Criminals Drop Bitcoin in Favour of Other Cryptocurrencies for Anonymity

Criminals are dropping bitcoin in favour of other cryptocurrencies in a bid to achieve greater anonymity for their criminal activities.

That’s according to the co-founder and president of Blockchain Intelligence Group. He estimates that the number of illegal transactions involving bitcoin fell from half the total volume to around 20 percent last year.

In an interview with CNBC, Shone Anstey, co-founder and president of Blockchain Intelligence Group, said:

“Now it’s significantly less than that.”

This is despite the fact that the overall transaction volume in bitcoin has grown. At the time of publishing, on the 31st August, bitcoin is trading at $4,614, a 0.77 percent rise in 24 hours. Over the past seven days its value has increased by 10.52 percent. Its market cap is now worth $76.3 billion.

After bitcoin recently soared above the $4,600 mark it would be natural to think that criminals would favour it more. However, it appears that that isn’t the case.

Criminals Look Elsewhere

Instead, it seems that criminals are now turning their attention to other cryptocurrencies. According to a U.S. Homeland Security official criminals are ‘looking more closely at other currencies like monero and ethereum.’

The official said:

“What the criminals are starting to see, and some of the trends we’re picking up as well, is that bitcoin also works equally just as much against you as it does for you.”

According to Chainalysis, the leading provider of anti-money laundering software for bitcoin, the rise of cybercrime in ethereum has risen with initial coin offering (ICO) financing. In a blog post, it states that total cybercrime revenue rose from $100 million in June to $225 million in August this year.

The highest grossing exploit was the DAO hack in 2016 after the DAO had sold over a billion tokens worth $150 million. Taking advantage of a vulnerability, criminals managed to steal around $74 million worth of DAO tokens from 11,000 victims.

Smart coding company Parity has also been subjected to a security breach. On the 19th July, it reported that more than 155,000 ether, worth $35 million, had been stolen.

Chainalysis states that as ICOs are time sensitive access to the sale necessitates investors to trade their ether quickly for alternative tokens. As a result, investors may find themselves tricked into providing their credentials to fake websites.

This was certainly the case for victims of the CoinDash ICO, which occurred prior to the Parity hack on the 17th July. A hacker was able to steal over $10 million after changing the contract address of the ICO project. Investors unaware of the situation continued to place their funds into the hacked CoinDash account. Consequently, around 43,500 ether was sent to the fake address.

Chainalysis adds:

“These credentials are then used to drain accounts. The average financial loss incurred per victim has increased by 20% from $6,700 in June 2016 to $8,000 since the DAO.”

Since the DAO, Chainalysis estimates that there has been around 30,000 victims of cybercrime on ethereum, each losing an average of $7,500.

Monero Gains in Value

Since the beginning of 2017 monero’s value has increased significantly. At the time of publishing its trading at $140, which is an 8.45 percent rise in 24 hours. Over seven days its value has increased by 60 percent. Its market cap is worth just over $2 billion.

As can be seen from the chart below, monero was trading at $16.40 at the beginning of 2017. Then its market cap value was worth nearly $224 million.

Its explosive growth could be down to the fact that it is designed to be more private than bitcoin. This means it’s completely anonymous and virtually untraceable. Consequently, this makes it the perfect altcoin for criminals to use.

The highest it has reached is $154, up over 1,000 percent this year, according to CoinMarketCap.

For those craving the need for secrecy on the dark web criminals are turning to monero. Darknet marketplace AlphaBay was one site that permitted people to use monero and ethereum as alternatives to bitcoin. However, AlphaBay was shut down by law enforcement on the 20th July. According to a report, authorities in the U.S., Canada and Thailand coordinated raids on the 5th July, which saw equipment being seized. Europol claim that since 2014, when AlphaBay was founded, an estimated $1 billion in transactions has been processed.

Authorities Get Savvy

AlphaBay is not the only darknet marketplace that authorities have shut down.

According to the U.S. Justice Department and Europol, another large dark web marketplace was also seized this year. Known as Hansa, it listed thousands of vendors selling illegal drugs, illicit products and counterfeit identification documents.

Following that was the announcement from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. On the 26th July, a grand jury had charged Russian national Alexander Vinnik and the bitcoin exchange he is alleged to have operated, BTC-e, with money laundering and other crimes related.

Derek Benner, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Executive Associate Director, said:

“Homeland Security Investigations is strongly committed to tracking down criminals who seek to strike at the foundations of global financial security through complex money laundering schemes. The resulting indictment is a clear representation of why our close law enforcement partnerships are vital to our shared missions. HSI will continue to aggressively target those who deliberately seek to exploit financial systems for personal gain.”

The Homeland Security official added:

“We’re getting a lot better through law enforcement tracking those [criminals] and holding the exchanges more accountable. I think [bitcoin]’s a lot more legitimate than people give it credit for.”

Bitcoin Will Still be Used

Even though a July report from the EU suggested criminals were rarely using cryptocurrencies, they will still find it attractive. This is because they can convert it easily into cash without any middle men.

However, while bitcoin was perceived to be anonymous when it first emerged, it doesn’t offer the same level of anonymity that monero does. So much so, that Llew Claasen, the executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation recently said at a conference:

“Bitcoin is not completely anonymous and it is fairly easy for someone, say a revenue officer, to work backwards to find who was responsible for a transaction.”

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Bitcoin Price Soars to New All-Time Record High Above $4,600

The number one digital currency has gone and done it again. The bitcoin price has scaled to over $4,600 for the first time, pushing its market cap value to over $76 billion.

At 13:54 UTC, on the 29th August, the bitcoin price was recorded at $4,602. As a result, the combined market value soared to $164.4 billion.

At the time of publishing its price has dropped to $4,542. However, it marks a significant time for the digital currency.

Since the beginning of 2017, the bitcoin price is up by around 350 percent from roughly $1,000 on the 1st January. It has since quadrupled in value. On the 13th August, bitcoin finally managed to scale the $4,000 mark amid strong Japanese interest. Geopolitical turmoil in North Korea has also impacted its price as investors continue to consider it as a safe haven.

The week prior to that the bitcoin price had re-scaled the $3,000 mark when it reached $3,200 for the first time. Since then it has continued its upward trajectory, pushing the currency to new heights.

Ethereum Scales $360

Ether prices have also surged to new heights not seen in two months.

At the time of publishing, ethereum is trading at $369, pushing its market cap to $34.8 billion. In 24 hours it has risen by 7.30 percent whereas in seven days it has increased by 17.24 percent.

As can be seen from the chart below, ethereum’s price dropped to a low of $149 on the 16th July. Since then it has steadily been climbing up in price back to its current listing. Prior to dropping to $149, ether prices were trading below $400, at $391. It has yet to re-scale to that previous high. However, with its steady price gains it’s expected to see new heights.

Litecoin Climbs Above $60

Fifth-placed litecoin has also recorded new highs. Strong trading has helped to push its price over the $60 mark for the first time.

This price rise is due to increased trader interest from Japan and Korea. According to a report, Korean exchange Bithumb was responsible for over 20 percent of trading in litecoin in the past 24 hours.

At the time of publishing, litecoin is trading at $62.51, with a market cap value of $3.2 billion. In the past 24 hours its value has decreased by 1.07 percent. Meanwhile, in seven days its has risen by 34.13 percent.

At its peak, litecoin was trading at $64.92 on the 28th August. Yet, considering litecoin was trading just above $4 at the beginning of 2017 this is a significant milestone. It remains to be seen how much further the currency can go.

Charlie Lee, the founder of litecoin, recently took to social media to express his delight.

New Price Heights

What we are witnessing now, however, is just the start. According to Ronnie Moas, Standpoint Research founder, he predicts great things for the market.

Back in July, Moas said that bitcoin would reach $5,000 by 2018. He also said that ethereum would rise to $400 whereas litecoin double to $80.

At the time Moas said:

“$5,000 could happen in a few months. It’s only starting to gain traction right now. It’s starting to spread like wildfire right now.”

He determined that its price would go up as demand increased for its coins. At present, 16.5 million coins out of the capped 21 million has been issued.

Since making his prediction in July, Moas has increased the value to $7,500. This was after the bitcoin price scaled $4,000. He believes, though, that by 2027 each unit of bitcoin will be worth $50,000.

Furthermore, Moas thinks that the combined market cap will reach $2 trillion in 10 years. At a conservative estimate, he thinks that one percent of the $200 trillion global market will be invested in cryptocurrencies.

He said:

“A lot of people say there is a bubble out there. I see a bubble when you get down below the top 50 cryptocurrencies. There are more than 800 names right now. In my view, what happens outside the top 50 is irrelevant.”

Whereas, Aurelien Menant, CEO of regulated digital currency exchange Gatecoin, has said in the past:

“I would not be surprised to see the bitcoin price doubling again to around $6,000 by the end of the year.”

One bullish analyst thinks bitcoin’s price will reach $15,000 by the end of 2017. Even though there are only four months left of the year veteran trader masterluc has great confidence in bitcoin. Masterluc is of the opinion that bitcoin will continue its bull run into 2019. At which point he thinks that its worth will between $40,000 and $110,000.

Long-Term Price Heights

Others, however, have been thinking long-term for the currency’s future. So much so, that Dennis Porto, bitcoin investor and Harvard academic thinks it will scale $100,000 by February 2021. He thinks this is possible by simply following Moore’s law.

However, Kay Van Petersen, Saxo Bank analyst thinks it will reach $100,000 by 2027. Many may have confidence in Van Petersen’s prediction considering he correctly predicted when bitcoin would reach $2,000.

Some less bullish estimates include one from Tom Lee, a strategist at Wall Street firm Fundstrat. He thinks that bitcoin’s worth will be between $20,000 and $55,000 by 2020.

In a report, Lee said:

“We believe one of the drivers [of bitcoin] is crypto-currencies are cannibalizing demand for gold. Based on this premise, we take a stab at establishing valuation framework for bitcoin. Based on our model, we estimate that bitcoin’s value per unit could be $20,000 to $55,000 by 2022.”

At the time Lee’s prediction was considered bullish. However, since then others have made bigger predictions for the currency.

It remains to be seen who is right. Yet, at present it seems that the market will continue its upward trajectory to reach new heights.

Caution Urged

Interestingly, Llew Claasen, the executive director at the Bitcoin Foundation, has urged investors to be cautious with their investments.

Speaking at a recent conference in Africa, Claasen spoke about the potential bitcoin has in the continent. Yet, he stated that users should only invest what they can afford.

He said:

“To be honest bitcoin is not a great form of cash right now. Don’t think of it as cash, think of it as a digital form of gold that enables you to save outside of the current financial climate.”

Featured image from Shutterstock

Morgan Stanley: We Don’t Expect Cryptocurrencies to be Fully Disruptive

Leading global financial services firm Morgan Stanley has given its view as to how disruptive cryptocurrencies are going to be to fiat monies.

According to the bank, the crypto-revolution is not going to replace traditional currencies.

In a report, Morgan Stanley said:

“We think that cryptocurrencies as a group are likely to see some adoption outside of the incumbent financial system, but we do not expect them to be fully disruptive.”

In a ‘Fintech Gauntlet chart,’ Morgan Stanley has illustrated that disruption is possible, but it will be slow to take place. However, the bank suggests that only through regulation will cryptocurrencies be capable of gaining trust among the people. This will also enable them to enter the financial system.

The bank adds that digital currencies such as bitcoin are acting more as assets than as a way of transacting with.

It stated:

“With high volatility, low acceptance, relatively slow transaction times, and negligible fraud/transaction validity advantages (at least for now), bitcoin (and all cryptocurrencies) are functioning more like assets than true currencies or transaction mechanisms.”

High Electricity Use

One thing that is often debated is the amount of electricity required to mine each bitcoin. When bitcoin first appeared all that was required to mine it was a simple home computer.

However, as the mathematical problems to unlock new bitcoins became more complex to solve, networks with greater power than home computers were set up to mine the coins. As a result, this requires the use of more power and electricity.

According to Morgan Stanley, in the early days of bitcoin the energy generated could power a small power plant. Fast-forward to 2017 and the power generated is more than enough to power one million homes.

Additionally, as reigning networks don’t require huge amounts of electricity to function, it will be interesting to see how cryptocurrencies continue to mature.

Bitcoin Acceptance is Shrinking

This isn’t the first time that Morgan Stanley has made a statement regarding the crypto market.

In July, the bank said that bitcoin acceptance among top merchants was on the decline. In a research note to analysts it said that ‘bitcoin acceptance is virtually zero and shrinking.’

According to the bank, in 2016 the cryptocurrency was accepted at five of the top 500 online merchants. Yet, in 2017 that number had dropped to three. Of course, while the numbers may hardly be drastic, it does give some insight into what merchants are thinking. This is that accepting the digital currency may not be worth it.

It’s believed that this drop is down to the fact that people are more likely to hold on to their coins when its value goes up, rather than spend them.

The analysts said:

“The disparity between virtually no merchant acceptance and bitcoin’s rapid appreciation is striking.”

Overstock’s Confusion

Online retailer Overstock is confused. Confused by the fact that so many online companies don’t accept bitcoin as a payment option.

In July, Jonathan Johnson, the president of Medici Ventures, the venture capital subsidiary of Overstock, said that there had been a ‘modest’ uptick in the number of bitcoin transactions on the site. He also added that it was ‘crazy that so many retailers don’t accept bitcoin.’

One of the reasons may be down to the fact that retailers aren’t willing to pay for the costly transactions of bitcoin. Yet, Johnson believes this is irrelevant.

He stated:

“The cost of accepting bitcoin is very low. It’s actually cheaper for us to complete a bitcoin transaction than it is to complete a credit card.”

When Overstock first began accepting bitcoin in 2014, the company kept 90 percent of bitcoin and converted 10 percent back into cash. Now the company keeps 50 percent in bitcoin.

Such is Overstock’s commitment to the advancements of digital currency acceptance that the firm now accepts over 40 cryptocurrencies. Earlier in August, the company announced that it would allow customers to use major digital currencies such as ethereum, litecoin, Dash, Monero and bitcoin cash to buy online from Overstock’s nearly four million products. By integrating with ShapeShift, the world’s leading instant digital asset exchange, Overstock will be able to convert the cryptocurrencies into bitcoin.

Patrick M. Byrne, CEO and founder of Overstock, said:

“Overstock is pro-freedom, including the freedom of individuals to communicate information about value and scarcity without relying on a medium created through the fiat of unaccountable government mandarins. For that reason, we have been an early proponent and adopter of cryptocurrencies.”

Increasing Bitcoin’s Acceptance

Even though there are a handful of online merchants who accept bitcoin for payments such as Starbucks, Subway, Dell, Expedia and Microsoft, many would like that number to rise.

So much so that cryptocurrency fans launched a petition on Change.org urging Amazon to accept the digital currency. At press time, on the 25th August, there were 5,380 supporters of it with a goal of reaching 7,500.

Whereas CoinGeek, a bitcoin and blockchain news site, sent $100 in bitcoin to the financial directors at 20 of the top online brands. These included Alibaba, Amazon, Tesco, Staples, Uber, MacDonalds, Netflix, Airbnb, American Airlines, LVMH, AT&T, CVS Health, Tesla, Apple, FedEx, John Lewis PLC, Spotify, BMW and Red Bull.

Of those companies Airbnb was the first one to take up the offer in July. However, since then two other companies have followed suit: AT&T and American Airlines. Of course, this doesn’t mean the companies will automatically start accepting bitcoin. In fact the financial directors may simply just be taking the free coins on offer. Hopefully, though, in the not-so-distant-future more organisations will jump on board.

As Johnson said:

“I don’t know why a CEO wouldn’t want to make it easier for folks to spend money.”

Still a Long Way to Go

While the crypto market may be making an impact it still has a far distance to travel if it wants to disrupt finance. And yet, steps are clearly being made. The saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’ is very apt here and can certainly be applied to cryptocurrencies.

The finance world is witnessing a change in how people conduct their day-to-day finances and given time the digital currency market could replace incumbent networks.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

South Africa’s Central Bank Says It’s ‘Too Risky’ to Issue Digital Currency

The deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has said that it would be ‘too risky‘ to start issuing its own digital currency.

Speaking at the Strate GIBS FinTech Innovation Conference 2017, Francois Groepe, the deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank, commented on the development of a digital currency such as bitcoin. However, while bitcoin is gaining dominance, he stressed that the central bank needs to ensure that payment methods aren’t abused to fund money laundering or terrorism.

He noted, though, that digital currencies are becoming more recognised as people understand their concept.

As a result, he said that:

“Virtual currencies have the potential of becoming widely adopted. However, for the central bank to issue virtual currencies or cryptocurrencies in an open system will be too risky for us. This is something that we really need to think about.”

According to Groepe, though, the central bank has created a three-member team to look into how cryptocurrencies work. The bank is also expected to launch a digital currency sandbox to test how they function.

He also discussed the financial industry and how innovation is changing the sector, mainly through digital currencies.

He added:

“We are witnessing the disruption of financial services. Over the past decade or so, fintech’s attention and publicity has continued to intensify and increase. It is continuing to usher in completely new ways of banking. Developments in the fintech space are part of an evolutionary process driven by innovations.”

Bitcoin Dominates the Market

As of the 23th August bitcoin is trading at $4,239. This is a 6.93 percent increase in 24 hours, but a 0.08 drop in seven days. At press time, the digital currency’s market cap is worth over $70 billion.

Just yesterday, bitcoin’s price was listed at $3,674 as it underwent an early-week correction period. As a consequence, its market cap value dropped to $60.7 billion. However, this price rally has helped to push it back over the $4,000 mark. The recent drop in price is believed to be down to a hashrate shift from bitcoin to bitcoin cash.

According to a recent report, bitcoin cash surged to a new all-time high on the 19th August when it reached $914. Furthermore, the alternative to bitcoin was reported to have mined its first eight megabyte block, clearing nearly 40,000 transactions. According to data from Coin Dance, bitcoin cash had become 69 percent more profitable to mine than bitcoin.

Not only that, but concerns have been circulating the SegWit and SegWit2x debate, which may have pushed bitcoin’s price down.

Despite this, however, the number one currency is still the leader in the field. Ethereum, in second place, has a market cap worth $30.2 billion. Whereas, bitcoin cash, in third place, is valued at $10.9 billion. Nevertheless, fourth placed ripple is close behind with a market value amounting to $10.8 billion.

Are Fears Justified?

Considering the dominance that bitcoin is showing in the market, it’s may be surprising that South Africa’s central bank thinks it’s too risky to start issuing their own version.

Last August, it was reported that The Bank of England had issued its own digital currency. Known as the RSCoin, it shares similar traits to bitcoin such as being managed by the blockchain. However, one of its key differences is that it is centralised within The Bank of England. As a result, only one bank generates each unit of the digital currency.

The bank has keenly embraced the blockchain, which is evident in an excerpt from a quarterly bulletin. It says:

“… the key innovation of digital currencies is the ‘distributed ledger’ which allows a payment system to operate in an entirely decentralized way, without intermediaries such as banks.”

Not only that, but according to the U.K.’s central bank, they don’t see that digital currencies ‘pose a material risk to monetary or financial stability in the United Kingdom.’ However, it will continue to monitor developments in this area.

No doubt aware of how finance is changing, The Bank of England appear keen to maintain a hold on the sector even if that means issuing their own digital currency.

SARB Begins Testing Digital Currency Regulations

Yet, while South Africa’s bank may not be issuing its own cryptocurrency anytime soon, the bank has been discussing regulations for bitcoin.

As a result, SARB are reported to be having discussions with blockchain-based solutions provider Bankymoon. According to a report, the central bank and Bankymoon are to undertake an experiment to test regulations for the digital currency.

Both, however, are in the early stages of seeing where the partnership can go.

Loerien Gamaroff, CEO of Bankymoon, said:

“This is because the Reserve Bank is very hesitant to give a stamp of approval on anything that comes out. The sandbox will only be bitcoin focused during this initial phase, but is focused on applying broad regulations to all cryptocurrencies.”

He adds, though, that it will give a formal foundation to bitcoin, which people will be able to trust.

“I think the regulation will move things along and make people on the street comfortable with bitcoin. With these new regulations, these everyday people can now trust that bitcoin is not just for hackers and criminals.”

The bank has, in the past, expressed its interest in blockchain and digital currencies. So much so, that the bank’s governor stated that it was willing to consider the benefits that the technology could present.

At the time, Lesetja Kganyago, the governor of SARB, said:

“As a central bank, we are open to innovations despite the different opinions of regulators on matters such as cryptocurrencies. We are willing to consider the merits and risks of blockchain technology and other distributed ledgers.”

Taking Small Steps

It remains to be seen what’s next for the central bank. However, the bank has already made significant progress so far. The fact that it has started proceedings into the regulation of digital currencies is a step forward. Nothing is going to happen overnight, but these steps remain positive for the country, which is seeing an increasing number of people using bitcoin for day-to-day purchases.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Bitcoin Critic Mark Cuban Backs Coinbase Employee’s Token Fund

Is Mark Cuban having a change of heart regarding the cryptocurrency space? The billionaire entrepreneur and investor said recently that he wants a slice of the sector despite saying that bitcoin is in a bubble.

According to reports, Cuban is investing in 1confirmation. It’s headed by former product manager at Coinbase and Runa Capital principal, Nick Tomaino. Launched on the 22nd August, Tomaino is seeking to raise $20 million for a fund that will invest in cryptographic assets.

The company is already attracting early backers. One of which is bitcoin critic Mark Cuban.

Bitcoin is in a Bubble

Earlier this year, Cuban took to Twitter to claim that the digital currency was in a bubble. At the time, bitcoin was trading around $2,900. During his tweets, he said:

“I think it’s in a bubble. I just don’t know when or how much it corrects. When everyone is bragging about how easy they are making $=bubble.”

After his comment, the price of bitcoin dropped, which seemed to confirm his opinion that the digital currency is in a bubble. Despite this slight drop in price the currency has continued to scale to new heights. At the time of press, on the 22nd August, bitcoin is trading above $4,000 at $4,079.

Sees Potential in the Blockchain

Despite his criticism toward the cryptocurrency, Cuban believes the blockchain holds great potential.

At the time, he said:

“I think blockchain is very valuable and will be at the core of most transactions in the future. Healthcare, finance etc all will use it.”

More recently, Cuban restated his believe in the blockchain.

“I have always looked at blockchain as a foundation platform from which great applications can be built.”

What is 1confirmation Setting Out to Do?

1confirmation has been created to make initial investments amounting to $100,000 and $500,000. It will put these in a range of SAFTs (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) and SAFEs (Simple Agreement for Future Equity), which are designed to aid investors to buy tokens prior to an ICO.

It then aims to help those companies develop their product rather than investing in ICOs.

The ICO Craze Gains Momentum

In the first six months of 2017, more than $1.2 billion in cryptocurrency had been raised through ICOs. This outpaced venture capital investment in blockchain and bitcoin companies, according to Autonomous NEXT. At the time, Charles Hoskinson, ethereum’s co-founder, said they are ‘a ticking time-bomb.’ He added that as a result, there was now ‘an over-tokenisation of things.’

Several months later, in August, and that figure now amounts to $1.8 million. This is according to CoinDesk’s ICO Tracker.

As such, Tomaino’s fund follows that of others who are keen to start funds to invest money into digital currencies. Of course, that’s not to say that some ICOs aren’t scams or that they aren’t targeted by hackers.

Enigma ICO Hack

Recently, it was reported that as much as $500,000 in ether was stolen from supporters of the Enigma blockchain project.

Following a security compromise, hackers gained control of the project’s website domain, one of its Slack administrator accounts and its mailing list. Enigma released a statement, saying:

“At this time, the Enigma team has retaken control of all compromised accounts, including the website. Some pages will remain deactivated for the time being while the team works. Please continue to be vigilant and check our communications across ALL channels. Do not send any money or personal information to anyone.”

Interestingly, around the time that CoinDash experienced a hack during its ICO, which resulted in $7 million of ether stolen, Can Kisagun, the co-founder and chief product officer of Enigma, said his company had a simple solution to preventing similar attacks.

In a report from July, Kisagun said:

“Hackers got into the backend of the site and changed the address.”

As a result, investors sent their money to the wrong ethereum address. At the time Enigma’s solution was to hard wire the address of the token sale contract into the ethereum or bitcoin blockchains when it was getting created, according to Business Insider.

Unfortunately, such a measure didn’t prevent hackers from gaining access to over $500,000 in ether from Enigma supporters. No doubt this will be a significant blow to the company who has become a target from hackers like so many other ICO funds.

Parity Gets Targeted Too

Smart coding company Parity has also been targeted by hackers. On the 19th July, shortly after the CoinDash hack, reports arose that it had suffered a security breach. Data from Etherscan found that more than 150,000 ether was stolen. At the time this was worth around $35,000.

On the organisation’s blog, the company listed the situation as critical. As a result, users were urged to move ‘assets contained in the multi-sig wallet to a secure address.’

Cuban’s Foray into Cryptocurrencies

Yet, despite the number of hacks that several ICOs have experienced, they still attract a crowd. And no doubt they will continue to do so.

As a result, Cuban is expected to continue his journey into the digital currency space. Aside from 1confirmation, the billionaire entrepreneur will be investing in tokens sold by his portfolio company Unikrn. He is also planning to invest in a third digital currency-related fund in the future, reports Bloomberg.

Cuban added, though, that it’s hard to establish any value to bitcoin.

“If everyone continues to tell their grandparents, cousins and co-workers to buy, the price can go a lot higher as there is a definable, finite amount, but if the number of buyers dry up or there are a few massive sellers we could see under $1,000 again.”

He concludes:

“None of this has anything to do with the applications that can be built with blockchain. The question is whether great companies can be financed and built and I think the answer is yes.”

It remains to be seen what else is in store for Cuban, but he appears adamant that the blockchain is something that needs to be looked into further. The fact that he is backing a crypto fund could see him eventually backing bitcoin in the future.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Digital Currency Licenses Granted to Two Filipino Bitcoin Exchanges

Two digital currency exchanges in the Philippines have been granted licenses from the Philippines central bank.

In a report from local publication, The Philippine Star, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has approved the registration of two bitcoin exchanges in the country. According to the report, the move is part of efforts to regulate the fast growing market and the ‘risky’ cryptocurrency industry.

Speaking at a FinTech Thought Leadership Roundtable Series presented by FINTQ, Nestor Espenilla Jr., the central bank’s chief, said:

“We see a rapid increase in the trajectory. It is coming from a small base but increasing that is why we decided to require them to register.”

Espenilla also provided figures on the local bitcoin trade. According to him, the bitcoin trade volume has more than doubled. In 2016, the figure was only around $2 million per month. However, exchanges are now seeing trading volume exceed $6 million each month.

He added:

“That is the importance of putting them under the regulatory framework. They have to comply with it. We are moving to regulate them.”

Rules on Bitcoin Exchanges

This move comes months after the BSP released new rules for bitcoin exchanges operating in the country. In January, it was reported that the central bank would treat digital currency exchanges as a type of remittance company.

At the time, the BSP said:

“The Bangko Sentral does not intend to endorse any [virtual currency], such as bitcoin, as a currency since it is neither issued or guaranteed by a central bank nor backed by any commodity. Rather, the BSP aims to regulate [virtual currencies] when used for delivery of financial services, particularly, for payments and remittances, which have material impact on anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT), consumer protection and financial stability.”

At the end of December last year, it was reported that the Philippines government was discussing whether to regulate digital currencies. As the number of Filipinos sending money back home using bitcoin increases the government is keen to provide protection.

Ranking as the world’s third largest remittance receiver, the Philippines saw around $30 billion into the country in 2016. Amounting to nearly 10 percent of the country’s GDP, the Philippines has an ideal opportunity to make use of bitcoin.

At the time, Espenilla said that the number of transactions related to the digital currency was increasing. Yet, while the central bank was interested in digital currency exchanges, the threat of money laundering remains.

Espenilla stated:

“We are studying putting virtual currency exchange operators under a more formal regulatory framework.”

Help or Hindrance?

The Philippines is certainly no stranger to the digital currency bitcoin. In 2015, the country received its first two-way bitcoin ATM, located in the heart of Manila’s financial district. According to CoinRadarATM, the country now has four bitcoin ATMs.

This steady growth illustrates where the market is going as bitcoin gains dominance. Yet, while this is the case, could the regulations help or hinder bitcoin startups in the Philippines?

This was a question that was asked back in February by Luis Buenaventura, CTO of BloomSolutions, a Philippines-based remittance firm. According to Buenaventura, while there may have been initial outcry at the move, optimism should be looked at toward the changes.

Buenaventura said:

“It’s good news that the government is finally recognizing startups that have been laboring in a legal gray area since 2013. It’s also encouraging that they’ve spent enough time to learn about bitcoin to understand what it’s good at.”

However, while it may be some time before the full impact is understood, it’s hoped that it won’t deter innovative in the country, which has built up over time.

Japan Regulates Bitcoin

News of the Philippines central bank approving the registration of two bitcoin exchanges follows similarly to Japan.

In April, Japan made changes to its regulations to see bitcoin as a legal form of payment similar to prepaid cash cards and gift certificates.

Not only that, but the country put an end to an eight percent consumption tax on transactions of bitcoin bought by digital currency exchanges. When it went into effect in July, it helped to push the currency’s price up. Since then the country has continued to fuel demand for bitcoin.

In response to the increased demand in the cryptocurrency over 10 digital currency exchanges have launched. The aim is to capitalise on this surge within Japan.

This, however, shouldn’t be hard. It’s reported that by the end of 2017 there will be as many as 260,000 retailers accepting bitcoin. According to Midori Kanemitsu, chief financial officer at bitFlyer, that number ‘is expected to rise to 300,000 or so in 2017.’

Bitcoin’s Value Rises

Since the beginning of 2017, bitcoin’s price has quadrupled. In January, it was worth $1,000. At press time, on the 21st August, it’s trading at $4,028. Over a 24-hour period it has dropped its value by 2.08 percent. In seven days its value has decreased by 5.33 percent.

Just last week the currency was nearing the $4,500 mark; however, it fell short of this reaching $4,482. It’s believed that some traders may have sold their coins to enjoy the profit they would have made.

Despite this drop in price, though, demand remains for the currency. So much so, that the initial jump to $4,000 was down to strong Japanese interest. Geopolitical turmoil in North Korea is believed to have been a factor as well.

With a major selloff in bonds and stocks taking place, investors are turning to bitcoin as a safe haven. It remains to be seen how much further the digital currency can rise.

One trader has speculated that it will reach $15,000 before the end of 2017. Others, however, are a tad more bearish. Ronnie Moas, Standpoint Research founder, thinks its price will rise to $7,500. This is a revised figure from his previous $5,000 prediction. And yet, there are some who are predicting figures as high as $100,000.

One thing remains, though, even though the digital currency’s price may rise and fall, people are still confident as to where it’s going. There will continue to be critics along the way, but the currency has now reached a stage of maturity that prices remain relatively stable during shifts in the market.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Here’s Why Commodities Whiz Dennis Gartman is Avoiding Bitcoin

Bitcoin is trading under $4,450, but according to investor Dennis Gartman he’s not buying into the digital currency.

According to the editor and publisher of The Gartman Letter, he doesn’t understand bitcoin.

He said:

“It is a punter’s dream. I give them credit for that, but it is something that I will absolutely stay away from, have stayed away from it, didn’t understand it to begin with, don’t understand it now.”

As of the 17th August, bitcoin is trading at $4,439, pushing its market cap to $73.3 billion. In the past 24 hours its value has risen by seven percent. Over the last seven days it has increased by 31.24 percent, according to CoinMarketCap.

Despite bitcoin’s dominance, Gartman remains weary. So much so, that the currency’s price fluctuation isn’t convincing him to invest. The highest figure it has reached was when it was within touching distance of $5,000 at $4,482. Shortly after it dropped to just above $4,000.

He states:

“What bothers me is that something that can move 5, 10, 15, 18 percent in the course of the day for what’s supposed to be a pricing mechanism. How can you buy a house? How can you buy a car? How can you buy Starbucks with bitcoin when the price is going to fluctuate as [dramatically] as it has?”

Bitcoin’s Value Quadruples

Since the beginning of 2017 the number one cryptocurrency has seen its value quadruple. Then its market value was worth just $16.5 billion. While that was still an impressive figure, it’s not anywhere near what it has achieved to date.

According to a report, if bitcoin was a stock it would rank as the seventy-fourth biggest by market capitalisation. This would put it in league with Adobe and Netflix on the S&P 500. Adobe has a market value of $73.6 billion while Netflix is worth $73.8 billion.

It has already passed the likes of PayPal, Costco and Salesforce.

Furthermore, by 2030, research by U.K.-based Magister Advisors suggests that bitcoin will become the sixth largest global reserve currency. After interviewing thirty leading bitcoin companies they believe it could be as widely used as the Swiss franc or the Australian dollar.

Optimism over Bitcoin

It’s now getting harder for investors to ignore digital currencies. That’s according to Goldman Sachs.

On the 5th August, when bitcoin reached $3,200 for the first time, analyst Robert D. Boroujerdi and his team said:

“With the total value nearly $120 billion, it’s getting harder for institutional investors to ignore cryptocurrencies.”

Nearly two weeks later and the market cap value is worth $144.6 billion.

Naturally, with the digital currency continuing to dominate the market, investor interest is increasing. Not only that, but many are turning to bitcoin as a safe haven amid geopolitical turmoil.

In light of North Korea’s nuclear threat there has been a global selloff in stocks and bonds.

Recently, Brian Kelly, a CNBC contributor and head of BKCM, which runs a digital asset strategy, he said:

“Bitcoin is benefiting from geopolitical tensions – trading in Japan and Korea has increased significantly over the last few months.”

Furthermore, Fidelity Investments announced that they would be allowing clients to see their bitcoin and ethereum holdings on Coinbase. This is a rare example of an established financial services company being embracive toward digital currencies.

Hadley Stern, senior vice president and managing director at Fidelity Labs, said:

“This is an experiment in the spirit of learning what these crypto assets are like and how our customers may want to interact with them.”

Abigail Johnson, Fidelity’s CEO, has, in the past, spoken about her enthusiasm over the digital currency market.

Can it Scale $7,500?

With the current trajectory that bitcoin is on, one has to wonder how far it can go?

Ronnie Moas, Standpoint Research founder, recently made a revised projection that the digital currency could reach $7,500. In July he stated that it would scale to $5,000 predicting this would be achieved by 2018.

In light of bitcoin’s recent movements $7,500 is his new estimate.

According to Moas:

“What’s happening is the floodgates are opening. I believe there are hedge funds and very deep-pocketed individuals going into this now, really hundreds of millions of dollars.”

He also thinks that the value of bitcoin will climb to $50,000 by 2027. Compared to others, though, Moas’ estimations are quite conservative, which he admits to.

$100,000 Predictions

Unlike Moas, Dennis Porto, a bitcoin investor and Harvard academic, he predicts that bitcoin’s value will jump to $100,000 by February 2021. He thinks this is possible if the currency follows Moore’s law.

He said:

“Any technology that is growing exponentially (i.e., ‘following Moore’s law’) has a doubling time.”

According to Porto, since bitcoin was introduced in 2009 it has double every eight months. Therefore, until it reaches mass adoption, he thinks bitcoin could reach $100,000 by 2021.

Kay Van Petersen, a Saxo Bank analyst has also predicted a $100,000 future for the digital currency. However, he thinks this will happen in 10 years time.

In a report, Van Petersen said that while his estimations are ‘conservative’ he believes in where the market is going.

He said:

“This is not a fad, cryptocurrencies are here to stay. There will emerge two to three main ones. Bitcoin will be one of those. And the reason is the first-mover advantage, the scale and the pioneering.”

Interestingly, this is the same analyst who rightly predicted that bitcoin would reach the $2,000 mark by 2017.

A Wait and See Approach

All that remains is to wait and see what will happen next. Will bitcoin’s price go up or will it go down? Who knows, but a period of adjustment is to be expected. With such massive gains the digital currency will undergo a price correction.

According to Sheba Jafari, Goldman Sachs’ chart analyst, the cryptocurrency is currently in the ‘fifth wave’ of an ‘impulsive’ rally.

She thinks, in the short-term, its price will rise to $4,827 before entering a corrective phase.

She adds:

“This can last at least one-third of the time it took to complete the preceding advance and retrace at least 38.2 percent of the entire move.”

As such the digital currency could drop as low as $2,221 in Jafari’s opinion. For now, though, many are enjoying the advancements that the currency is making.

 

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Bitcoin Reaches All New-Time High Near $4,500; Drops to $4,000

The price of bitcoin soared above $4,400 and was within striking distance of $4,500 for the first time.

In the early hours of the 15th August, the digital currency recorded a new all-time high of $4,482, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).

As can be seen from the chart above, throughout the day bitcoin’s price has continued to fluctuate.

At the time of publishing, bitcoin is trading at just above $4,000 at $4,018, according to figures from CoinMarketCap.

As a result, it has seen a -6.03 drop in value within the past 24 hours, but a 17.69 percent increase over the past seven days.

This slight dip in price comes after days of record highs, which has seen the currency’s market value soar to over $72 billion. At present, it’s worth $66.3 billion. The drop in price could be due to investors taking some profit after the rapid rise, which is to be expected.

Since the beginning of the year, though, the price of the digital currency has quadrupled in value. This has been spurred on by strong interest from the Japanese as well as geopolitical turmoil in North Korea.

Despite a drop in value, Ronnie Moas, stock research analyst and founder of Standpoint Research, said that bitcoin could reach $7,500. This price is a revision from his early $5,000 price projection for 2018.

Moas said in light of the new $4,000 mark that:

“What’s happening is the floodgates are opening. I believe there are hedge funds and very deep-pocketed individuals going into this now, really hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Bitcoin Market Cap Nears Netflix

When bitcoin’s market cap reached $72 billion it was reported to be within striking distance of major stocks like Netflix.

According to a report from CNBC, if the cryptocurrency was a stock it would rank as the seventy-fourth biggest by market capitalisation. Such a position would put it behind Adobe and Netflix on the S&P 500. Adobe has a market value of $73.6 billion while Netflix is worth $73.8 billion.

At present, bitcoin’s market value has already overtaken Paypal, Costco and Salesforce. Bitcoin isn’t a stock, though, as many investors view it as a currency or commodity.

However, due to its finite supply of coins, capped at 21 million, Moas is one individual who believes this could push bitcoin’s price up.

Riding an Impulsive Rally

Other analysts are being more bearish.

Sheba Jafari, Goldman Sachs’ chart analyst, said that the digital currency is riding a ‘fifth wave’ of an ‘impulsive’ rally. As such, Jafari thinks bitcoin’s price will rise to $4,827 in the short term.

She said:

“Once a full five-wave sequence is in place, the market should in theory enter a corrective phase.”

She adds:

“This can last at least one-third of the time it took to complete the preceding advance and retrace at least 38.2 percent of the entire move.”

Jefari said that this could see the digital currency drop to as low of $2,221.

Bitcoin Price Swings

If such a situation proves itself true, it won’t be the first time that the market has experienced a price correction.

When bitcoin sailed through the $3,000 barrier in mid-June it subsequently lost over $1,000 in value. On the 15th June, the digital currency was trading at $2,330, pushing its market cap down to $40 billion.

On the 26th June, the community underwent an anticipated price correction. While Fred Wilson, digital currency investor and Union Square Ventures partner, wrote in a blog post that:

“My gut says we are headed for a selloff in the crypto sector.”

Not All Doom and Gloom

It’s natural that the market will experience a slight drop in price after its rapid rise. Many think, though, that in the long-term its price will increase into the hundreds of thousands.

Dennis Porto, a bitcoin investor and Harvard academic, is one individual who has projected a high price. So much so, that he believes bitcoin will reach $100,000 by February 2021. He claims this is possible if it follows Moore’s law.

Kay Van Petersen, a Saxo Bank analyst, has predicted that the digital currency’s price will reach $100,000 in 10 years. This is the same analyst who rightly predicted that bitcoin would reach the $2,000 mark in 2017.

Not as bullish is Tom Lee, a strategist at Wall Street firm Fundstrat. He thinks that by 2020, the digital currency will be worth between $20,000 and $55,000.

As can be seen, though, these projections paint a bright future for the digital currency’s market. As a result, it’s becoming harder for investors to ignore the cryptocurrency sector. This is according to Goldman Sachs, who recently said in a note that:

“With the total value nearly $120 billion, it’s getting harder for institutional investors to ignore cryptocurrencies.”

At the time of publishing the entire market cap value is worth $133.3 billion.

Altcoins Drop in Value

It’s not just bitcoin that has seen a drop in value.

Ethereum’s price has dropped too. At present, it’s worth $285 and has seen a -4.19 percent drop in 24 hours. Over the last seven days, its value has decreased by -0.38 percent. Its market value is now worth $26.8 billion.

Third place ripple has dropped in price as well. It’s now trading at $0.160454 and has a market cap of $6.1 billion. In 24 hours its value has decreased by -5.27 percent and in seven days it has dropped by -12.38 percent.

Bitcoin cash, in fourth place, has experienced a slight drop too. At present, it’s trading at $295 with a market cap of $4.8 billion. Over 24 hours it has dropped by -1.05 percent and in seven days a decline of -15.31 has been reported.

Despite these price declines, eight place NEO is steaming ahead. Its market cap is currently worth just over $2 billion and is trading at $41.86. Even though it has dropped by -9.81 percent in 24 hours over seven days it has increased its value by an impressive 142.25 percent.

It remains to be seen how far this altcoin can go.

Furthermore, the community will be watching and waiting to see how much further the price of bitcoin will drop or if another surge in its price will be recorded. For now, many traders are enjoying this price rise which is producing big profits for many.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

10 Digital Currencies Now Have Market Values Totalling Over $1 Billion

The number of digital currencies that have exceeded a market value of $1 billion is 10 with values ranging from $1.3 billion to $70 billion.

The top 10 cryptocurrencies with market values exceeding $1 billion include bitcoin, ethereum, ripple, bitcoin cash, IOTA, litecoin, NEO, NEM, dash and ethereum classic.

 

Bitcoin, the Number One Ranking Currency

In first place is bitcoin with a market value amounting to $70 billion. At press time, it is trading at $4,245, which has seen a 5.42 percent rise over the past 24 hours and a 27.03 percent increase in the last seven days.

After recently scaling the $4,000 mark, there is still huge demand for the digital currency. This is despite the 1st August user activated hard fork, which saw the creation of bitcoin cash. It remains to be seen how far bitcoin can go, but many are predicting it can easily reach $5,000 and even higher.

Ethereum Drops Below $300

Second place ethereum had attained the $300 mark again after flirting with the price for some time last week. Now, it’s trading at $297 with a 0.68 percent rise in 24 hours and 11.23 percent increase in seven days. Its market cap is worth $28 billion.

At one point, it looked as though ethereum may push bitcoin off the top spot as it steadily gained on the digital currency. Now, though, that doesn’t look likely. The currency has come a significant way since the beginning of the year when it was trading at $8.24, according to CoinMarketCap.

Ronnie Moas, Standpoint Research founder, believes it can go much further. He’s predicting that by 2018, ethereum’s price will be listed at $400.

Ripple Maintains Third Place

At the beginning of August, Ripple has lost its third place position to newcomer bitcoin cash; however, it has since reclaimed the third ranking spot.

Currently trading at $0.169272, it has a market value amounting to $6.7 billion. Over 24 hours its value has increased by 0.47 percent, but within seven days it has dropped in price by -5.95 percent. The digital currency is doing well to maintain hold of third place, but for how long?

Newcomer Bitcoin Cash Falls into Fourth

Bitcoin cash is the newest digital currency to enter the market. It’s also one that has entered the top 10 field so soon after its launch.

Created by supporters who wanted a solution to bitcoin’s scaling issues, bitcoin cash has garnered support since it entered the scene on the 1st August.

At the time of publishing, it is trading at $299, which has seen a slight drop in value over 24 hours of -2.96 percent. Yet, it has increased by 4.02 percent in the past seven days. Ranking third when it first came on the scene, it had a market value of nearly $12 billion. Now, though, it’s currently sitting at $4.9 billion.

At its peak, bitcoin cash was trading at $727 on the 2nd August. However, the chart below indicates a steady decline in price.

At its lowest, bitcoin cash was trading at $201 on the 5th August. After making it easier to find blocks for the digital currency its price peaked up slightly, but it has yet to see $700 figures again.

IOTA Grabs Fifth Place, Pushes Litecoin into Sixth

IOTA has shown some positive returns on its price in August. As such its price has steadily increased over the month. At the time of publishing, the digital currency is trading at $0.885418 and has seen an 18.37 percent in the past 24 hours. Over seven days, its value has increased by 87.29 percent.

This surge in value is believed to be down to the fact that it has announced collaborations with several groups such as a non-profit organisation helping refugees. Joining the $1 billion club on the 4th August, IOTA currently has a market value of $2.461 billion.

Litecoin is Close Behind in Sixth

Sixth place litecoin is close on the tails of IOTA with a current market value of $2.401 billion. It’s currently trading at $45.66 and has seen a -0.70 percent in 24 hours and -0.33 percent in the past seven days.

Over the past couple of years the price of litecoin has remained within the $3-5 range. However, it wasn’t until April 2017 that its price increased. This was helped along by the activation of SegWit on its network. The support of litecoin on Coinbase also played a role. At its highest litecoin has achieved over $50.

Moas is of the opinion that by 2018, litecoin could easily see it trading at $80. It remains to be seen whether or not the digital currency achieves this price, but it is steadily rising in price, which is giving confidence to many of its traders.

‘Chinese Ethereum’ NEO Takes Seventh

Formerly known as AntShares, NEO – known as the Chinese Ethereum – has a market value worth $2.3 billion. Since undergoing a rebrand the digital currency has soared in value.

In the past 24 hours, it has seen a 1.17 percent increase, but over the past seven days its value has jumped by 154.80 percent. It’s trading at $46.63.

This chart, alone, indicates how far NEO has come in 2017.

NEM Takes Eighth Place

Grabbing hold of a $2.094 billion market cap value is NEM. It’s currently trading at $0.232741, but has seen a -12.14 percent decrease over the past 24 hours and a -13.89 drop in seven days.

As can be seen NEM has experienced a surge in price over the first half of 2017. As we continue into the second half it remains to be seen if the digital currency can produce a higher price.

Dash Falls into Ninth

With a market cap of $1.471 billion, Dash is currently sitting in ninth position. At the time of publishing it’s trading at $196, but has seen a -3.43 percent drop in 24 hours. Over seven days, however, its value has risen by 1.29 percent.

On the 6th July, its value was trading at $222 when its market value was listed at $1.648 billion.

Ethereum Classic Makes Number 10

In tenth place is ethereum classic with a market cap value of $1.3 billion. Even though this is the original ethereum before a hard fork took place, which saw two ethereum coins, the community hasn’t shown too much support for the original version.

At the time of publishing this altcoin is trading at $14.14, which has seen a -1.81 percent decrease in 24 hours and a -7.81 percent drop in seven days.

As shown from the chart above, it was back in June when ethereum classic recorded a high of nearly $23, helping to push its market value to $2.1 billion.

Of course with the market producing such changeable values the top 10 could easily change, pushing some down and others not mentioned up. Who knows who will be next to join the $1 billion club.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Indian States Look to the Blockchain Technology to Record Land Deals

Two Indian states are reported to be exploring the blockchain to record land deals to bring transparency to a corrupt system that leaves the poor at risk.

With the aid of the distributed ledger it is hoped that it will modernise an outdated system and boost economic growth. The southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are considering the blockchain to record land deals.

According to a report, most land records in India date back to the colonial era with land holdings uncertain of ownership. This can leave many people, particularly the poor, vulnerable with disputes over titles often ending up in court.

As fraud is a major issue with land deals the blockchain could alleviate this problem, bringing greater efficiency and transparency.

Vishal Batra at IBM Research, who works on the technology, said:

“The land registry is a good candidate for blockchain as there is no way to verify titles quickly. The process lends itself to fraud, as an owner can re-sell a property, and the buyer is ignorant. With blockchain there would be savings and efficiency, and there can be no fraud.”

Once a land record has been recorded on the blockchain all parties involved – land owners, sellers, banks and brokers – can track the deal. As the distributed ledger is an immutable record there is no way to falsify the information or change the data. This then gives all those concerned peace of mind to know that everything is correctly in place.

J.A. Chowdary, technology advisor to the Andhra Pradesh government, said:

“We are already digitising all land records, so this can be the next step.”

According to McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the global consulting firm, India’s land markets are preventing the country from producing more growth. As a result, lost gross domestic product growth each year accounts for 1.3 percent.

However, while the blockchain is being touted as the answer to India’s land registry issues, it can’t solve everything, according to the director of land laws and policy at advocacy group Landesa.

Sunil Kumar said:

“What if the data is incorrectly captured? To get a clean record, you need clean inputs. For that you need community involvement, particularly in rural areas, to verify ownership and resolve disputes.”

However, while Kumar may have some misgivings about what the blockchain can do, there are already other countries who have embraced the technology specifically for recording land deals.

Countries Embracing the Blockchain for Land Registry

Sweden is one country that is turning to the distributed ledger to improve the recording of land deals.

Last year, the country’s land registry authority, the Lantmäteriet, undertook a trial with the blockchain. The success of it meant that at the end of March the authority had moved to the second stage of the project.

According to Henrik Hjelte, ChromaWay CEO, it could add an economic boost to the country. Not only that, but Hjelte believes that Sweden is the ideal place to test the blockchain for land recordings as public trust in the authorities is high. As such, this will provide the incentive for other agencies to follow suit.

The U.K. is another nation that is utilising the distributed ledger. Her Majesty’s Land Registry, a U.K. government agency responsible for land ownership, revealed in May that it was conducting a project using the technology to register property.

In a report, this move would significantly transform the country’s 150-year history as it turns to speed, simplicity and an open approach to data.

In February, the Republic of Georgia joined forces with Bitfury Group, a provider of blockchain infrastructure, to use the blockchain to record property-related transfers. This marked the first time that a national government had employed the distributed ledger to confirm and secure government actions.

Countries such as Denmark, Ghana and the U.S. have also started the Bitland program to reclaim usable land titles and free up trillions of dollars for development in West Africa. Starting in Ghana and spreading through the rest of the African continent, it’s hoped that it will help to educate the nation on documented land ownership and how the blockchain can help to achieve this.

These are just a few of the countries that are turning their attention to the distributed ledger to improve how land ownerships are recorded.

The Blockchain Gains Prominence

As the technology develops and grows, more sectors are realising the benefits that it can provide. So much so, that one has to ask: how did we survive without it before? Such thinking also makes one think of how people survived without the Internet before it burst on the scenes in the late 90s. For many, the blockchain is becoming the next Internet sensation.

What’s important, though, is that we have the blockchain now and, consequently, many industries are using it to better their services.

Whether it’s within finance, healthcare, humanitarian, education or food supply, the blockchain is making its presence known.

One area where this can be seen includes tracking where China’s chickens are coming from. Confidence in China’s food supply is at an all-time low due to the number of food safety issues that have come up in the past. However, in a bid to improve consumer confidence with the country’s food it’s hoped that the blockchain will give people the peace of mind to know where their food is coming from.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is also employing the technology. In order to ensure the food and aid is reaching those in need, the UN undertook an experiment in May to see how successful it was by distributing aid to 10,000 Syrian refugees. The success of the trial meant that the agency was extending its reach to 100,000 refugees by the end of August with plans to include the entire Jordanian refugee population by the end of 2017.

With so many use cases underway featuring the technology it shows the importance and impact that it is having and the trust that people are willing to put into it to provide better services for many people.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Goldman Sachs: It’s Harder for Investors to Ignore Digital Currencies

Goldman Sachs has said to clients that the boom in value that digital currencies are experiencing is ‘worth watching.’

Analyst Robert D. Boroujerdi and his team, said in a note to portfolio managers, that:

“With the total value nearly $120 billion, it’s getting harder for institutional investors to ignore cryptocurrencies.”

On the 5th August, the price of bitcoin reached $3,200 for the first time in its history. Prior to reaching that milestone it hadn’t seen $3,000 figures since the 12th June. Then it recorded a price of $3,041, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI). Ethereum also recorded a new high price when it soared through $400.

More recently, bitcoin’s price has pushed through $3,300 and $3,400 with its sights set on reaching $3,500.

At the time of publishing bitcoin is trading at $3,390 and has a market cap worth just under $56 billion on the 10th August.

Over a 24-hour period, its value has increased just over two percent with a 23 percent rise within the past seven days.

Ethereum Flirts with $300

Ethereum, too, is seeing a rise in its value. At the moment it is trading just two dollars under the $300 mark.

Its price has risen by 2.17 percent over the past 24 hours and 33.50 percent within the past seven days. Of the top five digital currencies it has seen the biggest increase in price over the past week. Its market cap is now worth just over $28 billion.

The entire market value of the digital currencies is worth $122.6 billion. On the 7th August, it was $117 billion; however, on the 8th August it rose again to $121.8 billion. The lowest recorded price was down at $60 billion in July.

Bitcoin Cash Still Stays in Fourth

As can be seen from the table above, bitcoin cash, the newest altcoin on the block, remains in fourth place. It’s currently trading at $287 with a market value worth $4.7 billion. Over the past 24 hours, its value has dropped by 14.66 percent whereas it has declined by 33.77 percent over the past seven days.

On the 8th August, its value had risen to $358, experiencing a 35.45 percent rise which saw a market value of $5.9 billion. This was down to the fact that it is now easier for miners to find blocks. At the time it was questioned whether this would subsequently rise the coin’s value. As can be seen, though, bitcoin cash is still going through a fluctuating phase, which will continue to see its price rise and fall.

Digital Currencies Are Worth Watching

Now, in a significant step forward, Goldman Sachs believe that the rise of digital currencies are worth watching.

This year bitcoin has seen a 200 percent rise in price while ethereum has experienced a colossal 3,500 percent increase. The year 2017 is certainly proving to be a great year for the market and we’re only into August. It will be interesting to see how much further the sector can go.

Not only that, but the market has seen a rise in interest with initial coin offerings (ICOs), which is attracting a large number of investors.

It was earlier reported that in the first six months of 2017, over $1.2 billion in digital currencies had been risen through ICOs. So much so, that this figure outpaced venture capital funding in blockchain and bitcoin companies.

Yet, according to Charles Hoskinson, ethereum’s co-founder, who now runs research firm IOHK, they are a ‘ticking time-bomb.’

In an interview, Hoskinson, said:

“People say ICOs are great for ethereum because, look at the price, but it’s a ticking time-bomb. There’s an over-tokenisation of things as companies are issuing tokens when the same tasks can be achieved with existing blockchains. People are blinded by fast and easy money.”

Despite this, though, people are still flocking to ICOs. In July, it was reported that Tezos, a blockchain project, had announced the largest ICO to date after raising $232 million in bitcoin and ethereum coins. This outpaced the ICO for blockchain project Bancor, backed by Tim Draper of VC fund Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which raised $153 million in ether in June.

According to Goldman Sachs:

“Whether or not you believe in the merit of investing in cryptocurrencies (you know who you are) real dollars are at work here and warrant watching especially in light of the growing world of initial coin offerings (ICOs) and fundraising that now exceeds Internet Angel and Seed investing.”

Yet, while digital currencies are attracting a mammoth amount of interest, the bank adds that the market cap of all the cryptocurrencies equals to less than two percent of all the gold that is mined in the world.

Not only that, but while there are over 1,000 altcoins on the market, only around 800 of them actually have a market cap value. Yet, of those some have relatively small market caps. The smallest, at 817, has a market cap of just $18.

Boroujerdi and his team adds:

“There are currently over 800 cryptocurrencies out there, though just 9 have a market cap in excess of $1 billion.”

Bitcoin’s Value to Increase?

Many are projecting, however, that the value of bitcoin will increase.

Despite the recent user activated hard fork (UAHF), which saw the creation of bitcoin cash, bitcoin’s price hasn’t been affected. In fact the opposite of what was expected to happen, happened. Such a situation indicates that bitcoin has matured to such an extent that even a new digital currency won’t impact it.

According to Ronnie Moas, Standpoint Research founder, he believes that bitcoin will rise to $5,000 by 2018. He also predicts that ethereum will increase to $400 and litecoin will trade at $80.

Back in July, Moas indicated that bitcoin could reach $5,000 ‘in a few months,’ but has now extended the time he thinks this will happen. Confident as to where the market is going, he said:

“In my view, 10-15 years from now, the charts on a few of the top 20 names will look like the Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Facebook, Netflix and Goggle charts look today.”

Others believe that its value can increase even further. By 2020, a Wall Street analyst has made a bullish prediction and thinks bitcoin will be worth $55,000. With such varying prices, it remains to be seen who is the closest.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Malta’s First Bitcoin ATM Sees Warning from Financial Regulator

Malta’s financial regulator has issued a warning with the intention of preventing the adoption of digital currency use after the country installed its first bitcoin ATM.

At the end of July, it was reported that Malta had installed a bitcoin ATM in the town of Sliema where it is operated by Venture Trading. One of its services will be to convert bitcoin to euros.

The installation of the machine marked a significant step for the island nation. Local startup Ivaja, who introduced the machine to Malta, is focused on making the country a ‘Bitcoin Island.’

According to the startup, though, many feel that Malta is not ready for bitcoin and too far behind in the race.

Now, it seems that the country’s financial regulator doesn’t approve of the bitcoin ATM. After Malta’s first digital currency ATM received so much coverage, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) issued a warning to potential users.

It said:

Unlike traditional money, acceptance of payment in virtual currency depends entirely on the voluntary consent of the recipient. Furthermore providers of services in relation to virtual currencies are currently neither regulated by law nor authorised by the MFSA.

However, if users do use the digital currency, the MFSA added that potential users should proceed with caution when using a digital wallet as they would with a traditional one.

You should not keep large amounts of money in it and ensure you keep it safe and secure. You should also familiarise yourself with the ownership, reputability, transparency and public perception of the exchange platforms that you are considering using.

Confusing Positions

This will, no doubt, confuse many people in Malta who are interested in the digital currency market. Not only that, but the MFSA’s warning is in stark contradiction to Joseph Muscat, Malta’s prime minister.

In his opinion, the country ‘must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation’ and that they can’t simply wait for others to proceed before copying them.

Speaking at a conference organised by the financial affairs parliamentary committee, he added:

“This is not just about bitcoin, and I also look forward to seeing blockchain technology implemented in the lands registry and the national health registries. Malta can be a global trail-blazer in this regard.”

Supportive of the digital currency, Muscat has even called on EU leaders to embrace bitcoin.

He points out by saying:

“My point is that rather than resist, European regulators should innovate and create mechanisms in which to regulate cryptocurrencies, in order to harness their potential and better protect consumers, while making Europe the natural home of innovators.”

Malta Unveils Plans to Embrace the Blockchain

Just after the announcement of Malta’s first bitcoin ATM, the government announced that it had started unveiling its plans of making Malta become one of the first countries to embrace the blockchain and bitcoin at casinos.

According to Silvio Schembri, MP for the Labour Party, the country will become an international hub for the technology.

He said:

“We’ve heard enough about the opportunities posed by blockchain and it’s now time to put words into action to create new opportunities for both citizens and the economy. It’s my priority to turn this vision into a reality.”

Schembri claims that similar to the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), which regulates and hands out licenses to the gaming industry, there will be a new industry that regulates the blockchain sector in Malta.

Schembri said:

“There are many of these companies out there who are itching to have a proper licence under which to operate, and we could be the first in Europe – if not the world – to provide them. Some oil companies are interested in shifting to blockchain – can you imagine how much money we can earn through taxation if they register in Malta?”

With such a proactive interest in bitcoin and the blockchain, it’s clear that Malta knows what it must do to push the country forward in a way that will allow it to maintain pace with other countries in similar fields.

The MFSA Hampers Innovation

Unsurprisingly, after the MFSA’s announcement some have come out to claim that the financial regulator’s warning is no longer ‘justified.’

BitMalta, a Maltese bitcoin and virtual currency advocacy group, said:

“[The warning] would have been justified five years ago in view of the yet-uncertain nature and effect of cryptocurrencies, but not in this day and age when jurisdictions worldwide are readying themselves for acceptance of cryptocurrencies rather than shying away from this technological revolution.”

It added:

“We are extremely disappointed, to say the least, that whereas Malta’s Prime Minister Dr. Joseph Muscat and Hon. Silvio Schembri, the  Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, are actively advocating the adoption of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies in Malta, the MFSA stubbornly choose to ignore developments in the area and quote long-since settled risks pertinent to cryptocurrencies.”

According to BitMalta, the blockchain is the ‘next big thing,’ and that it will echo the disruption that the Internet created in the late 90s.

It said:

“It is therefore of utmost importance to create incubators for such thriving projects to grow unmolested and study them closely, and this ostrich-in-the-sand approach adopted by the MFSA is anything but proactive.”

Rather than scaring the public on a topic that they may know little about, BitMalta suggests taking measures to educate the public, claiming that digital currencies are here to stay ‘whether you ban them or not.’

It remains to be seen what impact, if any, this has on bitcoin adoption in Malta. It’s hoped, though, that with more understanding of the market the financial regulator will become open-minded of it.

The digital market, and in particular bitcoin, doesn’t appear to see waning support anytime soon. So rather than tarring it with a negative brush, why not research more into it. By doing so, those who are against it may find out that it’s not so scary after all, but a viable way for people to reclaim their financial freedom back.

Featured image from Shutterstock.