Industry Giants, BHP and Baosteel, Make First Iron Ore Trade for $14 Million Using Blockchain

Mining conglomerate, BHP Group has revealed that it has transacted a $14 million worth of iron ore trade through a blockchain-based platform which has been created by MineHub Technologies based in Canada.

The transaction involved BHP Group and China Baowu Steel Group, which is an offshoot of Chinese giant steelmaker China Baoshan Iron & Steel, which is mostly referred to as Baosteel.

Last month, BHP stated that it was in the process of piloting a blockchain-based iron ore trade with the Chinese conglomerate Baosteel.

In a statement shared exclusively with Bitcoin Exchange Guide, during the transaction process, BHP utilized the blockchain platform to process the contract terms virtually, exchange the documents as well as offer real-time cargo visibility.

The piloting of the blockchain-enabled trading by BHP is part of the firm’s plan to digitize its documentation procedures for its commodities trading fully. According to Michiel Hovers, who is BHP’s sales and marketing executive, the mining industry requires a paradigm shift when it comes to documentation. He said:

“The bulk commodity industry needs a digital revolution to reduce physical documentation processes.”

Baowu Steel, which is state-owned, has previously invested in blockchain technology in efforts to digitize its trade. Last month, the firm conducted what it said was the inaugural blockchain-enabled yuan-denominated foreign letter of credit (LC) with another mining giant called Rio Tinto. The firm used the Contour platform that has been developed on Corda technology R3, which is an enterprise-focused blockchain solutions firm.

BHP’s journey in the blockchain space can be traced back to 2017 after Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum founder announced that the mining giant was developing a blockchain-based application that will help in tracking natural resources.

In February last year, the mining leader in partnership with a Japanese based shipping firm NYK successfully tested blockchain tech.

The Canadian-based MineHub Technology explained that the BHP testing was just one of the many in the pipeline, which will involve its blockchain platform. The firm also stated that the testing comes at an opportune time when various crooked characters are taking advantage of the supply chain uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

3 Blockchain Firms, iExec, IoTeX, and R3, join Linux Foundation’s Privacy-Focused Consortium

  • Data privacy-focused group, the Confidential Computing Consortium (CCC), which includes heavyweights such as Microsoft, Intel, Alibaba, and Huawei, announces the addition of six companies, including Facebook, Google, Accenture and three blockchain-based firms – IoTeX, iExec, and R3.

The CCC was launched in late 2019 by the Linux Foundation to bring together developers with a frequent need for data privacy to create confidential computing solutions. The CCC employs a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) technologies. TEEs allows data to be stored and computed on an excluded and secured area, preventing sensitive data from interacting with other parts of the device or application that may be less secure.

TEEs are heavily used on biometric security systems on smartphones, which keeps sensitive information from unauthorized apps. The data on TEEs is only available to authorized systems allowing systems to run without exposing massive amounts of raw data, which prevents AI and machine learning hacking. In a statement on TEEs, Stephen Walli, chairman of the CCC governing board said,

“Securing data-in-use in hardware-based TEEs can strengthen other security- and integrity-related technologies [such as blockchain-based apps].”

Walli also confirmed that the consortium’s annual budget would be bumped up to $800,000 for the 16 companies in the group so far.

Blockchain firms, IoTeX, R3, and iExec, join CCC

Only half of the new entrants in the consortium deal with blockchain-related services, with R3 an enterprise-focused blockchain company, IoTeX is an internet-of-things company that integrates blockchain technology to secure data and iExec, a decentralized cloud computing firm. The three companies will join Oasis Lab, the only blockchain company present among the CCC founding members.

Blockchain technology and TEEs share the common property of data security. The experience that these blockchain firms can bring data privacy TEEs so users will be able to not only “own their private data, but also to use it in a privacy-preserving way,” Raullen Chai, CEO of IoTex, said in a statement.

According to Chai, the introduction of TEEs in confidential computing will solve two main issues in people’s everyday data privacy – facial recognition and contact tracing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facial recognition and Contact tracing solutions

As governments enhance their public facial recognition systems, there is a group of citizens that fear the data may not be secure enough, which may be hazardous if the system is hacked.

Chai stated the company is working on a confidential computing solution that leverages blockchain technology to offer a middle ground for both the governments and skeptics. He said,

“Facial recognition processes can be executed within a secure TEE-based confidential computing environment, where the raw data (people’s faces) and a cross-referencing database of faces can be analyzed and subsequently forgotten after the desired results are obtained by governments.”

Governments across the world are contributing millions to improve contact tracing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, users providing their location data has been tough given the security and trust issues patients have.

With the introduction of blockchain levered TEEs and confidential computing, Chai said a trustless platform would be created, meaning that users will not have to worry about their private and sensitive data being shared or used without their consent.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Hidden Group Rakes in $200 Million in Two Years by Attacking Crypto Exchanges: Report

A hidden group dubbed “CryptoCore” has been targeting cryptocurrency exchanges, primarily in the US and Japan since 2018 has successfully stolen millions worth of digital assets, as per the ClearSky report.

The CryptoCore group has accumulated $70 million from its heists on exchange and is estimated to rake in over $200 million in two years.

Source: ClearSky

Though not extremely technically advanced, the group is swift and persistent and has been active since May 2018 but its activity has receded in the first half of 2020.

The cybersecurity company has been tracking CryptoCore for two years and found that it has links to the East European region, Ukraine, Russia, or Romania in particular.

CryptoCore Digital Infrastructure-Graph
Source: CryptoCore Digital Infrastructure-Graph

In its report, ClearSky points out that CryptoCore’s Modus Operandi is to gain access to the wallets of cryptocurrency exchanges, be it corporate wallets or exchange’s employees’ wallets. The group gains access to them through either spear-phishing against the corporate network or the executives’ personal email accounts.

The group makes use of cloud services, not limited to Google Drive and malicious crypto-themed domains such as btcprime[.]tk, krypitalvc[.]com, and blockchaintransparency[.]institute.

After extensive reconnaissance, the group carries out a spear-phishing attack by impersonating a high-ranking employee. From there, it moves to the victim’s password manager account from where it gets the keys of crypto-wallets and other valuable assets.

Millions Scammed, Millions Lost

Cryptocurrency scams are a growing problem, especially with everyone working from home due to COVID-19. Recently, we reported how bitcoin giveaway scams using the name of Tesla CEO Elon Musk made $2 million in less than two months.

According to a recent study by Scamwatch, run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australians filed 1,810 reports of crypto-related scams in 2019, totaling over $21.6 million AUD (almost $15 million USD).

“Most were Ponzi schemes, with no real cryptocurrency involved,” said the report.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also been receiving 16,500 emails on average every day since the service to allow people to flag phishing and other suspicious emails were launched two months ago.

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Author: AnTy

Capital One Patents An AI-Based System To Enhance Crypto Trading Security

US-based banking group, Capital One Services, announced that it has patented a new system that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) that will ensure crypto trading and other related activities are more secure.

The firm announced that the new system would leverage the power of AI technology in checking the credibility of crypto-related transactions and information. By leveraging Artificial Intelligence, Capital One hopes to prevent traders from falling into common investment pitfalls, while helping them participate in more well-informed, long-term cryptocurrency trading.

The filed documents explain that people face lots of challenges and obstacles when dealing with cryptos.

The firm states that given the crypto market operates 24/7, it is prudent for investors and traders to understand and be updated on the intricacies and nuance of various protocols. In addition, be updated on different ongoings such as hacks, forks, or airdrops, which emanate from multiple sources like crypto news sites, Twitter, and Medium posts. Such content is not easy to verify.

“In particular, it is difficult to verify the credibility of speculation, rumors, opinions, and other information posted on social media and elsewhere,” the patent titled, “System And Method For Mapping Decentralized Identifiers To Real-World Entities” reads. Capital One’s AI-based verification system was awarded the patent last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to Capital One, the system can be nuanced and sophisticated in the interpretation of information. This will allow it to detect fake volumes, analyze the speed at which news like exchange hacking starts trending in various social media platforms as well as news sites.

The patent itself, labeled as no.10,679,229, is comprised of three core components:

  1. A specific AI program that keeps an eye on very specific pieces of information, such as social media posts.
  2. Once this information has been obtained, it is then fed into a ‘credibility analysis machine.’ This second component cross-references this information with other historical pieces of information or events to test its credibility.
  3. It then compiles this legitimate information and leverages it to conduct and inform its trading decisions. It then analyzes how the market responded to such an event previously.

Capital One has been upfront about the difficulty involved in finding legitimate information within the crypto market. The firm hopes that its solution can help inform trader activity.

However, the system will not be launched immediately, as further refinement is still needed. The way it is set up, however, would allow it to see a progressive improvement in its performance, especially as it processes more data, and learns from past trends.

This is understandable as the filing of a patent does not necessarily mean that a product or service is going to be launched. This, however, isn’t the only crypto-related patent that Capital One holds, as just last year they secured two other patents: Blockchain-Backed Content Validator and one for Blockchain-based Banking Security and User Authentication.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

First Bitcoin ETP on Deutsche Boerse’s Xetra to Provide Investors Another Way to Gain Exposure

ETC Group has launched the first centrally cleared Bitcoin exchange-traded product (ETP) on Deutsche Boerse’s Xetra through white-label platform HANetf, reported ETC Group.

The BTCetc Bitcoin Exchange Traded Crypto (BTCE) will be launched later this month after it receives approval from the German financial regulator, BaFin. It will be passported to the UK, Italy, and Austria.

Back in March, BaFin announced that it is officially recognizing cryptocurrencies as financial instruments. Following this clarification, the agency also shut down the unauthorized Bitcoin ATMs.

The product BTCE tracks the price of the world’s leading digital currency and is 100% physically backed with a total expense ratio (TER) of 2%.

Trading Bitcoin through ETPs means the user won’t have to set up a wallet or manage the keys.

“The crypto sector has been held back by concerns about complexity, accessibility, and governance. With BTCE, we are transporting bitcoin into the fold of mainstream, regulated financial markets,” said Bradley Duke, CEO of ETC Group.

“Investors get the benefits of trading and owning bitcoin through a regulated security while having the optionality of redeeming bitcoin if they choose.”

This Bitcoin ETP however, isn’t the first one as there have been a number of ETF issuers, CoinShares, Amun, and WisdomTree which launched a Bitcoin ETP on the Swiss Exchange SIX last December.

In the US meanwhile, bitcoin ETFs are no way near their launch yet after the SEC rejected eight proposals.

According to Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, “bitcoin ETF is inevitable and that it would provide a well-regulated opportunity for a wider swath of investors to invest in cryptocurrencies.”

“As institutional interest grows, policymakers will have a harder time justifying their positions against a bitcoin ETF. Providing transparent, publicly available cryptocurrency investments is in the interest of the everyday investor, and it’s our view that key regulators will accede to that view sooner rather than later,” she said.

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Author: AnTy

Ransomware Demands Jump 200% in 2019; Scammers Demanding $115k on Average: Crypsis

The digital forensics firm Crypsis Group recently released a report on ransomware attacks and how the demand for ransom amounts has grown significantly by 200% from 2018 to 2019.

The report also detailed that, over the years, the amount of demanded Ransom by the attackers has grown dramatically. The average amount of ransom asked by these attackers has reached $115,123.

The report further revealed that these ransomware attackers have now shifted their focus towards enterprises and big players who they know can pay a higher ransom, rather than smaller individuals. The methods of attacks, attack tactics, and victim manipulation have also matured over the years.

Popular Choice of Malware For Ransomware Attacks

Crypsis Group report also listed some of the popular malware used for ransomware attacks in recent times which included Ryuk, Sodinokibi (or “REvil”), and Phobos. Among the mentioned three ransomware variants, Ryuk has been the favorite of scammers and was also the most used variant in 2018.

Most Common Ransomware Variants
Most Common Ransomware Variants

These attackers make use of TrickBot, which is a banking Trojan in the form of phishing emails or even pop-ups. When the victim clicks on the link, the malware is quietly transferred into the system which is very difficult to detect. The malware then ends up gaining control over the system and attackers demand a ransom amount, usually in cryptocurrency, to give access back to the company.

Another report from Verizon last month revealed that in 2020, a majority of these ransomware attackers targetted educational institutions.

Ransomware attacks have been one of the worst nightmares for private sector enterprises including crypto exchanges like Binance as well as government agencies who have fallen prey to these kinds of attacks. While the government has tried to educate the masses about these attacks, they have largely failed to contain the issue.

These ransomware attackers adapt quite fast to the changing security services and despite their malware getting banned a number of times, they come back with a different malware name and more elaborate sophisticated tools to avoid being detected.

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Author: Rebecca Asseh

Japan’s Top Banks Join Crypto Exchange-Led ‘Study Group’ to Discuss Digital Payment System

  • Three Japanese banking industry heavyweights are joining arms in a study group to focus on digital payment settlement networks in the country.
  • The study group is led by local cryptocurrency exchange, DeCurret Inc., giving possible hints of a crypto integration.

Top Japanese banking institutions, Mizuho Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), alongside experts and industry leaders in Japan joined a study group to look into digital payment systems.

The group will meet once or twice a month from June to September this year chaired by former head of the Payments and Settlement systems, Bank of Japan (BoJ) and current director at Future Corporation, Mr. Hiromi Yamaoka.

DeCurrent Inc., released a statement dated June 3, 2020 outlining the key agendas of the meetings including digital payment systems, application of distributed ledger systems in the economy and digital currency settlement platforms within Japan.

The wide scale penetration of digital payment services and blockchain in Japan is remarkable. Ripple Inc.’s partnership with SBI Holdings has seen a number of big banks take on blockchain development including Fukushima Bank and SFMG. The study aims at coming up with a standardized version of these systems and blockchain infrastructure. The statement further noted,

“The purpose of this study group is to examine and discuss challenges and solutions concerning digital currencies and digital settlement infrastructure, to find a consensus toward their realization, and to present a direction for standardizing services and infrastructure.”

Other top firms that will join the group include the East Japan Railway Corporation, KDDI Corporation and Mori Hamada & Matsumoto in Tokyo. Japan based blockchain firm, Accenture Japan Ltd. and SIGMAXYZ Inc. will act as cooperating companies.

The study, once published, will be sent to the observant teams from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry, the Financial Service Authority (FSA) and the Bank of Japan.

DeCurret launched operations back in 2018 gaining approval to launch in Japan, and in March the following year, from the FSA. The license allows the exchange to carry out digital payment services and trading in the country.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Crypto Bank Avanti Raises $5M, Marking A Milestone Towards Banking Charter Approval

  • Avanti Financial Group closes its angel investment round led by Wyoming University foundation, raising $5 million.
  • According to Avanti CEO, this was enough to help them sail through the charter application process. 2021 timeline has been set to obtain approval and commencement of operations.

The Avanti Financial group has announced the end of its funding round, having raised close to $5 million in angel investor funding, marking milestones in their journey towards obtaining a banking charter.

“This announcement means Avanti is sufficiently funded to get through the process of applying for a charter application.”

Wyoming University Foundation took charge of the funding round, with involvement from Morgan Creek Digital, Blockchain Capital, Digital Currency Group, Lemniscap, Madison Paige Ventures, Malex Enterprises, Susan B. Anthony, LLC amongst other fintech and crypto enthusiasts.

The Avanti Financial group was launched by Blockchain proponent – Caitlin Long – in February this year. It is currently in the process of acquiring a banking charter from Wyoming authorities that will greenlight them to service the digital asset industry. The CEO set a 2021 deadline by which they should have received charter approval and commenced operations.

According to CEO and founder, Caitlin Long, they received an overwhelming response from the crypto community, with the round being oversubscribed. Long was particularly impressed that other like-minded parties shared the vision of the cutting edge infrastructure that her company was building.

“We are building critical infrastructure for the digital asset industry… the magnitude and mix of our support underscore that multiple camps want to see this infrastructure built.”

Long was, however, keen to highlight that they would require additional funds if their application is to sail through. Citing that they had been liaising with industry overseers in the region to get an approximate figure of how much capital would suffice. They have already submitted the first draft of the applications awaiting a response from the authorities.

UW CIO Allotted Seat in Avanti Board

Philip Treick, University of Wyoming Foundation’s CIO, was allocated a board seat at Avanti seemingly to represent UW’s interests. Treik believes that his company voted to fund Avanti because they deemed the infrastructure crucial to this new asset class. He also highlighted the challenges they were encountering while receiving donations in crypto that were crucial to their Blockchain efforts.

Meanwhile, from the beginning of next month, Insurance companies based in Wyoming will be able to trade and feature crypto assets in their investment portfolios.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Steem Freezes $5 Million of 64 Hive Users Funds in Coordinated Hard Fork Today

  • Steem Blockchain’s hard fork on May 20th has been lauded by current Witness Group Triple A as essential to ensure network stability. However, some of the users are opined that these are punitive measures to those that did resist the Sun’s takeover bid.

The Steem project has been thrust into the spotlight yet again. This is as an oncoming hard fork on May 20th will see some users accounts frozen and lose up to 23.6 million STEEM valued to be well over $5 million.

The Tron CEO, Justin Sun acquired the SteemIt blogging site towards the end of the last year. Then was involved in a hostile takeover for the Steem Blockchain despite widespread criticism from the Steem Community.

Hostile Takeover

The Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) protocol allowed the takeover as the SteemIt Blog owned about a fifth of the total STEEM tokens. This combined with key support from Binance, Huobi and Poloniex was enough to rally their weight (about 45.6 Million STEEM) behind new witnesses in a bid to get rid of ‘rogue actors’. This was seen as an attempt to quell the soft fork within the Steem Blockchain and resulted to some staunch Steem users retreated to their new Blockchain namely the Hive.

The witness group, Triple A recently highlighted that the imminent update will only target those that are deemed a direct threat to the Blockchain. They cited that this would be crucial in ensuring the Network was stable and improve the Steem Ecosystem.

“Publicly attacking users, collecting personal information, threatening murder… spreading fake news, and damaging network stability.”

Punitive Measures to Hive Defectors

However, some share the sentiment that these are just some of the punitive measures Sun is rolling out for those who opposed his takeover bid. This and the fact that majority of Hive’s users weren’t allocated any free token according ‘TheMarkyMark’ who was a witness prior to Sun’s takeover. A screenshot from a Steem employee stirred speculation that some user accounts would be victimized by the new update. The code that was released on May 19th confirmed this as it was seen to contain names of the supposed ‘rogue actors’.

The targeted users have not taken the issue lightly and have threatened all those supporting the hard fork with civil suits. Targeted users such as ‘They Call Me Dan’ and ‘pharesim2’ are set to lose $600,000 and around 80,000€ respectively if the hard fork is to go through.

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Author: Lujan Odera

NYDIG Sold $140M in A Previously Unknown Bitcoin Fund Last Week, Just Ahead of BTC Halving

New York Digital Investment Group (NYDIG) revealed this week that it sold just shy of $140 million in a bitcoin fund, that was previously unknown.

It became public after the fund was revealed in a Form D filing for an exemption to the US SEC on Tuesday, reported Forbes.

Formerly named NYDIG Bitcoin Yield Enhancement Fund LP, this pooled investment fund started selling on May 5 with a number of investors contributing to the capital raise.

Back in November 2018, NYDIG’s subsidiary, NYDIG Execution received BitLicense allowing it to legally operate a crypto-related business — be a crypto custodian for five cryptos viz. Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and Litecoin (LTC), and to conduct money transmissions.

Interestingly, BitLicense was created by Ben Lawsky who had ties with Stone Ridge Asset Management, an advisor to NYDIG’s Bitcoin Strategy Fund. Lawsky also sits on the Board of Directors of Ripple, San Francisco-based fintech company.

In December, Bitcoin Strategy Fund received a green light from the SEC to offer the shares of its new bitcoin fund to institutional investors. This was a portfolio fund in the Stone Ridge Trust VI for cash-settled futures contracts.

Lawsky, the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” as he has been referred too after he issued close to $6 billion in fines to institutions while he was New York State’s Superintendent of Financial Services from May 2011 to June 2015.

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Author: AnTy