California Judge Orders Accused Hacker to Pay Bail in Crypto

A Serbian and Italian national has been ordered to pay bail in cryptocurrency while he faces charges that he hacked the computer network of a San Francisco game company.

According to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office, an FBI investigation found that an individual, later alleged to be Martin Marsich, had illegally breached the gaming firm’s network, gaining access to around 25,000 accounts through which users could buy in-game items.

As well as allegedly using stolen information to buy and sell in-game items, Marsich is also accused of selling access to the accounts on dark market websites, in total causing claimed losses of $324,000 to the company. The firm apparently closed the affected accounts after the intrusion was discovered, the report says.

The accused made an initial appearance at a federal court in San Francisco on Aug. 9, after reportedly being arrested at San Francisco International Airport while trying to board a flight to Serbia.

At the hearing, Magistrate Judge Corley said Marsich could be released to a halfway house on the condition that he hands over bail of cryptocurrency to the value of $750,000.

According to a report from The Daily Post, Assistant District Attorney Abraham Simmons said it was likely not the first time cryptocurrency had been allowed to be put up for bail, since judges can accept other assets such as real estate.

Simmons was quoted as saying:

“It really is quite broad. The judge could order just about anything. What the objective is is to get the defendant to comply with an order to appear later.”

Marsich faces a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 if found guilty, the Attorney’s Office says.

Ripple Partners with Three Crypto Exchanges as Part of XRapid Solution.

Ripple has added three cryptocurrency exchanges to its cross-border payments settlement product, according to a press release published August 16.

Ripple has partnered with U.S.-based Bittrex, Mexican Bitso, and Philippine Coins.Ph cryptocurrency trading platforms within its initiative to build a “healthy” ecosystem of digital asset exchange.

The new partners will enable Ripple’s xRapid payments solution to move between XRP and U.S. dollars, Mexican pesos, and Philippine pesos respectively. Ripple explained the operational principle like this:

A financial institution (FI) that has an account with Bittrex would initiate a payment in U.S. dollars via xRapid, which instantly converts into XRP on Bittrex. The payment amount in XRP is settled over the XRP Ledger, and then Bitso, through its Mexican peso liquidity pool, instantly converts the XRP into fiat, which is then settled into the destination bank account.”

XRapid is a liquidity solution for Ripple’s blockchain-based real-time gross settlement system, which is developed to facilitate international fiat transfers between financial institutions. Ripple Chief Market Strategist Cory Johnson said:

We’ve seen several successful xRapid pilots already, and as we move the product from beta to production later this year, these exchange partners will allow us to provide financial institutions with the comfort and assurance that their payments will move seamlessly between different currencies.”

In May, financial institutions who participated in the pilot of xRapid platform, which tested payments between the U.S. and Mexico, reported transaction savings of 40-70 percent. Additionally, the participants noted an improvement in transaction speed from 2-3 days to “just over two minutes.”

Although the testing showed solid product performance, Ripple chief cryptographer David Schwartz claimed that banks are unlikely to deploy blockchain to process international payments, citing low scalability and privacy problems.

BCG Report Offers ‘Reality Check’ for Blockchain in Commodities Trading.

Major U.S. consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has released an in-depth report August 16, which it dubs a “reality check” for the use of blockchain in the commodity trading industry.

For commodities trading, BCG argues that there is a strong argument for using blockchain, while taking stock of “significant drawbacks on several fronts.” The report tackles both the “hype,” but also many of the negative “misperceptions” that distort people’s view of the technology.

According to BCG, blockchain at first glance appears to be “a natural fit for the commodity business.”

Its power to immutably and transparently record complicated transactions and track goods could both significantly reduce physical delivery risks and improve trust, standardization and efficiency — particularly for complex, multi-counterparty transactions, the BCG report notes.

Blockchain could also benefit regulatory oversight, removing the need for manually submitted compliance reports and allowing regulators to use “the more accurate, timely, and granular information in the ledger [in order] to make… more effective interventions.”

Nonetheless, BCG notes that while greater transparency “would lead to fairer prices… it could also be “bad news,” for some, in particular those traders whose profits “rely on pricing inefficiencies to make money.”

BCG also takes stock of the real-world hurdles that could stand in the way of mass adoption according to co-author Antti Belt:

People have spent millions, sometimes over $100 million, on [an] IT system; do they want to do it again?”

BCG then tackles several misperceptions that it believes people transpose from the cryptocurrency space onto the underlying technology itself. These include the power-hungry nature of the technology, which it notes mainly applies to public blockchains that rely on compute-intensive consensus algorithms such as proof-of-work (PoW) to achieve security.

Permissioned blockchains — those that would be used for commodities trading — by contrast  “entail greater trust between participants,” so that verifying transactions would be faster, less expensive and less power-hungry.

BCG also punctures perceptions of “complexity shortcomings” relating to blockchain applications, arguing instead that:

The technology allows multiple ledgers—for assets, cash positions, and securities—to interface with one another. This can result in a degree of data transparency and enrichment across value chains that would be impossible to achieve otherwise.”

UK Crypto Futures Exchange Adds Bitcoin Cash Contract.

Crypto Facilities, the U.K-based crypto futures exchange and CME Group partner is adding a bitcoin cash product to its offerings.

The firm announced Friday that it was launching the contract on its platform, which is regulated by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority. Trading of the bitcoin cash future will begin at 4 p.m. British Standard Time (BST).

The contract joins the company’s existing bitcoin, ethereum, XRP and litecoin futures contracts. Investors can take long or short positions on bitcoin cash, “allowing them to broaden investment opportunities and hedge risk more effectively,” according to the company.

Crypto Facilities CEO Timo Schlaefer told CoinDesk that “bitcoin cash is a top-five cryptocurrency by market cap so it was a logical next step to add BCH to our BTC, ETH, XRP and LTC futures offering.”

Schlaefer predicted that the offering would be popular with its customers, based on past interest in its other crypto futures, going on to say:

“We have seen volumes as high as $180 million in a 24-hour period and have average daily volumes ranging from $20–60 million notional per day. We expect BCH to be as successful as our BTC, XRP, ETH and LTC futures that all trade in significant volume.”

“Since 2015 we have seen a steady increase in volume in the cryptocurrency derivatives space, with the past year seeing the highest growth so far,” he added.

While Crypto Facilities does not have a U.S. branch, the firm partnered with CME Group to launch the latter firm’s bitcoin futures contract last December.

To that end, Crypto Facilities powers two bitcoin price indexes – the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate and CME CF Bitcoin Real Time Index – that underpin CME Group’s futures product.

Summer’s Cryptocurrency Fraud Costs £2 Million in Losses.

The UK’s national policing lead for fraud has revealed figures wherein victims have reported 203 instances of cryptocurrency fraud totaling a little over £2 million ($2.54 million) in losses.

In an announcement published this on August 10, Action Fraud – the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting center – warned the public of fraudsters pushing ‘get rich quick’ investment schemes related to mining and trading in cryptocurrencies.

Scammers are targeting victims via social media platforms and even cold calling with the lure of heightened rewards, the authority said. Victims are then persuaded into opening a trading account at these ‘cryptocurrency investment websites’ by revealing their personal information including their credit card details.

After an initial minimum deposit into the trading account, victims are advised to ‘invest’ further for additional profits. In some cases, victims who realize they’ve been duped are out of luck since they discover the fraud ‘only after the website has been deactivated and the suspects can no longer be contacted,’ the authority added.

A department within the City of London Police, the authority received 203 reports of crypto-related fraud between June 1 and July 31 this year, with total reported losses of £2,059,501.29.

It’s vital for anyone who invests or is thinking of investing in cryptocurrencies to thoroughly research the company they are choosing to invest with. The statistics show that opportunistic fraudsters are taking advantage of this market, offering investments in cryptocurrencies and using every trick in the book to defraud unsuspecting victims.

The surge of cryptocurrencies’ popularity in the mainstream has led to a spike in fraud, the police department said, revealing it had begun a one-day crash course on cryptocurrencies for investigating police officers – a UK first for police training.

Developed by the City of London Police’s Economic Crime Academy (ECA) and experts from the London Police’s Economic Crime Directorate, the quick course is ‘designed to give officers the skills and knowledge to recognize and manage cryptocurrencies in their investigations,’ police added.