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TON Devs Worldwide Working Together To Intervene In SEC Case Against Telegram

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TON Devs Worldwide Working Together To Intervene In SEC Case Against Telegram
TON Devs Worldwide Working Together To Intervene In SEC Case Against Telegram

A group of international Telegram Open Network (TON) contributors has submitted a court document criticizing United States regulators’ line of attack against the project. The group has formed a non-profit association, “The TON Community Foundation,” and collectively submitted the brief on Feb. 14 in the form of an amicus curiae.

 An amicus curiae is a brief that offers expertise or insight into a given case on behalf of an entity that is not formally a party to the case itself — i.e. an entity that is neither a plaintiff, defendant, nor legal counsel for either side. The court can decide whether or not to take the brief into account at its discretion.

In their filing, the contributors state that the foundation has been formed to represent a “professional community of active participants in the TON project in whose interest it is to see the TON blockchain mainnet launched as soon as possible.” The foundation comprises 20 teams in the TON global community, designated as “independent specialists with extensive blockchain experience who are involved in the actual work on the TON blockchain and who write its code, protocol, smart contracts, tools, and applications.” These 20 teams ostensibly represent over 2,000 computer scientists, engineers, programmers, and entrepreneurs — based in China, Russia, France, and Spain, among other countries.

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The foundation writes that the unanimous position of the TON dev community is that the TON blockchain is fully operational, has “state-of-the-art prelaunch security” and a developed suite of services. They contend it would, in its current state, be ready for launch as a mainnet in a “matter of seconds.” The brief focuses on particular arguments that were presented by Brown University Professor Maurice Herlihy in his review of TON for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Following Telegram’s wildly successful $1.7 billion initial coin offering for TON in 2018, the SEC had launched an investigation into the project in 2019, claiming the entity had not registered with the commission for its ICO and the network’s “Gram” tokens. The Herlihy report was submitted as evidence on behalf of the SEC in late December 2019. In its brief, the foundation argues that the court should decline the SEC’s impulse to place the industry under an “innovation-suffocating regime,” it contends. It argues that other successful blockchains — such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Tezos — would never have launched had they been subjected to Professor Herlihy’s “academic scrutiny” and his “unrealistic standards of pre-launch performance, security, and maturity.” Moreover, despite Professor Herlihy serving as the SEC’s blockchain expert, the foundation claims he has mischaracterized the TON network in his report. It notes that he uses a blockchain definition from 2010 that has since become obsolete, which fails to account for smart contract functionality as one of the technology’s core parameters. 

What makes the TON blockchain unique, the brief outlines, is that literally “everything in its network is based on interaction with smart contracts” and “all Grams will be located in smart contracts,” so that, “in a way, TON is a smart contract platform more than a cryptocurrency one.” The rest of the foundation’s arguments against Professor Herlihy’s report provide a detailed overview of the state of the network’s services, readiness for launch, protocol, code, and security audit results.

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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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