Japanese Crypto Exchange Liquid Suspends Deposits and Withdrawals Following Security Breach

Japanese Crypto Exchange Liquid Suspends Deposits and Withdrawals Following An $80M Security Breach

Reward-earning platform Celsius Network used by Liquid to allow its users to earn yield on crypto assured that their assets and accounts are unaffected by the accident.

Japan-based regulated cryptocurrency exchange Liquid has suspended the deposit and withdrawals of crypto assets after its hot wallets were hacked. It has not yet been confirmed just how many assets have been stolen.

In a tweet on Thursday morning, the exchange said that its hot wallets that were compromised as such are moving the assets into the cold wallet.

“We are currently investigating and will provide regular updates. In the meantime, deposits and withdrawals will be suspended,” said the exchange at the time.

This is in contrast with the exchange’s blog post about three years back when it said that they “keep 100% of customer crypto assets in cold wallet storage,” calling it a “no-brainer,” citing the staggering amount of funds lost in crypto hacks and scams.

But the exchange ended up falling victim to a hack, after all.

In a separate tweet, Liquid shared four blockchain addresses, for BTC, ETH, TRX, and XRP, that are believed to be associated with the hacker. The addresses specified have received 107.4 BTC worth $4.79 million, Ether address received about $69 million worth of ETH and other ERC-20 tokens, and TRX and XRP addresses had assets worth over $10 million combined. In total, the hack is estimated to be worth about $80 million.

Some wondered if this hack had any impact on Celsius Network. A few months back, Liquid allowed its customers to earn a yield on their crypto through the reward-earning platform Celsius.

Celsius Network CEO Alex Mashinsky assured its customers that “No Celsius Network assets or accounts were affected in the Liquid Global incident,” adding the Liquid yield account on its platform is also safe and was not affected.

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Author: AnTy

BNPL Firm Afterpay to Offer Bitcoin Purchase Option to Customers Following Acquisition by Square

BNPL Firm Afterpay to Offer Bitcoin Purchase Option to Customers Following Acquisition by Jack Dorsey’s Square

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey’s payments company Square Inc. has announced that it will purchase buy now, pay later (BNPL) firm Afterpay for $29 billion, the biggest buyout of an Australian firm.

The transaction amount is expected to be paid in all stock. As of writing, Square (SQ) has been trading at $247.26. Afterpay shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 0.375 shares of Square Class A common stock for each Afterpay (APT) ordinary share. Square may elect to pay 1% of the total consideration in cash, said in its official announcement.

The deal is expected to be closed in the first quarter of 2022, subject to certain conditions. Dorsey, Co-Founder, and CEO of Square said,

“Square and Afterpay have a shared purpose. We built our business to make the financial system more fair, accessible, and inclusive, and Afterpay has built a trusted brand aligned with those principles.”

The company plans to integrate Afterpay into its existing Cash App and Seller business units and offer Afterpay customers the ability to manage their payments directly in Cash App. Also, Afterpay consumers will receive the benefits of Cash App’s financing tools, including stock and Bitcoin purchases, money transfer, cash Boost, etc.

As we recently reported, another Australian BNPL firm Zip Co Ltd. is exploring the option to allow its users to trade cryptocurrencies using their Zip wallets, which was one of the most requested new product features from the company’s users. Brian Grassadonia, Lead of Square’s Cash App business said,

“The addition of Afterpay to Cash App will strengthen our growing networks of consumers around the world while supporting consumers with flexible, responsible payment options.”

By combining with Square, Afterpay also plans to accelerate its growth in the US and globally and further offer access to its new category of in-person merchants, said Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar, Afterpay Co-Founders and Co-CEOs. They will join Square upon completion of the transaction.

Square will also appoint one Afterpay director as a member of the Square Board following the transaction’s closing.

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Author: AnTy

VanEck’s CEO Calls for Bitcoin ETF Approval Amid Intense Customer Demand

Following another delay in the approval of the VanEck Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), the CEO of the investment firm has called for a prompt decision.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Jan van Eck urged the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to approve a Bitcoin ETF due to the high customer demand.

SEC Continues Delay In Approving VanEck’s Bitcoin ETF

Last week, the SEC postponed its decision on approving VanEck’s Bitcoin ETF for the second time.

The agency extended the review process till August 2021 while requesting public comments on the proposed rule change and if the ETF would be vulnerable to market manipulation.

During the interview on CNBC’s ETF Edge, van Eck highlighted the growing demand for a Bitcoin ETF, adding that investors are asking for a more efficient means of trading the premier digital asset.

The CEO also took a shot at the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, the largest bitcoin-related fund on the market. He said that the only alternative to a Bitcoin ETF in the US is a closed-end fund that trades it at a 40% premium or 20% discount. VanEck added,

“Bitcoin futures … aren’t any better because of the shape of the futures curve. There’s a futures-based fund that underperformed bitcoin by 22% last year and 8% this year.”

Speaking on the frequent delays, VanEck said the April extension was only an artificial deadline. According to him, the SEC chairman was unwilling to prioritize or make a decision regarding a Bitcoin ETF.

Van Eck’s comments come amid his company’s continual attempt to have an exchange-traded product approved in the US.

The global investment firm currently has two ETF proposals with the SEC awaiting approval, a Bitcoin ETF and an Ethereum ETF.

VanEck filed the Bitcoin ETF last year intending to work alongside Chicago Board Options Exchange (Cboe) on the proposed offering.

The Ethereum ETF, which is the first Ethereum ETF proposal in the US, was filed earlier this month. VanEck’s goal for this ETF is to expose retail and institutional traders to ETH without directly investing.

Meanwhile, the SEC has also delayed in approving ETFs from firms like WisdomTree, Kryptoin, and Fidelity Investments.

VanEck Files New Prospectus For A Bitcoin Futures Mutual Fund

As VanEck waits for the SEC’s final decision on its Bitcoin ETF, the firm decided to also file another draft prospectus for a BTC Futures Mutual Fund.

Dubbed the “Bitcoin Strategy Fund,” the fund is aimed at investing in BTC futures contracts, pooled investment vehicles, and ETPs with exposure to the largest cryptocurrency.

According to the prospectus, the fund will invest in Bitcoin futures through a subsidiary in the Cayman Islands, and the portfolio will be managed by Gregory Krenzer.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

BSC-based BUNNY Crashes 95.5% Following a Flashloan-based Price Manipulation Attack

BSC-based BUNNY Crashes 95.5% Following a Flashloan-based Price Manipulation Attack

Another day, another BSC-based DeFi exploit.

BUNNY Finance was the latest project that was the target of a flash loan attack, resulting in the price of the token plummeting by 95.5%. 690,000 bunnies were sold into ETH and BNB.

As of writing, the token is trading at $30.06, down 93.5% from the $512.75 ATH hit late last month.

The Pancake Bunny team took to Twitter to clarify that no vaults have been compromised, and the exploit was an economic one that attacked the price of BUNNY using flash loans.

What happened was the hacker used PancakeSwap to borrow a huge amount of BNB, and by manipulating the BUNNY mint price, they ended up getting a huge amount of BUNNY through this flash loan and then dumped them on the market for profit, causing the token’s price to crash.

Blockchain security company PeckShield shared in its incident report that 6.97 million BUNNY were minted by using the bug in the way of measuring the LP price from an AMM-based oracle.

The attack involved 8 flashloans with more than $700 million, it said.

In the light of a series of exploits happening on a BSC-based project, people on Twitter are advising others to be cautious and maybe even move the funds off-chain. One person who claims to be running a BSC node noted,

“The network is constantly forking uncontrollably. For every block that is part of the main chain, there are around 5 uncles (forked blocks). Several validators are running sub-par hardware and cannot keep up with the rest of the network.”

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Author: AnTy

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee Increases Bitcoin Price EoY Target to $125k Following Elon Musk Bashing BTC

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee Increases Bitcoin Price EoY Target to $125k Following Elon Musk Bashing BTC

VC Pantera Capital is of a similar opinion, saying Bitcoin price is on track to their prediction of $115,212 in August 2021 and if the market takes longer, natural trend growth would hit that level in Feb. 2022.

Fundstrat Global Advisors managing partner Tom Lee is unperturbed by Tesla CEO Elon Musks’ warnings about Bitcoin. He continues to be bullish on the largest cryptocurrency and doesn’t see this having a negative impact on it either. Lee said in an interview with Insider,

  • “I don’t think it’s going to get people negative on bitcoin, but it is going to get people to focus on the problems that are being created by digital assets.”
  • “It is probably better to view it as a call to action for the bitcoin industry to focus on renewables or more efficient ways to provide proof of work.”

Talking about Musk suspending Bitcoin payments, Lee said it makes sense given that Tesla is preferred for being ESG-friendly. He said,

“I imagine it would have been tough to accept bitcoin as payment because of the volatility.”

“So as a practical, treasury matter, unless Tesla is hedging the bitcoin transaction at the time of purchase, I don’t know if it’s great from a company perspective.”

Bitcoin Price on Track

In response to Musk calling Bitcoin an environmental concern and being highly centralized, the price of BTC fell to $42,150, a pullback of 35% from its ATH.

However, Lee is confident in Bitcoin and actually upgrades his BTC price outlook from $100,000 to $125,000 by the end of this year.

VC Pantera Capital is of a similar opinion, saying Bitcoin is at “fair value.” The company May investor letter said,

“Bitcoin has been remarkably steady in having a compound annual growth rate of 230% — over ten years. There’ve been a few bubbles…a few bursts…but generally it’s been consistent. The 10-year regression value for bitcoin today is $55,350.96 – which is exactly where it is.”

Fair value marks “a good time to buy” Bitcoin per Pantera, which means the current price of $45,600 makes it cheaper.

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Pantera Capital further shared a “fun perspective” noting in 2013, Bitcoin peaked 1,678% above fair value against the current regression model while the 2017 peak’s premium was 667%, 60% lower, 1,477 days later. It added,

“If the same amount of time occurred between that peak and the next and the premium fell by 60% again, Bitcoin would hit $370,554 on New Year’s Day, 2022.”

According to them, Bitcoin is on pace for Pantera’s price prediction from April 2020, according to which BTC would be worth $115,212 in August 2021. If the crypto asset takes longer, “the natural trend growth would hit that level February 20, 2022,” it added.

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Author: AnTy

City of Williston North Dakota Adopts Crypto Payments for Utility Services

Following mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies as a payment option, the City of Williston is joining a posse of US states accepting crypto payments.

Crypto Payment Cost-Effective

According to an announcement posted on its website, the North Dakota city said it would be accepting cryptocurrencies as a payment option. However, this would be limited to utility bill settlements only.

But it says it has plans to enable other bill payments soon. The city will conduct quality assessments to know if there is market demand for crypto payment in areas like landfills, permits, and licenses before supporting them.

Speaking on the initiative, Finance Director Hercules Cummings said the state is exploring the digital payment method to keep pace with a fast-changing financial landscape. Cummings said that it is also trying to meet growing market demand for these services and cater to users of all types.

He noted that digital payment methods like cryptocurrencies brought about convenience, cost savings, and security. Cummings stated the affordability of crypto payments, noting that Bitcoin payments attracts1% transaction fee against 3% from other payment options.

The City of Williston has selected Bitcoin payment company Bitpay as a partner.

Aside from crypto payments, the City of Williston said it would also be accepting fiat, checks, credit card, and automatic payment methods. This will see them support consumer payment platforms like Google Pay and Apple Pay.

It is also planning to add PayPal and Venmo to its virtual payment methods.

Williston Joins The Crypto Payment Wagon

Despite what many crypto investors believe about the US crypto space, there is growing interest in the volatile asset class. Across major cities in the U.S, more government officials are turning to cryptocurrencies. One of such is Miami.

The City of Miami has been pro-crypto for a long time. Its principal, Mayor Francis Suarez, has committed to making the state a crypto haven for crypto startups.

To facilitate this initiative, Suarez proposed that municipal workers should be paid with cryptocurrencies. He also said the City of Miami should begin receiving tax payments in Bitcoin.

Suarez has also reportedly hired Miami’s first CTO for crypto Saif Ishoof who he said would provide “concierge services” for crypto startups coming into the state.

In Jackson, Tennessee, Mayor Scott Conger said the city is working on paying workers in cryptocurrencies. The municipality will also be mining Bitcoin and adding it to the city’s balance sheet.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Georgia’s Apex Bank Considers CBDC, Calls For Partnerships

Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) have become the rave of the moment following the global outcry for a more efficient and inclusive financial system.

With the economic impact of the pandemic, the need for a digital form of value transmission has never been higher than now. National banks are rapidly rolling out CBDC programs to address this growing demand.

The latest in a long list of apex banks is the National Bank of Georgia.

Digital Gel On The Horizon

In a release posted on its website, the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) said it would be commencing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) program joining a list of national banks in the process.

According to the apex bank, this enhances the domestic payment system efficiencies and promotes financial inclusion for the underbanked in the country. To help it on this journey, the NBG said it would be accepting participants from the private sector.

In what is termed as a public-private partnership (PPP), it said private technology firms, fintech companies, and other interested financial institutions are welcome to aid in creating a “digital GEL,” named after the country’s official currency, the Georgian Lari.

However, the apex bank warns that despite its crypto efforts, its first mandate to maintain price and financial stability in Georgia remains. The official announcement says,

“CBDC holds the promise to unlock the tremendous value of innovative business models for the benefit of society. The introduction of CBDC could increase financial intermediation efficiency, help introduce new financial technologies, facilitate financial inclusion, and reach previously unbanked populations. It could also increase monetary policy efficiency by improving monetary policy’s monetary transmission mechanism and welfare effects for the society.”

The former Soviet region financial regulator said that it would be adopting the Bank for International Settlements’ (BIS) 2020 guiding principles in creating a Digital GEL wherein a set of rules for a successful CBDC program was listed.

Also, it noted that there were inherent risks attributed to CBDCs given the fact that it is a completely new and potentially disruptive technology. To ensure sound risk management, it would be creating a regulatory sandbox for potential partners to test the CBDC deployment in a controlled environment. This will see it use its Open Regulatory Framework tools to measure the economic impact of a possible CBDC use.

Meanwhile, no launch date has been chosen, and the project is still in the works.

Georgia’s Impressive Crypto Resume

Given its small population size of just 3.7 million people scattered across its Mountain Villages, Georgia is one of the smaller economies looking to join the CBDC frenzy.

But this does not make it negligible, given that the Georgian state has been active in the crypto space as far back as 2017.

In a move that saw it become the first national government to allow land authentication with blockchain, the Georgian state signed an agreement with BitFury to use the Bitcoin network to record land titles.

It also became the powerhouse of European crypto mining after hosting the world’s third-largest crypto mining operation. It also went further and concluded a deal with Cardano’s parent company IOHK in 2019 to aid in public sector administration, especially in education.

These decisive steps have since brought the Georgian state into the global blockchain community. They have since made former Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze remarked that blockchain could do what the steam engine did for the first industrial revolution in an interview with Cointelegraph. According to Bakhtadze, blockchain could become the catalyst for the fourth industrial revolution.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Bitstamp Ready To Move Into US Market Following Insane Q1 Growth

Bitstamp Ready To Move Into US Market Following Insane Q1 Growth

London-based crypto exchange Bitstamp has announced its intention to further expand its US operations following astronomical growth in Q1, 2021.

Bitstamp Ramps Up Operation In US

The announcement made in a blog post on its website noted that its decision boils down to several positives they have seen coming from the US financial cycles.

Bitstamp said it was prioritizing the US market as it has seen a 570% increase in new customers in the first four months of 2021, in contrast to the same period in 2020.

Assets under management (AUM) for U.S customers had also increased by 281% in Q1 and a 325% increase in its mobile app usage in the U.S.

In terms of US client’s activities (trades, deposits), Bitstamp said this metric jumped on a monthly level by 348% in 2021 versus the same period last year.

To further cement its place in the US market, Bitstamp will be launching a full-scale marketing campaign to educate retail investors in the country about the potential benefits that come with owning cryptocurrencies.

Bitstamp’s campaign will be called “For All The Ways We Crypto.” The campaign will also play a crucial role in raising its global profile as a top cryptocurrency exchange.

Bitstamp’s CEO Julian Sawyer describes crypto as one of the fastest-growing segments of the financial world.

Sawyer was the former Gemini managing director for Europe.

Sawyer said Bitstamp has an ambitious goal of becoming a leader in a highly competitive marketplace, like the US.

He also said that the triple-digit growth was a clear indication that American investors wanted access to their services.

Bitstamp has been carefully positioning itself for the crypto avalanche after appointing Sawyer as the new CEO in October last year. It also brought in Barclay’s financial director and former Amazon veteran Stephen Ballpark to head its financial unit while Sameer Dubey was appointed as the exchange’s operations officer.

But that is not all. Bitstamp says it will also be increasing its customer support team by 50% this year.

Bitstamp’s Impressive US Record

Bitstamp said that it would continue to focus on optimal trading speed by handling large trading orders without affecting the price of the digital assets.

It also pointed out that it is one of the top 5 globally recognized crypto exchanges for large volume trades as it processes over $28 billion in monthly transactions. Alongside this, it has $11 billion total AUM, with the US market contributing 11% to this remarkable return.

To add more laurels to its achievement, Bitstamp collaborated with Silvergate Bank to launch Silvergate’s SEN Leverage. The financial instrument focused on institutional investors allows traders to invest in any asset with leverage collateralized by Bitcoin or US dollars.

According to Bitstamp, this partnership has so far generated over $50 million in loans and may likely raise over $250 million before the year ends.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

DeFi Protocol Balancer Rolls Out $2M (or 1000 ETH) Bug Bounty Program Ahead of V2 Launch

Following a tumultuous year for decentralized finance (DeFi) projects, many liquidity providers and automated market makers (AMMs) are looking for solutions to address the growing menace of cyberattacks.

Generalized AMM protocol Balancer Labs, which previously lost $500,000 worth of tokens through a security breach, has opened the floor for ethical hackers to test its newly released V2 single-vault security protocol.

$2 Million For The Best Hacker

Balance Labs is looking to secure its network from malicious attacks with what it has termed the “biggest bug bounty” in DeFi’s history.

According to the non-custodial portfolio manager, it will be giving away 1,000 ETH or $2 million to any white-hat hacker that discovers vulnerabilities within its V2 smart contracts vault.

The DeFi protocol said that this prize is meant to reward ethical hackers who can discover backdoors through which malicious actors may infiltrate its newly launched V2 smart contracts architecture.

This open-source platform is scheduled to be available on the testnet starting on Tuesday.

According to the bug bounty website, these vulnerabilities are classified into critical, high, medium, and low, with critical vulnerabilities receiving the top prize of 1,000 ETH. Solutions for low-level defects will only attract 5 ETH or $10,000.

It also went further to state that critical vulnerabilities lead to the draining of investor funds from the vault or permanent locking of these funds in the vault.

High exposures would prompt severe rounding errors where a bad actor can steal funds over any gas costs or swap fees, while medium defects would be minor rounding errors that allow an attacker to gradually doctor balances to their advantage.

Low-level vulnerabilities are those that are mainly information and code quality-based disclosures. The liquidity provider also stated that vulnerabilities previously discovered during formal audits would not be eligible for the rewards.

Speaking on the latest development, company CEO Fernando Martinelli noted that the bug bounty program is meant to build a developer community that will help to create a better Balancer platform for all investors.

DeFi Security Breaches Growing Unchecked

In a report published by blockchain analytics firm CipherTrace in November 2020, in the first half of 2020, DeFi projects were major targets of criminals with a 45% success rate.

This saw over $51.5 million lost to cyber criminals during the period. In the closing months of 2020, DeFi hacks rose to 50%, with the affected crypto projects losing over $47.7 million in the process.

It also said that DeFi hacks made up 21% of all crypto-related crimes. This, according to the document, is because cryptocurrencies have continued to boom as more investors are coming into the crypto space.

And this has not ceased even with the growing prosecution of crypto criminals. In a statement posted last month, decentralized exchange platform DODO DEX said that it lost $3.8 million to a cyberattack. Even though the company has said it expects $1.88 million to be recovered, crypto thefts have continued to boom unhindered.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Cosmos (ATOM) Enhances Interoperability with IBC Protocol Rollout

Cosmos has finally launched its Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol following a majority vote from the community members.

Cosmos IBC Now Lets Blockchains Talk To Each Other

The newly launched protocol would enable the transfers of tokens and data between sovereign blockchains.

More than 1500 Cosmos validators and delegates supported the launch.

The long-awaited IBC protocol would also address scalability issues through sharding technology, according to the development team.

Cosmos also said that this launch opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the decentralized finance (DeFi) space, as decentralized applications (DApps) built on its network would be able to execute multi-chain smart contracts.

According to Tendermint CEO Peng Zhong, the launching of the IBC marks a momentous milestone in the evolution of the Cosmos ecosystem as it builds the foundation for interoperability.

Cosmos has been working on its vision to realize an open blockchain protocol for some time now.

Although the IBC whitepaper was released back in 2016 by Cosmos co-founders Jae Kwon and Ethan Buchman, it was not until 2019 that a mainnet was launched.

In 2020, the ATOM’s native blockchain launched another incentivized testnet for IBC, dubbed Game of Zones, which stress-tested the IBC module pre-launch and distributed over 100,000 ATOMs in rewards to dozens of validators.

Stargate, the last phase of IBC, which completed the original roadmap laid out in the Cosmos whitepaper, was then launched in February 2021. Speaking on the impact IBC would have on the blockchain space, the lead developer of the IBC Protocol Christopher Goes, said,

“IBC will create an ecosystem of politically independent chains that can interact via trade and information exchange. Knitting together many different blockchains can form a new crypto-economic system”.

The Impact of IBC In DeFi Sector

IBC’s launch greatly expands the realm of possibilities for blockchain applications. IBC will be used to transfer both fungible (cross-chain payments) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) between chains. This will see the subsequent rise of interchain token exchanges and NFT marketplaces.

The launch of IBC is a big deal, especially in the decentralized finance (DeFi) sector, as it could open up opportunities by allowing tokens to zip between chains. A product on an application-specific blockchain could use an asset from a completely different chain.

The initial version of IBC allows users to kick off token transfers between various chains only on the Cosmos Hub, the central blockchain that connects all other Cosmos blockchains or zones. Now for the first time, Cosmos has achieved actual cross-chain token transfers.

The blockchains built on Cosmos’ native consensus model like Kava (KAVA) and Crypto.com (CRO) will likely be the first crypto projects to adopt the IBC standard, putting an end to blockchain silos.

Even though Gavin Wood-led Polkadot (DOT) blockchain ecosystem is on the path to end network tribalism through its Bridges protocol, Cosmos seems to have beaten them to the finish line.

Meanwhile, Cosmos also announced its plans to add the Gravity DEX, a decentralized exchange, as the next upgrade following IIBC.

The Gravity DEX will act as an online marketplace for trading tokens from any connected blockchain, including tokens from IBC-enabled blockchains, wrapped ETH (wETH) to wrapped BTC (wBTC) tokens, and from any future networks that implement IBC.

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Author: Jimmy Aki