Japan Streamlines Its Cybercrime Forces, Opening New Building In Tokyo

The Japanese Metropolitan Police Department has opened a new “Cyber” building and gathered 500 of its agents into a law enforcement unit dedicated to tackling cybercrime, Reuters reported April 2.

The “Cyber” building will have six departments and strengthen cooperation between hitherto dispersed authorities.

The move comes in the wake of January’s $532 mln hack of Japanese exchange Coincheck, dubbed the biggest crypto theft in history. Beyond this single event, statistics released by Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) revealed that over $6.2 mln (¥662.4 mln) in cryptocurrency was defrauded or stolen in 2017.

With the NEM Foundation’s tracking of the missing NEM (XEM) from Coincheck, Japanese police were able to identify and question an individual in Tokyo in possession of Coincheck spoils in February.

By mid-March, forty percent of the stolen funds were said to have already been laundered, with stolen NEM (XEM) surfacing on exchanges in Japan and Canada. Tracking was subsequently called to a halt.

Japanese police received 69,977 reports of cybercrime between January and June of 2017. The NPA found 200, 000 fake shopping sites in a cybersecurity survey December 2017. The websites were said to be written in “unnatural” Japanese.

In 2017 the average Japanese company spent $10.45 mln to combat cybercrime. Japan saw a 52% increase in average organizational costs incurred by data breaches, according to a global IBM 2017 report.

Despite Coincheck and the notorious collapse of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, about half the world’s Bitcoin trading is estimated to be in yen. Japanese Bitcoin owners number between 2-3 mln, with 16 crypto exchanges registered under new licenses issued by the country’s Financial Services Authority (FSA).

2018’s stricter regulatory climate caused two Japanese crypto exchanges to voluntarily close last month in anticipation of flash FSA inspections.

In a Blow to Bitcoin, India Bans Banks from Dealing in Cryptocurrencies

In what amounts to a major clampdown down on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced in a press release today, April 5, 2018, that it is banning banks and regulated financial entities from dealing with digital currencies.

“In view of the associated risks, it has been decided that, with immediate effect, entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing with or settling [virtual currencies],” India’s central bank said.   

What this means is that banks will no longer be able to transfer money to a crypto wallet or to an exchange. Regulated entities already providing such services will have three months to wind down their cryptocurrency-related operations, RBI Deputy Governor BP Kanungo told reporters at a media briefing on Thursday.  

At the same time, India has not given up on the idea of issuing a virtual currency of its own. “While many central banks are still engaged in the debate, an inter-departmental group has been constituted by the Reserve Bank to study and provide guidance on the desirability and feasibility to introduce a central bank digital currency,” the central bank said, adding that a report would be ready in June 2018.

The RBI has been highly critical of cryptocurrencies including bitcoin in the past. On three occasions, the central bank has cautioned holders and traders against the risks of using virtual currencies. RBI issued its first warning in December 2013, a second in February 2017 and the most recent in December 2017.

India, a fiat-reliant country, began tightening the noose on cryptocurrencies in 2018 in an effort to prevent money laundering, sponsorship of terrorism and tax evasion. In January 2018, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Indian parliament, “Bitcoins or such cryptocurrencies are not legal tender and those indulging in such transactions are doing it at their own risk.”

(Read more about India’s regulation of cryptocurrencies here.)

‘Scoundrels’: Washington County Fires Back at Unauthorized Bitcoin Miners

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If you’re in Washington’s Chelan County, you might want to think twice about attempting to mine bitcoin off the radar.

At their latest meeting, the county’s public utility district (PUD) moved to enforce a moratorium that was placed on new mining applications last month and take whatever steps necessary — including fees and criminal charges — against what officials characterized as “scoundrels” running “unauthorized cryptocurrency operations,” according to a notice. Chief among their concerns is protection both for the community and the power equipment, but they’re also worried about supply.

The moratorium was originally placed on new applications to give the agency time to review rates amid the massive power consumption associated with bitcoin mining facilities. Now the county is threatening fees, penalties, cutting off power and reporting unauthorized activity to the police for people who break the rules. They’re also considering installing automated power consumption meters so that they can uncover secret operations faster.

Over the Edge

Chelan’s PUD was put over the edge upon discovering several unauthorized bitcoin mining groups across the county, including an apartment complex (where power consumption jumped twentyfold), someone’s house as well as a mini-storage unit facility. The skyrocketing power consumption gave the miners away, from 500-kilowatt-hours to more than 11,000 kwH, not to mention the open windows and doors to usher in the cooler temperatures to keep the equipment from overheating.

According to PUD, these operations put the community at risk of fire and place an overwhelming burden on the power supply.

“Not only are we concerned, we’re incensed that individuals are putting people at risk. We’re not going to tolerate it. This is a strong message, and I want to make that very clear,” said Commissioner Steve McKenna.

To be clear, the county doesn’t have a problem with bitcoin miners who have gone through the proper channels for approval.

“I want to take one step back and say that users of power that have legitimate requests, and have been properly sized for the use of that power, that’s not the kind of entity we’re discussing today,” said Commissioner Garry Arseneault.

Chelan County’s PUD is considering the following fee structure for unauthorized bitcoin miners-

  • $5,000 for residential
  • Between $7,000 and $10,000 in business locations

In the midst of the chaos, one bitcoin minger hopeful asked PUD officials to consider moving through the applications for approval once again.

Cheap Power

Washington isn’t the only state with bitcoin mining in focus. CCN recently reported that New York’s public utility regulator gave the green light to municipalities to impose higher electricity rates for cryptocurrency mining facilities with “high-density loads.”

Washington’s Chelan County, where power is cheap and abundant, similarly began as a review of the rates. But things escalated when they uncovered that rather than waiting for the application moratorium to be lifted, people were putting more of a strain on the power grid and mining cryptocurrencies anyway.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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India’s Central Bank To Stop Dealing With All Crypto-Related Accounts, ‘Not Ban On Crypto’ Commenters Say

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced that the bank will no longer provide services to any person or business that deals with cryptocurrencies, adding that it is also looking into releasing its own cryptocurrency in the future, according to a “Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies” released today, April 5.

India’s Finance Ministry had criticized Bitcoin (BTC) and cryptocurrencies for their “lack of intrinsic value” in January of this year, and the month saw several large Indian banks close or limit the functionality of crypto exchange accounts. In early February, false reports in the media of a country-wide crypto ban in early February led to a drop in the crypto markets.

RBI’s statement reads that although the technological innovations that support cryptocurrencies “have the potential to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of the financial system […] Virtual Currencies (VCs] […] raise concerns of consumer protection, market integrity and money laundering, among others.”

RBI continues by noting that they have already warned those involved in the crypto industry several times of the “various risks” of dealing with cryptocurrencies before stating finally that:

“In view of the associated risks, it has been decided that, with immediate effect, entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing with or settling VCs. Regulated entities which already provide such services shall exit the relationship within a specified time.”

According to local news outlet Quartz India, the period of time for businesses to extract themselves from the crypto sphere is three months.

At a press conference today, Bibhu Prasad Kanungo, the deputy governor of RBI, said in regards to the decision that cryptocurrencies have the potential to “endanger financial stability:”

“Internationally, while the regulatory response to these tokens are not uniform, it is universally felt that they can seriously undermine the AML (anti-money laundering) and FATF (Financial Action Task Force) framework, adversely impact market integrity and capital control. And if they grow beyond a critical size, they can endanger financial stability as well.”

Panjak Jain, who works in Blockchain and crypto communities in India as an investor and an advisor, posted a series of tweets today about the new RBI crypto regulations, underlining that the Indian government “hasn’t banned crypto:”

Jain’s further tweets note that “the Indian government is obviously not coordinating amongst the various parts of the government,” citing that income tax is being collected on crypto traders, and adding that it is “interesting” that “RBI cut off fiat from crypto exchanges that have been following fairly good KYC/AML practices used by Indian institutions:”

Meanwhile, the same RBI statement on the end of its association with crypto dealings adds that the bank will be looking into creating its own state-backed cryptocurrency, “in addition to the paper currency that we have,” Kanungo notes, with a report to be submitted on its feasibility by the end of June 2018.

RBI’s interest in their own cryptocurrency is due to the “rapid changes in the landscape of the payments industry along with factors such as emergence of private digital tokens and the rising costs of managing fiat paper/metallic money,” which they cite as the impetus for central banks around the world to introduce “fiat digital currencies.”

Kanungo adds that a state-backed cryptocurrency could “hol[d] the promise of reducing the cost of printing of notes.”

Sathvik Vishwanath, the co-founder of India’s Unocoin, told Quartz India that he doesn’t believe this is the “right direction that the central bank has taken:”

“This will cause panic among a few million people in India who are already using cryptocurrrencies [sic]. If they want to launch their own digital currencies, they don’t need to ban existing ones.”

Japanese Cryptocurrency Exchange Coincheck Accepts Monex Takeover Bid

Coincheck, the Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange that has been struggling to get back on its feet since it suffered a devastating hack on January 26, 2018, has agreed to accept a takeover bid by Monex Group, a Japanese online brokerage firm.

As part of that, Chief Operating Officer at Monex Toshihiko Katsuya will to take over as Coincheck’s new president, while Coincheck’s founding President Koichiro Wada and Chief Operating Officer Yusuke Otsuka will step down, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Rumors of the possible takeover bid and management reshuffle broke Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Soon after, Monex confirmed in a press release that it was considering the move.

Along with the new management, Coincheck will receive an influx of fresh capital in the form of “several billion Japanese Yen” (1 billion JPY = $9.34 million) from Monex. Final details will be released as early as Friday after the deal is inked.

Monex has been wanting to make blockchain-based financial technology services the core of its business. By acquiring Coincheck, along with Coincheck’s client base and information systems, the brokerage firm is now on the fast track to getting into the cryptocurrency exchange business.

In April 2017, new laws in Japan required all cryptocurrency exchanges in the country to seek a license from Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA). Those exchanges that were in business before the laws went into effect were allowed to stay operational and undergo compliance checks while their registration was being approved.

Coincheck was one of the 16 exchanges that remained in quasi-operating status while its license application remained pending. Following the theft of $530 million worth of NEM (XEM) tokens in January, Coincheck received two improvement orders from the FSA, demanding the exchange overhaul its operations and clarify its management responsibility. Coincheck has insisted that it will repay victims the majority of the stolen funds but has not revealed details as to how that will happen.

Coincheck is still applying for a license from the FSA. The FSA will decide whether Coincheck qualifies after reviewing its operations under Monex.

India Bans Banks from Processing Cryptocurrency Purchases

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Indian residents can no longer purchase cryptocurrency through their bank accounts, according to new measures adopted by the country’s central bank.

The sweeping policy, announced on Thursday by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), prohibits RBI-regulated institutions from allowing their customers to purchases cryptocurrencies, and it also bars banks from providing services to businesses “dealing with or settling [virtual currencies].”

From the statement:

“Reserve Bank has repeatedly cautioned users, holders and traders of virtual currencies, including Bitcoins, regarding various risks associated in dealing with such virtual currencies. In view of the associated risks, it has been decided that, with immediate effect, entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing with or settling VCs. Regulated entities which already provide such services shall exit the relationship within a specified time.”

As a result of the ban, traders will no longer be able to deposit or withdraw fiat currency at cryptocurrency exchanges, forcing them to use peer-to-peer (P2P) trading platforms such as LocalBitcoins. According to data from CoinDance, LocalBitcoins transactions denominated in INR currently account for roughly $1 million in volume on a weekly basis.

india localbitcoinsSource: CoinDance

The RBI statement acknowledges that blockchain technology has many potentially-beneficial applications but argues that cryptocurrencies raise a number of concerns related to consumer protection, market integrity, and preventing financial crimes.

“Technological innovations, including those underlying virtual currencies, have the potential to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of the financial system,” the RBI said. “However, Virtual Currencies (VCs), also variously referred to as crypto currencies and crypto assets, raise concerns of consumer protection, market integrity and money laundering, among others.”

As CCN reported, India-based cryptocurrency trading volume had already plummeted by 90 percent in recent months as banks themselves had already begun to restrict the ability of cryptocurrency exchanges to secure access to financial services and locals to trade with funds stored in Indian bank accounts. However, until now, this blockade had not been codified into official government policy.

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Cryptocurrency Verge Responds To Hacking Claims By Launching ‘Accidental Hard Fork’

Anonymity-focused cryptocurrency Verge (XVG) lost 25% of its value April 4 as news surfaced of an apparent hack which developers ‘resolved’ by accidentally initiating a hard fork.

According to various press and social media sources, including Verge developer known as Sunok, a bug allowed manipulation of block mining timestamps. This created the potential for illegitimate coins to appear from nowhere.

“There’s currently a >51% attack going on on XVG which exploits a bug in retargeting in the XVG code,” Suprnova mining pool’s OCminer reported on Bitcointalk.

“Due to several bugs in the XVG code, you can exploit this feature by mining blocks with a spoofed timestamp. When you submit a mined block (as a malicious miner or pool) you simply set a false timestamp to this block one hour ago and XVG will then “think” the last block mined on that algo was one hour ago.”

The debacle comes just three weeks after John McAfee-endorsed Verge lost control of its Twitter account to hackers, with funds reportedly not being at risk.

Following the fresh bug reports, however, Sunok appeared to adopt a laissez faire attitude to fixing them, pushing through an accidental hard fork.

“You guys are aware that the ‘fix’ you pushed actually IS a hardfork? So your blockchain snapshot is not valid anymore, the wallet’s won’t sync up from scratch anymore and the current chain is simply not usable anymore with that new ‘fix’?” OCminer continued.

Analysis by Suprnova suggested the hack stopped April 5. “I skimmed the logs and saw the attacker started the new attack at around block 2014060 and stopped just now at block 2026196,” OCminer wrote in a further post.

Verge’s last official Twitter update was published around 19 hours ago, claiming funds were only exploitable for three hours:

Betrium ICO SOON — 20% One Day Bonus, 4 Demos Released!

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This is a paid-for submitted press release. CCN does not endorse, nor is responsible for any material included below and isn’t responsible for any damages or losses connected with any products or services mentioned in the press release. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned in the press release.

Betrium published the demo of Android application on Google Play, which is available on   https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ga.betrium.sportbets

Betrium finished Pre-ICO with $1.3 mil raised and launches ICO on 5th of April with 20% one day bonus. Project is supported by world’s betting champion and gambling industry leaders.

Betrium is the worldwide bookmaker and betting exchange offering zero fees, innovative Volatility Stabilization System / Hedging for professional traders, API for developers and franchising platform. Betrium is going change the wealthy industry of $1 trillion annually.

Also, Betrium has just released the sports betting exchange, the service made for the much more advanced and professional users. The main difference between traditional bookmaker and betting exchange is that in the exchange users make bet on one side and the platform tries to match their bets with users on another side, who will bet against. In the bookmaker people bet against “the house”.

At the time Betrium has released four demo services (MVP), such as:

In addition, iOS application will be released soon.

The project is supported by Kevin Dolan, World Series of Handicapping 2015 champion, the “The Complete Guide to Sports Betting” book author. Kevin acts as an advisor in the project.

In the March Betrium’s team finished its roadshow and visited the following conferences:

  • Seoul, South Korea, d10e.
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Vietnam Blockchain Week.
  • Melbourne, Australia, APAC Blockchain Conference.
  • Singapore, Money20/20 Asia.
  • Hong Kong, Token2049.

In the past, Betrium was a sponsor of the Lamborghini team on 24H Series Dubai and Lamborghini Super Trofeo Middle East races. Sam Taheri, NASCAR driver, joined Betrium as an advisor.

Website: https://betrium.co

Token Sale summary:

ICO Start: 5th of April 2018, 23:00 UTC

ICO End: 14th of May 2018, 23:00 UTC

Token price: 1 ETH = 3000 BTRM or 0.00033 ETH per token.

Website: https://betrium.co

White Paper: https://betrium.co/betrium_whitepaper.pdf

Social Networks:

Telegram (Public Chat) https://t.me/betriumOfficial

Twitter https://twitter.com/betriumBets

Facebook http://fb.com/Betrium

E-mail:

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

Korean Crypto Exchange Execs Detained On Fraud And Embezzlement Charges

CoinNest co-founder and chief executive Kim Ik-hwan has been detained in Seoul and charged with embezzlement and fraud, alongside two senior executives and the head of a second unnamed crypto exchange, a local news outlet Naver reported April 5.

The executives allegedly moved customers’ digital assets into their personal accounts, worth “billions of won,” according to prosecutors. Officials are now seeking arrest warrants for the detainees.

It is the first time the head of a crypto exchange in Korea has been charged. Coinnest is the country’s sixth largest exchange by trade volume, with around 500,000 registered users as of January.

The Korea Blockchain Association, a self-regulatory body for 33 local crypto exchanges, is following the investigation to determine whether to expel Coinnest from membership. The exchange opened in June last year, backed by Chinese investors such as Bitmain. Coinnest’s value is estimated at over 100 bln won.

An announcement by Coinnest on Thursday stated that a “professional management system” has now been set up to “protect[…] customer assets and creat[e] a healthy trading environment.”

Coinnest was one of three local exchanges raided by prosecutors in mid-March, after “suspicious money transfers” between exchanges were detected during an audit by local financial regulators and intelligence services.

This week’s arrests come amid Seoul’s shift to introduce tighter regulation into the country’s booming cryptocurrency market, the third largest worldwide. As Cointelegraph reported, the Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday ordered 12 exchanges to improve customer protection in their contracts.

In December 2017, the Korean government banned anonymous crypto trading, with six major national banks moving in just ten days later to support real-name verification for crypto exchange users.

In neighboring Japan, local regulators continue to pursue stringent inspections into the country’s crypto exchanges.

Research: Ethereum is Proving More Popular than Bitcoin in India

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Ethereum is more popular than Bitcoin according to the latest research by the Indian free internet provider, Jana.

As reported by Quartz, Ethereum held a 34.4% share of cryptocurrency searches versus 29.9% for Bitcoin when analyzing search terms between October 2017 and February 2018. By the end of February, amidst tightening regulation in India, the relative interest in Ethereum had risen to twice that of Bitcoin.

Cryptocurrencies have enjoyed immense popularity in India over the past year, at times Bitcoin was trading at a 30% premium. The reason can be traced back to 2016, when the Reserve Bank of India removed high-value bills from circulation in a move that shocked the nation. It underlined the value of a currency that isn’t controlled by a central authority – the principal that defined the creation of Bitcoin over 10 years ago.

However, the shine has come off the popularity of cryptocurrency in India. Following announcements from other central banks including the UK and the US, India’s central bank has been applying regulatory pressures on its national banks and local cryptocurrency exchanges. As a result, it has been reported that trading volumes on India’s popular bitcoin trading platforms have plummeted by 90%.

This fall in trading volumes could indicate that traders in India are simply moving away from centralized trading platforms. The strength of cryptocurrencies are that they can be exchanged peer to peer. According to analysis by CryptoCompare, two-thirds of Indian Rupee transactions now take place on LocalBitcoins – a person to person bitcoin trading site that doesn’t rely on a centralized exchange in order to convert into fiat.

Increased interest in Ethereum reflects a general trend towards diversifying crypto-assets, it is the currency of choice for investing in Initial Coin Offerings. In a tough market, traders have been looking to these crypto-startups to find returns.

According to Sathvik Vishwanath, co-founder and CEO of Unocoin, an Indian bitcoin exchange and as reported by Quartz, “The market is very, very dull,” as regulation and tax is weighing on people’s minds.

Perhaps the interest in Ethereum discovered by Jana simply reflects Sathvik’s sentiments. The market has endured a difficult few months, Ethereum’s promise of decentralized apps and its ERC-20 based-ICOs offer the Indian market a glimmer of excitement and a more positive future in a bearish market.

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