Archives July 2020

Criminal extradited from Cyprus for allegedly stealing Bitcoin

With the change of currency from physical to virtual, there are also cases of fraud and forgery reported by people who use virtual currency. One such case has recently come into light in the USA who is charged for stealing virtual currency bitcoin. According to reports from the Department of Justice, a criminal named Joshua Polloso Epifaniou was extradited from Cyprus on charges of stealing Bitcoins. It is alleged that the person stole thousands of Bitcoins from unsuspecting victims after their account details were hacked from several sources. He is wanted for various cyber intrusion crimes in Georgia and Arizona. Apart from that, even extortion charges have been pressed against the accused.

Charges against Cyprus national

Joshua Polloso is accused of committing several frauds with regards to wire transfer and computer fraud by stealing identity. He is also accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit cyber fraud along with extortion charges. Along with other conspirators, the accused managed to steal personal data of victims from a New York-based hardware company and a Virginia based online employment portal. Apart from that, they also hacked into the systems of online game publishers and managed to get personal information of users in California. After successfully getting access into the systems, the team had managed to steal over $50000 in Bitcoin.

Charges of extortion

Apart from cyber fraud charges, the accused is also facing charges of extortion as he had held the database of a company and asked for a ransom of $90000. The accused managed to organize a brute force attack on the systems and captured the access to the server. Even though such cases are not new, this is good news for the cybersecurity industry as the accused is arrested and action has been taken by the authorities.

Lebanon national arrested for money laundering

Another person was also extradited on charges of money laundering and unlicensed transmission of currency. The accused Ghassan Diab belongs to Lebanon, and he had transferred currency to the tune of nearly $100000 to various people. Apart from that, he is also an alleged member of Hezbollah as indicated by the DOJ authorities. Such attacks have become regular these days, and DOJ also indicated that a cyber hacker had recently managed to sell access to various networks and gathered large sums of money. In this situation, it is essential to protect the personal information of cryptocurrency users.

Venezuelan Authorities Take Hold Of More Than 300 Bitcoin Mining Machines

Here’s all the tea about the sudden snatch of over 300 bitcoin (BTC) machines by Venezuelan Authorities. Before we come to the main issue here, here is a little note on Bitcoin mining. It is a very meticulous, highly expensive, and occasionally quite a rewarding procedure.

However, mining has an attractive enticement for a lot of investors who are interested in cryptocurrency. This is because miners get rewards for the work they do with crypto tokens. The most probable reason behind this is that entrepreneurial types see mining as a very unexpected financial benefit, like California gold prospectors in 1849.

How does Bitcoin Mining Function?

Bitcoin mining is carried out by highly advanced and highly powered computer devices. Those devices can solve way too complicated mathematical problems. The luck and function such a device requires in order to sort out those problems are the digital equivalents of a miner hitting on gold under the ground while digging a sandbox.

But, discussions on that part would be done later. The primary matter is seizing hold of more than 300 bitcoin mining machines by Venezuelan Authorities. So, let’s not waste more time, getting straight into the news on the very new cryptocurrency issue.

Details on Venezuelan Authorities Seizing 300 Bitcoin Mining Machines

Puerto Ordaz, the National Guard of Venezuela, grabbed hold of more than 300, Bitmain developed Bitcoin mining tools. To be quite specific, the count of the bitcoin mining tools/machines seized by the Venezuelan authorities was 315.

Regarding this issue, the ones who owned these mining appliances were told that they didn’t have the permission in order to possess and run those machines there. This was the time when they were also not sanctioned to transport the machines. This is because of the deadly coronavirus outbreak causing COVID-19, leading to a halt in transport with a global lockdown.

Based on the very recent law enactment, the people who are actually from Venezuela and who are showing quite a bit of a keen interest in running mining tasks connected with cryptocurrency must be getting the proper allowances from an office of the Govt. The National-Superintendence-of-Crypto-Actives is the government office mentioned here.

The ones to own these machines, which are specifically not successful in getting those documents of permits from the office, are fined. Not only being fined, but all of their machines are also taken over. This is all about the sudden seizing of 315 bitcoin (BTC) mining pieces of equipment.

The Bottom Line

That was all the information regarding this muddle. However, bitcoin mining is not a task that runs with complete smoothness. It carries a lot of negative points, too, like complexities, overuse of electrical energy, hardware cost, and even various scams. Also, there is a big chance of losing a big sum. Hopefully, you got every bit of info you required regarding this subject.

Widespread Hacking On Australia

Some state-based cyber hackers are continuously targeting the government of Australia and many other institutions in the country, announced by Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He said that the attacks are quite widespread. It spread across all levels of government, along with the crucial services and businesses.

He brushed aside the identification of a specific state actor and said no prominent personal data violation had been made. The attacks have already happened for months and are still increasing day by day.

The Major Targets

Morrison was not specific about the hacking cases. However, he mentioned that the government, industry, political organizations, education, health, essential service providers, and operators of other critical infrastructures are under cyber attacks. He did not say anything more about this.

Who is Behind the Attacks?

Mr. Morrison recognized this several cyberattacks to be a state hack for the scale and nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used. Cyber intelligence masters have long linked several hackings in Australia to China. They have spoken out.

They have to say that here China is one of the few nations besides Russia, Iran, along with North Korea. These nations keep the potential to carry out these cyberattacks, and they are not united with Australia. For all that, they also pointed out that cyber-surveillance among nations and even allies is common.

Here is what expert Joshua Kennedy-White reported on the BBC: “There is always raging tensions between Russia and China so really it comes down to those being the key nations Australia would be referring to.”

Based on the report by The Reuters, intelligence agencies doubt China of carrying out the parliament hack in 2019. However, Canberra refused to make any sort of comment on this particular thing.

Steps Morrison Desires

Morrison said businesses, to be specific, health infrastructure and service providers must raise their quality in technical defense mechanisms. Numerous agencies of cyber defense had baffled a lot of hacking initiations. In spite of that, protection needed constant persistence and application, on the basis of his words.

Morrison also added that they came up with this muddle now not for raising concerns in the mind of the citizens but to make the mind of each and every people in the country very much aware. We know what’s happening, we are on it, but it is a day to day task, he further added.

The Untold Part: China

The heading made it very clear that numerous political, educational, and health organizations have been aimed by a state-based cyber actor with certain powers, but a lot about Mr. Morrison’s press conference was rated too low.

For instance, why this announcement was made at this particular moment was not understandable, provided these hacks are continuing for some time now. The relation between the countries worsened in recent years.

However, it significantly became tenser when Australia echoed the US in calling for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, which was first found in China in late 2019. Since then, China stopped beef imports, put tariffs on Australian barley, and warned Chinese citizens about the “risks” of visiting Australia for racist incidents.


No one can be 100% sure that China will be the one. But the Australian leadership has chosen a moment when it comes to its relationship with its powerful business partner. It is really risky to publicly declare that it is under cyber attack from a powerful state.

US Homeland Security’s Startup Booster Calls Blockchain Startup Hunt

The Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), which acts as the startup booster of the DHS or the United States Department of Homeland Security, has recently started yet another hunt. It is primarily for an anti-counterfeiting project based on blockchain technology. The DHS is looking for the project to have flexible interoperability features. The renewal of hunt this year came on the day of Virtual Industry Day.

The use case for the startups has been redefined by the Silicon Valley Innovation Program this time. This time, the array of use cases for use by startups includes food supply chain, natural gas, e-commerce, and also a sustainable alternative to Social Security Number. One of the use cases added by SVIP is for the essential worker license, which was mainly inspired by the COVID-19 epidemic. The SVIP is offering up to $800,000 in initial funding as an incentive for the startups to come forward along with the possibility of being given government contracts. It is to lure first-time federal partners as well as new partners.

Just over two years ago, the Silicon Valley Innovation Program was active in the space of distributed technologies and forgeries, where it ventured to find suitable partners. The Department of Homeland Security has been following the developments in the blockchain technology for the last few years. The focus of DHS has been on the efforts of the private sector in the field of blockchain technology. The renewed hunt by DHS has only pointed out how seriously it has been focusing on the blockchain technology and solutions. The government’s cabinet has been highly interested in this technology as well, and it is also one of the reasons why the DHS has not only garnered the support to pursue blockchain but to closely integrate its solution.

One of the technical directors of the Silicon Valley Innovation Program, Anil John, said that the department is looking to attract talents from across the globe to solve the issues here in the United States. However, he cleared the air of any misconceptions that may be out there that SVIP is involved in or interested in doing any kind of science experiments. Anil John clearly outlined that SVIP is looking for results from this venture and not only futuristic concepts that may not come to fruition.

The Silicon Valley Innovation Program has more than gone out of the way to showcase its support for the blockchain technology in the past. It can be seen how it has closely supported Factom, Mavennet, SecureKey, and Digital Bazaar. However, it should not in any way be construed that SVIP is solely focused on blockchain technology and solutions as it has hands in building Border Patrol camera platforms as well as timber credential mechanisms for the DHS. The SVIP is the sub-wing of the Science and Technology Directorate and has given out millions in funding to achieve its purposes.

Anil John has been associated with the blockchain technology and world from the very onset and is rightly called the “Blockchain Guru” in the DHS. Also, he is quite popular in the blockchain space in the private sector as well. In the recent virtual event hosted by SVIP and DHS, Anil John challenged the 300 participants to present deployable and innovative tools for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Privacy Office, and the United States Customers and Border Protection (CBD). These are the three primary branches of the DHS, for which SVIP presents the new use cases.

Blockchain technology has gained worldwide acceptance in terms of its security, privacy, and scalability. As technology continues to grow, it is presenting its viability in many different sectors and platforms. It is what has attracted so many public and private sectors to divert its focus on it and extend its research and focus on blockchain technology. The SVIP hopes to infuse new life in its mechanisms and the branches of DHS by integrating blockchain technology, which can potentially present solutions to many of the hurdles and streamlining its operations.

Anil John is well-versed with the capabilities of this nascent technology and has been closely following its development globally. It is one of the reasons he has pushed for inviting teams from across the globe to present their custom solutions.

Why IBM’s blockchain isn’t a real blockchain?

In the world of IT, the name of IBM is much known as a primary service provider in various domains. It has come up with multiple technologies in the past some years that have proven the game-changer in the market. Recently this IT giant is again in the news, and this time it is for its penetration in another segment.

IBM has recently introduced Hyperledger Fabric and is in the process to launch blockchain pilots with giants like Aetna and Walmart. IBM’s version of blockchain called Fabric is promoted as a permissioned blockchain, and it has features similar to Ethereum and Bitcoins. However, it is facing some criticism from market participants as it leaves a lot of loopholes that are not integral to blockchains. It is also not scalable and compatible with public blockchains, which further limits its options in the market.

Understanding real blockchain

Before going into an in-depth discussion of IBM and blockchain one must have a clear concept of blockchain. One needs to know what blockchain is and how does it work. When it comes to real blockchains, the base is built on a decentralized ledger concept which can store transactions or events. All these are enforced through a consensus mechanism like mining or proof of work concepts. In other cases, users can supply cryptographic signatures for consensus.

IBM’s version of blockchain

IBM’s version of blockchain leaves out the decentralized concept, which is the core of regular blockchain technology. The Hyperledger Fabric does not require a proper consensus mechanism, which is the norm in regular blockchains. It is difficult to prove that ledgers are not tampered as it leaves out various loopholes to be exploited in the long run.

Vulnerabilities of Fabric’s architecture

There are many vulnerabilities in the Fabric’s architecture as the signatures of the users do not appear in the arbitrary dataset. On the other hand, the validator signature assumes more priority in any transaction. The speed is also not good enough as it cannot be scaled for large operations. Practically speaking, it cannot be deployed into production in most cases due to its slow operations.

IBM’s blockchain not compatible with public blockchains

Market participants are of the opinion that both public and private blockchains will have to work together to provide the best user experience. They cannot be cut off from each other, as this means that the sole purpose of having blockchains will become meaningless. When it comes to Fabric, it will not be able to access public blockchains due to its inherent restrictions. In this way, any user who implements this blockchain will be cut off from all the public blockchains. In the same manner, users of public blockchains who want to store some data in IBM’s private blockchain will not be able to do so again due to the same restrictions.

Not suitable for the future

Considering all the compatibility hurdles, it can be clearly said that IBM’s version of blockchain is not yet ready for the future. Unless they make suitable changes to its stability and provide compatible features, users will not come forward to implementing such systems. Even businesses in different segments will not benefit from such a blockchain structure as it is vulnerable to various threats that may arise in the future.

In this way, IBM’s blockchain cannot be considered as a true blockchain. It may not see good growth in the real world and may get restricted to private entities. If the company is serious about providing enterprise blockchains, they have to work on compatibility issues and improve the system’s overall performance so that they become suitable for production.

Bitcoins And Potential Regulations Of US Federal Agencies

In 2013, an event was hosted by the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes and Enforcement Division (FinCEN). During this event, advocates of bitcoin met with a few federal agencies to discuss the possibilities of bringing Cryptocurrency under government regulation. The discussion revolved around involving law enforcement and financial agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security.

The specialty of bitcoin is that it does not have a central governing body or central bank. Customers can send it using peer-to-peer networks that don’t have any administration. The money is saved in a digital wallet, and each transaction made is stored in a blockchain. Since blockchains are public records, it is easier to trace the transactions. This also makes it convenient to stop individuals from making copies, prevent them from selling bitcoins they don’t have and undo any transaction once sold.

While some countries have brought a complete ban on Cryptocurrency, countries like the USA have had a friendly approach towards this form of technology. Mining bitcoins online is entirely legal in the USA, although the government is trying to introduce laws to regulate it.

So far, Cryptocurrency has existed without any law implication by the United States Federal Government. Though there is no central law, the USA has left individual states to apply their regulations to Cryptocurrency. States like Arizona, New York. Nevada, Maine, and others have introduced bills to define codes for acceptable practices by blockchain companies and users.

As the bitcoin industry grows, the US government has raised its opinions on how people should disclose their capital gains or profits to the IRS and put forth a taxation system. In 2013, the Treasury Department had also suggested that companies dealing in Cryptocurrency should register themselves and report large transactions. 

Even as the world faces a pandemic situation, a US lawmaker from Arizona has proposed a law to bring all forms of Cryptocurrency under the federal regulations. Rep. Paul Gosar introduced the Cryptocurrency Act of 2020 in March 2020. 

He said, “We may be quarantined, but our work continues. In fact, I just introduced the Crypto-Currency Act of 2020, a bill that my team has worked hard on over the past several months.”

The lawmaker further went on to state, “By providing much-needed regulatory clarity about Cryptocurrency, we will make it easier for businesses, institutions, and everyday Americans to participate in this growing industry. No more murkiness, uncertainty, or confusion.”

The bill is aimed towards clarifying which federal agencies can regulate digital assets. It also suggests that those agencies must inform users of any certifications, licenses, or registrations required to trade in cryptocurrencies or related assets. The intention behind introducing such a law is to keep America at the forefront of the crypto industry.

Adding to this proposed law, Gosar further said, “Cryptocurrency offers a way for forgotten and oppressed people to participate in the global economy … A beacon of hope to much of the world, Cryptocurrency is becoming one of the fastest-growing industries. The United States must remain part of that growth.”

There is nothing concrete in place yet, in terms of regulations in the cryptocurrency market. Several agencies are trying to prevent digital money from being used in illegal trades. Many countries believe that bringing Cryptocurrency under legislation might boost its acceptance in the financial markets, but then again, it can harm the country’s fiat currency. Even with the prevailing confusion, countries across the globe are not taking Cryptocurrency lightly.