Saturday, February 29, 2020

Seoul to debut blockchain petition system in March


Seoul is set to launch its blockchain-powered petition system on March 1. The system will enable the residents of the city to air their views and share them with the local government. It will replace the existing system which has been marred by claims of fake identities and vote manipulation.

Known as Democracy Seoul, the new system will give the residents of South Korea's capital the opportunity to turn the government's attention to issues that affect them. A resident will be able to propose any issue on the platform and if it gets at least 1,000 votes from other residents, the city's Mayor Park Won-soon will have to address it. This system will be similar to an existing national system that allows South Koreans to air their issues with the government. Once an issue receives 200,000 votes, the national government has to address it.

The national petition system, as with any other online voting system globally, has been marred by accusations of vote manipulation and fake identities. As Decrypt reports, experts have unearthed that it's quite easy to deceive the system, even with little technical expertise. All one needs to cast a vote multiple times is to use a different username and internet service provider.

The use of blockchain will eliminate the authenticity challenge, with the technology being used to verify the identity of every person who votes, preventing duplicate voting. Blockchain will also give the system more transparency, giving the residents more trust in the system.

The blockchain system comes just a fortnight after the Seoul Mayor lowered the threshold number of votes required for the government to respond from 5,000 to 1,000. This will make it possible for the government to respond to more issues. According to a report by the Maeil Business Newspaper, Democracy Seoul has registered over 5,900 civic proposals since it launched in October 2017. 59 of these proposals have gone on to become official city policies.

As Seoul launches its blockchain petition system, South Korea is working on its national blockchain voting system. Announced in November 2018, the system provides real-time visibility of the voting process, making the system more credible. The system incorporates other emerging technologies including the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and big data.

Iranian leader urges the country to use crypto to evade sanctions


An Iranian commander has called on the country to seek more unique ways to bypass the several sanctions imposed against it. The general cited cryptocurrencies as one ideal solution at a time when the sanctions have crippled the economy and are forcing the country into a recession.

Saeed Muhammad, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was addressing a crowd recently, reported local crypto outlet The general criticized the stand taken by the American government, saying that it has been trying to impede the livelihoods of the Iranians and block its development.

For a solution, he suggested, "We are demanding the creation of a more sophisticated mechanism to bypass sanctions. To circumvent sanctions, we must develop solutions such as the exchange of products and the use of cryptocurrencies with our partnerships in other countries."

Iran has long been looking at using cryptos to evade the sanctions by the U.S government. For decades now, the country has been at loggerheads with the U.S especially regarding its nuclear programs. However, things took a turn for the worse after Donald Trump became president, imposing tougher sanctions as he seeks to force the Middle Eastern country to renegotiate its nuclear deal with the U.S.

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani called on all Muslim nations to unite and build a crypto that would rival the U.S dollar. In an event in December last year held in Malaysia, the president described the U.S as a bully and urged his fellow Muslim leaders to unite against it. By creating and using their own crypto, Muslim nations could be able to finally stand up against the U.S, he stated. Other Muslim leaders supported his call, including the presidents of Malaysia and Turkey.

The Iranian government has also sought to support existing cryptos by enabling crypto mining in the country. Iran has very affordable electricity which has attracted miners in their numbers. To bring the industry under control, the government legalized crypto mining last year. A month ago, it also issued licenses to over 1,000 miners.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Binance not licensed to operate in Malta, regulators say


Controversial cryptocurrency exchange Binance has found itself scrambling to perform damage control and repair after regulators in Malta called it out over false claims. In a statement published by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) on Friday, the regulator made it quite clear that Binance has never received authorization to operate in the country. As a result, Binance has been trying to dance around the subject with some creative responses.

The MFSA's message reads, "Following a report in a section of the media referring to Binance as a 'Malta-based cryptocurrency' company, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) reiterates that Binance is not authorised by the MFSA to operate in the crypto currency sphere and is therefore not subject to regulatory oversight by the MFSA. The Authority is however assessing if Binance has any activities in Malta which may not fall within the realm of regulatory oversight. Admission of virtual financial assets to trading and/or for offering virtual financial assets to the public in and from Malta requires an MFSA licence in terms of the Virtual Financial Assets Act (CAP 590) of 2018."

It isn't clear where the assertion that Binance is a Malta-based company originated, but the exchange, led by controversial figure Changpeng "CZ" Zhao, is attempting to create its own rules regarding what defines business operations. Those attempts are falling flat.

For example, the company's chief growth officer, Ted Lin, told Decrypt just a few days ago, "We have offices in Malta for customer services, and some compliance people there, but it's not the headquarters per say [sic]. It's the spiritual headquarters. It's a name that people think about when they think about Binance."

Lin's comments to Decrypt were part of a larger story regarding the fate of the company in another region. Binance is, according to the countries' registry offices, registered in both the Cayman Islands and the Seychelles. However, the European Union (EU) is now ready to put the Cayman Islands on a blacklist of tax havens, which could make it difficult for any company registered there to do business with entities or individuals in the EU.

When it got started, Binance launched in China. However, as the country began to crack down on crypto, it decided to move to Japan. Not long after getting set up in its new headquarters, Binance suffered an attack on the exchange, leading Japan's Financial Services Authority (FSA) to require Binance to apply for a license. That apparently wasn't within the scope of the exchange's business model, and it left to find a new home, reportedly landing it in Malta.

The CEO of Malta-based Chiliz, Alexandre Dreyfus, weighed in on whether or not Binance is in Malta. He told Decrypt, "Insinuating that Binance doesn't have offices and people in Malta is offending for the employees here. As you can see on their website, they are still recruiting significantly in compliance, security, customer care."

Friday, February 14, 2020

$10K Bitcoin Prompts Influencers to Call a Bull Market


Cryptocurrencies have gained significant value over the last few weeks and it's causing exuberance among digital currency proponents. Now a number of traders and influencers believe bitcoin and other coins are in bullish territory. Despite the surge to $13K last July and the deep pullback that followed, BTC investors and influencers have no issue believing that crypto is on the threshold of another bull market.

'Calling the Bull' Is a Bold Move, But a Number of People Are Doing So After BTC Surpasses $10K
Bitcoin traders, analysts, and thought leaders on social media and forums seem to think that the crypto market is facing another bull run. Statements about a "bull market" and a possible "altcoin season" are littered all over Twitter and news articles about the cryptoconomy's swift rise. You can find a number of crypto influencers explaining that the bitcoin bull market is overdue for a variety of reasons.

Some people claim the reward halving is pushing BTC's price up, they say miner capitulation is over, the BTC hashrate has touched an ATH, and most of the non-ideological investors capitulated. Moreover, lots of crypto investors are stressing that "this time is different" even though they know calling a bear or bull market requires judgment and is considered a bold call. But this hasn't stopped a number of crypto's influential figures from doing so.

"Early signs of a bull market," explained @American_hodl on Wednesday. "I am finding myself explaining bitcoin to skeptics and new entrants again. This did not happen during the bear. During the bear, it was just us here."

However, other people disagree with American_hodl and the others who assume the market has turned bullish. Some individuals have certain price points that need to be obtained until they call the bull. "We aren't in a bull market until we close above $10.7k," emphasized @llamamarket. "So I'm patient but it looks more likely I was wrong about $5k at least at this very moment. I'll keep everyone posted if/when I buy." The specific price point at which a bull market occurs has been a trend lately and the crypto influencer Luke Martin touched upon the subject on February 6, tweeting:

Fun observation about BTC in a bull-market is the post each day stating: 'Bitcoin isn't bullish until we cross $10k' which quickly turns into 'Not bullish until we cross $11.6k' which quickly turns into 'Not bullish until we cross $14k,' which turns into 'Not bullish until…'

Bullish Pomp Tweets 'Altcoin Season' Phases, and Never Shorting the Bull
Anthony "Pomp" Pompliano, the well known cofounder of Morgan Creek Digital Assets has been talking about the bull run lately too. On Twitter, Pomp felt the need to give an "important message as we enter the next bitcoin bull market." Pomp explained: "BTC is very volatile, you can lose all of your money, only invest what is ok to lose, Twitter is not investment advice, don't buy BTC with credit cards, keep low time preference, [and] do your own research." When BTC crossed the $10K zone, Pomp let his 309,000 Twitter followers know that he still thinks "bitcoin will hit $100,000 by end of December 2021." In between all the social media and forum discussions about the bull market, a number of individuals say that "altcoin season or altseason" typically happens before the BTC bull market or comes in phases.

Managing partner at Blocktown Capital, Joseph Todaro, discussed the altseason topic and the next bull market on Wednesday. "This is the first altseason of the next bull market," Todaro tweeted. "You only get 3 real altseasons: The early alt pump when bitcoin is still less than ATH (weak), the mid alt pump after bitcoin passes ATH ~$20k (strong), [and] the late alt pump as bitcoin marks cycle top (strong). Bitcoin just hit $10,000." Todaro also quipped and said:
"You know we are in a bull market when Peter Schiff refuses to tweet about bitcoin."

Despite knowing about the prior BTC price dump after July's $13K high, bitcoiners everywhere are still calling the bull after the $10K position was reached. "Bitcoin is currently in an intense bull market and investors are getting excited," another individual tweeted on Wednesday.

"Never short bitcoin in a bull market," explained the BTC thought leader Whale Panda on Tuesday. "Never short bitcoin, period," the popular Twitter account @Arminvanbitcoin replied to Whale Panda's statement. Crypto Twitter influencer Paul McNeal from tweeted to his 20,000 followers about the bull market situation as well: "Market Cap goes up – Bitcoin dominance goes down — Welcome to the bull market of 2020."

IOTA forced to suspend network after wallet hack


The group leading the development of the IOTA blockchain, the IOTA Foundation, has run into a troubling situation.  The non-profit was forced to halt its network this past Wednesday after discovering that the IOTA Trinity wallet had been attacked by hackers, resulting in the theft of tokens it held.  The issue is still being unraveled, but there are reports that anywhere from $300,000 to $1.6 million in IOTA tokens may have been lifted from the wallet.

When reports started flowing in on Wednesday that the wallet could have been hacked, the group took action and shut down the Coordinator node to look into the issue further.  It is reportedly looking into a security flaw found in an earlier version of the wallet, and explains, "First (but not all) exchanges have responded, reporting that no monitored funds have been transferred or liquidated.  Most evidence is pointing towards seed theft, cause still unknown and under investigation.  Victims (around 10 that identified with the IOTA Foundation so far) all seem to have recently used Trinity."

As indicated, there have been ten victims identified.  Trinity is available for mobile devices, as well as Windows and MacOS, and some reports indicate that the problem may be limited to the desktop application.  However, this has not yet been confirmed.

This isn't the first time that IOTA has run into security issues, but the possible theft of as much as $1.6 million could make it one of the most disastrous.  In the past, the wallet implementations have been known to be buggy and unstable, and tokens have been lost or sent to the wrong addresses.  The development team also previously rolled out a controversial hash function that was met with a lot of criticism, which developers refuted.  However, they later changed the code anyway to respond to those complaints.

By far, the most disastrous hit to the alternative blockchain's reputation came when a hacker out of the UK stole $11 million in IOTA tokens.  However, his run was short-lived, as law enforcement was able to track him down and arrest him, and IOTA was able to recover the majority of the stolen funds.

After this latest attack, the foundation is already working with law enforcement to determine how much damage was done.  The group explains in an announcement, "We've shifted the complete focus of all relevant resources of the IOTA Foundation to this investigation last night and we have been working in teams to investigate [the] impact and cause together with the identified victims."  It added, "We have been working on the investigation of attacked seeds and analyzed the attack pattern, using a set of newly developed tools, as well as finishing a complete manual verification (to validate tooling reliability)."

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Blockchain could help China respond better to Coronavirus, expert says


As China battles to contain the deadly Coronavirus outbreak, one expert believes that blockchain could greatly boost the country's efforts. The virus has infected over 28,000 people in just three weeks, with 563 losing their lives so far. According to an academic at the University of Hong Kong, it's time China turned to blockchain in its response efforts.

In his post on the Oxford University Faculty of Law blog, Syren Johnstone believes that the time to build borderless solutions based on decentralized technologies has come. Johnstone, who is the Executive Director of the Master in Laws Programme at the University of Hong Kong, pointed out that blockchain and artificial intelligence can be used to better manage crisis situations.

He stated, "A private blockchain network would enable the recording and tracking of anything that is donated, from donation dollars to N95 masks. It also creates clear points at which it is possible to hold a person or organization to account, from the loading of donations for delivery through to its final end-use."

This blockchain network can also have public visibility, providing end-to-end transparency to all stakeholders. This would allow the donors to trace their donations, ensuring that they are going to the intended use, which would in turn push them to become even more involved.

The network would also allow the charity foundations to make informed decisions on how to spend the donations, based on sufficient data regarding the infection. Artificial intelligence could also be integrated in this step to feed data to the network on the infections, guiding the decision-making process.

He stated, "In a blockchain-based donations context, such outcomes would not only be driven by models developed by epidemiologists but also by the current and forecast supply and utilization of limited resources. AI can also provide visibility to the decision-making process, which is critical to restore public trust in the system and the ongoing flow of much needed donations."

Currently, the Chinese government has directed all donations towards the Coronavirus outbreak to be channeled to five charity organizations. This centralization makes the response towards the epidemic slow and unnecessarily complicated, with historical data proving this centralization approach is counterproductive.

Blockchain is already in use in some of China's largest companies including Alibaba and Tencent, so why not charities? Moreover, President Xi Jinping has called for blockchain adoption in China, proving the technology is here to stay. The Coronavirus crisis, unfortunate as it is, provides the tech industry the opportunity to develop decentralized solutions which could lay the foundation for the charity sector, he argued.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Police arrest 10 in $6.6M Israeli crypto scam


European authorities have arrested 10 suspects accused of defrauding over $6 million from tens of investors. The suspects conducted a crypto pyramid scheme targeting investors in several European countries, including France, Belgium and the U.K. The arrests are the culmination of an extensive investigation that began in 2018.

The investigation was led by Europol and Eurojust, EU agencies that focus on law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation respectively. In a press release, Eurojust indicated that the scheme had defrauded 85 investors, mainly from France and Belgium, although it was based in Israel.

The scheme targeted its victims by phone, promising them incredible returns of up to 35% for a small investment. In a classic pyramid scheme technique, the fraudsters paid off the initial investors using money raised from late-stage investors. The initial payments led many of the investors to stake more money and recommend the scheme to others.

However, after some time, the payments stopped, as they always do. The criminals began to channel all payments into bank accounts belonging to several fake companies in Asian countries and Turkey.

Investigations into the crime ring started in 2018, with Eurojust issuing investigation orders to authorities in the U.K., Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary, Portugal and the Czech Republic to assist with the investigations. In January last year, the authorities made the first arrests, bringing in four suspects arrested in France. Europol also partnered with authorities in Luxembourg to seize $1.1 million.

This is the latest case of crypto fraudsters being brought to book. In January alone, tens of crypto fraudsters have faced the law in connection to millions of dollars lost through crypto scams. The DoJ, for instance, recently charged two alleged fraudsters for using fake identities to raise over $30 million in an ICO. The two were behind CG Blockchain, a company that claimed to develop blockchain auditing tools.

The SEC, on the other hand, charged ICOBox with the issuing of an unregistered ICO in which it raised $14 million. Just days prior, it had charged a San Diego, California man for defrauding $3.5 million from investors in a cloud mining scam.

The law enforcement actions are a positive sign for the crypto industry as it indicates the authorities are cracking down on the rampant crypto scams. Once the industry sheds the scammers, it will appeal to more people and likely attract government support.