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The weekend is offering some respite for Bitcoin investors.
The bellwether of the cryptocurrency world rose 8 percent to $6,338.22 as of 5:30 p.m. in New York on Saturday, according to Bitstamp prices. The gain, which comes after the digital asset crashed through the $6,000 threshold last week for the first time since February, means the token has still lost about two-thirds of its value since reaching a record high of nearly $20,000 in December.
Saturday’s rise marks a pause from the jarring decline through most of 2018. It follows the increase of more than 1,400 percent last year as Bitcoin exploded onto the mainstream. The peer-to-peer currency developed after the 2008 global financial crisis traded at as little as 30 cents at the end of 2010.
While it’s difficult to identify specific catalysts for Bitcoin’s decline, the bursting of a speculative bubble may be at the heart of the matter as questions about the long-term viability of the virtual currency and price manipulation abound.
Bitcoin was “very much” a bubble, Robert Shiller, the Nobel laureate economist whose warnings about dot-com mania proved prescient, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Tom Keene on June 26. Last year’s surge was “not a rational response.”
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Security fears rise as South Koreas Coinrail loses about 28m of virtual currency
There has been a sharp drop in the price of bitcoin and other virtual currencies after South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinrail was hacked over the weekend.
A tweet from Coinrail confirming the cyber-attack sent the price of bitcoin tumbling 10% on Sunday to two-month lows.
The worlds best-known cryptocurrency lost $500 (372) in an hour, dropping to $6,627 on the Luxembourg exchange Bitstamp, while most other digital currencies also recorded large losses.
The latest attack highlights the lack of security and weak regulation of global cryptocurrency markets.
Coinrail later said in a statement on its website that its system was hit by cyber intrusion on Sunday, causing a loss for about 30% of the coins traded on the exchange. It did not quantify the value, but the local Yonhap news agency estimated that about 40bn won (27.8m) worth of virtual coins was stolen.
Coinrail said: Seventy percent of total coin and token reserves have been confirmed to be safely stored and moved to a cold wallet [not connected to the internet]. Two-thirds of stolen cryptocurrencies were withdrawn or frozen in partnership with related exchanges and coin companies. For the rest, we are looking into it with an investigative agency, related exchanges and coin developers.
Police have begun an investigation, according to the Korea Herald, which cited a spokesperson as saying: We secured the access history of Coinrail servers and we are in the process of analysing them.
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Bitcoin was trading at about $6,750 on Monday afternoon down from an all-time peak of almost $20,000 in the week before Christmas. In February, it fell to $5,900.
South Korea is one of the worlds major cryptocurrency trading centres, and is home to one of the busiest virtual coin exchanges, Bithumb.
Naeem Aslam at online trading platform ThinkMarkets said: The question is: is there any limit to these hacks? After every few months, we are seeing the same pattern emerging. This is the result of loose regulatory control and regulators must step in to protect the consumers. Anyone who wants to do anything with exchanges should be forced to adopt high-grade security and regular security upgrades.
Analysts said bitcoin volatility was fading, after the price increased threefold between mid-November and mid-December. David Jones, the chief market strategist at trading platform Capital.com, said this was driven by increased publicity as bitcoin went from being a niche IT interest to becoming mainstream, but added that the hype has now gone.
He noted that Facebook and Google had banned cryptocurrency adverts. Plenty of latecomers to the cryptocurrency rally have had their fingers burnt, have taken their losses (or are still sitting on them) and have vowed never to return, Jones said. Activity amongst the wider public has slowed. Arguably, the introduction of a listed futures contract for bitcoin has also calmed the wilder market moves.
The subheading of this article was amended on 12 June 2018 because an earlier version referred to Coincheck losing about 28m of virtual currency. That loss was meant to refer to Coinrail.
Despite all the bad news, bitcoin still has its believers, including Steve Bannon. In an interview with the New York Times, the former White House strategist said that he has a good stake in bitcoin and is interested in working with entrepreneurs and countries interested in creating their own cryptocurrencies. Bannon may also have ambitions to create a currency of his own. Earlier this year, in a meeting at Harvard University, he apparently discussed creating a new digital currency called deplorables coin.
Bannon says he isnt interested in cryptocurrencies solely for the financial potential; he sees decentralized money as a key component of his political mission. Cryptocurrency is disruptive populism, it takes control back from central authorities, said Bannon. It was pretty obvious to me that unless you got somehow control over your currency, all these political movements were going to be beholden to who controlled the currency control of the currency, is control of everything.
The deplorables coins name references the time Hillary Clinton called half of Trump supporters a basket of deplorables during the 2016 election. Clinton later said she regretted it; it had handed Trump a political gift.
White nationalists were interested in the political potential of cryptocurrency long before bitcoin entered the mainstream. In 2014 Andrew Auernheimer, a neo-Nazi who goes by the name weev, wrote on his blog: I heartily encourage you to consider cryptocurrency, including bitcoin. And in March 2017 Richard Spencer declared on Twitter that Bitcoin is the currency of the alt-right.
A number of neo-Nazis have also been pushed into cryptocurrency because they have been barred by traditional payment platforms. Shortly after the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last year, Apple and PayPal disabled payment support for websites that support hate groups.
Bitcoin is the most well-known digital currency, although white nationalists are beginning to gravitate towards Monero, which Wired recently called the dark webs favorite currency. Monero, which claims to be more untraceable and secure than bitcoin, has, for example, been enthusiastically promoted by white nationalist podcaster Christopher Cantwell. Cantwell is offering 10% subscriptions to his site if you pay in Monero.
Despite recent dips in cryptocurrency prices, their astronomical rise last year made a lot of white nationalists, including weev, very rich indeed. In his interview, Bannon didnt say how much money he has made from cryptocurrency, but one imagines hes got more than enough to start minting baskets of digital deplorables.
Finman used his fortune to fund an educational business and hes not as awful as he seems on Instagram
Erik Finman is one of the worlds youngest bitcoin millionaires an achievement hes not shy about flaunting. The 19-year-olds Instagram feed is full of ostentatious photos of himself stepping out of private jets or lying on beds covered in money with captions like: Cash so worthless compared to Bitcoin Im sleeping on it
In one photo he is pictured smoking, with the caption: Sometimes you just need a good smoke to relax when you have to live with the exhausting burden of so much money and too many beautiful women. After one of his fans admonishes him, he replies: Dont worry guys. Its not a real cigarette. Just a hundred. Dont smoke!
The teenager, who first bought bitcoin at age 12 with $1,000 from his grandmother, styles himself in a similar vein to the notorious Martin Shkreli; hes just younger and not in jail.
However, all is not as it seems with Finman. Far from being a vapid bitcoin bro, he admits his social media presence is a carefully calculated front. I think being a provocateur is a fun way to get people to pay attention to my ideas, he tells me over the phone from his current base in San Francisco. You see the reaction to it, people go crazy. But that helps draw attention to the actual world-changing projects that I want to do.
Finman first heard about bitcoin when his older brother took him to an Occupy Wall Street protest. He fell in love with the revolutionary potential of cryptocurrency, he says. An early adopter, Finman bought his first bitcoin when it only cost around $10. Just a few years later, it hit around $1,100. Finman sold $100,000 worth of bitcoin when the currency was on the up and, at age 15, used the money to start an online educational business called Botangle, which matched students with tutors via video chat. He was inspired to start the business, he says, because he had a terrible school life. One teacher told him to drop out and work at McDonalds while another held an Erik Finman roast session where students were encouraged to make fun of him. Despite his business success, his parents wouldnt let him completely drop out of school. So he made a bet with them: if he made $1m before turning 18, he wouldnt have to attend college. He won that bet last year.
Education is a big deal for the Finman family. His parents met at Stanford while getting their doctorates in electrical engineering and physics and his entire family, he says, is very smart. I think of them as the Elon Musk version of the Kardashians, he says. His mom was involved in Nasa in the 1980s and, Finman says, almost became an astronaut on the Challenger mission. However, she got pregnant with Finmans brother and, luckily, avoided the tragic launch. Apart from his experiences with high school, Finman seemed to have an idyllic childhood. He grew up on a llama farm in Idaho, for one thing. We had one llama called Sausage who unfortunately got turned into a sausage, he reminisces.
In 2015, Finman made his best business move: he sold Botangles technology. The buyer offered him either 300 bitcoin or $100,000 cash he opted for the bitcoin. At the time it was a gamble, as bitcoin had dipped and were worth around $200. Even though the currency continues to fluctuate wildly (I spoke to Finman shortly after the South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinrail was hacked, causing the value of bitcoin to plummet 10% to two-month lows) hes still made good on his investment. One bitcoin is now worth around $6,500. Finman has 401 bitcoin as well as various other cryptocurrencies and continues to bet on its future. Bitcoin will either be nothing or everything, and I think it will be more everything. Or crypto will, at least, he said.
Like his mother, Finman is also interested in space exploration. Hes currently working on a project with Nasa to launch a satellite containing a digital time capsule into space. The capsule will contain popular music and videos as well as other representative sounds of life on earth, and a Taylor Swift CD. Why Taylor Swift? We just reached out to her out of the blue, and she was into it, Finman shrugs. The project is meant to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launch, which carried the Golden Record, a compilation of music and images from Earth, curated by the astronomer Carl Sagan, into space as a gift for any extraterrestrials who might stumble across it.
Sending satellites into space might be enough to occupy one person, but not Finman. The entrepreneur has a number of projects on the go. He recently created a robot suit based on the four-armed contraption worn by Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man for a 10-year-old child with hypermobility issues. The child, Aristou Meehan, is the son of one of Finmans mentors, and wanted his own Doctor Octopus suit to help solve his problems. So Finman made it for him. I wish someone would have helped me like that when I was his age, he says. There has already been some interest by investors in adapting the suit for various uses, says Finman, but hes moved on from it. Right now his big project is building a physical school and disrupting education. Hes tight-lipped on the actual details: Im still in early stages.
While Finmans social media presence may be satire, hes still rich and young. Doesnt he ever go a little off the rails? Oh yes, I got a fast car, did all that, Finman says. Traveled all over the world. Went a little crazy. Made a couple of stops in Ibiza and Monaco. I had to get it out of my system, you know. Hes also been careful to make sure his former teachers know about his success. I remember when the first article [about me] came out, I sent it to the worst teacher I had. The subject heading just said look at me now bitch. Finman put a tracking pixel in the email so he knows the teacher opened it. But I didnt hear back.
The mechanism that underpins cryptocurrencies could help to provide secure public records in countries susceptible to corruption
Because I write about technology I am regularly assailed by people who are exercised about so-called cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which most of them regard as a scam. But when I reply that while bitcoin might be newsworthy, the really important story concerns the blockchain technology that underpins it, their eyes glaze over and they start looking for the nearest exit as they conclude that they are in the grip of Coleridges Ancient Mariner.
And, in a sense, they are. Blockchain technology is indeed important, but it seems largely incomprehensible to ordinary mortals, even though the web teemswith attempts to explain it. This is partly because cryptography lies at its core, and since crypto involves complex mathematics it therefore lies beyond the ken of most people. But if one is prepared to take the maths as given, then really the basic idea is simple. As Don and Alex Tapscott put it in their book, Blockchain Revolution, a blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.
Until recently, the banking establishment was unremittingly hostile to cryptocurrencies. Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan Chase,for example, famously described bitcoin as a fraud. Butrecently, the wind seems to havechanged. Last December, two big exchanges the CME Group andCboe Global Markets launchedbitcoin futures trading operations. This week Goldman Sachs announced that it would follow suit and is looking into the direct trading of bitcoin. And now according to Wednesdays Financial Times even the New York Stock Exchange is setting up an online platform for buying and holding bitcoin.
So whats going on? To interpretityou need to understand that the cryptocurrency story has two interwoven strands: human greed on the one hand and utopianidealism on the other. Itsnoaccident that bitcoin emergedjust after the 2008 bankingcrisis as people realised thatwe had been taken for an epic ride by the financial services industry. In a world where nobody even the biggest banks could betrusted, an unknown genius going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto published a paper arguing that cryptography could be harnessed to enable trustworthy transactions without having to rely on fallible or corrupt human institutions. A new digital currency bitcoin was the working example he proposed. And underpinning it was the cryptographic tool the blockchain which ensured that alltransactions in the new currencycould be validated withoutneeding an institution to guarantee or underwrite them.
Because the total number of bitcoins that can exist is limited by the design of the system to 21m, the currency was rapidly perceived as an asset or a store of value like gold. Accordingly greed kicked in, triggering waves of speculative mania that are still continuing. Andit is this speculativewave that Goldman Sachs and conow belatedly wish to surf.
No surprise there, then. But implicit in the blockchain concept is an endearing strain of technocratic utopianism, a hope that technology can overcome some aspects of human frailty and corruption. The key to that lies in the latter half of the Tapscott definition quoted earlier the idea that a blockchain can record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value in a ledger that cannot be falsified.
This is a really big idea, because well-governed societies depend on keeping certain kinds of documentation birth and death certificates, title deeds, wills and so on in ledgers that are both public and secure. In industrialisedsocieties we have achieved this by having trustworthyinstitutions (registrars,solicitors, local authorities, etc), which have legal responsibilities and democratic oversight. But other societies are not so fortunate. In developing or authoritarian countries, for example,registries of land titles arecritically vulnerable to tampering by corrupt officials. Usinga blockchain to hold such titles could provide a way of ensuring that credible records endure, which is why countries such as the Republic of Georgia arebeginning to do it.
None of this is easy to do, and there are lots of practical difficultiesahead. But in the greed and cynicism surrounding bitcoin and its peers, we shouldnt lose sightof the great potential of blockchain technology. Many yearsago, an engineer called Paul Baran had a Big Idea that we could make a great communications network by using digital data packets rather than analogue phonelines. He was laughed out ofcourt by AT&T. But it turned outthat Barans idea was what gaveus the internet.
What Im reading
Gone and forgotten Honestly! Kids these days! Opinion pollster YouGov did a survey to find out how much todays schoolchildren know about the communications technologies of the past. They were shown 12 pictures of relevant objects from the past typewriter, Nokia mobile phone, overhead projector, floppy disk, cassette, pager etc. Two-thirds didnt know what a floppy disk was (though some recognised it as the icon for Save), 27% didnt recognise a typewriter and 40% didnt know what an audio cassette was. (On the other hand, analogue nostalgists can take comfort that only a quarter of the kids couldnt recognise a record player. So vinyl may not be a lost cause with future generations. Biggest surprise: 23% didnt recognise a postcard.
Scandal you say? Facebook users inhabit an ethics-free zone. A Reuters survey has found that the Cambridge Analytica scandal has had no real impact on those who use the service. Three-quarters of US users say theyre using Facebook as much as or more than before the revelations.
Take back control MIT researchers have built a tool that enables you to control what you see in your social media feeds. Its called Gobo and its free.
At the worlds largest blockchain conference, female leaders in the industry sought to shake off bitcoins boyish image
Satoshi is female was one of the more pervasive slogans at Consensus 2018, the worlds largest blockchain conference that saw thousands of crypto-believers descend on midtown New York for a packed, three-day meet-and-greet last week.
Satoshi refers to Satoshi Nakamoto, the still mysterious creator of Bitcoin who has never been identified but who, nonetheless, is credited as the founding father of cryptocurrency, or a digital form of money, and blockchain, a public and uneditable system for recording transactions. Both developments are hailed by their evangelists as potentially revolutionary technological tools.
As crowds packed Manhattans midtown Hilton to listen to leadingtechnology figures such as Twitters Jack Dorsey and the cryptography pioneer Bailey Whitfield Whit Diffie, the question of Satoshis gender was purely symbolic. But it was also understood by many attendees: blockchain should not simply perpetuate the white male tech nerd stereotypical worldview of Silicon Valley.
We think cryptocurrencies should be built with a different system and values in mind, said Nyla Rodgers, the creator of the Satoshi Is Female group. Silicon Valley is completely run by men. Women only receive 2% of venture capital funding so their ideas never rise to the top. Weve been living with a very one-sided view of the world.
The expression of a male-led crypto world is already self-evident. The frothy, unstable cryptocurrency sector is dominated by images of Lamborghinis Lambos and going moon as cryptocurrencies surge in price.
Cryptocurrency and blockchain has already received bad press for being overly gendered and insufficiently woke. In February, the North American Bitcoin Conference wrapped up 10 hours of speeches by inviting 5,000 attendees to what it called a networking party in a 20,000 sq ft strip club.
To women in the crypto sector attending Consensus, theres no time to lose if blockchain technology isnt going to follow the same path as Silicon Valley.
A recent study found that while there was improvement in the number of women in the industry in the wake of several sexism and discrimination scandals, the participation of racial minorities was worsening.
The blockchain sector has only been around for 18 months so we, as women, can help define what the culture looks like at the beginning, said Rodgers who is raising money to fund women-led tech groups, many in the developing world, through her charity Mama Hope. The urgency is there for women and minorities to create a system that actually values them.
On the first day of New Yorks crypto-week, the entrepreneur Cindy Chin held a seminar Women on The Block with the express purpose of creating a sense of inclusion in the blockchain world.
We think theres an opportunity to change what has really been an all-male space, Chin says. We want to be part of the conversation, we want to drive the leadership, to be part of the deal-flow and we want to be invested in we want the money!
Amber AI’s PTD2 fund surged 30% in first three months of 2018
Hedge fund advised by BitSpread made 5.7% in quarter
Bitcoin’s terrible start to 2018 is highlighting the appeal of cryptocurrency hedge funds that make money in both bull and bear markets.
Funds specializing in virtual currency market making and arbitrage strategies delivered first-quarter gains even as their mostly bullish peers lost 40 percent on average. That’s a big reversal from last year, when digital assets soared and market-making funds lagged far behind their long-biased counterparts.
Pivot Digital Trading-2, managed by Hong Kong-based Amber AI Group, generated some of the biggest gains among cryptocurrency funds that avoid directional bets. It rose 4.3 percent in March to bring its first-quarter return to 30 percent, according to the firm. Market Neutral Liquidity SP-Institutional, domiciled in the Cayman Islands, earned 5.6 percent in the first quarter, said Cedric Jeanson of BitSpread Group, investment adviser to the portfolio.
The results suggest some managers are finding ways to profit from wild swings in cryptocurrencies without having to predict whether the coins will rise or fall. Such tactics may appeal to investors who want exposure to digital assets without their extreme volatility.
As a group, cryptocurrency hedge funds are still highly correlated to the market. A Eurekahedge index for the category posted its biggest three-month slump on record last quarter as Bitcoin sank more than 50 percent. The index soared 1,709 percent in 2017, when Bitcoin jumped about 1,400 percent.
Among funds that lost money was Silver 8 Partners. It dropped 25 percent in March and 32 percent in the first quarter, according to a commentary sent to investors. Silver 8 invests in digital assets, along with fintech, blockchain and machine learning companies.
"High levels of uncertainty and low market liquidity make investments in blockchain-related assets volatile," the firm said in a newsletter. "They tend to overreact to cycles of euphoria and pessimism, where the market price itself acts as a catalyst for further momentum."
The fund has made more than 1,000 percent for investors since its inception in 2016, including a more than 750 percent gain in 2017.
While funds from Amber AI and BitSpread tend to not post such high returns during boom times, they provide investors with some protection when prices of digital assets fall.
PDT2, as the Amber AI fund is otherwise known, trades the 25 largest digital currencies on exchanges including Huobi, OKEX, Bitfinex, Binance, Kraken and BitStamp, said Tiantian Kullander, one of the four former Morgan Stanley traders who started the firm with a one-time programmer at Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.
The fund began trading early this year and oversees about $25 million, said Kullander. Its quantitative trading strategies include market-making, short-term trend following and exploiting pricing discrepancies between different currency pairs and exchanges.
Market Neutral Liquidity SP-Institutional, with more than $100 million of assets under management, makes markets for currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple, BitSpread’s Jeanson said.
Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash’s most fervent supporters are at it again and Twitter has become a bitter battlefield.
The latest victim? The @Bitcoin Twitter account was suspended.
@Bitcoin carries the name of the largest cryptocurrency but, just like Bitcoin.com, frequently issued statements supporting Bitcoin Cash, which split from Bitcoin last year over a disagreement on how the technology should scale. These posts don’t sit well with supporters of the original Bitcoin blockchain, including a group of developers called Bitcoin Core.
The fight between the two groups prompted prominent blockchain developer Jeff Garzik and others, to attribute the suspension to the endless complaints about @Bitcoin that Twitter was likely getting from Bitcoin Core supporters. Twitter didn’t state reasons for the suspension.
Roger Ver, an early Bitcoin evangelist whose work earned him the nick-name of Bitcoin Jesus, has now become a vocal supporter of Bitcoin Cash. Ver, who owns the Bitcoin.com website, tweeted:
The latest skirmish in the war which started with the so-called Bitcoin Cash fork in August, highlights the downside of decentralized organizations and technologies. The lack of a management team means contributors globally can work on improving the technology, which will be implemented only if a majority agrees, but it’s also cause for disagreements and splits.
“The cryptocurrency development is open source, which means disagreements get aired publicly with the additional angle of the forking of a blockchain, where you have to take the entire network with you, and that creates much more tension," said Neeraj Agrawal, a spokesman at blockchain research advocacy Coin Center. “I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.”
Litecoin creator Charlie Lee, a well-known Bitcoin Core supporter, was likely one of the first to alert to the suspension with this tweet on Sunday:
The account now seems to be under new control. The bio now reads "My name is Andrei from Moscow Russia." The private account, which means Tweets aren’t visible to those @Bitcoin doesn’t give permission to follow, has less than 2,000 followers and a background picture that reads "I love you."
The biggest cryptocurrency climbed as much as 5.4 percent Tuesday to $9,412, the highest since March 7. Bitcoin has gained 20 percent in the past week and 37 percent in April, on track for its best month since its record-breaking December.
Bitcoin is rebounding from its worse start to a year ever, as it slumped more than 50 percent in the first quarter and plunged to as low as $5,922 from almost $20,000 at the end of last year. The cryptocurrency market is gaining as tax-related selling ends and regulatory-related headlines fade, while Wall Street signals increasing interest in the space.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Monday that it hired Justin Schmidt as head of digital asset markets to help clients gain exposure to cryptocurrencies, and cryptocurrency-focused hedge funds have continued to open even amid the market slump earlier this year.
The greatest bubble in history is popping, according to Bank of America Corp.
The cryptocurrency is tracking the downfalls of the other massive asset-price bubbles in history less than one year out from its record, analysts lead by Chief Investment Strategist Michael Hartnett wrote in a note Sunday.
The cryptocurrency has fallen more than 65 percent since peaking in December at $19,511. Bitcoin rose 2.2 percent to $6,750 on Monday.