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Net Neutrality Killer Ajit Pai Casts an Eye over Regulating Blockchain

The man who killed net neutrality in the US is racing-up with innovations like blockchain to effectively regulate them.


Ajit Pai, the chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC),  said  that his office would be looking into the emerging technologies for their potential impact on the telecom sector. Naming artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum computing alongside blockchain, the 45-year old telecom regulator added that their regulatory frameworks would evolve according to the growth of the firms in these “dynamic industries.”

“We don’t have jurisdiction over these firms, but that’s one of the things we are trying to learn about,” he explained. “What are the emerging technologies that will have an effect on this space and how should our thinking about regulation evolve.”


Known for his role in repealing the net neutrality law enforced by Barack Obama’s government, Pai in internet pop culture became the nemesis of internet freedom. Not only his decision gave unruly powers to local internet providers, but it also threatened the citizens’ freedom of speech on the internet. Technologists also cornered Pai for his lack of understanding of the Bitcoin technology, after he wrongly named the digital currency for causing network delays on the internet.


The law against Net Neutrality, in a real sense, has been considered as a threat to the cryptocurrency industry. The companies in the space could be forced to withstand corporate censorships, invoked by private deals with the ISPs. Pai’s comments on blockchain come at a time when regulators are going two-face on the technology’s prospects under a governed system.


How Telecom Would Interact with Blockchain

Pai’s role as the FCC chairman limits his jurisdiction to the telecom sector, mainly including interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, cable – and now by the internet too. Considering blockchain’s dependence on the internet, it is likely that Pai and the public ledger technology would come face to face down the road.


It is essential to understand that the US ISPs have a monopoly in the market. Over 51 percent of the Americans have one ISP to pick from, while the remaining 49 percent access the internet under the threat of throttling. The whole process is deeply anti-decentralized, which could hamper the growth of crypto sector as a whole.

A financial giant in partnership with one of the ruling ISPs, for instance, could easily deprioritize a local fintech startup by limiting access to its services. These services could be anything from crypto-based remittance to blockchain-enabled recordkeeping solution.


Justin Tabb, the CEO of Substratum Network, a decentralized internet startup, predicted these challenges for crypto companies.


“ISPs could potentially have the power to control access to exchanges, the speed of transactions, and even create and prioritize accessibility to their cryptocurrencies, which is not such a crazy idea when you think of all the places in this country where a single ISP has a monopoly,” he  told the International Business Times.


Decentralization of ISPs

Though, the challenges of Pai and the rest of the FCC could be more about blockchain’s potential to destabilize internet. The ledger, regardless of being in an infant stage, promises to decentralized anything that preaches monopoly – even ISPs. Theoretically, decentralization on the internet could be achieved by creating a mesh network where users can directly connect with each other.


While a blockchain revolution for net neutrality still seems like a far-fetched sci-fi fantasy, the supporters could practice what’s available to them, i.e., democracy. Net neutrality is a wakeup call, and it is the job of the people to keep asking for laws that favor the growth of technologies like blockchain.

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Visa CEO: Crypto is Not a Big Threat But if Needed, We Will Support it

According to Al Kelly, the CEO of Visa, the company could support crypto in the future if the global market moves in the direction of embracing consensus currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.


In the short to mid-term, Kelly told Jim Cramer, the host of Mad Money, that cryptocurrencies as an asset class is not a threat to reserve currencies that serve as the basis of Visa’s products. But, he stated that as the adoption of cryptocurrencies improve in the years to come, Visa will facilitate the demand for the asset class.

“I think there has to be some market that it becomes somewhat like a fiat currency in order for us to be comfortable. If it goes in that direction, we will move in that direction. We want to be in the middle, Jim, of every payment flow in the world regardless of how it happens or what the currency is behind it. So if we have to go there, we will go there. But right now, it’s more of a commodity than a payment vehicle.”


In the Middle

Visa is the most influential credit card service company in the finance sector and is amongst the most profitable businesses in the market alongside Mastercard.


In the long-term, Kelly emphasized that Visa will eventually serve as a middleman to attract crypto users to send and receive digital assets with Visa on its platforms, by providing fees to the company.

However, by the time Visa would feel comfortable in integrating cryptocurrencies, which as the CEO described it as when the asset class is established utilized by the mainstream, cryptocurrencies would not require middlemen to process payments.


With non-custodial wallets and open-source platforms, users of cryptocurrencies can efficiently and securely transfer digital assets without paying additional fees on top of the trasnaction fee provided to the miners of the ecosystem.


Currently, due to the lack of merchant adoption, it is difficult for crypto users to compensate merchants to purchase simple products like coffee and food. A financial institution at the size of Visa could single-handedly increase the adoption of crypto amongst merchants in a large capacity.


But, the intent of Visa to target the cryptocurrency sector is to provide middleman services several years from now when cryptocurrencies are already accepted by merchants and being utilized as an alternative currency to reserve currencies like the US dollar.


Fidelity’s Big Bet

The time to support and experiment with cryptocurrencies is now, when it is experiencing exponential growth and is still at an early phase.


Years down the line, the cryptocurrency sector could heavily rely on decentralized systems and services, which even platforms within the market including Binance expect, as seen in the development of the Binance decentralized exchange.

Already, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup have started to serve investors in the cryptocurrency market by seeing sufficient demand for the new asset class, while Visa, Morgan Stanley, and several other financial institutions remain cautious in entering the cryptocurrency market.

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Chinese Civil Court Rules Bitcoin as Legally Protected Property

A case involving almost half a million dollars in cryptocurrency led to an important new precedent in China.


A high Chinese court, the Court of International Arbitration, ruled that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are valuable personal property and are therefore protected under existing Chinese law. The court also stated  that there is no law on the books prohibiting the possession or acquisition of cryptos.

A plaintiff, who was not named in any reportage, brought suit against a person he’d hired to steward and trade his coins for him. A deadline for return of the coins was scheduled, and the defendant missed the deadline. The balances in question were 20 Bitcoin, 70 Bitcoin Cash, and just over 12.5 Bitcoin Diamond.


The defense had a seemingly strong argument: the contract between the parties was invalid when China decided to ban ICOs and crypto trading. According to the defendant, this legal stance makes all crypto transactions illegal and therefore the contract was outside the bounds of a court’s enforcement authority. The court disagreed with this interpretation, and according to a Chinese news source, the following conclusion was drawn:


The bitcoin return contract concluded between private individuals does not violate the mandatory provisions of the legal and regulatory effects and should not be considered invalid. Chinese laws and regulations do not prohibit privately held and legally transferred bitcoin.


Further, although cryptos are a digital asset, “it does not prevent it from becoming an object of delivery.”


As a result of the case, the defendant was forced to pay 100,000 Yuan in damages in addition to returning the coins.


Important Cryptocurrency Precedent

Courts are important in the People’s Republic, so much so that they will hear cases even when the court room  is flooded. Cryptocurrency has long been a gray area around the world, particularly in China, where rumors of a Bitcoin ban have frequently led to market turbulence elsewhere. Despite being apparently legal, there have been several incidents where the government has taken action against operations it deemed as being improperly regulated. Such cases have often had global implications.


We can speculate a few things as a result of this case.

One, the case for cryptocurrencies is far from settled. While ICOs and exchanges have been shut down or banned and many have found ways to adapt, including Binance which was moved operations to Malta, there seems to be hope that Chinese cryptonaughts will in the future have several legal methods of utilizing Bitcoin. At present time, according to this ruling, which can be challenged later by an even higher court, private individuals are free to use Bitcoin amongst themselves.


Two, the Chinese government is not uniformly opposed to cryptos. We in the cryptocurrency space expect central banks and even private banks to do what they can to impede the progress of digital monies, but it appears that in a legal sense, they are not all-powerful. If people can still hold coin in China, then there is hope that over time they will once again be able to legally participate in every other way.

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What 30 Million Ethereum Transactions Reveal about the State of DApp Development

New data from cryptocurrency prime dealer SFOX has painted a somewhat bleak picture of the current state of dApp development on the Ethereum network.


According to the data which was obtained from an analysis of more than 30 million Ethereum transactions, the top 10 smart contracts on the network are dominated by ICO and exchange activity, with a solitary spot for the popular CryptoKitties dApp.

The data shows that contrary to the promise of Ethereum as a simple and powerful engine for powering smart contracts that dApp developers can use for any purpose, the cost and scaling issues still present a significant challenge to the actualisation of that vision.


Ethereum’s Smart Contract Promise versus Reality

At the height of Ethereum’s bull run several months ago, ETH reached a high of $1,374, a figure that was driven largely by speculative pressure, but also by hopes sparked by the promise Ethereum offered as a smart contract and decentralised global computing platform. To investors, the core value of Ethereum was the utility presented by its smart contract capabilities, which not only created a new framework for executing trades and transactions, but also gave developers the opportunity to create decentralised applications that would essentially disrupt many existing centralised business models.


The new data from SFOX, however, paints an altogether different picture of how things have turned out in reality. Using a Jupyter Notebook to query Google’s public Ethereum dataset hosted on BigQuery, SFOX has revealed that of the top 10 Ethereum smart contract addresses by transaction volume, only one is held by a dApp.




Nine of the 10 addresses featured are dedicated to centralised exchange activity, decentralised exchange activity and ERC20 ICO token sales. The only dApp smart contract on the list is the popular CryptoKitties dApp which creates non-fungible tokens running on Ethereum’s ERC-721 standard. In other words, by far the vast majority of Ethereum smart contract activity is still dedicated to trading ether and Ethereum-based tokens. dApps have simply not taken off in the way that investors hoped they would, and this is for a number of reasons.


In August, CCN reported that Ethereum and EOS had only eight dApps with more than 300 active users between them. This factors cited for this lack of activity were principally gas costs on the Ethereum network and scalability problems. Ethereum, in particular, is notorious for experiencing high gas fees during times of network congestion that effectively cripple  dApp operations.

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IBM Study: Central Banks Favor Digital Currencies for Interbank Settlements

Central banks maintain their distance from Bitcoin but have shown interests in issuing their private digital currencies. And a new IBM-OMFIF survey revealed how this future financial infrastructure would appear.


The Background

The study found that central banks are increasingly adopting Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). A clear overview revealed that banks were initially reluctant in taking the said technological leap. There were inconsistencies in the categorization of digital currencies that whether they would be wholesale or retail. A retail CBDC, per the IBM-OMFIF report, would have provided everybody the right to hold the digital currency-version of fiat money. Meanwhile, a wholesale CBDC would limit the supply to only selected financial institutions for interbank settlements.


“No major central bank intends to implement a retail CBDC in the near term. However, the debate about wholesale CBDCs has moved on from questions of feasibility to practical considerations,” the report read.


Majority Prefers Wholesale CBDC

IBM and OMFIF rested the survey on how wholesale CBDC could be developed, tested and issued on a centrally-governed payment system.


The study also factored in the regulatory challenges and policy risks a central bank would undertake while experimenting with CBDC. It did so after following up with the responses given by a total of 21 central banks, including Banco Central do Brasil, South African Reserve Bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, European Central Bank, and the Bank of Finland, among others, and surveyed out their opinions on the CBDC systems.

69 percent of banks, according to the report, admitted that they have issues with the existing cross-border financial infrastructure. 54 percent of them believed CBDC could improve the cost, speed, and resiliency of cross-border payments once deployed. Among the respondents, 38 percent of the central banks were already researching a CBDC solution, while the others were not active in the space.


IBM and OMFIF also found the central banks’ growing disinterest in using blockchain to issue their CBDC. 61 percent of the total 21 banks found no substantial qualities in the digital ledger technology. They cited trials in which they found blockchain offering just few efficiency gains, given the technology is still in its infant stage. The majority responded that blockchain would not be necessary to issue a CBDC.


At the same time, the survey revealed the central banks’ half-willingness to work with the private sector to build CBDC solutions. 50 percent voted in favor, arguing it would be essential to involve stakeholders from the start, rather than impose new technology on participants.


Unifying Wholesale CBDC

The report discussed whether a CBDC could be backed by a single sovereign currency or a basket of assets in the wake of arbitrage policy frameworks. The survey responses indicated a central bank-issued fiat-pegged digital token as the likeliest outcome, which would have no significant implication on monetary policies. To them, a digital token launched as a reserve asset would pose limited repercussions on policy-making as a whole.


At the same time, if CBDC is scaled to become a global reserve asset – along with the line of International Monetary Fund’s special drawing right – then it would complexify geopolitical and regulatory implications.


“Clearinghouses and existing payments systems would have to either adapt to new, more efficient systems or find themselves disintermediated from payment and settlement processes in the long term,” the IBM-OMFIF report said.

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Delaware Helps Catch British Hacker Holding Over $200k in Bitcoin

Recent news shows Delaware playing an important role in the capture of British hacker Grant West. U.K. Authorities caught West last year and recovered $700,000 worth of Bitcoin.


The Catch

According to a  report by Delawareonline, undercover U.K. officials caught West last year while he was traveling by train. West was convicted of fraud, in addition to other crimes.


Catching West “was the first time London Metropolitan Police arrested a cybercriminal” reports Delawarenewsonline. This case dates back to activity in 2015, with West hacking over 100 different companies.

The same report also uncovers the U.S. Secret Service of Delaware having a part in West’s capture. Roughly one year ago, Delaware helped British police uncover some of West’s stolen capital, finding an account with close to $217,000,000 of value in Bitcoin.


“Delaware for years has been the site of large numbers of government seizures of dollars from the bank accounts of suspected criminals because so many banks keep their central servers in the First State. Now, that has expanded to include bitcoin and other cryptocurrency”, reported Delawareonline.


Grant West – A Formidable Opponent

According to a report by CCN earlier this year, West – aka Courvoisier, hacked “websites of companies such as Sainsbury’s, Uber, Ladbrokes and others. After gaining access into the companies’ websites, he would then obtain personal information of customers for companies”.


West stole the private data of these companies’ clients, via phishing emails, and then proceeded to sell that information online.

A separate  report by Delawareonline explains that West was able to cover his tracks by storing his stolen funds in Bitcoin  and spreading them out into multiple wallets. During West’s capture, authorities were also able to apprehend his computer, which contained many of the pertinent passwords and information needed to access the stolen funds.


West had stolen private information from close to 165,000 different people, including specifics from 63,000 different payment cards, detailed one BBC  report.


One of West’s most notable scams were his phishing emails, disguised as emails from the popular online food service Just Eat. West’s efforts were so vast, that the judge on the case described West as “a one man cyber crime wave” according to BBC. West’s efforts led him to accrue the equivalent of over $2 million in cryptocurrency.

West was given 10 years and eight months in jail for his criminal activities, as stated by


The public continues to see repeated news of criminals apprehended in the cryptocurrency space this year. Chinese police arrested hackers guilty of $87 million in stolen crypto funds, stated by an August report from CCN. July also saw CCN reporting on Russian agents hacking emails, in hopes of Bitcoin keeping them anonymous.

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Sweden’s Central Bank Hastens Plans for National Digital Currency

Riksbank, Sweden’s Central Bank, is adapting to the shifting financial landscape in the country where the transition to a cashless society has accelerated quickly.


Several banks in Sweden no longer handle cash, which is a problem some groups of people who struggle to adapt to new technologies, such as the elderly. The central bank believes that a state-backed digital option is necessary in order to maintain the stability of the country’s financial system.

Some Swedes have reportedly been skeptical  of the development of the e-Krona, but this has not slowed the bank’s push to develop it. The e-Krona will at first be something used in addition to cash, but eventually it will become a primary financial instrument within Sweden. The bank believes that without a faster development effort, private entities may have too much responsibility in the payments sector, which could lead to problems. Specifically, they want to avoid making private institutions “take all the responsibility for ensuring that payments function in crisis situations.”


The bank writes:


There are currently groups in society that are encountering problems as cash use declines because they find it difficult to use digital payment solutions for one reason or another. Such groups include older people, people with disabilities or those who, for different reasons, do not have access to payment instruments other than cash. Since it cannot be expected that the private market fully cater for these groups, the state can choose to take greater responsibility for them.


Sweden Leads the Way

The bank suggests that a pilot program should be in place in 2019 with full implementation by 2021. It is important to note that while the new currency might share characteristics with cryptocurencies, it is actually still to be a fiat currency administered, owned, and regulated by a state entity, so its similarities are in fact moreso with the existing fiat currency.


In its report, the bank considers other options simultaneously with the issuance of the e-Krona, including “subsidizing” cash usage.

“To facilitate and increase cash usage, the Riksbank could choose to subsidise cash, either directly or indirectly, For example, we could fully or partly return to the 1980s structure of Riksbank branches across the entire country and the comprehensive service to banks and other market participants that waws previously provided to the banks largely for free,” the report added. “This would reduce the banks’ costs for cash, allowing them to provide a greater range of cash services. Ultimately, this could make it easier and more attractive for private individuals, retailers and other actors to handle cash.  […] However, as a matter of principle, the Riksbank’s opinion is that all means of payment should carry their own costs and various charges should be based on actual costs.”


Sweden will be the first country to implement a full-fledged digital currency as an official and overt act. However, it is unlikely to be the last. For many reasons, cash and other paper instruments are on the way out. Although it remains the best way to transact peer-to-peer, the risk it entails and its methods of issuance and counterfeit are precisely the factors that created a need for cryptocurrencies in the first place.

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US State Banking Regulator Sues Government Over Fintech Special Charter

The US regulatory body for state banking has filed a lawsuit against the federal government for granting bank charters to fintech companies. The complaint calls into question the leniency of fintech “sandbox” charters.


The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), an arm of the US Department of the Treasury, has awarded these special charters to many blockchain- and cryptocurrency-centric companies. The body states that the suit is an effort to protect consumers from “predatory actors.” Though the CSBS doesn’t say so, these types of charters cut into traditional banks’ bottom line and potentially attract new customers away.

“Common sense and the law tell us that a nonbank is not a bank. Thus, CSBS is calling on the courts to stop the unlawful, unwarranted expansion of powers by the OCC,” John Ryan, CSBS president and CEO, said.


Making a level playing field or strong-arming competition?

The CSBS has attacked the charter since the US Treasury first proposed it in December 2016. Additionally, the CSBS filed a suit over the proposed draft for guidelines for fintech charts in April, as CCN reported. The latest suit filed today follows on the heels that the OCC announced that they would be accepting fintech charter applications in July under the new special guidelines.


Ryan invokes dramatic parallels to the crises that were spurred by predatory banking and lending:


“Lest we forget, in the early 2000s the OCC enabled national banks to ignore state predatory lending laws, a move that contributed to the U.S. financial crisis and the largest number of home foreclosures since the Great Depression. History cannot be allowed to repeat itself.”


However, beneath this, it is clear that CSBS feels that the playing field is no longer level with the special charter. On the same token, however, entrenched corporations have a long history of using regulations to keep new players out, especially when it comes to disruptive technologies like blockchain. Blockchain technology has the potential to remove a lot of revenue from fees that banks extract from customers, especially when it comes to international payments. Large banks themselves still engage in predatory lending despite catastrophic market events like the dotcom bubble and the Great Recession, as the OCC’s own filings show.


Still, digital assets present a problem for regulators since they have a variety of uses  that straddle many different categories. However, the OCC doesn’t seem to be slowing down its stance to welcome fintech banking applications. Coinbase, for instance, received approval to operate as an”Independent Qualified Custodian.” It appears more likely that the OCC is on pace to approving more applications, rather than withdrawing from them. From the drafting of guidelines to public comment to accepting new applications, the charter approvals are the final culmination of a push to grant fintech companies a role in banking.

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Waves Blockchain Hits Milestone with 6.1 Million Real-Time Transactions

The race to build the best public blockchain will be won by those that would scale in line with volume. On a Sunday, a blockchain project realistically did it, though for 24 hours.


Waves Platform, comprising of a digital ledger project and decentralized exchange (DEX), processed 6.1 million real-time transactions in a stress test. As it found, the network faced no disruptions or delays as the test intensified. None of the transactions on its system – undertaken by users for DEX orders, transfers, token creation, etc. – experienced any slowdown, either.


The Waves blockchain, according to data provided by PYWAVES, recorded a total of 108,741 transactions. Among them, 60,933 were Mass Transfers which, per Waves blog post, are specialized transactions that can hold 100 transfer at once.


“A total of 6,141,108 transfers was processed by the network, with the blockchain supporting hundreds of transactions per second at peak times,” the post claimed.


The platform euphorically claimed that it was the highest number of transactions ever processed by any public blockchain. 


Waves NG

Several blockchain projects in the crypto space are attempting to find alternatives to Bitcoin’s slow transaction confirmation periods. Ethereum was posed as a solution. But, it faced the same problem CryptoKitties – a decentralized application launched on Ethereum’s blockchain – slowed down transactions on the network. While Bitcoin has opted for third-party solutions like Lightning Network to handle the volume [temporarily], Ethereum is following a test-and-implement approach by taking in answers from its community developers.


Waves, to achieve a similar goal, have implemented a tech called Waves NG that helps to scale the Waves Network by selecting miners in advance, thus minimizing latency and maximizing throughput. According to Waves’ CEO and co-founder Sasha Ivanov, the protocol’s deployment on their blockchain helped them process the record transactions.


“Bitcoin processes just a few transactions per second,” he said. “Ethereum’s capacity is into double-digit tps, and a handful of other blockchains have improved on this incrementally in various ways. WAVES has implemented tech that enables a step-change in transaction volumes — not just in the lab, but in the real world, on MainNet, as these figures prove beyond doubt.”


The Waves post noted that other blockchain projects had not exceeded more than 2 million transactions per day. However, a tweet from Ivanov admitted that EOS, a semi-decentralized blockchain project, had in fact executed 5 million transactions within a 24-hour period.



A commentator also posted a chart from Blocktivity that suggested Waves was behind five blockchain projects concerning transaction volume. The chart later earned the “bogus” status from one of the Waves followers.

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Peer-to-Peer Bitcoin Exchange Hodl Hodl Implements Multisignature Contracts

One of the oldest mantras in Bitcoin trading is: “never leave your coins on the exchange.” This wisdom is borne of the experience of Mt. Gox traders who lost many millions of dollars in Bitcoin over four years ago.


Yet, better than never leaving your coins on an exchange is never placing them in the custody of the exchange in the first place. For the most part, exchanges have not conveniently allowed traders to do this. Hodl Hodl is a rarity in this respect and it has raised the bar again by enabling 2-of-3 multi-signature contracts in trades through its platform. The exchange had previously offered, and continues to offer, 2-of-2 contracts.


Buyers Can Now Trade With More Confidence

2-of-2 multisignature contracts offered by Hodl Hodl only require the signature of the seller and the exchange. The new contract type offers the buyer more leverage in trading and disputes. An example dispute might be where a given rate was agreed upon but the seller is attempting to back out.


What this means is that each party must consent to the movement of the coins, where previously there might have been a possible attack vector or possibility to scam when coins were still in motion. In the words of the exchange itself:


In a regular 2 out of 3 contract, where everything goes well, buyer’s key is not needed?—?it only comes into play if the contract was disputed, and Hodl Hodl administrator resolved it in favor of buyer. In this case, buyer is able to sign a release transaction with his key and receive the funds without seller’s participation. This is how the 2 out of 3 contract type works.


Smart Contracts Are More Than Just A Buzzword

First dreamed up by suspected Satoshi Nick Szabo as early as 1994, smart contracts are one more new age technology brought about by the Blockchain revolution, enabling everything from secure subscriptions to estate bequests. Programmable smart contracts are at the heart of the Ethereum decentralized application ecosystem, among others. They allow for fine-tuning of agreements and are likely to be at the heart of law and taxation in the near to mid-future. Where traditional contracts require a vast legal exercise to revoke or even enforce, smart contracts can have automatic impositions of penalties or revocation.


More than just money, smart contracts present exciting opportunities in computing, government, business, and beyond. Combined with the transparency of a blockchain, such contracts are on track to revolutionize the way humans do things.

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North Korea Enablers in Singapore Operated Crypto Scams to Fund Regime: Report

Cybersecurity company Recorded Future has released a lengthy expose claiming that North Korea uses cryptocurrency to skirt U.S.-imposed economic sanctions alongside a shady network of collaborators and enablers in Singapore.


The company claims that in addition to mining coins like bitcoin and monero, North Korean leaders have also been involved in promoting cryptocurrency scams that have bilked investors around the world of millions of dollars.


North Korea’s Technology-Backed Evasion of Sanctions

North Korea’s use of cutting edge technology to get around the effects of economic sanctions imposed on Kim Jong Un’s regime is well documented. In September, CCN reported that Washington-based financial experts Lourdes Miranda and Ross Delston accused North Korea of using crypto mining and coin scams as means of generating revenue. Earlier this month, CCN also reported  that a notorious North Korean hacker group called “Lazarus” is responsible for the theft of more than $571 million in cryptocurrency.


The Recorded Future report claims that North Korean leaders mine bitcoin and monero at a relatively small scale, with the bulk of their efforts in the cryptocurrency space from the first quarter of 2018 to date now focused on exploiting growing worldwide crypto awareness for the purpose of launching investment scams. Two coins in particular are identified as North Korean scam projects, namely HOLD coin and Marine Chain.

HOLD Coin, also previously known as Interstellar, HUZU and Stellar (not to be confused with XLM) used a fraudulent staking scheme to collect investor money, having been variously listed and delisted across a number of exchanges before disappearing with all funds.


Marine Chain on the other hand, was part of a more sophisticated scam that runs right to the heart of the North Korean government’s ability to consistently diminish the effectiveness of UN-imposed economic sanctions that would ordinarily cripple the regime. Billed as a tokenisation framework for maritime vessels, an investigation by Recorded Future into Marine Chain revealed a complex network linked to Singapore with potentially far-reaching implications for cybersecurity in Southeast Asia.


The Singaporean Connection

According to information gleaned from LinkedIn, an advisor called HyoMong Choi and the CEO of Marine Chain, Captain Jonathan Foong Kah Keong are the key figres in Marince Chain’s fradulent activities. Capt. Foong reportedly has connections to Singaporean companies that facilitate North Korean activities designed to circumvent U.N. sanctions. Activities these companies have been involved in include manipulating flag registries for three countries to give prohibited North Korean vessels the ability to sail under flags of convenience.


This means that more than just being a run-of-the-mill cryptocurrency scammer, Capt. Foong is actually part of the key strategy employed by the North Korean regime to skirt sanctions that should ordinarily make it the most isolated regime on earth, and keep itself in power. The appearance of Capt. Foong in the context of North Korean crypto scams is significant of a wider pivot in the regime’s criminal activities as it looks to harness the possibilities presented by a new wave of technology including blockchain technology.

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Chinese Arbitration Court Says Bitcoin Should Be Legally Protected as Property

An arbitration body in China has ruled that despite the country's central bank's ban on cryptocurrency trading, bitcoin should still be legally protected as a property with economic values.

The Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration published a case analysis on Thursday via WeChat, detailing its ruling on a recent economic dispute that involved a business contract relating to possession and transfer of crypto assets.

According to the case analysis, the unnamed plaintiff signed a contract agreement with the defendant, which allowed the latter to trade and manage a pool of cryptocurrencies on the plaintiff's behalf.

However, the plaintiff said the defendant failed and refused to return the cryptocurrencies after an agreed deadline. As a result, they brought the case to the arbitrator, seeking the return of the assets with interest.

The cryptocurrencies at dispute included around 20 bitcoin, 50 bitcoin cash, and 13 bitcoin diamond, worth around $493,158 combined, the plaintiff said.

While there's no specific law in China governing cryptocurrencies, the arbitrator's analysis offers a window into its thinking on the nature of the financial technology.

The arbitrator said one main argument made by the defendant was that the ban from the People's Bank of China (PBoC) on cryptocurrency trading and initial coin offerings essentially means crypto payments and transactions should be illegal in China. As such, the entire contract, by default, would become invalid.

Further, with the trading ban, the defendant said there was no venue to trade and send the assets to the plaintiff.

However, the arbitrator disagreed, explaining the nature of the case is about the contractual obligation for returning cryptocurrencies, which does not fall under the cryptocurrency trading or initial coin offering categories outlined in the PBoC's September 2017 ban.

The arbitrator stated that there is no law in China currently that prohibits the possession of bitcoin and its transactions between individuals. Further, it said there should be no technical difficulties in sending bitcoin as long as one has a bitcoin address and private key.

"The Arbitration Court noticed that, after September 2017, major bitcoin exchanges operating in China at the time suspended their businesses. But technically, that fact does not prevent the defendant from sending the bitcoin and bitcoin cash at dispute to the plaintiff upon the agreed deadline," the arbitrator said.

The court concluded that, whether bitcoin is a legal tender or not, does not have an impact on the fact that bitcoin ownership should be protected legally based on China's contract law, adding:

"Bitcoin has the nature of a property, which can be owned and controlled by parties, and is able to provide economic values and benefits."

The court is one of the Arbitration Committees established in China after the country enacted a law in 1995 enabling city governments to form such entities to rule on economic disputes relating to contract issues in areas such as business, finance and real estate.

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India’s Supreme Court Seeks Gov’t Report on Cryptocurrency in 2-Week Deadline

India’s Supreme Court, the country’s apex court, has directed the central government to present its official stance on cryptocurrency within two weeks.


In a telling move that seeks to end the ambiguity over the legality of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin in India, the government has been ordered to release its report on the cryptocurrency sector by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has been inundated with multiple petitions filed by cryptocurrency exchanges and industry groups that have challenged a banking blockade enforced by the central bank in April, a crippling policy that has largely shuttered the domestic crypto sector.


While the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued multiple cautions against the use of cryptocurrency over the years (from as early as 2013), they aren’t illegal in the country.


As reported previously, the Reserve Bank of India has shunned responsibility when asked to provide clarity on the legal status of cryptocurrencies. It was a policy matter for the government, the central bank argued.


According to an  Economic Times report on Friday, a legal counsel representing nine cryptocurrency exchanges demanded the government bring some clarity.

“We have got employees. There are jobs,” counsel Nakul Dewan for the sector argued, in the same week wherein the co-founders of India’s largest exchange, Unocoin were arrested for installing a cryptocurrency ATM in the city of Bangalore.


An advocate for the central bank countered by claiming that the authority was ‘only trying to discourage the use of cryptocurrencies,’ insisting it was ‘a policy decision’ for the government.


The legality debate at the Supreme Court may be nearing its end. After hearing the arguments presented, the Supreme Court’s bench of Justices has demanded the government place its position before the court in two weeks’ time.



Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Bitfury Could Launch Europe’s First Major Crypto IPO, With Potential $3 Billion Valuation

Cryptocurrency mining firm Bitfury is considering an initial public offering in Amsterdam or London as early as 2019. The move would make Bitfury the first major crypto IPO listed in Europe.


The Amsterdam-based blockchain startup could seek a valuation of $3 billion to $5 billion, sources told Bloomberg. The company is speaking with several investment banks to explore its options, including debuting on a Hong Kong exchange.

No final decisions have been made. Bitfury has been making key moves to expand its business, even as the cryptocurrency market remains sluggish.


Bitfury Rival Recently Launched IPO

Bitfury, which launched in 2011 as a bitcoin mining company and maker of crypto-mining gear, has since expanded into blockchain research. It expects to report revenue of $450 million for the last fiscal year.


Last month, Bitfury rolled out a new SHA256 application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip that can achieve a hashrate of 120GH/s with a power efficiency of 55mW/GH.


Two days later, Bitfury’s much-larger rival — Bitmain Technologies — unveiled a new 7nm ASIC mining chip for the SHA256 algorithm used by bitcoin, bitcoin cash, and other virtual currencies, as CCN has reported.

With its proposed IPO, Bitfury is following in the footsteps of Bitmain — the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency company. In September 2018, Bitmain filed for an initial public offering in Hong Kong with a potential valuation of up to $3 billion.


CNBC Analyst: Coinbase Mulls IPO

Meanwhile, Coinbase, the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, may be preparing to go public, as CCN has reported.


Crypto analyst Ryan NeuNer, who hosts the show “CryptoTrader” on CNBC South Africa, promised to reveal details of Coinbase’s purported IPO soon.



“I guess it’s big news!” NeuNer boasted on Twitter.



As CCN has reported, NeuNer recently predicted that bitcoin prices were “about to explode,” citing bullish market buzz about the near-term possibility of an SEC-approved bitcoin ETF.


Since then, BTC prices have remained generally flat.

In February 2018, Ran Neuner predicted that bitcoin prices would top $50,000 by the end of 2018. So far, that forecast appears unrealistic given current market conditions.



The traditional financial industry has slowly but gradually started recognizing cryptocurrencies as a viable asset class as its mainstream popularity continues to escalate.


The lack of an established regulatory framework has been cited as a key reason for Wall Street’s hesitation in throwing its full support behind the burgeoning market.


That said, there are signs that a sea change afoot. Fidelity Investments, whose assets under management tops $2 trillion, plans to launch a separate company to provide cryptocurrency custody and institutional trade-execution services.


“Our goal is to make digitally-native assets, such as bitcoin, more accessible to investors,” Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson said. “We expect to continue investing and experimenting, over the long-term, with ways to make this emerging asset class easier for our clients to understand and use.”

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Andreas Antonopoulos’ ‘Mastering Bitcoin’ Mentioned on Chinese National Television

According to @cnLedger, who follows Chinese cryptocurrency news, Andreas Antonopoulous’ book, Mastering Bitcoin, was recently recommended on Chinese television as a way to get introduced to cryptocurrency and the blockchain.



The tweet mentions that the Chinese version of the book, as made available in the Asian nation, has a completely different title – Blockchain: The Path Towards Digitized Assets.


Antonopoulous, widely considered one of the leading experts on Bitcoin and professional speaker on the subject who has made numerous major media appearances, was nevertheless pleased with the news. He considers himself the “open blockchain expert.”



The book is meant to introduce a newcomer to Bitcoin and help them become a “master” of the subject. Of course, there’s no mastery of something which remains in development, the book does a great job of helping people get acquainted with the subject. There are numerous complexities within Bitcoin which the book helps to iron out, from the first chapter on, such as the following:


Bitcoin is a distributed, peer-to-peer system. As such there is no “central” server or point of control. Bitcoin are created through a process called “mining,” which involves competing to find solutions to a mathematical problem while processing bitcoin transactions. Any participant in the bitcoin network (i.e., anyone using a device running the full bitcoin protocol stack) may operate as a miner, using their computer’s processing power to verify and record transactions. Every 10 minutes, on average, a bitcoin miner is able to validate the transactions of the past 10 minutes and is rewarded with brand new bitcoin. Essentially, bitcoin mining decentralizes the currency-issuance and clearing functions of a central bank and replaces the need for any central bank.


Readers who are interested can read the book for free.


Andreas Antonopoulous travels the world giving talks on the subject of Bitcoin and has long been considered an authority on it. Whenever the Bitcoin community is facing a serious dilemma, his opinion carries a great deal of weight.

Bitcoin is nothing new in China. It has long been one of the top mining hubs and its regulatory landscape has been a subject of keen interest. It is home to several of the major exchanges and mining hardware producers. It is, of course, where most of the hardware used in Bitcoin is produced, regardless if the companies are based in China.


Several Chinese people have become notable figures in important debates and topics within the Bitcoin space, including Jihan Wu and Samson Mow, both of whom played prominent if opposite roles in the great Bitcoin scaling debate which eventually culminated in the Bitcoin Cash fork.

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Is Bitcoin Primed to Initiate a Rally Above $7,000 After Weeks of Stability?

Throughout the past ten days, the Bitcoin price has remained in a tight range from $6,300 to $6,500, rarely initiating a noticeable movement.


The 1-day price chart of Bitcoin, as shown below, demonstrates nearly two weeks of stability in the lower price range of the dominant cryptocurrency, unable to engage in a short-term upside movement to confirm a breakout above a major resistance level.




In the past 24 hours, the volume of BTC has fallen back to $3.1 billion from $3.5 billion, by more than 10 percent. The lack of trading activity in the cryptocurrency exchange market can be attributed to the tendency of traders to prevent the initiation of high-risk and high-return trades in a period of extended stability and low volatility.


Breakout Expected

According to prominent cryptocurrency trader and technical analyst Peter Brandt, the price trend of BTC throughout the past ten days demonstrates a classic Wyckoff hinge, which suggests that buyers are in control in the market that has been dominated by bears and sellers since early 2018.


“Wyckoff would classify these past 10 days as classic hinge behavior,” Brandt said.

However, for the hinge to materialize, an abrupt increase in the price of Bitcoin to the $6,800 to $7,000 range to breakout of the $6,800 resistance level is required, which traders are observing at this time.


Due to the low volume and trading activity of the cryptocurrency exchange market, a sudden breakout of Bitcoin in a higher price range is becoming increasingly unlikely, at least in the short-term.


As for technical indicators and minor price movements of Bitcoin, since August 9, the asset has barely made any movement outside of the $6,300 to $6,800 range, portraying the lowest rate of volatility in recent years.


Often, the stability in the price of BTC leads to an increase in value of small market cap cryptocurrencies and tokens. But, the low volume of the crypto market has prevented traders from engaging in risky trades in a market that is highly unpredictable.

Most tokens including Wanchain, Golem, Funfair, Aelf, and Zilliqa have made 2 to 8 percent gains across the board over the last 24 hours.


Positive Development Out of China

Throughout the past several months, with the imposition of a ban on Alipay in settling cryptocurrency-related transactions, the government of China has cracked down on the crypto market, strengthening the existing blanket ban on the asset class.


On October 26, CnLedger, a trusted cryptocurrency source in China, reported that a local court ruled Bitcoin to be a property and protected under law, reaffirming the legality of owning and holding BTC.


“Chinese court confirms Bitcoin is protected by law. Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration ruled a case involving cryptos. Inside the verdict: China law does not forbid owning & transferring bitcoin, which should be protected by law because of its property nature and economic value.”

While the ruling of the court does not change the inability of investors in China to legally invest in BTC, it is possible to rely on over-the-counter (OTC) markets to purchase crypto and hold onto them.

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Beyond Crypto Friendly: Swiss Bank Helps Clients Participate in ICOs

Here’s something we don’t hear every day: a Swiss bank has opted to enable its clients to participate in initial coin offerings easily.


The bank, Swissquote, has previously allowed customers to trade in cryptos. This is, to say the least, an unusual service for a fiat banking institution. Additionally, Swissquote offers traditional FOREX trading and the range of services that traditional banks offer.


LakeDiamond ICO

The first ICO to be offered as an investment option on the banking platform is LakeDiamond, a lab-grown diamond company which is raising funds to purchase new equipment. They will offer more ICOs in the future.


The pre-sale of this ICO is ongoing and offers a 10 percent bonus up to 4 million CHF (just under $4 million).The regular public sale will not open until January. Presumably, buyers will not have the opportunity to realize any gains or exchange their tokens for other cryptocurrencies before the spring.

The token itself is pegged to the cost of diamond production. Each token is meant to be equivalent in value to “1 (one) minute of growth reactor operating time, which produces lab-grown diamonds. One minute is the smallest possible unit, so the tokens are non-divisible past this point. If a diamond plate takes 180.5 minutes to grow, it will consume 181 LKD.”




While this is not an ICO Review, LKD tokens are priced around 50 cents each. There will be a maximum supply of close to 6.8 million. The funds raised will be used to improve and expand the firm’s operations. Within the system, the tokens will have utility.


Lab-grown diamonds are a growing industry which markets themselves as more ethical. The movie Blood Diamond speaks to the reason that the ethics of traditional diamonds can be seen as questionable. Like all industries which require entry into disadvantaged countries and massive labor forces, the diamond industry has its share of detractors. Nevertheless, not everyone feels  they are more ethical. There is the fact that they require less labor and if they became the norm, many thousands of people would find themselves without a livelihood.


You Don’t Need a Bank to Invest in ICOs

Yet, there’s certainly nothing unethical about investing in a firm to help it grow. LakeDiamond is meeting a demand and wants the public’s help to get there. SwissQuote feels it is a good investment opportunity for its account holders, and so they have partnered.


All the same, cryptonaughts have invested in ICOs since before banks even took notice of bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. While it is certainly positive to see a bank be so forward-thinking, ultimately banks are not necessary for investment into ICOs and are furthermore decreasingly necessary for anything at all as the blockchain revolution moves on.

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Blockchain, Ledger Release ‘First-of-Its-Kind’ Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet

Cryptocurrency web wallet provider Blockchain has struck a deal with hardware wallet producer Ledger to manufacture a custom hardware device that will allow Blockchain users to seamlessly manage their online and offline funds through a single familiar interface.


Unveiled on Thursday, the Blockchain Lockbox, is, according to an announcement, a “first-of-its-kind hardware and software” solution. Leveraging the strengths of both companies, the Lockbox will provide Blockchain users with a way to move a portion of their funds offline, further securing them from hacks, while also having the option to leave funds in the firm’s non-custodial web wallet, which can be accessed apart from the hardware device.




“The Lockbox is a reflection of what our companies both do best. We’ve created an elegant software and hardware integration that offers more functionality than previously existed in our space. We’re thrilled to offer the Lockbox to Blockchain users so they can easily manage their funds online and offline seamlessly,” said Peter Smith, CEO and co-founder of Blockchain.



Source: Blockchain/Ledger

The device appears to utilize Ledger Nano S  hardware, though it features custom Blockchain firmware rather than the standard version. Ledger said that deliveries of the device, which is now available for preorder for $99.99, should begin in mid-November.


“With stories about crypto hacking continuing to dominate headlines, it’s obvious that security must be top of mind for all stakeholders in the crypto space,” added Pascal Gauthier, president of Ledger. “With the combined forces of Blockchain and Ledger, users are truly getting the best of both worlds. Our partnership with Blockchain is the first of its kind, but as two companies hyper-focused on crypto security, it’s one that’s a natural fit.”




Notably, the announcement said that existing Ledger customers will have the option to pair their Nano S wallets to the Blockchain wallet, providing them with the abilities to manage their online and offline funds together as well as access Blockchain’s inter-wallet trading feature.


Trezor, another large cryptocurrency hardware wallet manufacturer, recently updated its wallet management interface to allow users to trade between cryptocurrencies via brokerage services ShapeShift and Changelly.


However, both Ledger and Trezor could soon face a stiff challenge from electronics giant Sony, who, as CCN reported, this week unveiled a cryptocurrency hardware wallet system that it said it plans to “commercialize” in the future. Sony’s wallet, which is the size of a credit card, uses contactless IC technology to store private keys offline while allowing users to easily sign transactions from NFC-enabled mobile devices.

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Mastercard Wants to Patent a Fractional Reserve Cryptocurrency Bank

Mastercard has gone all the way through the stages of the resistance proverb — “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”


Cryptocurrencies & Mastercard: A Turbulent History

Like most financial companies, Mastercard never expected the blockchain, and by the time they took note of it, they were unprepared for the changes it could and will bring. So their earliest reactions were, to say the least, not positive. A massive firm, however, they were at the same time studying the technology and looking for ways to utilize it, as well as looking for ways to legally make use of cryptocurrencies.


The company has been all over the place on the issue, eventually admitting that it could be “good.”


The Ultimate Irony: Fractional Reserve Blockchain

Now, some years after initially associating cryptocurrencies with crime, Mastercard is seeking a patent for fractional reserve management of blockchain assets. You read that right, and there are likely a number of cryptonaughts laughing their heads off as they digest this. Fractional reserve banking is one of the problems Bitcoin was designed to solve. It is a practice which most who gravitate toward cryptocurrencies would prefer to see eradicated.


In general, Bitcoiners are not fans of debt-based currency. Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies are therefore regarded as sound money.


A Step Beyond Not Owning Your Keys: Not Even Being Sure the Institution Has Your Funds

The patent Mastercard is seeking — application 20180308092 — describes a system which will simultaneously track crypto assets and fiat assets. Essentially, it’s a web wallet with a combination of cryptocurrency and fiat accounts.


Bitcoin banking institutions like Coinbase have had trouble gaining traction with cryptocurrency natives over the years for the simple reason that the user/owner of the funds does not then hold the keys. In the cryptonaught’s eyes, not holding the keys to your coin is the same as not holding your coin at all. It can disappear, and there is nothing you can do about it. Thus, the largest component of Coinbase’s customers has been newcomers looking for convenient ways to acquire Bitcoin.

The patent essentially describes a cryptocurrency credit card network.


“Thus, there is a need to improve on the storage and processing of transactions that utilize blockchain currencies. Existing payment networks and payment processing systems that utilize fiat currency are specially designed and configured to safely store and protect consumer and merchant information and credentials and to transmit sensitive data between computing systems. In addition, existing payment systems are often configured to perform complex calculations, risk assessments, and fraud algorithm applications extremely fast, as to ensure quick processing of fiat currency transactions. Accordingly, the use of traditional payment networks and payment systems technologies in combination with blockchain currencies may provide consumers and merchants the benefits of the decentralized blockchain while still maintaining security of account information and provide a strong defense against fraud and theft.”




They see a benefit to mixing traditional and cryptocurrency technologies, and the system described would likely include their existing products and payment networks.


“Transactions that may be performed via a payment network may include product or service purchases, credit purchases, debit transactions, fund transfers, account withdrawals, etc. Payment networks may be configured to perform transactions via cash-substitutes, which may include payment cards, letters of credit, checks, transaction accounts, etc.”


Mastercard seeks to do what it does best: process transactions. In the same way, funds can be moved around an exchange or a gambling site instantaneously once their deposits are cleared, Mastercard would like to make this possible for merchants. In this respect, despite the problems associated with fractional reserve anything, Mastercard could potentially make a massive contribution to the Bitcoin economy by enabling millions of existing clients to accept cryptocurrency payments.


Patents take time to process, so we will see how this develops.

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Bank of Canada Estimates 5% of Canadians Own Bitcoin

Data from the Bank of Canada and the Ontario Securities Commission has revealed that bitcoin adoption and general crypto awareness in Canada is growing steadily, with the percentage of Canadian poll respondents who own bitcoin rising from 2.9 percent in 2016 to 5 percent in 2017.


According to a recently released report by the Bank of Canada titled “Bitcoin Awareness and Usage in

Canada: An Update,” Canadians between the ages of 45 and 54 were the group that reported the largest growth in bitcoin ownership over the period, multiplying nearly four times from 0.9 percent in 2016 to 3.5 percent in 2017. Similarly, an OSC report shows that about 1 in 10 Ontarians either currently hold or used to hold cryptoassets.


Data Breakdown

The Bank of Canada report shows that the gender gap for bitcoin ownership widened considerably over the period in question, with female bitcoin owners in Canada remaining at 2 percent of the population, while the male bitcoin ownership figure nearly doubled, jumping from 4.2 percent to 8.1 percent. Significantly, ownership did not only grow in heavily populated provinces with urban centres like Ontario and British Columbia but grew across all provinces including Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. It also showed that the number of holders of small bitcoin amounts has increased by a wider margin than that of people holding more than 10 BTC.



Source: Bank of Canada

The OSC’s data estimates the total number of Ontario residents holding cryptoassets at 500,000 by extrapolating the sample respondents to the population of the entire province. Of these, 63 percent say they own bitcoin, followed by 35 percent for ether, 18 percent for litecoin, 17 percent for bitcoin cash, and 13 percent for ripple (XRP). Very significantly, the report was able to ascertain from respondents when they first purchased their crypto holdings, which revealed that, unsurprisingly, a large percentage purchased their first coins in late 2017 or early 2018.


According to the survey, which was conducted in March 2018, 35 percent of crypto holders reported having made their first purchase of cryptocurrency within the previous three months, and a further 37 percent say they first obtained crypto within the past year. Just 27 percent indicated having purchased their crypto more than a year ago, which means that 72 percent of crypto holders in Ontario have bought in over the past one year. This tells a significant story about the growth of crypto adoption in Canada’s most populated province.

As cryptocurrencies continue to grow in popularity and spread across Canada, regulators are also keeping an eye on the new opportunities and threats presented in the country, which was recently described as “more blockchain-friendly than the US.” CCN reported in May that Canadian and American regulators are collaborating on a joint cross-border operation targeting ICO and cryptocurrency scams called “Operation Cryptosweep.”

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