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Crypto Markets in the Red: New Monthly Lows

Cryptocurrencies have been affected by yet another market slump last week. At the moment of press, BTC is worth a bit over $6900, while ETH stays at roughly $380. The top 10 altcoins aren’t doing much better. Ripple (XRP) is also down a whopping 24% over the last week and is currently stagnating at $0.49. LTC is down 29%, dropping from $160 to $114 at the moment of writing. Even privacy-oriented Monero isn’t doing any better, with a 16% drop from $210 to $179.

Crypto markets have not been up to a good start since the beginning of the year. Bitcoin hit its all-time high of $20k in December 2017, just to plunge down to half that value a month later. Altcoins have been affected as well, including Ethereum, which has hit $1k at the beginning of January and is currently struggling to reach $400. Ripple, one of the most controversial cryptocurrencies, has reached $2.00 around the same time, only to plunge down to one-fourth of that in a matter of days.

Experts claim that one of the main reason behind last week crypto market drops is Twitter’s newly announced ban on cryptocurrency-related ads. Following in the footsteps of Facebook and Google, Twitter has confirmed the ban on March 26th. However, stricter regulations on crypto-related content and activity have also taken a toll on the markets. Exchange giants like Bittrex are forced to delist tens of currencies out of security reasons, introduce stricter identity verification processes, ban users from certain areas from trading, and more. While stricter regulatory measures might make the crypto space safer for investors, it is still unclear how much of an impact they have on the crypto markets themselves.

 

First Bitcoin Block Mined using ASIC Boost Protocol

On March 24th, mining giant Slush Pool announced the first successful mining of a Bitcoin block using the disputed technology known as ASIC boost. Block 514882 was supposedly mined by a Chinese miner located in Guangdong, using Halong Mining hardware. The event has sparked quite a bit of controversy in the Bitcoin community, especially since said ASIC Boost protocol had been supposedly used by Bitmain covertly.

ASIC Boost is a Bitmain-developed technology that supposedly allows miners to make use of a flaw in the Bitcoin protocol, and gains up to 30% advantage compared to the average miner. To put it simply, ASIC Boost allows its users to increase the computing power of their hardware by ‘exploiting’ the SHA-256 algorithm that Bitcoin is based on. While it is pretty difficult to explain ASIC Boost without getting too technical, few can deny that a 30% speedup of the mining process would bring significantly more earnings to those using it.

The problem with ASIC Boost is that it is mostly tied to Bitmain hardware. In other words, only those who purchase from Bitmain can get access to this technology, which sparked quite a bit of controversy, especially in the Bitcoin Core community. Users claim that Bitmain has been mining covertly using ASIC Boost for quite a while, and is currently trying to push it into the masses with no consideration of the effects it could have on the mining system in general.

The Halong mining rig that was supposedly used to mine the first block using ASIC Boost is also a controversial topic. The hardware is produced by a Chinese company and is hardly available for review outside of the country. Rumors that that machines themselves are but a fabrication are still going around, and Slush Pool’s claim that the first successful use of ASIC Boost was on a Halong machine raised suspicions that the pool is affiliated with the Chinese manufacturer. However, the pool leaders have personally denied the accusations.

Bittrex on Delisting Spree: 82 Altcoins to be Removed in March

Major exchange Bittrex is notorious for delisting cryptocurrencies on mysterious grounds. However, this time, Bittrex has announced that it shall remove as many as 82 altcoins from their website in March 2018 due to increasing regulatory standards. The exchange has made the list of coins they intend to delist public and warned the users that currently possess any of them to withdraw their money before March 30th.

It is not uncommon for Bittrex to remove markets or delist coins from their exchange. Notable incidents in the past include the delisting of them Mysterium coin, the token of an anonymous VPN provider that was pretty popular with the community. Not only that, but it did have an impressive trade volume – over $12M in just 24 hours. Bittrex removed Mysterium from their exchange without prior notice, basing their decision on the fact that the anonymous VPN application was not fully developed. This raised quite a bit of fuss in the community, with users and Mysterium developers arguing that it ‘takes time to build a decentralized VPN with payments where the token can be used.’

This time, Bittrex blames their decision on regulatory compliance, and will remove all the currencies that ‘do not have a properly working blockchain and a proper wallet.’ In addition, coins with a thin liquidity or low trade volume will also be delisted from the exchange. The coins listed for removal on March 30th are: 8BIT, ADC, AM, AMS, APEX, ARB, BITS, BITZ, BLC, BOB, BSTY, BTA, CCN, CRBIT, CRYPT, DAR, DGC, DRACO, DTC, FC2, FRK, FSC2, GEMZ, GHC, GP, GRT, HKG, HYPER, HZ, J, KR, LXC, MAX, MEC, METAL, MND, MTR, MZC, NAUT, NET, NEU, NTRN, OC, ORB, PRIME, PXI, ROOT, SCOT, SCRT, SFR, SLG, SLING, SOON, SPRTS, SSD, STEPS, STV, SWING, TES, TIT, TRI, TRK, U, UFO, UNIQ, UNIT, UNO, UTC, VIOR, VIRAL, VP, WARP, XAUR, XBB, XC, XCO, XDQ, XPY, XQN, XSEED, XTC, and YBC.

The March 30th delisting spree is just one of the many steps Bittrex is taking to achieve regulatory compliance. Others include registering with the US SEC, prohibiting users from regions embargoes by the US to trade on the platform, and more.

Coincheck to Stop Handling Monero, ZCash, and Dash

Japan-based exchange Coincheck is still trying to recover from one of the biggest hack attacks on a cryptocurrency exchange to ever happen. Over $550 million worth of NEM have been stolen from Coincheck in January 2018, and the exchange has since announced that they intend to refund the whole amount to users who have lost money after the hack.

At press time, Coincheck has already refunded over $400 million to affected customers. However, all the refund expenses are taken from the company’s personal fund, as CTO Masanori Kusunoki claims that the stolen NEM have already been sold on the darknet, and are quite impossible to track at this point.

After the hack, Coincheck had to review their policies to avoid such massive accidents in the future. The exchange decides that the safest way to protect itself and its customers is to limit the trade on privacy-oriented cryptocurrencies. Again, according to the CTO himself, such cryptocurrencies are extremely hard to keep track of, which makes them a popular vehicle for money laundering.

According to a Japan Times report, Coincheck will stop dealing with three cryptocurrencies, namely Monero, ZCash, and Dash. These coins are all privacy-oriented, and their algorithms use extra encryption to mix up the information about each transaction, making it hard to keep track of addresses and transaction times.

The decision has not been publicly confirmed by Coincheck yet, but the exchange is expected to give an official statement whenever said currencies will not be handled on their website anymore.

Bitmain to Release ASIC Processors for Monero Mining

On March 15th, Bitmain has announced their newest release on their Twitter page – the ASIC-powered Antminer X3, which is supposed to be the ultimate hardware for mining Monero. However, the pre-announced release has been met with skepticism by the miner community and the Monero developers, which stated that the newly released ASICs will not work for mining Monero.

Monero is a privacy-oriented altcoin based on a hashing algorithm called Crypto Night. The algorithm is said to be ASIC-resistant, as the PoW protocol is changed slightly with every ASIC threat on the market. This includes another hard fork scheduled later in the year, that is supposed to outwit the current version of the Crypto Night algorithm. This is the main reasoning behind Monero’s Riccardo Spagni’s claim that the new Antminers will not work.

Another hypothesis started by the Monero mining community is the fact that Bitmain is just trying to get rid of a stock of ASICs that have been used by the company to mine Monero since fall 2017, and will become useless after the next scheduled hard fork. It definitely sounds like a credible theory, especially considering the prices Bitmain is charging for these new processors.

Bitmain has announced that they shall release several batches of the (supposedly) new Antminer X3, the first one going live in May 2018. The prices will start at $12k per unit for the first batch and $7,599 per unit for the second one. Initially, Bitmain has also announced two additional batches to be shipped to Hong Kong, but the information on the website has since been updated, and it now states that the company does not ship to Hong Kong at all. The website also states that there will be no refunds.

Bitmain’s answers to the accusations brought by the community include the fact that Monero is not the only currency based on Crypto Night. Other altcoins, such as Darknetcoin, are also based on the same, which means buyers would be able to mine other currencies with the Antminer X3. However, those currencies have little to no access to major exchanges, which means they are hardly profitable to mine (at least compared to Monero.)

ZCash Software Update Scheduled for June 2018

One of the leading altcoins in the crypto niche, ZCash has announced its first software update in a post on their official blog.  The update is unlikely to result in a fork for the privacy-oriented currency, but will rather ‘pave the way’ for another upcoming network update scheduled for September 2018.

Known as ‘Overwinter’, ZCash’s first software update will bring some improved features to the table. Most of them are general updates to facilitate transactions, including ‘versioning, replay protection for network upgrades, performance improvements for transparent transactions, a new feature of transaction expiry, and more.’ The update will be available for the stable zcashd client starting April 2018, but the official chain update will not commence until June 25th.

The update is unlikely to result in a fork, as mentioned by the Zcash developers on their blog. People using the official zcashd client have nothing to worry about – the update will be launched and installed automatically, but they might have to resubmit any transactions made near the time of the upgrade. However, the website also warns ZCash owners that use third-party wallets that they are ‘in danger of splitting off from the upgrade and remaining on the old protocol,’ should the third party not support the network upgrade.

Overwinter is the first ZCash software update that is preparing the network for a major upgrade to come in September, named Sapling. Sapling is said to implement faster zk-SNARKs (the cryptography methods used for ZCash transaction encryptions), a new proving system, and a new multi-exponentiation algorithm for increased security and transparency.

Mt Gox Sell-Off Behind 2018 Bitcoin Lows?

Tokyo-based exchange Mt Gox has ceased trading in February 2014, reporting over 850,000 BTC in stolen funds. Four years later, in February 2018, rumors of a potential laundering of the stolen funds linked to a shell company based in London, and transfers worth $400 million from a former Mt Gox trustee are supposedly behind Bitcoin 2018 lows.

Cryptocurrency markets have witnessed a significant drop during the first two months of 2018, with Bitcoin hitting lows of under $6000 in mid-February. With multiple reasons behind that, including the ban of all cryptocurrency-related ads on popular social media platforms, experts are still to put their finger on the main cause of the significant value drop.

Several news outlets have linked the BTC price drop to several transfers made by former Mt Gox trustee Nobuaki Kobayashi, which add up to a total of 35,000 BTC and 34,000 BCH, and a total value of $400 million according to the exchange rates. The transfers have supposedly started in late December, and followed up to mid-February, synchronizing with the aforementioned lows. What’s more, the last of these transfers, worth 18,000 BTC, took place just one day before Bitcoin finally fell under $6000. Kobayashi had supposedly transferred the amount to Mt Gox creditors who lost funds after the hack.

Meanwhile, a BBC radio expose has linked UK company Always Efficient LLP to the laundering of over 650,000 BTC stolen from the defunct exchange Mt Gox. The company is supposedly involved in processing the funds stolen from Mt Gox in 2014 and is now the main focus of the official FBI investigation regarding the matter. Always Efficient LLP is registered in London, but the fact that multiple companies use the same address as the former caused the investigator to believe the company is likely to be a shell.

Four years after the first major hack of a cryptocurrency exchange, the Mt Gox case is still affecting the cryptocurrency markets. The funds are far from being returned to their rightful owners, but official and unofficial investigations on the case are still working on the case.

Coinbase Overcharges to be Refunded by VISA and Worldpay

Customers of the major exchange and wallet Coinbase have noticed erroneous overcharges on their cryptocurrency purchases on February 15th. The issue has created quite a bit of panic among Coinbase users, which reported repeated charges worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, Coinbase has immediately responded to the complaints via their Reddit page, promising that all the erroneous charges will be refunded on behalf of the exchange.

The majority of overcharges and repeated transactions have happened to people purchasing cryptocurrencies with credit and debit cards. This led Coinbase executives into thinking that the charges were linked to banks and card issuing companies changing the merchant category code (also known as MCC) for cryptocurrency transactions around the same time. The MCC changed from instant buys (which charged the card a 4% flat fee per transaction) to cash advances, which charge an additional 5% in addition to the flat fee, plus a much higher interest.

To put it simply, the change implies that crypto payments are now being processed under a different category, meaning different fees. As the change took a bit of time to be properly implemented by all the banks and card issuing companies, some of the recent Coinbase transactions have first gone through as regular instant buys, but have not been properly approved by banks as they did not correspond to the correct MCC; this sent the transaction through one or multiple loops, charging fees every time the transaction was processed as an instant buy.

Coinbase has taken all the blame on themselves in the post they made on their Reddit pages, stating ‘Coinbase will ensure that each affected customer will be refunded in full for any erroneous charge. Our processor confirmed that any erroneous charges will be refunded over the next few days.’

VISA’s first move was to put the blame on Coinbase, as they denied making any changes to their protocol that could cause such errors. However, a later statement from VISA/Worldpay on the Coinbase blog states the opposite: ‘This issue was not caused by Coinbase. Worldpay and Coinbase have been working with Visa and Visa issuing banks to ensure that the duplicate transactions have been reversed and appropriate credits have been posted to cardholder accounts. All reversal transactions have now been issued, and should appear on customers’ credit card and debit card accounts within the next few days’, and assures users that every single erroneous transaction will be refunded by their bank or card issuing company.

Coinbase advice people who were affected by repeated transactions in January and February to report to the website’s customer support, or contact their banks or credit card issuers for refunds.

Litecoin Cash – Legit Litecoin Fork or Bitcoin Cash Copycat?

Litecoin is one of the leading altcoins in the world of cryptocurrencies. Commonly referred to as the silver to Bitcoin’s gold, Litecoin is one of the oldest and most trusted cryptocurrencies out there. After a temporary decline in price during the February 2018 crypto crisis, Litecoin is back stronger than ever, registering a value growth of over 30% in under 24 hours on February 15th. According to the media, the spectacular price growth is backed by several factors – including the worldwide popularity and use of the LitePay system, as well as the integration of Litecoin payments within the Coinbase Commerce software. However, there’s one more event that justifies the LTC’s price growth – the news about an upcoming fork.

First announced on February 3rd, the currency known as Litecoin Cash (LCC) is supposedly aiming to fill in a number of gaps that exist in the current cryptocurrency niche. The currency is supposedly based on the same algorithm as Bitcoin, which is SHA-256, as opposed to Litecoin, which is based on Scrypt. However, LCC is said to have the same transaction bandwidth as Litecoin (four times that of BTC), as well as much cheaper transactions. All that to say that LCC tries to appeal to the old Bitcoin mining crowd that gave up on mining with the rise of the hefty SHA-256 ASICs. LCC could possibly revive SHA-256 mining and put all those GPU rigs to work again, which certainly sounds promising.

The Litecoin Cash website is kicking off the project on February 18th and allows investors to claim LCC tokens for LTC in a 10:1 ratio. The website also states that LCC has a much higher supply than Litecoin (840 million as opposed to 84 million.)

Despite all of these ‘pro’ arguments, Litecoin Cash is not an official Litecoin fork. Minutes after the news about the LCC fork started going around the Internet, Litecoin founder Charlie Lee tweeted ‘The Litecoin team and I are not forking Litecoin. Any forks that you hear about is a scam trying to confuse you to think it’s related to Litecoin.’ In response, the Litecoin Cash website states ‘We’re using the Litecoin Cash name simply because it has become customary in recent months for a coin which forks a Blockchain to prefix its name with the name of the coin being forked. This practice has become a widely understood convention. We’re not associated or affiliated with Charlie Lee or any of the Litecoin team in any way.’ This and the fact that the Litecoin Cash website has no whitepaper or any significant links to a known team of developers has raised a lot of suspicion about the new currency.

Although the situation is highly reminiscent of the Bitcoin Cash fork that happened a couple years ago, Litecoin Cash is in a more delicate situation. When a CC notoriety like Lee tells you off as a ‘scam’ before you even get to launch a project, you’re probably going to have a hard time attracting investors or getting your coin on the main exchanges. However, Litecoin Cash might as well make it big, depending on how the developing team goes about the project.

Top Crypto Gambling Websites in 2018

If you are looking for a website where you could spin the roulette, or bet on your favorite sports team using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, you’re in the right place.

First and foremost, why is crypto gambling more convenient than the conventional way we are all used to? By betting with cryptocurrencies, the users can experience much quicker transactions, higher security, anonymity, and level of guarantee that the transactions won’t be corrupted.With Bitcoin’s rise in popularity, many gambling businesses started to accept crypto payments on their online platforms. As a user, you can now enjoy all the perks of Bitcoin payments on online gambling platforms.

Below is a list of websites that vary from ones that are fully anonymous to ones which require registration and some information from the user. Each of them has its advantages and drawbacks, but hopefully, the list will help you choose the most suitable one for you.

Stake.com 

The site lets its users play with or without registration and there are no regulations regarding who can do this. As its page claims, the website tries to bring the light into the dark gambling world.  With a user-friendly interface, the platform aims to not discriminate against inexperienced users, or those on a tight budget. Its strength lies in the high transparency, great customer service, and prompt payouts. If you are still new to online gambling, Stake is a good place to start off with.

Bitcoin Video Poker

Bitcoin Video Poker is an interesting platform where you can enjoy the classic style games, such as Video Poker. The whole concept was inspired by the gambling machines in Las Vegas. Similar to Stake, it offers high transparency and has a provably fair return of 99.5% or higher. The site offers only Bitcoin payouts, but with so many games and promotions, it would be a pity to not try it out.

Cryptogames.io

Cryptogames has many games to choose from, and you can bet with different altcoins. It is a good site for entry-level players, as the interface appeals more to the standards of younger generations. The navigation is straightforward, and the registration process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes – all the website asks for is your email address.

Bitcoin Penguin 

Since its initiation in 2014, Bitcoin Penguin has improved considerably. It now accepts Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Litecoin, with quick transactions that are kept on the website’s cold storage, adding a higher layer of security. You have to register on the site, but it’s completely anonymous, so your location can’t become an obstacle for betting on the website.

Oshi.io

The site offers one of the safest services with a full anonymity, which few other platforms can guarantee. The accept customers residing anywhere in the world, and do not make you go through any formalities. It’s also one of the few gambling businesses that are officially licensed – Oshi.io has an official gambling license from the government of Curacao. The platform is regularly updated by iTech labs and has a wide range of games and markets you can bet your Bitcoins on.

Nascasino 

A gambling website that only accepts Bitcoin, Nascasino is very reliable, and has some interesting bonuses available.  As a new user, you get different deposit bonuses based on the amount of your first deposit. With over 250 games available and quick transaction processing times, Nascasino might be the perfect choice for you.

Café Casino 

Cafe Casino has a good reputation as an online casino, but is not fully anonymous, as it requires you to specify your country of residence and name when you sign up. You can also pay in US dollars besides Bitcoin. They have an attractive range of games and promotions as well, which makes them very popular with gamblers around the world. If you aren’t against providing brief details about yourself, and you want to wager in dollars or Bitcoins, there are hardly any competitors to Café Casino.

Lucky Games 

Lucky Games is one of the few crypto gambling casinos that accept as much as about 30 cryptocurrencies. They are working to add even more currencies to the list, so you might be able to gamble even with the obscurest of digital currencies. They have a provably fair scheme assuring 100% of the fairness of games. The site is a reborn version of the previous luckyballs.io and has a much-improved system compared to the old version. Anybody can register and gamble fully anonymously in one of the five existing games.

Of course, there are many more crypto-based gambling websites on the Internet, and you can continue the research on your own, and choose whichever one works best for you. However, be warned that there are a lot of scammy Bitcoin casinos as well, so might be a good idea to do a background check on the website’s history and reputation before joining them.