Bloomberg: SEC Required Two ETF Funds to Take Blockchain Off Their Tickers

Bloomberg: SEC Required Two ETF Funds to Take Blockchain Off Their Tickers

The U.S. SEC reportedly encouraged some funds to change their ETF descriptions.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reportedly required two funds to eliminate the word “blockchain” from their monikers, Bloomberg writes April 12, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The exchange-traded funds (ETFs) of both Amplify and Reality Shares reportedly mentioned blockchain in early filings. Per Bloomberg’s unarmed interlocutors, the two funds were encouraged to change their names at the last minute in 2018.

Despite eliminating the word “blockchain,” the funds’ tickers still refer to the technology. Ampilfy’s funds are traded as BLOK, while the product is described as “transformational data sharing ETF.” Reality Shares are using the title BLCN, depicting its product as “Nasdaq NexGen economy ETF.”

Moreover, Bloomberg claims that there were other blockchain-related funds who eventually changed their names following the SEC’s request.

Per the Investment Company Act of 1940, issuers are obliged not to use “materially deceptive or misleading” names. In 2001, the SEC adopted the Names Rule (Rule 35d) to clarify the guidelines. The funds are therefore required to ensure that at least 80 percent of assets coincide with the description in their monikers.

According to Bloomberg, the SEC is on high alert due to the growing number of ETFs launched by funds that offer to invest in a wide range of projects and services. The number of assets in these funds has nearly tripled between 2014 and 2018, and more than 10% of new ETFs in 2018 targeted a particular theme, the media out states.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, in early 2018 the SEC had warned that U.S. companies who change their name to include the word “blockchain” would soon face increased scrutiny from the regulators.

SEC chairman Jay Clayton recently noted that the crypto industry will stay in the regulator’s focus in the nearest future. He believes that there is a path for the industry to compliance with the federal securities laws.

Earlier in April, the SEC released guidance on determining whether digital assets constitute investment contracts. The agency also stated a new initial coin offering token from startup TurnKey was not a security.

IMF and World Bank Launch Quasi-Cryptocurrency in Exploration of Blockchain Tech

IMF and World Bank Launch Quasi-Cryptocurrency in Exploration of Blockchain Tech

The IMF and the World Bank have launched a private blockchain and a quasi-coin to learn more about the technology.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have jointly launched a private blockchain and a so-dubbed quasi-cryptocurrency, the Financial Times (FT) reports on April 12.

According to the newspaper, the asset called “Learning Coin” will be accessible only within the IMF and World Bank. The coin has no money value and thus is not a real cryptocurrency, the FT underlines.

As the FT has learned, “Learning Coin” was launched in order to better understand the technologies that underlie crypto assets. Its app will serve as a hub where blogs, research, videos and presentations are stored.

During the test, the World Bank and IMF staff will earn coins for achieving certain educational milestones. The institutions will allow them to redeem the assets gained for some rewards, which will allow them to learn how coins can be used in real life.

Per the IMF, the banks and regulators across the world have to catch up with crypto technologies that are rapidly developing. The FT quotes the IMF as saying:

“The development of crypto-assets and distributed ledger technology is evolving rapidly, as is the amount of information (both neutral and vested) surrounding it. This is forcing central banks, regulators and financial institutions to recognize a growing knowledge gap between the legislators, policymakers, economists and the technology.”

Moreover, after the test, the World Bank and IMF reportedly might use blockchain to launch smart contracts, combat money laundering and enhance the overall level of transparency.

Earlier in April, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said that blockchain innovators are shaking up the traditional financial world and have a clear impact on incumbent players. She also noted that the potential of blockchain-based technologies and assets is embraced by regulators and central banks, who recognize its positive effect.

Meanwhile, a World Bank official expressed a more skeptical point of view. According to Aanchal Anand, a Land Administration Specialist in the bank’s Global Land and Geospatial Unit, there is too much hype over blockchain, which causes unrealistic expectations.

Indian Banks Consider Promoting Blockchain Tech Use for Payments

Indian Banks Consider Promoting Blockchain Tech Use for Payments

Major Indian banks plan to focus on blockchain tech implementation to increase digital transaction quality.

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is considering implementing blockchain technology to increase the strength of digital transactions, Indian business magazine Business Today reports on April 14.

The initiative of ten banks, under the aegis of the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), aims to improve the NPCI by implementing distributed ledger technology, the publication underlines.

The NPCI, an umbrella organization that operates retail payments and settlement systems in India and includes 56 national banks as stakeholders, was set up with the guidance and support of the Reserve Bank of India and the IBA. The NPCI will focus on developing blockchain tech in the payment domain for boosting digital transactions, the article states. It also says:

“NPCI intends to develop a resilient, real time and highly scalable blockchain solution. It is proposed to develop this solution using an open source technology/ framework/solution.”

As Cointelegraph wrote in July of last year, five major banks from each BRICS member, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the development of distributed ledger technology for enhancing the digital economy.

Back in last fall, experts in the blockchain field held debates during the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, underlining that blockchain technology will replace the world’s current payment systems, as Cointelegraph reported.

Young Africa Looks to Crypto for Payment

Young Africa Looks to Crypto for Payment

Lagos has an interest in crypto, but adoption is slow, with many only considering Bitcoin as an alternative means of receiving foreign payments.

Data from Google Trends shows that Lagos, Nigeria ranks as the number one city based on the volume of online searches for Bitcoin (BTC). While this data may indicate a high level of interest among the city’s approximately 21 million people, it has yet to equate to tangible adoption of the emerging trend of technology.

But that is changing, as a growing movement among young people frustrated with existing payment systems looks for alternatives.

Bitcoin as a dollar substitute

For the most part, “Lagosians” who are aware of the existence of Bitcoin see the top-ranked cryptocurrency as a substitute for the United States dollar. BTC exists for them on a spectrum that lends itself as a viable substitute for foreign currency.

Payment companies like PayPal do not allow Nigerians to receive money transfers from abroad, thanks to the notoriety of internet fraudsters in the country — and the companies that offer such services usually charge high fees.

Thus, it is common to see the city’s growing freelancing community beginning to pivot toward cryptocurrency payments. Many of the youth in the city, having battled with underemployment or unemployment, have sought to try their hands outside the traditional working environment.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to above 23 percent in 2018. In a city like Lagos, many young university graduates can be seen making a living as freelancers, offering services from copywriting to website design and even computer programming.

Given that many of their clients are based abroad, there can be issues with receiving payment for the work done. However, with a BTC wallet and a plethora of local exchange services, these freelancers can receive payments easily from clients spread across the globe.

Apart from freelancers, business owners are also using Bitcoin, as well as other crypto-focused platforms, as substitutes for foreign currency and banks. Companies like BitPesa offer easy access to liquidity, which can be a hassle to businesses in frontier markets like Lagos, especially in the context of foreign trade.

In a private message to Cointelegraph, Victor Alagbe, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Blockchain Strategist at OneWattSolar, an energy startup looking to leverage blockchain technology in boosting renewable energy adoption across Africa, said:

“I see crypto taking up a strong position in the remittances space. It’s often cheaper, less stressful (in terms of documentation) and faster to send and receive crypto. Many younger folks in the diaspora are now leveraging crypto to send money back home. Some techies working remotely are also getting paid in crypto.”

In 2001, the government at the time introduced mobile telecommunications technology to the country. In the 18 years since that landmark event, mobile telecoms have become a significant sector in the nation’s economy, contributing 10.5 percent of its gross domestic product as of mid-2018.

Nigeria has over 100 million active internet subscriptions, mostly on mobile platforms. Bitcoin as a payment technology leverages on this access to the web, allowing tech-savvy Nigerians to participate in the growing cryptocurrency trend.

Bitcoin underutilization

While the peer-to-peer (p2p) trading aspect of the emerging BTC narrative continues to take shape in Lagos, there is a massive underutilization of the technology itself. Even with the potentially paradigm-shifting aura attached to cryptocurrency, Lagos — and, by extension, Nigerians — seem content to focus only on BTC as a dollar substitute without diving deeper into the technological ramifications of broader Bitcoin adoption.

Data from Bitnodes, which tracks the global Bitcoin nodes distribution, shows that there are virtually no nodes in the country. Yes, Lagos leads the way in online BTC searches. But only a handful of people run actual Bitcoin nodes.

This reticence for a broad-based adoption isn’t entirely down to apathy toward the technology itself, but is, instead, a representation of the lack of proper infrastructure on which to support a vibrant digital economy. In a city that lacks constant electricity supply, the fact that people aren’t running Bitcoin nodes hardly comes as a surprise.

Concerning Bitcoin underutilization, Alagbe opined:

“There’s still a whole of lot education that needs to go into helping people understand the relationships between Bitcoin (crypto) and its underlying Blockchain technology. However, the Nigerian market is likely to focus on crypto to the exclusion of other applications of Blockchain inasmuch for as long as there’s profit to be made in the speculative side of cryptocurrency.”

Another startling indicator of Bitcoin underutilization in the city comes from the lack of retail acceptance of the cryptocurrency. While metropolitan areas in the United States, Europe and parts of Asia have increasingly seen more retail adoption of BTC as a payment means, Lagos rarely registers on the map, as indicated by Coinmap.

The OneWattSolar COO highlights this same trend, declaring:

“In my opinion, Bitcoin (and cryptocurrency in general) is still seen as a speculative play to make quick gains. You can see people trading huge sums of Bitcoin on platforms such as Remitano but you’ll be hard pressed to find a business that accepts crypto as payment for products or services.”

At the time of writing this article, Coinmap reports that there are more than 14,600 venues that accept Bitcoin payments across the globe. Only South Africa registers any significant BTC adoption in the retail scene as far as Africa is concerned.

Once again, Nigeria risks falling behind the rest of the world in the race to embrace the emerging digital landscape. While other megacities obtain first-mover advantages in being at the forefront of the emerging digital revolution, either by ignorance or the absence of requisite basic infrastructure, Lagos continues only to associate with the basic aspects of BTC adoption.

Bitcoin and the allure of get-rich-quick schemes

Over the last decade-and-a-half, Nigeria has gained notoriety for being home to internet fraud. While this image continues to be inimical to the aspirations of honest and hardworking Nigerians, it has also contributed to many people casting a jaundiced glance in the direction of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general.

This situation hasn’t been aided by the fact that BTC began to come into public consciousness after the debacle of the Russian Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM) scam. For the most part of 2016 and 2017, many characterized BTC as the “new MMM.”

In a private chat with Cointelegraph, Joseph Samuel, a blockchain analyst, web designer, and team leader at “Humane Love,” a Lagos-based charity project on the EOS blockchain spoke about how some Lagosians tend to conflate and confuse Bitcoin and MMM, saying:

“Many Nigerians got to know about Bitcoin during the MMM Ponzi scam. As a result, they tend to see Bitcoin as another fraudulent investment scheme. However, with proper education, this misinformation can become a thing of the past.”

In so doing, they missed out on the massive profits gained by early adopters during the late 2017 bull rally. With BTC almost eclipsing the $20,000 mark in late 2017, having begun the year trading below $1,000, the usual opportunists came out of hiding to evince designs of fraudulent schemes centered around Bitcoin.

For Samuel, the city still has time to catch up to the rest of the world, declaring:

“Lagos is a mega city filled with some of the smartest people in the world. Unfortunately, the fear of the unknown prevents many from adopting newer technological breakthroughs. Once they become more amenable to change and realize what Bitcoin represents, Lagos will become a major hub in the developing digital economy.”

Organizations like the Cryptography Development Initiative of Nigeria (CDIN) and the Nigerian Blockchain Alliance (NBA) have been at the forefront of combating cryptocurrency scams in Lagos and other parts of the country. Together, these institutions collaborate with agencies like the Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum (NeFF) to prevent the proliferation of Bitcoin-related criminal activity.

Bitcoin and the 2016 recession

Historical charts from Coin Dance shows a massive increase from 2016 in Bitcoin trading volume on Localbitcoins — a p2p BTC trading platform. This marked increase was no coincidence, as 2016 saw the country’s economy go into its worst recession since 1987.

Around that time, many local digital payment companies in the city also began to pivot to Bitcoin. New businesses also sprang up, offering avenues to purchase the cryptocurrency. Cointelegraph spoke with Adekemi Bitire, a marketing executive at IBIC Exchange, an over-the-counter (OTC) Bitcoin exchange in the Yaba area of Lagos, about the BTC adoption trend in the city. Bitire explained:

“Over the course of my involvement in the Bitcoin OTC scene here in Lagos, I have observed an exponential increase in the number of people adopting BTC trading. More people are getting into the business, earning steady commissions, and improving their standard of living.”

Bitire elaborated on the expanding demographic of BTC adoption in the city:

“Apart from university students and out-of-college freelancers, we are also seeing mid-level employees of companies in the city using Bitcoin as a way of creating another revenue stream to augment their monthly salaries.”

Bitcoin as an avenue of escaping weaponized poverty

The present-day reality in Nigeria is one many believe is firmly entrenched in the weaponization of ignorance and poverty for the sole purpose of disenfranchising the majority. The ruling oligarchy, while enjoying the commonwealth of the people, propagates a message of “living within one’s means,” a euphemism, some say, for the glorification of poverty that simultaneously casts aspersions on the desire to achieve economic and financial emancipation.

Within that alleged construct of this tyrannical state-sponsored weaponization of poverty lies a veritable tipping point for greater Bitcoin adoption in Lagos and other places in Nigeria. The core principle of BTC lies in libertarian ideals that are at odds with the socialist politics of mass economic disenfranchisement.

Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) shows that about 31 million of the country’s population own bank accounts. Figures from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) show 83 million registered voters. The fact that the total addressable market for business in Nigeria is 63 percent less than the total number of eligible voters paints an alarming picture.

Bitcoin is a multi-billion-dollar market that encompasses more than a cross-border payment system. It represents the ability to build a decentralized global market infrastructure free from censorship. Thus, there exist a myriad opportunities for greater BTC adoption in a mega city like Lagos.

With such a high percentage of unbanked and underbanked people, especially in rural areas, increased BTC adoption presents a viable alternative to traditional banking services. Places in Southeast Asia that suffer from the same problem are already showing a considerable increase in cryptocurrency adoption.

Greater emphasis on creating more user-friendly methods of making BTC payments could see the technology spread to rural areas where the people might not be as tech-savvy as their urban counterparts. The bulk of unbanked and underbanked people live in these impoverished, rural settlements, as it is in most other places in the world.

Increased BTC adoption can help to create an expanded set of “means” within which ambitious and upwardly mobile people who pursue legitimate livelihoods can improve their standard of living. This outcome will, however, remain unattainable if the allure of BTC remains firmly rooted in the realms of being a “side hustle.”

Victor Alagbe of OneWattSolar encapsulates the need for a more broad-based approach to Bitcoin and blockchain technology in Lagos, Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, declaring:

“I think the fact that the Nigerian market is interested in crypto is good for the eventual mainstream adoption of Blockchain technology. Blockchain introduces trust in inherently trustless environments such as ours; hence, when Blockchain-powered projects (DApps) that are not overly bundled with crypto hits the mass-market, they’ll probably be quick to gain traction.”

There are far larger social and economic implications at play than Bitcoin as a dollar substitute. By creating useful technological and financial products and services centered on Bitcoin, the top-ranked cryptocurrency could potentially create far greater utility for Lagos — and Nigeria as a whole.

Institutional Investment in Bitcoin Futures Drops as Price Settles: CFTC

Institutional Investment in Bitcoin Futures Drops as Price Settles: CFTC

The overall institutional investment in Bitcoin futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange decreased this past week, according to CFTC data.

The overall institutional investment in Bitcoin (BTC) futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) decreased this past week, according to data published by the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on April 9.

The data shows that as of April 9, institutional investors and asset managers had 244 open long positions, a decrease of 71 from April 2, and 80 open short positions, nine less than one week before. Also, the data show only three open spreading positions for institutional investors, 32 less than the previous week.

As of the April 9 data, the number of short positions among institutional investors had thus dropped 11%. Long positions, on the other hand, decreased by almost 30% over the same period, indicating a slight bearish sentiment among investors.  

Meanwhile, while specifically among institutional investors on CME there are more long than short open positions, the number of open short positions prevails in the overall total open positions count for the asset. There are 3,267 open long positions on the BTC futures contracts offered on the CME exchange, and 4,177 open short positions.

The week from April 2 to 9, total short positions increased by 421, while long positions saw a slightly smaller increase of 366.

Previously, crypto news outlet Bitcoinist reported that the number of opened long positions for CME Bitcoin futures contracts by institutional investors and asset managers had spiked during the previous week.

More precisely, there had purportedly been an 88% increase in institutional long positions compared to the previous week, with 315 long contracts opened by April 2. The publication also reported that the number of short positions reported a 63% decrease, to 89 contracts from 241.

As Cointelegraph reported last week, CME had noted that its Bitcoin futures saw record trading volumes on April 4, just after the price of Bitcoin surged to multi-month highs. Bitcoin is currently trading around $5,100, seeing almost no change on the day and week.

Wall Street strategist and co-founder of Fundstrat Global Advisors Thomas Lee revealed last week that his “Bitcoin Misery Index” (BMI) recently hit its highest figure since June 2016. According to Lee, the fact that Bitcoin reported its highest reading since June 2016 provides a mixed signal:

“Good–> Since 2011, BMI >67 only seen during $BTC bull markets. More evidence bull starting. Bad –> BMI >67 after peak, $BTC falls ~25% = Profit taking ST.”

Ethereum Core Developers Consider More Frequent and Smaller Hard Forks

Ethereum Core Developers Consider More Frequent and Smaller Hard Forks

Ethereum core developers are considering more frequent and smaller hard forks.

Ethereum (ETH) core developers are considering implementing more frequent and smaller hard forks, according to the most recent bi-weekly meeting held on April 12.

The question of time between hard forks — or network updates — was brought up by the meeting’s moderator, Tim Beiko, who referenced it as an ongoing topic of discussion. Another dev then began the discussion by referencing core developer Alexey Akhunov’s previously expressed position in favor of shorter periods between forks.

To “check the temperature” of the devs’ position on hard fork timing, the dev asked if anyone on the call was “open to hard forks as short as three months.” The first three responses to the question were negative or tentative, with dev Joseph Delong calling three months “too quick […] for turnaround.”

Another developer, Martin Holst Swende, then summarized the sentiment, stating:

“as long as we’re not tied to large hard forkes every three months. So, more like opportunity windows, when things are finished.”

Another dev then pointed out that the team had yet to complete a hard fork within six months, suggesting that “there a couple of things we probably need to automate to be able to do that really well.”

The devs also referenced the topic as being previously discussed on the Ethereum developer forum Ethereum Magicians. In the discussion’s initial post, dated March 15, Beiko laid out the pros and cons of smaller and more frequent hard forks, noting that the team had discussed the topic on its dev call that same day.

Some of the arguments in favor include that such a move would bring more frequent updates to the protocol and would also allow the team to separate concerns and isolate changes better and decrease the deployment time of updates that require multiple forks. Further, the testing process would be arguably easier since there would be fewer EIPs to test and fewer EIP interactions to check.

Still, arguments for larger and less frequent hard forks were also presented, such as the fact that they leave ample time for security evaluation. Less frequent hard forks require less frequent client updates and user coordination. In the case of frequent hard forks, a bug in a fork also risk delaying the next fork.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier this week, a report released by decentralized application (DApp) analytics website DApp.com revealed that Tron (TRX) has the fastest growing DApp user base while Ethereum’s DApp user base is shrinking.

Also this week, Charles Hoskinson, the co-founder of Ethereum and IOHK, the company behind Cardano (ADA), criticized Ethereum and Eos’s (EOS) approach to development.

Bitcoin Hovers Near $5,100 as Top Cryptos See Slight Losses

Bitcoin Hovers Near $5,100 as Top Cryptos See Slight Losses

Most of the top 20 cryptocurrencies are reporting slight losses as Bitcoin hovers near the $5,100 mark.

Saturday, April 13 — most of the top 20 cryptocurrencies are reporting slight losses on the day by press time, as Bitcoin (BTC) hovers just over the $5,100 mark.

Market visualization courtesy of Coin360

Market visualization courtesy of Coin360

Bitcoin’s price is up about half a percent on the day, trading at around $5,107 by press time, according to CoinMarketCap. Looking at its weekly chart, the current price is also just half a percent higher than the price at which Bitcoin started the week.

Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ethereum (ETH) is holding onto its position as the largest altcoin by market cap, which is at about $17.4 billion. The second-largest altcoin, Ripple (XRP), has a market cap of about $13.7 billion by press time.

ETH has seen almost no change over the last 24 hours, down a fraction of a percent. At press time, ETH is trading around $165. On the week, the coin has also seen almost no gross change, but reported a mid-week high of $184 on Monday.

Ethereum 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ethereum 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

During a recent developer meeting this week, Ethereum core developers stated that they are considering more frequent and smaller hard forks.

Second-largest altcoin Ripple is also seeing fractional losses over the 24 hours to press time and is currently trading at around $0.327. Looking at the coin’s weekly chart, however, its current price over 8% lower than what it reported one week ago.

Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Among the top 20 cryptocurrencies, the only one reporting notable gains is Binance Coin (BNB), which is up almost three percent. BNB has seen slightly more gains on the week.

The total market cap of all cryptocurrencies is currently equivalent to $173.1 billion, which is close to two percent lower than $175.6, the value it reported a week ago.

As Cointelegraph reported yesterday, French insurance markets can now invest in cryptocurrencies, following the passage of a new law.

Today, Cointelegraph reported that the research arm of major cryptocurrency derivatives platform BitMEX estimates that Bitcoin SV (BSV) miners have accumulated gross losses of $2.2 million.

The report released by BitMEX Research claims that BSV miners perceived a negative gross profit margin of 12% since the coin was created in a hard fork that split Bitcoin Cash (BCH).

Bitcoin SV Miners Saw Gross Losses of $2.2 Million Since Fork: BitMEX

Bitcoin SV Miners Saw Gross Losses of $2.2 Million Since Fork: BitMEX

A recent report estimated that Bitcoin SV miners have accumulated gross losses of $2.2 million.

A tweet published on April 12 by the research arm of major cryptocurrency derivatives platform BitMEX estimates that Bitcoin SV (BSV) miners have accumulated gross losses of $2.2 million.

The report released by BitMEX Research claims that BSV miners perceived a negative gross profit margin of 12% since the coin was created in a hard fork that split Bitcoin Cash (BCH). The estimate is based on mined coin count, current coin prices and lower bound mining electricity costs.

The tweet notes that, among costs, the estimate accounts for mining electricity only.

In November, in the run up to the BCH hard fork, BitMEX research launched a network monitoring tool for Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash. The resource, dubbed Forkmonitor, provided the data that BitMEX referred to in yesterday’s tweet.

In March, BitMEX Research also launched an Ethereum (ETH) node metrics website. The site, called NodeStats, shows data about five different ETH nodes and updates every five seconds. The website has been launched in partnership with BitMEX Ethereum data partner TokenAnalyst.

As Cointelegraph reported yesterday, the founder and CEO of major cryptocurrency exchange Binace, Changpeng Zhao, warned that he will delist BSV if the creator of the altcoin, Craig Wright, does not alter his behavior.

The reaction from Zhao is seemingly motivated by the fact that Wright recently set a bounty over the identity of a Twitter user that called him a fraud for his claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s creator.

US Justice Dept. Convicts Two Romanians of Cybercrimes Including Cryptojacking

US Justice Dept. Convicts Two Romanians of Cybercrimes Including Cryptojacking

U.S. federal jury convicted two alleged Romanian hackers of spreading malware to steal credit card credentials and illicitly mine cryptocurrency.

A federal jury has convicted two Romanian alleged cybercriminals of spreading malware to steal credit card credentials and illicitly mine cryptocurrency, an announcement from the official website of the United States Department of Justice revealed on April 11.

The malware allegedly spread by the suspects was reportedly used for cryptojacking and to steal credit card and other data that the suspects would have sold on darknet markets and used to engage in online auction fraud.

As the Justice Department press release reports, Bogdan Nicolescu, 36, and Radu Miclaus, 37, were convicted after a 12-day trial.

The two individuals were charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit service marks, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts each of wire fraud.

The two are scheduled to be sentenced on August 14 this year in the Northern District of Ohio.

The activity was allegedly conducted as a “criminal conspiracy” from Bucharest, Romania, by the aforementioned suspects and another person who pleaded guilty. The malware itself was reportedly developed in 2007 and then spread via emails posing as legitimate communications from entities like Western Union, Norton AntiVirus and the Internal Revenue Service.

As the press release explains, the recipients that clicked on the attached file in such an email had malware installed on their devices. The malware also harvested email addresses from the contact lists of the victims. The infected computers also reportedly registered over 100,000 AOL email accounts that were used to spread the malware further with millions of emails sent to the stolen addresses.

The virus also purportedly redirected traffic to major websites such as Facebook, PayPal, eBay to a near identical version meant for phishing to obtain access credentials. The stolen credentials were reportedly used to rent server space, register domain names and pay for anonymization services.

Lastly, the report also specifies that the case was jointly investigated by the U.S. Federal Investigation Bureau and the Romanian National Police.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier this week, Bitcoin (BTCwallet service Electrum is facing an ongoing Denial-of-Service attack on its servers and users have reportedly lost millions of dollars.

In a report from last month by AT&T Cybersecurity, it was revealed that cryptocurrency mining is one of the most observed objectives of hackers attacking businesses’ cloud infrastructures.

At the end of March, news broke that a new strain of Trojan malware for Android phones is targeting global users of top crypto apps such as CoinbaseBitPay and Bitcoin Wallet, as well as banks including JPMorganWells Fargo, and Bank of America.

VR Firm Magic Leap Seeks Blockchain Engineers for User Data

VR Firm Magic Leap Seeks Blockchain Engineers for User Data

VR startup Magic Leap is seeking blockchain engineers for its Lifestream business function.

Virtual reality (VR) startup Magic Leap is seeking blockchain engineers according to recent listings on employment website Greenhouse. The firm is looking for a senior blockchain architect and blockchain engineers.

Among the duties listed for the senior blockchain architect position, the individual will be “planning and execution of a portfolio of blockchain, smart contract, and Ricardian contract technologies in support of the implementation of our Lifestream business function.”

In a recent interview with VR industry publication UploadVR, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz said that Lifestream is: “all the data that you experience and the data of the world around you and how that needs to be protected…” At a conference last October, he noted the importance of protecting the data set, which he characterized as critical.

The job listing seeks an individual with experience in the Red Belly and Hyperledger blockchain frameworks and experience with Java, Node,js, Python or Go. Magic Leap also prefers that the engineer has experience writing smart contracts for blockchain networks like Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger  Sawtooth, Ethereum and Corda.

Magic Leap has grown significantly since its inception in 2010. Crunchbase reported last year that the firm is the top-funded VR startup on the market, having aggregated 41% of VC funding in the VR market worldwide in 2018.  

Earlier this month, Ethereum-based digital asset tokenization startup Enjin announced that it will launch a Software Development Kit for the Unity game engine, which supports VR and augmented reality app development.

Former Coinbase Exec Appointed Head of Sales and Marketing at Fidelity

Former Coinbase Exec Appointed Head of Sales and Marketing at Fidelity

Digital assets trading and custody platform Fidelity Digital Assets has named Christine Sandler, former head of institutional sales at Coinbase, the head of Sales and Marketing.

Digital assets trading and custody platform Fidelity Digital Assets has named a former Coinbase executive the head of Sales and Marketing, according to a press release published on April 10.

Christine Sandler — who previously served as head of institutional sales at American major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase — has joined Fidelity as its head of Sales and Marketing. In this role, Sandler will reportedly lead the expansion of Fidelity Digital Assets into new markets, as well as take responsibility for institutional customers service.

Sandler’s former experience also includes Head of Equity Electronic Sales for the Americas at Barclays Investment Bank, and Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sales for NYSE Euronext. She also served as Head of Electronic Sales at investing and wealth management firm Merrill Lynch and worked as a buy-side trader.

Fidelity Digital Assets went live in the beginning of March, with a select group of clients. The company said then that “we are live with a select group of eligible clients and will continue rolling out slowly.”

Fidelity Digital Assets head Tom Jessop said at the time that the company is still working on various parts of the platform. He noted that while some users have been on the platform since January, others may wait until September, as it “really depends on the facts and circumstances of each client.”

Earlier today, Cointelegraph reported that Mike Blandina, a former engineering executive at PayPal and Google, has joined Bitcoin (BTC) trading and custody platform Bakkt as its chief product officer. Blandina will now lead the firm’s efforts to converge a trusted ecosystem for digital assets with payments use cases in order to help Bakkt bring real applications to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

France Passes Bill to Allow Insurance Providers to Invest in Crypto and Tokens

France Passes Bill to Allow Insurance Providers to Invest in Crypto and Tokens

The National Assembly of France passed a new bill allowing local insurance markets to invest in crypto.

French insurance markets can now invest in cryptocurrencies, following the passage of a new law, foreign exchange news agency FXStreet reports April 11.

On April 11, the National Assembly of France adopted a bill that is designed to stimulate local business development, including redirecting savings from individuals to businesses, according to local news agency Les Echos. According to Reuters, the Assemblee Nationale voted 147 in favor and 50 against.

Known as “Plan d’action pour la croissance et la transformation des entreprises,” (Pacte) the act reportedly allows insurance providers in France to invest in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) with no limit on the amount of investment.

According FXStreet, a dual provision of the act enables insurers to invest in crypto through specialized professional funds, and allows them to offer life insurance policies exposed to crypto. The new measure will also impact professional capital investment funds.

Joel Giraud, deputy and budget manager of Emmanuel Macron’s party La République En Marche, confirmed the news, while claiming that the new crypto-related initiative “was not the primary objective of the Pacte,” according to tech news website TrustNodes.

The bill mainly targets privatization process, including a sale of the state’s stake in airports group ADP in order to raise money for a new innovation fund.

Earlier in March, Eric Woerth, head of the Finance Committee of the National Assembly, proposed to ban anonymous cryptocurrencies like Monero (XMR) and ZCash (ZEC).

Blockchain Use in Finance Still Faces Major Challenges: Chinese Researcher

Blockchain Use in Finance Still Faces Major Challenges: Chinese Researcher

A Chinese blockchain researcher said that privacy, operability, and enterprise integration are major obstacles to the use of blockchain in finance.

The use of blockchain technology in the financial sector still face many challenges according to a major Chinese researcher, local news agency Sohu reports on April 12.

Wei Kai, head of blockchain research at the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), described roadblocks to the technology’s further adoption at a 2019 meeting of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Banking Commission.

According to Wei, despite blockchain’s potential to transform a number of industries, tech disruptors have not solved three major problems in regard to the financial sector at the current stage of blockchain adoption. The researcher argued that the blockchain community has yet to work out such problems as data privacy, operability, as well as blockchain’s ability to be integrated with enterprise systems.

Kai also noted other important issues such as coordinating regulatory approaches between different jurisdictions worldwide.

With that, the blockchain expert still noted that blockchain tech has the potential to transform the banking industry, as well as to bring benefits to other industries such as manufacturing, transportation, medicine, government, and others.

Established in 1957, the CAICT research center operates under the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Recently, Big Four auditing firm KPMG published a survey showing that most finance and tax executives do not consider using blockchain technology, with 67% of respondents claiming that they were not using the technology at the time of the poll.

On April 9, the developer of community website StackOverflow found that 80% out of 90,000 developers worldwide are currently not using blockchain technology.