A BitCoin Crackdown Will Not Stop The Flood

February 19, 2018

Bitcoin’s rocketing value has put a spotlight on this intentionally shadowy money system. Now, with all that attention governments are starting to crack down. However, we don’t think that’ll help. We were tipped off to this trend from a recent BitCoinIst story, “AUSTRALIAN BANKS REPORTEDLY FREEZING THE ACCOUNTS OF BITCOIN USERS.”

According to the story:

The Australian banks which have been accused of freezing accounts of Bitcoin users have been listed as the National Australia Bank, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Westpac Banking Corporation. The claim was made in a tweet saying that user activity associated with certain websites (BTC Markets, CoinSpot Australia, CoinJar, and Coinbase) have been affected as triggering suspicious activity on Australian users’ bank accounts.

 

Should your bank refuse to make a payment of your money, then you are rendered powerless to access your own money. The banks’ heavy handedness in this regard only gives further fuel to those proponents of decentralized money that lie outside of institutional control, such as Bitcoin and the rest of cryptocurrency. That Australian banks are still not providing fail-safes to their customers when they fall foul of unspecified account flagging is not portraying the country’s banks in a positive manner at all.

While it is worth applauding Australia’s attempt at stopping criminal activity this way, it’s only part of the oldest story in the book. As soon as someone solves a problem, two new ones crop up. Those being new cryptocurrencies, like Monero, which criminals are beginning to flock to. Fat chance stopping this flood of trouble.

Patrick Roland, February 19, 2018

FnaS or Fake News as a Service Is Now a Thing

January 30, 2018

The above acronym “FNaS” is our own invention for “fake news as a service”; if you did not catch on it is a play on SaS or software as a service.  We never thought that this was a possible job, but someone saw a niche and filled it.  According to Unhinged Group in the article, “Fake News ‘As A Service’ Booming Among Cybercrooks” describes how this is a new market for ne’er do wells.  It does make sense that fake news would be a booming business because there are many organizations and people who want to take advantage of the public’s gullibility.

This is especially true for political and religious folks, who have a lot of power to sway those in power.  Digital Shadows, however, conducted a research survey and discovered that fake news services are hired to damage reputations and cause financial distress for organizations through disinformation campaigns.

How does this work?

The firm’s research stated that these services are often associated with “Pump and Dump” scams, schemes that aggressively promote penny stocks to inflate their prices before the inevitable crash and burn. Scammers buy low, hope that their promotions let the sell high, then flee with their loot and little regard for other investors.

A cryptocurrency variant of the same schemes has evolved and involves gradually purchasing major shares in altcoin (cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin) and drumming up interest in the coin through posts on social media. The tool then trades these coins between multiple accounts, driving the price up, before selling to unsuspecting traders on currency exchanges looking to buy while prices are still rising.

One “Pump and Dump” service analysis discovered that they made an equivalent of $326,000 for ne’er do wells in less than two months.  Even worse is that Digital Shadows found more than ten services that sell social media bot software for as low as $7.

It is not difficult to create a fake “legitimate” news site.  All it takes is a fake domain, cloning services, and backlinking to exploit these fake news stories.  Real legitimate news outlets and retailers are also targets.  Anyone and anything can be a target.

Whitney Grace, January 30, 2018

Dark Web Criminals Seek Alternatives to Bitcoin

January 8, 2018

Law enforcement has been getting better at using Bitcoin to track criminals on the dark web, so bad actors are exploring alternatives, we learn from the article, “Dark Web Finds Bitcoin Increasingly More of a Problem Than a Help, Tires Other Digital Currencies” at CNBC.

Reporter Evelyn Cheng writes:

In the last three years, new digital currencies such as monero have emerged in an effort to increase privacy. Unlike the open transaction record of bitcoin, monero’s technology hides the name of the sender, amount and receiver. A representative from monero did not respond to email and Twitter requests for comment. Monero hit a record high Monday of $154.58, up more than 1,000 percent this year, according to CoinMarketCap.

Digital currency ethereum is an increasing target for cybercrime as well, according to Chainalysis. Ethereum is up about 4,300 percent this year amid a flood of funds into the digital currency for initial coin offerings, which have raised the equivalent of nearly $1.8 billion in the last three years, CoinDesk data showed. Cybercriminals raised $225 million in ethereum so far this year, Chainalysis said in a report posted Aug. 7 on its website. Phishing attacks — disguised emails or other communication used to trick people into disclosing personal information — make up more than half of all ethereum cybercrime revenue this year at $115 million, the study said. The Ethereum Foundation did not return a CNBC request for comment.

Make no mistake, Bitcoin is still in the lead even with criminals—its popularity makes it easy to quickly convert with no third parties involved. As that popularity continues to increase and the currency becomes more mainstream, though, other options await.

Cynthia Murrell, January 8, 2018

Bitcoin Alternative Monero Accepted by AlphaBay

March 17, 2017

As institutions like banks and law enforcement come to grips with the flow of Bitcoin, another cyber currency is suddenly gaining ground. Bloomberg Technology reveals, “New Digital Currency Spikes as Drug Dealers Get More Secrecy.” The coin in question, Monero, has been around for a couple of years, but was recently given a boost by the marketplace AlphaBay, one of the most popular destinations for buyers of illicit drugs on the Dark Web. In the two weeks after the site announced it would soon accept Monero, the total worth of that currency in circulation jumped to over $100 million (from about $25 million the previous month). Writer Yuji Nakamura explains why a shift may be underway:

Bitcoin, the most popular digital currency in the world with a total value of $9.1 billion, also allows users to move funds discreetly and uses a network of miners to verify the authenticity of each trade. But its privacy has come under threat as governments and private investigators increase their ability to track transactions across the bitcoin network and trace funds to bank accounts ultimately used to convert digital assets to and from traditional currencies like U.S. dollars.

Monero similarly uses a network of miners to verify its trades, but mixes multiple transactions together to make it harder to trace the genesis of the funds. It also adopts ‘dual-key stealth’ addresses, which make it difficult for third-parties to pinpoint who received the funds.

For any two outputs, from the same or different transactions, you cannot prove they were sent to the same person,’ Riccardo Spagni, a lead developer of Monero, wrote by e-mail. Jumbling trades together makes it ‘impossible to tell which transaction, of a set of transactions, a particular input comes from. It appears to come from all of them.

Though Monero has yet to withstand the trials of AlphaBay-level volumes for long, its security features received praise from investor and prominent digital-currency-advocate Roger Ver. As of this writing, Monero is ranked fifth among digital currencies in overall market value. Click here for a list of digital currencies ranked, in real time, by market cap.

Cynthia Murrell, March 17, 2017

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