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Bank of Korea to Research CBDC as Part of 2020 Monetary Policy

BOK to organize taskforce for CBDC research

  • The Central Bank of Korea is planning to appoint a taskforce dedicated to CBDC research
  • The Monetary Policy for 2020 covers research for DLT, crypto assets and CBDC

As reported by local news outlet Korea Times, the Bank of Korea (BOK) is planning to set up a taskforce exclusively for CBDC research, following the crypto boom which has garnered the attention of several central banks from around the world. BOK also plans to recruit additional CBDC experts as Hong Kyung-Sik, head of the central bank’s payment and settlement systems department, said that the bank is considering the issuance of digital currency, although not anytime soon.

As of now, the BOK underscored its priority to strengthen efforts for the CBDC research. The bank said:

“We will actively engage in discussions with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and other international organizations, keeping an eye on CBDC development at other central banks.”

South Korea is actively trying to extend support for adequate research into emerging technologies. As part of the Monetary Policy for 2020, BOK said that it will keep up the research work on emerging technologies and innovations, such as distributed ledger technology, crypto assets and CBDC, to tighten the security of settlement systems.

Several countries are showing a keen interest in CBDC, of late. The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) will soon get on board with the testing and promotion of the digital currency in the cities of Shenzhen and Suzhou, sometime in 2020. France will also begin testing of CBDC in early 2020.

 

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BIS Changes Opinion on Crypto, Eyes Digital Currency Issuance

BIS Changes Opinion on Crypto, Eyes Digital Currency Issuance

Augustus Cartens, the General Manager of the Bank of International Statements (BIS), appears to have taken a reverse in his outlook of digital currencies. In an interview with Financial Times on 30 June, Cartens seemed to have become pro crypto when he said that he supported cryptocurrencies. He actively endorsed the issuance and usage of digital fiat currencies in everyday transactions. He said:

“Many central banks are working on it; we are working on it, supporting them, and it might be that it is sooner than we think that there is a market and we need to be able to provide central bank digital currencies.”

However, these statements of his took many by surprise as a year ago Cartens was known to be an active critic of digital currencies. He called the concept of digital currencies a Ponzi scheme and a disaster to the environment as crypto mining requires high energy consumption and infrastructure. He believed that the increase in accessibility of transferring funds could potentially destabilize the system and condemned the activity of people “creating new money”.

He said that banks would be under various risks if they considered the introduction of cryptocurrencies, citing that innovation should not come very fast. BIS also outspokenly criticized Facebook’s Libra, stating that it involves the transfer of money beyond the control of government authorities.

As reported in March, Carstens stated that there was no necessity for a state-backed cryptocurrency and that for most countries “cash is still in high demand”. This change in opinion in the course of such a short span of time speaks volumes about the kind of effect digital currencies have on big financial institutions.

 

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Washington Lawmakers Call to Spoil Party on Facebook’s Crypto Aspirations

Washington Lawmakers Call to Spoil Party on Facebook's Crypto Aspirations

New plans from Facebook to enter crypto space appear to be infuriating a group of Washington lawmakers who fear the media giant is cutting loose without regards to regulation.

The comments floating around Capitol Hill seem to be led by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters who just wants to put the skids on the development of Facebook’s Libra coin so it can be examined by US regulators. California Democrat Waters, clearly not a fan of the media giant, feels that Facebook has gone too far already down the road to, as she put it, “unchecked expansion”. She commented this week:

Facebook has data on billions of people and has repeatedly shown a disregard for the protection and careful use of this data… With the announcement that it plans to create a cryptocurrency, Facebook is … extending its reach into the lives of its users.”

Of course, using Facebook is a choice, and there are other mediums out there allowing users many of the functions that Facebook offers, so Waters point of it “extending its reach of the lives of its users” seems to indicate that users lack the ability to select what is best suited to their particular lifestyle. Users will always have a choice.

Senator Sherrod Brown, a Senate Banking Committee Democrat, also called for Facebook users to be protected but could provide no input into how this should be carried out, or by whom. Patrick McHenry, the top Republican on the Financial Services Panel has called for a hearing, suggesting that Congress should go, “beyond the rumors and speculations and provide a forum to assess this project and its potential unprecedented impact on the global financial system”.

Other views out of Washington have been similar. Virginia Democrat, Senator Mark Warner saw Facebook as simply attempting to dominate new industries.

 

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Google Claims It Did Not Shut Down CCN.com

Google Claims It Did Not Shut Down CCN.com

A Google representative has denied that there was any attempt to instigate CNN.com’s shutdown by updating the Google algorithm.

On 10 June, the popular cryptocurrency news site was shut down due to a marked decrease in its online readership. The search giant responded that some sites might be affected more than others after the Google update.

After Google’s Core Update on 3 June 2019, CCN saw a dramatic decrease in traffic and according to its founder Jonas Borchgrevink: “Our search traffic dropped by more than 71% overnight… With that, we saw a drastic decline in ad revenues”, which Borchgrevink estimated to be a fall of 90%.

As for any intent to blacklist cryptocurrency websites, Google stated on Twitter that a prewarning was given of proposed changes back in October of 2018 that the updates may have different effects on a range of sites and some may be harder hit.

Borchgrevink suggested that the staff may migrate over to another news site HVY.com and the shutdown wasn’t simply a cover-up for lack of operational funding at CNN, he commented:

“You can ask any of our 60+ team members […] They are all offered the same rates over at HVY.com… I think they all have accepted the situation… We have not fired a single person [on] the team.”

Borchgrevink went on to say that he had been in contact with most other news sites over the Google update who also expressed concerns. Mike Dudas, founder, and CEO of The Block stated:

“… we are troubled by the lack of transparency and warning by Google, who seems to have made a change to their algorithm that significantly impacted major cryptocurrency sites but have yet to explain why.”

Google’s record on cryptocurrency related advertising history has been somewhat checkered, although its 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.

Earlier this year, there was a suggestion that Google was blacklisting keywords mentioning Ethereum on its Google Ads advertising platform.

 

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Investment Heavyweights Add Investment Spark to Digital Security Firm Fireblocks

Investment Heavyweights Add Investment Spark to Digital Security Firm Fireblocks

Fireblocks, a platform which secures and protects digital assets in transit, is getting some serious backing for its latest project from the proprietary investment arm of Fidelity International.

The USD 16 million in Series A funding from investment heavyweights including Cyberstarts, Tenaya Capital, and Eight Road will now enable Fireblocks to seek further backing and further increase its development.

The company is certainly a friend of the industry enabling users to safeguard themselves from digital hacks and being compromised online. Their platform now offers users increased security using industry standard protection. Exchanges are increasingly looking at companies such as this to protect the transmission of storage of digital assets.

The platform also allows the use of several layers of security including passwords, biometrics, and two-factor identification, which have all now become industry standard. Co-Founder Michael Shailov stated that his main aim is to eliminate cybercrime and protect clients from such events as “clearly sophisticated hacking by true professionals, including nation-states“.  Even governments around the globe are now considering blockchain as part of their anti-hacking protection. Shailov explained that transfer speed is becoming more important as a means of protecting users:

“There was a need to take assets, either native to the blockchain or tokenized assets or securities, and move, trade, sell them in a reasonably fast time frame… Keeping assets locked down in cold storage like a traditional custodian is antithetical in the way [investment firms dealing in crypto] operate.”

The company has grown quickly from its startup this year with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of crypto transfers already successfully protected, with a network linked to 15 exchanges and 180 cryptocurrencies, including tokens and stablecoins.

 

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SEC More Informed Than Expected at DC Blockchain Forum

SEC More Informed Than Expected at DC Blockchain Forum

The week started with the much-awaited Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) first Fintech Forum, held on 31 June in Washington DC.

Issues on the agenda were expected to be related to cryptocurrency assets and DLT with key SEC officials being joined by various legal, financial and technical experts, but what surprised experts was the degree of knowledge SEC representatives already had on a range of crypto-related topics.

Cynics have always labeled the SEC with a lack of understanding on all things crypto, therefore, maintaining a wait n see stance, particularly on matters relating to Bitcoin ETFs. The SEC’s chops were reportedly highly visible at the meeting. Joshua Ashley Klayman, managing member of Klayman LLC, a boutique law firm was, like others, surprised at the SECs acquired crypto knowledge:

“Clearly they have been listening to what those in the community – and their counsel – have been saying to them and they’ve put a lot of effort into understanding this space… It was a much higher-level discussion than the basics of blockchain.”

On the SEC side, Valerie Szczepanik, the SEC’s senior advisor for digital assets through in Ethereum smart-contract programming language when explaining a point about the need for more dialogue between the agency and developers and explained that both the SEC and developers needed “to translate between each other”. She added that both sides need to fill the educational gap when it came to understanding bot regulation and development, pointing out:

“We also learned that the federal securities laws are just as complex to computer scientists as coding smart contracts in Solidity are to regulators.”

Another attendee at the forum went away with a somewhat renewed perceptions of the SEC, Attorney Stephen Rutenberg, a shareholder at Polsinelli and a member of the firm’s Fintech and Regulation Practice, agreed that the SEC’s understanding of DLTs was “beyond what most people think”.

 

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Crypto Over Cash: US Congressional Research Service Take A Look

Crypto Over Cash_ US Congressional Research Service Take A Look

Recent research by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in the US has revealed that there is a migration away from cash in retail transactions, adding to the possibility that alternative methods of payments including cryptocurrency could gain traction moving forward.

The May 10th report by the CRS indicates that alternative non-cash payment systems, including bitcoin or other digital assets, in the purchase of goods and services, is fast becoming the mode of settlement for the future.

The current alternative to cash, the report found, is what is it called “traditional noncash payment systems” such as credit cards and debit cards and even included mobile payments in the same category. With lawmakers around the globe now looking at inclusive legislation for cryptocurrency as a payments system it may not be too long before the CRS include crypto in this traditional non-cash category.

Amy Zirkle, interim CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association, a Washington-based trade group for the payments technology industry, had her own view of this progression away from cash:

“While cryptocurrencies may not supplant traditional payments aggressively in the near term, the value of blockchain and innovative approaches to the payments industry extends beyond fiat currency replacement,” commenting that there may be added value for using cryptocurrency and blockchain in solving cross-border payments, streamlining communication between financial institutions, and better securing data.

There is a sign that diminishing in cash’s integrity is worrying some state legislators with New Jersey, Massachusetts and Philadelphia have enacted laws that largely prohibit cashless stores and more recently the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passing legislation that requires walk-in retailers to accept cash.

A possible comforting observation by the CRS for such cash friendly state legislators is the Congressional Services comments that cryptocurrency is still a long way off being able to handle current volumes of transactions handled by cash:

“At present, the systems underlying cryptocurrencies do not appear capable of processing the number of transactions that would be required of a widely adopted, global payment system.” but that said, the CRS concludes that cryptocurrencies nevertheless “have the potential to significantly affect the usage of cash and traditional systems for payments.”

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US Crypto Users Hit by Sim Jacking Flurry

US Crypto Users Hit by Sim Jacking Flurry

Over the past week, the US cryptocurrency community has been reeling from a recent wave of sustained SIM swapping attacks.

The attacks were limited to the US alone and seemed to have targeted T-Mobile and AT&T customers.

SIM swapping/jacking is a type of account takeover fraud that generally targets a weakness in two-factor authentication and two-step verification, where the second factor or step is an SMS or a call placed to a mobile telephone. Effectively the perpetrator uses various techniques (usually social engineering) to transfers a victim’s phone number to their own SIM card.

My personal identity was hacked last week. The attacker was able to steal $100k+ in a sweep of my Coinbase account. I’m equal parts embarrassed, hurt, and deeply remorseful.

In an effort to raise awareness about the attack, I wrote about it here: https://t.co/ZnbB0AN6Gd

— Sean Coonce (@cooncesean) May 20, 2019

Attackers saw the rise in cryptocurrency as an opportunity to broaden their activities and make some serious money, although such events have been occurring for the past ten years. The number of attacks rocketed in 2017 as crypto took off. 2018 registered a number of SIM swap attacks in the US, but these numbers appear to a have reduced after police intervention. Caleb Tuttle, a detective with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office explained how the attacks work:

“The first is when the attacker bribes or blackmails a mobile store employee into assisting in the crime. The second involves current and/or former mobile store employees who knowingly abuse their access to customer data and the mobile company’s network. Finally, crooked store employees may trick unwitting associates at other stores into swapping a target’s existing SIM card with a new one.”

I’ve been hearing about another spate of SIM-jackings involving @TMobile, possibly involving bypassed PINs, which hint at insiders or weak processes.

The traditional telecom companies won’t clean up their act without a class action lawsuit and heavy fines. Switch to @googlefi. https://t.co/wp60qvyn7i

— Emin Gün Sirer (@el33th4xor) June 2, 2019

However on an encouraging note for cryptocurrency users, it has been reported that SIM swappers are usually caught, as phone providers usually pick-up the excessive log-ins associated with the activity.

 

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How the ICO Market Has Been Regaining Investor Faith

How the ICO Market Has Been Regaining Investor Faith

In 2018, funds raised from initial coin offerings (ICOs) fell dramatically from over USD 1 and a half billion in January, to under USD 75 million in December.

However, new data showing the activities of the month of May so far indicates that investor faith has begun to regain strength in the light of increasingly highly-rated ICO projects, with 85% of the total projects receiving a high rating between 3-3.5 stars. This is a significant increase, even from April 2019 which claimed an average of just 68% of projects gaining this trusted star rating.

As many viewed ICOs and similar token events as a groundbreaking new way to fund startup projects in the blockchain space, the slow fizzle out of popularity last year was highly disappointing. It seemed to be that these token offerings had collapsed under the weight of up to 80% scam projects flooding the market, as well as crashing prices across nearly all cryptocurrency.

ICO bench data shows that 157 ICOs have been launched in May so far, expanding the total number of published projects to 5,512. There are currently 287 ongoing ICOS, with a further 140 expected in the near future.

A summary of the ICObench ICO Market Half-Monthly Analysis May 2019 report can be accessed for free with a trial subscription on the platform.

Moving away from the established model

Trends away from the established ICO model are likely in reaction to the poor quality and trust standards that became prominent amongst ICOs, beginning in 2017.

The month of May 2019 has so far been overwhelmed by Bitfinex’s USD 1 billion initial exchange offering (IEO) — a relatively new model available to investors where they can participate in a centralized cryptocurrency exchange’s token offering. The exchange involved operates the sales, vetting both the project and prospective investors.

Bitfinex’s IEO has contributed significantly towards this month’s roughly USD 1.075 billion collected in token sales — the highest total funds raised in 2019 to date.

This year has also seen a rise in popularity of security token offerings (STOs). STOs claim to offer a more trusted model than the ICO as the security token issued to investors represents an investment contract, acting similar to ownership information given to investors in the stocks or bonds, just recorded on the blockchain via the token instead.

STOs can be seen as a lower risk than ICOs because they are protected by securities laws that the tokens must comply with, legally enforcing transparency and accountability from the project behind the token.

STOs raised USD 1 and a half million in March 2019; this figure jumps up to over USD 5 and a half million in May so far.

Indeed, because active ICOs have a higher average trust rating than one year ago, it enforces greater trust in investments made across the cryptocurrency market.

The move towards alternative token investment models such as STOs and IEOs could certainly be one reason investors are regaining trust in early blockchain project investment. However, May’s bullish market performance could certainly have also had a great impact on the number of investors willing to participate in token offerings.

 

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Can Blockchain-Backer Matt Hancock Woo Party Millennials and Become Next UK PM

Hancock

With speculation mounting as the race to become nominated for the leadership of the UK conservative party and hence become the next British Prime Minister, Blockchain advocate and tech campaigner Matt Hancock has thrown his hat into the ring.

With the number of candidates now standing at eight, with more yet to put their names forward in the next few days, current Health Secretary of State and former economist at the Bank of England, Hancock has the country’s tech-savvy millennial population well within his sights.

Matthew John David Hancock is a British Conservative Party politician serving as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since 2018 and has served as Member of Parliament for West Suffolk since 2010 and as minister for digital policy, Hancock recommitted to a “full fibre” digital policy for the UK in 2017.

Hancock is well known for his pro-blockchain stance amongst political circles and also his strongly positive views regarding the development and application of cryptocurrency within the UK’s financial system. In his previous role as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport he pushed to get blockchain accepted as a definitive new technology which would push the industry forward in the UK.

From his beginnings, following university, Hancock briefly worked for his family’s computer software company, and throughout his career has spoken out for IT, emerging technologies and their application across industry and finance. He even backed up his enthusiasm in February last year when he was still Culture Secretary by launching his own app called Matt Hancock MP, explaining at the time:

“It’s a chance to find out what’s going on both in my role as MP for West Suffolk and as culture secretary, and most importantly it’s a chance for you to tell me what you think, and to engage with others on issues that matter to you.”

UK MPs have become increasingly vocal on cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. In 2017, Hancock delivered a memorable speech to the UK Law Society asserting that blockchain technology would have a “monumental impact” on people’s lives in the future. He spoke of “vast areas of public life” that he predicted blockchain would transform: the financial sector, government services, and laws and regulation.

He is a champion of advocating blockchain technology to solve many of the worlds social challenges and has cited the World Food Programme Ethereum Blockchain Aid initiative as an example. The same program transferred cryptocurrency-based vouchers to 10,000 refugees in Syria, enabling them to buy cash-free provisions. He asserted at the time:

“I use as my example the use of blockchain in development aid because then you can follow the money to the recipient and go and check that the recipient has received the money and what they’re using it for. I can see anywhere where you need verification, the blockchain is a potential technology for doing that.”

Clearly, the 40-year-old Hancock will broaden the appeal of his party to attract millennials, particularly given where his pro-tech sympathies lie, including his views on cryptocurrency which are very much slanted towards innovation and limit on controls:

“We only want one currency here in the UK. Nevertheless, having other currencies whether they’re backed internationally or are essentially backed by technology and verified through a distributed ledger, it’s better to have them here than offshore…I want our regulators to carry out their essential roles – preventing harm, providing certainty to businesses and trust to citizens – without stifling innovation.

Hancock has outlined how the UK Government’s Digital Strategy demonstrates Britain becoming “the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business and to trial new technologies like blockchain” and sees London’s influence as the potential tech hub capital of the world to influence the rest of the UK.

Hancock pointed out that in June 2017, the UK’s top ten publicly-traded fintech businesses crossed the 100 billion-dollar market at a value of GBP 71 billion. He went on to illustrate that it was blockchain which was the most important emerging technology and that UK financial regulators were leading the world in encouraging innovation.

Whether this self-confessed computer geek can appeal to enough millennials to push him over the line remains to be seen. Regarding his race to Number 10, he has stated the need to reconnect with the younger generation, but not simply those who have just left university

“The average age of people who vote Conservative is now 51. So we need to reach out to a whole new generation of people – not just those in their 20s but those in their 30s and 40s, too….We desperately need that generational shift. We need a fresh start and to turn the page on some of the ugly politics of the last few years.”

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