Cryptocurrency This Week: UPSC Website Hacked For Cryptojacking, Google Bans Bitcoin Ads And More
At a time when Bitcoin is less up more down, Google announced plans to ban cryptocurrency-related ads, Indian banks including HDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra, Citibank and some other banks have suspended trading accounts of Bitcoin exchanges. HDFC and Citibank have even stopped their cards from being used for Bitcoin purchases. The question, therefore, remains, has the Bitcoin bubble burst in India?
It has been a decade since the peer-to-peer electronic payments system in the form of cryptocurrencies was developed by Satoshi Nakamoto. However, amid huge popularity of Bitcoin across the world, awareness and understanding of how the technology works among the common people has not increased significantly, as one of the top comedians of Hollywood, John Oliver , in his show Last Week Tonight tried to explain Bitcoin with the same old question 'What, how and why', and failed miserably in that bit.
The world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency is full of humour; one just needs to cross the first chapter of who, what and why. John Oliver's ex-boss Jon Stewart in his show The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, while covering the fall of Mt. Gox, did it three years back.
Let's take a look at the recent developments from the world of Cryptocurrency!
Google To Ban Cryptocurrency-Related Ads Including ICOs
After Facebook announced to ban cryptocurrency related ads earlier this year, the global search engine giant Google is now set to ban all cryptocurrency-related ads including ICOs.
The $809 Bn company (Alphabet) has brought a new restricted financial products policy that will go into effect from June 2018 onwards.
While the last Financial Services Policy of Google had nowhere mentioned Bitcoin, cryptocurrency or any other related topics; however, the newly released restricted financial products policy restricts the advertisement of Contracts for Difference, rolling spot forex and financial spread betting and cryptocurrency-related product ads.
Google stated, ads for the following will no longer be allowed to serve:
Speaking to CNBC, Scott Spencer, Director of Sustainable Ads, Google stated, "We don't have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we've seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it's an area that we want to approach with extreme caution."
HDFC Bank Bars People Trading Bitcoin And Other Cryptocurrencies With Its Cards
After SBI Bank issued a warning against using SBI credit cards for trading cryptocurrencies, one of the leading private banks of India, HDFC Bank has stated that its credit, debit and prepaid cards will not be permitted for the purchase/trade of Bitcoins, cryptocurrencies, and virtual currencies.
Worldwide, a number of banks including Lloyds, Capital One, BofA, Citibank and JP Morgan have already barred their customers from purchasing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with their cards.
As HDFC bank holds 52% share of the Indian credit cards customer base, the decision is bound to affect Indian cryptocurrency users.
On December 28, last year, Inc42 had reported that cryptocurrency exchanges were facing transaction issues from their banks. The transactions were getting delayed by a day or more, particularly when words like cryptocurrency, Bitcoin or any such words were entered in the remarks space.
In a notification sent to all HDFC bank users, citing the RBI's warnings, the bank stated that to ensure its customer's security, the bank has decided to not permit usage of HDFC Bank credit, debit and prepaid cards towards purchase or trading of such Bitcoins, cryptocurrencies and virtual currencies, on merchants suspected to be dealing in cryptocurrency or online foreign exchange trading or both.
Hackers Are Now Using UPSC Website For Cryptojacking
Some anonymous hackers are now using in-browser crypto-jacking on India's leading public services commission UPSC website for Monero mining.
A US-based security researcher Troy Mursch shared the screenshot showing Coinhive on the website of Union Public Service Commission (India) - http://www.upsc.gov.in.
He tweeted, "This is an interesting case of cryptojacking as it's injecting the short URL form of Coinhive (cnhv[.]co) via the code shown in the screenshot. It appears the script injects Coinhive in the first iframe (https://cnhv[.]co/1wzlq) and then waits until the user is idle for 10 seconds before invoking the second iframe (https://cnhv[.]co/1vrzj)."
The cryptocurrency mining crime is growing fast. After it was reported that Russian Supercomputers placed at nuclear sites were hacked by none other than their own nuclear scientists to mine Bitcoins, some 600 powerful computers in Iceland that were originally used to mine Bitcoin have been stolen for reportedly the same purpose.
Last month hackers had hacked Tesla Kubernetes console to mine cryptocurrencies. The details pertaining to mining software and more have not come out yet, as the attackers hid the true IP address of the mining pool server behind CloudFlare, a free content delivery network (CDN) service.
France Blacklists 15 Cryptocurrency Websites
The French stock market regulator, the Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF) has announced to blacklist 15 cryptocurrency websites which according to its press statement violated the "Sapin II" law which deals with transparency, corruption and the modernisation of economic life, introducing a change in the system of intermediation in miscellaneous assets.
According to the AMF, "The investment proposals highlighting the possibility of a financial return or a similar economic effect involve intermediation in miscellaneous assets and are now subject to ex ante control by the AMF. Consequently, no offer can be directly marketed in France on without prior allocation by the AMF of a registration number."
As per Politico, France has always been wary of the risk involved in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is among the most vocal advocates for regulation. Paris wanted to "avoid the risks of speculation or possible financial traffics linked to bitcoin."
Francois Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Bank of France has even said, "Bitcoin is a speculative asset and people who invest in it do so at their own risk"
Speaking at a conference in China, Villeroy had then stated, "We need to be clear: Bitcoin is in no way a currency or even a cryptocurrency. It is a speculative asset. Its value and extreme volatility have no economic basis, and they are nobody's responsibility. The Bank of France reminds those investing in bitcoin that they do so entirely at their own risk."
Coinbase Receives Its E-money License In The UK
In a major development, San-Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has been granted an e-money license by the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Announcing the same, Zeeshan Feroz, CEO, Coinbase-UK said, "Our e-money license will extend beyond the UK to 23 countries within the EU. We believe that this is an important step towards our commitment to making cryptocurrency accessible to everyone."
Zeeshan also announced that Coinbase will be the first crypto-exchange to support the UK's Faster Payments Scheme.
On supporting faster payments scheme, he stated, "Coinbase will add support for the UK's Faster Payments Scheme (FPS). By replacing SEPA for UK customers, Faster Payments will offer a familiar payment experience and is supported by all major UK banks."
"UK customers will benefit from faster, safer and seamless bank transfers. We will start with a pilot, giving a small number of institutional users access to Faster Payments. In the coming weeks, we will begin rolling out to all UK customers, making the Coinbase experience increasingly easier," he added.
After extending some warmth to Bitcoin, it appears banking systems world over are now shying away from cryptocurrency usage. While everyone is literally awed by the underlying technology blockchain, they seem to be awfully unsure about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Is it because the major stakeholders - developers, bankers/economists and policymakers - are not on the same page?