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Why the feds took down one of Bitcoin’s largest exchanges

Why the feds took down one of Bitcoin’s largest exchanges

Tracing Mt. Gox’s stolen coins led feds to Alexander Vinnik

  This week, one of Bitcoin’s largest and most notorious coin exchanges

was brought down by law enforcement — and police and prosecutors are now beginning to explain why. On Thursday, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against Alexander Vinnik — thought to be the operator, or one of the operators of Bitcoin exchange BTC-e — charging him with 21 counts of money laundering and other related financial crimes. The counts range from operating an unlicensed money transmittal business to a variety of money laundering charges, including laundering associated with ransomware payouts and a theft from the now-defunct Mt Gox exchange. More generally, the indictment paints BTC-e as a hub of criminal activity, laundering the proceeds of everything from drug trafficking to ransomware attacks.

As some suspected, Vinnik’s alleged crimes go beyond just operating the exchange. Feds believe he played a role in the theft of more 800,000 bitcoin — about $400 million at the time — from Mt. Gox, a staggering loss that ultimately shuttered the exchange. According to the indictment, 530,000 of those bitcoin ended up passing through wallets controlled by or associated with Vinnik, although his role in the larger scheme remains unclear.Vinnik’s alleged crimes go beyond just operating a Bitcoin exchange

Vinnik himself is in custody, arrested while on vacation in Greece, but the Bitcoin world is still sorting through the larger implications of his arrest. BTC-e was one of the last major exchanges outside the reach of conventional finance, and now that it’s gone, it’s unclear what might replace it. There are many legitimate uses of Bitcoin, but Bitcoin transactions have also become essential for online crime — whether it’s ransomware or Silk-Road-style online marketplaces. There will continue to be demand for exchanges like BTC-e, and ____. With feds directly targeting exchanges that don’t play by the book, the split between the two halves of Bitcoin is becoming starker and starker.

BTC-e, founded in 2011, always stood out as an anomaly among the major Bitcoin exchanges. Even a cursory look at BTC-e flagged it as a little strange. “Their exchange prices always seemed weird and out of line with every other exchange, and I had wondered why,” Matthew Green, a professor at Johns Hopkins University told The Verge in an email.

Nicholas Weaver wrote at Lawfare that BTC-e was noted for its “sketchy ownership and control.” The exchange was supposedly located in Eastern Europe, but there were no clues as to who ran it — until now.300,000 bitcoin from Mt. Gox went to wallets tied to “BTC-e administrative accounts” But the big surprise in the indictment is how closely tied BTC-e is to a massive theft at Mt. Gox, one that eventually bankrupted the exchange in 2014. Founded in 2010, Mt. Gox dominated the Bitcoin world for years, at one point processing 80 percent of all bitcoin-to-currency transactions. Mt. Gox first suffered a multimillion-dollar theft in June 2011. When the exchange collapsed in 2014, the equivalent of nearly half a billion dollars was unaccounted for.

On Wednesday, in the wake of the arrest of Vinnik, WizSec published a blogpost presenting the findings of an investigation into the Mt. Gox thefts that they have apparently been preparing for years. According to WizSec, the Mt. Gox hot wallet private keys were stolen sometime in 2011, and the hacker (or multiple hackers) continued to steal bitcoin through 2012 and 2013. The bitcoin were laundered through wallets controlled by Alexander Vinnik. The indictment claims that 300,000 bitcoin were stolen from Mt. Gox went directly to three connected BTC-e accounts “directly linked” to “BTC-e administrative accounts” that only BTC-e admins and operators could have had access to.

At least one of the accounts — under the name “Vamnedam” — was controlled by Vinnik and “others known and unknown.” (The “others known” are either not named in the indictment or have been redacted from the published document.)Many of the charges allege more straightforward money laundering" More bitcoin from the theft were sent to other Mt. Gox wallets and wallets at a third exchange — the now-defunct Tradehill, which operated out of San Francisco, California. From there, they eventually ended up at BTC-e, in an account that was directly controlled by Vinnik. WizSec also claims that the wallets that laundered Mt. Gox coins also handled “coins stolen from Bitcoinica, Bitfloor and several other thefts from back in 2011 and 2012.”

It’s not clear whether Vinnik was directly involved in the Mt. Gox theft, or how close he is to any of those previous thefts, or even the CryptoWall ransomware hackers whose funds he is accused of laundering. But when it comes to Mt. Gox, at least, BTC-e’s proximity to the theft is fairly suspicious.“Anybody who thought about this for a second understood that law enforcement was working on a case against BTC-e" While the Mt. Gox allegations are the most eye-catching, many of the charges that brought down BTC-e allege more straightforward money laundering. The very first count listed in the indictment is for operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business: a criminal charge based on failing to register with FinCEN, an intelligence network that’s mandatory for all financial companies dealing with US customers.

Participating in FinCEN comes with a range of requirements, from registration to internal anti-money laundering programs. Since 2013, it’s been clear that Bitcoin exchanges had to follow those same rules, and for the most part, exchanges have complied — and prosecutors haven’t been shy about filing charges against services that don’t. In recent years, BTC-e has been the largest Bitcoin exchange not registered with FinCEN, a distinction that made it an obvious target for law enforcement, even without Vinnik’s alleged Mt. Gox involvement. “Anybody who thought about this for a second understood that law enforcement was working on a case against BTC-e,” said Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center. “The question was just whether the government would catch them.”“designed so that criminals could effect financial transactions under multiple layers of anonymity”

Where other counts in the indictment focus on money transfers linked to theft and ransomware, the first two — operation of an unlicensed money transmitter and conspiracy to commit money-laundering — focus on the technological capabilities of BTC-e itself, claiming that the exchange had a “criminal design.” “BTC-e’s system was designed so that criminals could accomplish financial transactions with anonymity and thereby avoid apprehension by law enforcement or seizure of funds,” the indictment says, pointing out that BTC-e only required “a username, password, and an email address,” unlike “legitimate payment processors or digital currency exchangers.” The indictment also points to suspicious usernames like “ISIS,” “CocaineCowboys,” “blackhathackers,” “dzkillerhacker,” and “hacker4hire” as additional support for the money-laundering allegations.

The language in the indictment about BTC-e’s “criminal design” mimics the indictment against Liberty Reserve — an anonymous currency service taken down by law enforcement in 2013 — which also accused the online exchange of having a “criminal design” and a system “designed so that criminals could effect financial transactions under multiple layers of anonymity.” (The Liberty Reserve indictment also took the time to point out that account names on the site included “Russia Hackers” and “Hacker Accounts.”) BTC-e’s website claimed that they required customers to provide proof of identity — namely, a scanned ID card and a scanned utility bill or bank statement — and forbid any US customers, letting them off the hook for FinCEN registration. But neither turned out to be true, according to the indictment.“Exchanges will go one of two ways. Either they’ll clean up their act… or they’ll go fully underground.”

Now that BTC-e is down for good, it could have a profound impact on the criminal ecosystem more broadly. BTC-e handled about 5 percent of total Bitcoin transactions, but recent research found that as much as 95 percent of ransomware cashouts happened through the platform. With most comparably sized exchanges already registered under FinCEN, the takedown could make it both harder and riskier for criminals to cash out — something law enforcement seems to be counting on. In the same Lawfare piece, Weaver says he thinks taking down BTC-e “will probably prove more important than the AlphaBay and Hansa takedowns” in fighting online crime. For Bitcoiners less invested in law enforcement’s war on dark web marketplaces, the lesson is a more ambiguous one. Cornell professor Emin Gun Sirer says the focus on FinCEN compliance could lead to a lasting split in Bitcoin markets, as exchanges face the choice of whether to comply with US government demands.

“Exchanges will go one of two ways,” Sirer says. “Either they will clean their act, by first shopping for the most lenient jurisdictions and complying with relevant KYC/AML laws, or they'll go ‘fully underground,’ and operate with no rules, behind Tor and other anonymous communication technologies. The most colorful drama ahead will involve exchanges, such as Bitfinex, that operate in the gray zone, where they seem to neither comply with relevant laws nor go fully underground.” For a technology with a surrounding community built on libertarian ideas, that may be a difficult pill to swallow. But as the past week has made clear, those that don’t will be taking a very serious risk.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

Markethive

Bitcoin Cash: Why It’s Forking the Blockchain And What That Means

 

Bitcoin's scaling debate finally seems to be shaking out,

but some users aren't happy with the results. After a few years of debate, it was perhaps to be expected that at least some were going to come away empty-handed. Controversial scaling proposal Segwit2x tried to remedy this by joining two code change ideas – the code optimization Segregated Witness (SegWit) and a block size increase. Today, SegWit is just a couple of steps away from activating on bitcoin, but some bitcoin users are unhappy about the outcome.

Others who originally backed the Segwit2x proposal appear to be losing confidence in an eventual block size increase and are now taking matters into their own hands by making their own version of bitcoin – and they're doing so on a short timeline. On August 1, at precisely 12:20 UTC, the group claims that they will split off from bitcoin, creating a new cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Cash. Developer Calin Culianu, who's contributing code to an implementation of Bitcoin Cash, is one user who doesn't like SegWit, suspecting that others feel the same way.

Culianu told CoinDesk:

”If the Segwit2x agreement fails to implement the 2x part, which is not entirely unreasonable, and only ends up being being basically SegWit without the 2x, many miners will likely defect to Bitcoin Cash."

What is Bitcoin Cash?

So, what is it? And how does it differ from bitcoin? There are two main changes of note:

  • It increases the block size to 8 MB.
  • It removes SegWit, a code change that might activate on the bitcoin blockchain by the end of August.

Some, including a few of the project's supporters, call Bitcoin Cash an "altcoin," a term that usually denotes a fork of the software that creates a new cryptocurrency, with its own market. Indeed, the cryptocurrency is currently trading at $461, meaning it's worth about 18% of bitcoin's current price of $2,568, in an already-open futures market. Unlike other altcoins, though, Bitcoin Cash's transaction history would be the same as bitcoin's – at least up until the point of the split. So, if and when Bitcoin Cash splits off, users would have bitcoin on both blockchains.

Another difference is the project says it will support multiple implementations of its software, a move that's not surprising given the criticism that Bitcoin Core's software is too dominant on the bitcoin network. BitcoinABC is the first software to implement the Bitcoin Cash protocol, but the goal is for there to be many implementations. Culianu said that both Bitcoin Unlimited and Bitcoin Classic, other implementations that aim to increase bitcoin’s block size, are working on a version compatible with Bitcoin Cash. These might or might not be ready for August 1.

Who's involved?

So far, most bitcoin companies, mining pools, users and bitcoin developers seem uninterested in the effort. Yet, there are some eager supporters.Beijing-based mining firm ViaBTC, which boasts roughly 4% of bitcoin’s computing power, is the clear ringleader. The firm, which also operates an exchange, has become the first to list the cryptocurrency and also has plans to launch a new mining pool dedicated solely to Bitcoin Cash. (Though, so far, it's not clear how much of its 4% mining hashrate it will commit to the effort.) Asked if he believed Segwit2x would fulfill its roadmap, CEO Haipo Yang responded: "I doubt it."

Further, Bitcoin Cash has attracted support from some users who want a block size increase, as well as developers of other proposals such as Bitcoin Classic and Bitcoin Unlimited. What might be more surprising, though, is who's not involved. Even former supporters, including mining firms Bitcoin.com and Bitmain, seem hesitant to back the effort. For now, they remain committed to controversial scaling proposal Segwit2x. Mining company Bitmain even inspired Bitcoin Cash. Yet, the firm said that they only planned on going through with making the switch under certain conditions. Still, the firm might support both Segwit2x and Bitcoin Cash in the future.

In a PSA statement, Bitcoin.com said that it will allow miners in its pool to choose if they want to mine the Bitcoin Cash token BCC. For now, though, it will mine on Segwit2x chain, though it said it "will immediately shift all company resources to supporting Bitcoin Cash exclusively" if the block size increase part of SegWit, scheduled for roughly three months from now, falls through.

Wait, but why?

There are a few reasons users and mining pools might like to break off from bitcoin:

  • These users want an increase in bitcoin's block size parameter, and believe that the cryptocurrency's future depends on it.
  • SegWit is likely going to activate soon and some users want to avoid the feature.
  • There's a possibility that Segwit2x's block size parameter increase will ultimately fall through.

This mix of ideological and technical reasons was also on display in conversations with users. When asked by CoinDesk what BitcoinABC's goal is,

Culianu responded:

"To save bitcoin. We want to scale bitcoin up so that it won't die. It's already a bit sick and dying."

What's different here?

Many other efforts over the last couple of years have said they would split off from bitcoin, if they gained enough support from those operating the computers that secure the network. But, to date, no group has actually carried through with this plan so far. Bitcoin Cash might be unique in that it's actually committing to a deadline to split bitcoin into two, and that deadline is less than a week away.

If miners and users indeed go ahead with the split, it would mark the first time a cryptocurrency split off from bitcoin, carrying with it bitcoin’s transaction history. Like past efforts intended to replace the bitcoin used today with a new bitcoin, however, Bitcoin Cash has the same goal, but it seems willing to wait and see if users join the effort. Rather than call it bitcoin, ViaBTC, as well as a group of bitcoin companies in China, signed an agreement to label it a "competitive currency," not the "real" bitcoin. The move could set up the split to happen more quickly, as in the past exchanges have expressed confusion over how to handle a fork.

What's next?

If a new cryptocurrency splits off from the main bitcoin network, it will mark a first. So, some users are curious to see what happens. Still, without much support from miners and users, it might not end up having that much of an impact on the course of the main network. Nonetheless, it might if be worth watching if the second half of Segwit2x falls through. That's when it might see some more supporters.

Culianu, for example, concluded on an optimistic note:

”My secret gut feeling is Bitcoin Cash may surprise all of us. It is not entirely impossible that it will be the de-facto bitcoin after a few months. The much roomier 8 MB block space is attractive."

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

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Components of a Magnetic Inbound Marketing Strategy

Components of a Magnetic Inbound Marketing Strategy

Email marketing, SEO, content creation, social media, influencer outreach, lead nurturing…

Yes, inbound marketing encompasses them all. And let’s face it – that’s enough to inspire fear in the steeliest and most seasoned of digital marketers. With so many tactics to consider and too many leads to deliver it’s easy to lose focus of what you’re trying to achieve. That’s where a well crafted plan comes into play. Below we’ll reveal the strategic 7 step process that will help you deliver a customer-warming, boss-pleasing, prospect-loving strategy that’s achievable, realistic and bang on target.

Define Your Personas

Inbound marketing is all about your customers – you have no business in the um… business, if you center your plan around any other silly tactics, tricks or gimmicks. The first step of your plan should, therefore, focus on understanding what makes your customers click, tick and get excited. Get to the heart of your customers’ thoughts, behaviors, problems, needs and desires by creating well-fleshed-out, fully-defined and real-to-life personas.

Use HubSpot’s (free) Make My Persona Tool to create personas worth referencing. Your entire inbound marketing strategy should be built around your core personas – you’ll storm ahead of your competition if you consult these fictional customers at every stage of your planning process. This includes when you’re creating blog posts, crafting email campaigns and conducting keyword research – you can even bring them into your brainstorm meetings to add real insight and depth to your ideas.

Discover Your Customer’s Triggers

Pain Points

You need to understand at which points your customers interact with your messages. It is important to identify the pain points your customers experience and the problems they encounter to make them search for your product or service. This core insight alone can add true depth to your messages. Think about it – identifying your customers’ pain points enables you to target people with both reason and emotion at a time that makes sense to them. You’re basing your messages on real solutions rather than assumptions. And make no mistake about it – your competitors will assume rather than take the time to identify real solutions for real persona problems. That way you’ll win.

Different Needs for Different Stages

You’ve probably heard many digital marketers talk about the concept of context. Not all of your customers have the same needs – some arrive at different points of the buying funnel. When mapping out your pain points it’s essential to add context by considering the needs and desires of your different customer types at each separate stage of the operation.

Set Your Inbound Marketing Objectives

You will need to determine from the outset which inbound marketing objectives you would like your strategy to achieve. These should support and help you achieve both your digital marketing objectives and your business objectives. For example, if lead generation is the most important objective for your business, your inbound marketing plan should be centered around generating leads. And every tactic you employ should support your lead generation mission.

As with every digital marketing plan, your inbound marketing metrics need to be SMART. That means strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. If in doubt, identify the information your CEO would want reported back to him/her in the boardroom – you need to answer the ‘what’, ‘how many’ and ‘when’ of your plan. For example, ‘We’re going to generate 200 new leads in a quarter.’ Each KPI needs to be realistic and achievable based on the success of past campaigns along with the predicted success of your inbound plan.

Define Your Content Strategy

Content is an integral part of inbound marketing. You will, therefore, need to create a content marketing plan to form the beating heart of your inbound marketing strategy. This is how you will keep your customers engaged with your brand and nourished with rich and valuable information. This is how you will keep your name on their minds at the point when they’re ready, willing and able to buy.

The Objectives

Your content strategy objectives should be SMART and need to support your inbound marketing objectives. Maybe they’ll be similar. If your inbound marketing objective is lead generation, for example, your content strategy should certainly support this.

Competitor Analysis

The purpose of this phase is not to copy your competitors but to define how you can be better. Research your competitors content marketing and investigate what they get up to on social media using a social media monitoring tool like Hootsuite. Sign up to their newsletter so you can partake in their lead nurturing campaigns and use a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to track backlinks and discover how your competitors score on their overall SEO performance.

The Content

First it’s important to define how your content will help your customers. Will it educate them? Inspire them? Entertain them? Then you can decide on the types of content you’ll create and the topics you’ll tackle. For example, will you concentrate solely on blogging or will you try video marketing and webinars? Will you create long form posts or opt for shorter but more regular features? Will you seek industry expert opinions? More questions to consider at this phase include: Is lead generation important for your business and if so will you create gated whitepapers to help you generate new, quality leads? If you have a shoe company will you stick to writing about shoes or will you venture into the area of fashion and lifestyle?

Distribution

It’s equally important to create a plan for distributing your content. Will you enlist the help of industry influencers or will your trial paid promotion options like LinkedIn advertising, Facebook and Twitter ads or third party platforms?

Define Your Lead Nurturing Plan

Sometimes your customers will discover your website when they’re not quite ready to buy yet. Maybe they need more questions answered, maybe they need more time to decide whether it’s the right product/service for them, maybe they want to research competitor offerings or maybe they don’t have the money saved at that point in time. Whatever their reason for stalling, it’s your job to keep them warmed up for the sales team to prospect or until they’re ready to buy. Automated email trigger campaigns provide the perfect means to nurture leads. It gives you the ideal opportunity to keep prospects engaged with your content, your brand and your mission. You can segment your lead database based on the action your prospects took to give you their details. You can then set about creating a series of tailored and relevant messages.

Establish Your Influencer Outreach Agenda

Building quality relationships with key industry influencers is one of the most important components for inbound marketing. That’s because these people hold significant reach and authority in your industry. They have already established trust and have hundreds of thousands of social media followers – followers who look just like your customers.

The Target List

Use a tool like BuzzSumo to help you identify and create an outreach list of potential influencer targets. Then you can set about creating mutually beneficial relationships with these industry influencers. Always give more than you take – offer value and lots of it well in advance of asking for anything back. Once you have established a true connection with these influencers you can ask for a quick quote and a potential share in the politest and most humble manner possible.

Guest Blogging Plan

It’s also important to define your guest blogging approach at this stage. Research potential relevant and influential blogs in your niche and read the submission guidelines. You’ll can create a pitch at this stage if you wish but you will have to make sure it’s customized and relevant for every publication you approach. Read this guide ‘Influencer Cheat Sheet: How to Connect, Engage & Get What You Want’ for more tips on how to perfect your personal approach.

Decide How to Analyse & Report

Now that you have your inbound marketing plan in place you will need to decide upon the tools you’ll use to report on the progress of your objectives and the success of your KPIs. Will you, for example, use Google Analytics to track your goals and conversions? Will you use BuzzSumo to track the success of your content marketing and break down your shares by platform? Will you use Moz’s Open Site Explorer to monitor your SEO progress? Want to become an Inbound Marketing Specialist? Our Online Professional Diploma in Search Marketing is created, validated and accredited by industry experts and will give you the specialist knowledge needed to thrive in the field.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

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Wall Street stunned over AMD’s blowout results due to cryptocurrency mining demand

Wall Street stunned over AMD’s blowout results due to cryptocurrency mining demand

  • Wall Street is surprised over AMD's strong earnings and guidance due to digital currency mining demand for its graphics cards.
  • AMD shares have rallied 102 percent through Tuesday in the previous 12 months compared with the S&P 500's 14 percent return.
  • That performance ranks No. 4 in the entire S&P 500, according to FactSet.

Investors are mesmerized with AMD's impressive second quarter

as cryptocurrency mining demand drove the company's financial results above Wall Street's expectations. The chipmaker reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings and guidance Tuesday. Its shares surged more than 10 percent in after-hours trading following the report and were up more than 9 percent in early regular trading Wednesday.

"AMD turned in a solid beat to our and consensus estimates as the company's new Ryzen desktop CPU ramped into production and GPU demand outstripped supply," Stifel analyst Kevin Cassidy wrote in a note to clients Wednesday. "While management wasn't specific on how much, the GPU revenue upside was driven by cryptocurrency applications."
AMD shares have rallied 102 percent through Tuesday in the previous 12 months compared with the S&P 500's 14 percent return. That performance ranks No. 4 in the entire S&P 500, according to FactSet. Cryptocurrency miners use graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia to "mine" new coins, which can then be sold or held for future appreciation. AMD traditionally has a better reputation for mining cryptocurrencies.

Ethereum cryptocurrency is up over 2,400 percent year-to-date through Wednesday, while Bitcoin is up about 160 percent this year, according to data from industry website CoinDesk. In June, AMD shares jumped after the company told CNBC that the dramatic rise in digital currency prices has driven demand for its graphics cards. At the time, major computer hardware retailers had sold out of AMD's recently launched RX 570 and RX 580 models. Digital currency mining was the key topic during AMD's earnings conference call with Wall Street Tuesday evening. Analysts asked company management three times for clarification on the magnitude and sustainability of cryptocurrency mining demand.

One analyst noted the company is working to mitigate future downside risk and is not incorporating continued digital currency mining outperformance in its guidance. "Crypto mining helped stimulate demand for AMD GPUs in Q2, which we think could translate to a risk should cryptocurrency values decline, AMD is working to manage the crypto risk by targeting supply to the core GPU gaming market, and working with some of its AIB [add in board] partners to offer specific feature sets to segment the market between gaming & mining," Jefferies analyst Mark Lipacis wrote Wednesday. "AMD is not including upside from mining in its outlook."

Lipacis reiterated his buy rating on the company and raised his price target to $19 from $16, representing 35 percent upside from Tuesday's close. To be sure, some analysts are still skeptical on AMD after its big run. "We were surprised at the aftermarket reaction for the stock," Morgan Stanley analyst Joseph Moore wrote Wednesday. "We continue to be somewhat cynical on the long term intrinsic value of the stock, despite being excited about Zen and maintaining numbers that are above the Street. As street numbers start to catch up, absolute valuation levels are going to matter more." Moore reiterated his equal-weight rating and $11 price target for AMD shares.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

Markethive

Bitcoin Virus ‘Has Infected 30% Of Russian Devices’: Putin Advisor

Bitcoin Virus ‘Has Infected 30% Of Russian Devices’: Putin Advisor

 

Russia’s chief presidential advisor on the Internet

has stated a Bitcoin mining virus has infected up to 30 percent of Russian computers. Speaking in interviews with RNS and RBC, Herman Klimenko said that although infection rates varied by region and device, it involved at least 20 percent of machines. “In regions with lower bandwidth instances are reduced, but we’re looking at 20 to 30 percent of devices being infected – iPhones and Macs are less prone,” he commented.

The figures, if true, are alarming, yet Klimenko’s assessment has already come under public criticism. Speaking to RBC in light of the findings, Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev called them “rubbish.” “These viruses appear for example on devices of users who have given permission for them to start running,” he said, adding the issue was not about Bitcoin mining but stolen credit card details and similar characteristics. Klimenko, meanwhile, also chimed in on the motives of the hackers behind the recent international WannaCry cyberattack. “In the case of WannaCry, the perpetrators managed to accrue around $50-100,000,”

he told RNS.

“I’m therefore convinced the perpetrators of WannaCry were children because they do not understand where they can earn money in the Internet sector.”

Earlier this month, Russian research lab Group-IB warned of a domestic Android virus circulating consumer devices which would gain access to and empty any associated bank accounts.

Bitcoin, Altcoins Meet London Art As ‘Gray’ Artsy Nets $50 Million
 

 

London’s “tradition-bound” Cork Street art empire is getting an innovation injection

as customers meet Bitcoin and even Monero as payment options. As the BBC reports Tuesday, one gallery, Dadiani Fine Arts, has begun accepting cryptocurrency in what its owner describes as an “intuitive” move. "This is not a demand-driven decision at all, it's intuitive based on the way things are going," Elena Dadiani told the publication. With the global art market worth around $60 bln and average purchase amounts high, the benefits of additional payment channels are obvious. The gallery is not stopping at Bitcoin; Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Dash, Litecoin, and soon Monero will also be featured. "For me, the Blockchain is going to be the biggest thing since the Internet,” nonetheless hinting she intends to convert at least part of the payments to fiat currency as a matter of course.

Like Blockchain, meanwhile, the art industry itself is undergoing rapid change. Artsy, the online art marketplace seeing huge expansion, this week announced the closure of a $50 mln funding round, something already causing suspicion in a manner strikingly similar to some recent Ethereum-based ICOs. “The news has left many in the industry with two questions,” industry news resource Artnet reports describing the platform as a “gray market.” “First, since Artsy has chosen to keep its actual valuation pitch-black to the public, how much is the company really worth? Second, and just as important, how is that valuation justifiable?”

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

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Delaware Governor Signs Blockchain Legislation Into Law

 

The governor of the US state best known as the home

to a majority of the country's incorporated businesses has officially signed a bill making it explicitly legal for those entities to use blockchain for stock trading and record-keeping. After weeks of anticipation, Delaware governor John C. Carney Jr. signed the bill on Friday, effectively bringing closure to an effort that began in May 2016 when his predecessor, Jack Markell, launched an initiative to promote blockchain efficiencies in government.

First publicized in March this year and introduced formally in May, the bill, which amends Delaware's General Corporation Law, saw a swift passage by state lawmakers. The move further comes weeks after it passed a key vote in the state legislature, a milestone advocates sought to label as "historic" given the state's history and the increase in experimentation that could result from legal certainty. Just how impactful could the law be? Industry analysts suggest that by giving the greenlight to experimentation, the law could make it possible for the custodianship, issuance, redemption and trading to take place on a distributed ledger.

Equity Markets on a Blockchain: Delaware's Potential Impact

Noelle Acheson is a 10-year veteran of company analysis and the author of CoinDesk Weekly, a custom-curated newsletter delivered every Sunday, exclusively to CoinDesk subscribers.Last week, Delaware passed amendments to state legislation that, once signed into law by the end of July, will give corporations registered in the state the right to issue and trade shares on a blockchain platform.While this may on the surface sound like a small modification, it is a big deal. Companies and exchanges around the world have been investigating how distributed ledgers could help with issuance, execution and settlement (some have even issued shares on a blockchain). However, they have been doing so under a cloud of regulatory uncertainty, unsure of whether the stakeholders – including the relevant governing bodies – would allow the innovations to take hold.

For the first time, businesses will be able to experiment with new processes knowing they have the protection of the law. This is likely to pave the way for the entire life cycle of a share – the issuance, custodianship, trading, shareholder communication and redemption – to be enacted on a blockchain. The result could be a reframing of the global securities network, one of the cornerstones of our modern capitalist economy. The equity infrastructure used in most markets today evolved around paper-based issuance, and essentially has the same conceptual backbone as in the 17th century. Processes are complex, involving several steps, each with fees. Centralized clearing creates systemic risk by presenting a single point of failure, and since in most jurisdictions legal ownership rests with the transfer agents, true ownership can be obfuscated – in turn, this can violate rules that limit shareholdings. Furthermore, a paper-based system – even a digitized one – is vulnerable to fraud, and centralized databases can suffer security breaches.

Settle for less

With a blockchain system, investors and issuers can interact directly with each other, in theory cutting out brokers, custodians and clearing houses, thus reducing transaction costs. Settlement can happen within hours instead of days, releasing funds and lowering carrying fees. Legal ownership would be restored to investors and companies, and would be more transparent. Dividends and stock splits could be automated, reducing cost and error.

Also, a distributed ledger platform would remove the single point of failure risk, help make proxy voting more transparent and accurate and make it easier to manage cap tables as well as collateralisation. There are disadvantages. Transparency, for one: not all investors want their positions to be visible. Error resolution is another: mistakes happen, and on an immutable ledger, how do you fix them? What’s more, counterparty risk doesn’t go away, it just shifts. But as work on services and solutions picks up in the light of regulatory approval, so will the development of solutions.

Share the benefits

That this milestone was reached in Delaware is significant. The state is 49th in the nation in terms of size and 45th in population, but it boasts two-thirds of US listed companies and 85% of IPOs. It has more registered legal entities than it has residents. This is due to its relatively flexible business legislation and tax framework, and to its reputation for being a standards bearer in corporate law. What’s more, the recent amendment is part of a larger initiative to streamline corporate and governmental processes. The Delaware Blockchain Initiative, launched over a year ago, commits the state’s government to incorporating blockchain technology in the handling of official documents such as land titles, birth and death certificates, professional licenses, collateral claims and company filings.

So, here we have the US state with the largest concentration of registered corporations, and a reputation for supporting innovation, offering businesses the chance to test a new form of financing and governance. While adoption will probably be slow, at least at first, the pace is likely to pick up as the benefits become even more apparent. Other jurisdictions could follow suit to avoid losing a chunk of their domiciled businesses. And the structure of financial markets could start to gradually, but fundamentally, change. While the Delaware amendment won’t create a market revolution overnight, it does raise a question which highlights the systemic importance of the move: Will traditional equity markets still exist 10 years from now?

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

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Bitcoin is booming because a split in the cryptocurrency has been narrowly averted

Bitcoin is booming because a split in the cryptocurrency has been narrowly averted

 

Bitcoin has risen as much as 28% over the past 24 hours,

driven by news that an imminent split in the cryptocurrency has been narrowly averted. The price of bitcoin nearly hit $3,000 late on July 20, within spitting distance of its all-time high, set last month. The remarkable rally took place as bitcoin’s miners coalesced around one of several competing proposals that would increase the number of transactions that can be processed on the network. The issue has gained urgency in recent months, because one of the measures, known as Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 148 (BIP 148), would lead to a split in the cryptocurrency on Aug. 1 if implemented.

The price rallied as bitcoin’s miners began broadcasting their support for a less radical proposal, BIP 91, in increasing numbers yesterday. This proposal avoids the so-called “hard fork” by stopping short of altering the hard-coded limit on transaction capacities that is the bone of contention within the bitcoin world, while offering slightly enlarged transaction capacity. The threshold for activating BIP 91 is 80% of all the processing power on the bitcoin network. That was achieved in the early hours of July 21. Currently 97% of the processing power on the network, which is largely controlled by miners, is voting in favor of BIP 91.

But it’s not settled yet. Although enough miners have signaled support for their preferred proposal—a process akin to broadcasting a preference over the network—enough of them must now run the software that implements this proposal within the next two and a half days. Failure to maintain a simple majority of the processing power, also called the hash rate, would mean BIP 91 does not activate. This would put the bitcoin world back at square one, with just a week to go before the potentially destabilizing hard fork on Aug. 1.

There are also still signs that the fundamental disagreement that led to this showdown—a “civil war,” as some call it—is far from resolved. The fight is between bitcoin’s miners and the influential programmers who contribute to bitcoin’s open-source code, known as the “core developers.” The core devs say bitcoin is at risk of being controlled by a cartel of miners who, by virtue of their huge investments in processing power, are able to dictate what changes are made to the code—anathema to bitcoin’s decentralized founding ethos. But the miners, and other heavy users, like payment processors, point out that the bitcoin network could be abandoned if it doesn’t enlarge its limited capacity soon.

The architect of BIP 91, James Hilliard, a miner himself, told industry publication CoinDesk: “This is where mining centralization makes things easier, because I can just message everybody on WeChat and help them if needed.” That may be so, but it won’t comfort the parts of the bitcoin world concerned with centralization of the cryptocurrency, even if the current fix to bitcoin’s problems goes according to plan.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

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Thousands of Japanese Retailers, Restaurants May Halt Accepting Bitcoin

Thousands of Japanese Retailers, Restaurants May Halt Accepting Bitcoin

 

More than 5,000 retail stores and restaurants in Japan may stop accepting Bitcoin

as a form of payment starting Aug. 1, 2017. This possibility could push through if Bitcoin payment processors will halt their services.

Bitcoin payment processors plans

The retailers and restaurants accept Bitcoin through payment processors bitFlyer and Coincheck. The latter is also partnering with Recruit Lifestyle in order to expand its operation and accept more than 260,000 additional stores across Japan as clients. BitFlyer, however, has announced that it could stop Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals, along with its payment services from July 31 to Aug. 2. Coincheck has separately announced that it will temporarily halt Bitcoin deposit and withdrawal starting Aug. 1.

The company says:

“On Aug. 1, 2017, we may temporarily suspend Bitcoin deposit and withdrawal for Coincheck exchange and payment services to protect users assets…The resume date is unspecified, but we expect several hours to several days. Also, if we decide that a Bitcoin fork will not take place on Aug. 1, 2017, 12 am, the suspension of services will not happen.”

Japanese companies likely to be affected

The move by the government of Japan to recognize the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a legal tender in the country has led to the increase in the number of stores and retailers which use it in their operations. Among them are restaurant chain Heichinrou, eyeglass retail chain Meganesuper and the electronics retail group Bic Camera.

Post-split

The plans by the payment processors and the various Japanese establishments were triggered by impending developments in Bitcoin platform. These include the planned scaling for Segregated Witness (SegWit) and the possible split of the platform. The plans to temporarily halt Bitcoin payments, however, are expected to have limited effects on the operations of the retailers and restaurants as their businesses are mainly transacted in cash or credit cards.

Tim Draper Acquires 10% of Anti-Email Spam Blockchain Project Credo

 

Bitcoin investor Tim Draper has purchased a 10 percent share of Credo,

a project that aims to eliminate spam emails. Draper invested ahead of Credo’s scheduled public initial coin offering (ICO). Credo is an initiative of the company BitBounce.

Draper’s credentials as an investor

Draper is widely-known in the cryptocurrency market as an aggressive investor in the leading digital currency Bitcoin. He has already bought a large amount of Bitcoins from different Silk Road auctions. He also actively participated in various ICO projects involving cryptocurrencies. The Bancor and Tezos ICOs were among the successful digital currency projects that were supported by Draper.

Draper’s decision to invest in digital currencies is mainly driven by his desire to diversify his portfolio of investments. Even though there are significant risks in investing in cryptocurrency ICOs, Draper has shown his willingness to take them as long as the projects’ proponents can successfully convince him on the feasibility of their proposals.

Operational concept

The concept of the Credo project is to use tokens as a payment method for an email service provided by BitBounce. The BitBounce email service allows users to send direct email messages to the leaders of various industries. The service also includes incentives to ensure that the recipients of the emails will answer them. This project appears to be a sound one as BitBounce already has more than 7,750 active users of its email service so far. The company also appears to be processing more than 42,000 emails per day.

On its way to yet another successful ICO?

It is not yet certain if the Credo project will be successfully launched, survive and turn profits in the near future. The support and endorsement of well-known investors like Draper, however, is a proof of its sound concept. Let us wait and see if Draper’s public support of Credo will result in the success of the project’s scheduled ICO.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

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Utility Settlement Coin Creator to Open-Source Modular Blockchain Software

 

The company behind the Utility Settlement Coin project,

one of the first designed to enable central banks to utilize distributed ledger tech, is preparing a coming-out party of sorts. After working in almost complete secret on what founder and CEO Robert Sams calls "foundational technology," venture-backed blockchain startup Clearmatics will soon begin a rather unusual roll-out of new offerings for the open-source community. In a new exclusive interview, Sams said he plans to share the first of several waves of software with the financial sector before the year’s end.

He told CoinDesk:

"We view the technology – the actual source code – in a very modular way, and we think that not only is this a space that definitely, firmly belongs in the open-source domain, the approach to the development of the software needs to be more modular."

While little is being revealed about the technology itself, Sams contrasted his platform with bitcoin, which relies on an unspent-transaction model, and ethereum, which uses an account-based system. Instead, Sams said the yet-to-be named software will be "tightly coupled" implementations of various components, distributed consensus algorithms and networking stacks. He compared the modular architecture to the various components of the Linux operating system, saying the software would be coupled with standards for how users implement the solution. "You'll see over time less and less discussion about this or that platform," said Sams. "And more and more discussion … on how to put these components together to conform to a set of standardizations."

Twin projects

While Sams acknowledged that his work with the Utility Settlement Coin, his most well-known project, "informs" the soon-to-be-revealed open-source code, he made explicit that they are distinct from each other. Last year, Clearmatics unveiled a Utility Settlement Coin consortium comprised of BNY Mellon, Deutsche Bank, Santander and ICAP – since rebranded as NEX. Sams said the group recently completed the second phase of its work to help central banks and other financial infrastructure providers capitalize on blockchain, but that the results would remain proprietary.

While the Utility Settlement Coin project is largely focused on the business logic required to help legacy financial infrastructures increase efficiency using blockchain technology, Sams said the open-source work itself will largely consist of technology and an early version of related standards.

Sams concluded:

"The open-sourcing of Clearmatics is not the open-sourcing of Utility Settlement Coin."

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
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There’s a new way for sophisticated investors to get in on the cryptocurrency craze

There's a new way for sophisticated investors to get in on the
cryptocurrency craze

  • Coinlist, founded by Protocol Labs and AngelList, is a new exchange that standardizes the initial coin offering process.
  • Filecoin will be the first company to run its token sale through the Coinlist platform.
  • Coinlist offers a more streamlined ICO process that could potentially attract more sophisticated investors to the digital currency world.
    

Despite their surging popularity,

initial coin offerings for digital currency start-ups remain almost entirely unregulated, leaving many institutional investors on the sidelines waiting for more clarity. They're unsure if the cryptocurrencies should be treated as securities, which would subject them to heavier regulations and scrutiny from the SEC. Often the companies have no product to back, but just the promise of one.

Filecoin is seeking to attract sophisticated money managers with a new type of offering. The project, developed by start-up Protocol Labs, said on Wednesday that it will launch its ICO this month on Coinlist, a new platform it created with cooperation from AngelList, a service that connects startups and investors. "The SEC is very well aware of this whole market and I think they're going to appear at some point and will try to fix it," Juan Benet, the founder of Filecoin, told CNBC.

Rather than making crypto tokens available to anyone, Coinlist is open only to accredited investors — those making over $200,000 a year or have a net worth of over $1 million — gating out the less sophisticated investors who tend to drive more volatility. It also uses a new security protocol called SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) that was designed to meet existing securities regulations.Filecoin's technology makes it easy for people to buy and sell unused storage space on their personal computers and uses blockchain technology to verify and track those transactions. The tokens being sold in the offering can be used to buy storage or they can be held as an investment. Filecoin plans to sell up to 10% of its tokens through this offering, though it did not disclose how much it's trying to raise.

Filecoin's ICO represents a new development in the digital currency space. ICOs have drawn huge attention, with more than $1.2 billion raised this year alone, according to Autonomous NEXT, but they've been riddled with problems. Just this week, the CoinDash ICO lost $7 million to hackers. Benet said Coinlist's platform could help broaden the accredited investor base by enabling more compliant offerings. It has a standardized profile page for each sale, and a unified payment structure that can be used across the platform. It could also help attract more U.S. investors who are often blocked out from directly investing ICOs. "It makes the whole experience more accessible," he said.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

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