Bitcoin exchange abandons Poland even as the government invites it to a working group

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In a delightful bit of irony BitBay, a Central European exchange, has shut down operations in Poland even as it received an invitation by the Polish government to participate in a national blockchain working group. The news, which appeared in a Tweet, states that the group will assess regulations for cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and ICOs.

“Our exchange has received an invitation from the PFSA to participate in the Blockchain Working Group. 💪 As we have recently said, we do not want to abandon crypto activity in the Polish community,” wrote BitBay.

Poland has had an odd relationship with Bitcoin. First, some of the central banks funded a YouTube propaganda video that showed a person losing plenty of cash in crypto. Further, the community is fighting back but releasing counter-propaganda to the central bank’s policies.

After being shut out by Polish banks, BitBay moved its headquarters to Malta and stopped serving Polish customers.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/01/bitcoin-exchange-abandons-poland-even-as-the-government-invites-it-to-a-working-group/

This bitcoin explainer created with AI is phenomenally insane

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Look, understanding cryptocurrency can be confusing. We here at Mashable are dedicated to helping our readers understand the complexities of this new form of currency and how it affects our day-to-day lives.

But even we are having our collective minds blown by this video, an “explainer” of cryptocurrency created by Botnik Studios that was “written using predictive keyboards trained on dozens of Bitcoin explainers.” 

And the results are as insane as you might expect: 

  • “To understand how bitcoin transactions are created, randomly pick a number between 1 and 30,000. Now spend that amount of money on Ethereum.”

  • “Despite the risk, one benefit of bitcoin is that you can upload a version of your future self on the dark net.”

  • “The popular form of bitcoin is the ‘Wild Richard.'”

You get the idea: absolute nonsense poetry.

Don’t worry, though. If you need to cleanse your mind and get the real ins-and-outs of crypto down straight, we’ve got you covered

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/23/bitcoin-explained-by-ai/

Hot damn, this Bitcoin cat just might convince me to HODL

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Yesssssssss.
Image:  iridi/getty

Bitcoin true believers have long promised a blockchain-based revolution, but the only true thing of value to come out of Satoshi’s white paper is this chill-ass cryptocat.  

Sure, the scams and ransomware and general buffoonery in the blockchain space have all been pretty great, but none of that comes close to this Bitcoin maximalist tabby. 

I mean, just check the dude out. 

He’s an absolute unit, with bad-boy appeal. 

Get it.

Image: iridi/getty

And! He’s knows how to accessorize. 

Oh *hell* yeah.

Image: iridi/getty

Let’s not overlook the fact that he believes in saving for retirement. 

Investing in a feline future.

Image: iridi/getty

But he’s not stingy, either. Check this party vibe. 

Crypto rich!

Image: iridi/getty

Also, hell yeah to these shades. My man’s got style. 

Fresh.

Image: iridi/getty

Not only that, he makes a coherent argument about the relative value of cryptocurrency versus fiat. (The tie means he’s legit.)

Farewell to fiat.

Image: iridi/getty

So while the market may be volatile, and the entire blockchain industry is basically a solution in search of a problem, at least it gave us this cat. 🙌 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/06/01/bitcoin-cat/

How WIRED Lost $100,000 in Bitcoin

Back in 2013, when you could still mine bitcoins at home, WIRED was sent a small, sleek mining device manufactured by the now-defunct Butterfly Labs. We turned on the Roku-looking machine in our San Francisco offices and allowed it to do its job. A small fortune was soon amassed, now worth around $100,000. Then, we lost the money. Forever.

Here's what happened to WIRED's 13 Bitcoins—and to the millions of others that have faced the same fate.

Stefan Antonowicz, WIRED's then-head of engineering, set up the miner. Robert McMillan, a former senior writer for WIRED (who now works at The Wall Street Journal), then wrote about it. "When we received that Butterfly miner, we had a new ethical question: What do you do with the proceeds of a review device that essentially prints money?" says McMillan.

First, it's probably worth explaining how WIRED accrued its six-figure Bitcoin fortune. While fiat currencies, like the dollar, rely on banks and government regulators, Bitcoin runs on a peer-to-peer network monitored by an army of volunteer miners that run specialized software. Every 10 minutes, all the miners in the network race to solve a series of complex cryptographic math problems. The computers that win are awarded a slice of 12.5 new bitcoins. (That number halves every four years; it was 25 when we got our miner.) Usually, the fastest computers in the network solve the problems first.

Over time, the puzzles have gotten harder, leading to a kind of computing-power arms race. Back when Bitcoin first launched, it was possible to mine coins using an everyday computer. These days, you'll need specialized hardware significantly more powerful than the Butterfly Labs miner WIRED had. Currently, there are about 17 million bitcoins in existence; by the year 2140, all 21 million planned Bitcoins will have been mined. You can learn more about the process in our Guide to Bitcoin.)

WIRED's miner essentially won the Bitcoin math lottery a couple of times, allowing it to generate a little over 13 coins into the network. Then, the staff had to figure out what to do with them. "We had a very long conversation, over several weeks, about what to do with the money," says Michael Calore, a senior editor at WIRED who has been at the magazine since 2006. Some staff members argued the Bitcoin should be donated, or set aside for a charitable purpose in the future. Others said it had to be destroyed permanently. What was agreed upon was that the money shouldn't just sit there, because it could influence how the magazine reported on cryptocurrencies.

"I said we had to dump it and donate the money to charity soonest or we wouldn't be able to cover Bitcoin," says Adam Rogers, a deputy editor at WIRED. "We had to disclose it in every story." Eventually, it was decided that the private key, which unlocks the Bitcoin wallet and allows the funds to be spent, should be destroyed.

"We talked about donating it to a journalism institution, or setting it aside as a scholarship. But we decided that if we gained any benefit from it at all, it would color our future coverage of bitcoin," says Calore. "So we just destroyed the key, knowing full well that it could eventually be worth six or seven figures." McMillan then posted a story announcing the key had been ripped to pieces.

Throwing Away the Key

To deal in bitcoin, you need at least two different keys, one public and one private (newer security protocols allow you to add more private keys). Together, the combination of codes lets you trade Bitcoin without an intermediary like a bank. You can look up WIRED's public key to send us money, and then in theory, we could use our private key to access those funds—had we not destroyed it. It's extremely unlikely we could successfully guess the code: it's 64 digits long and no one remembers what it was.

No additional copies of the private key exist, at least according to the people who were there. "I didn't make a copy of the paper, or commit the 64 characters on it to memory," says Antonowicz, the technologist who set up the miner. The good news is that if someone did move the coins, the transaction would be public, allowing WIRED to see where they traveled to. In fact, you too can check out WIRED's lost Bitcoins right here.

In theory, we might be able to recover the Bitcoin wallet from the hard drive where it was stored, but even that wouldn't be much help. "There might have been a way to forensically recover the wallet—with the encrypted key—from my hard drive, but I shredded that particular drive years ago," says Antonowicz.

Plus, even if the wallet was resurrected, it's encrypted. Breaking that protection via brute force would take an unimaginable amount of time. There are three times more possible combinations than there are atoms in the observable universe, by Antonowicz's count.

"Originally I was going to say that the closest metaphor I have is that we dropped a car key somewhere in the Atlantic, but I think it's closer for me to say we dropped the key somewhere between here and the Alpha Centauri," says Antonowicz.

Recovering our bitcoins is essentially like trying to recover a photo album on a lost computer. Except not only did you get rid of the hard drive, you also protected the album in an encrypted folder with a 64-digit passcode that you threw away.

Still, we wanted to make sure there was absolutely no way to get the bitcoins back. WIRED's editor-in-chief, Nicholas Thompson, suggested that if we were able to recover the funds, they might go toward hiring a full-time cryptocurrency reporter. I reached out to the founder of Butterfly Labs, who didn't respond. I also contacted Mark Frauenfelder, a writer and the author of a WIRED article about how he recovered $30,000 worth of Bitcoin. He agrees we're screwed.

"If you lost your private keys I think it’s game over," he says. I also looked into a service that tries to crack cryptocurrency wallets via sheer brute force. But their services would be no help, since we don't have access to the hard drive itself. It looks like WIRED really did lose the money forever. The good news is we're far from alone.

Lost and Never Found

Chainalysis, a research firm that analyzes activity across different cryptocurrency markets, estimates that between 2.78 and 3.79 million, or between 17 and 23 percent of all bitcoins have been lost. That includes wallets believed to belong to Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious founder of Bitcoin who hasn't touched his estimated 1 million coins since 2011.

“The number of lost coins over time will drop,” says Michael Gronager, the CEO and co-founder of Chainalysis. He argues that's because there’s more awareness of Bitcoin’s enduring value, even if the price wildly fluctuates. He also says that even if Satoshi were to reemerge, his activity wouldn't significantly impact the market because he wouldn't likely spend a large sum of Bitcoin at once.

There are several ways you can lose Bitcoin. Like WIRED, you can simply lose track of your private key or your hard drive. One of the most famous cases of this is what happened to James Howells, an IT worker in London who lost 7,500 bitcoins, or around $56 million, when his laptop was thrown away in 2013. He reportedly wants to dig through five years of trash to unearth the computer. This is the most common way to lose Bitcoin; even Elon Musk tweeted that he forgot how to access a portion of a coin.

You can also lose bitcoins by running buggy code or making software mistakes, though these instances are more rare. Last year, for example, someone forgot to collect their mining reward and burned 12.5 coins. In another similar incident, someone may have accidentally swapped a processing fee with the value of the transaction, resulting in nearly 300 coins lost. One time, someone even sent 2,600 coins to an incorrectly configured address, burning them into nonexistence. All of these examples come from BlockSci, a tool developed at Princeton University for analyzing the Bitcoin blockchain.

It can be difficult to assess whether any given bitcoin is really lost for good. "It's actually pretty difficult to say for certain. A lot of what we do is look at the big picture," says Harry Kalodner a PhD at Princeton who helped develop BlockSci. He says part of the problem is that you can rarely determine whether someone is just holding onto their Bitcoin, or whether they've definitively lost access to it. Since Bitcoin isn't controlled by any single authority, there's no one who can simply close your account.

So what could WIRED have done, were we to do the whole thing again? Since 2013, Bitcoin has added a number of new, more sophisticated features. For one, we could have locked our coins away until a certain date. "One Bitcoin feature that's been added is that it now supports time-locked coins, that makes them completely un-spendable until a set point in the future," says Kalodner. Like, say, May 2018, when the editor-in-chief could really use some money to hire another reporter.


More Great WIRED Stories

*Losing Bitcoin is shockingly easy. This guy lost $30,000 worth

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/wired-lost-bitcoin/

Coinbase makes it easier for hedge funds to trade Bitcoin

Coinbase's new trading platform for institutional investors: Coinbase Prime.
Image: Coinbase

Cryptocurrency is going legit in a big way.

Leading U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is going after institutional investors with four new major products, all of which cater to the needs of professionals and big institutions, making it easier for them to trade cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple. 

The new products address many of the issues that big investors such as hedge funds face when trying to enter the cryptocurrency market, providing liquidity, safe storage of assets, quality support and advanced products such as OTC (over-the-counter) and margin trading.

If institutional investors take the bait — and judging by announcements from banking giants such as Goldman Sachs, they will — Coinbase’s new tools will clear the path for an even larger outpouring of money into cryptocurrencies.

Coinbase Custody, launched in partnership with “an SEC-regulated broker-dealer,” provides safe storage of cryptoassets, paired with third-party auditing. Coinbase claims it’ll draw on its experience of storing more than $20 billion in cryptocurrency to make this the “most secure crypto storage solution available.”

Coinbase Prime is a platform with all the bells and whistles institutional investors are used to, and by the end of the year it should have advanced tools such as margin trading, algorithmic orders and multi-user permissions. Note that individual investors should use Coinbase’s trading platform GDAX; Prime is for institutions and professionals only.

Coinbase Markets is a centralized liquidity pool for all Coinbase products, which, besides Coinbase’s digital wallet and exchange, include trading platform GDAX and now Prime. This product will be headquartered in Coinbase’s new office in Chicago. 

Coinbase claims that more than 100 hedge funds announced plans to trade/invest in cryptocurrency in the last few months alone. 

Finally, the Coinbase Institutional Coverage Group will work from Coinbase’s New York City office to provide support to clients including research and market operations.

This is a major upgrade to Coinbase’s product lineup, which has so far been mostly oriented toward individual investors. “There is clear demand from institutional clients and financial services professionals for more specific solutions with regard to cryptocurrencies that address their sophisticated needs,” Adam White, Vice President and General Manager of Coinbase Institutional, said in a statement. Coinbase claims that more than 100 hedge funds announced plans to trade/invest in cryptocurrency in the last few months alone. 

Coinbase was reportedly adding more than 100,000 users per day in late 2017, when the cryptocurrency craze — and Bitcoin price levels — was going off the charts. The company reportedly had more than $1 billion in revenue in 2017, and valued itself at $8 billion in April 2018. 

Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/15/coinbase-institutional-investors/

Justice Department is reportedly looking into Bitcoin price manipulation

Is someone artificially pushing the price of Bitcoin and Ethereum up or down?
Image: Photographer is my life/Gettyimages

Internet forums are full of theories on who’s pushing the price of Bitcoin this or that way, and they range from somewhat plausible to completely ludicrous. But could some of them be right?

The U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal probe into whether the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are being manipulated by traders, Bloomberg reported Thursday. 

This manipulation can include practices such as spoofing (placing large numbers of buy or sell orders with no intent to fill them) and wash trading (simultaneously buying and selling the same asset to create fake volume on the market). You will rarely see these illegal methods used in established stock markets, but some may be using them to profit in the largely unregulated world of cryptocurrencies, teeming with millions of inexperienced traders. 

According to the report, the Justice Department is working with CFTC officials on the investigation, which is said to be in its early stages. The investigation is reportedly focusing on Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. 

A recent analysis by investor Sylvain Ribes, for example, has shown that a large amount of volume seen on some popular cryptocurrency exchanges is likely fake and exists only due to practices such as wash trading. And a recent paper, published in the Journal of Monetary Economics, concluded that suspicious trading activity may have been responsible for Bitcoin’s rapid jump in price from $150 to $1,000 in late 2013. 

The price of Bitcoin has been on the decline since May 5, when it briefly hit $9,950, and is currently at $7,543. The market cap of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency stands at $128.6 billion. Ethereum is following a similar trajectory. It’s currently trading at $586 with a market cap of $58.4 billion. 

Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/24/justice-department-probe-bitcoin/

Consensus 2018: Dispatches from the ‘Coachella of Bitcoin’

Nightmare fuel has moved to the blockchain.
Image: jack morse/mashable

It’s 8:15 a.m. at the Hilton hotel in Midtown Manhattan, and the escalator has a bouncer. 

An estimated 8,500 blockchain experts and cryptocurrency evangelists have come from around the globe to be here at the 2018 Consensus conference, and the line to pick up attendee badges shows no sign of moving. A security guard in a suit, talking into his sleeve, eventually gives a small group the go-ahead to ride up to the second floor where another line awaits. 

It feels like we’re trying, and failing, to get into New York’s hottest nightclub.

“This is like the Coachella of Bitcoin,” a passerby whispers to her companion as they breeze by. 

You can taste the excitement.

Image: jack morse/mashable

And indeed, while it lacks Beyonce and the questionable wardrobe choices of the Southern California music festival, the Coindesk organized Consensus more than makes up for it in its sheer opulence and buffoonery — a fact made obvious before you even walk through the conference doors.

Parked outside the hotel were three Lamborghinis — an inside joke within the cryptocurrency community — and, opposite them, a man claiming that the developers of NEM screwed him out of over $1.5 million USD worth of cryptocurrency. 

Across the street was an entirely different type of show: specifically, a fake protest. Chanting “hey hey, ho ho, Bitcoin has got to go,” the group of self-described bankers and CEOs (one man told me he got his suit out of a dumpster) carried signs reading “paper checks use less electricity” and “we thought this was a bubble.”

According to a rambling statement on the group’s website, the Genesis Mining-backed demonstrators were actually protesting aspects of the financial industry, but either way, they generated enough of a scene to draw a crowd and put conference attendees in what can only be described as an appropriately absurdist frame of mind. 

Because as soon as those who came to hear the blockchain gospel made it past the aforementioned escalator bouncer and the formidable registration line, they were met with what can only be described as a hodler’s paradise. 

Want 18-karat gold crypto-jewelry to commemorate your ride-or-die status as a Bitcoin maximalist? Consensus 2018 is the place for you. 

But can you verify ownership on the blockchain?

Image: Jack Morse/mashable

I’ll take two, please.

Image: Jack Morse/mashable

And sure, you may know about beer, but have you heard of cryptobeer?

If that’s not your thing, don’t fret, just make you way over to the cyptopuppy (yes, this dog was described to me as a “cryptopuppy”) named after Margaret Thatcher chilling on the fourth floor. 

Still recovering from the Mt. Gox hack.

Image: jack morse/mashable

But just like the SEC trying to shit all over the decentralized parade, the real world did poke its annoying head into the immutable bubble of joy. That’s right, someone ticketed the Lambos. 

Sad times.

Image: jack morse/mashable

What’s more, in what definitely isn’t a metaphor for the entire industry, it turned out that the fancy cars weren’t even the fruit of early Bitcoin adoption. They were just a promotional stunt

But push that all to the back on your head, fellow believer. Because if there’s one thing “the Coachella of Bitcoin” makes clear, it’s that these are serious people with serious ideas — even if, as one major player in the cryptocurrency space told me on background, 80 percent of people in the scene are likely scammers. 

Because scammer or no, at the 2018 Consensus conference we’re all heading to the moon.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/14/consensus-blockchain-cryptocurrency-conference/

Revolut adds Ripple and Bitcoin Cash support

Fintech startup Revolut is adding Bitcoin Cash and Ripple to its cryptocurrency feature. While cryptocurrency isn’t really Revolut’s focus point, it’s a good way to get started with cryptocurrencies.

If you have a Revolut account, you can now buy and hold Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Bitcoin Cash. Behind the scene, the startup has partnered with Bitstamp to process the transactions. Revolut currently charges a 1.5 percent fee for cryptocurrency transactions. There are currently 100,000 cryptocurrency transactions per day.

Compared to a traditional cryptocurrency exchange, you can’t send or receive cryptocurrencies from your Revolut account. You don’t get a bitcoin address for instance. All you can do is buy tokens in the app. If you want to transfer those tokens somewhere else, you’ll have to sell them for USD, GBP, etc. and then buy cryptocurrencies on a traditional exchange using your fiat money.

Recently, the startup also announced a new feature called Vaults. Revolut users can set up a vault to save money over time.

You can round up your spare change every time you make a transaction. For instance, if you pay $3.47 for that delicious ice cream, you’ll save 53 cents in your vault. You can also multiple that amount so that you save multiple times your spare change with each transaction. Many fintech startups also provide this feature.

You can also set up recurring payments to set aside a bit of money each day, each week or each month. Interestingly, you get to choose the currency of your vault. So it means that you can decide to buy ethers with spare change and weekly payments for instance. It’s a great way to hedge against the volatility of cryptocurrencies.

Users don’t earn interests on vaults. It’s just a way to set some money aside that doesn’t appear in your main Revolut account. You can decide to close your vault whenever you want.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/23/revolut-adds-ripple-and-bitcoin-cash-support/

South Africa kidnappers make ransom demand in bitcoin

Abductors of boy, 13, left note demanding 92,000 worth of cryptocurrency for his release

A gang that kidnapped a South African teenager from a playground at the weekend have demanded a ransom in bitcoin worth about $123,000, police have said.

The 13-year-old boy was taken in the town of Witbank in the eastern province of Mpumalanga while he was playing with two friends near his home. Witnesses said a Toyota Corolla pulled up nearby and the teenager was dragged in and driven away.

We are investigating a case of kidnapping that happened on Sunday in Witbank. There was a demand that was made that the parents should deposit cash in bitcoins, the police spokesman Leonard Hlathi said on Tuesday. Local media said the ransom note was left at the scene.

Q&A

What is bitcoin and is it a bad investment?

Bitcoin is the first, and the biggest, cryptocurrency a decentralised tradeable digital asset. Whether it is a bad investment is the big question. Bitcoin can only be used as a medium of exchange and in practice has been far more important for the dark economy than it has for most legitimate uses. The lack of any central authority makes bitcoin remarkably resilient to censorship, corruption or regulation. That means it has attracted a range of backers, from libertarian monetarists who enjoy the idea of a currency with no inflation and no central bank, to drug dealers who like the fact that it is hard (but not impossible) to trace a bitcoin transaction back to a physical person.

This is a kidnapping We demand ransom of 15 bitcoins to be paid into the below bitcoin wallet address to secure your childs safe release non-negotiable, the note reportedly read.

The first deadline for payment of part of the ransom passed on Monday night. In the note, the kidnappers threatened to kill the boy if their demands were not met. A police official said boys parents were going through trauma.

They dont even know what this bitcoin is. Theyre devastated and you can see theyre worried and asking themselves: Wheres our son? local media quoted the official as saying. The boys mother made an emotional appeal on Tuesday, pleading with the kidnappers to bring back [her] son.

Police in South Africa have reported a recent rise in kidnappings, although it is usually wealthy businesspeople who are targeted. The latest case appears to be the first ransom demand in made for a cryptocurrency in the country.

In December 2017, an employee at a cryptocurrency exchange in Ukraine was released by kidnappers after a ransom of more than $1m worth of bitcoins was paid.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/22/south-africa-kidnappers-ransom-demand-bitcoin

A Bitcoin mining company just organized a fake protest

It's the dirty bankers, man.
Image: jack morse/mashable

It’s difficult to stand out in the often bonkers world of cryptocurrency.

With all the scams, hacks, and animated dancing coins, it can be really hard to break through the noise and into the public’s consciousness with your surely revolutionary tech. That’s where the fake protest comes in. 

As the 2018 Consensus blockchain conference kicked off today in Midtown Manhattan, one bitcoin mining company apparently decided that the best way to make a splash was with a few shouts. As the event was getting started, a group of people could be found marching in front of the hotel hosting the 8,500-person-strong gathering. They chanted slogans like “hey hey, ho ho, Bitcoin has got to go,” and held signs informing anyone who passed by that “paper checks use less electricity!”

And, as things often go in the world of Bitcoin, everything was not as it seemed. 

The “protest” was ostensibly organized by a group calling itself Bankers Against Bitcoin, which, as you have probably guessed, is not a 100-percent real protest group. It does have real backing, though. Specifically, that of Bitcoin mining company Genesis Mining

Importantly, it’s not like Genesis Mining is trying to hide it. As the organizer’s website explains, the company wants everyone to get on the cryptocurrency rocket ship before it’s too late. 

“This protest is representative of what will happen to those industries and companies that fail to understand times have changed,” explained Genesis Mining CEO Marco Streng on the Bankers Against Bitcoin website. “The consumer abuse that’s been possible due to a lack of competition is over. The biggest competitor big banks have ever faced has arrived and it’s not a company or organization, it’s a decentralized technology.”

And Genesis Mining is here to help you avoid the soon-to-be grisly fate of the big banks with a “small,” “medium,” or “large” mining package for the low cost of $1,520, $4,440, or $12,960, respectively. 

Act now! Before it’s too late!

Image: genesis mining

We reached out to Genesis Mining with the hope of getting a little more background info on what appears to be, in effect, a well executed publicity stunt. Were the protesters, for example, paid? Unfortunately we don’t know, as we didn’t hear back as of press time. 

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, when it comes to making it in the world of cryptocurrency, simply grabbing headlines is often good enough. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/14/consensus-2018-bankers-against-bitcoin/