The US government is looking to seize 280 cryptocurrency accounts that were used by North Korean hackers who reportedly stole millions of dollars of digital assets from two crypto exchanges.
A civil forfeiture complaint is filed by the US Department of Justice. Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s criminal division in a statement said,
“Today’s action publicly exposes the ongoing connections between North Korea’s cyber-hacking program and a Chinese cryptocurrency money laundering network.”
The hackers also used Chinese traders to launder their funds who were charged by the US officials for laundering more than $100 million in crypto on behalf of North Korea — Pyongyang’s way of circumventing sanctions.
The United Nations Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 to curb its funding for nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
In a report last year, the UN said the country had generated an estimated $2 billion through “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from crypto exchanges and banks. North Korea denied the allegation, calling them a “fabrication” to tarnish its image.
There’s a growing interest in central banks looking at the possible implementation of digital currency in 2020 than the hype on Bitcoin (BTC), the Bank of International Settlement (BIS) reports.
In research published over the weekend, the Swiss-based BIS reports the growing attention by global central banks on research and development of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in 2020. The paper states the motivations, technical developments and policy approaches towards the launch of CBDCs vary across the central banks with the more innovative countries taking a step ahead.
According to the report, there is an increasing consideration of retail CBDCs across the central banks to provide a publicly usable currency while some consider a wholesale CBDC which “could become a new instrument for settlement between financial institutions.”
The comprehensive 39-page research focuses on over 175 central banks and over 16,000 speeches from recent years. The findings of the report state that central banks controlling a fifth of the world’s population are considering to launch a digital currency. Additionally, over 20% of the banks are fast-tracking their CBDC to launch in the next 1-6 years.
The report further reads,
“A full 80% of surveyed central banks are engaging in research, experimentation or development of CBDCs.”
The tipping point
Per the report, the number of speeches positively talking about digital currencies has surged since the end of 2018. As of July 2020, there were more central bank governors speaking positively about retail and wholesale CBDCs than having negative stances.
“A tipping point was the announcement of Facebook’s Libra and the ensuing public sector response.”
As for COVID 19 pandemic role in implementing CBDCs, several governments are accelerating their research and developments on CBDCs to ease payment systems and curb the spread of the virus through cash payments. The U.S. recently enhanced its efforts to offer a digital dollar “as a means of quickly executing government-to-person payments (CARE package), as an alternative to credit transfers and slow and costly cheques.”
These efforts by central banks have seen the public become more attentive to CBDCs over time. In 2020, BIS reports that internet searches across the world for CBDCs are massively overshadowing searches of Facebook’s Libra and Bitcoin (BTC) – which crossed the $12,000 mark earlier this month.
Central banks entering the digital era
As mentioned above, the technical decisions, method of implementation, and reasons for the launch of a CBDC vary across states and countries. According to the BIS report, countries with higher mobile phone usage and higher innovation capacity are associated with a higher likelihood of developing a digital currency.
So far, three countries, China, Sweden, and Canada, have completed tests on a retail CBDC and 13 countries are actively researching on the launch of a wholesale CBDC. Another 18 countries have published reports on the impact and effects of digital currencies on their economies.
Australia’s New South Wales Treasury Department has released a research paper looking into the regulation of blockchain and another emerging tech. According to the city’s authorities, catching up with the rapid technological progress could save New South Wales a significant amount of money in compliance costs. The paper reads,
“Even small improvements to our regulatory framework have the potential to drive significant economic benefits. A saving of just 5 percent of compliance costs in New South Wales could result in a net benefit between $0.6 billion and $4 billion.”
The research acknowledges that COVID-19 has indeed changed the outlook of businesses in New South Wales, making it necessary to review the current regulatory frameworks. Notably, one of the propositions towards changing the landscape is outcome-focused legislation. This means that legislation will be informed or follow innovation hence giving more space for ideas to thrive.
“Outcome-based regulation can provide the flexibility for businesses to innovate, adapt, and realize the potential of emerging technologies, without having to seek permission from regulators.”
Another factor that the NSW Treasury Department plans to look into is the overlapping of regulation. Currently, some of the laws in this state create quite an overlap when it comes to processes such as registration, compliance, and reporting. This has since made some businesses stall, especially those that heavily depend on a swift action by the NSW market watchdogs.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the NSW state has decided to play catch up or ‘pace the problem’ by fast-forwarding considerations on emerging tech regulatory frameworks. In doing so, the Australian city is optimistic that it will seamlessly recover from the effects of COVID-19 under proper oversight while adopting the latest tech,
“With new tools providing a roadmap for reform, the way forward for New South Wales is clear … Technology and AI can continue to play a role in assisting regulators to target opportunities for burden reduction and streamline reform moving forward.”
The U.S Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) is looking into integrating modern technology such as AI and blockchains to develop a new era of food safety.
In a blueprint document published on July 13, ‘New Era for Smarter Food Safety Blueprint,’ the FDA is looking into a new approach to food safety through leveraging modern technologies to “create a safer and more digital, traceable food system.”
The document focuses on new technologies, strategies, and leadership to offer the safest food possible, blockchain is mentioned as a key component in the blueprint.
The new era of modern food security and safety lies on four key pillars, namely the new business models and retail modernization, food safety culture, faster prevention and approach methods to outbreaks, and finally, a tech-enabled traceability feature such as AI, Big data, and blockchain.
When we look at how industries track, through digital means, the real-time movement of planes, ride-sharing, and packaged goods or how firms are harnessing big data to identify trends,” the blueprint reads.
“It is clear FDA, and our stakeholders should be looking at how to tap into new technologies that include, but are not limited to, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, sensor technologies, and blockchain.”
Blockchain technology also mentioned as a critical component in leveraging digital transformation whereby if implemented, it will help in “receiving receive critical tracking events and key data elements from industry and regulatory partners.”
FDA is critically looking at blockchain solutions to improve traceability and tracking of food and medicine. In May, BEG reported FDA’s successful completion of a pilot blockchain program together with IBM, KPMG, Merck, and Walmart to trace medication in the U.S.
The struggle between the co-founder of bitcoin’s biggest miner manufacturer is not looking to end anytime soon. It hasn’t even been two weeks, and they are back at it.
The fight restarted when Bitmain co-founder Micree Zhan or Zhan Keutan attempted to redirect customer payments to a new bank account in a Wechat post at midnight. Dovey Wan, founding partner at Primitive Crypto tweeted,
“This marks the DEATH of Jihan in the Bitmain power struggle IMO: Bitmain just announced it will change the miner sales payment bank account & wiring info into a company Micree serving as legal representative. Micree now financially takes over Bitmain’s core business.”
It may not be a death blow to Jihan yet, but sure seems like a hard blow to the bitcoin miners who are awaiting their big orders.
The infighting between the co-founders could interrupt the product deliveries as it affects the shipments and supply chain. While some are reluctant to buy bulk orders, it is not stopping others from buying machines from Bitmain.
Last week, Core Scientific announced that the hedge fund Horizon Kinetics extended its partnership with the US-based blockchain hosting provider and upgraded its crypto service to Bitmain Antminer S19 and S19 Pro models.
On Monday, Hive Blockchain technologies also announced that it had ordered 200 Bitmain Antminer S17e 60 terahash per second (TH/s) SHA 256 mining machines to scale up its mining power at its bitcoin mining operation in Quebec.
With the cost for the S17e machines approximately US$950 per unit, the purchase was just under US$0.2 million, and the company is anticipating delivery in July, but that’s to be seen. F2Pool noted,
“The slowdown in hashrate growth may continue, as many of the large hardware orders reported recently won’t deliver until late in the summer.”
So far, both the co-founders are claiming to be the company’s real CEO. While Zhan controls the Shenzhen headquarter and factory Wu has the bank accounts and support of the board.
The rivals did reach an agreement to resume deliveries less than two weeks ago. On June 23, the company even published an article to reassure its customers that they have resolved the issue only to delete it within a few hours.
It hasn’t been 24 hours to Zhan’s document with changed sales information, (including the bank account for payments, after-sale service website, and e-mail address) that another official Bitmain WeChat account associated with Wu revoked the document stating it contained false information.
In the new document also posted on the website, citing “abnormal conditions,” Zu said “criminals” are trying to impose Bitmain representations.
It looks like Wu is here to fight, and customers will also have to pay the price.
Visa is looking to hire blockchain engineers with expertise on Ethereum, Ripple, and Bitcoin, as recently reported by Decrypt. The global payments giant has been making significant moves in the blockchain and crypto space in preparation for digital currency ecosystems. With the latest step being an ‘alleged’ human resource expansion, could Visa scale its foothold in the blockchain-based payments niche?
This new prospective hire will join Visa’s B2B, the firm’s cross-border payments solution built on blockchain that launched back in June 2019. They will work towards adding value to this distributed ecosystem hence the requirements on some blockchain languages. The job ad highlights,
“Our ideal candidate has built and released distributed applications, has worked with the Ripple, R3, Ethereum and Bitcoin blockchain, and has experience with Solidity.”
While the requirements may signal an intention to build on a network like Ethereum, Visa is more likely to leverage the Hyperledger open-source instead. This Linux developed innovation presents ‘enterprise-grade’ solutions for corporate entities and received the backing of IBM and Intel soon after it launched in 2016. With the Hyperledger network, firms have an option to create permissioned ecosystems as a way of protecting private data while communicating within a distributed platform.
Visa’s Crypto and Blockchain Enthusiasm
This California-based payment service provider is emerging as a crypto favorite given recent milestones. For starters, the firm filed for a digital dollar patent in May as the rush for CBDC’s intensifies. According to Visa’s crypto head, the CBDC trend will probably set the stage for a digital currency ecosystem, making it essential for stakeholders to be involved in the research and development. Other than a digital dollar proposition, Visa has enabled some utilities within its cards for crypto service providers such as Binance and Plutus.
Symbol, an enterprise-focused blockchain project developed by NEM, is looking to tap into the Wine supply-chain business and help the industry save millions caused by tampering, theft, and counterfeiting every year.
Symbol would develop a blockchain-based supply chain management system to keep a check on the growing scale of fraud in the wine industry. The blockchain system is rumored to be quite capable and can process a large number of transactions every second.
Symbol’s system would keep track of every aspect, from the raw fruits being harvested on the grounds until the wine is made and delivered to the supermarket and retail shops. The blockchain would put extra emphasis on the privacy issues concerning buyers, sellers and distributors. To address this, another hybrid blockchain system will be integrated into the main blockchain.
The blockchain solution would implement smart contracts to counter tampering during transportation. The final payment settlement is complete, only if the delivered product meets all the quality and authenticity checks. The firm also explained the need for such a robust system and explained:
“This allows the producer or grower to engage in comprehensive blockchain-backed financial agreements, and make use of staggered payments using multi-signature accounts while being supported by a state of the art blockchain that can provide verification results in real-time.”
The NEM project is also planning to integrate a verification process for retailers as well as customers to ensure the end product being delivered to them is genuine.
Kyrgyz Republic’s lawmakers are looking to introduce a taxation bill for cryptocurrency mining which, if passed would make it the first piece of crypto legislation in the country. The bill would amend the Tax Code of the Kyrgyz Republic and bring crypto mining under its tax code. The bill would also set a clear definition of virtual assets and crypto mining.
This bill could really turn out to be a breakthrough decision for the cryptocurrency ecosystem in the country since the government prohibited the use of crypto as a mode of payment back in 2014. Additionally, the government has also put a ban on mining since September 2019.
The New Bill Could Bring In Extra Tax Revenue For The Government
Once passed, the tax bill could bring in $4.2 million in additional revenue for the government which has a current budget of $1 billion. The proposed bill would tax miners 15% on any revenue generated from selling mined crypto assets.
The parliament also discussed the electricity prices and premium rates for miners. A premium price of $0.05 per kilowatt-hour (KW/h) was decided by a council of experts in December last year. The average cost of electricity in the Kyrgyz Republic is $0.030 per KW/h.
While the bill looked set to obtain a parliamentary nod, the latest parliamentary deliberation, held on June 3rd, saw many lawmakers raise concerns over large scale crypto mining and its impact on the limited electricity that the country generates. Deputy Aaly Karashev pointed out that the country imports twice the amount of electricity it exports.
These concerns are valid, given the ban that came into force in September 2019 regarding mining activities, having been imposed because mining farms consumed much more electricity than nearby provincial areas like Issyk-Kul, Talas, and Naryn combined.
Maybe the flat tax and clear regulations would bring in an extra stream of revenue for the government and put a curb on illegal mining in the country.
May is coming to an end and bitcoin is looking to stay above $9,500, ending the month with about 8% returns.
The market sentiments are reacting and approaching “greed” once again. But this is the third time the sentiment is pushing to a greedy state and out of the fearful area. The good thing is we have stayed out of the “Extreme Fear” area for over a month now.
However, there have been no significant changes in volatility over the past week but that can change quickly.
For the past two months, the last days of the month have recorded some of the large daily moves.
According to Income Shark, Bitcoin can yet again drop to $9,200 level with some “weird weekend action.” But it’s possible we will make our back to $9,600 level and if we break it, we could have a ride to $10,000 and if rejected, it might be the time to short.
Interestingly, there aren’t many bitcoins to be bought, especially given that Grayscale is absorbing more BTC than what’s been minted since halving. Already, its Bitcoin Trust holds about 2% of all BTC supply.
Meanwhile, the effects of halving have already started to dissipate with the hash rate increasing. The imminent Chinese monsoon would further balance things out as it would make electricity cheaper and “lead to a temporary increase in the rate of block generation and hence bitcoin production and sell pressure.”
Bitcoin velocity has also been dropping sharply since halving. The transaction activity might be seeing a temporary slow down but the “longer-term trend remains positive and is trending upwards,” noted Arcane Research.
An Exodus of BTC from Exchanges
We might not be in a bullish territory yet but the market is seeing bullish indicators. 60% of bitcoin supply hasn’t moved in more than a year, a level last seen before the bull run of 2017 started.
This increased level of hodling behavior can also be seen in the BTC balance on exchanges which have reached their lowest level in over a year, as per Glassnode.
One explanation of this exodus is the optimistic long-term sentiment that has investors withdrawing their funds from exchanges in favor of hodling in anticipation of a bull run. The growing number of bitcoin whales support this just as the continued holder accumulation over the past two months.
But this isn’t the whole story, this withdrawal trend is different for different exchanges.
The steepest decline is recorded by Bitfinex of 66.6% that is 133,000 BTC since Black Thursday. After Bitfinex, the largest outflows are seen by BitMEX at 35.6% (105k BTC) and 24.6% (97k BTC) by Huobi.
In contrast to this, Binance and Bitstamp saw a slight increase in their BTC balance. Coinbase, however, remains the most popular exchange for holding BTC which has a balance of 968,000 BTC, decreasing only 0.2% during this time.
So it’s not just investors choosing to hold, or using cold storage for hodling, there could be many reasons at play.
Lack of trust could be one such reason in the case of BitMEX which experienced two DDoS attacks on Black Thursday. But this still doesn’t justify the continued decline of BTC balance on the exchange and why these funds haven’t moved onto other exchanges.
Moreover, even before the crash, the BTC balance of Huobi and Bitfinex has been on decline which only accelerated after Black Thursday. When the massive sell-off occurred, Bitfinex’s BTC balance had already dropped over 47% from its highest point in Dec. 2018.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) is looking to secure and store their R&D data on a blockchain-based system and has outsourced the contract for developing the same to the SIMBA Chain in the form of a Business Innovation Research contract.
In an announcement made on 12th May, the US Department of Defense awarded a $20,000 contract to SIMBA to develop a proof-of-concept based blockchain system for 4.5 million research and design documents and over 4,000 users managed by the DoD.
This isn’t the first time the US government has shown interest in blockchain-based systems. In fact, the US government has been actively involved in research, development, and utilization of various blockchain use cases in their departments. Earlier, SIMBA Chain was also tasked with developing a system to help the US Navy secure its communications.
The ongoing R&D storage project is being dubbed as ALAMEDA for Authenticity Ledger for Auditable Military Enclaved Data Access and is expected to be completed by June, following with trials would then begin for a period of 5 months.
If the project passes the test phase and proves to be a success then another grant of $1 million could be awarded for SBIR Phase II contract. The phase II would focus on commercialization and creating a Github like interface to control and manage documents within projects.
What Would Phase II Bring to the Table?
Phase II’s primary focus would be sharing documents and datasets while ensuring authenticity and integrity. SIMBA would be using its Chain’s cloud-based Smart Contract as a Service (SCaaS) platform to develop and deploy different DApps for iOS, Android, and other platforms without the need for any third-party interference.
Joel Neidig, CEO of SIMBA Chain commented on the latest partnership stating the need for a secure and decentralized data storing and monitoring system in this day and age where a ton of sensitive data is exchanged via mobile phones. He explained:
“The DOD, defence contractors, and enterprise-level businesses have benefited from mobile devices and how easy it has become to access and exchange date.
However, the enhanced flow of information represents a significant security risk. Hence the need for sophisticated blockchain solutions that authenticate and document users, eliminate the third party bad actors, and otherwise allow secure direct connections between trusted sources.”