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Blockchain and Cryptocurrency News 13 Aug 2019

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China’s central bank says their digital currency is ready.

A senior official at China’s central bank announced at the China Finance 40 Group meeting that the country will soon roll out its central bank digital currency. Mu Changchun, Deputy Chief in the Payment and Settlement Division of the People’s Bank of China stated that the currency prototype exists and the Bank’s Digital Money Research Group has already fully adopted the blockchain architecture for the currency. China’s digitally currency will not rely entirely on a pure blockchain architecture, as this would not allow the currency to achieve the throughput required for retail usage. How will the rollout of this digital currency affect the crypto market?

Binance being held ransom after a KYC hack.

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, if you are measuring by daily trade volume, is in the midst of a hacking scandal that saw the criminal allegedly gain possession of a huge chunk of the firm’s Know Your Customer data. The hacker is reportedly demanding a total of 300 Bitcoins from the exchange, or else he or she will release all of the data. This is a ransom of over 3 million dollars in value. Whether the ransom is paid or not paid, how will this affect trust in the Binance platform moving forward?

Malware program is toxic for the computers of its users.

Malware Smominru the malware software has been reported to have infected about half a million computers and is now stealing user data. The change in the malware was first discovered during an investigation into anomalous activity behavior seen across a handful of endpoints. When investigating, the researchers found “sophisticated, multi-stage malware that was sending detailed system metadata to a network of hijacked web servers.” How will this affect the people using this software?

U.S. Department of Energy invests in blockchain.

The United States Department of Energy has given a grant worth $1.05 million to organizations working to commercialize a blockchain-based energy transaction platform. The new project is reportedly a continuation of BEM Controls’ existing Department of Energy-funded work on software to enhance energy efficiency in buildings. This latest grant is to expand and promote a new blockchain-based energy marketplace, with ComEd to use its Grid of the Future Lab to demonstrate the new system’s functionality.

Will Ethereum 2.0 lead to a bull run?

Bitcoin’s has done well in its bull run in recent months, but many altcoins have not had the same level of growth – including major ones like Ethereum. Now, analysts are noting that Ethereum could still see some bullish price action in the near-future, but what is it that will send Ethereum on a strong move back to where it was not even 2 years ago. One of the key factors here may be that many people are waiting for Ethereum 2.0 When will this be released and how will it affect Ethereum and the rest of the crypto marketplace?

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California Man Sues AT&T Over Loss Of Crypto Accounts

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California Man Sues AT&T Over Loss Of Crypto Accounts
California Man Sues AT&T Over Loss Of Crypto Accounts

California resident Seth Shapiro has filed a lawsuit against wireless service giant AT&T alleging that its employees helped to perpetrate a SIM-swap which resulted in the theft of over $1.8 million in total, including cryptocurrencies. The complaint filed on Oct. 17 claims that Shapiro is “a two-time Emmy Award-winning media and technology expert, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.” The lawsuit alleges that between May 16 and May 18 AT&T employees transferred access to Shapiro’s mobile phone to outside hackers:

“AT&T employees obtained unauthorized access to Mr. Shapiro’s AT&T wireless account, viewed his confidential and proprietary personal information, and transferred control […] to a phone controlled by third-party hackers in exchange for money. […] The hackers then utilized their control over Mr. Shapiro’s AT&T wireless number […] to access his personal and digital finance accounts and steal more than $1.8 million.”

The document states that these actions allowed the hackers to also access Shapiro’s accounts on several cryptocurrency exchanges:

“While third parties had control over Mr. Shapiro’s AT&T wireless number, they used that control to access and reset the passwords for Mr. Shapiro’s accounts on cryptocurrency exchange platforms including KuCoin, Bittrex, Wax, Coinbase, Huobi, Crytopia, LiveCoin, HitBTC, Coss.io, Liqui, and Bitfinex.”

The plaintiff also claims to have chat logs in which AT&T employees and hackers discuss how the stolen money should be routed and brag about how much they took.

Shapiro also claims that he fell victim to SIM-swapping multiple times, therefore his personal information and online accounts were already leaked in the past. The complaint states:

“AT&T’s Repeated Failures to Protect Mr. Shapiro’s Account from Unauthorized Access Are a Violation of Federal Law.”

More precisely, Shapiro alleges that AT&T violates the Federal Communications Act for failing to protect the confidentiality of his account information. He also claims that the telecom giant violated several California state laws, including the Unfair Competition Law, the Constitutional Right to Privacy and the Consumers Legal Remedy Act. Lastly, Shapiro also accuses AT&T of two acts of negligence.

Notably, this is not the first lawsuit against AT&T over SIM-swapping. As it was reported on July 27, the federal judge overseeing the Terpin v. AT&T case dismissed the motion. At the time, this was the latest development in a legal battle about cryptocurrencies stolen via SIM-swapping that has been going on for almost a year.

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A New Trend in Crypto Funding Campaigns: IEOs

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The second quarter of 2019 demonstrated growing popularity of the initial exchange offering (IEO), which has replaced the outdated initial coin offering (ICO) model. The new trend — the key role of which is played by a cryptocurrency exchange auditing projects and organizing token sales — has established itself positively among startups.

Crypto market stats show that over 65 IEOs have been launched in the past six months, with about 40 of them have reached their soft cap or even hard cap successfully. About 15 IEOs will be launched in the next three months. Notably, half of them are conducted by projects that have already completed their IEOs. All told, 245 projects conducted an IEO and managed to collect $3.4 billion over the past three years.

One, two, three IEOs

However, it can’t be said whether IEOs are still the latest trend in the crypto market, even though they have outperformed ICOs and security token offerings (STOs) in recent months, such as a certain IEO attracting investments that amounted to 79% of all funds raised from ICOs, IEOs and STOs.

While more crypto exchanges announce their support of IEO projects, a new crowdfunding trend is emerging on the crypto market: a shift to multiple IEOs. This resembles the initial public offering (IPO) market a few years ago when large companies repeated rounds to expand their pool of investors.

As the crypto market is constantly evolving, many projects consider repeating their IEO rounds, especially if the previous one turned out to be successful. It’s a trend for which an exact name has not yet been established. Some call it a “second IEO,” while others refer to several IEOs being conducted by the same project on different exchanges as a “multilaunchpad IEO.”

One of the blockchain-backed international investment services that are conducting a multilaunchpad campaign, Roobee, is preparing for its third IEO. The company’s co-founder, Artem Popov, explained that this strategy is best when a company needs to expand its business globally:

“When promoting a real product, it is very important to offer it to a large audience. If you really have a strong and interesting idea behind your project, you need to give equal opportunity to users from different regions to participate in it. For this purpose, conducting IEO on different exchanges is a perfect match.”

Another new IEO subspecies that have appeared on the market is the security token exchange offering (STEO). The founder of this trend is Dreamr Inc., a social media and crowdfunding platform, which in September announced the world-first STEO on the IDCM exchange. Chris Adams, the CEO of Dreamr Inc., shared his thoughts about the trend created by the company:

“Inspired by IEO benefits we were seeking an effective way to adapt to the changing market. IEO has replaced the outdated ICO and has established itself as an all-in-one method of attracting investment, which meets security standards and serves as a reliable way to issue, offer and trade a token. STEO is just an extended version of IEO combining the exchange offering security and the investment attractiveness of the STO model. I guess many traditional exchanges have been looking to do something like this for years.”

Multiple IEOs and STEOs vs. an IPO: Who wins the race?

Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida and IPO expert, spent many years studying the development of the IPO market and has come to the conclusion that the market has been shrinking over the past few decades. Companies with an income of $100 million or less can no longer afford to promote and establish a new brand as others could 30 years ago.

Picture 1Notably, most IEOs are held by projects focused on trading and investing (over 70%), payments (about 9%) as well as commerce and the Internet of Things (IoT). Meanwhile, companies resort to STOs and ICOs to raise money for the development of products in markets such as mining, social network, the marketplace, content management, data storage, and AI.

According to the statistics, the number of investments attracted through IEOs from April 2019 to September 2019 comprised 5% of the amount attracted for the same period from IPOs. This is 50 times more than last year, equal to 0.001%.

Picture 2As analysts predict, with the advent of STEOs and multilaunchpad IEOs, the share of investments in IEO can become much larger, catching up with IPO market indicators.

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TRON Plagued By Infestation Of dApp Bots

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TRON Plagued By Infestation Of dApp Bots

AnChain is a new analytics startup, and it’s on a mission: to uncover dApp bots wherever they hide. During Q1 of 2019, the firm surveyed TRON’s top ten gambling dApps and found a large number of bots. Roughly 31% of surveyed accounts and 19% of transactions were bot-driven, accounting for a whopping $270 million of dApp volume.

For TRON’s critics, this is an enticing follow-up to reports about TRON’s bot-driven Twitter traffic. However, AnChain isn’t pointing fingers at any single blockchain. It previously found that on EOS, bots accounted for 51% of surveyed accounts and 75% of transactions. The firm plans to examine Ethereum as well, according to a representative.

AnChain’s goal is to promote better data and bring transparency to all blockchains. Though it makes recommendations for all sectors of the blockchain industry, it’s particularly focused on rating sites. “All DApp rating sites ought to leverage sophisticated bot detection engines,” AnChain says—and it’s in a good position to get this done.

Finding Elusive TRON Bots

AnChain’s report explains that it is quite difficult to detect blockchain bots. For one thing, blockchain addresses can be rapidly generated, meaning that static blacklists of bots aren’t too useful. Plus, bots are hard to distinguish from humans if they behave in complex ways, meaning that rule-based bot detection isn’t always effective.

For instance, single bots often behave according to simple, regular, and obvious patterns. However, AnChain has observed that TRON allows multiple accounts to be created quite inexpensively. As a result, many TRON bots are “group bots,” and their coordinated behavior patterns only become apparent when accounts are examined together.

AnChain used machine learning techniques to sort through thousands of accounts and find these group bots. This has proven to be quite effective: AnChain was able to identify unusual activity that it initially missed, raising the detected number of bot accounts from 18% to 31%—a substantial increase, and one that is not easy to achieve.

It’s not all bad news: TRON’s top three gambling apps were largely human-used. On the flip side, this means that bots were concentrated among lower-ranking dApps: over 70% of the discovered bot accounts were found in the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th largest dApps.

Ultimately, the severity of TRON’s bot problem depends on how you slice it.


Good Stats Are Hard To Find

AnChain is an analytics firm—despite its advice, live data sites aren’t yet diving into bot statistics. State of the DApps, DAppReview, and Dapp.com do not appear to have ever commented on the presence of bots. DAppRadar, meanwhile, claims that it excludes bot data from its stats, but it’s not clear how its data has been adjusted.

DAppTotal does a better job: it removes bot data in a clear way. It offers a toggle that hides and shows bot data, and it also shows a column that displays how much dApp activity is “real.” DAppTotal’s bot-detecting systems may or may not be as advanced as AnChain’s systems, but it is making an effort while few other sites are doing the same.

In fairness, other sites are more concerned with other statistics. DApp.com, for example, has noted that humans can falsely drive up usage statistics: many daily “active” users actually log into a dApp without using it. DAppRadar, likewise, has noted that airdrops can attract inactive users.

Basically, bots aren’t the only way to inflate statistics.


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em?

As AnChain observes, trading bots were a precursor to what is currently happening in the dApp world. However, AnChain may be picking the wrong side of the fight: although many complain that trading bots are causing widespread market manipulation, bots are also useful tools for traders. Often, human beings just can’t compete with bots.

AnChain does acknowledge that “good bots” exist, but only for QA testing and gameplay purposes. It doesn’t seem to endorse the general mainstreaming of bots, a trend that Dropil, Hummingbird, and other bot services are capitalizing on. It’s possible that similar services will be targeted at dApp users, though none seem to exist right now.

Unfortunately, bots can be used for evil as well: they can create false data, mislead customers, and prop up token values in an unsustainable way. It’s particularly bad if dApp creators or investors use bots to raise a dApp’s ranking.

Thanks to AnChain, the rest of us might not need to surrender to a bot takeover—at least, not yet.

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