Travel Bans Around The World Crippling Crypto


In the United States, President Trump announced new travel restrictions today in response to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The Commander in Chief signed a Presidential Proclamation suspending the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the U.S.

These countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The United Kingdom is exempt.

Meanwhile, India announced it would suspend visas for most foreign visitors arriving between March 13 to April 15, and close the country’s land border with Myanmar. Air India has already cancelled flights to Italy and South Korea, the two countries outside China most affected by the outbreak.

Other countries, from Australia to Saudi Arabia, are also looking at tightening travel restrictions.

Worldwide travel and tourism has seen a huge drop in numbers since the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in China in December. The Blockchain community has not been exempt, with the earliest disruptions to the industry beginning when the virus first spread from Wuhan.

Chinese government officials extended the nation’s largest holiday, the Lunar New Year, which annually causes one of the country’s biggest domestic migrations. Many workers in the Chinese crypto industry were unable to go back to business right away, and the price of Bitcoin may have suffered as a result.

The imposition of travel restrictions, which were meant to stall the spread of the disease, were just the first in a long line of consequences to the outbreak.

Crypto conferences in Asia were the first to see the effects of COVID-19. TOKEN2049, a major crypto event held annually in Hong Kong, was originally scheduled for mid-March 2020. It will now be taking place on October 7–8, 2020. Hong Kong Blockchain Week 2020, also scheduled for March, was pushed to September.

While some event organizers are hopeful that travel restrictions will be lifted by the end of 2020, others are not so optimistic. Italy’s upcoming EDCON has been cancelled, and no new dates have been announced for South Korea’s Nitron Summit 2020.

With the new measures in place by the United States, major crypto conferences on both sides of the Atlantic may soon announce postponements or outright cancellations. India’s Crypto Bulls Roadshow, who originally planned to speak at Consensus 2020 in New York, has not released a statement at this time. However, they will presumably face challenges both leaving India and entering the U.S.

Though the restrictions may seem severe to those in the crypto community, health experts argue that they are necessary to protect the sick and elderly, who are most at risk from COVID-19.

Attendees at the ETHLondon hackathon from Feb. 28 until March 1 became aware of their possible exposure to the pandemic when Zhen Yu Yong (Zen) tweeted on March 11 that he had been diagnosed with coronavirus. Zen, who is the co-founder of TorusLabs, was present in both London and the Ethereum Community Conference from March 3 to March 5 in Paris.

Uncertainty as to what measures officials will impose in response to the coronavirus outbreak may be what’s leading the charge behind a number of major crypto sell-offs. On Feb. 26, the price of Bitcoin dropped almost 6% after $150 million of the cryptocurrency was liquidated on BitMEX.


Lloyd’s New Insurance Offering Covers Crypto Held in Hot Wallets


Insurance giant Lloyd’s of London now provides a new type of liability insurance policy to protect cryptocurrency in hot wallets that is lost by theft.

Lloyd’s new offering was developed by Lloyd’s syndicate Atrium together with crypto will-focused firm Coincover, with limits from as little as £1,000 ($1,275), Lloyd’s announced on March 2. The policy is also backed by an array of other Lloyd’s insurers, including TMK and Markel, all of whom are members of Lloyd’s Product Innovation Facility.

“It is a new type of liability insurance policy with a dynamic limit that increases or decreases in line with the price changes of crypto assets. This means that the insured will always be indemnified for the underlying value of their managed asset even if this fluctuates over the policy period,” the announcement detailed.

Matthew Greaves, an underwriter at Atrium, noted an increasing demand for insurance for cryptocurrencies due to the popularity of such assets. David Janczewski, CEO of Coincover, commented:

“As the crypto-asset market heats up again at the start of 2020, a new wave of crypto-curious customers are standing by at the ready to jump in, having previously been put off by the lack of adequate protection against theft and loss. With this innovative new policy, we can remove these barriers and broaden the appeal of crypto.”

Lloyd’s is not new to cryptocurrency insurance. Back in August 2019, Lloyd’s began to insure the crypto custody platform Kingdom Trust.

Most recently, news broke that blockchain security firm and crypto wallet service BitGo was planning to provide crypto insurance through Lloyd’s. Within the partnership, Lloyd’s is set to insure up to $100 million of assets held by BitGo or BitGo Trust Company.

The Winklevoss’ Gemini Exchange also launched an insurance company to cover up to $200 million for its institutional-grade crypto custody service, Gemini Custody. This is reportedly the largest amount for any cryptocurrency custody service in the world.

Explained: Confidential Transactions


Confidential Transactions keep the amount and type of assets transferred visible only to participants in the transaction (and those they choose to reveal the blinding key to), while still cryptographically guaranteeing that no more coins can be spent than are available.

This goes a step beyond the usual privacy offered by Bitcoin’s blockchain, which relies purely on pseudonymous (but public) identities. This matters, because insufficient financial privacy can have serious security and privacy implications for both commercial and personal transactions. Without adequate protection, thieves can focus their efforts on high-value targets, competitors can learn business details, and negotiating positions can be undermined.

Confidential Transactions (CTs, the general idea of which was proposed by Adam Back on BitcoinTalk in 2013) aims to make the content of a transaction private — as Greg Maxwell explains in a 2017 talk, the amounts transacted are often more valuable to spies: if you wanted to spend 500 sats on a coffee but broke up a 1 BTC UTXO to do so, the barista would now know that you owned at least 0.999995 BTC (which could be problematic for your security if coins hit new highs in dollar value).

With CTs, both the receiver’s address and the amount transferred are hidden from any observers, in such a way that only parties to the transaction (and those they share it with) are aware of the value sent/received. For this to work, a cryptographic technique known as a Pedersen commitment is used.

I’m not a cryptographer, and it would be a waste of everyone’s time for me to try to explain how they work. I’d recommend this outstanding primer by ecurrencyhodler, or Maxwell’s initial investigation. Suffice it to say, a Pedersen commitment functions similarly to a regular commitment scheme, but allows for some mathematical manipulation that enables the verification of data without it being divulged.

Why is this important? Remember that, in order to work, the Bitcoin ledger needs to be balanced (inputs need to match outputs). That’s straightforward enough when every transaction is made public and nodes can verify it. Given that the purpose of Confidential Transactions is to redact amounts from the blockchain, however, a more creative approach is needed (the Pedersen commitments, paired with a few other tools) to ensure no one’s playing central bank and secretly printing off more money.

Bitcoin To Hit $100K In 2025, Says Justin Sun, Founder Of Tron


Justin Sun, the founder and CEO of Tron (TRX), the 15th biggest cryptocurrency by market cap, is investing in a number of cryptos other than Bitcoin (BTC).

In a Feb. 23 interview with CNN, Tron CEO said that he is a long-term believer in cryptocurrencies and owns a stake in many altcoins, including the two largest coins after Bitcoin — Ether (ETH) and XRP.

When asked whether Sun has its crypto portfolio diversified, the Tron CEO answered:

“I own a lot of XRP and Ethereum, too. I’m like a long-term believer of the crypto so I want all crypto assets to succeed. So that’s why I own a lot of other different cryptos as well.”

As a major believer in crypto, Sun is bullish on the price of cryptocurrencies and confident that cryptos like Bitcoin are the future of money. In the interview, Tron CEO predicted that Bitcoin will cross $100,000 mark in 2025, emphasizing that other cryptocurrencies will follow the trend.

Justin Sun’s $100,000 Bitcoin prediction in his own words:

“I definitely believe Bitcoin will pass $100K in 2025. I believe we can achieve this price before 2025. At the same time, I think a lot of other crypto projects like Tron, Ethereum and XRP will also see the bull market.”

In line with his bullish stance on crypto, Tron’s Justin Sun claimed in the interview that he invests all of his money to crypto. However, Sun still converts his crypto in fiat currencies like the United States dollar. In the interview, Tron CEO said that he only withdraws crypto to fiat when he needs to spend money in his daily life.

The news comes about a month after Sun had his charity lunch with Berkshire Hathaway chairman and known Bitcoin critic Warren Buffett. On Jan. 23, Tron CEO met with Buffett to finally have a long-awaited luncheon after postponing the event for medical reasons previously in 2019.

In the latest interview, Tron CEO revealed that he didn’t exactly try to convince the famous billionaire investor that crypto will massively surge in the coming years. Instead, Justin Sun was trying to explain some crypto potentials to Buffett as he wanted him to understand basic fundamentals of blockchain and crypto such as instant crypto transactions.

Tron CEO also outlined that Buffett was “very open” to new technologies like crypto and blockchain, noting that the the known investor accepted Bitcoin and TRX from him. However, Buffett has claimed that he doesn’t own any cryptocurrency and doesn’t plan to invest in any crypto in a Feb. 24 interview with CNBC. In the interview, the billionaire investor reiterated his negative stance on crypto, arguing that cryptos have “zero” value and don’t produce anything.

In another CNBC interview in 2018, Buffet predicted that crypto will come to a “bad ending,” declaring that Bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared.”

Crypto Appears On The Popular TV Show: The Simpsons

One of the newest episode of “The Simpsons” aired has just featured Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory as a guest star to explain cryptocurrencies and how a blockchain works.

In the song and dance predicts cryptocurrency to be the future money, the animated ledger states: “Each day I’m closer, to being the cash of the future. Not in your wallet, I’m in your computer!

At the end of Jim’s talk, there is a subliminal message on screen. It further explains how cryptocurrencies work, part of which says:

“Using the word “cryptocurrency” repeatedly while defining cryptocurrency makes it seem like we have a novice’s understanding of cryptocurrency. Well that is a total pile of cryptocurrency. In this system, rules are defined for the creation of additional units of cryptocurrency. They can be generated by fiat like traditional currency or just thrown around randomly or all given to LeBron.”

The crypto community welcomed the episode. Altcoin Daily account has commented:

“The Simpsons did it! Cryptocurrency explained to Lisa by the great Jim Parsons on #TheSimpsons! It’s the money of the future! Bullish!”

Some comments to the tweet also pointed out that the Simpsons has a reputation for predicting the future over the years. Ten years ago it showcased Donald Trump as the president of the U.S., and more recently guessed the Game of Thrones series finale.


Email Extortion Scam Targets Googles AdSense

A new extortion scam targeting website owners serving banner ads through Google’s AdSense program has begun circulating the Internet. The malevolent scheme demands Bitcoin (BTC) in exchange for preventing an attack, which would purportedly lead to the users’ AdSense account suspension.

The email-based extortion scheme was reported by security news and investigation blog KrebsOnSecurity, on Feb. 17. The blog post detailed that some site owners received a message as their site had been spotted by the malicious program as one seeking revenue from publishing an ad.

The message appears as a warning, wherein the cybercriminals demand $5,000 worth of BTC to deter the attack.

“Very soon the warning notice from above will appear at the dashboard of your AdSense account undoubtedly! This will happen due to the fact that we’re about to flood your site with huge amount of direct bot generated web traffic with 100% bounce ratio and thousands of IP’s in rotation — a nightmare for every AdSense publisher. More also we’ll adjust our sophisticated bots to open, in endless cycles with different time duration, every AdSense banner which runs on your site.”

The user who shared the message with KrebsOnSecurity said that their recent AdSense traffic statistics had detected a substantially increased invalid traffic. Google ostensibly called the scam a classic threat sabotage, where a fraudster tries to trigger an enforcement action against a publisher by sending invalid traffic to their inventory.

The news came on the heels of Google’s new policy regarding its ads, wherein the team behind AdSense said that it will stop showing ads before invalid clicks happen. “This year, we’re enhancing our defences even more by improving the systems that identify potentially invalid traffic or high-risk activities before ads are served. These defences allow us to limit ad serving as needed to further protect our advertisers and users,” Google explained.

Previously, Google took a hard line on decentralization and cryptocurrency. The most prominent example of hostility from Google occurred in June 2018, when the company announced that it would ban all crypto-related advertising in accordance with an update to its Financial Services policy.

Most recently, Google blacklisted keywords mentioning Ethereum (ETH) on its advertising platform, Google Ads. Google confirmed that “Ethereum” had been blacklisted as a keyword “regardless of the nature of the service that is being promoted.”

The leading cryptocurrency has been gaining popularity among criminals around the world. Earlier in February, two letter bombs exploded in the Netherlands and an anonymous criminal asked for a Bitcoin payment to prevent future attacks.

In Thailand, Singaporean Mark Cheng was kidnapped and tortured for a $740,000 ransom in BTC. After transferring all his available funds of $46,000, he allegedly made a daring escape as his captors prepared to murder him.

U.S. Think Tank Contradicts Need For Federal Digital Currency


Conservative United States think tank the Heritage Foundation argues that instead of launching a central bank digital currency (CBDC), the government should ensure that the public can use the currencies they prefer, including private ones.

In a commentary piece published on Feb. 12, the Heritage Foundation notes that Facebook’s Libra global stablecoin project “is just the latest reminder that providing money does not have to be a centralized function of government.” The report answers to the idea that the public sector must ensure that sovereign currencies stay at the centre of each nation’s financial system.

The report argues that the principle of monetary sovereignty that member of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors Lael Brainard spoke about in February should be replaced with the concept of consumer sovereignty.

The Heritage Foundation cites the popular concerns that stablecoins and cryptocurrencies heighten the risk of crime and fraud, and notes that “the government does not need to create its own digital currency to protect people from these problems.”

The report also cites concerns that the Federal Reserve should not compete with the private sector. The central bank allegedly competes with private banks with its real-time payment tool, which Cointelegraph reported is expected to be a threat to private banks. The paper argues that a CBDC would also be a type of competition detrimental to the private sector.

Per the report, direct government control over every person’s account is part of the goal of such efforts. According to the Heritage Foundation, “this level of government control simply is not compatible with economic and political freedom.”

As Cointelegraph reported earlier this month, Brainard also said during the aforementioned talk that the institution is more open to the idea of central bank digital currency than previously. Yesterday, Congressman Bill Foster questioned a Federal Reserve official on U.S CBDC progress and was told that the institution is not yet sure whether deploying such a digital currency is a good idea.

Ukrainian Regulations States That Mining Does Not Require Governmental Oversight


Ukrainian’s powers stated that crypto mining does not require regulatory activity from governmental oversight bodies or other third-party protocols.

In its legal article on virtual assets published on Feb. 7, the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine specified that mining does not necessitate directives by state authorities as this activity is measured by the protocol itself and network members.

The agency further added that it will contribute to the development and implementation of decentralized technologies, as well as establish sandboxes for their evaluation and verification, and assessment of potential risks to the market.

The agency swore to promote collaboration between the financial market and virtual assets and their effective development, international best practices on taxation of virtual assets, as well as establish effective mechanisms to prevent abuse and offense from business and law enforcement.

Ukraine has appeared to be actively exploring the digital currency and blockchain space, in recent months. At the end of January, Ukraine’s Finance Minister reportedly said that the State Financial Monitoring Service of Ukraine (SFMS) would be the authority responsible for tracking the sources of origin of the funds on citizens’ crypto wallets. Thus, the SFMS would be able to not only find out the origin of crypto but also detect how those funds have been spent.

Last December, the Ukranian government approved the final version of a money laundering law that will handle virtual assets and virtual asset service providers per FATF guidelines.

The new law comprises some guidelines on how the government aims to monitor and regulate the trading of cryptocurrencies. One of the guidelines focuses on individual crypto transactions worth less than 30,000 hryvnia ($1,300), from which the administration will only gather the public key of the sender for the purpose of financial monitoring.

XcelToken Plus- News Bitspark Shuts Down


Hong Kong-based blockchain remittance start-up Bitspark has abruptly announced its closure, citing internal restructuring issues.

On Feb. 3, Bitspark co-founder and CEO George Harrap officially announced the platform’s plans to shut down its services on the 4th of March, 2020.

According to the statement, Bitspark users will be able to withdraw their cryptocurrencies from Feb. 3 to March 4 as the platform’s functionality will stay intact over the period. After March 4, account logins will be disabled for a period of 90 days, with users being able to withdraw their funds via Bitspark customer support, the announcement reads.

Harrap emphasized that the firm’s abrupt closure comes despite the “excellent performance” that Bitspark has seen since the release of its new remittance service Cash Point in 2019. According to Harrap, Bitspark saw a 400% month-over-month growth after releasing the product.

Co-founded by Harrap and Maxine Ryan in 2014, Bitspark emerged as a major blockchain-powered financial services company for the Asia-Pacific region, serving countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Bitspark’s closure comes a month after its co-founder Ryan announced her intention to step down from her position as chief operating officer. According to the official announcement, Ryan’s decision caused internal restructuring issues that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak in China as well as anti-government protests in Hong Kong,which drove Bitspark to close the firm:

“Unfortunately due to internal restructuring that hasn’t worked out, and a decision taken by shareholders internally, we have made the decision to close our doors. While the HK protests and now virus epidemic haven’t affected us much, it hasn’t helped either.”

In a Twitter thread on Feb. 3, Ryan confirmed Bitspark’s reasons for the closure:

“What caused the closure. As of a month ago, I made the decision to step down from my position as COO of Bitspark. This naturally caused a need to restructure the company which unfortunately landed this result […] This paired with the landscape of Hong Kong with protests and the coronavirus where Bitspark HQ is located. The team and shareholders decided this was the best way forward to prevent integrity decay of the company.”

Bitspark conducted an initial coin offering amid the ICO hype of 2017, launching its Zephyr (ZEPH) rewards token ICO in November of that year for a project specializing in the transfer of fiat money on a blockchain.

Liechtenstein Based Start-up To Issue Tokens At The Value Of Collectable Cars


Investment platform CurioInvest and Seychelles-based digital asset platform MERJ Exchange Ltd. will jointly begin offering a token backed by collector luxury cars.

The so-called Car Token (CT1) token is set to be attached to the value of collectible cars giving more people a chance to have a portion of an asset, BNN Bloomberg informed on the 30th of January, 2020.

The company specified that the appeal of the token also lies in the fact that the value of such goods continues to increase in value. “When you look at fine art, collectible cars, they have been perceived historically as safe havens,” said Fernando Verboonen, founder and CEO of CurioInvest.

Verboonen added that each holder of CT1 tokens will be an advantage from holding a portion of an asset, though did not delve into a comprehensive explanation at that juncture. CurioInvest’s site stipulates that a token owner is able to share in any latent profit when the vehicle is resold, where the amount of money they get is directly proportional to the value of the car.

It is also said that “any vehicle that increases in value by more than 20% will be resold by CurioInvest so that investors can share in the profits.” As such, the partners are planning to list 500 collectible cars on the exchange worth over $200 million.

Although the token is backed by the value of classic cars, CurioInvest told Cointelegraph that it does not consider it a stablecoin but rather a security token as it comes with and by the Financial Market Authority approved prospectus and International Securities Identification Number.

Jim Needham, head of digital strategy at MERJ, further said: “You can have a guy in Uganda who’s able to invest in a rare car that’s kept in a vault in Stuttgart, tokenized by a company in Liechtenstein and it all fits within this recognized regulatory environment.” However, that Ugandan investor will hardly be able to drive the car he invested in..

When asked what would push people to hold such tokens and what would be the impetus behind it, CurioInvest said that individuals can invest in multiple cars and thus “invest in the virtual garage of your dreams, backed by tangible, real-world assets.

For the future, CurioInvest plans to allow investors to monitor their vehicles via webcam, occasionally visit the vehicles, and participate in driving experiences involving similar cars.

Considering the way depreciation could affect the token value, CurioInvest pointed out that all forms of investment are vulnerable to risks. The company also noted that cars are real assets, which may be subject to material risks such as potential vehicle damage, and added:

“The value of an investment is determined by market forces and thus, it can fluctuate in both directions. You will make a profit if the value of the vehicle exceeds maintenance costs when it is resold by Curio. If you are selling Car Tokens peer-to-peer, there is no guarantee that you will locate a buyer willing to purchase them at your desired price.”

Some other car manufacturers have also embraced blockchain in regard to classic cars. Thus, Italian luxury sports car brand Lamborghini began using the Salesforce Blockchain to authenticate heritage Lamborghini cars. The platform enables Lamborghini to trace, certify andauthenticate heritage cars faster and more securely using its blockchain platform.