Thursday, December 24, 2020

XRP Token Plunges Nearly 40% Following the Announcement of SEC Charges Against Ripple


Ripple's XRP has lost almost 40% of its value after the token price dropped from $0.51 on December 21 to $0.31 at the time of writing. The token's plunge appears to be the result of legal proceedings initiated against Ripple by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). At the time of writing, the fourth-ranked crypto token had seen traded volumes of $4.85 billion recorded in 24 hours.

$1.3 Billion Lawsuit
As data on suggests, the sell-off of the XRP token appears to have been sparked by Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse's warning that the SEC was about to launch legal proceedings against the company. A day later, the SEC announced the $1.3 billion legal action against Ripple and two of its executives for allegedly conducting an unregistered security offering.

Meanwhile, as the XRP token continues to plummet, an angry Garlinghouse has accused the US regulator of being biased against Ripple while appearing to give a free pass to BTC and ETH. In its determination, the SEC says the XRP is a security and therefore is subject to the dictates of the US Securities Act. Garlinghouse, who has previously threatened to exit the United States due to its regulatory approach, rejects the characterization of XRP as a security.

In his many very public attempts to push back against the SEC, Garlinghouse says the XRP token is a fully functional currency that offers a better alternative. He adds that alongside bitcoin and ether, "the two Chinese controlled virtual currencies" according to the company, XRP ranks as one of the most capitalized cryptos.

Crypto Community Reacts
However, the latter comment appears to have prompted a swift response by some bitcoiners and the ETH creator Vitalik Buterin. In his tweet, Buterin accuses Garlinghouse and his team of "sinking to new levels of strangeness." The ETH creator adds:
They're claiming that their shitcoin should not be called a security for *public policy reasons*, namely because Bitcoin and Ethereum are 'Chinese-controlled.'

Also weighing in on the controversy is Mike Novogratz, the CEO of Galaxy who says he "finds it strange that Clayton waited years to do this."

On the other hand, Ryan Selkis thinks the SEC is going to lose this case because it is "outclassed on legal." He adds that the classification of XRP as a security "further hurts the U.S. businesses while global companies will continue to make these markets."

Meanwhile, at the time of writing reports emerged that the Hong Kong trading platform OSL had suspended XRP services as a result of the SEC lawsuit.

Trezor warns of phishing attack targeting users


Trezor has warned users of its hardware wallet about a phishing scam it said was related to an earlier hack on one of its competitors. The company said the attackers claim a user's wallet has been disabled, before redirecting to a clone site to steal their credentials.

In a blog post, Trezor revealed that the attackers have been sending its users emails claiming they need to pass verification due to new KYC regulations. It then provided a website that's a replica of on which the users can supposedly verify their identity. This site requests the users to key in their recovery seed, giving the attackers full control of the wallet.

Trezor reminded its users that they "will not be asked to enter their seed anywhere other than on their Trezor device." It also assured its users that all their funds are safe and that no Trezor customer data has been leaked.

"We continue to operate under a policy where we anonymize all customer data from e-commerce within 90 days, once it is no longer needed to complete the order, and will even remove customer data manually if requested before that," the firm stated.

Trezor believes that the recent wave of phishing attacks was a result of a hack on its hardware wallet competitor Ledger. The French company was hacked in late June, with the attackers accessing one million emails. They also accessed additional details such as postal addresses, first and last names and phone numbers for close 9,500 of the users.

Trezor believes that this is the data the attackers in the latest phishing attack are relying on.

"The timing and scope of this phishing scheme suggests it is a second wave of attacks resulting from a breach of our competitor's e-commerce database. Malicious actors who acquired the data from that attack are blindly targeting Ledger customers whom they presume may also own a Trezor wallet."

Trezor advised its users against ever digitizing their recovery seed or sharing them. They should also ensure they perform every important action using their hardware wallets.

This is not the first phishing campaign that has relied on data from the July Ledger hack. In October, thousands of Ledger users were targeted by a phishing attack that many described as "really legit-looking." The attackers told the targets that Ledger had found several of its servers to be infected with malware.

One user described the attack on Reddit, "Wow this looked really legit, so much so I used Contact Us form to ask Ledger if it was real. I am normally pretty good at sniffing things like this out – this was by far the most convincing attempt I have ever seen."

See also: CoinGeek Live presentation, Custody Changes Everything: How BSV Opens a New World for Digital Asset Custodians

Thursday, November 26, 2020

ARK Announces Partnership with Magic.Link


As Ark approachs the launch of MarketSquare, we want to give our community an inside look at some of the partnerships we have formed. These strategic partnerships will not only help make MarketSquare the new homepage for the decentralized web but will also create inroads between ARK and other projects looking to build and collaborate together. Today we would like to introduce you to Magic.Link!

What is Magic?
Magic is a developer SDK that can be integrated into applications to enable passwordless authentication using magic links - similar to systems used by Slack and Medium.

Once a developer integrates Magic into their application a user is able to sign up or log in by doing the following:

A user requests a magic link be sent to their email address.
The user clicks on the magic link
The user is securely logged into the application.
#Saying Goodbye to Passwords
You may have noticed that this process occurs without the need for signing in or registering with a password. The benefits of passwordless authentication in modern applications and services are becoming more apparent. Let's go over a few of them below:

Increased Security: Passwords are becoming obsolete. The resources required to manage user credentials and passwords are increasing. It is estimated that 81% of security breaches are due to poor passwords set by users. The problem is further complicated due to the fact that 59% of users reuse their passwords everywhere. By using Magic, password leaks can be prevented which reduces risk and liability for companies using passwordless authentication.

Less Overhead: Statistics show that nearly 50% of all support tickets are related to lost and forgotten passwords. The estimated cost for handling 10 support tickets a day is $128,000 annually. Magic takes a different approach. Magic leverages blockchain-based, standardized public-private key cryptography to achieve identity management. When a new user signs up for an application or service, a public-private key pair is generated for them. Private keys are used to sign cryptographic proofs of a user's identity.

Boost Conversion: By removing passwords, Magic creates a better user experience. The number of steps necessary to login and signup for a new platform or application is reduced by over 66%. This amounts to better conversion rates and happier users.

Magic & MarketSquare
One of the main goals of MarketSquare is to be an industry leader in providing educational and informative content centered around blockchain. By working closely together with Magic we have an opportunity to explore integrating their robust SDK, create content around decentralized identification management, and more.

Other areas of collaboration include:
Creating MarketSquare content centered around Magic.
Explore integrating Magic's SDK for ARK's products.
Exploring other areas where working together would make sense and be beneficial for both projects.
As we expand the number of developer tools that we are featuring on MarketSquare, we believe that Magic is a great fit and are looking forward to having them as a partner.

South Korea to delay digital currency tax law until January 2022


Digital currency holders in South Korea have been granted an extra three months before a new taxation rule is implemented. The rule was to be implemented in October 2021, but will now be delayed until January 2022.

South Korea finalized its digital currency tax proposal in July, with the Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-Ki revealing it would take effect in late 2021. The rule requires Koreans to pay a 20% on digital currency profits above KRW2.5 million ($2,259).

Soon after the government revealed the rule, several stakeholders in the digital currency industry were up in arms against it. Some felt that the industry was still too young to face such a huge tax cut. Yonsei University economist Sung Tae-yoon stated at the time:

"It is premature for the government to impose cryptocurrency taxes at a time when the market has not developed enough in a stable manner. Any rash taxation or introduction of regulations can be a stumbling block for sustainable growth of the industry."

The Korea Blockchain Association soon after called on the government to delay the implementation for two years. According to the lobbying organization, the time period given to exchanges was too short. Oh Gap-soo, the association's chairman remarked:

"It is necessary to provide a reasonable minimum period of preparation so that it can contribute to the national economy and to secure tax revenue in the long term."

South Korean lawmakers have offered this reprieve to the digital currency industry, local outlet Dong-A Ilbo reports. The outlet reports that the lawmakers concurred the timeline wasn't sufficient for the exchanges to adhere to the new rules. The tax sub-committee at the national assembly is expected to announce the specific implementation dates in the coming week.

Rep. Lee Dong-min of the ruling Democratic Party stated, "It's good to implement it [the new tax rule] quickly, but it's also critical allow the system to settle calmly while securing a considerable degree of consensus."

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Waves sets up $3M grant fund to promote cross-chain interoperability


The Waves Association announced on Wednesday a new grant program for cross-chain interoperability development.

The pool consists of 1 million Waves tokens, worth approximately $3 million as of press time. Projects will be eligible for grants of up to 300,000 Waves to develop solutions for interoperability and cross-chain communication.

There will be three separate types of grants: open grants, grants distributed through hackathons and Waves-focused grants. Sten Laureyssens, strategic advisor at the Waves Association, explained to Cointelegraph that open grants will have a wide scope:

"For the open grant category, the grants are open to a wide variety of interoperability projects, that don't necessarily have to be connected to Waves. We're looking for creative solutions to connect existing blockchains and dApps."
The latter two types of grants will have to adhere to certain requirements, which makes it likely that the Waves blockchain will be involved in some form. Nevertheless, Laureyssens said that the association is planning to sponsor blockchain-agnostic solutions as well.

Sasha Ivanov, president of the Waves Association, threw a subtle jab at certain types of interoperability solutions offered today:

"Waves Association aims to support independent developers working on interoperability solutions — especially those thinking outside the box. Solving interoperability by adding a dedicated blockchain and native token as an additional layer would only lead to more complexity, undercutting the potential of the proposed solution."
Grants will be stipulated and decided on by members of the Waves Association, though the disbursement of funds will be automated through a decentralized application.

Waves is a smart contract-enabled blockchain platform competing with the likes of Ethereum and EOS. Its developers have often criticized the mainstream approaches to certain tenets of blockchain technology, notably misleading claims of transactional capacity.

The Waves blockchain was recently used with apparent success in a Russian local election, following a disappointing performance by a similar system developed by BitFury.

Twetch passes 1 million transaction milestone


Twetch, the social media app built on Bitcoin, exceeded 1 million transactions on October 27.

This is a remarkable and significant milestone for the company, its users, and the Bitcoin ecosystem. The 1 million transaction milestone makes Twetch one of the few Bitcoin companies to put 1 million transactions on-chain.

From the day Twetch launched to the 1 millionth tx, how long did it take to reach this milestone?

From the day that we started, it took about 18 months to get our 1 millionth transaction.

Is Twetch the first Bitcoin app to put 1 million transactions on-chain?

Twetch is the first and most active application to have 1 million transactions on-chain; Ethereum cannot even dream of such a thing.

Why should someone who has never used Twetch before give it a try and check it out?

Twetch represents the future of the internet. It is ad-free, you can profit off of it, you own your own data, and the user is in total control. In a world where these big internet giants are the ones that are in control, Twetch treats users and their ideas the way nature intended, giving users control of their property.

What would you say users like most about Twetch?
Twetch users like the money the most, they make a lot of money. There are people making thousands of dollars on Twetch. The other thing would be the culture. Bright gang represents a group of people who really are willing to go in the world and try to make a difference to see a brighter future, to really try and make things better in a world that is sort of doom and gloom. Bright gang stands out, we shine bright.  

Can you share any details regarding quarterly or YTD revenue?
I'm not going to go into specifics because the answer is on the blockchain. Twetch is on the blockchain, it's completely auditable on the blockchain, everyone can see the money going in and out on the Bitcoin blockchain.

But something that's really exciting about Twetch is that within the last 30 days, our revenue is more than last year's revenue. The revenue is really growing, people are coming back day to day to use Twetch, not just for our posts to the blockchain features and to profit from their content, but people are using Twetch DMs to do business and connect with new people. It's really about getting the world better connected on Twetch right now, and the culture is just really, really strong.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Waves and Fantom enter collaboration


Joint work will be focused on developing a broader DeFi ecosystem using the Gravity cross-chain communication protocol.
We are excited to announce a collaboration between Waves and Fantom. Waves and Fantom are committed to building an open ecosystem between different chains, based on the Gravity protocol, which is essential to the DeFi industry's wider success.

Under the collaboration deal, WAVES, the native utility token of the Waves ecosystem, will join Fantom's DeFi ecosystem as collateral for minting synthetic assets, including fUSD, Fantom's stablecoin pegged to the US dollar.
WAVES holders will be able to use fMint to access fUSD and other synthetic assets, which can be used with other Fantom DeFi products. Specifically, fLend allows users to lend and borrow assets, while fTrade allows users to trade them.

For instance, If you want to go long BTC (without losing exposure to your WAVES collateral), mint fUSD against your WAVES in fMint and use the fUSD to buy fBTC (synthetic BTC) in fTrade. Sell the fBTC for fUSD later to repay the minted debt. Once you've repaid any outstanding minted debt, you can unlock your collateral to withdraw.

About Gravity
Gravity is a decentralized cross-chain and oracle network based on a truly blockchain-agnostic protocol for communication between blockchains and with the outside world, working with the native token economies.
Gravity provides multi-purpose cross-chain interaction without introducing a native token. The true blockchain agnostic no-token approach creates a more inclusive, open ecosystem, while addressing future scaling/stability issues.

About Fantom
The Fantom Foundation is committed to building technology that is open-source, decentralized, DAG-based distributed ledgers with aBFT consensus. Fantom aims to create fast, secure and scalable technologies across various industries, allowing organizations, businesses, and individuals to develop decentralized and secure applications, solving real-world problems.

BTC escrow firm CEO faces 60 years in jail over alleged $7M scam


The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted the operator of a BTC escrow on charges of defrauding two of his clients out of $7 million. Federal authorities said John Barry Thompson is charged with two counts of wire fraud and commodities fraud which collectively carry a maximum prison sentence of 60 years.

In its press release, the DoJ revealed that a grand jury in the Southern District of New York had returned an indictment charging Thompson with fraud. Thompson was the principal of Volantis Escrow Platform LLC and the related Volantis Market Making LLC.

In a separate action, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) also filed civil charges against Thompson.

The charges are related to allegations that Thompson defrauded $7 million from two clients in 2018. According to the DoJ, the 48-year-old man made false statements to an unnamed company in 2018, convincing the company to send him $3 million to buy BTC. He assured the company that the transaction was guaranteed as "cash is with me, coin is with me." However, he didn't have the coins as promised and he ended up sending part of the money to a third party to purchase the BTC. He then lied for days about the status of the transaction and in the end, he never returned the funds.

A month after the debacle, he enticed yet another unnamed company with promises of a guaranteed BTC purchase. The company sent him $4 million, and just like in the first case, he sent the money to a third party and never refunded the company.

Geoffrey Berman, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney, commented, "As alleged, Jon Barry Thompson repeatedly lied to investors in cryptocurrencies about the safety of their investments made through his companies. As a result of Thompson's lies, investors lost millions of dollars."

The Easton, Pennsylvania, resident is charged with two counts of commodities fraud, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. He's also charged with two counts of wire fraud, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars.

The DoJ was the first U.S. regulator to pursue Thompson, with the CFTC following that up with civil charges. However, in November 2019, the U.S. government intervened, requesting the CFTC to stay its charges against the alleged cryptocurrency scammer as they could interfere with a parallel criminal case against him.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Lamden Mainnet is Here!


A Technology Delivered
We're happy to announce that we've officially launched Lamden mainnet! Today marks a day of independence and new beginnings. Three years in the making, this milestone represents a culmination of intense efforts to deliver a novel blockchain with a revolutionary leap in performance, scalability and usability. Blockchain of today is one of complexity, high congestion, and outrageous fees. Lamden's mission is to unleash a disruptive solution to these challenges and make blockchain fast, user-friendly, and cost-effective.

What is Lamden Mainnet?
Lamden's engineers aimed to not only deliver on the original promises of blockchain but to revolutionize it. Lamden tackles the fundamental challenges of blockchain head-on, from high barriers to entry to poor performance and scalability.

Easy to Use
Lamden's open-source, Python-native platform empowers developers to focus on quickly building blockchain applications, instead of learning new programming languages and messing around with complex syntax and system architecture. This means easier development and faster revenue generation on Lamden.

Highly Performant and Scalable
Lamden uses an array of advanced algorithms to remain highly performant and scalable as demand increases for on-chain activity and large-scale applications. Lamden is engineered to achieve sub-second transaction finality and to scale linearly with additional CPU cores, as described here. There are no Ethereum-style "gas-wars" on Lamden because the system uses a first-in-first-out queuing algorithm which prevents people from paying more to get ahead of the line and further congest the network.

A Developer Incentives System
Lamden has a built-in rewards distribution system with voteable and configurable parameters. Developers who create applications on Lamden will be awarded a percentage of transaction fees processed through their smart contracts, thereby earning revenue automatically from their applications without relying on third-party payment services. Incentives are made with Lamden's native coin TAU and sent straight to the developer's wallet. Because revenue is tied to transaction volume, developers will earn more revenue as their DApps become more popular.
For an introductory period, developers will automatically earn 90% of all TAU used to transact against their smart contracts.

A Self-Regulating System
Lamden has a self-regulating governance system where the community nodes have direct voting rights on key decisions including rewards distribution, transaction rates, and platform functionality upgrades. The system naturally strives for an equilibrium where each network participant will act in their best interest to maximize their reward. No single party controls the Lamden network and no single party can monopolize it.

Mainnet Token Swap
Now that mainnet is live, a token swap from Ethereum ERC20 TAU to Lamden Mainnet TAU will commence. The swap period will be open for approximately 6 months and is mandatory. If you do not swap your ERC20 TAU tokens during the 6 month swap window, you will be unable to do so afterwards.

IMPORTANT: Do not send ERC20 tokens to the Lamden wallet or they will be lost forever! ERC20 tokens are not compatible with the Lamden network. The only way to get your ERC20 TAU onto the Lamden network is by following the wallet token swap process.

The swap process is built directly into the Lamden wallet, which you can download on the Lamden website..

How US States Are, and Aren’t, Easing Crypto Firms’ Compliance Burde


The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), an organization of state financial regulators, will make it easier for financial technology payment firms and cryptocurrency exchanges to prove they're in compliance with U.S. state laws.

The CSBS announced a "One Company, One Exam" plan Tuesday whereby states will coordinate their supervisory exams for the nation's largest payment firms in an effort to reduce the costs on both state regulators and the companies they oversee. Essentially, the exam is how these regulators will make sure regulated entities are still in compliance.

What this means for cryptocurrency companies – such as Coinbase – is their compliance costs will drop. Rather than work with more than 50 different state and territory regulators, the exchanges only need to check in with the one group. The group of regulators includes every state but Montana, which doesn't have a money transmission license.

Crypto exchanges need money transmission licenses to legally operate within most states, with the state banking or financial services regulator overseeing this form of regulated activity.

"For the industry that means there's going to be a reduction in regulatory burden," said Matt Lambert, nonbank counsel for CSBS.

However, new exchanges will still have to apply for, and secure, a license for each state in which they hope to operate. While the CSBS is working on a potential standard for applications, there's still a long way to go.

At present the move also only applies to the 78 largest money transmitters in the U.S. – those operating in at least 40 states. While Lambert declined to identify which crypto businesses fit into this category, a search of the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry database indicates this could include Coinbase, Circle Internet Financial and Square.

The list of firms that will benefit from CSBS' announcement could still grow. While there aren't any plans right now to add to the list of companies, Lambert said more could be added later on.

'Strictest standards'
The CSBS announced its effort to consolidate supervision at least partly as a result of soliciting feedback from the crypto industry, and finding that regulated entities believed "there is too much supervision that is accomplishing the same thing," Lambert said.

"Overall I think this process will lead to high standards, the strictest standards," he said. "This is not going to be a means of defaulting to the lowest standards, this is going to be a method of raising the bar for everyone."

Each exam will be conducted by a group of state regulators, and the makeup of the group will change on an exam-by-exam basis. This lets the regulators coordinate among themselves to find the best fit for each company's evaluation. 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Lamden Mainnet is Coming. Lamden Mainnet will be launching on…16 september 2020


The Moment of Truth
The wait is almost over; Lamden's mainnet launch is fast approaching. September 16th, 2020 will be an inflection point, marking the transition from a technology promised to a technology delivered.

We at Lamden have been working nonstop to deliver on the unfulfilled promises of blockchain. Instead of modifying an existing technology, we decided to design and build a novel blockchain architecture from scratch. As a result, our Python-native modular blockchain delivers a revolutionary leap in performance, efficiency, and usability.

The moment of truth and the reveal is drawing near. Blockchain of today is one of complexity, high congestion, and outrageous fees. Lamden's mission is to unleash a disruptive solution upon these challenges and make blockchain fast, user-friendly, and cost-effective. One day, we will look back and remember September 16th, 2020 as a pivotal moment for blockchain and its revival.

The Road Traveled
We at Lamden took the road less traveled and it made all the difference. The imminent release of Lamden blockchain is the culmination of two and a half years of nonstop development and testing, and pushing the limits of what blockchain can do. We have worked hard to make life easier for developers by creating a Python-native platform that simplifies development and testing, and accelerates product deployment and monetization.

We have set our goals sky-high and refused to take a shortcut or compromise, and achieved results beyond our wildest expectations. We are deeply grateful to our amazing community for their unfailingly generous and enthusiastic support over the years. The mainnet would not have been possible without our team of developers and their unwavering commitment to deliver something extraordinary.

The Road Ahead
In the coming weeks, we will share more details on mainnet and exciting new plans with our community members. Our roadmap includes a developer on-boarding campaign, exciting new DeFi products, and a specification for Lamden version 2.0.

Lamden mainnet is just around the corner, but community members can start developing their ideas now using Lamden's Python-based smart contracting system. For an introductory period, developers will earn 90% of all TAU used to transact against their smart contract.

To our existing community members and those new to Lamden, we extend our warmest welcome to the Lamden Legion.

For more information, please visit:  

Friday, August 28, 2020

TECH 26 AUGUST 2020 Patrick Thompson Mitiga, an incident readiness and response company, has discovered that a product available on Amazon Web Services Marketplace contained Monero mining malware. Mitiga published their findings, noting that they discovered the malware when conducting a security audit for a financial services company. “Mitiga’s security research team has identified an AWS Community AMI containing malicious code running an unidentified Monero crypto miner,” according to the Mitiga’s blog post. “We have concerns this may be a phenomenon, rather than an isolated occurrence.” Malware on AWS Marketplace Unfortunately, the AWS marketplace allows anyone to sell virtual services on its marketplace. Although the marketplace is full of verified vendors, it also contains offerings from unverified community members. Mitiga discovered that one community member was selling a Windows 2008 virtual server that secretly used the computing power of anyone who downloa


Mitiga, an incident readiness and response company, has discovered that a product available on Amazon Web Services Marketplace contained Monero mining malware. Mitiga published their findings, noting that they discovered the malware when conducting a security audit for a financial services company.

"Mitiga's security research team has identified an AWS Community AMI containing malicious code running an unidentified Monero crypto miner," according to the Mitiga's blog post. "We have concerns this may be a phenomenon, rather than an isolated occurrence."

Malware on AWS Marketplace
Unfortunately, the AWS marketplace allows anyone to sell virtual services on its marketplace. Although the marketplace is full of verified vendors, it also contains offerings from unverified community members.

Mitiga discovered that one community member was selling a Windows 2008 virtual server that secretly used the computing power of anyone who downloaded it to mine Monero in the background. Although it may come as a surprise that Monero mining malware was present on Amazon's AWS Marketplace, Amazon's policy clearly states that:

"Amazon can't vouch for the integrity or security of AMIs shared by other Amazon EC2 users. Therefore, you should treat shared AMIs as you would any foreign code that you might consider deploying in your own data center and perform the appropriate due diligence. We recommend that you get an AMI from a trusted source."

Reducing the attack vector
To avoid falling victim to malware that might live within community offerings on the AWS marketplace, Mitiga recommends "verifying or terminating these instances [unverified offerings], and seeking AMIs from trusted sources"

"As AWS customer usage is obfuscated, we can't know how far and wide this phenomenon stretches without AWS's own investigation," said Mitiga. "We do however believe that the potential risk is high enough to issue a security advisory to all AWS customers using Community AMIs."

IRS sends new batch of ‘crypto letters’ to taxpayers


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has sent another batch of its infamous "crypto letter" to individuals suspected of owning digital currency, urging them to correctly report the details of their transactions.

The news emerged after users of digital currency tax service reported receiving letters from the IRS, one of which was subsequently published on the CoinTracker blog. In a blog post CoinTracker said "[i]t has come to our attention from CoinTracker users that the IRS has started sending out another wave of cryptocurrency tax warning letters to U.S. crypto users."

The mailout was also reported in Bloomberg, which confirmed with the IRS that the letters had indeed been sent to more suspected digital currency holders.

As first emerged in 2019 when the tax service began issuing digital currency letters, there are three different types of letters being published—each indicative of the degree to which the IRS thinks individuals are underreporting digital currency transactions.

One of the letters in particular, Letter 6173, is issued to those that could foreseeably be subject to a taxpayer audit, representing the highest degree of confidence of underreporting from the tax agency.

The IRS is known to be extending its focus on digital currency, and in particular on tax evasion around trading and speculation. A tax summit held back in March outlined much of the agency's thinking on digital currency, where it was suggested that the agency wanted to do more to tackle those currently underreporting their digital currency dealings.

The news will come as a concern to those trading in digital currency, indicating a heightened level of IRS oversight over individual actions in and around digital tokens.

It comes at a time of increasing efforts globally to bring more transparency to digital currency transactions, and to ensure those engaging in trading are discharging their tax liabilities honestly.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Story from News Goldman Sachs Eyes Own Token as Bank Appoints New Head of Digital Assets


Goldman Sachs is seriously considering its own cryptocurrency, possibly a stablecoin, as it significantly expands its digital assets team and appoints a new head to spearhead efforts.
  1. Matthew McDermott, Goldman's new digital asset global head, confirmed the U.S. investment bank was exploring whether to launch its own digital asset, CNBC reported Thursday.
  2. "We are exploring the commercial viability of creating our own fiat digital token, but it's early days as we continue to work through the potential use cases," he said.
  3. Last month McDermott hired Oli Harris as head of strategy. Harris was instrumental in JPMorgan's blockchain, Quroum, as well as its settlement coin, JPMCoin.
  4. McDermott said he is already looking at how blockchain can make savings in the inefficient repurchase, or "repo", market used by banks to lend money to one another, as well as credit and mortgage markets.
  5. He also said Goldman might consider collaborating with its rival, JPM, as well as Facebook on future digital asset initiatives.
  6. McDermott said he plans to significantly expand Goldman's digital asset team, including doubling headcount in both Asia and Europe.

Previously on Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs held an investor call Wednesday to discuss current policies for bitcoin, gold and inflation in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. The big takeaway? The stalwart investment bank is still no fan of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

A slideshow released before the call cited hacks and other losses related to cryptocurrencies as well as their use to "abet illicit activities" as some potential liabilities.  

Seven of Goldman's 35 slides mention bitcoin, but the people on the call only discussed bitcoin for roughly five minutes at the end, with no questions taken after.

In the call materials, Goldman notes that while cryptocurrencies like bitcoin "have received enormous attention," they "are not an asset class."

Why? The reasons include bitcoin's inherent lack of cash flow, unlike bonds, and its inability to generate earnings through exposure to global economic growth, according to the presentation. Goldman also notes bitcoin's volatility, citing the recent drop to 12-month lows in early March. The price spiked nearly 5% to $9,200 a few hours before the call.

Some professional cryptocurrency analysts were less than impressed by Goldman's analysis. "The criticisms were very cookie cutter, the type you'd expect if someone just read mainstream headlines," said Ryan Watkins, bitcoin analyst at Messari and former investment banking analyst at Moelis & Company. "It's like they didn't fully diligence the asset."

Goldman's cash flow argument was particularly odd to Tom Masojada, co-founder of OVEX Digital Asset Exchange.

"Many investments that Goldman labels as 'suitable for clients' do not generate cash flows and are primarily dependent on whether someone is willing to pay a higher price at a later date," he said on Twitter.

"One could argue bitcoin isn't backed by anything, but to liken it to a game of hot potato ignores the subjective value such a novel asset provides," said Kevin Kelly, former equity analyst at Bloomberg and co-founder of Delphi Digital, a cryptocurrency research firm that recently published a comprehensive report on bitcoin.

Bitcoin's current value, according to Kelly, is backed by "the demand for an apolitical speculative asset that may or may not turn out to be one of the world's most valuable safe havens."

The two Goldman speakers on the call, its head of research and a Harvard economics professor, said several bitcoin forks, which they refer to as "nearly identical clones," occupy three of the six largest cryptocurrencies by market value. With this, Goldman inferred that cryptocurrencies as a whole "are not a scarce resource," according to the presentation.

Antminer shipping faces delay as Bitmain founders’ row continues


SIC hardware manufacturer Bitmain has delayed the shipping of its block reward miners. An announcement posted on WeChat by the Antminer Sales Team—allegedly under the control of Jihan Wu—confirmed that the Chinese company has delayed all shipments by roughly three months due to "external interference over the company's management."

To compensate for the shipping delays, Bitmain is offering its customers one of two compensation packages. Customers can send Bitmain a written request to expedite the delivery of their digital currency mining hardware. If the customer does not hear back within 60 days of submitting their written request, then they will be eligible to receive a refund on their purchase from Bitmain.

Alternatively, they can also wait for their mining equipment to be delivered to them, however long that may take. In addition, the customer will receive a 'coupon equivalent' that is equal to the amount of revenue that they theoretically would have received if their mining hardware shipment was not delayed and they had been mining all along. The Antminer Sales Team says that this coupon could then be used on the customer's future purchases with Bitmain.

Are lawyers involved?

The Antminer Sales Team's recent announcement indicates that the battle between Jihan Wu and Micree Zhan for control of Bitmain might be being resolved by lawyers. When it was rumored that Micree Zhan was blocking Antminer shipments to Bitmain customers, Jihan Wu's immediate response was that he would be solving the problems created by Zhan through "legal channels." With the Antminer team saying that there is currently external interference over the company's management, it may very well be the case that the battle for control is now being settled in court.

The confirmation of the delayed shipping is the latest development to take place in the on-going feud between Zhan and Wu.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Can blockchain restore trust in technology?


If Bitcoin succeeds in the way its developers and entrepreneurs hope, it will be the biggest change in technology infrastructure since the mass adoption of the Internet more than 20 years ago. But will ordinary users be open or resistant to that kind of change?

Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Centre studies public attitudes to technology and has been responsible for more than 650 reports based on Pew surveys of people's online and Internet usage. So how does he see the prospects for Bitcoin and blockchain entering the mainstream?

"We live in an environment where people's trust in each other and in institutions is declining, particularly in the developed world," Rainie says, "and so blockchain has been held out as a really interesting alternative way to rebuild trust, using technology as the centrepiece of mediating interactions between people …Some of the most interesting applications of blockchain are not about cryptocurrency, they're about trusted systems of documentation and smart contracts."

If that promise could attract users by mitigating their fears about trust, Rainie does not go so far as to suggest that technology could solve all the problems: "this can't just be done by technology. You can't flip a switch and all of a sudden trust is restored and systems operate beautifully. You need human actors to design those systems, monitor those systems, explain those systems."

In terms of mass adoption, Rainie says that it may not be a question of waiting for the 'killer app' that will act as a tipping point for wide acceptance of the technology: "it possibly won't be sort of a big bang moment where all of a sudden a critical mass of people are using it. And then the rest of the world says, 'oh, we've got to get on board'. It might be more evolutionary."

It could be that adoption will first happen at an industrial level – more 'behind the scenes' – in sectors like supply chain and the financial markets.

Then, unlike the Internet, where users are aware of the technology, people may not even realise that they're using blockchain: "there will be ways in which people's finances absolutely are underpinned by blockchain technology. There are ways in which their interactions with government agencies, when they want to get a national identity card for their newborn child – now, that's going to be probably a blockchain system. But if you ask them in a survey, 'are you a blockchain user?' they might not say yes."

If blockchain isn't adopted by a 'pull' factor of attraction, it could be nudged forward by reservations about the tech giants, and the whole 'surveillance capitalism' model of targeted advertising and data collection.

Pew's latest research didn't poll the public, but instead was one of a series of studies that Rainie has ordered as Director of Internet and Technology Research, soliciting views about the future of technology from almost 700 experts, whom the report describes at "'technology innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists". The study found that the experts "very explicitly invoked how blockchain can be a restorative to people having confidence that their data were treated well and that their interactions with other people were being chronicled and mediated in a responsible way, that there were fewer opportunities for bad actors to step into the middle of the process."

In that respect then, Pew is reporting an optimistic view of the prospects for blockchain among a wide range of people who should be well placed to predict the future. On the other hand, it seems the experts themselves aren't too confident about their own powers of prediction. Rainie investigated that in a previous study: "one of the things that we asked in years gone by was whether these experts themselves felt confident about what the new big thing in technology was going to be five or 10 or 15 years into the future. And the vast majority said no."

FBI called to probe Twitter amid fears of future hacks


The FBI is leading an investigation into the July 15 Twitter hack, in which 31 high-profile Twitter accounts were compromised by a hacker and used to promote a digital currency investment scam.

According to Reuters, U.S. lawmakers that are concerned about future attacks on Twitter prompted the FBI's investigation.

"While this scheme appears financially motivated…imagine if these bad actors had a different intent to use powerful voices to spread disinformation to potentially interfere with our elections, disrupt the stock market, or upset our international relations," said U.S. Senator Ed Markey.

The hacker had the ability to take over any Twitter account, yet, used their power to promote a digital currency scam. The scam consisted of the hacker telling the millions of followers of the compromised accounts to send them digital currency, promising to send them double the amount that they were being sent.

However, it was a scam—the attacker did not send double the amount of digital currency to any of the individuals who participated. The attacker currently has a total of 7.411 BTC across the three wallet addresses they used to scam others (address 1, address 2, and address 3).

Timeline of attack
The hacker's first account takeover occurred at 2:16 p.m. EST when the hackers compromised @AngeloBTC, a well-known BitMEX trader's Twitter account.

In their first account takeover, the hackers requested that AngeloBTC's 150,000 followers send him a direct message, and send 0.1 BTC so that they could join his private Telegram group. However, there was no private Telegram group, and sender's got scammed out of their money.

Shortly afterward, the attacker began targeting Twitter accounts associated with well-known companies, executives, and celebrities, such as Apple, Jeff Bezos, and Kanye West.

Ultimately, the hacker was able to broadcast their digital currency investment scam to tens of millions of users and rake in more than $100,000.

We got lucky
We were honestly lucky that all the hackers did was promote a digital currency scam. Imagine if they used the compromised accounts, such as that of former U.S. President Barack Obama, or former Vice President Joe Biden, to start some sort of political conflict in which a foreign country retaliated.

When you consider all of the things the hacker could have done with the power that they had, it becomes concerning and alarming that they were able to breach Twitter in a way that gave them this power. That being said, it makes sense that the FBI is investigating Twitter, because if this were to happen again who knows what would happen.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Japan’s blockchain industry grows by 30% in 2020


Japan's blockchain industry has been growing rapidly in 2020 despite the economic struggles and the global pandemic. A new report by one of the country's largest digital currency companies revealed that the sector has grown by over 30% since 2019.

Japan has been a trailblazer in the blockchain industry for years, being one of the first countries to formulate and implement a regulatory framework for the industry. Its blockchain-friendly approach has led to a rapid growth of the industry, a new report now shows.

In the past year, the industry has grown by 30%, the report by the Monex Crypto Bank showed. The bank is a subsidiary of the Monex Group, the operator of Coincheck exchange which it acquired in 2018.

The report revealed that as of May this year, there were 430 blockchain companies in Japan. This is a 30.7% rise from the 329 companies reported in July last year.

64% of these companies focus primarily on blockchain technology, the report showed, with the rest being involved in a secondary capacity. The report further revealed that blockchain technology is not limited to startups, with 193 of the companies being labeled as large corporations. Of these, over half focus primarily on blockchain technology.

Moreover, there are 31 publicly-listed companies in Japan that are pursuing blockchain technology.

On the available blockchain products, the study found that finance had the highest share, accounting for 19% of the 422 active products. Entertainment accounts for 10%, with service, infrastructure, real estate and retail all accounting for less than 3%.

The digital currency exchange and mining sectors are still the biggest in the industry, the report notes. However, the gaming sector is quickly rising to prominence, using blockchain to change the experience for both the operators and the gamers.

While the Japanese blockchain and digital currency exchange industry has come a long way, it still faces challenges that have hindered its growth. Hacks and data breaches have been one of its biggest threats.

Police in China detaining digital currency OTC traders: report


China's fight against digital currency trading has now turned to the over-the-counter trading sector. Police in the country have been detaining OTC traders and platform operators to assist them with investigations. The most renowned is Zhao Dong, one of China's most prolific traders and a prominent investor in Bitfinex.

Dong was detained this week, with reports about his detention first emerging on local social media channels on Thursday. Local blockchain news outlets picked up on the reports, with some claiming that he was detained in Hangzhou while others claimed he was in Yancheng.

Following the widespread rumors, Dong's OTC digital currency OTC lending company RenrenBit took to social media to shed more light. In a statement on Weibo, RenrenBit revealed that the police had detained Dong upon arrival in China from Japan in late June. He was actively assisting the police in digital currency anti-money laundering investigations, the company claimed.

RenrenBit also revealed that Dong wasn't the only digital currency trader the police had detained. It claimed that in June, police had detained an entire OTC team working in Beijing. However, it clarified that it was just detention and that none of the traders were under arrest.

Matthew Graham, the CEO of Beijing-based blockchain investor Sino Global Capital confirmed the detention on Twitter.

A source with knowledge on the matter however revealed that Dong's detention isn't a targeted attack at him. It's part of a bigger effort by the government to stamp out OTC trading in China, claiming that it's being used to launder money.

The source, who spoke to CoinDesk, claimed that police in China have increased their scrutiny over OTC platforms since last month. This scrutiny has led to the detention of an unnamed number of OTC trading desks to assist in money laundering investigations.

The detention of Zhao Dong is however the most high-profile one yet. Dong is one of China's most renowned traders.  He is also reportedly an investor in Bitfinex, playing a big role in its $1 billion UNUS SED LEO token initial exchange offering. As Sino Global's Graham explained, in the Western world, it's the equivalent of detaining one of the Winklevoss twins.

The detentions follow the freezing of over 4,000 bank accounts belonging to digital currency OTC traders. As CoinGeek reported, authorities in Guangdong province froze the accounts claiming they were connected to digital currency money laundering..

Friday, June 19, 2020

Story from Markets Outflow of Bitcoin From Miners at Lows Not Seen Since 2010


Miner outflows of bitcoin have dropped to decade lows, with analysts suggesting a hoarding mentality is partly responsible.

The seven-day average of the total amount of bitcoin transferred out of miners' addresses declined to 987 on Thursday, hitting the lowest level since Feb. 3, 2010, according to data source Glassnode. The previous decade low of 988 was registered on May 23.

Source: Glassnode
The number of coins being sent by miners to exchanges is also at its lowest point in over a year, as noted by Glassnode in its weekly report.

"It is a sign of efficient miners continuing to hoard (only selling a proportion of BTC)," said Asim Ahmad, co-chief investment officer at London-based Eterna Capital.

The increase in miner holding does not necessarily have long-term bullish implications for the cryptocurrency's price. Miners tend to operate mainly on cash and liquidate their holdings almost on a daily basis to fund operations.

As such, miner hoarding could be termed as temporary deferral of BTC sales, possibly due to fears that the market lacks the strength to absorb the regular amount of supply. Essentially, they may be waiting for the market to show strength and prices to rise before realizing their profits.

The market, therefore, could face an above-normal miner supply during the next meaningful price rise. That, in turn, could put the brakes on a price rally.

Hoarding aside, the other main reason for the decline in outflows is the reduction in bitcoin being mined since May's reward halving, said Ahmad.

Indeed, transfer volume from miner addresses fell from 2,334 BTC to 1,034 BTC in the nine days following the May 11 reward halving, which reduced the per block emission by 50% to 6.25 BTC.

That sharp decline in profitability forced out less inefficient miners, as evidenced by a drop in the seven-day average of the hash rate – the total computing power dedicated to mining blocks on the blockchain. That fell from 120 tera hashes per second (TH/s) to 90 TH/s in the two weeks following halving (though it's since climbed as more efficient machines were switched on).

Forced out miners, however, may return to bitcoin's blockchain if prices rise sharply, making older hardware once again profitable.

Bitcoin is currently trading largely unchanged on the day near $9,370, according to CoinDesk's Bitcoin Price Index.

The cryptocurrency has been largely restricted to a narrow range of $9,000 to $10,000 since mid May. The direction in which the range is breached will likely set the tone for the next big move. 

Revolut updated terms allow users ‘beneficial rights’ to digital currency


Challenger bank startup Revolut has amended its terms and conditions, giving users 'beneficial rights' to digital currency bought through their platform.

The change in terms follows the U.K. bank allowing all customers access to digital currency trading for the first time, having previously been reserved to its Metal and Premium users.

While users will not be able to carry out the transactions themselves or send funds to an address other than one held by another Revolut customer, the change in terms means they will have rights to the financial value of the digital currency bought through the platform.

The distinction gives users legal title to their digital currency on the platform for the first time, giving them the freedom to direct what happens to their money.

"You will own the rights to the financial value of any cryptocurrency we buy for you. We will hold it on your behalf and you will have a right (called a 'beneficial right') to it. This means you can tell us when to sell or transfer it (within the limits of these terms and conditions). You have complete control of your cryptocurrencies, and we will only act upon instructions you give us. You will not be able to carry out transactions yourself."

The title to the digital currency is limited by the terms, and users are only able to transfer to other Revolut users through the app. This means users can pass title to buyers within the Revolut ecosystem, but are unable to move the digital currency to wallets not controlled by the bank.

Furthermore, the terms mean it is no longer possible to pay in crypto via a Revolut card. Those holding only digital currency balances will see card payments fail if there is insufficient fiat on account to cover the transaction.

The development comes as Revolut has launched its app in the U.S., as it aims to expand on its global user base. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Korea university to build blockchain and AI campus


A South Korean university has announced that it's building a blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) campus in the city of Daegu. The campus will take a year to construct, with admission set to begin in 2021.

Suseong University partnered on the initiative with the Korea Artificial Intelligence Association (KORAIA). In an announcement on local outlet Money Today, the university revealed that the campus will also focus on other emerging technologies such as big data and cloud computing.

A number of technology companies based in Daegu have already signed up to be part of the project. They will provide training to the students, as well as practical experience. They include Wooshin Co. Ltd, an AI company based in Daegu.

The COVID-19 crisis has created a need for more robust systems, and combining blockchain with AI is the best way to respond to this need, according to Kim Kun-woo, the university's Planning and Coordination Division director.

Kun-woo further revealed that the university intends on giving students at the campus firsthand experience in the blockchain and AI industries by pairing them up with experts in these fields.

South Korea has been a global hub for blockchain technology, with the government playing a key role in the industry's development. As CoinGeek reported recently, the country launched a fintech sandbox that has promoted the growth of several blockchain startups. In its latest report, the Financial Services Commission revealed that the sandbox has attracted $111 million in the last year and created 380 jobs.

Elsewhere, the country's central bank published a report that touted the use of blockchain-based digital currencies. The Bank of Korea pointed to the decline of cash use and the advancement of digital payment technologies as key reasons why central banks are increasingly developing CBDCs. The report further claimed that several central banks have developed IT systems that rely on DLT to record digital currency transactions.

Instability, high remittance fees drive India digital currency adoption


The instability of the rupee combined with high remittance fees is driving digital currency adoption in India, according to a new report.

The report from exchange OKEx in partnership with Coinpaprika found an increasing share of global digital currency business in India, projecting significant growth relative to other countries over the coming two years.

The problem of remittance fees is particularly acute in the country, with 17 million Indian employees working overseas and remitting money home. Of the $80 billion remitted from overseas workers in 2018, some $5.67 billion in fees were incurred.

According to the report, increasing liberalization of digital currency rules in India could set the country on a similar path to Mexico, where digital exchange Bitso has grown to account for 2% of U.S.-Mexico remittance.

The growth in digital currency uptake has accelerated since the Supreme Court ruled against the Reserve Bank of India's ban on banks serving crypto businesses. OKEx has reported a 545.56% increase in traffic from India, with sign-ups during the first quarter of the year up 4,100%.

The shift to crypto also coincides with instability in the rupee, which has lost 7% of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

Complex rules for exchanging foreign currency in India have made it difficult for those looking to transfer rupees into more stable fiat currencies, which the report said had also been a factor in driving more people to turn to digital currencies.

While the report found digital currency was currently being used as a vehicle for ultimately transferring funds to alternative fiat currencies, it suggests more Indians could turn to digital currency directly as the market continues to mature.

The move follows similar trends seen in other countries with unstable fiat currencies, and from those with large overseas remittance industries.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Happy Bitcoin Pizza Day! But don’t think about the fees


Happy Pizza Day! And this year, please make mine extra spicy. Yes, it's May 22 again, the day all Bitcoiners celebrate by ordering a pizza. Any pizza is good, but to make it special you'll need to buy it with Bitcoin—don't make the mistake of using BTC these days though, because at the time of writing the average transaction fee on the BTC network is US$6.28.

What is Pizza Day and why is it significant?
Today is actually the 10th anniversary of Bitcoin Pizza Day. It's significant because it marks the first (or at least, the first documented) purchase of real-world goods with Bitcoin. Before then, mining and transacting with Bitcoin was largely a hobbyist pursuit, so the purchase proved that Bitcoin could have a real-world dollar value. This in turn sent a price signal to the nascent "market" for Bitcoin, and became the first benchmark for BTC value. The rest, as they say, is history.

On May 18, 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz of Jacksonville, Florida, posted on the Bitcoin Talk forums:
"I'll pay 10,000 bitcoins for a couple of pizzas.. like maybe 2 large ones so I have some left over for the next day. I like having left over pizza to nibble on later. You can make the pizza yourself and bring it to my house or order it for me from a delivery place, but what I'm aiming for is getting food delivered in exchange for bitcoins where I don't have to order or prepare it myself, kind of like ordering a 'breakfast platter' at a hotel or something, they just bring you something to eat and you're happy!"

It took a few days to finally get a taker—user "jercos" (Jeremy Sturdivant) ordered two large pizzas from Papa John's for delivery to Hanyecz's home, paid in USD and collected the 10,000 BTC. The pizzas themselves cost US$41.

You can see photos of the now-famous Bitcoin pizzas here.
Technically, Hanyecz didn't buy the pizzas directly for Bitcoin so you could say the price included Sturdivant's service fee. Since the Bitcoin price in May 2010 was officially $0, he did take on a $41 risk.

As we now know, that risk paid off—the current market value of BTC is $9053, meaning either owner of the 10,000 coins would now have US$90,530,000. If BTC's all-time-high price stands at $19,891 then 10,000 coins would've been worth $198,910,000. Had they kept those coins in time for the two forks that shifted Bitcoin protocol development to BCH and finally to Bitcoin SV (BSV), it would be millions more.

Only BSV now is Bitcoin according to the Satoshi Nakamoto whitepaper and the original protocol, and 10,000 BSV is currently US$1,915,900.

Million-dollar pizzas, but value is priceless
Yes, that's an expensive pair of pizzas (for pedantic reasons, remember it was two large pizzas instead of the single "198 million dollar pizza" often mentioned in the media). Naturally, Hanyecz often finds himself in demand for a quote on whether he regrets his purchase. He's on the record as saying he doesn't at all, since his move kickstarted the Bitcoin economy. Had he not sent those 10,000 coins, and had no-one else taken the plunge either, Bitcoin's value could still be $0 today.

It's a sign that, unless people are willing to take risks and do something to give Bitcoin value, it doesn't have any. What if Hanyecz had abided by BTC's "HODL" mentality, or cared about all the people who called him crazy over the years, reminding him of his (theoretically) lost millions?

Most people who've been in the Bitcoin community for many years have "Bitcoin Pizza" stories of their own to tell. This writer likes to show off his "thousand dollar" Bitcoin keychain; everyone hates to be reminded of how much money they'd have now if they'd never spent those coins.

But again, if no one had ever spent Bitcoin then the value of Bitcoin would be $0. Bitcoin only has value if it's used in the real world. And thanks to the people who invested time, effort and money building user-friendly services so more people could use Bitcoin, that value has increased even more over time.

Think about all that next time you hear someone say "HODL" (ie: save your Bitcoins, don't spend them). HODLing creates no value whatsoever. BTC wouldn't even have speculative-gambling value if no-one sold them, and that's about the only utility BTC has nowadays. If you know any committed BTC HODLers, remind them how much that $6.28 transaction fee they just paid could be worth at some random point in the future. That's extra spicy.

BSV, on the other hand, recognizes real-world usage as the main value driver and its people build services that aim to solve real-world problems. The large-volume, low-fee model is creating a global immutable ledger for enterprises, and yet remains cheap enough to send individual transactions for cents, or much less.

But enough of that—Happy Pizza Day once again, and enjoy the food!

Justin Sun’s Steem locks user funds


Steem is going to freeze roughly $5 million in Steem tokens that belong to supporters of Hive.IO, a hard forked version of the Steem blockchain. The battle between Justin Sun's Steem and Hive has been going on for more than three months now, and the trouble began when Justin Sun acquired Steemit.

Sun purchased Steemit, the blockchain-based blogging and social media website that rewards its users in Steem for publishing and curating content, on February 14. As part of his purchase, Sun became entitled to millions of pre-mined tokens (called the founder's reward) that belonged to former Steemit owner Ned Scott.

However, the Steem community viewed Sun's acquisition as problematic. Steem is a delegated Proof-of-Stake blockchain that is governed by the community and the community's votes—the more Steem tokens a user holds, the more voting power they have. Sun's Steem inheritance represented about 20% of the total supply of tokens, which made him one of the most powerful voters.

Sun's acquisition of Steemit will be a precedent that showcases the problems that can arise from Delegated Proof-of-Stake networks–problems that Ethereum is bound to run into when it switches from Proof-of-Work (PoW) to Proof-of-Stake (PoS) in the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade.

PoS networks can quickly turn into an oligarchy because token distributes are rarely, evenly distributed. As a result, on Proof-of-Stake network, the richest users on the network have the lion's share of power when it comes to decision making or mining new blocks—which extends the gap between the rich and the poor on the network. Proof-of-Work networks eliminate these problems because competition between miners is fierce. In addition, the gap between those who frequently mine blocks and those who don't can close very quickly in a PoW system. As Eli Afram says in his latest article, " While the majority staker inevitably grows to become a bigger majority staker in a PoS systems, it is not so in a PoW world. The competition among POW miners is fierce… a newcomer with a great new invention in ASIC mining could perhaps take the lead…A society that rewards competitiveness, risk, and investment is far superior to a society that rewards oligarchy and the descent into the hands of another."

The Steem community feared that Sun's acquisition threatened the decentralization of the blockchain because it put too much power into the hands of Sun. To solve this problem, the Steem community created a community proposal that suggested the Steem blockchain soft fork in a way that would prevent Sun from being able to access and vote with the pre-mined tokens he inherited. The community voted in favor of this proposal—which only made matters worse.

Justin Sun regains control
Once the community voted to soft-fork away from Sun controlling the pre-mined tokens, a proposal was created on Justin's behalf that would allow him to regain control of the pre-mined tokens if it was passed.

Sun enlisted the help of three digital currency exchanges—Binance, Huobi and Poloniex—and had them vote in the proposal by (illicitly?) pooling together the Steem tokens that were held on their exchanges by their users, and putting them towards the proposal to put Sun back in control of the pre-mined tokens. With the help of the three cryptocurrency exchanges, the proposal passed.

Hardfork to Hive
To combat Sun regaining control of the pre-mined tokens, Steem supporters decided to hard fork the Steem blockchain and call it Hive, a blockchain where everyone was airdropped Hive tokens in a 1:1 ratio to the Steem tokens they held—except for the founder's reward. On Hive, Justin Sun is not a central source of power that can sway community voting decisions.

Where we are today
The Hive blockchain has persisted without Sun or individuals that support the Sun's vision for the Steem blockchain. But in what seems to be a move to get back at those who support the Hive blockchain, a Steem hard fork scheduled for May 20 freezes roughly $5 million of STEEM that belongs to Hive supporters and even calls the users whose funds will be frozen out by name.

It is even rumored that Justin Sun has gotten law enforcement involved to put an end to the Hive blockchain, a chain he said was illegally created and is the work of hackers. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Embattled ABTCoin ICO can’t pay settlement costs


ABTCoin, a digital currency startup that was found guilty of violating federal securities laws, has just told New York federal judge Vernon S. Broderick that they cannot pay the $250,000 settlement that they agreed to pay plaintiffs.

$20 million ICO but financially struggling
On May 12, ABTCoins lawyers from Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt LLC wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick saying the company was not able to pay the settlement cost that they proposed "due to a change in circumstances." The lawyers also added that ABTCoin was not able to cover their legal costs, and therefore, Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt LLC lawyers were requesting to withdraw from the case.

This news comes as a surprise considering that ABTCoin raised more than $20 million in its 2017 initial coin offering (ICO). Before hosting a token sale, ABTCoin told potential investors that it was going to use the funds that they raise to create "the fastest blockchain in the world." However, upon release, the ABTCoin blockchain was not able to accomplish the technological achievements they had marketed. In addition, the ABT blockchain did not see very much user adoption and decreased in value by 85% by March 2018.

The lawsuit
After experiencing ABTCoin's technological shortcomings, investors in the project took action against the company.

Raymond Balestra, the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, sued ABTCoin, claiming that they had conducted an unregistered securities sale in 2017. ABTCoin attempted to have the case dismissed, but in March 2019, Judge Broderick rejected ABTCoin's dismissal bid, saying that the plaintiffs had adequately shown that ABTCoin had violated federal securities laws.

ABTCoin may have done this because they are making a legal chess-move, or maybe ABTCoin is out of money. It looks like the ABTCoin case is coming to a close—but backtracking on the settlement that they proposed themselves was unexpected. 

Fake Libra scams pose new challenge for Facebook


Almost a year after Facebook's Libra was first announced, the outlook for the stablecoin looks starkly different. Once hailed as a game-changer for digital currency, the project has been beset by delays and regulatory difficulties.

Now, fake Libra scams are presenting an increasingly pressing new challenge for Libra and Facebook, with a proliferation of websites claiming to offer investment schemes denominated in fake Libra tokens.

Dante Disparte, Deputy Chairman and Head of Policy and Communications for The Libra Association, said the organization was now constantly working to suppress fake Libra scams: "As we become aware of these sites, we work diligently to address them. We respond to inquiries concerning the validity of these pages, indicating that the only official website is"

"We are still in the early stages of this project and work to address issues like these as they arise," Disparte told Finance Magnates, urging people to report the scams.

The fake Libra problem is one that has been around for some time, with reports dating back to July 2019. At the time, a report in the Washington Post discovered dozens of fake social media accounts and pages linked to fake Libra scams—including many on Facebook itself.

In an article published on July 23, 2019, the Washington Post said this would continue to be a problem for the social media giant: "Roughly a dozen fake accounts, pages and groups scattered across Facebook and its photo-sharing app Instagram present themselves as official hubs for the digital currency, in some cases offering to sell Libra at a discount if viewers visit potentially fraudulent, third-party websites."

Libra had originally been penciled for launch in the first half of 2020, a milestone that has nearly been reached with limited progress towards a wider rollout.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

ErisX obtains BitLicense, gets green light to serve New Yorkers


ErisX has become the latest digital currency company to make an entry into New York after Eris Clearing, its clearing and settlement arm, obtained the coveted BitLicense. The license, issued by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), allows digital currency firms to legally offer their services to New Yorkers.

ErisX is now licensed to offer its services in 47 states and jurisdictions in the U.S., the company revealed in a press release.

In granting the BitLicense, the NYDFS has recognized the high standards that ErisX applies to its trading platform, CEO Thomas Chippas believes. ErisX has borrowed these standards from the existing capital markets and applied them to digital currencies, ensuring the industry adheres to globally accepted standards, he said.

He added, "Our technology stack as well as regulatory framework, operations, and transparent marketplace are building blocks from the established commodity markets bringing familiarity, reliability and conventionality to the crypto markets."

On its part, the NYDFS cited the approval as a show of its commitment to fostering financial innovation in New York. Linda Lacewell, the Superintendent of Financial Services remarked, "Today's approval is another step in expanding virtual currency activities in the State and promoting New York's support for financial innovation, which will be especially important as we work to reopen the economy of the world's financial capital."

ErisX becomes the 25th digital currency company to obtain the BitLicense since its launch in 2015. Other companies that have received the license include Robinhood, Coinbase, bitFlyer, Square, SoFi Digital Assets, Bitstamp and Genesis Global Trading.

Upon launch, the strict requirements to get the license forced many digital currency companies to exit New York in what was known as the Great Bitcoin Exodus. The application fee stood at $5,000, with the legal fees to comply running up to $50,000. The companies also had to share information about their users.

Companies like Kraken called it quits, stating that the license "comes at a price that exceeds the market opportunity of servicing New York residents." Others who left include ShapeShift, Poloniex, Bitfinex and LocalBitcoins.

Boston-based Circle became the first recipient of the BitLicense, with itBit –now Paxos Trust Company- and Gemini being the second and third recipients respectively.

Bitmain admits hardware problems with Antminer S17


Chinese processing hardware manufacturer Bitmain has admitted there are problems with its Antminer S17, following a growing number of complaints posted to social media.

The company acknowledged that some users were experiencing problems, the first time it has acknowledged the difficulties many of their customers had been reporting online. According to a spokesperson for the company, Bitmain was beginning to negotiate with customers who had run into difficulties with their hardware.

Antminer is paying close attention to the issues of some products from the 17 series, which has recently been mentioned by the media.

The issue first raised its head earlier this month, after an entrepreneur started a Telegram group to highlight what he described as a "bad batch" of S17 units. According to the group, some 30% of the models delivered had experienced serious glitches or failed within a single month of operation.

Having grown to some 160 members, the group now contains several other mentions of users experiencing problems with their units.

The reports echo similar findings published by blockchain infrastructure company Blockstream, which suggested 20-30% of S17 customers were experiencing problems with their technology. CoinGeek has also spoken to several to large transaction processing companies in the space that have confirmed this news, saying that they've also experienced "failure rates of 2-3x for the T17 units compared with the S9s" while "Bitmain have reduced and closed repair centers in various global locations."

The embarrassing acknowledgement comes as Bitmain prepares to ship out its latest batch of S19 units, which are expected to be delivered from May 11.

The S19 has been designed to process digital currencies more productively, ahead of the BTC halving due to take place soon.

According to the Bitmain representative, the company has "begun to negotiate solutions with customers who have encountered issues from the product. Antminer has always been adhering to the concept of placing customers first. If any customer has any product issues, please contact the official customer service of Antminer at any time."

Friday, May 1, 2020

Japan Implements Significant Changes to Cryptocurrency Regulation Today


Major changes are happening in the cryptocurrency space in Japan as new cryptocurrency regulation enters into force today. Among notable changes are the regulation of crypto custody service providers and crypto derivatives businesses. Japan has 23 regulated crypto exchanges; unregulated platforms have modified their terms of service affecting Japanese residents.

Japan Adopts New Way to Regulate Crypto Industry
The amendments to the Payment Services Act (PSA) and the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act (FIEA) that revise the regulatory framework for cryptocurrency in Japan go into effect on May 1. They were proposed by the country's top financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), and adopted by the Diet on May 31 last year. The finalized rules were published on April 3 along with the FSA's answers to public comments. International law firm Morrison & Foerster described:

The regulations coming into effect as of May 1, 2020, represent a significant change in the way the FSA will regulate cryptocurrency-related business activities of operators in Japan going forward.

Among the major changes are the regulation of cryptocurrency custody service providers that do not sell, purchase, or intermediate the sale and purchase of cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency derivatives businesses. The former now falls under the PSA while the latter must register under the FIEA. A crypto derivatives business that also provides crypto custody service may need to register as a cryptocurrency exchange. In addition, the FSA previously explained to the implication of the new law on the possibility of a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) being approved in Japan.

The amendments "are quite extensive and many issues regarding the scope, applicability, and relevance of the regulations remain open to interpretation," the law firm opined. The regulatory changes are summarized here.

Japanese Cryptocurrency Landscape Changing, Unlicensed Crypto Exchanges Exiting
Japan currently has 23 FSA-approved cryptocurrency exchanges. As the new regulation takes effect, unlicensed crypto trading platforms modify their terms of service to exclude Japanese users in compliance with the new law.

Global cryptocurrency exchange Bitmex, for example, announced that it would stop providing services to Japanese residents starting from 11 p.m. JST on April 30 for first-time registered users and 12 a.m. on May 1 for existing registered users. "We are restricting access to users who are Japan residents," the exchange confirmed on Tuesday, adding:

The restrictions are in response to the amendments to the Japan Financial Instruments and Exchange Act and Japan Payment Services Act effective as of 1 May 2020.

"We will continue to work with the Japanese regulatory authorities to support their aims for the Japan market and will keep our Japan users updated," Bitmex wrote.

Furthermore, the FSA announced on April 30 that it has approved two self-regulatory organizations (SROs) in the crypto sector: the Japan STO Association and the Japan Virtual and Crypto Assets Exchange Association (JVCEA). These organizations work closely with the FSA to enforce strict standards on the country's crypto sector.

Early signs of BTC downturn show up in China


Times have changed for BTC block processors in China. Once considered a pariah by many Chinese government officials, the sector is now finding itself in demand by local municipalities as attitudes towards blockchain have shifted this past year with central government regulators.

The city of Ya'an, located in China's mountainous Sichuan province, is publicly encouraging blockchain industry firms to come set up shop and consume excess hydroelectricity ahead of the summer rainy season. This encouragement comes in the form of recently jointly issued public guidance by the Municipal Economic and Information Bureau and the Municipal Development and Reform Commission.

The Sichuan region is well known for its abundance of digital currency processing facilities, which are estimated to account for over 50% of the BTC network's computing power. Although not expressly mentioned in the guidance, BTC processing is the primary activity with the sector which consumes the most electricity.

According to other online reports, the city officials are looking to promote the city's infrastructure advantages and make it a high-quality example for consuming excessive hydropower electricity and build itself into "an impactful blockchain industry hub" in the country.

Is this a case of better late than never or indicator of trouble brewing for BTC processors in China?

BTC transaction processing may have been taboo in certain quarters of China but never prohibited. In the past, officials would publicly complain about the environmental and economic impact of BTC processing while privately granting business permits and selling off excess power and commercial occupancy space to firms at customized rates.

It's reasonable to ask why now. Cities, and their surrounding areas, now actively embracing the industry might signal that the sector's demand for space and electricity has waned as the halving quickly approaches.

If this were 2016, the guidance issued by these government bodies would come as a welcome sign that China is finally embracing a rapidly growing sector.

In 2020, Chinese BTC processors are facing unprecedented troubles as they seek to navigate the halving against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which has wiped out fresh investment capital from coming in to prop up the BTC token price. Many publicly traded block reward mining companies are blaming the pandemic on guidance calls, but the reality is these operations were not properly prepared for life at the 2020 Bitcoin halving. BTC hash power is projected to decline as unprofitable nodes go offline, and smaller companies close or get acquired.