Acer Technologies Targeted In ‘Largest Ever’ Ransomware Attack; Hackers Demand Monero (XMR)

Acer Technologies Targeted In ‘Largest Ever’ Ransomware Attack; Hackers Demand Monero (XMR)

The global computer manufacturer is yet to confirm any attacks.

In what has been dubbed as the ‘largest ransom ever asked for,’ the notorious REvil ransomware gang is reportedly asking for $50 million from the Taiwanese computer manufacturer, Acer. First reported by Tech Radar, the hacking group is asking the amount to be paid in privacy-enabled Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency to decrypt their computers.

According to cybersecurity specialist company Malwarebytes, this is the largest ransom any operator has ever faced. Ransomware attacks involve hackers infiltrating your systems, encrypting valuable/confidential information, and asking for a fee to decrypt the systems.

If the reports are true, the hackers seem to have attacked the company’s back-office systems and not the production line. As of the time of writing, no spokesperson has released any comments from Acer. We will update you on this story as it develops.

The REvil group usually records and keeps the demand letters sent to their victims, especially those that do not cooperate. While the Acer documents are yet to be put up, the hackers blasted the Acer representative who was in touch with them as an “incompetent negotiator.” They asked to be linked with the management or a supervisor in their negotiation.

Monero is gradually becoming the coin of choice for hackers, given its highly private nature. Days before the 2020 U.S. Presidential elections, Donald Trump’s campaign website was hacked with the hackers asking for XRM payments to release the information.

In February this year, KIA Motors hackers asked for $32 million in Bitcoin or Monero in order to decrypt their systems.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Parity Technologies Proposes Common Goods Parachain on Polkadot Called Statemint

Parity Technologies Proposes Common Goods Parachain on Polkadot Called Statemint

Polkadot developer Parity Technologies is looking to address one of the key issues plaguing the Polkadot ecosystem by launching a new asset deployment platform.

Statemint To Address ‘Free Ride Problem’

Parity Technologies said in an announcement that it is looking to launch a generic asset parachain called Statemint. This solution will be the first common-good chain on the Polkadot network.

Statemint will allow developers to deploy assets- from tokenized artwork to stablecoins and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) – in the Polkadot and Kusama networks. This will naturally engender a better user experience and lower fees than present solutions.

Currently, both the Polkadot and Kusama’s on-chain governance grants parachain slots through a public referendum rather than selecting slot winners through its auction mechanisms. The auction method is insufficient as it doesn’t efficiently distribute network resources on the platform.

Developers looking to ensure an even distribution of network resources will have to put up collateral in the form of Polkadot’s DOT or Kusama’s KSM network token. This collateral must have a minimum deposit, and if the asset falls below its “Existential Deposit,” the parachain will be removed to avoid a pile-up of low-value “dust” accounts.

But parachains may still be launched without an upfront collateral balance if the Relay Chain Council decides otherwise.

Parachains would also not be used as verification tools. The issuer must guarantee the authenticity of their asset value, not Polkadot (DOT)- but these chains will still be able to leverage Polkadot’s core functionality for continued interoperability.

Per the announcement, Statemint will enable developers to establish a maintenance team for their different parachains. This team will consist of an issuer, an administrator, and a freezer whose job will be to pause all token issuance and transfer.

The team, however, did not state when the project will commence.

Statemint Will Be Under DOT Token Holders’ Control

Relay Chain, which is the heart of the Polkadot ecosystem, will still retain control of the Statemint project. Relay Chain token holders will still be able to dictate the community’s direction by determining changing parameters for the Statemint project. They will be able to register new assets, adjust fee parameters, and upgrade the chain’s logic and functionality.

Polkadot has quickly established itself as a top Ethereum rival in less than five years. The blockchain platform, a fully scalable, heterogeneous network, is dubbed the next-generation of blockchain, and its layer-0 protocol brings together multiple blockchains into a unified ecosystem.

The ‘Ethereum killer,’ focused on creating an interoperable ecosystem, deployed a heterogeneous sharding technology that allows its parachains to connect and communicate with external networks. This implies that Polkadot developers will transfer and receive data from Bitcoin and Ethereum through its bridges protocol.

With developers flocking into the ecosystem, investors are eyeing the project, and industry experts are projecting a top-three finish for its cryptocurrency DOT. Polkadot (DOT) currently occupies the sixth position on the cryptocurrency chart and has a market cap of $35 billion.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

UC Berkeley & Parity Technologies Partner to Boost Polkadot Blockchain Education Efforts

UC Berkeley & Parity Technologies Partner to Boost Polkadot Blockchain Education Efforts

  • California-based, University of Berkeley partners with a blockchain development firm, Parity Technologies, to create a blockchain curriculum for students and boost education efforts on the blockchain.

Announced this Thursday, the partnership between UC Berkeley and Parity Technologies will kick-off for the remaining part of the 2020-2021 academic year. The partnership aims to enhance blockchain adoption to students and faculty at the university through collaboration to create a solid curriculum and projects and strengthen overall blockchain education across learning institutions.

However, this is not the first time UC Berkeley is headlining a blockchain partnership, previously having hosted a Ripple Inc. blockchain event. In January 2019, UC Berkeley launched its blockchain development accelerator program, Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator, to support curriculum development and support new blockchain startups.

Parity joins forces with the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator to create a blockchain curriculum and provide educational panels for students. Speaking at the launch of the Xcelerator program, Gloria Zhao, president of Blockchain at Berkeley, said,

“Blockchain at Berkeley strives to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in our students, so we are excited to help lead this initiative and assist the next generation of blockchain innovators.”

The partnership will also see Polkadot’s co-founder, Gavin Wood, give lectures on blockchain at the university later this month. Parity Technologies founded Polkadot, the sixth largest crypto in market cap, which is also being promoted by the Xcelerator program.

Parity Technologies, on its part, aims to use its substrate blockchain-building framework to educate and learn from the students and teachers on blockchain development. Additionally, Parity will advise and mentor early blockchain startups teaching students how to develop and launch startups on blockchains.

Jocelyn Weber, an executive at the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator, believes a partnership with Parity is key in enhancing educative efforts and curriculum development for students interested in blockchains. Weber said,

“We strive to expose our students to the tools and skills they will need to enter this space and immediately start making significant contributions.”

“[…] which is why improving their knowledge with tools such as Substrate and networks like Polkadot will be an important part of our curriculum development.”

UC Berkeley has built its brand as a blockchain supporter for the past few years, and the partnership with Parity is yet another step to achieve wide blockchain adoption. Back in October 2018, the university hosted the first crypto-powered music festival allowing event-goers to acquire products, services, and experiences within the event’s network using crypto.

Notwithstanding, Blockchain at Berkeley is also a member of the Universal Protocol Alliance, an organization aiming at accelerating the adoption of cryptocurrencies and Blockchain-backed systems.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Bureau Of Fiscal Service Revisits Blockchain Technology Development To Streamline Grants

The Bureau of Fiscal Service, BFS, is focusing its energies on innovative technologies such as blockchain technology in a bid to enhance the government’s fiscal policies and “streamline its financial processes.” BFS will launch two projects – Digital End-to-End Efficiency (DEEE) and Blockchain for Grants – in a re-imagining strategy on how federal governments carry out day to day businesses.

According to the release, the Blockchain for Grants project was started back in 2017, aiming to create digital solutions to ease the tokenization, redeeming and transfer of grant payments from the government.

Blockchain technology offers a transparent, public, and secure platform to enhance the disbursement of grants by reducing the financial costs and setting up better internal controls. According to the statement, the blockchain for grants project “will focus on evaluating the functional and legal implications of using blockchain technology for helping grant payments.”

Fiscal Service Supervisory Program Manager Craig Fischer said,

“By tokenizing relevant grant award information and combining it with grant payment information on the blockchain, we attain new payment transparency that we couldn’t reach previously without significant and burdensome reporting.”

The BFS office has launched both innovative projects for a six-month period.

The latest blockchain interest from the Bureau of Fiscal Service follows a blockchain-based initiative to track office tools across the country.

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Author: Lujan Odera

US Congressional Members Ask The Govt To Support Blockchain Tech For COVID-19 Relief

  • U.S. Congressmen lobby the federal government to increase support and hasten the integration of blockchain technologies across the economy to ease the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
  • Blockchain technology innovations aimed at improving authorization of individual identity, supply chains, and medical registries.

A letter from lawmakers in Congress addressed to the US. President Donald J. Trump and directors handing the COVID-19 response strategies ask the top federal government executives to look into blockchain technologies as a solution to the pandemic.

According to the lawmakers (all members of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus) urge the use of blockchains to improve the country’s economic interactions, enhance digital identification, manage supply chains and ensure credibility in medical registries and certifications. The letter reads,

“The membership of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus urges your consideration, support, and implementation of utilizing blockchain technology that could greatly mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus.”

The members of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus who presented the letter are Bill Foster, Tom Emmer, David Schweikert, and Darren Soto – who lead the Caucus. Other members include Stephen Lynch, Warren Davidson, Jerry McNerney, Matt Gaetz, and Ro Khanna.

There is a growing need for verification and identity digitization as the world embraces social distancing. According to the statement, blockchains provide digital identity solutions that assist in authentication and verification of individuals, for example, when the U.S. distributed the CARES Package. Furthermore, blockchains offer strong encryption and a secure system hence protecting sensitive users’ data.

Blockchain can also improve the deployment of essential kits and medical equipment – especially during the times of the pandemic. These technologies could enhance the management of supply chains, identification of where supplies originate, transportation, and arrival times, the statement reads.

Additionally, medical registries, certifications, and licenses could all be deployed on a blockchain improving the medical field and professionals in the space. This could help these medical professionals securely and confidentially share critical information and deploy essential services in times of need.

This also points to the financial systems world whereby the U.S. Congress has continually called for more innovative technologies to be implemented to solve slow transactions and payments. In April, members of Congress reintroduced the “Digital dollar Act” to create a network of digital payments and distribute the CARES Act stimulus efficiently.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Institutions Are More Committed To Blockchain Technology Than Ever: Deloitte Survey

  • Global industry leaders are embracing blockchain technologies and digital currencies in a rate unseen before, according to the latest annual edition of Deloitte’s “2020 Global Blockchain Survey”.

A survey conducted by 1,488 executives across several industries across 14 countries, including Canada, China, Brazil, USA, South Africa, U.K., United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland revealed 55% of the big corporations are looking at blockchain integration as a top-five strategic priority in their companies. The key takeaway from the 2020 Global Blockchain Survey is,

“Organizations appear to be more committed to blockchain technology than ever and demonstrating this by implementing it as part of their normal course of business.”

Note: the survey focused on executives who had a clue on blockchain technologies tilting the overall distribution. Additionally, 100 respondents who have already tested blockchain integration within their companies (must have at least $3 million in VC funding) were also included in the survey.

Industries showing extreme blockchain tech craze

The number of executives that have brought blockchain technologies into production in their firms stands at 39%, a sharp rise from 23% in 2019. For larger firms, those with at least $100 million in revenue and $1 billion, the number goes up to 41-46%.

Deloitte Survey
Deloitte Global Blockchain Survey 2020

Digital assets as a replacement?

The digital currency race seems just as important as that of blockchain technology integration, with 89% stating digital currencies will be used in their industry in some way. Of these, 53 percent believe that digital assets will become “very important” in their line of industries.

These institutions are also gunning for the growth of a wide variety of digital asset classes with enterprise tokens, asset-backed stablecoins, and decentralized tokens such as BTC, a popular opinion. In a question on whether digital assets will, in the future, replace the fiat currency system, the group overwhelmingly agreed despite the different countries.

China leads in this aspect, with 94% of the respondents saying a digital currency will replace the Yuan. Brazil and UAE respondents also saw high scores of 92% and 90%, respectively. However, only 71% of South Africans believe digital currencies will replace the Rand.

Skepticism Surrounds Blockchains

However, despite the growth in institutional appreciation of blockchain, there is growing skepticism surrounding the hype of the blockchain technologies and whether they can deliver on promises. 54% of the respondents believe the technology is overhyped, a rise from 43% and 39% in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Deloitte-Survey
Deloitte Global Blockchain Survey 2020

Cybersecurity has been one of the critical areas affecting the overall adoption and advancement of blockchain and digital assets strategy across industries, 21% of the respondents said. Positively, nearly 60% of the respondents believe cybersecurity is part of the problem to solve hence needed to be figured out in their strategy.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Institutional Grade Crypto Custodial, Copper Technologies, Joins Global Central Bank Think Tank, OMFIF

Institutional-grade crypto custodian, Copper Technologies, joins the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum’s (OMFIF) Digital Monetary Institute (DMI) as a founding member. The non-profit organization launched in May 2020 aiming at formulating economic policy, public investment and central banking ideas for new and improved digital payment instruments.

Copper Technologies joins DMI as founding member

The London-based crypto firm becomes the latest founding member of DMI joining Giesecke+Devrient Currency Technology GmbH, Cypherium Blockchain and multinational bank, ING Group. The mission of the association is to provide an open platform for discussions and research on digital payment systems and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

The Institute will be publishing regular data, convening meetings with experts on new digital developments and innovations.

The statement from Dmitry Tokarev, CEO at Copper Technologies, showed delight in joining “policy makers, technologists, financiers and regulators” to develop new ideas and policies in the digital finance world. According to Dmitry, the OMFIF DMI forum opens up a gateway for public and private organizations to collaborate in “creating open and productive discussions” on the future of global finance and the opportunities digital payments offers. He added,

“As more and more institutions are beginning to see beyond the 2017 retail-driven image of the space, the real and long-term value of crypto, and blockchain more generally, becomes apparent. OMFIF has the potential to advance this cause, and move the needle on how the entire financial system views crypto.”

Copper Technologies promises an institutional grade custodial service with a keen eye on “accessibility, security and aligned compliance” aiming to bridge the gap between the digital asset world and the traditional finance systems.

Governments accelerated efforts

Governments, central banks and financial regulators across the globe are accelerating their efforts for a digital payment system in the wake of COVID-19. The spread of the pandemic through physical contact has shown the need for increased innovation in digital cash systems.

Moreover, the announcement of the Facebook-led Libra token also forced central banks to look into developing their own CBDCs. In his welcome statement to Copper Technologies, David Marsh, Chairman and Co-Founder at OMFIF addressed this saying,

“Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) has become a more pressing priority for central banks, first with the unveiling of Libra by Facebook, and more recently with the challenges of distributing financial help to citizens during the COVID-19 crisis.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

E-Commerce Giant, Amazon, Patents Blockchain Authentication Of Accepted Consumer Products

The world-leading e-commerce platform, Amazon Technologies Inc., filed a patent on blockchain technology for proving the authenticity of consumer goods in its online marketplace. The filing approved and made publicly available on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, describes the platform as an

“interface for verifiable tracking of an item through a supply chain using a distributed electronic ledger.”

The patent titled “Distributed ledger certification” was filed back in July 2017 with the U.S. Patents Office signaling a long term view of Amazon on distributed ledgers.

The platform aims at improving the trustworthiness of an item, service, or party as the world’s online marketplace grows to unseen levels. Currently, systems that lack transparency, coherency, referential integrity, or security set challenges for the global growth of online marketplaces. All these challenges reduce the trust between different parties – a problem that Amazon aims to solve with its DLT network.

The platform aggregates data from manufacturers, distributors, and shippers on an open network architecture to give the consumer real-time trusted information. The patent further touches on a possible implementation of permissioned enterprise network, Hyperledger.

Amazon in blockchain

In late September of last year, the company announced plans of hiring a specialist in blockchain in a bid to integrate decentralized ledger technologies in advertisements on the platform. The project will curb the mistrust between the sellers and buyers to create a more transparent and secure online marketplace.

Additionally, in late 2019, Amazon announced two blockchain-based products in early phase testing – Amazon Managed Blockchain and the Amazon Quantum Ledger Database.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Can RippleNet Cloud be a Game Changer for Post-COVID Banks and Financial Institutions?

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly increased the adoption of emerging technologies. Since the world was challenged by this virus, innovations by the FinTech community ranging from blockchain tech to cloud infrastructure have been accelerated. A company like Ripple, prominent for its blockchain built cross-border payment solutions, is now touting its cloud services as well, RippleNet Cloud.

As tech evolved, it became evident that existing on-premises infrastructure is in fact a huge cost in today’s business world. This is because of the underlying operations in staffing, maintenance, and migration to new systems. Therefore, cloud solutions are slowly taking over starting with tech giants like Microsoft and IBM who are among the largest service providers in this niche. However, financial institutions led by banks are still skeptical of moving their systems to cloud platforms given the sensitivity of clients’ data.

RippleNet Cloud

While cloud services may seem a concept of the future, their value proposition beats existing on-premises that are outdated, expensive to maintain, and inflexible. According to recent a publication on Ripple Insights, cloud services are now considered essential for the going concern of businesses post-COVID.

“Now, cloud-based technologies are considered essential to any business wishing to survive the pandemic—and keep up with rapidly changing consumer demands.”

Ripple’s cloud-based solution has since been hailed as a game-changer for banking ecosystems. Basically, the firm provides a platform for businesses to interact seamlessly on RippleNet via a common Ripple Payment Object (RPO). Compared to on-premises, clients on RippleNet can go live five weeks faster while cutting the costs attributed to staffing and hardware requisition.

In addition, RippleNet Cloud provides financial institutions the option to leverage on-demand liquidity for their settlements. Notably, clients also don’t have to stress with upgrades as they are handled with Ripple’s team. Given these underlying factors, RippleNet has attracted a number of prominent financial service providers including MoneyGram and India-based, Federal Bank.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Polkadot’s Chain Candidate Goes Live in Anticipation for the Proof of Stake (PoS) Version

Polkadot’s initial mainnet has been launched by Web3 Foundation and Parity Technologies according to a blog post on May 26. This much anticipated sharding protocol has been in the works for around three years and is expected to facilitate the integration of blockchain networks.

The recently released live version is, however, centralized as it’s limited to some agents; Polkadot plans to hand over governance to its community once the testing period is over.

According to the announcement, Polkadot’s genesis block has already been mined marking the commencement of its first Chain Candidate (CC1). Notably, this platform was spearheaded by Gavin Wood, an Ethereum co-founder, who branched out to start Polkadot back in 2016 with Web3 Foundation as the lead developers. Wood now says the CC1 might as well be the mainnet,

“Polkadot’s first chain candidate (‘CC1’), which may well become the Polkadot mainnet, has been launched.”

Polkadot’s Mainnet Underlying Value

As highlighted earlier, the Polkadot initiative aims to link chains in a more seamless way for interoperability. Polkadot has, therefore, leveraged a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) algorithm in order to eliminate scalability challenges within its ecosystem through sharding. The blog reads,

“[Polkadot] connects several chains together in a unified network, allowing them to process in parallel and exchange data with strong security guarantees between chains. By parallelizing the workload, Polkadot solves major throughput issues.”

However, the CC1 which went live is currently under a Proof-of-Authority (PoA) consensus as Web3 foundation is in control of the network. As of now, the mainnet client users can receive DOT tokens and stake them to become or nominate validators within Polkadot’s network. Notably, the DOT digital assets were already in the secondary market as Simple Agreements for Future Tokens (SAFT) but will not be transferred within Polkadot’s live mainnet until its community votes to initiate a token transfer feature. Wood echoed that,

“During this phase, nothing will actually become at stake and no rewards will be paid, however once we move to the next stage, the community validators will be selected to maintain the network according to their overall DOT backing and our Proof-of-Stake system (NPoS) will be live. If you want to be in it from the start, then you’ll need to stake now.”

Polkadot’s Prospects

This project kicked off on a good note by issuing 5 million DOT tokens at $144 million back in 2016. By early 2019, the Polkadot was valued at $1.2 billion as per a Wall Street Journal Report. The company later sold another 500,000 DOT tokens towards the end of 2019 and is now making headlines with its much-awaited mainnet. Wood touts the project as a long-term player in the crypto industry,

“Polkadot is, in many respects, the biggest bet in this ecosystem against chain maximalism. Even if there were one perfect chain, I don’t think it would stay perfect for very long.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui