Bitcoin news from around the world

A round up of Bitcoin news from around the world.

European Central Bank has no power to regulate Bitcoin, says Mario Draghi (EUCB President)

The European Central Bank’s president, Mario Draghi, recently pointed out that the institution has no power to regulate cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. His statements were made to the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, as when asked about cryptocurrency regulations and bans Mario Draghi notably stated:

  • “It would actually not be in our powers to prohibit and regulate them. We have to ask what effects cryptocurrencies have on the economy.”

Mario Draghi added that cryptocurrencies are, however, still too immature to be considered as a viable payment method, and that the ECB’s primary concern surrounding cryptocurrencies and digital innovation is cybersecurity.

A public Swiss university is now accepting Bitcoin as a payment method

According to an announcement, Switzerland’s Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts is now accepting Bitcoin payments for student-related bills, through a partnership with Bitcoin Suisse AG. The university itself won’t be handling any Bitcoin, as the brokerage firm will exchange Bitcoin payments for Swiss francs. According to the university, Bitcoin Suisse AG will be the one to bear any losses caused by currency fluctuations.

According to CoinDesk, the move is perhaps unsurprising as the university had already shown interest in the technology, and is already involved in a number of blockchain initiatives. Other universities throughout the world, including King’s College New York, and the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, also accept Bitcoin as a payment method.

There are now 11 licensed cryptocurrency exchanges in Japan

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) recently issued operating licenses to 11 Bitcoin exchanges, including the country’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange BitFlyer. According to CoinDesk, 17 license applications are still being reviewed, while 12 firms already had to shut down in light of the country’s new regulations, which aim to protect consumers by making sure operating exchanges meet risk management standards and properly manage funds.

According to reports, to maintain their licensed status exchanges will need to meet certain criteria, including high cybersecurity standards, minimum capital reserve requirements, and the employment of AML/KYC practices.

Singapore to regulate Bitcoin payments

Singapore’s minister for its central bank authority, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) recently stated that the institution is working on creating regulatory framework for Bitcoin and Ether payments. The minister confirmed it in a response to a question from an MP, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and while he admitted that the MAS has been monitoring and has no intention of regulating these cryptocurrencies, certain activities will require regulatory framework.

Shanmugaratnam revealed that only about 20 Singaporean retailers accept Bitcoin, and further explained in a statement that the MAS will produce targeted regulatory framework for ICOs, if deemed necessary. He stated:

  • “Virtual currencies can go beyond being a means of payment, and evolve into “second generation” tokens representing benefits such as ownership in assets, like a share or bond certificate. These are financial activities that falls under MAS’ regulatory ambit.”


BIG NEWS – OpenBazaar 2.0 is finally in beta!

With Darknet markets is that there is always a server (or multiple servers) that are being used to host the market. The problem with this is that law enforcement (LE) only need to locate the server hosting the market to completely bring it down. This has ultimately been the demise of all markets, the servers IP address is found and then they are taken out by LE. This is exactly what happened with the somewhat recent take-downs of Hansa and Alphabay But the solution may be upon us, a project that has been highly anticipated since the end of the original silk road is now one step closer to being a reality – OpenBazaar 2.0!

What differentiates OpenBazaar 2.0 from all the other markets is that is is decentralized, this means there is no single server hosting the market and that all vendor stores are independently hosted. The new market also has all the bells and whistles including: IPFS for peer to peer hosting. “Shapeshift Shifty Button” that allows for the purchase of coins via altcoins such as “Monero” or “Zcash” that offer increased anonymity compered to bitcoin. A built in bitcoin wallet with seg-wit support. A private messaging system based of “Signal” private messenger.

If some of that jargon flew over your head don’t worry, the takeaway point is that OpenBazaar 2.0 is a blessing for the darknet markets and is infinitely better than Dream (who’s IP address was leaked), Trade Route (who were hacked and had a “deface page” put up) or any of the other traditional markets that all have a boatload of problems. If you are someone who accesses the darkenet markets I would advise a move to OpenBazaar 2.0 to prevent being hit again in the future.

The release was announced in a blog post and can be downloaded now.

It is important to correctly configure openbazaar to route your traffic through tor, this can be done by following this written guide or video guide.

How to setup Tor and go to Darknet Markets

This article will cover how to connect to the Tor network with basic security and also how to navigate to DNstats and Darknet Markets.

Tor is a browser than encrypts your data 3-6 times (6 times if you follow the guide), this prevents governments/hackers from finding out what you are doing online. This guide details how to safely install tor and then how to navigate to the darkent markets (avoiding phishing links)

  1. Install “Tor browser”, be sure to use the correct link and select the appropriate option for your system. 
  2. Once you have downloaded it simply locate the file (see image) and install it like any other program by clicking on it and simply navigating the menus till it is installed and launches. (If you cannot do this then the darknet might not be for you)
  3. Once “Tor Browser” is installed you can now run the program, you will need to configure a few security settings before browsing. The fist option will ask if you want to “connect” or “configure” (see image), you should select the “configure” option.
  4. Once you have selected to configure a prompt will pop up asking if “your ISP block or otherwise censor connections to the Tor network”, you will need to select the “yes” option as although (in the UK) ISP’s do not censor connections via tor they do keep a record of it for a year which may not be in your best interests.
  5. Once you reach the “Tor Bridges Configuration” screen make sure the “obsf4” option is selected and proceed. Obsf4 is a type of pluggable transport and will add an extra layer of privacy that is beneficiary for even the most basic of users.
  6. The next screen will ask if your “computer needs to use a local proxy to access the internet”. This is not needed (assuming you are on your own network and not a public one). Once you have selected “no” simply press the box labeled “connect”.
  7. Once you have pressed the “connect” option the tabs that are shown in the image should pop up. Once the bar is full you will be in the tor browser. It may take 30-90 seconds so just hold tight.
  8. Once you are in Tor browser you are still not as safe as you should be, we will need to put the security settings up. The first thing to do is to press the little onion with the down arrow (where the menu originates from in the picture below). Then you will need to click “security settings” from the drop-down menu.
  9. You will now be presented with a menu and a slider, select “high” and then press OK. Once you have done this sites that use JavaScript will not work, almost all .onion sites (that includes darknet markets) will be fine as they do not use JavaScript.
  10. Now what? If you want to go onto a darknet market (to explore and not commit illegal activities!) continue to follow the steps. You should now be in the Tor browser, the next step is to paste dnstatstzgfcalax.onion into the explore bar (as shown in the picture) then press enter. The site you will be taken to shows a list of all darknet markets, from there simply pick your market (I would recommend dream for the time being) then click the link to take you there.


Ponzi schemes, Bernie Madoff and HYIP’s

In the exciting new world of cryptocurrencies it seems there is always money to be made, with Bitcoin rising 627% in the past year (23/09/16 – 23/09/17) it may seem the triple and even quadruple yearly interest is just part in parcel of the crypto sphere but it is important to scrutinize every investment that you make to the fullest extent, this brings us onto the topic of this article: ponzi schemes! 

A ponzi scheme is built upon a simple premise, the idea that money is invested and used to pay out interest to investors whilst not actually being invested, this may sound doomed to fail although that doesn’t take into account that ponzi schemes rely on rapid growth. If there is constantly a stream of investors paying into the scheme there will always be money to pay old investors, especially if they don’t withdraw larger initial investments but only collect the interest.

One man whose name has become almost synonymous with ponzi schemes is Bernie Madoff, his ponzi scheme ran to the tune of 64.8 billion USD. His scheme relied on getting investors and slowly paying out the money they invested as “interest”. The scheme collapsed as a result of the 2008 financial crisis when investors became worried about their money and wanted to all withdraw at once, Bernie was unable to pay and the scheme came to an end but it was the biggest ponzi scheme ever operated and made Bernie a billionaire.

Ponzi schemes in the crypto world operate on a similar premise but with a slightly different modus operandi, they rely on large numbers of smaller investors then eventually “exit” where they simply disappear and run away with the money that was invested. The internet age also allows for faster growth, with almost all ponzi schemes running referral schemes to exponentially increase growth and promising “guaranteed interest” to draw in investors. We can see the recent example of “Control Finance, where the investment scheme that promised 1% interest per day (and 10% of each referrals profit) simply disappeared one day running away with approximately 120 million USD.

These help me form my list of “red flags” that should hopefully make you think twice about investing in a scheme:

  • “Guaranteed interest”, the idea is a staple of ponzi schemes and is used to draw people in under the false belief that their investment is secure. Even the biggest Wall St. investment firms do not guarantee interest as investing in currencies/stocks/bonds is inherently risky and unpredictable.
  • “HYIP”, the acronym meaning “high yield investment program” is essentially synonymous with ponzi/pyramid scheme and if a site says they are a “HYIP”, you should avoid using them at all costs.
  • “Ridiculous referral schemes”, whilst there are many legitimate investment programs with referral schemes, any schemes promising unreal things such as “50% commission” or “0.1 BTC per use” should be avoided as it is a big red flag.
  • “1000% interest!”, whenever an investment scheme promises anything over 30% interest they should essentially be dismissed as a scam.

Hopefully those tips help you avoid any overt ponzi schemes.