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Cointelegraph By Marie Huillet

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Data from Google Trends’ search analytics resource indicates that internet googling of ‘bitcoin’ (BTC) is approaching a monthly high as of today, June 24.

According to the data, searches for bitcoin are continuing their ascent in the week after the unveiling of Facebook’s new cryptocurrency and blockchain-powered financial infrastructure project, Libra, even as searches for Libra itself have tapered off since June 18 — the date the white paper for the forthcoming token was published.

Google trends data for search terms ‘bitcoin’ vs. ‘libra.’ As of June 24 2019

As Cointelegraph noted yesterday, from a wider perspective, the number of Google searches for “bitcoin” remain only around 10% of what they were in 2017 — the year of the top coin’s historic bull run, which peaked at $20,000 in December of that year.

The resurgent public interest is seemingly correlated with the renewed bull market, with bitcoin is currently trading at $10,881, up almost 35% on the month, according to coin360 data.

By country, the top five nations currently googling bitcoin are Nigeria, South Africa, Austria, Switzerland and Ghana — as compared with Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Albania and Panama for Libra.

As Cointelegraph noted yesterday, the fact that Google trends data for bitcoin remains well below its former peak apparently suggests that retail FOMO has not yet become a major driver of the coin’s renewed price momentum. Instead, several parameters indicate that institutional demand for bitcoin is increasing in lockstep, and that network fundamentals are hitting all-time-highs.

While high-profile industry figures such as Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin have critiqued Libra over its lack of decentralization, researchers at top crypto exchange Binance, have proposed that the social media giant’s token could spark additional volume in the cryptocurrency space.

At press time, BTC/USD is consolidating under the $11,000 mark —

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Cybersecurity firm ESET has detected what it describes as an unusual and persistent cryocurrency miner distributed for macOS and Windows since August 2018. The news was revealed in a report from ESET Research published on June 20.

According to ESET, the new malware, dubbed “LoudMiner,” uses virtualization software — VirtualBox on Windows and QEMU on macOS — to mine crypto on a Tiny Core Linux virtual machine, thus having the potential to infect computers across multiple operating systems.

The miner itself reportedly uses XMRig — an open-source software used for mining privacy-focused altcoin monero (XMR) — and a mining pool, thereby purportedly thwarting researchers’ attempts to retrace transactions.

The research revealed that for both macOS and windows, the miner operates within pirated applications, which are bundled together with virtualization software, a Linux image and additional files.

Upon download, LoudMiner is installed before the desired software itself, but conceals itself and only becomes persistent after reboot.

ESET notes that the miner targets applications whose purposes are related to audio production, which usually run on computers with robust processing power and where high CPU consumption — in this case caused by stealth crypto mining — might not strike users as suspicious.

Moreover, the attackers purportedly exploit the fact that such complex applications are usually complex and large in order to conceal their virtual machine images. The researchers add:

“The decision to use virtual machines instead of a leaner solution is quite remarkable and this is not something we routinely see.”

ESET has identified three strains of the miner targeted at macOS systems, and just one for Windows thus far.

As a warning to users, the researchers state that “obviously, the best advice to be protected against this kind of threat is to not download pirated copies of commercial software.”

Nonetheless,

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Alyx — the luxe fashion brand founded by erstwhile Lady Gaga creative director and Kanye West collaborator Matthew Williams — is launching an IOTA-based pilot for supply chain transparency. The news was reported by industry magazine Vogue Business on June 24.

Williams — who earned a 2016 LVMH Prize finalist nomination for his work at Alyx, and spearheaded brand partnerships with Moncler, Nike and Dior Men — has launched the blockchain pilot together with manufacturing giant Avery Dennison and London-based internet of things (IoT) software firm Evrythng.

As reported, IOTA is an IoT-focused distributed ledger technology firm, which has created an architecture dubbed “Tangle.” Unlike a blockchain, the Tangle protocol does not use “blocks” or mining, but is instead built upon a directed acyclic graph (DAG): a topologically ordered system in which different types of transactions run on different chains in the network simultaneously.

News of the pilot confirms earlier reports of a prospective collaboration between Alyx and IOTA.

For the pilot, nine Alyx pieces will reportedly feature a scannable QR-code that reveals the supply chain of the product — including the sourcing of its raw material, the garment’s place of manufacture, and shipping history.

Once Alyx suppliers have entered the relevant data, Evrything stores and uploads it onto the ledger, while Avery Dennison creates a digital ID tag for each unique garment, per the report.

While the pilot remains limited in its scope, Williams has reportedly told Vogue Business that his “north start goal” is to put the entire range of Alyx products onto the blockchain in a bid to promote transparency.

As Vogue Business notes, the fashion industry faces a considerable challenge bringing its supply chain data onto the blockchain given the wide array of materials and manufacturers that can be involved in the production of a unique

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The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) has warned that the financial services poised to be offered by big tech firms such as Facebook, Google and Amazon could generate new risks for the banking sector.

The BIS — an international financial institution in Switzerland owned by 60 of the world’s central banks — published a report outlining its stance on June 23.

Hot on the heels of Facebook’s newly-announced cryptocurrency, Libra, the BIS said that while big tech firms’ foray into finance can bring efficiency gains and broaden financial inclusion, regulators must step up their action to mitigate the new and complex risks involved.

According to BIS, big tech firms’ extensive user base, access to user data and multi-faceted business models have the potential to rapidly change the financial services industry. Their low-cost structure business is highly scalable, and the network structure of widely-visited platforms can help promote financial inclusion in populations that remain underbanked, it notes.

Yet, the BIS warns, “the very features that bring benefits also have the potential to generate new risks and costs associated with market power.”

The BIS claims that big tech firms introduce both known — as well as new and unfamiliar — risks to the financial services landscape.

Among the established issues, it notes the risks to financial stability and consumer protection posed by tech giants that “have the potential to loom large very quickly as systemically relevant financial institutions” — thereby disrupting the traditional banking sector and existing structure of financial intermediation.

The report notes that such firms efficiently leverage a “data-network-activities loop” that could well accelerate the success of their entry into finance, yet this very business model raises new and unprecedented challenges for regulators — notably competition and data privacy issues.

Given that firms such as Facebook straddle traditional regulatory perimeters

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South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb has been prosecuted for its alleged failure to take adequate measures to protect personal information, which was later presumably exploited by hackers to steal funds from the platform. The news was reported by Cointelegraph Japan on June 19.

Prosecutors allege the data breach led directly to the second hack affecting the platform, in which almost $7 million in user funds was stolen.

As Cointelegraph has previously reported, Bithumb first notified authorities of a major data breach in late June 2017, thought to have affected around 31,000 exchange user accounts.

The data leak is believed to have originated from the computer of an unidentified company employee. Alleging that the exchange failed to implement adequate data security measures, prosecutors have charged Bithumb under the information protection article of Korea’s Information Communication Network Act, Cointelegraph Japan reports.

The leaked data of 31,000 Bithumb user accounts in 2017 reportedly included user names, phone numbers, email addresses and crypto transaction histories. Customer IDs and passwords were not, however, compromised.

Specifically, prosecutors accuse Bithumb of having stored customer data on employee computers without encryption, as well as failing to install security update software.

Buthumb issued a formal apology on April 19th, pledging to do its best to protect customers but countering prosecutors’ claims of a direct connection between the data breach and subsequent hack.

This spring, Bithumb suffered its third major hack and lost approximately $13 million in an incident executives have claimed was masterminded by an insider.

A prior hack in summer 2018 was initially thought to have resulted in the loss of as much as $31 million, a figure later reduced to $17 million.

In the wake of this spring’s latest breach, Bithumb conducted a third-party audit of its funds, stating that the stolen cryptocurrency (EOS tokens) were company

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Japan’s financial regulator, the Financial Service Agency (FSA), has issued a business improvement order to Japanese investment firm and Zaif crypto exchange operator Fisco.

According to Cointelegraph Japan, the FSA has identified shortcomings in Fisco’s internal control systems — such as anti-money laundering measures — and found it to be insufficiently compliant with local laws and regulations.

As previously reported, Fisco assumed ownership of Japanese exchange Zaif in fall 2018, shortly after the platform was hacked to the tune of ~$59.7 million.

The FSA’s action has reportedly been taken under the provisions of the country’s Act on Settlement of Funds.

The regulator said Fisco’s management failed to recognize the importance of legal compliance, and ordered it to improve risk management systems. It must also establish more robust internal management, outsourcing, accounting, and auditing.

Moreover, the FSA has reportedly identified shortcomings in the platform’s customer verification systems, noting that:

“In the section where users can enter identity verification information, they can select “other” if it is not possible to check their occupation or purpose of the transaction. When “other” is selected, the account can be opened without entering anything.”

As Cointelegraph Japan reports, twelve of the nineteen crypto exchange businesses registered for on-site FSA inspections have now been completed. Of the remaining seven, up to four have reportedly not yet launched. The remaining await a survey by the regulator.

This April, Cointelegraph cited unconfirmed reports that the FSA had conducted investigations into both Fisco and Huobi Japan — the local off-shoot of China-born exchange Huobi — to check their customer protection and legal compliance.

This May, the Japanese House of Representatives officially approved a new bill to amend the national laws governing crypto regulation — specifically the Act on Settlement of Funds and the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act.

The revised acts

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LVC Corporation, the digital asset- and blockchain-focused arm of Japanese messaging giant Line, is allegedly close to obtaining a crypto exchange operating license from Japan’s financial regulator. The news was reported by Cointelegraph Japan on June 20.

According to the report, Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) could issue the company with an exchange license as early as this month.

The trading service, to be dubbed BitMax, would enable Line’s 80 million users in Japan to buy and sell multiple major cryptocurrencies, as well as Line’s native token Link, CT Japan notes.

Per a press release recently shared with Cointelegraph, Line counts 187 million global users monthly, with an estimated 50 million users registered its mobile payment service, Line Pay.

BitMax will reportedly use the same back-end infrastructure as the Singapore-based, global user-focused crypto exchange BitBox, which was launched by Line in July 2018.

BitBox notably remains inaccessible for Japanese users given the country’s exchange license requirements. The license has been mandatory for all crypto exchanges operating within Japan since the amendment of the country’s Payment Services Act back in April 2017, and the FSA has since then continued to ratchet up requirements for applicants.

A report from local English-language newspaper The Japan Times has today contextualized Line’s accelerating foray into cryptocurrencies and blockchain against a backdrop of sluggish user growth which has ostensibly driven the firm’s shares to their lowest since listing in 2016.

Meanwhile, the firm awaits a banking license that would authorize deeper integration of cryptocurrencies with its other services, including e-commerce, The Japan Times notes, but it is allegedly only likely to be issued in 2020.

As previously reported, Line rolled out its Link cryptocurrency in late summer 2018, and has continued to develop its token ecosystem based on the firm’s in-house service-oriented blockchain, Link Chain. The

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Live streaming startup YouNow, which created the decentralized digital video ecosystem

Props in 2017 and is backed by Union Square Ventures, has filed a public offering with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its Props token. The development was revealed in a press release shared with Cointelegraph on June 19.

The YouNow app — which reportedly counts 47 million registered users — has submitted its application as a Regulation A+ filing with the SEC. Pending approval, the initiative could see accredited and retail users alike globally earning Props tokens in full compliance with U.S. federal securities laws, the press release notes.

As the release outlines, Props is an open-source project designed to enable multiple app users to transform any social capital they accumulate into a financial stake in the network.

As a public offering, the application pertains not to a token sale but seeks a regulatory greenlight for Propos token allocation to YouNow app users, based on the level they have attained within the app.

Activities that generate the capital needed to accumulate tokens can include things such as creating original app content, the press release notes. Once received, tokens offer users in-app benefits.

The Props team has ostensibly build a suite of open-source tools that can enable onboarding multiple apps to the Props network in a bid to drive a user-focused tokenized digital economy.

According to the press release, YouNow has to date generated over $70 million in digital currency sales and ostensibly shared its earnings through the in-app economy of its platform.

In an official statement, David Pakman — a partner at venture capital firm Venrock, which is backing the project alongside Union Square Ventures, Comcast Ventures, and others — said:

“Pending final approval by the SEC, there is the opportunity for apps to

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Jerome Powell, the head of the United States Federal Reserve, has said that he recognizes both potential benefits and risks to Facebook’s recently-unveiled Libra cryptocurrency project . Powell made his remarks during a press conference broadcast on PBS news hour on June 19.

During the conference, the Fed chair was asked whether he was concerned as to whether Facebook’s libra cryptocurrency could undermine the Fed and erode its power to influence the economy.

In response, Powell said he believed that society remains a long way from digital currencies replacing central bank currencies, and that the central bank was not too concerned about no longer being able to implement monetary policy because of them given the infancy of the digital asset class.

Powell confirmed that Facebook had reached out to discuss its project with the Fed, noting that the company has ostensibly:

“Made quite broad rounds around the world with regulators, supervisors and lots of people to discuss their plans and that certainly includes us. It’s something we’re looking at, we meet with a broad range of private sector firms all the time on financial technology and there’s just a tremendous amount of innovation going on out there.”

In addition, Powell said he believed there to be both potential benefits and risks particularly of a digital currency such as Facebook’s, which would have a prospectively large application.

He said he echoed the sentiments of Bank of England (BoE) governor Mark Carney in that he believes “we will wind up having quite high expectations from a safety and soundness and regulatory standpoint if they do decide to go forward with something.”

As to whether libra should come under any formal regulation as such, Powell clarified that:

“We don’t have plenary authority over cryptocurrencies as such. They play into our

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The deceased owner of the now-defunct Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX was allegedly transferring user funds off the exchange and using them as a security for his own margin trading on other platforms.

The news was revealed in the fifth report from court monitor Ernst & Young (EY), filed on June 19 with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

EY has outlined its principal concerns in relation to the exchange, noting that its operations were “significantly flawed from a financial reporting and operational control perspective.”

In addition to most of the activities being directed by a single individual — the now-deceased co-founder Gerald Cotton — EY notes that there was neither segregation between duties and basic internal controls, nor any segregation of assets between Quadriga’s and user funds.

In this context, EY adds, Quadriga did not have any visibility into its profitability. Users’ crypto, the report states, was not exclusively maintained in the exchange’s wallets. Moreover:

“Significant volumes of Cryptocurrency were transferred off Platform outside Quadriga to competitor exchanges into personal accounts controlled by Mr. Cotten. It appears that User Cryptocurrency was traded on these exchanges and in some circumstances used as security for a margin trading account established by Mr. Cotten.”

In addition, Cotten reportedly created fake “identified” accounts on Quadriga under multiple aliases “into which unsupported Deposits were deposited and used to trade within the platform.” This, EY, states, resulted in “inflated revenue figures, artificial trades with Users and ultimately the withdrawal of Cryptocurrency deposited by Users.”

In his trading on competitor exchanges, EY notes that Cotten incurred trading losses and incremental fees that subsequently adversely affected Quadriga’s cryptocurrency reserves.

Notably, EY says it has been unable to confirm the identity of wallet holders to which substantial sums of crypto were transferred. As of the filing date,

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