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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Asked whether you will buy bitcoins, big bull Rakesh Jhunjhunwala answered, "I won't buy it for even $5." In an interview with CNBC International TV, the ace investor said, "Only the sovereign has the right to create currency in the world. Tomorrow people will produce 5 lakh bitcoins, then which currency will go? Something which fluctuates 5-10% a day, can it be considered as currency?" "If a dollar moves 1-2%, it becomes a news, but bitcoin fluctuates 10-15% every day," Jhunjhunwala said. On cryptocurrency trading, he said, "I think it's speculation of the highest order." The veteran investor added, "I am not going to buy even if the price goes up," adding, "I don't want to join every party in the town, so I don't even put my minds on bitcoins." On fear of missing out the crypto fever, he mentioned, "There have been so many times when markets have gone up, but I stayed out. You should only go to the parties you like." "I will never buy bitcoins in my life," he reiterated. A high-level committee earlier suggested that all the private cryptocurrencies, except any virtual currencies issued by state, will be prohibited in India. The central government will take a decision on the recommendation of committee and legislative proposal, the finance minister had said. On whether crypto trading will be banned in India, Jhunjhunwala echoed the same thought. "The power to issue currencies should only be with the state and it should be taken away from others. The biggest sovereign right is to issue currency. The regulator must ban cryptocurrencies in India," he said. Bitcoin tanked as much 18% on Tuesday and traded around $48,750. The selloff puts Bitcoin prices at the lowest in about two weeks. SOURCE
  5. Ether, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, hits a record high above $1,700 KEY POINTS Ether climbed 11% to a price of more than $1,700 on Friday, according to data from CoinDesk. Investors are awaiting the launch of ether futures contracts from the CME next week. The Ethereum network is also undergoing a major upgrade called Ethereum 2.0. Ether, the digital token of the Ethereum blockchain, is the second-largest cryptocurrency in the world by market value. Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto via Getty Images LONDON — The cryptocurrency ether hit a fresh all-time high on Friday, surging past $1,700 for the first time. Ether, which is the world’s second-largest digital coin by market value, climbed 11.2% to a price of $1,743 at around 10:30 a.m. ET, according to data from CoinDesk. It comes after bitcoin, the most valuable virtual currency, hit a record high close to $42,000 last month. Bitcoin more than quadrupled in price over the course of 2020, and is up 29% since the start of 2021. Ether has risen about 129% year to date. Ether has been steadily rising this week as investors await the highly anticipated launch of ether futures contracts from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange next week. Trading in ether futures is set to start Monday. The CME launched bitcoin futures over three years ago, at the peak of that cryptocurrency’s 2017 rally. Some investors believe that futures and other crypto-focused derivatives products will give institutional investors more confidence to invest in the space. “Bringing more financial instruments will bring more participants into the market,” said Sachin Patodia, a partner at Avon Ventures, a venture capital fund affiliated with the parent company of Fidelity. “That probably is positive for the ether price.” But Patodia said a big driver of the price of ether — and other smaller digital currencies — was the momentum for bitcoin in recent months. “We’ve seen this pattern over many crypto cycles that we’ve gone through, where bitcoin leads the way in price movement and then you see what we call the alt-coins get carried along,” he said. Ethereum, ether’s network, was created after bitcoin in 2013. The main difference it has with bitcoin’s blockchain is the ability to support applications. “This move by the CME may spark further buying of ether by new entrants to the market because it provides a way for sophisticated investors to hedge their risk against positions that they may be holding on the underlying asset,” Simon Peters, a cryptoasset analyst at online investment platform eToro, told CNBC. “However, it is worth noting that, like bitcoin, CME ether futures will be cash settled so as not to involve any physical delivery, so we shouldn’t necessarily expect a major impact on spot prices.” Crypto investors said another factor potentially boosting ether was the start of a major upgrade to the Ethereum blockchain, called Ethereum 2.0. Believers in ether hope the upgrade will make Ethereum faster and more secure. The total market value of all cryptocurrencies combined hit $1 trillion last month, as bitcoin’s price surged to records. Bitcoin bulls say it’s gotten a boost from institutional demand, as well as the perception that it is a store of value similar to gold. Bitcoin was up 4.7% in the last 24 hours, trading at a price $38,151. XRP, the third-largest digital token, climbed 10.7% to 44 cents. But skeptics like economist Nouriel Roubini say bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have no intrinsic value. A recent Deutsche Bank survey found investors view bitcoin as the most extreme bubble in financial markets. Source: Ether, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, hits a record high above $1,700
  6. India plans to introduce law to ban Bitcoin, other private cryptocurrencies Image Credits: Getty Images India plans to introduce a law to ban private cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in the country and provide a framework for the creation of an official digital currency during the current budget session of parliament. In the agenda (PDF) published on the lower house website, the legislation seeks to “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India,” but allow “for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology [blockchain] of cryptocurrency and its uses.” The law also seeks to “create a facilitative framework for creation of the official digital currency” that will be issued by the nation’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India, the agenda said. In 2018, an Indian government panel recommended banning all private cryptocurrencies and proposed up to 10 years of jail time for offenders. The panel also suggested the government to explore a digital version of the fiat currency and ways to implement it. At the time, RBI said the move was necessary to curb “ring-fencing” of the country’s financial system. It had also argued that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies cannot be treated as currencies as they are not made of metal or exist in physical form, nor were they stamped by the government. The 2018 notice from the central bank sent a panic to several local startups and companies offering services to trade in cryptocurrency. Nearly all of them have either since closed shop, or pivoted to serve other markets. This proposal was challenged by several exchanges and traders, who filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court. The nation’s apex court ruled in their favor last year. This ruling was seen as “historic” but it did not impact the earlier circular on the policy level. “Since the government is considering introducing the bill during this session of Parliament, we are sure the government will definitely listen to all the stakeholders before taking any decision,” said Sumit Gupta, co-founder and chief executive of CoinDCX,a cryptocurrency exchange in India. “We are talking to other stakeholders and will definitely initiate deeper dialogue with the government and showcase how we can actually create a healthy ecosystem in unison,” he said. Source: India plans to introduce law to ban Bitcoin, other private cryptocurrencies
  7. 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
  8. Yet another exchange is abandoning this massive cryptocurrency Kraken becomes the latest crypto exchange to drop XRP (Image credit: Shutterstock / Wit Olszewski) Cryptocurrency exchange Kraken has become the latest in a series of high-profile platforms to delist XRP, one of the world’s largest digital currencies. The decision was prompted by a lawsuit filed in December by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), against XRP custodian Ripple, it’s CEO Brad Garlinghouse and President Chris Larsen. The lawsuit hinges on the classification of XRP as a security (i.e. a financial asset from the investor intends to profit) as opposed to a currency or medium of exchange. The SEC claims the sale of XRP amounted to a violation of federal securities law, because Ripple failed to properly classify its product and, by extension, provide sufficient information to investors. “Given the recent SEC filing against Ripple Labs Inc., we are halting XRP trading for US residents no later than January 289, 2021 at 5pm PT,” explained Kraken in a blog post. According to the firm, the decision will only affect US-based customers. Although they will no longer be able to purchase XRP, US residents will still be able to deposit, hold or withdraw via Kraken’s wallet service. The company explained it could not yet say for how long restrictions will last. “We are monitoring the situation regarding the SEC’s filing and will adapt according to any new developments,” it added. XRP lawsuit When the lawsuit was first announced, only two small US exchanges (CrossTower and Beaxy) acted to delist XRP. However, a raft of major players - such as Binance and Coinbase - have since followed, making the cryptocurrency effectively untradeable in the US and damaging the value of existing XRP holdings. The digital currency is currently sitting at a valuation of just $0.28 per coin, down by more than 50% from roughly $0.55 before the SEC lawsuit was announced. The cryptocurrency has fallen from third to fifth largest by market capitalization, overtaken by Tether and Polkadot. Ripple, for its part, maintains that XRP should not be classified as a security, and Garlinghouse himself described the lawsuit as “an attack on the entire crypto industry and American innovation.” In the company’s Wells Submission, a document that allows defendants to respond to any lawsuit brought against them, Ripple states that “the SEC’s theory, that XRP is an investment contract, is wrong on the facts, the law and the equities.” “[The SEC theory] ignores the economic reality that XRP is, and has long been, a digital asset with a fully functional ecosystem and a real use case.” Yet another exchange is abandoning this massive cryptocurrency
  9. 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
  10. Luke Hemsworth, Jeremie Harris and Vincent Kartheiser round out the cast of the John Stalberg-helmed indie. Beau Knapp, Alexis Bledel and Kurt Russell Beau Knapp, the star of Netflix's recently canceled series Seven Seconds, will star alongside Alexis Bledel (The Handmaid’s Tale, Gilmore Girls), Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight), Luke Hemsworth (Westworld), Jeremie Harris (Legion) and Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) in the money laundering thriller Crypto. Directed by John Stalberg Jr., the indie film is written by Carlyle Eubank and David Frigerio based on an original story by Jeffrey Ingber and produced by Yale Prods.’ Jordan Yale Levine and Jordan Beckerman alongside David Frigerio. Dubbed a thriller in the vein of The Firm and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Crypto centers on a young anti-money laundering agent (Knapp) tasked with investigating a tangled web of corruption and fraud in his remote New York hometown, where his father (Russell) and brother (Hemsworth) are struggling to maintain their family farm in a changing economic landscape. The agent quickly finds himself enmeshed in a dangerous underworld populated by a mysterious art dealer (Bledel), a crypto-currency enthusiast turned cyber-sleuth (Harris) and a corrupt accountant doing the bidding of ruthless clients (Kartheiser). The film marks the sophomore feature for director Stalberg — whose debut, High School, starring Adrien Brody and Colin Hanks, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and quickly gained a cult following upon its theatrical release. Eubank and Frigerio previously collaborated as co-writers of the sci-fi thriller The Signal, in which Knapp starred. That film premiered at Sundance and was distributed by Focus Features. “I am overjoyed to be working with such an incredible cast to bring this timely, thrilling story to life,” said Stalberg. “Beau is incredibly talented, and seeing him bring this character to life opposite talent like Alexis, Kurt, Luke, Jeremie and Vincent has been a dream come true." Added Levine: “Cryptocurrency has captured the attention and imagination of consumers and entrepreneurs all over the world but has never been explored in film in such a nuanced and exciting way.” Film Mode Entertainment is representing worldwide rights for Crypto. Michael J. Rothstein and Siena Oberman of Yale Prods. are executive producing alongside Clay Epstein, Joseph Siprut, Shaun Sanghani and Zac Weinstein. Yale Prods.’ Jon Keeyes, Russ Posternak and Jesse Korman are serving as co-producers. Crypto is currently shooting in New York. Knapp also is known for his role in The Nice Guys. He is repped by CAA and Luber Roklin. Bledel, who won an Emmy for playing Ofglen in Handmaid’s Tale, is handled by CAA, Industry Entertainment, and Jackoway, Tyerman. Crypto marks a reteaming for her and her real-life husband, Kartheiser (They met on the set of Mad Men). He is represented by Paradigm and Untitled. Russell, who next will shoot Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is repped by CAA. Hemsworth is handled by UTA and Fourward. And Harris is repped by CAA. Source
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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)
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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
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