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Blockchain This Week – Ethereum Attacks

The week began with the news of a 51% attack on the Ethereum Classic network, which the attackers purportedly executed undetected over several days. The attackers managed to pocket the US $5.6 million through double-spending. The network was attacked again on Thursday, with the attackers ripping off US $1.6 million. The attackers were able to mount up sufficient resources for the attack by spending a mere 17.5 Bitcoins worth US $192,000 for renting the required hash power. This news and many more in this week’s newsletter.

Ethereum Attacked – Twice

Last Saturday, the Ethereum Classic network suffered the infamous 51% attack. Initially, it was assumed to be innocuous, surmised to be a miner using an old software unintentionally. However, such assumptions soon proved incorrect, and it turned out to be a thorough-planned and well-executed attack in which the attackers made away with approximately US $5.6 million after reorganizing 4,280 blocks over four days. The next attack occurred on Thursday when the attackers managed to reorganize 4,236 blocks before making away with US $1.6 million.

The core team is considering several measures to mitigate the problem, including increasing the transaction confirmation times and even contemplating on switching to Proof-of-Stake consensus

Ethereum 2.0 Testnet Live

Meanwhile, according to the Ethereum Foundation, the official testnet of Ethereum 2.0, Medella, is live. This network has around 20,000 validators who have staked 650,000 Ethers cumulatively. One of the significant changes in Ethereum 2.0, is the switching of the consensus mechanism from resource-intensive Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake. 

However, the launch of the testnet did not go as expected. Only 57 percent of the validators participated during the launch. Instead of the expected 80 percent, only 57 percent of the stake was used to validate the network.  Additionally, the Ethereum Foundation is planning a dedicated security team for Ethereum 2.0. The team will study any potential cybersecurity and crypto-economic issues in the next generation of the Ethereum network. 

US love-and-hate relationship with Blockchain

Earlier this year, a bill to create verifiable health records on the Blockchain was proposed in the California legislation. The aim was to help slow the infection rate while keeping people with a high health risk safe. However, the digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF), considers this bill as a significant privacy breach. According to EEF, putting sensitive information such as health records on Blockchain makes it easier for perpetrators to track citizens. 

Meanwhile, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is also growing an interest in cryptocurrencies. On Thursday, the US Senate voted in Hester Peirce for a second term as commissioner in SEC. Ms. Peirce, fondly addressed as Crypto Mom for her support for crypto projects, will remain in her post until 2025. Additionally, the SEC is looking to procure a blockchain forensics tool that can analyze smart contracts for security issues and vulnerabilities.

Russia’s Blockchain week 

In Russia, it was a mixed bag for Blockchain. Earlier this week, reports emerged, suggesting that over personal information of over 1.1 million Russians who voted electronically in the last election were stolen. In the elections held last month to vote on constitutional amendments, Russian voters were allowed to vote electronically using Blockchain technology. The voters’ data breach is another addition to the numerous issues that have riddled this election process, casting doubts on the efficacy of Blockchain in voting systems.

Contrarily, shortly after the Russian’s President, Vladimir Putin, signed the cryptocurrency laws, Sberbank, the country’s largest bank, made a few promising announcements. The state-owned bank is launching a Blockchain platform designed for trade finance transactions. It is considering the possibility of issuing its stablecoin pegged one-to-one to the Russian Ruble.

China’s imminent Digital Currency launch

The launch of China’s digital currency or DCEP seems near, with intensified large-scale testing of digital currency wallets underway in several major banks. These banks are testing the money transfers and payments in Chinese digital yuan.

Crypto updates from other countries

Mexican crypto exchange, Tauros, has partnered with crypto company Dash to launch the country’s first crypto Visa debit card. Mexico residents and Tauros account holders will be able to use this card in any Visa-accepting store in the country.Meanwhile, a Swiss state-run bank, Basler Kantonalbank, is working on services that will allow its customers to trade and store cryptocurrencies through its subsidiary, Bank Cler.

In an effort to combat the economic crisis arising from COVID-19, the government of Kazakhstan has proposed levying a 15 percent tax on crypto mining activities in the country. Any funds accumulated will be leveraged in fighting the pandemic in the nation. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange of Israel is planning on launching its Blockchain securities platform in November. The Israeli exchange aims to collate all securities lending activities under one umbrella while enabling investors to borrow directly across a wide range of financial instruments.

Open Happiness on Blockchain

Coke One North America (CONA), a partner of Coca Cola’s largest US-based bottling company, is expanding the use of Blockchain across the beverage company’s supply chain. On Aug 3, Unibright, one of the Baseline Protocol founding members, announced that CONA will partner with many distributed ledger technology firms, including them, to streamline transactions among internal and external raw material suppliers.

Travel on crypto

Traveling at difficult times as the present poses a lot of challenges. ShareRing, an enterprise-focused Blockchain firm, tries to solve the problem with its Blockchain-powered contact tracing e-passport app. This app intends to address the privacy concerns and allow the users to upload various documents, such as e-visa, passport, travel insurance, flight and accommodation details, along with negative COVID-19 test results. ShareRing’s app focuses on the US $9 trillion tourism industry and is offered to 2.6 million hotels across the globe.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to popularize crypto payments in tourism, Travala.com entered into a partnership with Agoda, the online travel booking platform, this week. Now, users of Travala can book Agoda’s 600,000 hotels with 30 different cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin. In a further boost to crypto adoption, Travala.com has also added one million new holiday homes across 195 countries on its site, which can now be booked using cryptocurrencies.

Crypto Scams and Hacks

This week, also had its share of crypto scams and hacks. Earlier this week, the corporate travel firm CWT, paid US $4.5 million in Bitcoin as ransom to hackers who stole sensitive files from the company. Later, a European crypto trading platform, 2gether, fell victim to a hack where the attackers stole over US $1.39 million from users’ accounts. The hack also exposed several user passwords. Ramon Ferraz Estrada, CEO of the firm, announced that the victims of the hack will be compensated with native 2GT tokens for 5 cents each. On Aug 5, scammers hacked into YouTuber Jon Prosser’s account and rebranded his channel as NASA and used it to promote a free Bitcoin giveaway scam. What’s more alarming is the fact that the scammer first gained control of Prossner’s channel via a sim swap and was able to use two-factor authentication. 

In further lows, the DoppelPaymer gang has deployed a ransomware attack against FDA approved ventilator manufacturer Boyce Technologies amid the pandemic. The attackers have shared some of the files stolen on the darknet and have threatened to leak more information if an undisclosed sum of money is not paid to them by next week. Finally, another hack this week involved camera maker, Canon. A ransomware group, Maze, supposedly has stolen around 10TB of sensitive information, and so far, no details on ransom amount have been made public.

And finally, to end with a positive note, Wine tracing on Blockchain

Chinese tech giant Tencent revealed its plans to create a wine traceability platform powered by Blockchain as a solution to the longstanding counterfeit problem marring the industry. Tencent will partner with Changyu, one of China’s largest wine producers. The platform will enable tracing every step of the wine-making and sales process, and will issue a unique traceability certificate for every bottle of wine produced.

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