FBI Warns of Email Death Threats Demanding Bitcoin ( 95

An anonymous reader writes: "I will be short. I've got an order to kill you," the note said, demanding $2,800 in U.S. dollars or Bitcoin. "I switched from being upset about it to, 'I need to get the word out'," one of its targets told a local newscaster. They filed a report through the FBI's web site.

"If only 1% of people send money -- there's no overhead for them; that's money in the bank," one FBI agent tells the news team. A quick Google search finds recent reports of two nearly identical threats using the same text.

"I have been thinking for a long time whether it is worth sending this notice, and decided that you still have the right to know... I've got an order to kill you, because some of your activity causes trouble to several people... I decided to break some rules, as this will be my final order... As soon as I receive the funds, I will forward you the name of the man [this] order came from, and all other information I have."


Deanonymizing Tor: Your Bitcoin Transactions May Come Back To Haunt You ( 106

jwhyche, Slashdot reader #6,192, writes: If you bought some illegal narcotics off Silk Road or even gave money to Wikileaks. Researchers at Qatar University and Hamad Bin Khalifa University have been able to link these transactions with real world identities. They have been able to do this even if the transactions are years old. Their research shows how easy it is to link accounts to these transactions without using any of the tools available to law enforcement like search warrants or subpoenas.
The researchers started with 88 unique bitcoin addresses from Tor hidden services, and then searched 5 billion tweets and 1 million pages on the Bitcoin Talk forum -- ultimately linking 125 unique users to 20 Tor hidden services. "Bitcoin addresses should always be considered exploitable," the researchers conclude, "as they can be used to deanonymize users retroactively."

Their paper is titled "When a Small Leak Sinks a Great Ship: Deanonymizing Tor Hidden Service Users Through Bitcoin Transactions Analysis," and Wired summarizes one of their conclusions. "Even deleting profile information that includes bitcoin addresses may not be enough if a post has been cached or captured by services like the Internet Archive, they point out. 'If you're vulnerable now, you're vulnerable in the future.'"

$500 Million Worth of Cryptocurrency Stolen From Japanese Exchange ( 104

Locke2005 shares a report from CNBC: Hackers stole several hundred million dollars' worth of a lesser-known cryptocurrency from a major Japanese exchange Friday. Coincheck said that around 523 million of the exchange's NEM coins were sent to another account around 3 a.m. local time (1 p.m. ET Thursday), according to a Google translate of a Japanese transcript of the Friday press conference from Logmi. The exchange has about 6 percent of yen-bitcoin trading, ranking fourth by market share on CryptoCompare. The stolen NEM coins were worth about 58 billion yen at the time of detection, or roughly $534.8 million, according to the exchange. Coincheck subsequently restricted withdrawals of all currencies, including yen, and trading of cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin. Locke2005 adds, "That, my friends, is the prime reason why speculating in cryptocurrency is a bad idea!"

The Almighty Buck

How a PhD Student Unlocked 1 Bitcoin Hidden In DNA ( 58

dmoberhaus writes: A 26-year-old Belgian PhD student named Sander Wuytz recently solved a 3-year-old puzzle that had locked the private key to 1 Bitcoin in a strand of synthetic DNA. Motherboard spoke with the student about how they managed to crack the puzzle, just days before it was set to expire. From the report: "As detailed by Nick Goldman, a researcher at the European Bioinformatics Institute, in his pioneering Nature paper on DNA storage, to encode information into DNA you take a text or binary file and rewrite it in base-3 (so rather than just ones and zeroes, there are zeroes, ones, and twos). This is then used to encode the data in the building blocks of life, the four nucleobases cytosine, thymine, adenine and guanine. As Wuyts explained to me, coding the data as nucleobases depended upon which nucleobase came before. So, for instance, if the previous base was adenine and the next pieces of data is a 0, it is coded as cytosine. If the next piece of data is a 1, it's coded as guanine, and so on. After the data is encoded as synthetic DNA fragments, these fragments are used to identify and read the actual files stored in the DNA. In the case of the Bitcoin challenge, there were a total of nine files contained in the DNA fragments. The files were encrypted with a keystream, which is a random series of characters that is included with the actual plain text message to obfuscate its meaning. The keystream code had been provided by Goldman in a document explaining the competition.

After running the code, Wuyts was able to combine the DNA fragments in the correct order to form one long piece of DNA. After working out some technical kinks, Wuyts was able to convert the DNA sequence into plain text, revealing the private key and unlocking the bitcoin (as well as some artefacts, including a drawing of James Joyce and the logo for the European Bioinformatics Institute). He had cracked the puzzle just five days before it was set to expire."

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Coinbase Is Making $2.7 Million a Day ( 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bitcoin News: In information released to shareholders this week, Coinbase revealed that it recorded turnover of $1 billion last year, which works out at an astonishing $2.74 million a day or $2,000 a minute. As America's largest bitcoin broker, Coinbase claims the lion's share of the money that's pouring into the crypto space at a dizzying rate. 2017 was a bumper year for all crypto exchanges, which reported record numbers across the board: new signups, new staff hired, new trading pairs, and new revenue. Those revenue streams have turned into a torrent that has caused Coinbase' coffers to swell. Recode reports that the company's revenue exceeded $1 billion last year, most of it derived from the trading fees it levies. These vary from between 0.25% and 1%. and quickly add up: in the past 24 hours, 36,000 BTC were traded on Coinbase, accounting for more than 15% of the total market. Coinbase isn't the world's largest exchange (and is technically a broker rather than a conventional exchange -- that duty falls to its GDAX subsidiary) but it's the best known and carries great weight in the cryptocurrency industry.

More Wall Street Pundits Caution Against Investing In Bitcoins ( 177

Peter Boockvar is the Chief Investment Officer of Bleakley Financial Group, a $3.5B wealth management firm -- and he predicts "an epic crash will hit the cryptocurrency market," according to CNBC. "He isn't sure if it'll come to a grinding halt or be a slow and steady drop -- but he says it's coming." "When something goes parabolic like this has, it typically ends up to where that parabola began," he said on CNBC's "Futures Now." Boockvar, a CNBC contributor, contends bitcoin is in danger of dropping 90 percent from current levels. He calls it a classic bubble. "I wouldn't be surprised if over the next year it's down to $1,000 to $3,000," he added. That's where bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency player, was trading less than 12 months ago. Friday afternoon it was trading above $11,000.
Meanwhile, today the International Business Times chronicled the predictions of tech billionaire Mark Cuban. In June of last year as bitcoin was climbing toward the $3,000 threshold, Cuban cautioned potential investors about jumping in on the bandwagon... "[C]rypto is like gold. More religion than asset. Except of course gold makes nice jewelry." He told his followers at the time that he wasn't questioning the value of Bitcoin but was questioning the "valuation" and said , "I think it's in a bubble. I just don't know when or how much it corrects." Cuban suggested that when everyone is "bragging about how easy they are making [money]," that indicates there is a bubble happening...

Still, the Dallas Mavericks owner was open to the idea of using cryptocurrencies as a volatile investment vehicle. "If you're a true adventurer and you really want to throw the Hail Mary, you might take 10 percent and put it in Bitcoin or Ethereum," he said. Cuban also cautioned, "If you do that, you've got to pretend you've already lost your money"... Showing just have far Cuban has come on bitcoin and cryptocurrency, he announced earlier this week that his Dallas Mavericks will accept bitcoin and Ethereum as a method to pay for tickets starting next season. Even if the tech investor doesn't fully believe in cryptocurrency, he's clearly willing to try to profit off it...


Bitcoin's Fluctuations Are Too Much For Even Ransomware Cybercriminals ( 84

Bitcoin's price swings are so huge that even ransomware developers are dialling back their reliance on the currency, according to researchers at cybersecurity firm Proofpoint. From a report: Over the last quarter of 2017, researchers saw a fall of 73% in payment demands denominated in bitcoin. When demanding money to unlock a victim's data, cybercriminals are now more likely to simply ask for a figure in US dollars, or a local currency, than specify a sum of bitcoin. Just like conventional salespeople, ransomware developers pay careful attention to the prices they charge. Some criminals offer discounts depending on the region the victim is in, offering cheaper unlocking to residents of developing nations, while others use an escalating price to encourage users to pay quickly and without overthinking things. But a rapidly oscillating bitcoin price plays havoc with those goals, Proofpoint says.

Bitcoin Watchers Running Out of Explanations Blame Slump on Moon ( 157

If regulatory concerns aren't enough to explain Bitcoin's 50 percent slump from its record high reached last month, how about blaming it on the moon? An anonymous reader writes: The Lunar New Year, which marks the first day of the year in the Chinese calendar, is being cited by some as contributing to Bitcoin's slump as Asian traders cash out their cryptocurrencies to travel and buy gifts for the holiday that starts Feb. 16 this year. The festivity is celebrated not just in China, but in other Asian countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Thailand. "The January drop is a recurring theme in cryptocurrencies as people celebrating the Chinese New Year, aka Lunar New Year, exchange their crypto for fiat currency," said Alexander Wallin, chief executive officer of trading social network SprinkleBit in New York. "The timing is about four to six weeks before the lunar year, when most people make their travel arrangements and start buying presents."
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Bitcoin Plunges Below $12,000 To Six-Week Low Over Crackdown Fears ( 174

Bitcoin plunged to a six-week low Tuesday after comments from South Korea's finance minister renewed worries about a crackdown in one of the largest markets for digital currency trading. In a radio program interview, South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said that "the shutdown of virtual currency exchanges is still one of the options" the government has. CNBC reports: Bitcoin dropped more than 17 percent to a low of $11,182.71 on Tuesday, falling below $12,000 for the first time since December 5, according to CoinDesk. CoinDesk's bitcoin price index tracks prices from cryptocurrency exchanges Bitstamp, Coinbase, itBit and Bitfinex. As of 12:13 p.m. ET, bitcoin was trading more than 13 percent lower at $11,759.73 a coin, according to CoinDesk. Trading in South Korean won accounted for about 4 percent of bitcoin trading volume, according to CryptoCompare. U.S. dollar-bitcoin trading had the largest share at 40 percent, the website showed. Other major digital currencies including ethereum and ripple also fell significantly. According to CoinMarketCap data, ethereum was trading at $1,051.83, down more than 20 percent in the last 24 hours, before lifting slightly to $1,117.72. Ripple fell almost 27 percent to $1.33 a token before recovering slightly to $1.36.

Bank of America Tops IBM, Payments Firms With Most Blockchain Patents ( 45

Bank of America may not be willing to help customers invest in Bitcoin, but that doesn't mean it isn't plowing into the technology underlying the cryptocurrency. From a report: The Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender has applied for or received at least 43 patents for blockchain, the ledger technology used for verifying and recording transactions that's at the heart of virtual currencies. It is the largest number among major banks and technology companies, according to a study by EnvisionIP, a New York-based law firm that specializes in analyses of intellectual property. "Based on what's publicly out there, the technology sector hasn't embraced blockchain as much as the financial-services industry," Maulin Shah, managing attorney for EnvisionIP, said in an interview. International Business Machines Corp., which has targeted blockchain and artificial intelligence for future growth, tied with Mastercard Inc. for second on the list, with 27 each.

Researchers Find That One Person Likely Drove Bitcoin From $150 to $1,000 ( 117

An anonymous reader shares a report: Researchers Neil Gandal, JT Hamrick, Tyler Moore, and Tali Oberman have written a fascinating paper on Bitcoin price manipulation. Entitled "Price Manipulation in the Bitcoin Ecosystem" and appearing in the recent issue of the Journal of Monetary Economics the paper describes to what degree the Bitcoin ecosystem is controlled by bad actors. To many it's been obvious that the Bitcoin markets are, at the very least, being manipulated by one or two big players. "This paper identifies and analyzes the impact of suspicious trading activity on the Mt. Gox Bitcoin currency exchange, in which approximately 600,000 bitcoins (BTC) valued at $188 million were fraudulently acquired," the researchers wrote.

"During both periods, the USD-BTC exchange rate rose by an average of four percent on days when suspicious trades took place, compared to a slight decline on days without suspicious activity. Based on rigorous analysis with extensive robustness checks, the paper demonstrates that the suspicious trading activity likely caused the unprecedented spike in the USD-BTC exchange rate in late 2013, when the rate jumped from around $150 to more than $1,000 in two months." The team found that many instances of price manipulation happened simply because the market was very thin for various cryptocurrencies including early Bitcoin.


Cryptocurrency Traders in South Korea Face Fines For Virtual Accounts ( 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: Cryptocurrency investors in South Korea will be fined for refusing to convert their virtual accounts into real-name ones, financial authorities said Sunday. The move comes as South Korea is scrambling to rein in the virtual currency frenzy in Asia's fourth-largest economy, including preparations for a bill to ban cryptocurrency exchanges at home. According to the authorities, cryptocurrency traders will be allowed to convert their virtual accounts into real-name ones within this month, but those who refuse to accede to real-name identification will face fines.

Japan's Latest Sensation is a Cryptocurrency Pop Group ( 57

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: If you're starting a pop group in Japan, where giant rosters and virtual superstars are par for the course, how do you stand out? By tying yourself to something trendy -- and in 2018, that means cryptocurrency. Meet Kasotsuka Shojo (Virtual Currency Girls), a J-pop group where each of the eight girls represents one of the larger digital monetary formats. Yes, you're supposed to cheer for bitcoin or swoon over ethereum (what, no litecoin?). The group played its first concert on January 12th, and naturally you had to pay in cryptocurrency to be one of the few members of the general public to get in. The group's first single, "The Moon and Virtual Currencies and Me," warns listeners about the perils of fraud and extols the virtues of good online security.
"It isn't clear how French maid outfits symbolize cryptocurrency or blockchain technology," notes Quartz, "but they're popular costumes in Japan's anime and cosplay circles."
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Warren Buffett Predicts 'Bad Ending' for Cryptocurrencies ( 326

"97% of all bitcoins are held by 4% of addresses," reports Credit Suisse (in an article cited by Slashdot reader CaptainDork). And elsewhere this week, Warren Buffett told CNBC that speculation in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies "will have a bad ending," adding that looking out five years he'd gladly bet against all of the cryptocurrencies.

Meanwhile, CNBC senior analyst Ron Insana has his own skepticism: I am predisposed to view them as just speculative tokens in a cryptocurrency bubble that has inflated more quickly than any other in financial market history. Admittedly I'm green with envy for failing to foresee the explosive rally in the price of bitcoin when it was first brought to my attention several years ago. Having said that, there are many things I find quite ironic about how bitcoin and other "cryptos" are described. First, they are largely denominated, or discussed, in U.S. dollar terms... If the dollar is archaic, as the crypto-enthusiasts believe, why not speak only in crypto-terms...?

It's much easier to buy and sell dollars, stocks or commodities than it is to trade bitcoin and its brethren. The conversion of one crypto to another is relatively easy on these embryonic exchanges. But getting your digital wealth converted into cold hard cash is more problematic... And while the growth has been impressive, it remains very difficult to walk into any establishment and exchange a digital token for goods or services.

The article notes that the U.S. dollar still accounts for 65% of all global economic transactions, due to its status as the world's reserve currency, and concludes that "The adoption of cryptocurrencies as a global source of funds has a long way to go before staking a claim to the world's economy."

South Korea Plans To Ban Cryptocurrency Trading 78

South Korea's government said on Thursday it plans to ban cryptocurrency trading, sending bitcoin prices plummeting and throwing the virtual coin market into turmoil as the nation's police and tax authorities raided local exchanges on alleged tax evasion. Reuters reports: The clampdown in South Korea, a crucial source of global demand for cryptocurrency, came as policymakers around the world struggled to regulate an asset whose value has skyrocketed over the last year. Justice minister Park Sang-ki said the government was preparing a bill to ban trading of the virtual currency on domestic exchanges. Once a bill is drafted, legislation for an outright ban of virtual coin trading will require a majority vote of the total 297 members of the National Assembly, a process that could take months or even years. The local price of bitcoin plunged as much as 21 percent in midday trade to 18.3 million won (12,730.35 pounds) after the minister's comments. It still trades at around a 30 percent premium compared to other countries.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Bitcoin Conference Stops Accepting BTC Due To High Fees ( 135

An anonymous reader shares a report: Next week the popular cryptocurrency event, The North American Bitcoin Conference (TNABC) will be hosted in downtown Miami at the James L Knight Center, January 18-19. However, bitcoin proponents got some unfortunate news this week as the event organizers have announced they have stopped accepting bitcoin payments for conference tickets due to network fees and congestion. Bitcoin settlement times, and the fee market associated with transactions, have become a hot topic these days as on-chain fees have risen to $30-60 per transaction. These issues have made it extremely difficult for businesses to operate, and many merchants have stopped accepting bitcoin for services and goods altogether.

Kodak Announces Its Own Cryptocurrency, Watches Stock Price Skyrocket ( 135

Kodak has joined the cryptocurrency craze by launching its own KodakCoin, a cryptocurrency for photographers. As soon as the news was announced, Kodak's stock (KODK) jumped more than 60 percent. The Verge reports: KodakCoins will work as tokens inside the new blockchain-powered KodakOne rights management platform. The platform will supposedly create a digital ledger of rights ownership that photographers can use to register and license new and old work. Both the platform and cryptocurrency are supposed to "empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management," according to the press release. The digital currency is meant to create a new economy for photographers to receive payment and sell work on a secure platform. But while Kodak's proposed blockchain-powered platform and virtual coin sound good on paper, it's not clear why the photography company needs to use blockchain to achieve its goals, rather than just create another social media platform instead. It appears that Kodak, like the other tea and vape companies that received media attention last month for making the abrupt leap to blockchain, could just be trying to capitalize on the current cryptocurrency mania.

A Crypto Website Changes Its Data, and $100 Billion in Market Value Vanishes ( 69

Paul Vigna, writing for WSJ: Prices for some of the most popular cryptocurrencies dropped sharply Monday. One apparent reason: an adjustment from a popular website on its digital-currency price quotes (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). A website called on Monday removed data from some South Korean exchanges from its price quotes for a range of virtual currencies including bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple's XRP. The move followed a South Korean government crackdown on cryptocurrencies. The move by coinmarketcap caused some amount of chaos when prices across the board suddenly plunged. In mid-Monday trading, XRP had fallen 26% over the past 24 hours, Bitcoin Cash was down 18%, and litecoin was down 12%. Of the top 40 cryptocurrencies, 31 were down, including bitcoin and Ethereum. [...]

Coinmarketcap has become one of the most popular destinations for price quotes as the sector surged last year. According to Amazon's web-ranking service, coinmarketcap is currently the 154th most popular website in the world, in the same ballpark as Chinese retail giant The website's rejiggered prices led to a flip in market-value rankings on the site. Ethereum, with a $109 billion total market valuation, moved into second place, the spot previously occupied by XRP, which fell to third place with a $97 billion market value. Bitcoin remained number one, with a $255 billion market value.


China Plans To Kill Most of the World's Bitcoin Mining Operations ( 261

The Chinese government will end bitcoin mining operations in the country in the coming months in a move that could have a massive impact on the price of the world's biggest digital currency. From a report: China has been a central player in the development of bitcoin in recent years, but Beijing has spent the last six months cracking down on the cryptocurrency industry -- shutting down local exchanges and banning initial coin offerings. Leaked documents suggest the Chinese government plans an "orderly exit" for bitcoin mining operations in the coming weeks and months. In the documents, issued to the local offices of the internet-finance regulator, authorities were instructed to force mining operations out of business using measures linked to electricity pricing, land use, tax and environmental protection.

Microsoft Halts Bitcoin Transactions Because It's An 'Unstable Currency' ( 106

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputers: Microsoft has stopped supporting Bitcoin as a payment method for Microsoft products, Bleeping Computer has learned. A Microsoft support staffer has told us the move is temporary and cited the unstable state of the Bitcoin currency. Microsoft added support for Bitcoin in 2014, and has previously temporarily stopped supporting Bitcoin in the past.

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