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Blockchain This Week – Bitcoin Shoots Up, Ripple Stumbles Down

Happy Holidays to All the Readers of This Newsletter!!

While many of us are already on a well-deserved break of the year, Blockchain and Crypto never stops working. In this last newsletter of the year, I try to cover many of the events that happened in this space this week.

Bitcoin Reaches New Highs!!

What a week it has been for the world’s foremost cryptocurrency! Since breaching the significant US 20K barrier last week, the price of Bitcoin has been soaring despite some small dips. Over the weekend, the price surged to US $24K before steeply dropping below US $22,500 on Dec 21. But, thanks to the institutional investors who bought the dip, Bitcoin inched back to US $23,000, where it remained most of the week. Yesterday, however, it set a new all-time high record when it crossed $24,644.30. Today, Bitcoin came close to the US $25K mark. It reached US $24,947.38 briefly. At the time of writing, one Bitcoin was US $24,783.65.

SEC Lodges a Suit Against Ripple Over Its “US $1.3 Billion Unregistered Securities” Offering XRP

On Tuesday this week, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against the crypto firm Ripple Labs, its CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, and its co-founder Christian Larsen. According to the complaint, the commission alleges the firm and its executives misrepresented XRP tokens and raised more than US $1.3 billion through an unregistered public offering since 2013. As per the SEC, XRP tokens are unregistered securities. Additionally, the SEC accused both Garlinghouse and Larsen of hiding the information regarding the sale of their personal XRP tokens, estimated at US $600 million.

Aftermath

Within 24 hours, the value of XRP plunged close to 24 percent, wiping out more than US $2 billion of its market cap. Garlinghouse, who warned of the impending suit hours before the actual filing, called the SEC action an attack on crypto and announced his will to fight this legal battle.

Meanwhile, Ripple partners and crypto exchanges have started distancing from the beleaguered firm. Global Money Transfer service MoneyGram whose partnership with Ripple goes back to June 2019, revealed that it has never utilized Ripple’s counterparty services for forex transactions. The company also confirmed that MoneyGram is not a party to the SEC action.

Several exchanges that list XRP and the ones hinted to in the SEC complaints, are in jitters. Many of them have started delisting one of the most popular cryptocurrencies from their roasters. Crypto exchange Bitstamp announced that it would be halting all XRP trading on Jan 8, 2021. Several digital asset management firms likewise have dumped their XRP investments. Bitwise Asset Management, one of the largest crypto fund managers, has fully divested from XRP.

Square’s Cash App Lets Customers Earn Bitcoin

Cash App, the cash transfer app of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey-owned Square, is increasing its crypto footprint. Cash App introduced the “Boosts” for their Cash Cards this week. According to the announcement, Boosts let the customers save money instantly when they use their Cash Card at coffee shops, restaurants, and other merchants. Additionally, it allows the customers to earn Bitcoin whenever they use their Cash Card.

Ledger’s Grossly Underestimated Data Breach

Victims of the Ledger Massive Data Breach Face Persistent Threats

The gravity of the June hack of the Ledger database is being revealed now, and it is dire. First, it was not 9,500 customers whose data were stolen, but a whopping 270,000. Second, the stolen information that included personal details as names and physical addresses appeared this week on RaidForums, a marketplace for trading hacked data. The data eventually reached other similar websites such as Intelx. Third, since the breach, the affected customers have become victims of several phishing attempts. Recently, the attackers impersonating the Ledger CEO, Pascal Gauthier, sent out emails to the clients with phishing links. Finally, some of the victims have even reported getting ransom threats. An attacker allegedly identified one client by their home address and threatened them with physical violence if the victim refused to pay US $500.

Background of the Breach

In July this year, Ledger, the France-based largest cryptocurrency hardware wallet company, revealed a security flaw that gave hackers unauthorized access to a database containing the personal contact details of Ledger’s customers. The data included email addresses, first and last names, home addresses, and phone numbers. According to Ledger, a misconfigured third party API used by a marketing firm to access their database was the culprit. Ledger was quick to patch their systems. They also deemed the incident as less consequential than it has now turned out to be. 

Aftermath

In the aftermath of this massive breach, the impacted customers have threatened to sue Ledger and are demanding recompense. However, Gauthier has dismissed any possibility of a refund. He said the firm will instead spend on improving security. Ledger has also hired a new chief information security officer, five months after the breach.

Microstrategy Further Dips Into Bitcoin

The business intelligence firm MicroStrategy has increased its Bitcoin stash. This week, during the brief pullback in the Bitcoin price, the company bought 29,646 BTC for a total of US $650 million, an average of around $21,925 per Bitcoin. The company now holds 70,740 BTC that makes it the fifth-largest holder of it. It is ahead of the US government that purportedly owns 69,420 BTC.

Crypto Exchange Exmo Hacked

The United Kingdom-based crypto exchange, Exmo, suffered a massive security incident earlier this week. As per the announcement, Exmo detected some suspicious withdrawals on Monday. Large amounts of currencies such as Bitcoin, Ether, and XRP were withdrawn from the platform’s hot wallets. Exmo said that it had lost close to 5 percent of its total assets due to the incident. All withdrawals from the platform have been suspended.

Free Ton Project’s Mainnet

For the uninitiated, TON was a community-driven Blockchain project that was spearheaded by Telegram. After Telegram’s forced exit, one of its spin-offs, Free TON, continued to grow and ultimately reached the mainnet status. On Tuesday, the developers of the project held a live stream to mark the moment when the network achieved sufficient decentralization and started its mainnet.

A Whooping $80K Transaction Fees for Sending BTC Worth $1

Even though such incidents often occur, they always raise several eyebrows and get people talking. In one such instance, an unknown user happened to spend close to $80K ($86K at today’s rate) or 3.49079570 Bitcoins for transferring a comparatively measly amount of $1.18 or 0.00005000 BTC. Some analysts suggest this transaction would have been a mistake done by a naive Bitcoin user. Some opine that such a transaction was allowed because crypto wallets don’t warn or stop their users from spending disproportionate amounts as fees. 

Curve Adds Euro to Its DeFi Platform

Curve Finance, the decentralized stablecoin exchange, has added Euro as a secondary currency option. It now has a liquidity pool for synthetic Euro (sEUR) and Stasis Euro (EURS) stablecoins that are pegged to the Euro. This move is seen as providing an alternative to the stablecoin market that is dominated by currencies pegged to the US Dollar.

BitGo Has US $16 Billion AUM

The Blockchain-based digital asset management firm, BitGo, announced this week that it now has more than US $16 billion worth of digital assets under its custody. This unprecedented feat was attributed to the growing demand among the institutional investors who have turned to crypto assets due to the impact the pandemic had on the economy.

Binance to Feature Some More Sports Fan Tokens

Binance announced this week that its tokens platform, Binance Launchpool, will soon showcase three more sports fan tokens. Binance users can stake the Dota 2 esports team OG, Atlético de Madrid Football, and AS Roma Football Club tokens from Dec 24 till Jan 23, 2021. They will be able to trade these with their Binance Coin, Binance Dollar, and Chiliz coins.

NFTs In Arts and Sports

The arts and sports world is going big with the tokenization of their merchandise. This week, the global EDM event organizer, Space Yacht, announced its second collection of the NFT artwork on the Nifty Gateway Marketplace. The “Space Yacht Iconography Collection” features three of the brand’s core themes – Pizza, Smiley Faces, and its trademarked motto – along with the original music from its co-founder Rami Perlman, aka LondonBridge.

In yet another news, the famous Manchester City football club and Australian Melbourne City FC have teamed up with the Blockchain-based gaming platform Animoca Brands to develop games and digital collectibles. Animoca Brands will create games for its gaming site, GAMEE. It will also design collectible trading cards featuring the clubs, which will be available on its NFT platform, Quidd. There will also be the football club themed gaming experiences created in another subsidiary of Animoca called The Sandbox.

And Finally, Track Wood Pellets With Blockchain – a Step Towards Carbon Neutrality

As per environmentalists, the burning of wood pellets releases almost the same amount of carbon dioxide per unit of energy as burning coal. To attain carbon neutrality, it is necessary to recapture the equivalent amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere by reforestation. Hence, it is vital to track the amount of carbon emitted every time a wood pellet is burned. 

Bioenergy company Enviva and blockchain firm GoChain have teamed up for one such trial. This pilot aims to enhance the traceability of sustainable biomass, specifically wood pellets. Its results will provide insights into how to improve Enviva’s existing proprietary Track & Trace system. 

That’s all Folks for this week and this year!

Wishing you all a wonderful New Year!! And Happy HODLing!!!

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