Leaked Document Suggests Huobi Collusion with EOS Block Producers

A leaked spreadsheet by an employee of Huobi, one of the biggest crypto-exchanges in the world, appears to suggest collusion between the exchange and other block producers for mutual benefit.

Details of the Leak
In what could possibly dent the trust of investors in the EOS coin, a leak by one Shi Feifei, a Huobi employee, has exposed the weakness in the blockchain which apparently is being exploited by the exchange in connivance with some other block producers (BP).
The leaked spreadsheet spells out the details of how Huobi and some block producers of the EOS blockchain indulge in mutual voting and sharing of proceeds from producing blocks in EOS. The document reveals that Huobi votes for 20 BPs and 16 of them vote for Huobi in return.
According to the document, the exchange was previously voting for seven standby BPs which have no public nodes, website, ownership information, or node interaction. Huobi, as is evident from the exposé, appears to have entered into some kind of arrangement with the BPs in question for sharing the proceeds from the block rewards.
Huobi allegedly earns 1,116 EOS per day from these arrangements, which currently are worth about $6,000. This is in addition to what the exchange makes by producing blocks itself.
An EOS investor going by the Twitter handle @MapleLeafCap on Twitter expressed his feelings of disgust and shared the spreadsheet snapshots in a series of tweets published last week.

A Flaw in EOS Design
This incident has exposed a design flaw in the blockchain which has only 21 nodes acting as validators. Apparently, about 10 addresses on the EOS network hold almost 50% of all tokens, making the blockchain very centralized.
Huobi and Bitfinex are voting with EOS tokens deposited by customers in their exchange, giving a lot of control to these platforms. In other blockchains, exchanges have no say in protocol rules and do not participate in validation. This apparent deficiency makes the network highly centralized with the ownership being highly concentrated among few nodes only.
It appears that this weakness in design is very similar to the one that existed in Bitshares, the earlier project of EOS founder Dan Larimer. EOS had raised $4 Billion through an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) sale that ran for a full year.
This incident is sure to raise questions about the long-term feasibility of EOS as a legitimate decentralized blockchain that can be trusted. It also exposes the questionable integrity of some exchanges which seem to go to any extent for financial gains.
Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin who has been critical of the network’s over-reliance on trust tweeted:
Interesting! I mean, it was completely predictable, and I did predict it, but I did not expect it to happen so thoroughly and so soon!
What this expose has brought forth is a scary situation especially for the investors of EOS who placed a lot of trust on the project and the team behind it. EOS needs to take some prompt actions to address the flaws in its design if it intends to retain the trust placed by the holders of the hyped cryptocurrency.
Do you think that EOS has been an over-hyped project being dubbed by some as an Ethereum killer? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ethereum (ETH) and Ripple (XRP) Jockey for 2nd Place – Less than 3% Market Cap Difference

In what is turning out to be a closely fought battle, Ripple’s XRP is once again within spitting distance of dislodging Ethereum from its position as the number two cryptocurrency by market cap, having briefly achieved the feat last week and again earlier today.

 Fight for 2nd Place
Bitcoin is the undisputed king of cryptocurrencies with its dominance fluctuating between 32% to 55% over the last year and a half. Ethereum has enjoyed a happy and secure second place spot.  Last year, as Ethereum quickly gathered momentum, people started talking about the possibility of a “flippening,” with Ethereum replacing bitcoin in the long term.
What not even the expert investors and traders had expected was the flippening that took place last week after the sudden surge in Ripple’s price. While XRP was in second place for only a brief period of time before dropping back into third place, it has since been narrowing the gap.
According to popular market aggregator CoinMarketCap, at press time the difference between the market caps of the two cryptocurrencies was less than 3%. At the time of writing Ethereum’s market cap stands at $23.87 billion with XRP following close behind at $23.31.

Reasons for the Drop in Ethereum’s Price
Since August 1, 2018, Ethereum has seen its value decline by more than 44% – more than any other Top 10 cryptocurrency on CoinMarketCap. So what led to such a drastic price drop?
Ethereum, a second generation blockchain, saw good price action last year due to an increased demand, being used as a medium to purchase tokens in ICO sales. A slowdown in the market this year has been a dampener, and the need of the token has dropped.
In addition, projects which were holding ETH collected from their ICO sales, saw their overall market cap plunging and value of the token dropping far below their launch price. Panic set in and projects started dumping their ETH holdings on exchanges, fearing further decline.
What Caused Ripple’s Bull Run?
In contrast, XRP has actually increased in price by more than 30% since August 1, no doubt due in large part to the spate of positive developments over the last few weeks. After announcing the launch of its xRapid solution, the market cap jumped from $ 10.9 billion to more than double in just 3 days.
The addition of some big names like PNC Bank to RippleNet added momentum to the upward price action. The price, after a short breather and consolidation, continues to move upwards. If the momentum continues, XRP will once again climb to the second spot on CoinMarketCap.
Whether Ripple can permanently dislodge Ethereum from its number two place, however, depends on how fast it can onboard more banks to its growing list of customers and the adoption of its recently announced xRapid offering. Ethereum, on the other hand, should accelerate to resolve the scalability issue if it is to maintain its position at number two.
Do you think that XRP can permanently displace ETH from the second place? Let us know in the comments below.

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Bitcoin Fraudsters Misled Investors and Impersonated Regulators, CFTC Alleges

CFTC, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission has charged two defendants with multiple criminal offences for attempting to steal bitcoins from their customers.

Charges Filed for Bitcoin Fraud
The US regulator earlier on Friday charged two defendants with fraudulent solicitation and other crimes. The two defendants have been identified as one using the name Morgan Hunt, purportedly of Arlington, Texas, and the other using the name Kim Hecroft, allegedly of Baltimore, Maryland. Hunt was conducting business under the name Diamonds Trading Investment House (Hunt), and Hecroft as First Options Trading (Hecroft). The charges have been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
It is alleged that the two accused through a fraudulent scheme targeted innocent victims to solicit Bitcoin by luring them to invest in financial products (Like leveraged or margined foreign currency contracts, binary options, and diamonds). The charges also include forgery of account statements, impersonation of a CFTC investigator, and forgery of documents purportedly authored by the CFTC’s General Counsel (Bearing the image of the CFTC’s official Seal).

Statement by CFTC
James McDonald, CFTC Director of Enforcement, commented:
Increased public awareness of the CFTC’s involvement in policing the virtual currency markets has, unfortunately, provided new opportunities for bad actors.  As alleged in the Complaint, Defendants sought to exploit public trust in the CFTC through forged documents purporting to be official CFTC memoranda requiring the payment of a tax on cryptocurrency accounts.  The CFTC does not collect taxes.  The CFTC is on guard against fraudsters who try to take advantage of the CFTC’s reputation in order to cheat customers, and will take swift action against such misconduct.
Modus Operandi
It is alleged that the defendants used social media platform Facebook and email starting January 2017 to defraud at least two victims. The accused would approach the prospects, posing as professional portfolio managers, and mislead them into believing that their funds would be used for profitable investments.
The duo used fake account statements to convince the prospects that they had a good track record of generating profits for their customers. They further made their customers believe that they could not withdraw their earnings unless they first paid a tax to CFTC. They would then misappropriate customer funds for unauthorized purposes rather than investing the funds into legitimate financial instruments.
Hunt and Hecroft, it is alleged, forged documents including a publicly available CFTC memorandum to make their victims believe that they were obligated to pay tax to CFTC. The two took help from an accomplice to impersonate as a CFTC investigator and made the customers to transfer Bitcoins to their wallet under the pretext of paying a tax.
The CFTC has sought restitution to defrauded persons, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, permanent trading and registration bans, and a permanent injunction against further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations.
This case has highlighted the need for strict punishment for such crimes that can act as a deterrent and also a need to create awareness among the gullible public about how to safeguard themselves against cryptocurrency fraudsters.
What steps in your view should be taken to prevent such frauds? How should people safeguard their Bitcoin and other crypto-assets? Let us know in the comments below.

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First Pound-backed Stable Coin Announced by UK Start-up

London Blockchain Exchange (LBX), a UK based blockchain start-up, has announced plans to launch a cryptocurrency pegged to the Pound.

LBXPeg, the First Pound Backed Coin
LBX, a London based blockchain start-up, which currently offers over the counter (OTC) trading services, has announced plans to launch a UK Pound Sterling supported, stable coin dubbed as LBXPeg. The firm announced earlier on Saturday that it had received permission from an unnamed banking partner to start a new cryptocurrency.
The token will be pegged to the Pound one-for-one, and the currency reserves will be held in an account in a third-party bank. LBX is also in the process of building a cryptocurrency exchange and a crypto-card. LBXPeg will leverage the Ethereum blockchain, and the token will be an ERC-621 token build on the ERC-20 standard.
About LBX
The firm had started its OTC operations in November 2017. The company follows strict KYC/AML norms and claims to be the only London-based cryptocurrency exchange offering safeguarded UK Banking. According to Benjamin Dives, CEO at LBX, the reserves would be regularly audited by a top-rated accountancy firm and LBXPeg would be the world’s first stable coin backed by the Pound.
He said, “We would be ready for the first cryptopound to be minted in the next 10 days.” He also added, “The primary use case will be the settlement for OTC trades in the London market, then commonwealth exchanges where they don’t have Fiat banking, and then securities tokens who want to pay dividends in a cryptopound.”

What are Stable Coins?
Cryptocurrencies are a volatile asset class. Stable coins are crypto-assets backed by physical assets like the US Dollar or gold and popular for their price stability. These coins, which like other virtual currencies, are interoperable and digitally transferable in nature find use amongst the crypto-traders and investors.
Currently, the most popular and used stable coin is Tether, which is pegged to the US Dollar. In the recent past Circle, a blockchain company backed by banking giant Goldman Sachs, launched the US Dollar coin, a new stable coin pegged to the dollar. The Winklevoss twins, owners of Gemini, who are also known for their early involvement at Facebook, have announced Gemini Dollar, a cryptocurrency pegged to the Dollar on a one-to-one ratio.
The existence of stable coins helps cryptocurrency exchanges that due to compliance issues can’t accept Fiat currency, to provide Fiat like liquidity. Apparently, 60% of all Bitcoin trade globally happen using Tether. Stable coins will also find acceptability with merchants, who have been hesitant to accept cryptocurrencies due to their volatile nature, as a medium of exchange.
With the crypto-asset trade volumes growing across the globe, the need for transparent and trustworthy stable coins will also increase. Currently, the customers do not have many options and have no choice but to rely on Tether only, which had attracted suspicion earlier this year due to the opaqueness in operations.
Do you think more stable coins that establish trust will result in an increase in cryptocurrency trading? Let us know in the comments below.

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Clean Energy Can Turn Bitcoin Mining Into an Eco-friendly Business

The concept of mining Bitcoin is subject to a lot of scrutiny. High electricity usage has both utility providers and governments concerned. The quest for clean energy-based mining is far from over. Three new efforts are currently being explored to put a positive spin on this energy-intensive industry.

Introducing Ecological Bitcoin Mining
The high electricity requirement associated with Bitcoin mining is a problem. Numerous companies draw huge amounts of power from their local grids. There are growing concerns over whether or not the infrastructure can handle such a load. Causing problems for regular businesses and families is the outcome no one wants. Prevention is often better than mitigation in this regard.
Solving the electricity-hungry approach of mining is a challenge. Some firms explore renewable energy solutions. That has caused Hydro-Quebec in Canada to hike prices for cryptocurrency mining firms. Other countries may introduce similar price hikes in the very near future. New solutions need to be found, sooner rather than later.
Australia is home to two innovative Bitcoin mining ventures. Hunter Energy and IOT Group explore low-cost electricity offerings for blockchain companies. The electricity is generated through PV and batteries. As such no fossil fuels are required, nor is there a reliance on renewable energy sources. The companies will turn waste into energy, which is an option worth exploring.

Innovative Solutions are Plentiful
Turning waste into electricity is not a new concept. The idea has been kicked around before, yet it is not a common business practice at this time. Another option is to use spare renewable energy on a global scale to power Bitcoin mining operations. Obtaining electricity from around the globe, rather than just one area, can introduce a lot of positive changes. This can be achieved through a mobile data center which can be “plugged into” power plants at any location.
Investors are all too aware of these new potential solutions. Some firms successfully raise funding because of their novel approach. With the necessary capital, building the infrastructure to turn Bitcoin mining into an eco-friendly process can commence. All of these efforts are in the initial stages of development at this time.
The bigger question is whether or not society will ever look favorably upon Bitcoin mining. This activity has always been very “niche” first and foremost. Computers who generate money for consumers to use and spend remains a rather unorthodox concept. Combined with high electricity use, the wastefulness of mining cryptocurrency suffers from a lot of criticism. Changing that narrative won’t come easy.
Will clean energy options reduce the stigma associated with Bitcoin mining? What other clean/renewable energy options can you think of? Let us know in the comments below.

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LINE Launches Japan-only Cryptocurrency and Five New dApps

LINE Corporation has announced the launch of a Japan-only cryptocurrency, as well as five new decentralized applications (dApps). The Japanese online messaging giant says these new additions are part of its efforts to build a robust global token economy.

LINE Adds Link Point Cryptocurrency to its Token Economy
The company announced the launch of the new cryptocurrency and dApps in a post published on its website on Friday (September 28, 2018). According to the statement, LINK Point, the new token would be available to Japanese residents. The dApps will also cater to selected categories.
Earlier in the month, LINE announced that due to licensing restrictions, its LINK cryptocurrency wouldn’t be available to users in Japan and the United States. Hence, the reason for the creation of LINK Point.
According to the company, LINK Point will serve as incentives for Japanese customers on the LINE blockchain ecosystem. The new cryptocurrency will be convertible to LINE Points which the company says can be used to pay for services across LINE’s various platforms.
However, LINK Point will not be a tradable token on the company’s BITBOX cryptocurrency exchange platform. In June, LINE announced the launch of BITBOX in Singapore as a statement of intent in its cryptocurrency and blockchain technology expansion. BITBOX focuses solely on crypto-crypto trading pairs.
LINE’s Five New dApps

LINE also unveiled five new dApps to kickstart its custom blockchain network. These dApps will function in service categories like location review, product review, question-and-answer, as well as, food review. The dApps announced are Wizball Overview, 4Cast Overview, Pasha Overview, STEP Overview, and TAPAS Overview.
Wizball, available only to Japanese customers is a question-and-answer service. Users earn rewards by participating in information sharing on the platform. 4CAST is also only available to Japanese customers, and it is a prediction platform. Members who provide accurate future outcomes earn LINK Points as rewards.
Pasha Overview, STEP Overview, and TAPAS Overview are review platforms. Pasha is for users to provide product reviews. STEP Overview allows platform users to share their experiences at recreational centers with the community.
TAPAS Overview caters to the food review arena. Platforms users can write and post reviews of restaurants and eateries in Japan. To prevent false claims, users must upload a scanned receipt from an eatery or restaurant before being able to submit their reviews.
What are your views on the broad token economy being developed by LINE Corporation? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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China’s Bank Of Communications Issued $1.3 Billion Securities With Blockchain Technology

In yet another definitive affirmation of the merit behind distributed-ledger technologies (DLT), China’s Bank of Communications (BoCom), has issued $1.3 billion of residential mortgage-backed securities using its proprietary blockchain-based network.

Market’s First
The issuance of $1.3 billion residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) was carried out by the state-owned commercial bank BoCom and it was handled through its proprietary blockchain-based network, local financial media reports.
The lead underwriter, as well as book runner for the offering, was China International Capital Corporation. Purportedly, this is the very first launch of residential mortgage-backed securities on the market which is based on blockchain technology.
The blockchain network in question is called Jucai Chain and it was launched back in June, beginning the very first phase of the issuance of digital RMBS in July.
Notable Benefits
Using blockchain-based technologies brings distinct advantages over conventional solutions, as evident from the offering. All parties involved in the loan are entirely enabled to track assets, to perform various business operations on the chain, and to manage their cash flow effectively. Citing a report by China Securities Times, China Money Network also outlines that the usage of blockchain reduces risks and shortens the RMBS issuance time while, at the same time, ensuring the authenticity of the assets.
Furthermore, the entire BoCom digital mortgage base is going to be openly available for important third-party intermediaries such as consulting companies PwC, and others alike.
Earlier this year, Live Bitcoin News reported that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has used blockchain technology to successfully ship 17 tons of almonds. According to the bank, the technology enabled it to guarantee a greater level of transparency and efficiency in terms of authentication of the goods, tracking location and condition.
What do you think of BoCom using blockchain-based technology to issue RMBS? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!

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Tiberius – A Metal Backed Coin Offering

Swiss commodity investor and manager, Tiberius is entering the cryptocurrency market by launching a token that will be backed by commodities – seven metals, to be exact. The main sale of the coin will start on October 1st.

Metal Backed Coin
Tiberius Technology Ventures AG, a subsidiary of the Tiberius group of Switzerland is launching a token that will be supported by seven metals making the token fungible. The metals include copper, aluminum, nickel, cobalt, tin, gold and platinum. The owner of the token will be able to take the physical delivery of the underlying metals on request.
As per details available on the company’s website, unlike other cryptocurrencies that have no intrinsic value, Tiberius aims to create a coin that is relatively stable in value. Owning the TCX tokens will grant its holder direct ownership of a basket of metals. Apparently, the metals chosen, have unique industrial applications in future technologies. The value of the tokens, even in a meltdown, will not drop below a limited threshold as claimed by the firm, as the token price is supported by the intrinsic value of the underlying metal.
The token will use the ERC-20 based smart contract using a Proof of Work algorithm. However, the company plans to move over to the Zilliqa blockchain later and use the practical Byzantine Fault tolerance algorithm (Given its better scalability).

ICO Details
The company as per its white paper prefers to use the acronym IMS (Initial Metal Sale) instead of ICO (Initial Coin Offering). There is no pre-determined supply of coins. Tokens, as per the white paper, will be minted, only after the company acquires the underlying metals and they are inspected by a third party.
The token sale goes live at 12.00 UTC on 1st October and will close at 12.00 UTC on 21st October. The price of the Tiberius token which will be listed with the ticker TCX will be CHF 0.7 with a minimum investment of Euro 100. Participants can pay by ETH, BTC, BCH or Fiat. Participants need to whitelist themselves and complete the KYC before participating in the main sale. The coin will list on the exchanges on November 1st.  Residents of the US cannot take part in the token sale.
About Tiberius
The Switzerland based company has been in the commodity investing and trading business since the year 2005. The company is based in Zug valley, which has become a hotspot of blockchain and cryptocurrency activity. Since 2010 the company has made investments in natural resource assets and recently into commodity technology business. The firm also runs metal merchant and mining operations.
The “Initial Metal Sale” by Tiberius gives the company the opportunity to reach out to retail customers around the world through the digital currency route. For the IMS participants, it is an opportunity to invest in the metals that technologies like solar, electric vehicles, robotics, and AI need in the future and earn a share of the profits.
Do you think a crypto-financial product like Tiberius coin will have a good future? Would it make a good investment for crypto-investors? Let us know in the comments below.

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SEC Receives Letter from U.S. Congress Members Requesting Clearer Regulations

The last couple of weeks and even months have seen crypto industry experts in the U.S. call for clearer regulations. Now, it seems as if Congress is also pushing the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the same.

You’ve Got Mail
According to CNBC, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton received a letter from some members of the House of Representatives requesting feedback on the authority’s plans for regulating the crypto industry. The letter, which was signed by over a dozen politicians, stated:
It is important that all policy makers work toward developing clearer guidelines between those digital tokens that are securities, and those that are not, through better articulation of SEC policy, and, ultimately, through formal guidance or legislation.
The SEC received another letter last week written by both crypto and non-crypto industry experts cautioning the commission to research regulations before applying them. This letter also added that the SEC shouldn’t rely on old methods for this new technology.

While Bitcoin and Ether are seen as commodities, most new tokens are viewed as securities thanks to the seven-decades-old Howey Test. Clayton has said that there will be no updates to its outdated decision-making process. However, legislation can be changed at the request of Congress, which could be what this latest letter is hinting at.
The way forward seems to be a collaboration between lawmakers, regulatory authorities, and cryptocurrency experts. Tuesday saw the first step to this with a roundtable discussion held in Washington. While there, Coinbase’s Mike Lempres said:
We all want fair and orderly markets, we want all the same things regulators do. It doesn’t have to be done in the same way it was done in the past, and we need to be open to that.
SEC Could Encourage Innovation Exodus
Congress also does not agree with the regulation-through-punishment approach. This could refer to the SEC cracking its whip on platforms not adhering to some of its previously discussed guidelines like registering with the commission. The letter explained:
We are concerned about the use of enforcement actions alone to clarify policy and believe that formal guidance may be an appropriate approach to clearing up legal uncertainties which are causing the environment for the development of innovative technologies in the United States to be unnecessarily fraught.

A result of murky regulations could be that businesses could look elsewhere to develop their platforms, specifically places that have clearer guidelines. This also applies to foreign companies hoping to expand to the U.S., like Binance and Bitmora. The exchanges rather opted to open up shop in crypto-friendly Malta.
The Congressional letter stated:
Current uncertainty surrounding the treatment of offers and sales of digital tokens is hindering innovation in the United States and will ultimately drive business elsewhere. We believe that the SEC could do more to clarify its position.
It also asked the SEC to explain certain processes such as how it determines whether or not a token is a security and whether these processes are both specific to digital tokens as well as whether they are determined on a token-by-token basis. It also suggested that the SEC develop a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) guide as a way to help participants understand what is expected of them.
Signatories on the letter include Rep. Tom Emmer, who recently drafted three laws aimed at supporting cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. It was also signed by Rep. Warren Davidson, who organized Tuesday’s roundtable discussion.
Do you think that the SEC will change their processes based on this latest letter’s requests? Let us know in the comments below!

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Chinese Court: ETH Is Not a Currency but a General Property

Despite the country’s nationwide ban on cryptocurrencies, a District Court in Shanghai has ruled that Ether (ETH) should be treated as general property and falls within the protection of the law.

 A Case Going Back and Forth
The Shanghai Hongkou District People’s Court was seized with a case involving a transaction of 20 ETH across multiple parties.
Reportedly, before the country banned initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency transactions, a technology company in Beijing launched an ICO raising Ethereum and Bitcoin. The plaintiff in the case is an investor, who is seeking a refund of 20 ETH that he had invested in the defendant’s ICO.
Purportedly, after the country instituted the ban on cryptocurrencies, the defendant initiated a refund of the 20 ETH. However, due to an “operational error,” the ETH was sent to a wrong account that was different than that of the plaintiff. The latter is now seeking monetary reparation for the damages he has sustained, arguing that the third-party which received the ETH did so without any merit, hence constituting unjust enrichment.

ETH is Property
In its findings, Shanghai Hongkou District People Court has laid out a few key points, among which most notably is the following:
Although the state does not recognize the monetary attributes of so-called “virtual currency” such as the Taikoo currency, it does not deny that the Ethereum is generally protected by the law as a property in the general legal sense.
This seems like another legislative victory for cryptocurrency proponents, following the news of earlier this month that the country allows evidence authentication through blockchain-based technologies.
Despite the country’s continuous clampdown on cryptocurrencies, traders in China are working hard to continue being a part of the field, using an array of creative ways to stay involved.
What do you think of the district court’s arguments regarding cryptocurrencies? Let us know in the comments below!

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