What’s Behind the Multi-Billion Dollar Venture Capital Interest in Crypto?

The mercurial rise in popularity for the ICO fund-raising model has led many industry observers and evangelists to conclude that the days of venture capital are long gone. Indeed, the market for ICOs has exploded in the past year and a half. During the first quarter of 2018, ICO funding easily outstripped the full year … Continued

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Russian hackers used bitcoin to fund election interference, so prepare for FUD

The indictment filed today against 12 Russians accused of, among other things, hacking the DNC and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign also notes that the alleged hackers paid for their nefarious deeds with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This unsavory application of one of tech’s current darlings will almost certainly be wielded against it by opportunists of all stripes.

It is perhaps the most popular and realistic argument against cryptocurrency that it enables anonymous transactions globally and at scale, no exception made for Russian intelligence or ISIS. So the news that a prominent and controversial technology was used to fund state-sponsored cyber attacks will not be passed over by its critics.

You can expect bluster on cable news and some sharp words from lawmakers, who will also probably issue some kind of public denouncement of cryptocurrencies and call for more stringent regulation. It’s only natural: their constituencies will hear that Russians are using bitcoin to hack the election systems and take it at face value. They have to say something.

But this knee-jerk criticism is misguided and hypocritical for several reasons.

First is that it’s not as anonymous and mysterious as critics make out. The details in the indictment actually provide an interesting example (far from the first) of the limits of cryptocurrency’s ability to obscure its users’ activities.

The painstaking research of the special investigator’s team revealed the approximate amounts and methods involved, and although there is a veneer of anonymity in that addresses are not inherently tied to identities, it is far from impossible to establish ownership. Not that they didn’t try, as the indictment shows:

The Defendants conspired to launder the equivalent of more than $95,000 through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

They also enlisted the assistance of one or more third-party exchangers who facilitated layers transactions through digital currency exchange platforms providing heightened anonymity.

But the process of laundering, after all, becomes rather difficult when there is an immutable, peer-maintained record of every penny being pushed around. Small slip-ups in the team’s operational security allowed investigators to tie, for example, an email address used to access a given bitcoin wallet with the one used to pay for a VPN.

[U]sing funds in a bitcoin address, the Conspirators purchased a VPN account, which they later used to log into the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account. The remaining funds from that bitcoin address were then used […] to lease a Malaysian server that hosted the dcleaks.com website.

It’s likely that the very same distributed ledger technology that allows for anonymous international payments in the first place also creates an invaluable investigative tool for those savvy enough to take advantage of it. So although bitcoin has its shady side, it’s far from perfect secrecy, especially when exposed to the privileges of a federal investigative team.

The second reason the criticism will be hollow is that it doesn’t provide much in the way of new capabilities for those who wish to keep secret their activities online.

There are established methods used by nation-states and garden-variety hackers and criminals alike that minimize or eliminate the possibility of tracking. Money laundering is performed at huge volumes worldwide and there are shady banks, loopholes and puppet organizations peppered across the globe.

Cryptocurrencies are convenient for paying for things online because there are a number of vendors (dwindling, but they exist) that accept it straight, or if one is not available it is reasonably liquid and can be shifted easily. I feel sure that our own intelligence services are making good use of it.

On that note is the third reason this FUD will be risible: If we are going to address the problem of dark money influencing politics, using bitcoin for hacking activities doesn’t even amount to a rounding error and it is cynical prestidigitation that makes it appear more than such.

I won’t belabor the point, because it is surely topmost in many an American’s mind that cash funneled through Super PACs and offshore accounts, backroom deals and stock trades, favors for lobbyists and corporate “donators” and 20 other forms of pay-for-play in Washington are more of a clear and present danger than a handful of Russian operatives ineffectually obscuring peanuts payments for hosting fees and bribes.

Perhaps the administration would prefer scripture: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

If anything these indictments are evidence only that cryptocurrency is here to stay, usable by you, or me, or an rival nation-state, or our own — just like any other financial instrument.

Philippines’ Bitcoin Exchanges Outperform Traditional Finance Platforms

Bitcoin exchanges and cryptocurrency businesses in the Philippines have been outperforming traditional financial platforms in popularity and user activity throughout 2018. Practical Policies On July 2, CCN reported that the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), an economic zone in the northern part of the Philippines supported by the government, will embrace up to 25 cryptocurrency

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Opinion: Blood, Sweat, and Tears

The only thing I really know about running a startup is that you’re supposed to suffer. It’s hard as hell to create a good company. The recipe sounds so simple, though: find a problem, create a solution, build a product around it and monetize it. It seems like it’s almost impossible to fail. The reality

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2014 vs 2018 Bitcoin Price Correction: This Year Will Likely be Significantly Shorter

Quartz revealed a chart comparing the mid-term price trend of bitcoin in 2014 and 2018, and based on the movement of bitcoin from December of 2017 to June of this year, the correction bitcoin is currently enduring could be substantially shorter than its correction in 2014. 2014 and 2018 is Very Similar From December 4, … Continued

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Op-ed: World Cup — Crypto Edition

It is easy to be allured by crypto and neglect the real world. However, a new mania is coming: for a month everybody will talk about world football cup. Here at Intellectsoft Blockchain Lab we fantasized: what if there was a World Cup for cryptocurrency? We assumed what crypto projects are the closest to bringing

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Opinion: The Mad World Of ICOs

I don’t think I could’ve picked a better time to give my not-expert opinion around ICOs and what I think to be an insanely over-valued set of companies. EOS managed to raise more than USD 4 Billion during its yearly ICO, continuing the trend of multi-million dollars ICOs, without a stable product or even a

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Moneyconf 2018: Crypto Wallet CEOs on Why Decentralization Matters

At a panel hosted this week at fintech conference Moneyconf, executives from Ledger, Blockchain.info, and VC firms Mosaic Ventures and FuturePerfect Ventures discussed if and why decentralized systems are truly necessary. Crypto Wallet CEOs Speak at Moneyconf 2018 Moderator Joon Ian Wong referred the panelists to a survey indicating that given the hypothetical choice to … Continued

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3 Crypto-Friendly Countries in Europe – From the Alps to the Vltava River

crypto-friendly countries in Europe

Crypto-Friendly Countries in Europe: In recent months the crypto sector has seen numerous countries implement regulations and ban virtual currencies and ICOs. Despite this, the sector continues to grow and gain support. So, if the world is going to divide when it comes to cryptocurrency, which is what appears to be happening, it’s important that crypto-enthusiasts know which countries welcome crypto with open arms or which don’t. 

In this article, we’re going to be looking at a few countries that are known for being crypto-friendly. But, there’s a twist. The countries mentioned will all be in ...

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