US Justice Dept. Convicts Two Romanians of Cybercrimes Including Cryptojacking

US Justice Dept. Convicts Two Romanians of Cybercrimes Including Cryptojacking

                                 

A federal jury has convicted two Romanian alleged cybercriminals

of spreading malware to steal credit card credentials and illicitly mine cryptocurrency, an announcement from the official website of the United States Department of Justice revealed on April 11. The malware allegedly spread by the suspects was reportedly used for cryptojacking and to steal credit card and other data that the suspects would have sold on darknet markets and used to engage in online auction fraud. As the Justice Department press release reports, Bogdan Nicolescu, 36, and Radu Miclaus, 37, were convicted after a 12-day trial. The two individuals were charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit service marks, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts each of wire fraud.

The two are scheduled to be sentenced on August 14 this year in the Northern District of Ohio. The activity was allegedly conducted as a “criminal conspiracy” from Bucharest, Romania, by the aforementioned suspects and another person who pleaded guilty. The malware itself was reportedly developed in 2007 and then spread via emails posing as legitimate communications from entities like Western Union, Norton AntiVirus and the Internal Revenue Service.

As the press release explains, the recipients that clicked on the attached file in such an email had malware installed on their devices. The malware also harvested email addresses from the contact lists of the victims. The infected computers also reportedly registered over 100,000 AOL email accounts that were used to spread the malware further with millions of emails sent to the stolen addresses.

The virus also purportedly redirected traffic to major websites such as Facebook, PayPal, eBay to a near identical version meant for phishing to obtain access credentials. The stolen credentials were reportedly used to rent server space, register domain names and pay for anonymization services. Lastly, the report also specifies that the case was jointly investigated by the U.S. Federal Investigation Bureau and the Romanian National Police.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier this week, Bitcoin (BTC) wallet service Electrum is facing an ongoing Denial-of-Service attack on its servers and users have reportedly lost millions of dollars. In a report from last month by AT&T Cybersecurity, it was revealed that cryptocurrency mining is one of the most observed objectives of hackers attacking businesses’ cloud infrastructures. At the end of March, news broke that a new strain of Trojan malware for Android phones is targeting global users of top crypto apps such as Coinbase, BitPay and Bitcoin Wallet, as well as banks including JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.

Article Produced By
Adrian Zmudzinski

Adrian is a newswriter based out of Pisa, Italy. He's passionate about cryptocurrency, digital rights, IT, tech and futurology and likes to think about the future in a positive way.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/us-justice-dept-convicts-two-romanians-of-cybercrimes-including-cryptojacking

Goldman Sachs CEO Refutes Bank Ever Had Plans to Open Crypto Trading Desk

Goldman Sachs CEO Refutes Bank Ever Had Plans to Open Crypto Trading Desk

                                  

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has categorically refuted

that the bank ever had any plans to open a crypto trading desk and stated that earlier media reports suggesting otherwise were incorrect.  Solomon made his remarks before the United States House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on April 10, during a hearing entitled “Holding Megabanks Accountable: A Review of Global Systemically Important Banks 10 years after the Financial Crisis.”

As previously reported, Goldman Sachs’ alleged plans to create a crypto-focused unit by the end of June 2018 were originally covered in a December 2017 report from Bloomberg. In September 2018, unnamed sources told Business Insider that the project had been put on hold. Several days later, the firm’s chief financial officer, Martin Chavez, told reporters that the recent reports were “fake news.” In his remarks, Solomon said that Goldman Sachs has engaged with clients that are involved in clearing physically-settled crypto futures, but that alleged trading desk plans

were false:

“The first [Bloomberg article] wasn’t correct. Like others, we are watching and […] doing work to try to understand the cryptocurrency market as it develops […] but we never had plans to open a cryptocurrency trading desk.”

Notably, the CEO did not rule out such a move from the bank in the future,

stating that:

“We might at some point in time, but there’s no question, when you’re dealing with cryptocurrency, it’s a new area […] it is unclear from a regulatory perspective, it’s unclear whether […] in the long run, as a currency, those technologies are going to work and be viable.”

Ohio Republican Congressman Warren Davidson, who was questioning Solomon over the media reports, himself voiced his belief that the U.S. is lagging behind other countries and failing to “take advantage of this thriving sector [crypto]” due to regulatory uncertainty. As Cointelegraph previously reported, other CEOs in attendance at the hearing included JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who affirmed the value of blockchain technology but reiterated his belief that decentralized cryptocurrencies do not have any intrinsic value. A bipartisan bill to exclude cryptocurrencies from being classified as securities and foster more regulatory clarity for crypto — first proposed by Rep. Davidson and Democratic Congressman Darren Soto in December 2018 — was reintroduced in a revised form to Congress this week.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/goldman-sachs-ceo-refutes-bank-ever-had-plans-to-open-crypto-trading-desk

Coordinator for Largest Group of Mt. Gox Creditors Leaves Post, Sells His Claim

Coordinator for Largest Group of Mt. Gox Creditors Leaves Post, Sells His Claim

                                 

Andy Pag, the founder and coordinator of Mt. Gox Legal (MGL)

— the largest group of creditors of the now-defunct Bitcoin (BTC) exchange Mt. Gox — has quit his post and decided to sell his claim. Pag announced his decision in a letter posted to the MGL contributor forum on April 4. Mt. Gox Legal —  a cooperative of over 1,000 creditors with claims reportedly totaling more than an estimated 125,000BTC (~$649 million at press time) — was formed to seek coordinated legal action to support Mt. Gox’s transition from bankruptcy proceedings to civil rehabilitation (CR).

This transition, which formally took effect in June 2018, should ensure that creditors are reimbursed in crypto, rather than in fiat currency equivalent to the value of their BTC holdings at the time of the exchange’s collapse. As previously reported, Mt. Gox was notoriously hacked in 2011, with around 24,000 creditors reported to be affected. The subsequent collapse of the exchange in early 2014 led to loss of a reported 850,000 BTC, valued at roughly $460 million at the time (~$4.2 billion at press time). Pag, who will leave his role as MGL coordinator at the end of April, also revealed his decision to sell his claim for an instant payout from a buyer offering $600 p/BTC, with a ~33% return in a year. While offering to put fellow MGL creditors in touch with the buyer, he emphasized it was a highly personal decision.

In his letter of resignation to MGL members, Pag cited his belief that reimbursement is likely to take a further 18-24 months or longer, despite recent indications from Mt. Gox’s CR trustee Nobuaki Kobayashi that decisions over creditors’ claims had been concluded in March. Pag gave several major reasons for this belief, foremost that prospective reimbursement and distribution of assets is likely to stall for a significant period of time as Japan’s judiciary assesses an outstanding $16 billion claim from CoinLab, which was allegedly filed in February.

As Cointelegraph has previously reported, in 2013, CoinLab — a former business partner of the exchange —  originally sued Mt. Gox with a bankruptcy claim of $75 million, claiming breach of contract. The figure has since risen to $16 billion amid the civil rehabilitation proceedings. In his letter, Pag said that his recent meeting with Kobayashi confirmed his fears that the trustee would delay filing a civil rehabilitation plan “until the Coinlab case is settled, and that means not just assessment, but through however many rounds of litigation they take it to.”

Pag further gave reasons for his distrust of Mt. Gox ex-CEO Mark Karpeles’ conduct in the CR proceedings, which he “suspects will be the source of more costs and delays.” As reported, a Japanese court recently served Mark Karpeles a suspended jail sentence after he was found guilty of tampering with financial records. He was, however, acquitted of embezzlement. A  separate so-dubbed “GoxRising” movement, is being spearheaded by controversial crypto figure Brock Pierce, who has claimed he can reboot the trading platform and accelerate compensation for creditors.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/coordinator-for-largest-group-of-mt-gox-creditors-leaves-post-sells-his-claim

Lithuanian Finance Ministry to Introduce Legal Amendments for Crypto-Related Firms

Lithuanian Finance Ministry to Introduce Legal Amendments for Crypto-Related Firms

             

The Republic of Lithuania’s Ministry of Finance plans

to release legal amendments for operating crypto-related businesses in the country, Riga-based newspaper The Baltic Times reports on April 8. According to the report, the Lithuanian finance ministry wants to bring more legal certainty to the operation of companies relating to cryptocurrency exchanges, crypto wallet operators, as well as initial coin offerings (ICOs).

By enforcing legal requirements in the industry, the authority reportedly seeks to ensure an efficient policy against money laundering and terrorism financing, as well as to guarantee a due level of consumer protection, the articles writes. The new amendments propose that crypto-related companies will have to be registered with the Center of Registers in order to operate as legal entities. The companies will also have to execute the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, as well as to strictly observe Know Your Customer (KYC) laws including reporting high volume financial transactions to the Financial Crime Investigation Service (FCIS).

As The Baltic Times reports, operators are set to be required to identify users and check their identity prior to providing services if the operation value exceeds 1,000 euros ($1,120). Sigitas Mitkus, director of the finance ministry's financial market policy department, said that introducing limits for financial operations will be a new practice under the European Union directive. According to Mitkus, Lithuania might become the first country in the world to implement recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and apply requirements not only in terms of crypto-to-fiat conversion, but also in terms of internal crypto trading, the report notes.

Earlier this year, the Bank of Lithuania released an updated document on its official stance to cryptocurrencies and ICOs, claiming that financial market participants are still authorized to receive payments only in traditional fiat currencies, and prohibited to get paid in crypto. In early March, the FATF published preliminary guidelines for cryptocurrencies, urging countries to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing, as well as to introduce crypto-related licensing and setting up KYC processes.

Article Produced By
Helen Partz

Helen is passionate about learning languages, cultures and the Internet. She has years of experience working at international online advertising projects. Growing interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in late 2017, she joined Cointelegraph as a writer.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/lithuanian-finance-ministry-to-introduce-legal-amendments-for-crypto-related-firms

Hong Kong: Illicit Crypto Mining Operations Are Punishable by Fine or Imprisonment

Hong Kong: Illicit Crypto Mining Operations Are Punishable by Fine or Imprisonment

            

The secretary of Hong Kong’s Financial Services and the Treasury

has stated that crypto mining operations are regulated by local trading law. His written response to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council was published on Wednesday, April 3. The Council has solicited information about the risks and fraudulent activities related to cryptocurrencies and underlying activity, such as mining. Moreover, the officials are interested whether mining is regulated under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO) — a bill passed in 2012 that prescribes penalties for unfair trading practices in Hong Kong.

Secretary James Lau has responded that the sale of mining equipment and any other products related to virtual assets falls under the TDO. The unfair practices he mentions in this regard include false trade descriptions, misleading omissions, aggressive commercial practices and wrongly accepting payment, among others. According to Lau, illicit mining activity can thus be subject to a $500,000 fine or five years in prison.

The secretary also mentions a particular fraud case, when Hong Kong police arrested three persons that allegedly lured 20 victims into investing over HK$3.7 million (around $471,400) in crypto-related equipment and services. As Cointelegraph previously reported, a similar amount of funds — HK$3 million ($383,000) — was mentioned in a criminal case involving a purported Bitcoin millionaire (BTC) Wong Ching-kit. The 25-year-old businessman and his 20-year-old-colleague were arrested at their office in Hong Kong for conspiracy to defraud 20 investors by selling them mining machines.

Wong Ching-kit is wide known for a publicity stunt in Hong Kong’s relatively poor district Sham Shui Po in December 2018. The entrepreneur appeared in a video posted on his firm Epoch’s Facebook page, asking whether anyone believed that money could fall from the sky. Immediately after his question, stacks of bank notes reportedly amounting to HK$6,000 ($764) were thrown from a nearby rooftop. Following an incident, Wong was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct in public, but later released on bail.

Article Produced By
Ana Berman

Moved by her interest to discover the world of decentralized technologies, Ana joined Cointelegraph in June 2018. Shortly after joining the team as a news writer, she focused on the major crypto stories from Latin America

https://cointelegraph.com/news/hong-kong-illicit-crypto-mining-operations-are-punishable-by-fine-or-imprisonment

Coinbase CEO Names Three Things Crypto Needs for Mass Adoption

Coinbase CEO Names Three Things Crypto Needs for Mass Adoption

           

Brian Armstrong, CEO of major United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase,

believes that crypto mass adoption mostly depends on volatility, scalability and usability. Armstrong made his claim during a live ask-me-anything (AMA) session on April 2. Armstrong ran the 45-minute AMA on Tuesday, answering selected questions submitted by the crypto community. Addressing the first question, on the potential for mass crypto adoption, Coinbase’s CEO said that a cryptocurrency can achieve mass adoption by improving scalability and usability, while reducing volatility. As per volatility, if the crypto markets keep swinging dramatically, it will be hard to get more traditional investors involved, Armstrong said. Thus the industry needs more stable prices, achieved, for example, via stablecoins, and more use cases to attract people, he concluded.

Armstrong further added that there are currently up to ten teams working on scalability solutions, such as the Lightning Network, to improve the speed of crypto transactions. Thanks to the development of these solutions, cryptocurrencies might reach 500 to 5000 transactions per second and start working at Visa and PayPal volumes. Usability also needs to be improved, Armstrong continued. He argued that currently there are too many steps a user needs to make in order to invest in cryptocurrencies. Armstrong suggested crypto investment for retail investors should work much easily, using popular Chinese app WeChat as an example of usability.

Armstrong also commented on recent skepticism towards Coinbase in the community, evidently referring to the most recent #DeleteCoinbase movement as an example. The campaign was launched in early March as a response to Coinbase’s acquisition of a firm run by former spyware developers. Answering another question, the entrepreneur said he loves Bitcoin (BTC) and wants it to succeed. However, he regrets being too involved in promoting BTC at some point in 2013-2014, thinking that the coin could become a scalable payment network for everyone. “I totally underestimated how controversial this idea might become in BTC community,” he confessed.

As some accused him of adding the value to the coin, Armstrong finally changed his mind to being agnostic to all of the coins and crypto protocols and support them all. Coinbase decided to support everyone instead of picking the winners, he said. As Cointelegraph previously reported, Armstrong has repeatedly acknowledged his affection towards BTC. For instance, in a series of tweets commemorating on the coin’s 10th birthday this year, Armstrong wrote that BTC was his “first love.”

Article Produced By
Ana Berman

Moved by her interest to discover the world of decentralized technologies, Ana joined Cointelegraph in June 2018. Shortly after joining the team as a news writer, she focused on the major crypto stories from Latin America

https://cointelegraph.com/news/coinbase-ceo-names-three-things-crypto-needs-for-mass-adoption

Coinbase Makes LinkedIn’s ‘Top Companies 2019′ List as Lone Crypto Firm

Coinbase Makes LinkedIn’s ‘Top Companies 2019’ List as Lone Crypto Firm

           

United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase

has become the only cryptocurrency business to make it into LinkedIn’s list of the most popular companies for 2019, results confirmed on April 3. The yearly rundown, which ranks company popularity among employees, placed Coinbase at 35 out of a total of 50 shortlisted.

LinkedIn ranks contenders according to interest in the company, employee engagement by executives, demand for available jobs and employee retention rate. Different lists are issued for different countries, with Coinbase correspondingly appearing in the U.S. edition. The exchange has previously made it onto LinkedIn lists, such as in September last year, when it appeared in a rundown of the top 50 startups to work for, alongside payment network Ripple and fellow trading platform Gemini, the product of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. The latest data contains some surprises — Coinbase beat out famously crypto-skeptical JPMorgan Chase, which only attained 44th position.

Twitter and Intel also failed to top Coinbase. The former has recently shown an increasingly pro-crypto stance and the latter has engaged in mining hardware activities as of last year. For its part, JPMorgan CHas has also begun experimenting with cryptocurrency technology, Cointelegraph reporting last month on the unexpected release of its controversial in-house token, JPM Coin. Earlier this week, Coinbase revealed it had insurance against its hot wallet cryptocurrency holdings valued at $225 million. The company also recently launched its latest service, focused on staking for institutional investors, via its Coinbase Custody spin-off.

Article Produced By
William Suberg

William Suberg got into Bitcoin while completing his Masters degree and hasn't looked back since, writing about anything crypto-related which makes him sit up and pay attention. He started working with Cointelegraph in October 2013.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/coinbase-makes-linkedins-top-companies-2019-list-as-lone-crypto-firm

 

Montana County Adopts Regulation Requiring Crypto Miners to Use Renewable Energy

Montana County Adopts Regulation Requiring Crypto Miners to Use Renewable Energy

            

The United States county of Missoula, in the state of Montana,

has adopted regulation for cryptocurrency mining, local media outlet the Missoulian reports on April 5. Per the report, the Missoula County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to impose new rules for local cryptocurrency mining operations. As Cointelegraph reported last month, when the regulation was first proposed, the draft of the rules stated that they aim “to protect the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare of county residents.” The focus of the new law is seemingly on the possible effects of cryptocurrency mining on global warming and electronic waste. Also, from now on, crypto miners in the county will be able to establish their operations only in light industrial and heavy industrial districts and only after they have been reviewed and approved as a conditional use.

Miners will also need to provide certification that all electronic waste generated will be handled by a Department of Environmental Quality-licensed recycling firm. Another new rule established in the county requires miners to use exclusively renewable energy. Lastly, preexisting mining operations that aren’t compliant will be allowed to continue but won’t be authorized for expansion if they don’t conform with the new regulations. The draft specified that the rules will be effective as of April 4, 2019 and until April 3, 2020.

The Missoulian notes that the county’s staff claim mining company Hyperblock currently uses as much electricity as one-third of all homes in the county and plans to triple its power usage. Hyperblock reportedly purchases hydroelectric power to fuel its endeavors, but the commissioners reportedly argued that it displaces other potential renewable energy buyers. County commissioner Dave Strohmaier purportedly

commented:

“Near as I can tell cryptocurrency is using exponentially more energy; it’s a grotesque amount of energy and we’ve got to take steps to address it. […] We’ve got to utilize new renewables if we’re going to address climate change.”

Hyperblock manager Dan Stivers defends the company by stating that it has always used only renewable energy and that it could have used electricity obtained by burning coal since it was cheaper. Stivers also claims that Hyperblock uses a licensed recycler to deal with its electronic waste,

adding:

“Somehow none of that’s enough. It is a viable business model and if we had not moved in as anchor tenants, there would be no Bonner mill as we see it today.”

According to the Missoulian, a lawyer for the company hinted that it may file a lawsuit over the regulation in the future. As Cointelegraph reported earlier today, the secretary of Hong Kong’s Financial Services and the Treasury has stated that crypto mining operations are regulated by local trading law.

Article Produced By
Adrian Zmudzinski

Adrian is a newswriter based out of Pisa, Italy. He's passionate about cryptocurrency, digital rights, IT, tech and futurology and likes to think about the future in a positive way.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/montana-county-adopts-regulation-requiring-crypto-miners-to-use-renewable-energy

Princeton Expertise-Backed Startup Raises $3.7 Mln to Develop Smart Contract Scalability

Princeton Expertise-Backed Startup Raises $3.7 Mln to Develop Smart Contract Scalability

         

Offchain Labs, a blockchain startup co-founded by a professor at Princeton University,

has raised $3.7 million in a seed round led by crypto hedge fund Pantera Capital, TechCrunch reports on April 3. The new funding round was also supported by Compound VC, Raphael Ouzan of Blocknation, Jake Seid, managing director at Stone Bridge Ventures and others. With the investment, Offchain aims to solve major problems associated with enterprise blockchain implementations by bringing more scalability and privacy.

By deploying its own protocol, Arbitrum, Offchain developers intend to bring make smart contracts more scalable. Offchain co-founder Ed Felten said that the firm is working on a platform that allows for the scaling of smart contracts in a way that is currently hard to do. Felten, who is both a computer science professor at Princeton and a former deputy CTO to the White House under former President Obama, explained that the platform represents a combination of scalability with a special method of writing data on smart contracts.

He elaborated:

“We’re working to build a platform for smart contract development that provides what we think developers want, a combination of scalability so that you can scale to more transactions per second, more users, and to contracts that have more code and still have more data in them.”

In addition to scalability, Offchain also wants to make smart contracts more private by moving a part of data about the contracts off of a public blockchain. In other recent funding news, blockchain startup Bison Trails received an investment of $5.25 million in a seed round backed by Mike Novogratz’s crypto merchant bank Galaxy Digital. Earlier in February, Zurich-based blockchain startup B3i Service AG raised $16 million to develop a blockchain trading platform for a value-added chain of the entire insurance industry.

Article Produced By
Helen Partz

Helen is passionate about learning languages, cultures and the Internet. She has years of experience working at international online advertising projects. Growing interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in late 2017, she joined Cointelegraph as a writer.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/princeton-expertise-backed-startup-raises-37-mln-to-develop-smart-contract-scalability

Nimiq Acquires 9.9% Stake in Germany’s WEG AG to Become Bank’s Third Crypto Firm Owner

Nimiq Acquires 9.9% Stake in Germany's WEG AG to Become Bank's Third Crypto Firm Owner

            

Browser-based blockchain payments system Nimiq has acquired

a 9.9 percent stake in Germany’s WEG Bank AG, according to an official announcement published on April 3. The stake acquisition comes as part of Nimiq’s new strategic partnership with WEG Bank AG and Swiss-Maltese decentralized cryptocurrency exchange (DEX) Agora.Trade. The three partners are working to create a crypto-to-fiat bridge that would allow for the seamless exchange of value between crypto and traditional banking systems, the announcement states. As today’s post notes, their approach — using a decentralized exchange such as Agora.Trade as a vital component — focuses on crypto-fiat value transfers that do not rely on a single, centralized intermediary (such as a centralized crypto exchange or payment processor), and eliminate the need to entrust crypto asset owners’ private keys to a third party.

The evolving project, dubbed Nimiq Oasis, will aim to connect different cryptocurrency markets via the non-custodial exchange Agora.Trade to WEG’s system, which notably has access to the Europe-wide SEPA Instant Banking Network. SEPA support could prospectively enable the project to roll out its crypto-fiat services with access to a network of over 2,000 banks across 20 European countries, Nimiq notes, proposing a targeted rollout time of before the end of 2019. The partners’ aim to enable the exchange of value between the crypto and fiat systems includes a focus on making fiat deposits at WEG blockchain compatible. While today’s announcement only alludes to this in principle, an earlier post from Nimiq clarified that the project

aims to:

“Establish the Euro itself as the programmable counterparty to a non-custodial cross-chain transaction. In simple terms, it means that in a transaction to buy or sell Crypto, the counterparty could now be a Euro account holder.”

Notably, both the Litecoin (LTC) Foundation and crypto-fiat payments firm TokenPay each own a 9.9 percent stake in WEG AG Bank — a fact that Nimiq today notes could open up the possibility of further collaborations between the bank and the crypto firms. All three stakeholders’ shares are capped at 9.9 percent, as under German banking law, no entity can own more than 9.9% of a bank without additional regulatory approval. Securing fiat liquidity for non-custodial, decentralized exchanges has to date been slower than for their centralized counterparts. Major American centralized crypto exchange Coinbase has gone a step further by pursuing its own federal banking charter since spring of last year.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/nimiq-acquires-99-stake-in-germanys-weg-ag-to-become-banks-third-crypto-firm-owner