Bitcoin breaches $1,300,
now just $25 off all-time high

           
   

The price for Bitcoin broke through $1,300

on Thursday, within spitting distance of its all-time high, but investors are growing cautious. The cryptocurrency's price has risen around 4.5 percent since the start of the week, according to CoinDesk data and spiked yesterday to $1,306 on hopes that U.S. regulators would approve a key trading product for the digital currency. The price fell overnight but is back around $1,300, not far from its all-time high of $1,325, which it hit on March 10.

However, some bitcoin investors are growing concerned. The buy and sell ratio for bitcoin is balanced almost evenly over the past 24 hours, albeit with slight more sells than buys, and currently there are around 6,000 more short positions than long positions on bitcoin, according to Bitfinex data.These investors are cautious as the last few times bitcoin has tested these levels it led to sharp sell-offs. On March 10, bitcoin fell to $1,085. Later in March, the digital currency dropped from around $1,260 to $950 over the course of a few days. The reason for the recent climb in bitcoin prices is optimism after an announcement in the U.S. that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is reviewing its decision to reject a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.

Last month, the SEC denied an application by the Winklevoss twins to list the ETF on the Bats BZX exchange. The price rose on hopes that the application will get another shot at approval once the decision is reviewed, but disappointment could bring bitcoin prices back down. However, others remain bullish. Pavel Matveev, co-CEO of blockchain personal finance platform Wirex, predicts the price of the cryptocurrency could reach as high as $3,000 this year. "Bitcoin has doubled in value in the past six months. The trend for financial regulation, which recognises bitcoin, is spreading across Asia-pacific, and we expect more and more countries to regulate virtual currencies. I believe the price will continue growing and reach as much as $2,000 to $3,000 by the end of the year," he told CNBC via email.

Other factors will boost bitcoin, such as Japan's recent decision to recognise bitcoin as legal tender. "Bitcoin does face certain challenges such as negative perceptions stemming from past instances of hacking and other illegality. The Japanese financial system will also face a steep learning curve regarding how to report bitcoins in accounts, for example," he added. "At the same time bitcoin is rapidly integrating such challenges and is increasingly becoming more robust, as Japan's official recognition of the cryptocurrency suggests. Integration into the financial system means companies can now more easily develop products and services."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Blockchain Innovation Means Greater Financial Inclusion in the Middle East

  

Financial inclusion,

something as simple as possessing a basic chequing account is significantly lacking in the Middle East, especially when compared on a global scale. Digital innovation, coupled with high mobile penetration rates, especially those aged 25 and under, can, however, open the door to reshaping the fate of the region’s estimated 85 million unbanked adults. According to the 2014 World Bank Global Findex Database, a report that measures global financial inclusion, account penetration in the Middle East, that is, individuals without access to even the most basic financial services sat at just 14 percent.

Last month, Dr. Nasser Saidi, a leading economist for the Middle East and North Africa region who served as the Minister of Economy and Industry and as the Vice Governor for the Lebanese central banks, reiterated the 14 percent figure in an interview. Saidi added, however, that the situation is even more dismal for women.He claimed that only 9 percent of women in the Middle East region owned an account. This is a stunning figure, especially when placed alongside the global average which sits at around 50 percent, according to World Bank data.

Furthermore, account ownership is at near-universal levels in high-income Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) economies, with 94 percent of adults from OECD nations having reported owning an account. Financial inclusion is critical for employment creation, for raising income levels and to consequently reduce poverty. To achieve inclusive economic growth, of course, requires the easing of barriers to accessing the broader financial system. The key to easing the barrier to financial access in today’s online environment is digital innovation, more specifically, advancement in financial technology and mobile banking.

The United Arab Emirates, one of the richest Gulf nations, has an internal battle amongst its top two cities. “There is a rivalry between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to become the fintech hub in UAE,” said Omar Soudodi, managing director of Dubai-based payments processor PayFort, as reported by Kadhim Shubber of the Financial Times, in December. Companies in the financial technology sector, including within the rapidly emerging space of blockchain technology, see the critical opportunity that exists for banking innovation. “More and more of the Arab millennials are getting into the banked world before they even graduate,” said Soudodi. “Before the trend was, ‘I graduate, I get a job, I get my first paycheck and think, oh my God, I need a bank account’.” There is potential to capitalise on the shifting demographic trends.

Changing Demographics

The UAE was cited by Google amongst the highest in smartphone penetration rates per capita as of September 2015. The UAE was in fact listed among global leaders with an overall smartphone penetration rate of around 75 percent. The mobile phone user base in the Middle East and North Africa region was second only to that in Asia-Pacific. “Just over 606 million people in the Middle East and Africa [region] have at least one mobile phone this year, and the total will pass 789 million in 2019,” reported eMarketer, an independent market research firm, in tandem with Starcom Mediavest Group as part of their 2016 Global Media Intelligence report.

The UAE has retained its regional standing as the highest per capita country for mobile phone penetration with an estimated 80.6 percent of the population reported to possess a mobile device. Further, this number is projected to inch up to 82.8 percent by 2019, as per the Global Media Intelligence report. From a usage perspective, the trend is similarly moving toward complete saturation. In 2012, only 54 percent of UAE users under the age of 25 went online using a smartphone at least as often as on a computer. This rocketed to 90 percent by 2015.

Fast-forward to data obtained in January 2017 and the trend upward continues, with the Internet and mobile use remaining high in the Middle East, according to We Are Social’s and Hootsuite’s Digital in 2017 Global Overview. Of an estimated total regional population of 246 million there are 147 million Internet users in the Middle East — a 60 percent penetration rate. Furthermore, there are 312 million mobile subscriptions, which amounts to a 127 percent rate against the overall population.

“You have a very young population, using modern technologies. Yet, the financial and banking side is lagging. Fintech therefore, can play a very important role in financial access and inclusion,” said Saidi. Top digital users are of course the youth segment, according to economist Saidi, who added, 60 percent of the population in the Middle East are aged under 30, which highlights the ripe opportunity to mobilise the current and upcoming generations.

Blockchain-Based Innovation

“The Arabian world is ripe for innovation,” said Mohammed Alsehli, chief executive officer at ArabianChain Technology, a Dubai-based software developer. “Blockchain technology is at the center of innovation in the region that is made possible by the direction and the vision of some of the countries here. In Saudi Arabia and the UAE it’s all about the digital revolution and how to digitally transform these countries in the future.” ArabianChain Technology, based in the Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Center, recently launched its own public blockchain.

In addition to the blockchain, ArabianChain is developing a suite of blockchain-based features and products, including its own digital currency called DubaiCoin-DBIX (previously, DubaiCoin-DBIC), an exchange, and a regionally-focused marketplace. “DBIX is a secure and economical means to conduct payments and asset transfers,” Alsehli said. But ArabianChain is just a single player amidst a growing base of fintech ventures, blockchain-based and otherwise. Last September, the Dubai Future Foundation launched its inaugural Dubai Future Accelerators, a 12-week program connected international technology startups with government entities for the purpose of creating prototypes and pilots for the City of Dubai.

According to Bitcoin Magazine reporter Diana Ngo, The program “enlisted 30 companies with seven of Dubai’s public services: Health, Energy, Knowledge, Municipality, Police, Transport and the investment portfolio, Dubai Holding.” In fact, the United Arab Emirates is moving to adopt sweepingly adopt blockchain technology with aims “to become, by 2020, a leading centre for innovation and the first government in the world to execute all of its transactions on a blockchain.”

The power of this, from a financial inclusion and digital innovation standpoint, will be unmitigated access for a population that lives online, connected via a computer or mobile phone, with the latter’s penetration rate at a nearly universal level. Further, integration and adoption of a regionally-focused, feature-filled public blockchain has the capacity to heighten interaction and connectivity from business-to-business,  business-to-consumer, and peer-to-peer positions.

Daniel Diemers, a consultant with the strategy and consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, pointed to another reality in the region, that of disconnection, stating, “If you’re a payments fintech start-up in the UAE and you’ve gone through all the approvals, it [still] doesn’t give you passports in other Gulf countries.” ArabianChain and other public blockchains like Bitcoin have the potential to alter this dissociative relationship, allowing businesses and people to interact without thought of border, according to Alsehli.

Mobile banking and the advancement and adoption of financial technology applications can also shatter the often insurmountable barrier physical access predicates while alleviating costs to the account owner and the banking institution. In short, Blockchain-based innovation could mean significant progress by way of financial inclusion through digital. This guest article is authored by Brandon Kostinuk, communications lead at Vanbex Group, a Vancouver, Canada-based professional services firm and consultancy that specialises in the digital currency and blockchain technology sector.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Spotify acquires Mediachain to develop blockchain technology that matches royalties with rightsholders

  

Spotify has acquired Mediachain,

the New York-based startup behind an open source peer-to-peer database and protocol for registering, identifying, and tracking creative works across the internet. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Launched in 2016 with seed backing from Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, Mediachain has been working toward using blockchain technology to entrench timestamps and data regarding ownership within a specific media asset. It’s all about enabling creators and rightsholders to prove they are the owner of a piece of work — in Spotify’s case, music — and receive payment. The problem for legitimate companies, such as Spotify, is that they may try to pay artists and publishers but often don’t know who to pay. This is perhaps more of a problem with smaller artists or indie labels. Just last month, Spotify reached a $30 million settlement with a publishing group over unpaid royalties and agreed to establish best practices to make a “reasonable effort” to match all music streams with rightsholders.

Blockchain technology has enabled the bitcoin cryptocurrency to flourish through a decentralised database, where the ownership of specific tokens and their values are recorded, and Mediachain has been working to enable a similar setup in music. “A music blockchain would be a single place to publish all information about who made what song, without having to trust a third-party organisation,” Mediachain co-founder Jesse Walden has said previously. Now Spotify is bringing Brooklyn-based Mediachain to work in its New York office to “help further Spotify’s journey toward a more fair, transparent, and rewarding music industry for creators and rights owners,” according to a press release.

With Spotify recently passing 50 million paid subscribers and expectations that it will aim for an IPO sometime in 2018, the music-streaming giant has been going all out lately to garner the full support of labels and the broader creative community. Earlier this month, Spotify entered into a new licensing arrangement with Universal Music Group (UMG), allowing bands to limit new album releases to Spotify’s premium subscription for up to two weeks. It followed this up weeks later by signing a similar deal with Merlin, effectively adding thousands of indie labels to a flexible release policy.

Much like its refreshed licensing arrangements with labels, bringing Mediachain on board is all about demonstrating that it’s doing its very best to ensure artists are fairly compensated for their work. Mediachain also represents the latest in a long line of acquisitions by Spotify. Last month, it snapped up content recommendation startup MightyTV, shortly after having bought Sonalytic, a company specialising in music discovery and identification. And back in November, Spotify acquired Preact, a startup that helps companies acquire and retain subscribers.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Tips for Combining SEO and
Content Marketing

  

Gone are the days when search engine optimisation was enough

to land your website onto Google's good graces. Now you must to add content marketing to your arsenal of digital marketing tool if you want to gain search engines’ approval and ultimately win the heart of online users. Given the important role content marketing now plays in the success of an online business, it's time that SEO ties the knot with content marketing.

The two digital marketing tools that were once viewed as separate entities are now an inseparable couple, promising to inch businesses closer to the proverbial “overnight success. ”The amazing duo can greatly help your online business reach the pinnacle of success and outwit your competitors. Here are ways you can ensure that the two digital marketing tools work in harmony:

Set common goals.

Setting common goals is the first step to make SEO and content marketing work together to bring additional revenues. Ask yourself what activities overlap between the two digital marketing techniques. Is it increased online traffic, rankings or links? How can you align the activities to achieve common goals? The answers to these and other similar questions will give you a starting point in creating an integrated SEO and content marketing strategy with clear and focused goals and strong communication.

Establish key performance indicators.

Another way to optimise synergy between SEO and Content Marketing is to establish key KPIs that will track performance, and ensure that it is on track for achieving common goals. These KPIs include content sharing, links to content, online user engagement, call-to-action conversion rates and several others. 

Understand your target audience.

Understanding your audience is the key part of an SEO and content marketing strategy. Create personas of the target audience and develop a unique digital marketing strategy for each group. The personas can be based on age, location, gender, hobbies or interests. Don’t undertake any digital marketing activity without considering what your audience wants, and also what you want them to do in return of fulfilling their demand.

Create SEO-optimized content.

Google places great emphasis on quality content. You can make the content more relevant for the search engine by incorporating high-impression keywords. Optimising the content in this way will allow your Web pages to become visible to online users by appearing in the search results. Avoid overstuffing keywords into website content. In order to play it safe, limit the keyword density to 1 percent or less. This will ensure that your site doesn't get penalised by the search engine, decreasing online traffic.

Research high-impression and relevant keywords.

Include high impression and relevant keywords in the website. Each keyword that you select should be researched properly using online tools such as Google Planner, Google Trend, Word Stream and other similar tools. optimising your content in this way will ensure that your online content is able to attract maximum number of online users.

Attract online consumers through link building.

Another way you can make SEO and content marketing work together is through link building. Link building is a pure SEO strategy that results in a distribution of online content to a large number of targeted, qualified audiences. You can greatly increase your content’s effectiveness through these efforts. The links pointing to the published online content is placed on various high authority and high page ranked sites. These sites attract thousands of online visitors that can be diverted to your site by placing targeted links on the site they first visited. Enlist SEO professionals to enhance your link building strategy. Here are some reputed SEO companies, based on user reviews:

  • TIS India
  • SE Media Online
  • Anpee Media

Focus on internal link building.

Internal link building works wonders in increasing your website’s ranking along with your published content. Moreover, creating internal links will also result in improved user experience due to easy navigation around the site. Internal link building is simple to implement and should be part of your digital marketing arsenal. This will help to improve your ranking and guide users with the content that is relevant to them.

Optimise your website content’s title and headings.

Your website content’s title and headings should also be optimised using relevant keywords and phrases. The title is displayed on top bar of the browser, and headings are included inside the content. Your title should be descriptive, persuading users to click. Headings should be catchy enough to make the content readable. Both must also be SEO-optimized to make your content more visible in the search results page.

Measure your results.

Make use of various online tools to measure the outcome of your combined SEO and content marketing efforts. Google Analytics can track changes in search volume over time. You will also know which pages and content attracts the most visitors, and the keywords they type to enter the website. The information gathered can help you fine-tune your content.

Keep your efforts going.

Combining SEO and content marketing must be an on going effort that should not stop at any time. Make the most of the opportunity and watch the extraordinary combination of SEO and content marketing work wonders for your organization or client. It will position you perfectly on the fast track to success.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Business Development Executive Job Description

A business development executive is a senior manager tasked with the job of helping his or her business grow and therefore, they are high-level sales professionals. Their priority is to assist their own companies acquire new customers and sell additional products or services to existing ones; this means the role is a crucial one for any business with the ambition to expand or the necessity to diversify its clientele. It also means that effective business development managers are in high demand in nearly every job sector there is, including business-to-business, business-to-customer, and even non-profit organisations. 

 Business Development Manager| Business Development Executive | Business Development Job

The Business Development Executives Working Environment

In the vast majority of cases, business development executives work in traditional office environments. They are expected to dress in professional business attire and work 9 am to 5 pm, occasionally putting in overtime hours to meet deadlines or sales quotas. Because networking is critical in this position, business development managers must often travel to conferences, business meetings, and industry events. So, company cars are a standard bonus amongst business development executives, and business trips around the country or even around the world are an occasional necessity for many businesses. 

Business development executives occupy senior roles at their organisations, they typically work according to their own initiative and have few superiors to answer to. In most companies, if the executive can deliver new clients and high sales volumes consistently, their day-to-day methods and schedules will be left largely up to them. 

Business Development Responsibilities

A business development professional has three primary responsibilities:

  1. Identifying new sales leads
  2. Pitching products and/or services
  3. Maintaining fruitful relationships with existing customers

When it comes to generating leads, day-to-day duties typically include:

  • Researching organisations and individuals online (especially on social media) to identify new leads and potential new markets
  • Researching the needs of other companies and learning who makes decisions about purchasing
  • Contacting potential clients via email or phone to establish rapport and set up meetings
  • Planning and overseeing new marketing initiatives
  • Attending conferences, meetings, and industry events

When it comes to the challenge of actually selling, other typical duties include:

  • Preparing PowerPoint presentations and sales displays
  • Contacting clients to inform them about new developments in the company’s products
  • Developing quotes and proposals
  • Negotiating and renegotiating by phone, email, and in person
  • Developing sales goals for the team and ensuring they are met
  • Training personnel and helping team members develop their skills

To keep healthy relationships with clients, this mostly requires socialisation. So from simple chats on the phone to lunches and events or conferences, business development managers must be sure to keep their customers happy. Of course, as with all office jobs, documentation is also a big part of the work. Business development professionals are also obligated to write reports and provide feedback to upper management about what is and is not working.

Business Development Executive Skills

To be an effective business development executive, an individual must be:

  • Socially adept
  • Good with numbers
  • Able to provide quality leadership to a large team of sales people

The skills you need to excel in this position include:

  • Strong communication and IT fluency
  • Creative talents and the ability to solve tough problems
  • In-depth knowledge of the industry and its current events
  • The ability to handle pressure and meet deadlines
  • Skill in prioritizing and triaging obligations
  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent time management and organisation

Business Development Education and Career Development

Though there are rarely formal qualifications, many organisations require a degree from their applicants. For those hoping to eventually attain this position, business or math’s degrees are extremely beneficial, and may even help students acquire work through a graduate training program.

Many entrants, however, begin working as salespeople or marketers before being promoted, and there are also many apprenticeships available in the sector. For those in junior roles, additional Level 2 qualifications in Business Principles, Sales Management, and Marketing can help young professionals advance their careers much more rapidly than they otherwise would.  After gaining industry experience and familiarity with the sector, professionals can also boost their resumes by obtaining Level 3, 4, and 5 diplomas in sales and marketing courses. In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Marketing is an excellent resource for earning these advanced degrees. 

Contracting Vs Permanent Positions

While both contracting and permanent in-house positions are available to business development executives, the latter is far more common in the workplace today. For those who can manage to make it work, freelance business development offers a host of advantages. So if you are considering setting your sights on a contract-based career, here are some things to keep in mind:

Pros of Contracting

  • Flexible scheduling and hours
  • Option to work from home and/or remotely
  • Ability to work in diverse industries and experience a wide variety of company cultures
  • Freedom to choose and turn down projects
  • The possibility of higher pay for those who are successful
  • Complete independence and not having superiors to answer to

Cons of Contracting

  • Irregular and inconsistent pay
  • The necessity to do much more bookkeeping, invoicing, quoting, etc.
  • Limited job security
  • No team and a limited ability to delegate tasks to others
  • The need to regularly acquire new clients

Business Development Challenges

Business development executives face a number of challenges in their work. These includes:

  • Managing underperforming team members
  • Suffering from downturns in the industry and/or economy
  • Losing clients to superior competitors
  • Responding to negative press about the company and/or products
  • Dealing with customers unsatisfied with the quality of the product or service

Business Development Executive Salary

Salaries for business development executives vary with experience and level of responsibility. Starting positions typically pay about £26,000 annually, but rise to about £30-40k with several more years of experience. After promotions to upper executive positions, senior business development managers make upwards of £60,000. No matter what industry interests you most, there is likely to be a need for business development managers in the sector. This job is an excellent opportunity to enter a wide variety of professional fields. If you think it might be a good fit for you, view our Business Development Telegraph Jobs to learn about the career opportunities available in your region.  

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Poloniex Altcoin Exchange Review

Poloniex Certainly Has Its Merits

Poloniex is by far the superior altcoin exchange, base don trading volume and the number of users. The customer support is its Achilles heel, though, and the verification procedure can take longer than needed. Moreover, a few recent server and API outages have caused a fair bit of issues.In this day and age of cryptocurrency exchanges struggling with their partnering banks, the number of platforms unaffected by issues are fairly limited. So far, the Poloniex exchange has successfully avoided most problems, which allows them to continue generating significant amounts of trading volume. They are also the premier cryptocurrency exchange for altcoins traders, but is everything as good as people want the world to believe?

Trading on a cryptocurrency exchange is always a matter of positive aspects and compromises. For the Poloniex exchange, it appears the benefits far outweigh the downsides as of right now. They list a good amount of alternative cryptocurrencies and also actively remove trading pairs that are no longer relevant. Poloniex is also offering multiple exchange markets, including Bitcoin, Monero, and Ethereum. Alternative trading markets are always interesting to take notice of, even though not all coins can be traded against these three currencies.

Poloniex has been around for some time now and even underwent a major overhaul in early 2015. Ever since that time, some notable features were added, including cryptocurrency lending. Speaking of the lending service, not all supported coins are listed here either, but it does cover the most prominent currencies as of right now. It is a useful feature for traders who want to earn a passive interest on their Poloniex balances, although one should never store too much money on an exchange in the first place.

On the security front,

Poloniex seems to check the right boxes as well. Two-factor authentication is possible – and advised – which is a positive touch. Then again, nearly every cryptocurrency exchange offers this feature, as 2FA has become somewhat of the norm in the crypto world right now. Volume-wise, Poloniex seems to generate a fair amount of revenue every single day, as it is way ahead of its closest competitor Bittrex.

Unfortunately, no cryptocurrency exchange is without its issues, and Poloniex is no exception. The platform has suffered from slow trading, order book issues and even plain outages every time there is an unusually high trading activity on the exchange. Most recently, the site and its API utterly crashed when Ripple was seeing significant trading volume all of a sudden. This affected quite a lot of traders and a fair bit of money was lost due to trades not executing properly.

Moreover, some users have complained about horrible customer support from Poloniex staffers. Exchanges have a big problem in this regard, as it appears a lot of platforms suffer from bad customer support at all times. That is not acceptable by any means, and we can only hope things improve sooner rather than later.  Especially considering how the platform supports fiat currency support, aiding customers in a quick and convenient manner becomes even more important.

Speaking of support,

Poloniex conducts a thorough AML and KYC procedure for all users, even if they do not deposit or withdraw fiat currencies. This means users will need to upload documents to verify their identity, a process that can take days, if not weeks, for some users. It seems evident everyone’s mileage will vary when dealing with the Poloniex exchange. For the most part, the company does the job just fine, but there are obvious areas that need improvements.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

ETHBITS Gets Green Light for New Copy Trading Cryptocurrency Exchange

  

Cryptocurrency exchange provider Ethbits

has reached it’s minimum funding goal signalling that development on a new iTrade platform will now begin. The UK-based company has already built a peer to peer Cryptocurrency exchange, called Ethbits Local, to facilitate secure trades between people from bank accounts to cryptocurrency. Ethbits Local will offer the ability to trade face-to-face across a range of cryptocurrencies, a unique feature that is in high demand.

Given the current success of the crowdsale, Ethbits Local will now start development of Ethbits iTrade, an exciting new cryptocurrency exchange which will not only act as a standard exchange but also has a copy trade feature, where new traders can copy professionals and experienced traders can gain followers to maximise their profits. Ethbits Local will launch in May, immediately after the crowdsale ends followed closely by iTrade.

‘Reaching our Minimum goal within the 1st week is super exciting, as a result the copy trading exchange is now in development. We are at the start of something ground breaking in the crypto world and the more support we can get, the faster we can grow and the more rewards we can generate for the token holders. We will now implement provably fair profit sharing to ensure the continued confidence in our company.’  Monty Singh, CEO, Ethbits LIMITED

Support for the platform has been strong with 300 contributors acquiring Ethbits (ETB) tokens. ETB gives the holder access to up to 40% of gross profit from trading fees, depending on how much is raised by the end of the crowdsale. ETB tokens can also be used to pay for transaction fees on the exchange ensuring the volume of the token remains a high as possible, driving both of the platforms. iTrade will launch with the top 15 cryptocurrencies on offer with plans to diversify further as the exchange grows.

Ethbits has just announced that it will partner with BCB ATM [https://bcb-atm.com/ ] – an expanding Bitcoin ATM service based in the UK. Ethbits iTrade platform will be linked to BCB ATM’s to help people find crypto traders in their local area. The crowdfund will run until 13th May at 5pm UTC.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

US Government Hacks Global Bank System, Necessity of Bitcoin

The US government’s ongoing extensive surveillance

on the global banking system and payment, transfers are demonstrating an urgent necessity of a decentralized financial network such as bitcoin. Over the past few months, various organizations including Wikileaks and Shadow Brokers have exploited most of the malpractices of the National Security Agency of the US. One of the recent tools of the NSA that was leaked and exploited on the dark web was the NSA’s surveillance tool on the Swift global banking system.

Motive of the US Government

Government agencies and law enforcement are required to undergo a lengthy process of filing a complaint and request to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift) in order to gain necessary financial information of certain bank accounts of businesses and individuals.

With a surveillance and hacking tool, however, the NSA can surpass the above-mentioned process by simply gaining access to the actual Swift network without alarming its system and infrastructure. According to representatives of Shadow Brokers, a hacking group that has leaked many pieces of malware in the past, the hacking tool of the NSA allows the US government to surveil financial transactions settled within the Swift network with full transparency. Matt Suiche, founder of the United Arab Emirates-based cyber security firm Comae Technologies, said in an interview with Reuters:

“If you hack the service bureau, it means that you also have access to all of their clients, all of the banks.”

While some security analysts and firms including EastNets denied the claims of Shadow Brokers, prominent whistleblowers and security experts including Edward Snowden explained that if the exploitation of the NSA hacking tool by the security firm Shadow Brokers is in fact, true, it could be described as the “Mother of All Exploits.” In the meantime, Swift announced that its cyber security and research team were not able to find any evidence to conclusively determine the surveillance allegation against the US government.

“We have no evidence to suggest that there has ever been any unauthorized access to our network or messaging services,” said the representatives of Swift.

Necessity of Bitcoin

Whether the US government actually utilized the NSA’s hacking tool to surveil the Swift network without permission from Swift and its clients is not the major issue. The main problem is that such hacking tools exist and they are capable of unraveling transactions settled across the world. Any centralized financial networks such as Swift impose such vulnerability, as any network, server or database connected to the Internet is vulnerable to hacking attacks, surveillance and data breaches if it is not designed to be immutable or decentralized, unlike bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Each transaction on the bitcoin blockchain is identified with cryptographic proof and it can be accessed on the bitcoin blockchain. Most importantly, because the bitcoin blockchain is public, it cannot be manipulated by a government agency like the NSA with sophisticated hacking tools. Although there exists strict Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer systems in place on the majority of the world’s bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchanges, government agencies and law enforcement agents must go through proper channels to obtain the data.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Bitcoin Is Not Immune to
All Fiat Problems

Bitcoin inspires hope among many of its owners,

investors, and users. Its culture is deeply steeped in the hopes of “being your own bank” and not having to rely on third parties such as government and financial institutions to guarantee, protect, and transfer your wealth. However, while I love Bitcoin and want to believe in these sort of ideas as well, more and more I feel like Bitcoin may suffer some very similar problems that fiat economies have.

The Problem of Wealth Disparity

This is one of the most troubling aspects of Bitcoin that I can think of. We’re approaching having mined into existence about 80 percent of the 21 Million Bitcoin hard limit. Even though that limit will not be hit until about 2140 well beyond my and everyone reading this article’s death -barring some insane medical advancements-, the percentage of new coins that will be made available will be lower and lower. I do not think that I am the only one who thinks that Bitcoin’s price will continue to explode as the available supply dwindles either. That is where the heart of this problem may be for me: Larger concentrations of coins will be in the hands of fewer people.

I believe that the individuals who have the fortitude and insight to be hodling onto their coins deserve to be rewarded for their risk. It is also my hope that I am hodling more coins if/when the price skyrockets. This will create Bitcoin oligarchs though. Those who bought in or mined early will become immensely wealthy and powerful. Regardless of good intention, the concentration of power like that historically has not worked out well. We also see large wealth disparity in our world today -which is still mostly dealing in fiats- and the levels of civil unrest that it engenders. I think that Bitcoin may share this problem and may even have it worse considering how low the population of Bitcoin users is.

The Issue of Centralized Institutions

Miners are necessary for processing transactions and bringing new coins into the economy. However, the increasing difficulty of blocks and the insatiable thirst for electricity creates situations where only large mining farms and pools are even able to put up the hash rates needed to grab those blocks. This is centralized. I’m far from the first person to realize or point this out, but it does mean that the Bitcoin network is starting to form these sorts of things it meant to free us from. We’re trending toward having very few holding the (metaphorical) keys to the coins. As reward halving continues, even more of these pools and farms will shut down, again leading to even more centralization of the network. It would lead us closer to a system not too far from what we have today.

A Problem Unique to Bitcoin

While Bitcoin has many similar problems to the current prevailing financial systems it also has a very unique in Lost Coins. This is when a wallet private key is lost and the coins in that wallet are unable to be accessed, even by the owner. While projects like the Large Bitcoin Collider may be looking for ways of cracking keys, it is generally agreed that these coins are gone until the private key is found or remembered. This adds a dynamic to Bitcoin that Banks and Governments do not really have: hard deflation. Governments and banks can always print more money. Bitcoin will only have 21 Million. Ever. So any lost coins or fraction of coins will be 21 Mill minus that amount. This could even lead to a further exacerbation of the wealth disparity problem I outlined before.

Bitcoin is a radical take on what economies should look like: trustless, secure, and reliable. However, it still seems to have to address and move away from the pitfalls that our current financial system has created. To continue further without trying to address these would be foolish in my opinion.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Georgia Records 100,000 Land Titles on Bitcoin Blockchain: BitFury

  

Georgian government and the Bitcoin company BitFury

In April 2016, the Georgian government and the Bitcoin company BitFury initiated a project to record land titles on the Blockchain. Following the project initiation, on Feb. 7th, 2017, in Tbilisi, the government of Georgia signed an agreement to use the Bitcoin Blockchain to verify property transactions.

And on 19th of April 2017, Valery Vavilov, CEO of BitFury during his speech at the Russian Internet Forum in Moscow, said, that since the launch in February 2017, when his company along with the government of the Republic of Georgia implemented the property registration on Blockchain had registered more than 100,000 documents.

Earlier this year, Tomicah Tillemann, Trust Accelerator co-founder and New America director of the Bretton Woods II program, commented about Georgia’s decision to use the public Bitcoin Blockchain:

“If you think about this happening at a time when a lot of people are struggling to separate what’s real from what’s fake, this is a powerful tool to prove what’s real. Especially when you’re dealing with something as fundamental as your home or property, it’s important to have that added layer of security that’s provided by Blockchain validation.”

Vavilov also said, that there is going to be more services to follow. Since Blockchain implementation, there is no possibility to manipulate the property registration data. It is not only a government implementation deal for BitFury, on April 13, the Bitfury Group has announced its partnership with the government of Ukraine, to bring a variety of Blockchain solutions to the electronic services of the latter.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor