Palestinian Civilians Are Using Bitcoin More Than Terrorists

Palestinian Civilians Are Using Bitcoin More Than Terrorists

The Takeaway: Experts say Hamas is now using bitcoin for cross-border fundraising at an unprecedented rate. Still, even the largest estimates of terror financing in the region are apparently dwarfed by civilian bitcoin usage in the Gaza Strip, local experts tell CoinDesk. General awareness in Palestine of bitcoin and ethereum has increased since 2018. Freelance payments and remittances are reportedly the leading use-cases for bitcoin transactions in the Palestinian territories. Terrorists aren’t the only Palestinians using bitcoin. Sources in Gaza told CoinDesk bitcoin is now more popular than ever among civilians, too. “There are some offices that now do $5 million to $6 million a month,” freelance web developer and Gaza-based bitcoiner Ismael Al-Safadi told CoinDesk about local money changers. “I’ve seen an office send 100 BTC in one [transaction]. … There are also a lot of small clients. They send $200 or $1,000.” The $5 million figure dwarves the “tens of thousands of dollars” in illicit transactions reported earlier this week by the New York Times. Last year, CoinDesk reported that one such cryptocurrency dealer served roughly 50 clients a month purchasing or liquidating an average of $500 each. He has since relocated to Europe, having earned enough to emigrate. Yet two sources with knowledge of the matter estimated there are up to 20 bitcoin dealers now operating in Gaza. Since PayPal and other online services exclude the Palestinian territories, this is one of the only ways for freelancers to easily receive international payments. For example, Al-Safadi takes more than 70 percent of his monthly earnings in bitcoin. Based on the social media groups he participates in, Al-Safadi estimates there are around 10,000 occasional bitcoin users in Gaza. Indeed, an anonymous source in Gaza who taught seminars about cryptocurrency to roughly 300 Palestinians since 2017, told CoinDesk just one such Facebook group focused on bitcoin has 5,000 members. The teacher said there is a nascent interest in ethereum applications among Palestinians as well, both at home and abroad. Sameh Sadaqa, a Palestinian in the United Arab Emirates developing an ethereum-based charity platform called Takatuf, told CoinDesk his first pilots will distribute crypto donations to schools in both Gaza and the West Bank. A test experiment began last week. Sadaqa told CoinDesk: “People there [in Palestine] are…

Bitcoin Dominance Is Actually Above 90%, New Research Suggests

Bitcoin Dominance Is Actually Above 90%, New Research Suggests

Bitcoin’s true share of the total market capitalization for all cryptocurrencies could be as high as above 90%, Forbes reported on Aug. 22. While mainstream crypto data aggregators have been pointing to a dominance level of around 70%, analysts at Arcane Research have calculated that the real level may be much higher. Liquidity must be taken into account Arcane Research has argued that to get a more accurate measure of Bitcoin’s dominance, liquidity should be factored into the equation. They write:  “One might be able to sell one token for 3 dollars, but what happens if you want to sell 1 million? Without accounting for liquidity, market capitalization becomes a meaningless measure.” Using trading volume as a simple indicator of liquidity — with the concession that a more sophisticated measure could be constructed for more granular results — Arcane Research has re-calculated the volume-weighted market capitalization of the cryptocurrency market.  Their findings point to a new figure of above 90% for Bitcoin — over 20% higher than other estimates. The researchers conducted two parallel analyses — one based on data from CoinMarketCap and one confined to the 10 cryptocurrency exchanges identified by Bitwise Asset Management as having reliable (i.e. not wash traded or manipulated) volume. Arcane Research notably excluded stablecoins from the equation, arguing that such asset-pegged currencies do not compete with cryptocurrencies that have a self-sustained intrinsic value. Altcoins RIP? Such an eye-popping level of market dominance, the researchers state, make it less and less likely that other cryptocurrencies can compete with Bitcoin as a money. Network effects, they write, are all the more decisive when it comes to money, “where liquidity is everything.” Such robust dominance has implications not only for investors but for those developing payments infrastructure, as well as for projects that rely on the underlying security of a public blockchain. This notwithstanding, the study does include the caveat that: “It is notoriously difficult to compare and contrast different projects targeting different niches. […] For crypto, one could argue that the whole idea of measuring the relative strength of different coins and tokens falsely implies a competition between complementary solutions.” As reported earlier this month, outspoken Bitcoin advcate and former Wall Street trader Max Keiser recently commented on Bitcoin’s surging dominance…

Blockchain Education Initiatives Launch at California Universities

Blockchain Education Initiatives Launch at California Universities

A VC-backed blockchain firm that helped curate courses at Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge is officially rolling out its programs at three California universities. MouseBelt‘s Blockchain Accelerator launched Wednesday at UC Davis, UC Los Angeles and UC Santa Barabara, boosting the educational presence at the noted U.S. schools. Backed by over $40 million in funding from New Value Capital, MouseBelt currently aids 65 student blockchain community groups at 14 universities worldwide. The accelerator joins MouseBelt’s advisory team and media groups Bitcoin Radio and MouseBelt University. Bundled into two programs, MouseBelt will sponsor undergraduate to PhD level programs. The first fund will cover research across all three campuses, specifically for blockchain project development. MouseBelt has set aside $500,000 in funding with up to five projects jockeying for $100,000 in seed funding. MouseBelt is also donating to the three universities engineering departments. The accelerator is hoping to co-op the donations for the development of a general fundraiser toward university selected research capped at $500,000. Speaking with CoinDesk, university outreach director Ashlie Meredith said the program is designed to fill a knowledge gap in the university level system. Most universities do not hold blockchain classes, leaving student organizations to fill the void. A little over a year ago, these same student organizations became the basis for MouseBelt’s current initiative. Meredith said: “We aim to help these universities become a driving force for innovation in the blockchain space, as well as provide students and researchers with the opportunity for both theoretical and industry experience.” What’s in it for MouseBelt? Meredith says it’s not only about equity holds in successful projects, but a long term play on student development. Blockchain courses in demand UC Davis Dr Mo Shadoghi, who has been working with MouseBelt for the past year in various functions, says student demand for blockchain coursework is high. Shadoghi told CoinDesk his engineering blockchain classes max out at 65 students, forcing him to add a waitlist and cut students. “What would it look like if a computation is democratic and decentralized?” Shadoghi asked in a conversation with CoinDesk. To him, blockchain technology is a paradigm shift in data storage and one requiring youthful creativity. Running his own separate program at UC Davis, Shadoghi says undergraduates are currently forgotten in the space.…

Bitcoin Price Struggling at $10K as Analysts Warn of 2018-Style Dump

Bitcoin Price Struggling at $10K as Analysts Warn of 2018-Style Dump

Bitcoin (BTC) price was testing support at $10,000 Aug. 22 as the largest cryptocurrency fluctuated between four and five figures. Market visualization. Source: Coin360 Difficulty must touch floor before Bitcoin price moons Data from Coin360 showed BTC/USD crossing the $10,000 mark multiple times over the past 24 hours.  Currently, the pair is hovering around the $10K mark, having traded in a corridor between $9,800 and $10,250 overnight.  Attempting to decide whether $10,000 will now form support or resistance, the latest moves follow on from a bearish trend, which saw BTC/USD drop to current levels from closer to $11,000. Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360 Rejecting that barrier, the mood turned jittery among traders. As Cointelegraph reported, regular commentator Josh Rager had eyed a daily close above $10,200 as being necessary to preserve upside chances, something which Bitcoin ultimately failed to achieve. Another popular social media-based analyst, The Crypto Panda, was more pessimistic still, warning on Wednesday Bitcoin faced a breakdown similar to November 2018. At that time, a sudden shift saw BTC/USD hit its local lows of just $3,100.  “After each ATH #bitcoin price drops until a lot of miners aren’t profitable. Miners switch off hardware (capitulate), hashrate drops, and difficulty adjusts downwards until miners become profitable again and difficulty rises,” the well-known PlanB added. He noted mining difficulty ⁠— an indicator estimating the amount of computing power required to validate Bitcoin transactions ⁠— must bottom out before price highs appear. That pattern was evident following last year’s price drop. “Difficulty bottom (100%) starts a new bull market,” he concluded. In an indication of the behavior still impacting Bitcoin markets, weekly gains remain at almost 5% for traders, while monthly losses conversely circle around 1%. Three-month performance nonetheless remains extremely strong at 30% gains.  Altcoins seize rare chance to consolidate Thursday marked an interesting day on altcoin markets, becoming one of the few days on which the majority of tokens were less volatile than Bitcoin. In the current market retraction, that meant many traders were spared the losses affecting Bitcoin. Ether (ETH), the largest altcoin by market cap, dropped 1% compared to Bitcoin’s 1.7%. Ether 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360 Others, such as XRP and Litecoin (LTC), also fared better, while Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and…

Cryptocurrencies Used to Buy Illicit Drugs, Says White House

Cryptocurrencies Used to Buy Illicit Drugs, Says White House

On Aug. 21, the White House issued two advisories regarding illicit drug purchases in the United States that contain references to the specific cryptocurrencies allegedly used as a part of this process. The advisories were addressed to various financial institutions as well as digital payments platforms. The documents state: “An analysis of sensitive financial data indicates that domestic illicit drug manufacturers, dealers, and consumers use online payment platforms or CVC to purchase precursor chemicals or completely synthesized narcotics primarily sourced from China.” White House: crypto used to pay for foreign drugs In the context of the documents CVC refers to “convertible virtual currencies,” particularly Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH) and Monero (XMR). The drug fentanyl is also noted specifically in the advisories: “Similar to purchases from a foreign source of supply using MSBs or online payment processors, individuals located in the United States search for fentanyl and identify potential websites that may provide the opportunity to purchase illicit drugs online. Foreign representatives will instruct the U.S.-based individual to send payments through CVC, such as bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, or monero.” Financial institutions are advised to collect crypto data The advisories also note that “CVC transactions generate a significant variety of information elements that may be extremely useful to law enforcement.”  Therefore, financial institutions are recommended to collect these details in case of any suspicion, including “virtual currency wallet addresses, account information, transaction details (including […] hash), relevant transaction history, available login information (including IP addresses), information obtained from analysis of the customer’s public online profile and communications, mobile device information,” etc. As Cointelegraph reported last month, U.S. Department of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said that the authority will be preventing Bitcoin from becoming an “equivalent of Swiss-numbered bank accounts.” Previously, Mnuchin also stated that he shares President Donald Trump’s concerns on the use of cryptocurrency to finance illicit activity.

‘Power to the People’: Privacy Was the Rallying Cry of Berlin’s Web3 Summit

‘Power to the People’: Privacy Was the Rallying Cry of Berlin’s Web3 Summit

It may seem trivial in some cases, but digital anonymity is no joking matter to American whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden. “We need someone to be able to post something truly idiotic on the internet and not have it haunt them for the rest of their lives,” he said through a webcam to a crowd of roughly 1,000 at the Web3 Summit in Berlin. “To be able to engage in private trade is one of the basic human freedoms,” Snowden said during his Tuesday keynote. “On the internet today you can’t do that without incredible technological familiarity.” While statements pushing for greater data privacy through encryption were by no means new for the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor, Snowden’s words resonated deeply with the audience, which was comprised mostly of blockchain developers. And, if the products being demoed in Berlin were any indication, those developers had already heeded the call. Echoing the need for enhanced privacy measures atop existing blockchains, Harry Halpin, CEO of privacy startup Nym Technologies, said during his Web3 address: “We want you [the user] to think very seriously about privacy. [Nym] tries to make it technically impossible, and not just legally difficult, to break privacy.” Also championing the cause of data privacy was cryptocurrency pioneer David Chaum, who unveiled a new cryptocurrency called Praxxis on Tuesday to support his private messaging platform, Elixxir. “The world … needs the Elixxir communication technology,” Chaum said in a statement released Tuesday. “It is the only known practical way to shred the metadata that is inevitably created as we live our digital lives.” The origins of Web3 Privacy is core part of the Web3 movement, said Gavin Wood. The ethereum co-founder, Polkdaot creator and initial coiner of the term “Web3,” took the stage touting the “social vision” of a decentralized internet. “Let’s empower the individual against much more powerful corporate and state actors, particularly the ones that tend to misuse their powers or start to erode our expectations,” he said Wood added that the still-aspirational decentralized internet was originally going to be called “The Post-Snowden Web,” as outlined in this Wood blog post from 2014. In this way, Snowden’s debut at Web3 Summit was a full-circle moment: one that reaffirmed data privacy as being on the…

White House Advisory Says Cryptocurrencies Used for Fentanyl Purchases

White House Advisory Says Cryptocurrencies Used for Fentanyl Purchases

The White House issued two advisories on drug purchases in the U.S. Wednesday, using the communications to make specific references to the role of cryptocurrencies in such transactions. The advisories, addressed to both financial institutions and digital payment platforms, state that “convertible virtual currencies,” particularly bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum and monero, can be and have been used for illicit substance purchases on the clear, deep, and dark nets. The advisory defines convertible virtual currencies as monies that are easily liquidated into stable fiat currencies such as the dollar. Specifically noted is the drug fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance whose illicit cousin enters the U.S. through Mexico or China, per the advisories. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. “An analysis of sensitive financial data indicates that domestic illicit drug manufacturers, dealers, and consumers use online payment platforms or [convertible virtual currency] to purchase precursor chemicals or completely synthesized narcotics primarily sourced from China,” the advisory states. The White House issued the financial advisory with other government agencies as a part of a broader cooperative effort “to end the fentanyl epidemic.” As such, methods of payment were studied, including virtual currencies. The July 2017 takedown of dark market AlphaBay by U.S. officials is given as an example of past interaction between virtual currencies and illicit substances. Included in the report is authority methods of tracking and discovery payments for illicit substances using CVC’s such as wallet and IP addresses along with transaction hashes. Earlier today, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted three Chinese nationals for money laundering and drug smuggling laws. Drugs image via CoinDesk archives

White House Advisory Says Virtual Currencies Used for Fentanyl Purchases

White House Advisory Says Virtual Currencies Used for Fentanyl Purchases

The White House issued two advisories on drug purchases in the United States today with specific references to cryptocurrencies. The advisories, addressed to both financial institutions and digital payment platforms, state that “convertible virtual currencies” (CVC), particularly bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, and monero, can be and have been used for illicit substance purchases on the clear, deep, and dark nets. The advisory defines CVC’s as virtual currencies easily liquidated into stable fiat currencies such as the dollar. Specifically noted is the drug fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance whose illicit cousin enters the United States through Mexico or China, per the advisories. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. “An analysis of sensitive financial data indicates that domestic illicit drug manufacturers, dealers, and consumers use online payment platforms or CVC to purchase precursor chemicals or completely synthesized narcotics primarily sourced from China,” the advisory states. The White House issued the financial advisory with other government agencies as a part of a broader cooperative effort “to end the fentanyl epidemic.” As such, methods of payment were studied, including virtual currencies. The July 2017 takedown of dark market AlphaBay by U.S. officials is given as an example of past interaction between virtual currencies and illicit substances. Included in the report is authority methods of tracking and discovery payments for illicit substances using CVC’s such as wallet and IP addresses along with transaction hashes. Earlier today, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted three Chinese nationals for money laundering and drug smuggling laws. Drugs image via CoinDesk archives

Casa Releases Node Monitor Service to Improve Bitcoin Network Health

Casa Releases Node Monitor Service to Improve Bitcoin Network Health

Casa, a crypto firm that provides a private key management service and Bitcoin node machine, has unveiled a node monitor and accompanying rewards program to promote Bitcoin network health. Casa announced the new projects in an official blog post on Aug. 21. Per the announcement, the node monitor — called Node Heartbeats — relies on establishing a brief connection between Casa’s server and an online, synced and Tor-activated node owned by a customer. The rewards program lets Casa node users earn 10,000 SatsBack per week in exchange for performing 5 Node Heartbeat checks per week, on different days.  SatsBack can reportedly be exchanged for Bitcoin (BTC) once a day on Casa’s Keymaster app, provided that a user has accumulated a minimum of 50,000 SatsBack points. Per the report, Casa believes that it is difficult for users to stay up to date on their nodes’ uptime and security. By providing an incentives program to increase node health, the company reportedly hopes to improve the overall health of the Bitcoin network. Charlie Lee is a Casa investor Litecoin (LTC) founder Charlie Lee announced just three days ago that he has invested in Casa. Lee praised Casa for driving BTC adoption, commenting: “I have the same feeling about Casa today as I had about Coinbase when I joined in 2013 as the 3rd hire. Casa is making Bitcoin easy to use and that is extremely important for this space. Looking forward to great things!” Lightning Labs launches a node monitor As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Lightning Labs, the developer of the high-speed transaction protocol Lightning Network, recently launched an alpha version of a node monitor. The new tool, called Indmon, purportedly allows node operators to monitor node usage in real time. Network issues this year reportedly motivated the developers to create a tool for preemptively spotting node and network issues.

US Treasury Targets Crypto Addresses of Alleged Narcotics Traffickers

US Treasury Targets Crypto Addresses of Alleged Narcotics Traffickers

The United States Department of the Treasury has added multiple cryptocurrency addresses to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, also known as the Kingpin Act. These addresses, and the individuals associated with them, have been deemed to be associated with foreign narcotics operators. The Treasury updated its SDN list on Aug. 21. The three alleged narcotic operators associated with these addresses are Chinese citizens Xiaobing Yan, Fujing Zheng and Guanghua Zheng. The three individuals all have associated Bitcoin (BTC) addresses mentioned on the SDN list, and Guanghua Zheng additionally has a Litecoin (LTC) address. As explained in a White House news release from 2015, the Kingpin Act exists to ban trading and transactions between narcotics traffickers and U.S entities — namely companies and individuals. Under the act, government branches coordinate to investigate foreign narcotics traffickers. They are then named in a list that is brought before the President, who subsequently determines whether it is appropriate to impose U.S. sanctions. Mnuchin: Bitcoin is vulnerable to money laundering As previously reported by Cointelegraph, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin believes that Bitcoin is vulnerable to money laundering. Mnuchin said that he intends to closely monitor Bitcoin and believes that billions of dollars in cryptocurrency are used for illicit purposes.  Mnuchin has also claimed Bitcoin is used for money laundering much more effectively than the U.S. dollar. According to Mnuchin, the government combats “bad actors in the U.S. dollar every day to protect the U.S. financial system.”