Maastricht University Paid TA505 Hacker Group 30 BTC ($220k) To Unlock Ransomware

Maastricht University, located in the Netherlands has reported they became the victim of a ransomware attack that unfolded on December 24 and paid a BTC ransom.

All the IT systems at the University have been pulled down and offline by officials for the damages and in efforts to be contained. The malware cyberattack was the file-encryption type and acknowledged on the University’s website. Educations institute authorities said scientific data wasn’t in any way affected but restoring it may take a few days.

Hackers Received 30 BTC in Ransom

On Wednesday, the University disclosed that it had made a payment of 30 Bitcoin (BTC) to the hackers for the ransom. 30 BTC at the time of the payment was the equivalent of 200,000 Euros or $220,000. The computer systems and emails got unblocked and as said before, the data is safe.

Premiums for Cyber Attack Insurances Higher and Higher

Since ransomware attacks are more common, insurers have raised the cyber security premiums by 25%, especially ever since hospitals, airports and companies have been majorly hacked back in 2019. The University of Maastricht’s Vice President Nick Bos said he considered all the alternatives to paying the ransom, but he didn’t want to rebuild the entire IT network from scratch, as this would have been costlier and precious data would have been lost.

The TA505 Group Behind the Attack

At the press conference held to disclose the information that the University had about the hack, Bos said the initial breach was a result of a click on a phishing email that a member of the staff who hasn’t been identified done a month before. This is what he mentioned about what damage the attack could have had:

“The damage of that to the work of the students, scientists, staff, as well as the continuity of the institution, can scarcely be conceived.”

Fox-IT, which is a cybersecurity team, helped with the analyze of what happened and the recovery of the data. It has identified the hackers as being part of the TA505 Russian-speaking cyber criminal group.

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Author: Oana Ularu

New ‘Spider’ Crypto Routing Scheme By MIT Boost Blockchain Transactions By 4x

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a fresh technology that they claim will help ease the congestion on the cryptocurrency payments networks, Cointelegraph reports.

Dubbed Spider, the new crypto routing scheme will provide enhanced efficiency for payment channel networks commonly known as PCN. In a press statement, MIT claimed that Spider will help in reducing the time used for blockchain-based transactions as well as boost profits.

As per the press release, transactions in PCN are done with little action from the blockchain network. PCN enables the users to charge various accounts with a selected amount of cryptos. The payments are then done through a linkage of similar accounts whereby its only the opening and the closing of the said accounts are registered on the blockchain network.

Although conventional schemes utilize the shortest paths available to conclude a transaction and do not take into account the user’s balance, the new PCN technology depends on bidirectional joint accounts. In this case, payments are only routed to the channels with enough funds to complete the transactions. This, as per the press statement, will help to avoid a case where users within a joint account deals with lots of transactions leading to zero balance and making it hard to route additional transactions.

The researchers also explained that Spider will help in splitting every completed transaction into different smaller packets that can be distributed across various channels at divergent rates.

One of the key researchers of Spider technology is Vibhaalakshmi Sivaraman. He explained:

“Shortest-path routing can cause imbalances between accounts that deplete key payment channels and paralyze the system […] Routing money in a way that the funds of both users in each joint account are balanced allows us to reuse the same initial funds to support as many transactions as possible.”

Another crucial aspect of Spider is that it enables the queing of transactions when the accounts are congested rather than being rejected. The team also came up with an algorithm which will help in identifying the congested accounts.

The implementation of the Spider technology is scheduled to start before the end of this month.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

Hacker Noon To Embed Blockchain Tech Into Its Blog, Allowing More Interactions With Readers

Hacker Noon, a knowledge website, announced they will launch on a blockchain, shortly after leaving Medium for calls of centralization. The official announcement from David Smooke, CEO of Hacker Noon, the blog-style based content site, stated the annotations of users (comments and reactions) will be stored on the users extra storage space to increase efficiency and reduce storage costs.

According to David, the annotations will be powered by ERA Inc.’s GUN, a P2P network, allowing authors to select annotations to be shown on their content from themselves and others. The companies partnered with a goal to improve the overall content sharing field by reducing the cost of storage and setting the platform on a decentralized network. The official website states,

“You, the author, have the power to accept or reject these annotations — if you reject them, they go away, but if you accept them, they show up on your story as a little yellow highlight, under the selected text.”

Once the annotations have been accepted by the author, the users/readers can view and save the annotations and in-line comments on their own devices reducing the cost of storage on the Hacker Noon site. Smooke said,

“Blockchain technology can distribute the hosting cost of running a site like ours, where people spend over 25 million minutes reading each month.”

Since splitting up with Medium, in the first half of the year in 2019, the latter company has tried to buy off Hacker Noon but to no avail. In one instance in March 2019, Smooke said Medium tried to offer a “low price” to purchase the blog but the sum was lower than what Hacker Noon makes a year in sales and advertisements. In a private funding round in 2019, the blog raised over $1 million USD for development from over 1200 investors.

The website currently receives over 4 million users on the site monthly with a target of adding more in the coming years. More developments are expected after the partnership between ERA Inc.’s GUN and Hacker Noon as explained by ERA CEO, Mark Nadal.

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Author: Lujan Odera

When’s Bitcoin Likely to Moon?

  • Bitcoin investors attention should be on just a few of the crypto exchanges and they wouldn’t miss a thing
  • There’s still fake volume in the market but Digital Asset Research says it is “not materially impacting the price”
  • If BTC holds at $7,800, the bottom might be in but a move up means “we’re likely to moon for the next few months at least”

Bitcoin is off to its best start of the year since 2012, gaining 20% in two weeks. The day BTC climbed to $8,900, 2020 high, the market registered record volumes across the market.

However, there’s only a handful of exchanges that are key to setting the prices. Only 10 markets including Binance, Coinbase, Huobi, HitBTC, and Liquid are where most of the price discovery takes place and then migrates to other sites, according to Digital Asset Research.

“There’s some lessons here that most of the time, most of your attention should be on a smaller group of these exchanges,” Doug Schwenk, chairman of DAR told Bloomberg.

This should go some way to ease the concerns of the US Securities and Exchange Commission who has rejected applications from firms seeking to start Bitcoin ETF because of worries over market manipulation.

“Even though we know there’s fake volume in the market, that fake volume is not materially impacting the price,” said Erin Friez, general counsel at DAR.

The firm also found that futures contracts on derivatives exchange BitMEX may have an impact on the digital asset’s price.

Bitcoin pushing towards $10,000 in the next few days

Now, after climbing to $8,900, Bitcoin has now come back down to $8,670 level.

A consolidation after a rally of this size, Mati Greenspan, founder of Quantum Economics says it is a “natural thing to happen.” Greenspan in his daily newsletter, explained,

“We’re now near the top of the channel that we’ve been tracking. Some might even say we’ve broken it. More importantly though, we’re now testing that 200-day moving average.”

We could also see a pullback as there might not be enough steam for BTC to bust through the channel. If BTC holds at $7,800 while on its way to the downside, the former eToro analyst says, it would be safe to say that the bottom is in.

But if Bitcoin does end up surging, after all, Greenspan wager, “we’re likely to moon for the next few months at least.”

Analyst Galaxy also sees Bitcoin pushing towards $10,000 in the next couple of days if we manage to hold $8,500 level.

The analyst also shared another hopium induced chart yesterday where he said if BTC manages to break an important line it will trigger the next parabolic movement that would take us to a new all-time high (ATH).

With Bitcoin price slowly making its way downwards and the Crypto Twitter divided between the bears and bulls, it’s to be seen the direction Bitcoin will move in next.

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Author: AnTy

Rakuten’s Super Points Can Now Become Crypto Assets with Wallet Launch

  • Diamond members have a higher limit on how many Rakuten Super Points they can convert for each transaction and for each month.
  • The only points that users can convert are Rakuten Super Points, and partner service company points are not eligible.

Rakuten is getting involved in the cryptocurrency world with their own loyalty points. A press release from Rakuten directly states that the new services launched through their wallet will allow users to transfer their Super Points into a selection of cryptocurrencies. The app for Rakuten Wallet allows consumers to participate in spot trading.

In Japan, users with a Rakuten Wallet and Super Points have the ability to trade for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Bitcoin Cash, as long as they have at least 100 Rakuten Super Points. Every Super Point is worth one yen during crypto conversion, and the transaction will be recorded in the smartphone app.

Ultimately, the creators of the Rakuten Wallet aim to reduce the difficulty that some consumers face with entering the crypto space, allowing even novice users to get involve with trading. The new service allows customers to also use the Rakuten Super Points for a broader use cases, which makes their loyalty membership program more appealing to consumers.

With the new service, the only points eligible are from Rakuten directly, not their partner service companies. The user can only exchange for amounts over 100 Super Points, though the company has certain restrictions on how many points can be exchanged each month and for each transaction, depending on the current membership.

Diamond members can convert up to 50,000 Rakuten Super Points at once, with a limit of 500,000 Rakuten Super Points per month. Other members have a maximum of 30,000 Rakuten Super Points for each transaction, and a limit of 100,000 Rakuten Super Points per month.

The service will be available starting today.

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Author: Krystle M

Tradeshift Uses Ethereum’s Network To Speed Up Cross Border Payments And Reduce Cost In Test Pilot

The fintech startup Tradeshift says they have been using the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain in order to process cross border transactions. This allowed the firm to reduce costs and make payments between buyers and suppliers faster and more reliable.

Tradeshift Works With Ethereum

Blockchain technology has been expanding in the financial technology market and it has been offering new solutions to companies and firms. In this case, the supply chain fintech company called Tradeshift has been using Ethereum’s public blockchain in order to reduce costs and improve the reliability of cross border transactions made between parties.

In order to do so, the company has been representing invoice values as tokenized IOUs called FlowTokens that were used by both buyers and suppliers. This allowed them to easily make the transfers that were then settled using on-chain fiat currency.

These tokens are very useful for financial firms and other banking companies that would have better solutions to make cross border transactions. Moreover, this token could certainly be used to improve the supply chain management industry.

Earlier this year, Tradeshift worked with Monerium in order to generate an electronic invoice using the Tradeshift platform. By using a smart contract, the transaction was settled in just a day.

There are several governments that are analyzing the possibility to issue Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) that could be used in the future to make transfers between individuals, companies and other parties. However, there are still some challenges that central banks need to face before being able to release these CBDCs to the general public.

The main benefits of these e-currencies are related to cost reductions and improved payment services for companies. Depending on the jurisdictions and means of payment used, fees and settlement times widely change and affect the way in which financial companies handle their transactions.

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Author: Carl T

Justin Sun Rolls Out Beta Test For Shielded Transactions on The Tron (TRX) Network Using zk-SNARK

According to Justin Sun, the CEO of the Tron Foundation, they are ready to beta-test shielded transactions. This would allow the network to process private transactions that hide the sender and receiver’s addresses, transactions input and output and the whole amount transacted between parties.

Tron Tests Shielded Transactions

The last weeks of the year are becoming increasingly productive for some cryptocurrency projects. Justin Sun announced on Twitter a few hours ago that they are working on shielded transactions for TRX.

As he explained, these shielded transactions will use zk-SNARK, also known as Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge. This allows transactions on the network to be 100% shielded and protected.

In addition to it, he stated that they are using a multi-party computation (MPC) protocol that allows them to work transparently and securely in order to prevent malicious attacks on shielded transactions.

Tron is a highly scalable and fast cryptocurrency that is being used in different decentralized applications (dApps) around the world. Users consider Tron is a very reliable digital asset that provides them with the features they need.

Furthermore, the protocol with its new privacy implementation will be highly scalable, which will allow the whole network to welcome as many participants as desired. In general, private transactions tend to be slower and include larger fees due to their larger size in the network.

In addition to it, Justin Sun said that developers can participate and contribute to the crypto project on GitHub. Those that want more information can easily request it via email.

There are other cryptocurrencies that have already implemented privacy features or that are expected to have privacy solutions in the future. For example, Monero (XMR) is the most popular digital asset with privacy features. Litecoin (LTC), one of the top cryptocurrencies in the market is also working on privacy features for users to enjoy more privacy while using the network.

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Author: Carl T

Hackers Take Over Amazon Ring Camera, Demanding 50 Bitcoin Ransom While Setting Off the Alarm

  • The hackers infiltrated the Ring doorbell to make it seem as though they were outside of the couple’s home.
  • Tania Amador was threatened by the hackers, who said she would be “terminated” if she didn’t comply.

Hackers are becoming more and more bold in their efforts to steal cryptocurrency from unsuspecting investors. A recent attack in Texas, for example, involved a breach of home security cameras by these extortionists, hacking the system to demand cryptocurrency from a couple. According to reports from The Next Web’s Hard Fork, Tania Amador gave her security video to the local news to show scammers demanding 50 Bitcoin from the speaker of her Amazon Ring.

Amador (28) lives in Grand Prairie, located just outside of Dallas, Texas. Speaking with WFAA, she stated,

“I was asleep, and our Ring alarm was going off like an intruder had entered our home. Then we heard a voice coming from our camera.”

The voice said, “Ring Support! Ring Support! We would like to notify you that your account has been terminated by a hacker.” However, that’s not where this scary turn of events ended. The scammers then demanded that Amador pay them 50 Bitcoin, worth about $400,000, adding that she would be “terminated” as well, if she didn’t comply. Adding to their scheme, the hackers managed to infiltrate the Ring doorbell, making it look like the scammers were just outside of the house.

In an effort to stop the scammer, since the couple was unsure of what to do, they removed the batteries from the cameras being impacted. While it would be nice if this circumstance was a one-time attack, it isn’t. Ring has actually been dealing with many disgruntled customers due to concerns over privacy, as there have been multiple reports of hacking on their products from unsavory souls. The process itself is relatively easy for hackers, costing as little as $6 for the software necessary to hack it.

Speaking with WFAA and Amador, the home security company reportedly stated that there was a third-party data breach, leaving account holders of Ring system with their data exposed. However, the company was clear in stating that Ring’s own security had not been compromised or breached directly.

Anyone that has devices connected to their internet in their home should be careful of their own security. More devices leave hackers more opportunities to gain access to your private information, so consumers need to take every effort possible to protect themselves and change passwords frequently.

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Author: Krystle M

Bitcoin Miners Turn to Derivatives to Increase their Profitability as Halving Looms & Fees Decline

Bitcoin miners are currently earning 12.5 BTC for each block they mine successfully. The third reward halving will cut down this reward to half to 6.25 BTC.

There are about 5 months left when this event will occur and put a dent in miners’ revenue. But before that could happen BTC miner fees are already down over 24% from the prior week.

The 7-day average for Bitcoin miner fees is down to $166,669, which is down 52% from last month but still up 188% in 2019.

But this needn’t be negative and can be a lagging effect of fewer transactions or better fee estimation by wallets or because of more effective transactions.

Actually, it was in March this year that Bitcoin mining started seeing an uptake after falling to its lowest in February 2019 since August 2017.

Bitcoin Mining Profitability on the Decline

Back in August, Coin Metrics reported that the all-time revenue for Bitcoin miner topped $14 billion. While it took eight years for miners’ total revenue to surpass the $5 billion, the next $5 billion were exceeded in just eight months.

This is because of the increase in Bitcoin prices. In 2019 YTD, Bitcoin is up about 90% after losing 84% of its value in 2018 from the all-time high of $20,000 in 2017.

Most importantly Bitcoin has been making a higher yearly low, from $0.01 in 2010, $4 in 2012, $185 in 2015 to $3,200 in 2018.

Bitcoin mining profitability that has been on an uptrend since December topped in June this year and has been on a decline ever since, as per Bitinfocharts. This is because while BTC price has taken a drop from 2019 high of $13,900 in June, the hash rate continues to climb.

Towards the end of October, Bitcoin hash rate hit an all-time high at 110 Th/s and though it has taken a fall since then it is staying around 90 Th/s.

As such, miners are now looking to hedge the hash rate and wild swings in electricity that can easily turn their profits to losses.

Attracting Traditional Investors

A spike in hash rate means a need for more electricity that drives up the cost and eats into their profits. But now come crypto miners have found the answer in derivatives that will allow them to hedge the hash rate.

These derivatives will allow the miners to price in risk and provide clearer projections of cash flow which is a prerequisite for investors. However, the market is at a very early stage.

“We’re building products around hashrate and difficulty,” Richard Rosenblum co-founder of crypto trader GSR told Reuters, but “It’s going to take more than a few months for there to be significant liquidity.”

In the current environment of ultra-low interest rates, traditional investors are looking for high-yield return options and crypto miners can offer them an attractive proposition.

But Marco Krohn, co-founder of Hong Kong-based Genesis Mining said “these people tend to ask questions” and being “risk-averse.”

And to attract such investors, mining firms are looking at controlling their risks in terms of price and hash rate through financial tools.

According to these firms, the adoption of derivatives in the mining communities has increased in recent months and the market for such products was growing more liquid. Also, more players are on the sidelines watching how these perform before they jump in themselves.

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Author: AnTy

Cryptocurrency Mining Is Not A Taxable Activity, According to Kazakhstan Law

  • Funds resulting from cryptocurrency mining are only taxed when they are converted into fiat currency.
  • Cryptocurrency mining is only an entrepreneurial activity if cryptocurrency mining hardware use is offered as a service.

Mining is an essential component for the cryptocurrency industry, though high electricity fees can make turning a profit more difficult in some areas.

The process itself is treated the same way as self-employment, by some countries, resulting in taxation of the miners associated with it. According to lawmakers in Kazakhstan, this will not be the case for miners in their region.

As mining isn’t considered to be an entrepreneurial activity, miners won’t be taxed while they participate in it, according to reports from the local Kursiv publication. Instead, it is considered a “purely technological process.” However, the new legislation states that the funds will be taxed when the mined cryptocurrency is exchanged for its real-world value in fiat currency.

The news was announced at “Blockchain Day” by Madi Saken, legislative analyst at the National Association for the Development of the Blockchain and the Industry of Data Centers of the Republic of Kazakhstan, on December 4th. The announcement was confirmed by Cointelegraph via email correspondence with Saken.

Based on the report, the lawmakers in Kazakhstan have already finalized laws on the taxation of cryptocurrency, though the presidential administration presently has the laws under consideration. This month, the bill is due to be sent to the lower house of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, which is the Mazhilis.

With this new law, both the legal status and taxation of cryptocurrency mining will be established. Saken noted that tax liabilities are only applicable to “real money,” which digital assets and cryptocurrencies aren’t considered to be. However, when converted into fiat currency, the taxes will be applied. Explaining further, Saken stated,

“Tax liabilities only emerge when there is an income in the form of real money, particularly when a cryptocurrency is exchanged for real money, which means it is sold on an exchange. Then, this income in the form of classic money will be subject to taxation.”

At this point, the only circumstance in which crypto mining is categorized as an “entrepreneurial activity” is if there is a service that allows an individual or company to use their mining hardware. Hence, mining farms will be taxed, as well as data centers.

Even with this taxation, the government in Kazakhstan has been more supportive and optimistic in the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors.

The governor of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) stated that last year that the innovation of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology will continue, even as the need of regulation arises.

AIFC, the main financial hub in Kazakhstan, partnered with the Bitfury blockchain tech firm in May this year, with the purpose of incorporating blockchain technology in multiple industries.

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Author: Krystle M