GitHub Reportedly Acquired By Microsoft

News reaching Ethereum World News indicate that there are plans by software giant Microsoft Inc. to acquire popular software repository platform, GitHub. Rumors have been in the air for quite some time now of the intentions by Microsoft to seal the deal with respect to buying GitHub this year.

Credible sources indicate that the deal could be announced as early as today, Monday June 4th. This act by the software giant would be a move described by many, as going back to the roots of how Microsoft started in the first place. Bill Gates and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft with the aim of developing software products for personal computers to give hobbyists an avenue for seamlessly programming their own projects. The company has since grown to feature video game consoles (Xbox), consumer electronics, personal computers and cloud services (Microsoft Azure).

The current CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, has been actively involved in courting coders and initiating coding initiatives since taking the helm at the company in 2014. Last year, he was noted as saying the following during the company’s annual developers conference:

The opportunity for developers to have broad impact on all parts of society has never been greater. But with this opportunity comes enormous responsibility.

His words were meant to remind developers that there are unintended consequences of technology that can only be solved by the creators themselves. He was quick to refer to the classic novel, 1984, to further his argument with respect to responsibility in technology:

Orwell, in [the novel] 1984, described a society where technology was used to monitor and control and dictate, and Huxley [in Brave New World] talked about distracting ourselves without meaning or purpose. We don’t want that.

By acquiring GitHub, Microsoft will have access to over 27 Million software developers many of whom are not thrilled by the acquisition for it might hinder decentralization of code which is one of the chief reasons that the platform thrives.

Most, if not all, blockchain projects, use the platform to upload its code. This in turn means that any disgruntled blockchain coders might find an alternative to GitHub if the acquisition follows through.

Microsoft’s Corporate V.P of communication, Frank X. Shaw, was asked about the acquisition by TechCrunch to which he replied:

You know we don’t ever comment on this sort of rumor.

This means that we have to wait for official communications from both Microsoft and GitHub to confirm the acquisition.

[Photo source, betanews.com]

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HitBTC Temporarily Suspends Services in Japan During Licensing Process

Japan has quickly become an important region in the cryptocurrency industry. It is one of the few countries to effectively legitimize Bitcoin as a means, yet the region is also home to strict regulation. As such, HitBTC has confirmed it will suspend services in Japan to avoid any friction with local regulators.

HitBTC Suspends Service in Japan

Over the past few years, HitBTC has become a very popular cryptocurrency trading platform. The company offers many different cryptocurrency pairs. Their presence also spans many countries around the world, including Japan. Unfortunately, it appears that latter aspect will come to change fairly soon. Due to looming friction with local authorities, HitBTC will suspend its service in the region.

Most people know exchanges operating in Japan need to obtain authorization from regulators. That process also involves obtaining a specific license. As of right now, HitBTC does not have such a license. Nor do they plan to obtain one, by the look of things. The logical outcome is to suspend the services provided in the country until further notice.

Anyone visiting the site with a Japanese IP address will need to provide residency details. If they can prove they do not reside in Japan, accessing the platform will remain possible. Otherwise, they will have to look for a different trading platform supporting cryptocurrencies.  There is no shortage of such companies in Japan, though.

Other Exchanges to Follow?

Domestic exchanges in Japan usually go through the licensing process without problems. Over a dozen companies are licensed, with a handful more to be granted a license in the weeks to come. For foreign companies such as HitBTC, the situation is a bit different. There’s also the fact the company offers Monero trading, which has become a topic of debate among Japanese regulators.

It is not the first bigger trading platform to leave Japan either. Kraken, one of the world’s bigger exchanges, took the same steps in April of 2018. According to officials, Kraken made this choice based on “rising costs” rather than licensing issues. Even so, it shows foreign trading platforms will have some tough decisions to make moving forward.

Binance has also been warned about its lack of an official license. Whether or not they will pursue this regulatory requirement, remains a bit unclear as of right now. HitBTC is in the process of making a return to Japan in the future, though. For now, the company is working with a Japanese law firm to go through the licensing process.  It remains unclear how long that process may take.

 

Image from Shutterstock

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John McAfee Announces 2020 Presidential Bid to Serve Crypto Community

John McAfee, of McAfee AntiVirus Software, will be running for president in order to speak his “truth” and give a platform for the crypto community.

John McAfee, founder of McAfee Antivirus Software and now prominent crypto enthusiast, announced his bid yesterday, June 3, to run for US president in 2020 as a way to serve the crypto community, according to his Twitter account:

This will be McAfee’s second run for president, after he lost his first bid in 2016 to former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson to be the candidate for the Libertarian Party.

McAfee mentioned his past failed bid by noting yesterday that if he “been more connected with the community in 2016,” he would have been better able to publicize the idea of “currency independence,” which he notes is already on “every Anericans’ lips (sic).”

McAfee’s tweet about his 2020 run has now garnered over 600 comments, with McAfee responding to most of them with either a “thank you” or a “:).” One token platform has apparently already donated the equivalent of $390.85 to the campaign:

The future potential presidential candidate tweeted again today about the run, noting that although he doesn’t actually think he has a “chance of winning,” the bid will give him a platform to tell the “truth:”

McAfee had already made headlines last week by announcing the creation of his own crypto-backed fiat currency that is redeemable for up to 100 minutes of facetime with him, as well as in February for revealing he made $105,000 per tweet promoting crypto projects.

Leading US Crypto Exchange Coinbase to Expand to Japanese Market

Major US crypto wallet provider and exchange Coinbase has revealed it will expand its trading services to Japan “within the year.”

Major US crypto wallet provider and exchange service Coinbase has revealed its plans to enter the Japanese crypto market, Cointelegraph Japan reported Monday, June 4.

Coinbase intends to apply for a license with the country’s financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), “within the year,” a process that has been mandatory for all crypto exchanges operating within the country since the amendment of Japan’s Payment Services Act in April 2017.

The US company is said to be working together with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) on its expansion to the Japanese market. According to CT Japan, MUFG has invested over 1 bln yen in Coinbase since 2004 through Mitsubishi UFJ Bank and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, among others.

CT Japan further reports that Coinbase’s Japanese trading service will focus on supporting major digital currencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).

As Cointelegraph previously reported, Coinbase already has over 20 mln customers and has to date traded $150 bln in digital assets on its exchange platform. In 2017, it reported $1 bln in revenue, according to figures from Recode, and reportedly valued itself at around $8 bln in an acquisition deal this spring.

The exchange has recently launched a series of new products aimed at attracting major institutional clients – notably including a custody solution established in partnership with an SEC-compliant third-party actor.

Japan’s crypto market continues to show booming crypto adoption levels, with CT Japan citing recent figures from Japan’s Virtual Currency Exchange Association that estimate the number of Japanese crypto investors at 3.5 million.

This makes it an attractive market for foreign capital, notwithstanding the country’s increasingly stringent crypto regulatory climate. Earlier this week, Japanese crypto exchange BitTrade was acquired for $50 mln by a Singaporean entrepreneur, who became the first foreign investor to hold a 100 percent stake in an FSA-licensed trading platform.

Coinbase, for its part, has focused on working closely with regulators to improve its security and compliance standards, with recent reports emerging that the company is attempting to obtain a federal banking charter for its US operations.

Ripple Introduces the University Blockchain Research Initiative

Interest in blockchain is soaring, with a groundswell of activity taking place on the campuses of the world’s top universities. From new business use cases such as making cross-border payments faster, lower cost and more transparent to uses of blockchain for good, students and faculty globally are emerging as major contributors to the creation of a more robust and valuable blockchain and payments ecosystem.

As one of the most mature companies in the space, Ripple is uniquely suited to partner with the academic community and help lead development of this ecosystem. That’s why, today, we’re excited to announce the University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI), a collaboration with top universities around the world to support and accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments.

Ripple has committed over $50 million in funding, subject matter expertise and technical resources to UBRI’s first wave of university partners 17 prestigious institutions around the world. These schools will determine their own research topics and priority areas of focus, while also partnering with Ripple to:

  • Collaborate on research and technical development that will stimulate widespread understanding and innovation in blockchain.
  • Create new curriculum to meet high student demand for learning about blockchain, cryptocurrency and other FinTech topics.
  • Stimulate ideas and dialog among students, faculty, technologists and business leaders on topics of shared interest.

The initial UBRI partners represent a broad cross-section of geographies and markets, as well as a rich blend of academic disciplines.

For example, as the regulatory conversation continues to evolve in the public sector, the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at Princeton University is creating an UBRI program that will study the policy impact of cryptocurrencies and blockchain in the U.S. and around the world.

At The University of Pennsylvania, UBRI is supporting select MBA-MS candidates each year in a newly established Wharton-Engineering dual-degree program. This funding aims to prioritize students working on blockchain or cryptocurrency.

As part of UBRI, Ripple is also participating in MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab’s new FinTech initiative made up of a nearly a dozen companies across the financial services industry to work with groups of CSAIL’s 116+ researchers on topics like blockchain, cryptocurrencies, cybersecurity and global payments.

In Europe, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and the University of Luxembourg are building a new blockchain research program inside their Departments of Computer Science and Engineering with the help of UBRI.

UBRI’s complete list of partners is as follows:

As the traditional backbone of innovation, universities uniquely offer an independence and rigor that the private sector cannot. They also are responsible for training the workforce of the future, helping to address the demand for technological solutions and talent to solve the world’s hardest financial problems.

Now is the perfect time to support research and study in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments at universities around the world.

For more on UBRI as we build the program over the coming year please visit Ripple Insights.

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Passive Revenue Opportunities in Decentralized Computing Resources Industry

There have been a few interesting trends involving blockchain technology. One particular aspect mainly focuses on selling resources through a distributed ledger-based marketplace. For now, it seems the main focus lies on computing resources. Other types of resources and content will be supported as more time progresses. With decentralized infrastructure being developed, new opportunities will arise.

The Decentralized  Marketplace Ecosystem

Although the overall potential of blockchain remains to be determined, there are multiple intriguing projects. One of these trends comes in the form of selling computing resources on the blockchain. This is usually done through proprietary infrastructure and involves a native token. Among the computing resources users can sell are bandwidth, CPU power, GPU power, storage, and so forth.

On the computing power front, there are numerous projects. Golem, SONM, and iExec are the three industry leaders in this regard at this time. All three projects are still in the process of developing their native ecosystems. Users will earn native currencies for renting out their computing resources to the highest bidder.

One thing to keep in mind is how these projects are intent on disrupting traditional cloud services. The likes of Google and AWS are the main targets in this regard. However, bringing stiff competition to those entrenched players will not be all that easy by any means. Since all of these projects are still in the early stage of development, it remains to be seen what the world can expect exactly.

Other Noteworthy Projects

Various other companies aim to decentralize the way the internet works. File storage and sharing is another popular business model in this regard. Storj has made a name for itself in the decentralized storage industry. Considering how most consumers have excess storage on their computer, renting it out to make some passive income seems like a smart idea.

There are plenty of other ventures to take into account as well. Ranging from decentralized content delivery networks to monetizing data, the opportunities are virtually endless in this industry. Most of these concepts have yet to be turned into working technology. One thing most of these companies have in common is how they all conducted very successful initial coin offerings. This confirms investors see a lot of merit in these ventures prior to them coming to market.

No one should expect to become rich overnight.  There is some passive income to be made in the process, but nothing to make people quit their jobs. Until all of these projects gain more traction, the overall earnings will remain relatively low. Combining multiple of these projects into one passive revenue stream can result in decent earnings over time. However, there is no need to effectively buy additional hardware to benefit from any of these projects.

 

Image from Shutterstock

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Cryptocurrency Apps Open Financial Doors for Working Poor in Asia

The popular image of a cryptocurrency user is usually that of a young middle-class, tech-savvy person opting out of the traditional working world to try and make a fortune at home on their computer or paying for an expensive coffee with an obscure app on a complicated smartphone.

But in the developing countries of South East Asia where people have limited access to banking services, cryptocurrency is becoming a real solution to financial problems that have plagued the working classes. Case in point, Cambodian motorcycle taxi driver Sachaknisay Sov recently discovered a better way to pay bills when he took a loan in digital tokens for about $500 through an application that allows him to convert the tokens to cash at local pawn shops.

Cryptocurrency Gives the Poor a Chance

Sachaknisay who until recently borrowed money from friends and family to make ends meet at interest rates of as much as 18%, compared to the 5% he pays through the app, said “[Digital token-based loans are] absolutely much better than the traditional ones, It has a lower interest rate.” As reported by the South China Morning Post. 

One such digital loan application based in Phnom Penh is DApact. The application is able to trace every digital token it loans through a unique code which records its entry and exit points, requiring no manual check which the company says allows them to manage the business at a third of the cost of traditional financial institutes. That saving is then passed on to borrowers which allow even poor villagers to take out loans in order to start or grow a small business.

KPMG the global auditing and consulting agency estimates that as many as seven out of ten people in South East Asia did not have a bank account in 2016. What they did have and spend more time on than their counterparts in the developed world are smartphones.  For a company like Manila based Coins that equals a huge business opportunity.

Remittance Applications Means Big Savings for Expat Workers

2.2 million Filipinos work overseas and most have been using traditional remittance services which charge high rates for cross-border payments to send money home. Coins, for example, has enabled Filipino workers in the UAE to transfer local currency into Bitcoin and send it home for less than half of what Western Union, the largest remittance service in the world, charges.

Another Fintech startup in Cambodia, Micromoney, has already been able to extend it’s loan services to 110,000 customers across the region in Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. As in most countries in the world, the utility of cryptocurrencies is still very limited on a vendor to customer basis in Asia but as Cambodian crypto entrepreneur Rithy Thul puts it,

Digital currency is not perfect, but it is the most perfect money poor villagers have ever had.”

 

Image from Shutterstock

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51% Attack: ZenCash the Latest Victim of a Suspected Double-Spend Attack

ZenCash is the latest cryptocurrency to suffer a suspected 51% attack in the last two months. Others like Electroneum, Verge, and Bitcoin Gold have also fallen victim to the 51% percent attack – the number one scourge of the poorly secured public blockchain network.

Details of the Attack

According to a report on the ZenCash blog, the attack occurred in the early hours (GMT) on June 3, 2018. The suspected hacker took control of a pool operator rolling back a few transactions. The attacker succeeded in pushing back 38 blocks and carrying out a double spend attack in the space of four blocks. In the end, the suspected attacker performed two double-spend attacks of 6,600 ZEN and 13,000 ZEN respectively. At the current market rate, the hack cost the network about $550,000. The price of ZenCash has declined by 7 percent since the hack.

Details released by ZenCash show that znkMXdwwxvPp9jNoSjukAbBHjCShQ8ZaLib is the suspected pool address. At the end of the exploit, the funds were deposited in this address – zneDDN3aNebJUnAJ9DoQFys7ZuCKBNRQ115. ZenCash is already investigating the attack in tandem with connected exchange platforms. At the time of writing this article, there are no indications as to what the suspected hacker did with the funds.

The attack may have been more severe but for the timely intervention of the team who immediately alerted exchange platforms of the hack. By increasing the confirmations for large deposits, exchange platforms can help in thwarting 51% attacks. According to ZenCash, the hash rate at the time of the exploit was about 58MSol/s. Preliminary indications point to the attacker running a private mining operation with enough hash power to hijack a mining pool. The hacker could also have increased his/her computing power by renting additional hash power.

51% Attacks are all the Rage Right Now

Since April, there have been at least five 51% attacks on four different cryptocurrency networks, including ZenCash. Verge (XVG) has been hit at least two times with more than $2 million lost. Equi-hash-based digital currencies seem to be the most prone to such attacks. In a 51% attack, the hacker gains control of more than half of the computing power of the network. Thus, they manipulate timestamps and manufacture blocks, earning mining rewards. The attacker can also combine this exploit with a double-spend attack which is even more devastating.

Recently, EWN published a story that showed how for less than $1,000 some cryptocurrencies networks could be hacked. The ZenCash hack lasted for about four hours. Based on that report, the hacker may have spent $30,000 in prosecuting the hack. The presence of hash-renting services like NiceHash is undoubtedly a huge problem for smaller blockchains.

The size of a blockchain is usually the best defense against a 51% attack. Electricity and hardware maintenance costs are also an obstacle against carrying out such attacks. However, with hackers being able to rent hash power for a relatively cheap amount, then smaller blockchain surely have a reason to worry. The recent spate of attacks has also added more fire to the ASIC vs. GPU debate and how centralized mining can offer more security for blockchains.

Are you concerned about the recent spate of 51% attacks in the cryptocurrency market at the moment? Will these attacks compromise the integrity of the industry in the long run? Keep the conversation going in the comment section below.

Images courtesy of ZenCash, CoinMarketCap, and Pixabay.

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Cryptocurrencies (BTC, ETH, BCH, XRP) Are Now More Viable After VISA Hardware Crash

Unbeknownst to many global citizens outside the European continent, is that there was an outage of VISA related services on June 1st brought about by hardware failure. The BBC was the first to note the anomaly in payment transactions that left many shoppers stranded in long queues in grocery stores. Some were even stranded in traffic as they were unable to pay for their toll using their cards.

One VISA customer by the name of Adam had this to say to the BBC about the whole experience:

We have spent all day boating to moor up at a riverside pub in Kidlington for a birthday meal only to find the visa payments are not working. Having only £20 between us we have had to opt for a birthday drink instead. [There is] no cash point for miles around and no car as we are on the canal boat.

In Glasgow, another VISA customer, Deborah Eldar, had this to say when interviewed by the BBC:

I was so embarrassed. I gave the waiter the 14 euros I had left. I’m worried I won’t be able to get home when I land in Toulouse as I have no cash for a taxi.

VISA would later confirm that services were back to normal and gave the explanation of hardware failure as earlier mentioned.

Such an outage has led many crypto enthusiast and believers to reinforce their long held views that the time is nigh for cryptocurrencies to replace all other forms of traditional payment. The decentralized background of the crypto-verse does not depend on the centralized systems seen in the described VISA incident.

VISA runs on a select group of private servers that can leave the network crippled if they are affected by a malicious hack or hardware failure. Such servers usually have redundancy systems but sometimes, getting them to handle the network traffic after a failure, takes some time. Time that leaves many users stranded as is the case with the VISA outage described.

With decentralized systems, the nodes of the network are all over the globe. If the hardware at one location were to crash, the network would divert the transactions to another node. The only issue with blockchain technology is network congestion since the network can only handle a limited number of transactions per second. This becomes a problem as has been seen numerous times on the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks.

However, with talks of scaling by the Tron (TRX) foundation as well as Zilliqa (ZIL) team and Ethereum (ETH) Foundation, delayed transactions will be a thing of the past.

In conclusion, the VISA network issue caused a lot of panic in Europe that could have been avoided if the payment stations had integrated cryptocurrency payment options.

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to give financial advice. The opinion herein should be taken as is. Please carry out your own research before investing in any of the numerous cryptocurrencies available.

[Photo source, gizmodo.com]

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Ripple (XRP) Centred SBI Virtual Currencies Exchange Is Now LIVE

XRP Development

Two days ago, the Ripple (XRP) Reddit community and Ethereum World News, had noted that the website that is the SBI Virtual Currencies Exchange had been updated and looked like it was prepping for launch. Well, the same exchange has announced that trading starts today, June 4th, on the anticipated Ripple (XRP) Centered, SBI Virtual Currencies Exchange.

The announcement by the team at SBI Holdings indicated that they had gone through the necessary registration requirements by September last year and have launched the exchange today, 4th June. The announcement also noted that the exchange will simply be known as VCTRADE. For now, only pre-registered users who had done so in October 2017, will be the first to receive the service on the exchange. The announcement noted that up to 20,000 had pre-registered and they were sending them login credentials starting today. Other traders willing to register on the platform will be able to do so beginning July, 2018.

With XRP as the first and only cryptocurrency to be listed on the exchange, VCTRADE will soon add Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BTC).

With respect to the level of cyber security on the exchange, the CEO and President of SBI Holdings, Yoshitaka Kitao, had earlier stated that the delay in launching the exchange, was to guarantee top notch security on the platform. One needs only be reminded of the Coincheck hack that left over $500 Million in NEM (XEM) stolen by shrewd hackers. Mr. Kitao wanted to make sure this would not happen on the new SBI Exchange.

Market response to VCTRADE announcement. Source, coinmarketcap.com

The news of the launch of SBI Virtual Currencies has been well received by the Ripple community. XRP has also shown some considerable gains since the announcement was made a few hours ago. XRP managed to reach levels of $0.70 soon after the announcement was made but has since settled at current levels of $0.67 and up 3% in 24 hours. The market reaction to the news can be seen in the chart shared above.

It seems like XRP will now have another exchange to make it accessible to the over 3.5 Million known Japanese crypto-traders and HODLers.

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