Bitcoin

Software Developer Creates Personal Cryptocurrency (wired.com) 60

mirandakatz writes: If you want to pick Evan Prodromou's brain -- as many people often do -- you'll have to pay him. And not just a consulting fee: You'll have to pay him in his own personal cryptocurrency, dubbed Evancoin. Currently, 20 days after his Initial Coin Offering, a single Evancoin is worth $45. As Prodromou tells Scott Rosenberg at Backchannel, "I'm not above a stunt! But in this case I'm really serious about exploring how cryptocurrency is changing what we can do with money and how we think about it. Money is this sort of consensual hallucination, and I wanted to experiment around that." The story goes on to explain what, exactly, goes into creating a personal cryptocurrency, and whether Evancoin could becoming a phenomenon that spreads.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Nears $6,000 For the First Time (bloomberg.com) 106

Bitcoin closed in on another milestone Friday, as the digital currency approached $6,000 for the first time to put its gain in 2017 to above 500 percent. From a report: The push higher comes just three days after bitcoin suffered its biggest one-day drop in a month on rising concern that regulators are increasingly targeting digital currencies. It's added almost $500 in value in the past two days alone.
Bitcoin

Julian Assage Taunts US Government For Forcing Wikileaks To Invest In Bitcoin (facebook.com) 194

Saturday's tweet from Julian Assange says it all: "My deepest thanks to the US government, Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman for pushing Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, AmEx, Moneybookers, et al, into erecting an illegal banking blockade against @WikiLeaks starting in 2010. It caused us to invest in Bitcoin -- with > 50000% return."
Assange's tweet was accompanied by a graph showing the massive spike in the price of bitcoin -- though most of that growth occurred in the last year.
Bitcoin

Ransomware Sales On the Dark Web Spike 2,502% In 2017 (carbonblack.com) 23

Slashdot reader rmurph04 writes: Ransomware is a $6.2 million industry, based on sales generated from a network of more than 6,300 Dark Web marketplaces that sell over 45,000 products, according to a report released Wednesday by cybersecurity firm Carbon Black.
While the authors of the software are earning six-figure incomes, ransom payments totalled $1 billion in 2016, according to FBI estimates -- up from just $24 million in 2015. Carbon Black, which was founded by former U.S. government "offensive security hackers," argues that ransomware's growth has been aided by "the emergence of Bitcoin for ransom payment, and the anonymity network, Tor, to mask illicit activities.. Bitcoin allows money to be transferred in a way that makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to 'follow the money.'"
Bitcoin

Over 500 Million PCs Are Secretly Mining Cryptocurrency, Researchers Reveal (newsweek.com) 78

Ad blocking firm AdGuard has found that over 500 million people are inadvertently mining cryptocurrencies through their computers after visiting websites that are running background mining software. The company found 220 popular websites with an aggregated audience of half a billion people use so-called crypto-mining scripts when a user opens their main page. Newsweek reports: The mining tool works by hijacking a computer's central processing unit (CPU), commonly referred to as "the brains" of a computer. Using part of a computer's CPU to mine bitcoin effects the machine's overall performance and will slow it down by using up processing power. The researchers found that bitcoin browser mining is mostly found on websites "with a shady reputation" due to the trouble such sites have with earning revenue through advertising. However, in the future it could become a legitimate and ethical way of making money if the website requests the permission of the visitor first.

"220 sites may not seem like a lot," the researchers wrote in a blogpost detailing their discovery. "But CoinHive was launched less than one month ago on September 14. The growth has been extremely rapid: from nearly zero to .22 percent of Alexa's top 100,000 websites. "This analysis well illustrates the whole web, so it's safe to say that one of every forty websites currently mines cryptocurrency (namely Monero) in the browsers their users employ."

Bitcoin

This Is the Week Wall Street Went Nuts Over Cryptocurrencies (bloomberg.com) 180

Wall Street banks that weren't already on the bitcoin bandwagon appear to be piling on, or least eyeing seats, after the cryptocurrency surged to all-time highs this week on the way to $6,000. From a report: Analysts are working to keep up with demand from clients for information. UBS and Citigroup published extensive explainers on blockchain technology, while senior executives at JPMorgan Chase warmed to the cryptocurrency during the bank's third-quarter earnings call. The digital currency has risen more than fivefold after trading at less than $1,000 as recently as December, breaking the $5,000 mark this week and already targeting the next thousand-dollar level. Throughout its rise, the cryptocurrency shrugged off tighter regulations, feuding factions and warnings from the likes of JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon of fraud and an eventual price collapse.
Piracy

Pirate Bay is Mining Cryptocurrency Again, No Opt Out (torrentfreak.com) 184

The Pirate Bay is mining cryptocurrency again, causing a spike in CPU usage among many visitors. From a report: For now, the notorious torrent site provides no option to disable it. The new mining expedition is not without risk. CDN provider Cloudflare previously suspended the account of a site that used a similar miner, which means that The Pirate Bay could be next. Last month The Pirate Bay caused some uproar by adding a Javascript-based cryptocurrency miner to its website. The miner utilizes CPU power from visitors to generate Monero coins for the site, providing an extra source of revenue. [...] The Pirate Bay currently has no opt-out option, nor has it informed users about the latest mining efforts. This could lead to another problem since Coinhive said it would crack down on customers who failed to keep users in the loop.
Bitcoin

Russian Central Bank To Ban Websites Offering Crypto-currencies (reuters.com) 45

An anonymous reader shares a report: Russia will block access to websites of exchanges that offer crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, Russian Central Bank First Deputy Governor Sergei Shvetsov said on Tuesday. He called them "dubious." Russian financial authorities initially treated any sort of money issued by non-state approved institutions as illegal, saying they could be used to launder money. Later the authorities accepted the globally booming market of crypto-currencies but want to either control the turnover or to limit access to the market "We cannot stand apart. We cannot give direct and easy access to such dubious instruments for retail (investors)," Shvetsov said, referring to households.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Transactions Lead To Arrest of Major Drug Dealer (techspot.com) 169

"Drug dealer caught because of BitCoin usage," writes Slashdot reader DogDude. TechSpot reports: 38-year-old French national Gal Vallerius stands accused of acting as an administrator, senior moderator, and vendor for dark web marketplace Dream Market, where visitors can purchase anything from heroin to stolen financial data. Upon arriving at Atlanta international airport on August 31, Vallerius was arrested and his laptop searched. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly discovered $500,000 of Bitcoin and Bitcoin cash on the computer, as well a Tor installation and a PGP encryption key for someone called OxyMonster...

In addition to his role with the site, agents had identified OxyMonster as a major seller of Oxycontin and crystal meth. "OxyMonster's vendor profile featured listings for Schedule II controlled substances Oxycontin and Ritalin," testified DEA agent Austin Love. "His profile listed 60 prior sales and five-star reviews from buyers. In addition, his profile stated that he ships from France to anywhere in Europe." Investigators discovered OxyMonster's real identity by tracing outgoing Bitcoin transactions from his tip jar to wallets registered to Vallerius. Agents then checked his Twitter and Instagram accounts, where they found many writing similarities, including regular use of quotation marks, double exclamation marks, and the word "cheers," as well as intermittent French posts. The evidence led to a warrant being issued for Vallerius' arrest.

U.S. investigators had been monitoring the site for nearly two years, but got their break when Vallerius flew to the U.S. for a beard-growing competition in Austin, Texas. He now faces a life sentence for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
The Internet

Cloudflare Ditches Sites That Use Coinhive Mining "malware" (betanews.com) 84

Mark Wilson writes: Bitcoin has been in the news for some time now as its value climbs and drops, but most recently interest turned to mining code embedded in websites. The Pirate Bay was one of the first sites to be seen using Coinhive code to secretly mine using visitors' CPU time, and then we saw similar activity from the SafeBrowse extension for Chrome. The discovery of the code was a little distressing for visitors to the affected sites, and internet security and content delivery network (CDN) firm Cloudflare is taking action to clamp down on what it is describing as malware. Torrent proxy site ProxyBunker.online has contacted TorrentFreak to say that Cloudflare has dropped it as a customer. The reason given for ProxyBunker's suspension is that the site has been using Coinhive code on several of the domains it owns.
Businesses

Goldman Sachs Explores a New World: Trading Bitcoin (wsj.com) 43

Several readers share a report: Goldman Sachs is weighing a new trading operation dedicated to bitcoin and other digital currencies, the first blue-chip Wall Street firm preparing to deal directly in this burgeoning yet controversial market (Editor's note: the link from WSJ, which originally reported this development, could be paywalled; alternative source), according to people familiar with the matter. Goldman's effort is in its early stages and may not proceed, the people said. The firm's interest, though, could boost bitcoin's standing among investors and fuel the debate around digital currencies, which were initially viewed as havens for illicit activity but are pushing further into the mainstream investment world. China in recent weeks has banned exchanges that trade bitcoin, fearing the virtual currency could provide an avenue for capital flight. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co Chief Executive James Dimon, whose bank is the largest dealer in global currencies, last month called bitcoin a "fraud" and said he would fire any employee who traded it. Yet Japan's government has embraced bitcoin, creating regulations to legitimize its trading. India and Sweden have mused about creating their own virtual currencies, and the U.S. Federal Reserve has studied bitcoin and the technology underpinning it.
Bitcoin

South Korea Bans Initial Coin Offerings (reuters.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: South Korea's financial regulator on Friday said it will ban raising money through all forms of virtual currencies, a move that follows similar restrictions in China on initial coin offerings. The Financial Services Commission said all kinds of initial coin offerings (ICO) will be banned as trading of virtual currencies needs to be tightly controlled and monitored. The decision to ban ICOs as a fundraising tool was made as the government sees such issues as increasing the risk of financial scams.

"Raising funds through ICOs seem to be on the rise globally, and our assessment is that ICOs are increasing in South Korea as well," the regulator said in a statement after a meeting with the finance ministry, the Bank of Korea and the National Tax Service. "Stern penalties" will be issued on financial institutions and any parties involved in issuing of ICOs, the statement added, without elaborating further on the details of those penalties.

Bitcoin

Chaos and Hackers Stalk Investors on Cryptocurrency Exchanges (reuters.com) 64

From a report: Dan Wasyluk discovered the hard way that trading cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin happens in an online Wild West where sheriffs are largely absent. Wasyluk and his colleagues raised bitcoins for a new tech venture and lodged them in escrow at a company running a cryptocurrency exchange called Moolah. Just months later the exchange collapsed; the man behind it is now awaiting trial in Britain on fraud and money-laundering charges. He has pleaded not guilty. Wasyluk's project lost 750 bitcoins, currently worth about $3 million, and he believes he stands little chance of recovering any money. [...] Cryptocurrencies were supposed to offer a secure, digital way to conduct financial transactions, but they have been dogged by doubts. Concerns have largely focused on their astronomical gains in value and the likelihood of painful price crashes. Equally perilous, though, are the exchanges where virtual currencies are bought, sold and stored. These exchanges, which match buyers and sellers and sometimes hold traders' funds, have become magnets for fraud and mires of technological dysfunction, a Reuters examination shows, posing an underappreciated risk to anyone who trades digital coins. Huge sums are at stake.
Cellphones

The World's First Blockchain Smartphone Is In Development (engadget.com) 95

A company called Sirin Labs is developing an open-source smartphone that runs on a fee-less blockchain. "The Finney -- named in honor of bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney -- will be the only smartphone in the world that's fully secure and safe enough to hold cryptographic coins," reports Engadget. The company is launching a crowdsale event this October (date to be confirmed) to support the phone's development. From the report: According to Sirin, all Finney devices (there's an all-in-one PC coming, too) will form an independent blockchain network powered by IOTA's Tangle technology. The network will operate without centralized backbones or mining centers cluttering up the transaction process, using the SRN token as its default currency (only SRN token holders will be able to purchase the device). And it'll all run on a Sirin operating system specially designed to support blockchain applications such as crypto wallets and secure exchange access. The phone comes with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a device with a $1,000 price tag, including a 256GB internal memory and 16MP camera, plus a hefty suite of security measures.
The Internet

Showtime Websites Are Mining Monero With Your CPU, Unclear If Hack Or Experiment (bleepingcomputer.com) 149

An anonymous reader writes: Two Showtime domains are currently loading and running Coinhive, a JavaScript library that mines Monero using the CPU resources of users visiting Showtime's websites. The two domains are showtime.com and showtimeanytime.com, the latter being the official URL for the company's online video streaming service. It is unclear if someone hacked Showtime and included the mining script without the company's knowledge. Showtime did not respond to a request for comment, but it could be an experiment as the setThrottle value is 0.97, meaning the mining script will remain dormant for 97% of the time. Despite this, Coinhive has been recently adopted by a large number of malware operations, such as malvertisers, adware developers, rogue Chrome extensions, and website hackers, who secretly load the code in a page's background and make money off unsuspecting users. At least two ad blockers have added support for blocking Coinhive's JS library -- AdBlock Plus and AdGuard -- and developers have also put together Chrome extensions that terminate anything that looks like Coinhive's mining script -- AntiMiner, No Coin, and minerBlock.

The Pirate Bay recently ran tests using Coinhive. A recent report has calculated that a site like The Pirate Bay could make around $12,000 per month by mining Monero in the background.

Chrome

Popular Chrome Extension Embedded A CPU-Draining Cryptocurrency Miner (bleepingcomputer.com) 76

An anonymous reader writes: SafeBrowse, a Chrome extension with more than 140,000 users, contains an embedded JavaScript library in the extension's code that mines for the Monero cryptocurrency using users' computers and without getting their consent. The additional code drives CPU usage through the roof, making users' computers sluggish and hard to use.

Looking at the SafeBrowse extension's source code, anyone can easily spot the embedded Coinhive JavaScript Miner, an in-browser implementation of the CryptoNight mining algorithm used by CryptoNote-based currencies, such as Monero, Dashcoin, DarkNetCoin, and others. This is the same technology that The Pirate Bay experimented with as an alternative to showing ads on its site. The extension's author claims he was "hacked" and the code added without his knowledge.

The Almighty Buck

Bitcoin Futures-Based ETF Likely To Be Approved in the US (thestreet.com) 59

The race is on: who will be the first to launch a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund in the United States? From a report, shared by a reader: In Europe, there is already a Bitcoin exchange traded note (ETN) available to investors. In the U.S., it is widely anticipated a Bitcoin ETF will be be approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) very soon. In Europe, ETNs are designed to track the movement of Bitcoin against the U.S. dollar. The ETNs are Bitcoin Tracker One, which is traded in Swedish krona and Bitcoin Tracker EURO, which is traded in euro. Both ETNs are issued by XBT Provider AB and traded on Nasdaq OMX (Stockholm). Dave Nadig, CEO of ETF.com and previously the director of ETFs at FactSet Research Systemsm believes we can expect to see Bitcoin Futures-based ETF launched in the U.S. by the end of this year. "Yes, you can already trade a derivative in Europe, an exchange traded note which tracks Bitcoin," Nadig adds. "Then the race in the U.S. is the race to see what gets approval first. Will it be a Bitcoin future or a straight up Bitcoin holding ETF? My bet is that we will see Bitcoin futures approved fairly quickly."
China

John McAfee Said Top Executives From the Major Bitcoin Exchanges Weren't Allowed To Leave China (wsj.com) 96

An anonymous reader shares a report: China's widening crackdown on bitcoin trading resulted in a travel ban of sorts for two executives from the country's largest commercial bitcoin exchanges, which regulators are closing down. From a report: On Thursday, top executives of two Chinese digital currency exchanges who were scheduled to speak at an industry conference in Hong Kong didn't show up and their sessions were canceled. The event's organizer, a bitcoin-trading firm called Bitkan, didn't provide a reason. The two executives were Lin Li, chief executive of Huobi, and Justin Pan, who the event organizer listed as being the chief operating officer of OKCoin. The two-day conference was originally supposed to be held in Beijing but its organizers last week decided to shift the venue to Hong Kong after Chinese regulators earlier this month ordered digital-currency exchanges to wind down their operations. Software pioneer and former fugitive John McAfee -- a high-profile but controversial character in the bitcoin industry -- told conference attendees on Wednesday that top executives from the major bitcoin exchanges are currently not allowed to leave China.
China

China Orders Bitcoin Exchanges In Capital City To Close (bbc.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: China is moving forward with plans to shut down Bitcoin exchanges in the country, starting with trading platforms in key cities. All Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai have been ordered to submit plans for winding down their operations by 20 September. The move follows the Chinese central bank's decision to ban initial coin offerings in early September. Top exchange BTCC said it would stop trading at the end of the month. Chinese authorities decided to ban digital currencies as part of a plan for reducing the country's financial risks. All exchanges are required to send regulators a detailed "risk-free" plan of how they intend to exit the market before 18:30 local time on Wednesday 20 September. The regulator also ordered the exchanges to submit DVDs containing all user trading and holding data to the local authorities. Shareholders, controllers, executives, and core financial and technical staff of exchanges are also required to remain in Beijing during the shutdown and to co-operate fully with authorities.
Encryption

Why You Shouldn't Use Texts For Two-Factor Authentication (theverge.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A demonstration video posted by Positive Technologies (and first reported by Forbes) shows how easy it is to hack into a bitcoin wallet by intercepting text messages in transit. The group targeted a Coinbase account protected by two-factor authentication, which was registered to a Gmail account also protected by two-factor. By exploiting known flaws in the cell network, the group was able to intercept all text messages sent to the number for a set period of time. That was enough to reset the password to the Gmail account and then take control of the Coinbase wallet. All the group needed was the name, surname and phone number of the targeted Bitcoin user. These were security researchers rather than criminals, so they didn't actually steal anyone's bitcoin, although that would have been an easy step to take. At a glance, this looks like a Coinbase vulnerability, but the real weakness is in the cellular system itself. Positive Technologies was able to hijack the text messages using its own research tool, which exploits weaknesses in the cellular network to intercept text messages in transit. Known as the SS7 network, that network is shared by every telecom to manage calls and texts between phone numbers. There are a number of known SS7 vulnerabilities, and while access to the SS7 network is theoretically restricted to telecom companies, hijacking services are frequently available on criminal marketplaces. The report notes of several ways you can protect yourself from this sort of attack: "On some services, you can revoke the option for SMS two-factor and account recovery entirely, which you should do as soon as you've got a more secure app-based method established. Google, for instance, will let you manage two-factor and account recovery here and here; just set up Authenticator or a recovery code, then go to the SMS option for each and click 'Remove Phone.'"

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