Crypto Scams on Twitter: Hold on to Your Bitcoin!

traffic sign - SCAM!The most widely advertised feature of the decentralized cryptocurrency is the symbiosis of trust and unbiassed verification within the blockchain technology.

However, as the recent crypto scams that have been pulled off on Twitter show, trust needs to be applied with great caution.

A Chain of Scandals

Bitcoin wars on Twitter have been going on for some time now. The factions supporting various types of crypto have been engaged in a full-scale flame war, bombarding each other with angry messages and accusations. As if that wasn’t enough, Twitter was all but buried under a landslide of fake verified accounts and a swelled number of copycat accounts.

Once the breaches in the defenses were found, more and more scammers started using the photo ID to trick Twitter into giving their accounts the “verified” badge and go on impersonating real, unsuspecting people and entities. The end goal is, of course, to swindle the users out of as much money as possible before anyone suspects fraud.

The notorious account “Protafield” (verified, of course) pretended to be a crypto exchange and staged the non-existent Ether giveaways.

Another verified profile, “seifsbei”, managed to impersonate six different accounts, such as Bitfinex, a crypto exchange, and even went as far as impersonating Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum.

These incidents make it more than obvious that Twitter’s verification process falls short of protecting its users and sifting the honest ones from the wrongdoers. Simply put, the “verified” badge no longer guarantees anything. As the founder of start-up Tim Pastoor stated, “People at home see this as a stamp that Twitter sees this as a good account, which can be very subjective”. He also said that scams are made even more dangerous because it is not the intent that is vetted, but merely the identity that is behind the account.

looks like someone is about to steal my bitcoin?A representative of Bitfinex, one of the larges Bitcoin trading platforms, says that fighting the influx of fake accounts takes a considerable amount of time and effort: “We dedicate a lot of resources towards combating illegitimate Twitter accounts and educating our users on how to spot them. However, our impact on certain sites is limited”.

Lethal Patterns

The situation with the restless crypto segment of Twitter is anything but simple.

The false information that the fake account holders present to the users is camouflaged by impeccable terminology. The well-applied technical language does not only make the information look trustworthy, but also makes the standard scam detection processes that Twitter uses, such as language analysis, insufficient.

On the other hand, systematic fraud can be spotted due to the scammers’ tendency to promote the tokens in packs, boosting each other’s reputation and visibility.

Another factor to consider is, well, human. It is commonly known that people rather trust acquaintances more that strangers, and acquaintances less than close friends. Thus, to filter the information, Twitter could allow users to have more control over their feed, the way that Facebook does it. Tim Pastoor believes there are going to be iterations: “I would probably recommend starting with allowing people to filter based on people that they already trust, and to maybe make more use of your second or third-degree networks”.

The mess gets even worse because the accounts can pass to other owners, and not necessarily through hacks, and the new owners’ motives can be very different.

An example of such stray account is the suspended @bitcoin. It started with tweeting the information supporting bitcoin, changed hands many times over the years, and ended up tweeting controversial and misleading information. Finally, it caused so much disapproval, that Twitter had it suspended, and then divested of the verification mark.

The Power of a Tweet

Despite the apparently unreliable verification process, it is a fact that Twitter has a great influence on the crypto markets. Regular users can have as much impact on the price swings of a particular crypto enterprise as the scammers.

The founder of CoinTrend, Nick Lucas, says that there is “basically a lot of influence on Twitter when John McAfee or someone mentions a specific coin.” For example, the price of the Safe Exchange Coins spiked within 24 hours after McAfee tweeted about it.

Naturally, the tweets can just as well have a negative effect. As Lucas puts it, “If everyone is talking negatively about something that is getting pushed into a core repo coin, that can also have an impact. If someone with a big following tweets something, it can cause a scare”.

Behold the Golem: New Ethereum App Released

Golem, and ambitious new project released on the 10th of April, 2018, allows the users to rent the CPU power that they are not using for creating digital imagery. Essentially, it’s a platform that lets others make use of the compute’s excess power.

A Market for Swapping Power
It took three years and fourteen implementations for the Golem project to go live. In 2016, the project rose 280 000 ETH (approximately, $340 million), and its GNT token was sold out in 20 minutes. There was a significant amount of interest on behalf of the investors since this ethereum app project was among the earliest generations of its kind.

The long delay in delivering the app, however, received some inevitable criticism. Golem’s founder, Julian Zawistowski, says it’s typical for the development of software, and, in particular, for blockchain, to underestimate the complexity of what needs to be done. Zawistowski says, “You always underestimate how difficult it is, and this was obviously the case with us.”

Golem has still not reached its final shape. However, the mainnet launch demonstrates that the app is, finally, very much alive. Currently, the CGI is created with the open-source software Blender that allows creating visual effects, animated films, interactive applications as well as video games. Golem exchanges the computational power for GNT via an interface that is directly connected to Blender.

The current release was named Golem Brass Beta. It aims at trying out the technology in the conditions of a real market, using the real money. As Zawistowski put it, “We have to see how it behaves in the wild,”

Piotr “Viggith” Janiuk, Golem’s co-founder and the CTO of the company, says “The release is there to prove to us and everyone that we can actually deliver something that can run on mainnet and that’s really usable. And, well, it is.”

From Brass to Machine Learning
Golem Brass Beta functions through a software client, connecting the “providers” (the ones that are selling the CPU power) and “requestors” (the ones who want to rent it) in the network.

Golem“Providers” receive small subtasks, which make a complete computational picture when put together. These subtasks are sent via the peer-to-peer network. After the users have computed their subtasks, they return the results which are molded together. The “Requestors” then pay for using other’s power. All of these interactions occur on the network between the nodes.

Golem is not actually built on the blockchain, but it uses Ethereum for GNT (its token), and for agreeing on the token transactions.

The app’s creators hope to see it develop “to a point where we have the Golem which is perfect and self-contained and modular”, so that the computations would be done “in a matter of seconds”.

In future, the company plans to build a dedicated Blender plugin to eliminate an extra step. An even bigger ambition is to let the network provide the resources for machine learning. AS Jainuk stated, “We definitely need to move in the direction of machine learning. This is something that is suited to Golem pretty well,”

Long Road to Perfection
The long time it took to release the Golem is explained y the difficulties in production that could not be entirely anticipated when the project was first conceived. The development team had to venture into the yet uncharted territories, and, of course, extra attention needed to be paid to security. As Jainuk put it, “There can be no holes because you’re risking someone else’s money.”

project golem, an ethereum appDividing the computational tasks into subtasks and reconnecting them later presented some of the greatest difficulties. Also, verifying the correctness of computation was particularly tricky to develop for certain kinds of computations, while with some cryptocurrencies it went easily.

The fact that platform apps cause Thereum transaction backlogs and the growth of the fees was not helping either. Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s creator, commented on the issue when speaking to an audience in South Korea, that the scaling challenges “screwed” the makers of the applications.

Jainuk also acknowledged the problem, saying that the decentralized solutions are still some steps away from even beginning to resemble the production-grade solutions. Zawinowski, in turn, compared the situation which we have regarding infrastructure and web development today is to what it was like in the nineties, noting that now there is a huge number of tools that the developers can choose from, while some decades ago people had no choice but to start from scratch.

However, sometimes starting from the very beginning is exactly what needs to be done. According to Zawinowski, often it is necessary to actually invent the wheel to solve the problems at hand.

Banks Banned from Trading Crypto and ICO in Pakistan

Pakistan Bitcoin Crypto ICOState Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has officially banned the country’s financial firms from cooperating with cryptocurrency companies. SBP has thus become the latest organization of its class to ban the crypto-related activities.

On the 6th of April, 2018, SBP issued the following statement: “All Banks/ DFIs/ Microfinance Banks and Payment System Operators (PSOs)/Payment Service Providers (PSPs) are advised to refrain from processing, using, trading, holding, transferring value, promoting and investing in Virtual Currencies/Tokens. Further, banks/DFIs/Microfinance Banks and PSOs/PSPs will not facilitate their customers/account holders to transact in VCs/ICO Tokens. Any transaction in this regard shall immediately be reported to Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) as a suspicious transaction.”

The bank also announced the news on its Twitter.

So far, SBP has not issued any comments on this statement, while the announcement of the news has already set the wheels of change in motion and has had an immediate effect on Pakistan’s cryptocurrency market.

Pakistan’s first cryptocurrency exchange, Urdubit, said, after the SBP statement was issued, that it is going to shut down. The exchange was launched in 2014 and was meant to lay foundations to the wider adoption of cryptocurrency in the country. Urdubit’s goal was also to raise the people’s awareness and understanding of cryptocurrency and enable them to use bitcoin in their everyday lives. Zain Tariq, one of the exchange’s founding partners, said: “You have to realize that even wealthy Pakistani people fear what they don’t understand, and English being second language – it creates a small understanding barrier.”

However, after SBP has announced its decision, Urdubit published an announcement via Facebook, urging the users to withdraw their funds as soon as possible, because it will be closing soon, “due to the current stance on Virtual Currencies by SBP”. The exchange also attached a link to a notification from SBP stating that “SBP has not authorized or licensed any individual or entity for the issuance, sale, purchase, exchange or investment in any such Virtual Currencies/Coins/Tokens in Pakistan.” The notification also contains a warning that “Any transaction in this regard shall immediately be reported to Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) as a suspicious transaction”.

Rodrigo Souza, co-founder of BlinkTrade, the provider of open-source software used by the Urdubit exchange, stated that SBP’s objective is to undermine the investment in cryptocurrency in Pakistan. According to Souza, the banks and the governments will inevitably fight Bitcoin because Bitcoin investment causes large number of people to remove their funds from the bank. Regarding the future plans, Souza added: “We are working hard to return all PKR to all our customers before our bank shutdown our accounts.”

Interestingly, Bank of Pakistan’s ban was announced the very next day after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country’s main banking institution, announced its decision to stop working with the crypto exchanges and other services related to cryptocurrency. India’s cryptocurrency exchanges, however, have decided to challenge RBI’s edict. Ajeet Khurana, the chief executive of Zebpay, India’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, posted on his Twitter: “No way I am stopping. We will continue to do what is best for our customers, and what is best for our country. Am studying the present situation and will react shortly. And we will emerge stronger.”






Ether Goes Downhill

ethereum logo 1The start of 2018 has not been too good a time for Ether, to say the least. In the first three month of the new year, it went down as much as 47,5%, which is the steepest quarterly decline that has yet been recorded.

Granted, cryptocurrency rates in general have been going down the slope. However, Ether stand out among the other afflicted cryptos, and not in a good way, crashing down after it has gained a fantastic 9382% during 2017.

Ether’s previous “worst performance ever” record occurred at the end of the year 2016, when the cryptocurrency dropped by 39,6%, to $7.97 instead of $13.2. These numbers, however, do not look half as bad compared to the situation currently at hand.

Let’s look at the historical data to try to understand what exactly went wrong.

On the Rise in January
The beginning of 2018 was strong for Ether: on January 13, the rate was $1,432. This, however, got pushed under $1,000 towards the end of the month. January was closed with the more or less optimistic number of $1,118.

2017, 2018, crashing down ethereum, alternative cryptocurrencyAt that time, Ether was still considered a safe asset by the investors. Since most of the ICOs are built on top of Ethereum platform, the fees that the creators need to pay are in Ether, which keep the demand to the cryptocurrency stable. Steemit named Ethereum “the most reliable and widely used network in all of cryptocurrency”, and went on to explain: “It is used as the basis for hundreds of tokens and is the foundation for much of the cryptocurrency market. It isn’t going anywhere. It has steadily climbed in value, and when it has dropped in value, it has not been as dramatic of a drop as competing currencies such as Bitcoin”.

In the following months, however, this advantage proved to be not so great after all.

ICO Fraud Concerns in February
On the 6th of February, the prices dropped to approximately $650. That also was the day on which a U. S. Senate hearing took place. During this hearing, the Securities and Exchange Commission discussed the problems of ICO status and fraud. Jay Clayton, Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, very emphatically said that he wants “to go back to separating ICOs and cryptocurrencies. ICOs that are securities offerings, we should regulate them like we regulate securities offerings. End of story.”

This was when Ether started wavering: it dropped to $574, then began recovering, but stopped after reaching around $1,000, and, finally, finished the month at the $850 mark.

Investigations and Bans in March
On the 18th of March, after he Securities and Exchange Commission verified that multiple investigations of ICOs were under way, the price immediately fell under $500. co-director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division Stephanie Avakian confirmed that the agency was “seeing a lot in the crypto space.”

It also didn’t improve the situation that such titans as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, decided to altogether ban the cryptocurrency ads.

Thus, in March, Ether, afflicted by many sorrows, tanked 53% overall. However, it remains up more than 700% compared to the previous year, so, while caution is advised, it is probably far too early to give up on it.