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What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital crypto-currency with no single point of failure due to its decentralized peer-to-peer architecture. The source code is publicly available and changes to the reference Bitcoin client are made via concensus within the community. Advantages of Bitcoin include irreversible transactions (i.e. no possibility of chargebacks as with credit cards), pseudo-anonymous, limited and fixed inflation, near instant transactions, multi-platform, no double-spend and little to no barriers to entry and more. It was created by an anonymous person known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Find out more at WeUseCoins.com.

Bitcoin Latest News

Wait and Watch? Bitcoin Prices Hover Near Make or Break Level - CoinDesk


CoinDesk

Wait and Watch? Bitcoin Prices Hover Near Make or Break Level
CoinDesk
But, coinciding with this decline has been lack of substance in the bitcoin-U.S. dollar (BTC/USD) exchange rate. After a rally from the September 15 low of $2,908, bears made their presence felt but were reluctant to push the digital currency back to ...

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 7:04 am

Wait and Watch? Bitcoin Prices Hover Near Make or Break Level

The price of bitcoin may be headed toward a fork in the road, if current chart analysis is any indication.

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 7:00 am

Japan's Regulators Are Putting Bitcoin Exchanges Under Heavy Surveillance - Fortune


Fortune

Japan's Regulators Are Putting Bitcoin Exchanges Under Heavy Surveillance
Fortune
Japan's financial watchdog will soon pay very close attention to the internal systems of exchanges for virtual currencies such as bitcoin. The country's Financial Services Agency (FSA) said Sunday that it would be putting exchanges under what The Japan ...
Japan's Bitcoin Exchanges Under Regulator Surveillance From OctoberCoinDesk

all 3 news articles »

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 5:36 am

Bitcoin (BTC) Downtrend Holds Sway, For Now - DailyFX


DailyFX

Bitcoin (BTC) Downtrend Holds Sway, For Now
DailyFX
... - Bitcoin (BTC) continues to struggle to reclaim recent losses with the downtrend from the early September high still in place. - Fibonacci resistance may soon turn to support leaving further gains possible.

and more »

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 5:29 am

Japan's Bitcoin Exchanges Under Regulator Surveillance From October

Japan's Financial Services Agency will begin more closely monitoring cryptocurrency exchanges from next month.

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 4:30 am

FICO Patent Filing Hints at Plans for Bitcoin Exchange Monitoring - CoinDesk


CoinDesk

FICO Patent Filing Hints at Plans for Bitcoin Exchange Monitoring
CoinDesk
The company behind the FICO credit scoring system is looking at how to collect information from bitcoin exchanges as part of a new anti-money laundering product, new public documents show. A patent application from FICO, published September 21, details ...

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 4:05 am

FICO Patent Filing Hints at Plans for Bitcoin Exchange Monitoring

The company behind the FICO credit score system is looking at how to collect information from bitcoin exchanges, new public documents show.

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 4:00 am

Hitachi and Mizuho Strike Deal for Blockchain Supply Chain

Mizuho Financial Group is partnering with Japanese tech conglomerate Hitachi to develop a blockchain platform for supply chain management.

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 3:00 am

Payment or Asset? Bitcoin's Limbo Is Leaving Merchants in the Middle - CoinDesk


CoinDesk

Payment or Asset? Bitcoin's Limbo Is Leaving Merchants in the Middle
CoinDesk
Meanwhile, after a flurry of bitcoin activity from merchants a couple of years ago, interest has dwindled. Several large retailers accepting bitcoin report that customer engagement is minimal. And regulatory uncertainty in most jurisdictions makes ...

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 2:12 am

Payment or Asset? Bitcoin's Limbo Is Leaving Merchants in the Middle

Is bitcoin more of a payment mechanism or an investment asset? A recent trial by a supermarket chain could shed light on the debate.

Posted on 25 September 2017 | 2:00 am

Bitcoin Trades Sideways As Investors Look To China - Forbes


Forbes

Bitcoin Trades Sideways As Investors Look To China
Forbes
Bitcoin prices have been trading sideways for the last few weeks, moving within a reasonably tight range as many investors wait to see what China's regulatory environment will look like going forward. The digital currency's price has primarily traded ...
Bitcoin: Facets of the Popular Cryptocurrency ExploredBluffton Today
Bitcoin investors should be taxed like any other investorThe Conversation AU
Bitcoin, blockchain and bubblesIndependent Online
The Merkle -Bitcoin News (press release) -CNBC
all 27 news articles »

Posted on 24 September 2017 | 5:12 pm

The History of Bitcoin.com: An Introduction to Our New Company Blog - Bitcoin News (press release)


Bitcoin News (press release)

The History of Bitcoin.com: An Introduction to Our New Company Blog
Bitcoin News (press release)
The website Bitcoin.com is a big project, and we've been steadily improving every corner of the site over the last two years. The domain has a long history and has passed through many hands over the course of the past eight years. In fact, Bitcoin.com ...

and more »

Posted on 24 September 2017 | 5:05 pm

Criticizing Bitcoin Could Backfire - CoinTelegraph


CoinTelegraph

Criticizing Bitcoin Could Backfire
CoinTelegraph
At the conference, in response to Dimon's comments, Palihapitiya explained that governments are limited in what they can restrict and regulate within the global Bitcoin industry and market. He emphasized that government agencies and financial ...
Bitcoin is too big, too real, to be baselessly criticized and it can have repercussionsEthereum World News (blog)

all 3 news articles »

Posted on 24 September 2017 | 11:26 am

Vivid History: 'How Money Got Free' Is the Untold Story of Bitcoin

Early bitcoin entrepreneur Alex Waters reviews the latest book in the bitcoin canon – arguing Brian Eha's "How Money Got Free" is one of the best.

Posted on 24 September 2017 | 5:10 am

Untangling Bitcoin: Why Russell Yanofsky Is Taking Apart Crypto's Oldest Code

One developer is quietly working on splitting up bitcoin's codebase – an effort aimed to give users more flexibility and developers more clarity.

Posted on 24 September 2017 | 4:30 am

Big Governments Won't Kill Bitcoin Or Uber - Forbes


Forbes

Big Governments Won't Kill Bitcoin Or Uber
Forbes
Big governments and the institutions that align behind them -- big banks and big unions -- have scaled up the campaign against Bitcoin and Uber recently. Russia has been added to the list of countries that are trying to limit the spread of Bitcoin, as ...

Posted on 23 September 2017 | 11:47 am

Welcome to Bitcoin Country: Silk Road and the Lost Threads of Agorism

Silk Road and black markets? University of Dublin's Paul Ennis takes a dive into the kinds of sub-cultures bitcoin and cryptocurrencies enable.

Posted on 23 September 2017 | 5:00 am

Money Manager Josh Brown: 'ICOs Are Where The Frauds Will Take Place'

Josh Brown, the money manager and bitcoin bear-turned-bull, had some harsh words for initial coin offerings (ICOs) in a new blog post.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 3:31 pm

EU Budget Amendments Call For Millions in Blockchain Funding

As many as four blockchain-related amendments, funding various initiatives, could find their way into the European Union's 2018 budget.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 1:00 pm

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SegWit2X and the Case for Strong Replay Protection (And Why It's Controversial)

BTC1replay.jpg

Come November, the remaining signatories of the “New York Agreement” (NYA) plan to deploy the “SegWit2X” hard fork to double Bitcoin’s block weight limit, allowing for up to 8 megabytes of block space. Since not everyone supports this hard fork, this could well “split” the Bitcoin network into two incompatible blockchains and currencies, not unlike Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash (Bcash) did two months ago.

But this NYA hard fork is controversial and not only because it lacks consensus. It’s also controversial because of design choices made by the development team behind BTC1, the software client associated with the New York Agreement. Perhaps most importantly, this development team, led by Bloq CEO Jeff Garzik, has so far refused to implement replay protection, a measure that Bcash did take. Partly for this reason, at least one NYA signatory — Wayniloans — has backed out of the agreement.

So what is replay protection, why should BTC1 implement it … and why doesn’t it?

What Is Replay Protection? (And What Are Replay Attacks?)

Bitcoin could see another “split” by November. (It’s arguably more accurate to consider the “splitting” nodes and miners as an entirely new cryptocurrency with a new blockchain and token — not an actual split of Bitcoin itself.) For the purpose of this article, we’ll refer to the blockchain and currency that follows the current Bitcoin protocol as “Legacy Bitcoin” and “BTC.” The blockchain and currency that follows the New York Agreement hard fork is referred to as “SegWit2X” and “B2X.”

If this split happens, the two blockchains will be identical. All past transactions and (therefore) “balances” are copied from the Legacy Bitcoin blockchain onto the SegWit2X blockchain. Everyone who owns BTC will own a corresponding amount of B2X.

Without replay protection, new transactions will be equally valid on both chains as well. This means that these transactions can be copied or “replayed,” from one chain to the other — in other words, for them to happen on both. This is called a “replay attack.”

So, let’s say Alice holds BTC at the time of split, which means she also owns B2X after the split. Then, after the split, she wants to send BTC to Bob. So, she creates a transaction that spends BTC from one of her Legacy Bitcoin addresses to one of Bob’s Legacy Bitcoin addresses. She then transmits this transaction over the Legacy Bitcoin network for a Legacy Bitcoin miner to pick it up and include in a Legacy Bitcoin block. The payment is confirmed; all is good.

But this very same transaction is perfectly valid on the SegWit2X blockchain. Anyone — including Bob — can take Alice's Legacy Bitcoin transaction and also transmit it over the SegWit2X network for a miner to include in a SegWit2X block. (This can even happen by accident quite easily.) If this payment is also confirmed, Alice has inadvertently sent Bob not only BTC but also an equal amount of B2X.

And, of course, all of this is true in reverse as well. If Alice sends B2X to Bob, she might accidentally send him BTC as well. A lack of replay protection, therefore, is a problem for users of both chains. No one wants to accidentally send any money — not even if it was “free money.”

Technically, there are ways to “split” coins on both chains to ensure they can only be spent on one chain. This would, for example, require newly mined coins to be mixed into a transaction. Tiime-locks can also offer solutions. But this takes effort and is not easy, especially for average users — not to mention that many average users may not even know what’s going on in the first place.

To avoid this kind of hassle, at least one side of the split could add a protocol rule to ensure that new transactions are valid on one chain but not the other. This is called replay protection.

Why Should BTC1 Implement Replay Protection? (And Why Not Bitcoin Core?)

In case of a split, at least one side must implement replay protection. But many — Bitcoin Core developers and others — believe there’s only one viable option. It’s the splitting party — in this case BTC1 — that should do it.

There are several arguments for this.

First of all, it makes the most sense for BTC1 to implement replay protection because that requires the least effort. BTC1 is a new client that’s already implementing new protocol rules anyway, and it’s not very widely deployed yet. It would be relatively easy for BTC1 to include replay protection.

Meanwhile, it would not be sufficient for Bitcoin Core to implement replay protection on its own. While it is dominant, and even considered by some to be the protocol-defining reference implementation, Bitcoin Core is not the only Bitcoin implementation on the network. Bitcoin Knots, Bcoin, Libbitcoin and other alternative clients would all have to implement replay protection, too. (And that’s not even taking non-full node clients into account.)

But even more importantly, the reality of the current situation is that all deployed Bitcoin nodes do not have replay protection implemented. And logically, they can’t: Some of these nodes even predate the New York Agreement. So even if Bitcoin Core and other implementations were to implement replay protection in new releases of their software, it wouldn’t suffice. All users must then also update to this new version within about two months: a very short period of time for a network-wide upgrade.

If only some of the nodes on the network upgrade to these new releases, Bitcoin could actually split in three: Legacy Bitcoin, SegWit2X and “Replay Protected Bitcoin.” Needless to say, this three-way split would probably make the problem worse — not better.

Lastly, there is a bit of a philosophical argument. Anyone who wants to adopt new protocol rules, so the argument goes, has the responsibility to split off as safely as possible. This responsibility should not fall on those who want to keep using the existing protocol: They should be free to keep using the  protocol as-is.

Many developers — including RSK founder Sergio Lerner who drafted the SegWit2Mb proposal on which SegWit2X is based — have argued that BTC1 should implement replay protection. In fact, many developers think that any hard fork, even a hard fork that appears entirely uncontroversial, should implement replay protection.

But so far, the BTC1 development team will only consider optional replay protection.

What’s Wrong With Optional Replay Protection?

Implementing optional replay protection, as proposed by former Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen, for example, is currently on the table for BTC1.

In short, this type of optional replay protection would make certain specially crafted (“OP_RETURN”) Legacy Bitcoin transactions invalid on the SegWit2X chain. Anyone who’d want to split their coins could spend their BTC with such a transaction. These transactions should then confirm on the Legacy Bitcoin blockchain but not on the SegWit2X chain. This effectively splits the coins into different addresses (“outputs”) on both chains.

Such optional replay protection is probably better than nothing at all, but it’s still not a definitive solution.

One problem is that the Legacy Bitcoin blockchain would have to include all these OP_RETURN transactions. This would probably result in more transactions on the network and would require extra data for each transaction. All this data must be transmitted, verified and (at least temporarily) stored by all Legacy Bitcoin nodes. It presents a burden to the Legacy Bitcoin network.

But more importantly, it would probably still not be very easy to utilize this option. It might suffice for professional users — exchanges, wallet providers and other service providers — as well as tech-savvy individual users. But these are generally also the types of users that would be able to split their coins even without replay protection. Average users, if they are even aware of what’s going on, would probably find it much more difficult to utilize optional replay protection.

Optional replay protection, therefore, offers help to those who need it least and does little for those who need it most.

Does the NYA Preclude Replay Protection?

While it’s unclear what was (or is) discussed behind closed doors, the New York Agreement seems to be a very minimal agreement. Published on May 23, 2017, it really only consists of two concrete points:

  • Activate Segregated Witness at an 80 percent threshold, signaling at bit 4, and

  • Activate a 2 MB hard fork within six months.

With the first point completed through BIP91, the only remaining point is a hard fork to 2 megabytes before November 23. (This assumes that this hard fork wasn’t completed with the creation of Bitcoin Cash which is supported by a number of NYA signatories.)

Notably, a lot of details are not filled in. For example, the agreement does not even state that signatories must specifically run the BTC1 software: Any software implementation that implements a hard fork to 2 megabytes might do. This could even include a software implementation that implements replay protection. And, of course, nothing in the NYA stops BTC1 from implementing replay protection; some signatories may have even expected it.

Why Won’t BTC1 Implement Replay Protection?

There are really several reasons why BTC1 — both stated and speculated — might not want to add replay protection.

The first reason is that replay protection would require simplified payment verification (SPV) wallets and some other thin clients to upgrade in order to send and receive transactions on SegWit2X. Replay protection would, therefore, in the words of BTC1 developer Jeff Garzik, “break” SPV wallets; they wouldn’t be compatible with SegWit2X until upgraded.

This framing and choice of words is disputed. If SegWit2X were to implement replay protection (and if SPV wallets don’t upgrade), these wallets could still send and receive transactions on Legacy Bitcoin perfectly fine. On top of that, they wouldn’t accidentally spend B2X when they don’t mean to.

Meanwhile, if the SegWit2X chain does not implement replay protection (and if SPV-wallets don’t upgrade), users may not be sure if their wallet is receiving or sending BTC transactions or B2X transactions or both. They also may not be sure if the balance in their wallet is a BTC balance or a B2X balance or both. And if hash power moves from one chain to another over time, these wallets could even switch from displaying BTC balances to B2X balances or the other way round without users knowing. (This problem could be solved, to some extent, through another workaround, but this is not yet implemented in either.)

Indeed, not implementing replay protection on SegWit2X could arguably “break” SPV wallets much worse.

The only (plausible) scenario where implementing replay protection would perhaps not break SPV wallets much worse is if there is no Legacy Bitcoin to speak of. Indeed, the New York Agreement very specifically intends to “upgrade” Bitcoin, rather than split off into a new coin as Bcash did. And based on miner signaling and statements of intent by several big Bitcoin companies, some NYA signatories claim that Legacy Bitcoin will not be able to survive at all.

Implementing replay protection is, therefore, sometimes considered an admission that SegWit2X will split off from (Legacy) Bitcoin into something new and will not be considered the upgraded version of Bitcoin.

But the assumption that Legacy Bitcoin won’t be able survive is a big one. In reality, miner signaling is effectively meaningless, while Bitcoin Core — the dominant Bitcoin implementation — will not adopt the hard fork. There is also a significant list of companies that have not stated that they support the hard fork, including two top-10 mining pools. Similarly, it’s not clear if many (individual) users will support SegWit2X either. The implementation of wipe-out protection (another safety measure) also suggests that even BTC1 developers aren’t so sure that there will only be one chain.

And perhaps even more importantly, it’s not clear that replay protection would affect any of this. If miners, developers, companies and users are to consider SegWit2X an upgrade of Bitcoin, they will probably do so with or without replay protection.

This is why it has also been suggested that BTC1 is rejecting replay protection for the specific purpose of being as disruptive as possible. If the Legacy Bitcoin chain is effectively made unusable, SegWit2X might stand the best chance of being recognized as “Bitcoin.”

For more information and debate on replay protection, also see the the relevant threads on the SegWit2X mailing list.

The post SegWit2X and the Case for Strong Replay Protection (And Why It's Controversial) appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 12:11 pm

Ethereum's Byzantium Hard Fork Postponed For Further Testing

The planned roll-out date for ethereum's "Byzantium" network upgrade is being postponed to October 17.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 11:00 am

Investor Doug Casey: Bitcoin May Be Money, But It Still Might Fail

Investor and anarcho-capitalist Doug Casey recently argued that bitcoin qualifies as money – but he's not sure it'll last in the long term.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 10:00 am

CFTC Sues New York Man Over Alleged $600k Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has filed a lawsuit against a New York-based man and his company for allegedly running a bitcoin scam.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 9:00 am

Vaultoro Continues on Its VC Funding Road to Future Growth With Finlab AG

Vaultoro Continues on Its VC Funding Road to Future Growth With Finlab AG

Vaultoro, a bitcoin-to-gold exchange, has secured funding from Finlab AG, a fintech company based in Frankfurt, Germany.

Vaultoro co-founder Joshua Scigala stated that the funding from Finlab will allow them to reach their goals faster. The first upgrade the company plans to implement will be a real-time gold-backed debit card. The card will allow the customers of the firm to hold their allocated gold — stored in a high-security Swiss bullion vault — while they can easily spend the funds anywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted.

This latest funding announcement is in keeping with Vaultoro’s history of seeking funding and support from venture capitalists and established players in the space, rather than following the recent ICO trend.

In 2015, Vaultoro conducted a BnkToTheFuture raise. The funds were raised primarily from VCs, as opposed to ICOs. That same year, it hit its first $1 million in gold traded on the platform and was one of three finalists from the blockchain space to compete for the BBVA Open Talent Competition in Barcelona, Spain. Most recently, Vaultoro was selected as one of eight startups for the 2017 Techstars Berlin program.

“We decided against an ICO because coins that pay a dividend are not really legal yet, equity taken absolutely illegal[ly], and we didn’t want to confuse the product with a utility coin when we don’t need one. Also, we found that so many ICOs are scams and we didn’t want to be associated with this kind of hype. We have been solidly working on making Vaultoro a name people can trust, a brand with the highest principles.”

However, Scigala is not opposed to ICOs in general:

“I’m not saying ICOs are bad,” he added. “In fact, I love them, I think they are the future of fundraising because they enable anyone to invest in startups. In fact, we want to launch an ICO later to enable our users to profit from our success, but we want it well thought-out and fully legal for our investors. For this reason, we decided on a standard VC funding round that would not only bring us money but also strategic contacts that will help us grow as quick as possible.”

Gold on the Blockchain

According to Vaultoro, the latest financial crises have been a cause for concern for citizens around the world. People are worried about leaving their fiat funds in a bank account while earning low or no interest. The Vaultoro debit card will allow its customers to hold their funds in gold without the need for a bank.

“We see gold as a gateway to crypto. Many people don’t trust crypto, they don’t understand it, but they understand the 3000+ years of value that gold has held. We are currently building an easy-to-use euro/gold wallet so people can easily buy and save in gold. But here is the kicker. They will see a little button, spend your gold as SEPA, SWIFT, debit card or bitcoin. So, many people will want to see what that is,” he said.

A Secure Store of Value

“Our goal is to have real asset vaulting,” said Scigala. “We have always been a bitcoin-only business but we will bring some other promising digital assets on board. IOTA, ETHEREUM and DASH will be the first. We will also be adding silver, platinum and palladium. The wallet software will enable you to tell the card which asset you would like to spend from.”

The firm emphasized that all gold is allocated in the users’ name as their legal property so that even if Vaultoro were to experience a negative event, users’ gold holdings would be protected: even liquidators wouldn’t be able to touch the assets of the company’s clients.

“The most important thing about Vaultoro is that all physical assets are allocated to the user and are not on the company balance sheet. That means if anything happens to Vaultoro as a company, no one, not even liquidators, can touch our clients’ property because it has nothing to do with us. It’s the full property of our clients. We are figuring out if digital currencies can also be allocated under bailment laws,” Scigala said.

By allowing users to purchase gold for bitcoins and back, Vaultoro customers can benefit from the ease of BTC payments while investing in a stable asset. Unlike bitcoin or a lot of fiat currencies, gold has a very low volatility rate. Investors can invest and trade in cryptocurrencies; however, many of them dislike the volatility associated with them — especially when there is an event that drives the prices toward the bottom, like the recent Chinese regulations on bitcoin exchanges and ICOs.

“We are also working on a maker-taker trading fee model for the marketplace so people that place orders into the market don’t pay as much fee[s] as people taking an order from the order book. We hope to lift liquidity drastically.”

The post Vaultoro Continues on Its VC Funding Road to Future Growth With Finlab AG appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 8:44 am

Gravity's Pull? Litecoin Is Down 50% from All-Time Highs and Looking Lower

Litecoin is again trading below $50, just three weeks after setting a new all-time high above $100.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 8:00 am

Mastercard Hints at Plans for Blockchain Settlement System

A new patent application from Mastercard indicates that the payments giant may be looking to integrate blockchain into its payments infrastructure.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 7:00 am

Uruguay's Central Bank Announces New Digital Currency Pilot

Uruguay is the latest country to see its central bank start experimenting with its own digital currency, according to statements from its president.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 6:00 am

Dimon Knocks Bitcoin Again: Crackdown Likely on 'Worthless' Cryptocurrency

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase bank, has expanded on his recent criticism of bitcoin, warning "it will end badly" for the tech.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:40 am

Op Ed: Lessons From a Cryptocurrency Hack (A Public Service Announcement)

Op Ed: Lessons From a Cryptocurrency Hack (A Public Service Announcement)

Cryptocurrency-related cyber attacks are on the rise. As cryptocurrency continues to explode in value and public awareness, we can only expect this trend to continue. I was recently the target of such an attack. I also personally know of multiple other cases of the same attack being successfully carried out. Even worse, this type of attack is becoming ever more common and is likely to see an even bigger boost thanks to the professional excellence of firms like Equifax, making it an urgent topic as almost everyone is at immediate risk.


This article describes this increasingly common attack vector and provides immediate steps you can take to protect yourself. I will also provide additional tools and best practices to further safeguard yourself and your funds more generally.


As a computer programmer active in the crypto ecosystem since early 2013, I’ve always been too aware of the constant threat of cybersecurity attacks and the possibility that I could be targeted at any time. Cryptocurrency is the perfect hacker pay day. Once it’s transferred away from your control it’s gone forever, and it’s easily liquidated in any number of ways. Black hats are constantly prowling for possible cryptocurrency holders.

As such, I’ve always taken the minimum precaution of keeping my coins off third-party accounts, and have always advised others to do the same. But what I couldn’t prepare for was how unnerving being the target of an attack could be regardless of your level of preparation. The hypothetical can become reality in a matter of seconds, and you never truly understand the personal value of putting proper security in place until it’s too late. For those with enough at stake, it can be ruinous. Ultimately none of my funds were compromised by this attack, but others have not been so lucky.

“But not all accounts are created equal for data thieves  —  and the most valuable online accounts to steal are like the ones belonging to Mr. Burniske, who is a cryptocurrency fan. In the few minutes it took to get control of his phone, the virtual currency investor saw his virtual currency password change and its accounts drained of $150,000.” -PYMNTS

The Attack

It started when I received a text message from my cellular service provider alerting me that my SIM card had been “updated.” Included in the text was a number to call if this “update” wasn’t in fact authorized by me. I read this text several minutes after it had been sent, and by the time I called the number provided a minute or two later, my cell service and data were suddenly cut off by what I began realizing must be an attacker. Almost immediately, I was also logged out of my Facebook messenger window right before my eyes. With control of my phone number, my attacker had managed to quickly reset my Facebook password and gain control of the account.

As the reality of what was happening to me sank in, I felt an initial wave of panic. Suddenly, I didn’t know if the years of precautions I had taken amounted to anything at all. I had no idea how robust the attack was, how deep the attacker had penetrated my numerous online accounts or what my first reaction should even be. I momentarily feared the worst. Could my coins be at risk?

I forced several deep breaths. Thankfully my coins were not at risk via a phone, social media or email hijacking. Reminding myself of this eased my fears and allowed me to focus on going on the defensive and taking back control of my accounts as quickly as I could.

Using FaceTime from my laptop, I was able to get a family member to call the number provided by my cellular provider’s text message and initiate the process to eventually retake control of my phone number. Using an old email strictly used as an emergency recovery email for situations such as these, I was also able to lock down my Facebook account and regain control soon after.

What I discovered once I logged back in confirmed that the attacker had specifically targeted me due to my public cryptocurrency involvement. In the brief span of time they controlled my Facebook account, they had sent the same message to several friends of mine also involved in the ecosystem, many of whom I’ve known for years. The messages claimed I had an emergency and needed to borrow several bitcoins or the equivalent value in alternate coins for a day. The attacker was in the middle of sending out many more such messages to even more of my friends when I regained control.

At the end of the day, the damage done to myself was limited to being spooked. Unfortunately, however, at least one of the recipients of my fake Facebook messages was later the target of the same attack. I’ve decided to learn from these events and share those lessons, and hopefully help some avert the worst. First and foremost is eliminating this specific and trivially easy attack vector completely.

How to Stop It Before It Happens

Text message two-factor authentication (2FA) is the default security precaution for most online accounts today, and cellular service providers are woefully unprepared for this reality. It is almost trivially easy for an attacker to contact your service provider and pretend to be you.

In all the cases I’ve personally observed, it began with the attacker identifying an individual likely to have cryptocurrency and contacting their cell provider. They impersonate their target using personal information like social security numbers and home addresses from any number of possible leaks, Equifax being the most obvious and concerning source.

After successfully convincing your cell provider that they are you, they then port your SIM card to a phone they control. This approach is known as a social engineering attack, and with today’s common security default of using text messages for 2FA, they immediately have the keys to the kingdom. With your phone number they can now reset the password to any account you have with text 2FA enabled, including cryptocurrency wallets and accounts.

The minimal action you should take right now to prevent this: Contact your cellular service provider and request restrictions to be placed on your account so that no changes can be made to it without special verification. This can include setting a password on your account or requiring you to physically visit a store with your ID to make any account changes. Call again once this is in place and attempt to change your own SIM card as a test to ensure the restrictions have indeed been put in place and are being properly enforced by your cellular provider.

This simple step means that no matter what information an attacker may have on you, socially engineering a takeover of your SIM card is no longer a trivially simple endeavor. However, this precaution isn’t ironclad, and there’s also a variety of other attacks you can be the target of.

Taking It a Step Further

Black hat actors tend to focus on the low-hanging fruit, which is why the social engineering SIM attack has become so prevalent. But it is by no means the only way to compromise your accounts, and as the low-hanging fruit become harder to find, attackers will move on to these other methods. I highly recommend everyone implement these precautionary steps to further secure yourselves. The upfront investment needed to set up these measures may seem tedious now, but can pay invaluable dividends in the future.

1. If you hold any significant amounts of cryptocurrency, invest in an offline hardware storage solution.

These devices contain your cryptocurrency private keys and can remain completely disconnected from the internet or any computer until you need to make transactions, so that your funds remain totally safe regardless of any of your other devices or accounts being compromised. These devices include OpenDime, TREZOR and Ledger. Even if you do not opt for any of these solutions, at a bare minimum do not store funds on third-party services such as Coinbase or exchanges, especially on any service or wallet that integrates email or a phone number to authorize access to funds.

2. Ditch text messaging 2FA.

Placing verification restrictions on your cellular service account is a big step up in security, but can still be circumvented by an insider or even just a careless customer service rep who doesn’t do their job properly. Text message authorization is also still too incredibly insecure to be relied on in any way, period. Recent research shows that intercepting text messages is a trivial task for someone with the right tools, and many other exploits are likely to be discovered in the future.

The first item on this list will protect your personal funds from theft, but as I learned the hard way your money isn’t the only thing at risk. With access to your social media accounts and emails, an attacker can trick your friends into giving them funds or exposing themselves in other ways. They’ll also obviously have a clear look into all your messaging and file history on those accounts, which can expose you and your social circle even more. Shoring up your 2FA is a big step in preventing this.

Eliminate all of your text messaging–based 2FA and at a minimum replace it with Google Authenticator. However, like storing cryptocurrency, you can take it a step further with a dedicated hardware solution. I highly recommend YubiKeys.

You can configure many major online accounts (not Coinbase yet) to require you to physically insert and activate your YubiKey as your 2FA authorization, eliminating the risk of a remotely compromised phone.

3. Use multiple emails with interlinked recovery options, and use completely different and robust passwords for those emails and other online accounts alike.

Luckily I did not have text messaging 2FA enabled on the email account associated with my Facebook profile; otherwise my attacker could have seized control of that as well. If they did, I have a chain of recovery emails I could have used to regain control of it, all with different passwords. This practice also means that having your password being captured or leaked for any one of your accounts won’t jeopardize all of them.

4. Stay vigilant, stay paranoid.

To quote the Onion Knight, “Safety is never a permanent state of affairs.” Don’t get lazy and begin recycling passwords or leaving funds on Coinbase or other third-party accounts. Be aware of the technology you are using and the tradeoffs you are making or exposure you are generating by doing so. Stay up to date on the latest breaches, exploits and technology. Opt to use end-to-end encrypted messaging services like Signal, Telegram or WhatsApp. Don’t answer calls from strange phone numbers, and use apps like Hiya to filter out known spam numbers to reduce the risk that you do. Ultimately, however, there is no easy fix for security and no list that can guarantee you won’t get hacked.

Make no mistake, there are individuals out there who want to harm you and are actively working to do so. The time needed to reasonably secure yourself can seem tedious and time-consuming up front, but can easily and quickly become a priceless investment as I and many others have learned firsthand. 

This guest post by Ariel Deschapell was originally published on Medium and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons License. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Media or Bitcoin Magazine.

The post Op Ed: Lessons From a Cryptocurrency Hack (A Public Service Announcement) appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 5:13 pm

Op Ed: How Blockchain Technology Could Save Struggling Artists Around the World

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To a complete outsider, the worlds of art and cryptocurrency do not appear to be linked. But for content creators of all kinds, blockchain technology provides an ideal solution to preserve intellectual property, create demand and increase value for digital content.

The digital revolution is often blamed for making life harder than ever for artists. We are always hearing stories of artists realizing their work has been ripped off by a major brand or that they are not being paid or credited for the content they create.

However, thanks to blockchains, ownership rights can be restored in favor of artists. The very digital landscape that proves so difficult for artists could well increase the possibility of profits for artists online.

Physical art was one of the first big applications of blockchain technology.

The concept of integrating blockchain technology into the art industry is not untested. Blockchains have already been a part of the physical art world for a few years now as a reliable way to verify creation and ownership details. The application of a trustworthy system of verification like the blockchain to artworks makes perfect sense.

A number of companies are actually already authenticating artwork with blockchain technology, including Verisart in Los Angeles, Tagsmart in London and Ascribe in Berlin. For both collectors and artists, they provide digital certificates of authenticity and provenance records that enable buyers to verify the authenticity of the artwork they purchase while creating an accredited ownership history for the artwork over time.  

What blockchain technology provides is its unmodifiable digital ledger which logs every single digital transaction. More importantly, this ledger is public so everyone can see its history. This means, for example, that you can see that the painting you are interested in has been purchased three times from buyers in London, Madrid and Milan. Because the log is decentralized and cannot be edited, there is no potential for lies or trickery — no one can sell you a fake copy if a digital record of the authentic piece exists.

By allowing records like provenance, authorship and ownership to be unmodifiable, blockchain technology potentially solves the issue of forgeries and thefts in the art world. According to the FBI, billions of dollars worth of art and cultural property go missing every year. Being able to prove and track the ownership of artwork could make it almost impossible to resell stolen artwork in the future.

By increasing trust in the art world, blockchain technology could also help increase the value of art. One important factor in art is scarcity — it is what drives demand. People covet beautiful things: the more unique, the better. The Mona Lisa wouldn’t likely be worth $2 billion if there were 10 originals on the market.

Blockchain technology may pave the way for a robust new market of digital art.

It is no secret that life for digital artists can be difficult. In the music world, for example, physical sales are almost non-existent. Artists earn less than a cent from each time their music is played. At Spotify, the average payout for a stream to labels and publishers is between $0.006 and $0.0084. By the time the label has taken its share, artists receive an estimated $0.001128.

The digital art and design world is arguably just as bad — or worse. While individuals can easily download a music file from a file-sharing website, it is even easier to screenshot or share digital art without any attribution or financial benefit for the artist. As long as people don’t consider digital assets “objects,” digital artists won’t be paid what their work is worth. However, being able to certify the ownership of digital assets through the blockchain could assure the value of digital art and change the behavior that it is okay to swipe art from the web without a thought. People already consume all kinds of creative content on digital screens, be it books, movies, media, or music. The time has come for them to value digital art they can appreciate just as thoroughly on their devices.

A new generation of blockchain-based art collections is bringing the digital art and cryptocurrency worlds together.

For many people, a painting on the wall is worth money; but a digital work of art online has no financial value. A new business model, however, is now emerging for digital art that could alter this perspective.

CryptoPunks by Larva Labs is one known example. The company has created 10,000 computer-generated digital characters, each one unique, with proof of ownership stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Each one is owned by a single person and verified by a smart contract. As the blockchain data is public, you can see exactly which of the characters have been purchased and which remain available. Some people have spent 10 ETH (around $3,000) on the rarest types of CryptoPunks on the secondary market.

Another example is the selling of “Rare Pepes,” crude depictions of the meme often used online as an alt-right symbol. Meme artists previously tried to watermark their memes; nevertheless, they continued to be downloaded and shared. The solution was to use the Counterparty platform, which allows users to make anything into a unique digital token. Now the Pepes can be bought and sold — the rarest costing $11,589 — with RarePepeWallet.com.

This is just the tip of the creative iceberg. Imagine the possibilities with digital art created by actual artists becoming desirable and more valuable. In addition, artists who otherwise would have been forced to use a large-scale centralized company to distribute their work are now able to distribute their work in a decentralized way and receive fair compensation.

Soon, people may begin collecting digital art in the very same way they collect it in its physical form. This may also require a cultural shift in the perception of digital art and its value, but this cultural shift could well be instigated by applying technology, thereby adding financial value and scarcity to digital art. This may well turn out to be a significant boon in the lives of artists all over the world who will be able to profit and take control of their creative output and their intellectual property in a dynamic, budding market.


The post Op Ed: How Blockchain Technology Could Save Struggling Artists Around the World appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 2:54 pm

Op Ed: Four Challenges to Consider When Launching Your Fund Raise on the Blockchain

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ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) or token sales have seen a dramatic increase over the past year as a method for raising capital. According to CoinMarketCap, Bitcoin market capitalization sits at around $70 billion at the time of writing (even after the China ICO market correction), up from $11 billion in June 2016. Overall, the cryptocurrency market cap is now over $150 billion, roughly the size of Algeria or Iraq’s GDP.

Many organizations have, therefore, become interested in using token sales (aka ICOs and token generation events) as a way of raising capital. Mostly, companies look at token sales as a way to raise startup capital; they issue “utility tokens” to avoid being classified as a security. This method is in line with traditional “crowdfunding” that companies have been doing for many years.

I also believe there is a lot of pent up demand from traditional asset classes and established companies to utilize the blockchain to raise capital and conduct their business. This is because there are a many benefits for both the issuer and the investor.

For the issuer, it’s a frictionless process of raising capital that opens up a global market of potential investors. Costs of raising capital via this process can be a fraction of what it may cost to address the same size market with a traditional raise.

For the investor, it provides access to a wider range of investment opportunities, which a regular person may never otherwise have access to. Typically, there are zero or very low investment minimums, and one can easily participate in a token sale anywhere on the globe — just set up a wallet, buy some bitcoin or ether, and get in on time. As a bonus, there’s also often the existence of a secondary market where tokens can be traded after the initial token sale, thus providing fast liquidity to those that desire it.

However, the process is not without its challenges, and there are several things to consider when launching your next fund offering on the blockchain.

What are traditional asset classes and why may a blockchain be of benefit to them?

Traditional asset classes are those that generally come up when people talk about investments. They include stocks, commodities, real estate, private equity funds and derivatives, VC funds, REITs and others.

Most, if not all, traditional assets would fall under the SEC’s definition of a security, as stipulated by the Howey test. However, due to the decentralized nature of blockchains, the U.S. is not the only jurisdiction where tokens can be sold from; many countries around the world such as Switzerland, Cayman Islands, Estonia and others are stepping up to welcome ICOs, be they utilities or a securities.

So, how is blockchain technology and tokenization beneficial to traditional asset classes? Consider this example based on the logic illustrated by Stephen McKeon. If we take real estate as an example, it’s estimated that the size of commercial real estate in the U.S. alone is about $11 trillion. Let’s say 10 percent of that can be tokenized; that immediately puts over $1 trillion of liquidity back into the marketplace and removes an “illiquidity premium” which issuers are forced to pay because investors have no way to exit their investment for a number of years. This is a win-win for both the issuer and the investor.

Challenge #1 – Jurisdiction

Even if one decides to tokenize an existing asset, there are several challenges that must be addressed, and finding the right home for your fund is key.  Since most traditional assets may be considered a security, finding the right jurisdiction will be very important during and immediately following your token generating event. Let’s take a look at some of the options available to us today.

The State of Delaware has a newly invoked law that will allow businesses to maintain shareholder lists and other corporate records on the blockchain. This move is even more significant when you consider that this jurisdiction is the corporate domicile capital of America, with 66% of Fortune 500 companies calling it home. If your plan is to make token holders Limited Partners or equity holders of your new fund, this may be a reasonable option.

Also in the U.S., Regulation A, Regulation A+ and Regulation D contain rules that could exempt entities selling securities from registering with the SEC, including a specific look at equity crowdfunding. These rules can be applied to any crowd sale, and potentially encompass token sales as well. It’s also possible to raise under Regulation S, which would exclude U.S. investors altogether, thereby removing the need for protection of unaccredited investors.

Switzerland, one of the leading centers of capital in Europe and known for recently abolishing its banking secrecy laws, has become a fintech hub and is considered a friendly jurisdiction. A number of leading Swiss companies have formed an alliance called Crypto Valley, where one of the most prominent law firms, MME, hosted a recent conversation about the legalities of token sales and what may constitute a security under Swiss law.

The Cayman Islands, a leading offshore jurisdiction with a 0 percent tax rate for foreign-controlled companies, have seen an uptick in ICOs lately. Recent token sales events from the Caymans include EOS, Domain Developers Fund and others. The Cayman Islands and other offshore jurisdictions have taken a friendly view on blockchain assets and have the service provider infrastructure in place, with lots of experience creating and operating traditional funds. I believe incorporating in the Caymans and other offshore jurisdictions have many benefits and is a practice that will continue to increase.

Estonia is another interesting example of a jurisdiction where several ICOs — which would almost certainly be considered securities in the U.S. — have been domiciled. Recently, Agrello, Polybius and a number of other companies completed successful token sales. Estonia is unique because of its e-government initiatives, which encompass e-citizenship, e-voting, e-tax and government blockchains. Further, Estonia recently announced its own cryptocurrency called Estcoin. Estonia currently doesn’t regulate crowdfunding (though some EU laws may apply) and is one of the top friendly jurisdictions for launching tokenized funds.

Challenge #2 – Knowing Your Customer

Another roadblock to conducting legal and compliant token sales is the issuer’s ability to follow KYC and AML regulations effectively. KYC (Know Your Customer) is the method in which issuers verify the identity of its investors. Many cryptocurrencies of choice for token generation events have anonymity features built in (cryptocurrencies such as Monero and Zcash are prime examples, and bitcoin can be anonymized as well). Further, the crypto investment community likes the idea of not having to go through lengthy and intrusive KYC processes. This practice doesn’t bode well for the issuer, however, since KYC is a key requirement for many banks. Strong KYC during the token generating event will make it easier to work with banks and follow AML (Anti Money Laundering) regulations.

Challenge #3 – Tax, Compliance and Custody

There are further complications with taxes, compliance and custody. There are not yet clear standards for cryptocurrency compliance to be followed. Further, if your fund is going to be holding crypto-assets and cryptocurrencies, security and custody needs to be considered. Luckily, there are some players such as Gemini that offer crypto-custody services; some reputable banks such as the Swiss Falcon Private Bank are also starting to offer bank-level cryptocurrency trading services. There are still more challenges around custody and compliance for altcoins.

On the tax side, there are open questions about treatment of virtual currencies. IRS guidance 2014-12 classifies cryptocurrencies as an asset class, imposing capital gains taxes on profits in certain situations. Some other countries such as Vietnam have proposed making digital currencies like bitcoin a form of currency. The world tax authorities still need more time to figure out how to tax this new asset class.

Challenge #4 – What Happens Next?

Once you’ve jumped through a lot of hoops and successfully executed a tokenization event for your fund, the real work starts. If you accepted U.S. investors, think about how you can prevent them from selling your tokens in the first 12 months (if you raised under Regulation D). If you didn’t accept U.S. investors, how do you prevent them from buying your tokens in the future? What exchanges do you want to list on to make sure you can comply with AML and other regulations? This is a complex process that needs to be thought of before you start planning your token generation event.

Looking to the Past

Launching a tokenized fund on the blockchain is a relatively new concept; however, we have some successful precedents. The biggest and most interesting example is Blockchain Capital, founded by Brock Pierce. Their token, BCAP, was sold under Regulation D exemption to 99 accredited U.S. investors (and unlimited foreign investors with many exceptions), who, per SEC regulation, can’t sell their tokens for 12 months. Blockchain Capital has a complex structure, with entities in Singapore, the Cayman Islands and the U.S. According to their memorandum, they spent up to 10 percent of their raise on legal expenses (they raised $10 million), which is a hefty sum. Also, questions remain: What prevents non-accredited U.S. investors from buying BCAP tokens post ICO? How are the 99 accredited investors forced to comply with the requirement to hold these tokens for the time allotted?

Conclusion

Launching token generation events for your fund can be a worthwhile activity, but you need to plan carefully and entrust your process to qualified professionals.

Some things to think about before going ahead with launching a tokenized fund:

  • Is your token a security (Howey test)?

  • Have you chosen the right jurisdiction?

  • Do you comply with the applicable regulations, including KYC and AML?

  • What are tax and custody implications for your cryptocurrency?

  • What happens after the token sale is over?



The post Op Ed: Four Challenges to Consider When Launching Your Fund Raise on the Blockchain appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 21 September 2017 | 2:48 pm

Joint Report by Stellar and Luxembourg Fintech Platform: Approach ICOs with Caution

Joint Report by Stellar and Luxembourg Fintech Platform: Approach ICOs with Caution

 Stellar, a nonprofit decentralized financial network, and the Luxembourg House of Financial Technology (LHoFT), the country’s dedicated fintech platform, have published a joint report on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

According to the report, organizations have raised over $1.8 billion through ICOs since January 2017. As this popular new fundraising method provides a simple and fast method to acquire serious funding, there has been “tremendous momentum” growing around ICO launches among new businesses in the blockchain industry, the report said.

On the other hand, the report also detailed that there are high risks associated with ICO investments. Since there is still a lack of regulation and control surrounding the industry, Stellar and LHoFT compared the current ICO sphere to the “Wild West” — a term that has become rather popular of late in reference to ICOs.

“ICOs raise issues for consumer protection, combating money laundering, and other regulatory compliance goals. Complications may arise from several sources, including the mechanism through which ICOs are conducted, the teams spearheading ICOs, the identities of contributors to ICOs, the quantity of money that is raised, the validity of ICOs’ technology and processes, marketing claims, and the impact that ICOs have on the greater cryptocurrency markets. All these factors must be scrutinized so that the heralded benefits of ICOs are balanced against market and legal risks as the model matures and gains broader acceptance,” the report states.

LHoFT and Stellar addressed both the upsides and the downsides of ICO fundraising. Organizations launching ICOs benefit from a built-in customer base, a committed group of customers that will stay with the product or service until it officially launches. Furthermore, according to the report, the fundraising method has positive effects on the network, can target global investors (or donors) in a non-discriminatory manner while providing a fast and easy fundraising mechanism. Additionally, retail investors are keen on participating in ICOs, and open-source projects can benefit from the fundraising method too.

Similarly, investors can benefit from the high liquidity of the tokens (sold during ICOs), in addition to being able to sell them through cryptocurrency exchanges or over-the-counter (OTC) transactions, which would allow the investors to transfer the tokens easily without the authorization of the token issuer (the organization launching the ICO).

Token holders are often offered bonuses, such as “gift cards” or “licenses” that will incentivize them to support the growth and the development of the project. ICO investors also benefit from the lack of “geo-lock” — they can invest in the project no matter the location (unless specified otherwise). Most importantly, ICOs have a high potential for big gains.

On the other hand, there are plenty of risks associated with ICOs, according to the report. Firstly, ICOs lack the formal process for auditing the organizations.The writers of the study highlighted a potential problem with smart contracts: If the contract is not programmed correctly, it could lead to unexpected transfers without the authorization of the token owner. Some tokens are not based on any fundamental value, thus, may facilitate bubbles and Ponzi schemes.

Furthermore, Stellar and LHoFT emphasized the issue of “investor education” — some investors are not informed well enough about an ICO project before investing in it. The report also detailed security problems, such as phishing scams and the loss of private keys, which can result in the investors losing their tokens.

As with most cryptocurrencies, tokens also tend to be volatile. According to the report, ICO cashouts may create price distortions on the market. Furthermore, the market can be subjected to manipulation, such as the “Whales” method, in which the token issuer organization holds back a percentage of the tokens and distributes them between the team members. Both investors and organizations can experience network lag during popular ICOs, while some token distribution mechanisms can cause unpredicted difficulties for both parties.

The lack of regulations within the ICO space presents various problems for both the investors and the organizations, such as being subject to the financial regulations of multiple jurisdictions. The anonymous nature of the cryptocurrency sphere can result in many of the investors being seen only as pseudonyms, which could cause issues for law enforcement and regulators. Since there is uncertainty about the taxation of tokens, both investors and organizations could face legal issues, such as tax evasion charges. Furthermore, the report discusses that there is an increasing concern that ICOs can be used by criminals for money laundering or terrorist financing purposes.

The post Joint Report by Stellar and Luxembourg Fintech Platform: Approach ICOs with Caution appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 20 September 2017 | 12:35 pm

Decred Adds Atomic Swap Support for Exchange-Free Cryptocurrency Trading

Decred Adds Support for Atomic Swaps for Direct Cryptocurrency Trading Without Exchanges

Decred is announcing support for on-chain atomic swaps, which will allow cryptocurrency holders to trade directly, without having to rely on external exchanges. The cryptocurrencies initially supported are Decred (DCR), Bitcoin (BTC) and Litecoin (LTC).

“Support for on-chain atomic swaps is extremely useful,”Jake Yocom-Piatt, Decred Project Lead said in a statement. “Thanks to the foresight of the Lightning Network authors and developers, and the dedication of our own developers, it is our pleasure to deliver an important capability that has been discussed since the concept of cross-chain atomic transfers was proposed in 2013.”

Users can already begin performing exchanges between DCR, BTC and LTC using tools that the Decred developers have created. The tools are text-based at the moment, but will be integrated into the Decrediton GUI wallet in a future release.

According to the Decred team, this advancement disintermediates the exchange process, allowing for greater market fluency. It also delivers on the market desire for improved interoperability between currencies and the demand for new efficiencies that drive investor value.

"This is the first step in a progression toward high-utility, non-Turing complete smart contracts,” Yocom-Piatt told Bitcoin Magazine. “We look forward to a new generation of greater fluency between projects. It was a pleasure collaborating with the dev teams at Litecoin and Lighting Labs."

The concept of atomic swaps (or atomic cross-chain trading) were first described by Tier Nolan back in 2013. A previous Bitcoin Magazine article provides a step-by-step explanation of a simple example where two users agree to swap agreed amounts of BTC and LTC and use the multisig and time lock features available in both Bitcoin and Litecoin basic scripting to synchronize two transactions on two independent blockchains without having to trust each other.

Yesterday I did an on-chain atomic swap of 1.337 LTC for 2.4066 DCR w/ @_alyp_ of @decredproject. (See txns: https://t.co/BlxU1QBK2U) ⛓️⚛️💱🚀 https://t.co/wPqzdw40Gp

— Charlie Lee (@SatoshiLite) September 20, 2017

It’s worth noting that Lightning Network payment channels, now enabled by SegWit, make atomic swaps more powerful and easier to implement, and permit adding support for off-chain swaps.

“The addition of LN support allows for both on-chain and off-chain atomic swaps, meaning that trustless cross chain exchanges can occur,” noted Yocom-Piatt. “Since supporting LN does not break any existing functionality and only adds to Decred’s capabilities as a system of value storage and transmission, it is a very attractive target for addition to Decred.”

“On-chain atomic swaps are an important step towards enabling peer-to-peer cryptocurrency trading,” said Laolu Osuntokun, Lightning Network Daemon (LND) lead developer. “We are excited for this process to continue with off-chain atomic swaps over the Lightning Network in the near future. By taking this process off-chain, substantial latency and privacy improvements can occur.”

Decred (DCR) describes itself as “digital currency for the people,” completely independent, community funded and community owned. The project wants to build an open and progressive cryptocurrency with a system of community-based governance integrated into its blockchain,  including a hybrid consensus system to ensure that no group can control the flow of transactions or make changes to the currency without the input of the community.

“Decred is Bitcoin as it should have been,” noted crypto-investor Jon Creasy. “Bitcoin would be of the people, for the people. As great an idea as this was, however, Bitcoin soon became controlled by an ‘oligarchy,’ so to speak.”

It’s important to note that some countries, such as China, are attacking cryptocurrency exchanges as the weakest links in the crypto ecosystem. The Decred move shows that, at least for crypto-to-crypto trading (for example, exchanging bitcoin for litecoin), it’s perfectly possible to operate without exchanges. However, it doesn’t solve the problem of crypto-to-fiat and fiat-to-crypto trading, which is arguably of top concern for cryptocurrency users.

The post Decred Adds Atomic Swap Support for Exchange-Free Cryptocurrency Trading appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 20 September 2017 | 8:14 am

Bitcoin Price Analysis: Amid Continuing China Rumors, BTC Fails to Break Key Resistance

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When it rains, it pours. Last week, news began to hit the crypto community that China was taking harsh measures to reign in their various cryptocurrency exchanges. Several exchanges closed down and others were given a deadline to properly cease trading operations. This news came hard on the heels of recent directives that banned ICOs in China, leading to dramatic drops in cryptocurreny prices across the board.

After this latest news settled, bitcoin managed to slightly rally before topping out around $4100. However, early this week, rumors began to circulate that executives associated with Chinese exchanges are being prohibited from leaving China. At the time of this article, BTC-USD is sitting just at $3900 and is showing signs of further pullback:

Figure_1 (8).JPGFigure 1: BTC-USD, 12-Hour Candles, GDAX, Macro Fibonacci Retracement Values

The figure above shows the whole, macro bull run from the $1700s. One important feature of the trend shown above is the 61% retracement down to the $2900s. The retracement down to such a low value shows that sell pressure is very strong in the current market and hints toward bullish exhaustion within the macro trend. Another key feature to note is the following:

Figure_2 (8).JPGFigure 2: BTC-USD, 2-Hour Candles, GDAX, Failed 100% Retracement

An important test of this rally was the 100% retracement of the bear run, post-China news. Sitting just below the 23% Fibonacci Retracement lies the bear run. The test of the 100% retracement is important because that resistance line marks a strong shift in market sentiment. A failure to break through those values shows that, even though there was a strong rally, the market is still bearish in nature and is likely to continue.

Figure 2 also shows several tests and rejections of the 2-Hour 200 EMA (Exponential Moving Average). The 200 EMA is a common tool used among traders to objectively view the state of the market compared to the prior trends. A trend existing below the 200 EMA is bearish in nature, and trends that show support on top of the 200 EMA are bullish in nature.

At the time of this article, the BTC-USD is displaying two failed tests of key resistance levels and its showing little sign of upward pressure. Currently, the trend is sandwiched between the 200 EMA and the 50 EMA. Both moving averages can used in conjunction to gauge just how strong the market is. Like the 200 EMA, the 50 EMA shows short-term bullish and bearish trends relative to the EMA line: Trends above are showing bullish traits, and trends below are showing bearish traits.

Right now, we are in the middle of a crucial test of both support and resistance lines as the market decides where it will go next. A break below the 50 EMA will ultimate show the long-term bearish intent of the market and will lead to tests of the low support values:

Figure_3 (9).JPGFigure 3: BTC-USD, 1-Hour Candles, GDAX, Support Levels for Current Rally

At the moment, BTC-USD is making its third test of the current rally’s 23% retracement values. A break below this line will have bitcoin testing the macro 38% retracement values in the $3700s. If bitcoin manages to break the 38% retracement values somehow, there will be strong support around the $3400s as the 50% macro Fibonacci Retracement values (shown in Figure 1) have historic significance and support.

If bitcoin is going to see any significant price growth within this rally, it will have to pick up some major buy volume and break through very strong, historic resistance values. It’s extremely unlikely that, given its repeated failures to break resistance and the inherent bearish news looming over the Bitcoin community, BTC-USD will shove to new highs without strongly testing lower macro support.

Summary:

  1. BTC-USD had a strong rally, but ultimately topped out around $4100.

  2. At the moment, BTC-USD is testing macro support levels and shows very little, significant upward strength.

  3. Should we break support in the $3900s, we can expect a test of the macro 38% Fibonacci Retracement values in the $3700s.


Trading and investing in digital assets like bitcoin, bitcoin cash and ether is highly speculative and comes with many risks. This analysis is for informational purposes and should not be considered investment advice. Statements and financial information on Bitcoin Magazine and BTC Media related sites do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BTC Media and should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to buy, sell or hold. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

The post Bitcoin Price Analysis: Amid Continuing China Rumors, BTC Fails to Break Key Resistance appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 September 2017 | 3:31 pm

Uncertainty Dominates as China Continues to Clamp Down on Cryptocurrencies

Uncertainty Dominates as China Clamps Down on Cryptocurrency

China is clamping down on cryptocurrency, that much is clear. But while the developing story dominates headlines, a notable trend is the lack of official information. Chinese officials seem to systematically decline requests for comments, local sources are willing to provide information on condition of anonymity only, while leaked documents remain unverified.

Despite this lack of clarity, here’s what’s known so far.

Effects on Trading

The most important thing we know for sure is that Chinese bitcoin exchanges will be closing down, or at least exiting China.

BTCC — the oldest bitcoin exchange in the world — was the first exchange to announce they’d be closing shop within the Asian country, by the end of this month. The exchange cited guidelines published by the Chinese central bank (the People’s Bank of China; PBOC), which initially appeared to only affect ICOs, as its reason for closing down.

Other exchanges quickly followed BTCC's lead. ViaBTC and Yunbi both announced that they’d be ceasing operations by the end of this month. Huobi and OKCoin, the two other major Chinese exchanges, announced they would be shutting down too, though not until the end of October. And BitKan, a big over-the-counter (OTC) trading service rather than an order-book exchange, announced it would be shutting down as well.

While the cited guidelines initially did not seem to concern bitcoin, it is likely that Chinese officials have made it clear through separate channels that they do apply to the cryptocurrency. Bloomberg (among others) reports that exchange operators decided to close down after in-person meetings with PBOC officials, and the Wall Street Journal reports — based on anonymous sources — that the PBOC has prepared a set of “draft instructions” that would ban cryptocurrency trading altogether. These draft instructions have also been leaked (translation) but have so far not been verified for authenticity.

The content of the leaked documents is also consistent with warnings issued by a Chinese quasi-regulatory body — the National Internet Finance Association of China (NIFA) — regarding cryptocurrency trading, published shortly before exchanges announced that they would be shutting down.

According to the NIFA, Bitcoin exchanges lack “legal basis” to operate in the country. Additionally, NIFA official Li Lihui told a technology conference in Shanghai on Friday that a goal of China’s monetary regulation is to ensure that “the source and destination of every piece of money can be tracked.”

The Status of Bitcoin

As far as official statements go, Bitcoin itself is not banned in China. Owning, using, and — most importantly — mining bitcoin should technically not be affected by the published guidelines.

However, more unverified reports (translation) consistent with reporting from the Wall Street Journal, claim that Bitcoin itself will be blocked by the so-called “great firewall of China.” Specifically, seed addresses, which help to bootstrap any new Bitcoin node, and Bitcoin blocks, necessary to construct the blockchain, would be filtered from internet traffic into China, using deep packet inspection.

Additionally, major foreign Bitcoin exchanges like Coinbase, Bitfinex and LocalBitcoins would be added to the list of banned domains, which already includes sites like Google and Facebook. And even private trading of cryptocurrency arranged through chat-apps like Telegram and WeChat, for example, could fall under scrutiny, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This much stricter stance on Bitcoin, beyond just exchanges but also concerning Bitcoin itself, seem consistent with comments from PBOC Counselor Sheng Songcheng, as reported by local news sources like Shanghai Securities News. Songcheng was quoted to have said that Bitcoin poses a challenge to China, mentioning money laundering and its potential to curb the nation’s economic policy.

Furthermore, very recent reports indicate that cryptocurrency exchange operators are currently not allowed to leave Beijing. Local news outlet BJ News writes:

“[According to] a number of informed sources, the current special currency trading platform executives and so on are not allowed to leave Beijing, [in order] to cooperate with the investigation. In accordance with regulatory requirements, the trading platform shareholders, the actual controller, executives, financial executives [must] fully cooperate with the relevant work in the clean-up period in Beijing.” (Rough translation.)

What This Means…

Trading bitcoin via dedicated exchange platforms in China is off the table for now — that is clear.

But it’s not yet clear how successful a full Chinese Bitcoin blockade could be. It would technically only require a single Bitcoin block of a maximum of four megabytes to make it into China about once every 10 minutes, potentially even through satellite, for the entire country to be able to access the blockchain. As such, banning individual Chinese citizens from owning and using bitcoin might prove difficult, even if exchange platforms close down.

Perhaps an even more important question is what will happen to Bitcoin mining: It’s likely that most of Bitcoin’s hash power is currently situated in the Asian country. While miners should able to connect to the rest of the world, according to ViaBTC CEO Haipo Yang, it’s unclear if this connection will be allowed for much longer. If Chinese authorities indeed intend to ban Bitcoin from the country entirely, some Bitcoin mining operations — both mining pools and hash power data centers — will be easy targets to shut down.

On the other hand, this is not the first time that fears of China “banning Bitcoin” have been raised. In the past, such concerns have simply been a prelude to stricter regulations by local authorities.

It has been suggested by Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu, perhaps a bit optimistically, that exchanges will simply require a new license to continue operation. Similarly, it’s been speculated that the PBOC may introduce a national digital currency as a sort of gateway to cryptocurrency: This would allow the central bank to better track the flow of funds in and out of bitcoin in order to counter money laundering and capital flight.

Then again, it could make more sense to introduce such a national digital currency as a substitute for Bitcoin, once Bitcoin is effectively banned, as suggested by ZeroHedge.

For now, uncertainty prevails.

The post Uncertainty Dominates as China Continues to Clamp Down on Cryptocurrencies appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 September 2017 | 2:40 pm

Bitcoin price climbs over $4,000

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Consulting firm EY Switzerland accepts Bitcoin

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Bitcoin Trading Bots

There have been a wide variety of situations in which algorithmic trading programs have proven to be beneficial for investors. However, investors who only trade a cryptocurrency can also take advantage of bitcoin trading bots. Through bitcoin bot trading, traders can become more flexible and prompt, minimize errors and process information more rapidly. At this… Read More »

Posted on 8 November 2016 | 6:20 pm

Steam accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 29 April 2016 | 1:09 am

Major Magazine Publisher to Accept Bitcoin Payments

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Microsoft accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 11 December 2014 | 5:06 am

Mozilla accepting Bitcoin

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PayPal and Virtual Currency

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airBaltic - World’s First Airline To Accept Bitcoin

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Expedia to accept Bitcoin payments for hotel bookings

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September 25, 2017 -
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