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What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital crypto-currency with no single point of failure due to its decentralized peer-to-peer architecture. The source code is publicly available and changes to the reference Bitcoin client are made via concensus within the community. Advantages of Bitcoin include irreversible transactions (i.e. no possibility of chargebacks as with credit cards), pseudo-anonymous, limited and fixed inflation, near instant transactions, multi-platform, no double-spend and little to no barriers to entry and more. It was created by an anonymous person known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Find out more at WeUseCoins.com.

Bitcoin Latest News

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Posted on 22 January 2018 | 12:23 pm

Commodity Merchant Louis Dreyfus Trials Blockchain for Soybean Trade

Louis Dreyfus, a major commodities trading company, has announced that it has piloted a blockchain-based transaction system developed by a group of financial institutions including ING.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 11:00 am

Vanguard chief: You will never see a bitcoin fund from us - CNBC


CNBC

Vanguard chief: You will never see a bitcoin fund from us
CNBC
Generated through a digital process called "mining," bitcoin derives much of its value from its scarcity. And given widespread appraising and volatile price moves, Buckley told investors he's steering well clear of the space. "The bitcoin – its value ...

and more »

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 10:59 am

Op Ed: Here’s What Paul Krugman Got Wrong in His Bitcoin Tweetstorm

Op Ed: Here’s What Paul Krugman Got Wrong in His Bitcoin Tweetstorm

Like many other mainstream economists, Paul Krugman has long-shown a complete disdain for Bitcoin. In late 2013, he went as far as to write a piece titled “Bitcoin Is Evil” for his column in The New York Times.

Moral objections to bitcoin are one thing, but Krugman also does not see much utility in the cryptoasset at all. While he has been able to express his hatred for Bitcoin quite clearly, his technical criticisms of bitcoin as a new type of asset and store of value leave something to be desired.

In a tweetstorm on Sunday, January 21, 2018, Krugman illustrated his ignorance on the usefulness and utility of bitcoin around the world.

Starts Out Well Enough With the Digital Gold Analogy

Krugman’s tweetstorm started out well enough. In fact, the opening tweets were likely some of the nicest things the Nobel Laureate has ever had to say about bitcoin.

“As I see it, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are in effect like digital gold coins, in the sense that they can't be counterfeited ... Cryptocurrencies use cryptographic techniques plus distributed storage to create non-material entities that are nonetheless impossible to fake,” tweeted Krugman.

Digital gold is still the best analogy to sum up the digital asset’s value proposition, and the utility of bitcoin should become more apparent as the world moves deeper into a cashless society. In a cashless society, bitcoin would become the last financial bastion of freedom in a world where the global financial system is under complete control of governments.

The Avoidance of Trusted Third Parties in Payments Is a Big Deal

After those tolerable first few tweets, Krugman goes off the rails with the claim that online payments that don’t involve a trusted third party aren’t that important.

“Cryptocurrency lets you make electronic transactions; but so do bank accounts, debit cards, Paypal, Venmo etc. All these other methods involve trusting a third party; but unless you're buying drugs, assassinations, etc. that's not a big deal,” tweeted Krugman.

First all of all, there’s no reason to bring morals into an exploration of bitcoin’s utility. Either people will use it or they won’t. Whether you like what they’re doing is a different matter. Bitcoin’s use in darknet markets, ransomware, online gambling and other fringe areas cannot be ignored. Utility is utility.

Secondly, not everyone has access to PayPal, Venmo, and other online payment platforms. These options are centralized and permissioned. They’re also highly regulated, which means plenty of people fall through the cracks and cannot gain access to them.

Online freelancers in Venezuela take bitcoin because their government and payment platforms like PayPal have failed them.

Interesting post on /r/Bitcoin from a Redditor who compares the different options for storing value in Venezuela.

"I know a lot of people who sold everything they could to leave the country and took their money to bitcoins through @LocalBitcoins."
https://t.co/dvmxu4ozhV pic.twitter.com/R3egCdmoLa

— Kyle Torpey (@kyletorpey) December 1, 2017
Krugman goes on to point out the clunkiness of Bitcoin as it exists today, and he’s generally correct on this front. But this does not mean there’s no utility here. In fact, the opposite is true: There is so much utility that it has become difficult to scale the system to all of the people who want to use it.

Complaining about the lack of cheap, user-friendly payments on Bitcoin today is analogous to someone in 1995 complaining that the internet doesn’t have Netflix. Just give it a minute. Payment layers are currently being built on top of the base Bitcoin blockchain, with the Lightning Network being the most obvious example.

The Claim That Bitcoin Has Nothing to Backstop Its Value

Krugman then turned to the often-used argument that bitcoin lacks any sort of underlying value. This should come as a surprise, since he just laid out how it is useful for illicit digital payments.

“Meanwhile, what backstops a cryptocurrency's value? Paper money is ultimately backed by governments that will take it in payment of taxes (and central banks that will reduce the monetary base in case of inflation). Gold is actually useful for some things, like filling teeth and making pretty jewelry; that's not most of its value, but it does provide a tether to reality, along with a 5000-year history,” tweeted Krugman.

“Cryptocurrencies have none of that,” Krugman continued. “If people come to believe that Bitcoin is worthless, well, it's worthless. Its price rise has been driven purely by speculation — by what Robert Shiller calls a natural Ponzi scheme, in which early entrants make money only [because] others buy in.”

If bitcoin is useful for permissionless digital payments, then it has the same sort of underlying utility that the U.S. dollar has in the form of tax payments.

Additionally, the U.S. dollar would also become worthless if people woke up one morning and came to believe that it was worthless.

Of course, all of this misses the point anyway. How much of the value of all the U.S. dollars in the world comes from its use in tax payments? How much of the value of all the gold in the world comes from its use in electronics? Not much.

Krugman misses that storage of value is also a form of utility, and bitcoin is the most uncensorable, unseizable store of value the world has ever seen. You can walk around with a passphrase in your head that can unlock access to thousands of bitcoins, and no one would be the wiser. Not to mention there is no centralized party that can inflate the supply.

The Point of Market Manipulation

Krugman also touched on the high potential for manipulation in the bitcoin market, pointing to a paper regarding the manipulation of the bitcoin price by now-defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, as an example.

This is another claim with some basis in reality, but it ignores the massive amounts of manipulation and lack of transparency in the traditional financial system, which is what led to the creation of bitcoin in the first place.

Through the use of cryptographic proofs, bitcoin has the potential to become much more transparent and trustless than the traditional financial system. Bitcoin’s monetary policy is already much more transparent than what goes on at the Federal Reserve. There’s a reason someone put up a “Buy Bitcoin” sign while Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen spoke against the need for further audits of the central bank.

Bitcoin exchanges are highly centralized institutions, which opens the door for manipulation. However, these exchanges have also become much more regulated over time. Today, it’s far more difficult to run an exchange at the level of incompetence that was found at Mt. Gox.

The potential for market manipulation should decline as the technology around bitcoin improves. Eventually, more trades may take place on decentralized exchanges, where it’s impossible to fudge the numbers.

In his last tweet from his thread on Sunday, Krugman said it’s unclear if the Bitcoin blockchain — or any blockchain for that matter — is useful.

Around $3 billion worth of bitcoin has been transacted on the Bitcoin network per day this year, according to Blockchain; $75 million worth of bitcoin per day was the norm the day Krugman first published an article on the subject.

Krugman’s arguments, as well as arguments from other well-known economists, have not changed much since 2013, but the Bitcoin network has continued to grow. It’s possible that Krugman and his colleagues are unable to comprehend the usefulness of bitcoin as an asset because it does not fit into the regulated, controlled environment they’ve built their economic and political worldviews around.

Bitcoin cannot be tamed, and they hate that.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 10:32 am

Bitcoin tanks more than 10% to below $11000; South Korea announces details on crypto tax - CNBC


CNBC

Bitcoin tanks more than 10% to below $11000; South Korea announces details on crypto tax
CNBC
Bitcoin trading in South Korean won accounted for 4 percent of trading volume, according to CryptoCompare. The Japanese Yen had the largest share, accounting for about 37 percent, while the U.S. dollar had about 33 percent of bitcoin trading volume ...
Bitcoin Sheds Dollar Value As Restrictions Become TighterForbes
South Korea Reportedly Plans to Hit Bitcoin Exchanges With Massive Tax BillsFortune
South Korea's Cryptocurrency Crackdown Isn't Stopping This Bitcoin Exchange's LaunchWall Street Journal

all 86 news articles »

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 10:18 am

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China Moves to Crack Down on Digital Currency Pyramid Schemes

China's public security ministry says it will take aim at pyramid schemes in the country, including those that purportedly involve cryptocurrencies.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 10:00 am

Canadian Research Body Pilots Ethereum in Transparency Push

The National Research Council of Canada is trialing the ethereum blockchain for recording government contracts.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 9:00 am

The View From the Bitcoin Bubble - New York Times


New York Times

The View From the Bitcoin Bubble
New York Times
That gave me a grounding to begin understanding this, but Bitcoin has turned into a very different kind of financial market. At the banks, I kept hearing about how they were taking this technology seriously as something that might change their business ...
Criminals Drop Bitcoin for Other CryptocurrenciesFortune
Bitcoin Price Tanks Over The WeekendInvestopedia (blog)
Bitcoin Hurt By Lack Of Viable Pricing Model And The Ghostbusters Stairs SyndromeForbes
The Conversation AU -Marketplace.org (blog) -North Bay Business Journal
all 115 news articles »

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 8:58 am

Bitcoin Gets Creamed Again and This Time There's No Place to Hide - Barron's


Barron's

Bitcoin Gets Creamed Again and This Time There's No Place to Hide
Barron's
Anything that could slow down the free-wheeling Korean crypto market could also slow bitcoin's price momentum. Arthur Hayes, the CEO of BitMEX, a Seychelles based crypto-coin trading platform, told us last week that traders pay special attention to ...

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 8:08 am

This Long-Time Wall Street Analyst Says Bitcoin Could Fall to $1000 - Fortune


Fortune

This Long-Time Wall Street Analyst Says Bitcoin Could Fall to $1000
Fortune
Bitcoin's well-documented plunge of the past month could just be a precursor of what's to come, according to one well-respected Wall Street veteran. Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, says the cryptocurrency could fall ...
Bitcoin To Drop As Low As $1000 This Year, Wall Street CIO PredictsCointelegraph (Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain News)
90% of bitcoin's value could get wiped out, Wall Street veteran Peter Boockvar warnsCNBC
CNBC's Dan Nathan: Bitcoin Cash Will Overtake Bitcoin SoonThe Merkle
Fin24 -MyBroadband
all 18 news articles »

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 7:35 am

Huobi Is Launching a Token, But It's 'Not an ICO'

China-based crypto exchange Huobi has announced that it will issue its own token based on the ethereum ERC-20 standard.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 7:00 am

Beyond Bitcoin: What Blockchain Really Means And What That Means For Retailers - Forbes


Beyond Bitcoin: What Blockchain Really Means And What That Means For Retailers
Forbes
Everyone is talking about Bitcoin, but the currency is just the visible edge of a technological iceberg. Beyond the noise and hum, we are just barely scratching the surface of uses for the underlying technology, blockchain. The opportunity for ...

and more »

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 6:01 am

What a Facebook Blockchain Token Might Look Like

If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg really wants to experiment with decentralized systems, a publicly issued crypto-token would be hell of a way to do it.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 6:00 am

Bitcoin Defends $11000 Mark and Eyes Move Higher - CoinDesk


CoinDesk

Bitcoin Defends $11000 Mark and Eyes Move Higher
CoinDesk
Prices on CoinDesk's Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) rallied to a high of $13,000 on Saturday, but the spike was short-lived as prices fell back to $11,096 at 20:59 UTC yesterday. As of writing, BPI stands at $11,700 – up 5.4 percent from yesterday's low ...

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 5:17 am

Bitcoin Defends $11,000 Mark and Eyes Move Higher

Bitcoin is stuck in a narrow range currently, but a breakout may lie ahead, the price charts indicate.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 5:10 am

Korean Crypto Exchange Korbit Halting Deposits from Non-Citizens

South Korea's Korbit exchange has informed users that non-citizens will soon not be able to deposit Korean won for trading.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 4:10 am

How bitcoin could change the world -- even if it crashes - CBS News


CBS News

How bitcoin could change the world -- even if it crashes
CBS News
The price of digital currencies like bitcoin, litecoin, ethereum, ripple and others have been all over the map in recent months, soaring over 1,000 percent before falling sharply amid government intervention in Asia. The get-rich-quick appeal of ...

and more »

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 3:15 am

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IMF Calls for International Cooperation on Cryptocurrencies

The IMF has voiced concerns over the risks involved with cryptocurrencies and has called for global talks and cooperation.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 3:00 am

Indian State Partners With Fund To Launch Blockchain Ecosystem

The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh announced a partnership with Covalent Fund to kickstart a blockchain ecosystem at its Fintech Valley Vizag.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 12:00 am

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How Nigerians Beat Bitcoin Scams - Bloomberg


Bloomberg

How Nigerians Beat Bitcoin Scams
Bloomberg
Depending on your feelings about Bitcoin, it may seem appropriate that Nigeria's love for the cryptocurrency began with a scam. Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM), a 30-year-long global Ponzi scheme that began in Russia, roped in millions of Nigerians from ...

and more »

Posted on 21 January 2018 | 10:16 pm

Opening Hyperledger: Consortium to Create Experimental Labs for Startups

An effort to connect startups with companies formally recognized by Hyperledger, the measure may accelerate the rate at which new ideas find traction.

Posted on 21 January 2018 | 10:00 pm

Contortions for Compliance: Life Under New York's BitLicense

New York passed the BitLicense in a vacuum. Now state and federal laws are catching up, often with poor coordination, causing a compliance nightmare.

Posted on 21 January 2018 | 5:40 am

Public Blockchains' Lure Will Become Irresistible for Enterprises in 2018

Decentralized public blockchains are the only way enterprises will commit to digitizing services in an interoperable manner, says EY's Paul Brody.

Posted on 21 January 2018 | 5:05 am

Battle-Testing Lightning: Schools Start Contest to Secure Bitcoin’s Layer 2

Organizers hope a new competition will spur security advances for Lightning, but also steer bitcoin debates in more constructive directions.

Posted on 20 January 2018 | 4:30 am

Venezuela Blasts 'False' White Paper for Oil-Backed Cryptocurrency

Venezuelan officials have denied claims that the petro token's white paper has been released, calling such claims "false information."

Posted on 19 January 2018 | 2:30 pm

Report: India's Government Sends Tax Notices to Cryptocurrency Traders

India has sent tax notices to tens of thousands of cryptocurrency owners within its borders.

Posted on 19 January 2018 | 12:15 pm

Bulgaria Joins 'International Operation' Against OneCoin

Bulgaria's government has revealed it is part of an international crackdown of OneCoin.

Posted on 19 January 2018 | 11:15 am

OKCoin Eyes Cryptocurrency Exchange Launch in South Korea

Cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin is reportedly moving to launch in South Korea – possibly as soon as next month.

Posted on 19 January 2018 | 10:20 am

Decentralizing the Sharing Economy With Blockchain Technology

Decentralizing the Sharing Economy With Blockchain Technology

San Francisco–based startup Origin is creating a set of protocols that allow developers and businesses to build decentralized marketplaces on the blockchain, with a focus on the sharing economy.

The Origin Protocol is a set of open-source blockchain protocols for buyers and sellers of services like car-sharing or home-sharing to transact on a decentralized, open web platform.

The protocol’s applications will store transactional data such as pricing and availability directly on the blockchain.

Leveraging the Ethereum blockchain and the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), the Origin platform will create and book services and goods in a decentralized way, without traditional intermediaries.

Recently, Origin launched its functional, completely decentralized prototype Origin Protocol Demo DApp, live on the Ethereum test network. It also announced that several companies have committed to developing further applications on the Origin platform.

“Our vision for Origin is to create protocols that allow marketplaces to be governed by a set of rules instead of corporate rulers. We want to eliminate the rent-seeking middlemen, maximize personal liberty, reduce censorship and redistribute value to the early participants in the network,” Origin co-founder Josh Fraser said in conversation with Bitcoin Magazine. “Partners are building on Origin because they realize they can get to market sooner and we can share network effects by working together.”

Tackling the Problems of the Centralized Marketplace

Uber and Airbnb, the hugely popular marketplaces for ride-sharing and home-sharing, are usually considered the leading players in the emerging “sharing economy.” Another buzz phrase, “people as a service,” describes the business models of these two companies, both of which attracted funding that values them in the tens of billions of dollars.

Consumers perceive that Uber and Airbnb are faster, cheaper and better alternatives to traditional services like taxis and hotels, delivered via sophisticated yet easy to use apps. But, while the consumer has the impression that they are buying services directly from individual providers in decentralized, P2P networks, Uber and Airbnb are centralized systems where transactions between individual consumers and providers are routed through infrastructure, hubs and software that belong to the companies that own the platform.

Centralization makes Uber and Airbnb vulnerable to regulatory actions, and there is the possibility that both services could be shut down by the government at any time. In the meantime, besides taking a fee, the platform owners are in complete control of the networks and the individual providers and are often accused of predatory behavior.

“Look at Uber and Airbnb as examples,” said Fraser. “Both companies have been banned or heavily regulated in cities all around the world. Likewise, those companies have a history of banning certain individuals for life from ever using their marketplaces.”

Uber and Airbnb (the Services) without Uber and Airbnb (the Companies)

According to data provided by Origin, Uber, Airbnb and other centralized sharing marketplaces are expected to earn $40 billion in platform fees annually by 2022, and the sharing economy as a whole is expected to top $335 billion by 2025. Some centralized sharing services charge upwards of 30 percent fees for hosting transactions.

Origin wants to cut out these middlemen with new standards based on blockchain technology.

The Origin platform “enables people to freely transact on the blockchain in decentralized marketplaces without rent-seeking middlemen,” says Coleman Maher. who recently joined Origin as its first business development hire. “We aim to eliminate excessive transaction fees, reduce censorship and redistribute value back to the community.”

“We imagine a broad collection of vertical use cases (e.g short-term vacation rentals, freelance software engineering, tutoring for hire) that are built on top of Origin standards and shared data,” reads the Origin product brief. Origin applications will be able to share users, creating a “shared network effect” that could benefit all application providers, as well as the consumers.

Bee Token, SnagRide, JOLYY, Acquaint, Aworker, BlockFood, Edgecoin and ODEM have committed to building on the Origin platform. More partners will be announced in the coming months.

The first two projects are in Airbnb and Uber territory. The Bee Token team, a group of former employees from Google, Facebook, Uber and Civic, is building a middleman-free, peer-to-peer network of hosts and guests on the decentralized web, with the stated goal of “reinventing the home sharing economy.” SnagRide is a ride-sharing application for mid– to long-distance rides, which leverages artificial intelligence and blockchain-powered smart contract technologies to smartly manage drivers and passengers willing to travel together between cities and share the cost of the trip.

The Origin ecosystem will offer incentives based on the Origin token, an ERC20 utility token on the Ethereum blockchain, described in the Origin white paper. The Origin token, to be distributed later in 2018, is the currency used for transactions on the Origin platform. However, the Origin team plans to implement on-the-fly conversions of fiat currencies and Ethereum to the Origin token in future releases.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 18 January 2018 | 11:06 am

Blockstream Releases Lightning Charge, Launches Test E-Commerce Store

Blockstream Releases Lightning Charge, Launches Test E-Commerce Store

Following the release of the first Bitcoin Lightning Network white paper, published in February 2015, developers have been working on Lightning Network implementations to enhance the throughput and usability of the Bitcoin network. For an overview, see this three-part series on “Understanding the Lightning Network.”

In December 2017, lightning developers ACINQ, Blockstream and Lightning Labs, announced the 1.0 release of the Lightning protocol and the world’s first Lightning test payments on the Bitcoin mainnet across all three implementations. The standardization and deployment of the Lightning Network’s second-level, off-chain payment layer is expected to result in instant bitcoin transactions, improved scalability and lower fees, enabling fast and cheap micropayments.

Blockstream’s implementation of the Lightning spec, c-lightning, is a low-level technology designed to implement the Lightning spec without added complexity. At the same time, Blockstream realizes that developer tools are needed to unlock the power of Lightning for advanced applications, such as those that integrate with credit card companies and with existing online payment systems.

Blockstream is releasing the Lightning Charge complementary package for c-lightning to make it simpler to build sophisticated applications on top of c-lightning.

“Web developers will be able to work with c-lightning through their normal programming techniques, and they’ll also get expanded functionality such as currency conversion, invoice metadata, streaming payment updates and webhooks,” reads the Blockstream announcement. “Together, these additions make it easy for developers to use c-lightning to create their own, independent web-payment infrastructures.”

Lightning Charge is a micropayment processing system written in node.js. It exposes the functionality of c-lightning through its REST API, which can be accessed through JavaScript and PHP libraries, both of which have also been released through the Elements Project.

"Lightning Charge makes integration with the Lightning Network much simpler, since it bridges the needs of application developers and the underlying infrastructure, to provide a simple and extensible way to accept Lightning payments," Blockstream developer Christian Decker said in conversation with Bitcoin Magazine.

“Since the introduction of Lightning Charge, less than 48 hours ago, we have seen a dramatic interest in the Lightning Network, both on the user as well as the developer side,” Decker added. “We have gotten a lot of feedback, and the mainnet network has doubled in the number of participants."

The desired effect of the Lightning Charge launch was to reach a wider audience, get early feedback from future users and to showcase what will be possible in a not-so-distant future, and I think we have achieved that goal.

Israeli entrepreneur Nadav Ivgi, founder of Bitrated, worked with Blockstream developers to create Lightning Charge. “Together with him we built this new code, or this immediate piece of software that provides this nicer to use interface,” said Decker.

“So far the development for Lightning has been mostly on the network side of things. It’s been very much this close-knit group of people that are building it and are trying to build the infrastructure. Infrastructure is nice to have. But if nobody can actually use it then it’s not worth much, right?”

To test Lightning Charge, Blockstream is launching the Blockstream Store, a working e-commerce site that allows users to make small purchases of stickers and t-shirts. “By offering an early demonstration of this cutting-edge technology, we hope to bring Lightning to life with real-world functionality, providing a way for you to test Lightning and become a part of the micropayment revolution,” states the Blockstream announcement.

The Blockstream Store, built on WordPress and WooCommerce, connects with Lightning Charge and c-lightning through a WooCommerce Lightning Gateway, which Blockstream also released as part of the Elements Project.

The only way to purchase the items in the Blockstream store is with a Lightning payment. A disclaimer warns that, although the products sold in the store are real, this store is for testing and demonstration purposes only.

“Lightning is still very new and contains known and unknown bugs,” reads the disclaimer, adding that users may lose funds.

"We believe this is an important step towards a full rollout of the network as a whole, however we’d like to remind users that the Lightning Network is still experimental and that testnet is to be preferred for testing before making the jump to mainnet," Decker told Bitcoin Magazine.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 18 January 2018 | 10:37 am

“Bitcoin Laundering” Study: Where Do Criminals Turn to Mask Illicit Cryptoassets?

Bitcoin laundering study

A recent study (PDF) from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance and blockchain analytics company Elliptic explored the “bitcoin laundering” ecosystem. In the study, Elliptic’s forensic analysis of the Bitcoin blockchain and other publicly available data were used to track the flows of illicit funds from 2013 to 2016.

“This study aimed to identify where individuals turn in order to cash out or transmit bitcoins (BTC) acquired from illicit entities and to discover typologies for criminals ‘laundering’ bitcoins,” the report says.

The study describes bitcoin laundering as a special type of money laundering that exists within the Bitcoin network where a user moves some bitcoins to a new address in a manner that obscures the original source of funds. The conversion of bitcoins into fiat currency on exchanges that lack adequate anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) policies can also fall under the category of bitcoin laundering.

In addition to describing the common mechanisms for bitcoin laundering and explaining that this sort of activity is a small percentage of all transactions sent to exchanges and other conversion services, the study also offers some recommendations for law enforcement in terms of preventing the masking of illicit funds on the Bitcoin network.

It should go without saying that any study related to the dark web or illicit use of the Bitcoin network needs to be taken with a grain of salt because avoiding detection is the whole reason for a criminal to use these sorts of platforms in the first place.

The Bitcoin Laundering Ecosystem

Much of the study, which is titled “Bitcoin Laundering: An Analysis of Illicit Flows Into Digital Currency Services,” revolves around the use of “conversion services.” Conversion services are basically platforms where users convert bitcoins to fiat currency (a Bitcoin exchange) or another cryptocurrency (a cryptoexchange), or move the bitcoins to another Bitcoin address accessible to the user. This results in a flow of funds that cannot be viewed or traced directly on the public blockchain.

According to the study, darknet markets are the main source of funds that are sent to conversion services in bitcoin laundering attempts.

Additionally, the number of illicit services that could be the source of “dirty bitcoins” sent to a conversion service increased fivefold from 2013 to 2016. Having said that, the study finds that the sources of illicit funds entering conversion services are quite centralized.

“Only a small number of entities account for the majority of illicit activity in our sample,” the study says. “Nine of the 102 illicit entities were the source of more than 95 percent of all laundered bitcoins in our study. All nine were darknet marketplaces.”

bitcoin-laundering_Figure1.png

While exchanges are the most commonly used type of conversion service, bitcoin mixers and gambling sites have much more illicit funds coming into their platforms as a percentage of their overall transactions. As potential conduits for bitcoin laundering, these two types of conversion services benefit from concealing their country of operations and avoiding enforcement of AML regulations.

“Fewer than 10 percent of all transactions overall passed through unknown jurisdictions ... while 52 percent of illicit laundering went through them,” the study says.

Much like the sources of illicit funds, the conversion services where these funds are sent are also highly centralized, the study finds. The data indicates that 97 percent of illicit transaction volume at mixers and gambling sites goes through three different entities. Additionally, two platforms in Europe account for half of all illicit transfers that go into exchanges.

Not Much Bitcoin Laundering Activity Overall, and It’s on the Decline

Another notable aspect of the study is that the data indicates a low level of bitcoin laundering as a percentage of all payments sent to conversion services.

“The amount of observed Bitcoin laundering was small (less than one percent of all transactions entering conversion services),” notes the study.

The report clarifies that the actual volume of illicit Bitcoin transactions sent to conversion services is “almost surely to be significantly larger” than what the data in the study shows because intermediate transactions are not counted. In other words, the report only covers transactions made directly from an illicit source, such as a darknet market, to a conversion service.

The study also indicates a decrease in illicit Bitcoin transaction volume going to conversion services over time.

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“It is likely that illicit bitcoins fell as a percentage of total volume entering conversion services due to the cryptocurrency’s increasing popularity as a speculative investment as well as new laundering techniques,” the study says. “The drop may also reflect better AML/CFT compliance by conversion services, including the use of blockchain analysis services to determine customers’ source of funds.”

The study later adds, “Our study, the first of its kind, indicates that while most types of conversion services have received some bitcoins from illicit activity, the vast majority of the funds they receive do not appear to be illicit.”

Recommendations for Law Enforcement That Will Likely Fall Short

The report offers recommendations for law enforcement in terms of what they can do to combat the effectiveness of bitcoin laundering.

First, the study says proper KYC and AML policies need to be enforced on the bitcoin mixers and gambling sites that allow for anonymous usage. It notes that the three conversion services that account for 97 percent of bitcoin laundering on these types of platforms should be targeted by financial authorities.

“The fact that most mixers and gambling sites hide their location of operations indicates they probably seek to evade the basic regulations in place to uphold transparency and financial integrity standards in most jurisdictions,” adds the study.

Of course, it should be noted that targeting these sorts of services will become nearly impossible as they become more decentralized over time. Decentralized platforms like JoinMarket, TumbleBit and ZeroLink remove the ability for authorities to clamp down on bitcoin mixing in an effective manner, as these solutions act more as software than services.

Second, the report also calls for increased AML and KYC compliance at European exchanges.

“Many large European Bitcoin exchanges do implement robust AML policies,” says the study. “However, this is out of choice rather than obligation, and there are some who choose not to, possibly to attract business from criminals.”

The study adds that the European Union is already moving in the right direction via an update of their 2015 Anti-Money Laundering Directive to include fiat-to-cryptocurrency exchanges, but in the view of the authors of the paper, crypto-to-crypto exchanges must also be regulated in this manner.

Again, it needs to be pointed out that more problematic technology — at least from law enforcement’s point of view — is on the horizon in the form of decentralized cryptoexchanges. Through the use of cross-chain atomic swaps via the lightning network, users will be able to instantly trade between different cryptoassets without the need for a trusted third party.

Third, the study calls for a sort of propaganda campaign against the use of darknet markets by criminals and the general public at large.

“Law enforcement should increase customer skepticism about [darknet market] sites’ integrity and reduce the perceived security of such platforms by exposing their vulnerabilities publicly,” says the study.

The report adds that law enforcement should make it well known that they’re lurking on these darknet markets to further shake confidence in them.

Darknet markets are another area of the Bitcoin ecosystem that are becoming more decentralized through platforms such as OpenBazaar. While illicit activity on the OpenBazaar network appears to be limited at this time, it could potentially explode in popularity as a reaction to law enforcement’s hypothetical campaigns against the centralized darknet markets.

Fourth, the report praises the decision by financial authorities in the United States to regulate exchanges as Money Service Businesses. The authors of the paper would like to see this sort of policy rolled out worldwide.

Last, the study notes the need to prevent the illicit use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to get around economic sanctions imposed by the United States or other nations.

“In addition to mitigating illicit finance risks like criminal money laundering, there will likely be a need to develop strategies to counter state actors aiming to use cryptocurrencies to circumvent U.S., EU, and UN sanctions.”

Recently, there have been reports of North Korea, Russia and Venezuela all looking into separate mechanisms for avoiding economic sanctions through the use of cryptocurrencies.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 18 January 2018 | 2:52 am

Hyperledger’s Behlendorf: 2018 Will Bring Breakthrough Blockchain Developments

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Brian Behlendorf is confident that 2018 will be a peak year, not only for Hyperledger — the international consortium of companies and organizations developing open source, permissioned blockchain technology — but also for blockchain technology in general as businesses and governments recognize the potential power of distributed ledgers and smart contracts.

“2018 will be the year that Hyperledger and blockchain come into their own. Projects demonstrating real world solutions, like Change Healthcare, that will enable healthcare systems to better and more efficiently process claims and payments, will launch this year.”

Hyperledger, founded in 2015, incubates and promotes blockchain technologies for business, including distributed ledgers, client libraries, graphical interfaces and smart contract engines.

Their 200 members include leading companies in finance, banking, Internet of Things, supply chains, manufacturing and technology development.  

“2017 was a milestone year for Hyperledger both for new members and for new technical breakthroughs. In 2017 we doubled our membership, gaining companies like American Express, Cisco, Daimler and Baidu, and we’re expecting more companies and organizations to join in 2018,” said Behlendorf.

“On the technical side, 30 companies and more than 100 developers contributed to the launch of the first production ready Hyperledger blockchain framework called Hyperledger Fabric,” he added.

According to Behlendorf, an important part of Hyperledger’s mandate is to also help educate and train the workforce for the many new blockchain opportunities coming in 2018.

“We’re happy to have launched our new Resource Center, and our online blockchain course is a great success with more than 45,000 enrolled and an average of 2,500 new enrollments per week.”

Hyperledger Blockchain Frameworks

In 2018, Hyperledger will start launching a number of frameworks and platforms that are currently in incubation.

“Interoperability in a multi-blockchain world will be the major focus in 2018. A number of Hyperledger projects are exploring integrations among one another including Hyperledger Sawtooth and Burrow and Indy, Composer and Quilt.”

Behlendorf expects that 2018 will also see some experimentation with different levels of permissioned access to blockchain networks.

He noted that permissioned and permissionless is more of a spectrum than a binary notion, and an important question is what the cost to join a node to a network is in any blockchain platform.

By reducing the cost of joining a networked ledger, Hyperledger hopes to enable new use cases and ways to solve problems.

“Hyperledger was started by a set of developers very focused on modest-sized permissioned ledgers, so that’s where the initial work has been, but there’s no hard limit to that. So we’re happy to look at options that make it easier, perhaps even to full permissionless frameworks,” said Behlendorf.

“I should note that our projects including Hyperledger Indy (for identity), Hyperledger Burrow (for smart contracts), Hyperledger Quilt (for interoperability) and Hyperledger Composer and Cello (developer tools) are agnostic about consensus mechanisms and would work fine with permissionless approaches,” he added.

Expect to see the following Hyperledger launches in 2018:

Quilt will offer interoperability between ledger systems by implementing ILP, which is a payments protocol designed to transfer value across distributed and non-distributed ledgers.

Sawtooth is a blockchain platform for creating and managing distributed ledgers. Sawtooth includes Proof of Elapsed Time (PoET) and a new consensus algorithm that is maintained without a central authority. It was originally proposed by Intel.

Iroha is a business blockchain framework for infrastructure projects that require the use of distributed ledger technology. It includes a chain-based Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus algorithm. Soramitsu, Hitachi, NTT DATA and Colu originally proposed this framework.

Burrow is a smart-contract creator with a permissioned smart-contract interpreter included.

Indy is a distributed ledger with a decentralized identity designed to create independent digital identities between blockchains.

Composer is an open development tool set designed to make it easier to integrate existing business systems with the blockchain.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 3:21 pm

Bitcoin tops $10,000 milestone

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Bitcoin reaches new all-time high: $3,000

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CRYENGINE now accepts Bitcoin

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Bitcoin Trading Bots

There have been a wide variety of situations in which algorithmic trading programs have proven to be beneficial for investors. However, investors who only trade a cryptocurrency can also take advantage of bitcoin trading bots. Through bitcoin bot trading, traders can become more flexible and prompt, minimize errors and process information more rapidly. At this… Read More »

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Steam accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 29 April 2016 | 1:09 am

Major Magazine Publisher to Accept Bitcoin Payments

Posted on 18 December 2014 | 12:43 pm

Microsoft accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 11 December 2014 | 5:06 am

Mozilla accepting Bitcoin

Posted on 20 November 2014 | 1:55 pm

PayPal and Virtual Currency

Posted on 23 September 2014 | 9:52 pm

Wikimedia Foundation Now Accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 30 July 2014 | 3:14 pm

German Newspaper "taz" accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 1:32 pm

airBaltic - World’s First Airline To Accept Bitcoin

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 11:03 am

January 22, 2018 -
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