Thursday, December 3, 2020

Visa partners to launch USDC payments

Visa partners to launch USDC payments
Image for Visa earnings report

A major card payment service Visa announced its partnership with CENTER to offer USDC linked payments. The company wants to link its payment network of 60 million merchants worldwide to the USDT stablecoin.

The stablecoin was developed by Visa’s partnering company Center, a consortium launched by Coinbase and Circle. The move, according to analysts, could significantly reduce the entry barrier for the use of stablecoin.

The USDT can be easily stored in unhosted wallets and is issued on the public Ethereum blockchain.

Users can send and receive USDC payments after launch

The report reveals that Visa will soon issue credit cards that allow users to use their credit cards to send and receive USDC payments directly. However, the firm noted that it will be possible only Circle completes Visa’s Fast Track program next year.

Visa’s head of crypto Cuy Sheffield has commented on the development on Twitter. He said when the card is incorporated, it will be the first to enable transactions through USDC balance.

 “This will be the first, corporate card that will allow businesses to be able to spend a balance of USDC,” he stated.

The partnership allows card issuers to integrate the USDC software

Although Visa will not be a custodian of any USDC, the agreement means Circle will partner with Visa to enable credit card issuers to incorporate the USDC software into their platforms.

Circle spokesperson Josh Hawkins also commented on the development via email, saying both firms are looking at a possible launch by next year.

The firms will be developing a corporate card that would enable the cardholders to spend USDT at merchants and vendors that have the Visa logo. According to the announcement, all vendors who accept Visa cards will also accept the USDC transactions once the project is launched next year.

One of the rules of the card payment company in the United States is that cards should be issued by banks, which means Circle will have to partner with banks to launch the product. However, the rules in other countries allow non-banks to issue Visa cards. Hawkings did not disclose any further details about the arrangement.

Already, over 20 wallet providers have signed up for the Fast Track plan of the card provider, which has set the stage for the car provider’s USDC project.

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Waves calls upon blockchain developers to apply for grants

Waves calls upon blockchain developers to apply for grants
Waves grant applications

The Waves Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to the mass adoption of Web 3.0, has invited developers to apply for the first batch of grants under the Waves Grant program. The organization made this invitation on December 1 through a blog post. Reportedly, the program will let developers propose solutions to be integrated into the Waves ecosystem as well as bid for a total of 250,000 WAVES.

According to the blog post, the association will issue grants in the Web 3.0 Development Grant category, which seeks to incentivize developers to build products on the Waves protocol. In so doing, the non-profit hopes to address specific problems and encourage the mass adoption of blockchain-based solutions, with a key focus on inter-chain communications.

The publication went on to note that the Waves Association would accept grant applications starting December 1 up to February 1. The association promised to process all the requests promptly, adding that if its members deem an application valuable, it would issue the developer behind it a grant before the application deadline. Allegedly, the non-profit will determine the specific amount of each grant on a case-by-case basis, with the maximum amount of funds in a grant being 100,000 WAVES.

More application calls are yet to come

Per the organization, this is just the first batch of grants. Therefore, there will be more application calls in the same category at a later date. Through the next batches of grants, the association seeks to distribute grants totalling 1 million WAVES between 2020 and 2021. All grant decisions will be made via DAO, a community-powered tool that allows Waves Association members to announce grants and select eligible recipients.

The Waves Association went on to note that it encourages developers to propose solutions under the Web 3.0 Development Grants category. While the program appeals to developers to come up with solutions for specific use cases, it also welcomes ideas related to other aspects of blockchain technology. To check how their applications have turned out, developers will have to visit the Waves Association’s website.

This news comes after the Waves Association rolled out the Waves Grant program in October this year, targeting individuals blockchain developers, teams, and startups that can implement ideas that serve the interests of the Waves ecosystem.

At the program’s launch, Sasha Ivanov, president of the Waves Association subtly criticized some of the interoperability solutions in the market, saying,

“Waves Association aims to support independent developers working on interoperability solutions — especially those thinking outside the box. Solving interoperability by adding a dedicated blockchain and native token as an additional layer would only lead to more complexity, undercutting the potential of the proposed solution.”

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Ukraine’s draft bill on crypto passes the first parliamentary hearing

Ukraine’s draft bill on crypto passes the first parliamentary hearing
Ukraine draft bill on crypto

Ukraine’s efforts toward crypto regulation have seen its draft bill on crypto have a successful first hearing in the Verkhovna Rada, the nation’s parliament. A report unveiled this news on December 2, noting that the country’s lawmakers discussed and greenlighted the idea. Per the publication, the draft bill on virtual assets now has two more hearings before it becomes a law. If this happens, the country will join the short list of countries that have already implemented crypto regulations.

According to the report, the bill’s approval during the parliamentary hearing was not a smooth process. Some legislators lamented spending time on formulating virtual asset laws, whereas there are more important issues affecting the Ukrainian economy. Nonetheless, the bill received 229 yes votes out of 340, passing the first stage of the legislative process.

Reportedly, the bill defines cryptocurrencies as a set of data in electronic form. Per the bill, cryptocurrencies can be an independent object of civil transactions. Also, the bill details that virtual assets can certify property or non-property rights. However, the bill suggests that all digital assets should not be used as legal tender in Ukraine. The draft went on to focus on digital assets backed by goods or services, recommending that they have to be removed from the market once their backing stops existing.

Rules on crypto regulation

The draft defines the owner of virtual currencies as the entity holding them unless when stored by a custodian, forfeited by a court decision, or acquired illegally.

Ukraine’s Ministry of the Digital Transformation would be responsible for regulating cryptocurrencies if the bill passes into law. Under the proposed regulations, crypto service providers must register with the authority before launching operations in the country. Additionally, the firms must provide information regarding the ownership structure and beneficiaries. On top of this, they must ensure they don’t facilitate money laundering and that they protect user data diligently.

According to the Ministry of the Digital Transformation, deploying a clear regulatory framework would foster the growth of crypto businesses in Ukraine. The ministry drafted the bill alongside the country’s crypto community, although some of the members are opposed to the idea of crypto regulation.

Despite attempting to make positive changes regarding crypto regulation, Ukraine is still disadvantaged when it comes to global trading platforms. For instance, Bittrex, a renowned crypto exchange stopped offering its services to Ukrainians in September. While the exchange did not give any specific reasons for halting its services, it claimed that the regulatory environment in the country at the time was not suitable.

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KnowSeafood implements VeChain ToolChain to boost transparency

KnowSeafood implements VeChain ToolChain to boost transparency
KnowSeafood VeChain ToolChain

KnowSeafood, an online seafood marketplace has implemented StoryBird, a VeChain ToolChain-powered transparency application developed by Producers Market. VeChain unveiled this news through a blog post on December 1, noting that KnowSeafood made this move to facilitate the reliable supply of fresh seafood in the US. Through StoryBird, KnowSeafood will reportedly let its customers trace their seafood transparently from the time of capture to their plates.

Per the blog post, KnowSeafood chose VeChain ToolChain to help boost its strategy of directly connecting farming with consumers to using the blockchain. On top of this, the company seeks to curb seafood fraud and supply chain shakeups through blockchain technology.

Securing and enabling food safety through VeChain ToolChain

Reportedly, the VeChain ToolChain allows platforms to deploy blockchain technology with the fastest lead times as compared to other platforms in the industry. By leveraging the intuitive templates integrated into VeChain ToolChain, local seafood farmers will be able to seamlessly upload harvesting, processing, and shipping information onto the VeChainThor blockchain. The blockchain network will then integrate with the StoryBird data visibility module. The application then presents the data publicly for the end-users to verify product origin and trace logistics of delivery.

By deploying blockchain technology, the organization will be able to fill the gaps between all stakeholders in the trade. Through this implementation, KnowSeafood’s platform will begin tracing multiple seafood categories on VeChain ToolChain starting Q4 2020. These species include Norwegian Salmon, North Atlantic Haddock, Peruvian Mahi-Mahi, New England Sea Scallops, Maine Lobster, among others.

Per Daniel McQuade, KnowSeafood’s founder and CEO,

“Our groundbreaking experience working with blockchain has proven to us how powerful a solution it is to traceability and sustainability. The American consumer is demanding the kind of transparency and provenance that blockchain technology delivers. In working with VeChain and the Storybird application, we are bringing our customers the best technology in the market to have immutable trust in seafood from our KnowSeafood online marketplace.”

A unique opportunity for VeChain

According to research, US citizens spend more than £76.6 billion on seafood annually. However, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) finds that about 80-90% of Americans still fail to meet the recommended level of seafood consumption. Per USDA, this is mainly due to the mislabeling of imported products and unfamiliarity with preparation methods.

To help improve this situation, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published guidelines and advice for US consumers regarding the purchase of safe seafood. The publication advised customers to look for the label containing information on where the fish was harvested, processed, and certified. As such, the agency compelled producers to find ways to improve transparency. This creates a unique opportunity for VeChain ToolChain to help more producers become transparent.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Nation-state hacker group uses mining techniques to stay hidden

Nation-state hacker group uses mining techniques to stay hidden
monero miners

BISMUTH, a nation-state threat actor, is taking advantage of crypto mining techniques to disguise its attacks, according to the Microsoft 365 Defender Threat Intelligence team. The team unveiled this news through a report on November 30, noting that the hacker group is now releasing crypto-mining malware alongside its regular cyberespionage toolkits.

According to the report, BISMUTH has been running sophisticated cyberespionage attacks since 2012, leveraging both custom and open-source tools. The group has reportedly been targeting large multinational corporations, governments financial services, educational institutions, and human and civil rights organizations. However, BISMUTH’s most-recent attacks have taken on a new shape, according to the Microsoft threat intelligence team. For instance, the team highlighted the group’s July to August 2020 attacks, noting that the group launched monero (XMR) miners, targeting both private and government institutions in France and Vietnam.

Explaining how BISMUTH managed to carry out these attacks, the Microsoft 365 Defender Threat Intelligence team said,

“Cryptocurrency miners are typically associated with cybercriminal operations, not sophisticated nation state actor activity. They are not the most sophisticated type of threats, which also means that they are not among the most critical security issues that defenders address with urgency.”

As such, the group took advantage of the low-priority alerts of crypto miners to try to establish its persistence while flying under the radar.

Blending in to create trust with targets

According to the Microsoft 365 Defender Threat Intelligence team, BISMUTH’s operational goal of establishing continuous monitoring and extracting useful data when it surfaces remained unchanged. However, the use of XMR miners opened a gateway for other attackers to monetize compromised networks. The team admitted that the use of crypto miners was unexpected. Nonetheless, the team was quick to add that the move was consistent with the group’s method of blending in.

The threat intelligence team went to note that,

“This pattern of blending in is particularly evident in these recent attacks, starting from the initial access stage: spear-phishing emails that were specially crafted for one specific recipient per target organization and showed signs of prior reconnaissance. In some instances, the group even corresponded with the targets, building even more believability to convince targets to open the malicious attachment and start the infection chain.”

Per the report, the use of crypto miners allowed BISMUTH to hide more harmful activities behind threats that many systems passed off as commodity malware. The publication went on to advise that when dealing with commodity banking Trojans that bring-in human-operated ransomware, network operators should treat malware infections with urgency as they can indicate the onset of more sophisticated attacks.

Effective means of curbing such attacks

Outlining some of the ways that organizations can build up resilience against such attacks, the report noted that networks should educate their end-users about shielding their personal and business information on social media. The report also recommended that users should configure Office 365 email filtering settings, turn on surface reduction rules, disallow macros or only allow macros from known locations, and check perimeter firewall and proxy settings to restrict servers from making arbitrary connections to the internet.

On top of this, the publication suggested that users should enforce strong, randomized administrator passwords, use multi-factor authentication, and avoid the use of domain-wide, admin level service accounts.

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Visa and BlockFi set to launch a credit card to reward users with BTC

Visa and BlockFi set to launch a credit card to reward users with BTC
visa btc rewards

Visa Inc., a leading financial services company, has teamed up with BlockFi, a New York-based crypto startup, to launch a credit card that rewards users with bitcoin (BTC) instead of airline cash or cash. A report unveiled this news on December 1, noting that users of the new card will get 1.5% of all their purchases back in BTC. On top of this, the card will offer the users £187 if they spend more than £2,246 within the first three months of getting the card.

According to the report, the Bitcoin Rewards credit card has an annual fee of £149.7. Allegedly, Evolve Bank & Trust will be responsible for the card’s issuance

Commenting on the upcoming launch of the card, Zac Prince, BlockFi’s founder and CEO said,

“We’re excited to add credit cards to our suite of products and expand Bitcoin’s accessibility to a broader set of consumers.”

The companies hope to roll out the card to the general public in early 2021. However, BlockFi account holders will be able to sign up before the official launch. Reportedly, BlockFi’s collaboration with Visa is part of the financial services giant’s Fintech Fast Track program. This initiative seeks to expedite the process of integrating with Visa, allowing nimble startups to leverage the reach, capabilities, and security of VisaNet, the company’s global payment network. In so doing, Visa aims to help FinTech startups become scalable quickly.

Visa’s evolving stance on crypto

This news comes as Visa continues underpinning the mainstream adoption of BTC. However, the firm has not always been pro-crypto. In 2018, Visa got into a public fight with Coinbase exchange over issues related to the exchange’s users making crypto purchases with its cards. Nonetheless, both firms ironed out the issues and entered into a deal that saw them launch the Coinbase card, which allows users to spend crypto through the visa-backed debit card.

Since then, the company has displayed great interest in the crypto sector. Earlier this year, the company joined hands with Fold, a crypto startup to offer a debit card that earns crypto-based rewards. At the time, Fold’s CEO, Will Reeves said that the card would be a game-changer as it would let its users accumulate BTC in a simple and smart way as compared to creating a virtual wallet on a crypto asset. Through this project, Visa helped boost BTC’s adoption, seeing as the card is usable on a plethora of renowned retailers, including Amazon and Starbucks.

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