Indian Bitcoin Exchanges Resume Direct INR Deposits

Indian Bitcoin Exchanges Resume Direct INR Deposits
Bitcoin exchanges in India are resuming direct bank account deposits and withdrawals following the decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss the central bank’s crypto trading ban. Banks to Resume Support for Indian Bitcoin Exchanges Unocoin, one India’s Bitcoin exchanges, tweeted on Thursday (March 5, 2020) the resumption of direct bank account deposits and withdrawals on its platform. Nischal Shetty, founder of WazirX another Bitcoin exchange and Binance’s Indian partner also published a tweet on Thursday announcing the imminent reopening of banking support for the crypto trading service. Unocoin is going live with bank account deposits and withdrawals by 11.30 AM today (March 5th) #IndiaGotCrypto — Unocoin (@Unocoin) March 5, 2020 The reinstitution of banking support for Indian Bitcoin exchanges comes as a direct consequence of the crypto trading ban reversal. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the country’s Supreme Court nullified the 2018 ban by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) prohibiting commercial banks from offering services to Bitcoin exchanges. WazirX team is working hard on bringing back direct bank deposits to all of you. Hold on tight, we'll announce as soon as it's ready ✌#IndiaWantsCrypto #Bitcoin #WRX — Nischal (WazirX) ⚡ (@NischalShetty) March 5, 2020 Earlier in 2020, the RBI came out to clarify that bitcoin and crypto were not illegal in the country. However, the RBI ban and the generally negative stance towards crypto espoused by authorities in the country saw an exodus of Bitcoin exchanges from the country. Platforms like Zebpay, Coindelta, and Koinex shuttered operations in the country with some electing to set up shop in other nations like Australia. Apart from the RBI ban, an inter-ministerial committee also recommended a blanket ban on cryptos with additional fines and prison sentences for people found engaging in cryptocurrency transactions. Not Yet Uhuru for India’s Crypto Scene With the RBI ban reversal, it appears the general sentiment among industry stakeholders is experiencing a transition from “#IndiaWantsCrypto” to “#IndiaGotCrypto.” However, the RBI ban aside, the cryptocurrency scene in the country still faces several hurdles up ahead. Back in 2018, reports emerged that the RBI ban was based on flawed arguments. The absence of crypto stakeholders in any form of cryptocurrency advisory council may mean the creation of laws not favorable to the industry especially considering the likelihood of concrete cryptocurrency regulations following the removal of the RBI ban. Also, the RBI released a fintech sandbox back in 2019 which did not include crypto businesses. The absence of isolated testing for virtual currency-related products precludes cryptocurrency startups from being able to develop and launch potentially useful products and services in the country. Will the resumption of banking services for Indian Bitcoin exchanges cause a significant pump in crypto prices? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock, Twitter @Unocoin and @NischalShetty.

Crypto Trading is Now Legal in South Korea

Crypto Trading is Now Legal in South Korea
South Korea’s parliament has officially recognized crypto trading as legal in the country. The move comes after two years of deliberations into how to develop concrete guidelines for cryptocurrencies. South Korea Legalizes Crypto Trading According to The News Asia, South Korea’s National Assembly passed an amendment to its Reporting and Use of Specific Financial Information Act, legalizing cryptocurrency trading. Local South Korea media outlet Maeil Kyungjae revealed that the motion to amend the bill received unilateral support with 182 votes in favor and zero against. The law will come into 12 months from the signing date with a further 6-month grace period for crypto exchanges to comply with the new regulatory paradigm. Thus, by September 2021, all crypto exchanges and wallet providers in South Korea will have to abide by the newly amended laws. As part of the amendment, crypto exchanges and other businesses must comply with the same reporting requirements as other financial institutions. According to reports, the amendments legalizing crypto trading in South Korea contain similar provisions to the guidelines already established by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). South Korea’s decision comes closely following the news that India’s Supreme Court nullified the country’s central bank ban on commercial banks providing services to Bitcoin exchanges. Like India, several crypto exchanges in South Korea shut down their operations citing unfavorable regulations. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, major South Korean crypto and blockchain stakeholders were unhappy with the regulatory climate in the country. Blockchain startups were electing to list their tokens on overseas exchanges given the shrinking crypto market in South Korea. In August 2019, reports also emerged that 97% of South Korean crypto exchanges were in danger of going bankrupt. Government Wants Robust KYC Compliance While crypto trading is effectively legalized in South Korea, the news comes with added compliance costs for cryptocurrency exchanges and wallet providers. As part of the new laws, all virtual currency businesses must comply with know your customer (KYC) protocols with real-name verification in tandem with commercial banks. Obtaining ISMS certification from the Korea Internet Security Agency (KISA) may constitute an expensive affair for small and medium-sized crypto businesses. Even major players like Bithumb have highlighted the increasing cost of compliance brought on by more stringent requirements set forth by the Financial Services Commission (FSC). Will the legalization of crypto trading in South Korea improve the fortunes of cryptocurrency exchanges in the country? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock

With Mike Bloomberg Out, What’s Next for Crypto in the US?

bloomberg out, what crypto
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg who previously advocated for clearer crypto regulations has dropped out of the race to win the Democratic ticket for the November 2020 U.S. presidential election. Bloomberg Drops Out After Super Tuesday Crash and Burn According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Bloomberg, a former New York Mayor is the latest Democratic candidate to exit the race, while endorsing former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Bloomberg’s decision comes after spending more than $620 million over three months to run his campaign. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, Bloomberg had announced plans to legitimize the U.S. crypto market. In a Financial Reform Policy published back in mid-February, the Bloomberg LP founder declared his intention to replace the patchwork of State and Federal crypto regulations with more clear-cut laws for cryptocurrency governance. Bloomberg’s crypto policies briefly made him the pro-cryptocurrency candidate of the Democratic Party after former contender Andrew Yang dropped out of the race in February. Yang had been a firm proponent of crypto adoption and the creation of standardized cryptocurrency laws. Bloomberg’s decision to exit the race came after failing to capture a significant number of delegates during Super Tuesday despite spending about $215 million in ads. Announcing his endorsement of Biden, Bloomberg remarked: After yesterday’s results, the delegate math has become virtually impossible—and a viable path to the nomination no longer exists… I’ve always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. After yesterday’s vote, it is clear that the candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden. The Destiny of US Crypto Regulations Post-2020 Polls After Super Tuesday, Biden and Bernie Sanders appear to be the front runners for the Democratic ticket. Neither has included crypto-related matters in their policy statements during the campaign. However, their respective relationship with ‘big tech’ might offer a clue as to their likely approach to cryptocurrency regulations. While espousing some level of criticisms for Silicon Valley, Biden is generally favorable towards the U.S. tech industry. Sanders, on the other hand, is known for advocating for the breakup of major tech establishments like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. A Biden presidency could see Facebook’s proposed Libra project come under even greater scrutiny. As for the incumbent President Donald Trump, crypto is “highly volatile and based on thin air.” Trump’s likely crypto laws might be in response to cryptocurrency utilization by the likes of China, Iran, and North Korea. In the absence of any crypto-focused policies from the remaining candidates, the future of U.S. crypto regulations may lie with Congress. Bills like the Token Taxonomy Act and the Cryptocurrency Act of 2020 are before the country’s legislature. With Bloomberg gone, will another Democratic candidate adopt crypto-related matters in the campaign policies? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock

Could Crypto Exchanges, Wallets be Targeted with Banking Trojans?

Could Crypto Exchanges, Wallets be Targeted with Banking Trojans?
Sophisticated malware strains that usually target online banking services may pivot towards crypto exchanges and wallets in 2020. RATs Could Target Crypto Exchanges and Wallets in 2020 According to a report by Dutch-based cybersecurity firm ThreatFabric, hackers may use banking trojans to target crypto exchanges and wallets in 2020. In its report, ThreatFabric also highlighted the growing trend of these attack vectors moving from desktop platforms to mobile banking services with crypto wallets and exchange accounts the next likely destination. Using Remote Access Trojans (RATs), hackers can reportedly bypass security infrastructure on smartphones, enabling cybercriminals to carry out transactions directly from the infected mobile devices. According to the report, hackers are already using banking trojans like Hydra and Gustuff to attack crypto exchanges and wallets. Using Hydra’s screencast capabilities, cybercriminals can remotely monitor real-time activities on the infected mobile devices. Hydra also allows hackers to clone the infected device, providing access to stored financial information. As part of its report, ThreatFabric revealed that rogue actors are using Hydra to hack crypto wallets on platforms like Binance, Bitfinex, and Coinbase among others. With Gustuff, hackers have access to keylogging and browser overlay attack vectors allowing rogue actors to trick victims into entering their financial details on fake websites that closely resemble their real banking or crypto exchange platforms. According to ThreatFabric, Gustuff’s potential target is also currently expanding to include crypto wallets like Electrum, Blockchain.com, and Xapo. In addition to Hydra and Gustuff, other banking trojans currently targeting crypto exchanges and wallets include Anubis, Cerberus, and SMS hacking tool Ginp. Industry Needs to Combat Cryptocurrency Theft The emergence of more sophisticated attack vectors targeting the crypto exchanges and wallets is sure to pose serious headaches for industry stakeholders. In recent times, exchange services have been forced to revamp their security architecture to thwart the activities of online hackers. With these banking trojans, however, the security consideration falls on the shoulders of smartphone makers to develop more secure devices. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, Samsung announced plans to include tamper-resistant crypto information storage capabilities in its Galaxy S20 series. With mobile devices coming with inbuilt crypto wallets, users require more advanced security features to stave off malicious intrusions from hackers who are repurposing these deadly banking trojans. These attack vector will also join the expanding list of crypto threats ranging from clipper malware to malicious mining scripts all dedicated to stealing valuable cryptocurrency funds. What steps are you going to take to prevent falling victim to these RAT banking trojans? Let us know in the comments below. Image via Shutterstock

US Rapper Dismissed From ICO Lawsuit, Kevin Hart Still on Trial

US Rapper Dismissed From ICO Lawsuit, Kevin Hart Still on Trial
Atlanta rapper T.I, real name Clifford Harris Jr, has been cleared of securities fraud charges stemming from his alleged promotion of the FLiK ICO. However, fellow defendants, businessman Ryan Felton, along with actor and comedian Kevin Hart, still have a case to answer. Court Clears T.I. of Securities Fraud Charges According to Law360, the U.S. Court of Northern Georgia dismissed state securities fraud and other claims brought against T.I. Back in November 2018, Bitcoinist reported that aggrieved FLiK ICO investors sued the rapper for participating in a fraudulent pump and dump ICO scheme. The affected investors claim to have lost $2 million to the FLiK ICO scam following the alleged promotional activities of T.I. and the other defendants. Delivering judgment on the case, U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr., sided with T.I.’s counsel, declaring: The plaintiffs have merely alleged that Harris encouraged his Twitter followers to visit the website for the FLiK ICO. They have not provided any statements from Harris about the value of the FLiK tokens. The facts as pleaded do not rise to the level of particularity required. The court also dismissed the plaintiff’s claims that T.I.’s involvement in FLiK ICO promotional activities were against Georgia’s Uniform Securities Act. According to the Judge’s statement, none of the participants in the crypto investment scheme had any ties with the state of Georgia. Judge Pannell also stated that the prosecution was unable to prove a direct link between the decision of the investors to buy into the scheme and T.I.’s alleged promotional activities. Celebrities Feeling the Burn for Backing ICO and Crypto Projects T.I. is one of a few rappers and other celebrities who were caught up in the ICO-mania of 2017, promoting token sales that ultimately turned out to be fraudulent. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled its charges against DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather. The SEC fined the pair a total of about $800,000 with an additional stipulation banning both celebrities from promoting digital securities for two and three years respectively. Both celebs were part of the promotional efforts for the CentraTech ICO scam. In late February 2020, the SEC also slammed actor and martial artist Steven Seagal with a $314,000 fine for promoting the Bitcoiin2Gen (B2G) ICO. Will the court also dismiss charges against Kevin Hart in the FLiK ICO scam case? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Rolling Stone

Crypto Now Officially Seen as Financial Instruments in Germany

crypto Germany
Germany’s financial regulator has released guidelines classifying crypto as financial instruments. This move further expands the definition of financial instruments to include all kinds of digital assets with the previous paradigm only covering security tokens. BaFin Clarifies Crypto Classification in Germany In a press release issued on Monday (March 2, 2020), the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) described crypto as: [A] digital representation of a value that has not been issued or guaranteed by any central bank or public body and is not necessarily linked to a currency specified by law and that does not have the legal status of a currency or money, but is accepted as a medium of exchange by natural or legal persons and can be transmitted, stored and traded electronically. According to BaFin, its new classification echoes the guidelines of intergovernmental agencies like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The news marks the second landmark crypto classification to emerge in the last few days with an Australian Judge recently ruling that crypto is an investment vehicle — meaning virtual currencies can be used as collateral in the country. BaFin’s new crypto classification announcement is also part of the move by the country to adopt the fifth EU Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5) which began on January 1, 2020. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, part of the AMLD5 adoption process involves changes to Germany’s Banking Act and Payment Supervision Services Act. Concerning Cryptocurrency Custody As part of the new BaFin crypto guidelines, cryptocurrency custodians will need to obtain a license for the regulator to offer their services in the country. Crypto custodial platforms already operating in the country without a license have until the end of November 2020 to apply for one but must show readiness to do so before March 30, 2020. Also, crypto custodian already registered in other EU nations cannot “passport” their operating license to Germany. Instead, such platforms must apply for approval to offer crypto custody services in the country. Earlier in February 2020, reports emerged that BaFin received crypto custodial licensing applications from no fewer than 40 banks. Apart from banks, the country’s stock exchange is also significantly involved with the crypto market as Boerse Stuttgart — Germany’s second-largest stock exchange recently added a new inverse Bitcoin Traded Product (ETP). What do you think about Germany’s new classification of crypto as financial instruments? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock

Ripple’s XRP Trading Gets Big Boost in Malaysia

Ripple's XRP Trading Gets Big Boost in Malaysia
London-based crypto exchange platform Luno is offering XRP trading to its customers in Malaysia. The decision will see XRP becoming the third cryptocurrency included in its Malaysian trading catalog after Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH). Luno Enables XRP Trading in Malaysia According to Fintech Malaysia, starting from Tuesday (March 3, 2020), XRP trading will be available on Luno’s crypto exchange platform in Malaysia. The news comes following reports at the back-end of February 2020 that the London-based was close to adding the second-ranked altcoin (based on market capitalization) to its trading catalog. In Malaysia, Luno currently offers only Bitcoin and Ether trading pairs. The company polled its users to determine which new trading pairs customers wanted to be added to the platform. Inside sources at the company say XRP led the way hence the decision to green-light the addition of XRP trading to crypto exchange services on Luno. Commenting on the decision, Luno CEO Marcus Swanepoel, remarked: We have always limited the number of coins we offer, only listing digital currencies which have liquidity, are secure and have the utility which will benefit our clients. XRP demonstrates the benefits that blockchain based assets can offer. Year 2020 looks as though it will be another very important year for the sector as more and more people use digital coins as part of the day-to-day finances. Luno’s announcement has not had any significant impact on the XRP price action. XRP has been on the downtrend since mid-February 2020, dropping almost 30% over the past fortnight. As at press time, XRP is one of four top-10 altcoins in the during the last 24-hour trading session. Crypto prices, in general, are still reeling from the significant decline suffered during the last two weeks of February 2020 with the market shedding more than $30 billion in the process. Malaysian Regulators Clarifying Crypto Laws Luno’s expanding crypto trading offering in Malaysia comes at a time when regulators in the country are finetuning cryptocurrency laws. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the country’s Security Commission (SE) outlawed initial coin offerings (ICOs) back mid-January 2020 while offering guidelines for initial exchange offerings (IEOs). The IEO regulations came a year after the country announced new rules for crypto exchanges operating in Malaysia. Luno is one of the registered crypto exchange platforms in the country, enjoying a new lease of life in Malaysia following tax concerns back in mid-January 2018. What do you think about Luno adding XRP trading to its crypto exchange catalog? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock, charts by Ripple.

Samsung Increases Crypto Info Security on its Smartphones

samsung crypto
Korean electronics giant Samsung says it is improving the security infrastructure of its smartphones for enhanced protection of user’s crypto information. Samsung Eyes Tamper-resistant Crypto Information Storage In a press release issued on Tuesday (February 25, 2020), Samsung announced the introduction of a new Secure Element (SE) designed to better protect data stored on its smartphones. Samsung’s new SE is a Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance (CC EAL) turnkey security solution for mobile phones. According to the press release, the new SE is the highest security level hardware to be installed on any smartphone. An excerpt from the press release reads: Samsung’s new turnkey solution is a dedicated tamper-resistant strongbox that securely stores users’ confidential and cryptographic data such as pin numbers, passwords and even crypto-currency credentials separate from the typical mobile memory such as embedded Universal Flash Storage (eUFS). With smartphones increasingly holding sensitive financial data like crypto wallet passwords and seed phrases, Samsung says security protocols need to evolve, hence its decision to create a new SE. As part of the press release, Samsung revealed that its new security protocols protect against attack vectors like laser attacks, power glitches, and diverse forms of reverse engineering techniques. According to the press statement, the new SE hardware solution is already in mass production and will feature in the Galaxy S20 smartphones series. As previously revealed by the company, like the S10 series, the flagship S20 models will also come with an in-built crypto wallet. More Sophisticated Cryptocurrency Attack Vectors Emerging As previously reported by Bitcoinist, cybercriminals are resorting to more sophisticated attack vectors in a bid to steal cryptos. Consequently, crypto businesses like exchanges are having to vastly improve their security infrastructure to stay ahead of these rogue actors. Earlier in the year, reports emerged that notorious North Korean cybercrime syndicate, Lazarus, was stealing cryptos via Telegram. North Korean-state sponsored hackers are allegedly behind many of the high-profile attacks against crypto exchanges with security experts saying Pyongyang is funneling proceeds of these hacks to fund its nuclear weapons program. The pivot towards more sophisticated attack vectors has come following concerted efforts by law enforcement to combat intrusions like cryptojacking. Earlier in 2020, Interpol revealed that cryptojacking in Southeast Asia was down by about 78% since Q3 2019. What do you think about Samsung’s latest attempt to improve the security of crypto information stored on its smartphones? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock

Coronavirus Stalls China’s Progress with Central Bank Digital Currency

Coronavirus Stalls China's Progress with Central Bank Digital Currency
The coronavirus outbreak is reportedly delaying progress on China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) project. However, officials say Beijing is keen to see the pilot test happen before the end of the year. Central Digital Currency Plans Face Delays Over Coronavirus According to the Global Times, the deadly coronavirus outbreak is slowing down the pace of work on China’s proposed central bank digital currency. An inside source who spoke to the media outlet revealed: The coronavirus outbreak has led to postponed work resumption in government institutions, including the People’s Bank of China (PBC). Policymakers and research staff involved in the DCEP project are no exception, which weighs on the development process. Since December’s outbreak in Wuhan, China, the government has been forced to quarantine large sections of the country, with more than 780 million people placed under travel restrictions. These measures are affecting the working class with offices businesses shut down since the start of the outbreak. Concerning the proposed CBDC, some pundits have argued that moving forward with its development may help to curb the spread of the virus, as digital currencies reduce the need for hand-to-hand exchange of fiat currency notes. As a precautionary measure, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has since instructed that banknotes from hospitals and buses be destroyed to combat the spread of the deadly virus. China’s CBDC Pilot Will Still Launch in 2020 Despite the delays caused by the viral pandemic, sources close to the development of the CBDC say authorities are intent on moving forward with their plans for the project. Some commentators say research teams working on the CBDC have enough theoretical and technological expertise to navigate any hurdles occasioned by the delay. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the PBOC has filed over 80 patents for its proposed central bank digital currency. Details from Global Times show that these patents originate from the PBOC’s research institute as well as its department of printing science and technology. Reports indicate that the pilot test for the CBDC will happen sometime before the end of 2020. Some inside sources say the PBOC was going to provide public updates concerning the project before the end of Q1 2020 but may come later in the year given the present delays. China’s progress on plans to launch a CBDC has reverberated among other major economies with Japan, the U.S., and the EU expressing plans to consider their own sovereign digital currencies. Do you think the coronavirus outbreak will cause the PBOC to abandon work on its central bank digital currency project? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock

Bitcoin Price Hits $15k in Lebanon Amid Worsening Cash Crunch

bitcoin price premium lebanon
The Bitcoin (BTC) price premium in Lebanon is now over 50% with the average price quoted by peer-to-peer (P2P) sellers reaching $15,000. Lebanese Bitcoin Price Premium Continues to Rise According to data from P2P BTC trading platform Localbitcoins, the Bitcoin price premium in Lebanon is still on the rise, with sellers demanding as much as $15,000 per BTC. With the global average spot price in the $9,500 region, it appears, Lebanese BTC price premium has climbed above 50%. Back in January 2020, the Bitcoin price premium in the country was at 25% as the worsening cash crunch has seen more people moving towards the crypto market. According to Al Jazeera, informal capital controls imposed by banks have seen the value of savings decline by about 40%. While sellers might be demanding such high premiums, there is little data to show the volume of trading at such price levels. Strict Capital Controls Boosting Crypto Adoption in Lebanon The situation in Lebanon offers further proof of Bitcoin’s status as a haven asset for people caught in the middle of economic turmoil. From places like Venezuela to Turkey, BTC has offered and continues to offer a viable alternative to the mainstream financial architecture. A severe cash crunch in Lebanon has seen the emergence of strict capital control measures with domestic forex withdrawals and cross-border remittance capped at $50 a month and $50,000 a year respectively. Speaking to Al Jazeera, a group of Bitcoin traders in Lebanon said their average monthly volume has exceeded $1 million since the introduction of capital controls in November 2019. Quoting comments from one of these traders, Al Jazeera revealed: Before the uprising, bitcoin gave me supplementary income, but now, it’s definitely become the primary. Apart from trading, Bitcoin is also providing a channel for wealthy investors in the country to move capital abroad. Rather than taking a 40% haircut on the official forex market, Middle Eastern investors are turning to local Bitcoin traders to transfer funds overseas. Cross-border Bitcoin remittance only takes a few minutes whereas the dire situation in Lebanon is seeing international transactions taking 10 days to complete. The growing distrust of the banking system is also seeing a push towards greater BTC adoption in the country. Since the start of the year, Bitcoin has gained about 32%, reaching a 2020 high of $10,500 earlier in February. Do you think the Bitcoin price premium in Lebanon will continue to rise? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock

Roger Ver: I Didn’t Sign 12.5% Bitcoin Cash (BCH) Miner Tax Proposal

Roger Ver Bitcoin Uncensored block size
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) proponent Roger Ver says neither he nor Bitcoin.com endorsed the controversial 12.5% BCH miner tax. Meanwhile, Bitcoin ABC is proposing a new dev funding plan which reduces the tax rate to 5% of the block reward. Roger Ver Distances Himself from Bitcoin Cash Miner Tax In a YouTube video Roger Ver, Executive Chairman of Bitcoin.com declared that he did not agree to put to his name on the original Bitcoin Cash miner tax proposal from earlier in January 2020. According to Roger Ver: I didn’t sign this. There was definitely discussions and I thought the talks were still ongoing when all of sudden this was released with my name at the bottom. I don’t think my name was released with the intention of getting one over on everybody. I think it was just a lack of communication, lots of time zones [and] lots of different languages. Shortly after the proposal become public, Bitcoin.com issued a statement saying the plan required greater consensus within the BCH community to have any success. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the blog post stated that Bitcoin.com will not be supporting the plan unless a consensus emerges on the matter. Bitcoin ABC Proposes 5% Block Reward Tax Amid the controversy of the BCH miner tax, Bitcoin ABC issued a new infrastructure funding plan (IFP) over the weekend. One of the highlights of the updated plan reduced the block reward tax from 12.5% to 5%. 2/2 This will test if Bitcoin Cash can avoid being captured by a group of developers. Bitcoin does not have payouts to 3rd parties encoded into its protocol. If exchanges and miners download and run the new version of ABC, BCH will be Bcash with no rights to the name "bitcoin." — Peter R. Rizun (@PeterRizun) February 15, 2020 According to the Bitcoin ABC blog post, the new IFP proposal also differs from the initial plan in two ways — miners triggering the implementation of the block reward tax via BIP 9 and the possibility of allocating funds to several whitelisted projects at the same time. Roger Ver raised some concerns with the new IFP saying the 5% miner tax was still arbitrary while raising alarms over the possibility of Bitcoin and Bitcoin SV (BSV) miners abusing the system. For Ver, with Bitcoin miners controlling the bulk of the SHA256 hashing algorithm, rogue actors could use the newly proposed IFP paradigm to damage BCH’s protocol. Apart from Ver’s concerns, BCH mining nodes that do not accept the miner tax may move their hashing potential over to the Bitcoin chain rather than risk being “orphaned.” Such a move could see Bitcoin mining difficulty experiencing a further upward adjustment. Attempts to push through the miner tax could also cause another chain split with dissenting voices arguing that the plan creates a dichotomy that heavily favors a cabal of miners and developers who appear able to shape the destiny of the network as they see fit. Do you think pushing through the IFP will lead to a Bitcoin Cash hard fork? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock, YouTube and Twitter @PeterRizun.

IRS Removes Crypto Tax Reporting for Fortnite and Other Game Tokens

fortnite crypto
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated its webpage, removing parts of its crypto tax disclosure guideline which classified game tokens as cryptocurrencies. This includes the online gaming sensation, Fortnite. Fortnite Token Owners Don’t Have to Pay Crypto Tax According to BloombergTax, game token owners won’t have to answer the crypto-specific question on Form 1040. This development comes after the IRS pulled confusing language from its definition of virtual currency. As recently as Wednesday (February 12, 2019), the IRS lumped game tokens like Roblox and V-bucks under the virtual currency umbrella. Based on the initial wording of the IRS’ virtual currency definition, millions of game token owners in the U.S. would have been obligated to check yes on the crypto question in Form 1040. Game tokens typically operate within “closed” digital economies where there is hardly exchange of these digital ‘coins’ for fiat currency. The typical function of game tokens in for making in-game purchases for virtual assets needed to level-up in games like Fortnite, Roblox, etc. Sometimes, game developers can cash out their tokens for U.S. dollars but game companies already file such transactions under Form 1099. Commenting on the matter, the Entertainment Software Association issued a statement, declaring: Financial regulators who have considered the status of game currencies in detail have treated them distinctly different from Bitcoin and similar virtual currencies precisely because they cannot be cashed out. We think that is the appropriate approach and are hopeful that on closer consideration the IRS will correct its guidance. Gray Areas Still Persist in IRS Digital Currency Tax Guidelines In a related development, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) declared that the IRS wasn’t doing enough to clarify crypto tax laws. The Congressional watchdog highlighted the absence of clear-cut details on how the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) applies to crypto tax reporting. An excerpt from the GAO report reads: Part of the 2019 guidance is not authoritative because it was not published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB). IRS has stated that only guidance published in the IRB is IRS’s authoritative interpretation of the law. IRS did not make clear to taxpayers that this part of the guidance is not authoritative and is subject to change. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the IRS has put crypto and the gig economy as major focus areas for the 2020 tax season. Some U.S. lawmakers and blockchain advocacy groups are also clamoring for the establishment of a de minimis exemption for crypto tax reporting below a certain price threshold. Should Fortnite and other game token owners pay crypto taxes? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock

Crypto Market is a “Giant Garbage Dumpster”: Minneapolis Fed President

crypto market big garbage
The crypto bashing encyclopedia now has a new soundbite addition, this time from Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari calling cryptos a “giant garbage dumpster.” I Won’t Gift My 1-Year-Old Daughter Bitcoin Speaking at the Montana Eco 2020 event in Montana on Tuesday (February 11, 2020), Kashkari argued against the entire utility proposition of cryptos. Even as an investment asset, the Minneapolis Fed President said he wouldn’t gift his 1-year-old daughter bitcoin, opting instead for Treasury bonds. According to Kashkari, cryptos are a giant garbage dumpster with the U.S. dollar being the beautiful bride for the savvy investor. Doubling down on the ‘dollar good, cryptos bad rhetoric,’ Kashkari quipped: The reason that the dollar has value is because the US government has a legal monopoly on producing the dollar. In the virtual-currency and cryptocurrency world, there are thousands of these garbage coins out there. Literally, people have been fleeced for tens of billions of dollars, and finally the SEC is getting involved in cracking down on this. Despite Kashkari waxing lyrical about Treasury bonds, Bitcoin was the best performing asset of the last decade. The top-ranked crypto ended 2019 with an 85% year-to-date (YTD) gain while bond yields struggled significantly during the same period. With 2020 only 43 days old, Bitcoin is already up by more than 40 percent with the total crypto market capitalization regaining levels not seen for six months. While Kashkari may not think much of a bitcoin gift, former Fed chair Janet Yellen and fellow crypto-basher Janet Yellen did graciously accept a BTC gift back in 2018. Cryptos are Mostly Noise and Fraud Kashkari also remarked that useful crypto utility might emerge within the next 10 to 20 years. However, the Minneapolis Fed President spoke against the current state of the market saying: The barrier to entry to creating a new cryptocurrency is zero. I’m seeing more noise and more fraud than I’m seeing anything useful. While Kashkari may not think highly of cryptos, the emergence of projects like Facebook’s Libra has lit the proverbial fire under the Federal Reserve, with Fed Governor Lael Brainard saying the bank is currently considering the possibility of a “Fedcoin.” Private cryptos aside, China’s digital currency dalliance is also causing some panic among central bankers in the U.S. and Europe. EU finance stakeholders from countries like France and Germany have urged the European Central Bank (ECB) to consider launching a sovereign digital currency. Would you gift your 1-year-old daughter bitcoin or Treasury bonds? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Star Tribune

Tether Begins Monitoring Traders With Chainalysis Tracking Tool

tether monitoring traders chainalysis
Stablecoin giant Tether (USDT) is the latest crypto firm to adopt anti-money laundering (AML) tracking solutions from blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis. Tether Partners with Chainalysis Chainalysis announced the news of the deployment in a press release issued on Wednesday (February 12, 2020). According to the press statement, Tether will roll out the Chainalysis Know Your Transaction (KYT) tool as part of its drive towards greater AML compliance. Now the Tether platform can monitor the stablecoin’s usage across its blockchain, enabling the real-time tracking of suspicious transactions. With the Chainalysis KYT tool, Tether hopes to gain full-cycle monitoring capability of its stablecoin tokens from the moment of issuance to the point of redemption. The KYT tool can also potentially provide data on the risk profile of USDT token holders. Thus, Tether will be able to monitor suspicious USDT movements across the different blockchain platforms that support the stablecoin. Commenting on the development, Tether’s chief technology officer Paolo Ardoino remarked: Working with Chainalysis has allowed us to enhance our AML processes for all transactions involving the Tether token. This solution allows us to ensure a secure compliance program that fosters trust with regulators, law enforcement agencies and users. With transaction monitoring tools often comes the possibility of user-privacy violations. According to Ardoino, Tether’s drive to ensure robust AML compliance will not come at the expense of exposing vital user information. Tether has been subject to a lot of controversy with authorities in the U.S. accusing the company and its partner Bitfinex of an $850 million cover-up. Despite these legal troubles, USDT is still the largest stablecoin in the market with a total market capitalization north of $4.6 billion as at press time. Regulators Want Greater Crypto Transactions Policing Tether’s plan to use the Chainalysis KYT tool comes as regulators in different countries are announcing plans to ensure stricter crypto money laundering policing. Already, several crypto exchanges have tapped Chainalysis as part of their plans to ensure greater AML compliance while preserving user privacy. In the U.S., the proposed 2021 budget sees the Secret Service receiving $2.4 billion in funding to among other things, monitor the use of cryptocurrency in money laundering and terrorist financing. The UK’s FCA is also keeping a close watch on crypto-related money laundering as well. Crypto exchanges in the European Union (EU) are also expecting greater AML demands with the adoption of the fifth anti-money laundering directive (AMLD5). What do you think about Tether monitoring its users? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock

UK-based Crypto Exchange Goes Into Liquidation

Bitcoin UK's Crypto Task Force Concerned Over Recent Exchange Hacks
Dragon Payments Ltd., a crypto exchange platform based in the UK is going into forced liquidation. Dragon Payments Announces Forced Liquidation In a statement issued on its website, the company formerly known as London Block Exchange (LBX) announced the news of its forced liquidation. The decision comes following a winding up order against the crypto exchange at the back end of January 2020. According to the announcement, officials of London-based accounting firm David Rubin and Partners will be responsible for overseeing the liquidation process. An excerpt from LBX’s announcement detailing the focus of the liquidators reads: The Joint Liquidators and their team are working toward resolving customers’ concerns, including the recovery of any sums owed, as a matter of priority. The Joint Liquidators’ team are contactable on the details below, and all queries or claims for monies owed should be addressed to them directly. We will endeavour to provide a further update as soon as possible. While no details have been given about the financial state of the crypto exchange, the January 2020 winding up order points to cash flow problems. Such orders usually happen in the UK when a company is unable to service its debts. The forced liquidation potentially signals the curtain call for the over the counter (OTC) crypto exchange launched back in 2017. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the company was looking to launch a UK Pound Sterling-backed stablecoin while maintaining strong compliance with regulatory provisions. Increasing Compliance Cost for Crypto Exchange Platforms LBX is only the latest in a string of UK and European-based crypto businesses shutting down as the European Union’s (EU) fifth anti-money laundering directive (AMLD5) comes into effect. Several commentators are already highlighting the increased cost of compliance associated with provisions in the new AML paradigm. European crypto exchange platforms like BottlePay, and other virtual currency businesses like ChopCoin (gaming service), and Simplecoin (mining pool) have also closed down in the last couple of months. Europe’s new AML laws see crypto exchanges having to comply with the same financial regulations as banks, facing still penalties if caught contravening the new rules. Austrian authorities say crypto exchange platforms in the country could face fines as high as 200,000 EUR (about $221,000) for not complying with its new licensing provisions. Will more European crypto exchange platforms shut down with the coming of AMLD5? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock The post appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.

UK-based Crypto Exchange Goes Into Liquidation

Bitcoin UK's Crypto Task Force Concerned Over Recent Exchange Hacks
Dragon Payments Ltd., a crypto exchange platform based in the UK is going into forced liquidation. Dragon Payments Announces Forced Liquidation In a statement issued on its website, the company formerly known as London Block Exchange (LBX) announced the news of its forced liquidation. The decision comes following a winding up order against the crypto exchange at the back end of January 2020. According to the announcement, officials of London-based accounting firm David Rubin and Partners will be responsible for overseeing the liquidation process. An excerpt from LBX’s announcement detailing the focus of the liquidators reads: The Joint Liquidators and their team are working toward resolving customers’ concerns, including the recovery of any sums owed, as a matter of priority. The Joint Liquidators’ team are contactable on the details below, and all queries or claims for monies owed should be addressed to them directly. We will endeavour to provide a further update as soon as possible. While no details have been given about the financial state of the crypto exchange, the January 2020 winding up order points to cash flow problems. Such orders usually happen in the UK when a company is unable to service its debts. The forced liquidation potentially signals the curtain call for the over the counter (OTC) crypto exchange launched back in 2017. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the company was looking to launch a UK Pound Sterling-backed stablecoin while maintaining strong compliance with regulatory provisions. Increasing Compliance Cost for Crypto Exchange Platforms LBX is only the latest in a string of UK and European-based crypto businesses shutting down as the European Union’s (EU) fifth anti-money laundering directive (AMLD5) comes into effect. Several commentators are already highlighting the increased cost of compliance associated with provisions in the new AML paradigm. European crypto exchange platforms like BottlePay, and other virtual currency businesses like ChopCoin (gaming service), and Simplecoin (mining pool) have also closed down in the last couple of months. Europe’s new AML laws see crypto exchanges having to comply with the same financial regulations as banks, facing still penalties if caught contravening the new rules. Austrian authorities say crypto exchange platforms in the country could face fines as high as 200,000 EUR (about $221,000) for not complying with its new licensing provisions. Will more European crypto exchange platforms shut down with the coming of AMLD5? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock The post appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.

Altsbit Crypto Exchange Gets Hacked, ‘Almost All Funds’ Are Gone

Altsbit Crypto Exchange Gets Hacked, 'Almost All Funds' Have Gone
Italian crypto exchange platform Altsbit is the latest to suffer a hack with its hot wallet completely emptied by suspected cybercriminals. “Almost All Funds” Stolen from Crypto Exchange Altsbit announced the news of the hack via a tweet published on Thursday (February 6, 2020). The platform’s announcement reads: Dear users, Unfortunately, we have to notify you with the fact that our exchange was hacked during the night and almost all funds from BTC, ETH, ARRR and VRSC were stolen. A small part of the funds are safe on cold wallets. Dear users,Unfortunately we have to notify you with the fact that our exchange was hacked during the night and almost all funds from BTC, ETH, ARRR and VRSC were stolen. A small part of the funds are safe on cold wallets. — Altsbit (@altsbit) February 6, 2020 From the platform’s announcement, it appears Altbits kept a significant portion of its funds on hot wallets despite their vulnerability to malicious cyber intrusions. The Italian crypto exchange is yet to provide a full accounting of the total extent of the theft. However, if follow-up tweets published by Altbits, it appears the hackers stole 1,066 Komodo (KMD) tokens and 283,375 Verus (VRSC) ‘coins.’ The combined value of both stolen cryptos stands at about $27,000. As at press time, Altsbit has a 24-hour trading volume of $14.8 million with 98% of its trading activity coming from the ARRR/BTC pair (ARRR is the native token of the Pirate Chain). Exchanges Working to Neutralize Cyber Threats Reacting to the news of the hack, some proponents of decentralized exchanges (DEX) highlighted the vulnerabilities of centralized platforms. However, centralized platforms still command the greater trading volume as DEX services have notoriously difficult to navigate user interfaces (UI). As for the security situation with centralized crypto exchange platforms, the 2020 Crypto Crime Report from Chainalysis shows exchanges appear better equipped to deal with hackers. Despite the increase in the number of hacking incidents, the blockchain analytics firm reported that the total amount stolen in those attacks declined significantly from previous years. One of the key defensive strategies adopted by crypto exchange platforms is to limit their hot wallet holdings. Thus, barring any inside involvement, hackers are reportedly less able to siphon vast crypto sums from vulnerable hot wallets. Lazarus Group — a North Korean state-sponsored hacking syndicate suspected of being behind many of the attacks on exchanges in Asia Pacific appears to be even changing its attack vectors. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the group is utilizing phishing malware on popular messaging platform Telegram to siphon cryptos from victims. Do you think Altsbit will survive this hacking incident or will the platform be the next to go bankrupt? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock, Twitter @Altsbit The post appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.

Crypto Group Asks IRS to Make Small Payments Tax-Free

Crypto Group Asks IRS to Make Small Payments Tax-Free
The Wall Street Blockchain Alliance is the latest to ask the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to consider a ‘de minimis’ exemption for crypto tax payments below a specific value. IRS Should Reduce Crypto Tax Burden According to Law360, the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance has written a letter to the IRS calling for tax exemptions for crypto transactions below a certain threshold. As part of the letter, chairman of the group, Ron Quaranta advised the IRS to focus on large bag holders instead of forcing virtual currency owners to examine all their cryptocurrency microtransactions. Back in 2018, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) also called for a de minimis crypto tax exemption. At the time, the AICPA suggested an upper threshold limit of $200. A couple of crypto and blockchain-related bills before the U.S. Congress also contain digital asset exemption provisions for small transactions. Proponents of a de minimis crypto tax exemption point to the cumbersome nature of determining cost basis for every cryptocurrency transaction. With the IRS classifying virtual currencies as property for tax purposes, owners and traders are subject to capital gains tax filings. However, critics say such a move could complicate matters for the IRS. Some commentators even opine that the emergence of such a rule will see crypto traders attempting to game the system by staging their transactions will ways that fit the exemption criteria. Price Benchmarking Problems Despite including a de minimis crypto tax exemption provision, the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance faults the specific conditions listed in the proposed Cryptocurrency Tax Fairness Act 2020. According to the group, setting the tax exemptions on transaction gains and not transaction value does little to ease the burden on crypto taxpayers. The absence of a universally agreed-upon exchange benchmarking standard for cryptos means cost basis calculations can be complicated especially when dealing with multiple exchanges. In light of these issues, the group says the IRS needs to do more by way of creating a clear-cut set of guidelines for digital asset tax reporting. In 2019, the IRS published updated rules for cryptocurrency tax reporting to include hard forks and airdrops. The IRS has also stated its intention to keep a watchful eye on crypto tax reporting compliance in 2020. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, the IRS added a crypto-related checkbox to its Form 1040 with U.S. tax reporting company H&R Block recently advising its customers not to attempt evading crypto taxes in 2020. Should the IRS create a de minimis exemption rule for crypto tax reporting? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock The post appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.

Venezuelan Petro Cryptocurrency is a ‘Scam’, Say Local Merchants

Venezuelan Petro Cryptocurrency is a 'Scam', Say Local Merchants
Retail merchants in Venezuela are refusing to accept Petro payments as hyperinflation is causing massive devaluation upon liquidation of the crypto at the banks. Meanwhile, the country’s government has reintroduced price control inspectors as part of efforts to pressure stores into accepting the country’s state-issued digital currency. Merchants Call Petro a Scam According to Venezuelan media platform Tal Cual, merchants in the country have abandoned Petro as a payment method. Reports say merchants who tried to liquidate their petro holdings at the Bank of Venezuela received devalued Bolivar amounts. The reason for this devaluation is because the central bank used the petro rate at the time of purchase. However, with the Bolivar losing close to 99% of its value in 2019 alone, merchants are seeing their Petro stash liquidated for the equivalent of “pennies on the dollar.” Commenting on the situation, Josefina Salvatierra, executive director of Consecomercio — Venezuela’s National Council of Commerce and Services, remarked: The few who are liquidating are doing so to the indicator of the moment in which the sale was made, which obviously aggravates the situation even more because in a hyperinflationary process it is very difficult to sell on credit without practically indexing the debt. According to Salvatierra, merchants that accept Petro payment risk being unable to restock their inventories given the massive hyperinflation in the country. Former President of Consecomercio, María Carolina Uzcátegui, went as far to call the cryptocurrency a scam, according to the local report.  The petro is a scam for the merchant, because undoubtedly what he could do at the beginning of the year with that money is not the same thing he can do at this time Maduro Administration Reintroduces ‘Price Police’ Venezuelan retailers and the government may soon clash over accepting Petro with the Maduro administration reintroducing the ‘price police.’ According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the government is tasking a team of inspectors with the job of enforcing price controls across the country. For the government, the move is part of efforts to curb hyperinflation. However, critics point to the policy of enforcing Petro acceptance as further proof of Maduro’s attempts to tighten its control of the country’s economy. Retailers successfully ditching Petro will strike a blow to the government’s aim of ensuring broad-based utilization of the state-issued crypto in the country. Since its introduction, the Maduro administration has tried to push its Petro agenda with limited success. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, President Maduro ordered airlines operating in Caracas — the nation’s capital, to buy aviation fuel using Petro. The country has also tried to incorporate Petro into its foreign trade deals with the likes of Russia and India. Do you think the government will be able to force retailers into accepting Petro as a payment method? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock The post appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.

Upbit Exchange Execs Cleared of Fraud Charges in South Korea

upbit exchange south korea
The Seoul Southern District Court has acquitted senior executives at Upbit crypto exchange of fraud charges. Insufficient Evidence Against Upbit Chiefs Delivering judgment on the matter, Deputy Judge Oh Sang-yong dismissed the 30-count criminal fraud and market manipulation charges leveled against the Upbit directors for lack of evidence. According to South Korean media outlet Newsis, the court declared that the activities of the Upbit hierarchy were not sufficient to materially impact the spot price of bitcoin (BTC). The prosecutors earlier argued that Upbit was trading against its customers, setting up fake accounts to manipulate market prices. According to the prosecutors on the case, the Upbit hierarchy was creating fake buy orders to artificially inflate trading activity for crypto tokens. Numerous market reports have revealed massive spoofing and wash trading within the crypto market. Analysts say the greater percentage of trading volume data displayed by crypto exchanges in inflated. As previously reported by Bitcoinist, South Korean authorities raided Upbit’s headquarters back in May 2018 on suspicion of being insolvent. One of the “big four,” Upbit was the first licensed crypto exchange in South Korea. While the other three major platforms posted losses in 2018, Upbit was able to declare a profit of $123 million amid a year-long bear market for cryptos. Bithumb, another of the big four recorded a loss of $180 million which was more than the losses incurred by Korbit and Coinone combined. South Korean Crypto Businesses Still Under the Cosh While the big four continue to soldier on, smaller crypto exchanges and other cryptocurrency-related businesses in South Korea are shutting down. The 2018 bear market and the increasingly stringent regulatory climate in the country appear to be dampening enthusiasm for what was once one of the most vibrant crypto markets. On Friday, Bitcoinist reported that Bitberry — a popular crypto wallet platform, was shutting down. Smaller volume crypto exchanges are also closing down their businesses with reports stating that 97% of crypto trading services in South Korea are close to bankruptcy. Compliance costs are also reportedly on the rise with commercial banks setting fresh hurdles for offering services to cryptocurrency exchanges. Crypto stakeholders in the country say the current regulatory climate is choking digital innovation in South Korea. Many blockchain startups are electing to list their tokens on exchange platforms based overseas amid shrinking won-denominated trading activity in the country. Do you think Upbit was engaging in wash trading? Let us know in the comments below. Images via Shutterstock The post appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.