Thursday, May 31, 2018

Goldman Sachs-Backed Tradeshift Eyes Blockchain After Successful $250 Mln Funding Round


Cloud-based supply chain company Tradeshift said it would push blockchain development with cash it received from its latest funding round Wednesday, May 30.

The Series E round, which included Goldman Sachs among its major contributors, was worth $250 mln, bringing the total investment funding to over $400 mln.

Identifying key areas for growth, Tradeshift noted both blockchain and artificial intelligence, which it will pursue via its Frontiers innovation lab which it launched in January this year.

"We have always believed that the future of supply chains is 100 percent digital and that connecting trade is just the first step to a digitally connected economy," Tradeshift CEO and co-founder Christian Lanng said in an accompanying press release, continuing:

"This investment will enable us to continue our rapid growth and consolidate our leadership position. We welcome Goldman Sachs and PSP Investments as our newest investors and look forward to their valuable contributions as we enter our next growth phase."

The move paves the way for further integration of blockchain technology into the trade supply chain industry, something which various major corporations, banks and governments are already examining.

Goldman Sachs' investment choice is also pertinent, coming at a time when the conglomerate is seeking to enhance both its blockchain and cryptocurrency exposure. Earlier this month, an executive appeared to confirm Goldman would soon launch Bitcoin futures and subsequently offer more direct investment options. Revamps Website and Adds New P2P Features offers an escrow service so buyers and sellers can trade Bitcoin Cash (BCH) in a peer-to-peer fashion. The platform was launched in October 2017 in its beta stage and has seen a lot of changes since then. Localbitcoincash (LBC) pretty much offers the same services as its BTC counterpart Localbitcoins but also has a variety of other options for users. Since our last review, the website looks and feels completely different as the colors are now green and black in contrast to its older orange look. The front page shows a step-by-step walkthrough detailing how to use LBC alongside a list of buyers and sellers below this field.

The exchange.
LBC's Fiat and Crypto-to-Crypto Exchange
The sidebar to the left has a bunch of different options which include the fiat exchange where users can swap BCH for fiat currencies. Looking at the list of buyers and sellers on Localbitcoincash shows the platform seems to be getting a fair share of users. People from various locations all around the world are selling increments of BCH for their local currency. At the time of publication, prices range from the current spot market price found on online exchanges and some traders are selling for a few hundred more per BCH.

The fiat exchange.
The peer-to-peer LBC platform also has a crypto-to-crypto exchange that operates just like Shapeshift or Changelly but without fees.

The peer-to-peer platform also has a crypto-to-crypto exchange that operates similarly to Shapeshift, and Changelly.
Peer-to-Peer Escrow Shopping
Similarly to the operations of the aforementioned platforms, LBC gives registered users a deposit and receiving address so they can swap BCH for cryptocurrencies like BTC, Dash, Ethereum, Smartcash, Steem, and more. Under this feature on the sidebar is the send BCH by email service which allows users to easily send BCH to someone in this mannner. Furthermore, on May 30, the LBC developer announced the addition of a peer-to-peer shopping section where users can sell items for BCH.

LBC's newly added shopping section that allows people to sell goods via escrow.
"After many weeks of hard work, we are really excited to announce the launch of our peer to peer online shopping platform," explains the LBC representative. "This means that anyone can trade with anyone freely, instantly and safely via escrow. Anyone can be a seller today and sell physical or digital products — There are no commissions at all by the platform and we don't have any restrictions built in so users are welcome to message the sellers directly to deal outside of this platform."

All these additions fit with our objective of allowing anyone to earn a living online, especially people from failed states and corrupt countries. In many of these places, citizens had to suffer from the consequences of the failed government for many decades — Our hope is that with Bitcoin Cash, this will change and help lift someone up from poverty into economic freedom and equality.

The fiat exchange shows traders selling BCH are located all around the world but some have a cap on how much they are willing to sell. A great majority of the peer-to-peer trading arrangements on Localbitcoincash are 'Meetup' swaps where individuals meet in person to trade fiat for BCH. In order to get a scope of what type of trade an individual is offering simply hit the 'view' tab to read the trader's arrangements. The developer of LBC is adding to the website regularly and with each visit the trading portal seems to be more user-friendly over time.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Police Officers in Ukraine Caught Secretly Mining Crypto at Work for Four Months


Employees of a regional police department in Ukraine were recently caught mining cryptocurrencies using the department's resources, according to the court document. They had been mining for four months before they got caught and their mining farm seized.

Police Mining Farm Discovered
Police Officers in Ukraine Caught Secretly Mining Crypto at Work for Four MonthsEmployees of the National Police of Ukraine reportedly set up a cryptocurrency mining farm in their workplace and mined cryptocurrencies for four months before they were caught, local media reported this week. The employees work at the Rivne Oblast regional police headquarters' Communications Department. This information was revealed in the Rivne City Court document number No. 569/8710/18, Finclub reported.

Ukrainian news agency Glavcom elaborated, "In April of this year, employees of the Department of Homeland Security of the Police Headquarters in Rivne Oblast identified the [crypto mining] equipment at the office of the Communications Department," adding:

The same day, the investigator of the regional administration removed from his colleagues two wooden frames, which featured eight graphics cards, six power units, two hard drives, a motherboard and a complete system unit.

The Investigation
Police Officers in Ukraine Caught Secretly Mining Crypto at Work for Four Months"A pre-trial investigation in the criminal proceedings under Part 1 of Article 185 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine on the fact of theft of electricity" has already begun, the publication detailed, noting that the court decided not to reveal the cryptocurrencies mined.

The investigation "established that from the beginning of 2018, officials of the Communications Department…abused their official position, acting in contravention of the interests of the service," the news outlet quoted the court document. The employees unilaterally used the electricity of the region "for their own purposes, for the proper functioning of the equipment for the extraction of cryptocurrencies, which caused significant damage to the interests of the State Enterprise of the Rivne region," the court document details.

The policemen are charged with the theft of electricity belonging to the management of the National Police in the Rivne region, which they used to extract cryptocurrency, but it is not known how much electricity they used.

In Ukraine, there is currently no regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies despite having multiple proposals. However, Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, Oleg Churiy, recently revealed that the central bank is working on a bill to regulate them.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bitfinex Starts Sharing Customer Tax Data with Authorities


Bitfinex, an exchange famed for its opaque banking arrangements, has begun ordering its users to submit their tax details. The platform, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands, a known tax haven, will retain this information and may share it with tax authorities in their customers' jurisdiction. The news has caused quite a stir.

Bitfinex Wants Your Tax Details
In an email issued to a portion of its users, Bitfinex has outlined a new KYC policy. Not content with knowing the identity and location of its customers, it now wants their tax details. It has been stated that this is to accord with local laws in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) where the exchange is registered. The platform's tax data gathering won't stop there however: it notes that the BVI government "may then exchange that information with the tax authorities of the customer's country of residence".

Up until a few months ago, Bitfinex didn't even enforce basic KYC for its users. It's now gone from being one of the laxest major exchanges to one of the most regimented, with a tax sharing policy that surpasses anything enacted by the likes of Coinbase or Bittrex. After Bitfinex' new policy was called out on Twitter, the exchange clarified its position, explaining: "We have not sent this message to all users. We have deliberately targeted users that we believe have an obligation to self-disclose. If a user has _not_ received a message from us, she need _not_ self-certify anything to us at this time." There appears to be an inference, however, that all users will eventually be obliged to comply.

Bitfinex Users Plan a Boycott
Predictably, a number of Bitfinex customers have stated their desire to boycott the platform and take their trading elsewhere. Due to increased regulation, coupled with the transparency that is inherent to blockchain technology, cryptocurrency users are already among the most heavily scrutinized investors in the world. Many feel that Bitfinex' latest policy, regardless of its legal basis, is a step too far. Coming from an exchange synonymous with operating out of tax havens and failing to fully audit its Tether stablecoin, the irony of Bitfinex now wanting to audit its customers is not lost.

Bitcoin Cash Community Sees OP_Code Innovation After Upgrade


It's been well over a day since the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) network upgraded its protocol, and the consensus rules now come with a 32MB block size. Although the block size increase is quite a feat, BCH developers have also expanded the network's default data-carrier-size to 220 Bytes and re-enabled some old Satoshi OP_Codes that were previously removed from earlier codebases. Now over the past 24-hours, lots of people have been playing around with the new BCH features.

Experimenting With the New Bitcoin Cash OP_Codes
Lots of BCH community members have been discussing the new OP_Code features and the additional space added to the network's default data-carrier-size. The first signs of people messing around with the new features came from the Memo and Blockpress developers as both platform's increased posting character limit from 79 to 217.

Both Memo and Blockpress (featured above) now have 217 characters.
This means users of both social media applications can now post more content and everything is saved on-chain. Then shortly after the fork, another OP_Code feature was shown to the community by Openbazaar developer Chris Pacia.

The First Tree Signature on the Bitcoin Cash Blockchain
Pacia built the first tree signature on the Bitcoin Cash blockchain by utilizing the OP_CAT functionality — which creates a more efficient multi-signature combination. The Openbazaar programmer explains for addresses with a large number of keys, a tree signature can use less data. "For addresses with a large number of keys a tree signature can use less data. And unlike normal OP_CHECKMULTISIG, it doesn't require you to expose the keys that were not used in the signing," Pacia explains to the BCH community on May 15. Moreover, Pacia shows his demonstration via a block explorer URL which indicates it was a 1 of 8 multi-sig tree signature.

Chris Pacia's multi-sig tree.
Many individuals were very impressed with the new multi-sig operation that shows innovation in multi-signature technology, and one that could add more BCH privacy in the future. Pacia details his example is a subset of MAST — which stands for 'Merkelized Abstract Syntax Trees.' MAST could improve BCH privacy because certain multi-sig scripts could be kept hidden.

"This is like a subset of MAST," Pacia explains.  

MAST is more general but can't be done with the current opcodes as far as I know — If we had OP_EVAL then we could I think.

An OP_Code Puzzle With a Message in the Script
After the tree signature our Chief Technology Officer, Emil Oldenburg, also experimented with the Satoshi OP_Codes and created a 'transaction puzzle.' When the puzzle is solved it contains a secret message within the hashed script.    

"I made a fun little transaction puzzle with one of the new OP_Codes," Oldenburg explains.

The puzzle is solved with the string "BCH is the best Bitcoin". The script is <String1> <String2> OP_XOR OP_HASH256 <hash1> OP_EQUAL. It's solved by finding the secret String1 that when XORed with String2, after hashing should be equal to hash1.

Etching the Bible's 23,000 Verses Into the Bitcoin Cash Blockchain
Lastly, another anonymous user is pushing the 'arbitrary data spam debate' to the ultimate level. The Twitter handle UK Cryptocurrency showed the cryptocurrency community that a BCH address is currently writing the first testament of the King James Bible to the Bitcoin Cash blockchain at 1sat/Byte. Looking at the Bitcoin Cash transaction ID its Memo states:

Transactions following this continue to be written in the BCH chain with each verse that's found in the King James Bible.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

ARK Sponsors the World’s Premier Blockchain Conference


Blockchain technology has revolutionised the modern world. Transactions and exchanges on a global scale have never been easier, as we begin to unlock the full potential of the blockchain. The implementation of blockchain technology has completely revamped a number of industries. However, so many different blockchain systems are incompatible, interoperability has previously been impossible. ARK is an innovative blockchain startup that seeks to bridge this gap. By incorporating an all-encompassing blockchain network ARK is beginning to realise the potential of the blockchain through "smartbridge" technology.

ARK is offering users, developers and blockchain startups a way to communicate across platforms. Using smartbridge technology users from one blockchain can trigger an event in another blockchain such as sending compatible tokens. Once the user from the initial chain executes an order, ARK will transfer the information to the other chain, which is then immediately recorded. This allows for an easy and efficient environment, without the confusion of transferring between different chains for every transaction or smart contract.

ARK is already has fully functioning models with Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Litecoin blockchains, and is rebuilding the ARK block system to allow compatibility. They also offer one-click blockchain deployment which allows other companies to start an ARK clone and build on its pre-compatible chain.

ARK has the potential for mass adoption by delivering services that consumers and developers equally need. Their aim to create an entire ecosystem of linked chains makes ARK highly flexible, scalable and adaptable. With such a platform, ARK is keen to spread the word. They are now participating in and sponsoring Consensus 2018, one of the largest blockchain conferences in the world.

ARK wants you to get involved! By sponsoring Consensus it will network with some of the the most established players in the sector. By attracting even more innovative minds and enthusiasts, ARK looks to to establish themselves as a market leader and a figure head in the blockchain community.

This year, Consensus will have its 4th annual meeting, which is to be held at Hilton Midtown, New York City, between 14th and 16th May. The event has a real buzz around it, with an expected attendance of over 5,000 people. During the three day event, more than 250 experts will weigh in on various aspects of the blockchain sector. The attendees will be a collection of industry startups, financial institutions, academic groups and tech leaders. These bright minds are welcomed to engage with ARK's all-in-one blockchain solution.

The ARK team are set to be a key figure in the conference, with a booth to accommodate visitors. The team will also provide a meeting room for one-to-one meetings and discussions. The entire event will fully showcase ARK as the team networks with the community. The first day will start with a presentation from ARK, followed by Blockport. These are then follow by a technical presentation from the team, who will fully explain the benefits of ARK.

The second and third day will be filled with insightful meetings and unique presentations. These will take place all day, thanks to the committed ARK team. Some of these discussions will offer great insight into ARK's vision and how they are set to revolutionise the blockchain world. The ARK team can be found in booth #113 and visitors are encouraged to engage in one-to-one meetings or public discussions.

ARK is proud to announce their new chapter that is set to usher in a new era for the blockchain sector. With a fast, decentralised platform the full potential of the blockchain will be unlocked. Don't miss out on ARK at Consensus 2018 and join the ARK community on their exciting expedition.

US State Issues Emergency Cease and Desist Orders to Two Crypto Investment Firms


A U.S. state has issued emergency cease and desist orders to two companies and related persons purportedly engaged in cryptocurrency investment schemes. The first company posted videos of three mining farms composed of online stock images, according to the order. Both companies made numerous materially misleading claims and violated U.S. securities laws.

Bitcoin Trading & Cloud Mining Limited
Texas State Securities Board.
The Texas State Securities Board has issued "an emergency cease and desist order" to London-based Bitcoin Trading & Cloud Mining Limited, also known as Btcrush. Also included in the order are the company's sole director and shareholder Jaylon Cross, founder and CEO Bruce Rodgerson, Chief Marketing Officer Robin Lozinski, and sales agent Thomas A. Johnson.

Btcrush is self-described on its website as "a cloud-based cryptocurrency mining company that mines bitcoin and altcoins and profits from selling altcoins for bitcoins." The company promises an investment return of 4.1% daily interest regardless of the profitability of its mining operations, adding that its main principle is a "100% satisfaction guarantee for [its] customers." The company claims:

A principal investment of $10,000.00 for a term of 365 days returns approximately $17.08 per hour, $410.00 per day and $149,650.00 per year.

In addition, the company has been recruiting investors as sales agents, promising them a commission of 15% of the principal deposited by the new investors that they recruit.

US State Issues Emergency Cease and Desist Orders to Two Crypto Investment Firms

Bogus Mining Farm Videos
According to the order, Btcrush had posted videos of its three mining farms on its website.

US State Issues Emergency Cease and Desist Orders to Two Crypto Investment FirmsThe first mining farm the company claims to operate is the Maverik Farm, which it describes as the "most powerful farm" located "in the mountains."

The second is the Hephaestus Farm, which Btcrush claims to be the "most reliable and secretive farm located in a bunker of the Second World War times."

The third is the Rebelpower Farm, located "at the former power station."

However, the Securities Commissioner wrote:
Although the Btcrush website represents these videos depict the Maverik Farm, the Hephaestus Farm and the Rebelpower Farm, they do not actually depict mining farms operated by respondent Btcrush. Instead, respondent Btcrush created these videos by manipulating stock footage available for sale on the internet.

Forex EA & Bitcoin Investment LLC
The second company to receive an emergency cease and desist order from the Texas State Securities Board on Tuesday is the New York-based Forex EA & Bitcoin Investment LLC, also known as My Forex EA. Also included in the order are James Butcher and Richard Dunn who market the company's Forex and Bitcoin trading program targeting Texas residents, the Securities Commissioner detailed. They advertise:

An investment of $500.00 in the Forex and Bitcoin trading program will return $5,000.00 in twenty-one calendar days…[and] an investment of $1,000.00 in the Forex and Bitcoin trading program will return $10,000.00 in twenty-one calendar days.

Similarly, an investment of $20,000 will yield $20,000 and $5,000 will yield 50,000 in the same time period, the order describes. They also claim that the investments involve "no risk" and their returns "are 100% assured and that there is no possible way investors can lose money."

Violating Securities Laws
The Texas State Securities Board's order explains that the investments both companies offer are securities and their sales are in violation of the Securities Act since neither the companies nor their agents have been registered with the state's Securities Commissioner.

US State Issues Emergency Cease and Desist Orders to Two Crypto Investment FirmsBtcrush also asks investors to agree to a "private transaction rule" of the US Securities Act of 1933 and related acts when signing up. "This statement is materially misleading," the order shows, adding that the public will likely be deceived into thinking that the company is offering regulated securities in the state.

Furthermore, Btcrush asks investors to agree at signup that they "are investing at their own risk" and that the company "reserves the right to amend…. fixed interest rates… without agreement with investors." The order says that these statements are also materially misleading given the advertised guarantee of 4.1% return regardless of the company's profitability.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

UNICEF Turns to Crypto Mining to Raise Funds for its Humanitarian Causes


Do you want to support UNICEF's goal of making the world a better place for less fortunate kids? Turns out now you can, just by visiting a website and volunteering your computer's processing power. UNICEF Australia has turned to crypto mining to fund its humanitarian causes, and it's counting on support from the public. While there have been widespread cases of people's computing power being used to mine cryptos, this initiative is different, as it's dedicated to funding UNICEF as it endeavors to provide humanitarian assistance to children and mothers.

UNICEF Australia has launched The Hopepage, a website with a simple interface that calls on visitors to "Give Hope, Just By Being Here." Once one visits the site, he or she is prompted to click a 'Start Donating' button that lets them start donating their computer's processing power right away. One also gets the option to determine just how much of their processing power they will donate, with the maximum allocation being 80%. (It can be dangerous to donate too much of your processing power to mining, as it's a very energy-intensive process.)

The site also explains how the process works. Once you agree to donate your processing power, your computer automatically starts solving algorithms (mining) which earns UNICEF cryptos that it trades to raise funds for its causes. Those funds are used to buy life-saving supplies like vaccines and safe water for millions of children.

For those who would like to contribute to the cause but are wary of mining, the site has an assuring message for them:

Mining is perfectly safe for your computer. If you're ever worried about power consumption, turn down the amount of processing power you're donating.

The site uses Coinhive, a crypto mining service which has in the past been widely associated with cryptojacking, a process in which unscrupulous internet users mine cryptos using people's computers without their knowledge or consent. This is, however, a very noble undertaking for Coinhive, and will have the secondary benefit of restoring some faith in the service, which has gained notoriety for being used to target users of YouTube, Google, and even UK government sites.

While UNICEF Australia is pioneering the use of people's processing power for humanitarian causes, other companies have also turned to using the processing power of their users to mine cryptos, some legally and many more illegally. Among those doing it legally and openly is Salon, a media outlet that is exploring using its visitors' computing power in place of ads. This offer is optional, and one can opt out and instead view ads if they wish.

Among those that have been caught using Coinhive to illegally harvest processing power from users include The Pirate Bay, a digital repository for media content and software. After users found out that the site had been cryptojacking their computers, the site apologized and proposed a more open harvesting of processing power in place of ads. Most of the people who responded to the proposal were supportive of the initiative just so they could avoid ads. Showtime, an American television network, was also found to have been doing the same thing; it had been mining Monero, a privacy-focused crypto, using Coinhive's software.

Bitcoin Is Not Used by Organized Crime Syndicates Says Hong Kong Government


Bitcoin is often accused by regulators, governments and central bankers as being a tool for money laundering by criminal organizations, usually without presenting any evidence. A new report from Hong Kong, a major international financial hub and nexus for trade between China and the whole world, spells this out clearly. 

No Evidence of Money Laundering
Bitcoin Is Not Used by Organized Crime Syndicates Says Hong Kong GovernmentThe government of Hong Kong has published on Monday its 2018 Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (ML/TF) Risk Assessment Report. The paper examines threats and vulnerabilities facing the city with regards to the recommendation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the inter-governmental body that sets international standards on combating ML and TF.

Addressing the issue of bitcoin, the report reveals that Hong Kong Police Force monitoring indicates no apparent sign of organized crime or ML/TF concerning the trading of cryptocurrencies. Moreover investigations and intelligence do not suggest cryptocurrencies were used or intended to be used in other prevalent predicate offenses (e.g. drugs, dutiable goods smuggling) or terrorist financing. "The threat level is low." The government did find, however, that cryptocurrencies have been used as a pretext in Ponzi schemes or as payments for cyber criminals, mostly blackmailers using ransomware.

Not a Threat to Free Economies
ATMs Near Wan Chai Station
Interestingly, the report also explains why the use of bitcoin should not be seen as a threat to governments that don't try to limit the financial freedom's of citizens. "Hong Kong is one of the world's freest economies with a vibrant foreign currency exchange market and no capital controls." Cryptocurrencies "are therefore not as attractive as in economies where people may try to circumvent currency controls or seek refuge from a high inflation rate."

The approach of the Hong Kong government regarding fraud, as evident by the report, is that it's enough to warn the public to stay vigilant when dealing with cryptocurrency investment offers and take action only against actual crime. And unlike other governments in the region, Hong Kong sees no need to create regulations to limit the legitimate use of bitcoin. It considers the current legal and regulatory provisions relating to fraud and other crimes to be wide enough to catch offenses, whether involving cryptocurrencies or not.