Category Archives: peer-to-peer

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LocalBitcoins Averts Phishing Scam, Resumes Regular Activity

LocalBitcoins Avert Phishing Scam, Resume Regular Activity

Outgoing transactions on peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchange LocalBitcoins resumed on 27 January following the shutdown of a phishing scam that exploited a weakness on the platform’s official forum.

A community manager from the exchange first warned of the phishing site on Reddit on 26 January, notifying users to be aware when visiting the forum if their computers requested them to log in to the website as if they had logged out. The post read: ”This is a PHISHING SITE and 2FA codes are being used to empty customer accounts.”

Further, the post claims the vulnerability had been identified and contained in third-party software. Six cases of users being affected had been reported at the time of the Reddit post.

Before the scam could be suspended, the hackers emptied BTC 7.95205862 (approximately USD 28,100) from five separate transactions. The address of the alleged hackers has been reported as 13WaahhsiGph4ysmQtjVhVTdgQUSL62KJr. LocalBitcoins is now fighting to have the address blacklisted from exchanges. However, the funds have already been emptied out to other addresses, and appear to have continued to be shifted.

While outgoing transactions from the platform have resumed, the official forum remains disabled until further notice. Comments on the Reddit thread from the LocalBitcoins community manager affirm that no know-your-customer data was compromised during the event.

 

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Bitcoin 10 Years On: Its Place in Finance

Bitcoin 10 Years On: Its Place in Finance

Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision for the use of Bitcoin has certainly evolved over the last decade, with mainstream adoption and the widely-believed “inevitable” entry of institutional investors giving it a place at the table with the likes of Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

Once dismissed as some libertarian fantasy, Bitcoin has certainly come a long way in the last ten years, but will it truly ever manage to find a sustainable place in the mainstream financial sector?

The original use case

As Nakamoto imagined it in the white paper, Bitcoin would be ”a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [that] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution”, citing the weaknesses of the trust-based model of which third-party mediators are required. Because of the double spending problem that arises from this model, Nakamoto recognized that merchants and banks would be required to ”hassle [clients] for more information than they would otherwise need”.

Bitcoin was created as a new electronic payment system that provided an alternative solution to the double spending problem by publishing all transactions on the blockchain publicly with a timestamp that means the first transaction that took place can always be checked. This is a way for customers to retain their personal data while giving people financial freedom to transact if they did not, for example, have the required identification to open a bank account or simply did not want to share that information. It also removes their requirement of dealing with central banks, of whom Nakamoto had expressed concerns over the way they managed peoples’ capital.

The idea of Bitcoin was revolutionary (a description its creators never used yet one hundreds of cryptocurrencies claimed), rebellious and, given that it meant anonymity of transactions, not something that central banks or governments looked upon favorably in the early days.

However, money talks, and after the Bitcoin bull run of 2017, the financial sector was forced to legitimize it at the very least as a potentially profitable investment option.

The move into the mainstream

CNBC, Forbes and Bloomberg have all featured positive reports on Bitcoin as an investment tool in 2018, with Henrik Andersson, chief investment officer of Apollo Capital Fund claiming, ”the coming year we will see a gradual adoption from institutions.” Andersson sees the growing number of US university endowments investing in funds as one major indicator of his claim. Goldman Sachs’ awaited cryptocurrency trading desk should also launch this year, while Nasdaq already supports cryptocurrency exchanges.

All of these factors indicate a real move of Bitcoin into mainstream finance, and into the highly-regulated world of identity checks and third-party mediators that it was created to avoid.

2018 closed with the banking sector in a bear market and the worst annual performance of the stock market in the last decade, with reports attributing this to the slowdown of the Chinese economy and concerns in the European market over the economic impact of the UK leaving the European Union.

While the cryptocurrency market did not perform well itself and Bitcoin indeed finished the year with its worst annual performance to date, there are still many questions over what impact the mainstream financial sector has, and will have in the future, on the performance of cryptocurrency.

As more institutional investors enter the market and an increasing number of established banks offer digital asset investment options, will more money be moved into cryptocurrency when stocks fall and traditional investment choices become less attractive? Or will Bitcoin’s move into the mainstream mean it is negatively impacted by poor performance in mainstream finance?

It is still early days to know for sure, but one study conducted by Yale University in August 2018 claims that the price of Bitcoin is not affected by macroeconomic factors or familiar stock market factors. Rather, they say, the drivers of cryptocurrency prices are unique to the market itself, with they two key predictors being market sentiment, investor attention and a ‘momentum effect’ that see patterns in price fluctuations.

Although, if predictions are correct in estimating an influx of institutional investors in 2019, how their influence will play out in Bitcoin’s market performance may change the conclusions of the Yale study.

Can Bitcoin succeed if it is primarily viewed as a tool for investment?

Bitcoin benefits from its resource scarcity as commodities such as oil and gold do, but nowhere in its white paper does it promise “high returns, no risk” as you can find in many initial coin offering white papers in circulation.

Major centralized cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase that require identity authentification surely go against what Nakamoto originally envisioned for Bitcoin. With global regulators focused cracking down on the industry, can Bitcoin survive without exchanges complying with know-your-customer regulations?

2019 should be a year to set the pace for understanding where Bitcoin will find itself in the foreseeable future of finance.

 

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12 Days of Coinbase Targets Venezuelan Border Town

12 Days of Coinbase Targets Venezuelan Border Town

The traditional 12 days of Christmas started yesterday crypto-style with Coinbase using the song to promote its worldwide services, focusing Day 2 on Venezuelan families in need.

In tune with the season of goodwill, the global exchange giant based in San Francisco, California, has promised to make an announcement that will profit someone each day leading up the big day itself.

Day 1 saw Coinbase announcing that users could buy gift cards so that family and friends could get some Uber, Adidas and Nike surprises through its U-gift program. For those hoping that materialism of this kind was a little too “Christmas Carol” for a multi-national, they have pushed the boat out a bit more on the second day with a gift which feels more befitting a company with such huge profits.

Venezuela continues to somehow avoid major news networks despite a humanitarian crisis there which is gradually becoming more intense by the day.

With a virtually non-existent virtual currency, the Petro, doing absolutely nothing to lift the economy, and inflation rising at alarming rates, eclipsing Germany in the Second World War, nationals are fleeing to neighboring South American countries for refuge. Venezuela is not in good shape, despite Bitcoin donations pouring in to alleviate pressure on some families. The local currency the Bolivar is now almost worthless.

Coinbase is donating USD 10,000 in ZCash (ZEC) to GiveCrypto.org, a nonprofit organization that distributes cryptocurrency to people living in poverty. The idea is that courtesy of Coinbase, GiveCrypto.org will donate USD 1 a day to the wallets of over 100 families living in the Venezuelan border town of Santa Elana de Uairen, located in Bolívar state near the border with Brazil and Guyana.

Recipients can spend their donated crypto on basic supplies and food over a period of three months in Santa Elana de Uairen. The USD 1 worth of crypto a day will allow families to buy 1-2 kilos of protein or 2 kilos of starches and vegetables every day.

 

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Malaysia to Release Crypto Regulations in Q1 2019

In a local news report, Finance Minister of Malaysia Lim Guan Eng confirmed today that a digital asset regulatory framework that will include cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICO) will be released and enforced during the first quarter of 2019.

Over a year ago, the Malaysia central bank began the development of a pro-blockchain and underlying asset regulatory framework to facilitate the development of the digital asset industry in the country without compromising its own financial system.

This effort was further clarified in a previous interview where Lim said, “It is not that we wish to obstruct (cryptocurrency) as we are keeping an open mind. But it is still subject to existing laws.” He added that any party wanting to include cryptocurrency would have to first refer to the central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia.

According to Lim, the interest of investors is a priority and needs safeguarding, saying, “While some parties might still be skeptical of this space, there can be no doubt that we need appropriate regulations to be put in place and enforced to safeguard the interest of investors.” He further hinted that the regulation is part of the Securities Commission’s efforts towards promoting the ideas of the new funding options for businesses and the rise of the new investment digital asset classes.

Further, while keeping an open mind is the current stance of the parliament towards these digital enterprises, the government is also breaking grounds through co-investment fund in alternative financing such as equity crowdfunding (ECF) and peer-to-peer financing (P2P) platforms.

“We are keen on the continued development of such alternative financing avenues for these businesses beyond the traditional channels of financing,” he said.

So far, recent blockchain developments in Malaysia include its education sector considering blockchain solution in combating degree fraud. However, it seems the case of Harapan Coin, a project speculated to become a Malaysian centrally-banked cryptocurrency, has yet to garner significant support.

 

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LocalBitcoins Takes off in Argentina and Venezuela as Inflation Rockets

October 2018 has seen record Bitcoin trading volumes on peer-to-peer platform LocalBitcoins in Argentina and Venezuela.

Given the economic crisis in both of these South American countries, BTC has fast become a financial refuge for many nationals, with the governments of both Mauricio Macri and Nicolás Maduro struggling to save their economies from going under from highly unsustainable inflationary situations.

Such is Bitcoin’s current impact on both of these nations at present, blockchain voting project Democracy Earth developer Santiago Siri, has suggested that the Argentinian Central Bank should place up to one percent of its national reserves in Bitcoin.  BTC has become a veritable safe haven with ATMs now becoming widespread to cater for demand, and significantly more merchants across the country accepting Bitcoin as payment

Argentina, which is now on the IMF help list of struggling economies needing financial aid, has seen LocalBitcoins recently post a record trading volume of almost $9 million BTC on its platform as the peso continues its nosedive against the US dollar.  Since April, the number of bitcoins transacted using LocalBitcoins increased from 13 to 33, 153% in just a few months.

The inflation rate in Venezuela under Maduro is almost impossible to keep up with, such is its persistent decline. The Petro, brought in as a panacea to trade embargoes and sanctions and a plummeting bolivar, is still heralded by Maduro’s government, but referred to by many others as simply non-existent, despite shop fronts sporting “we accept Petro” signs.

The IMF is now predicting an inflation rate of 10 million percent by 2019, which would put the country in the same league as Germany in 1923 before the rise of Nation Socialism and Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s. Germans at this time shopped with wheelbarrows filled with Deutschmarks. Maduro’s citizens have been making their own shopping bags out of bolivars in order to transport larger denominations of the same currency.

In this climate, Bitcoin has become the only safe currency, albeit secured largely underground with overseas dollars, and has seen accelerated activity in past weeks due to the government’s switch from the Bolivar Fuerte (VEF) to the Sovereign Bolivar (VES). P2P trading on LocalBitcoins has skyrocketed as a result, with total BTC trading volume for October 2018 standing at almost 900 million bolivars (approximately $14.4 million).

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StellarX Launches as Decentralized, No-Fee Crypto Exchange

A new decentralized cryptocurrency exchange platform from Interstellar has now been launched, free of any transaction or trading charges.

StellarX is open source and based on the native Stellar (XLM) cryptocurrency’s universal marketplace, the sixth largest crypto with a USD 4.8 billion market cap.

The platform differs from other exchanges as it allows users to load fiat currency directly into the local wallet, and offers a number of digital tokens for sale with state-issued currency including euros, Philippine pesos and Nigerian naira. ”A full suite of forex stablecoins” is anticipated for the exchange in the near future, as it hopes to become a usable cryptocurrency exchange for countries that currently do not have access to any others.

Interstellar say that it has plans to digitize alternative types of assets, including bonds and real estate – another aspect yet to be seen on any similar exchange. These new features are apparently in development now, with time and finding the right protocol to digitize them being the only hurdles.

Transparency

Creators say that the marketplace they created is completely transparent as everything described as ”meaningful” happens on the blockchain for the world to access. Both traders and token issuers also benefit from transparency in a wider sense of the word.

Traders are promised that tokens will behave in an ”expected manner”, and rather than smart contracts that may unravel ownership, tokenization happens from a basic template at the protocol layer. Issuers are able to see who is trying to trade with them and can confirm their identity before any transaction takes place.

Developers recognize the necessary standards for legal compliance in the space, hence requiring all users identities to be verified, particularly as they expand their listings to offering assets such as bonds.

Bitcoin News recently spoke to Felix Moreno from Bisq, a fully decentralized trading platform that offers a similar service bar the know-your-customer (KYC) policies. How did Moreno say they get around these legal expectations? It would seem to be by avoiding the establishment of any company, therefore, giving no particular entity for the government to pursue.

“There is no way we could turn into a KYC financial surveillance company because there is no company, there is no one the SEC can send a subpoena to. There is no one in charge,” Moreno told Bitcoin News.

 

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P2P Exchange Bisq: “It Doesn’t Get More Decentralized Than This”

With a recent surge in so-called decentralized cryptocurrency exchange platforms, peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange platform Bisq appears to be one of the very few to attempt serious decentralization.

Once the favored method of exchange, P2P volume has fallen over the years but with increasing privacy and security challenges on centralized exchanges, some like Bisq see a revival in the concept of direct exchange via P2P.

Felix Moreno is one of just a few individuals who work on the decentralized P2P exchange platform Bisq openly. Most people working on it volunteer their services anonymously and for free. Why? Because, as Moreno told Bitcoin News, it is the ”holy grail” of decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges.

Bitcoin News caught up with Moreno to discuss the logistics of running a nearly entirely decentralized exchange, why they will have to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way, and why know-your-customer (KYC) regulations are really just a way for the government to get into your pockets.

Moreno’s experience

He has been in the Bitcoin world for a long time, suffered through the Mt Gox fiasco and various hacks and scams before, and now wants to do his part in minimizing these experiences for others.

”What do we need that can make exchanging as decentralized as the Bitcoin network itself? This is the closest we have gotten to that ideal,” he said. This is one of the most interesting projects Moreno says he has worked on, both making him understand what makes Bitcoin special and what potential decentralization can unlock, Moreno explains his belief that Bisq’s founders really try and live up to this standard.

A return to private exchanges between crypto users

Bisq founder Manfred Karrer shared these comments about the platform: ”To enable a privacy protecting exchange between fiat currencies and Bitcoin, it is crucial to keep your Bitcoin untainted. Protection of privacy is here directly related to security. There is a long list of hacks of centralized Bitcoin exchanges. In such events, your personal financial data including your residency address can end up in the hand of hackers and criminals. The only protection is to not store user data.”

The Bisq project is open source, operating entirely with the help of informal collaborators besides the founders. There was no initial coin offering held to raise funds; the few who helped contribute the minimal funds pre-launch did not do so expecting to see their money again. The mission getting these people so excited is an ambition to create a platform like BitTorrent but instead of offering music, offering a cryptocurrency exchange for all coins, between people and users instead of companies and banks.

Right now, you can buy and sell Bitcoin and altcoins using dozens of fiat currencies but with more users, this could potentially become hundreds. The platform uses multi-signature transactions on Bitcoin smart contracts to block in escrow the Bitcoins that people use as a security deposit, so there is a mutually assured destruction for both partners in the trade if they don’t complete it correctly.

The privacy measures do not much change the process of using the platform, Moreno detailed: ”There is a local wallet in your computer under your control so there is no way that runners of the project can access it. You can fund the wallet at the moment you want to make the trade by just scanning the QR code and depositing funds straight away.”

Bisq Founder Manfred Karrer

In terms of decentralization, what makes Bisq so different from other exchanges?

Bisq does not require you to have an account or share your information with a third-party company. Your information is stored locally in the Bisq Client, an application that you need to download onto your computer, and only the minimum of this is shared with the trade counterpart and nobody else. For example, if you are trading with fiat, your bank details will be shared. A Bitcoin-Monero trade, on the other hand, will not even share your name with the trading partner, only your wallet address.

”There is no way we could turn into a KYC financial surveillance company because there is no company, there is no one the SEC can send a subpoena to. There is no one in charge,” Moreno explained.

Privacy is crucial for them. Moreno outlined the main issue with centralized businesses: ”Big companies leak large amounts of user data every week, and the ones who are not leaking are the worst offenders, accumulating social media and search engine data to sell to advertisers in the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is something from (the book) 1984.’

Privacy, he added, is especially important with finances due to the risks of theft, fraud, and rich Bitcoin traders that could become susceptible to phishing scams if their data is shared. He also recognized that there are different degrees of decentralization with Coinbase at one end, Hodl Hodl somewhere in the middle, and then Bisq.

”Ideally, Bisq is so successful that it will be copied by a lot of people and because it is open source code this will be easy. I’m fine with that, that’s the spirit of open source,” he explained.

A dying kind

Moreno pointed out that even companies that have tried to offer decentralized platforms, such as Shapeshift, reach a certain level of success and then have to ”ignore the ‘no account needed’ hashtag”. They may not want to impose KYC, he said in the case of Shapeshift: ”I know Eric (Shapeshift CEO), he’s a great guy, really believes in privacy. But once you run a company with dozens of employees and investors you cannot take the legal risk. Shapeshift is incorporated in Switzerland so technically the SEC doesn’t have anything to say about it in theory, but in practice, the long reach of American regulators extends at least over half the world if not more… I don’t think he has a choice.”

Bisq Co-Founder Chris Beams

It is not perfect

There are risks to this level of decentralization and the platform itself is not perfect. For one, it exposes Bisq to scammers that in some other places can be stopped with an identity check, but it uses a set of incentives and smart contracts to minimize this risk. Moreno says he has used nearly every trading platform there is and has realized it is much more detrimental to scammers to have a security deposit there to lose than to ask for identification. Bisq has a double security deposit, which when trade is completed, both parties recover but if there are any issues they can lose their money.

One aspect that people may also not like is the fact you have to download a program to run on your computer.

”That’s like early 2000s, who does that anymore?” Moreno joked, clearly aware that this is a problem for some people. It is, however, the only way to exchange completely securely and to let people really have control of their own node, he said.

Some people might also not enjoy the fact that because they are completely in control of their own funds as any mistake is on the user: ”It’s like in the early days of Bitcoin when you send funds to the wrong address – you’re screwed. But that’s your responsibility and some people don’t want that.”

And then there is the issue of speed. You can not simply buy with one click when making a market order as you can on some centralized platforms; the multi-signature which is on the Bitcoin blockchain requires at least 10 minutes for confirmation. Then the speed depends on your payment network; some ways such as through a Revolut account will be quick, but international bank transfers can sometimes take five days or more.

Fighting to stay online, and why regulations are really there

While Bisq may avoid most regulations because of its decentralized structure, the path ahead for them is not easy: ”Bisq is going to have a very hard time surviving the way it is doing things… We will have to fight like hell and use every technological advantage to keep it up.”

If there is a company behind it, Moreno says, every exchange will get a call from local regulators who want first: full KYC and the source of funds for counterterrorism measures especially over certain amounts, and secondly: automatic data sharing like banks already have with tax authorities so they can ”go on phishing expeditions to see who isn’t declaring all their Bitcoin income or whatever”.

Moreno continued, ”KYC is not there out of the goodness of their hearts; it’s a slippery slope towards first identifying you, then getting money out of you. If tax authority lobbyists win, they will allow crypto activities to continue but they will be taxed and if financial industry lobbyists win, they will exclude competition so only big financial companies can run exchanges with proper licenses.”

Industry self-regulation

So is industry self-regulation the way forward? Well, Moreno thinks it could work.

He explained that now, more than ever, there is the opportunity to do it well by using smart contracts and setting up things such as automatic penalties for people who break the rules. ”That can get us very very far, much farther than all the preventative KYC regs”, he said, adding that reputation networks too have always worked because people care a lot about return trade.

”If people are completely anonymous, it’s very easy to have a selfish attitude, but if it’s someone you have some sort of relationship with, it’s only the psychopaths that are going to give that up for a short-term gain,” Moreno remarked.

Bisq Co-Founder Christoph Atteneder

Set the date: 20th September

Right now, trading volumes are comparatively very small: ”Bisq is at 183 on Coincap, it’s tiny.”

For euros and dollars, trading is decent but for some other currencies such as the Argentinian peso, there is hardly anyone on the platform offering pairs. ”Argentina really needs it but again, most people will not do the work of finding decentralized exchanges until they suffer a hack or find their account frozen,” Moreno noted.

To try and encourage traders, Moreno has planned a kick start virtual event on 20 September 2018. He is asking everybody who is interested to go on Bisq and place an ad.

”If you don’t want to trade just say ‘I’m here, I’m interested and when the time comes to buy and sell I will be here,’ especially for lesser used currencies. If we can get 4/5 people for these currencies, other people can see there are people trading around them.”

It may not be the fastest platform, the most accessible or provide some of the assurances that KYC compliant exchanges do, but as Moreno believes, ”Right now, Bisq is the best we have got by far.”

To find out more about Bisq, or to contribute to the platform, join the Slack or follow them on Twitter.

 

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P2P Becoming the Indian Way to Trade Crypto Following the Banking Ban

Peer to Peer (P2P) trading is on the march in India due to the country’s banks shutting down crypto services this year.

Since the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decision earlier this year, Indian traders are adapting as only Indians can do, and are doing it with great success too, with homemade P2P platforms and exchange adaptations using P2P trading.

Peer-to-Peer trading cuts out the banks completely. Out of this move, a new service KoinLoop has launched such a service, born out of two collaborating exchanges; KoinEX and WazirX. The latter’s CEO argues that his company also has the cheapest BTC price in India, adding:

“If banking is something the exchanges are not allowed to do, then the solution is something that direct banking doesn’t come in.”

As Bitcoin News reported recently Dabba is also taking off as a way of avoiding the RBI ban. Best described as a way of trading through something called a “hawala” network rather any system connected with an exchange, Dabba is becoming increasingly popular. The trading only takes place through an overseas bank account mainly based in the UK, with Dubai another favorite.

Mainly using the messaging app Telegram its use best explained simply thus:

“The broker accepts money in cash, buys Bitcoins using an overseas trading account and sells them when the bet placed in India is settled. The difference is paid in cash to the customer.”

The KoinEX system offers a P2P trading solution called Loop which offers clients access to the trading of BTC, ETH, and XRP. CEO Rahul Raj explains:

“…buyers and sellers on Loop can create their own listings (like a marketplace) or explore existing listings to choose their best trades,” adding, “…while it’s still early days, Loop has been very well received by the Indian trading community and we are seeing increasing traction every day.”

LocalBitcoins have also seen a local boost to trading since the ban with the Indian rupee (INR) volume increasing 25% from around 68 million rupees to 85 million rupees to August. BTC saw a similar hike in trading volumes with a hike of 23% over the same period.

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