Dubai Plans to Launch 20 Blockchain-Based Services in 2018

Dubai is already running pilot programs in a few government departments but hopes to implement 20 blockchain-based initiatives in this year.

Dubai is making good on its nickname as the ‘City of the Future’. Its government had previously formed Smart Dubai, an agency created with the aim of making Dubai the most technologically advanced, and smartest city in the world. Part of that journey is to include blockchain-based services into a number of sectors.

Both IBM and Consensys have entered into strategic partnerships with the agency in advisory roles in order to help realize the goals of Smart Dubai.

Blockchain Is Not Just for Bitcoin

According to The National, Aisha Bint Buti bin Bisher, who is the director general of Smart Dubai, believes that “blockchain will improve people’s experience.”

While at the Unlock Blockchain Forum, she went on to explain the implementation of this technology in the city:

The applications are in various fields, some of them are in RTA, road and transport, some of them are in energy, health and education. These 20-use cases are under pilot, and we are looking forward to see the results so we can scale it.

Aisha Bint Buti bin Bisher

The Future Is Now

Even though the initial deadline for the launch was scheduled for 2020, Bisher is confident that it can be completed this year. In fact, blockchain technology is already being used for land registry transactions.

Other government sectors, such as Department of Naturalization and Residency Dubai, are also running pilot programs. Additional departments, including Dubai Customs, are collaborating with IBM on future initiatives.

The agency has said that blockchain technology will improve service delivery in government by saving more than 25 million hours of productivity every year.

Bisher also said:

While others were still debating the prospects of this new technology, we went to work and today we are making Dubai the blockchain capital of the world, and we have already begun.

In addition, she touched on the blockchain benefits that the city is already experiencing:

Dubai broke ground when the world reluctantly approached this technology. Already, blockchain is rewriting how we deal with city services. In just a handful of years, blockchain has transformed key aspects of our city.

Disruption Breeds Innovation

While at the same conference, Ramez Dandan, who is the national technology officer at Microsoft Gulf, discussed how the disruptive technology is an exciting addition to the business sector:

Investment in blockchain across the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] and beyond is ramping up at an impressive rate as organizations recognize it for the disruptive technology that it is.

He further explained:

We strongly believe in the technology’s immense potential for enterprises of all scales and industries. It allows them to share business processes with suppliers, customers and partners, leading to new opportunities for multi-party collaboration and eventually exciting new business models.

Governments in the Arabian Gulf, including the United Arab Emirates, are looking to invest in technology to substantiate oil revenue, the latter of which has suffered recently due to oil price declines.

Do you think Dubai will successfully launch all 20 blockchain-based initiatives in 2018? Which other cities or countries do you think will follow suit? Let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Chris Whiteoak/The National, Pexels

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Companies Deny Having Bitcoin or Blockchain Services Amid China’s Clampdown

Companies Deny Having Bitcoin or Blockchain Services Amid China’s Clampdown

After Xunlei was questioned about Initial Miner Offerings (IMO), multiple public companies clarified that they did not and will not tap into the blockchain space. A Shenzhen-based bitcoin miner manufacturer issued a statement saying the business hasn’t generated much profit for the company.

Also Read:China’s Regulatory Authority Warns About Risks of Initial Miner Offerings

Produce Bitcoin Miners, But Not A Blockchain Company

Shenzhen Kaifa Technology (KAIFA), a global leading electronics manufacturing services provider, produced 150,000 bitcoin miners this January for domestic mining companies. On January 14 the company voluntarily disclosed their financial and other information via a statement on the company’s website clarifying that it is not a blockchain company.

We have noticed the sentiments about blockchain are very high, but the company has yet to research and develop the technology. KAIFA is a bitcoin miner manufacturer for domestic bitcoin mining giants, but the business is not profitable as it was just started three months ago.

KAIFA’s shares (000021.SZ) rose over 15% in the past three days as public regards KAIFA as a blockchain technology. The company noted that they are working on possible cooperation over blockchain projects with well-known companies, but there are fuzzy uncertainties to consider.

Wait, We Have More to Deny

Companies Deny Having Bitcoin or Blockchain Services Amid China’s Clampdown

Earlier this month, rumors said that IDG Capital and Blockchain company Circle will invest in Sichuan Shuangma Cement Company (stock:000935) to develop blockchain, which has put the company in the spotlight. The Sichuan-based company on Sunday announced that they have no intention to develop blockchain-related services and have no links with IDG Capital and Circle.

U9 Game last Friday released an announcement that they are only reporting and sharing what’s going on in the blockchain industry on its news site. The company stressed that they have no plans to raise funds for any blockchain projects.

Another two public enterprises also ruled out possibilities to race in blockchain and warned investors the risks of blockchain projects.

What do you think of these Blockchain phobia? Are they really rule out the cutting-edge technology? Leave your comments below.   

Images via Shutterstock.

Tired of those other forums on the subject of Bitcoin? Check

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Some UK Mortgage Lenders Refuse to Serve Bitcoin Investors

Some UK Mortgage Lenders Refuse to Serve Bitcoin Investors

British bitcoin investors trying to use their earnings to buy real estate are facing difficulties in securing loans from mortgage lenders. Several building societies refuse to work with them even after they converted the cryptocurrency to fiat and provided a paper trail for its origins.

Also Read: Pineapple Will Match up to $4M in Bitcoin to Test Curing PTSD With Psychedelic Drug

Squeamish Mortgage Lenders

Some UK Mortgage Lenders Refuse to Serve Bitcoin InvestorsA number of UK building societies (financial institutions owned by their members like credit unions in the US) have said that they would not accept any money obtained from cryptocurrency-related transactions. This is despite the fact that there is no law or regulation in the UK which can legally prevent people from paying for a mortgage with fiat whose origin is bitcoin trading.

One broker described to the Financial Times how he was unable to secure a loan for a client because: “The first mortgage lender I rang asked me what a cryptocurrency was. I rang two other lenders and they said they would not touch it. When I mentioned where the money had come from there was massive reluctance to help or understand the problem. I do not believe the mortgage providers in general are ready for this issue and research tells me that a lot more people will be knocking on our doors with funds made or raised in this fashion.”

The Building Societies Association commented: “There is currently no regulation of these electronic currencies, which puts them into the highest risk category in relation to money laundering. In addition, it is well known that such currencies are popular with criminals, who use them to launder the proceeds of crime.”

FCA to Blame?

Some UK Mortgage Lenders Refuse to Serve Bitcoin InvestorsOther UK mortgage providers and banks are willing to serve bitcoin investors, providing they can prove the exact origin of the money with relevant documents, including Coventry Building Society, Skipton and the Yorkshire Building Society. Lenders said that a lack of clear guidance by the regulator is to blame for the fear of engaging with bitcoin investors.

A mortgage broker explained: “Lenders are so frightened about being hauled over the coals by the Financial Conduct Authority for not complying with anti-money laundering rules that they go beyond what in many cases you and I might consider to be reasonable.” The head of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries, added that: “The rules are made by governments and lenders and regulators and the first real guidance we’ve had was the speech from (the FCA Chief Executive) Andrew Bailey saying that he didn’t see how cryptocurrency was a real currency.”

The FCA commented: “Our existing rules and guidance related to customer due diligence checks under the money laundering regulations require financial firms to take an approach tailored to the risks they face. We do not currently plan to issue guidance to mortgage brokers and lenders about the specific risks arising from sources of funds being used in housing transactions.”

How should British bitcoin investors handle difficulties in securing a mortgage? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

Want to create your own secure cold storage paper wallet? Check our tools section.

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Cryptocurrency Trading Without the Complexities with Symmetry Fund

One of the problems facing those new to the cryptocurrency markets is the level of complexity in using exchanges and making trades. Some degree of technical knowledge is required to open, navigate and trade on a crypto exchange account, get one thing wrong and your virtual currency disappears into the ether. Symmetry Fund aims to alleviate the digital distress by offering a balanced cryptocurrency and ICO investment fund.

Crypto investment funds are the best way for those new to the industry or those a little shy on technical expertise to get into the markets. If can be a challenge to learn all of the new terminologies and determine which of the hundreds of cryptos would be the best investment. In addition to offering a balanced portfolio across a range of altcoins and early stage ICOs Symmetry Fund is managed, meaning that they are doing the work so you don’t have to.

Fund Benefits

The team behind the fund is backed by a team with a strong background in mutual funds and over 30 years of experience. CEO Andre Levin has worked in classic fund management for many years, which included time at Franklin Templeton Investments, Baillie Gifford, and Credit Suisse. Instead of using the traditional method of charging a set percentage of the portfolio annually, Symmetry Fund is performance based which means they only benefit when their clients do.

The fund is unique in that, when not in a trade, cryptocurrencies will be held in fiat to mitigate risks from highly volatile market movements. This ensures that the entire fund is not exposed at any one time and there is a prudent reserve to prevent the effects of large and rapid price fluctuations. The entire fund will have full transparency and shareholders will be self-certified on a daily basis in order to track progress. Shareholders will also be able to vote on the direction of SYMM and count towards decisions such as the portion dedicated to ICO investment and that is traded on currency pairs.

Symmetry Fund ICO

Symmetry Fund ICO

The tokenized fund will be based on the Ethereum platform and SYMM tokens will be available during the ICO. Ethereum was chosen over other networks as it has an existing support base and is the stable choice for many new blockchain products.

Unlike most other coins an unlimited amount of SYMM will be made available during the ICO which will have two rounds. The first round began on December 10 and is currently running until February 10, the second will run from Feb 11 to April 10. Tokens are priced at 0.1 ETH each and will represent a single share in the fund which will be powered by most of the capital raised in the ICO.

According to the white paper, 70% of the fund will be invested in BTC, LTC, DAS, ETH, and XRP with 20% going into high potential ICOs. Up to 10% will be held back for administration and prudent reserves. Management fees depend on the amount of investment.

During round 1 all investments will be managed at 7.5%. For round 2 investments over 100 ETH in SYMM shares will remain at this rate while those under 100 ETH will be charged 15% management fee. The fund will move into the trading phase once the ICO has completed, tokens can then be withdrawn and converted back into fiat if desired. SYMM will then be coming to some of the world’s major exchanges shortly after where it can be traded openly.

When the fund makes a profit, dividends will be paid to investors in ETH. Profits are determined by subtracting the amount the fund was worth at the end of the previous month from what the fund is worth at the start of the current month, less management fees if applicable. No management fees will be charged when there is no profit.

In 2017 people could invest in crypto and make huge gains themselves, however, when market regulation starts to happen, as it will this year, those volatile price shifts will not be so common. This is when a professionally managed fund will make the difference and the team can adjust to new market conditions quickly.

For more information, please visit and download the project white paper.

What do you think of Symmetry Fund’s concept? Is it a safer alternative for new cryptocurrency investors? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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The Futility of Government Bans – Bitcoin Always Finds a Way

The Futility of Government Bans – Bitcoin Always Finds a Way

Cryptocurrencies have been threatened at one point or another by nearly every country on the planet. Rarely does a government venture beyond rhetoric. Those resorting to crackdowns are often met with greater public appetite for decentralized virtual money, making all that initial fuss an exercise in futility. Be they communist strongholds or liberal democracies, bitcoin cannot be stopped.   

Also read: India’s Banks Block Crypto Accounts

Government Threats Met with Pushback

In response to a recent Republic of Korea (ROK) bureaucrat’s statement, causing mainstream media to roar about a “ban” on bitcoin, the South Korean street riled to virtual barricades. Citizens flooded petition signatures to the President. Social media contained oceans of angry comments demanding the offending minister’s sacking. The pressure grew so intense, agencies within the same government began contradicting one another, ending with an official presidential announcement no “ban” was forthcoming. Sensing a political market opening, normally reticent ROK politicians jumped on the bandwagon to defend cryptocurrency legitimacy.  

The above is something like a rare historical scientific control with regard to just why bitcoin and cryptocurrencies cannot be banned. For our purposes, ROK’s geographical juxtaposition and its post-war politics fit comfortably beside its northern neighbor, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea. The two nations share a peninsula, a people, and a history, ripe for an organic experiment in prohibition.

Bitcoin Finds a Way: The Ultimate Futility of Government Bans
South Korea’s citizens increasingly voice dissatisfaction

Cryptocurrency probably made its way to DPRK through its wealthier brethren, and perhaps even China in bitcoin’s early years. Obviously, DPRK has a “ban” on bitcoin, de facto. Yet cryptocurrencies are still an issue for the country, something it must address, a problem some reports have as the regime tacitly embracing, and likely as a way around sanctions. Arguably the most closed country in the world is being confronted by a new monetary reality, which illustrates bitcoin’s inherent power under the most extreme of circumstances.

Pronouncement after pronouncement, rule changes, fines, bank harassment, appeals for international cooperation, taxes, emergency measures, the liberal democracy of ROK has been very busy. To be sure, the last round of news from South Korean regulators brought about double digit dips in bitcoin’s price, domestically and internationally. But even that appears to be temporary as markets see bitcoin retain relative price resiliency.

Bitcoin Finds a Way: The Ultimate Futility of Government Bans

A Dozen Countries are Experimenting with Bans

The side-by-side control of having a hermit kingdom and republican democracy both grapple with bitcoin yields insight into what sort of prohibition is possible, and what is even meant by the word “ban.” Bitcoin cannot be banned in the ultimate sense, as it resembles the character of pushing on a sturdy balloon. Push it down on one side, and it grows on the other.

Of the 195 countries of the world, 12 have openly tried to ban bitcoin and crypto at various levels: Brazil, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Israel, Morocco, Bolivia, Algeria, Ecuador, Kyrgyz Republic, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Bitcoin Finds a Way: The Ultimate Futility of Government Bans

However, that list is misleading. Not all governments have banned cryptocurrency in the same way. Israel, for example, has effectively prevented crypo stocks from being listed on its indices and aided the practice of its banks not allowing bitcoin business accounts. Yet its prime minister has made positive comments, and still another regulator has advocated making Israel a welcoming environment for bitcoin.

It’s worth pointing out Israel is a representative democracy, one of the only in Southwest Asia. The Israeli street is passionate about cryptocurrency and its potential, and, like South Korea, has the electoral ability to influence outcomes should regulators overplay their hand.

Wealthy Will Not Allow Ban

Charles Hugh Smith argued crypto prohibition won’t happen due to the influence of wealthy investors using it as a store of value unable to be monkeyed with by politicians. His point at once affirms and jettisons the democratic thesis, as it all comes down to levers of power. The same way assets such as housing are owned and closely guarded, Mr. Smith postulates, bitcoin will be protected even more. Wealthy holders have gone to great lengths already to keep the currency away from governments.    

For South American countries such as Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the challenges are both political and economic when it comes to prohibition. Each has versions of command economies, and nationalist fervor is easily whipped up when supposed threats are made against their respective currencies, and bitcoin can certainly represent that. However, even where economic expression is limited and politics are a crazy mix of bureaus and committees, crypto has found a way through. Its popularity grows in Latin America.

Bitcoin Finds a Way: The Ultimate Futility of Government Bans

The remaining half, from China to Nepal, have almost no tradition of what anyone would ever call democracy, though in some cases governments have pulled back and allowed their populace more expression in personal economic matters. That too is debatable. For odious governments such as Nepal, cracks are appearing. Smartphone adoption continues apace, as does internet access generally. Add to those its young population, some 40 percent under 20 years, and there’s a recipe for crypto.

Prohibition, in the sense Mr. Smith might be thinking, almost always only impacts those without the means to subvert laws. That’s not as true when it comes to cryptocurrency. Whatever else its positives, all anyone needs is a $20 Android phone and they’re immediately able to participate in a huge transfer of wealth. Governments can shut down websites; they can arrest exchange owners; they can make onboarding hell; they can tax it as capital gains. Governments cannot stop an idea whose time has come.

Do you think bitcoin can be banned? Let us know in the comments section below.

Images courtesy of Pixabay.

Not up to date on the news? Listen to This Week in Bitcoina podcast updated each Friday.

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Overstock-Coinbase Bitcoin Mix-Up Leads to Huge Discounts

Overstock unwittingly processed bitcoin cash as having an identical value to bitcoin, effectively allowing customers of the e-commerce giant up to an 85 percent discount on cryptocurrency purchases.

Massive Savings

As tested by expert security investor Brian Krebs, the glitch allowed customers to use bitcoin and bitcoin cash interchangeably, profiting the difference between the two when paying in bitcoin cash. The difference is approximately 85 percent if bitcoin is worth $14,000 and bitcoin cash is trading around $2,400.

In addition, should the customer then have had a change of heart and requested a refund, Overstock would have refunded the full worth of the item in bitcoin.

For example, if Harry were to treat himself to a new gas grill worth $400, he could essentially have bought it for only $60 using bitcoin cash, and kept the other $340 for himself. If his wife had happened to catch wind of the purchase and demanded he cancel the order, he would have received a full $400 back in bitcoin, essentially profiting a clean $360 from the transaction.

As Krebs pointed out in his post, if someone were to place and then cancel an order for a $100,000 diamond ring, having paid only 15 percent of the amount by using bitcoin cash, the site would refund the full $100,000 in bitcoin – allowing that person to profit a staggering $85,000 in a matter of minutes.

Although the glitch existed for only three weeks, it is unthinkable what could have been accomplished during this time should it have been noticed and taken advantage of by the wrong person.

According to Brian Krebs, the alarming issue was initially discovered on by JB Snyder, the owner of Bancsec. As Snyder’s company specializes in finding fault with banks’ existing security protocols, he realized the severity of the problem immediately as he completed his transaction, after which he contacted Krebs to investigate the issue.

When Krebs tested the fault by purchasing three solar lamps for $78.27 in total, he saw that Snyder’s findings were correct and that Overstock’s check-out page was quite happy to accept bitcoin cash in place of bitcoin without correcting the amount of the currency required.

Unwilling to steal from the online retail store, Krebs canceled the order, only to be surprised when the refund was returned to him in bitcoin instead of bitcoin cash.

Overstock made the following statement after being contacted by Krebs about the glitch, saying that it had not made any changes on its side and that Coinbase had resolved the issue.

“We were made aware of an issue affecting cryptocurrency transactions and refunds by an independent researcher. After working with the researcher to confirm the finding, that method of payment was disabled while we worked with our cryptocurrency integration partner, Coinbase, to ensure they resolved the issue. We have since confirmed that the issue described in the finding has been resolved, and the cryptocurrency payment option has been re-enabled.”

The statement continued:

“After being made aware of an issue in our joint refund processing code on Saturday, Coinbase and Overstock worked together to deploy a fix within hours. While a patch was being developed and tested, orders were proactively disabled to protect customers. To our knowledge, a very small number of transactions were impacted by this issue. Coinbase actively works with merchant partners to identify and solve issues like this in an ongoing, collaborative manner and since being made aware of this have ensured that no other partners are affected.”

Following the discovery, both Snyder and Krebs individually checked all other merchants that use Coinbase for their cryptocurrency payment offering, and collectively found that the issue was not present with any other platform.

According to Coinbase, the glitch was a result of “the merchant partner improperly using the return values in the merchant integration API.” Additionally, the exchange stated that no other merchant had been affected by this problem, a fact independently confirmed by Krebs and Snyder’s investigation.

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UW System School infected with Bitcoin Mining Scripts

The University of Wisconsin System discovered three of its servers mining Bitcoin. The UW Madison news section reported, illegal crypto miners exploited three servers at UW-Madison, UW-Stout, and UW-Superior by installing Bitcoin mining malware via the Oracle WebLogic software vulnerability. The UW System schools infected server were put offline to establish a safe and secure environment.

Hunting Miners Hunting Crypto

Stephanie Marquis, UW System Director of Communication, mentioned that several attempts were made on December 26, 2017, to install the malware on all three servers. Marquis stated that,

“The campuses responded immediately to the threat, and UW-Madison rebuilt their server to remove bitcoin software. UW-Stout and UW-Superior also immediately removed the software as soon as it was identified. No other campus identified the software after scanning their systems.”

According to the news release, the Cyber Security team performed a complete dissection of the malware due to a severe security threat. The IT team at UW cleaned and restored the servers before placing them back online. Finally, the servers and network were thoroughly tested to ensure the restoration was effective. The campus outage page provides more information on the status of affected serves.

The UW-Madison cybersecurity team points out that the malware is tailored to look for Bitcoin or other crypto files on the server. If cryptocurrencies or crypto related files are found, the malware extracts it and transfers it to another person. The security team indicates that the malware is still incapable of extracting personal data from users.

The main problem with the malware is that the fraudulent mining process uses large amounts of CPU memory and processing capacities, slowing down other application on the system.

DoIT technicians have been working to rebuild the system for over a week. “Due to the serious issues found during the recent maintenance, DoIT technicians are working on rebuilding the servers this weekend,” says the DoIT technicians website.
Malicious Mining Scripts

Recently, the booming crypto market has been the favorite meal of malicious hackers. The disruptive Coin Hive scripts, in particular, have been a favorite vehicle for cybercriminals to mine cryptocurrencies. Lately, illicit Bitcoin mining has reduced as the illegal mining of other digital currencies increased.

Fraudulent mining hijacks victims computer’s thereby draining its processing power to mine coins. Monero has grown in popularity due to its anonymity feature, where it ensures complete anonymity by creating false trails and making it impossible to track. According to Opera, a leading web browser, over 500 million people are affected by malicious crypto mining scripts.

Are cybercriminals benefiting from illegally mining cryptocurrencies using foreign computers? Let us know your thoughts in comments section.

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South Korean Cryptocurrency Trading Ban Rumours Put Pressure on Price of Bitcoin: BTCManager’s Week in Review Jan 15

In the past week, headlines circulated suggesting that South Korea, one of the largest bitcoin markets in the world, would impose a ban on cryptocurrency trading. These headlines rattled bitcoin holders, which led to a bitcoin price drop of almost 20 percent from $16,500 to $13,750.

Despite the fact that these claims were refuted rather quickly, the price of bitcoin ended up losing value in the past seven days. This price drop was exasperated by statements by the U.S. Secretary of Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, who voiced his concerns over bitcoin’s role as the potential next “Swiss bank account,” which can be used to hide funds from the authorities.

More and more lawmakers and regulators are making statements on the topic of how decentralized digital currencies will be regulated shortly, which is driving uncertainty in the crypto asset market.

The altcoin market also took a breather after a strong rally to start the year with several leading altcoins such as ripple (XRP), cardano (ADA), litecoin (LTC), and NEM (XEM), which dropped 40 percent, 22 percent, 19 percent and 20 percent respectively. Only ether (ETH) and NEO (NEO) stood out by reaching new all-time highs of $1,365 and $142, gaining 20 percent and 35 percent respectively week-on-week.

This week’s contributions have been provided by Akshay Makadiya, Joseph Young, Priyeshu Garg, and Rahul Nambiampurath.

South Korean Government Will Not Implement a Cryptocurrency Trading Ban

Earlier on January 11, 2018, Justice Minister Park stated that the Justice Ministry is drafting a bill that would effectively ban cryptocurrency trading for both foreigners and citizens. In a press conference, Park emphasized that the ministry plans to control speculation in the cryptocurrency market by banning cryptocurrency trading outright.

Immediately after the statement of Justice Minister park was released, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance noted that it was only made aware of his statement through media reports and that it does not reflect the viewpoint of the government. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance went on to say that the agency does not support and agree with the premature statement of the Justice Minister.

Shares of Blockchain Company that soared 900 percent in 2017 Halted by SEC

It has been confirmed that a company based in Hong Kong has had the trading of its shares suspended by the regulators in the United States, after incorporating the word ‘blockchain’ into its name.

This interrogation comes after they leveraged the surge in popularity for blockchain related investments in 2017 and managed share price hikes of over 900 percent. The reason trading was halted was due to the authorities being concerned that the business had misled their investors about their operations.

It was the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that called a halt to trading of the UBI Blockchain Internet Ltd. Shares as a result of what they described as “unusual and unexplained market activity.” They also have their doubts about how accurate the company’s proclaimed information in their financial statements might be.

North Korean hackers mining Monero to overcome UN sanctions

Chris Doman, a cybersecurity researcher at AlienVault, a U.S.-based security firm, has discovered a malware that mines cryptocurrencies using foreign computers while the earnings deposit to a North Korean university’s wallet in Pyongyang.

As North Korea faces tougher United Nation sanctions, it is looking for alternative income sources. North Korean hackers are targeting computers around the world to mine virtual currencies.

AlienVault reported that malware was deployed on Christmas Eve with an aim to mine monero. AlienVault said: “Crypto-currencies may provide a financial lifeline to a country walloped by sanctions, and as a result universities in Pyongyang have shown a clear interest in cryptocurrencies.”

The illegally mined crypto funds trickle to a Kim Il Sung University server. To withdraw the funds the hacker enters the three-letter password “KJU,” which could refer to Kim Jong Un, the North Korean Leader. However, the server may be a decoy to trick observers and the university if open to many international students.

Australian Tax Office to scale up Surveillance on Cryptocurrency Traders

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is planning to institute a task force that shall monitor cryptocurrencies trades to ensure the right amount of tax is being paid on crypto profits. The report came from the Australian Financial Review.

Due to the lack of regulations, early bitcoin adopters have made a handsome profit on their investments. However, now as the authorities tighten its grasp on crypto traders, the cryptocurrency loophole for investors to evade tax may come to an end sooner.

“We are consulting with key stakeholders who have expressed an interest in tax issues relating to cryptocurrencies. We will discuss common queries and scenarios, practical issues and the tax implications for current and anticipated future developments in relation to cryptocurrencies,” said the ATO spokesperson.

Dutch Researchers Harvest Body Heat To Mine Cryptocurrencies

Research designed and led by Manuel Beltran aims to use human-powered energy to mine digital assets. Beltran, who’s currently with the intriguingly named Institute of Human Obsolescence (IoHO), has developed a special bodysuit that harvests the heat emitted by the human body and turns it into a sustainable source of energy.

The IoHO is currently conducting various operations that include researching and developing “biological labor” for the mining of crypto coins such as ethereum, bitcoin, litecoin, and others. Under Beltran’s guidance, the research team recently ran a series of tests that spanned over nearly 212 hours with participation by 37 workers.

Using the customized bodysuit, the 37 participants in the experiment collectively generated 127.2 watts of power. Apparently, that was enough to mine 16,590 vertcoin, litecoin, dash, startcoin, ethereum, and lisk tokens. Explaining the reasoning behind the experiments, the researchers stated that the human body is capable of producing as much as 100 watts while resting, of which nearly 80 percent goes to waste.

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Goldman Sachs Report Explores use of Bitcoin as Currency

On January 10, 2018, analysts from Goldman Sachs Group, the Fortune 500 investment company, published a nine-page lengthy report titled “Bitcoin as Money.”

Taking Crypto Seriously

The report was the firm’s first exploration of bitcoin’s possible use as a currency and was written primarily by analysts Zach Pandl and Charles Himmelberg for the clients of the company.

In the report, the analysts detailed how bitcoin could prove to be useful in countries like Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where foreign currency is used almost exclusively for deposits and loans following public mistrust in the country’s economy. A lot of countries in the African region face a similar plight and suffer high inflation rates and demonetizations as a result. Zach Pandl noted that that,

“In recent decades the U.S. dollar has served its purpose relatively well. In those countries and corners of the financial system where the traditional services of money are inadequately supplied, Bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies more generally) may offer viable alternatives.”

Backing up this statement is perhaps the fact that Zimbabwe already turned to bitcoin in 2017 as an alternative to its currency.

Bitcoin and its price have been a very polarizing topic even outside the conventional finance sphere. While on the one hand, some believe that the sudden surge in the cryptocurrency’s popularity is nothing but a bubble, others claim that it may very well be an indicator of mass adoption. In September 2017, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, publicly criticized bitcoin and called it a “fraud.” It was only a few days before the Goldman Sachs report, however, that he softened his stance on the subject during an interview with FOX Business.

The report released by Goldman Sachs is in almost stark contrast to the overwhelming number of negative press surrounding bitcoin and the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem. Even before bitcoin’s role in purchasing drugs and other illicit items on the dark web became public in 2013, people claimed that an anonymous digital currency would only be used to facilitate crime and misconduct.

Since bitcoin’s release in 2009, the cryptocurrency market has always been rife with criticism and pessimism from the mainstream financial industry as well. In recent times though, especially after the announcement of bitcoin futures by CME Group in November 2017, it has been gaining more momentum and legitimacy as compared to traditional investment instruments.

Given that bitcoin’s popularity among the masses does not seem to be slowing down in any appreciable way, it is likely that many long-standing skeptics of digital currencies will begin studying their implications. While the Goldman Sachs report specifically discussed bitcoin, similar points can be made about other major cryptocurrencies as well. As of right now though, an increase in the legitimacy of bitcoin stands to benefit other digital currencies as well.

However, the Goldman Sachs report made one thing entirely certain.

If bitcoin is to be used and traded as a currency and not a commodity, its price needs to find stability. Historically, however, this has not been the case, especially if you consider that in the past year alone, the price of bitcoin appreciated by a whole order of magnitude. The report calls for a different reality, stating that,

“digital currencies should be thought of as low/zero return or hedge-like assets, akin to gold.”

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Swiss Government Introduces Blockchain Task Force to Regulate Startups and ICOs

The government of Switzerland is reportedly working towards laying down regulations for the blockchain and Initial Coin Offering (ICO) industry. Spearheading the movement is Taskforce Blockchain, a group led by the country’s Finance and Economic and Education ministers, Ueli Maurer and Johann Schneider-Ammann. The team also includes federal, local legal representatives and key members of the Swiss blockchain startup ecosystem.

Making Safe Crypto Valley

Taskforce Blockchain’s primary responsibility will be first to examine the current state of the blockchain ecosystem in Switzerland and the relevant guidelines affecting startups. Subsequently, the group will work closely with the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters, presumably to incorporate applicable financial policy for the development of businesses in the future.

The Economics and Education Minister, Johann Schneider-Ammann, also emphasized the need for liberal regulation, while still cautioning against the risks currently associated with the industry.

Switzerland is already home to a variety of blockchain-related startups. In fact, the geographic area between Zurich and Zug that has been popularly referred to as “Crypto Valley.” Zug alone is home to several companies in the industry and is the home ground for The Ethereum Foundation, heralded as the wealthiest blockchain company in the world as of May 2017.

It is interesting to note that while the Swiss government has indicated that it is receptive to blockchain-related startups and particularly the surrounding ICO ecosystem, not all countries share the same perspective. China, for instance, has been openly hostile to startups offering ICOs and went as far as banning them altogether in September 2017.

On the other hand, the United States of America has taken a more moderate stance on the issue with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) keeping a close eye on the market. Shortly after cautioning investors against fraudulent practices in 2017, the agency set up a dedicated cyber unit to cease “misconduct perpetrated using the dark web” and possibly to keep ICOs in check.

Given that past experiences have repeatedly demonstrated the potential of scams plaguing the industry, especially with the large amounts of money usually at stake, it is likely that a few other governments will follow suit.

Even though ICOs present themselves as a technical challenge to police, the remainder of the blockchain industry is relatively safe from government intervention. Almost every major country, including China, has announced that it would be working to integrate blockchains into various aspects of governance shortly. Despite that fact, and to the dismay of many, very few governments have released regulatory frameworks on the subject.

Switzerland’s initiative to legally recognize Taskforce Blockchain’s efforts in legitimizing blockchain-related startups and ICOs comes as a breath of fresh air for the associated industries. Given that the country has historically played a key role in propelling blockchain startups, it is a pivotal moment for the majority of the ecosystem. The inaugural meeting of the Taskforce Blockchain was held on January 12, 2018.

The post Swiss Government Introduces Blockchain Task Force to Regulate Startups and ICOs appeared first on BTCMANAGER.

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