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UN report says North Korea behind $281M exchange hack to fund nukes

The United Nations believes North Korea is hacking crypto exchanges to fund arms development.

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A preliminary report from a United Nations inquiry suggests North Korea is using the proceeds from crypto hacks to funds its weapons programs.

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UN report says North Korea behind $281M <a class=exchange hack to fund nukes “>

The United Nations has accused the North Korean state of stealing $281 million worth of crypto from an exchange during September 2020.

According to Reuters, the findings from a “confidential report” authored by independent sanctions monitors for U.N. Security Council members “strongly suggests” links between the hack’s perpetrators and the North Korean regime. Reuters quoted the report:

“Preliminary analysis, based on the attack vectors and subsequent efforts to launder the illicit proceeds, strongly suggests links to the DPRK.”

Reuters noted the U.N. report accuses North Korea of using the stolen funds to support its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in violation of international sanctions.

Despite the report containing few concrete details surrounding the victimized exchange, crypto data firm Whale Alert’s Frank van Weert speculated the report must be referring to the September 2020 KuCoin hack. Chainalysis estimated losses from the KuCoin hack at $275 million.

The incident saw swift reactions from Tether and major crypto exchanges to quickly freeze crypto assets associated with the attack, preventing roughly 22% of breached funds from being stolen. KuCoin says it has since recovered 80% of the stolen funds.

Citing sources familiar with the incident, the U.N. report cites asserts the attackers breached the exchange by exploiting the smart contracts of DeFi protocols:

“The attackers exploited ‘DeFi’ protocols — i.e., smart contracts that facilitate automated transactions.”

The report estimates North Korea generated roughly $2 billion in total through “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyber attacks targeting banks and crypto exchanges as of 2019.

The U.N. notes that one member state believes North Korea stole $316.3M worth of digital assets between 2019 and November 2020, suggesting the regime was responsible for a further $36 million worth of crypto thefts on top of the KuCoin hack during that time.

Last month, a U.S. federal judge ruled that an Ethereum developer accused of helping North Korea to evade sanctions by delivering a speech at a 2019 crypto conference in Pyongyang must soon face a jury. The developer, Virgil Griffith, is accused of conspiring to violate international sanctions by providing “services” to the rogue state.

The report estimates North Korea generated roughly $2 billion in total through “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyber attacks targeting banks and crypto exchanges as of 2019.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/un-report-says-north-korea-behind-281m-exchange-hack-to-fund-nukes

Cointelegraph

SEC Commissioner concerned about the US lagging behind global Bitcoin ETFs

The SEC Commissioner also mentioned her concern that the U.S. regulators could be overstepping their remit by forcing the local crypto industry to play by a separate set of rules than anyone else.

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“We’re not a merit regulator, so we shouldn’t be in the business of deciding whether something is good or bad,” SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce said.

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SEC Commissioner concerned about the US lagging behind global Bitcoin ETFs

Securities and Exchange Commissioner Hester Peirce has voiced concerns over the United States lagging behind global jurisdictions in adopting cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

During an online appearance at the Bitcoin (BTC) conference “The B Word,” Peirce pointed out that many other countries such as Canada have already been trading crypto ETFs, while the U.S. is still deciding whether to approve such a trading instrument. She stated:

“I would never have imagined that I would be in this situation where we would not yet have approved one and other countries are moving ahead.”

The SEC commissioner also mentioned her concern that U.S. regulators could be overstepping their remit by forcing the local crypto industry to play by a separate set of rules than everyone else.

“We’re not a merit regulator, so we shouldn’t be in the business of deciding whether something is good or bad, an investor is thinking of their entire portfolio, and sometimes we’re thinking in one-off terms of a particular product standing on its own, and we forget that people are building portfolios,” she noted.

Peirce’s latest remarks come in line with her recent criticism of U.S. crypto regulation, with the SEC commissioner last month once again urging authorities to refrain from overregulating the crypto industry. Despite calling for a softened regulatory stance on crypto, the commissioner still believes that clear crypto rules are critical for the industry to thrive without fear of breaking the law. A long-running crypto advocate, Peirce is widely referred to as “Crypto Mom” within the crypto community.

Related: Fund management firm Global X files with the SEC for a Bitcoin ETF

As previously reported, U.S. regulators have delayed multiple approvals of crypto ETFs recently after consistently postponing such decisions over the past several years. In the meantime, some countries have already approved or launched Bitcoin ETF trading, with 3iQ and CoinShares’ Bitcoin ETF going live on the Toronto Stock Exchange in April. Canadian fund managers Purpose Investments and Evolve Funds Group previously launched Bitcoin ETF trading as well.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/sec-commissioner-concerned-about-the-us-lagging-behind-global-bitcoin-etfs

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Four North American Bitcoin miners that could benefit from the East-West shift

Bitcoin miners in North America could get a bigger slice of the hash rate pie as their Chinese competition powers down.

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Even before China finally wielded the ban hammer on crypto mining, Bitcoin (BTC) miners in North America had been building up their capacity amid efforts to gain a larger share of the global hash rate distribution. From building bigger data centers to acquiring hardware inventories, these establishments have been making concert efforts to balance the hash-power dichotomy between the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

North American Bitcoin miners often have to contend with energy usage concerns as well and some have been keen to partner with oil and gas firms, becoming buyers of last resort for flared gas. Indeed, American oil drillers and Bitcoin mining firms continue to collaborate over natural gas utilization, proving once again that the potential for Bitcoin’s thermodynamic capacity is set to be a net positive for the environment, despite the criticisms put forward against proof-of-work (PoW) mining.

With North American-based entities seemingly on the cusp of establishing a greater presence in the global Bitcoin mining matrix, here is a look at four of the largest Bitcoin miners in the region.

Riot Blockchain

In 2020, China still controlled about 65% of the global Bitcoin hash rate, according to estimates from several data sources. However, Riot Blockchain was expanding its operations with a swathe of major hardware acquisitions from leading Bitcoin miner makers like Bitmain.

In August and December 2020 alone, Riot Blockchain spent millions of dollars to acquire thousands of Antminers from Bitmain. Indeed, as reported by Cointelegraph in April, Riot Blockchain’s hashing capacity increased by 460% in 2020.

Riot Blockchain’s expanded inventory drive has continued into 2021, with the company purchasing over 42,000 Antminers from Bitmain earlier in the year. The Nasdaq-listed company also announced a $650 million purchase of a major data center located in Texas.

By acquiring the Whinstone data center in Texas, Riot Blockchain is set to own the single largest Bitcoin mining facility in the United States. The American Bitcoin mining giant is even set to expand the original capacity of the site from 750 megawatts to over 1,000 MW.

With its upscaled capacity coinciding with sweeping crackdowns in China, it is unsurprising to see Riot Blockchain enjoying greater Bitcoin mining success, as evidenced by the figures quoted in its monthly production and operations update. In April, the company reported that it mined 187 Bitcoin (worth $11.2 million at the time) the previous month.

The March 2021 BTC production figure marked an 80% increase from its Bitcoin mining total for March 2020. In its latest report in June, the company stated it mined 243 BTC, a 406% increase from its June 2020 production figure.

The June report also put Riot Blockchain’s year-to-date Bitcoin mining total at 1,167 BTC (currently worth $36.5 million). As of June 2020, the company had only mined 508 BTC meaning that this year’s production figure represents a 130% year-on-year increase.

In total, Riot Blockchain says it holds over 2,200 BTC as of the end of June, with all of the Bitcoin coming from its mining operations. Detailing the link between its recent production successes and the situation in China, the June report stated, “The exodus of Bitcoin mining from China has resulted in a downward difficulty adjustment and lower global network hash rate. As such, Riot is currently mining more Bitcoin per day than at any time in the Company’s history,” continuing:

“While it is broadly expected that many Chinese miners will eventually relocate, the company estimates that it could be quite some time before the global Bitcoin mining hash rate returns to its previous high of 180 exahash per second (“EH/s”), last observed earlier this year.”Marathon

Marathon is arguably Riot Blockchain’s main competitor in the “North American hash wars” and, like its rival, the crypto mining giant has been expanding its hardware inventory since 2020. In October, the Nevada-based Marathon Patent Group acquired 10,000 Antminer S-19 Pros from Bitmain.

Such was the size of the order that it was estimated to boost the company’s operational hash rate capacity to 2.56 EH/s, a little more than the target 2.3 EH/s for Riot Blockchain’s expansion. With the Antminer order arriving in batches for Marathon, the company seems to now be focusing on achieving “carbon neutrality” and satisfying regulatory demands.

Back in March, the company first announced plans to divert all of its current hash power to a regulatory-compliant Bitcoin mining pool by the start of May. At the time, Marathon stated that the new pool adhered to U.S. Anti-Money Laundering (AML) protocols established by America’s Office of Foreign Control.

As reported by Cointelegraph in May, Marathon is planning a 300 MW carbon-neutral data center that will house 73,000 Bitcoin miners. According to the announcement at the time, the deployment of the facility will bring the company’s carbon neutrality to about 70% while taking its hash rate to 10.37 EH/s.

According to data from BTC.com, achieving a hash rate capacity of 10.37 EH/s would put Marathon number five on the current Bitcoin hash rate distribution log.

While more than 50% down from its 2021 high of $56.56, the company’s stock is still up 122.34% year-to-date as of the time of writing. With Bitcoin exchange-traded funds yet to gain approval in the United States, Bitcoin mining stocks are seen as the next best thing in terms of gaining indirect exposure to BTC.

Marathon itself is a Bitcoin holder separate from its mining interests. At the start of the year, the company bought over 4,800 BTC, valued at about $150 million at the time. New York Digital Investment Group reportedly facilitated the deal.

Hut 8

United States.-based firms are not the only major players in the North American Bitcoin mining theater, as Canadian outfit Hut 8 is also a significant name in the conversation. Once the largest publicly traded Bitcoin miner by capacity back in 2018, the Toronto-based company seems to be recovering from its previous setbacks.

In 2018, the crypto market suffered a crippling bear market as coin prices tumbled from peaks reached in December 2017 and January 2018. In May 2019, Hut 8 reported losses north of $136 million for the previous year, which also culminated in significant staff cuts.

Having waded through the crypto winter of 2018 and 2019, Hut 8 has undergone a massive upscaling of its miner hardware, announcing the purchase of over 11,000 MicroBT rigs valued at about $44 million. Based on the capacity of the MicroBT miners, Hut 8’s hash rate capacity is expected to reach 2.5 EH/s once all the machines are installed in the company’s 100 MW facility, currently under construction.

At 2.5 EH/s, Hut 8 predicts its daily Bitcoin production will jump two-fold from between 6.5 to 7.5 BTCto between 14 to 16 BTC. Such a per diem BTC mining rate may also serve to preserve Hut 8’s status as the Bitcoin miner holding the most self-mined BTC in the world.

Back in January, the Canadian Bitcoin miner estimated that its total Bitcoin holdings will reach 5,000 BTC by the start of 2022. The company also outlined plans to expand its hash rate to six EH/s by mid-2022.

Related: North American crypto miners prepare to challenge China’s dominance

Hive Blockchain

The East-West shift in Bitcoin hash rate will ultimately involve sweeping changes to the energy mix for BTC mining, with more of an emphasis on “Green Bitcoin.” For the Canadian crypto miner, green energy is a major focus point for its operations.

From Canada to Iceland, and even to Sweden, Hive Blockchain operated green-energy-powered data centers for crypto mining. Back in May, the company was reportedly forced to sell its facility in Norway, citing issues with regulators in the country.

Earlier in July, Hive acquired 3,000 MicroBT M30S miners for its facility in New Brunswick, Canada. The added hash power will reportedly be contributed to the Foundry USA Pool that already aggregates hashing potential from other major North American miners like Hut 8, Blockcap and Bitfarms, among others.

Hive’s additional 3,000 mining rigs will reportedly take the company’s hashing potential up by 0.264 EH/s to reach a total hash rate of 0.83 EH/s. The company also recently joined the ranks of publicly traded Bitcoin mining firms after securing a Nasdaq listing back in June.

Meanwhile, Gryphon Digital Mining, another U.S.-based miner, may soon be challenging the more established names in the North American BTC mining industry. The company, which claims to run on 100% renewable energy, recently purchased 7,200 Antminer S19J Pro mining rigs.

Based on the hashing capacity of the machines, Gryphon’s hash rate will approximately increase by about 0.72 EH/s. This new inventory will reportedly be installed in August and upon that time, the company will receive its ESG rating.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/four-north-american-bitcoin-miners-that-could-benefit-from-the-east-west-shift

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Beauty and the Bitcoin: Female-focused brands accept crypto payments driving adoption

Will beauty brands drive female adoption by accepting cryptocurrency payments, and is there even a demand to pay with crypto besides stacking stats?

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While Bitcoin (BTC) may be considered as a store of value for many, some consumers across the globe may be thinking otherwise. Recent data has revealed that 46 million people in the United States plan to use cryptocurrency to pay for things such as groceries or real estate. Payments giant Visa further revealed in July that its crypto-enabled cards processed over $1 billion in total spending during the first half of this year.

As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that major brands like Starbucks, Home Depot and Target have started putting Bitcoin on their balance sheets. Yet, as crypto payments gain popularity and become easier to incorporate, smaller brands — specifically those geared toward women — are starting to accept crypto to help drive female adoption.

Beauty industry bets on Bitcoin

For example, the billion-dollar beauty industry has taken a recent interest in Bitcoin. Ann McFerran, CEO and founder of Glamnetic — a magnetic eyelash beauty brand — told Cointelegraph that the company now accepts Bitcoin, Ethereum (ETH) and Dogecoin (DOGE) through a recent partnership with Bitcoin payment provider BitPay. According to McFerran, Glamentic is one of the very first female-founded beauty brands to support crypto payments.

McFerran shared that she started investing in cryptocurrencies in 2017, yet noticed that the space was heavily male-dominated. To McFerran’s point, research firm BDC Consulting found that only 8% of all crypto users were women in 2019. After launching Glamentic in July 2019, McFerran was determined to incorporate crypto payments into the brand to encourage women to use cryptocurrency:

“The beauty industry is a sector where crypto payments aren’t widely accepted. I wanted Glamnetic to be one of the first brands to support crypto payments since I’m a huge believer in cryptocurrency and because I want to bring more women into the space.”

McFerran further mentioned that she believes there is still a lot of stigma associated with how crypto is being used today. “It was certainly not a secure payment method to begin with,” she remarked. McFerran noted that events such as Silk Road and Mt. Gox have further resulted in women’s disinterest in crypto: “Even to this day, women are not fully educated when it comes to crypto. I want to educate others so they can understand the risks and what they are potentially missing out on.”

Although transacting with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for beauty products may encourage women to become interested in cryptocurrencies, this is just one part of the equation. Sanja Kon, CEO of Utrust — a banking system for crypto payments — told Cointelegraph that educating women around crypto depends heavily on a brand’s ability to reach their consumer base with the correct educational tools:

“More beauty brands adopting cryptocurrency payments can increase awareness, but not necessarily usage. Women need to feel comfortable using cryptocurrency as a payment method. In order for that to happen, brands should provide support and educational content to advocate adoption.”

According to Kon, Utrust is facilitating this movement by investing resources into educational plans with the company’s merchants. McFerran also noted that Glamnetic has started creating TikTok videos to educate consumers on cryptocurrency, which can make a big impact given the notion that younger consumers are more likely to own crypto. PYMNTS.com found that 27% of all millennials either own or have owned one type of cryptocurrency.

McFerran further remarked that Glamnetic will be releasing a magnetic eyelash collection inspired by Dogecoin to help drive adoption: “I think people will be more open to the idea of crypto if you turn that concept into an entire beauty product.”

While Glamnetic may be one of the first female-founded beauty companies to accept crypto payments, a handful of larger cosmetic brands have also started incorporating crypto in other ways to drive female participation.

Related: What can you buy with Bitcoin: Places to spend your crypto in 2021

Aubrey Strobel, head of communications at Lolli — an online Bitcoin rewards platform — told Cointelegraph that the company works with leading retailers including Sephora, Ulta, EM Cosmetics and Glossier. According to Strobel, women make up 30% of Lolli’s user base. “Historically, women have lagged behind men in the space, but lead a vast majority of many households’ purchasing decisions,” Strobel said.

Strobel explained that companies offering Bitcoin rewards to consumers are attractive to many shoppers, especially women who want to “stack sats” when making purchases online.

This notion is highlighted in a recent report from The Defiant, titled “Global Report on Women, Cryptocurrency and Financial Independence.” In this document, a woman named Christine noted that she occasionally learns how to manage cryptocurrency by practicing with small transactions. She stated that she has been stacking sats to accumulate small amounts of Bitcoin over a long period of time. “When I travel, I like to buy coffee and other things with it,” Christine further remarked.

Will Bitcoin catch on in the beauty industry?

While it’s too soon to tell if crypto payments for beauty products will drive female participation within crypto, a small impact is already being exhibited. McFerran shared that Glamnetic has already processed a handful of crypto transactions from women consumers. Yuvi Alpert, founder and CEO of Noémie — a jewelry company that also recently incorporated crypto payments — also told Cointelegraph that the brand has currently only seen crypto sales with their female customers.

Although this may be the case, findings show that the top products females are likely to spend cryptocurrency on are travel and leisure, real estate and furniture or appliances. Yet, while crypto payments may be slow to catch on in the beauty industry, brands incorporating cryptocurrency transactions will likely gain a competitive advantage.

According to Kon, more brands, in general, are starting to understand the advantage of accepting cryptocurrencies as a payment method:

“They will be able to drastically reduce their payment processing fees, as blockchain allows to cut all the traditional intermediaries, such as banks, payment processors and credit card schemes. Additionally, these brands will be able to eliminate chargebacks and fraud, as well as increase their revenue by reaching out to new customers.”McFerran further mentioned that she believes there is still a lot of stigma associated with how crypto is being used today. “It was certainly not a secure payment method to begin with,” she remarked. McFerran noted that events such as Silk Road and Mt. Gox have further resulted in women’s disinterest in crypto: “Even to this day, women are not fully educated when it comes to crypto. I want to educate others so they can understand the risks and what they are potentially missing out on.”

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/beauty-and-the-bitcoin-female-focused-brands-accept-crypto-payments-driving-adoption

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