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Baltimore Ransomware Siege Enters Second Week of Bitcoin Extortion Attack

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By CCN: Most of the Baltimore City’s government systems have been locked down since May 7th as a result of the “Robbinhood” ransomware attack.

The successful crypto locking has forced the city to go “manual” in most aspects of its daily business and has affected several areas of life. For example, people are unable to buy and sell real estate within the city right now because the records cannot be accessed or filed.

Baltimore Refuses to Negotiate with Hackers

Incoming mayor Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young, who replaces disgraced Catherine Pugh, insists the city will not pay the roughly 13 bitcoins demanded by the attackers. Some cities end up spending a lot more money by not paying the ransom, and in the case of Baltimore, a major metropolitan city with over 600,000 residents, the cost is amplified.

Everything from the city’s police systems to its online property tax portal is down.

Of course, governments operated long before computer systems. City departments are finding ways to work while the systems are down.

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Fortunately, unlike the attack Baltimore suffered last year, the 911 and associated dispatching systems are still operational. Emergency services are of particular importance in Baltimore, whose opiate crisis is well-documented.

Speaking of which, a system the city developed to alert people to high-overdose areas is currently non-operational. Additionally, crime statistics and other public information aren’t being updated on the city’s open data website.

One of the Most Extensive Ransomware Attacks Ever

Overshadowed by other major business news, such as trade war tensions with China and a mighty performance of cryptocurrencies, the attack has been underreported in the crypto press. Nevertheless, it is one of the most extensive attacks in history, affecting nearly every important aspect of city life.

Baltimore City’s budget for 2019 included $2 million for upgrading the city’s “storage systems.” Now those systems have suffered irreparable harm, and without sufficient back-up systems in place, a great deal of data could be lost.

The anonymous hackers who infected Baltimore’s systems are using one of the latest Ransomware breeds, called Robbinhood. Apparently the cost to unlock the network will increase every ten days.

Unclear Origins

No one is sure how Robbinhood came into the system. Reportedly, the attackers have taken to Twitter to release some of the usernames and passwords uncovered during their strike. The unknown hackers, who are being investigated by the FBI, wrote in their ransom note:

“We’ve watching you for days and we’ve worked on your systems to gain full access to your company and bypass all of your protections.”

Ransomware may be making a comeback with Robbinhood, which cleanly shuts down the majority of Windows’ services and then proceeds to encrypt the entire system. The Boston Public Defenders Agency were compromised earlier this year, and similarly decided not to pay since they had back-ups – which took weeks to restore.

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Robinhood Zero-Fee Trading App Officially Launches in New York

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American stock brokerage Robinhood Crypto has officially launched its zero-fee crypto trading app in New York, the company announced in a blog post on May 23.

Following the acquisition of a BitLicense by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) in January 2019, Robinhood now allows New York citizens to trade in seven major cryptos with no commission fee using its Robinhood Crypto platform.

From now, the Robinhood Crypto service is available in 39 states in the United States, including California, Washington and Florida, among others.

The Robinhood trading app allows for the trading of bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), bitcoin cash (BCH), litecoin (LTC), bitcoin SV (BSV), ethereum classic (ETC) and dogecoin (DOGE). Robinhood users can also track price alterations and updates for those cryptos and 10 additional coins, the blog post notes.

Earlier in April, Robinhood applied for a bank charter with regulators in the U.S. in order to offer traditional banking products and services.

Previously, the DFS granted a BitLicense to a institutional-grade crypto trading platform Tagomi Trading, enabling the company to offer trade routing and order execution services for non-security cryptos including bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and bitcoin cash.

Recently, on April 18, Bloomberg reported that the ICE was considering acquiring a New York BitLicense to launch bitcoin futures, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

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Here’s Why Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin is undervalued at Spot Rates

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Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin are still incredibly undervalued as present valuations stand. This is on account of the potential of these coins and planned upgrades to make them better according to a crypto trader and enthusiast.

Yes, Bitcoin may have rallied back to possible bull territory. However, it is still fair to say that the coin sits below its true and projected position as a currency and security. Bitcoin came about as an alternative currency with decentralization as a catch for investors and enthusiasts alike.

Bitcoin is resilient and has shrugged off legitimacy questions from naysayers time and time again. The price volatility is just a consequence of intense speculation and uncertainty common with new inventions. Nonetheless, Bitcoin’s transcendent ability to transform the financial world remains effectively eliminating borders and regulatory overreach.

Bitcoin as Digital Gold

Bitcoin is a finite currency. Notably, every fiat currency will return to its inherent value of zero at times of hyperinflation. This is clear from the Venezuelan Bolivar which is worth less than its printing paper at the moment. In this light Bitcoin can become an alternative to collapsed currencies especially in failed states.

It’s become a trusted alternative when fiat money’s value is corrupted by politics”

-John McGinnis and Kyle Roche of Wall Street Journal.

The limited availability means Bitcoin can efficiently store value at times of financial crises. This is eerily similar to gold which is also a great commodity to store value that rises in value in hard times for fiat. This has led to some proponents calling Bitcoin digital Gold and rightfully so. As such, the value of $8,000 is momentary as the developed world economy is still doing well.

Ethereum And Litecoin As Alternatives

Ethereum is a great alternative for Bitcoin. That said, the price of $270 is still on the low because of the incredible potential given the possibilities of Smart contracts. More significant is the upcoming Serenity or Ethereum 2.0 upgrade. This upgrade will significantly improve the coin by incorporating technical improvements that improve scalability and performance. At the premier Ethereum Supermeetup, hosted at Token2049, Vitalik Buterin explained the update as follows;

“(It is) a way to bring technical improvements, like PoS and sharding, together to improve the Virtual Machine, Merkle Trees, the efficiency of the protocol, and a whole bunch of small technical things that you have never heard of.”

Ethereum is in this regard still on the downside price-wise. The upgrades are necessary and timely to keep the protocol efficient.

Litecoin, on the other hand, is essentially a better version of Bitcoin. This is because the coin, while having essentially the same possibilities as Bitcoin, is more adaptable to change such as the introduction of smart contracts.

Charlie Lee, a former Google employee, who founded Litecoin, has also given financial support to the Lightning Network.  There are also possibilities of incorporating Mimble Wimble that will inherently scale the network while introducing better security and privacy for the end user. When we add the halving mix in the equation, investors and traders are convinced that we are in the early stages of a mega bull run that will propel asset prices, valuing them fairly.

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Smart contract platform Fantom chooses Binance Chain for interoperability

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Binance Chain, the blockchain from cryptocurrency exchange company Binance, and DAG-based smart contract platform, Fantom, announced today they will be working together to create a multi-asset and cross chain ecosystem.

The Fantom team said it will be supporting a multitude of tokens including the ERC-20 standard, native Fantom token (FTM) standard, along with the BEP-2 token standard on Binance Chain.

“Our reason for choosing Binance Chain as our interoperability partner over any other blockchain is simple, we’re seeing an increasing trend of great projects moving towards Binance Chain, and we want to contribute to the Binance Chain ecosystem so that all these great projects may garner added value from our contributions. Binance and Binance Chain are in a rare position of having the strongest centralized exchange and liquidity on one end, and a very cohesive decentralized ecosystem on the other end, and we believe that there is no better partner for Fantom in its push for greater interoperability within the industry.”

The Fantom Foundation

The collaboration will offer Fantom users a chance to transact and trade FTM while being in custody of their own tokens on Binance DEX.

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Robinhood Opens Trading for 7 Cryptocurrencies in New York

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Robinhood, the popular stock and crypto investing app, has officially launched bitcoin, ethereum, and other cryptocurrency trading in New York.

Silicon Valley-based Robinhood received a BitLicense from the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) in January 2019 and on Thursday opened access to crypto trading in the Empire State.

From the press release:

Currently, you can invest in seven cryptocurrencies on Robinhood Crypto: Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin SV, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, and Dogecoin. You can also track price movements and news for those and 10 additional cryptocurrencies.

New York is unique and problematic for crypto traders because all purveyors must apply for a BitLicense, most notably for companies that are “storing, holding, or maintaining custody or control of virtual currency on behalf of others,” according to NYDFS.

Many crypto startups have avoided the requirements entirely by becoming BitLicense refugees and refusing to do business in the state.

“Here we are two miles from the Statue of Liberty and you cannot sell CryptoKitties in the state without that license. That’s the absurdity of what’s happened here,” ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees complained in 2018 when asked about the controversial license at CoinDesk’s Consensus conference in New York.

Image courtesy of Robinhood

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Generation Bitcoin: 90% of Millennials Prefer Crypto to Gold: ETF Expert

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By CCN: The US investing industry stands on the precipice of a dramatic upheaval that could see bitcoin and other cryptocurrency assets replace gold in investor portfolios.

That’s according to Nate Geraci, president of the ETF Store, an independent investment advisor. He revealed in a Bloomberg TV interview that his millennial clients are clamoring to hold bitcoin in their portfolios – if only the SEC would let them.

Crypto in a Landslide: ETF Expert Says Millennials Plan to Kick Gold to the Curb

Responding to a question from Bloomberg analyst Eric Balchunas about whether he would ever invest client funds in a bitcoin ETF, Geraci stunned his fellow panel members when he said that millennial investors overwhelmingly desire to hold bitcoin instead of traditional hedge assets like gold.

How overwhelming? Ninety percent.

“When we talk to our younger clients – we have a core gold allocation in our portfolios, and they’ll ask about that and say, ‘What about crypto?’ And if you talk to, primarily millennials, and ask them which they prefer, bitcoin or gold, it’s a landslide. It’s not even close, it’s like 90% prefer bitcoin.”

Geraci’s bold claim was more anecdotal than scientific, but there’s plenty of hard data that demonstrates that younger investors are vastly more comfortable with holding cryptocurrency in their portfolios than investors who grew up in the pre-digital era.

In April, a Harris Poll survey found that 18 to 34-year-olds are “very” or “somewhat” likely to purchase bitcoin within the next five years. That might not seem overwhelming, but consider that only 37% of Americans in that demographic currently own stocks.

Similarly, a February eToro survey found that 43% of millennials trust crypto exchanges more than stock exchanges, even though crypto trading platform hacks dominate the mainstream news cycle.

ETF Would Reduce Crypto Investing Risks

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ETF Store President Nate Geraci said that there is rabid demand for a bitcoin ETF, especially among millennials. | Source: Shutterstock

Nate Geraci further pointed to the success of the $1.5 billion Bitcoin Investment Trust (OTC: GBTC) as proof that there is sufficient market demand for a crypto ETF.

He noted that the over-the-counter product regularly trades at a staggering premium to the underlying value of its BTC assets. That’s because GBTC shares fluctuate based on supply and demand, not just the price of bitcoin. An ETF, he said, would flatten that premium and thus reduce investor risk.

“It seems a bit incongruent to me that we have that product out there trading, where investors really could get hurt if they don’t understand that premium, but we don’t have a bitcoin ETF.”

“The demand is there,” he concluded.

SEC Kicks the Bitcoin ETF Can Down the Road

Unfortunately for crypto bulls, millennials aren’t the ones manipulating the levers of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which holds unilateral authority to approve or deny bitcoin ETF applications.

The SEC, as CCN reported, continues to punt on the issue. Last week, the regulatory agency extended its long trend of delaying ruling on cryptocurrency products when it postponed its decision on the VanEck/SolidX Bitcoin ETF to August 19. Most industry insiders expect the SEC to delay the VanEck/SolidX product again, pushing its final ruling until October 18.

Dave Nadig, the managing director of ETF.com, said that he believes the SEC is still in “information gathering mode” but that there is a “reasonable chance” regulators approve the first bitcoin ETF before the end of 2019.

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