Ryuk Ransomware Targets Businesses with Bitcoin Demands, Links to North Korea?

A new, highly targeted ransomware attack has been affecting large businesses. The Ryuk operation demands that victims make large Bitcoin payments for the return of their files.

Is Ryuk Ransomware Connected to North Korea’s Lazarus Group?

The Ryuk ransomware attack has been exposed by security company Check Point. In a lengthy report, the firm states that the group behind the operation has already netted over $640,000 worth of Bitcoin in the two weeks it has been live.

Check Point note that the attack is much more targeted than previous examples of ransomware.

“From the exploitation phase through to the encryption process and up to the ransom demand itself, the carefully operated Ryuk campaign is targeting enterprises that are capable of paying a lot of money in order to get back on track.”

Each campaign appears to be specifically tailored to individual businesses. This has involved extensive network mapping and the mass stealing of credentials to successfully infect systems with the Ryuk software.

Once infected, one of two ransom notes are sent to the companies. The first is a detailed, almost friendly letter, advising firms of their security weaknesses and detailing that the stated Bitcoin demand must be met within two weeks or the infected files will be automatically deleted.

It goes on to say that the ransom demands will increase for every day they are ignored. Upon delivering of the payment, those behind the attack state that they will decrypt the files and advise the company on how to patch their security holes. It reads:

“Gentlemen! Your business is at serious risk. There is a significant hole in the security of your company… You should thank the Lord for being hacked by serious people not some stupid schoolboys or dangerous punks… The final price depends on how fast you write to us. Every day of delay will cost you additional +0.5BTC… Nothing personal just business.”

The second ransom note is much more abrupt, but carries the same general message. They are both signed “Ryuk” with the message: “No system is safe.”

Despite the Ryuk attack only just emerging, it largely resembles another attack which appeared late last year. Much of the software’s coding is similar to that of the Hermes ransomware program. Hermes has previously been connected with the North Korean hacker group known as Lazarus.

The similarities between the two attacks have lead Check Point to conclude that either the Ryuk attack involves the same group who launched Hermes, or that it is the work of another group who have somehow gained access to the prior operation’s source code.

Either way, Check Point believe that more businesses will fall victim to the Ryuk attack, owing to the success it has had over a short period of time:

“After succeeding with infecting and getting paid some $640,000, we believe that this is not the end of this campaign and that additional organizations are likely to fall victim to Ryuk.”

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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DST Global Denies Bitmain IPO Investment Few Days After SoftBank, Tencent’s Involvement Called Into Question

DST Global has denied involvement in crypto mining giant Bitmain’s IPO in an email to Cointelegraph, just days after SoftBank did the same.

Investment firm DST Global has confirmed that it “has never invested” into the cryptocurrency mining giant Bitmain’s pre-IPO in an email to Cointelegraph August 21.

Cointelegraph received an anonymous tip today, claiming that DST Global has not participated in Bitmain’s $400 million funding round earlier this year, despite reports to the contrary.

After being asked to confirm the rumour, John Lindfors, a managing partner at DST Global, has said this in an email to Cointelegraph today:

“I can confirm that DST has never invested in Bitmain.”

The news follows days after another major player, Uber’s largest investor SoftBank, told Cointelegraph that reports about its participation in Bitmain’s initial public offering (IPO) were also false.

“Neither the SoftBank Group Corp. nor the SoftBank Vision Fund were in any way involved in the deal,” a spokesperson said August 18.

Also today, Chinese multinational Tencent has allegedly denied involvement in Bitmain’s IPO, according to a Hong Kong news outlet AAStocks.

According to the publication, China’s largest technology entity by market cap confirmed that “the company did not take part in the investment of Bitmain Technologies.”

As of press time, Tencent had not responded to requests from Cointelegraph to confirm the AAStocks report.

The news nonetheless increases the already controversial nature of Bitmain’s IPO plans, which centers on the company’s Bitcoin Cash (BCH) holdings, rumoured poor Q2 sales and the general underperformance of cryptocurrency markets this year.

Cryptocurrency industry and well-known community commentators reacted warily to a pre-IPO investor deck disclosure earlier this month, Blockstream CSO Samson Mow describing the planned flotation as “incredibly risky for any investor to buy into.”

“They purposely didn’t include the Q2 numbers for Pre-IPO buyers since they were a disaster… They told Pre-IPO buyers they would use some of the money to buy more BCH,” commentator WhalePanda meanwhile added during a Twitter debate before the SoftBank news.

As of press time, Bitmain has not responded to Cointelegraph’s request for commentary.

Crypto Startup Pundi X To Power Blockchain Payments at Ultra Music Festival in Taiwan

Leading blockchain payments provider Pundi X and its XPASS card platform will power transactions for over 30,000 XPASS holders at the annual Ultra Music Festival in Taipei, Taiwan.

Ultra Attendees Can Pay with XPASS at 35 Retail Outlets

The largest independent electronic dance music festival promotion in the world, Ultra Music Festival, will see their annual Taiwan show become the testing grounds for an exclusive partnership with Indonesia-based cryptocurrency startup Pundi X to power blockchain-based payments for attendees.

Over 30,000 XPASS cards will be available for attendees to purchase and use at Pundi X’s XPOS blockchain payment terminals found at 35 different festival shops. The cards can be used to purchase everything from food to festival merchandise such as T-shirts and other gear.

CEO and co-founder of Pundi X, Zac Cheah hopes the integration of his firm’s blockchain technology will demonstrate real-world usage of cryptocurrencies like Pundi X. He calls it a “major moment for mass adoption,” adding:

“In a little more than two weeks time these doubts can be laid to rest when 30,000 party goers against the hectic backdrop of this year’s Ultra Taiwan festival pay for drinks, food and merchandise using Pundi X technology.”

Last year’s Ultra Taiwan saw the attendance of over 27,000 people. This year is the fifth anniversary of the show, taking place at Da Jia Riverside Park, Taipei, Taiwan on September 8 and 9.  The festival features notable EDM DJs and producers DJ Snake, Marshmello, Galantis, Alan Walker, and many more as headliners.

There’s Another Music Festival on the Block(chain)

It’s not just Ultra Music Festival that’s looking to blockchain to underpin transactions.

EDM DJ, producer, and early Bitcoin investor 3LAU, whose real name is Justin Blau, is launching his own cryptocurrency token, the OMF token, at the upcoming Our Music Festival taking place on October 20 at the Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley.

Pre-sale tickets for the event were offered exclusively to crypto holders, with payments in Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum accepted.

Blau aims to create an OMF-based ecosystem that rewards artists and fans for attending events, buying tickets, offering feedback, and overall participation in the “experience.” Blau looked to blockchain’s trustless immutable ledger technology as a deterrent against ticket-related counterfeiting and scalpers who inflate prices. He also expects blockchain technology to “eliminate a lot of the inefficiencies” he experiences in his career in the music industry.

Blau passed on a career working for BlackRock investments to pursue a career in music. Around that time, Blau met Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss who introduced him to Bitcoin and started his love affair with the emerging technology. Nearly five years later, Blau is launching his own cryptocurrency and dipping his toes back into the world of finance, all while still surrounded by his passion in music.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Major Players Use Blockchain to Streamline Agribusiness’ Creaking Supply Chain

Transparency, traceablity and everything else blockchain could provide for the agriculture.

Agriculture is proving to be one of the most promising sectors for the growth and implementation of blockchain technologies. The mammoth industry suffers from a number of endemic issues. Agricultural trade relies on complex relationships between farmers and retailers, as well as convoluted supply chain procedures which can complicate payments and product providence. As demand for agricultural trade becomes increasingly international, suppliers and innovators alike are looking to bring the trade into the twenty first century by capitalising on blockchain’s distributed ledger technology.

What blockchain can do for transparency and traceability

One of blockchain’s most commonly promoted attributes is transparency. GlobalData’s How Britain Shops survey reveals that consumers are increasingly concerned with the quality of the food they purchase from retailers. In a time where knowledge about food and nutrition is rapidly expanding, blockchain gives shoppers the ability to track the origins of store stock, helping them to guarantee purchasing a safe, quality product. Retailers and manufacturers are able to benefit from preventing flawed products from ever hitting the shelves by tracing information for individual items back to the farm where they were produced. Although this technology is in its early stages, the French retailer Carrefour has implemented blockchain to display information about their free-range chickens, the Retail Insight World reports. Customers have access to a plethora of data about their fateful chicken of choice, including the time it was laid, the hatchery and the name of the farmer.

The benefits, however, are not limited to the consumer alone. In recent years, a number of incidents regarding the quality and providence of products shook consumer faith in food suppliers, such as in 2013, when products advertised as containing beef were actually revealed to contain horse meat. Suppliers, however, appear to be learning from past industry mistakes. Kelly Registration Systems, the software unit for Kelly Products, a US based agribusiness company, announced the launch of their blockchain based platform to increase transparency in the United States meat industry.  Stuart Edmondson, chief technology officer at Kelly Registration Systems told Systems told the Verdict:

“Utilising blockchain technology for our new tracking system gives producers the opportunity to streamline their protein tracking and make it extremely accessible and transparent.”

Through radio frequency identification (RFID), customers will have access to a wealth of information, such as breed, sire, sex, vaccination details, hormones or antibiotic treatments along with data surrounding the animal’s growth, meaning it’s not only Carrefour’s chickens whose life trajectories are going public. Although this system has only been launched on a small scale, CEO Keith Kelly said the company plans to include other suppliers and expand across the region.

In 2017, food giants NESTLE, Unilever, Walmart Inc and Dole partnered with IBM to develop a blockchain system called Food Trust, based on the idea that partners and competitors should maintain a single-record keeping system. According to Nestle’s global head of supply chain, Chris Tyas, the companies agreed that blockchain can help improve safety measures on the condition that industry leaders collaborate. Failure to do so would create vast quantities of unmanageable data due to the many parties involved in the food industry supply chain. IBM is also set to release a mobile app to permit farmers to enter information into the Food Trust database, the Wall Street Journal reports.

This initiative also comes under the auspices of building consumer trust and eliminating the chances of contamination and product misinformation as a result of traceability. Scandals surrounding food supply result in lengthy investigations, such as the fatal 2017 salmonella outbreak that stemmed from a contaminated papaya farm in Mexico.The transparent, instantly available nature of Blockchain technology can reduce the investigation process to a matter of seconds, potentially halting the current precautionary measures of mass product recall and the culling of huge swathes of livestock.

Governments open the door to blockchain

The Sustainable Sugar Project has received a grant of A$2.25 million from the Australian government, Foodnavigator-Asia reports July 30.

Led by the Queensland Cane Growers Organization, the project will also use blockchain technology to track the origins of their supplies back to Australia in an industry wide effort to improve sustainability and traceability.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud stated that large buyers could end up paying more in the future for sustainable sugar as customer preference for sustainable products increases:

“This technology would provide assurances around the sustainability of our sugar and ensure cane farmers using sustainable practices can attract a premium for their product.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, The Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) has issued its first loan on blockchain, Financial News reported July 31. ABC is the world’s fourth-largest bank by assets and is one of China’s “Big Four” lenders.

The ABC’s first loan issued on blockchain is worth around $300,000 and is backed by agricultural land in the Guizhou province.

The bank plans to “buil[d] blocks with local people, pilot land and resources bureaus, and agriculture and animal husbandry bureaus” through blockchain”.

One other avenue for future development is the creation of a transparent land registry. Blockchain technology is also being used by the bank to prevent clients applying for loans from different banks while using the same land as collateral.

Australian Supply Chain Innovation Piques Investor Interest

Square Peg Capital has invested $5.5 million into Australian blockchain startup Agridigital. The startup has built a private blockchain to improve supply chain finance, with over 1300 users and 1.6 million tonnes of grain transacted since December 2016, along with $360 million in grower payments. Square Peg Capital hopes to expand the system into the United States.

Square Peg Capital partner Tony Holt said:

“At the moment supply chains are archaic, and the opportunity for a distributed supply chain with multiple participants lends itself extraordinarily well to distributed ledger technology, but also any form of material improvement.”

According to Business Monitor Online, blockchain could also reduce the time it takes for farmers to receive payment, along with payment uncertainty. The technology has helped traders match payments with title transfers by linking them, thereby avoiding any threat of counter-party risk (i.e. the risk that the other party involved in the financial contract will default on their contractual agreement).

In the words of Adrian Turner, CEO of The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) specialist Data61 unit, blockchain has the potential to:

“Not just to integrate information exchange and improve operational efficiencies across a diverse industry, but also to improve supply chain quality, facilitate provenance of branded goods and reduce cost of regulatory approvals.”

Data61 provides a useful example of how the supply chain system could be improved through blockchain:

Diagram from CSIRO’s Data61 unit, illustrating how blockchain could revolutionise supply routes.

“The additional financing costs that suppliers incur because they aren’t being paid promptly work their way back into higher prices for consumers.” V.G. Narayanan, Chief of the accounting practice unit at Harvard Business School told the New York Times.

The use of blockchain seems set to improve efficiency in agribusiness, not only improving transparency and cutting out the middle man, but also leading to potential reductions in cost.

Several successful deals have now been carried out using blockchain, including the shipping of 17 tonnes of almonds from Australia to Germany, underpinned by the use of smart contracts and a geotracking Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver end-to-end movement of the produce.

60,000 tonnes of US soybean were sold to the Chinese government in 2017 via the use of the Easy Trading Connect blockchain prototype, Business Monitor Online reported. According to participants, the time spent processing documents thanks to the use of electronic smart documents was reduced fivefold.

The Jury is Still Out Over a Blockchain Solution

In spite of the many positive developments and promising applications of blockchain in agribusiness and food supply sectors, a number of perceived weaknesses in the technology have been pointed out.

CSIRO’s Data61 listed a number of concerns in a 2017 report. Data 61 stated that information placed into a blockchain that cannot be changed elevates the risk of “toxic data” being locked into the system. The unit also highlighted that this same flaw could lead to sensitive metadata being compromised. Though the blockchain itself might be immutable, IoT devices are not impervious to manipulation.

Data 61 also said that blockchain could be more expensive than current systems if used to carry out “smart contracts” due to the well known energy consumption of blockchain technology. The unit also expressed concern over whether blockchain was suitable for such large information databases and stressed that the technology cannot yet be implemented in isolation from other existing cloud-based or in-house systems.

While there are many benefits of transparency in terms of reducing costs and improving customer confidence, blockchain presents opportunities for previously hidden instances of poor animal welfare, sub-par producing processes and use of chemicals and pesticides to backfire for producers of low-cost products, Business Monitor Online reports. The research organisation also said that the technology is still too immature to be put in place for at least three to five years, emphasising that most trials have been limited in scope and are not capable of dealing with the intensity and global reach of 21st century agribusiness.

Concerns have also been voiced regarding the technology’s reliance on all parties to be actively involved in the supply chain for it to work, meaning that if the input of data breaks down somewhere from farmer to customer, blockchain could fail to live up to its questionable reputation as an all encompassing solution to agribusiness’ woes.

In spite of warning about the dangers of potential oversupply of competing platforms that could cause confusion if developers do not coordinate along with the current absence of overarching regulation, Data 61 CEO Adrian Turner said blockchain technology has vast economic potential and is “here to stay”.

eToro Signs Sponsorship Deals with Seven Premier League Teams

A total of seven top U.K. football clubs have announced sponsorship deals with the digital currency exchange platform eToro. To highlight the benefits of cryptocurrency, the firm is settling the deals with the clubs in question using Bitcoin.

European Football Embraces Digital Currency and Blockchain Technology

Cryptocurrencies are moving into British sport.

Digital asset trading platform eToro has just announced sponsorship deals with seven Premier League football clubs. The clubs involved in the eToro deal are Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Brighton & Hove Albion, Cardiff City, Leicester City, and Newcastle United. Each one has tweeted news of the deal similar to that seen below:

The deals will allow the company much greater exposure through the use of in-stadium advertising boards and other marketing opportunities. As mentioned, they were all settled using the most popular digital currency, Bitcoin. The U.K. managing director of eToro spoke to the The Telegraph about the chosen method of payment:

“We’ve done a sponsorship deal, but rather than pay them in traditional pound notes we’ve paid them in Bitcoin… What they choose to do with that is entirely up to them.”

The Telegraph article even goes as far as to state that the top clubs in the U.K. will soon be paying their players using digital currencies. However, no sources were cited in connection with such a claim.

The head of partnerships at Newcastle United was excited about the new sponsorship deal. The club’s official blog posted Dale Aitchison’s statements earlier today:

“We are delighted to welcome eToro to our family of high-profile commercial partners… This is a leading player in an emerging industry and we are looking forward to exploring opportunities in cryptocurrency and technology together.”

Elsewhere, other football teams have shown interest in digital currencies. Here at NewsBTC, we have previously reported on Gibraltar United’s plans to pay part of their players wages in crypto next season. Their owner stated that many foreign players struggle to set up bank accounts and digital currencies help to streamline the payment process where traditional banking infrastructure is sometimes less supportive.

Blockchain-based systems are proving useful as more than just a payment method to football organisations though. Last week, news outlets reported on UEFA’s first implementation of a ticket distribution technique based on the technology. It is believed that such innovations can help to reduce incidents of fraud associated with match day tickets.

In other eToro news, the “social trading and multi asset brokerage company” has announced support for the digital currency IOTA. Along with the announcement, the firm published an article detailing exactly what IOTA is and how it differs from other blockchain-based digital assets. It reads:

“With multiple uses as an Internet of Things (IoT) platform and quite a bit of attention from the blockchain and cryptocurrency communities, IOTA presents an alluring trading and investing opportunity to some.”

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Bitcoin Cash Price Weekly Analysis: BCH/USD Holding Key Support at $540

Key Points

  • Bitcoin cash price recovered and moved above the $520 and $540 resistance levels against the US Dollar.
  • There is a major contracting triangle forming with support near $545 on the 4-hours chart of the BCH/USD pair (data feed from Kraken).
  • The pair has to stay above the $545 and $540 support levels to remain in an uptrend in the near term.

Bitcoin cash price failed to settle above $600 and declined against the US Dollar. BCH/USD is currently testing an important support area near $540.

Bitcoin Cash Price Support

After a major decline, bitcoin cash price found support near the $465 level against the US Dollar. The BCH/USD pair started a recovery and moved above the $500, $520, $540 and $580 resistance levels. There was even a spike above the $600 level. However, the price failed to settle above the $600 level and found sellers near the 100 simple moving average (4-hours). A high was formed at $613.7 and the price started declining.

It broke the 23.6% Fib retracement level of the last wave from the $468 low to $613 high. However, the price is now trading near a major support area at $540. The stated zone near $540-550 acted as a support earlier and it could prevent declines this time. There is also a major contracting triangle forming with support near $545 on the 4-hours chart of the BCH/USD pair. Moreover, the 50% Fib retracement level of the last wave from the $468 low to $613 high is near $540. Therefore, a break and close below the $540 support could push the price back in a bearish zone.

Bitcoin Cash Price Weekly Analysis BCH USD

Looking at the chart, BCH price is currently holding the $540 support. If it continues to hold, it could bounce back towards $600 and $620.

Looking at the technical indicators:

4-hours MACD – The MACD for BCH/USD is about to move back into the bearish zone.

4-hours RSI (Relative Strength Index) – The RSI for BTC/USD is currently just near the 50 level.

Major Support Level – $540

Major Resistance Level – $600

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ETN vs. ETF: Which Is the Investor’s Dream?

The fact that an ETN from Stockholm is now targeting the U.S. market may sound like a win, but it’s a far cry from the big prize of an ETF

There has been a big push for investors to be able to buy Bitcoin without actually having to buy the digital currency. Products — such as futures — have entered the market and upon their arrival in early December last year, Bitcoin rallied toward $20,000.

However, the biggest prize on offer for investors — mainly of the institutionalised variety, who are still skeptical about owning Bitcoin — is an exchange-traded fund (ETF). There has been a push, through the SEC, to try and get a Bitcoin ETF in place for some time now, starting with the Winklevoss twins’ first attempt in March 2017.

Meanwhile, a product, called Bitcoin Tracker One, which has been trading on the Nasdaq Stockholm exchange since 2015, offered what is known as an exchange-traded note (ETN), and this week, it was suddenly quoted in dollars.

The ETN is considered a ‘soft’ alternative to the Bitcoin ETF that many are chasing after, but even with this move to make it accessible to an audience in the United States, separate from their country’s regulations and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), there was not much movement in the market.

It seems that, even with the option to buy an ETN, U.S. investors — and the Wall Street money they can bring to Bitcoin — are not biting. There was no excitement in the market — a market notorious for taking news as a catalyst for up-and-down movements. This could have to do with the fact that this ETN is not an ETF, but it could also be the heavy bearish sentiment.

Why an ETN or an ETF?

These products, which allow to invest in Bitcoin with relative safety as investors do not own the actual commodity, have been highly praised by many, but they also have their detractors.

An ETF is a marketable security that tracks either an index of funds, a commodity or a basket of assets — and in this case, the asset is Bitcoin. So, what would happen, should the SEC allow a Bitcoin ETF, is that the fund would purchase an underlying amount of actual Bitcoin and distribute those funds into shares, which are then distributed to shareholders.

Thus, they make it far more comfortable and familiar for the institutional investor who has been using ETFs for other assets and commodities, and this might be why many think it could be a big entry point for a lot of money into the Bitcoin space.

An ETN, on the other hand — seen as a ‘soft’ ETF — is a debt instrument that is backed by its issuers, such as a bank, rather than a pool of assets. Often, they focus on esoteric strategies that don’t easily fit into a fund.

The interesting debate about whether these types of products are needed in the cryptocurrency ecosystem is often exaggerated by the broad and all-encompassing nature of the space. There are traders, blockchain engineers, get-rich-quick types, crypto-anarchists and cryptocurrency purists who are all operating around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and all have their own beliefs.

Andreas Antonopoulos is quite against the idea of a Bitcoin ETF, stating:

“I am going to burst your bubble […] I know a lot of people want to see an ETF happen, because of ‘to the moon’ and Lambos and all of that. […] I still think it is going to happen, I just think it is a terrible idea. I am against ETFs. I think a Bitcoin ETF is going to be damaging to the ecosystem.”

Antonopoulos’ criticism is not that an ETF would cause prices to drop or investments to stop. In fact, he goes on to state:

“Everybody is so excited about ETFs, because what we have seen in other markets is [that] when an ETF becomes available — as we saw in gold — the price really increases dramatically, as suddenly that commodity becomes available to a lot more investors. And these investors pile on.”

While many see ETFs as the kickstart that the crypto markets need right now from a price point of view, Antonopoulos argues that the real dangers of the introduction of ETFs lie somewhere else:

“But, the other side of it is that there [are] always these claims that these commodities markets are heavily manipulated. And opening up these ETFs only increases the ability of institutionalized investors to manipulate the prices of commodities — not just on the markets where they are traded as an ETF, but also more broadly.”

Why this ETN is not a market-mover

Taking into consideration assertions that ETFs could skyrocket the price of a commodity as institutionalized investors pile into the market, it could seem strange that the announcement of this option — i.e., an ETN that is able to be traded with dollars — brought very little movement in the market.

One could assume that a smaller, ‘safer’ option to an ETF would be snapped up and popular for the institutionalized market, but perhaps these investors are holding out — or are still too bearish.

Jeff Kilburg, the founder and CEO of KKM Financial, explains that Bitcoin and its up-and-down volatility is going to continue until a decision is reached on ETFs and that even the ETN won’t have much say in it all.

“I think there will be continued volatility, but it really is contingent on this exchange-traded fund. […] These long-term, bullish buyers have to understand that people are going to have access globally to an exchange-traded product and, if that comes in — and we do get some absolute determination that it is coming short-term […] this fall — then I think the rally continues.”

Kilburg is clearly optimistic about the power an ETF would have on the market, and so is Bart Smith, the head of the digital assets division of the global investment market giant Susquehanna International Group, who says that the ETN has gained some traction, but is nowhere near as explosive as the possibility of an ETF.

“What you are seeing now is that we are right back to where we were. A month ago, we were talking about breaking out, but this is a bear market rally. Until we break to new highs, people are not buying.”

Smith follows in Kilburn’s reasoning that this ETN is not as big as a potential ETF would be:

“This is not as big as [it would be] if it was SEC regulated. An ETF in the U.S. — that was SEC registered — would have a much bigger effect. But, if there is something that is driving new money into the price of Bitcoin, then you would imagine it would raise it up.”

The ETF Holy Grail

With an ETN now available to U.S. investors — as well as futures trading possible through a number of institutionalized trading houses — Bitcoin is still not reaching new heights. There is a lot of hype and excitement about a possible ETF, as the SEC continues to mull over a number of applications for various Bitcoin ETFs.

While no one can predict the future of the price of Bitcoin and how it will react to the news of an ETF, the sentiment is strong from most that it will make a big difference. The feeling is that there is a mountain of money waiting to enter the Bitcoin space that is being held back by nontraditional methods of investing. If this barrier is broken down, is it possible Bitcoin will surpass $20,000 again?

Crypto Markets See Slight Slump, Ethereum Fails to Hold $300 Support

Crypto markets suffer a slight slump, Bitcoin, Ripple, Stellar and Monero struggle to hold weekly gains.

Saturday, August 18: crypto markets have seen another slump today, with some coins wavering following weekly gains, according to data from Coinmarketcap. Total market cap has dipped as low as $210 billion at press time.

Market visualization

Market visualization from Coin360

Bitcoin (BTC) is down 1.79 percent over the past 24 hours, trading at $6,396 at press time. With that, the top cryptocurrency has seen an intraday high of $6,562. The coin has lost around 13 percent over the past 30 days, while holding its weekly gains, according to Coinmarketcap.

Bitcoin 30 days price chart

Bitcoin 30 days price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Bitcoin Price Index

Ethereum (ETH) has failed to hold $300 support, trading at $291 at press time. The major altcoin has suffered a 3.74 percent loss over a 24 hour period, also having failed to keep momentum over the week with an 11 percent loss in the past 7 days.

Ethereum price chart

Ethereum price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Ethereum Price Index

Total market cap has taken a somewhat downward trend today, dipping as low as $208 billion. At press time, total market capitalization has seen modest growth, now amounting to $210 billion.

Intraday Total market capitalization chart

Intraday Total market capitalization chart. Source: Coinmarketcap

While total market cap is down, Bitcoin is holding its position in the crypto market, with its dominance standing at 52.27 percent at press time.

Ripple (XRP), the third biggest altcoin by market cap, has also taken a hit, down 6 percent on the day and currently trading at $0.31.

Ripple recently partnered with three crypto exchanges to develop its cross-border payments service xRapid, enabling a “healthy” ecosystem for  transactions between XRP and U.S. dollars, Mexican pesos, and Philippine pesos.

Ripple 7 days price chart

Ripple 7 days price chart. Source: Cointelegraph XRP Price Index

Stellar (XLM) and Monero (XMR), are also down 2.3 and 0.6 percent over the past 24 hours, respectively. Stellar is trading at $0.22, while Monero stands at $96.19 at press time.

Ethereum Classic (ETC), which was recently listed by major U.S. crypto exchange and wallet service Coinbase, has given up its eleventh position on the market to TRON (TRX), according to Coinmarketcap. Now ranking 12th, ETC is down 7.8 percent, currently trading at $13.09.

Porn Website Tube8 to Launch Blockchain Platform, Reward Views With Crypto Tokens

Adult entertainment site Tube8 is looking to reward viewers with crypto tokens on a blockchain-based platform developed by VIT.

Porn website Tube8 has revealed plans to create a blockchain-based platform for users to earn crypto tokens as they watch and interact with Tube8 videos, according to Hard Fork, August 17.

The adult entertainment streaming site and subsidiary of Pornhub announced a partnership with Vice Industry Token (VIT), which will develop a tokenize platform for Tube8’s 10 million users and 150 million monthly website visits. The new system will reportedly be implemented by the end of the year.

As Robin Turner, the spokesperson for Tube8, told Hard Fork, the platform will gives users the chance to “get paid to consume our free content,” rather than users “having to fork over money to consume content, which some sites require.” He goes on to state:

“Considering the popularity of cryptocurrency right now, it only made sense to pay [users] for watching, and interacting with, our videos. We value their attention and want to keep them coming back for more!”

According to Turner, Tube8 believes that this new user-engagement model that allows users to earn Vice Tokens — which essentially operate as utility tokens — will be “a paradigm shift in how people consume adult entertainment.” This strategy is designed to keep viewers on their site, as Turner explains to Hard Fork:

“Whereas before users would log in, watch a few videos and leave, VIT incentivizes them to create an account and interact with the content to generate Vice Tokens.”

As with many platforms, Tube8’s plans to tokenize could suffer from problems of scale. VIT is an ERC20 token based on the Ethereum blockchain, which presently can handle about 15 transactions per second. With the current number of daily visitors, the only way to tokenize the site without choking up the blockchain, would be to run the reward system on a centralized server.

VIT has already built up a list of other partners in the adult entertainment industry, including StormyDaniels.com — the pornstar who claims to have had an affair with U.S. President Donald Trump.

But as Cointelegraph recently reported, VIP is now engulfed in a heated dispute with perhaps the most recognizable name in the adult entertainment industry, Playboy. After Playboy accused Canadian firm Global Blockchain Technologies (BLOC) of fraud and breach of contract, VIT was caught in the crossfire. VIT’s CEO Stuart Duncan is now accusing Playboy of taking “the equivalent of millions of dollars,” according to an AVN report.

Uber’s Largest Shareholder SoftBank Denies Deal With Bitmain, Other Investments Uncertain

Japanese tech giant SoftBank denies alleged investment in crypto mining firm Bitmain, with Tencent yet to confirm and Bitmain refusing to comment.

An official from SoftBank has denied their involvement in the investment deal with Bitcoin (BTC) mining behemoth Bitmain that was reported last week by both crypto and mainstream media sources.

As previously reported, Bitmain had allegedly sealed a pre-Initial Public Offering (IPO) financing deal which had brought its valuation to $15 billion. Both Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent and Japan’s SoftBank — another tech giant whose 15 percent stake in Uber makes it the drive-hailing app’s largest shareholder — were purportedly involved.

After receiving an anonymous tip that Tencent and SoftBank were not actually involved in any deal with Bitmain, Cointelegraph reached out to SoftBank and Tencent for confirmation.

As a response to Cointelegraph’s request for information, Kenichi Yuasa of the Corporate Communication Office of SoftBank Group Corp. stated:

“Neither the SoftBank Group Corp. nor the SoftBank Vision Fund were in any way involved in the deal.”

Despite numerous requests for clarification, no one at Tencent has denied or confirmed the deal to Cointelegraph.

In response to a media request from Cointelegraph, Bitmain refused to comment on the matter.

The original story on SoftBank and Tencent’s participation in a deal with Bitmain was reported by Chinese publication QQ on August 4. In a Google Translated version of the article, QQ stated:

“The mainland officially completed the Pre-IPO round signing. This round of investors includes Tencent, Softbank [sic], and China Gold. The current round of financing is 1 billion US dollars, and the pre-investment valuation is 14 billion.”

After the story originally broke, there were no official confirmations or denials by either SoftBank or Tencent of their participation in an investment deal with Bitmain.

QQ’s report was picked up by mainstream media sources like Business Insider, which reported on August 14 that Bitmain had closed a “$1 billion funding round led by Chinese tech giant Tencent and Japan’s SoftBank,” linking their source as crypto media site CCN. Yahoo! Finance also reposted the story on Bitmain’s valuation from CCN, also linking to coverage of the matter from crypto news source CoinDesk.

As the media began reporting SoftBank and Tencent allegedly participated in a deal with Bitmain, bringing the company’s reported valuation to $15 billion, Blockstream CSO Samson Mow tweeted August 11 an image — reportedly from the Bitmain pre-IPO investor deck — showing the company allegedly had a large amount of Bitcoin Cash (BCH).

On August 12, Samson Mow also tweeted two images of Bitmain’s Q1 results, one in Chinese and one from Morgan Stanley, commenting:

“Why is Bitmain raising capital so fast & only showing Q1 results to pre-IPO investors? We’re well into Q3 now. The reason is Q2 was a disaster. Bitmain is sitting on a massive $1.24 billion USD in inventory & S9 prices dropped by ~85%! Q2 losses range in the $600-700 millions.”

In response to Mow’s tweets, Crypto Herpes Cat published a follow up on Medium, explaining several theories as to how Bitmain ended up with so much BCH — other than by selling BTC for BCH, as Mow purported — and what they are doing with their ASIC miners in a bear market, writing:

“How do you realize the value of this monolith crypto business and your holdings? You IPO and pass the bag on in one huge lumped stock offering and hope investors don’t realize all of your current assets are very, very illiquid.”

As early as June, Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu had hinted at the firm’s plans to launch its IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Chinese publication QQ — the same source that alleged both Tencent and SoftBank’s involvement in the recent financing deal — has recently suggested that the firm will be valued at $30 billion.

The seemingly refuted investments come after a year of reports that appeared to indicate Bitmain’s astonishing profitability.