All Quiet on the Crypto Front as Bitcoin, Altcoins Shun Volatility

An eerie calm continues to linger over cryptocurrency markets Friday, Oct. 26, as Bitcoin (BTC) volatility hits an all-time low and altcoins remain stagnant.

Market visualization from Coin360

Data from Cointelegraph’s price tracker and Coin360 paints an underwhelming picture for short-term speculators, but one that has delighted many analysts, who have begun hailing a new era of Bitcoin stability.

On Friday, Bloomberg joined the multiple cryptocurrency industry commentators to highlight Bitcoin’s lack of volatility, with October 2018 being the least volatile for eighteen months. Commentators claimed this was a sign the leading coin was nearing its bottom.

At the same time, one fund management head told the publication, the ongoing bear market should be “getting tired” and a bullish upturn was likely to form Bitcoin’s next move.

That sentiment was repeated by Fundstrat Global Advisors’ Tom Lee earlier this week in separate comments to Cointelegraph.

At press time, BTC/USD is up just a fraction of a percent over the past 24 hours to trade around $6,480. The pair has also remained uncannily stagnant since the end of last week.

Bitcoin 7-day price chart

Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Among the altcoins, Ethereum (ETH) is also recording only a minute percent change over the past 24 hours to press time.

Attention had largely fallen away from the largest altcoin asset this week ahead of a planned hard fork in January which, as Cointelegraph reported, has faced various hurdles to its implementation. Constantinople, as it is known, was originally scheduled for next month.

ETH/USD is currently trading just under $203, just slightly down since the same time last week against a backdrop of around 8 percent monthly losses.

Ethereum 7-day price chart

Ethereum 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Across the top twenty altcoin assets, no anomalies to the sideways trading trend had appeared, with coins staying within a tiny 1 percent of their position 24 hours previously. The only exception is Zcash (ZEC), ranked 19th by market cap, which is seeing a little over 4 percent losses to trade at $121.22 by press time.

Total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies remains just under $210 billion, a level it has been holding close to for the past week.

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Top 5 Crypto Performers Overview: Stellar, Ripple, NEO, Cardano, EOS

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

The market data is provided by the HitBTC exchange.

On Oct. 15, some market participants dumped stablecoin Tether as its CEO, who is also the CEO of Bitfinex, faced rumors of insolvency of both companies. Tether briefly lost its peg to the U.S. dollar as the traders sold it and lapped up other cryptocurrencies, providing a temporary boost in the total crypto market capitalization to about $220 billion.

However, after the initial frenzy, most digital currencies gave up their intraday gains and stabilized at lower levels.

Though most of the top cryptocurrencies are stuck in a range, there are a few that are showing signs of bottoming out. Let’s look at the top five digital currencies with a market capitalization of $1 billion or more, which have risen the most in the past seven days.

XLM/USD

Stellar bagged the pole position by gaining about 15 percent in the past seven days. There were a couple of events that have helped it rise in a dull market.

Rumors were making rounds that the new platform for institutional investors launched by the multinational financial industry heavyweight Fidelity will use XLM blockchain for moving digital assets.

The listing of XLM on the Coinsuper crypto exchange has also been well-received by the investors. Another positive news was the announcement of a partnership between Stellar and cryptocurrency exchange Hyperion, a subsidiary of a Canadian firm Global Blockchain Technologies.

Can Stellar maintain its momentum or is it nearing critical overhead resistances? Let’s find out.

The XLM/USD pair topped out in the first week of this year at $0.98239146, and since then it has been in a downtrend. It is currently trading inside a descending triangle, which will complete on a breakdown and close (UTC time frame) below the support.

However, on the downside, the bears haven’t been able to sustain below $0.184 in 2018. The digital currency has bounced off this critical support three times already. Repeated failure of the bears to break down of a level is a positive sign. It shows accumulation by strong hands when price corrects to this level.

Now, if the bulls continue their purchases at higher levels and break out of the downtrend line of the triangle, it will invalidate the bearish pattern. A failure of a bearish pattern is a bullish sign.

Therefore, a close (UTC time frame) above the triangle is likely to attract buying and start a new uptrend that can carry XLM to $0.47, and above that to $0.63.

Our bullish view will be negated if the bears break down and sustain the price below $0.184.

XRP/USD

The second best-performing cryptocurrency that is showing almost double-digit growth is Ripple, which has been in the news this whole month. Cory Johnson, chief market strategist at Ripple Labs has suggested that the White House might be interested in pushing XRP adoption, to counter China’s dominant position in the Bitcoin mining industry.

On Oct. 17, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Deputy Director and Principal Technologist Miller Abel announced a partnership with Ripple Labs Inc. and digital payments firm Coil. With several positive news to help the price action, Ripple has made a small comeback this week. Can this continue or will the coin give up its recent gains?   

XRP/USD

The XRP/USD pair has been in a downtrend in 2018. It has repeatedly failed to hold on to the support levels and has been making new lows at regular intervals.

Currently, it is trading below both the 20-week EMA and the 50-week SMA, but is trying to form a higher low at $0.37185. The previous low was $0.25300. If the bulls succeed in pushing the price above $0.76440, it will indicate a probable bottom and might signal the start of a new uptrend. The higher levels to watch on the upside are $0.96 and $1.22.

On the downside, if the cryptocurrency breaks down of $0.25, it can sink to a new low. We believe that traders should wait for buying to emerge before initiating any long positions.

NEO/USD

NEO celebrated the second anniversary of their mainnet launch and the market cheered the event by pushing the price higher by 5 percent in the past seven days.

NEO/USD

The NEO/USD pair is looking weak as it is trading close to its year-to-date low of $13.60337627. There has been no visible bounce since early August, which shows a lack of buying interest. A break of the support levels will be very negative and can result in a drop to the next support at $6.47815308.

On the upside, NEO will face a stiff resistance at the 20-week EMA that is close to the horizontal resistance at $28.49944165. A break out of this level might start a new rally to $43, and above that to $60, where it might face resistance from the 50-week SMA. Above this level, the move can extend to $100.

We believe that the traders should wait for a new buy setup to form before establishing any new positions in it.

ADA/USD

Input-Output Hong Kong (IOHK) announced that its Icarus project was audited by a third-party independent security auditor Kudelski Security. This will purportedly ensure that Cardano’s wallet is secure for customers.

Cardano has shrugged off the infighting as the price went up by about 5 percent in the past seven days. Let’s see if the coin is showing signs of a turnaround.

ADA/USD

At the current levels, the ADA/USD pair has fallen about 94 percent from its all-time highs. For about a month and a half, the digital currency has been trading in a tight range of $0.060105–$0.094256. A break out of this range might attract buyers, pushing the price towards the 20-week EMA, followed by a move to $0.2.

On the other hand, a break down of the range can result in a drop to $0.033677. Therefore, traders should wait for a new buy setup to form before attempting a long position on Cardano.

EOS/USD

Hackers have siphoned off 65,000 EOS from the operational wallet of EOSBet, a gambling dApp. This is the second attack within 60 days but the traders have shrugged off this news and the digital currency is up 3 percent in the past seven days.

EOS/USD

The EOS/USD pair has been trading in the range $4.4930–$6.8299 for more than two months. The positive thing is that the bulls haven’t allowed the price to slip to the critical support at $3.8723. Instead, they are attempting to form a higher low at $4.4930.

However, they haven’t been able to break out of the overhead resistance, which shows profit booking at higher levels.

The 20-week EMA and the horizontal resistance are both at $6.8299, which makes this an important level to watch on the upside. If this level is crossed, the digital currency can move up to $9.4456, followed by a sharp rally to $15.

On the other hand, if the bears succeed in breaking down of $3.8723, the virtual currency can plunge to $2.4, followed by a drop to $1.7.  The traders should wait for the overhead resistance to be scaled before buying.

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Third Largest Crypto Exchange Huobi Opens Deposits for New ‘Stablecoin Solution’ HUSD

Singapore-headquartered cryptocurrency exchange Huobi announced the creation of what it calls a “stablecoin solution” in a blog post Friday, Oct. 19.

Set to go live from Friday, the project, known as HUSD, will consist of Huobi’s own stablecoin asset which investors can use as an go-between to interact with four USD-backed stablecoins currently listed on the exchange.

Specifically, Huobi will accept and store Paxos Standard (PAX), True USD (TUSD), USD Coin (USDC) and Gemini Dollars (GUSD), giving users a balance in HUSD as a kind of aggregator of all four.

According to Huobi’s post, users can then cash out the same stablecoin they deposited or select from any of the other three.

HUSD will also be tradeable against other cryptocurrencies, beginning with controversial stablecoin Tether (USDT), followed by Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).

Commenting on the project, Huobi said it would expand it to cover other stablecoins in future.

“We will keep a close watch on new stablecoins that appear on the market and optimize the HUSD standards,” executives wrote:

“We look forward to more stablecoins being involved in the HUSD system.”

Huobi announced the listing of the above four USD-backed stablecoins earlier this week, following a similar move by OKEx.

Huobi is currently the third largest crypto exchange globally by daily trading volumes, seeing about $416 million in trades on the day to press time.

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Binance Launches Its First Fiat-Crypto Exchange in Uganda

Major international crypto exchange Binance has announced that its fiat-to-crypto exchange will open in Uganda this week, the company reveals Monday, Oct. 15.

CEO and founder of Binance, Changpeng Zhao (CZ), had told Cointelegraph in an exclusive interview in June of plans to open the Ugandan crypto-fiat exchange.

As per Binance Uganda’s press release, the new branch will officially start accepting deposits and withdrawals of Ugandan shillings (UGX) Wednesday, Oct. 17. Binance Uganda notes that exchange has already begun its know-your-customer (KYC) procedures.

An additional press release reports that Uganda’s national fiat can only be traded with Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), but that the exchange is planning to add more pairs soon.

A Cointelegraph analysis of cryptocurrency in Africa noted that although the Bank of Uganda issued a warning to investors about cryptocurrency risks in March 2017, the country’s government has showed interest in using blockchain technology.

Binance’s CFO Wei Zhou says that company’s first fiat-to-crypto exchange in Uganda will help maintain sustainable economic stability in Africa, noting that the company plans to bring “more innovations to the region.”  

As Cointelegraph previously reported, this year Binance has revealed plans to open several fiat-to-crypto exchanges.

In August, Binance LCX — a joint venture between Binance and Liechtenstein Cryptoassets Exchange (LCX) — had announced plans to launch a fiat-to-crypto platform in Liechtenstein and offer trading between Swiss francs (CHF) and euros (EUR) against major digital currencies pairs. However, the exact date of the launch was not revealed.

Later in September, Binance had stated it will soon start private beta testing of a fiat-to-crypto exchange in Singapore, which will presumably support the Singapore dollar.

Binance is the largest international crypto exchange by 24-hour adjusted trading volume, seeing almost $1.8 billion in trades on the day to press time, according to CoinMarketCap.

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Think Crypto’s Challenges Are Unique? It’s Just History Repeating Itself

From bartering to blockchain, the world of money – and the way we transfer it – has never stood still. Indeed, even the assets we prize have changed. Although it might be nice to have some vegetables in your fridge, using it as a form of currency has probably never crossed your mind.

It’s easy to take financial systems for granted. But every advancement over the centuries has caused some major disruption and a lot of getting used to. With each new system came imperfections and pitfalls – and in some ways, this is good. Cryptocurrencies hold a lot of promise but still face teething problems and challenges. History tells us that this is to be expected, and things can be fixed with patience and a few bright sparks.

Buckle yourselves in. Together, we’re going to take a journey exploring where money transfers began, and how we got to where we are today. Surprisingly, the issues facing crypto right now have been seen throughout the centuries.

Barter

We’re going way back to start off – so imagine everything in black and white. The barter system was the one of the first known forms of trading, pioneered and relied upon by civilizations as far back as 9000 BC. Goods would be exchanged for anything from food and tea leaves to spices, weapons and even human skulls. In every sense, this system is the godfather of money as we know it today.

Cowrie shells

As you can imagine, lugging around cattle and heavy sacks of grain whenever you wanted something from someone would have been a bit of a drag. Thankfully, it only took a few thousand years for traders to get a better idea – create a small and portable replica which symbolizes the goods which are yet to come.

Around 1200 BC, merchants in China started to use cowrie shells, which were commonly found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They were later imitated in bronze and copper. Metal knives were also popular as a substitute for the items due to be delivered – but perhaps unsurprisingly, sharp edges were taken away to swerve any nasty accidents. Often, holes would feature in the middle so they could be linked together – and it’s from here the inspiration for coins was born. Fun fact for a dinner party? Cowrie shells were still commonly used as currency in parts of Africa until the early 1900s. Now that’s stamina.

Creating an asset which represents something else is something that hundreds of utility coins in the crypto world do today. Digital tokens are increasingly being used to represent assets in the physical world – bringing a whole new meaning to ownership.

Coins

Fast forward just 700 years (why aren’t all history lessons this fast?) and we finally get to something resembling money – the coins jingling in your pocket. Or not if you’re a diehard crypto nerd, or like the Queen, who doesn’t carry cash.

By the time we arrive at 500 BCE, coins have popped up in Persia, Turkey, Greece and Macedonia – and soon enough, the Roman Empire was getting in on the action. That said, its soldiers appeared to take the revolution with a grain of salt, as many of them appear to have been partly paid in, er, salt. A payment method that’s slow to take off and enjoy mainstream adoption – that rings a bell.

Paper currency

At roughly the same time, paper currency was beginning to come along in leaps and bounds, but they did cause immense amounts of price volatility. In some cases, countries created way too many of these bills – devaluing their currencies and causing rampant price inflation. The story of price volatility sounds familiar, with the price of bitcoin soaring dramatically in 2018 before crashing – sending shock waves through the entire cryptocurrency market and prompting experts to question its suitability for day-to-day use.

Returning to history, banknotes soon emerged which were tied to precious metals like gold and silver – commodities which are still regarded as safe havens today. Further inventions such as checks (16th century) and the telegraph (19th century – yes, still in black and white) helped modernize transactions and speed up transfers. Want another fun fact for that dinner party? The rollout of telegraph systems paved the way for Western Union, which launched in 1851.

Making notes notable

With money changing hands in ever larger quantities, it became important for bank notes to be trusted and recognized internationally. This resulted in nations including England and the US moving away from gold as a value standard – and instead, they established centralized institutions like the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve. Many crypto organizations, which do not rely on central banks, are now underwriting their digital currencies with precious metals – and some banks are even making a cautious foray into the world of crypto.

The modern era

Here’s where we start to leave black and white behind and live in technicolor, with the traditional financial systems we’ve all grown up with. The middle of the 20th century brought about the advent of credit cards, and the late 1960s saw the launch of ATMs. By the 1970s, banks teamed together to launch SWIFT – or to give it its longer, catchier name, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Communication. This allowed financial institutions to talk to one another and facilitate transfers globally – but even today, these can still take a few business days to clear.

Transaction speeds started to rev up as we entered the new millennium thanks to eCommerce platforms such as PayPal, but indeed, these were (and are) still tied to old-fashioned banks. The huge global downturn 10 years ago, which saw several financial institutions collapse, could be regarded as the straw that broke the camel’s back – with high fees, slow speeds, a lack of transparency and the exclusion of hundreds of millions of people without a bank account leading some to realize that a new approach was needed.

The future?

Just like cowrie shells had to gain traction all those millennia ago, cryptocurrencies and blockchain are now hoping to deliver a seismic change in money transfers – and economies as we know them. Their immutable records at every stage of a transaction helps prevent fraud and money laundering – speeding up transfers while driving down costs for consumers. Sure, there are hurdles to overcome, but as we’ve seen, practically every development in the history of money has had endured struggles at one point or another.

Several platforms are working to make cryptocurrencies practical – and minimize currency losses. For example, Piixpay enables users to settle bills and transfer money to friends and family using Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, or Dash – with these payments arriving to recipients in the form of euros.

Slow adoption, price volatility, underwriting currencies with gold and banks slow to embrace new technology. To understand cryptocurrency’s challenges today, it really pays to look at the problems of yesterday (and yestercentury.)

 

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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Hodler’s Digest, October 1-8: WSJ Gets In and Out of Crypto, While BofA Sees a $7 Billion Future for Blockchain

Coming every Sunday, the Hodler’s Digest will help you to track every single important news story that happened this week. The best (and worst) quotes, adoption and regulation highlights, leading coins, predictions, and much more — a week on Cointelegraph in one link.

Top Stories This Week

Crypto Exchange ShapeShift Rebuts WSJ Report of Money Laundering

Cryptocurrency exchange ShapeShift has issued a denial in response to a Wall Street Journal article that the exchange had laundered around $9 million in ill-received funds. The article, which calculated a total of $88.6 million funneled through 46 exchanges, pinpointed $9 million as going through ShapeShift. In a blog post, Erik Voorhees, CEO and founder of ShapeShift, wrote that the information that the exchange gave the WSJ was misrepresented, and that the exchange has its own AML program that “deploys “blockchain forensics that are far more advanced than asking someone for their ‘name and address’.”

Wall Street Journal Creates, Then Destroys, Its Own Cryptocurrency

Major U.S. publication the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has created and then halted the issuance of its own cryptocurrency in the pursuit of learning more about the industry. WSJ journalist Steven Russolillo created the “WSJ Coin,” in order to both shed light on the crypto economy as well as provide a use case for the journalism industry. However, after the two issued units were spent on two beers, the WSJ ethics head shut the project down, citing “ethical questions.”

Bank of America Estimates Blockchain Could Be $7 Billion Market

Bank of America (BofA) analysts said this week that blockchain has the potential to become a $7 billion market, providing a boost to corporations like Microsoft and Amazon. Although no timeline was offered, the BofA analysts used the figure that two percent of corporate servers could run blockchain at an annual cost of $5,500. However, the bank noted that the full capacity of blockchain has not yet been “built out.”

US SEC Gives November 5 Deadline For Bitcoin ETF Review

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has given a time frame for reviewing the rule changes proposed in a series of application to list and trade Bitcoin exchange-traded funds. The SEC’s review period until Nov. 5 will affect nine different ETFs that were proposed by three different applicants: ProShares, Direxion, and GraniteShares. The SEC has solicited  “any party or other person” to file a statement in support or rejection of the proposed BTC ETFs in the review period.

Venezuelan President Maduro Claims Petro Launch Set For November 5

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said this week that the public sale of the national, oil-backed cryptocurrency Petro is set for November 5. According to Maduro, the official site of the Petro and the coin’s wallet are already live. The president also noted that the Petro is available on six major exchanges, without naming them, and that all oil purchases in and out of the country must be paid in Petro. Petro’s new whitepaper notes that the cryptocurrency is backed 50 percent by oil, 20 percent by gold, 20 percent by iron, and 10 percent by diamond assets.

Most Memorable Quotations

Most Memorable Quotations

Bill Clinton

“This whole blockchain deal has the potential it does only because it is applicable across national borders [and] income groups. The permutations and possibilities are staggeringly great,” — former U.S. President Bill Clinton

Joseph Muscat

“Blockchain makes cryptocurrencies the inevitable future of money, more transparent since it helps filter good businesses from bad businesses,” — Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat

Laws And Taxes

Laws And Taxes

US Legislators Propose Blockchain Promotional Bill

Two U.S. representative, Doris Matsui and Brett Guthrie, proposed this week a bill, the “Blockchain Promotional Act 2018,” in the House of Representatives. The bill notes that the definition of blockchain differs across different bills, and suggest that the U.S. Department of Commerce create a working group in order to form a common definition of blockchain, as well as come up with suggestions for government tech and communications bodies to research the potential impact of blockchain tech across the policy spectrum.

Chilean Deputies Present Blockchain Adoption Resolution To Parliament

Two Chilean deputies, Miguel Angel Calisto and Giorgio Jackson presented a text to the lower house of Chile’s parliament this week for a blockchain resolution project. In the proposal, the legislators suggest that Chilean president Sebastian Pinera adopts blockchain in all public areas of the country. The resolution also offers to carry out studies on the advantages of blockchain-based security and energy solutions.

Adoption

Adoption

Ripple Launches xRapid Payment Solution, Signs On Three Companies

Ripple’s real-time settlement platform xRapid became commercially available this week, after the pilot phase had already been launched in May. The platform, designed with the intention of speeding up international payments, reportedly sources liquidity from the digital currency XRP on exchange globally. Three firms — Cuallix, MercuryFX and Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union — have thus far been signed up as clients.

Retail Brokerage Firm TD Ameritrade Backs New Crypto Exchange ErisX

US retail brokerage firm TD Ameritrade — which currently supports 11 million clients with investment services — is backing new cryptocurrency exchange ErisX. The details of the deal have not been made public, but Bloomberg reports that  investing company DRW Holdings and high-speed trader Virtu Financial are also participating with investments. According to the Wall Street Journal, ErisX will support both direct cryptocurrency sales as well as launch futures contracts in early 2019.

Ripple-powered Payments App MoneyTap Goes Live In Japan

MoneyTap, a consumer-focused service co-developed by Ripple and Japanese financial services firm SBI Holdings, was launched this week. According to MoneyTap’s website, the app will use blockchain solution xCurrent to permit domestic bank-to-bank transfers in “real time.” Account holders at three participating Japanese banks   SBI Sumishin Net Bank, Suruga Bank and Resona Bank   can send funds using the mobile app, which is compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

Institutional Investors Become Largest Crypto Buyers, Report Shows

Institutional investors are now bigger buyers of cryptocurrency transactions worth more than $100,000 as opposed to high net-worth individuals, Bloomberg reported this week. The publication’s research found that traditional investors like hedge funds are becoming more involved in the cryptocurrency market through private transaction, noting that miners have begun scheduling regular coins sales rather than holding or selling during market rallies.

Russia’s Nuclear Corporation To Use Blockchain For Increasing Efficiency

Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear energy corporation, will develop “4.0 technologies” including blockchain, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things in order to increase the efficiency of their manufacturing process. The corporation is also seeking new talent in the three new technological fields.

Mergers, Acquisitions, And Partnerships

Mergers, Acquisitions, And Partnerships

Enterprise Ethereum Alliance And Hyperledger Join Each Other’s Organizations

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) and Hyperledger reported this week that they would each join the other’s organization as “Associate Members” in order to foment enterprise blockchain adoption. Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director of Hyperledger at the Linux Foundation and Ron Resnick, Executive Director of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, wrote about their decision to join together, nothing that collaboration will “enable more active and mutual cross-community collaboration through event participation, connecting with other members, and finding ways for our respective efforts to be complementary and compatible”

Funding Rounds

Funding Rounds

ConsenSys Invests $6.5 Million In Blockchain Startup Founded By Former R3 Execs

Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin has invested $6.5 million in DLT startup DrumG Technologies through blockchain ecosystem ConsenSys. DrumG, notably headed by senior level executives at rival blockchain consortium R3, will now include Lubin as an outside member of its board of directors, with Drum3 now having a “significant presence” in ConsenSys’s ecosystem. DrumG plans to address the problems in the blockchain space with acception of multiple interconnected distributed ledgers in the corporate world.

Yale University Participates In $400 Million Funding For Crypto-Focused Fund

Yale University, an Ivy League institution in the U.S., is reportedly one of of the investors in a $400 million investment into crypto-focused fund Paradigm. The fund was reportedly created by Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam, former Sequoia Capital partner Matt Huang, and Charles Noyes, formerly of crypto fund Pantera Capital. Bloomberg notes that the fund reportedly plans to invest in “early-stage” crypto-focused projects, new blockchains and digital asset exchanges.

Binance Labs Invests “Millions” In Decentralized Digital Content Startup

Binance Labs, founded by major crypto exchange Binance, has reportedly invested millions of dollars in decentralized digital content ecosystem Contentos. The exact amount of Binance Lab’s “multi-million” investment was not disclosed. Contentos noted in their press release that they plan to develop a decentralized ecosystem that will allow for more transparency and the monetization of content.

South Korean VC Firm Invests For First Time In Blockchain Startup

Korean Investment Partners (KIP), South Korea’s largest venture capital firm, has invested in TEMCO, the first time the company has invested in a blockchain startup. KIP, known for investments in firms like Korean search engine Naver and Japanese messaging app LINE, has invested an undisclosed sum in TEMCO, which aims to develop supply chain management solutions on blockchain for enterprises.

Winners And Losers

Winners And Losers

Winners And Losers

Crypto markets have had a calm week, with Bitcoin trading at around $6,525 and Ethereum at around $223. Total market cap is around $216 billion.

The top three altcoin gainers of the week are RabbitCoin, Rupee, and Royalties. The top three altcoin losers of the week are Carebit, ConnectJob, and Oxycoin.

For more info on crypto prices, make sure to read Cointelegraph’s market analysis.

FUD Of The Week

FUD Of The Week

Expert From Blockchain Capital Believes Bitcoin Has Nearly Hit Bottom

Spencer Bogart, an expert in crypto and blockchain from Blockchain Capital, said this week that Bitcoin has almost found its bottom. According to Bogart, the markets are down around 70 percent from their high, so he thinks that “Bitcoin is close to bottoming and so is the rest of the market.” Bogart also noted that media coverage of the crypto markets is “a piece of kindling that we are going to throw onto a future crypto bonfire when we have the next bull market.”

Cryptojackers Have Compromised Over 30,000 Routers In India, Report Shows

Security company Banbreach’s recent report has found that the number of routers compromised by cryptojacking software in India has doubled in the past month, now numbering over 30,000. The report, which was compiled by tracking Internet traffic on devices with public IP address, grouped areas of India together from the most to the least dense. According to Banbreach, 45 percent of the compromised routers are located in the less-populated areas.

German ICO Investors Have Lost 90 Percent Of Their Capital, Report Finds

According to research, investors in German ICOs have lost as much as 90 percent of their capital. German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche looked at the token issue prices of ICOs in Germany in early September 2018, finding that German startup coins lost even more in value than Bitcoin and Ethereum so far this year. The magazine noted that only eight startups with a head office in Germany so far have completed an ICO.

Audit, Consulting Firm Deloitte Describe Five Obstacles To Blockchain Adoption

Deloitte has outlined five basic areas that need development in order for blockchain technology to achieve widespread adoption. According to the firm’s report, blockchain must first overcome five issues —  the possibility of time-consuming operations, lack of standardization, high costs and complexity blockchain applications, regulatory uncertainty, and the absence of collaboration between blockchain-related firms — before in can be more widely accepted.

WSJ Report Shows Automated Trading Bots Manipulate Crypto Market Prices

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, automated trading programs (bots) are manipulating cryptocurrency prices. The WSJ writes that the lack of regulation in the crypto markets has allowed the bots to execute their abusive strategies on an industrial level. The article specifically references a $80 million digital currency hedge fund and its battle with “enemy bots” in the crypto markets.

Prediction Of The Week

Prediction Of The Week

Mike Novogratz: Bitcoin Won’t Break $9,000 In 2018

CEO of crypto investment firm Galaxy Digital Capital has corrected his BTC price forecast — having said in November 2017 that BTC could hit $45,000 in a year — now stating that Bitcoin won’t actually break $9,000 in 2018. Novogratz also suggested that the falling prices in the crypto market are a result of companies currently selling crypto “just to fund the burn rate of the industry.”

Best Features

Best Features

The Future Of Cryptocurrency Legislation

Brookings looks at where exactly cryptocurrency regulation is going in the future, noting key concerns such as the defining of crypto and tokens as securities, the multiple class-action suits against ICOs, and diverging international views on regulation.

Rapper Soulja Boy Extols Bitcoin Gains In New Song

Learn how American rapper Soulja Boy “got on a computer and bought a Bitcoin” in his new album. The rapper further explains in verse: “This cryptocurrency man, it’s crazy. I got Bitcoin, and I got Litecoin. I’m going digital. Yah. Soulja.”

Article First Published here

South Africa and Crypto – a Conservatively Optimistic Approach

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have proliferated the minds of millions across the world, as trading and crypto asset ownership continues to rise.

In the same breathe, many countries across the world have taken a tough stance against cryptocurrencies in particular. Some, like China, have outlawed their use, while others like Malta are at the forefront of cryptocurrency and blockchain development.

In an African context, this sector is slowly growing. At the southern end of the continent, South Africa sits in an interesting position. As one of the bigger economic hubs of Africa, it has the potential to lead the way in terms of blockchain development and cryptocurrency adoption.

With that being said, it’s worth considering what the current climate is like in the country and what efforts are being made to drive innovation and acceptance of this burgeoning new industry.

The tax man

Cryptocurrency trading has become immensely popular over the past two years — as was demonstrated in the latter half of 2017, when Bitcoin and a number of altcoins cruised to all-time highs.

During this period, plucky investors flocked to the market in the hopes of cashing in on a spiralling bull run that made many early investors substantial sums of money.

Across the world, cryptocurrency exchanges were inundated with new users looking to open up accounts and get their hands on the increasingly valuable Bitcoin and the like.

Some people made massive profits while others were left watching their investments decline in value during the resulting correction. That didn’t change the fact that the tax man wanted his pound of flesh from those that had cashed in their profits.

This was the case in South Africa, where the South African Revenue Services (SARS) made it clear to registered taxpayers that they would be liable to pay tax on cryptocurrency gains.

How crypto is classified in South Africa

As the SARS pointed out, the word ‘currency’ is not defined in the Income Tax Act. It’s important for people to understand this because it means that cryptocurrencies themselves are not taxable.

“Cryptocurrencies are neither official South African tender nor widely used and accepted in South Africa as a medium of payment or exchange. As such, cryptocurrencies are not regarded by SARS as a currency for income tax purposes or Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Instead, cryptocurrencies are regarded by SARS as assets of an intangible nature.”

However, the value of a given amount of cryptocurrency can be valued in South African rands, and any income received or accrued from cryptocurrency trading can be taxed under the laws of gross income.

Simply put, South Africans that are actively trading cryptocurrency will be liable to pay tax on any income made.

Don’t stress, it’s legal

In a South African context, the use of cryptocurrencies is legal. There are no laws governing the sector although the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is monitoring the situation.

The Reserve Bank issued a white paper outlining its views on cryptocurrencies in 2014. The institution does not recognize any cryptocurrency as legal tender.

In South Africa, the Reserve Bank has the sole right to issue and manage money, in the form of bank notes and coins. As such, cryptocurrencies fall outside the jurisdiction of the Reserve Bank.

In layman’s terms, the Reserve Bank doesn’t view cryptocurrencies as an alternative to fiat currency, in fact it doesn’t view them as legitimate currencies at all. In that very document, the SARB went as far to say that cryptocurrencies won’t pose any threat to the South African Rand, or financial institutions:

“Given the current landscape and information currently available, the Bank contends that VCs pose no significant risk to financial stability, price stability or the National Payment System.”

Task force looking at crypto

Given that the SARB’s first report on cryptocurrencies is nearly 5 years old, the institution has since launched a Fintech task group that will handle cryptocurrency and fintech developments in the country.

As it was the case around the world, investor protection has been a big concern amid the inherent risk of investing in cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

This self-regulatory body will be allowed to set up its own rules and directives, while looking to balance crypto and blockchain development in the country with risk prevention.

In the initial announcement in April 2018, SARB director of banking practice Bridget King said a major hurdle has to do with timelines and the dangers of imposing regulations that could stifle the growth of the sector:

“Regulating cryptocurrencies prematurely could have the negative consequence of throttling the growth and innovation of the industry. In addition, if laws are drafted based on existing technology, which is still in its growth phase, there is a risk that the technology may have moved so much by the time the legislation is enacted, that the legislation is obsolete or requires updating almost immediately to align with the latest technology.”

In May 2018, the SARB made it clear that it still doesn’t classify cryptocurrencies as money. Deputy Governor of the bank, Francois Groepe, explained the reasoning behind their classification and choice of terminology:

“We don’t use the term “cryptocurrency” because it doesn’t meet the requirements of money in the economic sense of the stable means of exchange, a unit of measure and a stable unit of value. We prefer to use the word ‘cyber-token’.

This is part and parcel of why the SARB created its Fintech task group. Groepe said the bank wants to make sure that cryptocurrencies, and their trade, are still adhering to South African laws:

“We want to ensure or establish whether there is still compliance with the relevant financial surveillance or exchange-control regulations.”

Reserve Bank tests pilot blockchain payment system – Project Khokha

In addition to establishing this regulatory body for the South African crypto industry, the SARB has also forged ahead with a proof of concept for a blockchain-based payment system.

Project Khokha has been tested and in June 2018 a report was released. The system was built using JPMorgan’s Quorum platform, and providing participating parties actual experience using blockchain technology in a safe, test environment.

According to the report, the daily volume of the South African payment system could be processed in less than two hours. Along with this, transactions would remain completely confidential and would be completely settled.

Transactions were processed within two seconds by a network of nodes in different locations using distributed consensus. Furthermore, the SARB was able to view the details of transactions, ensuring regulatory oversight for their own purposes.

The project was mainly aimed at giving the SARB and various participants a first hand look at how blockchain technology could help streamline payments systems.

While no official, blockchain-based payment system has been launched from the proof-of-concept, the exercise has provided first-hand experience of the capabilities of  distributed ledger technology and how it could possibly improve the current South African payment system:

“One objective of Project Khokha is to provide a better understanding of how South African Multiple Option Settlement (SAMOS) system would integrate with a DLT system. The intention is not to consider changing the approach with the SAMOS replacement, but to provide input to that project.”

A waiting game

Regulation is somewhat of a double-edged sword. It has the power to both promote and nurture, as well as stifle and strangle. When it comes to cryptocurrencies, the second scenario is a real concern.

This is why, in a South African context, a slow and methodical approach to cryptocurrency regulation is a definite positive. As King suggested above, rushing to regulate prematurely could hamper the development of the industry in the country.

If anything, South Africans should be encouraged by the SARB’s Fintech working group and the outcome of Project Khokha’s report on the uses of blockchain-based payment systems.

While we may not see any clear cut legislation or regulation on the sector soon, the fact that the SARB is making a concerted effort to research the possibilities of blockchain technology is positive.

Cointelegraph has reached out to the South African Reserve Bank for comment – and is awaiting an official reply.

Article First Published here

Chinese Energy Outfit to Support Spanish 300 MW Crypto Mining Farm

Chinese energy company Risen Energy has partnered with a Spanish cryptocurrency mining farm will to develop capacity of up to 300 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic power. The news was reported by a Chinese media outlet PV Tech Thursday, October 4.

Several months after CryptoSolarTech confirmed it was building two farms near the city of Malaga using energy-efficient technology, Risen “will develop and take on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) responsibilities for the projects,” according to the new report.

For comparison, Bitcoin network consumes an average of about 200 MW of energy for mining every day, according to the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index.

In June, CryptoSolarTech released its own token via an ICO to assist in financing its operations, the token raising a reported $68.2 million.

“Funding for the project is secured against the launch and sale of the cryptocurrency tokens from the farms and based on a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA),” PV Tech added.

A month previously, CryptoSolarTech reported it had raised 60 million euros ($69 million) from its first two months of existence, along with concluding a power supply contract with Barcelona-based Respira Energia.

Since the culmination of the ICO, the company’s token has lost the vast majority of its value, making it into the top ten ICO ‘losers’ in research released late September.

Article First Published here

Crypto Behind Bars: Arrests Making Headlines Across the Globe

Gone are the days when shady dealings in crypto were perceived as immune to the clutches of law enforcement.

Illicit crypto proceeds can be shuttled between wallet addresses at the click of a mouse, and their obfuscation behind the multiple strings of numbers and letters of wallet addresses can create a dizzying — if not impenetrable — cryptographic maze for authorities to navigate.

But the criminals themselves present a more concrete target, and as they interface with everything from crafty code to unwieldy hardware to ‘traditional’ firearms, there has been some success in 2018 in nabbing some of the year’s darkest — and most imaginative — offenders.

From soap actors to former lawmakers, Cointelegraph takes stock of some of the most illustrious arrests of the figures behind crypto’s high crimes and misdemeanours this year.

Foiled supercomputer Bitcoin heist in Russian nuclear no-man’s land

In February, Russian security agents scored a coup against a group of nuclear engineers at a top-secret nuclear warhead facility who tried to use one of the country’s most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoin (BTC).

The engineers worked at the Federal Nuclear Center in the western city of Sarov — formerly one of the Soviet Union’s closed-off cities, unmarked on historic maps and shrouded in secrecy.

As one of the Soviet “closed administrative territorial entities,” Sarov was then known as Arzamas-16, and was the center of research and production for the first Soviet atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb under Joseph Stalin. Special permits are still required today for ordinary Russians to visit it.

With such a stellar off-grid history, you’d think the Bitcoin-hungry nuclear engineers might have suspected that connecting the site’s supercomputer — a 1 petaflop titan with a capacity for 1,000 trillion calculations per second — to the internet might draw just a little attention.

As soon as the engineers tried to bring it online, the security department was alerted and was able to foil the scientists, who were peremptorily handed over to the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Tatiana Zalesskaya, the head of the press service for the research institute, told the Interfax news agency that that the attempt was a “technically hopeless and criminally punishable offense.”

A criminal case was reportedly duly opened against them.

Contentiously, it has been alleged that the radioactive polonium-210 used to kill ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 was produced in Sarov, which houses a plant that is said to be the “world’s only commercial producer of the substance,” according to evidence presented before a court in the United Kingdom.

Sarov’s rogue scientists are not the only ones to have thought of using former Soviet military spaces for crypto mining. The Ice Rock Mining firm has plans to — legally — set up mining operations in a former Soviet bunker located in a cave in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Caught in the headlights: Thai actor “Boom” arrested on set for alleged crypto fraud family affair

Boom

This summer, reports emerged tied to the story of a Finnish millionaire allegedly fooled by a Thai crypto investment scam — to the tune of Bitcoin worth 797 million baht ($24.62 million) at the time.

According to the Thai Crime Suppression Division (CSD), the 22-year-old Finn, identified as Aarni Otava Saarimaa, claimed he had been lured into investing his Bitcoin into several companies, a casino and the gambling-focused crypto token Dragon Coin.

Saarima’s business partner, the Thai businessman Chonnikan Kaeosali, reportedly first approached the CSD in January this year, outlining how the pair had been drawn to purchase shares in three firms — Expay Group, NX Chain Inc. and DNA 2002 Plc — that were purported to be investors in Dragon Coin. He said they had first been approached in connection with the affair by a local Thai group back in June 2017.

The fraudsters are said to have taken their would-be victims around a Macau-based casino where they claimed the gambling-focused token would soon be used. Saarima subsequently transferred his crypto but never saw returns, shareholder papers nor any proof of investment in Dragon Coin.

As the CSD’s investigations unfolded, they identified a group of nine suspects — three of whom were revealed to be a group of siblings from the Jaravijit family. The suspects are said to have swiftly sold the crypto for local fiat currency, dispersing the spoils between various bank accounts.

It was the arrest of one of the siblings this summer — a dapper 27-year-old soap-opera star known as Jiratpisit “Boom” Jaravijit — that first brought the case to public light.  

On Aug. 9, Boom was taken into custody on money laundering charges in the midst of filming at the Major Cineplex Ratchayothin in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district. Local media noted it was the day after the star’s birthday.

It was alleged that the actor had colluded with his siblings to launder the swindled money, after investigations revealed they had bought 14 plots of land worth 176 million baht ($5.44 million).

Boom’s brother, Prinya Jaravijit, is said to have been the ringleader of the scheme, having reportedly received a tip-off from a Thai banker about the wealthy Finn and then setting the heist in motion. Prinya has reportedly fled to South Korea, while Boom’s sister is said to have made contact with the CSD to turn herself in.

The CSD has sought arrest warrants for a further six suspects and frozen a total of 51 different bank accounts in addition to the siblings’ land.

Boom was temporarily released on a 2 million baht ($61,827) bail bond on the condition that he would not leave the country, having argued that his arrest on set in a public place was ample proof he had not been intending to flee.

Earlier this month, another Jaravijit sibling turned himself in to deny the fraud charges, while police met two further suspects: Prasit Srisuwan, a well-known stock trader, and Chakris Ahmad.

Boom’s parents, Mr. Suwit and Ms. Lertchatkamol, have also been questioned after police traced that 90 million baht ($2.78 million) had been transferred to their accounts. Both have denied involvement.

India: Former ruling party lawmaker nabbed “fast asleep” on a construction site

india

As news of the many-tentacled Bitconnect investment heist continues to unfold globally, recent developments have unearthed a web of kidnappings and extortions allegedly tied to Bitconnect investors in the wealthy state of Gujarat.  

Earlier this month, a former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was remanded in custody for allegedly conspiring with local police to kidnap and extort Bitcoin from a Gujarati Bitconnect investor.

In February, a Surat-based builder by the name of Shailesh Bhatt had charged into the Home Minister’s office in the Indian state of Gujarat, alleging that 10 district cops had kidnapped and extorted him for 176 BTC, worth 9.45 crore* rupee (around $1.31 million).

*A crore rupee denotes 10 million and is equal to 100 lakh rupee in the Indian numbering system (1 lakh rupee denotes 100,000)

The band of 10 was alleged to have comprised not only rank-and-file constables but even a superintendent and a local Crime Branch Inspector.

Bhatt, who is said to have been known for his penchant for Bitcoin trading, claimed he had been duped by one of his business aides, Kirit Paladiya, into thinking that the authorities were keeping him under close watch for his crypto dealings.

He alleged he had been lured by a phone call from his local Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), where he was allegedly beaten in a “torture room” and asked by a CBI official to pay a cash ransom.

Two days later, he claimed he was kidnapped during a meeting with his aide Paladiya near a fuel station, where he was whisked off to a local farm house. There, he said, “[the police officers] beat me up inside a room and threatened to kill me […] if I did not hand over my Bitcoins.”

Bhatt then accused Paladiya of double-crossing him in cahoots with his influential uncle, the former BJP MLA Nalin Kotadiya, who he claimed had been the one who pressured him into paying the ransom.

Bhatt has himself been subsequently accused of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He has become embroiled in a case pertaining to an alleged earlier extortion of a staggering 1.55 billion rupee ($215 million) worth of crypto and cash at gunpoint — including around 2,400 BTC — from two colleagues of well-known local Bitconnect promoter Satish Kumbhani.  

However, Indian authorities nonetheless believed there is some weight behind the accusations against the former lawmaker Kotadiya, first issuing an arrest warrant against him in mid-May.

Kotadiya has repeatedly hit back against the allegations, notably via a WhatsApp video — reposted on Youtube in late April — in which, attired in pink, he claimed he had duly informed authorities about the Bitcoin heist and attributed the full blame for the extortion scandal and conspiracy to Bhatt.

Moreover, he threatened to leak evidence that would implicate even more local politicians in the scandal, saying that Bhatt was protecting them and therefore attempting to “fix him” in the case.

Nonetheless, by mid-June, a local sessions judge declared Kotadiya a “proclaimed offender” (absconder) and demanded he appear before the court within 30 days.

As Kotadiya continued to elude the clutches of law enforcement throughout summer, he was finally nabbed after four months in hiding on Sept. 10. He was reportedly found “fast asleep” on the second floor of a railway quarters still under construction, after a local contractor gave police the golden tip-off.

“When we [eventually] found him, he was sleeping on a mattress and there was just an earthen pot of water in the room.”

As Cointelegraph has reported, Kotadiya’s alleged embroilment has been a political gold mine for the opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC), who allege that further members of the ruling BJP have used the Bitconnect scam to launder undeclared “black” money.

“The finger of suspicion of this massive scam of illegal cryptocurrency directly points to several top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and a mastermind — an absconding BJP leader and former MLA Nalin Kotadiya […] Who are the top BJP leaders against whom Kotadiya has damning evidence? We demand an impartial Supreme Court-monitored judicial investigation.”

As of press time, the time of Kotadiya’s custody is up, yet the alleged evidence he claims to wield is yet to have been made public.

Iceland’s Bitcoin miner heist: A high-gliding fugitive and suspect hardware in Tianjin

miner

This year, what has been described as one of Iceland’s “largest criminal cases in history” has seen an outlandish set of twists and turns, leading all the way to the northern Chinese city of Tianjin.

In February, news broke of a series of unprecedented thefts, involving powerful computing equipment that had been stolen in a “highly organized” Bitcoin mining heist. Three burglaries were reported to have taken place in December 2017 and a fourth in January.

The burglars had allegedly swiped 20 million krónur (around $180,000) worth of equipment — 600 graphics cards, 100 power supplies, 100 motherboards, 100 memory discs and 100 CPU processors — from a house in the municipality of Reykjanesbær.

They had also allegedly broken into data centers across both Reykjanesbær and Borgarbyggð, with a total of 600 computers stolen from both places, worth 200 million krónur (almost $2 million). The whereabouts of the equipment, including the computers — said to have been used for Bitcoin mining — remained untraceable, even as authorities monitored energy consumption for suspicious increases.

Police are said to have initially arrested eleven suspects — two of which were ordered to remain in custody, after the Icelandic IT firm Advania produced incriminating surveillance footage taken at the data center in Reykjanesbær. The authorities soon recovered most of the stolen equipment, yet the 600 computers remained elusive. Both suspects were reported in local media as being “uncooperative.”

Then, on April 17, one of the detainees escaped at 1 a.m. from his custody in an “open” (low-security) prison, just a week before authorities were due to move forward with an indictment.

The fugitive, Sindri Thor Stefánsson, fled the country on a passport bearing another man’s name, boarding a passenger plane to Sweden that was embarrassingly revealed to have been carrying Iceland’s prime minister.

Stefánsson subsequently released a statement claiming he had been “legally allowed” to travel on the day he boarded the plane to Stockholm, as his custody ruling expired April 16 and a judge had requested 24 hours to consider its renewal. This, according, to him, left a brief interim during which the warrant for his custody was legally invalid.

He vowed to return home “soon,” telling reporters he would be challenging his two-and-a-half-month custody at the European Court of Human Rights.

Days later, he was arrested in central Amsterdam, after a photo published on Instagram with the hashtag #teamsindri allegedly gave him away, according to media outlet Iceland Monitor. Police at the time did not confirm this was the case.

team

Allegedly incriminating Instagram snap of Stefánsson in Amsterdam: Source: Iceland Monitor

Despite #teamsindri reportedly briefly trending across Icelandic Twitter, the case last month came to a head when a judge charged Stefánsson — alongside six others — with the theft of the 600 computers. While Stefánsson’s charge has been confirmed as theft, it remains unclear what role the other six defendants are charged with as having in the incident.

Just days after Stefansson’s Amsterdam stint, police in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin seized 600 computers used to mine Bitcoin, after abnormal electricity usage attracted the attention of the local power grid operator. Local media outlets reported the case as being the “largest power theft case in recent years,” but it notably also drew the attention of authorities back in Iceland, who suspected the exact number match of suspect hardware was more than just an uncanny coincidence.

Icelandic police subsequently reached out to Chinese authorities to try to link the two cases, yet no results have been reported since then.

“One of the best out there”: A teenage SIM-swapping crypto hacker with a taste for luxury cars

Car

Last month, Californian police nabbed a hacker who allegedly stole Bitcoin worth over $1 million via a series of so-called ‘SIM-swapping’ heists — also known as ‘port-out scams.’ The 19-year-old suspect, identified as Xzavyer Narvaez, is said to have specialized in stealing cell phone numbers and using them to hijack online financial and social media accounts tied to those numbers.

A SIM-swap attack results in the victim suddenly losing all service, with any incoming calls or text messages redirected to the attacker’s device. As many firms use automated messages or phone calls to handle customer authentication, SIM swaps can be a goldmine in deft hands.  

Prosecutors allege that Narvaez used his ill-gotten crypto proceeds to purchase luxury goods, including a $200,000 high-performance McLaren sport car, which were tracked through records obtained from Bitcoin payment provider BitPay.

According to cybercrime blog Krebs on Security, the investigators interviewed several alleged victims of Narvaez, one of whom claimed he was robbed of $150,000 in crypto after his SIM was hijacked.

Between March and June 2018 alone, Narvaez’s account on crypto exchange Bittrex reportedly saw a flow of a staggering 157 BTC. He subsequently faced charges on four counts of using personal identifying information without authorization; four counts of altering and damaging computer data with intent to defraud or obtain money, or other value; and grand theft of personal property of a value over $950,000, according to court documents.

VICE’s parallel investigations traced Narvaez’s impressive “credentials” in the SIM-swapping underworld, with one source telling the magazine that he was considered “one of the best […] out there.” VICE’s source provided screenshots of Narvaez’s former Instagram account, which allegedly featured euphoric photos of his fresh, 2018 snow white McLaren, accompanied by the caption “live fast, die young.”

Narvaez is said to have come under the radar of law enforcement following the arrest of one Joel Ortiz, described as “a gifted 20-year-old college student from Boston” who was charged this July with using SIM swaps to swipe over $5 million in crypto from 40 different victims.

A redacted “statement of facts” in the case obtained by Krebs revealed that records obtained from Google had traced that a cellular device used by Ortiz to commit SIM swaps had at one point been used to access the Google account identified as Xzavyer.Narvaez@gmail.com.

In an unrelated case this July, Florida police reportedly arrested a 25-year-old, Ricky Joseph Handschumacher, who was accused of being part of a multi-state, cyber-fraud SIM-swapping ring that operated over the course of two years.

The gang of nine — scattered across different states — was initially tracked in February, when a “worried mom” overheard her son talking on the phone impersonating a telecoms firm employee. The group is alleged to have “routinely paid” employees at cell phone companies to assist in their schemes and to even have discussed a plan to hack accounts belonging to the CEO of the high-profile Gemini Trust company — namely those of Bitcoin billionaire Tyler Winklevoss.

Handschumacher himself posted multiple flashy purchases — including a pickup truck, multiple all-terrain vehicles and jet skis — on his public Facebook profile. Subpoenas to Coinbase revealed he had sold 82 BTC through his account, “virtually all” of which were not purchased on the platform.

As law enforcement closed in on this host of spry and unabashed millennial SIM swappers, in August, a U.S. investor filed a $224 million lawsuit, taking on telecoms giant AT&T. Michael Terpin accused the firm of alleged negligence, claiming that $24 million in crypto was stolen via a “digital identity theft” of his cell phone account.

His complaint alleged that:

“What AT&T did was like a hotel giving a thief with a fake ID a room key and a key to the room safe to steal jewelry in the safe from the rightful owner.”

“Fake news”: OKEx CEO “detained” for alleged fraud

fake news

The most recent high-profile, crypto-related “detention” involves OKEx CEO Star Xu, who was the subject of a host of conflicting media reports — and even one viral dumpling-related anecdote — following his sudden tête-à-tête with Chinese authorities this month.

Xu has robustly hit back at rumors that fraud was the reason for his purported ‘arrest,’ after local media reported that he had faced problems at his hotel from a group of investors in WFEE Coin, a blockchain WiFi sharing project they claimed Xu held shares in.

The allegedly defrauded victims had reportedly contacted Shanghai police, who “summoned” the CEO to a police station on Sept. 10 to “put [him] through a round of questioning to get to the bottom of the rumors,” as tech news source ZeroHedge wrote at the time.

A photograph of a police report about Xu on local news outlet Sina Technology appeared to confirm that the police had been notified at 5:59 p.m. on Sept. 10.

Photo

Image of police report allegedly involving Star Xu’s detention. Source: Sina Technology

At the same time, alternative sources in China claimed the investors were in fact traders incensed by system failures on the OKEx exchange itself. As Bitcoin (BTC) tumbled on Sept. 5, OKEx platform crashes are alleged to have left users unable to close or otherwise salvage their positions, with losses all the more acute in the case of leveraged trades.

Cointelegraph’s own Chinese sources have since thrown some degree of light on what had spiralled into a sordid media affair, substantiating suspicions that much of the hearsay was indeed “fake news.”

The sources have emphasized that Xu was the one who approached the police of his own accord. In their account, on Sept. 10, Xu had arrived at the Shanghai office of OK Group to meet with customers and conduct other business affairs. He had also — incidentally — made an appointment at the office to meet with a prospective personal fitness coach.

There, the first troubles with the disgruntled investors are said to have begun — who are thought to have been a mix of OKCoin and WFEE Coin investors. Some ambiguity remains as to their exact identity — and whether they were indeed railing against problems tied to the OKEx exchange or held Xu responsible for the vicissitudes of the WFEE token, or a mix of both.

Having gotten wind of Xu’s visit to Shanghai, the aggrieved group is alleged to have been responsible for vandalizing the sign at the city’s OK Group office, as appears to be shown in the following photograph:

Photo

Photo showing the apparent vandalization of OK Group’s entrance sign at the Shanghai office

An alarmed Xu is said to have headed back to his hotel, telling his prospective coach to make her way there as well, so as to resume their meeting. The investors are alleged to have then followed the woman’s tracks, suspecting she would lead them to Xu. There, they are alleged to have knocked on the door of the CEO’s room, threatening him.

After four tense hours, Xu is said to have alerted the police. The investors are again alleged to have followed his trail, whereupon Xu called a group of “henchmen” to join him at the police station. At this point, the investors are said to have taken fright and approached the authorities themselves.

In an interview published soon after his release, Xu confirmed he had been held by Shanghai police, seeming to imply he had made the contact on his own initiative:

“In Shanghai, someone reported that I was defrauding. I went to the police station to explain the situation and proved to the police that I did not swindle.”

On Twitter, OKEx COO Cheung also stated that Xu had been encircled by a group in Shanghai, although in his account, the police are said to have arrived to the scene themselves and moved all parties involved to the station. Cheung alleged that:

“While Star was invited to help with the investigation and those people was detained, they raised a fraud complaint against Star. Star stayed to clarify and then left afterward.”

According to Cointelegraph’s sources, no one was witness to Xu’s departure from the station, and it remains unclear how long he spent there.

Xu has stated that while it is “normal” for citizens to exercise their right to make such allegations, he has equally fulfilled his “duty” as a citizen by cooperating with the authorities. In terms of his alleged responsibility for system “abnormalities” on the exchange, Xu has responded that:

“I am not a legal person of OKEx, nor am I a shareholder or a director.”

This point was echoed in Cheung’s parallel tweets, in which the COO stressed that “Star is the founder of OK Group, [and] although we are good friends, he does not run OKEx.” Cheung has added that he felt “disappointed that the story was twisted before the truth came out.

Local news outlet Jiemian has meanwhile reported that seven out of a total of 300 investors who claimed to have “suffered heavy losses” on the OKEx exchange have since reached a form of settlement with Xu. Notably, repeated system failures are alleged to have caused a total economic loss of “around 300 million yuan.”

In his post-release interview, Xu stressed that while leveraged trading is a “neutral tool in itself,” it is “not suitable for ordinary investors” as the potential for accelerated net profits and losses requires “professional knowledge” to manage the risks involved.

As Jiemian noted, while OKEx offers investors the opportunity to add as much as 20 times leverage to their contracts, unlike traditional futures trading platforms, the exchange operates without regulatory oversight.

As for the WFEE connection, OK Blockchain Capital (OKBC) — a strategic partner of OKEx and a subsidiary of OK Group — has publicly refuted the allegations that Xu had any shares in the project, tweeting on Sept. 12 that:

“The rumor that OK Group founder Star Xu [is] a shareholder of WFEE is fake. Mr. Xu has no equity relationship with WFEE and its company.”

OKBC has further clarified its own relationship with WFEE, stating that “OKBC is one of the institutional investors of WFEE.” WFEE reportedly “acquired OKBC’s and several other capitals’ investments […] when it was still the prime partner of WeShare WiFi — a global leading WiFi sharing company.” The firm added that it had not been notified of subsequent changes to the WFEE white paper, as OKBC “neither participates in” WFEE’s operations, nor in its “results.”

OKBC has also pointed to the fact that OKEx had warned its users of the potential risks posed by WFEE in August and included WFEE in their first “Token Delisting/Hiding Guideline [sic].”

So… what of the dumplings?

Amid the flurry of “twisted” media reports, one viral anecdote alleged that the band of investors had brought a hungry — and short-of-cash — Xu some sustenance, namely dumplings, as he underwent questioning at the police station. The story, despite its oddity, appears to have had some traction. Cointelegraph’s Chinese sources, for their part, dismissed it out-of-hand as an unthinkable and breathless piece of confected hearsay.

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UK-Based Crypto Platform Launches $1.45 Million Crowdfund Campaign to Bank the Unbanked

Nebeus, the London-based crypto platform, has launched a 1.1 million pound ($1.45 million) crowdfunding campaign as they set out their ambitious goal of bringing financial services to people around the world. According to the World Bank, there are 1.7 billion adults globally who remain unbanked, yet two-thirds of them own a mobile phone that they could use for online banking. The Nebeus’ campaign went live on Sept. 24, 2018 and has already attracted more than 400,000 pounds ($527,490).

The goals of the campaign

Backed by industry expert Brett King, the Nebeus campaign will last until October 23, 2018. Currently operating in 45 countries, they now plan for expansion across Europe, Asia and South America. The company wants to make banking simple for people and encourages a wider use of cryptocurrency in everyday spending, offering user-friendly Bitcoin wallets and its recently launched Exo card. The new prepaid card allows users to seamlessly convert crypto into fiat, making transactions convenient online, offline and even at ATMs.

“We want to create an ecosystem where those who add value are rewarded, and those

who consume services and products can do so in a competitive and secure

environment, built on blockchain technology. Our current campaign will bring us a step

closer to achieving this,” Konstantin Zaripov, co-founder and CEO of Nebeus, said.

How the platform works

Nebeus is a new crypto bank which facilitates crypto-collateral Bitcoin loans globally. The company says it is working on “bridging the gap between crypto and fiat finance through the use of blockchain technology.” According to the company, 30,000 users of the Nebeus platform have already created active blockchain-based wallets.

The fintech startup was founded in 2014, and the peer-to-peer (p2p) exchange platform was launched at the end of 2017. Nebeus has already enabled the transaction of 34 million euro ($39.9 million) and facilitated 1.9 million pounds ($2.23 million) in p2p Bitcoin loans. Their trading platform allows users to purchase and sell Bitcoin and Ethereum with instant deposits into their accounts.

Nebeus’s open API allows third parties to develop value-added products and services on top of the Nebeus platform or incorporate Nebeus’s services into their existing ecosystems.

The Nebeus card, launched in the summer of 2018, allows for converting cryptocurrency into fiat and also has some additional features. For example, all the users’ cryptocurrencies can be stored, easily accessed and managed in a Crypto Basket. Moreover, the Nebeus card functions as a regular debit card. It is accepted in over 40 million locations and can be used in stores, for online payments or for ATM withdrawals. The card can be issued to consumers worldwide.

The expansion to unbanked regions

In June 2018, Nebeus announced it was entering the African market through local telecommunications and mobile money. The company said that cryptocurrency users in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana have received full access to the startup’s “crypto bank.” The company expects to enable over 400 million people with crypto services through help of local partners that already have an established network in the region.

Some of the latest research from the World Bank proves that Nebeus’s targeting of mobile money is justified. The organization’s analytics came to the conclusion that “in Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile money drove financial inclusion.” While the share of adults with an account with a financial institution remained flat in the region, the share with a mobile money account has almost doubled since 2014. Moreover, mobile money accounts have spread from East Africa to West Africa and beyond.

However, there are still a lot of unbanked adults in other continents too. According to the World Bank, account ownership in Europe and Central Asia was 65 percent in 2017 (58 percent of adults in 2014) and 71 percent in East Asia and the Pacific.

 

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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Operator of Hacked Crypto Exchange Zaif Gets Third Warning From Japan's Watchdog

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) has issued a third business improvement order to the owner of hacked crypto exchange Zaif, Tech Bureau. The news was reported by Cointelegraph Japan today, September 25.

As previously reported, as a result of a security breach on the Zaif exchange September 14, hackers succeeded in stealing 6.7 billion yen ($59.7 million) worth of crypto assets belonging to both users and to the exchange itself. The Financial Services Agency had already ordered Tech Bureau to make business improvements first in March, and subsequently in June this year.

The FSA considers that Tech Bureau’s investigation into the causes of the recent hack – as well as its response to customers – have been inadequate. While the firm reportedly announced it was in talks with Fisco Group to receive financial support of 5 billion yen on Friday, September 21, the FSA says it did not receive a concrete report on the matter from the firm directly.

The FSA’s newly-issued business improvement order specifies the following contents as necessary measures that are to be urgently addressed:

“(1) Determination of the facts and causes of the hacking incident (including clarification of the attribution of responsibility) and [the] formulation and execution of measures to prevent [its] recurrence

(2) Prevention of [the] expansion of customer damage

(3) Response to customer damage

(4) Review and implement concrete and effective improvement plans based on the hacking incident, [as well as the] contents of [two prior business improvement orders] from 8 March and 22 June [this year]

(5) Submit written reports pertaining to (1) and (4) above by Thursday, September 27.”

According to CT Japan, FSA staff are continuing to undertake on-site inspections of Tech Bureau. Based on their findings, the agency will reportedly potentially issue more stringent measures such as a business suspension order and/or cancellation of the exchange’s registration.

Earlier this summer, the FSA published the results of its on-site inspections of cryptocurrency exchange operators, deciding on the basis of its findings to apply more rigorous oversight into new applications from exchanges hoping to receive an official operating license. According to the agency, there are currently “hundreds” of companies awaiting its review.

In the wake of January’s industry record-breaking $532 million hack of crypto exchange Coincheck, the year has seen the agency unfold a series of increasingly exacting measures for domestic operators.

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Hodler’s Digest, September 16-23: Elon Musk Wants Advice on Twitter Crypto Scammers, the US SEC Wants Comments on BTC ETFs

Coming every Sunday, the Hodler’s Digest will help you to track every single important news story that happened this week. The best (and worst) quotes, adoption and regulation highlights, leading coins, predictions, and much more — a week on Cointelegraph in one link.

Top Stories This Week

Japanese Cryptocurrency Exchange Zaif Hacked Of Reported 5,966 Bitcoins

As a result of a security breach on September 14, hackers have managed to steal 4.5 billion yen from Japan’s Zaif cryptocurrency exchange, as well as 2.2 billion yen from the assets of the company, with total losses amounting to 6.7 billion yen or around $59.7 million. Tech Bureau Inc, which operated Zaif, stated this week that the exchange detected a server error on September 17, after which Zaif suspended deposits and withdrawals. On September 18, the exchange realized that the error was a hack, and reported the incident to Japan’s financial regulator, reporting losses of 5,966 bitcoins (BTC) in addition to some Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and MonaCoin (MONA).

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Turns To Dogecoin Creator To Stop Crypto Scammers

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Elon Musk asked Jackson Palmer, the creator of Dogecoin (DOGE), to help him combat “annoying” cryptocurrency scammers on Twitter this week. Musk, directing his tweet at Palmer, asked for help getting rid of scam spammers, to which Palmer replied by sending Musk a short script in direct messages to try to fix the problem.

US SEC Postpones VanEck Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund, Asks For Further Comments

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has requested further comments regarding its decision on the listing and trading of VanEck and SolidX’s Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund (ETF), which is expected to list on the CBOE BZX Equities Exchange (BZX). In a notice, the SEC asks for additional comments from interested parties addressing the sufficiency of the BZX’s statement in support of the proposal. In particular, the SEC is seeking comments on eighteen key issues, among which are commenters’ views on BZX’s assertions that BTC “is arguably less susceptible to manipulation than other commodities that underlie exchange-traded products (ETPs).”

New York Attorney General Report: Crypto Exchanges Vulnerable To Manipulation

A new report published by the New York Attorney General’s office states that cryptocurrency exchanges are vulnerable to manipulation, conflicts of interest, and other consumer risks. The findings, part of the “Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative” that consisted in surveying 13 cryptocurrency exchanges, found that an absence of standard methods for auditing virtual assets results in the lack of a consistent and transparent approach to independently auditing digital currency traded on exchanges.

Researchers Explain How Gemini Dollar Transactions Can Be Changed Or Paused

The implementation of the recently launched Gemini dollar (GUSD) stablecoin can be completely changed by a Gemini custodian every 48 hours, according to a study authored by blockchain researcher Alex Lebed and crypto consultant Alexey Akhunov. In the study, the authors review the code of the GUSD’s smart contract in order to demonstrate that the implementation of the Gemini USD can become non-transferrable or frozen at any moment, which is noted in the Gemini dollar’s white paper.

Most Memorable Quotations

“The data age is major opportunity for manufacturers to reform the industry. But blockchain and IoT will be meaningless tech unless they can promote the transformation of the manufacturing industry, and the evolution of the society towards a greener and more inclusive direction,” — Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba

“Cryptocurrencies are perfect, but are used for bad purposes today, so [one has to be] careful. Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are also perfect, they are big, big tools,” — Francisco Gonzalez Rodriguez, executive chairman of multinational Spanish banking group Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA)

“As the government and regulators decide whether the current Wild West situation is allowed to continue, or whether they are going to introduce regulation, consumers remain unprotected,” — UK Treasury Committee on cryptocurrency regulation

Laws And Taxes

Ukrainian Parliament Seeks To Tax Cryptocurrency Assets With New Bill

Ukraine’s parliament has proposed a bill that would tax operations with crypto assets with a five percent tax on individuals and legal entities operating with virtual currency assets, such as cryptocurrencies and tokens. Starting Jan. 1, 2024 crypto-related profits by businesses would be taxed at 18 percent, which is a basic rate for corporate and personal income tax in Ukraine. According to the lawmakers, the introduction of this tax would make it possible to “draw 1.27 billion hryvnia ($43 million) to the budget annually from 2019-2024.”

US Lawmakers Send Open Letter To IRS Asking For Crypto Taxation Clarity

U.S. lawmakers have called on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to issue clarified and “comprehensive” crypto taxation guidance in an open letter this week. The representatives deem that the IRS has had “more than adequate time” to work through complexities after its preliminary rules were issued four years ago, arguing that while the IRS has proactively continued to remind taxpayers of the penalties for non-compliance with its guidance, its failure to introduce a more robust taxation framework “severely hinders taxpayers’ ability” to meet their obligations.

Financial Task Force Says International AML Standards For Crypto Coming Soon

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said it is getting closer to the establishment of a global set of anti-money laundering (AML) standards for cryptocurrencies. The agency’s president Marshall Billingslea reportedly said that he expects the coordination of a series of standards that will close “gaps” in global AML standards at an FATF plenary in October. At that time, the FATF will purportedly discuss which existing standards should be adapted to digital currencies, as well as revise the assessment methods of how countries implement those standards.

Adoption

Binance To Soon Begin Private Beta Testing Of Crypto-Fiat Singapore Exchange

Binance, the largest global crypto exchange, will soon start private beta testing a crypto-fiat exchange in Singapore, as Binance co-founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) tweeted this week. According to CZ, the testing will be launched on September 18, and while no further details have been specified, the crypto-fiat Singapore-based exchange will presumably support the local Singapore dollar.

US PNC Bank To Use RippleNet For Customers’ International Payments

PNC, which is ranked among the top ten U.S. banks with 8 million customers and retail branches in 19 states, will use RippleNet to process international payments for its customers. A particular PNC unit — Treasury Management — will use Ripple’s blockchain solution xCurrent to speed up overseas transactions held by U.S. commercial clients. Ripple emphasises that xCurrent will allow PNC business clients to receive payments against their invoices instantly, changing their approach to managing both accounts and their working capital.

Ripple Executive Hints Of xRapid Launch Coming Soon

Head of regulatory relations for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East at Ripple Sagar Sarbhai told CNBC this week that Ripple has been making strides toward the launch of its product xRapid, noting that a commercial version of its payment platform could launch “in the next month or so.” The xRapid product is a real-time settlement platform designed to speed up international payments that addresses the issues of minimizing liquidity costs and making cross-border payment transactions faster.

Canadian Coinsquare’s Investment Subsidiary Launches Two Tech-Based ETFs

Coinsquare’s subsidiary — Coin Capital Investment Management — has reportedly become the 30th ETF operator in Canada, with the launch of the Coincapital STOXX Blockchain Patents Innovation Index Fund (LDGR) and the Coincapital STOXX B.R.AI.N. Index Fund (THNK) on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). LDGR is a research-focused ETF that intends to provide investors with global equity securities of firms that invest in the development of blockchain technologies, while THNK, aims to provide investments in global equity securities concentrated around four “megatrends” in technology — biotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and nanotechnology.

Brazil’s Largest Brokerage To Launch Bitcoin, Ethereum Exchange

The largest brokerage in Brazil, Grupo XP, will enter the crypto space by launching an exchange for Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) in the near future called XDEX with around forty employees. Grupo XP is the biggest financial group in Brazil, comprising companies with various business models. XP has reportedly set a goal to have $1 trillion reais ($245 billion) under custody by 2020, which is four times what the company expects to raise by the end of this year. In addition, XP will launch a bank in the next few months.

Mergers, Acquisitions, And Partnerships

Crypto Exchange Huobi Joins Russian Bank Innovation Fund

Cryptocurrency exchange Huobi has joined Russia’s VEB Innovation Fund to share notes on crypto regulation. Russia’s cryptocurrency regulation draft law, which passed in a first reading in May, are tentatively set to be passed in October. One of the main goals of the partnership with Huobi and the VEB Innovation Fund is to draw on the crypto regulation experience gained by Huobi and to apply it in Russia, especially for adjusting the legal framework on digital assets.

Switzerland And Israel Agree To Share Blockchain Regulation Experience

Switzerland and Israel have agreed to share their experience on regulating the blockchain industry.Switzerland’s Minister of Finance Ueli Maurer and State Secretary for International Financial Matters Joerg Gasser have recently visited Israel to officially request access to the local markets for Swiss banks.As Gasser told Reuters, by the end of 2018 he plans to prepare a report on blockchain regulation for the Israeli officials that would outline general recommendations.

R3, Dutch Digital Security Company Partner For Blockchain-Based IDs

Blockchain consortium R3 has deployed a digital ID application developed by Dutch digital security company Gemalto on the latest version of the Corda Platform. The parties now expect to conduct several pilots of the application — called the Trust ID Network —  that will reportedly be launched later this year. The application enables digital service providers to operate “fully verified and secured” user personal data by creating a Digital ID, allowing consumers to register within various banking, e-commerce, and e-government services while avoiding repeated due diligence procedures.

Poland’s Largest Bank Partners With Coinfirm To Launch Blockchain Solution

Poland’s largest bank , PKO Bank Polski, will launch a blockchain solution for its customer documents via a partnership with UK-based Coinfirm “in the coming days,” the parties confirmed this week. As part of a drive to enhance security of customer data, PKO Bank Polski will use Coinfirm’s Trudatum to provide blockchain-issued paperwork to its some five million account holders.

Funding Rounds

Chinese Blockchain Fund To Raise Almost $13 Million For Japanese Stablecoin

Yao Yongjie, whose $1.5 billion Grandshores Blockchain Fund has the backing of well-known Chinese Bitcoin investor Li Xiaolai and the local government of the city of Hangzhou, is seeking to create up to three new stable cryptocurrencies (stablecoins) pegged to various fiat currencies. The first reported stablecoin project would involve the Japanese yen, and a second company Yao chairs, Hong Kong-based Grandshores Technology, aims to raise HK$100 million ($12.7 million) in financing for the cryptocurrency.

Winners And Losers

The crypto markets have experienced a comeback this week, with Bitcoin trading for around $6,756 and Ethereum at $245. Total market cap is now around $228 billion.

The top three altcoin gainers of the week are Carebit, Bob’s Repair, and the Ultimate Secure Cash. The top three altcoin losers of the week are Protean, Abulaba, and Bitmark.

For more info on crypto prices, make sure to read Cointelegraph’s market analysis.

FUD Of The Week

Bitcoin Core Updates Fixes Vulnerability That Could “Take Down The Network”

Bitcoin Core has released an update following the recent detection of a vulnerability in the software: Bitcoin Core 0.16.3 was released with a fix for a denial-of-service (DoS) vulnerability.The vulnerability could reportedly cause a crash of older versions of Bitcoin Core if they attempted processing a block transaction that tries to spend the same amount twice. According to Casaba Security co-founder Jason Glassberg, the recent vulnerability found on Bitcoin Core software could “take down the network.” He explained that the network crash “does not appear” to target users’ wallets, but would rather “affect transactions in the sense that they cannot be completed.”

China’s Central Bank Warns Public Of Risks With ICOs, Crypto Trading

The People’s Bank of China has issued a new public notice this week “reminding” investors of the risks associated with Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and crypto trading. Today’s notice ,released from the bank’s headquarters in Shanghai, censures the “unauthorized” and “illegal” ICO financing model for posing a “serious disruption” to the “economic, financial and social order.”

German Finance Minister Doubts Whether Crypto Could Ever Replace Fiat

Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz doubted publicly this week that cryptocurrencies can currently replace traditional fiat currencies. Scholz compared cryptocurrencies to the tulip fever bubble in the Netherlands in the 17th century saying, “and the danger is great that there will be such a tulip inflation,” noting that cryptocurrencies should also be closely observed by regulators, as they could be used for terrorist financing, money laundering or other criminal activities.

Reuters: Brazilians Antitrust Regulator To Inspect Six Major Banks Over Crypto Trade

Brazil’s antitrust regulator, the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), is reportedly inspecting six major national banks for alleged monopolistic practices in the crypto space, according to Reuters. The probe, which was initiated n the request of the Brazilian Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Association (ABCB) following several complaints, will determine whether the country’s largest banks closed the accounts of brokerages trading in Bitcoin.

Malware Reportedly Stolen From NSA Contributes To Skyrocketing Cryptojacking

Leaked code targeting Microsoft Systems which hackers allegedly stole from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) sparked a fivefold increase in cryptocurrency mining malware infections, according to a report from the Cyber Threat Alliance. Eternal Blue, which was reportedly stolen and then used for the infamous cyberattacks WannaCry and NotPetya, has been used by hackers to gain access to computers in order to covertly mine for cryptocurrency, with detections up 459 percent this year.

Prediction Of The Week

Bitcoin To See 30 Percent Rally By End Of 2018, Says Mike Novogratz

Billionaire investor Mike Novogratz predicted this week on Twitter that Bitcoin will see a 30 percent rally by the end of 2018. Stating that the $8,800 to $10,000 threshold would be the the defining moment for institutional investors to enter the space, Novogratz claimed that it is impossible for BTC to not reach the $8,800 to $10,000 price points by the end of the year.

Best Features

Bitcoin Miners Flock To New York’s Remote Corners, But Get Chilly Reception

The New York Times visits Massena — a region formerly filled with American corporations offering unions jobs — that now has one of the state’s highest unemployment rates. However, as the Time notes, the “abundant, cheap electricity flowing from a dam in the St. Lawrence River,” has brought in the cryptocurrency mining companies, bringing mixed reactions from the area’s residents.

No One Knows What to Call the Hottest Cryptocurrency

After Ripple (XRP) saw an unprecedented amount of growth this week, the question arose: what is it really called — Ripple or XRP? While Ripple Labs Inc. notes that the tokens are different than its open-source network, the token did used to be referred to as “ripples (XRP).”

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China's Central Bank Warns Investors of ICO, Crypto Risks

China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), has today, September 18, issued a new public notice “reminding” investors of the risks associated with Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and crypto trading.

The notice, released from the bank’s headquarters in Shanghai, reiterates the severe line that has been adopted by the country’s Office for Special Remediation of Internet Financial Risks, which first introduced a blanket ban on ICOs in September 2017.

Today’s notice censures the “unauthorized” and “illegal” ICO financing model for posing a “serious disruption” to the “economic, financial and social order”:

“[ICOs are] suspected of illegally selling tokens, illegally issuing securities, illegal criminal activities, financial fraud, pyramid schemes and other illegal and criminal activities.”

The PBoC has today hailed the successes of the country’s stringent restrictions that have targeted ICOs and a broad spectrum of crypto-related activities to date, claiming that:

“[T]he global share of domestic virtual currency transactions has dropped from the initial 90% to less than 5%, effectively avoiding the virtual currency bubble caused by skyrocketing global virtual currency prices in the second half of last year in China’s financial market. The impact has been highly recognized by the community.”

Nonetheless, the bank recognizes that several challenges remain, notably the prevalence of offshore exchanges that are used by investors to circumvent the mainland ban.

The PBoC notes that the Office for Special Remediation of Internet Financial Risks has now adopted a series of targeted measures, including blocking up to 124 IP address suspected of providing a gateway to domestic crypto traders.  

It further points to redoubled efforts to “clean-up” payment channels and strengthen monitoring and inspection mechanisms, noting that around 3,000 accounts have already been closed as a result of increased oversight. Lastly the notice outlines recent measures undertaken to counter the circulation of crypto “hype” materials.

As previously reported, on August 25 the PBoC had already issued a fresh risk alert against “illegal” ICOs, warning that blockchain and the idea of “financial innovation” are being used to lure investors as a “gimmick” that conceals essentially fraudulent Ponzi schemes.

This summer has seen an onslaught of toughened anti-crypto measures from Beijing, which have included a ban on commercial venues from hosting crypto-related events in certain districts.

Alongside ‘offline’ measures, China’s tech titans – Chinese ‘Google’ Baidu, Alipay’s Alibaba and WeChat-developer Tencent – have all tightened their monitoring and acted to ban accounts suspected of engaging in or propagating crypto and even blockchain related activities.

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Former SpaceX Engineer Targets Consumer Traders With His LXDX Crypto Exchange

A former engineer at Elon Musk’s SpaceX has announced his new firm LXDX would launch a public cryptocurrency exchange, Leaprate reports Monday, September 17.

Previously engaged in automation and propulsion at SpaceX, Joshua Greenwald has since turned his attention to institutional-grade cryptocurrency trading.  

While already operating for institutional investors, Greenwald now wishes to hook the mainstream consumer market.

“Our immediate focus is on cryptocurrency and enabling every investor to utilize the exclusive tools, like smart order routing, that only institutions previously could access,” Leaprate quotes him as saying.

LXDX received backing from a mixed bag of investors in August, chief among which was Dymon Asia Venture Capital Fund, before confirming a move into Malta last week.

The announcement comes as the institutional investment sector becomes an increasingly important focus for traditional finance heavyweights, rumors circulating last week about plans from both Citigroup and Morgan Stanley to begin offering exposure to Bitcoin.

“Cryptocurrencies are a wholly new asset class,” Greenwald told Venturebeat after announcing the August funding round.

“To the extent that they can be integrated into the existing infrastructure, we seek to facilitate that integration […] We anticipate massive scaling in tokenization and securitization.”

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Japan’s Financial Regulator Expands to Handle Influx of Crypto Exchange License Demand

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) plans to bolster its workforce by 12 personnel to better handle the growing influx of applications for crypto exchange licenses, Reuters Japan reported September 12.

At a crypto exchange study group meeting Wednesday, the FSA’s vice commissioner for policy coordination, Kiyotaka Sasaki, said that the agency is currently conducting its oversight of crypto exchanges with a team of around 30 people, whose work includes the review of license applications.

Yet Sasaki reportedly stressed that with over 160 firms currently awaiting review, the dedicated number of personnel is insufficient, saying the agency would need to add 12 further persons in 2019 to handle its “biggest problem” – the burgeoning number of license applications.

According to a document released after the meeting, the FSA has to date been reviewing sixteen cases, twelve of which withdrew their application at the FSA’s request and one of which has been rejected. Three, including Coincheck — which notoriously suffered the largest hack in crypto industry history this January — await a final decision.

The document further states that the agency plans to refine its risk profiling mechanisms as part of its “ongoing in-depth monitoring” of the exchange space, and to work increasingly closely with related ministries and agencies vis-a-vis non-registered firms, both domestic and overseas.

The document highlights concerns over insufficient anti-money laundering (AML) and terrorism financing prevention measures among exchanges, and points to other concerns regarding business models, risk management and compliance, internal audits, and corporate governance.

As previously reported, the FSA published the results of its on-site inspections of crypto exchange operators last month, finding that  the total digital assets of domestic exchanges have surged to 792.8 billion yen ($7.1 billion) — an over six-fold increase within the space of one year.

Meanwhile, as today’s document reiterates, most exchanges’ system personnel are fewer than 20 people, meaning that one employee on average was found to be managing digital assets worth 3.3 billion yen ($29.6 million).

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Coinbase Research: 42% of Top 50 Universities Offer at Least One Crypto-Related Class

A recent study by the U.S. crypto exchange Coinbase has shown that 42 percent of the world’s top 50 universities have at least one class on cryptocurrencies or blockchain. The results of the study were published on Coinbase’s official blog Tuesday, August 28.

The research was jointly conducted by Coinbase and survey company Qriously. Together they interviewed 675 U.S. college students and reviewed courses at 50 international universities.

Of the 172 classes reviewed in the study, 15 percent were offered by economics, finance, law and business departments, while 4 percent were in social science departments.

The study has found out that blockchain- and crypto-related courses are most popular in the U.S. Only five of the 18 universities reviewed that operate outside of the United States offer at least one class on these topics.

Blockchain-related courses enjoy the most popularity at the Stanford and Cornell universities – numbered 10 and 9 respectively. University of Pennsylvania and the National University of Singapore follow with their respective 6 and 5 courses.

Dawn Song, a computer science professor at Berkeley, told Coinbase that her course “Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics, and the Future of Technology, Business and Law” was extremely popular, and that instructors had to turn away more than 200 students because their classroom could only hold 70:

“Blockchain combines theory and practice and can lead to fundamental breakthroughs in many research areas. It can have really profound and broad-scale impacts on society in many different industries.”

Earlier in August, Cointelegraph reported that the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School had received a $20 million blockchain research grant. Also in early August, Turkey established its first university-level blockchain research center to ensure wide deployment of the technology.

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Chinese Crypto Bans on WeChat Accounts, Events, and Exchanges: What Happened and Why

This week, the government of China has cracked down on crypto-related WeChat accounts, blockchain events and digital asset exchanges, solidifying its negative stance on cryptocurrency trading and the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) market.

WeChat ban and PBoC’s warning against ICOs

On Aug. 22, Cointelegraph reported that WeChat, China’s biggest messaging app that has over 1 billion active monthly users, banned the accounts of cryptocurrency investors, users and businesses.

At the time, Lanjinger, a local financial media outlet, reported that the accounts of Deepchain, Huobi News, Node Capital-backed Jinse and CoinDaily were suspended or taken down permanently, as they violated its policy entitled “Interim Provisions on the Development of Public Information Services for Instant Messaging Tools” by promoting ICOs and cryptocurrency trading.

While CoinDaily confirmed that its WeChat channel with more than 100,000 subscribers was suspended by WeChat, Leonhard Weese, the president of the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong, said to Cointelegraph that many accounts — destined to have been temporarily or permanently suspended — were actually taken down due to other sensitive subjects outside of crypto:

“They got blocked for talking about the vaccination scandal, not because of crypto. We find this counterintuitive, but reporting on scandals like that is far more sensitive than talking about crypto or doing crypto. I expect them to have their accounts reinstated in a week or a month.”

Expert argues WeChat ban is unrelated to crypto

In late July, the Chinese medical industry was involved in a major scandal after the country’s main drug industry watchdog released its findings that accused two pharmaceutical firms of developing inferior vaccines and deceiving local regulators.

Specifically, Changsheng Biotechnology was said to have released falsified data on the sale of more than a quarter million ineffective diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus vaccinations, as Fortune reported.

Weese argued that, given the magnitude of the scandal in China and the global medicine sector, it is more likely that apart from the case of large-scale cryptocurrency accounts like CoinDaily, Deepchain, and Huobi News, most of the accounts that were banned by WeChat were involved in spreading misinformation about the scandal.

But, as one WeChat official confirmed to Lanjinger, the Chinese government vowed to take a stricter approach in cracking down on ICOs and token sales, and Chinese social media platforms will continue to shut down the accounts of individuals and businesses that are utilized to promote and advertise ICOs in the Chinese market, which were banned by the government in late 2017.

“[Accounts were permanently shut down for being] suspected of publishing information related to ICOs [initial coin offerings] and speculations on cryptocurrency trading,” the official said.

In a statement obtained by South China Morning Post (SCMP), the Huobi team denied that the ban of its account was related to the government’s restriction of cryptocurrency, but rather by the “broad action targeting industrial media” by WeChat.

Facebook blockchain initiative to affect China relationship?

In July 2018, Facebook, which was banned in China in 2008, obtained a license to operate an office in China. The social media conglomerate has opened a $30 million subsidiary called Facebook Technology in Hangzhou to finance emerging startups and technology-related initiatives.

“We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and start-ups,” Facebook told Verge in a statement.

Given the rumors around Facebook wanting to introduce its own cryptocurrency to the global market, it remains unclear whether Facebook’s supposed idea of integrating cryptocurrencies or launching its own blockchain platform could impact its current relationship with the Chinese government.

Chinese social media platforms like Baidu and WeChat have not seen any rumors in both domestic and international cryptocurrency communities regarding cryptocurrency and blockchain-related initiatives, possibly to avoid any conflict with local financial regulators.

PBoC issues warning against ICOs

On Aug. 25, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), the central bank of the country, issued a warning against ICOs, firmly declaring that raising funds through token sales is illegal in the country. The PBoC and local financial authorities added in an official announcement that it was difficult to track and monitor transactions made through ICOs, even if the token sales are done domestically.

“The funds for these illegal activities are mostly overseas, and supervision and tracking are very difficult.”  

The PBoC further emphasized that, while the country has encouraged the development and commercialization of blockchain technology, ICOs cannot be considered to be legitimate operations or developments on the blockchain. The document reads:

“Such activities are not really based on blockchain technology, but rather the practice of speculative blockchain concepts for illegal fundraising, pyramid schemes and fraud. The main features are as follows:

  1. Risk of illegal activities, unregulated overseas markets and inability to track or monitor transactions made in ICOs.
  2. Deceptive, opaque and concealed fundraising methods, relying on celebrities and influencers to manufacture hype around investments to tempt investors.
  3. Illegal operations like profit-generating pyramid schemes and creating Ponzi schemes by describing them as ‘financial innovations.’”

Sheng Songcheng, an adviser to the People’s Bank of China, also confirmed to state-owned publication ce.cn that the government has decided to strengthen its ban on ICOs, banning public accounts, channels and communication platforms utilized to spread information about token sales.

Rise of OTC trading, Alipay takes notice

In December of last year, during the peak of the cryptocurrency market, when the combined valuation of all of the digital assets in the market totaled at $900 billion, China’s National Committee of Experts on Internet Financial Security — a government-backed research group — reported that the volume of the over-the-counter (OTC) Bitcoin market was rapidly increasing.

“Over-the-counter trading is booming. This warrants further attention,” the researchers said.

At the time, speaking to South China Morning Post, biggest mainstream publication in Hong Kong, Weese said that Telegram has been the go-to platform for large OTC trades due to the connections between local financial authorities and the operators of WeChat, but that a small portion of investors were still using the Chinese messaging platform. Weese explained:

“Telegram is very popular for large, over-the-counter trades. While WeChat is used by the less paranoid.”

Operators of various cryptocurrency exchanges and OTC platforms — including Tidebit — confirmed the rise in activity in the Bitcoin OTC market, stating that investors who could no longer trade within the Chinese market have started to explore peer-to-peer alternatives to invest in the asset class.

This week, Alipay — the most widely utilized fintech platform in China, with a 90 percent market share and a $150 billion market valuation — formally banned OTC trading on the Alipay network, preventing users of the Alipay mobile app to initiate transactions for Bitcoin or digital asset purchases.

Red Li, a cryptocurrency researcher and the founder of Chinese cryptocurrency community 8BTC, revealed that Alipay has begun the process of shutting down accounts involved in OTC Bitcoin trading, most likely due to the government’s request for banks and financial networks to shut down all possible payment channels that could be used to send funds to cryptocurrency trading platforms.

A rough translation of the statement released by Alipay disclosed the intention of the company to permanently ban any account that is reasonably suspected of funding Bitcoin exchanges to invest in the cryptocurrency space.

With the prohibition of OTC cryptocurrency trading by Alipay, the only channel that is left for local investors to allocate funds into the cryptocurrency market is the Hong Kong cryptocurrency exchange market.

Given that investors in China still send millions of dollars to Hong Kong shell companies’ bank accounts to purchase multi-million dollar properties on the Hong Kong real estate market, the possibility of investing through Hong Kong digital asset trading platforms with local bank accounts still exists.

But, due to the country’s strict capital controls and the government’s newly implemented initiative to track down savings and brokerage accounts utilized to evade taxes, it could become even more difficult to send money out of China to overseas markets.

Ban of crypto events

This week, Binance — the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by daily trading volume — had to cancel a cryptocurrency-related event in Beijing on August 23, as the government announced a ban on commercial blockchain conferences and meetups.

The local government of the Chaoyang District in Beijing revealed that it has informed hotels and other large-scale venues in the country that they are not allowed to host events that are related to cryptocurrency and blockchain, as part of its larger initiative to completely crackdown on ICOs and distributed fundraising.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, a Binance spokeswoman said that she was not aware of the closure of the event because the exchange hosts many events across the world.

“We have so many meetups around the world, and [they] may be canceled due to any reason.”

The People’s Daily, the publication operated by the Communist Party, reported that so-called venture capital-backed media outlets in China have made a significant fortune by creating hype around ICOs, but it is unsure whether the publications will be able to continue promoting ICOs in the long term. The publication could lead investors to believe that local authorities may target independent media outlets that promote ICOs in the months to come.

“These ‘media’ outlets have made huge fortunes in the speculative waves of cryptocurrencies, but due to their nature, it’s doubtful how long their barbaric growth can keep on going.”

Conclusively, in the past two months, the government of China has allocated the majority of its resources to strengthening its ban on cryptocurrency trading and the ICO market.

Given the censorship practiced by WeChat, Alipay and other platforms, along with Beijing’s ban on crypto events, it is likely that the country will see a decline in the adoption of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency development, which is ironic, as China has spent more than $3 billion in funding blockchain projects this year.

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Markets See Red Following BTC ETF Rejections, News of Anti-Crypto Measures in China

Thursday, August 23: virtually all of the top 100 cryptocurrencies are in the red today, with average losses of between 1 and 4 percent among the top 10 largest coins by market cap, as Coin360 data shows.

Yesterday evening’s news of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) disapproval orders for 9 different Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposals from 3 applicants — which intersected with emerging reports of toughened anti-crypto measures in China — has apparently reversed yesterday’s short-lived market upswing.

Pointedly, multiple crypto commentators had attributed the markets’ evanescent green to bulls exploiting a maintenance window on leveraged crypto trading platform BitMEX to force a spike. Many had also argued that the negative announcements from the SEC had been widely expected, and were contributing to the alleged market action.

Market visualization from Coin360

Bitcoin (BTC) is trading at around $6,452 at press time, down around 1 percent on the day, according to Cointelegraph’s Bitcoin price index.

The top coin had been range bound around $6,400-6,500 for most of the week before sharply spiking August 22 and continuing to circle the $6,700 mark for most of that day. Breaking news from the U.S. and China then saw Bitcoin take a steep price hit, although the coin has since recovered back to hold its week-long levels.

Bitcoin’s 7-day price chart

Bitcoin’s 7-day price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Bitcoin Price Index

On the week, Bitcoin is up 0.8 percent, with its monthly losses at around 16.5 percent.

Ethereum (ETH) is trading around $274 at press time, dropping around 2 percent on the day.

While its losses have correlated with Bitcoin’s sharp descent, the leading altcoin has not since recovered to reclaim the earlier trading levels from its weekly chart, although it had notably been losing its hold on the $300 price point as of August 20. Ethereum is currently down 5.6 percent on the week; on the month, losses are at almost 40 percent.

Ethereum’s 7-day price chart

Ethereum’s 7-day price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Ethereum Price Index

Among the top ten coins by market cap, Stellar (XLM), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Cardano (ADA) and Ripple (XRP) are all seeing losses of around 2-4 percent on the day.

Among the top twenty, NEO’s losses are somewhat heftier, pushing 4 percent to trade around $17.12, after taking a tumble earlier today to as low as around $16.18.

IOTA’s 24-hour price chart

IOTA’s 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ethereum Classic (ETC) is down 2.7 percent to trade at $12.40 at press time.

As ETC’s chart agains shows, the market-wide tumble aligns closely by time frame across all of the major crypto assets:

Ethereum Classic’s 24-hour price chart

Ethereum Classic’s 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies is around $208.5 billion at press time, down almost $13 billion from yesterday’s high of $221.4 billion.

7-day chart of the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies

7-day chart of the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies from CoinMarketCap

Today’s $13 billion market cap squeeze is similar the sharp market tumble that came in response to July’s news that another Bitcoin ETF proposal — this time submitted by the Winklevoss twins’ — had also been rejected by the SEC, which then saw a dizzying $12 billion wiped from total market capitalization.

The parallels extend beyond market response, as the regulator had in all of its disapproval orders reiterated its qualms over inadequate “resistance to price manipulation” and vulnerability to fraudulent practices in the insufficiently sized Bitcoin derivatives markets.

China, meanwhile, has this week moved to prohibit all commercial venues from hosting any crypto-related events in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, as well as targeting communication channels or “loopholes” through which Chinese investors can gain exposure to Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) and crypto trading.

As reported August 21, China’s leading social media platform WeChat has permanently blocked a number of crypto and blockchain related accounts that were suspected of publishing crypto “hype” in violation of regulations introduced earlier this month. New measures are also reportedly underway to toughen the “clean-up” of third party crypto payment channels, including those used by over the counter (OTC) platforms.

Away from the negative onslaught from the U.S. and China, crypto analysts have today suggested that Segwit adoption is on the rise for Bitcoin transactions, as the top crypto continues to trade within a relatively stable price range. EToro Senior Market Analyst Mati Greenspan today tweeted:

“Price stability is great for network development!! Here we can see the adoption rate of the Segwit solution skyrocketing shortly after the number of transactions fell. Not sure when the next #bitcoin bull run will be but I’m quite confident we’ll be ready for it.”

Bitcoin Segwit Adoption, January 2016-July 2018

Bitcoin Segwit Adoption, January 2016-July 2018. Source: Woobull charts

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Notes From the Brink: Reasons Behind the Crypto Bear Market

Crypto is notoriously a “tough neighbourhood,” as even evergreen Bitcoin bull Tom Lee has put it. After a week in which double-digit losses wreaked havoc on many high-profile cryptos, and Bitcoin (BTC) momentarily fell through the $6,000 support, pitiless bearish sentiment has been circling, with some accusing the top coin of being “exhibit A” in a “permanently impaired or even game‐over” market.

While Bitcoin may have posted 2018 lows, Ethereum (ETH) also plummeted to an eleven-month low to trade at around $254, falling by as much as 20 percent on August 14 alone. That same day, total market cap collapsed by $13.2 billion — back to late November 2017 levels.

VC investor Tim Draper told Cointelegraph in an email that these vertiginous swings are exactly “why [he] made [his] prediction for 2022:”

“The long term trend is way up, but I expect many short-term swings in the market along the way. Fundamentally, the world needs Bitcoin, and that demand will only increase in the coming years as Bitcoin finds more and more uses and applications.”

Even more unflappable, “Bitcoin Jesus” Roger Ver, told us:

“I’m not sure what crash you are talking about. BTC is up 58% for the last year, and 1048% for the last two years. That feels like the opposite of a crash to me.”

As both of these remarks imply, the week’s cataclysm had in fact disproportionately impacted altcoins, leaving BTC relatively unscathed, as Coin360 data shows:  

Crypto market visualization. 15 June – 15 August historical data. Source: Coin360.

BTC dominance — or Bitcoin’s percentage of total crypto market cap — continues to break 2018 highs. As of press time it is at 53.3 percent, levels not seen since mid December 2017, just before the coin hit industry records to trade at $20,000.  

With alts undeniably ravaged, others have been puzzling why — even at a time of international currency crises, Bitcoin itself is yet to rally — this, surely, should be a bullish time for the top crypto? However, Bitcoin has notably failed to hold a recent breakthrough in late July when it was trading just shy of $8,400.

Bitcoin’s brief spike upwards in late July, since which it has tumbled. Source: Bitcoin Price Index

So — even if today’s flush of green has been a sight for your sore eyes, you’d be forgiven for continuing to feel skittish.

Is there method to this madness? Cointelegraph examines five of the most popular explanations for the week’s tumult to find out.

US Regulators Dithering Over Bitcoin ETF Approval

E-T-F — three letters anyone who’s been plugged in to the cryptosphere has probably had swirling around their head in recent weeks.

CryptoCompare CEO Charles Hayter yesterday proposed that the week’s market decline was a ricochet off the back of U.S. regulators’ recent decision to shelve a high-profile application for Bitcoin exchange-traded-fund (ETF) until September. He said:

“[This has been] momentum-based selling following the ETF kickback and the usual gyrations of a market in a depressed mode.”

Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM, meanwhile suggested that:

“If an ETF doesn’t see the light in the coming weeks expect to see a further selloff, as it suggests regulators will continue to fight against bringing cryptocurrencies into the mainstream.”

If you’ve heard these three letters too many times by now, yet still can’t account for their mysterious powers to stir markets, let’s unpack this.

ETF stands for an exchange-traded-fund, which is a type of mutual investment fund that divides ownership of an underlying asset — a commodity, an index, bonds, or a basket of assets —  into shares.

The fund tracks the value of the asset(s) and is traded on exchanges, with shareholders entitled to any positive returns. A Bitcoin ETF can therefore offer an indirect way of purchasing BTC, where the investor only holds the corresponding security without having to hold the actual coin.

Crypto-based ETFs have long been discussed as a potential “holy grail” for the crypto industry that would herald major Wall Street adoption and allow for broader investor participation. They’re viewed by some as a less risky bet than investing directly in crypto on spot markets.

But as a marketable security that requires oversight by government authorities, their current regulatory status remains unclear. Several recent high-profile cases have demonstrated just how price-impactful ETF-related announcements from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) can be.

First, in mid-July, a market rally kicked off, bolstered by news that the $6.3 trillion asset management heavyweight BlackRock –– the world’s largest provider of ETFs –– was beginning to assess potential involvement in Bitcoin.

But just two weeks later, the markets turned, taking a sharp tumble in response to news that the high-profile Winklevoss twins’ Bitcoin ETF appeal had been denied, with a dizzying $12 billion wiped from total market capitalization.

At the beginning of August, the SEC delayed its decision over another Bitcoin ETF application –– this time filed by VanEck & SolidX for trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). Notably, instead of proposing a BTC-futures-based fund, T plans to go with a physically-backed model involving owning actual BTC. The firm also prices the fund’s shares at $200,000 a pop, eyeing major institutional players.

The SEC’s fickle position has dampened hopes –– even the likes of Charlie Shrem had expected that regulators would have been more likely to grant a stalwart mainstream institution such as CBOE the right to trade an ETF, if not the Winklevoss’ Gemini exchange. EToro analyst Matthew Newton told British newspaper The Independent:

“A green light for the Bitcoin ETF would fire the starting gun on a race among institutional investors to cash-in on this new product, so the market is rightly frustrated by the delay to the decision.”

And –– as The Independent notes –– it’s not just “digital gold” that sees its price fortunes tied to these fabled three letters: the first ever ETF to be backed by gold, which launched in 2003, is reportedly credited for skyrocketing the precious metal’s price up by over 300 per cent in the following decade.

ICO Sell-Off: Developers Are Liquidating Funds Raised Through Token Sales

This theory “soft-forks” three ways.

One

Bloomberg has suggested that developers of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) are now cashing their holdings into fiat that they can then spend on developing their products. Bearing in mind that most token initiatives are ECR20 projects built on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain with funds raised in ETH, this could account for the recent shattering price weakness in the Ethereum market. Biswa Das of crypto hedge fund BloomWater Capital told Bloomberg:

“These startups [raised] a lot of funds but they don’t have treasury management or enough cash management experience, so they’re selling too early and causing a lot of pressure in the market. It was fine last year but right now the the market is so fragile that it causes a lot of pressure.”

Das added that those projects that raised ETH during the market’s peak will “be most compelled to sell,” which CoinFi CEO Timothy Tam echoed when he remarked that “ICOs that raised a lot of money are really feeling a lot of pain” as the value of their crypto holdings plummets.

Bloomberg cites July figures from Autonomous Research that suggest that ICO liquidations worth around $5 billion have been driving down ETH’s price, an impact that has been “magnified due to deteriorating sentiment and low liquidity.” It also points to data from research website Santiment, which estimates that ECR20 projects “have spent over 110,000 ETH in the past 30 days.”

Back during the height of Ethereum’s allegedly ICO-driven rally in 2017, the altcoin soared to almost 32 percent dominance of the total cryptocurrency market, compared to Bitcoin’s roughly 39 percent at the time, as data from CoinMarketCap shows.

Ethereum’s burgeoning market cap share in June 2017. Source: CoinMarketCap

The turning tide in summer 2017 sparked talk of a so-called “flippening,” with some claiming that Vitalik Buterin’s brainchild would soon take the lion’s share of overall crypto market capitalization.

With Ethereum’s dominance now dipping as low as 13.5 percent August 14, Timothy Tam took the measure of fortunes as now doubly reversed, emphasizing that “the big story in the market [this week] is the huge weakness in Ethereum,” and noting that “Bitcoin has held up relatively well versus Ethereum,” even as it saw a dent in its chart against the dollar.

Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin in turn hit back, saying that he does not see the recent price collapse as a constraint to further growth. In a discussion with Bloomberg, Lubin attributed the market volatility to “trader types,” i.e. speculative investors, saying that it is not necessarily an indicator of underlying infrastructure enhancement:

“ … we build more fundamental infrastructure, we see a correction, and the potential gets even more impressive…we are probably two orders of magnitude bigger as a developer community than we were eight or 10 months ago.”  

Lubin added that the value surges of the past year were just another bubble like the previous “six big bubbles, each more epic than the previous one, and each bubble is astonishing when they’re happening.”

Two

Meanwhile, Yahoo Finance’s Jared Blikre has claimed that unconfirmed rumors from insider sources allege that the SEC is about to come out with new rules for ICOs in September. This, he said, could be fuelling “a scare that ICOs are disappearing,” but “who knows if it’s true.”

Three

The starkest version of the sell-off theory held that the “extinction-level event” for crypto assets –– which saw droves of double-digit losses among altcoins –– was a deserved comeuppance for projects that had failed to deliver on the goods. Blockstream Corp.’s Samson Mow suggested that “most cryptocurrencies have been overvalued for a very long time” –– or as financial broadcaster Max Keiser told Cointelegraph in an email:

“Crypto markets are shaking out the excess capacity of having more than 1,800 coins with no use case. Before 2017, the only reason new coins were created was to replace coins that had died. The expectation was that all non-Bitcoins would go to zero. Then 2017, and that equation was turned on its head. In 2018 we’re back to coin suicide watch for all but a few; Bitcoin, Litecoin, Monero, EOS, DASH, and a few others.”

Keiser added his Bitcoin-maximalist prediction that “by 2019, Bitcoin’s preeminence as a store of value will reassert itself and we’ll see new all-time-highs. 20 or so coins will make the cut and see new highs. The rest will go the way of virtually all software, gone and forgotten.”

The week’s carnage notably extended well beyond fledgling tokens and ECR20 projects to major contenders such as Ripple (XRP), Litecoin (LTC), EOS, and Cardano (ADA), as Coin360 historical data shows:

Crypto market visualization. 13 August – 14 August historical data. Source: Coin360.

Eyes bleeding, Digital Currency Group CEO Barry Silbert offered up a poll to gage the sentiment of the crypto twittersphere:

Out of 19,871 respondents, 73 percent thought the tumult isn’t over. But, as Fundstrat analyst Tom Lee quipped in response, the poll could likely be a “contrarian indicator”:

“Interested to see result but because crowds are influenced by price action (hence, not independent…no bottom majority probably means bottom in place.”

To Conquer Fear Is The Beginning Of Wisdom

This brings us to the golden thread that wove through all three versions of the sell-off theory and spins off into its own self-fulfilling spiral. EToro analyst Matthew Newton told the Express that it’s not just ICOs that are liquidating, but investors themselves that have “hit panic mode”:

“Investors seem to be increasing liquidations of their ICO holdings, with significant drops in price and increased volumes.This has had a knock-on effect on the rest of the altcoin market, with Bitcoin also momentarily dropping below $6,000 late last night. With prices hanging in the balance, emotions will be running high among traders.

Or, as Samson Mow noted, this “feels like the opposite of last year when money piled in as people felt FOMO. Now it’s piling out as they sense panic.” This theory has been echoed across the crypto space, with Blockchain Capital LLC’s Spencer Bogart alleging investor “disillusionment” with tokens and ICOs, and BKCM CEO Brian Kelly saying that “investors that were in it, and maybe caught the hype in November and December, are now panic selling out.”

ThinkCoin chief analyst Naeem Aslam shared his technical analysis with Cointelegraph in an email, suggesting that the market picture is showing signs of strained stamina in a protracted bear market:

“There are serious concerns that we may actually make another new low for the year because of the sturdy bearish sentiment […] traders have been waiting for the bull rally since early June […] but in actual reality, bears have shown their brutal strength over the bulls […] the only reason that we are seeing […] selling off so badly is that traders are losing hope of a bull run […] as long as the price keeps on having a stab at the lows of this year $5,791, we are not out of woods.”

Aslam’s email was penned during yesterday’s market respite, so he qualified his analysis to note that with Bitcoin “breaking [the August 14th] high of $6,298,” there is “a strong hope” for a bull run to continue if downward momentum stops short of forming a new 2018 low. In this scenario, the week will prove to have been a “false alarm,” he wrote. Aslam gave three key levels to keep in mind which show just how far the technicals intersect with sentiment:

“November 13th low: $5,605

October 18th low: $5,109

Psychological level: $5,000”

Although EToro’s Newton did stress that “keeping things in perspective, Bitcoin is still range-bound for now between $5,700 to $8,000 [and] in line with how it has traded over the past few months,” market panic –– as all these commentators suggest –– runs by its own logic.

Alleged despair and disillusionment also means we’re not just on coin suicide watch, but investor suicide watch, as the popular r/cryptocurrency forum on Reddit saw users on August 14 sharing helplines and site links for the US Suicide Hotline and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The Indomitable Futures Interaction Argument

We’ll keep this one short, and let you yourself judge whether or not this is a coincidence, remembering that Bitcoin was by no means the largest casualty of the week’s market havoc.

Earlier this summer, Fundstrat’s Tom Lee –– echoed by others –– had attributed the “gut wrenching” price weaknesses of Bitcoin to futures contract expirations, based on analysis of compiled data for the six expirations that have occured since CBOE launched its BTC futures contracts in December 2017.

CNBC’s Brian Kelly yesterday tweeted a graph accompanied by a statement implying that this week’s price tumble may have something to do with August 15 being the date of BTC futures expirations on CBOE:

“Today is CBOE Bitcoin Futures Expiration. This chart comes from one of the best crypto traders I know; who wishes to remain anonymous. I will call him “Pocket Full of Crypto” #bitcoin tends to recover after expiration.”

In a separate tweet, Kelly further noted that “$BTC shorts are still rising toward April highs…hmmm…,” accompanied by a second graph:

In his own comments on the week, Jared Blikre had also noted the transformational impact of futures trading on the Bitcoin space, saying that,

“I think Wall Street is gearing up for Bitcoin in a big way … but in the short term, we could have a washout, we could go down to $5,000, to $4,000, because the character of Bitcoin, the way it trades, has changed since last December’s introduction of futures.”

The Unexpected Fiat Interaction Argument

Blikre this week joined others in proposing what might be an apparently unusual argument for a crypto market analyst, given that many deem crypto assets’ price performance to be immunized from wider economic factors and capital markets. As James Quinn, head of markets at blockchain investment advisory firm Kenetic, told Bloomberg this week:

“Correlations historically have been extremely low between cryptocurrencies and other asset classes, which is one of the reasons why there is interest in this space.”

Nonetheless, in the wider landscape, emerging market economies — the Turkish lira, the South African rand and the Indian rupee — have all tumbled against the greenback this week.

Blikre –– speaking August 14, when Bitcoin was trading 30 percent down over the three week-period –– suggested:

“30 percent is a crash right. The issue is, Bitcoin is a currency, and when we quote on our screen it’s BTC/USD, that’s a symbol. So like other currencies it trades against the US dollar. The US dollar’s on a tear, it’s up 4.5 percent this year, over the last three days it’s up 1.5 percent. That’s a big move for the dollar, and there’s not a lot of overhead resistance, so it could go even further.”

EToro analyst analyst Mati Greenspan mirrored Blikre in a tweet today, saying that “the buck is simply crushing everything in its path. He proposed that the apparent carnage “may well be a side effect” of dollar strength:

“This is the best explanation I can think of for the crypto decline given all the positive developments we’ve been seeing in the industry.”

Max Keiser for his part offered the following chart as evidence of what he termed the “damage [the] rising dollar is having around the world”:

Bloomberg notes that Bitcoin’s slide against the dollar this month is “almost as big as the Turkish lira’s 25 percent slump” –– “putting paid to the notion” –– as chief analyst at Markets.com Neil Wilson told Business Insider –– “of cryptos as a safe haven play.” Wilson added that “ultimately USD and US Treasury notes are the only real safe harbour.”

Before you arch your brows, this week has interestingly seen the exact opposite argument from renowned US economist Peter Schiff, who is credited for predicting the 2008 housing market meltdown. While it’s worth noting that Schiff is not exactly a Bitcoin bull, in his recent interview with Salon he scathingly anatomized what he considers to be an inevitable impending economic collapse in the fiat-denominated world:

“I think the U.S is in worse shape than Europe […] not that Europe and Japan are not in trouble, they are. But I just think we’re in more trouble  […] There are a lot of bubbles. The bond market is a bubble. The stock market, housing, the whole U.S. economy, really, is one gigantic bubble […] We’re going to have to deal with a lot of defaults, [and] a lot of debtors are going to go broke.”

Schiff further predicted that the Fed’s go-to solution of quantitative easing would wreak yet further havoc for the dollar. With the post-2008 bailout measures, he said, we’ve “actually compounded problems” and postponed “consequences to a later date –– we’re headed to that later date.”

Divinatory Practices

Whether you don a chartist’s hat or sift through proliferating white papers to make your investment judgements, commentators of all stripes continue to devise new strategies to interpret crypto-specific market signals.

A research group from Yale recently proposed a system intended to gage the “risk-return trade-off” of major cryptos, identifying a “strong time-series momentum effect” among major assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple. Yale’s research also found a correlation between price and investor attention, which they deduced via social media and search engine trend analyses.

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee, for his part, has developed a “contrarian index” that lets investors know how “miserable” Bitcoin holders are based on current prices — dubbed the Bitcoin Misery Index (BMI) — which he launched at a time of comparable crypto market woes.

If eye-popping volatility appears –– until now –– to remain something of a paradoxical constant in the crypto space, this summer has seen significant developments, the impact of which is arguably yet to be understood.

Earlier this month, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) –– the operator of 23 leading global exchanges including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) –– unveiled its plans to create a global ecosystem for digital assets that would cover the spectrum from federally regulated markets and warehousing to merchant and consumer needs.

While some have proposed this is the “biggest Bitcoin news of the year,” implying forthcoming bullish price moves as qualified custodian solutions are offered to institutional clients at scale, others propose that leverage-based financialization could hit at Bitcoin’s “algorithmically-enforced scarcity,” with adverse implications.

But –– as this latter argument notes –– this will depend on how HODLers choose to negotiate the new bridge with the traditional financial world. Until then –– we’re in for interesting times.

Cointelegraph would like to thank Helen Partz for her research contributions to this article.

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Crypto Millionaire Lost 5,500 Bitcoins in Alleged Investment Scam

A 22-year-old cryptocurrency millionaire has lost more than 5,500 bitcoins in an alleged investment scam in Thailand – one that drew public attention due to the alleged involvement of a Thai film actor.

According to a media report from Bangkok Post on Monday, a group approached and solicited Finnish businessman Aarni Otava Saarimaa in June 2017 over investment in several Thai stocks, a casino in Macau and a new cryptocurrency called Dragon Coin.

The group claimed that upon issuance, Dragon Coin could be used at the casino, the report said. They also brought Saarimaa to the Macau casino in order to demonstrate the legitimacy of the project. Saarimaa, who bought into the scheme, transferred a total of 5,564 bitcoins to the group, the report indicted.

Having seen no returns months after the investment, Saarimaa filed a complaint to Thailand’s Crime Suppression Division (CSD) in January, together with his local business partner who believed the investment plan was a scam.

The CSD subsequently launched an investigation and alleged in the report that the group did not make any investments for Saarimaa, but instead liquidated all the bitcoins into Thai baht and deposited the funds into seven bank accounts.

Although it is unclear when the group sold the bitcoin assets, the CSD said the fraudsters made off with nearly 800 million baht, or around $24 million.

Following a months-long investigation, the CSD also suspected that the Thai film actor Jiratpisit “Boom” Jaravijit was involved in the plan and arrested him last Wednesday.

The CSD further alleged that the actor’s sibling Prinya Jaravijit is suspected to be the “ringleader” of the scheme and has left Thailand for the U.S. via South Korea. The CSD is now collaborating with authorities in the U.S. to track down the primary suspect, the report stated.

Thai baht image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Japan’s Financial Watchdog Publishes Results of Its On-Site Crypto Exchange Inspections

Japan’s financial watchdog, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), has published the results of its on-site inspections of cryptocurrency exchange operators, Cointelegraph Japan reports August 10.

Based on its findings, the watchdog has decided to apply more rigorous oversight into new applications from exchanges hoping to receive an official operating license. Newly registered exchanges will be required to undergo on-site inspections at an early stage and the agency plans to closely examine the effectiveness of their business models.

According to the agency, there are currently “hundreds” of companies awaiting its review.

The FSA probe revealed that exchange operators’ maintenance of their internal control systems has failed to keep pace with the rapid growth of transaction volumes, which it partly attributed to the “renaissance” of the crypto markets in fall 2017.

According to the investigations, the total digital assets of domestic exchanges surged to 792.8 billion yen ($7.1 billion), an over six-fold increase within the space of one year. Meanwhile, most exchanges’ workforces are fewer than 20 people, meaning that one employee on average was found to be managing digital assets worth 3.3 billion yen ($29.7 million).

The comprehensive document identified a wide array of problems across exchanges’ business models, risk management and compliance, internal audits, and corporate governance. The agency further highlighted concerns over insufficient anti-money laundering (AML) measures among certain exchanges.

Local news platform Nikkei has reported that it is likely the new registration of exchange operators — which had virtually stopped in the wake of January’s $532 mln hack of crypto exchange Coincheck — will resume following the FSA’s interim publication.

The FSA has said that “substantial” ongoing review of registration procedures will be necessary, and that it will continue to give “priority to investor protection.”

In May, the FSA unrolled regulatory stipulations for registered exchanges, including tough restrictions on the trading of anonymity-oriented altcoins.

In July, the FSA announced it was considering changing the legal framework for the regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges, and the agency was also recently restructured in order improve its handling of fintech-related areas, including cryptocurrencies.

A self-regulatory body, the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA), formed in early March in order to develop and coordinate policies in conjunction with the FSA. Last month, JVCEA announced it would be requiring its members to place maximum limits on the volumes traded by their customers.

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Thailand's New ICO Rule Has Already Attracted 20 Crypto Exchanges

Thailand’s new licensing rule that governs initial coin offerings (ICOs) has gained interests from companies setting out to offer token sales and exchange services just weeks after the rule went into effect, official said.

In a news report from Bangkok Post on Thursday, Rapee Sucharitakul, the secretary-general of the Thailand Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), said a total of 20 crypto exchanges already filed applications, seeking to become licensed trading venues.

CoinDesk previously reported that a rule setting out to regulate ICOs took effect on July 16 after a royal decree on the topic was made public in May. As part of the licensing rule, projects that aim to offer crypto exchange services must also gain approval from the SEC before trading starts.

“Many companies interested in opening digital asset exchanges have said digital assets and cryptocurrency trading in the Thai market are quite active,” Sucharitakul said.

In addition, the SEC said around 50 ICOs indicated interests in obtaining licenses to conduct token sales in the country with full compliance.

However, before the SEC can grant any license to individual projects, it will first select the so-called “ICO portals,” which are online marketplaces where potential ICO issuers can operate their token sales. Sucharitakul said out of the five companies that seek to become ICO portals, three have already filed applications.

And, just last week, regulators from the Philippines also took similar efforts to have released a draft rule for regulating token sales and is currently seeking public comment on how to let ICOs continue in a regulated environment.

Thailand flag image via Shutterstock

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Bitcoin Price Drops, IPO’s and an NYSE Bitcoin Market: This Week in Crypto


Make sure you check out our previous edition here, now let’s go over what happened in crypto this week. Also, make sure you subscribe for this week’s edition of The CCN Podcast on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Google Play Music, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Price Watch:

  • The bitcoin price is down 15% this week following strong gains of 9% last week and 18% the week before that. The coin had been hovering around the $8,000 mark since it first hit the crucial price level on August 24th. The $1,200+ price drop has largely been blamed on the SEC’s rejection of the Winklevoss’ second ETF rejection. On its way down, the price flirted with the $7,800 support level before failing to maintain that level. The bearish pattern has continued all the way down to the $7,000 level.
  • Ethereum is down 14% this week hovering around the $400 level. The coin has been moving in tandem with bitcoin as far as down moves go recently, but not mirroring up moves. As we discussed on last week’s podcast episode, ethereum is representative of lots of altcoins that have mostly taken heavy losses.
  • The entire coin market cap is down 14% this week. The cap fell below the crucial $300 billion level earlier this week and fell to the $255 billion level mid-week. The price drop falls despite nice gains by major currencies such as tezos.

    cryptocurrency market cap
    Source: CoinMarketCap

  • Bulls:
    • Bill Miller’s Bullish – Billionaire Bill Miller, the founder, and CIO of Miller Value Partners compared bitcoin to gold and was bullish.
    • Hedge Fund Manager: Bitcoin Price Headed to $500,000 – Mark Yusko, the founder of North Carolina-based Morgan Creek Capital Management, said that he is sticking by his year-end bitcoin price target of $25,000. Yusko originally made this prediction in April, adding that he expects bitcoin to march to $75,000 by 2020, $200,000 by 2022, and ultimately eclipse $500,000 by the end of 2024.
    • Bitcoin Could be ‘First Worldwide Currency’: NYSE Owner – Speaking with Fortune, ICE founder, Chairman, and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher explained that he believes that — bolstered by Bakkt’s (ICE’s crypto subsidiary) infrastructure — bitcoin could become the currency of choice for global payments.
    • Bitcoin Price Headed to New Highs: Crypto Hedge Fund Manager Spencer Bogart –  Speaking on CNBC’s Fast Money, Spencer Bogart of Blockchain Capital reinforced his prediction that bitcoin is bound for higher price levels in the near future as he thinks that the pullback momentum may have been exhausted.
    • Tom Lee: Bitcoin Price Recovering from Winklevoss ETF Rejection a Positive Sign – On July 27, upon the rejection of the Winklevoss bitcoin ETF by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the price of BTC fell from $8,300 to $7,800, by more than six percent in a three-hour period. Tom Lee says the quick recovery is a sign of a bullish sentiment.
  • Bears:

Startups:

  • Factom Files Patent for Validating Documents on the Blockchain – Factom (FCT) has filed a new patent with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that allows verification of documents on a blockchain with multiple digital signatures.
  • Hedera Hashgraph Raises $100 Million At $6 Billion Valuation – Hedera Hashgraph, a U.S. based distributed public ledger that plans to offer a cryptocurrency, a file storage service, and a smart contract platform, has raised $100 million. The company is looking to raise another $20 million in a crowdsale.
  • High Times Launches First Ever IPO to Accept Bitcoin, Ethereum – High Times, a prominent New York publication advocating cannabis usage, is breaking new ground in the cryptocurrency world by accepting crypto during its IPO, the first ever stock offering to do so.
  • Coinbase Brings Crypto Payment Option to Millions of Online Businesses – Coinbase Commerce, a cryptocurrency payment provider, has announced a series of initiatives to support crypto commerce, including a WooCommerce plugin to give millions of merchants the option to accept cryptocurrencies, the ability to send bitcoin and litecoin directly, and other new capabilities.
  • Canaan Unveils First-Ever Bitcoin Mining Television – Canaan Creative has launched what it hopes will be the future of the blockchain and the first of a series of releases that will improve its position as it battles for increased market share in the bitcoin mining device market. Critics insist that the device is little more than a self-promotion gimmick as the company prepares for it’s IPO, offering no real utility to users.
  • Cryptocurrency Bank Galaxy Digital Which Lost $134 Million in Q1 Is Going Public – According to Bloomberg Galaxy Digital LP — will be listed for trading on the Toronto-based TSX Venture Exchange on August 1st. The company is using a reverse takeover of an existing firm to be listed.

Exchanges:

  • Biggest Stock Exchange Operator to Launch Bitcoin Market – Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, has announced that will list a physically-settled bitcoin futures contracts and form a new company whose mission is to make bitcoin a mainstream financial asset.
  • OKEx Initiates ‘Clawback’, Injects 2500 BTC  – OKEx has moved to protect its futures market with an injection of 2500 BTC into the exchange’s insurance fund from its own capital after a forced liquidation on July 31st threatened to destabilize its operations. The futures contract amounted to a staggering $420 million worth of BTC. OKEx moved swiftly to counter this liquidation with a series of measures that were announced on its website.
  • Coinbase Adds British Currency Support – Users at Coinbase will now be able to deposit and withdraw funds in British Pound, the company announced on Wednesday.  Coinbase, being an exclusive digital currency firm, has obtained a bank account in the U.K. The company already has an e-money license issued by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
  • Robinhood Opens Crypto Trading to Georgia Residents – Robinhood, a commission-free stock trading platform, announced that residents in the state of Georgia can now invest in cryptocurrency through the app. The move follows the app’s launch of Robinhood Crypto in early 2018, its subsequent rollout in four states, and comes in the wake of a $363 million funding round.
  • Coinbase Bug Prevents Canadian Users from Withdrawing Funds – An issue with Coinbase systems recently prevented users from Canada and a number of other countries from withdrawing funds, leading to frustration and concern among many customers. In a statement to CCN, Coinbase claimed the issue was a bug.
  • Ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh Opens up about Tether Investigation – In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, former FBI Director Louis Freeh (of FSS) answered questions about the Tether investigation and the public’s reactions to the firm’s work. He discussed the “transparency update” that was compiled by FSS after they were granted full access to bank accounts, statements, and spoke with some employees at banks holding Tether assets and responded to criticism that the investigation did not constitute an official “audit.”
  • UPbit Comes Out Clean in Audit after Raid – UPbit, currently the biggest crypto exchange in South Korea, came out clean in an audit report which proved the exchange had 100 percent of the amount its balance sheet demonstrated. The audit comes following a raid by local authorities under the suspicion of balance sheet manipulation and inflated volumes.
  • Thai Bond Market Association to Incorporate Blockchain Technology – The Thai Bond Market Association (TBMA) plans to implement a new registrar service platform combining financial technology with blockchain technology. There are ongoing plans to put it to practice during the current year to improve the growth of the secondary market.
  • Binance Buys Ethereum Wallet Service in First-Ever Acquisition –  Binance, one of the world’s two largest cryptocurrency exchanges, has just completed its first-ever acquisition of TrustWallet. According to TechCrunch, the Malta-based exchange operator acquired Trust Wallet, creator of the eponymous mobile Ethereum wallet that includes support for ether, as well as ERC-20 and ERC-223 tokens. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Binance confirmed that it included a mixture of cash, Binance stock, and Binance tokens.

Enterprise:

  • Bitmain Made $1.1 Billion in Profit in Q1 – Citing an email obtained from a source close to the China-based firm, Fortune reports that Bitmain — best known for manufacturing bitcoin mining equipment — raked in $1.1 billion in profit during the first quarter of 2018. Conservatively, the company expects to earn $2 to $3 billion in profit for the fiscal year. Remarkably, those figures place Bitmain nearly on par with chipmaking giant Nvidia, who reported a net income of $1.2 billion during the first quarter and has a ~$150 billion market cap.
     
  • Walmart Files Patent for Smart Appliance Management – Walmart has filed another patent application in the blockchain sector entitled “Managing Smart Applications Using Blockchain Technology.” The filing follows a number of previous applications for blockchain patents including blockchain package delivery systems, medical record storage systems, food safety, and a blockchain-based digital marketplace — some of which we dove into on the third episode of the CCN Podcast.
  • Report: Blockchain to ‘Reach $2 Trillion by 2030’ – IHS Market, a data analytics firm in the fields of finance and technology, released a July report that forecasts blockchain technology could lead to a business activity value of $2 trillion by 2030. The report includes all value that blockchain adds as an entire vertical (not specific coin market caps). Many think this is too conservative considering the market’s proximity to $1 trillion during the 2017 bull run.
  • Bitcoin Price Must Hit $213,000 to Become Viable USD Replacement: UBS – According to a new report from Swiss investment bank UBS, Bitcoin’s price must reach $213,000 to replace the estimated $3.63 trillion worth of USD in circulation, commonly referred to as the M1 or “narrow money” supply.
  • Square Seeing Growth in BTC User Base: CFO – Square Inc. Chief Financial Officer Sarah Friar has hailed the impact of bitcoin support on the company as it continues to record strong growth driven primarily by its flagship Cash App, also known as Square Cash.
  • Rogue Qiwi Employee Lost 500,000 Bitcoins in Attempted Theft – In 2011, the Qiwi Group CEO learned that his company computers minted 500,000 bitcoins, unbeknownst to him at the time. At the time, he did not know what bitcoin was, let alone bitcoin mining. After an investigation, he learned his chief technical officer minted 500,000 coins worth $5 million in three months, an amount that is now worth billions of dollars. The story came to light this week in a lecture at the Moscow School of Communications

Governments:

Hacks & Security:

Featured Image from Shutterstock

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Bank of Thailand Allows Banks to Open Subsidiaries for Crypto Dealings

The Bank of Thailand (BoT) has recently allowed local banks to set up subsidiaries for dealing with cryptocurrencies, local Thai source Blognone reported August 3.

According to a regulatory announcement published by the BoT on August 1, Thai banks can now issue digital tokens, provide crypto brokerage services, run crypto-related businesses, and invest in cryptocurrencies through subsidiaries.

However, the recent announcement has reaffirmed that all banks and other financial institutions are still banned from direct dealing with cryptocurrencies.

While banks are now allowed to establish crypto-dealing branches, those branches are prohibited from offering crypto-related services to its customers and the public, and can only interact with other businesses that are approved by Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (Thai SEC) and the Office of Insurance Commission (OIC). Blognone writes that the subsidiaries are also prohibited from offering crypto-related services to individuals.

The subsidiaries are allowed to provide investment resources to customers unless they want to invest in digital assets that aim to develop “financial innovation,” or to expand the quality of financial services, in which case they can use the BoT Regulatory Sandbox, Blognone also notes.

Earlier this year, the BoT released a circular that prohibited banking institutions in Thailand from investing and trading in crypto as well as taking part in establishing crypto exchanges, which are reportedly legal to operate in the country with registration. Thailand’s central bank also required banks not to advise individuals on crypto investments or trading, and banned customers from using credit cards for crypto purchases.

In May, the Thai government had issued a regulatory framework that defines cryptocurrencies as “digital assets and digital tokens,” and puts them under regulation of the Thai SEC.

In early June, the BoT revealed that it is considering providing a “new way of conducting interbank settlement” by using a central bank-issued digital currency (CBDC). According to the bank, the adoption of its own cryptocurrency would cut the costs of transactions, as well reduce the transaction and validation time “due to less intermediation process needed compared to the current systems.”

Earlier in July, the Thai government enacted regulations for Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), having become one of the first jurisdictions in the world to allow ICOs to operate in a fully-regulated environment.

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The Daily: Cars and Pizzas for Crypto in Russia, Crypto Valley in South Korea

The Daily

The wide adoption of cryptocurrencies in Russia has been put on hold after the State Duma postponed the final reading of three crypto bills for its fall session. Nevertheless, Russian companies are already planning to introduce crypto payments as soon as the regulations are in place. Among them, a major car dealer and an international pizza chain. Also in The Daily, the governor of Jeju has received support from Bitcoin.com for his efforts to create a Crypto Valley on the island. And while the South Korean province hopes to become a crypto and blockchain hub in Asia, major European banks have decided to base their blockchain initiative in Dublin.   

Also read: Hackers in High Demand, China Hires Cryptographer

Avtospetscenter and Papa John’s Prepare for Crypto Payments

With Russian parliamentarians taking vacation without keeping Putin’s July deadline for adopting comprehensive regulations for the country’s crypto space, Russian companies are left with only one option – to plan for crypto adoption after lawmakers officially recognize cryptocurrencies this fall. Two major businesses have announced their readiness to take advantage of crypto payments once they are legalized by authorities in Moscow.

The Daily: Cars and Pizzas for Crypto in Russia, Crypto Valley in South KoreaOne of Russia’s major car dealers, Avtospetscenter (ASC), has admitted it intends to start selling automobiles for digital money. “We are thinking of selling cars for cryptocurrency. The idea is under development. If there are no obstacles in the legislation, ASC will start selling cars and providing crypto services by 2020 – 2021,” Andrey Turkin, general manager of ASC’s subsidiary Audi Center Taganka, said quoted by Bits Media.

Soon, Russians will probably be able to order pizza with bitcoin as well. “Cryptocurrency has every chance of being directly applied in our business. I think, in the future, you’ll be able to buy our pizzas with bitcoin. We have the solutions ready, but for now we are just waiting for the right moment to start it all,” Christopher Wynne, Papa John’s President for Russia, CIS and Poland, revealed in an interview with TASS.

Governor of Jeju With Bitcoin.com Wallet

Won Hee-ryong, the governor of Jeju in South Korea, has presented some ambitious plans for his province and they involve cryptocurrency adoption with the help of Bitcoin.com and Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Won wants to turn Jeju Island into Korea’s Crypto Valley and has already made proposals for that to the country’s National Assembly.

The Daily: Cars and Pizzas for Crypto in Russia, Crypto Valley in South KoreaDuring the Huobi Carnival in Seoul this week, Won Hee-ryong met with Bitcoin.com CEO Roger Ver who promised to contribute to the realization of the project and support the efforts of the governor. Prior to their conversation, Mr. Ver showed Mr. Won how to download and install the Bitcoin.com wallet on his smartphone, Blockinpress reported.

The opening of Jeju to various projects from around the world will help the development of the crypto and blockchain technology, Roger Ver noted. He also said that people from the crypto space will discover the island as a holiday destination. “I will support Jeju to become a prosperous blockchain hub,” Mr. Ver emphasized and revealed he is planning to visit the island next month.

The Daily: Cars and Pizzas for Crypto in Russia, Crypto Valley in South KoreaWon Hee-ryong accepted the offered help and added: “As Mr. Roger Ver said, Jeju is an international tourist destination with a good environment to become a blockchain hub.” He also noted that the island has a special, autonomous status that can help solve regulatory issues which haven’t been solved at national level.

Top Euro Banks Choose Dublin for Their Blockchain Initiative

An alliance of nine leading European banks has chosen the Irish capital as a base for their blockchain initiative, local media reported. The We.trade group, formerly Digital Trade Chain, includes major financial institutions from the Old Continent such as Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Santander. The consortium was founded in 2017 to explore and develop blockchain technologies for carrying out transactions between banks and their clients. The platform is currently used for trades among 11 European countries.

After a period of development and testing, the participating banks are now working to onboard more clients, revealed We.trade’s Chief Operating Officer, Roberto Mancone, former head of the disruptive technologies division of Deutsche Bank. “It’s no longer a proof of concept, it’s no longer an experiment, the platform is now made available to the clients,” he said, adding that they can find counterparts in other countries and start trading using the platform to create smart contracts, finance invoices or make payments.

Days after We.trade’s announcement, a European blockchain body expressed concerns over the lack of legal clarity in regards to the implementation of blockchain technologies and the application of EU’s General Data Protection Regulation law (GDPR). The EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum warned that the new rules which went into effect recently are actually threatening innovation in the space.

“As long as the legal framework around personal data and blockchain remains unclear, entrepreneurs and those designing and building blockchain-based platforms and applications in Europe face massive uncertainty. That can put a brake on innovation,” the organization said in a report titled “Blockchain Innovation in Europe”. One of the main concerns stems from the incompatibility between the right of individuals under GDPR to request their personal data to be deleted and the immutability of data stored on a blockchain.

What are your thoughts on today’s news tidbits? Tell us in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Blockinpress.


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