The price of bitcoin has surpassed the $8,800 mark, rising 6 percent within the last 24 hours. Trading volumes across the major cryptocurrency exchanges have also increased beyond $26 billion for the first time in a while.

Upward trend.

Last month, bitcoin tested the $9,200 mark, but it didn’t take long before it fell to $6,500 after failing to sustain the momentum to bounce off $8,200.

Based on the fluctuations in the price the market has witnessed in recent weeks, it is quite likely that bitcoin will test the $9,200 mark again as it did last month, and it could even surpass it. A movement above the $9,200 level it reached late March could see bitcoin price entering the $10,000 region before April ends.

Psychological threshold.

Investors highlighted the $10,000 mark for bitcoin in November last year was both a psychological threshold and a key milestone. They predicted it would surge substantially, way before it got to $10,000. Bitcoin was relentless towards the ending of last year.  After breaking the $10,000 ceiling – it rose to $14,000 and eventually to $20,000, where the decline started.

Since the corrections of February this year, and the series of regulations in recent weeks, the market has struggled to hold forth any form of stability. As always, the price of most altcoins and tokens have taken a cue from bitcoin which has been battered since the turn of the year. Regional exchanges in Japan and South Korea have not been spared either as both have witnessed a decrease in trading volumes.

The new trend in the price of BTC is an ideal position for the currency to rally round for both the short and mid-term, given that more people are getting aware of cryptocurrency as adoption has increased.

wikileaks

The WikiLeaks Shop has been banned from Coinbase’s payment platform, the organization revealed on Friday.

“Coinbase has blocked the official @WikiLeaks shop from its platform without notice or explanation,” the organization wrote on its Twitter account. “You can continue to donate #Bitcoin to WikiLeaks at WikiLeaks.org/donate.”

WikiLeaks posted a screenshot of the email that Coinbase allegedly sent the non-profit organization, which publishes classified government documents provided by anonymous sources. In the email, Coinbase referenced the exchange operator and payment processor’s regulatory obligations as a money services business (MSB) that must remain compliant with FinCEN policies.

From the email:

“Upon careful review, we believe your account has engaged in prohibited use in violation of our Terms of Service and we regret to inform you that we can no longer provide you with access to our service. We respectfully request that you follow the on-screen instructions presented when you log into your Coinbase account to send any remaining balance offsite to an external address.”

WikiLeaks first began accepting bitcoin in 2010, after MasterCard, PayPal, and other payment processors began barring their customers from donating to the controversial organization.

The organization’s embrace of bitcoin provided the fledgling cryptocurrency with one of its first significant waves of mainstream media attention, and WikiLeaks now accepts a variety of cryptocurrencies, including zcash, monero, litecoin, and ethereum.

Despite the Coinbase ban, customers can continue to purchase items at the WikiLeaks Shop using CoinPayments.net’s payment processing tool, through which the store continues to accept bitcoin, as well as a number of altcoins.

WikiLeaks responded to the ban by calling for a “global blockade” of the company next week, arguing that its actions make it an “unfit member of the crypto community.”

Widely-respected bitcoin advocate and public speaker Andreas M. Antonopoulos tweeted that he was “disappointed with Coinbase” for shutting off access to the organization but said that he doesn’t hate them and won’t support a boycott.

“Coinbase is the most bitcoin-friendly bank there is,” he said. “Once you accept that they are a bank, it becomes easier to understand. If you need to use a bank, they’re it.”

Featured Image from Pixabay

Bitcoin ransomware and blackmailing schemes are not nearly as prominent as media hype surrounding the issue suggests, new research shows.

In a study titled “Ransomware Payments in the Bitcoin Ecosystem,” a group of Canadian and Australian security researchers conducted a data-driven analysis of bitcoin ransomware. Based on their research, they determined that these blackmailing schemes, which invariably attract media attention due to their novelty, do not have a significant economic impact.

“As the current hype would have it, ransomware authors would make large amounts of money — up to millions of dollars — with this successful online black mailing activity,” the authors said. “As it is often the case, the reality is not that simple.”

In a typical bitcoin ransomware scheme, a computer becomes infected with malware that seizes control of the operating system and encrypts a user’s files. The attacker then demands that the user send money — usually denominated in bitcoin — to a specific address, after which the attackers will decrypt the files and return control of the computer to the owner.

The researchers, who will present their paper later this year at the 17th Annual Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS), said that the total economic impact of bitcoin ransomware payments amounts to approximately $13 million, with most of those funds linked to a small group of attacks.

They wrote:

We estimate the lower bound direct financial impact of each ransomware family and find that, from 2013 to mid-2017, the market for ransomware payments has a minimum worth of USD 12,768,536 (22,967.54 BTC). We also find that the market is highly skewed, dominated by a few number of players. From these findings, we conclude that the total ransom amounts gathered through ransomware attacks are relatively low compared to the hype surrounding this issue.

Part of the reason that the hype surrounding bitcoin ransomware exceeds the real economic impact is that several high-profile targets have been hit by these schemes, though the payments demanded by the hackers were low relative to the amount of media attention that they attracted.

In March, the city of Atlanta was hit by such an attack, with the hackers behind it demanding $51,000 in bitcoin to restore access to the city’s digital infrastructure.

Last year, the UK’s National Healthcare System (NHS) fell prey to a version of this ransomware scheme known as WannaCry, with computers at more than 40 hospitals and other NHS locations affected by the attack. In this case, the hackers demanded $300 in bitcoin to unlock each computer.

Of course, the fact that the aggregate economic impact of bitcoin ransomware is low does not mean that these schemes cannot cause serious problems — even life-and-death situations, in the case of healthcare organizations — for affected individuals and organizations, so users should always practice good digital hygiene to avoid contracting malware.

Featured Image from Pixabay

fake news

“Fake news” — that’s how Binance responded to reports that the cryptocurrency exchange giant is preparing to add USD trading pairs to its online trading platform.

The Hong Kong-based exchange, which is currently in the process of moving its operations to Malta, said Thursday that while it is holding discussions with banks in the hopes of adding fiat-to-cryptocurrency trading pairs in the future, it has “no plans” to support USD in the short-term. Nor, when it does offer fiat pairs, will verge (XVG) or ripple (XRP) receive preferential treatment.

That statement, straight from the Twitter account of Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, contradicted baseless reports from several industry media outlets that claimed the exchange had announced that it was adding XRP/USD and XVG/USD trading pairs to its platform.

Part of the confusion may also stem from the fact that Binance has gradually been rolling out USDT trading pairs for altcoins that are listed on its platform. Better known as ‘tether‘ and created by a company of the same name, USDT is a cryptocurrency token that is supposedly backed by physical dollars at a 1:1 ratio. However, USDT holders cannot withdraw dollars directly to their bank accounts, nor can they deposit actual USD at Binance.

Binance currently ranks as the world’s highest-volume cryptocurrency exchange, with daily volume in excess of $2.1 billion. Consequently, getting listed on Binance increases a coin’s liquidity and generally leads to positive price movements — at least in the short-term.

Becoming one of the few coins to trade directly against fiat currency pairs has an even more profound effect on a cryptocurrency’s price, as it allows the coin to decouple from bitcoin and ethereum and trade in an isolated market.

It’s impossible to know the justification behind spreading these false rumors, though it would not be surprising if at least some of the perpetrators did so to artificially inflate the verge and ripple prices so that they could turn a quick profit.

Featured Image from Pixabay

finland

Tax authorities in Finland have begun matching bank records to cryptocurrency transactions in an effort to track down suspected Bitcoin tax cheats.

English-language Finnish news outlet Metropolitan.fi reports that Timo Puiro — the tax office’s inspector general — has identified at least 3,300 citizens who owe taxes related to gains accrued while trading cryptocurrencies. Collectively, they owe about 30 million euros in capital gains taxes — a tenfold increase from 2016.

According to the report, the tax office has taken advantage of “generous access” to bank transfers and other financial data, which officials have been able to successfully link to Bitcoin transactions from cryptocurrency exchanges and other trading platforms.

Using this data, the tax office has been able to identify Finns who taxes on their cryptocurrency gains, and it will scrutinize their annual tax returns to determine whether they pay them.

The latest date that taxes can be filed in Finland is May 15, so it is unclear whether residents are paying their cryptocurrency-related taxes.

However, the fact that many cryptocurrency investors do not report cryptocurrency trading on their tax returns is well-documented. US financial services company Credit Karma has said that among users of its tax preparation software cryptocurrency reporting is at “negligible levels,” and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has contracted with a blockchain forensics firm in the past to help the agency track down Bitcoin tax cheats.

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase was also recently forced by a court order to provide the IRS with access to customer records for high-volume users.

As BlockExplorer reported, tech conglomerate Amazon recently won a patent for a data streaming marketplace that would transmit information in real-time. The company identified catching Bitcoin tax cheats as one potential use case for the marketplace. Under the system, law enforcement agencies could subscribe to data streams for Bitcoin transactions and shipping information or bank records and then use in-app analytics tools to identify correlations in the data.

Featured Image from Pixabay