NY AG Says Crypto Exchanges Are at Risk of Manipulation

The New York Attorney General’ office on September 18 published a report that says that cryptocurrency exchanges are vulnerable to conflicts of interests, manipulation as well as many other consumer risks. The 32-page “Virtual Markets Integrity Report” highlights concerns that exchanges are not doing much to protect investors.

Launched in April, the “Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative” kicked off when Eric T. Schneiderman, the then-New York Attorney General, sent letters to thirteen cryptocurrency exchanges requesting information on their operations, internal controls as well as other key issues.

“The New York State Office of the Attorney General (the “OAG”) launched the Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative to protect and inform New York residents who trade in virtual or “crypto” currency. As a medium of exchange, an investment product, a technology, and an emerging economic sector, virtual currency is complex and evolving rapidly. The OAG’s Initiative, however, proceeds from a fundamental principle: consumers and investors deserve to understand how their financial service providers operate, protect customer funds, and ensure the integrity of transactions,” reads the statements from the Attorney General’s office.

“The industry has yet to implement serious market surveillance capacities, akin to those of traditional trading venues, to detect and punish suspicious trading activity.”

The Key Findings

The study found that the absence of accepted methods of auditing virtual assets has resulted in the lack of a consistent and transparent approach to the independent auditing of digital currencies trade on the exchanges. This, therefore, puts the customers’ funds in the various exchanges at risk of theft or cyber-attacks.

“New Yorkers deserve basic transparency and accountability when they invest – whether on the New York Stock Exchange or on a cryptocurrency platform,” Barbara Underwood, New York’s current Attorney General said in a statement. “Many virtual currency platforms lack the necessary policies and procedures to ensure the fairness, integrity, and security of their exchanges.”

One of the more bizarre revelations was that only four cryptocurrency exchanges have mechanisms for market manipulation detection and prevention in place. The four exchanges – HBUS, Coinbase, Gemini and Bittrex – are therefore the safest options for crypto investors.

On the flip side, the report went on to refer three major New York crypto exchanges – Gate.io, Binance, and Kraken – to authorities over charges of violation of state law for allowing trading on the part of New Yorkers.

The report has attracted an equal measure of support and criticism from the crypto exchanges and other stakeholders of the industry. Still, it is going to be a while before we finally see the ramifications of these findings.


The Lightning Network Hits 100 BTC and 12K Channels

Even though the price of bitcoin has been facing a bear market lately and the innovative Lightning Network is still facing some issues, the latter is growing bigger by the day. Bitcoin’s Lightning Network became bigger than ever before this month when its capacity finally crossed the 100 BTC mark (about $73,000). This can partly be attributed to the fact that bitcoin has managed to grow its popularity immensely – this has, in turn, lead to the hastening of the development progress of the off-chain payment protocol in the past few months.

The proposed second-layer scaling solution which was as low as 3 BTC at the beginning of the year has shown a great deal of promise not just for bitcoin enthusiasts but for the cryptocurrency community as a whole. While getting to the 100 BTC mark took a relatively short time (a little over half a year), getting to that point was certainly not an easy task. The Lightning Network first hit 50 BTC capacity back in July this year which seemingly pointed to the fact that the network is finally scaling the way it was intended.

More Nodes and Channels

Also, the total network capacity of 101.7 BTC is contributed to by 3,350 nodes and more than 12,000 channels. The number of nodes has increased by 11 percent in the past 30 days with the capacity and number of channels going up 4 and 7 percent respectively. Reports from the past month reveal that recent experimentation on the network account has influenced certain accounts to markedly increase their individual capacity to process payments.

As mentioned earlier, July was a pivotal escalation point for the network – overall capacity shot up 85 percent when compared to the month of June. There is still a lot more that has to be done in terms of the node count before the Lightning Network is at full speed but from the looks of it, everything is certainly headed in the right direction.

Dealing with Scaling Problems

All of the mentioned improvements are indications that many developers and crypto enthusiasts are committed to ensuring that the Lightning Network is a success – some of them include SatoshiLabs and Bitrefill who have been working diligently to improve the network. Unfortunately, we may have to cope with a few discrepancies which will hopefully be addressed as development progresses.

One of the most prominent of these issues is the user-friendliness of the network, or rather its non-user-friendly nature. To put this into perspective, many of the transactions on the network still fail and this affects the overall usability and outlook of the network. Hopefully, this should be fixed sooner than later if mainstream adoption is the ultimate goal. Till then, so far so good.


eToro Signs Bitcoin-funded Sponsorship Deals with EPL Clubs

Bitcoin is making yet another entry into the mainstream world through sports. Soon, teams and clubs may be able to buy football players using bitcoin thanks to recent sponsorship deals between seven English Premier League clubs and renowned online trading platform, eToro.

The Premier League Clubs – Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City, Southampton, Cardiff City, Brighton, Newcastle United and Crystal Palace – are set to begin participating in cryptocurrency trials on Monday and this will be facilitated by eToro. The goal of the trials is to have bitcoin being used in place of the pound sterling for player transfers in the Premier League. The online trading platform also paid the clubs (in bitcoin) to have them participate in the trials.

The sponsorship deal will also see eToro appear on in-game advertising boards at the homes of all the seven clubs as well as within their advertising spaces.

“As a global multi-asset platform where you can purchase the world’s biggest crypto assets alongside more traditional investments, we are excited to be partnering with so many Premier League clubs and make history by being the first company ever to pay for a Premier League partnership in bitcoin,” Iqbal V. Gandham, UK Managing Director at eToro.

In most of the sponsorship and partnership deals with sports clubs, the extent of digital currency involvement is often limited to payment. However, eToro believes that the blockchain will have a pretty significant impact on the future of various sports operations very soon.

“The blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin brings transparency, which we believe can improve the experience for everyone who loves the ‘beautiful game’, from fans being targeted by ticket touts, or a club negotiating a transfer, we believe that blockchain will revolutionize the world of football,” Gandham explained.

The move certainly marks another huge milestone for blockchain and digital currency integration in mainstream football. As is stands there have been a couple of experiments that bear similarities to this one such as the one in Turkey where, in January, Harunustaspor hired a professional player for Bitcoin. The clubs involved in the eToro sponsorship deal are also quite excited about the new venture and the path it could take from here on out.

“We are pleased to welcome eToro to the club as an Official Partner, it is exciting to be working with such an innovative industry leader. Much like Leicester City, eToro is an ambitious brand with a significant global reach and we look forward to working together throughout the season,” Jonathan Gregory, the commercial director for Leicester City said.


Goldman Sachs Reportedly Considering Crypto Custody Service

Having launched bitcoin futures trading in May, New York-based multinational investment bank, Goldman Sachs, is reportedly pondering taking the next step in the cryptocurrency market that will involve the launch of a crypto custody service. If the report, which was filed by Bloomberg, is true the move would make the investment bank the first large and credible institutional player to offer custody for cryptocurrency funds – this is exactly what the crypto market in the United States and the rest of the world have been waiting for.

If attainable, such an asset securing guarantee are at the very “least elusive in such an unregulated and fledgling market.” However, if realized, Goldman Sachs’ cryptocurrency custody services will certainly be a game-changer. In fact, it safe to say that just the talk of the offering itself is enough indication that there is growing demand for such services, and if they materialize they may even encourage more investors to participate.

Furthermore, supposing the offering gets the go-ahead, it will buff up the credibility of the cryptocurrency market, by acting as a vote of confidence of sorts for crypto. This would eventually pave way for the legitimization for the legitimization of the cryptocurrency index and hedge funds in as far as the institutional players are concerned.

According to Bloomberg’s anonymous source(s), deliberations on the matter are on-going but no timeline has been set for when the Wall Street giant will roll out the custody services. Goldman Sachs released a statement recently neither confirming nor denying the existence of such a move.

“In response to client interest in various digital products we are exploring how best to serve them in this space,” a spokesman for Goldman Sachs said. “At this point, we have not reached a conclusion on the scope of our digital asset offering.”

Goldman Sachs has been taking its time with its crypto-related projects – despite announcing a crypto trading desk in May, it is yet to set-up a full-fledged desk for the same. Still, sources close to the company have confirmed that the services are being worked on in the background and will be availed to customers once they are ready.

Still Wary About Bitcoin

Despite Goldman Sachs plans to launch various crypto-related projects, the firm is not going to begin making any bullish bitcoin price calls anytime soon.

“Our view that cryptocurrencies would not retain value in their current incarnation remains intact and, in fact, has been borne out much sooner than we expected,” a recent Goldman Sachs report stated. “We expect further declines in the future given our view that these cryptocurrencies do not fulfill any of the three traditional roles of a currency: they are neither a medium of exchange, nor a unit of measurement, nor a store of value.”


Bitcoin Rises Above $7,000 As BlackRock Eyes Crypto

After more than a month of some very low lows, bitcoin’s price has finally spiked and crossed the $7,000 mark. Generally speaking, this week has been a great one for both bitcoin and the entire cryptocurrency market as it has been highlighted by some pretty significant developments that will certainly have a lasting impact on the industry.

Bitcoin’s price yesterday rose by nearly 10 percent in just one hour – this came in the wake of a raft of positive news for the industry. Several reports have suggested that some of the biggest venture capitalists and investors are beginning to gain more interest in digital currencies. As expected, bitcoin would benefit the most as it is still, without a doubt, the reference point for all other cryptocurrencies. With the news, bitcoin’s value increased by nearly $600 yesterday and thus added about $9 billion to its market cap in just a few minutes. Other digital currencies have also begun to take a positive a trend thanks to the great news.

As far as the developments go, one of the most talked about is the move by billionaire investor Steven Cohen to have a hedge fund established for the sake of nurturing cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based companies. Elsewhere in Europe, Switzerland’s securities exchange has also announced plans to create a trading platform specifically meant for digital currencies and assets.

BlackRock’s Interest

BlackRock, which is considered to be one of the world’s biggest asset manager has also been eyeing the crypto space but they are taking everything slow and steady. The company has since set up a working group that has been tasked with investigating the best ways that it can make the most of the available opportunities in the rapidly growing bitcoin and crypto market.

BlackRock’s CEO and chairman, Larry Fink, has seemingly had a change of heart since he has previously rallied against bitcoin citing concerns that the digital asset is an “index of money laundering.” However, according to Bloomberg, Fink and company will be venturing into the crypto space as it is certainly an opportunity they cannot afford to miss. However, BlackRock will be leaning more towards the blockchain technology instead of actual cryptocurrencies.

“We are looking at it and as I have said in the past, we are very excited about blockchain technology. That is where we are looking at it even in the Aladdin universe with what we are trying to do there so we are looking at blockchain technologies. We are studying it and we are looking at how they perform and we are looking at that type of data as we understand it as we think about other products but right now, worldwide I have not heard from one client that needs to be in it right now,” Fink commented. “When it becomes more legitimatized, when it has a true open nature of it that you can identify who the players are on both sides, that’s when we’ll probably look at it.”


Over 800 Digital Currencies Go Down the Drain

A number of cryptocurrency projects have popped up in the past 18 months and for the first time since then, the cryptocurrency markets are in a rally mode but it is sort of bittersweet. In what many critics have labeled as the beginning of the crypto bubble burst, a downtrend in the crypto space has been causing quite the stir while at the same time leaving a significantly huge number of casualties in its wake.

According to an analysis of market data by Dead Coins, there are now more than 800 digital coins that are essentially dead. Even bitcoin which is without a doubt the bearer of the digital currency market has seen a 70 percent fall from its $20,000 record high in December 2017.

As it turns, this shake-up of the crypto market was expected after all. Blockchain veterans such as Joseph Lubin have been advocating for the consolidation of the industry for months – the Ethereum co-founder even once told CNBC that having many ICOs is worthless, a sentiment that was echoed by Ripple Chief Brad Garlinghouse, who pointed out the existence of a “gray area” that would allow ICOs to operate until regulation finally “catches up.” Apparently, this is exactly what is going on.

There will certainly be no love lost between the crypto community and the numerous failed projects that range from software that has been previously abandoned to the fraudulent schemes that have been rife on the internet of late. CoinSchedule reports that there has been an explosion in the number of ICOs in the recent past with some companies having raised up to $3.8 billion in ICOs last year alone. The number went on to shoot up this year and the total amount of money collected now hangs around the $11.9 billion.

Hundreds of these crypto projects are now either officially dead or at the brink of taking the same routed because they were either scams or the product has not materialized in the way the people behind them envisioned. Deadcoin, the website that lists all the digital currencies that are either in the gutters or are headed there confirms the number mentioned above – the majority of the 800 coins are worthless and trade at less than 1 cent.

This Might Be a Good Thing


Considering how turbulent the crypto market has been, teams behind most of the digital coins have just given up, used the money to raise funds or cash out during peak market movements. Even so, there is a still a lot of optimism as the proponents of cryptocurrencies believe that the regulations are certainly going to get better in the future as regulators such as SEC begin to keep a watchful eye on crypto. This will eventually boost market participation among many other benefits.


Cryptos Struggle to Regain Momentum after Bitcoin Hack

On Sunday, June 10, renowned South Korean-based cryptocurrency exchange, CoinRail, announced that they had been victims of a hacking attempt. According to the cryptocurrency exchange’s official website “70% of the coin rail total coin / token reserves are safely stored” and, “Two-thirds of the coins confirmed to have been leaked are covered by freezing / recalling through consultation with each coach and related exchanges. The remaining one-third of coins are being investigated with investigators, relevant exchanges, and coin developers.”

Following the cyber-attack and its subsequent announcement, the cryptocurrency market suffered a loss of a whopping $42 billion of its market value. The tweet that announced the hack also triggered a $500 drop in the crypto space in a little over an hour – bitcoin, for one, suffered a 10 percent drop to a two-month low. Many other digital currencies including Ethereum were dragged down as well.

The hack has further triggered a lot of debate regarding the safety of crypto as a whole. Global policymakers, for instance, have warned investors to be cautious in trading cryptocurrencies citing the lack of regulatory oversight.

“CoinRail is not a member of the group that promotes self-regulation to enhance security. It is a minor player in the market and I can see how such small exchanges with lower standards on security level can be exposed to more risks,” Kim Jin-Hwa, a representative at Korea Blockchain Industry Association pointed out recently.

Unexpected Impact?

Ideally, since the hack was on a relatively small crypto exchange, there is no reason for cryptocurrency holders, investors and even speculators to panic over such an occurrence. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Added to the fact that CoinRail is just one of the growing list of crypto-related companies that have been hacked in the past few years, the fact that many people are switching to crypto represents a much bigger concern.

The hack might not be the absolute cause of the plummeting price of digital currencies but it remains to be a key concern that should be addressed soon if the crypto future that we are hoping for will come to be.

Already, 14 major cryptocurrencies in South Korea have adopted necessary measures that are aimed at protecting crypto users – these include restrictions that allow the users to have no more than a single account. As for CoinRail, cryptocurrency trading has been suspended for now as the exchange collaborates with the local authorities as they investigate the hacking. Hopefully, once the CoinRail issuer is resolved, we will see a reversal in the downward trend in the prices of crypto – that is, if it indeed had something to do with the price drops.


Lightning Network Developers Working on New & Improved Twist

The biggest challenge for bitcoin this far has been becoming more mainstream in the financial world which in many ways stems from the fact that it has always had issues with scalability. Before bitcoin can reach the heights of mainstream adoption and use, it will certainly need to deal with the very pressing issue of scalability which has always been a core concern of enthusiasts.

This is where the Lightning Network comes in – this new technology, though fairly young, has facilitated thousands of new payment channels which signals a bright future for bitcoin as well as many other digital currencies.

The Lightning Network allows bitcoin users to open direct payment channels for transactions between one another on a global scale. As of January 19 this year, the Lightning Network only had 89 channels but this has since grown immensely – by May 24, the network had grown to over 6,600 direct connections which might seem small in comparison to the mainstream financial sector but represents a huge leap forward.

While there is a significant level of genuine interest in the technology, the fact that the Lightning Network is yet to be fully developed makes the adoption of the revolutionary technology relatively low. Among the issues that need to be addressed by the developers are double-sided funding and no watching for offline transfers. However, a more pressing one lies within the Lightning Network itself and the developers are quite keen on this one.

A Major Upgrade

The platform has just begun its journey towards global adoption but the developers are already considering a significant upgrade that will involve major architectural changes to the technology.

The key issue is that the Lightning Network requires the users to store a significant amount of data which, in turn, makes it very difficult to download and run it. In an effort to provide a viable solution to this problem, the developers have recently published a new proposal that presents an alternative and simplified way of making the off-chain transactions. The proposed alternative, called “eltoo”, was co-authored by several lightning developers including Lightning Labs co-founder ‘Laolu’ Osuntokun and Blockstream’s Christian Decker and Rusty Russell.

Eltoo not only aims to condense the amount of data the users are required to provide but also ensures that their bitcoin is safe. A major setback for the existing Lightning Network is that it depends on “toxic information” which means that in the case that a user broadcasts older data, there is a possibility that they will lose money.

“This actually happened to me,” Decker said. “I had an old lightning node on my laptop. I restored it. I didn’t know I didn’t have the newest state. The guy closed the connection because they knew it was an old state! Because he could steal it. Which he did, by the way.”

With eltoo, only the most recent off-chain transaction data is stored thus solving the “data symmetry” problem. Eltoo is a phonetic spelling of “L2” which stands for layer-two and is used to describe technologies like the Lightning Network which offer off-chain transactions.


The Coingaming Group Switches to Microbitcoin

The Coingaming Group which operates two of the most popular bitcoin-focused gaming platforms, that is Bitcasino.io and Sportbet.io, has made a pioneering switch in its betting units from milibitcoin (m฿) to microbitcoins (µ฿), otherwise known as ‘bits.’ The operator’s radical move is primarily aimed at taking advantage of bitcoin’s extended growth in value in order to make betting services more accessible. Furthermore, the customers of both platforms will be able to choose from a vast selection of premium casino games with the same bankroll.

Coingaming relaunched both the Bitcasino.io and Sportbet.io brands last year in an effort to bring a more improved customer experience that encompassed a proactive approach that involved a modern user interface as well more appropriate customer support services. The idea was to encourage the players to join and experience what the operator had in store – this is governed by a fun, fast and fair policy that guarantees outstanding flexibility options and amazing play time.

“With Bitcoin now well and truly in the mainstream, and its price continuing to surge, we wanted to ensure all games and sports events were accessible to all types of customer. Reducing our gaming unit to bits (µ฿) is the ideal way of doing so and keeps the user at the center of our universe,” said Tim Heath, the Coingaming Group’s CEO. “Our customers can now play and bet more for the same money, and we expect this to encourage even more users to sign up to the leading Bitcoin casino and sportsbook, while also providing existing loyal players with greater flexibility and potential play time.”

Other than the introduction of bits betting, the Coingaming Group also offers a number of generous and exclusive bonuses and rewards. This initiative has served the company quite well as it has helped it to raise awareness of its unique betting propositions. Apart from its online casinos and sportsbooks, the group also boasts of a dedicated Esports betting platform known as Bets.io and a slots-led platform known as Slots.io.


Bitcoin.com Stops Labeling Bitcoin Cash As the Real Bitcoin

Amidst a heated backlash and legal threats, Roger Ver’s Bitcoin.com, a proponent of Bitcoin Cash (BCH), recently updated its block explorer page in an effort to remove any language that suggests that Bitcoin Cash is the real bitcoin (BTC). Roger Ver, a renowned cryptocurrency enthusiast who made millions from investments in bitcoin has been an avid supporter of the BCH, which is a fork of bitcoin.

The Bitcoin.com CEO believes that BCH is the digital currency that remains trues to the original Bitcoin Whitepaper idea of being a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. He also adopted an approach to marketing the digital currency in a way that the entire crypto ecosystem with the exception of other BCH holders would consider to be unethical. For instance, he has worked on renaming some of the cryptocurrencies like BTC to “Bitcoin Core” and BCH to “Bitcoin” on websites, wallets, and apps as well as well as on social media platforms.

The reason why this is such a big deal is that it has seen a number of crypto users to incur monetary losses when they send money from their bitcoin wallets to some BCH wallets believing that it is the original currency they are dealing in. For newbies, this is further aggravated by the fact that Roger Ver’s website is among Google’s top search results for “Bitcoin” – the websites BCH wallet also happens to be the first search results for “how to buy bitcoin.”

Before the company listed BCH as “Bitcoin” on its explorer page, it rolled out a “Bitcoin Wallet” for iOS that misleadingly defaulted to Bitcoin Cash addresses. This marketing approach has been deemed as a fraudulent move that will certainly result in the loss of funds. The backlash has since spawned a website that seeks to gather as much evidence as possible from as many people as possible so as to file a lawsuit against Roger Ver and Bitcoin.com.

As mentioned earlier, Bitcoin Cash forked off the original Bitcoin blockchain but owing to changes that were recently introduced to BTC, proponents of BCH have argued that the fork has more resemblance to Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision for Bitcoin. BCH supporters have been using this argument to justify their claim of the “Bitcoin” label for BCH while dubbing BTC “Bitcoin Core.”

Politics aside, it is quite obvious that the concerns raised are relevant and by agreeing to drop the misleading language from its website, Bitcoin.com will definitely help to solve the confusion that cryptocurrencies have to deal with. Better yet, the fight over labels is petty and supporters of both coins need to work towards ways of co-existing.