CRYPTOCURRENCY

Miami to Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency, MiamiCoin

Miami to Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency, MiamiCoin 2500 1663 M. Laraib

MiamiCoin is the first ever city coin, but what does it do?

It’s just two months since the city hosted Bitcoin Miami and promised to become the Bitcoin (BTC) capital of the world. Now, Miami has snatched the crypto headlines once again as it launches its own digital currency, MiamiCoin (MIA).

Miami will be the first city to have its own coin, which is being created in partnership with a company called CityCoins. Let’s look at how the coin works and see whether (and how) it could benefit the city and investors.

How does it work?

CityCoins has built MiamiCoin using a programmable blockchain called Stacks (STX). Starting August 3, people can mine MIA, a process that generates new coins and supports the network.

The idea is that individuals can use STX to mine MiamiCoin, and 30% of the revenue will go to Miami. The city can use that cash to fund any projects it wishes, including, according to Mayor Francis Suarez, helping the homeless or funding policing initiatives.

MIA owners can lock in the remaining 70% of the money to earn rewards in Stacks and Bitcoin. It is unusual to be able to earn Bitcoin rewards in this way. However, the process of mining, buying MIA, and earning rewards is not entirely clear.

Can you spend it?

You’ll never be able to spend MiamiCoin as a currency in the city. Federal law prohibits cities from creating their own currencies. So the U.S. dollar is the only currency you could ever spend in Miami.

According to CityCoins, the coins will become more useful with time. It says on its website, “CityCoins communities will create apps that use tokens for rewards, local benefits, access control (to digital or physical spaces), trading, lending, smart contract execution, and more.” For example, coins might be used to gain discounts at local businesses.

What is Stacks?

Stacks is an interesting project because it sits on the Bitcoin platform and has smart contract capabilities. It’s a layer-2 solution, so it operates on top of the existing blockchain. Smart contracts are small pieces of code that make a blockchain database programmable. One of the downsides of the Bitcoin ledger is that it can’t store smart contracts, so if the Stacks technology works, it could add a great deal of utility to Bitcoin.

Stacks also says its language (Clarity) is special because it is coded in a language that people can actually read. Plus, investors can earn both BTC and STX by “stacking” their coins. This is the same mechanism that would pay MIA token holders.

Stacks originally erred towards regulatory caution, which backfired somewhat. In 2019, when it launched the STX token, it was the first ever token to be SEC qualified. That SEC approval meant STX was treated as a security that could only be bought and sold with registered stock brokers. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be traded on U.S. cryptocurrency exchanges.

This January, Stacks announced it had completed the process to become a cryptocurrency and that U.S. exchanges could now trade STX. So far, only Okcoin has listed it.

Bottom line

I’ll admit to being cautious about MIA, and not because of its unfortunate acronym. Most crypto investors have a healthy fear of coins that might go missing in action.

My hesitation is twofold: First, I can’t see why Miami has chosen to work with a cryptocurrency that isn’t easy to trade in the U.S. Now, STX has untangled itself from SEC regulations, so in time, the big U.S. exchanges may list it. But that hasn’t happened yet. As a result, if Miami residents want to buy MIA and donate funds to the city, they’ll earn the majority of their crypto rewards in STX. As such, they’ll struggle to trade those coins.

Secondly, it feels like the project has put the cart before the horse. Mining MIA requires a reasonable level of technical knowledge (and a decent quantity of a coin that can’t be easily bought). And you can’t do anything with it yet.

Miami officials should first have worked out how the coin will be used, how ordinary Miami residents can buy it, and how they benefit from mining and staking (or stacking) the coin. Only then would it make sense to launch the cryptocurrency — and not before.

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Bitcoin rises above $40,000

Bitcoin rises above $40,000 924 579 M. Laraib

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin broke above $40,000 on Wednesday and headed for another attempt at breaking from its monthslong range as short sellers bailed out and traders drew confidence from recent positive comments about the cryptocurrency by high-profile investors.

Bitcoin was last up 1.7% at $40,149 while rival cryptocurrency ether rose 1% to $2,328. Bitcoin is within a whisker of rising through its 100-day moving average.

The US government is offering big bucks to track down foreign hackers

The US government is offering big bucks to track down foreign hackers 2560 1443 M. Laraib

Reward will be paid out in cryptocurrency

The US State Department has announced that it is offering up to $10 million for information that can help identify or locate state-sponsored threat actors involved in perpetrating cybercrime, such as ransomware, against critical US infrastructure.

Terming these activities as being in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the reward will be dispensed through the State Department’s Rewards For Justice (RFJ) program. 

A recent spike in extravagant malicious campaigns against critical US infrastructure led the country to treat such incidents as acts of terrorism, and the association with the RFJ program, conceptualized as a national security initiative, is a natural extension.

“Violations of the statute may include transmitting extortion threats as part of ransomware attacks; intentional unauthorized access to a computer or exceeding authorized access and thereby obtaining information from any protected computer; and knowingly causing the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causing damage without authorization to a protected computer,” reads the notice as it lists the acts it deems violate the CFAA.

Thinking like the enemy

To facilitate the flow of information, the RFJ has set up a tips-reporting channel on the dark web, capitalizing on its anonymous nature, same as the threat actors, to help to protect the safety and security of all potential sources.

Furthermore, the State Department informed that it is working with “inter-agency partners” to process the shared information in tips without delay. 

It adds that the reward payments may include payments in cryptocurrency, once again showing its propensity to use the same tools employed by the perpetrators to turn the tables on them.

Over 170 Fake Android Apps Defrauded More Than 93,000 Users Through Crypto Mining Scams

Over 170 Fake Android Apps Defrauded More Than 93,000 Users Through Crypto Mining Scams 1500 1000 M. Laraib

Lookout Threat Lab security researchers discovered over 170 Android apps, including 25 apps in the Google Play store, involved in crypto mining scams.

The apps, categorized as BitScam and CloudScam, defraud users by promising to provide cryptocurrency mining services for a fee without actually providing any services.

They steal users’ money by tricking them into buying premium apps, upgrading subscriptions, or transferring bitcoins to cryptocurrency wallets operated by the fraudsters.

These cryptocurrency scams coincided with increased investments in cryptocurrency. The sector reached a market capitalization of over $2 trillion during the pandemic.

Rogue Android apps exploit legitimate payment processes in crypto mining scams

The apps exploited legitimate payment processes such as Google Pay to receive money stolen in crypto mining scams. They use these channels to steal users’ money by promising services that they do not deliver.

Lookout researchers estimated that fraudsters scammed over 93,000 users approximately $350,000 in crypto mining scams. The amount includes $300,000 in the cost of purchasing the fake scam Android apps and $50,000 for fake upgrades and services.

Unlike other malicious Android apps, crypto mining fake apps do not perform any malicious activity. The lack of malicious payloads allows them to sneak into Google Play Store and other managed app stores. They also easily evade code-based mobile security solutions that scan for malicious apps on mobile phones.

Most fake crypto mining apps circulate on third-party app stores

The researchers found that only 25 apps involved in crypto mining scams are available on the Google Play store. Although Google removed the apps, crypto mining scams would continue to defraud thousands of investors through third-party stores as the primary distribution channels for fake crypto apps.

The scammers would continue receiving money through other payment processes such as Bitcoin transfers.

Multiple scammers set up competing businesses targeting victims using similar tactics

The researchers noted that the apps had similar designs and business models and shared the same codebase. Most of the fake crypto mining Android apps required fake premium upgrades. Some of the Apps involved in crypto mining scams also demanded downloading additional Android apps from the same developer.

The researchers noted that real crypto mining apps would have quality and sophisticated code and transfer data to APIs through secure communication. However, the Android apps involved in crypto mining scams were developed using a framework that does not require programming knowledge.

Additionally, the apps did not communicate with cloud services to perform actual crypto mining. Instead, the cryptocurrency scam apps had fictitious earning activities.

On logging in, users were presented with the available hash mining rate and the coin amount they have “earned.”

The apps also displayed a fictitious coin balance stored in a counter that was slowly incremented. The counter was reset whenever the app crashed or was restarted. In one app, “BTC Cash,” the counter reset to zero without contacting any cloud API after counting from 0 to 10.

“In some of the apps analyzed, we observed this happening only while the app is running in the foreground and is often reset to zero when the mobile device is rebooted or the app restarted,” researchers said.

The fake wallet apps provided a very low fee to trick the users into upgrading for higher rates, faster mining speeds, and lower minimum withdrawal balance.

They also had a minimum withdrawal balance that users must earn to withdraw their money. They frequently reset this balance to prevent users from reaching the minimum balance.

Even if a user reached the minimum balance, they could not successfully transfer the money. The app displayed an error message and reset the amount without transferring money whenever the user initiated the withdrawal process.

BitScam apps tricked users into buying “virtual hardware” through Google Play or Bitcoin transfer to increase the mining speed. The fake hardware cost between $12.99 – $259.99.

While CloudScam apps tricked users into upgrading to a subscription plan with higher mining rates, and low withdrawal balances, the ability to refer friends and receive 20% of their earnings, and daily rewards.

Lookout security researchers advised users to treat apps with a high level of caution by checking users’ reviews and only downloading apps from official stores.

Thousands of Android users scammed by fake cryptomining apps

Thousands of Android users scammed by fake cryptomining apps 1300 883 M. Laraib

Cybersecurity researchers have discovered a major cryptomining scam, perpetrated via hundreds of Android apps

Unraveled by the Lookout Threat Lab, the scam tricked over 86,000 people into thinking they are paying for cloud cryptomining services. 

The researchers argue that the apps, some of which were listed on the Google Play store, weren’t flagged since they don’t actually appear to do anything malicious. 

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“They are simply shells set up to attract users caught up in the cryptocurrency craze and collect money for services that don’t exist. Purchasing goods or services online always requires a certain degree of trust — these scams prove that cryptocurrency is no exception,” said Ioannis Gasparis, a mobile application security researcher at Lookout.

Caveat emptor

In their breakdown of the scam, Lookout notes that all the scam apps can broadly be classified into two distinct app families, namely BitScam and CloudScam. 

The BitScam and CloudScam apps advertise themselves as providing cloud cryptocurrency mining services for a fee. 

The majority of BitScam and CloudScam apps were paid apps, and furthermore also offered paid subscriptions and commercial services related to crypto mining.

After carefully analyzing the apps, the Lookout researchers found that no cloud crypto mining actually takes place, and the scammers simply pocketed the money their victims spent on the apps and paid upgrades, with over $350,000 thought to have been generated.

In all, Lookout identified more than 170 apps. While a majority of these were sideloaded from third-party app stores, 26 were available for download on Google Play, but have now been removed.

Here’s what cryptocurrencies will look like in 50 years according to experts

Here’s what cryptocurrencies will look like in 50 years according to experts 740 416 M. Laraib

We may not know what stocks in the S&P 500 will do next month, or in two years, but over the decades, we have a pretty good hunch that they’ll go up. Most of us also know what a stock is, and that definition hasn’t changed in centuries.

None of that is true, of course, with cryptocurrencies. Some predict the coins will forever change how we understand and interact with money and others warn of a dangerous bubble.

But whatever a person forecasts for cryptocurrencies, it’s getting harder to imagine a future without them.

We asked experts from a variety of fields to describe their vision for the currencies 50 years from now. Their answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.

• Ivory Johnson, certified financial planner and founder of Delancey Wealth Management

“Cryptocurrencies will disrupt traditional finance because one of their most attractive utilities is the ability to efficiently transfer payment across borders with little to no cost, delay or foreign currency fluctuations. With respect to bitcoin, 50 years is a long time and bitcoin could either become the world reserve currency or the next AOL that made a lot of people wealthy until it was unseated by better technology.”

• Frederick Kaufman, author of “The Money Plot: A History of Currency’s Power to Enchant, Control, and Manipulate”

“Way before 2071, the dollar will have more in common with a crypto than with silver or gold, so there is no need to doubt the longevity of encrypted algorithms as stores of value and media of exchange. All money is a form of encryption. It’s been that way from the start, and as our lives converge ever more closely with the digital universe, the drive to invest in tokens will only accelerate. Ironically, that impulse will connect us to primitive instincts, and do its part to keep us human.”

• Dan Egan, vice president of behavioral finance and investing at Betterment

“Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have proven themselves useful for money movement and speculation, and they’re unlikely to go away. But where and how we’ll generate the energy to meet the demand of a growing crypto market is worth considering, as well as whether state-actors who view it as a competitor to fiat power will make it even more of a black-market commodity.”

Bitcoin wallets aren’t addresses — a secret guide for embarrassed crypto noobs

Bitcoin wallets aren’t addresses — a secret guide for embarrassed crypto noobs 1920 1150 wp-admin

Welcome to Hard Fork Basics, a collection of tips, tricks, guides, and advice to keep you up to date in the cryptocurrency and blockchain world.

If you own any cryptocurrency, the chances are you’ve had to use an address, or a wallet, or both. It’s confusing, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

The fact of the matter is that a wallet and an address are not the same thing, but the differences are relatively easy to understand. 

With this in mind, we’ll define what they each are and explain the differences without the unnecessary technical detail. 

An address

When it comes to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, an address is made up of random letters and numbers. 

A Bitcoin address, for example, is usually made up of 26-35 alphanumeric characters and typically begin with the number 1, 3, or bc1. 

All addresses represent a destination on the Bitcoin network. What you really need to know is that, unlike addresses in the real-world, Bitcoin addresses are only meant to be used once. 

Basically, the idea is that for each Bitcoin transaction, users will generate a unique, single-use address to provide to senders.

Hard Fork has previously explained what they are and how they work in a bit more detail here.

A wallet

A wallet comes with an address by default, which is why things can get confusing at times. 

But, although a wallet comes with an address, it’s important to remember that it’s not the same as an address.

A cryptocurrency wallet can consist of a string of different addresses. The fact that it’s called a wallet can be a little misleading because it doesn’t actually hold all your credit cards in the say way that Apple Pay does, for example. 

Instead, a cryptocurrency wallet is more similar to a key ring because it holds a copy of each private key and its corresponding address. If it’s a good wallet, it should also automatically generate fresh Bitcoin addresses with every transaction.

So regardless of whether you own just Bitcoin, or Ethereum, or a host of several different cryptocurrencies, all you need to do is open your wallet to gain access to all the different addresses contained within it.  

As you might expect, there are different ways you can access your cryptocurrency wallet: on a desktop, on a browser, or by using a physical wallet.  Otherwise known as “cold storage,” physical wallets are more secure because they’re offline and less susceptible to hacks.

For more information about choosing your first crypto wallet, check out our handy guide here.