IOTA to Launch A New Wallet; Firefly Was Built from the Ground Up for the Chrysalis

IOTA has announced a new wallet dubbed ‘Firefly’ according to a recent tweet by the IoT-focused blockchain foundation. The tweet sent out yesterday revealed that Firefly would replace IOTA’s infamous wallet, Trinity, which was hacked earlier this year.

Dominik Schiener, the co-founder of IOTA, quoted this tweet announcement noting that the chrysalis upgrade will feature many upgrades as the platform prepares to go fully decentralized in the awaited 2.0 upgrade.

“With Chrysalis, we are fundamentally upgrading the entire IOTA stack.

Over the coming weeks, everyone will participate in this new IOTA future and try our new Firefly wallet and Testnet. This will be an exciting new chapter for IOTA and the entire ecosystem!”

The Chrysalis upgrade marked the commencement towards ‘coordicide’ where IOTA’s coordinator will be removed to usher in complete decentralization. As we reported earlier, the chrysalis is the final testnet before the coordinator is removed.

IOTA’s developer, Charlie Varley, who commented on the ‘Firefly’ announcement, further expounded that the prospective wallet has been a work in progress. He added that the new wallet is redesigned from scratch based on the experiences learned from Trinity, with the first alpha expected in the course of 2020,

“Firefly is our new wallet. We are aiming for a first alpha this year. Taking everything we learned from Trinity, we redesigned it from the ground up.

In 2021 we will add additional features like contacts and chat. Firefly will set a benchmark for user-facing apps in crypto.”

In February, the Trinity wallet had been compromised, an attack that resulted in the loss of $1.6 million user funds, although this was later reimbursed by IOTA’s co-founder David Sonstebo. IOTA is now looking to improve its ecosystem’s security with the 2.0 launch, which is anticipated to take place in Q1, 2021 when the coordinator is replaced by coordicide.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Blockchain Coalition, Universal Protocol Alliance, Launches The First Tradeable Carbon Token

The Universal Protocol Alliance (UPA) has launched the first tradeable carbon token, according to a press release shared with BEG. This group comprises prominent players in the blockchain industry, including Bittrex Global, Uphold, Infinigold, Certik, and Ledger. UPA’s goal is to eventually digitize or tokenize every asset class in preparation for a new era of finance.

The newly introduced tradeable carbon token is dubbed ‘UPCO2’, represents a year of carbon dioxide or a similar reduction from ‘Verra-approved REDD+ voluntary projects in the world’s rainforests.’ This new carbon token is available for trading on the Uphold digital asset platform and marks the first of its kind to trade in a public blockchain ecosystem.

Democratizing the Global Carbon Market

Recent years have seen the demand for carbon skyrocket as the world became more environmentally aware of pollution’s looming risks. According to World Bank stats, the need for carbon credits is currently more than its supply by close to 4 times. Universal Protocol Alliance is among the groups that are presently working to offset this gap.

The UPCO2 token is built to democratize carbon demand and supply by introducing a global playing field for clearing prices, just like other commodities, including gold and oil. Each UPCO2 token will be backed by a Voluntary Carbon Unit (VCU), while Verra will issue the same certificate. This is the standard International Agency that permits the conversion of greenhouse gas to tradeable carbon credits.

Mathew Le Merle, the chairman of UPA, explained that supporting projects through credit purchases prevents deforestation in areas like the Amazon and Congo Basin. He went on to highlight the value proposition of UPCO2 carbon token as an asset of the ‘future’ investor,

“For a new generation of investors looking for more than mere financial return, UPCO2 offers attractive social, economic, and environmental benefits. At a key moment for climate change, UPCO2 allows people worldwide to do good for the planet and potentially do well for themselves.”

A Lucrative Macroeconomic Outlook

In the future, there is a likelihood that combating climate change will be among the dominant discussion points across the globe. World Bank stats indicate that only 22% of emissions are compensated for by humanity; meanwhile, the percentage of countries that operate in regulated carbon markets has grown from 40% to 70% within the past four years.

Uphold CEO and Co-founder of the UP Alliance, JP Thieriot, emphasized this trend noting the underlying potential of the UPCO2 carbon token,

“Combating climate change is likely to become the dominant economic issue of the next 20 years.  The UPCO2 Token allows people everywhere to participate in this hugely important – and potentially lucrative – new market, as well as do the right thing for the planet.”

Notably, the Voluntary Credit Units offer some perks compared to the regulated credits, including global recognition and the ability to retain value until used or retired as compensation for carbon footprints.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Ethereum Classic Network Announces Latest Hardfork; ‘Thanos’ Upgrade Scheduled for Nov 29

The Ethereum Classic network is set to undergo a network upgrade on November 29, according to an announcement by ETC Core developer and Ethereum Classic Labs, the teams behind ETC’s blockchain ecosystem. Dubbed ‘Thanos,’ this hardfork is an Ethereum Classic Improvement Proposal (ECIP 1099) and is part of developing a stable ecosystem that can withstand 51% attacks.

Notably, ETC’s blockchain experienced three 51% attacks over the summer, calling for the need to upgrade its technical fundamentals. Per the estimated timeframe, the Ethereum Classic community’s consensus decision to initiate the Thanos hardfork will happen in a week.

Once this milestone is achieved, Ethereum classic stakeholders are optimistic that the network will continue to ‘drive innovations that will support existing miners and attract new ones while maintaining compatibility with Ethereum (ETH).’

Prior Solutions to the ETC 51% Attacks

While the Thanos hardfork is anticipated to mark a big milestone, Ethereum Classic had already launched some initiatives to counter the 51% attacks. One of these solutions is dubbed Modified Exponential Subjective Scoring (MESS) and goes by the ticker ‘ECIP 1100’. Ideally, this innovation makes it harder for 51% attacks by increasing the costs associated with chain re-organizations.

Ethereum Classic Labs Founder and Chairman, James Wo, commented that,

“After the successful implementation of MESS, the finality algorithm that provides 51% protection, we continue to see Ethereum Classic innovate and grow in a way that distinguishes itself and increases functionality for its users.”

Mainnet Activation

ETC’s Mordor Testnet, which went last month, has already implemented the Thanos upgrade, ahead of the Mainnet activation scheduled for block 11,700,000. This will happen around November 29, although the timeframe might change as the network narrows closer to the activation block (currently at block 11,672,555). Wo was keen to note that Thanos hardfork is the next natural thing after MESS,

“The Thanos hard fork is the natural next step for the network, reducing the DAG size to help cultivate a more distributed and healthy mining ecosystem, increasing hash rate, and allowing for miners to continue mining ETC and for new miners to join the ecosystem.”

Ethereum Classic has since advised its consumers to upgrade their software nodes to fork compatible versions ‘if they have not done so already to Core-geth v1.11.16 or later.’

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Stellar Network Rolls Out Protocol 15 Upgrade, Adding Two New Payment Features; XLM Surges

Stellar blockchain network has upgraded to protocol 15, according to a blog post announcement on Nov 23. The publication was sent out by Stellar Development Foundation Ecosystem lead, Justin Rice; it highlights two new features: ‘make it easier than ever to build user-friendly apps on Stellar.’ The new functions are Sponsored Reserves and Claimable Balances.

According to the blog post, these new features are already changing Stellar’s ecosystem when it comes to hosting user-friendly DApps,

“We’ve already seen both deployed to great effect on the testnet, and we’re excited to see what you can do with them in a production environment.”

Notably, Stellar skipped protocol 14 after a critical bug was discovered in this update while in the testing phase. The previous protocol ‘13’ had been voted for by the validator nodes in June; improvements in this upgrade included fee bump transactions and advanced asset authorization control.

Stellar’s Protocol 15 Upgrade

This milestone was first announced in October, although the project had been a work in progress for several months. The upgrade went live on Nov 23 at 1600 UTC, and users have since been advised to install software that supports the latest protocol. According to the blog,

“Stellar Core will immediately throw an error if it’s not up to date, but Horizon and the Stellar SDKs may function as normal for a bit until they encounter — and are baffled by — one of the new operations.”

The value proposition in claimable balances can split payments into two by creating a new ledger entry. Stellar users can create a balance and claim a balance, which means that they can send an asset, regardless of the receiving account’s state.

On the other hand, Sponsored Reserves open up the window for funding innovations with Lumens (XLM) while maintaining control. An earlier blog post highlighted that,

“It also adds new extensions to account entries and ledger entries to record pertinent information about sponsorships.”

XLM Price Bullish

Meanwhile, the XLM price is currently bullish, having gained 72.6% within the past 24 hours. The coin is currently trading at $0.189 while its total market cap is well over $3 billion, according to metrics site Coingecko.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Poker Websites Buying Millions of Dollars Worth of BTC Per Day to Meet Crazy High Customer Demand

Bitcoin is helping people get hilariously rich as it continues to surge. According to Bloomberg, online gamblers have also taken to cashing out in BTC to get their winnings bigger and bigger.

Winning Power Network, which operates AmericasCardRoom.eu is one of the poker websites that reported buying millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin a day from the over-the-counter (OTC) trading desks in recent weeks to meet the demands of its players, which is dominated by Americans despite online poker being illegal in most states, said Chief Executive Phil Nagy. He said,

“Right now, 90-95% of our payouts are people asking for Bitcoin because it’s going up.”

“We are constantly having to go out and buy Bitcoin — lots. Lots. More than we’ve even had to before.”

More than 60% of its transaction volume, which is about $100 million a month, is currently in Bitcoin. Due to this crazy high demand, brokers are charging up to a 1.5% premium.

This makes sense given that Bitcoin beats the traditional asset by a wide margin, up 150% YTD reaching $18,600, a level last seen right around the peak of December 2017.

While before this rally, 60 of WPN’s customers were cashing out in Bitcoin, this has now shot over 90%.

Poker sites have been accepting Bitcoin since 2014. Just last year, a Guinness World Record for the largest crypto jackpot in online poker was set for $1 million.

In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the poker business exploded, growing a whopping 43%, as people were stuck home with business shutdowns as part of the lockdown measures.

WPN, whose long-term customers can make both the deposits and withdrawals in Bitcoin, doesn’t hold it but instead converts BTC into fiat right away. Nagy said,

“When Bitcoin drops or does something significant, inevitably, we have people send us $100,000 or $200,000 in Bitcoin because it’s the fastest way to liquidate it.”

“And we are kind of stuck with it.”

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Author: AnTy

Robinhood in Preparation for a Possible IPO Launch in Q1, 2021; Report

Robinhood might be planning to go public early next year, according to a recent publication by Bloomberg. This trading platform, whose popularity has risen in the past few years, is reportedly seeking advisers in the banking domain to support its Initial Public Offering (IPO) process.

Per the Bloomberg report, Robinhood could go public as soon as Q1 of 2021; sources opted to remain unidentified given this information’s private nature. However, they were also keen to highlight that the firm might change this position and abandon the IPO plan altogether.

While Robinhood’s official sources are yet to comment, this move might be a game-changer for the trading platform, given its value proposition to novice investors. Robinhood has become a darling to millennials and the tech-savvy Gen-Z, giving them exposure to various previously cumbersome assets to trade.

In fact, it is one of the popular trading platforms with access to crypto-assets and enjoys the backing of tech-focused VC’s such as Sequoia Capital. Other prominent investors that have allocated funds to Robinhood include Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Ribbit Capital, DST Global, and D1 Capital Partners.

The latest Robinhood valuation is $11.8 billion; this was after the firm raised its series G funding, which totaled $200 million. With the murmurs of an IPO, Robinhood could soon be listed in the U.S stock markets, a move that would expose the firm to more market liquidity.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Lebanon to Launch a CBDC in 2021 to Boost Confidence In the Country’s Banking Sector

According to the country’s central bank governor, Riad Salameh, Lebanon is set to debut its own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in 2021. Bloomberg, which reported on this development, cited a Lebanese state-run News Agency, noting that the Mediterranean island plans to make the paradigm shift due to transitioning to cashless networks and restoring confidence in the banking sector.

This comes as more jurisdictions begin to pay closer attention to CBDCs and the possibility of launching country-specific projects to support digital ecosystems. In fact, recent months have seen a spike in CBDC activity by local banks such as the PBoC and international bodies like the Bank of International Settlements (BIS). The latter published its first CBDC series report in collaboration with 7 major central banks.

With Lebanon set to join this bandwagon, Salameh emphasized the need to prepare for a Lebanese CBDC, per the global trends but mainly as a confidence boost to the country’s banking ecosystem. According to the central banker, implementing a CBDC will help increase cash flow efficiency both locally and internationally. Currently, this remains a challenge despite a good chunk of Lebanon’s GDP being complemented by remittances.

Salameh also highlighted that a cool $10 billion is held by Lebanese in their homes, an issue that could be attributed to the volatility of the country’s fiat currency ‘Lira.’ Earlier this year, Lebanese citizens found themselves in limbo after the currency devalued by almost 50% times compared to the dollar. At the time, they took to the streets with the sophisticated citizens opting to hedge against the Lira volatility by buying Bitcoin.

Notably, Lebanon began CBDC talks as early as 2018 but now seems to be in a more urgent position than in previous years. The country’s economy took a great hit this year, forcing local banks to cap withdrawals and increase foreign currency cash flows’ limitations. Previously, the main CBDC motivation was to curb terror financing and money laundering; this later shifted to making payment networks efficient, but now the urge seems to be a confidence boost in Lebanon’s banking sector.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

EU Draft Proposal Seeks to Access Data from End-to-end Encryption Platforms

The European Union (EU) could soon limit end-to-end encryption according to a draft leaked by the German Presidency, which seeks to increase the monitoring efficiency by Intelligence authorities and police.

This development comes in the wake of Vienna’s terrorist attack that took 4 lives and left 23 others with injuries. The news, which was initially reported by an Austrian media dubbed ‘FM4’, noted concerns on the accessibility of data from encrypted platforms like WhatsApp and Signal.

According to a draft deciphered by the Associated Press, this proposed piece will harmonize the process of accessing encrypted data,

“Competent authorities must be able to access data in a lawful and targeted manner, in full respect of fundamental rights and the data protection regime, while upholding cybersecurity.”

The draft, which is dated Nov 6, goes on to highlight those technical solutions to enable data access in encrypted platforms must be in line ‘with the principles of legality, transparency, necessity, and proportionality.’ However, it is quite noteworthy that the draft proposal does not call for total encryption; instead, it is set to initiate an exploratory phase that will guide stakeholders, including the EU, towards adopting favorable legislation in matters of end-to-end encryption.

Activists Decry the Move

As expected, the draft has already been met with opposition from rights activists who place fundamental importance on privacy and security. In fact, a German lawmaker Anke Domscheit-Berg, a left-wing politician, has voiced their concerns about the proposed draft. The lawmaker accused EU governments of masking under the extremism narrative to introduce higher surveillance within their jurisdictions.

According to Anke, the logic of accessing end-to-end encryption platforms does not make sense. He gave this example to support the argument,

“Anyone who finds an open back door into my house can enter it; the same is true for back doors in software …

The proposed EU regulation is an attack on the integrity of digital infrastructure and, therefore, hazardous.”

It appears he is not the only one who has called out the draft proposal; other stakeholders that have voiced their opinions against it include the executive director of Open Privacy Sarah Jamie Lewis and the director of Cybersecurity at Electronic Frontier Foundation, Eva Galperin. With the document set for presentation to the EU council on Nov 19, only time will tell if this draft will be adopted into law by member countries.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Blockstream Reveals MuSig2; An Easy & Privacy-Focused 2-Round Schnorr Multisignature Scheme

As the Bitcoin Taproot upgrade approaches, a multi-signature solution is in development by Blockstream engineers, according to a medium blog post on Nov 4. Two engineers, Tim Ruffing and Jonas Nick said that they have already published a blueprint for MuSig2, an advanced version of the MuSig multi-signature scheme built to facilitate collective ownership of some Bitcoin and the creation of a single authorization signature.

Notably, Blockstream had debuted MuSig1 back in 2018 but is now seeking to solve communication shortcomings in the MuSig scheme’s initial version. MuSig1 brought in a privacy aspect that previously did not exist in the CHECKMULTISIG code; this version also reduced the transaction fees. However, this particular version had implemented multiple backs and forth signing process; something that Musig2 is designed to solve.

MuSig2 Non-Interactivity Signature

As highlighted, this MuSig scheme version introduces a less interactive signing process; to be precise, only two communication rounds are required. The initiative, which is currently undergoing a peer review, is set for presentation at the Real World Crypto Conference scheduled for next year. Per the blog, MuSig2 leverages a non-interactive signing approach to enhance the utility in MuSig1. It reads,

“As the name suggests, MuSig2 is intended to be the successor of MuSig1.

It offers the same functionality and security as MuSig1 but makes it possible to eliminate almost all interaction between signers.”

Basically, MuSig2 combines the best of MuSig1 and CHECKMULTISIG functionalities to provide an ecosystem with both privacy and efficient communication. With the Taproot integration around the corner, Blockstream is set to update the Schnorr signature code library by replacing MuSig1 with MuSig2. The blog also hinted that they might test MuSig2 on Taproot code earlier, in preparation for deployment on the Bitcoin Mainnet.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Hackers Put 10,000 Robinhood Accounts for Sale On the Dark Web

According to a new report, Hackers on the dark web are offering hacked Robinhood accounts for sale. The report surveyed dark web marketplaces to find that the hackers claimed to have 10,000 login keys linked to the Robinhood investment and trading app’s client trading accounts.

Although Robinhood’s customers have complained in the past that their emails have been hacked, the company assured them that a stolen email is not enough to infiltrate a brokerage account. The latest development may be the last thing the app developers want now, as it could lead to serious legal issues.

Robinhood has once again given assurance to its customers, claiming its security measures are tough and advising clients to use 2-factor authentication to protect their accounts.

The company said it recently increased its customer service team to care for more customer needs and queries. However, clients are still not showing complete confidence in the company’s security measures, with the news of a possible leak of their account details circulating on the dark web.

One customer of the platform expressed his disappointment regarding Robinhood’s lack of security measures, pointing out that it took the platform more than a month to rectify a security issue that locked him out of his account.

Other brokerage accounts were also compromised

The Robinhood accounts’ compromise was not the only alleged compromised brokerage, as contained in the report. Bloomberg discovered that about 1,000 TD Ameritrade Holding Corp accounts were also compromised, with the details offered at a dark web known as SliPP.

However, the number of Robinhood accounts for sale is far higher than the accounts of other brokerages. This indicates that the platform’s accounts are more valuable and more marketable than other brokerage accounts, an analyst pointed out.

More dark web markets springing up

Authorities have shut down many dark web markets to discourage hackers from causing more havoc online. But instead of having a decreased number, it seems the darknets have multiplied.

A recent report by CipherTrace shows that new darknet markets have launched because they are relatively easy to set up and operate. The area is of particular interest because it generates high profits for the owners. The platform encourages the exchange of various items and services such as illicit goods, drugs, login credentials, and malware.

Most parties involved in the exchange pay with Bitcoin and other crypto coins such as Monero to avoid any trace.

Presently, Hydra is seen as the biggest darknet market, which has reportedly generated over $1.2 billion since it was launched. The darknet is also the main trading center of hackers who sell stolen credentials to those who need them for further phishing attacks or other forms of future attacks.

The Robinhood app has registered millions of users this year alone, with many young and new users to stock tracking. This makes the platform an easy target for hackers looking to compromise account information and sell them on the darknet.

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Author: Ali Raza