly available email address as my username, and chose the "forgot password" option. Account #1 sent an email message to my now "hacked" Yahoo account. I was able to click the password reset link, enter an SMS code from my (SIM-swapped) mobile phone, and change the password on Account #1. I tried the same technique with my second crypto exchange account (Account #2). This account did offer the option for application-based 2FA (such as Google Authenticator), but I had disabled that in favor of traditional password authentication. Given these settings, when I clicked "forgot password," I received a simple password reset link to my (hacked) Yahoo account that allowed me to set a new password and gain full access to Account #2. At this point, I had gained access to an email account and two cryptocurrency accounts in about 10 minutes or less. These steps demonstrate how an attacker receiving text messages to a compromised mobile number could take over email accounts and easily gain access to crypto funds. Had I been an attacker, I could have quickly transferred crypto assets from my exchange accounts to a series of other crypto wallets and laundering sites that would funnel the money through various untraceable paths. This would leave the victim with little recourse to recoup the stolen assets. Some cryptocurrency platforms have built-in mechanisms to prevent a SIM swapper from facilitating such a quick compromise of accounts. For example, one exchange where I opened an account (Account #3) allows single-factor authentication but implements a 24-hour lockout period before the password reset will take place. This effectively times out SIM swappers who have a short window in which to empty accounts before the stolen number is retrieved by its rightful owner. This table highlights the variability in SMS authentication security options offered by crypto exchanges: Crypto Exchange Authentication Password Reset Account #1 App-based 2FA/optional Email link + SMS code Account #2 App-based 2FA/optional Email link Account #3 Single-factor (creds)/IP check 24-hour wait period As I learned firsthand, several exchanges still allow for password resets via a link sent to an email account, which could easily be hacked by a SIM swapper in control of a phone number. Most exchanges offer stronger application-based 2FA for resetting passwords, but many still allow users to default to weaker single-factor authentication. For example, my Account #2 defaulted to application-based 2FA during registration, but users can log in before enabling this setting. Similarly, while Account #1 offers more secure forms of 2FA such as application-based options, it also allows users to opt for SMS-based authentication settings that created the vulnerability in this experiment. Traditional bank accounts generally require more in-depth authentication to reset a password, such as Social Security number or security questions. Until cryptocurrency accounts implement similar password reset requirements, SIM swappers will continue to target these exchange accounts using the techniques outlined above. It's clear that the true vulnerability at the heart of SIM-swap attacks on crypto accounts lies in crypto exchanges' and email providers' variable implementation of 2FA. Until all crypto exchanges force the implementation of more secure application-based 2FA, these vulnerabilities will continue to allow for SIM-swapping attacks against crypto accounts. Source
  24. Most major cryptocurrencies are at or near 2019 highs. Enlarge Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images News Last Wednesday we reported that bitcoin had risen to $6,000 for the first time this year. On Monday, just five days later, bitcoin reached a new 2019 high of $8,000. As I write this, one bitcoin is worth about $7,900. Of course, bitcoin reached much higher levels in late 2017 and early 2018. Bitcoin's current price just under $8,000 is less than half the all-time high of $19,500 set in December 2017. Bitcoin was last worth at least $8,000 in July 2018. As often happens, bitcoin's rise is part of a broader cryptocurrency boom. On Saturday, the price of ether—the currency of the Ethereum network—rose above $200 for the first time in 2019. Other cryptocurrencies, including Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, and Dash are at or near 2019 highs. Still, bitcoin has outpaced all of these alternative cryptocurrencies in recent weeks. Bitcoin's price has doubled just since late March. I wrote last week that there was no clear explanation for bitcoin's sudden popularity with investors. That largely continues to be true today. One recent piece of bullish news came from Bakkt, a digital asset exchange that shares a parent company with the New York Stock Exchange. Bakkt announced on Monday that it would begin user acceptance testing for bitcoin futures contracts in July. It's a step toward greater mainstream acceptance of the currency and could generate additional demand for bitcoin. But it's hard to believe that this factor accounted for very much of the last week's big price gains. There are also some signs of increasing bitcoin purchases from large institutional investors. That may be contributing to bitcoin's price rise, but it's not clear why these buyers are suddenly interested in bitcoin. While bitcoin's price has been rising at a rapid pace in recent days, it has yet to reach the fever pitch of late 2017. In one 48-hour period days before the December 2017 peak, Bitcoin rose from $12,000 to $15,000 in less than 48 hours. A few days later, bitcoin hit its all-time record price of $19,500, then crashed—the start of a year-long slump that brought the price below $4,000 by December 2018. Source: It took just five days for bitcoin to rise from $6,000 to $8,000 (Ars Technica)
  25. Facebook seeks investors for planned cryptocurrency, merchants who might accept it. Enlarge / Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg checks his phone during the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 13, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Drew Angerer/Getty Images If Facebook's pivot from town square to private living room wasn’t laden with enough irony, here’s a new twist: Big business, it appears, has been invited to join us by the fireplace. On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported new potential details about Facebook’s long-awaited cryptocurrency plans. The company is reportedly seeking dozens of business partners, including online merchants and financial firms, in an effort to extend the reach of its blockchain-based marketplace. Facebook’s would-be partners are being asked to pitch into an investment fund, valued at $1 billion or more, that would serve as backing for Facebook’s coin and mitigate the wild speculative swings that make cryptocurrencies like bitcoin hard to spend. The pitch, according to the Journal, involves offering merchants lower fees than credit cards. Some were quick to note that this would reduce Facebook’s ability to make money from payments in the short term. But that may not matter much—if, in the end, Facebook’s crypto effort is really all about getting you to spend more time glued to Facebook. Facebook appears to be already building out the plumbing to make its marketplace a reality. At its F8 developer conference last week, the word “blockchain” was notably absent. But even as Zuckerberg emphasized the company’s plan to reorganize your Facebook experience around intimate relationships, his update included plenty of ways money would be involved. “I believe that it should be as easy to send money to someone as it is to send a photo,” he said, alluding to “simple and secure payments” as a core feature of his privacy-forward vision. That apparently extends beyond the peer-to-peer payments available on Venmo and Facebook’s own Messenger app. In a series of keynotes, Facebook execs touted a litany of commerce-focused improvements: better checkout for Instagram’s digital mall, donation stickers, and a new tool for small business owners to list items on WhatsApp. Indeed, WhatsApp appears to sit at the center of Facebook’s commerce efforts—at least to start. At F8, Facebook said WhatsApp Pay, currently on limited trial in India, would expand to additional, unnamed countries later this year. The platform isn’t blockchain-based (for now) and is designed for peer-to-peer payments. But with 80 percent of small businesses in India using WhatsApp to market their goods, some form of payments processing is a natural evolution. In December, Bloomberg reported that the first tests of the crypto coin may occur in India, initially as a way for workers to send money home from overseas. An added twist from the Journal’s report is the possibility that the coin will be integrated into Facebook’s lucrative ads ecosystem. The scheme, reportedly still under debate within Facebook, would potentially work on both sides of the ads equation: Merchants could use the coins to pay for ads, and users would be rewarded in coins for viewing or interacting with them. That reflects a growing perception—seen recently in efforts like the Brave browser, which compensates users through a token for clicking on ads—that people should get paid for their attention, not simply help internet giants make money. For Facebook, it also presents a vision of how its ads and eyeballs-driven business could continue in the company’s supposedly privacy-first era. The idea is to keep Facebook’s coins—and therefore users—tightly enmeshed in the platform. “I don’t believe they’re doing anything that isn’t in the service of increasing interactions on their platforms,” says Joshua Gans, a professor at the University of Toronto. Sending money to businesses presents a challenge, he notes. Compared with friends and family, businesses are more likely to dump their Facebook coins at the end of the month in favor of real money. Gans is skeptical that Facebook would pay users for viewing ads—an immensely tricky system to create—unless it involved something like a rebate for buying a product through a Facebook advertisement. On the merchant side, encouraging businesses to pay for ads and services on Facebook with the coin could be one way of staunching the flow of money out of the system. As the Journal notes, Facebook’s foray into blockchain could look a bit like a loyalty-points system—tokens that can be earned through and spent on Facebook services, or cashed out elsewhere though partner merchants. That’s not without precedent among technology companies: Uber, for example, has Uber Cash, which rewards users for purchases both in and out of Uber with app-specific money. Gans notes offerings like the Apple Card hold a similar purpose: It’s a service that, for all the talk of disrupting the credit card industry, is mostly a shiny, heavy way to buy more of Apple’s apps and products. A Facebook spokesperson reiterated an earlier comment: “Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology. This new small team is exploring many different applications.” Facebook still faces many challenges, from sorting out how it will oversee the system to assuaging the privacy concerns of users to determining how to funnel money in and out of its currency—a process that, for other cryptocurrencies, is typically handled by exchanges. It also has to contend with the realities of the global economic system, which runs on euros and yen as well as dollars. Even if it backs the currency with a basket of currencies, as reported, it “can’t be stable with every currency in the world,” says Gans. “That’s not how the world works.” Hence the need to enlist financial partners to smooth transactions in and out of Facebook’s system. Bottom line: It’s very unclear how this will work in practice. “There are a lot of moving parts. Facebook doesn’t always do what we expect,” says Gans. This story originally appeared on wired.com. Source: Facebook’s cryptocurrency might work like loyalty points (Ars Technica)
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