Post-COVID Rebuilding Period to Include Massive Crypto Crimes: Kaspersky Labs

2020 has been brutal. This year witnessed a wave of cyber attacks on companies as the lockdown forced companies and their employees to work remotely. As things settle down and countries reopen, a new report has sounded the alarm on possible attacks for post-covid.

No Rest for the Crypto Space

Top cybersecurity solutions provider Kaspersky Labs shared a report revealing that the post-COVID era could come with a significant number of cryptocurrency attacks. The report focused primarily on financial institutions, and it was compiled by Kaspersky’s cyber threat research arm Securelist.

Securelist argues that the post-COVID era would be marked by extreme poverty, with many still out of a job and transitioning between jobs as companies try to get back on their feet. With little to no income coming in, many unemployed could turn to cybercrime to maintain a “living.” Ultimately, this could lead to an increase in criminal activity related to Bitcoin.

Securelist highlighted that Bitcoin’s popularity means that it would most likely be the asset of choice for many prospective criminals. The research arm highlighted in its report,

“We might see certain economies crashing and local currencies plummeting, which would make Bitcoin theft a lot more attractive.

We should expect more fraud, targeting mostly BTC, due to this cryptocurrency being the most popular one.”

However, Securelist also pointed out that many of these hacks could focus on Monero, the most famous privacy-focused cryptocurrency. With assets like Bitcoin and Ether becoming easier to track, privacy coins would be the next gold rush.

The crypto space has been relatively silent when it comes to criminal activity. Crypto analytics firm CipherTrace pointed out in a report from earlier this month that the volume of crypto crime in the industry had declined significantly from 2019.

Per an account from Reuters, the report explained that the first ten months of 2020 saw $1.8 billion in crypto crime. This number pales in comparison to the $4.4 billion reported last year.

Increased Ransomware Crimes

The rate of cryptocurrency crimes slowed in 2020 as exchanges and custodial companies strengthen their security and internal processes. Despite this reduction, ransomware attacks demanding cryptocurrencies are gradually becoming the norm.

In 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 75 percent increase in ransomware attacks on the health sector. Businesses in these sectors and other educational organizations spent over $100 million to retrieve their data from ransomware gangs.

In addition to the cost spent on attackers, U.S government agencies also coughed up over $150 million on restoring their networks, investigating security breaches, and setting up preventive measures.

As of August, McAfee Security confirmed that NetWalker, one of the top ransomware variants, had generated $25 million for its users in just four months.

To make matters worse, NetWalker was only discovered in 2019. However, the group operating it reportedly earned a ransom income of 2,795 BTC (about $25 million at the time) – between March 1 and July 27, 2020.

The report highlighted that part of the ransomware’s profitability had been due to its Ransomware-as-a-service operation. The operators have developed an affiliate revenue sharing system that allows other operators to earn funds from ransoms paid by victims.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

ECB Experts Maintain a Cautious Approach to Digital Euro Development

The European Central Bank (ECB) has been talking a big game about its forthcoming digital euro, particularly considering its functionality.

However, the agency remains resolute in its stance that it shouldn’t rush an asset and instead move with caution.

Synergy is Required for Optimal CBDC Performance

Earlier this week, several experts from the ECB agreed that a cautious approach would be the best way forward considering the digital euro.

In a panel tagged “Upgrading Money to the Digital Age: Introducing Digital Euro,” participants argued that the primary goal would be to form a consensus on the digital euro and the form it should take.

In the panel, Austėja Šostakaitė, a Market Infrastructure Expert at the ECB and a former Senior Economist at the Bank of Lithuania, explained that the ECB would not be considering a digital euro until the middle of 2011. She wants the ECB to focus on solving the most critical questions on introducing the asset into the European financial ecosystem and how to collaborate it with commercial bank money.

Carl Andreas Claussen, an advisor to the Swedish Riksbank, also explained that the Riksbank is currently working on a proof-of-concept for the e-krona. However, he highlighted that a launch for the asset is “four to five years away.” Claussen highlighted,

“There are some legal questions and this is such a big issue that we cannot decide on this. We need some political backing. We suggested to the parliament that they should have an expert committee looking at this.”

Top ECB Brass in On Board

All opinions appear to be in line with the official stance of the ECB. While it first announced its digital euro in September, the agency has made it clear that it wouldn’t be rushing development for the asset. In an online panel from November 12, Christine Lagarde, the agency’s President, explained that it had chosen to focus on the proper implementation.

Lagarde pointed out that the ECB had set a consultation panel to explore the potential of a CBDC. She added that the panel would give a consultation report by January 2021. This report will help the bank make decisions on whether to launch – and what course to follow. While Lagarde highlighted that she believed a digital euro would come to light, she also understood that everyone needed to agree on the right implementation format.

The President has been an ardent supporter of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) for a while. Earlier this week, she explained in an article that the digital euro would help bring the Eurozone into the digital financial age.

Lagarde added that the digital euro could complement cash and ensure seamless access to central bank money. It would surely ensure the maintenance of monetary sovereignty – especially in a future where the use of physical cash declines.

Reuters also reported last week that Olaf Scholz, the German Finance Minister, had called on the ECB to expedite the asset’s development. Scholz, an ardent critic of private cryptocurrencies, explained that there is already significant demand for digital payments across the European Union. As he believes, it is time for the ECB to move swiftly towards developing its CBDC.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Yearn Finance to Join Forces with Akropolis; Fourth Merger In a Week

Yearn Finance continues its landmark week with yet another collaboration, as the project appears to be leveraging its name and capabilities to improve its reach.

This time, the decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol is partnering with Akropolis, a fellow DeFi project.

Mutual Benefit Going Forward

According to a press release published earlier today, lending and savings protocol, Akropolis confirmed that it had partnered with yield farming project Yearn Finance. The announcement explained that both projects would merge to leverage each other’s strengths, thus enabling each other to “do what they do best.”

Diving deeper, the announcement explained that Akropolis’ developers would use Yearn Finance’s infrastructure to enhance their operational strategies. They will benefit from the expanded Yearn Finance ecosystem, which now includes lending protocol Cream.

Yearn Finance also announced a partnership with Cream last Thursday. At the time, protocol founder Andre Cronje explained that both projects would collaborate to launch Cream v2, an upgrade to the latter’s protocol. They will also merge their development resources and strengthen the integrations between each other.

As for Yearn, the protocol will benefit from Akropolis’ institutional contacts and business development acumen. Akropolis has also committed to deprecate Spart and AkropolisOS, two of its products that aren’t related to yield farming. Both products will be moved to an open-source development mode, focusing on a front end that will allow professional traders to access the new ecosystem from both companies.

Better Insurance Cover

The merger also includes a commitment to help Akropolis recover funds lost in a recent security breach. Earlier this month, the protocol confirmed a hack that was executed across several smart contracts in its savings pools. Akropolis explained that the hackers had targeted areas which it already audited twice. Nevertheless, the Curve sUSD and Curve Y savings pools were affected.

Blockchain records on the Ethereum chain show hackers managed to steal over 2,030,000 DAI tokens by exploiting smart contract vulnerabilities. They moved the funds to a different address shortly after.

Akropolis confirmed that the majority of its assets locked were safe in an official statement. However, it has paused all stablecoin pools, adding that it looked into ways to reimburse affected users.

Looking to leverage Yearn Finance, the protocol explained that it would introduce an IOU token to track the stolen funds. Akropolis will also redirect profits into its token fund to reimburse all affected users, adding that it would streamline insurance protocol integrations to ensure that more users get coverage going forward.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Guggenheim Fund Files for Buying 27,700 BTC, 0.15% of Bitcoin’s Total Minted Supply

Guggenheim Partners LLC is the latest one to join the institutional investors bullish on Bitcoin and bet on it.

The company is reserving the right for one of its funds to invest in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, which is solely invested in Bitcoin and tracks the leading digital asset prices less 2% fees.

GBTC is currently trading around a 17% premium to BTC price, trading around $19,500. The filing said,

“Except for its investment in GBTC, the Fund will not invest, directly or indirectly, in cryptocurrencies.”

The $5.3 billion Macro Opportunities Fund of Guggenheim, which aims for total return through fixed income and other debt and equity securities, is planning to invest nearly $500 million in Bitcoin, which will be around 27,700 BTC — 0.15% of the total minted supply of the digital asset. According to the company’s filing with US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday,

“The Guggenheim Macro Opportunities Fund may seek investment exposure to Bitcoin indirectly through investing up to 10% of its net asset value in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.”

With this investment, Guggenheim and its chief investment officer Scott Minerd will join the likes of legendary investors like Paul Tudor Jones and Stan Druckenmiller. They have put their money into the flagship cryptocurrency. A crypto analyst noted,

“Expect a lot of fund managers to follow in PTJ and Druckenmiller’s footsteps in disclosing BTC positions into year-end window-dressing season. Career risk of owning BTC has now turned into risk of not owning BTC.”

In the filing, the company described cryptocurrencies as “digital assets designed to act as a medium of exchange.”

It also listed a wide variety of risks, including “highly volatile” prices, trading on “largely unregulated” exchanges that may be exposed to fraud and failure, a crisis of confidence in the most extensive network, and user preference to shift to competing cryptos.

The largest cryptocurrency has been enjoying a strong rally in 2020, surging to its highest level of $19,500 since the peak of the 2017 bull run. Trading around $18,750, BTC is just 8% away from its ATH, while up 160% YTD.

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Author: AnTy

Bitcoin Hits a New All-Time High on 3 Exchanges, 100% of BTC Holders in Profit

Yes, we finally did it. Bitcoin hit an all-time high today on a few exchanges.

When last week, the market was expecting new highs, the digital asset fell to $16,300, and this week, when another pullback has been expected, Bitcoin hit a new all-time high.

Bitcoin hasn’t breached $20,000 yet on spot exchanges, but on several exchanges, a new peak has been set.

Three cryptocurrency exchanges recorded a new ATH today that involves Binance, Bitstamp, and Kraken by breaking above $19,798, $19,666, and $19,660, respectively.

We have yet to make a new high on Coinbase, Bitfinex, Gemini, and BitMEX.

While BTC hasn’t hit the sweet $20k yet, we hit it on Bakkt and CME’s futures market.

In the immediate dip after the pump to new highs, which has BTC currently trading around $19,150, Kraken actually saw Bitcoin going as low as $16,600, unlike other exchanges where BTC only went about $19,000 level.

With these gains, 100% of Bitcoin’s circulating supply is currently in profit.

“In trading, if everyone wants something, it never does. At 19K, everyone was expecting “one more push” to 20K, we dumped 3K instead. At 16K, everyone expected a “deadcat bounce” to 18K then 14K, so we short squeezed to 20K instead,” noted Charles Edwards, founder of Capriole Investments. “The market is a position weighing machine.”

Up 42.75% in November, Bitcoins’ year-to-date performance has risen to 176%. Now, it’s to be seen how high we close this month. Trader and economist Alex Kruger commented,

“This is how “institutions are coming” looks like. It’s not just institutions though. It is everyone. Institutions, high net worth individuals, retail, and even some corporates. All at the same time.”

Today, Janet Yellen has also been confirmed to be the first woman for Treasury Secretary’s role.

Another interesting development has been seen with the USD. At the same time, Bitcoin is ready to embark on price discovery, the US dollar made fresh 2020 lows, having fallen to its lowest level since April 2018.

But Bitcoin is just getting started, and it has a long way to go.

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Author: AnTy

Macro Investor Raoul Pal Goes ‘Irresponsibly Long’ on BTC, But More Bullish on ETH

You got faith in it; bet everything on it. This seems to be the philosophy of Raoul Pal, a former Goldman Sachs hedge-fund manager who announced over the weekend that he is going all-in in Bitcoin.

However, he did clarify that he can afford to take this road and cautioned others to do the same as him and “do your own research and size accordingly.”

By betting his 98% liquid net worth, Pal has beaten another vocal Bitcoin bull Anthony Pompliano who says his 90% investment is in BTC. But as Pal points out, he is

“older and in a position to take more risk. And it is risk, no guarantees.”

The prominent bitcoin bull is putting it where his mouth is as he prepares to sell all of his gold and invest it all in Bitcoin and Ethereum. Pal, the co-founder of Real Vision tweeted,

“I have a sell order in tomorrow to sell all my gold and to scale in to buy BTC and ETH (80/20). I don’t own anything else (except some bond calls and some $’s). 98% of my liquid net worth. See, you can’t categorize me except #irresponsiblylong.”

While only 20% of the latest investment is in Ethereum, Pal has a “hunch” that it would be Eth that would beat Bitcoin in price performance. Explaining the reason behind his 80/20 allocation, he said,

“I think ETH outperforms possibly by 5 to 1 but who knows. BTC is the easy bet.”

It would be no surprise if Eth actually outperforms Bitcoin because it did so in the last cycle too.

Compared to Bitcoin’s 1,300% gains in 2017, ETH rallied 9,162% the same year. Moreover, while BTC is just over 7% away from its all-time high of $20,000, ETH has yet to surge 63% to reach its all-time high of $1,570.

In terms of year-to-date performance as well, ETH has gained 341% to Bitcoin’s 156% while trading at $575 and $18,470, respectively.

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Author: AnTy

Over 3 Billion XRP Held on Coinbase Exchange to Miss Out On Flare Network’s Spark Airdrop

  • Ripple is ready to airdrop a new token to all XRP holders on major cryptocurrency exchanges.
  • Coinbase and Binance.US users will miss the airdrop as the exchanges do not support the token.

Flare Networks, a Ripple funded blockchain firm, will airdrop free Spark tokens (FLR) to anyone holding XRP in supporting wallets and exchanges on December 13. However, with over 3 billion XRP tokens held on California based crypto exchange, Coinbase is likely to miss out on the airdrop, Flare Networks, the firm conducting the Spark token airdrop, confirmed.

According to a tweet sent out over the weekend, Flare Networks claimed that the exchange “is likely too late” to participate in the airdrop.

On November 13, Flare Networks launched the airdrop campaign promising users holding XRP free Spark tokens at a ratio of 1:1. Every XRP holder on supported wallets and exchanges as of Dec 12 00.00 GMT (when the snapshot will take place) will be eligible to receive the free tokens.

The XRP Army is enraged with Coinbase and several top crypto exchanges that have yet to announce any plans to support the airdrop. According to Flare Networks, any XRP user on exchanges and wallets not supporting the airdrop will not receive the Spark tokens.

In a message targeting these crypto exchanges, Flare Networks reminded most of the exchanges to announce their position on Spark token distribution on November 24. Binance (except Binance US), Bittrex, and Bitfinex have since replied in support of the Spark token distribution, which will allow XRP users on their platform to enjoy the airdrop.

Coinbase has yet to respond to the distribution despite holding over 3 billion XRP tokens (approx. $1.87 billion) in its wallets. Kraken exchange responded, stating they “do not have plans to support this airdrop/fork.”

Users who hold their XRP in non-supporting exchange wallets and wish to participate in the airdrop need to move their tokens to another supportive exchange.

If you don’t move your tokens from unsupportive exchanges, you are bound to lose the rewards with Flare Networks planning to redistribute the remaining tokens to the eligible XRP holders.

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Author: Lujan Odera

The ‘More Expensive’ Bitcoin Is, the ‘More Valuable’ It Is Backed by Strong Fundamentals

Bitcoin had a positive difficulty adjustment of 8.9% yesterday but remained 4.4% from its all-time high, much like its price.

Last week, the BTC price was 2.5% away from the peak when it made nearly 17% pullback to $16,300. It was still one of the tamest bull market retracements, and soon after, just over the weekend, BTC hit $18,700 yet again.

Any dips in the current market are being scooped extremely fast, which makes sense given that above ATH is where the price discovery will start this time. Additionally, as quant trader Qiao Wang notes,

“Buying BTC today at $18k is better risk reward than buying BTC back in March at $4k.”

This is because, in March, a massive fall could have set the store of value narrative back by a few years, and the market had no idea just how much monetary and fiscal intervention was coming.

Today, the inflation narrative is spreading like wildfire, and the household macro traders and corporations are feeling the FOMO and rushing in.

“The more expensive, the more salable, the more valuable,” said Wang.

Bitcoin is winning it

Today, we are back on the move going as high as $19,500, now just about 5% off the ATH on the back of strong fundamentals. Jason Deane, an analyst at Quantum Economics, said,

“Yesterday’s Bitcoin difficulty adjustment was quite chunky at +8.87%, but still well below ATH in late Oct. Surprised actually – price has moved up by 42% since then, reports of large scale mining purchases streaming in, but diff only creeping up at the mo.”

The difficulty has been increased in response to the hash rate of the network is near its peak, set in late October. Computing power devoted to running the largest network has been soaring for the past two years.

According to Samson Mow of Blockstream, there has actually been a shortage of Bitcoin miners. One miner said,

“There’s a shortage of Bitcoin miners right now. Manufacturers are having trouble getting additional chip capacity from foundries, and deliveries are pushed out to late Q2/Q3 2021.  “又开始疯了” which translate to “It’s getting crazy again.”

When it comes to other facets of the network, the backlog is all cleared in the mempool, which collapsed when the price was this high in late 2017.

Just the same as the mempool, the average bitcoin transaction fee remains extremely low at under $3, which was above $55 at the peak of the 2017 bull market.

Amidst this, the number of Bitcoin users continues to grow, with more than 30 million wallet addresses with active balances.

Not to mention all the attention BTC gets from institutional investors, family offices, companies, celebrities, and others. Historian Niall Ferguson tweeted on Sunday,

“We are living through a monetary revolution so multifaceted that few of us comprehend its full extent. And Bitcoin is winning it.”

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Author: AnTy

DeFi ‘Monster’ Aave is Ready for the Next Phase of Adoption

DeFi assets are back to uptrending as Bitcoin and ETH continue to explode higher. The total value locked in decentralized finance is also rising, reaching $14.2 billion.

Market participants are excited by the latest developments put out by DeFi heartthrob Andre Cronje, the creator of Yearn.Finance who is constantly putting out collaborations with more and more DeFi projects. Cronje shared,

“I have so much more planned for when v2 launches, custom money markets (yield & insurance), Cream will be a lending reserve into Aave, agnostic Cover for all aTokens, and we can finally put ytrade, yleverage, and leveraged stable coins into production.”

This has been in response to Aave founder and CEO Stani Kulechov’s tweet where he shared that the popular DeFi project has already been working with Cronje since the beginning of this year. Kulechov added,

“The recent collaborations with @iearnfinance are IMO positive sign for DeFi. All DeFi protocols should work towards cross composability.”

Not just this, the project has also achieved a big milestone in the form of processing over $1 billion in flash loans since launching in January.

All of this certainly got the community excited, and AAVE jumped over $76.5, up nearly 170% from about $28 earlier this month.

To trader @SmartContracter, AAVE is a “monster,” which he believes is “going to blow BTC out of the water in terms of performance in 2021.”

Next Phase for DeFi

Another news came in the form of Copper, an institutional custody provider announcing the launch of CopperConnect, the first-ever DeFi tool for crypto institutions.

With this service’s help, an institution can effectively contribute to a decentralized pool of assets and earn passive income on that.

With unaudited DeFi projects decreasing, the fluctuation in the value of the market has been less dramatic, making the risk now more manageable for sensations, which as a result has “led to high demand from institutional crypto investors for secure ways to gain exposure to the DeFi marketplace.”

“In recent months, we have seen a significant increase in the number of institutions looking to deposit liquidity onto our project. However, to date, institutions have not had the tools available to comply with their exacting risk management rules,” said Kulechov.

To satisfy this demand, Copper provides the safety of assets throughout the DeFi lifecycle, which will help the AAVE project gain institutional adoption.

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Author: AnTy

Gold is Being Dumped by Investors for Bitcoin; BTC Black Friday Sale Draws in New Buyers

The yellow metal continues to get hammered.

Today, gold fell further to $1,764, down 15% from its all-time high of $2,075 in early August, recording losses for four months in a row now.

November is on track to be bullion’s worst month since Nov. 2016, as it fell more than 5%.

Since July, sliding below the $1,800 level for the first time, the key technical support level only accelerated the sell-off. With gold below the 200-day moving average, it could trigger even more technical selling.

These losses are in line with continued outflows of gold exchange-traded funds (ETF), the first monthly one this year.

While gold has been going down for the last four months, Bitcoin has been enjoying an uptrend, going from $12,000 to $19,500 during the same period.

“It actually looks like Gold is being dumped for Bitcoin,” commented one trader on this completely opposite direction both the assets are moving in.

Up 158% YTD compared to gold’s 17%, Bitcoin is poised to break its all-time high of $20,000.

Stocks on Incline, Dollar on Decline

Investors have pivoted into risk assets this month, as seen with global stocks heading for a record month.

“Robust price rallies in industrial commodities like copper point to an ongoing rotation from a risk-averse to risk-on asset market regime,” wrote Citigroup analysts adding the metal faces a “more uncertain path in 2021.”

The latest boost for risk appetite has been the result of America’s top two health officials saying over the weekend that a vaccine will be deployed across the US before 2020 is over.

Unlike gold, this month has been solid not only for equity markets but also fixed income on the back of liquidity provided by central banks — ECB is set to provide more stimulus next month.

While the traditional safe-haven asset extended losses amidst the growing optimism for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, copper powered to a seven-year high. Chinese brokerage Jinrui Futures wrote,

“The market sentiment is really bullish right now amid a combination of vaccines, economic recovery, and a smooth U.S. presidential transition.”

However, ultra-dovish monetary policy and the risk of steeper inflation continue to favor the safe-haven asset.

Interesting gold is showing weakness despite a weaker US dollar. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will be testifying to Congress on Tuesday could affect it further. Robert Rennie, head of financial market strategy at Westpac, said,

“The idea that a potential Treasury Secretary (Janet) Yellen and Fed chair Powell could work more closely to shape and coordinate super easy monetary policy and massive fiscal stimulus that could drive a rapid post pandemic recovery saw the dollar under pressure.”

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Author: AnTy