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Bing Ads to Block Cryptocurrency Adverts

Microsoft’s search engine Bing, will be changing its financial product and services policy to block cryptocurrency related ads in an attempt to protect users. The changes will come into effect in late June to early July.

Melissa Alsoszatai-Petheo the advertiser policy manager of Bing stated: “Because cryptocurrency and related products are not regulated, we have found them to present a possible elevated risk to our users with the potential for bad actors to participate in predatory behaviors, or otherwise scam consumers”.

Bing is the latest large platform to ban cryptocurrency ads

Bing is the latest to step in and make a change in how we view cryptocurrency products and initial coin offerings (ICO). Prior Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have all made similar advances towards the same goal. Rob Leathern, Product Management Director of Facebook, previously expressed: “We want people to continue to discover and learn about new products and services through Facebook ads without fear of scams or deception. That said, there are many companies who are advertising binary options, ICO’s and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith.”

The ban, which is very broad and may seem like an attack on the community is due to an inability to identify products and ICO’s that are deceptive in nature. “Google’s decision to ban cryptocurrency ads is an implicit acknowledgement that they cannot identify legitimate projects in this space at scale,” says Paul Makowski, chief technology officer of malware-detection startup PolySwarm.

Industry sources believe that the bans may be revoked once US regulatory bodies put policies in place to moderate these products. With no telling how long this could take, the loss of publicity is likely to have a damaging effect on the market and companies involved.

ICO’s or IC-a-scam

With an excess of 900 ICO’s launched in 2017 raising billions of dollars for their promoters, this growing market creates opportunities for everyone as well as the con artists. With little regulation to protect investors, it’s a golden opportunity for those who are looking to defraud the public.

BTCC CEO and founder Bobby Lee stated in an interview with Business Insider: “It’s just too risky. It just doesn’t make sense to invest in those guys. Maybe I’ll change my mind next month, next year, I don’t know.” Lee is among many in supporting more regulation around ICO’s.

Fabric Ventures and TokenData reports detail that as few as 435 ICOs were successful out of a total 913 last year. With small time investors making considerable gains, you can see why the opportunity is enticing, “On average, tokens have returned 12.8x the initial investment in dollar terms versus 7.7x for ETH and 4.9x for BTC during 2017,” the report notes. Mangrove Capital Partners recorded returns of up to 1,320% from ICO’s by October 2017.

For the time being search engines and media platforms have opted to protect the public against the growing rise of crypto-related crime. As new legislation and regulatory powers are introduced we could see a change of heart and a return of cryptocurrency advertisements, promoting legitimate companies.

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FacexWorm Part of a Growing Statistic of Crypto Crime

Cybersecurity experts were able to expose a dubious Chrome extension dubbed FacexWorm after hackers were able to steal a total of one Bitcoin through its use.

The exact amount of currency generated from the hijacking of computer hardware to perform mining is unknown. After similar activity monitored last year it was quickly established that hackers were yet again attempting familiar modus operandi.

The FacexWorm extension is capable of stealing user credentials and hijack cryptocurrency transactions by adjusting the destination wallet ID on several large exchanges including Binance, HitBTC, Bitfinex, Poloniex, and Ethfinex. Victims’ browsers were redirected to scam sites misleading them to send currency to the hackers wallet as well as remotely using their hardware for cryptocurrency mining.

FacexWorm part of a growing statistic of crypto crime

In this new market with little regulation on security standards, cybercrime is a growing issue among the crypto community.

Phishing scams have led to losses of around USD 225 million in 2017 alone. Most commonly, investors were being misled into transferring funds to what they perceived to be fundraising sites for ICOs, especially those using Ethereum blockchain technology.

Browsealoud, a suite of translation tools, was edited by hackers to mine cryptocurrencies. With the assumption that the infected plugin compromised most of the sites that were actively using it, around 4,275 websites were affected, including some hosting important services.

Ethereum-related cybercrime is one of the worst with around 30,000 people affected, averaging a loss of about USD 7,500 each.
The combination of losses due to phishing, hacks, Ponzi schemes, and exploits in systems is fast approaching similar levels to robberies in the US during 2015. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated theft at a total of USD 390 million, with Chainalysis evaluating Ethereum crime alone at USD 225 million.
“The cryptocurrency phishers are doing pretty good against all the other types of criminals that are out there,” said Jonathan Levin, Chainalysis co-founder.
With a shortage of expertise in a new and upcoming industry, cyber threats will need to be taken more seriously. As the technology moves to become more mainstream and regulation sets standards for security there will be a shift towards a safer market.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/140988606@N08/27891578868/in/photostream/ – Christoph Scholz – IT Security Schloss vor Crypto-Hintergrund – blau – Kontrast

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BP Tests Precursor to Possible Blockchain Collaboration

Oil and gas giant BP has confirmed that it has been testing what it describes as ‘internal tokens’, while also being open to partnering with blockchain startups holding initial coin offerings (ICOs).

The technology director for BP’s digital innovation organization, Julian Gray, spoke on the subject at the recent Blockchain Expo in London. He noted that non-financial enterprises appeared to be more inclined to adopt blockchain technology than the financial services sector.

While Gray acknowledged that BP had not pursued public blockchains, he said ”that doesn’t mean we won’t”. Speaking on the internal token testing, he explained, ”We have done proof of concepts using tokens internally, transferring value.”

While BP had no particular partnerships in mind, Gray said that he ”wouldn’t be surprised” if they did in the future. He described himself as open to collaborating with startups holding ICOs, offering his well-funded innovation department for partnership.

This could be the best way for BP to pursue blockchain technology, as he admitted that internally, there was still a lot of education needed on the subject. Even so, the attitude towards blockchain in the company is softening from the once held view that it was ”hacker territory”, as Gray described.

Moderator Lewis Cohen, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells, commented that it was interesting to hear the technology director from a company like BP speak so positively and openly about the subject matter.

Gray responded: ”The technology is out of the gate and it’s clearly going somewhere and at some point, we will interact with it”. He did stress, however, that all of the points discussed were of his own personal opinion and not that of BP.

The financial services industry have been far more resistant to ICOs and public blockchains than the wider sphere of enterprises. Even NASA recently made headlines for researching the improvement of deep space travel utilizing the Ethereum public blockchain.

 

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Cambridge Analytica Reportedly Planned ICO

Cambridge Analytica allegedly planned to hold an initial coin offering (ICO) for their own digital currency, prior to becoming embroiled in a scandal involving the misuse of data from Facebook.

Sources familiar with the situation spoke to Reuters Tuesday, noting that Cambridge Analytica had consulted with a company known for advising the structuring of ICOs. It is reported they were looking to source up to USD 30 million from the ICO.

A spokesman for Cambridge Analytica did not confirm if the firm was still pursuing the venture but did comment on their intentions to use blockchain technology in securing data in their care online. They stated: ”Prior to the Facebook controversy, we were developing a suite of technologies to help individuals reclaim their personal data from corporate entities and to have full transparency and control over how their personal data are used.”

This seems ironic considering that the nature of the scandal they were involved in entailed gaining and sharing Facebook users data improperly and without the users’ knowledge. The spokesman continued in their email to Reuters, saying that they were “exploring multiple options for people to manage and monetize their personal data, including blockchain technology”.

Cambridge Analytica notably worked for the US presidential campaign of Donal Trump in 2016, before knowledge of the Facebook scandal was known publicly. Earlier this month, Facebook said that over 87 million users may have been affected by the data analytics consultancy’s breach of privacy, although Cambridge Analytica reiterated that data was properly licensed on far fewer users from the research firm they were working on behalf of.

ICOs

As the popularity of digital currencies continues to increase, ICOs are one of the most popular ways for firms to raise money for their startups.

According to research from Autonomous, companies have so far raised USD 3.5 billion this year through ICOs. This style of funding is popular with investors as they can exchange their tokens on online trading platforms, often at a profit.

 

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Snowden Leaks Indicate NSA Spies on Blockchain

Leaked documents point towards a controversial move by the American NSA (National Security Agency) in monitoring blockchain activity, hinting at the importance placed by the government there on Bitcoin and other blockchain assets.

Snowden leaks have shown the blockchain community that surveillance remains at the top of US agenda. It hardly comes as a surprise to most, understanding that governments do and will always have a vested interest in monetary transactions and where that money ends up.

NSA Playbook

Using a protocol called “MonkeyRocket”  NSA analysts were able to find a vulnerability which enabled them to track down senders and receivers of Bitcoin. This all to aid their mission of looking at organized crime and cyber targets that utilize online e-currency services for illicit activities, despite Bitcoin providing users access to a certain degree of anonymity.

The Snowden leaks indicated that examining public transaction ledger (Blockchain) was just the tip of the iceberg, with the NSA obtaining and storing sensitive data, such as the users MAC addresses, users passwords, network ports, and timestamps.

The documents suggest that Bitcoin users were being targeted for mass surveillance, giving weight to the claim that the NSA was not just using their MonkeyRocket, but using the infamous XKeyScore system. The XKeyScore system is one of the most intrusive methods on the planet and covers the entire globe with the widest of reaches. NSA analysts require no prior authorization for the collection of online data.

Snowden stated in the Guardian:“I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email… Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.”

The NSA is adamant on suppressing Bitcoin users, as part of a counter-terrorism advance, monitoring their transactions, while subverting their privacy. The source of Bitcoin and Liberty Reserve monitoring, MonkeyRocket, has been governed by overseas surveillance authority known as “EXECUTIVE ORDER 12333”. The order was signed on 4 December 1981 by then-president Ronald Reagan; it was intended to extend powers and responsibilities of US intelligence agencies and direct leaders of the US and federal agencies to cooperate fully with CIA requests for information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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G20 Summit: No Global Regulation in Sight As Buenos Aires Bullish on Bitcoin

The G20 summit is well underway in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with financial leaders seemingly staying their hand on specific regulatory actions and a healthy rebound in the crypto market indicating that traders are viewing this development positively.

Financial leaders from across the world have yet to come to agreement on whether or not policies are the right thing to impose on the market right now. The G20 leaders have stated that cryptocurrency is not likely to see any global regulations any time soon.

The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney made comments on the eve of the summit, stating that cryptocurrencies were not a pressing issue. Carney, who also holds the position as chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), drew light on the fact that virtual assets counted for less than 1% of the global economic output at the late-2017 all-time highs.

Carney stated:

“As its work to fix the fault lines that caused the financial crisis draws to a close, the FSB is increasingly pivoting away from the design of new policy initiatives towards dynamic implementation and rigorous evaluation of the effects of the agreed G20 reforms.”

Carney also put forward the idea that, instead of regulations on cryptocurrencies, the financial system should adapt and adopt. He suggested a mutual understanding between financial leaders to prevent illicit behavior throughout the market, reducing the risk for investors, traders and big business conglomerates:

“Crypto-assets raise a host of issues around consumer and investor protection.”

Brazil not so confident

Following a recent publication in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazillian Central Bank President Ilan Goldfajn commented that this is a crucial time for blockchain technologies, where cryptocurrencies are still highly volatile and need to be a safe and legitimate store of value.

Goldfajn went on to say that he thought of cryptocurrencies as a store value, a crypto-asset rather than a modern-day currency: “ I don’t refer to them as money because money has to have stability in its value and be able to facilitate payments.

He did go on to state that Brazil and fellow countries were for blockchain technology adoption, but wanted to see it regulated and made secure, reiterating warnings that the technology could be used for disastrous misconduct worldwide.

Market rebound

After these announcements, the market responded accordingly

Ethereum gained a little traction, its price rising over USD 60 in under one hour. Bullish Bitcoin saw an equal spike, with its current price rising over USD 800 in the same hour, a 25% increase from its latest fall. Bitcoin looks to be breaking away from the current bear market and is likely to soon test the USD 9,000 target.

As Bitcoin trading volume has stayed at the monthly medium of around USD 6 billion, concerns remain, but any rise in trading volume will mean that Bitcoin is backed by strong hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blockchain For the Future, A Brave New World

The future of all technology is in sight, the blockchain revolution, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Anybody watching this space knows that it is growing at an exponential rate. The boundaries of technology are being pushed on a daily basis. Token generation events are going live on a regular basis. What is it about these technologies that catches the eye of the everyday user? Is it decentralization, transparency, anonymity or is it all just a big bubble that’s about to burst?

A Decentralized Future

An immutable fact about blockchain is that it is entirely transparent, with nearly all blockchain projects being open source, enabling any developer to modify or add sections of code to the project. Altering logged data throughout a blockchain is virtually impossible. Everything is traceable, with countless amounts of eyes prying on the space at any one time. It gives complete trust back to the everyday user.

Some projects look to enhance anonymity, not entirely possible with a blockchain open ledger. Although an address is linked to one person, that person’s identity remains unknown, except with sophisticated blockchain forensics following the transaction trail. A variety of blockchain projects have opted to have multiple ledgers, public and private ledger options. Could this be a defiance of the point of decentralized and transparent space?

“Privacy is not something that I’m merely entitled to, it’s an absolute prerequisite.”

Marlon Brando –

Specific modern-day problems arise with complete anonymity and a lot could be said for being able to transfer a large number of funds from point A to point B without transparency. Does society need to establish a firm base on the moral standing of this matter? After all, nobody wants to see blockchain technology fund terrorism, money laundering or trafficking.

Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power… its enabling force. Transparency is the only real antidote.  

Glenn Greenwald –

Decentralization plays an integral part of blockchain technology, with no central data hub in use. The blockchain uses predetermined variables to manage each transaction. The blockchain runs these through nodes (people’s computers) which are all connected via the internet. Eliminating the central data hub could, of course, cause mayhem for central banks and big tech giants if this technology is to see global adoption.

Quantum Problems

Will artificial intelligence and quantum computing help restore order, will they enable a new era of blockchain technology? Or will quantum computing render blockchain technology completely useless? There is already a quantum computing blockchain project in the works. Who knows what will come with quantum resistance, and whether it will enable or disable.

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