Category Archives: cryptocurrencies

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Fake Photo Scams Largely Ineffective but Illustrate Need for Cold Storage

Fake Photo Scams Largely Ineffective but Illustrate Need for Cold Storage

With reported instances of the latest ploy for hackers to access user funds, photo scamming is further proof that cryptocurrency cold storage is by far the safest way to keep digital assets secure.

Doctored images are now for sale on dark web forums according to research by Hold Security and warnings from Bank Info Security, and can be purchased for as little as USD 50. A recent example published by the latter showed an anonymous individual holding up a passport and note showing the words “Reset 2FA” along with the date.

Hold Security, LLC is an information security company helping businesses of all sizes to stay secure. Its Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Holden, says that some exchanges’ security is far too lax, not requiring photographic ID at initial registration. He commented:

“Some companies have no ability to assert what their client looks like… It’s not like hackers publish success rates,…But because we know that [hackers who] we are monitoring are actually making money off of it.”

Most larger exchanges have far better security, which makes the success rate of such hacks uncommon, limited to smaller exchanges without rigid security procedures. Most exchanges require new clients to verify their identity with a passport or drivers license before trading on the platform, although with exchanges unwilling to talk about photo scamming events, it could be that even the larger exchanges have seen attempted security breaches through this method.

Hold Security has reported that the dark web is awash with some 10,000 doctored photos which are used as fake verification purposes. The idea is to convince the exchange that a request to reset the often-mandatory two-factor authentication security process required to gain access to accounts is a legitimate one and is coming from the owner of the account. Cryptocurrency exchange giant Binance admitted that they had seen some attempts to breach their security in this way, commenting:

“Unfortunately, we’re no stranger to these types of malicious attempts to gain access… Given the measures we currently have in place, I don’t believe this threat is something for Binance to be particularly worried about at the present time.”

 

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Access to Late QuadrigaCX CEO’s Laptop May Help Recover Lost Funds

Access to Late QuadrigaCX CEO's Laptop May Help Recover Lost Funds

On Tuesday, interested parties were present at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court for the hearing of the plea for creditor protection by the insolvent Vancouver-based cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX. The exchange’s CEO died late last year with access to what was thought to be the only means to recover over USD 190 million of cryptocurrency belonging to over 115,000 of its users and possibly some of its reserve funds as well.

 

Bitcoin News reported on how the CEO Cotten died suddenly in India of Crohn’s disease and was allegedly the only one who had access to funds stored in the cold wallets on behalf of users of the crypto exchange.

 

As attested by Cotten’s widow earlier in an affidavit, the exchange had no physical office, and Cotten was the sole operator in terms of moving funds between the exchange and the cold wallet, which he did from his laptop – implying that his laptop was the workstation and possibly where the cold wallet details were most likely stored.

 

QuadrigaCX reported that it was unable to access the cold wallet as well as fiat funds that were stored with custody due to certain legal matters. However, a ray of hope seems to have appeared when experts opined that with the right tools, the lost funds may be recovered from Cotten’s laptop, given that it contained the private keys.

 

However, what little glimpse of hope was quickly extinguished when it was later established that the private keys to the cold wallet weren’t on Cotten’s laptop. Moreover, according to Manie Eagar, CEO of Vancouver-based DigitalFuture, if the private keys aren’t in the laptop, recovering the funds will be practically impossible as the wallet’s encryption is beyond what a regular cracking attempt could achieve with existing computers.

 

Things had been looking pretty bad for QuadrigaCX for a while now, even before the mishap. In October last year, the exchange came under siege by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), which seized USD 28 million from the exchange.

 

While the situation has been dire for those involved, a petition has been made to appeal to cryptocurrency exchange Kraken to take over the exchange and its operation and help salvage the situation. At this point it remains unknown what specific action is to be taken in terms compensation to the users, however, Kraken has offered to help with the investigation.

We have thousands of wallet addresses known to belong to @QuadrigaCoinEx and are investigating the bizarre and, frankly, unbelievable story of the founder’s death and lost keys. I’m not normally calling for subpoenas but if @rcmpgrcpolice are looking in to this, contact @krakenfx

— Jesse Powell (@jespow) February 3, 2019

 

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SBI Group Pumps $15 Million into Blockchain Smart Card Wallet

SBI Group Pumps  Million into Blockchain Smart Card Wallet

Tokyo-based financial service company SBI Group has invested the sum of USD 15 million into blockchain smart card wallet producer Tangem.

Custom forms of Tangem blockchain cards available soon. Antenna qualification testing in process.#blockchain #blockchaintechnology #crypto pic.twitter.com/1raqSXCd4C

— Tangem (@Tangem) November 29, 2018

Tangem has been known to be among a few in the industry pioneering the production of hardware wallets for digital assets with its proprietary “physical banknotes of bitcoin”, described as a slimline hardware wallet for digital assets. It hinted on using the funds to further accelerate the deployment of its technology in other industries that support the physical distribution of blockchain assets.

Andrey Kurennykh, co-founder of Tangem, said : “We take the next big step on our mission to bring blockchain to people’s everyday life.”

Next to the complexity of the cutting-edge cryptographic solutions provided by blockchain is the need for security and streamlined use for cryptoassets that mimic traditional money qualities such as tangibility. While Tangem may be focused on the adoption of spendable cryptocurrency notes, security and portability still remain essential virtual commodities in cryptospace.

On the subject of hardware wallets, the need for crypto asset holders to protect their holdings in a more secure way cannot be overstated. Recent exchange hacks and shutdown have driven cryptocurrency owners to re-evaluate their storage options to consider the once that provide them with more control of their private keys. Perhaps, hardware wallet providers may soon have their field day with more adoption on the horizon.

However, that trip may not be so rosy after all. As oft as hardware wallets are considered secure comparable to the alternatives, these wallet class still have issues. About two weeks ago, UAE’s Beam wallet reportedly had a critical vulnerability; this was just one of several other reports of such glitches in the history of hardware wallet, even with major providers like Trezor and Ledger.

SBI Holdings Co Ltd has been increasingly showing a keen interest in cryptocurrency wallet providers, though its overall objective remains unknown. The first was with CoolBitX Ltd in March last year, a cold wallet provider based in Taiwan, where it holds about 40% investment share.

Last week, SBI Group was also reportedly involved in a funding round of another crypto firm Breadwinner AG, a Swiss-based wallet provider currently serving 1.8 million users in 170 countries.

 

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UN Report Praises Crypto as “New Frontier” of Global Finance

UN Report Praises Crypto as

The United Nations (UN) year-end report has called Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies the “new frontier” in global finance with massive potential to revolutionize business.

Even before the release of the World Economic and Social Survey 2018, it remains no secret that the International Assembly has already invested heavily in blockchain through the International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF).

The UN itself is not new to working with companies which apply the latest technologies such as blockchain.  Binance’s head of blockchain charity has indicated in the past that the technology would bring “transformative solutions to social problems, and help bridge the UN Sustainable Development Goals funding gap in fast and innovative ways”.

The UN’s latest report refers to the advantages of crypto, blockchain and distributed ledger technology and suggests a value token under consideration called ClimateCoin, which may be a way of addressing carbon emissions in the future, a major concern to many nations at present arguing, “Cryptocurrencies represent a new frontier in digital finance and their popularity is growing. The decentralized networks for cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin being a well-known example…”

ClimateCoin is being seen as one solution using cryptocurrency that would allow P2P exchanges of carbon credits allowing devices to calculate emissions and offset them accordingly by purchasing further credits.

UNICEF recently received a boost with companies including Atix Labs, Onesmart, Prescrypto, Statwig, Utopixar, and W3 Engineers being awarded the challenge of building prototypes for global issues such as health-care delivery, affordable access to mobile phone connectivity, and the ability to direct finances and resources to social-impact projects.

The UN’s main body expressed interest in “the new frontier” in May 2018 when it announced a collaboration with IOTA to increase the efficiency of United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) operations.

 

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Google Ads Allegedly Blacklists Ethereum Keyword

Google Ads Allegedly Blacklists Ethereum Keyword

It has been reported that Google is now blacklisting keywords mentioning Ethereum on its Google Ads advertising platform. The first indication of this would-be policy buster by the internet search giant appeared in a Tweet by smart contract auditing startup Decenter before the weekend.

We are seeing a hard stop on Google Ads containing “Ethereum” as the keyword in the last two days. Is anyone else noticing the same change? Where there any new policy changes introduced @GoogleAds? #ethereum pic.twitter.com/P5XMGphdiV

— Decenter (@DecenterTeam) January 10, 2019

The current situation following Google’s initial ban on all cryptocurrency-related advertising last June was revised and updated in September 2018, allowing some businesses to advertise on its platform providing that any ads for cryptocurrency exchanges must be limited to targeting the US and Japan.

Google’s response to Decenter’s Tweet was that clearly, the ad must have been targeting countries other than the US and Japan, thereby resulting in the rejection of the Ethereum Google Ads keywords. When the startup pointed out that they were simply doing smart contract security audits and seeing errors when keying in “Ethereum development services” and “Ethereum security audits”, Google responded:

“Although we wouldn’t be able to preemptively confirm if your keyword is eligible to trigger ads, we’d recommend that you refer to the ‘Cryptocurrencies’ section of our policy on Financial products and services.”

Decenter’s Reddit post explained that the team had tested keywords such as “ethereum smart contract audits” and “eos smart contract audits” and only the EOS keyword yielded advertising as a result of the keyword search.

Reddit’s Ethereum community team came back with their response: “Any of the keywords that contain “ethereum” in our campaigns are no longer showing ads as of January 9th…”.

A Reddit user put his own case, clearly bemused by Google’s double standards: “Google has various political and economic agendas, and they are quite willing to use their various services to promote their preferences. AdSense and Youtube are notorious for this, but there have been some incidents regarding the play store as well.”

 

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ATMs Still Gaining Popularity Globally with 5 Daily Installations

ATMs Still Gaining Popularity Globally with 5 Daily Installations

The installation of cryptocurrency ATMs continues around the world as it has done throughout 2017, despite the crypto market downturn.

Newly-published figures indicate that new installations have taken the number of extant machines around the globe past the 4,000 total. This illustrates the degree to which users are increasingly needing a convenient way to access their crypto assets.

According to industry statistics aggregator Coin ATM Radar the current installment rate is now 4.9 a day. The new data breaks down the spread of crypto ATMs, suggesting that actual locations have changed little with the majority of the machines still being located in North America, followed by Europe with roughly a third of the North American total which currently has 72% of the global total actively in use.

Hong Kong represents Asia’s biggest market for crypto ATMs, accounting for 0.8% of the world’s active ATMs. In Europe, Austrians and the UK public are the most prominent users of machines on that continent. Lagging behind is Oceania, which includes major crypto user Australia, South America. The African continent has only 0.2% of the global usage, despite an increased interest in cryptocurrencies in 2018.

In the US, the country showing the biggest increase in installations in 2018 with 1,259 new active ATMs, California (473) and Illinois (250) have the largest number of machines in the country. The figures show that Bitcoin is supported by 99.9% of the world’s 4,167 machines.

The token break down shows a  59.5% support for Litecoin (LTC), 49.3% support for Ethereum (ETH) and 33.9% support for Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Dash (DASH) is supported by 17.9% of ATMs, while Monero (XMR), Dogecoin (DOGE) and ZCash (ZEC) are each supported by 3% or less.

 

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Wall Street Observes Bullish Trend in OTC Crypto Trading

Wall St Observes Bullish Trend in OTC Crypto Trading in New Year Copy

With Wall Street pretty much sitting on the fence last year and major players pulling back from the brink when it comes to cryptocurrency, reports from New York’s banking hub seem to indicate that the crypto trade is gaining fresh impetus.

Many see large-scale investment being re-examined in 2019 after being scared off by Bitcoin’s December dip. Wall Street notably stood back prior to the end of the year with Goldman Sachs’ much-publicized plans to open a crypto trading desk called “top-of-the-market-hype thinking” by one New York executive.

Nasdaq is already supporting crypto exchanges and the company is certainly not new to cryptocurrency’s underlying technology, blockchain. Apart from its long-term relationship with blockchain startup, Chain, it has recently announced a collaboration with cryptocurrency exchange Gemini.

It appears that selling on over the counter (OTC) desks is now turning to buying, as crypto OTC firm Cumberland pointed out, with the crypto buyers and sellers dynamic shifting towards far more bullish territory this year to date.

Desk Update: Historically, our OTC trading is relatively balanced between buyers and sellers. Over the last week, our OTC buy/sell ratio (by notional value) has increased approximately 60% towards counterparties buying.

— Cumberland (@CumberlandSays) January 8, 2019

Michael Moro, the CEO of Genesis Trading, sees the same reaction by buyers to the new year following last year’s rush to sell off crypto assets for tax purposes agreeing:

“I’ll echo Cumberland’s sentiments. Year-end saw quite a bit of selling for numerous reasons (e.g., tax loss selling and liquidation of crypto donations). As the year turned, the selling pressure from such activities has subsided, and we have seen more buy-side interest pick up.”

Monica Summerville, Tabb Group’s director of fintech, claims that major crypto exchanges have less trade that the OTC market which she says is over three times more active, arguing that “the big deals go to OTC”.

 

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Venezuela Calls for Crypto as Tax Payment

Venezuela Calls for Crypto as Tax Payment

The Venezuela state government now requires operators with crypto business in the country and overseas operators dealing in foreign countries to pay relevant taxes using cryptocurrency to boost the economy.

The move further illustrates the move towards digital currencies, as the value of the bolivar continues to fall. Given the economic crisis, Bitcoin has fast become a financial refuge for many nationals, with President Nicolás Maduro struggling to save the economy from going under from highly unsustainable inflationary situations and an ineffective and largely invisible introduction of the oil-backed Petro, Venezuela’s national digital currency.

The new decree states: “The Venezuelan people are currently facing a fierce war waged by internal and external factors that pursue the deterioration of the economy, which is why it is necessary to adopt sufficient measures to ensure the strengthening of the current fiscal regime.”

The Ministry of Popular Power of Economy and Finance is already putting the new legislation in place which will attempt to enforce the Petro as the only tax payment system for this particular group. The only exemptions to the new rule, according to the decree, will be transactions of securities traded on a stock exchange and “the export of goods and services, carried out by public bodies or entities”.

It appears that those “who carry out operations” in foreign currencies or cryptocurrencies as authorized by the law can also pay their taxes in foreign currency as well as digital currency. Normal taxpayers won’t be billed in Petro, as some believed would happen after an announcement by one state region declaring that cryptocurrency would be the new mode of payment for taxes. Tax refunds will be repaid in bolivar, the nation’s fiat currency.

Jean Carlos Martínez, representing the Service Desconcentrado de Administración Tributaria (Sedemat), clarified that “taxpayers will not be charged taxes in Petros”. He explainted that Petro would only be used as a reference unit to determine minimum tax, as “the ordinance of the current economic unit is still stipulated in percentages of gross income”.

He explained that those conducting transactions in Petro, Bitcoin or other currency, should declare their income according to the currency that they use. Als,o he clarified that the Petro has two uses, one as a cryptocurrency and the other “as a unit of account that translates into 9,000 sovereign bolivars, which will be used in passport procedures or current salaries”.

 

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Crypto Will Surge in 2019 as People Better Understand Underlying Tech

Crypto Will Surge in 2019 as People Better Understand Underlying Tech

Cryptocurrencies will surge moving forward according to Etoro managing director and cryptocurrency expert Iqbal Gandham. He is convinced that a greater understanding of cryptocurrency’s underlying technology will create a rally in Bitcoin and other digital currencies this year.

Speaking on Sky News, Gandham still feels that “Bitcoin is the so-called ‘daddy’ of the crypto-asset market”, adding, “It is just as other companies are dragged down by stocks performing in the FTSE 100, whether they are positive or negative, people look at Bitcoin as a bit of an index“.

Gandham suggested that the 2018 80% decline in the value of Bitcoin from USD 20,000 to USD 4,000 is insignificant movement and belies the fact that development in the industry is surging. He said:

“If you have a look at the amount of developers and the development happening in the underlying blockchain technology and also Bitcoin, it is increasing. It hasn’t declined… if people understand the technology rather than just view the price point – they will understand that this is not something that is just going to go away.”

Misha Libman, co-founder of blockchain art laboratory Snark.art, said any attempts to predict the value of Bitcoin was futile and basically a waste of time commenting:

“Every morning I wake up reading about the rise and decline of crypto and I am fascinated by the incredibly technical and visually sophisticated graphs predicting its future that borderline an art project.”

Libman’s view is that blockchain and cryptocurrency are the future, but there will be forces beyond Bitcoin that create its fluctuation price volatility; factors that have no real connection with cryptocurrencies place in the future of financial markets. He argues:

“Ultimately we are dealing with a new technology and new asset that is highly speculative, illiquid, and elusive, and drivers for its rise and fall is anyone’s guess and can be attributed by the media… the rollercoaster volatility that we are seeing today is something we are going to have to live with for a while until we will start using crypto to buy chewing gum.”

 

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