HZ Capital News Digest: April #3
What major events happened the past week in blockchain, crypto, and the sharing economy? We have handpicked some of the biggest, and most important headlines from the past week below:
Binance Launches Singapore Exchange; Dex Goes Live
Binance has launched its exchange service in Singapore, albeit with a slight restriction: customers currently can buy or sell only Bitcoin and at fixed prices. In a response to TechCrunch, a Binance spokesperson said that “BTC/SGD is the initial pair Binance Singapore is offering with the soft launch and there may be more pairs added as regulations allow.”
Separately, its decentralized exchange has also gone live; it has been undergoing testing since February, during which Binance said some 8.5 million transactions were made. This launch allows companies to migrate from other blockchains like Ethereum and EOS and issue tokens on Binance Chain. Binance is already conducting a token swap from its previous Ethereum ERC-20 token to its native BNB token.
New York Attorney General: 850m unaccounted for at Bitfinex and Tether
Prominent cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex was last week accused by the New York Attorney General for attempting to cover up $850 million in missing funds. The courts have ordered both parties to and continue trading to avoid causing harm to customers.
Bitfinex is alleged to have used the reserves of its affiliated stablecoin Tether in order to cover the shortfall, after the payment processor they relied on lost access to the funds. As part of the transaction, Bitfinex will pay a “fair” interest rate; 60 million shares of Bitfinex stock were also traded as collateral.
The unaccounted funds were held by Panama-based Crypto Capital, which stresses that the amount was seized by Portuguese, Polish, and American government officials rather than lost. These fund movements were not made known to customers prior to the lawsuit. Bitfinex has responded to the accusations, describing them as “riddled with false assertions.”
Numerous other exchanges currently or have previously worked with Crypto Capital, due to the absence of mainstream banks willing to provide services for crypto companies. Beleaguered exchange QuadrigaCX has worked with Crypto Capital; Binance and Kraken have had past partnerships. It is owned by Global Trade Solutions AG, a licensed financial institution in Switzerland’s own “crypto valley” in Zug. The firm has faced a slew of complaints from numerous sources for years over withdrawal and deposit issues at various exchanges, including at Bitfinex itself.
Campaign to Raise $1m in Crypto For Venezuelans Registers 60,000 Beneficiaries.
Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University and a reported economic advisor to former Venezuelan president Rafael Caldera, has currently raised $272,000 in donations through crypto and registered 60,000 verified beneficiaries. The campaign has a $1 million target and aims to distribute this to 100,000 ID-verified Venezuelans.
Despite the ongoing political crisis in the country, Professor Hanke has stressed that the intentions of AirDrop Venezuela are “purely humanitarian […] there’s really no particular political motivation. It’s just to help people to give them some purchasing power.”
Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis has caused severe contraction of its economy and numerous humanitarian problems. The United Nations estimates that about a quarter of Venezuelans are in need of humanitarian assistance. 94% of the country’s 28.8 million population live in poverty; over a tenth of the people have already fled the country. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has denied the existence of a crisis and the need for humanitarian aid, blaming United States sanctions for the country’s economic woes.
The Venezuelan government previously denied entry to United States-backed aid convoys, though it did accept aid from Russia.
Uber Secures US$1 billion Investment To Continue Driverless Ride-sharing Development
Uber has secured a US$1 billion investment from Japanese car giant Toyota and investment fund SoftBank Vision to continue development of driverless ride-sharing services.
Uber has previously received US$500 million from Toyota in its race to be the first to bring self-driving vehicles to market. It has to contend with the likes of Google and other carmakers. The ridesharing company envisions a future where “people share, instead of own, vehicles.”
“If all goes to plan, commuters could ride an e-scooter to a transit station, take a train, then grab an e-bike, share a ride or take an e-scooter at the arriving station to complete a journey – all using an Uber app on a smartphone,” reads the report.
Uber has recently filed documents for its public share offering, with media reports stating that it was seeking a market value close to US$100 billion, making it one of the largest players of the “sharing economy”. However, long term profitability has been continuously called into question, as it continues to lose money from its operations in a strategy prioritizing user growth rather than revenue.
Source: Business Times Singapore
Ethereum scanning exploit has netted 45k ETH
If you hold cryptocurrencies, you may want to check your wallets.
Security experts from Independent Security Evaluators have discovered a “blockchain bandit” swiping Ethereum from wallets with weak, easily guessed private keys. Researchers sent a dollar’s worth of the cryptocurrency to one such account, only for it to vanish immediately into another account. The account has amassed 37,926 ETH so far, valuing it at some 54 million USD.
The researchers are not sure what caused the generation of the weak keys, however they have postulated a number of theories. They include coding errors that cut the key short, or wallets that allowed user-created private keys. (Editor’s note: Which tend to be really weak, by the way. Just look at how people set passwords.)
“While it is improbable that a weak key would ever be generated under legitimate circumstances using the appropriate code paths, we hypothesized that weak private keys may still be generated by coding mistakes, or operating system, device, and execution environment errors, and that these issues are common,” ISE researchers wrote in their paper.