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Cryptocurrency And Blockchain News Update 19th February 2020

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India To Use Blockchain For Voting

India’s citizens will soon be able to cast votes from outside their city of registration thanks to a blockchain-based system. India’s Chief Election Commissioner said that the country hopes to increase voter turnout with a blockchain-based voting solution. 

China Using Blockchain To Fight Coronavirus

With the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, China has turned to blockchain technology to manage medical data, track supply of virus prevention materials and consult the public. For the first two weeks of February, China saw the launch of as many as 20 blockchain-based applications designed to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. Most of the apps are used to manage citizens’ personal data as many people are returning to work this month.

IOTA Updates Trinity Wallet

Following an apparent hack of IOTA (MIOTA) official wallet on Feb. 12, the IOTA Foundation has released a safe desktop version of the Trinity wallet. According to a Feb. 17 update post, IOTA should update their Trinity apps to securely check their balances and transactions via Trinity 1.4.1, a new version that is designed to remove the recently detected vulnerability from the wallets. The new version of the wallet doesn’t apparently represent the full solution of the recent breach because the IOTA’s dedicated network Coordinator, is still on hold

BitcoinAnd Google Scandal

A new extortion scam targeting website owners serving banner ads through Google’s AdSense program has begun circulating the Internet. The malicious scheme demands Bitcoin (BTC) in exchange for preventing an attack, which would purportedly lead to the users’ AdSense account suspension.

Binance Cloud Has Been Launched!

Binance cloud is here, According to the announcement from Binance, Binance Cloud will serve as an all-in-one infrastructure platform for customers and partners to launch digital asset exchanges based on Binance’s industry-leading technology, security, liquidity as well as custodial services. The solution also supports dashboard for managing funds, multilingual functionality, as well as a range of trading pairs and coin listings. The Binance’s new exchange-specific cloud solution will provide users with a method of setting up a crypto platform in their local markets. Binance Cloud’s features include crypto spot market and futures trading as well as local bank API integrations and peer-to-peer exchange services from fiat to crypto, the announcement notes. In the future, Binance Cloud plans to add more features like staking, over-the-counter trading services as well as token issuance with initial exchange offering platform.

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Sophisticated Mining Botnet Has Been Identified After 2 Years

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Sophisticated Mining Botnet Has Been Identified After 2 Years
Sophisticated Mining Botnet Has Been Identified After 2 Years

Cybersecurity firm, Guardicore Labs, revealed the identification of a malicious crypto-mining botnet that has been operating for nearly two years on April 1. The threat actor, dubbed ‘Vollgar’ based on its mining of the little-known altcoin, Vollar (VSD), targets Windows machines running MS-SQL servers — of which Guardicore estimates there are just 500,000 in existence worldwide. However, despite their scarcity, MS-SQL servers offer sizable processing power in addition to typically storing valuable information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details.

Once a server is infected, Vollgar “diligently and thoroughly kills other threat actors’ processes,” before deploying multiple backdoors, remote access tools (RATs), and crypto miners. 60% were only infected by Vollgar for a short duration, while roughly 20% remained infected for up to several weeks. 10% of victims were found to have been reinfected by the attack. Vollgar attacks have originated from more than 120 IP addresses, most of which are located in China. Guardicore expects most of the addresses corresponding to compromised machines that are being used to infect new victims. Guidicore lays part of the blame with corrupt hosting companies who turn a blind eye to threat actors inhabiting their servers, stating:

“Unfortunately, oblivious or negligent registrars and hosting companies are part of the problem, as they allow attackers to use IP addresses and domain names to host whole infrastructures. If these providers continue to look the other way, mass-scale attacks will continue to prosper and operate under the radar for long periods of time.”

Guardicore cybersecurity researcher, Ophir Harpaz, said that Vollgar has numerous qualities differentiating it from most cryptojacking attacks.

“First, it mines more than one cryptocurrency – Monero and the alt-coin VSD (Vollar). Additionally, Vollgar uses a private pool to orchestrate the entire mining botnet. This is something only an attacker with a very large botnet would consider doing.”

Harpaz also notes that unlike most mining malware, Vollgar seeks to establish multiple sources of potential revenue by deploying multiple RATs on top of the malicious crypto miners. “Such access can be easily translated into money on the dark web,” he adds.

While the researcher did not specify when Guardicore first identified Vollgar, he states that an increase in the botnet’s activity in December 2019 led the firm to examine the malware more closely. “An in-depth investigation of this botnet revealed that the first recorded attack dated back to May 2018, which sums up to nearly two years of activity,” said Harpaz.

To prevent infection from Vollgar and other crypto mining attacks, Harpaz urges organizations to search for blind spots in their systems.

“I would recommend starting with collecting netflow data and getting a full view into what parts of the data center are exposed to the internet. You cannot enter a war without intelligence; mapping all incoming traffic to your data center is the intelligence you need to fight the war against cryptominers.”

“Next, defenders should verify that all accessible machines are running with up-to-date operating systems and strong credentials,” he adds.

In recent weeks, cybersecurity researchers have sounded the alarm regarding a rapid proliferation in scams seeking to leverage coronavirus fears. Last week, U.K. county regulators warned that scammers were impersonating the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to redirect victims to malicious links or to fraudulently receive donations as Bitcoin (BTC). At the start of March, a screen lock attack circulating under the guise of installing a thermal map tracking the spread of coronavirus called ‘CovidLock’ was identified.

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Gamers In Quarantine Are Straining Microsoft Azure-based Blockchain Platform

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Gamers In Quarantine Are Straining Microsoft Azure-based Blockchain Platform
Gamers In Quarantine Are Straining Microsoft Azure-based Blockchain Platform

Microsoft has acknowledged that the quarantined gamers are putting a strain on its Azure cloud platform which is a backbone of the company’s Blockchain As a Service (BaaS) offering. In the SEC filing, Microsoft addresses the impact of “the global health pandemic” on its Azure cloud services. The company admits that in certain regions “deployments for some compute resource types (…) drop below our typical 99.99 percent success rates”. Furthermore, Microsoft confirms that “Xbox Live [is] putting a strain on overall Azure capacity:”

“As a result of the surge in use over the last week, we have experienced significant demand in some regions (Europe North, Europe West, UK South, France Central, Asia East, India South, Brazil South) and are observing deployments for some compute resource types in these regions drop below our typical 99.99 percent success rates.”

However, the company has not been forced to change its prioritization criteria, still giving precedence to emergency services. A Microsoft spokesperson said that the company has “nothing to share beyond the Microsoft Azure blog.”

Azure users can deploy a blockchain network, including Bitcoin (BTC), in the cloud without having to invest in their own hardware infrastructure. Among its clients are GE Aviation, J.P. Morgan, and its own Xbox. Meanwhile the demand for the Bitcoin network is at the lowest point since “crypto winter.”

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Traditional Traders More Interest in Crypto

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Traditional Traders More Interest in Crypto
Traditional Traders More Interest in Crypto

A survey published on March 31 revealed that senior trading executives believe that large companies in the business would be interested in taking advantage of the recent crypto plunge, particularly Bitcoin (BTC). According to the Adoption of Digital Asset Trading report published by Acuiti management intelligence platform, about 100 venues capable of trading cryptocurrencies have launched for institutional clients. The survey shows greater adoption of digital assets among sell-side service providers (26%) than traditional trading firms (17%). However, it clarified that the adoption rates are limited to the CME or Bakkt.

All the crypto trading firms that were studied in the report realized that there was a growing interest in Bitcoin derivatives. About 57% of traditional trading firms have traded Bitcoin, while 29% traded Ethereum (ETH) derivatives. One of the findings of the survey is that although XRP is being ranked as the eighth most popular digital asset, XRP/USD was ranked 5th in the ranking of the preferred cryptocurrency pair within institutional firms. Their top three primary considerations are liquidity, volatility, and arbitrage opportunities.

One of the biggest concerns among all trading institutions surveyed, including those still waiting to trade digital assets like cryptocurrencies, was the security vulnerabilities of exchange and fears over hacking. Another concern detailed in the report is fear of reputational damage, which is why many trading institutions do not want to offer digital assets among their portfolio. Although the survey still believes that adoption rates remain low, the future looks bright in terms of adoption. 97% of traditional trading firms are considering trading digital assets within the next two years.

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