blockchain holiday reading

Happy holidays, folks. It’s been a long, tough year in the world of crypto, but if you’re reading this, I think you’ll be on the right side of history when the dust settles.

We’re riding out this crypto winter by putting together some of the best blockchain guides out there. The most important thing you can do right now is build knowledge, expand your understanding, and gain confidence in this new technology.

So, whether you’re bored over the holidays or hiding from the in-laws, let’s dive into some of our most popular guides so far. (If you like them, stick around because we’ll have plenty more in the new year).

1. What is Bitcoin? Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

This is our flagship beginner’s guide to bitcoin. It’s written in simple, easy-to-understand language, but you’ll feel like a pro by the end of it. We cover everything from bitcoin’s mysterious creator, the technology that powers it, and how to buy it.

Read it now.

2. What is Ethereum? Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

A beginner’s guide to the third-largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum. Like our bitcoin guide, it’s written in simple language designed to level up your knowledge as you read through it. Discover how Ethereum is different to bitcoin and how it could disrupt an entire generation of existing services.

Read it now.

3. The Silk Road: A History of Bitcoin, Drugs, and the Dark Web

Launched in February 2011, the infamous Silk Road marketplace became a hub for drug dealers using bitcoin and the dark web to sell their wares. Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht is currently serving a double life sentence, plus 40 years, without parole. But the story is not so simple. It’s a story of corrupt police detectives, aliases, and deep conspiracy.

Read it now.

4. Who is Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin’s Mysterious Creator)?

We reveal 24 clues about the elusive creator of bitcoin. Known only as the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto,” Bitcoin’s founder has never been identified. He disappeared completely in 2011, but not without leaving a few possible hints at his identity.

Read it now.

5. 13 of the Best Blockchain Games (& How to Actually Play Them)

In late 2017, a blockchain game called Cryptokitties became so popular it congested the entire Ethereum network. But it gave us an insight into how big blockchain gaming could become. Although most blockchain games are still quite primitive, there’s huge potential out there. Here are 13 of the best so far.

Read it now.

6. The Most Important Women in Blockchain

As the New York Times reported earlier this year, the blockchain industry has been dominated by “blockchain bros,” with women accounting for just four-to-six percent of blockchain investors. We shine a light on ten groundbreaking women taking the industry forward.

Read it now.

7. A Complete History of Bitcoin

We track the cryptocurrency timeline back to the very earliest attempts at digital currency (ten years before bitcoin was created). Along the way, we point out the biggest moments in bitcoin history including the infamous Mt. Gox hack, the Silk Road dark-web marketplace, to the historic $20,000 price tag.

Read it now.

8. The 12 Best Bitcoin Wallets

Storing your bitcoin in a safe and secure wallet is the most important decision you’ll make in your crypto journey. But how do you find one you trust? We dive into the 12 best wallets in 2018 and beyond.

Read it now.

Happy holidays from all of us here at Block Explorer!

bigstock-Gold-Bitcoin-Crypto-Currency--213810058

2018 was epic. It started with the madness of altcoins rally at the beginning of the year. Followed by massive steps towards bitcoin and crypto mass-adoption made by regulators, large enterprises, and institutional investors. 

And it ended with the blood and tears of traders on the streets (we can still hear some of them screaming). 

Block Explorer is willing to reflect on the most important events that brought the industry to its current state. So, here are the major crypto announcements that shaped 2018: 

1. January: The Perfect Month to Ban Something

Bitcoin price: $14,112 (on the first of the month)

The beginning of January was marked by the huge news splash made by the South Korean government. They unveiled plans to ban anonymous trading on cryptocurrency exchanges over tax avoidance. And sent the police and tax-collecting authorities to their offices. 

As a result, the bitcoin price decreased by $2,000.

At the end of the month, crypto was in trouble again, as Facebook decided to ban all ads related to digital currencies. Since Facebook marketing was a major driving force for many initial coin offerings (ICOs), it cut the source of easy promo for many blockchain startups. 

2. February: China and Bankers Join Forces Against Bitcoin

Bitcoin price: $10,264

It’s not easy living in China without the freedom of internet browsing, catching up with friends on Facebook or just googling. All of that is restricted by the “Great Firewall of China.”  At the beginning of February, the list of undesirable foreign websites was supplemented with bitcoin-related websites to eliminate the financial risks for Chinese citizens.

Next, the head of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) called bitcoin “a bubble, a Ponzi scheme, and an environmental disaster”. The media went nuts over it, and the more they referred to it in the following articles the more the price of crypto was sliding down, falling as much as 14% in one day. 

3. March: SEC has a Crush on Crypto Exchanges. Google Doesn’t

Bitcoin price: $10,433

Some more heartbreaking and uncomfortable milestones for bitcoin and crypto included the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announcement made in March. They obliged all cryptocurrency exchanges to go through the registration procedure through the agency. 

One week later, news from Google set an overall moody tone of the blockchain scene: the company joined Facebook to ban all cryptocurrency-related ads. 

google bans crypto ads

4. April: India Joins the Strike Against Bitcoin 

Bitcoin price: $7,030

In April, crypto’s misadventures continued. This time the Central Bank of India (The Reserve Bank of India) banned financial institutions from allowing transactions from people’s accounts to bitcoin wallets. 

5. May: Goldman Sachs is Going Crypto, “Rich Dudes” are Boiling Over

Bitcoin price: $9,037

A little happy bitcoin rally happened when it was uncovered that Goldman Sachs had its own team dedicated to entering the crypto market. 

Although some people were are not happy about it. Including some very “rich dudes” that were on a mission to come up with the most-quoted insult for bitcoin. For instance, well-known billionaire value investor Warren Buffett referred to bitcoin as “rat poison squared,” and Bill Gates, one of the kindest billionaires in the world, labeled it a “greater fool theory”. 

Later this month the U.S. Justice Department started an investigation into bitcoin price manipulation. Oh, boy, it’s getting tougher.

But even in spite of all those troubles, crypto was still on a good path to wider acceptance. Or how else could you explain the 25 million crypto wallets registered at blockchain.com?  

6. June: Facebook is Stricken by FOMO  

Bitcoin price: $7,519

In June it was time for more bad news. It’s never enough in the crypto world. A panic sell-off happened in the first half of the month after Coinrail’s hack announcement. Even though this South Korean exchange was relatively small it led to a rapid 10% drop in bitcoin price. 

A couple of weeks later, big news came from Facebook who decided to reconsider the crypto advertising ban. Promoting initial coin offerings was still off the table though. 

7. July: Winklevoss Twins Keep Being Stubborn With SEC

Bitcoin price: $6,366

July was relatively calm for cryptocurrencies. Probably because most of the troublemakers were on vacation. But some news was still in the air, including the fact that asset-management heavy-weight BlackRock was looking into crypto assets and another SEC rejection of exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposal filed by Winklevoss twins. 

8. August: Too Many Rejections of ETF Proposals

Bitcoin price: $7,634

August was all about ETF proposals, their postponing and rejections. The bitcoin exchange rates struggled at first, but at the end of the month, after the U.S. Security Exchange Commission declined nine bitcoin ETFs, the price of the major crypto remained stable. How resilient is it? 

9. September: The First Crypto-Related Company Files for IPO

Bitcoin price: $7,192

Most of September’s announcements were quite positive. First, there was more news about Goldman Sachs jumping into crypto. The company’s chief financial officer Martin Chavez confirmed that the Wall Street giant was working on the development of bitcoin-based derivatives that will be accessible to the bank’s clients. 

At the end of the month, one of the leading bitcoin miners, Bitmain, spilled out their intention to run an initial public offering (IPO). And the application for the process was already filed. Bitcoin Cash prices (one of the assets Bitmain is mining) surged up to 20% rapidly. 

10. October: Happy birthday, Bitcoin. Here’s Your Mass-Adoption

Bitcoin price: $6,619

More happy news to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Bitcoin’s whitepaper. Big steps from institutional investors happened in the middle of October when Fidelity Investments announced the launch of a spin-off company, dedicated to crypto assets exclusively. The new firm named Fidelity Digital Assets was onboarding its first clients and still preparing for the grand opening for the general public in 2019. 

Also, the launch of the first blockchain phone, made by HTC, stole the headlines in October. 

11. November: Blood, Sweat, and Tears of Bitcoin Cash Fork 

Bitcoin price: $6,427

Fights over the Bitcoin Cash fork got completely out of control. The battle between BCHSV (Satoshi Vision), lead by Craig Wright, aka Fake Satoshi and BCHABC (Adjustable Blocksize Cap), driven by Roger Ver, previously labeled as Bitcoin Jesus was observed by the entire industry. It triggered huge crypto volatility, increased trading volume and, as some experts might say, a bitcoin nosedive to a new bottom. And we are still in the middle of that roller coaster.

On the other hand, we had some good news too. Like the announcement about the first state in the U.S. will be accepting bitcoin as a tax payment. Way to go, Ohio! 

This year is not over yet, and we don’t know exactly what the future holds. As you know in crypto, “one day you are in, and another day you are out”.  But we promise to keep you posted. 

And what was your favorite news break of the year? Go ahead and share it in the comment section below.

Learned something new in this article? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

Every Friday, we take a light-hearted tour through the best memes, artwork, and oddities from the cryptoverse. In a year when $1 billion crypto was stolen, Carty Sewill explorers a meme devoted to crypto hacks: “Funds are Safu.”

We’ve all felt it. The overwhelming anxiety that comes when you log into an exchange and see any change in balance or lack of withdrawal options. It instantly triggers thoughts of GOX. Whether it’s a hack, a server error, or just maintenance, we’re a shaky bunch; with good reason. Sometimes we need assurances. We want to know our ‘Funds are safu.’

CZ Binance funds are safu

Everyone knows they shouldn’t keep coins they’re not willing to lose sitting on an exchange. But sometimes it’s not so simple. Withdrawal and transaction fees, for some of us, can nickel and dime our portfolios out of existence. Others trade too frequently to be moving coins back and forth all day. Unless you plan on quitting your job.

The majority of us have a few exchanges we trust and most of us use one of those exchanges like a wallet. Binance being one such exchange for many a crypto-enthusiast. And in early March of 2018 the collective PTSD of the crypto-community was triggered once again when an API and SYScoin attack caused a disruption of balances and the temporary shutdown on Binance.

In a clever scheme, a hacker used Binance APIs to target a low liquidity coin, SYScoin, in order to manipulate the order book and use access to a high volume account to withdraw Bitcoin without an audit. The hack triggered an immediate shutdown of Binance and as a consequence the cryptosphere went on red alert. Thousands of Twitter handles began screaming foul and speculating as to whether or not their funds were still sitting safely in Binance wallets.

funds are safe CZ binance
The original, and deleted, “funds are safe” tweet.

In response, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) tweeted an explanation claiming “all funds are safe.”  Soon, 4Chan channel /biz/ was exploding with parody and the phrase “Funds are Safu,” was born. In just a few days, Bizonacci cemented ‘Funds are Safu’ as a crypto-meme when he released an animated mockery of the situation on Youtube. 

As usual in, our small corner of the internet, original content began flooding Twitter. The meme was a hit and even CZ himself played along, tweeting “Funds are safu,” during a scheduled upgrade later in the month. Even going so far as to name the Binance insurance fund S.A.F.U.

funds are safu
CZ embracing the “funds are safu” meme.
funds are safu
CZ explaining the history of “funds are safu”

It’s a meme with legs and it’s unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon. Reminding all of us to remain vigilant, use 2FA, and keep our funds safu.

Crypto Curious? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

crypto exchange manipulation

Major cryptocurrency exchanges are manipulating their own volume figures. That’s according to a new report by the Blockchain Transparency Institute (BTI). 

The BTI report claims as much as 80% of the volume on the top 25 bitcoin pairs are subject to wash trading and manipulative bot trading.

Exchanges are inflating their own volume numbers in an attempt to draw huge listing fees from new coin projects.

What is wash trading?

Wash trading is a practice by which an investor or company buys and sells an asset simultaneously. They are essentially buying and selling from themselves. Do this with enough frequency, and it gives the impression of huge volume.

The BTI claims that major exchanges use wash trading techniques to fake the volume on their exchanges.

By doing this, crypto exchanges appear larger and more active than they truly are.

In some cases, true volume is under 1% of reported volume

To find out how deep the problem goes, BTI calculated the true volume of CoinMarketCap’s top 25 BTC pairs. The research firm discovered that actual volume on most of the pairs is less than 1% of the reported figures.

The worst offenders: OKEx, Bithumb, Huobi

Among the worst offenders are some of the biggest crypto exchanges on the planet.

OKEx, the fourth-largest exchange by reported volume, was singled out for evidence of wash trading on all 30 of its traded tokens. Huobi, the fifth-largest by reported volume, appears to be wash trading most of its top pairs, according to the report. And Bithumb, the second-largest by reported volume, is accused of wash trading its Monero, Dash, Bitcoin Gold, and ZCash pairs.

Bithumb now tops the BTI’s Exchange Advisory List, which highlights risky or opaque exchange practices.

BTI Advisory List: use with caution

Binance, Bitfinex, Coinbase Pro get the green light

Not all exchanges are engaging in nefarious wash trading. The BTI found no evidence of manipulation at Binance or Bitfinex. Binance is currently the largest exchange by adjusted volume on CoinMarketCap.

Bitfinex has been accused of market manipulation in the past due to its close ties with stablecoin Tether. However, the BTI report confirms that 100% of trading volume is real.

Coinbase Pro, Kraken, and Gemini also appear to have 100% true volume.

Crypto exchanges reporting true volume, according to BTI

Why are crypto exchanges manipulating their volume?

By faking their volume, crypto exchanges appear bigger and more liquid than they truly are. A high “reported volume” also puts them near the top of CoinMarketCap rankings, which drives more traffic to the exchange.

With a bigger profile, the exchange can charge huge fees for projects looking to list their coins on the platform.

The BTI estimates that coin project teams spend an average of $50,000 on listing fees just for the exchanges on its advisory list. It amounts to $100 million stolen by shady exchanges.

Crypto Curious? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

bitcoin hacks

$927 million worth of cryptocurrency was stolen in 2018 according to a new report by CipherTrace.  The vast majority of this money was taken from cryptocurrency exchanges in high-profile hacks.

Block Explorer decided to review the biggest crypto hacks of 2018 to remind our readers about the importance of taking all the possible measures to keep their digital fortunes safe. Meet the notorious winners:

January: Coincheck ($532.6 Million Hack)

This year started with one of the biggest crypto heists ever. Around 500 million XEM coins (native cryptocurrency of the NEM project) were stolen from the hot wallet of Tokyo-based crypto exchange Coincheck. 

At the date of the incident, the coins were worth roughly $532.6 million, beating the well-known disastrous Mt. Gox hack, when 850,000 of Bitcoins disappeared. The damage at the time was around $450 million.

Coincheck’s misadventures led to its acquisition by Monex Inc., a Japanese financial services group in April 2018. Monex was interested to increase the company’s international outreach.

It took ten months for the dust to settle, but Coincheck has now resumed its trading services.

February: BitGrail ($170 Million Hack)

Another month, another hack. This time the bad luck happened to BitGrail, a small Italian crypto exchange. And even though its trading volumes were not impressive, it was a perfect place for trading Nano (XRB). The asset went from $0.1 back in November 2017 to as high as $34 in January 2018 and was trading around $9-$18 at the moment of the hack. Its volatility made it very attractive for speculative traders, and the prospect of potential gains made them blind to the risk of using the non-mainstream exchange. 

And so it happened: BitGrail reported that hackers get away with 17 million nano, worth around $170 million at the time of the incident. Francesco Firano, known as @bomberfrancy on Twitter, the man behind the exchange, tried to put the blame on the Nano developers and claiming that they didn’t want to collaborate.

Firano offered the project’s team a solution for recovery after the hack: to modify the ledger. But the answer was negative. 

This story quickly became more and more controversial due to the endless discussions and theories suggested by social media users. They included the hypothesis that the nano hack was an exit scam.   

April: Ian Balina ($2 Million Hack on YouTube Live Stream)

Ian Balina, quite an established crypto influencer, investor and advisor, was hacked during his live stream ironically named “Hacking the System”. Approximately $2 million worth of tokens were snatched during this attack. Some participants of the crypto sphere speculated that it was a foxy trick to avoid taxes. 

Later in September, two young men, Fletcher Robert Childers, 23 and Joseph Harris, 21 (believed to go by the alias ‘Doc’), were arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack. As reported by Motherboard, Balina confirmed he thought persons named Doc and Veri were behind the hack. 

June: Coinrail ($40 Million Hack)

June started with some noise in South Korea when a tiny exchange Coinrail lost more than $40 million worth of crypto in yet another hack. The biggest hit was taken by payment processing startup called Pundi X, with around 3% of total NPXS token supply affected. 

The project’s team was very eager to cooperate by freezing the stolen tokens immediately and halting trading to help with the investigation.

To this date, there are no major announcements on identifying the criminal behind the Coinrail’s heist. 

June: Bithumb ($31 Million Hack)

Bithumb is one of the most popular crypto exchanges in South Korea; one of the top ten in the world by volume for trading bitcoin cash and ethereum at the time of the hack. 

In spite of being a mainstream exchange, Bithumb was the subject of a hack in June 2018. During the attack, approximately 35 billion of Korean won worth of crypto was stolen ($31 million equivalent).  

According to some reports, the exchange’s management was aware of security issues prior to the breach and took measures to enhance the exchange’s safety, but it still didn’t work out. 

After the hack was discovered, the exchange’s management made a pledge to refund the losses to all affected customers from its own reserves. 

The investigation of the event was held by South Korea’s National Police Agency and its cybersecurity division. However, at the moment of writing, no definite suspects were found. 

September: Zaif ($60 Million Hack)

Another Japanese exchange came under attack. Hackers accessed the exchange’s hot wallets, which resulted in the loss of $60 million worth of crypto assets, including monacoin, bitcoin cash, and bitcoin.

The owner of the exchange, Tech Bureau Corp., promised to cover the losses of all affected customer and to do so got into a deal with Fisco Ltd. They agreed to exchange the major stake of Zaif exchange for financial support to resolve the issue. The total amount received was 5 billion yen (approximately $45 million). 

October: MapleChange (Unknown Figures)

Later in October, MapleChange, a tiny Canadian crypto exchange reported a hack, losing practically all the funds the exchange had at their disposal. The announcement was followed by the company’s management shutting down its website and social media accounts. They deleted everything that might have led to identifying the owner’s names. Many of MapleChange’s customers were not buying the “hack” story and suspected that it was a scam exit. 

October: Trade.io ($8 million Hack)

Another crypto exchange was hacked in October. Swiss-based Trade.io reported the loss of about $8 million worth of TIO tokens, apparently stolen from a company’s cold wallet. 

The stolen tokens were intended to be used as a project’s liquidity pool. Therefore, the management performed a fork to get the funds back. 

Interestingly enough the team stored the wallet itself in a local bank’s deposit safe. And since it was reported that the safe wasn’t compromised the only explanation is that hackers somehow managed to access the wallet details for making the transfers, that normally indicates an “inside job”. 

SIM Swap Hacks Turn Mainstream. Millions of Dollars Lost

 Towards the end of the year, we saw a new trend emerge: sim swap hacks.

By November these got completely out of hand and became a real pain for the members of the crypto community. 

In the nutshell, the SIM swap method gives the criminal the access to someone’s crypto wallets. By using SMS backup it’s possible to bypass two-factor authentication commonly used to protect the digital fortunes. 

Among the possible scenarios of a perfect SIM swap heist are: 

  • Bribing the mobile operator’s employees to get some inside help with the crime
  • Intentional abuse of customers’ data by former or current employees
  • Employees tricking innocent colleagues to swap the potential target’s SIM cards. 

As for the victims… Robert Ross, an angel investor from San Francisco, lost around $1 million due to the SIM swap. Christian Ferri, the head of BlockStar lost over $100,000. Michael Terpin, a well-known veteran of crypto space, is suing AT&T over a SIM swap that cost Terpin around $23.8 million at the time. And that’s just to name a few.

The list is living proof that with the evolution of blockchain-based projects comes the increased level of sophistication and persistence of crypto criminals. Don’t let them get you and be safe! 

Please don’t keep your crypto on an exchange

It might be simple and convenient, but it is not safe. Instead, move your funds to a secure wallet of your own where it is less vulnerable to hacks.

Essential further reading: 12 Best Bitcoin Wallets (For Safe and Secure Crypto Storage in 2018)