Qtum Completes Testnet Hard Fork Prior to the Real Event in August; Adds Offline Staking

The Qtum network has completed a hard fork on its testnet in the run-up to its mainnet hard fork, which is scheduled to take place on August 28, 2020, on block height 680,000. The testnet hard fork – initiated on June 29 at block no 625,000 and the last phase of the testnet – are scheduled to start on July 6 before the mainnet upgrade undertaking.

This hard fork would introduce offline staking on the Qtum network. The firm also confirmed that, during the testnet phase, more than 300 network participants managed to gain 1000 Qtum through staking. The firm released a statement on the addition of offline staking and said:

“Offline staking is one of the biggest changes to the Qtum protocol to date. Up until now, Qtum has allowed Proof-of-Stake consensus staking only from online nodes that secure and operate the blockchain. As a result, QTUM holders who did not want to run a full node had security concerns, or struggled to meet the resource and power requirements were unable to participate in staking.”

The founder of the Qtum network believes that testnet staking would help users become familiar with its staking ecosystem, and help clients understand how easy it can be to stake your token and earn passive income on top of it. He said:

“This will empower the community to undertake the same tasks in a realistic setting when the mainnet hard fork goes live in late August, bringing offline staking to the Qtum ecosystem.”

Offline Staking Would Make Qtum More Decentralized

Qtum believes the offline staking service would make the network more decentralized than ever as it would attract more traders towards the staking. The staking will be the second hard-fork for the blockchain network; the first one took place back in October 2019 at block number 466,000.

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Author: Rebecca Asseh

Binance’s BNB Gets A Branded Twitter Emoji As the Exchange Celebrates Turning 3

The largest crypto exchange in the world in terms of trading volume, Binance, becomes the third crypto-based firm to get a branded emoji on Twitter. Binance joins Bitcoin (BTC) and Crypto.com (CRO), which also have branded emojis.

Anybody that tweets using the hashtag: #BNB or #Binance will get to see the signature Binance logo. Binance CEO revealed the new branded emoji by tweeting #BNB to his over 500k followers on Twitter. CZ, as he is usually referred to, was thrilled by the new emoji saying that he could just sit there and randomly start retweeting other people using the new emoji.

Branded Twitter hashtags are a lesser-known form of advertisement service offered by Twitter to renowned brands. However, Binance did not reveal the amount it paid for the emoji. Although billion-dollar brands such as Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, and IBM have, in the past, paid about $1 million to get branded emojis, the amount for crypto-based firms is believed to be much lesser. Larry Cermak, a researcher, working for TheBlock, recently revealed that a company that uses about $50,000 in Twitter ads qualifies to get a branded emoji.

The Twitter emoji comes just days before Binance prepares to celebrate its third anniversary, on July 14. The emoji speculated to be part of the anniversary celebrations. The firm has since started a new hashtag dubbed #BinanceTurns3 that also comes with an emoji.

As part of the celebrations, the firm is giving out Binance non-fungible tokens (NFT). To receive the tokens, one must follow the exchange on all of the social media platforms as well as share various content using the anniversary hashtag. The campaign is set to run until July 7. The Binance team believes that the emoji will help in creating a bigger and more visual buzz that will also lead to more mass adoption of the Binance Coin (BNB).

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Author: Joseph Kibe

Hacker Extort 116.4 Bitcoin from University of California San Francisco (UCSF)

The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) paid a ransom of $1.14 million in Bitcoin after a ransomware attack earlier this month, reported BBC News.

The Netwalker criminal gang is believed to be behind the hack which was also linked to at least two other ransomware attacks on universities in the past two months. Michigan State University was one of them that was attacked by Netwalker earlier this month, but they refused to pay the hacker.

Hackers demanded $3 million from UCSF but an external specialist negotiator begged them to accept $780,000, citing the coronavirus pandemic to be “financially devastating.”

After a day of negotiations, UCSF came up with the final offer of $1,140,895, and the next day, 116.4 bitcoins were transferred to Netwalker’s electronic wallets.

“The data that was encrypted is important to some of the academic work we pursue as a university serving the public good,” said UCSF. As such, they decided to pay a portion of the ransom in exchange for a tool to unlock the encrypted data.

After receiving the decryption software, UCSF is now assisting the FBI with the investigation.

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Author: AnTy

US Congress Banking Committee Discusses The Development Of Digital Money and Payments Systems

  • The U.S Congress banking committee discusses the future of digital money and payments
  • Former U.S Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman is among the witnesses set to present to the committee.

With over 32 bills on digital currencies and payment systems introduced in the 116th U.S Congress, these new technologies got yet another day in the lawmakers’ chambers. According to a remote hearing earlier today, the U.S Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discussed the “Digitization of Money and Payments.”

Details released on the hearing put forward three witnesses who vouched for digital payments, stablecoins and presented the advantages of developing a digital dollar. The witnesses are Former CFTC chairman and Senior Counsel at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Christopher. J. Giancarlo, Paxos co-founder and CEO, Charles Cascarilla, and Professor of Law at Duke University, Prof. Nakita Q. Cuttino.

In his pre-written statement to the committee, Giancarlo urges that the development of new financial systems to push America into the 21st century. He focuses on the long settlement and bank transfer times, land titles issuance, and recent delays in distribution of the $2 trillion stimulus checks – some taking a month to reflect in citizen’s accounts.

To bring new technological solutions, Giancarlo, who launched the Digital Dollar Project, a non-profit organization aiming to digitize the greenback, will be explaining the need to have a digital USD. He further wrote:

“The United States must take a leadership role in this next wave of digital innovation or be prepared to accept that the innovation will incorporate the values of America’s global competitors.”

Cascarilla looks to focus on stablecoins, and the possible creation of a Fed-controlled digital token, a CBDC. Given the current challenges in the banking system, Charles believes the integration of stablecoins is critical to the U.S’ financial infrastructure and maintaining its position in global economics.

He concluded his statement:

“Supporting growth and innovation with a US CBDC would facilitate the necessary upgrades to our financial infrastructure, reduce systemic risk, increase inclusion for all Americans and reinforce our values and the long-term position of the US dollar.”

According to Nikita’s statement, the development of digitized payment and money systems needs to focus on “the time and access frictions facing low-income Americans.” While digital payments streamline traditional banking, there are challenges still that obscure the countrywide adoption of these new technologies.

“Congress must critically review innovations like CBDCs and stablecoins to ensure novel forms do not belie true functions. In terms of financial inclusion, this means ensuring that promises of open access are achievable and ultimately achieved.”

[Also Read: ‌Bank of Canada: Zero-Knowledge Proof Are Insufficient for National Scale CBDC Integration]

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Author: Lujan Odera

BTCPay Server Update Streamlines Refund Process; Adds Notification for Payment Status

The open-source bitcoin payment server BTCPay Server introduced a new system update called Update 1.0.5 on Friday. The updated aim is to ease the interaction between the server and the merchant. This update would make it easier for the merchants to manage their crypto transactions on their website.

The latest update brings a set of new features, including notifications, pull payment, and refunds, along with a few upgrades to the wallet. The BTCPay Server was launched back in 2017 and helped merchants in processing their bitcoin transactions. It also kept all the invoices organized for the owner. The server also has a native wallet that can be used to store bitcoins.

The most talked-about feature of the update is the refund, which streamlines the otherwise quite cluttered process of re-issuing of coins. The update feature would allow merchants to decide a certain amount of bitcoin that can be pulled from the escrow. Before the update, merchants had to manually authorize the payment, where the sender and receiver had no common platform to connect onto, which made the process complex and challenging.

With the new update, merchants won’t have to send and receive numerous messages as the process is automated, where the refund is generated via invoices without the need for any formal communication between the two parties.

The other notable feature is notifications, which comes with an API integration option and allows merchants to monitor their payment status, whether it is confirmed or not. It would also include the status of partial payment and many other similar payments related notifications. All of these will be managed through a dedicated notification page.

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Author: James W

Department of Homeland Security Seeks Blockchain Start-Ups to Mitigate Real Life Challenges

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has called on Blockchain start-ups yet again to create real-life solutions that could solve problems they face.
  • Through their tech scouting wing, the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), they have issued a set of potential use cases they would like solutions for.

Among the array of use cases, the SVIP has included traceability of supply chains revolving on the e-commerce, food and natural gas industry, essential personnel license compelled by Covid-19 travel restrictions, and a potential stand into their Social Security Number system.

SVIP’s technical director, Anil John, highlighted this during a virtual day event on Tuesday, insisting that they were seeking solutions to solve local shortcomings.

In a previous similar Blockchain start-up, the initiative by the DHS and SVIP, where they dangled an $800k grant incentive for start-ups with solutions whose purview could help supplement their anti-counterfeiting and anti-forgery measures. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were all set to gain from the initiative.

Uses Cases That Blockchain May Optimize:

Social Security Number Alternative

Even though the SVIP often been commissioned with finding mitigations to unique problems facing the DHS on numerous occasions. They have called on the Blockchain start-ups to generate a unique identifier system to serve as an option to their SSN program for the DHS privacy office.

Senior director for Privacy Policy and Oversight at DHS, David Linder, has clarified that the system wouldn’t be a replacement to SSN rather a unique identifier that could be shared while averting the risk of revealing personal information.

Essential Personnel Verification

There has also been mention of a digital essential person verification system for U.S. Citizen Immigration Services. To lessen the spread of the Covid-19 virus, travel restrictions in the U.S. were imposed.

To curb the spread of Covid-19 in the U.S., they want to make verification for essential staff easier as core government functions have to carry on. Citing a border control analogy, John illustrated how such a system would come in handy in attestation of essential staff seeking to move across the border to and from Canada.

They have, however, confirmed that this would not be a version of the Covid-19 immunity certificate with John unsatisfied with the logic and science behind the issuance of immunity passports and certificates.

Streamline Supply Chain Traceability

Pitches for Supply chain tracing solutions are also welcome with a keen focus on e-commerce, food, and natural gas sectors.

Director of CBP’s business transformation division, Vincent Annunziato, disclosed that his agency is seeking to do away with paper-based systems in favor of a fully digitized system that has been greenlighted by auditors. He cited Walmart’s leafy greens and FDA’s projects that are all leveraging Blockchain Tech.

Blockchain Interoperability

The SVIP top brass, John, deems the exchange of information across the various Blockchain crucial. He has reiterated on the importance of operating standards that will allow the platforms to overlap hence facilitating information sharing across the Blockchains.

There will be accepting solutions from across the globe and not limit their search to local talents.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Algorand To Record Chess Player Data And Ratings For FIDE Online Arena on Its Blockchain

The official online Body of Chess has selected Algorand’s blockchain platform to record FIDE Online Arena World Chess Player’s data, which would include ratings and titles of players updated in real-time. People would be able to view the details of the online chess tournaments with a click of a button.

FIDE was founded in 1942, and it acts as a governing body for the sport of Chess and also responsible for creating various international chess tournaments. Fide Online Arena is the server which is often used to host official online tournaments and world champions where participants can earn global ratings and titles.

Silvio Micali, the founder of Algorand, also played a game of Chess against grandmaster Sergey Karjakin as the inaugural game for the FIDE Online Arena, and was recorded on the Algorand’s blockchain and broadcasted via World Chess.

Ilya Merenzon, CEO of World Сhess, commented on the decision to move to blockchain stating that it would bring more transparency in record keeping. He said:

“It’s exciting to continue bringing innovation to Chess. The advent of digital games on the internet made Chess more popular than before, and now we can’t wait to further explore blockchain innovation for digital Chess.”

How Algorand’s Blockchain Would be Utilized?

The Official online body of Chess aims to use Algornad’s blockchain to store game results and verify player’s ratings in a way that cannot be manipulated or altered. World Chess would also make use of the blockchain ledger to develop new reward systems and offer incentives to players in using the internal currency.

Blockchain-based ledger would help World Chess to explore the extents of blockchain technology, and they would also like to examine various aspects of the nascent technology.

Sean Ford, COO of Algorand, called their association with World Chess as a historical event and believe the blockchain technology would not only help World Chess to create a robust system for record-keeping but also help in mainstream adoption of the decentralized tech. He said:

“This historical moment brings the blockchain community one step closer to mainstream adoption, as a widely popular competitive game like chess leverages distributed ledger technology to serve as the official record for the trust of millions of online chess players and fans.”

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Author: Hank Klinger

Helium to Expand Internet of Things Network In Europe And Asia; Launches IoT Tab Trackers

  • The internet of things (IoT) focused company – Helium – announced the launch of trackers that can be detected for several miles replacing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices.
  • Furthermore, the success of the company’s blockchain platform in North America sets the company on a global expansion trail to parts of Europe and Asia.

Touted as the world’s first peer to peer wireless network, Helium Hotspots allows users to connect a wide variety of IoT devices to the internet while earning the hotspot controller, Helium (HNT) cryptocurrency. Each hotspot is built on blockchain technology, allowing a peer-to-peer network between the IoT devices and the ability to cover a 10-mile radius.

The launch of the Helium Tabs Trackers

Helium launched its first-ever tracking devices connected to the Hotspots to enhance the location of lost items, pets, etc. According to the release, the “Helium Tabs” (the tracking devices) allow users to locate their lost items up to a 10-mile radius whenever there is a Hotspot nearby.

What Does This All Mean?

Frank Mong, the chief operating officer at Helium, explained how the Tabs work:

“Helium Tabs is a tracking product that allows you to attach to your purse, your dog or cat, and track in real-time where that purse or dog and cat is. All that’s needed is a Helium Hotspot to be within that five to 10-mile radius to give you that information.”

Moreover, every time a Helium Tab connects to a hotspot, the hotspot owner will be paid in HNT tokens. Any low-power wide-area network device specified to LoRWAN is also compatible with the Hotspots. Currently, the cost of a Helium Hotspot is £450, while a Tab tracker costs £49.

Demand Sees Helium Expand to Europe and Asia

The rapid progress in the development and adoption of Helium products across North America has set the company towards a global expansion path, starting with Europe and Asia.

Helium reports that “The People’s Network” is currently connected to over 1000+ cities across the continent, including an ecosystem of “Hotspot owners, customers, partners, and developers.”

The company, created by the co-founder of Napster, is expanding its Hotspots operations to 32 European nations and seven countries in Asia in a bid to create a global wireless IoT network.

Following a $15 million Series C funding round, led by Union Square Ventures and Multicoin Capital, Helium saw accelerated adoption and development rates. It announced its plans to expand its crypto mining modem services to over 250 cities within the U.S.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Major Crypto Projects Help Launch, PayID, An Open Source Payment Tech Simplifying Sending Money

  • The challenges of double, triple confirming crypto addresses could be solved by the new PayID system launched by the Open Payments Coalition – Ripple’s Xpring developers, Blockchain.com and Brave.
  • The platform aims at enhancing sending money, making it to be as easy as sending an email number.
  • The platform will replace the long alphanumeric wallet address with simpler, memorable, and human-readable addresses/ IDs.

Over the years, users have lost their funds over a human error in typing or copy-pasting their lengthy blockchain wallet IDs. With this new technology, all users will need is an email like username to send money across blockchains and later fiat currencies as well. An official Xpring developer account tweeted,

“Sending money should be as easy as sending an email. With #PayID, sending payments across any network and with any currency has never been easier.”

A global presence

According to reports from Ripple, the Open Payments Coalition currently boasts of 40 customers and partners, including payment processor BitPay, Flutterwave, Mercy Corps, and GoPay. Furthermore, with over 100 million customers in the coalition, the adoption of the PayID is expected to be swift.

Several banks, payment service providers, digital wallets, custodians, or remittance providers will be able to instantly send value across the globe through a peer to peer platform. The PayID system will, however, need to compete fiercely with the launch of Facebook’s Libra, also targeting to offer similar services to billions of customers.

Ripple’s PayID also complies with the FinCEN requirements and FAFT directives to provide a safe and regulated platform.

Is the lack of fiat gateways risky?

Despite the hype surrounding the payment solution, there remains a black spot in the coalition – a lacking representation of traditional financial companies as partners. PayID website describes the platform as a “peer-to-peer platform with no central authority,” which maybe scares these heavily regulated fields from participating in the coalition.

The consequence? For a start, the platform will remain a crypto-only transaction platform despite the website saying otherwise. To take over the globe in payments and settlements, PayID will need to offer a direct fiat channel, similar to PayPal, to banks and financial institutions. Not only the crypto companies.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Ripple Submits A Policy Framework To Guide Indian Lawmakers In Regulating Digital Assets

  • The lack of robust laws or policies to guide the growth of crypto in India leaves enthusiasts with frightening thought of the Parliament probably taking steps towards banning crypto altogether.
  • In a bid to prevent this, American startup, Ripple, and largest custodian of XRP released a policy paper to guide digital assets legislation in the country.

India’s blockchain and digital assets industry is currently in limbo as the uncertainty rises from the country’s regulators’ view on crypto assets. Despite the Supreme Court of India ruling in favor of lifting the “unconstitutional” draconian ban on crypto by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the authorities are yet to draft a legal document regulating digital asset ecosystems.

“The Path Forward for Digital Assets Adoption in India”

The paper (titled as above) proposes short and medium-term policy frameworks to lawmakers in India in a bid to boost the overall development of blockchain and digital asset solutions in the country. The paper is filled with Ripple settlement networks and XRP advertisements but still offers a clear path on India coming into the global play in regulating the digital asset taxonomy.

In a statement on the release of the policy framework Sagar Sarbhai, Ripple’s Head of Government & Regulatory Affairs in the APAC region said:

“India is currently presented with an opportunity to develop a regulatory framework for a native digital assets ecosystem. We are optimistic about that after careful deliberation and consultation with industry participants.”

The draft submitted to the Indian legislation employs a “technology-agnostic, principles-based, and risk-adjusted” framework to provide a crisp and clear guidance structure in India.

Short and Medium-Term Plans

Ripple’s paper also offered short and medium-term plans for the Indian legislators, including attracting talent to the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) by drafting a short term digital asset framework for service providers.

The proposal focuses on the development of enterprise use cases for digital assets such as XRP. The paper further touted XRP’s potential in solving the cross border settlement problems across the region.

Furthermore, the paper also calls for the removal of digital assets, cryptocurrencies, and services arising from the “negative listing” in the RBI fintech regulatory sandbox framework. This allows developers the needed freedom to innovate and test their networks within a safe, regulated space. Navin Gupta, Ripple’s managing director in Asia, said:

“Under a clear regulatory framework, individuals and businesses can confidently take full advantage of and operate within a safe environment that encourages the use of innovative technology.”

The digital asset field in India is begging for a regulated platform with exchanges in the country recently approaching the central bank regarding taxation clarity.

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Author: Lujan Odera