RBI orders banks to stop services to those dealing in crypto currencies

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At its first Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Press Conference for the financial year  2018-2019, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to stop having business relationship with the entities dealing with virtual currencies with immediate effect. Regulated entities which already provide such services are also ordered to end relationship within a period of three months. Some of the banks have already banned buying cryptocurrencies using credit and debit cards. RBI said that Virtual Currencies (VCs) raise concerns of consumer protection, market integrity and money laundering, among others.  At the Union Budget 2018 in February, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley  said that the  Government will take all measures to eliminate the use of crypto-assets in financing illegitimate activities. However, RBI said that it will promote the use of blockchain – a public ledger that serves as the backbone of bitcoin – in financial services for strengthening transparency and improving inclusion. This will be big blow to the those dealing with virtual currencies in India since banks will not allow users to buy cryptocurrency via banks or e-wallets etc. soon. RBI also said that it is mulling introducing a fiat digital currency. ” While many central banks are still engaged in the debate, an inter-departmental group has been constituted by the Reserve Bank …
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Quintacorn Robinhood’s free crypto trading rolls out in Cali, 3 more states

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Robinhood is rolling out its Coinbase-killer that’s already helped the fintech startup’s valuation grow 4X in a year. Zero-fee trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum is now available to all investors in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Montana. Everyone else is still on the waitlist. Robinhood users everywhere can already track 16 crypto coins including BTC, ETH, Litecoin, and Ripple, as well as trade traditional stocks with no transaction commission.

Announced in January, Robinhood Crypto vastly undercuts Coinbase’s U.S. fees that range from 1.5 to 4 percent. One million users waitlisted for Robinhood Crypto in the first 5 days after it was announced, and the app now has four million total registered users. Its lack of fees is proving to be a way to lure both veteran and rookie crypto investors to Robinhood, though it lacks support for trading as wide of a range of coins as Coinbase. Rather than charging per trade, Robinhood earns money from interest on money in users’ accounts and its Robinhood Gold subscription service. For for $ 6 to $ 200 a month in subscription fees, users can borrow between $ 1,000 and $ 50,000 to trade with.

Robinhood Gold’s success, adding options and web trading, and the new Robinhood Crypto helped the startup attract a $ 350 million Series D round led by Russian fund DST Global, which a source confirms will value it at $ 5.6 billion and bring it to $ 526 million in total funding. That’s up from the $ 110 million Series C at a $ 1.3 billion valuation it raised last year.

That massive valuation will put a ton of pressure on Robinhood’s co-CEOs Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt to keep it growing, build out its subscription and interest revenue, and invade the space of competitors. [Disclosure: I know the founders from college] Those include traditional brokers like Scottrade and E*Trade that can charge $ 7 or more per trade, crypto-specific exchanges like Coinbase, and news sources like CoinDesk.

Robinhood risks a down round if the heightened societal and regulatory skepticism about cryptocurrencies curtail investments from the public. Robinhood’s historical focus on younger, less wealthy investors who aren’t “accredited” could make it especially vulnerable to crypto backlash if users see the space as too volatile or scammy for amateur investors to join. There are also heightened cybersecurity concerns, as users might bail on the app if they fear their cryptocurrency could be stolen.

Robinhood might do well to get more serious about how it offers crypto education. It’s promised to provide a feed of crypto news to keep people informed about why markets are moving, though it’s still in testing with a small number of users right now. The problem is that the crypto journalism space is rife with integrity violations and reporters with questionable expertise. If Robinhood bought or built a truly neutral crypto news source, it could use that to attract investors to its crypto trading platform.

[Disclosre: The author of this article owns small positions in Bitcoin and Ethereum but does not day trade. Detailed disclosures can be found here.]

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Google blocks crypto mining extensions from Chrome Web Store

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The Chrome Web Store is a hotbed of sketchy browser extensions, with seemingly little intervention from Google (except for the occasional crack-down). The company already takes down extensions that secretly mine cryptocurrency, but now it is going a step further. Starting today, all extensions that mine cryptocurrency will be barred from the Chrome Web Store.

The new ban even includes extensions where crypto mining is the primary feature. Existing mining extensions will be removed in late June, but the rule does not affect other blockchain-related tools.

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Menlo Ventures is making its first real bet on crypto as Bitpay raises $40 million

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Not all investors or companies believe bitcoin will ultimately be used for day-to-day transactions. Menlo and Bitpay beg to differ.

Venture capital firms over the last year or so have wrestled with how forcefully to lean into investing in startups linked to cryptocurrencies:

  • Is blockchain technology so consequential that we should reorient our entire investment strategy?
  • Is it a fad that we can avoid as our competitors get distracted?
  • Or should we gingerly — maybe even reluctantly — make a few investments just to minimize our downside until it’s clearer whether there is indeed money to be made here?

Now an older-line venture firm — Menlo Ventures — is making its first investment in the world of blockchain, the tech that undergirds virtual currencies. Menlo is part of a new $ 40 million financing round at Bitpay, a startup that allows merchants to accept and store bitcoin paid by customers.

Not all venture capitalists are excited about businesses that rely on normal people using bitcoin for everyday transactions. Investors and startups increasingly see cryptocurrencies as an asset to be traded like gold, not as something to be used at a shopping mall like a dollar bill. And so several top-tier venture capitalists who invest in crypto told Recode they passed on Bitpay amid concerns about how the company’s business model fits into the trends in the industry.

Bitpay CEO Stephen Pair disputed that the company had any trouble fundraising, saying that it had to “expand” the round from a planned $ 30 million to the final $ 40 million total due to high demand.

The company did something unusual during fundraising, too: It announced in December its intention to raise a fundraising round that was not yet closed, unveiling the in-progress $ 30 million round led by a fund managed by Aquiline Capital Partners. Menlo’s investment is part of the same round.

“We wanted to make sure that anybody who wanted to participate could, and announcing it serves that purpose,” Pair said.

That might not be read as a sign of strength, but Bitpay says that in 2017 it processed more than $ 1 billion in bitcoin payments. Pair says the company has been profitable for a year and a half and therefore hasn’t needed to raise much money — it last raised about $ 30 million in 2014.

And even if there are some investors and industry veterans who are pessimistic on bitcoin payments in the United States, cryptocurrencies are potentially quite attractive overseas for buying and selling goods. In countries with a large unbanked population or where currency values gyrate wildly, bitcoin can be a stabler form of payment and make commerce easier, especially for the poor.

So it’s no surprise that Bitpay is thinking about using this money to fuel its international expansion, particularly into Asia. Pair said Bitpay could expand open an office on the continent this year in either Hong Kong or Singapore. Several of the investors in this round are Asia-based.

But what’s most interesting about this round is what it says about how Menlo, founded in 1976, will deal with this new sphere of startup innovation. Tyler Sosin, who is leading Menlo’s work in crypto, said his firm had been evaluating startups using blockchain for the last 18 months but had yet to find something that they loved.

Sosin said that Menlo feels blockchain will be integral to the future of payments — and that they are attracted to payments platforms because it doesn’t require them to bet on the success of any individual cryptocurrency.

Menlo has yet to participate in an initial coin offering, or ICO, Sosin said, nor has it purchased cryptocurrencies outright with firm dollars. While the fund has been slower to engage than some of its rivals, Sosin insisted that the industry is still evolving and that Menlo was eager to dive more fully into this set of startups.

“It’s early, early days,” he said. “We imagine there will be some very big companies.”

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Your Crypto Hardware Wallet Might Not Be as Secure as You Think

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So, you just bought some crypto. Congrats! (Or: Congrats ?) But now you need a place to store it. But the safest place you’ve been told to store it…may not really be all that safe. Hi. Welcome to the wonderful world of crypto!

You could leave your new crypto on the exchange where you purchased it, but those are worthwhile targets for hackers. You could move it to a software wallet, or maybe a third-party website or an app on your phone. But, again, those are online, so they’re susceptible to hacking. A paper wallet — literally a QR code printed on a piece of paper — is also an option, but they’re such a pain to set up.

A hardware wallet it is, then. These are easy-to-use standalone devices specifically designed to hold crypto. They let you to access your funds without connecting to the internet. Super secure, right? Except: Maybe not.

On March 20, Saleem Rashid, a 15-year-old self-taught programmer, published a blog post detailing multiple ways a hacker could crack the Ledger Nano S, a popular crypto hardware wallet. Apparently, the device isn’t as “tamper-proof” as its makers claimed. In his post, Rashid explained how a hacker could use a vulnerability in the Ledger Nano S to steal any private keys stored on the device. They could do this by tampering with the device either before you bought it (a “supply chain attack”) or after you’d already loaded it up with your private information (an “evil maid attack”).

Image Credit: Ledger

Ledger released a patch to address the hardware wallet vulnerability on March 6, and Eric Larchevêque, Ledger’s CEO, told TechCrunch the company hadn’t received any reports of hackers actually accessing the crypto of Nano S users.

So, why wasn’t that the end of it?

Because, apparently, Rashid wasn’t satisfied with the response from Ledger. Which is why he publishing his post two weeks after the release of the patch. He also threw shade directly at Larchevêque, writing:

“I chose to publish this report in lieu of receiving a bounty from Ledger, mainly because Eric Larchevêque, Ledger’s CEO, made some comments on Reddit which were fraught with technical inaccuracy. As a result of this I became concerned that this vulnerability would not be properly explained to customers.”

The same day he released his post, Rashid noted on Twitter that he told Ledger about the vulnerability four months ago and the company had exhibited “pretty poor communication” in the interim.

Ledger and Larchevêque appear far less phased than Rashid by the whole situation. “All systems have vulnerabilities,” Larchevêque told TechCrunch. “That’s part of the life of any security system. It’s a game of cat and mouse.”

That may be true, but it’s also a good reason to think twice before slapping the “tamper-proof” label on any future devices.

The post Your Crypto Hardware Wallet Might Not Be as Secure as You Think appeared first on Futurism.


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Researcher Cracks ‘Hacker-Proof’ Crypto Wallet

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A virtual currency hardware wallet with millions of users has been compromised. Saleem Rashid explained how he cracked the firmware on the wallet produced by Ledger using what’s known as a “supply chain” attack. That means a targeted device is compromised before any users get their hands on it. The attack on Ledger’s $ 100 Nano S wallet creates a backdoor on the device that generates predetermined wallet addresses and passwords. With that information, a bandit might be able to send money from the wallet to his own account.
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This startup wants to fight the crypto energy crisis by turning waste into electricity

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Questions still abound about the sustainability of cryptocurrency mining and its impact on energy consumption. Per figures from Digiconomist, Bitcoin consumes 53.28TWh annually (about as much as Bangladesh consumes in a year) and about 262KWh per transaction. For some context, that could power more than 3,000 US households a year. Ethereum, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency, is a little easier on electricity by comparison but still consumes 15.22TWh a year at 55KWh per transaction on average. Needless to say, this leaves behind a hefty carbon footprint and casts doubt on the future of cryptocurrency. This all fits into wider problems…

This story continues at The Next Web
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A New York town just placed a moratorium on crypto mining

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As cryptocurrency becomes a more important force in the world market, more companies are cropping up to mine it. And that, in turn, is becoming a problem for places where these miners are setting up. The town of Plattsburgh, New York, has become the…
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Apparently Home Heaters Now Mine Crypto

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Computers get hot, sometimes to the point that they even overheat and shut down. Now, French startup Qarnot is taking advantage of what for most of us remains an inconvenient side effect. They’re selling a cryptocurrency heater that mines crypto while also warming your home.

Officially called the QC-1 crypto heater, the device looks like a black radiator adorned with a grille and wooden top. Housed inside the cryptocurrency heater are two AMD graphics processing units (GPUs) (Sapphire NITRO+ Radeon RX 580 with 8GB of RAM). The GC-1 mines ether by default, but the user can direct the device to mine another cryptocurrency, such as litecoin or bitcoin.

Crypto heater
Image Credit: Qarnot

According to Qarnot, the QC-1 takes 10 minutes to set up. It connects online via an Ethernet cable, and the owner can monitor the heater’s mining progress or activate a heating booster using a companion app.

Qarnot doesn’t take a cut of the crypto the QC-1 mines, according to a Tech Crunch report, meaning you can profit and stay warm without worry. Using the current price of ether as a base, Qarnot estimates their cryptocurrency heater can mine an average of $ 120 worth of ether per month.

The rig will set you back €2,900 ($ 3,571), and if you preorder one before March 20, it will arrive around June 20.

The QC-1 isn’t the first device of its kind. Russian startup Comino sells two similar mining rigs that double as space heaters: the Comino N1 and the Comino N4. The N1 mines ether while the N4, which is currently sold out, mines Zcash. Both sell for €4,999 ($ 6,157).

In any case, that is a lot of money to spend on a mining rig, regardless of the company behind it. However, if you’re all in on crypto mining and want to cut down on your heating bill, these look like the most specific way for you to address two problems simultaneously.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post Apparently Home Heaters Now Mine Crypto appeared first on Futurism.


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Qarnot QC1: A radiator that mines for crypto. Hot idea, or hot air?

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The cryptocurrency market is heating up so much that you can now warm your house while mining for coins, thanks to a French startup called Qarnot.

The company has produced the QC1, which may be the first dedicated computer/heater designed for the domestic market, which means the Internet of Things is not only crunching data, but also heating your living room.

Qarnot describes the device as “the first heater actually generating crypto money”. So what’s behind this simple, but clever, idea?

The hot air problem

As anyone who owns a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop machine knows, computers generate a lot of heat. The harder and faster they work, the more heat they give off, which is why data centres need lots of expensive cooling.

Cryptocurrency mining rigs – often assembled from high-end GPUs manufactured by companies like NVIDIA and AMD – give off a lot of heat too. This is why anecdotes have been circulating about students huddled for warmth around repurposed gaming hardware in their rooms, mining for Litecoin or Monero. (A vision that recalls miners of a different kind huddled around their braziers during the 1984 pits strike in the UK.)

Qarnot has designed a device that is intended to be both a heater and a computer, optimised for mining the cryptocurrency Ether. The QC1 is a stylish radiator that would complement any loft apartment, but instead of a traditional heating element, it contains two AMD GPUs – but no fans or moving parts.

Simply plug in the heater, add your Ethereum wallet to the mobile app, and as the heater warms your room you’ll gradually receive Ethers, says Qarnot. The QC1 is a Linux server, and so can be instructed to mine for Monero, Litecoin, or any other currency.

Banking on heat

According to TechCrunch, Qarnot has form in both the edge computing and heating spaces, which is where the idea gets smarter. The company has previously sold computer-heaters to construction companies. As sales grew, it effectively created an expanding, distributed data centre, which it rented out to the French financial sector, among other clients.

This meant that banking transactions were literally warming up building sites: proof that banks do sometimes give something back to the workers after all.

And because Qarnot still runs those businesses, it means it can farm out crypto processing to its decentralised data centres in the hot summer months, so QC1 owners aren’t melting in their homes.

On the face of it, therefore, the QC1 solves several problems: it mines for currency – taking the task away from other computers – it heats your home, and money just turns up in your virtual wallet.

But is it really that simple?

Internet of Business says

Make no mistake, this is a brilliant idea in many ways. Why waste all the heat that computers generate when it can be turned to good use? And why fill up your house with ugly mining rigs when you can leave a stylish device running in the corner of the room?

As the IoT spreads, both cryptocurrencies and edge computing devices may be critically important, especially when more and more services – from supply chains to banking services – are run on blockchain technology.

But as our in-depth, 2,800-word analysis of the challenges facing cryptocurrencies explains – along with our separate report on hardware giant NVIDIA – there is always a cost in the physical world. One is in heat emissions, processing time, and energy consumption, which Qarnot has been clever enough to turn to its advantage.

After all, this is the same reason that hackers are creating crypto-mining botnets: to offload the cost onto other people.

But another cost is more troublesome: money – the old-fashioned kind. As more and more people want to mine cryptocurrency and invest in the hardware to do it, the real-world cost of buying GPUs is going through the roof – along with all that heat – depriving other markets of critical stock.

Lots of complex, high-end processing tasks demand GPUs; entire industries and data centres run on them.

It’s the real reason that NVIDIA’s share price has tracked the growth curve of bitcoin market capitalisation over the past four years, as our earlier story revealed.

At present, the retail cost of one QC1 appliance is $ 3,600, which is a lot of real money for a heater, and a lot for a computer too – but of course, the company will accept payment in bitcoins. At the current real-world value of Ether, the company says that owners can expect to mine the equivalent of $ 120 a month using the device.

The maths reveal the awkward problem lurking beneath the cryptocurrency market: that’s not $ 120 of profit a month; it’s 30 months of heat before the device even pays for itself – not including any other costs it may incur. Or the cost to the environment of manufacturing and shipping the heater in the first place.

Internet of Business put this point to an accountant, who said: “Rounded up, my own electricity is 15p (21c) per kW and so the cost of the actual electricity would be £54 ($ 75) for a 30-day month. If we depreciate the ‘heater’ over three years, that’s £99 ($ 137) per month, plus £54.

“So with Ether at current rates, we’d be losing about £33 ($ 45) per month by my calculations. No wonder this is all being done through hacking or stolen electricity!”

But of course, the Ether market could go through the roof – hopefully even higher than the price of high-end GPUs.

But because of all this, Qarnot may have provided yet another useful service: by revealing some of the critical workings necessary to determine a fair value for any cryptocurrency.

As ever, the core questions are: what’s the cost per watt of mining? And what is any cryptocurrency backed by, other than depreciating computer hardware that needs to be manufactured where labour is cheap and shipped across the globe by fuel-guzzling freighters and aeroplanes?

In a blockchain powered world, the long-term answer may be almost utopian in its simplicity: cryptocurrencies may be backed by our data gold, and our consent.

But the fact that this is such a fuzzy, utopian answer suggests that the reality will be messier and more complex than that. Until then, maybe a better answer will turn up in your Ethereum wallet.

But at least you won’t have to put 50p in the meter to keep the heating on; it’ll cost you a lot more than that.

With thanks to Derek GC White.

The post Qarnot QC1: A radiator that mines for crypto. Hot idea, or hot air? appeared first on Internet of Business.

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