Bitcoin Magazine’s Week in Review: South Korea Rises, Cryptocurrencies Falter

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Week in Review

The week began with news that Twitter’s ban on cryptocurrency ads was taking effect immediately, affecting an industry already taking a hit in interest worldwide. Studies are showing that internet searches are on the decline. But things are looking a little more optimistic in areas like South Korea, which seems poised for growth. Indeed, it was announced that cryptocurrencies will be accepted in over 6,000 South Korean stores over the coming months.

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This week’s tories contributed by Jeremy Epstein, Nick Marinoff and Amy Castor

Twitter Abruptly Bans Cryptocurrency Ads — Beginning Today

Less than two weeks ago, the social media giant announced it was developing new policies which would lead to the eventual ban of cryptocurrency and ICO-related advertisements on its platform. That ban suddenly took effect on March 27.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of the Twitter community,” said a company representative. “As such, we have added a new policy for Twitter Ads related to cryptocurrency. Under this new policy, the advertisement of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and token sales will be prohibited globally.”

Cryptocurrency Interest: Is It on the Decline, and Could It Spike Again?

Following a three-month period of drooping prices, it appears interest in bitcoin and digital currencies is falling to new lows, and the market value is sinking along with it. In addition, interest in bitcoin and cryptocurrency related jobs is generally on the decline, though blockchain gigs remain stable enough. Some regions, like India, on the other hand, are seeing job growth.

What we’re probably witnessing is a “shift” in interest, not necessarily a lack of regard for cryptocurrencies; instead, interest may be adapting as people learn more. Analysts are still predicting that overall interest in crypto could spike again later this year. Many remain bullish on virtual assets, particularly bitcoin, and suggest it could reach new price highs by the summer of 2018.

Cryptocurrency Exchange Bitfinex Plans Move to Switzerland

Bitfinex, the fifth-largest cryptocurrency exchange by 24-hour trading volume, is looking to hoist itself out of Hong Kong and settle in Switzerland. As confirmed by sources close to Bitfinex, the exchange is already in talks with Swiss authorities.

Jean-Louis van der Velde, CEO at Bitfinex, hints that a move to Switzerland would bring a renewed transparency to the business. “We want to be the most transparent of all exchanges and meet the requirements of the Swiss regulator,” he said.

Op Ed: Why Korea Could Be the First Cryptocurrency-Powered Nation

Korea has many of the pieces of the puzzle to become the first “Crypto-Powered Nation,” one that runs on blockchains and supports a crypto economy.

Cryptocurrency awareness and adoption are already widespread throughout the country. The end result is that the crypto-infrastructure is in place to handle a large number of customers and almost everyone there has heard of the concept.

The current government, led by President Moon Jae-in, relies heavily on the support of the young adult population. Not surprisingly, this is the same demographic that is highly invested in crypto-assets. As a result, the government is likely to support balanced regulation when it comes to cryptocurrencies. “The government needs the young people to stay in power, and young adults love crypto. They are not going to mess that up.”

Between the money coming in and going out, Korean exchanges and the network of providers that support them are seeing a huge amount of activity. The end result is that they are being forced to innovate on security and scaling solutions. The in-country knowledge could ultimately trickle down to benefit other South Korean companies in the blockchain industry. This, in turn, would give them a competitive advantage by allowing these companies to test and refine a lot of these systems at enterprise scale within the country.

Combine all that with an intense culture of achievement, a drive for economic success and an increasingly global outlook as the country has vaulted to become one of the top 10 economies worldwide, and you have the recipe for a powerful cycle of innovation.

South Koreans Will Be Able to Pay in Cryptocurrency at Over 6,000 Stores

Popular South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb is partnering with digital payment service provider Korea Pay Services (KPS) to pave the way for widespread digital asset adoption in the country. Both companies are working to give over 6,000 of the country’s retail outlets the option of accepting cryptocurrency payments for goods and services.

Executives say they are seeking to launch these new services by summer of 2018, then increase the number of stores to 8,000 by the year’s end.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

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FBI Publishes PSA About Tech Support Fraud Targeting Cryptocurrency Holders

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FBI releases PSA about increasing frequency of tech support fraud, now targeting cryptocurrency investors.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has published a public service announcement on March 28 warning about the prevalence of scammers posing as tech support for a variety of industries, including the cryptocurrency sector.

The announcement defines tech support fraud as a “criminal claiming to provide customer, security, or technical support in an effort to defraud unwitting individuals,” and references the increasing frequency of this type of fraud leading to criminals“pos[ing] as government agents, even offering to recover supposed losses related to tech support fraud schemes or to request financial assistance with ‘apprehending’ criminals.”

Tech support fraud, which can occur through the telephone, search engines, pop-ups, locked screens, and phishing emails, is now also being perpetrated through the new targets of virtual currency exchanges, according to the FBI’s PSA.

The section on the new variations and trends of this type of fraud notes that virtual currency fraud has led to “individual victim losses often in the thousands of dollars.” The scam is carried out by a criminal who pretends to be a virtual currency service’s support representative in order to gain access to a crypto holder’s wallet, then transferring all of the crypto out while the fake “maintenance” is taking place, only to “cease all communication” and disappear with the funds.

The FBI suggests that the public update their ad-blocking and anti-virus software, examine customer support numbers found on search engines more carefully, and “resist[s] the pressure to act quickly” in online tech situations, as “criminals create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure the victim into immediate action.”

Victims of any tech support fraud scams are asked to immediately report the incidents in as much detail as possible to the IC3.

In January of this year, the IC3 warned the public about a different new method of cryptocurrency extortion – false death threats to individuals that requested crypto and fiat ransoms to spare their lives.

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Intel Releases Patent for New Cryptocurrency Mining Accelerator

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Intel, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies, has filed a patent for a new Bitcoin mining chip accelerator. Entitled “Bitcoin Mining Hardware Accelerator with Optimized Message Digest and Message Scheduler Datapath,” the patent was originally submitted in September of 2016, but is now being released for the first time.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining has long been under scrutiny for the excessive energy it allegedly uses. Countries like Iceland, for example, admit that more energy is used to mine Bitcoin than to power its residences, while cities like Plattsburgh, New York — a once-popular haven for commercial Bitcoin mining — have imposed strict moratoriums to lessen miners’ growing needs and the surging costs of electricity.

Intel claims to have found a more reasonable and cost-effective way to mine bitcoins. The patent says the product can decrease energy use by up to 35 percent while lowering financial requirements and mining more bitcoins in the process.

The document reads:

Because the software and hardware utilized in Bitcoin mining uses brute force to repeatedly and endlessly perform SHA-256 functions, the process of Bitcoin mining can be very power-intensive and utilize large amounts of hardware space. The embodiments described herein optimize Bitcoin mining operations by reducing the space utilized and power consumed by Bitcoin mining hardware.

Intel explains that one of the most expensive and rigorous steps involved in any mining venture is finding the 32-bit field. The value is set so that the block hash contains a nonce, or a solid set of zeros. After computation is complete, these zeros are attached to the “hash of the transaction hashes in the blockchain” and other headers.  

The traditional 256-bit hash that the document discusses is less than a “pre-defined threshold value.” There are two primary computational blocks involved: a message scheduler and a message digest. Both blocks work together to combine several 32-bit words and 32-bit additions, which can thus bring energy use down.

Several problems exist, however, within the present mining community. Energy costs in most of the United States are increasing, while other nations like China — prime locations for mining operations due to their low-priced energy supplies — have sought to slow cryptocurrency innovation by “clamping down” on Bitcoin miners or limiting available energy.

Perhaps the largest problem stems from bitcoin’s current price. At press time, one bitcoin is trading for roughly $6,600 — a massive drop from the $8,000+ mark seen earlier this week. Figures like Fundstrat’s Thomas Lee now say that Bitcoin mining is no longer profitable, with most miners either breaking even or falling short between what they earn and what they’ve spent to extract coins.

Randy Copeland, an Intel partner and the president of Velocity Micro, says that Intel’s new accelerator could change things for the better. Speaking with CRN, Copeland explains, “Once this new Intel technology comes to market, more people will mine again because it’s profitable again, driving down the market value of the coins and finding a new market balance that will again put locations with lower electricity costs back at the advantage.”

This is not Intel’s first attempt to enter the cryptocurrency arena. Last May, the company partnered with healthcare transaction service provider PokitDok to help bring blockchain technology to the healthcare industry. Executives also joined hands with Chinese media and tech firm Tencent in September to collaborate on a new blockchain solution.

Later in October, Intel partnered with hardware wallet developer Ledger to store digital currency on the company’s platform.

Intel’s actions could prove to be significant. Patents among some Bitcoin companies have been deemed “unethical,” as the original Bitcoin software is available freely as open-source software. In addition, patents for Bitcoin mining products present concerns regarding the decentralized nature and competitiveness of the industry. If one company is able to use significantly less resources and thereby operate more efficiently, that venture may wind up the single or dominant party, while the rest make a permanent exit — a situation that could result in reduced decentralization and security.

The recent Blockchain Defensive Patent License (BDPL) is seeking to provide a more open arena for Bitcoin miners. Should a Bitcoin- or blockchain-based company enter the agreement, they must share all their patents with “other license holders” as long as those holders are also members. The BDPL imposes strict regulations that deny blockchain companies specific rights to certain patents or products, and penalizes “licensees who attack the patents licensed” to other members.

It will certainly be interesting to see if Intel, with its latest technology, decides to follow in the spirit of other Bitcoin mining companies and become the BDPL’s newest affiliate.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Havas Group Launches Havas Blockchain

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Havas Group, one of the world’s largest global communications companies, is one of the latest companies to become involved in blockchain technology. Recently, the French company announced they are launching Havas Blockchain. Havas Blockchain is a fully integrated communications offering that is designed to support the entrepreneurs and businesses involved in blockchain and will officially launch […]

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Hong Kong Exchange OKEx Rolls Back Futures Transactions

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Hong Kong–based cryptocurrency trading platform OKEx announced on March 30 that it was rolling back on all futures transactions due to what executives deemed an “irregular sell-off.”

The exchange issued the following statement on its support page:

To prevent forced-liquidations due to price differences after the settlements in ‘bi-weekly’ and ‘quarterly’ futures contracts, we will rollback the transactions as mentioned, and all futures contracts will be delivered at 00:00 Mar 31, 2018 (Hong Kong Time). Further announcement will be made if there are any changes in delivery time.

The post explained that all weekly, bi-weekly and futures contracts would be fulfilled, but that after delivery, “all open orders” would be canceled and “all holding positions” would be closed at the delivery price. The incident allegedly caused the price of bitcoin to fall (albeit briefly) below the $5,000 mark on the exchange, which in turn led to “massive liquidations” and hundreds of contracts being “wiped out.”

One particularly scary moment occurred when a disgruntled user arrived at the exchange’s headquarters carrying a bottle of poison. The customer claimed to have lost nearly $11 million through the forced liquidations and threatened to take his own life by ingesting the substance.

OKEx says it always has “customers’ best interests at heart” and that the platform is “dedicated to providing the best products and technologies to protect [their] customers.” Following the sell-off, transactions were suspended for several hours, and executives issued an apology for what had occurred.

The team eventually posted a follow-up notice explaining what they planned to do in the future to prevent similar events from occurring again:

All the rollbacks have been completed. Withdrawal and Futures Trading will be resumed at 00:00 Mar 31, 2018 (Hong Kong time). In light of this incident, we are going to update our ‘Price limit rules’ for Futures Trading at 00:00 Mar 31, 2018 (Hong Kong Time) for better risk control. There will be more related improvements, and we will notify you in further announcements after they are launched.

Presently, all rollbacks have been completed and futures trading has resumed, but not everyone is convinced the problem has come to an end. Several customers are criticizing OKEx and its current systems, saying that they do not have the capabilities “to prevent what might be termed as the intended activities.” And others are suggesting OKEx may have been trying to manipulate bitcoin’s price through the liquidation, though the company has not yet acknowledged these charges.

At press time, bitcoin has fallen by nearly $700 from where it stood on March 29, and is now trading at approximately $6,700.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Safeguard Eyes US$12M ICO For AI System And Blockchain-Based Safety Data Marketplace

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Safeguard, a safety-tech startup from the Netherlands, is looking to raise 30,000 ETH (US$12 million) in an initial coin offering (ICO) to fund the development of an artificial intelligence (AI) system and the so-called Safety Data Marketplace. Safeguard currently offers a crisis communication platform for small and large organizations to manage safety practices. The startup […]

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Slush Pool is Now Compatible With AsicBoost Bitcoin Miners

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Slush Pool, Bitcoins first and oldest mining pool, announced support for AsicBoost today, March 6, 2018. Slush Pool users that have the technology embedded in the application-specific integrated circuit ASIC chips in their mining hardware can connect to the pool to mine more efficiently and, thus, more profitably.The protocol extension we propose and already implemented allows miners to use overt AsicBoost over stratum protocol, which was not yet possible, Slush Pool CTO Pavel Moravec told Bi

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8base Launches “No-Code” Software Development Platform Powered By Blockchain

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Miami-based startup 8base has launched an application development platform that’s using technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) to allow developers and businesses to easily and rapidly build and deploy software applications without the need to write any code. The company said the newly launched platform “significantly reduces the amount of effort and technical […]

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London Block Exchange Adds Ripple, More Coins to Follow

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London Block Exchange (LBX), the U.K.’s only multi-cryptocurrency over-the-counter exchange, has announced that it has added Ripple’s digital asset, XRP to its list of coins available to customers. As a registered Electronic Money Services Directive (EMD) for e-wallet functionality by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), this means that LBX is not only the sole […]

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