The international remittance market is huge. In 2016, migrants from the world over sent in excess of $580 billion to their home countries. The scenario has changed considerably in the last two decades, before which the field was primarily the domain of banks and a handful of high-street brokers. Now, people get scores of FinTech overseas money transfer companies from which to choose. Customers, it appears, are set to gain even more going forward, mainly because of the benefits blockchain has to offer.

The Ripple Effect

Some of the leading money transfer companies have already turned to blockchain. Market leaders Western Union and MoneyGram have started testing the blockchain technology offered by Ripple. InstaReM, an Asia-based money transfer specialist, has tied-up with Brazil-based BeeTech, also an international remittance company, soon after both signed up with Ripple.

Incidentally, even some prominent banks have jumped on Ripple’s blockchain bandwagon. Examples in case include the Latin American Itau Unibanco Holding SA, the French Crédit Agricol, and India’s IndusInd Bank.

Blockchain Benefits

International money transfer companies can benefit by adopting blockchain technology in different ways, and then pass them on to their customers.

  • Making transfers more cost effective. Data suggests that the average cost of making a cross-border money transfer through a bank is around 11%. With fintech companies, the average drops to around 5%. Only, even the fintech players rely on banks to function as intermediaries. With blockchain comes the possibility of doing away with banks completely. This would make overseas money transfers even more cost effective.
  • Increased reach. Large populations in Asia, Africa, and South America remain under-banked, and this has an adverse effect on their ability to send or receive payments to or from overseas. However, given the widespread usage of mobile phones, cryptocurrency wallets hold the potential to simplify how they deal with cross-border remittances.
  • Faster turnaround. Most banks take days to process overseas money transfers. With international companies, you still have to rely on banks to do the needful. Cryptocurrency transfers, on the other hand, can go through in near real time.
  • Increased security. The centralized manner in which most money transfer companies and banks operate leaves them vulnerable to online attacks of different kinds. Blockchain, on the other hand, functions in a decentralized way, which makes attacks much more difficult to execute. In addition, every blockchain-based transaction is recorded in a digital ledger that is impossible to fudge.
Are There Downsides?

There is one drawback that may well stay in place until the technology becomes common place. The sender typically needs to purchase a cryptocurrency using a fiat currency, and the receiver then needs to sell the cryptocurrency to purchase a fiat currency. In such a transaction, currency conversion takes place twice. There’s also the fact that most people still need to deal with a basic cryptocurrency learning curve.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that blockchain technology holds the potential to bring about significant changes in the international money transfer market. With increased security, better cost effectiveness, and quicker transfers, the benefits are rather plain to see.

This post is credited to dailyhodl

According bitcoin.com reported that North Korea plans to hold a seminar devoted block chain technology and encryption currency. The meeting scheduled on October is expected to invite experts from around the world to meet with representatives from North Korean companies.

North Korea’s first international cryptocurrency event?

In the field of cryptocurrency, North Korea’s reputation has not always been good. According to the Yonhap News Agency, North Korea plans to hold a cryptocurrency and blockchain conference in the capital Pyongyang in October this year. The two-day conference will begin on October 1.

An anonymous security expert said that North Korea seems to want to demonstrate its capabilities in cutting-edge technologies such as cryptocurrency and blockchain through this conference.

Hacker’s paradise

Recently, North Korea has once again been accused for exploiting security vulnerabilities and obtaining cryptocurrencies through illegal means. Lazarus Group, a cybercrime group associated with North Korea, used a new type of malware to infect multiple operating systems.

Researchers at cybersecurity company, Kaspersky pointed out that North Korea’s hackers recently launched an operation called “Applejeus”, using a Trojan called Fallchill. The software that steals cryptocurrencies was discovered after invading an IT system on a cryptocurrency exchange in Asia.

The attack was triggered by an employee of the exchange downloading a cryptocurrency trading app with a virus from a seemingly normal website. Experts have found that the Fallchill Trojan has been redesigned to not only target Windows systems, but even macOS and Linux devices.

North Korea’s ambition

This is not the first time North Korea has been accused of stealing cryptocurrencies. In March of this year, former National Security Agency (NSA) officials and Asia Pacific cybersecurity expert Priscilla Moriuchi said that North Korea received at least 11,000 bitcoins (BTC) in 2017 through mining and hacking. The estimated value at that time was more than $200 million.

Last year Lazarus Group was suspected of being involved in an attack on South Korean cryptocurrency transactions. According to South Korean intelligence agencies, North Korean hackers have been involved in the cyberattack of Bithumb, South Korea’s largest crypto exchange, stealing more than 30,000 user profiles.

Because of international sanctions, North Korea is unable to connect with the world financial system, so it has been trying to use cryptocurrencies to break restrictions and anonymous transactions. Pyongyang University has opened a cryptocurrency course to prove North Korea’s development in this area.

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Benjamin Strick, a specialist in open-source investigations in international crime, terrorism, and human rights abuses, recently discovered a crowdsourced mujahideen platform that allows anyone in the world to fund Jihadist projects anonymously.

Any funds on the Sadaqa Platform can be donated via a variety of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Monero, and Ethereum. While media organization Foreign Affairs believes that cryptocurrency technologies currently have a fairly limited use for terrorists, these barriers are predicted to fall over time as cryptocurrencies become more accessible to the public.

Introducing SadaqaCoins: A Cryptocurrency Crowdsource Platform

According to the SadaqaCoins website, their goal is to assist Jihadists by creating a crowdsourcing platform to connect project organizers to supporters of their campaign. The site functions very similarly to the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter. However, instead of hosting creative projects, the projects on SadaqaCoins are designed for people who are interested in supporting the Jihadist cause.

The website currently runs on the dark web which can only be accessed via a tor browser through its onion link. Strick has, however, provided a mirror version of the site which can be seen here.

Like other crowdsourcing websites, the creators of the Jihadi Cryptocurrency crowdsourcing platform have made it a fast and easy process for supporters and donors. Patrons select a project of their appeal, and transfer cryptocurrencies of their choice and the SadaqaCoins platform handles everything else.

Since SadaqaCoins is a relatively new project, they are also using their platform to request assistance to help grow the venture. The organization is seeking for cryptocurrency donations which will go towards expanding their website, investing in an Intel laptop, hardware cold wallets to securely hold cryptocurrencies, and translation services for the site.

Since it’s a new project, there have not yet been any transactions and donations to the website. Strick is, however, keeping an open eye to see if there are any donations in the future.

Jihadist Crowdfunding Projects on the Rise

In an exclusive conversation with BTCManager, Strick noted that, while SadaqaCoins is the first Jihadi cryptocurrency crowdsourced site, there will be many more projects to come.

Terrorist groups will be interested in leveraging emerging technologies like cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology; something that we should remain cautious and vigilant about since many projects have “only started in 2018.”

Strick also mentioned that other Jihadi Groups are accepting cryptocurrencies as forms of donations. These include Malhama Tactical, a private military contractor that trains fighters in the Middle East, and Al-Sadaqa, a mujahideen crowdfunding group. Malhama Tactical, also leveraged social media to their advantage and was once “very active on Twitter.”

They were however quickly banned from the social media site and have instead, jumped on messaging application Telegram. Strick added:

“All three use Bitcoin as an anonymous way for people in wealthier countries to fund the jihad movement.”

Unlike the other two projects, SadaqaCoins is, however, a platform that can assist and host other projects on its page. An example of a recently formed project is called ‘We Hunt.’

According to its page, “this project aims at equipping already trained and experienced Snipers with much-needed equipment and resources which will inshaAllah be employed in either training exercises or combat operations in the near future.”

While SadaqaCoins touts that cryptocurrency donations are anonymous and secure on its platform, this is not completely true. Strick noted that Bitcoin donations are not completely anonymous and a donor’s identity can be revealed with open-source information.

According to Science Magazine, the transactions and movement of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are all recorded in a public ledger. Hence why law enforcement is now even “seeing cryptocurrency as a tool for prosecuting crimes…[since] investigators can follow the money.”

Cryptocurrency Crowdsource Financing Meets Dark Web Marketplaces

While there have been many different ways to finance terror in the past, what’s interesting about SadaqaCoins is the rise of dark web marketplaces, and cryptocurrency crowdsource financing.

Although Foreign Affairs noted that the use of cryptocurrencies to fund terrorist groups is not widespread yet, the greater pressures that exist on terrorist finance methods along with easy to use cryptocurrencies may be the combination of factors that leads to a quick and large-scale adoption of cryptocurrencies by terrorists and extremists.

With the creation of newer cryptocurrencies, especially ones that provide greater anonymity like Zcash and Monero, Foreign Affairs believes that if these cryptocurrencies can provide the privacy features they promise, it would be a great tool for terrorists; only until law enforcement finds a new way to track these tokens. Regardless, while cryptocurrencies are not being heavily used by terrorist organizations today, it’s not so far-fetched for them to leverage cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in the future.

This post is credited to btcmanager

An eastern South Korean province plans to issue its own cryptocurrency to replace the local currencies of its nine cities, according to local media. An exchange will be established for the new crypto. The coins can be used for payments within the province and merchants can accept them using smartphone QR codes.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

Korean Province to Issue Own Crypto

Korean Province to Replace Local Currencies With Crypto
Gyeongsangbuk-do.

The South Korean province of Gyeongsangbuk-do has revealed that the effort to replace local currencies with a cryptocurrency has begun, Joongang Ilbo reported this week.

Also known as Gyeongbuk, the eastern South Korean province has been attempting to replace city-issued gift certificates with a cryptocurrency. Currently, nine cities of Gyeongsangbuk-do separately issue their own gift certificates, which are local currencies that can be used in selected areas of the province, the publication explained.

According to Naver, 60 municipalities nationwide, including nine cities in Gyeongsangbuk-do, currently use gift certificates as local currencies aimed at revitalizing local economies and preventing capital flight.

Korean Province to Replace Local Currencies With CryptoPohang, one of the largest cities in the province with over half a million inhabitants, is the nation’s largest issuer of these gift certificates, according to Kyongbuk daily newspaper. In May, the news outlet reported that the city had sold 100 billion won (~US$ 90 million) worth of the Pohang gift certificates since January last year.

According to Joongang Ilbo, the province’s Science and Technology Policy Department announced on August 27:

10 banks, mobile communication companies, a university research team and government officials of Gyeongsangbuk-do will gather for the first time for the issuance of the cryptocurrency.

Gyeongbuk Coin

Korean Province to Replace Local Currencies With CryptoThe tentative name of the cryptocurrency that Gyeongsangbuk-do is planning to issue is Gyeongbuk coin, the publication noted, adding that the first of the 100 billion won (~$90 million) annual issuance is expected in the first half of next year.

The province plans to create an exchange where Gyeongbuk coins can be purchased and sold. The coins can be used for payments and merchants can accept them using smartphone QR codes, the news outlet detailed.

Chung Sung-hyun, head of the province’s Science and Technology Policy Department, was quoted saying:

There are still many issues to be resolved…[such as] notifying merchants of the way they can use [the] coins, creating separate programs and issuing [the] coins (cryptocurrencies).

Korean Province to Replace Local Currencies With Crypto
Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

Gyeongsangbuk-do recently sent a benchmarking team to the canton of Zug in Switzerland, which is home to many crypto startups such as Shapeshift, Xapo, and the Ethereum Foundation. The team, consisting of 10 members including some outside experts, met with a number of government officials and local businesses.

Following a series of meetings, a Gyeongsangbuk-do official was quoted by Sedaily saying “I think we can utilize the experience gained through benchmarking by making the identity cards for 5,000 Gyeongbuk provincial government employees like Zug as blockchain-based digital ID cards.”

What do you think of this Korean province planning to replace local currencies with its own crypto? Let us know in the comments section below.

This post is credited to news.bitcoin

Polish legislators have introduced a long-awaited new bill to clarify the current crypto taxation policy. The document was published on the country’s government site on Friday, August 24, and explained by local crypto media outlet Kryptowaluty August 25.
Kryptowaluty writes that a new document has been offered for consultation, and the Polish Council of Ministers will review it in the third quarter of 2018. The previous taxation policy, which had been resisted by country’s crypto community earlier this year, was taken into account but has been slightly changed. The purpose of the bill, as stated by government, is to simplify the tax system for crypto transactions.
First, the bill defines cryptocurrencies in terms of the Act on Counteracting Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing as a “digital representation of money”. Furthermore, virtual currencies are divided in two groups — cryptocurrency and centralized virtual currency — and are allowed to be used as a medium of exchange, in e-commerce, and be accepted as means of payment.
As for taxation, the bill refers to both individuals and businesses. Crypto-to-crypto transactions performed on the stock exchange or individually will be tax free. At the same time, income from selling services, property, and goods will be treated like revenue for taxation purposes.
The document then covers crypto miners, noting that those who work for themselves won’t be charged, while others who work for entities or individuals will be obliged to pay taxes.
The current taxation system in Poland is 18% is for an annual income of up to 85,500 zloty ($23,000), and 32% for incomes above this limit.
2018 began with massive anti-cryptocurrency campaign in Poland. In February, the Central Bank of Poland admitted to funding $27,000 worth of content aimed against crypto, which was published on YouTube and then broadcast by local press. Later in May, a similar campaign was organized by Poland’s Financial Supervision Authority (KNF). Social media materials on risks associated with cryptocurrencies, pyramid schemes, and forex trading were funded by 615,000 zloty (around $173,000).
As the Polish crypto community criticized the campaign along with the newly announced taxation for digital currencies, the local Finance Ministry rolled the measure back, promising to elaborate more convenient regulation.
However, in June, crypto owners from Poland blamed banks for deliberately denying service to cryptocurrency entities and selectively closing accounts, Cointelegraph reported.

This post is credited to cointelegraph

The Russian state pension fund (PFR), the country’s largest social service, has recently suggested implementing blockchain technology in labor relations, local news outlet Izvestiya reports Wednesday, August 29, citing the organization’s press center.

The fund plans to introduce smart contracts to be used as employment contracts between employers and employees. Such agreements could be made in any of the numerous state units providing public services — the net that reportedly covers up to 97% Russia’s population.

Officials told reporters that they hope blockchain technology as it would be used in the scheme would help to avoid unnecessary paperwork and to reduce costs for storing and maintaining a huge amount of data. Officials also reportedly believe that the new system will protect citizens from “negligent employers who violate current legislation when concluding contracts,” the fund’s press center stressed.

State Labour Inspectorate statistics cited by Izvestiya show that more than 465,000 Russian citizens claimed their labor rights were violated in 2017.  In that regard, officials imposed fines for more than 20 billion rubles (approximately $293 million).

Russia is currently taking numerous steps in order to reorganize its labor industry. As local news agency TASS noted today, Russian prime-minister Dmitry Medvedev recently offered to store all employment records online starting in 2020. All necessary data will also be shared with the PFR, Tass reports.

The PFR’s decision to turn to blockchain comes against the backdrop of a radical pension reform the Russian government introduced in mid-2018. Officials initially offered to raise the minimum retirement age for women up to 63 years (from its current 55 years) by 2034 and for men up to 65 years (from its current 60 years) by 2028.

In the broader context of pressure from U.S. and European economic sanctions against Russia, the pension reforms sparked massive backlash in the country. After the largest cities in Russia held protests against the proposed reforms in July, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced in a speech today that the government plans to amend the reform.

This post is credited to cointelegraph

A county in China’s northern Sichuan province has signed a strategic cooperation contract to establish a new blockchain company in an effort to develop the forestry industry, local news outlet China Net reported August 24.

The Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County of Sichuan Province and Beijing Sinfotek Group have jointly established a new company, Hangzhou Yi Shu Blockchain Technology Co., Ltd for “forestry economic development and industrial poverty alleviation.” The parties signed the cooperation contract in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, on August 19, China Net reports.

The newly established company is reportedly one of the 19 blockchain companies to have passed the first batch of 700 project declarations in the Hangzhou Blockchain Industrial Park. The company aims to apply blockchain technology to farming and agriculture industries. The report states:

“[The company’s strategy] will be closely integrated with the national development strategy, and [will] fully promote the application of blockchain technology to realize the parallel development of enterprise value and forestry industry.”

Earlier this month the Communist Party of China (CPC) had released a book on blockchain technology and its possible applications, as Cointelegraph reported August 13.

Last week, one of the world’s largest insurance company groups, China’s Ping An Insurance, released a “White Paper on Smart Cities,” advocating for blockchain technology development and “promoting the development of ‘smart city.’”

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Bithumb, one of the largest South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges, will open up account registrations after a month-long freeze, local media outlet Yonhap News reports Wednesday, August 29.

According to a spokesperson from banking partner Nonghyup Bank, Bithumb will meet specific requirements as dictated by South Korean law in return for regaining banking support.

Nonghyup had previously suspended its services for Bithumb at the end of July, rumors at the time suggesting the decision had come after the exchange lost $17 million in its most recent hack a month previously.

“We decided to keep the investor assets separate, and we will not accept interest or deposits,” the spokesperson said.

In January, South Korea introduced wide-ranging rules for cryptocurrency exchanges, which included banning foreign citizens and ensuring all traders linked their accounts to their ‘real name’ bank account.

Bithumb has had a chequered history, with several hacks piling pressure on executives to ensure compliance.

With the fresh agreement due to come into force August 30 meanwhile, markets have already begun reacting.

Trade volumes on Bithumb, which had tanked following the banking problems, have increased precipitously in the past 24 hours, BTC/KRW posting gains of almost 70 percent versus August 27-28.

Bithumb is currently ranked fifth largest crypto exchange in the world by daily trading volumes, seeing about $362.4 million in trades over the past 24 hours.

This post is credited to cointelegraph

The Associated Press (AP) news agency has inked a content licensing partnership with blockchain-based startup Civil, according to an official announcement Tuesday, August 28.

AP is reportedly interested in exploring ways to secure intellectual property rights, support ethical journalism, and track content usage with blockchain technology.

As part of the project, AP will deliver its content, including national and international news to Civil, so that news agencies can access it on the platform. Any newsroom wishing to access AP content will be licensed directly by AP.

As part of the collaboration, AP will own CVL tokens which, according to Civil, serve as an incentive device to keep newsrooms objective and accurate. Jim Kennedy, AP’s senior vice president for Strategy and Enterprise Development, explained the agency’s interest in digital ledger technology (DLT):

“AP has been pushing into new digital territory for more than two decades, and Civil is opening up another new space with interesting technology to explore and a commitment to good journalism. We’re eager to help cultivate the space and demonstrate our value to a new set of digital publishers.”

The Associated Press, founded in 1846 and headquartered in New York City, is one of the world’s largest news agencies. According to 2016 data provided by the agency itself, AP operates 263 news bureaus in 106 countries.

Civil is a startup that develops technology to track ownership rights and content usage in the journalism industry.

Other companies have also sought to leverage blockchain technology in order to provide more fair and objective journalistic practices. In July, Adblock Plus developer eyeo GmbH announced a blockchain-based browser extension Trusted News, Cointelegraph reported June 14. The add-on’s purpose is to specifically label “fake news” while whitelisting trustworthy sources and stories.

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North Korea (DPRK) has attempted to mine Bitcoin (BTC), Yonhap News reported August 27, citing a report compiled by a research unit from South Korea’s state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB).

Yonhap notes that the mining attempt – which was allegedly conducted “on a small scale” between May and July 2017 – appears to have been unsuccessful, although the reasons for this remain unclear.

According to Yonhap, the KDB report claims that North Korea’s interest resides in the essential “characteristics of cryptocurrencies, including anonymity, difficulties of tracing money and cashability.” The KBD research unit reportedly cited a local media report as the source of its information on the mining story.

KDB’s research unit has reportedly moreover claimed that a North Korean tech firm, Chosun Expo, is in the process of developing a Bitcoin crypto exchange, although no further details are given.

The research unit has also reported that its interviews with North Korean defectors suggest that the majority of the country’s citizens have scant knowledge of crypto, in stark contrast to their southern neighbours.

While widespread knowledge of crypto may apparently elude most citizens in the tight grip of a media-controlled state, North Korean hackers last week made news for allegedly infecting a cryptocurrency exchange with malware that unusually targeted both Windows and macOS systems.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports are emerging of an alleged upcoming blockchain conference in Pyongang this October. CNBC’s Ran NeuNer somewhat jocularly shared the news on Twitter earlier this week, quipping “Who’s coming?”

This post is credited to cointelegraph