bitcoin banks

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It’s funny… I was re-reading the Bitcoin white paper last week as it’s now ten years old.

Bitcoin’s founder Satoshi Nakamoto constantly refers to bitcoin as a way to avoid using a “trusted third-party,” like banks or financial institutions.

And yet it seems like all anyone can talk about right now is Wall Street adoption of crypto and banking bitcoin.

Just look at what happened in the last few weeks:

1. Coinbase is now a “qualified custodian” to hold cryptocurrencies in New York (the same designation given to banks that hold your money). (CoinDesk)

2. Mastercard filed a patent to launch a “fractional reserve” crypto bank. (CCN)

3. Bank of America filed a patent for a crypto storage system. (CCN)

3. Gemini announced full insurance for its exchange and custody service. (Block Explorer)

4. BitGo is approved as a qualified custodian to hold cryptocurrencies. (Bloomberg)

mastercard bitcoin
Credit: Cryptocoinmastery

None of these stories are groundbreaking on their own.

But it’s a very clear trajectory. Major “third party” institutions are competing to hold (or bank) cryptocurrencies on behalf of others.

What we’re talking about is the quiet emergence of bitcoin banks.

Are “Bitcoin Banks” a Good Thing?

Yes!

On the one hand, cryptocurrency institutions like Coinbase, Gemini, and Bitgo are taking storage security seriously. With almost $1 billion cryptocurrency stolen in exchange hacks this year alone, we need to provide better security and storage options for traders.

Secure custody also gives confidence to institutional investors who are looking to enter the space. Arguably, the next big influx of capital will come from institutional investors, who need trusted custody before making large investments.

No!

Bitcoin was designed to operate outside the banking system. It was created so that you don’t have to trust a bank or third-party.

Crypto evangelists (ourselves included) have always advocated keeping your cryptocurrency off exchanges entirely. Unless you’re trading large volumes of crypto every day, there’s no good reason to store your bitcoin on Coinbase, Gemini or any other exchange.

Instead, you need a safe, offline, cold-storage solution where you control the private key (with backups, of course). It might be more hassle, but it’s worth it for peace of mind and security.

Further reading: 8 Cryptocurrency Best Practices (Keep Your Crypto Safe)

It seems our newsletter subscribers agree, especially when it comes to big banks wading into crypto storage. We asked them, on a scale of 1-10, how much they would trust an institution like Bank of America to look after their cryptocurrency. Every respondent picked either one or two out of ten.

Conclusion

Like it or not, bitcoin banks are coming. It might start small with custody solutions at Gemini and Coinbase, but the big-names are slowly getting involved. While this should bring more legitimacy to the cryptocurrency world, there are worrying ramifications, too. Mastercard filing a patent for a “fractional reverse crypto bank” is a worrying precedent that pulls bitcoin towards the very system it was designed to avoid.

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bitcoin hack how to avoid

A small Canadian bitcoin exchange, MapleChange, was reportedly hacked in the early hours of Sunday morning, which they blamed on a “bug.” 

The little-known exchange says it is in “the process of a thorough investigation,” but “they cannot refund anything.”

In other words, if you trusted your money to MapleChange, you may not get that money back.

Maplechange hack

Hack or Exit Scam?

The suspicious nature of the announcement didn’t go unnoticed by commentators. Joseph Young, a contributor to Forbes and CoinTelegraph, called it an “exit scam.” 

Exit scam defined: An exit-scam is a shady technique in the crypto universe whereby a small, unregulated company lures money from people (usually through an exchange or an initial coin offering, ICO) before stealing it and removing all trace of the company.

The red flag came when MapleChange deleted all its social media accounts, an unnecessary move when depositors were desperate for more information.

While the speculation continues over the hack, we thought it best to put together three ways to make sure you never lose your money in an exchange hack or scam.

1. Don’t Keep Your Cryptocurrency on an Exchange, Period

All the biggest bitcoin hacks in recent history have taken place on an exchange. The Mt. Gox hack in 2014 was, of course, the most high-profile. $450 million was stolen by hackers before the exchange went bankrupt. At least four exchanges have been hacked this year alone.

Crypto exchanges are a prominent target for attackers, simply because they hold so much cryptocurrency. Many have security weaknesses that can be easily exploited. Many others are not regulated or protected by the governing authorities.

But most importantly, if you trust your crypto to an exchange, you have no control over those cryptocurrencies. It is entirely at the risk of the exchange and the safety precautions they have taken.

Instead, you should move your bitcoin or crypto off the exchange and into your own, personal cold storage.

Cold storage means keeping your cryptocurrencies offline, so they can’t be hacked. The best option is a specialized hardware device (Ledger or Trezor) are the best-known options.

ledger nano cold storage bitcoin wallet plugged into a laptop

Further reading: What is Cold Storage for Bitcoin?

2. Criteria for Choosing an Exchange: Reputation, Regulation, Insurance

Of course, we can’t stay clear of exchanges entirely. We need them to buy and sell cryptocurrency. But before you transfer any money, do your due diligence and research.

The first step is looking at reputation. Some quick research on MapleChange, for example, would have turned up very little information – a warning sign for investors.

On the other hand, trusting a major, high-profile exchange such as Coinbase or Gemini, while not 100% safe, is a more sensible solution. These giant exchanges are better regulated and have superior security features.

The likes of Coinbase and Gemini also go to great lengths to verify its users, which vastly reduces the likelihood of fraud or security breach.

Some exchanges are now fully insured, too. Gemini recently announced insurance coverage for its exchange and custody services. If you keep your money at Gemini, it is protected should the worst happen. 

Further reading: Cryptocurrency Insurance: What is it? (And Do You Need It?)

3. Holding Money on an Exchange? Choose One with Cold Storage

Sometimes, of course, holding money on an exchange can’t be avoided. If you are trading regularly, you may need quick, instant access to your money on an exchange.

If that’s the case, be sure the exchange keeps 95% or more of funds in cold storage. Cold storage keeps crypto offline and significantly more secure from hackers.

This advice was echoed by Binance founder, Changpeng Zhao, on Twitter in the wake of the MapleChange attack.

CZ binance cold storage advice

Coinbase, for example, holds 98% of all funds in cold storage. The remaining 2% are insured, so the risk of losing your money is much lower.

Conclusion

You’ll probably hear a lot about bitcoin’s safety and security in the wake of this hack. But it’s important to remember that bitcoin and its underlying system, blockchain, has never been hacked.

Hacking and theft only occurs through weak exchanges and poorly maintained wallets. In other words, storing your bitcoin safely is the most important decision you can make.

To sum up, always keep your cryptocurrencies offline, in cold storage, ideally on a hardware device you own, not an exchange. If you do use an exchange, ensure it is reputable, regulated, insured, and offers cold storage options.

Stay safe out there.

Note: this article was edited on 29th October. A previous version claimed that $6 million was stolen in the hack before the exchange in question re-opened communications and confirmed otherwise.

Further reading: 8 Cryptocurrency Best Practices (Keep Your Crypto Safe!)

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hooded man with hand out bitcoin regulation

Welcome to your daily Block Explorer roundup. Hope you had a great weekend! Today we’re looking at bitcoin regulation as Coinbase’s UK CEO claims we need more. But first, let’s take a glance at the markets.

All the top 20 coins are in the green today after a fairly quiet weekend.

1. Bitcoin – $6715 (+ 0.7%)
2. Ethereum – $277 (+ 1%)
3. Ripple XRP – $0.33 (+ 1.8%)

Things are strangely calm out there at the moment. In fact, bitcoin is around the least volatile it’s been all year. Historically, a period of calm is usually snapped by a wild swing upward or downward, so don’t be surprised if we see some big price movements this week.

Biggest winner and loser in the top 20

IOTA crypto logo transparent background

Biggest winner: IOTA (+ 15%)
Biggest loser: Zcash (- 0.1%)

IOTA is leading the pack today after Fujitsu said it is “well-equipped to help roll out IOTA as the new protocol standard.” IOTA aims to facilitate the ‘internet-of-things’ using blockchain technology, so a partnership with IT giant, Fujitsu, will open a lot of doors.

Does crypto need more regulation?

“[Regulation] is the best way to provide individuals and institutions a safe environment to invest.”

That’s the verdict from UK Coinbase CEO, Zeeshan Feroz. He told CCN that regulation is a good thing for the cryptocurrency market in 2018, explaining that a lack of regulation leads to risk in the market.

“We see the value in having some form of regulation for crypto exchanges as a means of ensuring due diligence and transparency in the crypto space.”

The issue of regulation in crypto is a controversial one. Many claim it will bring transparency to the market (and allow institutional investors to wade in). Others, however, see it as destroying the values and decentralized ethos on which bitcoin was built.

Where do you stand on bitcoin regulation? Do we need more to help attract  investors? Or should we keep bitcoin as decentralized as possible? Let me know in the comment section below.

Wild bitcoin price predictions 2018: from $3,000 to $20,000 +

Over the weekend we’ve had yet more wild price predictions for bitcoin.

The bull: Tom Lee of Fundstrat Global Advisors doubled down on his previous prediction that bitcoin will rise above $20,000 by the year-end.

He says hedge funds are playing a bigger role in bitcoin behind the scenes which could lead to a surge in prices. He also pointed to the correlation between bitcoin and emerging market stocks.

The bear: Anthony Pompliano had originally predicted a $50,000 price tag by the end of 2018. He now says he was wrong, by about four years.

He sees bitcoin plunging to $3,000 and says the market might not bottom out until late 2019. As for a full recovery, that’s not on the cards until 2023, based on how long it took bitcoin to recover from previous spikes.

With four months left in the year, where do you see the price of bitcoin going? $3,000 or $20,000+?

That’s all for today’s roundup. We’ll see you back here tomorrow.

In case you missed it: Why do Bitcoin ETFs Keep Getting Rejected?

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one bitcoin on blue and pink background

Welcome to your daily crypto roundup on Block Explorer. Here’s everything you need to know on the markets on Tuesday:

Bitcoin struggles on in “purgatory” mode – a term coined by Wall Street for this seemingly endless $6,000 – $7,500 range. Most of the top 20 coins are treading water today or making small losses.

1. Bitcoin – $6,451 (+ 0.1%)
2. Ethereum – $284 (- 2.8%)
3. XRP – $0.33 (+ 0.6%)

Bitcoin is still rejecting any attempts to pass $6,500, while ethereum battles against the $300 mark. Keep your eye on these numbers because a move higher could trigger a stronger recovery.

(Prices correct at time of publishing: 6.45am ET).

Biggest winner and loser in the top 20

vechain logo

Biggest winner – Vechain (+ 5%)
Biggest loser – Tezos (- 14%)

Vechain is among the few tokens in the green today as it thrives on its new mainnet, Vechain Thor. Vechain has gained more than 50% in a week.

XRP also finds some strength today compared to the rest of the market. Ripple (the company linked to XRP) revealed that xRapid – its pioneering money transfer platform – is finally ready. xRapid, which actively uses the XRP token for liquidity, will now enter production mode after a year of pilots.

Coinbase volume down 83% since January

coinbase logo

Today’s market weakness was triggered by news from Coinbase. Trading volume at the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US is down 83% since bitcoin-mania peaked in January.

Here’s where it gets interesting, though. While Coinbase, which executes trades between USD and crypto, has seen a decline in volume, rival exchange Binance reported an increase in the last month.

Binance only executes crypto-to-crypto trades. In other words, even though investors aren’t rushing to the market with USD, trading among the core crypto community remains relatively stable.

The best blockchain? EOS, according to China

EOS logo

China has released its official blockchain ranking for August. The blockchain projects are ranked according to their technology, innovation, and application.

Bitcoin finds itself in tenth position, while Ethereum comes in second place. At the top of the charts is EOS, likely due to its transaction speed and ability to host decentralized apps (dApps).

Venezuela pegs its hyper-inflated currency to crypto

Venezuela’s national currency, the Bolivar, is fighting against 1 million percent inflation. People in the country are fleeing to neighboring Ecuador or turning to bitcoin to protect their money.

But the government thinks it has a solution. As of today, the Bolivar will be pegged to a cryptocurrency called petro. Petro was created by the Venezuelan government, and its value is derived from oil reserves in the country.

Yet again, we see people (and now governments) turning to crypto when economies fail.

That’s all for today, folks. We’ll see you tomorrow for another blockchain roundup.

Today’s long read: What is EOS? The world’s best blockchain, according to China

coin renders

Use our news to inform cryptocurrency trading decisions, stay up-to-date on happenings in the industry, and more!

US Department of Justice, CFTC Investigating Bitcoin Market Manipulation
The United States Department of Justice has launched a probe into claims of market manipulation across bitcoin markets. BlockExplorer’s Tony Spilotro tells us that the investigation is in collaboration with the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission, which oversees derivatives of bitcoin and other coins.

Revolut Users Make 100,000 Bitcoin, Litecoin And Ethereum Exchanges Every Day
Forbes reports, “London-based fintech startup Revolut — which is today adding Bitcoin Cash and Ripple XRP to its cryptocurrency trading app — has revealed its users make around 100,000 Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum exchanges everyday.”

Coinbase To Add Crypto Staking Feature in the Future
San Francisco-based Coinbase, one of the United States largest cryptocurrency exchanges, is following up their most profitable fiscal year with aggressive expansion, making a number of big-name acquisitions such as Earn and Cipher Browser, and rolling out an extensive suite of new products aimed at satisfying the needs of institutional investors.

American Express Announces a Blockchain Application To Its Membership Rewards Program
American Express is integrating blockchain technology developed by Hyperledger, an open source blockchain project, that will let merchants create customized offers for cardholders.

Image courtesy of Carty Sewill, http://cartyisme.com/