Bitcoin price passes $7K bringing all 100 top coins up with it

Bitcoin is moving up, and it’s taking 99 of its best friends along for the ride. In the last 24 hours, every one of the top 100 coins by market cap was in the green with 84 of them posting gains of over 5 percent. At the time of writing, Bitcoin was sitting at $7,310, up 14 percent in the last 7 days and up almost 10 percent in the last 24 hours.

CoinMarketCap Top 100

Bitcoin itself crossed the $7,000 mark for the first time in the last month, an indication but no sure sign that it might be shaking off a summer slump that’s seen prices plunge below $6,000 on more than one occasion. Bitcoin is quickly moving back toward early June norms around $7,500 though may meet resistance at $7,750. In March, Bitcoin dipped below the $10,000 mark and it’s been unable to mount a rally back above that level in the months since.

screenshot via CoinMarketCap

They may not last, but mid-July’s gains aren’t just a Bitcoin story. Out of the top 100 coins, 24 coins made double digit gains in the last 24 hours, including 0x and Zcash, two coins recently tapped by Coinbase as potential assets that the platform is “exploring.” Big Bitcoin jumps normally lead the charge for altcoin growth, though seeing its peers so uniformly follow suit isn’t something you see every time the most prominent coin’s price shoots up.

So why is the price up? Potentially all of none of these reasons:

As with any price shift, headlines in one part of the world are just a single rumble among the many invisible international seismic signals sending coins up or down on a given day. As one reads the tea leaves, it’s worth remembering that correlation ≠ causation when it comes to big price moves. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the tea.

Disclosure: The author holds a very small position in some cryptocurrencies, mostly because it seemed like a fun idea back in 2013 and then she forgot about it. Regrettably, it is not enough for a Lambo.

Coinbase reportedly gets approval from U.S. regulators to start listing tokenized securities

Coinbase shared big news Monday that federal regulators are allowing the popular cryptocurrency exchange to proceed with plans to sell cryptocurrency tokens that are deemed securities.

Last month, Coinbase acquired Keystone Capital, a California-based FINRA-registered broker-dealer that operates as an alternative trading system. With the announcement, the SF-based cryptocurrency exchange disclosed that it would still need to get regulatory approval to operate under the Keystone licenses.

Today, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority gave Coinbase just that, Bloomberg reported, approving that deal alongside the acquisitions of Venovate Marketplace and Digital Wealth.

Today’s news opens up the scope of Coinbase’s ambitions to the billions of dollars that have been raised in initial coin offerings over the past several months. With permission to trade tokenized securities, Coinbase users could soon have the ability to move beyond the limited cryptocurrency options currently available to be traded on the site’s central exchange which currently just lists Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin.

The company announced last week that it was exploring adding five new tokens to its exchange, including Cardano, Basic Attention Token, Stellar Lumens, Zcash and 0x. In a blog post, the company specified that the announcement did not necessarily deem that these tokens were not securities and that classification might vary by jurisdiction.

0x lets any app be the Craigslist of cryptocurrency

Centralized crypto exchanges like Coinbase are easy but expensive because they introduce a middleman. Not-for-profit project 0x allows any developer to quickly build their own decentralized cryptocurrency exchange and decide their own fees. It acts like Craigslist, connecting traders without ever holding the tokens itself. And instead of having to bootstrap their way to enough users trading tokens on their app alone so that there’s liquidity, 0x offers cross-platform liquidity between users on the different projects it powers.

The problem is the user experience of decentralized apps is often crappy compared to the consumer apps we’re used to across the rest of tech. From sign-in to recovering accounts to conducting transactions, it’s a lot more complicated than Facebook Login, PayPal, or Shopify. Bitcoin and Ethereum prices remain well below half their peaks because it’s difficult to do much with cryptocurrency right now. Until the decentralized infrastructure improves, the dreams of how blockchains can improve the world remain distant.

0x is trying to fix that by ensuring developers all don’t have to reinvent the exchange wheel.

It began as a for-profit exchange before the team recognized the massive usability gap. So instead it became a decentralized exchange protocol, and raised $24 million in an ICO for its ZRX token. That’s how relayers — the apps who use it to build exchanges for ERC20 tokens atop the Ethereum blockchain — can charge fees. It also gives those who collect the most a say in the governance of the protocol.

Some of the top projects on 0x like Augur and Dydx are going strong. Last week Coinbase announced it was exploring whether it might list ZRX and several other currencies for trade on its exchange, helping perk up the price after declines since the new year.

 

0x’s ZRX token price, via CoinMarketCap

Now 0x is putting some of its $24 million to work. It just hired former Facebook designer Chris Kalani to help it improve the usability of its APIs and the products built on top of them. His skills helped Facebook embrace mobile around its 2012 IPO. He then built Wake, raising $3.8 million for the design prototype sharing tool that let teams get instant feedback on their works-in-progress. Kalani sold Wake to design platform InVision in April, and after a few months assisting the transition, he’s joined 0x.

“There are very few designers involved in the [blockchain] space” Kalani tells me. “There’s not a lot of people who had worked on anything at a large-scale or from the consumer perspective. We’re focused on making crypto more approachable.”

Sustaining a crypto not-for-profit

After talking to four leaders in different parts of the blockchain industry, the consensus was that 0x was an elegant protocol for spawning decentralized exchanges. But the question kept coming up about whether the project will be sustainable. The company doesn’t have to earn enormous amounts of revenue, but concerns about its longevity could scare away developers. One, who asked to remain anonymous, described 0x saying, “the best analogy is trying to monetize Linux.”

0x is open source, so it could be forked so developers can sidestep ZRX. 0x hopes that the shared liquidity feature will keep developers in line. It only works with the unforked version, and is now being used by 0x-powered projects, including Radar Relay, ERC dEX, Shark Relay, Bamboo Relay and LedgerDex.

While some centralized exchanges have suffered security troubles and hacks, those with stronger records like Coinbase continue to thrive while banking off high fees. That in turn lets them offer better liquidity and invest more in the user experience, widening the gap versus decentralized apps. “People trust Coinbase with large amounts of capital but they wouldn’t trust themselves,” Kalani admits. But he thinks it’s early in the game, and as users become more knowledgeable and comfortable with holding their own tokens for use on decentralized exchanges, 0x and ZRX will thrive.

There’s also competition within the decentralized exchange space from Kyber’s liquidity network, and AirSwap’s peer-to-peer exchange marketplace. But for any of these to thrive, the mainstream crypto owner will have to get better educated. That could fall to 0x.

One alternative path for the not-for-profit would be selling developer services and consulting to those building on top of it. Or it could always do another ICO. But for now, there are a lot of projects out there that don’t want to foot the upfront cost to build their own secure and compliant exchange from scratch. Kalani concludes, “The way Stripe allowed developers and businesses to build on top of it, and not have to worry about regulatory issues and all the infrastructure necessary to take payments, I think 0x is going to do something similar with exchanges for crypto.”

China busts World Cup gambling ring pulling $1.5 billion in crypto bets

Officials in China have busted a World Cup gambling ring that took in over 10 billion yuan (nearly $1.5 billion) in cryptocurrency bets, reports the South China Morning Post. Six individuals allegedly connected to a dark web-based crime syndicate hav…

Russian hackers used bitcoin to fund election interference, so prepare for FUD

The indictment filed today against 12 Russians accused of, among other things, hacking the DNC and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign also notes that the alleged hackers paid for their nefarious deeds with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This unsavory application of one of tech’s current darlings will almost certainly be wielded against it by opportunists of all stripes.

It is perhaps the most popular and realistic argument against cryptocurrency that it enables anonymous transactions globally and at scale, no exception made for Russian intelligence or ISIS. So the news that a prominent and controversial technology was used to fund state-sponsored cyber attacks will not be passed over by its critics.

You can expect bluster on cable news and some sharp words from lawmakers, who will also probably issue some kind of public denouncement of cryptocurrencies and call for more stringent regulation. It’s only natural: their constituencies will hear that Russians are using bitcoin to hack the election systems and take it at face value. They have to say something.

But this knee-jerk criticism is misguided and hypocritical for several reasons.

First is that it’s not as anonymous and mysterious as critics make out. The details in the indictment actually provide an interesting example (far from the first) of the limits of cryptocurrency’s ability to obscure its users’ activities.

The painstaking research of the special investigator’s team revealed the approximate amounts and methods involved, and although there is a veneer of anonymity in that addresses are not inherently tied to identities, it is far from impossible to establish ownership. Not that they didn’t try, as the indictment shows:

The Defendants conspired to launder the equivalent of more than $95,000 through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

They also enlisted the assistance of one or more third-party exchangers who facilitated layers transactions through digital currency exchange platforms providing heightened anonymity.

But the process of laundering, after all, becomes rather difficult when there is an immutable, peer-maintained record of every penny being pushed around. Small slip-ups in the team’s operational security allowed investigators to tie, for example, an email address used to access a given bitcoin wallet with the one used to pay for a VPN.

[U]sing funds in a bitcoin address, the Conspirators purchased a VPN account, which they later used to log into the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account. The remaining funds from that bitcoin address were then used […] to lease a Malaysian server that hosted the dcleaks.com website.

It’s likely that the very same distributed ledger technology that allows for anonymous international payments in the first place also creates an invaluable investigative tool for those savvy enough to take advantage of it. So although bitcoin has its shady side, it’s far from perfect secrecy, especially when exposed to the privileges of a federal investigative team.

The second reason the criticism will be hollow is that it doesn’t provide much in the way of new capabilities for those who wish to keep secret their activities online.

There are established methods used by nation-states and garden-variety hackers and criminals alike that minimize or eliminate the possibility of tracking. Money laundering is performed at huge volumes worldwide and there are shady banks, loopholes and puppet organizations peppered across the globe.

Cryptocurrencies are convenient for paying for things online because there are a number of vendors (dwindling, but they exist) that accept it straight, or if one is not available it is reasonably liquid and can be shifted easily. I feel sure that our own intelligence services are making good use of it.

On that note is the third reason this FUD will be risible: If we are going to address the problem of dark money influencing politics, using bitcoin for hacking activities doesn’t even amount to a rounding error and it is cynical prestidigitation that makes it appear more than such.

I won’t belabor the point, because it is surely topmost in many an American’s mind that cash funneled through Super PACs and offshore accounts, backroom deals and stock trades, favors for lobbyists and corporate “donators” and 20 other forms of pay-for-play in Washington are more of a clear and present danger than a handful of Russian operatives ineffectually obscuring peanuts payments for hosting fees and bribes.

Perhaps the administration would prefer scripture: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

If anything these indictments are evidence only that cryptocurrency is here to stay, usable by you, or me, or an rival nation-state, or our own — just like any other financial instrument.

Major League Baseball is going crypto

By Daniel Roberts

Later this summer, Major League Baseball digital collectibles are coming to the Ethereum blockchain. Lucid Sight, a blockchain gaming company, is launching MLB Crypto Baseball, through a licensing deal with MLB.

Baseball fans migh…

Opera tests an in-browser cryptocurrency wallet on Android

Opera is embracing the cryptocurrency movement by testing an Ethereum wallet in its Android mobile browser. It makes Opera the first major browser to add a built-in crypto wallet. You can import an existing wallet or create a new one, and it allows y…

Popular crypto service MyEtherWallet hit by attack after Hola VPN gets hacked

MyEtherWallet, one of the internet’s most popular services for managing cryptocurrencies, suffered a serious security breach for the second time this year after a widely-used VPN service was compromised for five hours.

MyEtherWallet (MEW) is used to access crypto wallets and send and receive tokens to/from other wallets. Today, it warned that users of its service who utilize the Hola, a free VPN which plugs into browsers and claims nearly 50 million users, may have been caught up in a malicious attack to steal crypto. Regulars users of MEW were not impacted by the breach.

The company said that Hola was compromised for a period of five hours, during which time any Hola users who navigated to MEW and accessed their wallet with the VPN switched on may have been affected. MEW is recommending anyone who used the site and VPN in the last 24 hours to transfer their tokens to a new wallet… assuming that they still have access to them.

The incident is a good reminder of why it is better to pay for a VPN service rather than use a free one. Back in 2015, Hola was accused of performing DDoS attacks “on demand” surreptitiously for paying clients using the computing power of its users so the writing has been on the wall.

MEW pointed TechCrunch to statements on Twitter when asked for comment on the incident. We contacted Hola for comment but had not heard back from the company at the time of writing.

It isn’t yet clear how many users were hit, but the situation recalls a similar incident in February when MEW was affected by a DNS attack that saw at least $365,000 of crypto stolen from users.

MEW is one of the most popular wallet services on the internet, but other options include MyCryptoa service launched by a former MEW co-founder — and Imtoken, which is run by a China-based company that recently raised $10 million from investors.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.