London police nab prolific cybercriminal

London police nab prolific cybercriminal, seize $700,000 in BTC

Undercover British police took a little train ride last December. It wasn’t for a police conference or to participate in a training exercise; instead, it was the perfect opportunity to corral a fugitive they had finally caught up with after two years. The fugitive was Grant West, and he had become known as one of the most prolific cybercriminals in the world.

Going by the name of “Courvoisier” online, he allegedly concocted a series of cybercrimes directed at more than 100 companies between July and December 2015. According to investigators, West targeted gambling shops, cellphone companies and supermarkets, using phishing emails sent to the stores’ customers that resulted in the individuals giving up their bank details, credit card numbers and passwords.

West used this information to make a small fortune on the Dark Web, selling the data to unscrupulous scammers. He received payments for his services, and converted them all to BTC—when he was arrested, over $700,000 in BTC was found in several wallets held on his laptop.

Under many circumstances, law enforcement officers have a difficult time gathering intel, especially when criminals use the anonymity of cryptocurrency to their advantage. However, when West was nabbed, his laptop was turned on and unlocked, and investigators were able to walk right in. They found his encrypted addresses on the computer, which helped authorities secure their case against him.

According to Sharon Cohen Levin, a money-laundering authority who has worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Manhattan office, investigators often have the ability to know that cryptocurrency has been utilized in the commission of a crime, but they aren’t able to identify the individuals. Having access to West’s laptop changed that significantly in this case. Levin explained to USA Today, “There is not necessarily any place, for example, that you can subpoena to find information about Bitcoin-related activity.”

The arrest comes after a two-year undercover operation led by Scotland Yard. The arrest was led by Mick Gallagher, who said, “These people generally feel they can operate with impunity, that they can’t be touched. We have now debunked that.”

West was found innocently traveling on the train, oblivious to what was about to go down. He pleaded guilty to the charges and will stand before a judge on May 25 to learn his fate. His girlfriend and alleged accomplice, Rachael Brookes, was sentenced to community service for two years, authorities said.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
Coinbase gives up data to New York attorney general

Coinbase gives up data to New York attorney general

New York’s Attorney General (AG) Eric Schneiderman asked a number of cryptocurrency exchanges to turn over corporate data last month. While some exchanges like Kraken told him to basically get stuffed, Coinbase has agreed to the request.

In a public response to the request, and perhaps as a means of saving face, Coinbase said, “We applaud the [Office of the Attorney General] for taking action to bring further transparency to the virtual currency markets.” The response is part of a five-page letter penned by the exchange’s chief legal and risk officer, Mike Lempres, who further detailed the $150 billion in assets held by the company, as well as its received funding of $225 million and its financial position, which he describes as “a profitable and self-sustaining business.”

Schneiderman, who has never been an ally to the cryptocurrency industry, sent a request to 13 exchanges in April that demanded information on 32 separate points. He solicited information about their operations, their leadership, privacy, funding and relationships with other financial institutions, and much more. As any power-branding zealot would do, he only gave the exchanges two weeks to comply.

Coinbase’s letter further details its involvement with law enforcement and regulatory agencies around the world, its system upgrades (which, according to Lempres, helped the platform maintain 99.99% uptime in April) and Coinbase’s “state of the art” cybersecurity program. Lepres also stated that the company is a federally-regulated money service and currently holds licenses to operate in 31 states, including in New York with its BitLicense.

Coinbase may have reported “99.99% uptime” for April, but it wasn’t without issues in the month. From April 12 to April 16, users reported not receiving email confirmations for instant purchases, a glitch that Coinbase subsequently corrected. On April 2, purchases using the exchange’s Xfers payment method were unavailable for about four hours, but no sells were apparently affected.

The public version of the information provided is a watered-down version of what was presented to Schneiderman per a request by Lempres made from the start. Lempres had requested “confidential treatment” to the entire response, delivered to the AG via Coinbase’s own “encrypted end-to-end secure file exchange service consistent with our security protocol.”

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
South Korean lawmakers to champion legalised ICOs

South Korean lawmakers to champion legalised ICOs

South Korea has been on the frontline of ICO regulation in recent months, following the decision of lawmakers there to outlaw initial coin offerings, as part of a wider crackdown on activities within the cryptocurrency space.

Now, a group of lawmakers is reported to be working on a bill that would seek to overturn the ban, and reintroduce ICOs on a legal footing.

According to local media reports, lawmakers are drawing up proposals which could be presented later this year, of early 2019 at the latest. The proposals are being led by Rep. Hong Eui-rak, who told the National Assembly this week of his plans to challenge the 2017 ban.

“The bill is aimed at legalizing ICOs under the government’s supervision…The primary goal (of the legislation is helping remove uncertainties facing blockchain-related businesses,” Hong said, according to Korea Times.

However, far from a return to the free-for-all conditions of the unregulated market, the proposals would allow only “research centers” and public organisations from deploying the funding model, which most market analysts would consider a step in the right direction for legitimising token issues. Nevertheless, the proposals will come as a surprise to some, following the decision in South Korea to ban initial coin offerings in the first place.

The 2017 decision seems to have had little impact on trading volumes or interest in the wider cryptocurrency space in South Korea, save for a reduction in the number of dubious ICOs being launched each month.

It follows similar moves by regulators elsewhere to bring ICOs in line with existing securities laws. In the U.S., for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission declared some ICOs to be de facto securities, accompanied by several other motions towards a formal, regulated environment for the ICO model.

Authorities in China have come down hard on the other extreme, effectively banning the model outright—a policy approach that has apparently gained some traction across other Asian countries.

This makes a new structure in South Korea potentially even more significant, and the chance to set a new precedent for regulating ICOs in the region.

With the implications of the 2017 ban still becoming apparent, it remains to be seen whether the more moderate approach proposed in the bill will gain the necessary support to become law, and to soften the regulatory approach to ICOs in South Korea.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
OpenBazaar co-founder vents at excessive BTC fees

OpenBazaar co-founder vents at excessive BTC fees

Washington Sanchez, co-founder of open-source decentralised marketplace OpenBazaar, has expressed frustration over the high fees involved in BTC transactions.

Sanchez lashed out at the high transaction fees on Twitter, as well as expressing regret at his earlier BTC “maximalism,” to the exclusion of other, often more suitable cryptocurrency alternatives.

Since the launch of the project back in 2014, OpenBazaar has mainly processed payments in BTC. However, with fees and transaction times on the increase, and serious concerns about scalability with current technology, Sanchez appeared to suggest there was an appetite for embracing alternative cryptocurrencies.

In his frank tweet, Sanchez bemoaned the civil war in Bitcoin community, and suggested that the issue to embrace alternative cryptocurrencies had now been forced by the fundamental problems with BTC for payments.

He added, “The core lesson was to not let personal ideology interfere with designing what is best for open competition and experimentation within the marketplace…Openbazaar is supposed to be a free and open protocol for trade using cryptocurrency, a way for currencies and tokens to gain meaningful economic utility to acquire goods and services, and an entry point for people to earn/onboard. This vision cannot be limited to a single coin.”

The comments come with the suggestion that OpenBazaar is ready to introduce support for a raft of new cryptocurrencies to solve the issues of lengthy transaction times and ever-increasing transaction fees.

In particular, OpenBazaar is looking at increasingly incorporating Bitcoin Cash (BCH), for more efficient, cost-effective transactions. Without the legacy issues that affect BTC, Sanchez said OpenBazaar would be implementing support for BCH, along with several other cryptocurrencies by the end of the year.

“With any luck, by the end of the year, [Openbazaar] will look radically different,” Sanchez tweeted.

In addition to BCH, Openbazaar also suggested several other cryptocurrencies may be supported in future, including LTC, ETH and ZEC.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
Facebook messenger malware FacexWorm targets crypto platforms

Facebook messenger malware FacexWorm targets crypto platforms

FacexWorm, a malicious Google Chrome extension, has been targeting cryptocurrency trading platforms via Facebook Messenger, according to a Trend Micro report.

This was not the first time FacexWorm has targeted unsuspecting users. The malware was first uncovered last year in August by Kaspersky labs researcher David Jacoby. At the time, it was unclear how it operated and the purpose for its creation. Eight months later,Trend Micro noticed on April 8 activities that resembled the malware. At the time of discovery, there were already reports of FacexWorm attack in countries like Tunisia, Germany, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

The new version of FacexWorm works similarly like the old version with few new adjustments. In addition to sending socially engineered links to friends from an affected Facebook Messenger account, it can steal users account and credential details. FacexWorm also causes cryptocurrency fraud, puts malicious cryptocurrency mining codes on a website and redirects users to attackers’ referral link for cryptocurrency related programs. It can also hijack cryptocurrency transactions and steal money from platforms, such as Poloniex, HitBTC, Bitfinex, Ethfinex, and Binance, and wallets like Blockchain.info.

According to the report, users who opened the link were redirected to a fake YouTube page, where they will be asked to install a codec extension—FacexWorm—to play the video. Finally, users will get a request for “privilege to access,” and change data on the opened website. Once granted access,FacexWorm will download malicious codes to help in executing its operations.

The malware has only been able to affect a small group of people, according to the Trend Micro team, which has so far been able to identify one BTC transaction that was affected by FacexWorm. They were, however, not able to determine how many BTC coins have been earned from the malicious malware

Chrome has taken measures to remove and prevent attackers from uploading FacexWorm in their system.Facebook Messenger has also put measures to detect and prevent FacexWorm uploads by attackers. Trend Micro urges users to be careful while sharing information with friends.

Last year, Amazon had a malware attack that was uploaded to their Amazon Web Services servers. The malware executed BTC mining command that allowed mining using the company’s large process power to facilitate the process.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
'Blockchain will belong to us': Putin calls dibs on blockchain

‘Blockchain will belong to us’: Putin calls dibs on blockchain

The Russian president is reigniting a decades-old rivalry saying the US has the Internet, but blockchain technology will be Russia’s.

Both start-up companies and established industry giants are scurrying to cut a piece of the market as blockchain technology ushers in a lot of possibilities and drives several existing practices into obsolescence. But private companies are not the only ones who are going in on the blockchain race. Several governments are also working on their own projects in their bid to be on the front line of the industry, or at least to keep from falling behind.

As early as now, Vladimir Putin is eager to plant the Russian flag on the technology, even if only through a verbal claim (for now). As if it were another Moon race, the Russian president was quick to reignite a decades-old rivalry.

“Look, the Internet belongs to the Americans,” Putin says, “but blockchain will belong to us.”

Putin has been openly interested in and actively endorsing blockchain technology. In June last year, he met with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. Just a few months ago, he met with Herman Gref, the president of Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, and endorsed the technology, saying the country needs further progress—beyond what they already have. Below is a rough translation of his statement:

“Other colleagues and citizens of the country may ask: Why do we need all this? If we have everything—we have oil, gas, coal, metals of all kinds…gold, platinum, diamonds—everything.”

“But we need to advance further—this is what we need. And we have to work for this,” he added. “One of our colleagues, the former oil minister of an Arab country said: ‘the Stone Age has not ended due to the lack of stones, but because new technologies have appeared. And new technologies are appearing in the world now.”

He added that those who are “late in the race” will quickly become dependent on those who were in the lead.

And despite Russia’s alleged involvement in the US elections, the nation was actually quick to tap on blockchain technology to curb corruption and provide better transparency in voting. Early this year, they started a pilot run for a blockchain-based e-voting system called Active Citizen, although the application was limited to non-political decisions like speed limits and bus routes.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
Australia's financial watchdog swoops down on 'misleading or deceptive' ICOs

Australia’s financial watchdog swoops down on ‘misleading or deceptive’ ICOs

The commission is making good on its promise to hold cryptocurrency companies to its legal standards.

Early last month, Australia issued legislative guidelines for cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. This month, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) released an updated set of guidelines for initial coin offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies.

“Australian law prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct in a range of circumstances, including in trade or commerce, in connection with financial services, and in relation to a financial product. Care should be taken to ensure promotional communications about any crypto-currency or ICO do not mislead or deceive potential consumers and do not contain false information,” the release stated. “It is a serious breach of the Australian law to undertake misleading or deceptive conduct.”

To show just how serious the commission is, the financial watchdog followed through with these guidelines by cracking down on ICO’s, forcing some to freeze their token sales.

“These offers can involve significant risks for investors that are often not disclosed or well understood,” the ASIC wrote in a statement. “ASIC is issuing inquiries to ICO issuers and their advisers where we identify conduct or statements that may be misleading or deceptive. This is in addition to our inquiries where we identify potentially unlicensed conduct. As a result of our inquiries, some issuers have halted their ICO or have indicated the ICO structure will be modified.”

The ASIC, which was granted authority over crypto-assets by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in April 19, wants to make it clear that crypto-assets are not exempt from standard laws.

“If you are acting with someone else’s money, or selling something to someone, you have obligations. Regardless of the structure of the ICO, there is one law that will always apply: you cannot make misleading or deceptive statements about the product. This is going to be a key focus for us as this sector develops,” ASIC Commissioner John Price said.

“In addition to potentially misleading statements in the white paper, the offer was an unregulated managed investment scheme. This means the offeror would have been in breach of the relevant provisions of the Corporations Act had the offer proceeded, potentially leading to serious penalties under the Act,” the ASIC statement wrote.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
Telegram calls off public ICO

Telegram calls off public ICO

The popular messaging app Telegram has decided against holding a public initial coin offering (ICO) after having raised a staggering $1.7 billion in a private pre-sale, reports have confirmed. The funding will be used to develop its third-generation blockchain as Telegram seeks to compete with WhatsApp and Messenger for the lucrative messaging market.

The revelation came from an article in the Wall Street Journal, which quoted sources familiar with the matter. According to report, Telegram founder Pavel Durov was pleased with the immense amount raised through the private offering that he was reluctant to go through the regulatory hassles that a public ICO would entail.

Telegram has been very secretive about its token offering,causing several prospective investors to complain that the details on the offering have been extremely sparse and without much clarification. Despite this, the private offering proved to be a success, with filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealing that the company held two funding rounds in which it raised around $850 million each between January and March 2018.

Less than 200 investors contributed to the pre-sale offering and this was, in fact, restricted to high net worth individuals and institutional investors who also had to undergo a rigorous accreditation process.

The sale was conducted under Rule 506 of the Securities Act Regulation D, which allows companies to sell unregistered securities as long as its restricted to accredited investors only. The company also needs to report the round of funding to the SEC with investors subjected to a vesting period that is predefined.

Reports had indicated that Telegram was hoping to raise around $5 billion from the private ICO and public token offering. However, it appears that due to increasingly onerous obligations on ICOs, the company decided not to go ahead with the public sale. In fact, the SEC has recently tightened its rules on ICOs and it has also been blatantly clear that most of the ICOs around are currently violating federal law with their owners liable to massive fines and even prison terms.

Telegram is currently in trouble in Iran, after the government banned its residents from using the messaging platform. This ban was probably in connection with the app being used to organize nationwide protests. However, Telegram’s plans to launch its own cryptocurrency could have played a part in that decision, too.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
Goldman Sachs gearing up to launch Bitcoin futures

Goldman Sachs gearing up to launch Bitcoin futures

Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs is taking a step into the cryptocurrency space as it looks to launch its own Bitcoin (BTC) futures product soon, The New York Times reported.

The bank will reportedly use its own funds to trade the futures in the cryptocurrency, although these will be on behalf of its clients. It is intriguing that Goldman will be taking this step as it has pronounced itself rather against BTC and the larger cryptocurrency market in the past.

BTC futures are a slightly controversial product since they seem to centralize the movement of the cryptocurrency, which was founded on the very principle of decentralization. In fact, several cryptocurrency enthusiasts have blamed the introduction of BTC futures in December for the massive fall in the value of the cryptocurrency market in January, when prices dropped by as much as 70% in some cases. However, other analysts said the futures market has given some legitimacy to the whole cryptocurrency market as a whole, dismissing fears that it’s some kind of bubble.

According to the New York Times report, the launch date of the Goldman Sachs BTC futures is not yet known but the initiative has the approval of the board of directors who signed off on the proposal a few days ago. The news outlet indicated that Goldman Sachs is about to create its own more flexible version of a BTC future known as a non-deliverable forward, which will eventually be delivered to its clients.

Speaking to The Times, Goldman Sachs executive Rana Yared explained that the decision to introduce BTC futures was taken after a huge amount of interest from its clients who showed the wish of holding the cryptocurrency as an alternative asset in their portfolios.

Goldman Sachs appeared to be serious on this initiative since they hired digital asset trader Justin Schmidt. Schmidt, who will be handling the bank’s daily operation, has previous experience at hedge fund Seven Eight Capital before he entered the cryptocurrency trading market last year.

This development demonstrates the continued involvement of Goldman Sachs in the crypto market. CEO Lloyd Blankfein had already stated that the bank was clearing BTCn futures for its clients whilst any further action on the proposal would depend on clearance by U.S. regulators.

Yared also indicated that the decision was not taken lightly: “For almost every person involved, there has been personal scepticism brought to the table. It is not a new risk that we don’t understand. It is just a heightened risk that we need to be extra aware of here.”

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
Bitcoin Cash jumps 10% as crypto market sees positive spike

Bitcoin Cash jumps 10% as crypto market sees positive spike

The cryptocurrency market had a generally positive Wednesday with most currencies in the green, but the biggest mover by far was Bitcoin Cash (BCH), which jumped considerably to almost $1,500 over the past 24 hours before settling at the $1,450-$1,470 mark.

As already indicated in previous news articles, BCH is fast becoming the currency of choice for fast transactions and more payment providers are taking on the cryptocurrency, thus increasing its popularity.

Another positive mover which saw a significant increase in price was Ethereum, which finally breached the $700 mark and sailed beyond that psychologically important level to trade at around $720 at press time. The news that Ethereum has finally deemed not to be a security has perhaps given the currency a boost, with trading volumes spiking sharply in the past few hours.

BTC saw a consolidation at around the $9,200 mark, but the price could start pushing upwards in the next 24-28 hours as more trading volume enters the market. Ripple also consolidated at the $0.83-0.85 level but there seemed to be little appetite for a push forward in that direction with the fabled $1 mark still far away. Litecoin saw a push beyond the $150 mark, but volumes were quite low and it appeared that it will take some time for the currency to start moving forward beyond the $160 mark and towards the $200 level. However as with Ripple and BCH, there is a constant stream of news regarding agreements signed for Litecoin, which can have a positive effect on the price on a long-term basis.

Of the currencies with smaller market cap, EOS continued losing most of the big gains which it had achieved last week and was trading at around $17 at press time—a loss of 8% although this appears to be a good entry position for new investors. Stellar seemed to be consolidating at the $0.45 mark with very little movement up or down, whilst Dash has also consolidated but at around the $480 mark with a push beyond the $500 level expected very soon as trading volumes and interest in the currency continue to increase. Ethereum Classic appeared to be preparing for a move towards the $30 level, although it’s still trading at the $22 mark but with quite strong volumes at that price. NEO recouped some of this week’s slump after Sunday’s bull run and was trading in the mid $80s at press time.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.