This week started with the crypto market trading sideways. Both bulls and bears were dominant in equal share. On Monday, bitcoin (BTC) opened trading at $8,189 before plunging as low as $8,079 and ended up cling trading at $8,144 after a slight correction. Most of the altcoin market followed this trend with ETH plummeting from $143 to 142 before climbing to $145.
However, the market took a different turn on Tuesday after bulls took over. BTC opened the day trading at $8,140 and rose as high as $8,879 before closing trading at $8,827. Ethereum surged as high as $167 and XRP gained significantly to reach $0.24. The market has managed to maintain the bullish momentum up to today.
At the time of writing, all coins, but tether (USDT) in the top-10 are green. BTC is up 2.44 percent over the past 24 hours to trade at $8,728. ETH has gained 9.9 percent to change hands at $1.64 and XRP is up 7 percent to trade at $0.2355. The biggest gainer is bitcoin SV (BSV) with 83.44 percent gains over the last 24 hours. These gains have seen the coin climb to claim the fourth position in the top-10 list. BSV is currently trading at $374 and BCH is up 20.58 percent to trade at $342 according to data from Coinmarketcap.
Purported Leader of a $3.5 Million Crypto Scam Buys Stake in a Nightclub
Stepping away from the bullish state of the crypto market, the SEC is suing a US citizen for allegedly running a fraudulent crypto mining operation. The man, known as Donald G. Blakstad reportedly defrauded investors out of more than $3.5 million through three different firms. Blakstad’s business involved a vehicle parts holding firm, an oil and gas company, and a crypto mining operation dubbed “Energy Sources International (ESI)”.
According to SEC’s complaint, Blakstad scammed not less than 14 investors. Per the regulator, he used investor funds for his benefit instead of investing the money as he had promised. He allegedly used some of these funds to buy a stake in a nightclub, purchase a car, and fund illicit securities trading.
The SEC went on to explain that he scammed five individuals out of $550,000 through his mining firm. While he promised to use the invested funds on equipment costs, the SEC noted that he spent almost half of the capital at restaurants, casinos, and hotels.
North Korean Hackers Begin Using Telegram to Steal Crypto
In more crypto-related crime news, Lazarus, a North Korean group of hackers has come up with a new way to steal crypto via the Telegram app. New research by Kaspersky Labs unveiled this information, noting that the notorious group has had this cyber-theft campaign going on since 2018. Known as Operation AppleJeus, this campaign has claimed victims in Russia, China, Poland, and the UK thus far.
Reportedly, the hackers bait their victims by setting up fake crypto sites and trading groups on the Telegram up. They then add links with malicious code on the sites and in the trading groups. When crypto holders open the links, they unknowingly install the malicious code in their device, granting the hackers access to their private data.
Kaspersky noted that,
Since the initial appearance of Operation AppleJeus, we can see that over time the authors have changed their modus operandi considerably. We assume this kind of attack on cryptocurrency businesses will continue and become more sophisticated.
Thai Police to Question a Local Actor Associated with a Bitcoin-related Abduction
Still on crypto-related crime, Thai police unveiled that they seek to interrogate an unnamed local actor in relation to the abduction of Mark Cheng, a 33-year-old Singaporean businessman. Per the local police, the victim identified the pickup used to kidnap him and claimed that it belonged to the actor. He added that he managed to identify the car because he had met the actor a few times before the incident for drinks.
Cheng’s complaint alleged that a group of men including a Singaporean, only known as Kim, kidnapped him and tortured him demanding ransom in bitcoin (BTC). He added that he paid a ransom of $742,418 in BTC before his captors let him go. According to Lt Gen Montri Yimyaem, the commissioner of Provincial Police Region 2, they have managed to arrest Kim alongside at least three other men thought to have been involved in the kidnapping thus far.
The police also conducted an investigation, in which they were able to find materials and equipment used in the abduction in the actor’s house. Per Lt Gen Montri, the police are still probing the matter to determine whether the kidnapping was related to a business conflict.
Coinbase Settles Cryptsy Victims’ Class-action Lawsuit for $1 Million
Moving on, Coinbase exchange settled a class-action lawsuit filed by the victims of the now-defunct Cryptsy exchange. A report revealed this news on January 14, noting that Coinbase settled this case for $962,500. Court documents disclosed that Coinbase would transfer the funds to an escrow account, whose agent would, in turn, distribute the funds to the victims.
According to the publication, this case started after Cryptsy filed for insolvency in 2016 following an attack that saw it lose around 13,000 BTC and 300,000 LTC. Out of the lost funds, approximately 10,000 belonged to the exchange’s users. After facing withdrawal issues the used filed charges against the exchange’s founder, Paul Vernon. The complaint put Vernon on the spot for alleged negligence, unjust enrichment, conversion, and violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Coinbase’s name got dragged in the lawsuit after the plaintiffs claimed that it was involved in laundering the money. In a follow-up lawsuit, Cryptsy’s victims accused Coinbase of facilitating the theft and allowing the laundering of $8.2 million in crypto. While Coinbase filed for dismissal and settlement, the court denied the motion. After three years in court, both parties finally reached this settlement, preventing the case from reaching a jury trial.
Visa Set to Acquire Plaid for $5.3 Billion
Regarding crypto-related partnerships, Visa unveiled that it seeks to purchase Plaid, a crypto-serving FinTech firm. The payments giant announced this news on Monday, noting that this acquisition would help it enter into new businesses. Visa also noted that this deal would help it improve its existing card business.
According to the announcement, this deal involves $5.3 billion and is set to close in the next three to six months. While Plaid is known for helping people connect bank accounts to apps such a PayPal and Venmo, the platform also serves crypto firms including Coinbase and Abra Wallet. In so doing, it lets its users share financial information conveniently.
Disclosing further details about this acquisition, Visa noted that it would pay $4.9 billion and cash and settle the remaining sum in retention equity and deferred equity. Nonetheless, the total sum that Visa intends to pay is a significant premium over Plaid’s valuation, which reached $2.5 billion recently.
Commenting on this deal, Visa’s CEO Al Kelly said,
The combination of Visa and Plaid will put us at the epicenter of the fintech world, expanding our total addressable market and accelerating our long-term revenue growth trajectory.
PBoC Unveils the Progress of Its Digital Currency
Meanwhile, the Peoples Bank of China (PBoC) announced that the latest developments regarding the development of its digital currency. The bank recently took to WeChat and revealed that it had completed the “top-level” design, technology standard, functionality research and development, and sub-system testing for the creation of its digital currency electronic payment (DCEP).
In its post, PBoC also noted that it would continue studying the digital currency. The bank added that it would keep a keen eye on the latest development of digital currency programs across the globe. This news comes after the former president of PBoC, Yi Lihui, asserted that the blockchain technology should not underpin the country’s digital currency. Lihui noted that the blockchain has major scalability issues, and is, therefore, not suitable for powering the coin.
If China is to launch its fiat digital currency soon, the scalability limitation and the transaction inefficiency of the current blockchain technology would render it unable to be used to meet the huge transaction demand of our nation’s digital currency, considering our massive retail market. Therefore, the PBoC should stay neutral towards the technology that underpins the digital currency, which will not be dependent on a sole technology platform.
WisdomTree Aims to Launch a Regulated Stablecoin in the US.
In new developments in the crypto sphere, WisdomTree, an asset manager unveiled intentions of entering the stablecoin market. The firm aims to launch an asset-pegged coin that is regulated in the US. A report unveiled this news on Monday, noting that WisdomTree seeks to back its stablecoin with multiple assets including gold, fiat currencies, and government bonds.
According to the report, the firm also seeks to approach the SEC and consult for regulatory needs. However, it is still unclear whether the asset manager has already initiated talks with the regulator. Apart from this, WisdomTree announced that it seeks to introduce decentralized tech into the ETF market. In so doing, the company believes that it would bring trading instruments to a wide range of investors. On top of this, it would also be in a position to improve their investment experiences.
In an interview, William Peck, WisdomTree’s corporate strategy director said that the structure of their stablecoin would be similar to that of an ETF. This news comes after WisdomTree recently invested in Surrency, a blockchain startup.
Lightnet, a Thai-based FinTech Startup Secures $31.2 Million in Its Series A Funding
Shifting to the blockchain space, Thai-based FinTech startup Lightnet raised $31.2 million during its Series A funding round. A report unveiled this news on January 14, noting that the firm intends to use the newly-acquired funds to invest in Stellar. Per the firm, Stellar is a decentralized solution for cross-border transactions.
In the report, the firm noted that it plans to tackle the remittance sector starting with the underbanked workers. Through this, it hopes to onboard such workers into an efficient system while getting them off the current system, which it terms as costly and outdated.
The firm added that the Stellar blockchain protocol would play a big role in helping it reach its goal of offering low-cost, yet instantaneous financial inclusivity. Through Stellar’s fast, scalable, and sustainable blockchain, Lightnet believes that it will be better poised to improve the lives of the four billion people across the Asia Pacific region.
Blockchain Firms Paid Close to $1 Million in Bug Bounties in 2019
Still on the blockchain sector, a report revealed that blockchain firms paid almost $1 million in bug bounties on HackerOne in the past year. Per the publication, blockchain firms dished out $968,504 to white-hat hackers. This figure is up by more than $100,000 in 2018, where the total amount awarded to ethical hackers was $878,504.
According to the report, the crypto and blockchain sector emerged fourth in terms of bug bounty payments. The top-three positions went to internet services, computer software, and media. The crypto and blockchain space also paid the highest average bug bounty of $6,124.