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Exposed: Bitcoin Scam Used New Zealand’s Prime Minister as an Endorsement

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is the latest high-profile individual to be used in perpetuating a cryptocurrency scam.

 

According to the Prime Minister’s office, various ads bearing her image have appeared on social media network Facebook with the intention of persuading citizens of the Asia Pacific country to invest in a cryptocurrency startup.

To add to the legitimacy, the ads also allege that the New Zealand Treasury has invested approximately NZ$250 million, or ‘50%’ of its currency reserves in a cryptocurrency firm known as Bitcoin Revolution, according to Stuff.

 

“The New Zealand Treasury has just invested half of its wealth into a new project which the government believes will shape the future of the financial industry. The New Zealand Treasury now looks set to take the world of blockchain technology by storm. On Saturday, they finalized a $250 million deal with The Bitcoin Revolution, saying that ‘the future of finance depends upon people having access to the best possible resources’,” read one of the ads before they were eventually deleted by Facebook.

 

New Fraud Plan

The ads which bore the headline ‘New Investment Plan for Kiwis’ targeted different demographic groups with some of them aimed at those aged between 30 and 45 while others were directed at those aged between 46 and 65.

 

Late last year, John Key, the immediate former Prime Minister of New Zealand, was also featured on ads that appeared on social media platforms and which claimed that an investment of NZ$1,000 he had made seven years prior had resulted in a NZ$300 million fortune.

Such cryptocurrency scams are a global epidemic, however, and are not restricted to New Zealand. Last month, for instance, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) was forced to issue a statement warning citizens over a fraudulent bitcoin investment scheme which purported to have been endorsed by the chairman of the MAS and Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

 

Riding the Celebrity Bandwagon

In August the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, was also a victim of cryptocurrency scammers who used his image and person to promote a fraudulent bitcoin giveaway on social media. During the same month, the Twitter account belonging to the co-founder and CEO of electric car maker Tesla, Elon Musk, was momentarily hacked and used to promote a bitcoin and ethereum giveaway scam to followers of the tech billionaire.

 

Other high-profile figures who have been impersonated include the co-founder of ethereum Vitalik Buterin, Hollywood actor William Shatner, tech entrepreneur and cryptocurrency evangelist John McAfee, and the founder and chairman of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson.

https://www.ccn.com/exposed-bitcoin-scam-used-new-zealands-prime-minister-as-an-endorsement/

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Watch out Wall Street, Blockchain is Coming: Fmr. JPMorgan Exec. Blythe Masters

Blockchain innovator and former JPMorgan head of commodities Blythe Masters spoke at the London Metal Exchange annual dinner during the LME Week to say that blockchain is coming to commodity markets to introduce heightened confidentiality, reduce paper waste, and improve provenance and productivity.

 

Masters — who became managing director at JPMorgan at the age of 28 before becoming the head of global commodities — is not without her share of controversy in the financial space. She’s widely credited with creating a credit derivative vehicle known as the credit default swap, which has been identified as one of several investment vehicles responsible for the global economic crash of 2008. Her creation has been described in the media as a  financial weapon of mass destruction.

However, there’s no denying that Masters is an expert in the field of finance and commodities, and with her new role as CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, which develops blockchain solutions for financial services, there are few people better qualified to speak on the application and adoption of blockchain in the commodities industry.

 

“Supply chains are notoriously complex and inefficient,” Masters said during her London speech. “This is especially true in the metals and mining industry where many operational and commercial practices remain inefficient and antiquated, leading to critical data omissions, security vulnerabilities, expenses, corruption, and unethical provenance.”

 

Blockchain has a potentially revolutionary role to play in future supply chain tracking of goods in all industries from food and clothing to commodities like gold, diamonds, oil, and more, Masters reminded 2,000 investors, brokers, metal producers, and buyers of this at the LME dinner, highlighting the potential use cases of mining, shipping, and trading of metals.

“Blockchain facilitates the exchange of critical trade documents, bills of lading, letters of credit between connected users securely and confidentially,” she said. “Clearly the indications for metals mining, shipping, storage, and logistics industries are nontrivial.”

 

Many projects are already underway in the sector with Swiss commodities giant Mercuria testing blockchain as a method of supply chain tracking for crude oil. Mercuria is one of the world’s largest traders of commodities, and the CEO has stated that blockchain could slash oil industry costs by up to 30 percent. Meanwhile, Agora Commodities has partnered with DigitalTangible, the world’s first bitcoin precious metals trading platform, to allow investors and traders to buy and sell tokenized metals with verifiable tokens on the blockchain.

https://www.ccn.com/watch-out-wall-street-blockchain-is-coming-fmr-jpmorgan-exec-blythe-masters/

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Why Investors are Highly Optimistic in Acquisition of Korea’s Largest Crypto Exchange

On October 12, CCN reported that BK Global Consortium, the parent company of Singapore-based BK Medical Group, has acquired a 50 percent stake in Bithumb, South Korea’s largest crypto exchange.

 

Kim Byung-gun, a prominent plastic surgeon and blockchain investor, finalized the deal between BK Global Consortium and Bithumb, officially acquiring the leading cryptocurrency trading platform at a valuation of $350 million.

 

Investors Highly Optimistic in the Deal

For many years, despite three high profile security breaches that have led to the loss of tens of millions of dollars in user funds, Bithumb has been able to secure its position as the most dominant digital asset trading platform in South Korea alongside Upbit.

 

In late 2017, Dunamu, a subsidiary of Kakao, the largest Internet conglomerate in the country that has over 80 percent market share in fintech, payments, online stock brokerage, ride-hailing, and messaging, launched Upbit to compete against Bithumb and Korbit.

Currently, Upbit is engaging in a tight competition against Bithumb, often demonstrating a higher daily trading volume possibly due to its listing of more than 100 cryptocurrencies.

 

But, the sophisticated platform of Upbit, that has been audited several times for transparency and investor protection, has not been enough to overtake Bithumb and its loyal user base.

 

 

 

The majority of investors in South Korea remain highly optimistic in the acquisition of Bithumb by BK Global Consortium because with the deal, now every major cryptocurrency exchange in the country is operated by large-scale conglomerates.

 

Upbit is run by Kakao, Gopax is run by the country’s largest commercial bank Shinhan, Korbit is run by $15 billion Nexon, and Bithumb is operated by BK.

One commonality amongst major cryptocurrency exchanges operated by leading multi-billion dollar conglomerates is that none of the platforms have experienced security breaches and successful hacking attempts. Korbit, Upbit, and Gopax have not been hacked in their entirety, because of their focus on security and investor protection.

 

For conglomerates in South Korea, it is of utmost importance to protect their name value and brand image due to the psychology of local investors. More often than not, when a local conglomerate begins to demonstrate a downtrend and loses the support of local consumers, it fails to survive in the long run.

 

With the involvement of BK, investors are anticipating a re-established focus on security, internal system management, and overall improvement in investor protection, which will help legitimize the cryptocurrency exchange market of South Korea.

Prior to the acquisition of Bithumb by BK, the publicly listed exchange was owned and operated by a talent agency and a couple of non-finance related businesses, which led investors to speculate that the exchange was being forced to maximize profits at the cost of security and system stability.

 

What Investors Can Expect Next

Binance and Upbit have recently announced their plans to expand to the cryptocurrency exchange market of Singapore, subsequent to the decision of the government to provide stable banking services to crypto-related businesses and develop the local blockchain industry.

 

Given the strong connections of BK with the Singaporean market, investors are expecting Bithumb to expand its services to Singapore in the months to come.

https://www.ccn.com/wkd-why-investors-are-highly-optimistic-in-acquisition-of-koreas-largest-crypto-exchange/

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Boxing Legend Manny Pacquiao’s Cryptocurrency Could Launch This Year

Manny Pacquiao’s long-awaited cryptocurrency could launch by the end of the year.

 

According to a StraitsTimes report, Singapore based Global Crypto Offering Exchange (GCOX) is in charge of the launch of the Pac Tokens, the cryptocurrency that leverages on the popularity of the Philippine boxing legend.

The news outlet quoted GCOX chief communications officer Evan Ngow who said the only delay being experienced is with the Phillippine Securities and Exchange Commission who is yet to finalize its rules regarding initial coin offerings. The regulations should be ready before year-end, according to Ngow. The company is also working hand in hand with Pacquiao’s team on the volume and value of Pac Tokens to be issued out to members of the public.

 

The Filipino fighter, an eight-division world champion, is also a celebrity ambassador for tGCO, a blockchain platform that allows celebrities to create their cryptocurrencies which fans can then use to pay for access to exclusive celebrity-related content sold through the GCOX platform. The platform aims to establish the first “authoritative popularity index” through the valuation of tokens created for celebrities on its platform, and it claims the listing of the tokens on its platform will serve as an “objective indication” of the celebs popularity.

Other boxing legends that have been involved with crypto in the past include Welterweight Champion Floyd Mayweather who has promoted several ICOs in the past, while Hall of Fame boxer Evander Holyfield also endorsed an ICO that was later slapped with a cease-and-desist order by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

 

Aside from the launch of Pac Tokens, GCOX is also planning to launch tokens for American singer Jason Derulo and English football legend Michael Owen.

 

Pacquiao, who is also a sitting Philippine senator, also invested an undisclosed amount of money in GCOX, according to a report in regional business publication Entrepreneur Philippines, while the company’s website claims that retired football star Michael Owen is also an investor.

https://www.ccn.com/boxing-legend-manny-pacquiaos-cryptocurrency-could-launch-this-year/

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Chilean Bitcoin Exchange Buda Adds Lightning Network Support

Buda, one of Chile’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges by trading volume, has recently introduced support for Lightning Network (LN) payments on its platform, to allow its users to experiment with the second layer scaling solution.

 

Bitcoin Exchange Now Accepts Lightning Network Payments

According to a recently published blog post, users will be able to pay via the Lightning Network using funds they have deposited on the exchange. To do this, all they’ll have to do is get an invoice from a vendor accepting LN payments, and then upload it on Buda’s website.

 

The post reads:

 

“If everything is ok with the details of your purchase, press the ‘Pay’ button and in moments you will receive a confirmation with the result of your payment. The Bitcoin that you use will be deducted from your balance and the payment will appear in the list of recent Bitcoin withdrawals.”

 

The post details that users can already pay for a few things using the LN, including hosting services on Bitlaunch; prepaid cards, vouchers, and games on Bitrefill; books and art on CoinMall; and more.

 

The post adds, however, that payments made using the Lightning Network are using new technology that’s still in an experimental phase and, as such, there aren’t a lot of services accepting LN payments.

Buda further points to websites like Y’alls, where users can pay for articles using the network, and Satoshi’s Place, a collaborative drawing platform where users pay per pixel. The technology has also recently been used by a programmer in Brazil to build a prototype of a Coca-Cola vending machine.

 

The Chilean exchange isn’t the first to experiment with the LN. Earlier this year, crypto-to-gold exchange Vaultoro revealed it was  accepting deposits through the network, limited to 100 satoshis per transaction because of its young age.

 

Crypto Industry in Chile

 

 

Notably, Buda recently made headlines after seeing Chile’s anti-monopoly court order two major Chilean banks to re-open its accounts. As CCN reported, Buda had filed a lawsuit against ten banks, including those ordered to re-open its accounts: Itau Corpbanca and Banco Estado.

 

The lawsuit came after the country’s top cryptocurrency exchanges — Buda, Crypto MKT, and Orionx — saw local banks shut down their accounts with no proper explanation in April. The Fourth Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Santiago also ruled later that Banco Estado had to re-open the account of Orionx.

Back in May, Chile’s central bank revealed that it was considering implementing cryptocurrency regulations to “monitor associated risks” with the nascent market. Crypto adoption has been growing in the country, as Crypto MKT recently integrated a payment processor to let the country’s citizens buy from over 5,000 merchants.

https://www.ccn.com/chilean-bitcoin-exchange-buda-adds-lightning-network-support/

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PSA: Hackers Are Using Fake Flash Updates to Hide Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

It has been discovered that fake Adobe Flash updates are being used to surreptitiously install cryptocurrency mining malware on computers and networks, creating severe losses in time, system performance, and power consumption for affected users.

 

Cryptojacking Breaks New Ground

While fake Flash updates that push malware have traditionally been easy to spot and avoid, a new campaign has employed new tricks that stealthily download cryptocurrency miners on Windows systems.

 

Writing in a post exposing the scheme, Unit 42 threat intelligence analyst Brad Duncan said:

 

“As early as August 2018, some samples impersonating Flash updates have borrowed pop-up notifications from the official Adobe installer. These fake Flash updates install unwanted programs like an XMRig cryptocurrency miner, but this malware can also update a victim’s Flash Player to the latest version.”

 

The implication of this unpleasant scenario is that a potential victim may not notice anything out of the ordinary while an XMRig cryptocurrency miner or other unwanted program is quietly running in the background of the victim’s Windows computer. This miner software could potentially slow down the processor of the victim’s computer, damage the hard drive, or extract confidential data and transmit it onto other digital platforms without the victim’s consent.

 

Technical Details of Fake Adobe Update Cryptojacking Malware

Duncan explained that it was not very clear how potential victims were arriving at the URLs delivering the fake Flash updates; however, network traffic during the infection process has been primarily related to fraudulent Flash updates. Interestingly, the infected Windows server generates an HTTP POST request to [osdsoft[.]com], a domain affiliated with updaters or installers pushing cryptocurrency miners.

 

He said while the research team searched for certain particular fake Flash updates, it observed some Windows executables file with names starting with Adobe Flash Player from non-Adobe, cloud-based web servers. These downloads usually had the string “flashplayer_down.php?clickid=” in the URL. The teams also found 113 examples of malware meeting these criteria since March 2018 in AutoFocus. 77 of these malware samples are identified with a CoinMiner tag in AutoFocus. The remaining 36 samples share other tags with those 77 CoinMiner-related executables.

Duncan encouraged Windows users to be more cautious about the kind of Adobe Flash updates that they try to install, stating that while the Adobe pop-up and update features make the fake installer seem more legitimate, potential victims will still receive warning signs about running downloaded files on their Windows computer.

 

In his words:

 

“Organizations with decent web filtering and educated users have a much lower risk of infection by these fake updates.”

 

CCN recently reported that a report from McAfee labs showed that cryptojacking surged 86 percent in the second quarter of 2018, and is up 459 percent in 2018 so far over the whole of 2017.

https://www.ccn.com/psa-hackers-are-using-fake-flash-updates-to-hide-cryptocurrency-mining-malware/

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Monero Developer’s New Startup is Launching a Free Blockchain University

South African blockchain startup Tari Labs  has unveiled a free online university that makes training accessible to local and international blockchain developers. Tari was developed and launched earlier this year by local blockchain expert and Monero promoter Riccardo Spagni alongside American investors, Naiveen Jain and Dan Teree.

 

Reasoning Behind New Project

Tari particularly aims to readdress the endpoint experience of digital assets such as in-game items, digital collectibles, concert tickets, loyalty points and other digitally scarce commodities. Naiveen Jain believes that digital assets are “great use case” for Blockchain technology, and in his opinion, there is “an opportunity for a frictionless experience” where users can store and most importantly, transfer digital assets in line with the rules of use preset by their sellers. The Tari protocol was created after the three concluded that none of the already existing blockchain protocols would suffice in developing their solution to address actual problems.

 

With the establishment of the proposed free blockchain university, their hope is that Tari Labs will be able to take part in creating the next generation of expert blockchain and open source developers who will be able to spread the Tari protocol further.

Speaking about the proposed project, Senior Contributor Cayle Sharrock said:

 

“Tari Labs University aims to become a go-to destination for easily-accessible learning material for blockchain, digital currency and digital assets, from beginner to advanced level. The more blockchain experts we can develop, the better it is for the ecosystem as a whole”.

 

Tari Labs is currently spearheading what it describes as “the most useful decentralized platform that empowers anyone to create digitally scarce things people love”, encouraging flexibility in digital asset transfer. Speaking about the proposed university, Sharrock explains that it is in the interest of Tari Labs to create an avenue for more developers to gain blockchain development skills, which will help them use the Tari protocol.

 

He said:

 

“[Tari Labs] gives talented people the chance to develop their abilities. The Tari Labs University is a natural next step in sharing knowledge and learning from the community in turn. As with any open source project, we see the learning material as living or ever-evolving. The bigger picture here is to assist in constructing an ecosystem for developers and enable them to leverage the Tari protocol.”

 

Johannesburg is the chosen location for Tari Labs’ proposed blockchain university because Spagni believes that much of the talent required to assist in developing Tari is already present in South Africa. Tari Labs University courses, learning materials and resources can be found here.

https://www.ccn.com/monero-developers-new-startup-is-launching-a-free-blockchain-university/

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Major Auction House Christie’s to Integrate Blockchain Technology for Art Sales

Christie’s, a leading art business based in the United States is collaborating with Artory, a highly reputed independent digital registry for the art industry, to register the sales of artworks on the blockchain, according to a press release by Christie’s on October 11, 2018.

 

As stated in its press release, the leading art auction house is looking to leverage the immutability feature of the groundbreaking blockchain technology to record art transactions. To make the forward-thinking maneuver a friction-less process, Christie’s has joined forces with Artory, a credible platform whose primary aim is to foster transparency in the art world via its secure digital registry of highly accurate information about artworks and collectibles.

 

Christie’s to Provide a Permanent Digital Record of Artworks From November

If all goes as planned, details of all artworks from ‘An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection’ sold on the innovative Christie’s platform will be stored on a distributed ledger and the highest bidder will be provided with a secure, encrypted certification of the transaction. Thanks to the immutability property of blockchain technology, the relevant information about the sold artwork will be permanently available to the owner.

 

Founded in 1766, Christie’s offers art lovers premier auctions and privates sales of the highest quality artworks crafted by legendary artists. Christie’s says it generated a whopping GBP 2.97 billion ($4.04 billion) from its global art auctions, private and digital sales in the first half of 2018.

Now, the 252-year old art auction house has made it clear it’s conducting a West Coast Tour of exquisite artworks from the Barney A. Ebsworth Collection, which is touted by art veterans as the ‘most important privately-held collection of 20th Century American Art.’

The auction which is estimated to generate more than $300 million, will be facilitated by the revolutionary blockchain technology.

 

The team has hinted that all public information about the sale of each piece of art in the Ebsworth Collection, including titles, descriptions, final price and other vital details, will be securely recorded on the Artory blockchain registry.

 

That’s not all, Artory will also create a digital certificate of each transaction for Christie’s, and the latter will provide clients with a registration card to securely access an encrypted record of information about their purchased artwork on the Artory Registry.

 

Importantly, Artory has said that all personal details of buyers are neither stored in its Registry nor on the blockchain, in essence, participants retain ultimate control over their personal data throughout the transaction. Nanne Dekking, CEO of Artory expressed excitement over the collaboration with Christie’s, adding that the initiative is an important milestone for the art world.

https://www.ccn.com/major-auction-house-christies-to-integrate-blockchain-technology-for-art-sales/

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GDPR is ‘Kryptonite’ to Google and Facebook, Brave Executive Tells EU

Brave Browser has described how a core principle of GDPR called “Purpose Limitation” can be used to prevent anti-competitive behavior by Google and Facebook.

 

In a recent letter to the EU Anti-Trust Chief Margrethe Vestager, the company offered its submission on the topic of shaping competition policy in the era of digitization.

PURPOSE LIMITATION TO CURB GOOGLE AND FACEBOOK’S EXCESSES

 

It will be recalled that Brave Browser CEO Brendan Eich has repeatedly called for the US Senate to adopt the EU regulatory policy system called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In the letter, signed by  Chief Policy & Industry Relations Officer, Dr. Johnny Ryan, the company points out the importance of having the purpose limitation aspect of the GDPR in the world of digitization to allow for a level playing field for all technological firms and curb the noncompetitive tendencies of other tech firms.

 

An excerpt from the letter reads:

 

 “Purpose limitation principle protects a person’s opportunity to choose to opt-in to whatever particular service they decide, and forbids a company from automatically opt-ing a person in to all of its services where this entails data processing purposes that go beyond what the person has already opted-in to. Provided that purpose limitation is enforced, it prevents dominant digital players from automatically leveraging personal data that they have collected for one purpose in one business in another business, to the disadvantage of competitors and new entrants.”

 

Implications for Giants and Smaller Firms

According to Dr. Ryan, Google and Facebook currently enjoy concentrated data power, and they exploit their position to engage in offensive leveraging. Without any change in regulatory position he says, it is likely that their so far uninterrupted success doing so will become a model to be emulated.

 

In contrast, however, the Purpose Limitation aspect of GDPR, when appropriately enforced places limitations on dominant platforms like Facebook and Google which prevent them from collecting data at one end of their business and using it on the other. This type of data collection dramatically benefits entrenched companies and throws an obstacle in the way of startups which are attempting to gain market share.

Referencing the impact of Purpose Limitation, he states in his letter:

 

“Facebook would have to seek consent for the various data processing purposes appropriate to its various business interests … and Google would have to seek consent for the various data processing purposes appropriate to its various business interests.”

 

He also points out that Purpose Limitation has positive economic implications for smaller companies like his own by creating a competitive platform for all tech firms. In his view, it also allows the consumers, the power to decide and not have things being decided for them.

https://www.ccn.com/gdpr-is-kryptonite-to-google-and-facebook-brave-executive-tells-eu/

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Ethereum Founder Vitalik Buterin Throws Shade at Bitcoin Bashing Economist

Ethereum co-founder, Vitalik Buterin has thrown shade on prominent economist and cryptocurrency skeptic Nouriel Roubini, in response to Roubini’s earlier statements calling him a “dictator” and describing decentralization in Crypto as a “myth”.

In a tweet, Buterin subtly hinted that Roubini has no idea what he is talking about and as such he should not comment on cryptocurrency.

Buterin ‘Predicts’ Financial Crisis

Writing on his Twitter handle, Buterin said:

 

The tweet attracted a furious response from Roubini who then responded to Buterin saying:

 

At press time, Roubini was still involved in a Twitter scrimmage with supporters of crypto, doubling down on his stated opinion of crypto as a “scam” and “fake wealth”.

It will be recalled that the current conflict began when Roubini – popularly referred to as ‘Dr Doom’ because of his negative crypto predictions – recently posted on Twitter that decentralisation of cryptocurrencies is a ‘myth, and that even ‘North Korea’ is more decentralised than crypto. He further described developers such as Buterin as “centralized Dictators”

In the aftermath of his initial tweet, several Twitter users immediately responded saying that Roubini’s comments are grossly oversimplified, especially since different cryptocurrencies have different degrees of decentralization.

Buterin, who is known to be vocal about crypto issues replied:

“I don’t think that’s a fair characterization; if you look more deeply at the actual processes of ethereum governance you’ll find that while a technical elite does exist (as in all cryptocurrencies), my own involvement is much less pivotal than it seems from the outside.”

While he agreed with Roubini that centralization of developers, exchanges and miners or validators is an issue, he however added that they are actively implementing different ways to mitigate this (such as. multiple client implementations, decentralized exchanges, and various protocol features in PoS).

“Blockchain is Overhyped”

Roubini on his part, spent most of today delivering his testimony at a senate hearing on cryptocurrencies. He was quoted by Bloomberg describing blockchain technology to the U.S. Senate as “the most over hyped technology ever”, which is “nothing better than a glorified spreadsheet or database.”

Continuing his tirade on his Twitter account a few hours later Roubini said in a tweet:

“99% of crypto land is one shitcoin traded for another shitcoin. And the average shitcoin lost 90% or more of its value in the last year. So Crypto Land is Crap Land, a cesspool of lunatics with severe Freudian scatological obsessions that swim 24/7 in their own stinking shit.”

https://www.ccn.com/ethereum-founder-vitalik-buterin-throws-shade-at-bitcoin-bashing-economist/

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Thailand Police Arrest Prime Suspect of $24 Million Bitcoin Fraud Scheme

The alleged mastermind of the bitcoin fraud scheme which saw a Finnish investor lose 5,564 bitcoins in Thailand has been arrested.

Prinya Jaravijit, who is the principal suspect in swindling Finnish national Aarni Otava Saarimma out of bitcoin worth 797 million baht (approximately US$24 million) was arrested at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on October 11, according to the Bangkok Post. The alleged mastermind of the fraudulent scheme had been living in the United States where he fled to after the arrest of his younger brother, Thai television actor Jiratpisit Jaravijit aka Boom, who was also implicated in the conspiracy.

After interrogation by Thailand’s Crime Suppression Division, Prinya was taken to court early Friday where the police raised objections to his bail arguing that he was a flight risk. Prinya faces two charges of colluding in fraud and colluding in money-laundering.

Surrender Order Ignored

The arrest comes nearly a month after Prinya was issued with a surrender order. As reported by CCN, the Criminal Suppression Division had given Prinya until September 17 to surrender but he remained at large. Prior to the surrender order, Prinya had been asked to avail himself for interrogation on September 14 but he failed to show up. This led the Crime Suppression Division to issue a warning to the effect that extradition proceedings would be initiated if Prinya continued to disregard summons.

“The suspect was then asked to come in on Monday and if he still ignores it, relevant agencies will be contacted to try to bring him back to face prosecution,” the deputy commander of the Crime Suppression Division, Chakrit Sawasdee, said then.

Earlier this week it was revealed that Thailand’s foreign ministry had revoked Prinya’s passport and this was done at the request of the Crime Suppression Division. This rendered Prinya’s stay in the United States untenable since he wasn’t in possession of a valid passport. With his passport revoked, his travel back to his homeland was facilitated by the Thai embassy in the United States.

All in the Family

While the case in which Prinya and his accomplices are accused of inviting the Finnish investor to put his money in a range of investments including publicly listed companies had initially even roped in a prominent Thai stock trader, Prasit Srisuwan and a technology entrepreneur, Chakris Ahmad, now the suspects’ list is largely composed of members of the Jaravijit family. This is after Saarimaa reached a settlement with the two businessmen.

Besides his younger celebrity brother, Jiratpisit, other members of the Jaravijit family who are now suspects include Prinya’s younger sister, Supitcha. Additionally, Prinya’s parents and his older brother, Tanasit, are scheduled to appear in court next week to answer to charges of money laundering.

https://www.ccn.com/thailand-police-arrest-prime-suspect-of-24-million-bitcoin-fraud-scheme/

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Cops Arrest Infamous SIM Swapper Who Allegedly Stole $14 Million in Cryptocurrency

A California task force caught another big name in the criminal underground world of SIM hijackers.

Authorities in Oklahoma City arrested a man who sources in the criminal hacking community believe to be one of the most infamous “SIM swappers,” who steal cellphone numbers and use them in cryptocurrency heists. He is accused of stealing $14 million in cryptocurrency in one single heist.

At the end of September, Oklahoma News 4 reported that the Secret Service had detained Joseph Harris, 21, and Fletcher Robert Childers, 23. Harris, according to multiple sources in the criminal underground world of SIM hijackers, is known as “Doc,” who they claim is one of the most prolific SIM swappers on the internet.

In the last year, criminals have been targeting victims with so-called SIM swapping, SIM hijacking, or port out scams. This is an increasingly popular and dangerous scam. It consists of tricking a cellphone provider into transferring the target’s phone number to a SIM card controlled by the criminal, then fraudsters can leverage it to reset the victims’ passwords and break into their online accounts and steal their cryptocurrency.

Harris has been charged with hacking, identity theft, and grand larceny, according to a statement of facts provided by the authorities to Motherboard. Harris is accused of stealing $14 million in cryptocurrency from Crowd Machine, a blockchain startup. On September 21, Harris allegedly hacked the company’s CEO and stole his private keys, which allowed him to access Crowd Machine wallets and steal the cryptocurrency.

The CEO reported the theft the next day to the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team—or REACT—a task force of multiple local California police departments that focuses on cybercrime, which has been investigating SIM swapping hacks for months. After a quick investigation, the authorities were able to locate and arrest Harris along with Childers, who has yet to be charged, according to authorities.

Do you have a tip or a story to share? You can contact this reporter securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, OTR chat at lorenzofb@jabber.ccc.de, or email lorenzo@motherboard.tv

Overall, it took investigators only three days to track down Harris.

“That’s the long arm of the law,” Dave Berry, one of the REACT investigators on the case, told Motherboard in a phone call.

Berry and his colleagues did not want to confirm definitely that Harris is indeed Doc, as “nicknames get a little confusing.” But several criminal sources claimed Harris is indeed Doc.

Earlier this year, Ian Balina, a cryptocurrency investor who was hacked and lost more than $2 million, believes two hackers named Doc and Veri were responsible.

“He’s been pretty busy in the hacking world for a while,” Berry told Motherboard. “And he’s clearly very tech savvy.”

Harris is just the last in a growing list of arrests. At the end of July, REACT arrested 20-year-old Joel Ortiz, accusing him of having stolen millions on cryptocurrency. Then Florida authorities arrested a 25-year-old. Finally, before Harris, California cops nabbed 19-year-old Xzavyer Narvaez, who used stolen bitcoin to buy luxury cars.

More arrests are coming, according to the investigators.

“REACT isn’t going to stop the SIM swapping investigation until SIM swapping stops,” REACT commander John Rose told me. “If it’s gonna take us arresting every SIM swapper in United States.”

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/7x3may/cops-arrest-sim-swapper-14-million-cryptocurrency

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Ripple (XRP) Marks the Best Correction as Crypto Market Recovers

The Ripple-to-Dollar (XRP/USD) exchange rate on Friday was the earliest to recover from its latest downtrend move. It surged as much as 19 percent from yesterday’s low at 0.377-fiat, which is higher than other top coins.

Ripple, the company that issues XRP tokens, is reportedly heading towards forming a partnership with SWIFT, a global banking protocol. Spain-based Santander, one of the Ripple’s partners, has partnered with SWIFT to expand its banking services to Argentina, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Ripple is scheduled to attend SWIFT’s SIBOS 2018 Conference this year where both the payment protocol organizations could enter an agreement.

XRP/USD, meanwhile, has formed a new intraday high towards 0.449-fiat and is in a pullback action at the time of this writing.

XRP/USD Technical Analysis

The beginning of XRP/USD pullback action has brought the previous intraday low in sight, with 0.402-fiat providing an intermediary support to hold the near-term uptrend. XRP/USD is now capped by a near-term descending trendline, which also brings potentially profitable long opportunities on a bounce back from the said support. It should not be forgotten than XRP is still inside a strong bearish bias and the recent recovery could only be a knee-jerk reaction to the SWIFT fundamental. The pair is still trading below its 50, 100 and 200H SMAs and the RSI is showing signs of an extreme pullback action towards the strong selling area.

The Stochastic Oscillator is also pulling back the pair from its overbought region, signaling a downtrend towards 0.402-fiat.

BTC/USD Intraday Analysis

The range we are watching out today has 0.444-fiat acting as interim resistance and 0.402 as interim support. The pullback from resistance has already allowed us to speculate a short towards 0.402-fiat. As we exit our position, we will enter a long one towards the resistance on a bounce back from support, while maintaining a stop loss order just marginally below the entry level.

In the case of a breakdown action, in which XRP/USD breaks below the support level, we would enter a short towards 0.378-fiat, our intraday low and primary downside target, while keeping a stop loss order near 0.376-fiat. It would define our risk management perspective.

An extended upside action, in the meantime, is also in cards if price closes above 0.444-fiat. If it happens, we will enter a quick long position towards 0.464-fiat, also in hopes of establishing an inverse Head-and-Shoulder formation. In this position, a stop loss around 0.424-fiat will protect our risks.

https://www.ccn.com/ripple-xrp-marks-the-best-correction-as-crypto-market-recovers/

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Crypto Funds Gets Greenlight from Swiss Financial Markets Regulator

In a move that clearly shows the government’s resolve to encourage investments in cryptocurrencies, Switzerland’s financial markets regulator has opened the floodgates for institutional participation in cryptocurrencies.

Zug-based Crypto Finance AG subsidiary Crypto Fund AG becomes the first company to get the green light from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to offer a wide range of blockchain-based assets to institutional investors in the country.

Crypto Fund was granted a limited license earlier this year to distribute “offshore based cryptocurrency” funds to qualified investors, but the new license from FINMA empowers the Fund to legally act as an asset manager that can offer investment advice and issue an array of investment products that “tracks bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” including Swiss-based funds.

Former UBS banker Jan Brzezek founded the Fund in 2017 under the country’s Collective Investment Schemes Act (CISA.) While commenting on the approval from the regulators, Brzezek said the importance of crypto assets could not be overemphasized, and his company’s goal is to “accelerate maturity” in the market it currently operates.

“Regulatory recognition remains highly sought after by participants, as seen in recent press and company statements.”

Mathias Maurer, the chief operating officer of Crypto Fund AG went on to state:

“The authorization represents our professional work over the last 12 months and is a major milestone for us. Our thanks go, above all, to our partners who made this ground-breaking authorization possible and to FINMA for the good cooperation.”

Switzerland has remained popular over the years due to its favorable crypto laws, and it has continued to blaze the trail with a set of guidelines issued by its regulators earlier this year, which focused on tokens that would be classified as securities and on how crypto companies can be compliant while carrying out ICO activities.

SEBA Crypto AG, another Zug based startup is currently seeking a banking and securities license from FINMA, in a bid to become a regulated crypto bank, as reported by CCN previously. The startup, which is headed by Guido Buehler—another former UBS banker— wants to help fill a “critical missing element of the currency ecosystem,” as most banks are still not willing to open accounts for companies involved in the cryptocurrency (or blockchain) spaces.

https://www.ccn.com/crypto-funds-gets-greenlight-from-swiss-financial-markets-regulator/

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$350 Million: Singapore Consortium Gains Majority Stake in Korea’s Biggest Bitcoin Exchange

South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, Bithumb, has seen a  Singapore-based blockchain consortium become its majority owner in a $350 million deal.

BTC Holdings Company, which was Bithumb’s biggest stakeholder until Thursday with a 75.99% stake finalized an agreement to sell 50 percent plus one stake for 400 billion won (approx. $352 million) with BK Global, a Singaporean consortium, Korean publication Yonhap reported on Friday.

Launched in June 2016, Bithumb soon emerged as South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges as retail investors took to adopting cryptocurrencies in the following years. According to data from CoinMarketCap, Bithumb reported a transactional volume of $1.2 billion in cryptocurrency trading over a 24-hour period, making it the world’s second-largest crypto exchange at the present time.

BK Global, a Singaporean medical group that runs plastic and aesthetic clinics in South Korea and Singapore, is now the majority owner and largest stakeholder of Bithumb.

The Singaporean consortium is led by Kim Byung-gun, Reuters reports, a plastic surgeon and blockchain platform who signed off on the deal yesterday. The report also indicates that Kim is a prolific investor in the blockchain industry with a specific focus on early-stage companies and startups in the sector.

Bithumb’s acquisition comes after a tumultuous year for the exchange wherein, despite reported net profits of over $30 million in H1 2018, the exchange suspended user deposits and withdrawals in June following a $30 million theft of cryptocurrencies by hackers in June.

Bithumb has also announced expansion to new markets in Japan and Thailand, in addition to an upcoming launch of a decentralized exchange for the global market.

https://www.ccn.com/350-million-singapore-consortium-gains-majority-stake-in-koreas-biggest-bitcoin-exchange/

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Crypto Billionaires Among China’s Wealthiest, Despite Bear Market

There is no question that the entire cryptocurrency sector is in a bear market, with many cryptocurrencies losing over 50% of their value.  However, this certainly hasn’t prevented individuals from becoming very wealthy through cryptocurrency-related ventures.

 Specifically, despite the decrease in market capitalizations of various cryptocurrencies, several Chinese businessmen have landed onto a list of China’s wealthiest individuals thanks to companies associated with cryptocurrency.

Notable Figures

The Hurun report is released annually, and 13 cryptocurrency-related businessmen have made the list, which includes individuals with at least a net worth of 2 billion yuan, or $289 million USD.

The highest entry belongs to Micree Zhan Ketuan, the founder of Bitmain Technologies, and the only cryptocurrency-related businessman to penetrate the list of the 100 wealthiest people in China, with an estimated net worth of 29.5 billion yuan.  This is not surprising, considering Bitmain – the largest bitcoin mining company in the world – is on track to reach $10 billion in revenue by the end of this year, and is valued at over $10 billion already.  Another high entry belongs to the other co-founder of the same company, Bitmain, Wu Jihan, who comes in at #204, with an estimated worth of 16.5 billion yuan.

China has been known to dominate the bitcoin mining sector.  In fact, Bitmain, and its two main competitors, Canaan Creative and Ebang International Holdings, have all applied to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX).  Nine of the thirteen entries on the Hurun report come from these three companies alone.

China Crackdown

This is even more interesting considering the fact that China has been cracking down on the cryptocurrency sector in general.  The Chinese Central Bank has repeatedly warned bitcoin exchanges about their activity, and went on to ban initial coin offerings, which led to the iconic cryptocurrency exchange BTCC closing, which many in the cryptocurrency community felt was a symbolic end to an era where China seemed to tolerate cryptocurrency – and that the tides were shifting.

Ironically, it was this crackdown that actually helped Binance, the world’s largest exchange by daily volume, adapt and expand to countries such as Japan and Singapore, rather than keep China as headquarters.  Zhao Chenpeng, 41, also makes the list, at #230, with an impressive 15 billion yuan.

It is clear that despite the crackdowns on cryptocurrency in China, and the volatility of the markets – the leaders in the cryptocurrency market have certainly been able to accrue substantial wealth in 2018.

https://www.ccn.com/crypto-billionaires-among-chinas-wealthiest-despite-bear-market/

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Halfway Milestone: Crypto Trading App Robinhood Launches in U.S. State #25, Ohio

Robinhood is now in Ohio bringing the number of states that the cryptocurrency and stocks trading app is currently available in to 25.

In a tweeted statement, the trading startup indicated that Ohioans can now trade various cryptocurrencies commission-free on the Robinhood app. Some of the cryptocurrencies that the users of the app can trade include bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum classic and dogecoin.

 

Earlier this month, the trading startup was launched in Rhode Island (October 2), Tennessee (October 5), Arkansas (October 5). Towards the end of last month the trading app was unveiled in Oklahoma. Prior to that, as CCN reported, it was also made available in the Last Frontier state, Alaska.

25 States and Counting

Other states which already enjoy the commission-free crypto trading services of Robinhood include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The move to Ohio comes in the wake of the stocks and trading startup announcing the launch of its own clearing system which had been in development for around two years.

 

Prior to developing its proprietary clearing system, Robinhood which now boasts of more than six million customers had been depending on a third party. According to Robinhood, creating the proprietary clearing system was the effort of a team consisting of close to 100 people. The trading startup also had to obtain licenses from the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

With the new proprietary clearing system some fees will be reduced such as bank reversal fees. Previously, there was a bank reversal charge of US$30 but this will be cut to US$9.

“This means you’ll only pay for what things actually cost, and not a penny more,” Robinhood wrote on its blog. “Before, bank reversal fees were $30, but once you’re on the new system, we’ll only pass on what the banks charge: $9.”

Traditional Banking Services?

Currently valued at around US$5.6 billion after a recent funding round, Robinhood has argued that the new clearing system will allow it to introduce new financial services. While the trading startup did not specify exactly what kind of financial services it is eyeing, one of these services could be banking. Mid this year, reports emerged that Robinhood had approached regulators with a view of acquiring a national banking charter.

This would not be a completely alien line of business for the trading startup as it already acts as a lender as its own FAQ page reveals:

“Robinhood Financial makes money from its margin trading service, Robinhood Gold, which starts at $6 a month. Additionally, Robinhood earns revenue by collecting interest on the cash and stocks in customer accounts, much like a bank collects interest on cash deposits.”

https://www.ccn.com/halfway-milestone-crypto-trading-app-robinhood-launches-in-u-s-state-25-ohio/

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Cryptocurrencies Pose No Risk to Global Financial Stability: International Watchdog

A report published by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) on Wednesday, claimed that cryptocurrencies do not pose a risk to global financial stability at the present time while suggesting crypto markets need to be monitored.

The report, which focuses on an assessment of the likely implications of crypto-assets for financial stability is a follow-up on an initial assessment carried out in the FSB Chair’s March 2018 letter to G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. It also serves as a follow-up to a review of work by standard-setting bodies on crypto-assets published by the FSB in July.

Not a Threat Now, But Should be Monitored

In the report, the FSB – which is backed by the Bank for International Settlements (known as the central bank for central banks)– presented a view of cryptocurrencies as non-ideal means of payment, store of value or unit of account. The release also stated that, cryptocurrencies experience issues with low liquidity, market risks from volatility and operational risks, among other problems.

Summarizing this view, the report states:

“Based on the available information, crypto-assets do not pose a material risk to global financial stability at this time. However, vigilant monitoring is needed in light of the speed of market developments. Should the use of crypto-assets continue to evolve, it could have implications for financial stability in the future.”

According to the report, such risks may include confidence effects and reputational risks to financial institutions and their regulators, risks that come from direct or indirect exposure of financial institutions, risks that arise if crypto-assets became commonly used in payments and settlement, and risks caused by market capitalization and wealth effects.

The report states that if crypto-assets continue to become popular, it might impact financial stability by affecting investor confidence. The report also outlines what it describes as a need for balance between innovation and threats. Specifically, it references cryptocurrencies as an emerging technology at the cutting edge of innovation which could someday pose a threat to the current financial system.

An excerpt from the report reads:

“FSB members have to date taken a wide variety of domestic supervisory, regulatory, and enforcement actions related to crypto-assets. National authorities and standard-setting bodies have issued warnings to investors about the risks from crypto-assets, as well as statements supporting the potential of the underlying distributed ledger technology (DLT) that they rely on to enhance the efficiency of the financial system. These actions are balanced between preserving the benefits of innovation and containing various risks, especially those for consumer and investor protection and market integrity.”

The full FSB report is available here.

https://www.ccn.com/cryptocurrencies-pose-no-risk-to-global-financial-stability-international-watchdog/

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Dr. Nouriel Roubini vs. Bitcoin: Senate Hearing Breaks Down His Arguments

The United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held an informational hearing today titled “Exploring the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ecosystem.”

The speakers included Dr. Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics and International Business, New York University Stern School of Business; and Mr. Peter Van Valkenburgh, Director of Research, Coin Center. Both gave testimonies on their stances on cryptocurrencies, followed by a Q&A session with Senators.

Dr. Nouriel Roubini: Nothing Good to Say About Cryptocurrencies

In no uncertain terms, Dr. Nouriel Roubini’s testimony, who predicted the 2008 financial crash, the cryptocurrency ecosystem as “full of scams, insecure, and useless technology.” As CCN reported, Dr. Roubini has been extremely negative towards cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that underlies them.

He held strong to that sentiment during this hearing, though his comments did reveal a broad lack of understanding in blockchain technology. A common thread running through his responses was that the current banking and fintech systems already solved all of the problems that blockchain tries to solve, with even better outcomes.

His criticisms include:

“Only criminals and terrorists use crypto.”

“Mining is a huge harm to the environment.”

“Cryptocurrency users want a utopia where payments are decentralized without government or authorities, which is utterly ridiculous.”

“There is widespread corruption – pump and dump schemes, wash sales, etc.”

“Most tokens are non-compliant securities.”

“Utility tokens take us back to the stone age with bartering. Even the Flinstones knew better than cryptocurrencies: They used clams for barter.”

“Most corporations have found that blockchain technology is no better than a database.”

“No corporation or government would want to be on a public ledger.”

Question and Answer Session

When asked if the world has benefited over the last 10 years since bitcoin’s launch, Dr. Roubini said the world has not benefited at all.  Peter Van Valkenburgh, however, provided an example where a woman entrepreneur in Afganistan was able to start and maintain her business because of bitcoin. Since banks in Afganistan only allow men to open accounts, women are at a disadvantage and this woman could not pay her employees because her husband stole the company’s funds. Bitcoin allowed her to pay employees and keep her business running.

Dr. Roubini said that cryptocurrencies are a huge loophole for criminals transfer money anonymously. However, Peter Van Valkenburgh said that investigators told him that they are “delighted” to track crimes on the blockchain because of its “perfect fidelity of transactions”. This is easier than the shell accounts and international banking systems to find money laundering activies. He also mentions BTC-E as an example for how authorities were able to track criminals more easily.

Overall, Valkenburgh provided valuable education to senators about blockchain, a skill that he has made him popular.” His accommodative answers stood in contrast to the attacks from “Dr. Doom”,  Dr. Roubini’s nickname in the cryptocurrency community.

https://www.ccn.com/dr-nouriel-roubini-vs-bitcoin-senate-hearing-breaks-down-his-arguments/

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Analyst: Bitcoin Needs Blessing From SEC to Rally, Market Desperate

Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets UK, has stated that Bitcoin needs a blessing from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revitalize and experience a recovery in price.

According to Aslam, the approval of the first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), which would allow accredited investors and individual traders in US markets to invest in cryptocurrencies, could be a major factor to revitalize the cryptocurrency market.

“Bitcoin needs some sort of a blessing and only that can revitalize the rally for the currency. I think that the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] seeking a public opinion about the Bitcoin ETF [exchange-traded fund] is a positive sign, the department perhaps wants to respect the public opinion and most importantly wants to see the accurate landscape.” Aslam said.

ETF Will be Approved by the SEC if Enough Demand Exists

Considering the abrupt drop in the price of Bitcoin from $6,600 to $6,250 and the sheer intensity of its short-term decline, the dominant cryptocurrency will need a strong catalyst to initiate any promising upwards rally in the weeks and months to come.

If the approval of the first Bitcoin ETF by the SEC is the catalyst that could allow BTC to recover and test higher resistance levels at $7,000, $8,000, and $9,000, then BTC will not see a positive price action until the end of 2018 because the final deadlines of VanEck and Cboe Bitcoin ETFs are in early 2019.

VanEck and Cboe Bitcoin ETFs are said to have the highest probability of being the first ETFs to be approved by the SEC due to decades of track record the two institutions have demonstrated in the traditional finance sector of the US.

bitcoin etf

Aslam explained that the SEC is unlikely to reject a Bitcoin ETF that fulfills the requirements laid out by the SEC if the demand from the public is sufficiently strong to justify the approval of an ETF around an emerging asset class.

“If the public interest shows that the support is in favor of ETF it is highly unlikely that the department would reject an actual application which satisfies their criteria,” Aslam said.

As such, Jake Chervinsky, government enforcement defense and securities litigation attorney at Kobre & Kim LLP, encouraged investors in the cryptocurrency market to submit comments to the SEC regarding the approval of Bitcoin ETFs filed in the US.

“Reminder: you have one week left to submit comments in response to the SEC’s questions on the VanEck/SolidX bitcoin ETF proposal. Public opinion matters. Be heard,” said Chervinsky.

Better Alternatives to ETFs

Currently the majority of the cryptocurrency exchange market remains optimistic about various alternatives to Bitcoin ETFs that could have a similar impact on the price of the asset.

NYSE and ICE’s Bakkt, a regulated digital asset platform designed to enable consumers and institutions to seamlessly buy, sell, store, and spend cryptocurrencies, will serve both institutional investors and retail traders in the traditional finance sector.

Coinbase, BitGo, and major financial institutions have also started to provide crypto custodian solutions to better facilitate growing demand from institutions.

The catalyst of the next Bitcoin price surge could be the approval of the first BTC ETF or an influx of institutional investors in the market. Either way, the cryptocurrency market currently needs a strong motivation to bounce back to its previous levels.

https://www.ccn.com/analyst-bitcoin-needs-blessing-from-sec-to-rally-market-desperate/

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