Led 29

Iran May Unveil State-Backed Cryptocurrency This Week

Iran is reportedly expected to announce its state-backed digital currency at the annual Electronic Banking and Payment Systems Conference which starts on January 29th. The move is an attempt to bypass US-imposed economic sanctions. 


Iran-Backed Cryptocurrency

Iran first announced its intentions to launch a state-backed digital currency in the summer of 2018.

The move was occasioned by the fact that the country was set to undergo renewed economic sanctions from the US.

Since then. the country was also kicked out of the Society for Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which has highlighted the need for an alternative way of moving money even more.

According to a new report by Al Jazeera, the country may be announcing the state-backed cryptocurrency on January 29 at the annual Electronic Banking and Payment Systems conference, which this year has a  “blockchain revolution” theme.

The cryptocurrency is expected to roll out in two different phases. The first phase will reportedly involve the issuance of a rial-backed digital token, which shall facilitate payments between local banks and other actively participating institutions.

The other phase will include the launch if an instrument that will enable retail use, i.e. currency.

Alternative to SWIFT?

While it’s currently unclear whether ‘IranCoin’ will be used to facilitate payments between Iran and other countries, it could be positioned by the Iran government as an alternative to SWIFT as Bitcoinist reported last year that Iran and Russia may use cryptocurrencies to bypass US sanctions.

It also wouldn’t be the first time countries are cooperating on creating a joint cryptocurrency. Recently, the UAE and Saudi Arabia announced a joint effort in this regard.

However, it’s questionable whether a state-backed cryptocurrency will provide regular Iranians with access to the global monetary system.

Additionally, the report notes that because ‘IranCoin’ will be nothing like Bitcoin and entirely centralized, it will likely fall short of circumventing any sanctions. This is because the US will guarantee it has no place in any credible international exchange just like the rial.

Speaking on the matter, blockchain and cryptocurrency developer, Yashar Rashedi explained:

They certainly can’t replace the likes of bitcoin due to their centralized nature, but their existence is harmless. […] Even as CBCCs may never find widespread everyday use among the general public, they may be able to offer some new features to startups and developers that had to work with centralized bank APIs before them.

Do you think a state-backed cryptocurrency will help Iran combat US-imposed sanctions? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Led 25

Wall Street Invests $20M to Bridge Blockchain With Capital Markets

Despite the bear market, and rising camp of naysayers predicting Bitcoin’s demise, Wall Street is steadily plowing funds into crypto. The latest blockchain company to catch investors’ eyes is Symbiont, a New York startup bringing blockchain tech to capital markets.


2019 The Year of Institutional Investment

Bitcoinist reported yesterday that Nasdaq is positively bullish on bitcoin. Ahead of Davos, Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman stated unequivocably that cryptocurrencies would play an important role in the future. She even predicted that bitcoin could become a global currency.

Now the world’s second largest stock exchange Nasdaq Ventures initiative is taking the lead in Symbiont’s series B funding round. Along with Citigroup, and other high-name investors including Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd, they’re investing $20 million.

This vote of support in Symbiont shows that Wall Street is still anxious to make its way into the cryptocurrency space. Despite a torrid 12 months with as much as 90 percent of value wiped off of some altcoins.

Blockchain Technology Called into Question

According to Symbiont CEO Mark Smith, this much-needed backing from Wall Street comes not only during the crypto winter but at a time when blockchain technology is being called into question as well.

After an overhyped 2017, 2018 left people’s expectations deflated like a helium balloon after a children’s party. Smith told Bloomberg that we were now entering a much more “realistic phase” about what blockchain can and cannot do.

We are leaving the peak of the hype cycle and entering the trough of disillusionment, especially for people who inappropriately applied this technology hoping it would become a panacea for solving all their problems.

From finding a cure to cancer to eradicating corruption in the supply chain, blockchain was the solution. However, it’s becoming clear that while the technology is undoubtedly important, its uses are limited–for the current time.

What Makes Symbiont a Good Bet?

Symbiont’s smart contract platform Assembly allows financial institutions to verify and share data. By using smart contracts, the company aims to make the mortgage bond market more efficient. It also plans to speed up times for syndicated loans.

As well as the backing of Nasdaq, Citi, Novogratz, and Jim Pallotta’s Raptor Group Holdings, Symbiont has also teamed up with Vanguard Group Inc.

This will be an important partnership that will enable investment giant Vanguard to apply blockchain tech to update the index data behind mutual funds.

Symbiont will use the funds to improve their data management process and work on private equity, mortgages, and syndicated loans.

And as for Nasdaq? The world’s second largest stock exchange will be looking into opportunities to capture new clients who want to tokenize assets and use smart contracts through Symbiont’s Assembly platform. Watch this space.

Will this latest cash injection materialize for the Wall Street investors? Share your thoughts below!


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Led 24

McAfee Hunted by the IRS But Will Still Run For President ‘In Exile’

Controversial cryptocurrency proponent John McAfee revealed that the IRS has convened a grand jury to charge him, his wife, and four of his campaign workers, with ‘unspecified’ crimes of felonious nature. McAfee, who’s campaigning for the 2020 US Presidency will continue to do so ‘in exile’.


McAfee Hunted by the IRS

In a new video released on his official Twitter profile, John McAfee shared that the IRS has convened a Grand Jury in the state of Tennessee on January 22nd.

According to him, the authorities seek to put him on charges for ‘unspecified’ crimes of felonious nature.

In the video, McAfee also reaffirmed that he hasn’t been paying taxes for the last eight years and that he hasn’t filed any tax returns either.

McAfee, who’s a popular cryptocurrency proponent, has more than once made the case that governments fear decentralized digital currencies because they can’t tax them.

He’s also clashed with the SEC’s chairman over defining initial coin offerings (ICOs)  tokens as securities.

Running For President ‘In Exile’

Now, McAfee, who currently appears to be in the Venezuela on a self-proclaimed “Freedom Boat,” says he’ll continue campaigning ‘in exile’.

As odd as it may sound, McAfee intends to run his presidential campaign remotely… from a boat.

In another video, posted shortly after the first one, he details that his campaign already has ‘thousands’ of volunteers who will be wearing masks with a picture of his face on them.

These people will appear on various locations through the US, including conferences, debates, restaurants, and street corners, carrying portable loudspeakers through which McAfee will be voicing his merits.

Apparently, however, the cryptocurrency advocate doesn’t really want to become a president – he just wants the stage.

Interestingly enough, his latest Twitter blast caught the attention of Vladislav Ginko, the Russian economist who recently said that Russia is looking to invest $10 billion in Bitcoin.

Commenting on the matter of McAfee’s exile, Ginko tweeted:

You will never feel safe anywhere in the world from US enforcement until you will land to Russia. You’re welcome!

What do you think of McAfee’s plans to run his campaign remotely from a boat? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


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Led 23

Bitcoin’s Liquid Sidechain Welcomes Japanese Yen Stablecoin

Blockstream has announced Crypto Garage, a joint venture with Digital Garage and Tokyo Tanshi, to serve the Japanese Bitcoin market. The partnership will soon launch the Liquid sidechain based SETTLENET suite, the first application of which will be a yen-pegged stablecoin.


SETTLENET on Bitcoin’s Liquid Sidechain

The SETTLENET suite aims to provide Japanese exchanges and OTC trading desks with enhanced liquidity, speed and security. Although why Crypto Garage feel the need to shout SETTLENET every time is anybody’s guess.

Exchanges can issue the JPY-token (L-JPY) on the Liquid sidechain, and trade it against Liquid Bitcoin (L-BTC) using atomic swaps. Atomic swaps allow instant, trustless, peer to peer trading between different types of digital asset.

Needless to say, Blockstream CEO, Adam Back’s tweet of the announcement attracted equal parts awe and mockery. The latter, in particular, from the Ripple-army, who were quick to point out how easily XRP could achieve this (though whether XRP is trustless is a different argument).

Compliant With Japanese Regulations

One of the Crypto Garage partners must have some friends in high places because SETTLENET has already received regulatory clearance. Both the Japanese Financial Services Authority and the Cabinet Secretariat approve. This leaves the JPY-token well-placed to be a key driver in Japanese Bitcoin market liquidity.

CEO of Crypto Garage, Masahito Okuma, said:

SETTLENET together with Liquid makes trustless Bitcoin trading a reality, in a sustainable regulated environment. This is going to lead to a huge boost in Bitcoin liquidity in Japan and cement the region’s place as a leader in the emerging Bitcoin industry.

Liquid Growth

The venture also marks the continuing growth of the Liquid Network sidechain since its launch last October. Blockstream market Liquid as a fast, secure, and confidential method for high trading-volume entities such as exchanges, brokers, and financial institutions to transact.

money laundering

JPY-token is just the beginning of Blockstream’s ambitions for the stablecoin market, according to CSO, Samson Mow:

We expect SETTLENET’s Japanese yen token to be the first of many stablecoin issuances on Liquid.

What do you think about the Liquid sidechain welcoming its first stablecoin? Share your thoughts!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter/@adam3us

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Led 22

Avoid These Exchanges If You Want to Keep Your Bitcoins

Hackers stole over $1.8 billion in 2018 from crypto exchanges. So, if you’re still trusting one with your private keys, you really ought to know better. But if you’re too busy or too lazy to set up a hardware wallet for your funds, at least you should know where exchanges rank when it comes to cybersecurity. According to a report by CER and Hacken, not very well.


Top 100 Crypto Exchanges by Cybersecurity Score

CER and Hacken evaluated the state of the cybersecurity in the top 100 crypto exchanges by volume on CoinMarketCap as of January 1. What they found was a little disturbing.

Without getting overly technical, for the sake of this study, cybersecurity means all the processes and technologies an exchange has in place to deter hackers from entering its system. An effective system, says CER, is one that reduces a hacker’s chances of breaching it.

Since crypto exchanges must be responsible for users’ money and personal data, strong cybersecurity is imperative.

Cyber Security Score (CSS) Methodology

To measure cybersecurity at the top 100 exchanges, the companies checked whether they had sufficient user security in place, server security, and some kind of Ongoing Crowdsource Security Assessment (OCSA).

When it comes to server security, factors cush as SSL/TLS certificates, secure cookies, and open ports come into play. If a hacker uncovers just one vulnerability in a server it is enough to compromise all the components and cause huge monetary losses.

The user security level takes into account all the elements that exchanges can add to make it easier and safer for users entering and transacting on their exchange. These include things like 2FA, captcha, and strict password requirements.

Data Breach Exposes Thousands of Investors in a John McAfee-backed Cryptocurrency

If there is no captcha, for example, hackers can easily uncover a user’s password. 2FA significantly decreases the chances of an account being compromised since a telephone is needed as well as simply entering through one device. And when it comes to passwords they can simply be cracked with “brute force” if they are too weak.

Ongoing Crowdsource Security Assessment (OCSA) refers to whether an exchange has any processes in place to improve and develop their cybersecurity. This could be a Bug Bounty program that looks for white hat hackers to find vulnerabilities with the system, either in-house, or through a special platform like Hacken.

Avoid These Exchanges If You Want to Keep Your Funds

According to the research, the least safe of all the exchanges are:

These three exchanges all scored less than 5 out of a possible 10 points, based on the factors mentioned above. The safest exchanges are:

  • Kraken
  • Coinbase Pro
  • Binance and BitMEX

Only Kraken managed to achieve a score of above 9 out of 10, while Coinbase Pro racked up 8.74, and Binance and BitMEX achieved 8.50 each.

Almost Zero Ongoing Programs Throughout

Only 13 percent of all exchanges have ongoing Bug Bounty programs in place to improve their security. Another major weak point for these top exchanges is their  HTTP Security Headers with some 59 percent of exchanges missing 6-7 of the 7 headers required.

According to Ledger CEO Eric Larcheveque, crypto is the easiest asset in the world to steal. So keeping your funds in an exchange is really not advisable.

And as per the findings of this study, the top exchanges are among the lowest scoring when it comes to CSS, with Bithumb number 1 on CMC, and 98th in the CER top 100 crypto exchanges.

Do you agree with the study’s conclusions? Share your thoughts below!


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Led 18

ShapeShift Aided 60 Law Enforcement Inquiries in 2018, Erik Voorhees Reveals

It seems like ShapeShift has done exactly as its name suggests, changing form almost beyond recognition. Founder, CEO, and no fan of the SEC, Erik Voorhees’ exchange once existed without accounts. Now they have full KYC and hand over customer data upon request.


ShapeShift Shocked Crypto World With KYC

In what can only be described as a seismic shift in ethos, ShapeShift started implementing KYC in September 2018. They first sugarcoated it as a “membership program,” for which users would have to provide “basic personal details.” This would allow the exchange to reward them in the form of higher trading limits, cheaper fees, and the like.

Whichever way you spin it, however, the company was paving the way for full KYC/AML. And all customers would have to undergo it by the end of the year. Voorhees later admitted the decision was largely due to “regulatory hurdles.” It also stung the company financially, forcing them to lay off some 37 employees.

ShapeShift made a name for itself as a frictionless way to move crypto funds. But if the company was to compete in a regulatory environment that’s increasingly heating up, it would have to get compliant. Plain and simple.

ShapeShift and Law Enforcement

A blog post tweeted out by Voorhees yesterday may shock its users who thought they had complete anonymity before Q3. Making a reference to Kraken and how their transparency with law enforcement inspired ShapeShift to also help, they say that in 2018, the exchange aided in 60 law enforcement requests.

The below charts depict the various types of law enforcement requests that come in different forms from governments around the world.

ShapeShift Law Enforcement Requests

The company says:

In the United States, they often take the form of subpoenas… What probably won’t come as a surprise is that the United States makes up the largest number of these requests.

A subpoena is a court-ordered request that essentially forces a person or entity to take an action. This could either be to testify before a court or hand over documents. Voorhees is no stranger to these.

What’s interesting is that there was an influx of requests towards the end of quarter three and moving into quarter four. The company says that this is congruous with other crypto companies in the industry, citing Market Watch.

ShapeShift No Longer Anonymous in Anyway

For users who thought that moving crypto through ShapeShift was a viable way of facilitating criminal activity, KYC clipped their wings. And if they had any notion that their transactions were anonymous on ShapeShift at any point last year, they just go a wakeup call.

There’s a lot of scrutiny on cryptocurrencies as the technology and use evolves. ShapeShift has always held financial transparency as a core principle, and for this reason, we felt the world should know that these types of law enforcement requests happen – almost continuously.

What do you think about Shapeshift aiding law enforcement? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Shapeshift.io

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Led 15

XRP Overtakes Ethereum Despite Looming ‘Constantinople’ Upgrade

XRP has reclaimed the position of the second largest cryptocurrency by market cap from ETH just days before Ethereum’s ‘Constantinople’ hard-fork upgrade. 


Pre-Fork Drop

On January 16th, Ethereum is scheduled to undergo a network-wide system update called ‘Constantinople’. Among other things, the implementation of the upgrade will reduce the block reward from 3 ETH/block to 2 ETH/block.

Days before the event, however, Ethereum’s (ETH) 00 price experienced a notable decline.

In a matter of minutes, ETH price dropped by about 8 percent.

The movement caused ETH to fall behind Ripple (XRP), which reclaimed its spot as the second largest cryptocurrency by means of market capitalization, less than two weeks after Ethereum regained the number two spot from XRP.

In fact, the two have been neck and neck over the past few months in cryptocurrency market cap rankings.

XRP 00 also experienced a decrease around the same time, but the cryptocurrency experienced a relatively smaller loss of 2.5 percent against the USD.

Ethereum’s ‘Constantinople’

Constantinople is a system upgrade scheduled for implementation at block 7,080,000. Given the current average block time, the event should take place on January 16th, 2019.

One of the most discussed changes that the upgrade will cause is the reduction of block reward from the current 3 ETH/block to 2 ETH/block. This is also referred to as the “thirdening.” It’s the second time Ethereum’s block rewards have been reduced.

The first one was called “Byzantium” and it took place on October 16th, 2017. Back then, ETH surged by about 6 percent during the day, followed by the cryptocurrency’s late 2017 rally to an all-time high of about $1,400.

In total, the upgrade will integrate 5 Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs), which are geared toward tackling cost, speed, functionality, and mining issues.

Support For ‘Constantinople’

Several cryptocurrency exchanges have announced their support for the upcoming network upgrade.

Binance, HitBTC, Huobi, Bittrex, OKEx, CEX.IO, Cryptopia, and Poloniex, have all announced that they will support the Constantinople hard-fork.

Most of them advise users to give sufficient time for their deposits to be processed prior to the upgrade.

At the time of writing this, Gemini, Coinbase, and Bitfinex, haven’t yet declared their support for the upgrade.

What do you think about Constantinople and its impact on Ethereum? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock; TradingView

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Led 13

Our Man At CES 2019 – Part One: Finding Crypto

Where better to check out all the latest crypto-tech than the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Actually, as it turned out, finding crypto at CES wasn’t as easy as first expected.


Technology Unveiled at CES 2019

The Sunday before the show hosts a media event called CES Unveiled, featuring the Best of Innovation awards.

After three hours feigning interested in a whole range of tech startups latest offerings, I was beginning to lose hope. The closest I’d come to anything blockchain related was a point-of-sale device, which the exhibitor said: “could develop to include cryptocurrency payments in the future.”

CES

Just as the event was finishing I stumbled across the Archos booth, where they were showing a new hardware wallet, the Safe-T touch. I arranged to meet them again during the show proper, with the possibility that they might be able to source a review model.

On exiting the hall I was sequestered by a youth holding a sign saying CoinAgenda. Apparently there was a crypto-afterparty a short bus ride away. A quick straw poll of the guests suggested that nobody really knew what the party had to do with crypto. But there was an open bar, so nobody seemed overly concerned.

Conference Tracks

Monday was spent exploring Vegas, but I did chance upon this Bitcoin ATM in a Love Boutique.

Then Tuesday saw a full day of hosted panel-type discussions in the ‘Digital Money’ conference track. Access to these conference tracks required the purchase of an additional pass over and above the registration for the main event. Whilst I hadn’t found much to report from the Unveiled show, there was a rich vein of cryptocurrency and blockchain, playing a prominent part in events.

A diverse range of speakers and panel guests included Brock Pierce, Tim Draper, Michael Terpin of Transform group, and the Prince of the Netherlands. Sessions covered topics such as security, blockchain in the entertainment industry, regulation, and decentralization.

Last on the schedule was ‘The Second Annual Token Slugfest’, in which six companies gave four-minute pitches for their ICOs. This concluded with a clap-o-meter type judging of the pitches, and the crowning of an eventual winner.

Having spent the day bathed in the warm fuzzy glow of all things crypto, my spirits were rejuvenated. I planned to hit the show floor the next day to continue my search. Actually the (many) show floors. I hadn’t realized quite how big this CES thing was.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Bitcoinist

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Led 08

BIS Reports 70% of Central Banks Are Studying Cryptocurrencies

A new report published by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) shows that the majority of central banks are studying central bank digital currencies (CBDC). However, most of them are unlikely to issue any type of digital currency in the near future. 


CBDC ‘Unlikely’ in The Short Term

BIS published the results of a new survey on central banks studying the technology behind Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. A total of 63 banks have responded. They represent jurisdictions, which cover about 80 percent of the population of the world and more than 90 percent of its entire economic output.

The intention of the survey was to find out whether central banks currently are developing their own central bank digital currencies (CBDC) and how likely they are to issue them.

Of the 63 banks, 70 percent said that they are either currently working or will soon be engaged in work on CBDC.

However, this includes conducting conceptual research on the matter, sharing studies and views of developing a “common understanding of this new field of study.” According to the report, half of the respondents have moved to a more “hands-on” proof-of-concept activities in order to test new technologies.

The report reveals that 85 percent of the central banks are unlikely or very unlikely to issue any type of CBDC in the short term (1-3 years).

Back and Forth

In September, Bitcoinist reported that the European Central Bank (ECB) has no intentions of issuing a central bank digital currency.

ECB

It’s also arguable whether a central bank issued digital currency will even fit the mold of decentralized cryptocurrencies. In December, a couple of researches at the St. Louis Fed, outlined that:

Once you add a central bank and remove the “permissionless” network—with nodes that can leave and join as they wish, there isn’t much left to the cryptocurrency you started with.

Nevertheless, some central banks remain open to the idea of CBDC. The BIS report outlines that the Central Bank of Uruguay has completed a pilot programme on a general purpose CBDC.

At the same time, the governor of UK’s central bank Mark Carney has previously said that the Bank of England is open to the idea of a central bank issued digital currency.

What do you think of CBDCs? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


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Led 06

Seized Monero Up For Auction In UK First

An auction house in Northern Ireland is holding the UK’s first live online auction of seized cryptocurrency. The sale, of 167.69 monero coins will start at midday tomorrow (GMT).


First Sale Through Private Auction House

Wilsons Auctions, of Newtownabbey, have arranged the sale, which will allow participants to view the live price and place bids online. While governments across the world have held similar sales, this is the first by an independent auction house. A UK law enforcement agency seized the coins under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The monero (XMR) 00 in the auction comes in 10 lots of 16.769 XMR, which each have a market value of around £670 (US$850). However the first lot also comes with a private key to claim various fork coins. These include 167 Monero Classic, 167 Monero Original, 167 Monero O, and 1670 Monero V

Each Lot will time out in 2-minute intervals with the first lot ending at 12 noon.

The First Of Many

This will be the first in a series of auctions over the coming weeks. It is unclear how the privacy-focused coin was seized by the authorities but Wilsons recently won a contract with the Belgium Federal Government’s Asset Management Office. Under the contract, Wilsons will support investigators in Belgium and facilitate the secure seizure and storage of cryptocurrencies.

In addition, Wilsons claim to be working with over 40 government and law enforcement agencies, both nationally and internationally. Aidan Larkin, head of asset recovery at the company, told the Belfast Telegraph:

Following huge investment into our systems and infrastructure, we are able to offer government and law enforcement agencies throughout the UK, Ireland and internationally a secure solution so that the ever-increasing problem of seized cryptocurrencies can be managed by an auction company with significant experience dealing with seized assets.

Will the winning bid be above or below market spot price? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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