US Treasury Dept. Takes Action Against Two Iranians Allegedly Involved in BTC Ransomware

The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned two Iranians allegedly involved in Bitcoin (BTC) ransomware scheme SamSam, the Treasury reported in an official press release today, Nov. 28.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has taken action on Wednesday against two Iranian individuals, Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan, who are accused of exchanging Bitcoin into Iranian rials (IRR).

This is also the first time that Bitcoin addresses have been publically attributed to “designated individuals” on the OFAC’s sanctions list.

According to the report, SamSam ransomware breaks into companies’ computer networks, allowing criminals to take over administrator rights in order to demand a ransom in Bitcoin in exchange for regained network access by users. The ransomware has reportedly damaged multiple companies, government agencies, universities, and hospitals, targeting more than 200 victims, the Treasury said.

OFEC has managed to identify two crypto addresses associated with the alleged Iran-based criminals, with 7,000 transactions in Bitcoin and around 6,000 BTC moved since 2013, the report states.

While Khorashadizadeh and Ghorbaniyan are allegedly responsible for the exchange of crypto and the deposits of rials into Iranian banks, the ransomware scheme also involved two Iranian players that acted as hackers and have been infecting multiple data networks with SamSam in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Canada since 2015.

In August, U.K.-based science and technology magazine Wired UK reported that SamSam creators were making around $300,000 per month, and “nobody [could] work out who they are.” According to research provided by cybersecurity firm Sophos, SamSam has amassed about $6 million since apparently being launched in 2015.

According to Wired UK, SamSam did not perform anything “particularly sophisticated,” with no automation and implementing “old-school hacking.” The ransomware was reportedly managed manually, unlike the massive WannaCry ransomware that shut down hundreds of U.K. hospitals and GPs in 2017.



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French Regulators, Central Bank Distance Themselves From Tobacconists’ BTC Retail Plans

French stock market regulator, the Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF), has jointly issued a warning with the country’s central bank and French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority (ACPR) recalling the risks associated with “speculative” crypto assets. The warning was posted as a press release on the AMF official website Nov. 26.

The three entities’ joint announcement has been issued in explicit response to recent news that France’s tobacco federation, the Fédération des Buralistes, had obtained permission to sell Bitcoin (BTC) at tobacconists as of January 2019. The AMF, ACPR, and Banque de France have today firmly stated that:

“[We] recall the risks associated with investing in speculative [crypto] assets, which are not well adapted to the profiles of unsophisticated private investors […]. Purchase, sale and investment in Bitcoins are currently carried out outside any regulated market.”

As previously reported, the Fédération des Buraliste partnered with local cryptocurrency wallet provider KeplerK on plans to roll out Bitcoin vouchers — in denominations of 50, 100 and 250 euros — for sale across over 4,000 small tobacco retailers in France.

While media reporting indicated the initiative had been greenlighted by the ACPR, which acts under the auspices of the Banque de France, the central bank at the time adamantly refuted the claims.

Today’s announcement stresses that the entity using the trade name KeplerK, which reportedly “has a capital of 50000 euros […] does not have any authorization or approval by a French or foreign authority, and is not likely to provide any guarantee to the customer base.”

It continues to clarify that KeplerK “must not be confused with companies approved in France such as Kepler Cheuvreux or Kepler capital markets, which have no connection with this activity.”

Last December, the governor of the Banque de France issued a robust warning against the high risks of Bitcoin investments, and the AMF has added multiple crypto-related sites to its investment blacklist on at least two occasions.

In September, nonetheless, the watchdog received new legal powers to grant licenses to companies that run Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), in a move that was presented as a bid to “attract investors from all over the world.”

Positive developments have continued this month, with the Finance Committee of the lower house of the French parliament adopting amendments to a tax bill that ease taxes on cryptocurrency sales.



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Bitcoin Miners Selling Old ASICs for Scrap as BTC Decline Worsens




Over the past several days, there has been much debate within cryptocurrency circles about a series of videos and images allegedly showing Chinese crypto mining firms dumping bitcoin miners on the street.

To some observers, the video and images demonstrated that crypto miners — even those located in China, where low energy rates provide greater profit margins — were beginning to feel the pinch from bitcoin’s prolonged bear market. If miners were dumping ASICs on the street, it not only meant that the bitcoin price had reached their “shutdown-mark,” the point at which miners can no longer turn a profit running the machines, but also that they didn’t think these devices would ever be profitable again.

Others alleged that the pictures had actually been taken in July following a flood that destroyed thousands of mining rigs hosted in China’s Sichuan province and that the original posters were spreading them to stir up FUD. However, as tends to be the case, the truth is likely a bit more complicated.

bitcoin mining profitability
Older-generation bitcoin miners are no longer profitable. | Source: F2Pool

Speaking in an interview with Asia Crypto Today, Hu Jie of Si Hua Mining — a local ASIC supplier — said that the pictures appeared to be genuine but depicted miners dumping older-generation devices such as the Antminer S7 and V9. When ASIC rigs become obsolete, he explained, it is common for large Chinese mining farms to sell them as scrap metal.

“Of course old models are out of the game, like the picture shows. But that doesn’t represent the majority,” he said in translated remarks. “Electronics become outdated easily. For example, smartphones like iPhone 3, 4, of course they can be sold by the pound. It’s normal life cycle.”

That’s one downside to ASIC mining. Unlike GPU chips, which can be repurposed when mining ceases to be profitable, ASIC chips are programmed exclusively for a single application. Consequently, they are rendered obsolete much more quickly, and once that happens, their use cases become more or less limited to expensive doorstop or oversized paperweight.

Bitcoin Network Hash Rate Down 25 Percent from Peak

bitcoin hash rate
Source: Blockchain.com

But though these bitcoin miners were fated for relocation to the scrap heap one way or another, there’s no denying that 2018’s massive crypto market decline hastened their obsolescence.

Indeed, since peaking at an all-time high near 55EH in early October, the Bitcoin network’s average weekly hashrate has dropped by nearly 25 percent to 42EH as of Nov. 21, suggesting that profit-driven miners at the margins are being forced out of the market.

Even so, eToro Senior Market Analyst Mati Greenspan said that the hash rate decline is a healthy development, given how sharply it had risen in response to last year’s bull market.

“Bitcoin’s hash rate has indeed dropped in the last few weeks but this is not at all concerning,” Greenspan said in daily market commentary shared with CCN. “It’s actually comforting as the rate has risen so sharply over the course of the year and is now returning to normalized levels.”

Featured Image from Shutterstock

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Bear Markets ‘Do Bear Things,’ but BTC Has ‘Gigantic’ Potential

Spencer Bogart, a partner at the venture capital firm Blockchain Capital, believes that crypto opportunities are “still gigantic” despite the current bear market, the expert claimed in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, Nov. 19.

The expert at the crypto and blockchain-focused venture capital startup has maintained his pro-Bitcoin (BTC) stance, pointing out the critical role of “programmable money,” which is supposed to gain even more popularity over time.

Considering programmable money as a “multi-trillion dollar idea,” Bogart emphasized the fact that Bitcoin has become the “biggest bull markets of all time,” referring to the the massive spike of Bitcoin up to $20,000 in December 2017 from around $1,000 in the beginning of last year. The expert has stressed that although the current state of crypto market is opposite to last year’s — with bear markets doing “bear things” — it still does not diminish the overall “gigantic” potential of Bitcoin.

In the interview, Bogart has also expressed his “mono-crypto” position, claiming that Bitcoin has the “largest established network effect” and is “more than 5 times larger than the number two crypto.” The Blockchain Capital partner noted that the crypto community has been looking for the “next Bitcoin” since the emergence of Bitcoin, and suggested that this commitment to altcoins is a “dangerous game to play.”

Founded in 2013, Blockchain Capital aims to assist entrepreneurs in setting up global cryptocurrency and blockchain companies. According to Blockchain Capital’s website, the firm is one of the “oldest and most active venture investors in the blockchain technology sector,” having financed “72 companies, protocols and tokens since its inception.”

Earlier in October, Spencer Bogart had predicted that Bitcoin’s price has almost hit its bottom, noting that “bad news” last year appeared to “have no effect on the markets,” while now “we are seeing the other side of that.”

Recently, prominent Wall Street bull Tom Lee maintained his new prediction that Bitcoin will end the year at $15,000, citing the upcoming launch of the digital assets platform Bakkt by the operator of major global exchange New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), as well as the expected regulatory clarity, which will allegedly attract more institutional investments.

Backed by Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the NYSE has recently confirmed that it is targeting a launch of the Bakkt platform on Jan. 24, 2019.

Yesterday, Nov. 20, the head of global trading and technology firm Susquehanna also claimed that he is still a long-term Bitcoin believer amidst the market crash.



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Liquidity Provider Sues Crypto Exchange for $13.7 Mln in Singapore’s First BTC Court Case

Crypto exchange Quoine and major liquidity provider B2C2 are the opposing parties in Singapore’s first court case involving Bitcoin (BTC), which began Nov. 21, Singapore-based English-language daily The Straits Times reports. The case concerns an alleged reversal of crypto transactions in the spring of 2017.

In a legal battle at the Singapore International Commercial Court, B2C2 alleges Quoine reversed seven Bitcoin to Ethereum (ETH) trades it attempted to perform in April 2017.

The reversal, which Quoine in court documents said was due to a technical glitch, involves a total of 3,085 BTC (today around $13.7 million), which B2C2 is now attempting to extract from the exchange.

The market maker says the decision was made without its permission or knowledge.

The Straits Times quotes the documents as saying that “it is B2C2’s contention that in the face of serious risk of itself having to bear the financial loss arising from the trades”:

“Quoine chose the most advantageous course to mitigate such risk — by simply reversing the ‘irreversible’ trades and deducting the […] proceeds from the account.”

The exact nature of the trades is unusual, according to Quoine. As a result of liquidity problems resulting from the glitch, B2C2 was able to set up trades at an “absurd” exchange rate of 10 BTC to 1 ETH, Quoine argues, continuing:

“There is no other way than to describe these orders as abnormally and absurdly priced orders, given that they were about 250 times higher than the average price at which (the two currencies) then traded on the platform.”

The Straits Times notes that the trial should end in one week’s time.

Courts in various jurisdictions have sporadically dealt with cryptocurrency battles this year, in each instance adopting a case-by-case approach to the often unlegislated phenomenon.

In September, China’s Supreme Court ruled that blockchain-based evidence was suitable for use in legal proceedings. Also in September, a New York federal judge ruled that U.S securities laws are applicable in regards to a case involving alleged crypto investor fraud.



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Tom Lee Maintains $15,000 Year-End BTC Prediction Despite Market Crash

Despite the present market crash, major Wall Street crypto bull Tom Lee has reiterated his recently reduced year-end price prediction for Bitcoin (BTC) at $15,000 in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

In the recent statement, the head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors pointed out two major types of crypto players — those who are “using it and have wallets in crypto,” and those who belong to a speculative side of the market. According to Lee, those two sides of the crypto community should find a way for “sort of interacting with each other” for crypto investors not to get burnt by crashes like this.

While reiterating his crypto-rebound prediction, Lee still admitted that the markets have “certainly” seen a “negative development,” which signals a “downside of the momentum.”

However, Lee stressed that institutional cryptocurrency investors are “not necessarily getting hurt” by the recent market downturn, even as Bitcoin’s price dropped sharply to as low as $4,237 today. In this regard, the investor emphasized the crucial role of institutional participation in the industry, claiming that specifically this part of the market will pull the “next wave of the adoption.”

According to Lee, there are two key factors that will soon bring more institutional interest to the markets. First, it will be the upcoming launch of the digital assets platform Bakkt by the operator of major global exchange New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). Announced in August this year, Bakkt recently confirmed a “target” launch date for Jan. 24, 2019.

Second, institutions will get more involved in the market as the industry receives more regulatory clarity, which is partly “under way now,” Lee said, adding:

“Once we have that [regulatory clarity], I think, institutions will feel more comfortable in making bets.”

In this regard, the crypto analyst noted that Bitcoin is “not necessarily a value asset,” claiming that it is “probably best viewed as a commodity,” and is “really an opportunity for an emerging asset class.”

Tom Lee had reduced his year-end Bitcoin price prediction from $25,000 to $15,000 last week, Nov. 16, following a massive decline on the markets that started on Nov. 14, with Bitcoin hitting yearly lows. Previously, the crypto bull had, several times, predicted that Bitcoin’s price would rise above $20,000 for the year’s end. Lee announced his first prediction in January this year, advising “aggressive buying,” while considering the $9,000 price point as “the biggest buying opportunity in 2018.”

Recently, Netherlands-based “Big Four” auditor KPMG has released another bullish stance on crypto, claiming that the industry needs institutional investors’ participation in order to “realize its potential.” Earlier last week, CoinShares CSO Meltem Demirors claimed that the the recent collapse of the markets is caused by institutions“taking money off the table” due to Bitcoin Cash’s (BCH) hard fork.



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Bitcoin Price Analysis: Another Red Day Pushes BTC Into Deeper Support Test

Bitcoin has tumbled again today as the market continues to see further downward movement shortly after breaking two areas of market support. So far, bitcoin is down 15% on the day — 25% in 1 week:

Figure 1: BTC-USD, Daily Candles, Downward Continuation

This drop below support is starting to display hallmarks of market capitulation. After most of the sellers got out of the market earlier this year, bitcoin managed to consolidate sideways for about 9 months in the form of a descending triangle.

Last week, after several tests of support, the bottom finally gave out and sent bitcoin jolting downward through multiple support levels. With little to no relief in sight for the bulls, many early buyers are now finding their investments underwater as the market continues to head down toward its macro 78% Fibonacci retracement values:

fig2Figure 2: BTC-USD, Daily Candles, Macro Fibonacci Retracement Levels

Historically, bitcoin’s previous parabolic run-ups and declines have typically found support around their 78% retracement values. In our case, this coincides at approximately the $4,400 range. However, something that’s a bit concerning regarding the macro trend of this market is the weekly Bollinger bands (bbands):

fig3Figure 3: BTC-USD, Weekly Candles, Bollinger Bands

After such a prolonged consolidation, the weekly bbands found themselves very tightly wound. And now, one week after a 25% drop, bitcoin’s weekly bbands are expanding for the first time in over a year.

If you are unfamiliar with Bollinger bands, just think of them as a visualization of market volatility. The tighter the bands, the more consolidated the market is. When the bands begin to expand, their movement is a predicter of increased volatility in the direction of the breakout. While there are some nuanced set-ups involving Bollinger band fakeouts, it is generally considered to be a sign of trend continuation.

A possible scenario that could play out is called a “head fake.” A head fake is basically a breakout in a given direction that quickly “fakes out’ the market and reverses (a fakeout for bitcoin would yield a strong reversal to the upside).

Since this move is on such a macro scale, I wouldn’t entirely rule it out — although, it’s not looking likely at the moment. The most likely situation in our case right now is a downward continuation. Just how far the trend will continue remains to be seen, as the breakout is still fresh in the market.

Looking at Figure 1 and and Figure 2 above, we can see a few areas of support and resistance outlined in blue. So far, we have broken straight through the support with very little pause. As stated previously, the next line of support for bitcoin lies in the $4,400 zone. Given the capitulative nature of this move, it seems likely that the $4,400 zone will hold up nicely as it welcomes a fresh round of buyers. From there, we will have to re-evaluate the market and see how it reacts to the support level.

Summary

  1. Bitcoin has, yet again, seen another decline by over 15% in value.
  2. It’s managed to plow right through several layers of support and is now heading down toward its macro 78% retracement.
  3. Historically, bitcoin’s parabolic advances have tended to retrace approximately 78% percent just before reaching its bottom.
  4. The move downward is unrelenting, but the 78% retracement at $4400 may bring in a fresh round of buyers.

Trading and investing in digital assets like bitcoin and ether is highly speculative and comes with many risks. This analysis is for informational purposes and should not be considered investment advice. Statements and financial information on Bitcoin Magazine and BTC Media related sites do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BTC Media and should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to buy, sell or hold. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

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Bearish Sentiment Mounts As Bitcoin (BTC) Plunges Below $4,400

When an overwhelming number of cryptocurrency investors thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

Bitcoin (BTC), after falling under $5,800 on November 14th, continued lower on Monday and Tuesday morning, moving under a multitude of supposed support levels at $5,000, $4,800, and, most recently, $4,400. Altcoins, save for XRP, followed close behind ‘big daddy Bitcoin’, posting similar losses of 15%, or even more in acute cases of ‘bear market bowel syndrome’.

Keeping this tumultuous price action in mind, crypto investors have done their best to discern where this nascent market could be headed next. And sadly, a majority, like moths to a flame, have looked to bears for answers, as crypto bulls have all but vanished from the limelight.

CNBC’s “Fast Money” Bearish On Bitcoin

Even before Bitcoin’s most recent stint lower, CNBC Fast Money, infamous for its cryptocurrency-related coverage, took to its international television soapbox to bash BTC’s prospects.

Pete Najarian, a seemingly anti-crypto Fast Money panelist, exclaimed that “there will be more pain ahead,” before touching on the fact that Bitcoin’s ‘speculmania’ is quickly becoming a distant memory, as speculators have exited this market en-masse. While Najarian was hesitant to give a concrete price target, the trader noted that interest in crypto just isn’t there anymore. CNBC’s Tim Seymour echoed this sentiment, noting that he too thinks that liquidity has dried up for Bitcoin, and maybe for good.

Dan Nathan also of Fast Money’s panel touched on another pertinent point, explaining that the store of value argument for Bitcoin isn’t valid anymore.

However, many optimists have since contradicted the trader’s claims, first claiming that institutional interest is booming, before claiming that gold, the de-facto global store of value, is also subject to the whims of the free market and its constituents.

Related Reading: Why Are Novogratz, Fidelity, And Bakkt Banking On Institutional Crypto Investors?

Funny how CNBC’s Fast Money panel crawled out of the woodwork to talk crypto on Monday, as Bitcoin (BTC) fell to establish new year-to-date lows. Still, the fact of the matter is that Fast Money is touting its bearish forecast, which some see, in a testament to NewsBTC’s previous reports on the “CNBC Contrarian Bitcoin Indicator,” as a bullish signal.

The Trend Isn’t In Bitcoin’s Favor 

While CNBC’s cryptocurrency analysis was lackluster at best, bonafide cryptocurrency analysts, such as Murad “MustStop” Mahmudov, sought it best to provide investors with a true market outlook. The chart below, created and shared by Mahmudov, highlights the fact that BTC is in the midst of a long-term descending triangle, a bearish trend for those not in the know.

As highlighted by the analyst, $3,000 per BTC could be on the cards, but only if the asset fails to break out of its year-long downtrend before late-2018/early-2019. Although a breakout isn’t out of the realm of possibility, taking current sentiment into account, $3,000 could sadly be in crypto’s mid-term future. In another piece of analysis, Mahmudov used Bitcoin’s historical price action to predict that crypto’s bear market could last for up to 665 days, with BTC likely finding a bottom at $3,000.

While analysts are evidently pointing for BTC to move lower for the time being, there are still a number of industry insiders that are bullish on the long-term prospects of this asset class.

Featured Image from Shutterstock



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Bitcoin Price Watch: BTC Targets Fresh Lows Below $5,200, Market Gloomy

Key Points

  • Bitcoin price is currently under pressure below the $5,500 resistance level against the US Dollar.
  • There was a break below a key bullish trend line with support at $5,530 on the hourly chart of the BTC/USD pair (data feed from Kraken).
  • The price is declining and it seems like it could break the $5,230 and $5,200 support levels.

Bitcoin price is moving lower towards the last low against the US Dollar. BTC/USD could accelerate declines below if there is a break below the $5,200 support.

Bitcoin Price Analysis

The past few hours were pretty bearish because bitcoin price was rejected near $5,600 against the US Dollar. The BTC/USD pair started a fresh decline and traded below the $5,550 and $5,500 support levels. There was even a break below the $5,400 support and the 100 hourly simple moving average. It opened the doors for more losses towards the $5,230 and $5,200 levels.

During the slide, there was a break below a key bullish trend line with support at $5,530 on the hourly chart of the BTC/USD pair. Later, the price traded below the $5,350 support and the 1.236 Fib extension level of the recent wave from the $5,414 low to $5,700 swing high. The current price action is super bearish and it seems like the price could even break the $5,206 low. An immediate support is $5,230 and the 1.618 Fib extension level of the recent wave from the $5,414 low to $5,700 swing high. If there are more losses, the price could even trade below the $5,200 support.

Looking at the chart, bitcoin price is at a risk of a downside break below the $5,200 and $5,150 levels. There are even chances of a test of the $5,000 handle in the near term.

Looking at the technical indicators:

Hourly MACD – The MACD for BTC/USD is gaining pace in the bearish zone.

Hourly RSI (Relative Strength Index) – The RSI is well below the 30 level.

Major Support Level – $5,200

Major Resistance Level – $5,500

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Progress Report: Lightning Network Surpasses $1M BTC Capacity, 4,000 Nodes

The Lightning Network continues to post steady growth.

According to data from 1ML, the network is now supported by roughly 4,070 nodes, which house just over 12,500 payment channels, an average of 10.91 channels per node (at time of publication). Most of this growth has come in the later half of 2018, as the average age of each node is just 137 days old.

With infrastructural growth, the network is also seeing an uptick in liquidity. At the time of writing, the network’s collective capacity now stands at 223.65 BTC, which, at bitcoin’s current price, means the Lightning Network holds over $1.2 million worth of bitcoin for the first time in its less-than-one-year history. The average capacity for each node and payment channel comes in at 0.114 BTC ($633) and 0.019 BTC ($107) respectively, and with transaction fees at 1 sat (roughly $0.000056), the network’s promise to deliver low-cost microtransactions is holding up.

A long-awaited development in the cryptocurrency space, the progress of the Lightning Network has been watched with great interest by the community. Heralded as a potential solution to Bitcoin’s the scalability problem, the Lightning Network operates as a secondary layer on top of Bitcoin’s base network. After its launch in early 2018, the Lightning Network saw immediate interest from developers, who began building various Lightning applications on the network.

Alongside its use as a secondary layer for micropayments, many developers have taken notice of the Lightning Network’s potential impact on the world of smart contracts as well.

Disclaimer: The data presented here may not constitute a holistic picture of the Lightning Network’s current makeup, as 1ML points out on its website, “[These] statistics are aggregated and calculated from multiple nodes within the Lightning Network. Due to the decentralized nature of the Lightning Network, the numbers observed are approximations and nodes that don’t broadcast their state are not included.”

This article was updated to include a more accurate figure of the network’s bitcoin capacity at the time of publication.

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