Privacy Browser Brave Unknowingly Leaked Users’ Dark Web Activities: Researchers

Privacy-oriented web browser Brave has been leaking users’ web data for months unknowingly through a bug in its code. The bug named Support CNAME, which was incorporated into its Tor mode offering had been sending user data to local network providers without the company knowing.

Leaked DNS Requests

Tor mode on Brave Browser allows users to access hidden services better known as .onion dark web domains while using Brave’s private browsing windows. The feature, which was added in 2018, was created to ensure increased privacy for Brave users while surfing the web.

But in recent research revealed on Friday for the Brave stable build, a Reddit user said Brave’s Tor mode was re-routing web queries for .onion domains to public internet domain name system (DNS) resolvers rather than designated Tor nodes.

Although the claims were initially refuted, other security experts confirmed the issue and asked the privacy browser to do something about it.

A DNS leak occurs when a request that should be sent through a private network arrives at a DNS server unprotected. The DNS server is likely your local network provider who will likely collect, evaluate and possibly sell the data. A DNS leak also leaves a trail that can be traced by government officials, hackers, or anyone with top-level security clearance.

To address this sort of issue, the Tor network was created in 2002. This network directs your web traffic through myriads of nodes, hiding the location you are searching from and protecting against network surveillance and traffic analysis.

Brave Browser has subsequently addressed the issue and released a formal fix for the erring bug the same day the data leak was discovered. The company said it first found the CNAME bug in its Brave Nightly build which developers mainly use. The issue was fixed on Feb. 4, and it proceeded to look into the stable build. It delayed the fix because it looked for other likely bugs that may result from the data leak.

The company has advised users genuinely concerned about their privacy to use the Tor network instead.

Brave’s User Community Grows By 130%

But despite what might seem like a bad deal for the ads blocking browser, Brave browser has enjoyed some measure of success in 2021. In a published report, the privacy portal said it has seen its user community increase from 11.6 million to 25.4 million as of Feb. 2 reflecting a 130% increase.

The Brave browser is sometimes compared to the famous Tor network due to its privacy-centric business model. Its Tor mode deployment in 2018 has seen it become a household name in a few short years.

The Chromium-based browser also rewards its users a basic attention token (BAT) for accepting to view ads. These digital tokens can then be exchanged for other crypto-assets or given to content creators through its in-built wallet.

With the idea of privacy becoming a much-discussed topic in the last decade, Brave may continue to find itself in business for a long time to come.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

On-Chain Data Indexing Platform, The Graph, Looks to Support 8 New Layer 1 Blockchains

On-Chain Data Indexing Platform, The Graph (GRT), Looks to Support Eight New Layer 1 Blockchains

The Graph, an indexing and query layer of decentralized applications, evaluates a move to eight different layer 1 blockchains following a successful mainnet launch on Ethereum. The company is currently working on integration on the Bitcoin, Polkadot, and Binance Smart Chain (BSC) L1 networks – to name a few.

A blog post released on Monday revealed eight-layer 1 technologies being evaluated by The Graph for “potential integration.” The querying and indexing platform launched its mainnet on Ethereum at the tail end of 2020, building a robust and decentralized system on the Inter-Planetary File System (IPFS). Now, the company is shifting its focus to allow the deployment of sub-graphs (open APIs in the Web3 ecosystem) on other blockchains.

The list provided mentions eight potential L1 layer candidates to integrate The Graph (GRT), including Bitcoin (BTC), Polkadot (DOT), NEAR, Cosmos (ATOM), Solana (SOL), Avalanche (AVAX), Binance Smart Chain, and Celo.

The Graph was first conceptualized in 2018 to make it easy and efficient for developers to access on-chain data and build dApps by launching their sub-graph. Moving to new L1 blockchains will allow users and developers to build interoperable applications hence “growing the overall Web3 ecosystem”, the post further reads.

“After launching mainnet, we are looking to accelerate the upward trajectory of the Web3 ecosystem”

“That means ensuring that no matter which Layer 1 blockchain you are building on, you can build a subgraph and easily access data from across chains”.

Eva Beylin Director at The Graph Foundation

The company is still analyzing the conditions necessary to integrate its indexing platform to the Layer 1 blockchains – and the respective developer communities. The Graph is planning to use several criteria to integrate on a blockchain, including ease of integration, the communities’ hype and rigor, compatibility with its goals, and overall contribution to the Web3 ecosystem.

So far, over 7,000 sub-graphs have been deployed by decentralized finance products on Ethereum (ETH), including AAVE, Compound (COMP), Synthetix (SNX), and Uniswap (UNI). These projects use sub-graphs to retrieve data improving the efficiency of the platforms.

“By providing subgraph support across chains, developers will be able to utilize the best of whatever each blockchain has to offer,” Eva further said.

Finally, the post also revealed the Graph Foundation is launching the “Graph Grants Program” to any developers working on integrating the selected Layer 1 blockchains on its platform. The Foundation released 25 million GRT – The Graph’s native tokens – to be distributed across the Graph’s ecosystem across 2021.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Crypto ETP Volume Surges in January as Institutions Flood the Market

Data shows that the trading volumes for crypto-denominated ETPs saw a significant surge in January 2021. Institutions also appear to be cutting their losses as the crypto market braces for a more significant pullback.

All eyes are on institutional crypto investors this week again, as it appears that some have been making significant plays to begin the year. In its recent weekly report, market data and metrics provider CryptoCompare has confirmed a spike in the volume of assets under management (AUM) in crypto-denominated exchange-traded products (ETPs).

Promising Numbers Across the Board

Per the report, there has been a staggering 93.7 percent increase in the AUM for crypto ETPs across the board. In nominal terms, crypto ETPs now holds an impressive $36 billion. Aggregate daily volumes also jumped above $1.5 billion, marking healthy institutional participation to kick-off 2021.

CryptoCompare noted that Grayscale Investments makes up a significant chunk of these figures, with its various investment trusts housing $22.6 billion, 63 percent of all capital invested into crypto ETPs. The New York-based asset management firm’s products were also found to have represented 64 percent of the entire industry’s ETP volumes, pushing $972 million in daily trading volumes.

Grayscale’s dominance in the institutional investment space has been nothing short of astonishing. The company, which operates several investment trusts for large-cap cryptos, has been the go-to source for institutions looking to get their bit of the crypto pie. As a result, its AUM has been on the rise for months.

Earlier this week, Danny Scott, the CEO of crypto exchange CoinCorner, confirmed that Grayscale purchased 16,244 BTC ($607 million) in 24 hours. Even with the threat of a liquidity crunch, the company has continued to suck up Bitcoins from the open market at incredible levels.

While Grayscale dominated trading volumes, the company’s products still trailed in the spot markets, as the premiums on its shares fell by 8 percent this month.

As for exchange-traded notes (ETNs), trade volumes almost tripled in January. These were dominated by the BTCE product from ETC Group, which saw nearly $50 million in daily trades.

The second-most traded ETN was the BTCW/USD ETN from WisdomTree, which had $7million in trading volumes, while VanEck’s Bitcoin Vectors saw $5 million in daily trades.

Profit-Taking from Investors

Although the commitments into crypto ETPs have been impressive, institutions are also staying vigilant as Bitcoin’s price begins a significant pullback.

Crypto fund provider CoinShares reported that institutional crypto products had seen $85 million in outflows this past week, asserting that some investors seem to be taking profits following Bitcoin’s bull run over the past month.

CoinShares noted a similar trend in Ether-derived investment products, with $3 million exiting the past week’s market.

Despite the strong profit-taking, institutional inflows are still strong, with $359 million entering crypto investment products this week. CoinShares noted that Bitcoin remains investors’ top prize, with the leading cryptocurrency representing 99 percent of all capital inflows this week.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

DoJ Challenges Visa’s Proposed $5.3B Acquisition of Plaid in a North California Court

The U.S Department of Justice (DoJ) has challenged Visa’s acquisition of financial data aggregation firm, Plaid. According to the filing on Nov 5, Visa’s move to initiate a transaction process for purchasing Plaid at $5.3 billion is a monopolistic approach. It deprives the American people of cheaper and better debit-focused innovations. The filing reads,

“By acquiring Plaid, Visa would eliminate a nascent competitive threat that would likely result in substantial savings and more innovative online debit services for merchants and consumers.”

It goes on to term Visa as a ‘monopolist in online business transactions’ given that it enjoys a market share of around 70% in the online debit transactions industry. The DoJ claims that Visa will be violating Section 7 of the Clayton Act and Section 2 of the Sherman Act as per the filing made in a North California based federal court. Both Visa and Plaid are defendants in this case, whereas the DoJ is the complainant.

While Plaid’s focus area is not the distribution of debit cards, this Fintech startup proposes a significant value in today’s world where data is the new gold. In fact, the firm received a strategic investment from both Visa and Master card back in 2019. This platform is designed to harmonize interaction between different databases held by financial service providers, including banks. Apparently, the firm was on its way to disrupt Visa’s fort in the online debit service before the ‘monopoly’ swung in to acquire them.

Per the DoJ filing, Visa’s senior executives, including the firm’s CEO, have previously hinted at the move to acquire Plaid as a strategy to neutralize competition. This strategic decision was particularly triggered by information that Plaid had plans to launch a parallel competition to Visa’s money movement business by the end of 2021.

At the time, Visa’s downside risk estimation for the next four years stood at $300-500 million, should Plaid have been acquired by a rival. This prompted them to act swiftly with the CEO noting that ‘Visa seeks to buy Plaid as an “insurance policy” to neutralize a “threat to our important US debit business.’ A statement that appears to have rattled the DoJ is now a focal point in its filing against Visa and Plaid.

Nonetheless, Visa has indicated through a spokesperson who shared with the Wall Street Journal that they intend to defend the Plaid transaction,

“Visa intends to defend the transaction vigorously … Visa’s business faces intense competition from a variety of players — but Plaid is not one of them.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Justin Sun’s P2P Streaming Service Acquires eSports Platform DLive; Launches BitTorrent X

BitTorrent Inc, the popular peer-to-peer data sharing protocol and app, has acquired the well-known decentralized streaming platform DLive. The firm also announced that it will roll out the decentralized DLive platform to its newly established BitTorrent X ecosystem.

The BitTorrent X ecosystem consists of a popular file-sharing system called BitTorrent File System (BTFS) along with a BitTorrent client, which would be utilized to deliver different services to users in the ecosystem.

BitTorrent was developed as a P2P data sharing protocol back in 2001, and ever since its establishment, it has managed to garner over 2 billion users around the world up until now.

BitTorrent was later acquired by Justin Sun, CEO of Tron, in 2018 and since then has become an integral part of the Tron ecosystem. The file-sharing system of BTFS is especially actively utilized by TRON blockchain and DLive as a decentralized storage solution.

Justin Sun, the founder of TRON and CEO of BitTorrent, commented on the newly launched BitTorrent X ecosystem,

“BitTorrent X is the next step in establishing a truly decentralized internet. In one big step, the BitTorrent X ecosystem may drive blockchain-related tools to billions of devices.

Hundreds of millions of users will have access to the next era of tools to share, store, and stream their content directly to anyone across the web.”

DLive To Help in Expanding BitTorrent X Ecosystem

DLive decentralized streaming services have grown rapidly over the years and currently boast over 7 million users and over 200,000 content creators. Pewdepie, a very popular and most subscribed YouTuber, is one of the platform’s famous content creators. With decentralization being the ongoing trend and growing censorship from a mainstream platform like Youtube, many popular content creators are looking to join decentralized platforms such as DLive.

Charles Wayne, CEO of Dlive, commented on their acquisition by BitTorrent Inc and said,

“The acquisition marks a new start for DLive.tv. We are more than excited to join the BitTorrent ecosystem as the collaboration will provide us with more innovative solutions to empower content creators and reward communities.

Together with the BitTorrent team, we look forward to bringing disruptive innovations to the digital media space and create value for our global community.”

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Author: Hank Klinger

More than Speculation, Bitcoin’s Real-World Usage Booms in Africa

Outsiders claim the sole purpose of bitcoin is speculation. Still, the data presents a much different picture in which these people who have declared the digital currency dead hundreds of times conveniently ignore.

As we reported several times, the use of bitcoin and stablecoins have been gaining a lot of traction in Argentina, Venezuela, Africa, and other parts of the world.

In these regions, cryptocurrencies are being used as a hedge against currency debasement. In Africa, especially, the use of cryptos is booming.

While weaker local currencies and complex bureaucracy are pushing people towards bitcoin, the young and tech-savvy population of Africa is finding it easy to adapt to bitcoin quickly.

While central banks continue to warn that cryptos are not legal tender and investors are unprotected, this is not deterring the users and investors.

South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya are the hotspots of bitcoin on the continent. In Nigeria, small crypto transfers total at about $56 million in June, which is nearly 50% more than a year before. The number of transactions also jumped over 55% to 120,000 in the country.

According to Chainalysis, which tracks crypto flows for financial firms and US law enforcement, monthly crypto transfers to and from Africa of under $10,000 has jumped over 55% in a year to reach $316 million in June. The number of monthly transfers also doubled, surpassing 600,700.

This is the real deal!

Abolaji Odunjo, a mobile phone seller in Lagos, saw his profits boosted after he started paying his suppliers in bitcoin. His Chinese supplies, from whom he sources the handsets and accessories, ask to be paid in crypto for speed and convenience.

“Bitcoin helped to protect my business against the currency devaluation, and enabled me to grow at the same time,” Odunjo told Reuters. “You don’t have to pay charges, you don’t have to buy dollars,” said the 30-year-old.

Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, is oil-dependent whose local currency naira is devalued twice by the central bank this year amidst low crude prices and COVID-19.

Naira’s fall pushed Nigerians towards bitcoin as reflected in the volume of the Lagos exchange BuyCoins, which jumped more than three-fold to $21 million in June following naira’s devaluation in March.

Another exchange Yellow Card also saw its monthly crypto volume spiking five-fold in 2020 to $25 million last month. Bitcoin trading volumes in South Africa and Nigeria combined on Luno jumped by half to $536 million.

Bitcoin is booming in Africa, driven by remittances sent home from migrant workers and payments from small businesses.

“People are very adoptive of any technology that will make their life easier,” said Frankline Kihiu, a crypto broker in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “In most African countries, there are lots of government restrictions that bitcoin takes away.”

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Author: AnTy

US-based Online Crypto Tax Service Compromised; Hacker Accesses Data From Over 1000 Users

Cryptotrader.Tax was compromised by a hacker who managed to access the data of over 1,000 users of this online tax calculation and filing service. Coindesk reported yesterday that the hacker was able to break into the Cryptotrader.Tax ecosystem through an employee’s account in the marketing and customer service department.

The hacker accessed sensitive information, including personal data such as clients’ names, email addresses, and messages with details on crypto incomes, and payment processor profiles. According to the report, they then preceded to sell affiliated screenshots on the dark web upon which the news was leaked to crypto media.

Following this development, Cryptotrader.Tax Co-founder and CEO, David Kemmerer, confirmed that indeed their system had been compromised on April 7. Kemmerer further reiterated that the hacker had gained access through an employee’s account, noting that they also downloaded a file with around 13,000 rows of information hence the leaked customer data.

He was, however, keen to reassure that filing account passwords were not breached according to a security review done by the Cryptotrader.Tax team. It is also noteworthy that the platform’s website was not compromised as well. Kemmerer highlighted that the Cryptotrader.Tax security team had since taken appropriate measures such as improving monitoring and alerting affected parties.

Despite this recent shake-up of the Cryptotrader.Tax ecosystem, this platform currently proposes significant value in a niche where ambiguity reigns. The project is a Coin Ledger subsidiary and based in Kansas City; its value proposition favors crypto traders in tax reporting. Cryptotrader.Tax enables its clients’ to import trades from over 36 digital asset exchanges. The platform then generates TurboTax compatible reports as per the underlying crypto income gains and losses.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Binance Smart Chain Testnet Adds Real-World Data With Chainlink’s Oracle Network Integration

  • Binance integrates Chainlink smart contract oracles to provide external data to the Binance Smart Chain, a dual-chain running parallel to the Binance Chain with an added capability of smart contract functionality.

Binance Smart Chain (BSC) announced the successful completion of the integration of Chainlink’s decentralized oracle on Twitter this Tuesday. The combination of Chainlink brings about ease in the development of decentralized applications on the blockchain by providing a direct link to external data sources, which saves developers time in creating their oracles.

BSC, who launched their whitepaper this April, is an independent, smart contract blockchain running parallel to the Binance Chain, allowing developers to create dApp smart contracts. It also offers programmability with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

While blockchains offer transparent and trusted internal data, they are far from the perfect “independent tool” when it comes to creating decentralized applications in DeFi, asset management, or other industries. Blockchains must rely on oracles to collect external data, and this strategic collaboration with Chainlink will offer the right incentives. Chainlink offers secure decentralized oracles with direct access to top tier data sources through a vast array of node operators connecting to off-chain data sources or APIs. This will aid the developers in securing their smart contract environments.

Chainlink’s top executive, Sergey Nazarov, is of the sentiment that this will particularly beneficial to the developers as they no longer have to create their oracle solutions. They can leverage Chainlink oracles to secure their smart contracts. This will trim their overall operational costs and time.

He believes that developers having to build the infrastructure alongside their financial products securely has slowed down the DeFi sphere. They are directly connecting the growth of the DeFi sector that has now locked in over $3.25 Billion.

Binance officials have reiterated that the project is not a rival of Ethereum, perhaps the largest DeFi project by market cap. This is despite offering transactional speeds and being widely scalable on its hybrid platform that would challenge Ethereum’s dominance.

Notably, Huobi was the first crypto exchange to onboard Chainlink as a node operator in a bid to improve data authenticity and integrity with their pricing info. The Huobi wallet seeks to utilize Chainlink’s oracle to avail the exchange’s API to smart contracts, granting developers access to real-time price data from Huobi.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Binance Pool Set to Scale Hashrate in Russia as Physical Node Gets Added by BitRiver

BitRiver, one of the leading BTC mining hosting provider, has added a Binance physical node to its data center based in Bratsk, Russia.

The move will see Binance increase its hashrate power in the Central Asia region and Russia as the CZ led exchange looks to scale its footprint in crypto mining activities. This comes after Binance launched its mining pool in April, and has since achieved a 7,000 PH/s BTC hash, making it the eighth largest Bitcoin mining pool as of press date.

The move will benefit both Binance and BitRiver in terms of business growth as more mining activity is diversified away from China. Notably, its BTC hashrate dominance has dropped to 71% compared to 75% back in 2019 Q3.

Meanwhile, Russia’s hashrate has risen to 6.08%, an improvement from the 5.93% back in September 2019. Now that Binance has integrated with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) based crypto mining service provider, the shift might happen sooner than expected.

Binance’s Director in Russia, Gleb Kostaev, acknowledged the potential in collaborating with BitRiver:

“Bitriver is one of the largest data centers in Russia and CIS, and we highly appreciate that the Company tested and evaluated our range of services for cryptocurrency miners. Binance and BitRiver’s collaboration allows strengthening the level of services and expanding access to our customers”.

BitRiver also stands to gain from the new partnership with Binance. For example, its clients will have exposure to Binance’s wide range of crypto products, including advanced tools such as derivatives and futures. BitRiver’s CEO, Igor Runets, further added that the exchange’s competitive fee structure would come in handy to its institutional-scale miners,

“Binance Pool offers a highly competitive fee structure to institutional-scale miners, who are the customers of our data center. By having Binance Pool’s node in our data center, our customers from across the globe can now enjoy a more reliable and higher quality connection from Binance Pool.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Is DeFi Driving Ethereum’s Put/Call Option Ratio to Reach A Yearly High?

As per the latest data set released by the crypto research group Skew, Ethereum network’s Put-Call open interest ratio has risen to 1.04 on 2nd July. The open interest ratio has increased to a yearly high, which was last seen in July 2019.

The Put-Call open interest ratio measures the number of open put options against the number of Call options. A put option allows the trader to sell the underlying asset of their options contract at a predetermined price before the maturity date of the contract, while the call option gives a right to buy to the trader.

The put-call option ratio has tripled over the past four months and has seen a right angle rise from a value of 0.84 to 1.04 over the past couple of months. A clear sign that traders are working overtime in search of yield. The price of Ethereum has failed to maintain its value above $240 despite multiple moves above the price point, which indicates that the second largest cryptocurrency has exhausted its uptrend.

Luuk Strijers, COO at cryptocurrency exchange Deribit called it a bearish sign and suggested that investors were buying puts to protect their portfolios from falling. He said,

“Typically this implies the market is more bearish as investors are buying puts to protect their portfolios from a fall in the underlying,”

Typically traders write options when the market momentum is bullish, or the market is consolidating, where the trader receives a premium for selling the underlying asset at a downside rate. If the market moves, the value of the put option drops then, in turn, yields profit for the trader.

Source: Skew ETH Put/Call Ratio

The Derbit exchange COO also stated that Ethereum’s rise in open interest ratio for put-call options had increased mainly due to traders writing excess put options. Traders with long term positions in the spot market are writing put options to generate some extra yield on their investment.

John Todaro, head of research at TradeBlock, tweeted that Ether price could see an uptrend once the demand for Ether in the Defi ecosystem rises. He explained,

“There’s a lot of excitement around new DeFi tokens, and most of the collateral locked up across those platforms is in Ethereum. As that outstanding ether supply comes down and demands from Defi platforms hits escape velocity, ether will rally hard.”

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Author: Silvia A