Digital asset markets started the week bullish, with Bitcoin as ever, leading the charge as it pushed toward the US$11,000 price point. The rise had halted by midweek and by the end of the week, Bitcoin was struggling, once again, to keep above the four figures mark.
There was big digital asset news from Japan this week as online retail giant Rakuten publicly launched its crypto trading platform. A subsidiary of Rakuten Group, and the operator of its own crypto-asset exchange business, the Rakuten Wallet allows users to spot trade Bitcoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash via its mobile app.
Rakuten says security is a top priority, with all digital assets stored in cold wallets and with extra security measures such as multi-signature access systems and two-step authentication. Rakuten, which is fully regulated in Japan, also operates its own bank which will be closely tied to the exchange to facilitate yen deposits and withdrawals for account holders.
In Singapore, the Association of Cryptocurrency Enterprises and Startups has reportedly developed a digital currency Code of Practice in partnership with multinational law firm Linklaters. The move has the support of the country’s central bank and its regulatory authority, the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
The code of practice provides detailed Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism guidelines in addition to Know Your Customer practices for those operating in the industry. Its purpose is to promote regulatory compliance and to safeguard Singapore’s status as a crypto-friendly nation for blockchain and crypto startups.
In South Korea, local media reports say that increasing numbers of international cryptocurrency exchanges are opening markets outside the country, but in South Korean won, in order to attract a growing number of businesses looking to list their tokens overseas.
The number of South Korean blockchain firms listing their early-stage projects on foreign exchanges is steadily increasing, say the media reports, with some exchanges, such as Malta-based Binance, aggressively accelerating the chase to onboard South Korean crypto projects. The report added that tough regulatory restrictions on local exchanges are the main factor in driving the Korean companies to seek overseas alternatives.
One of the advantages of blockchain is meant to be its enhanced security, but a blockchain-based voting system piloted in Russia has reportedly been hacked, and before its planned launch next month.
A French cybersecurity researcher claims to have found a critical vulnerability in the digital voting platform that Russian officials plan to use for the 2019 Moscow City Duma election. The computer expert cracked the encryption within 20 minutes by “reverse calculating its public keys” to then access supposedly private keys.
Public keys are coded algorithms that convert messages into what are meant to be unreadable formats that, in theory, can only be read by a receiver with a corresponding private key. The researcher, Pierrick Gaudry, who is an academic at Lorraine University and also works for INRIA, the French research institute for digital sciences, said the vulnerability meant any votes made on the system could be revealed as soon as they were cast.
The Moscow Department of Information Technology, that developed the system – that it says is the first of a kind system and works as a “smart contract” on top of a Ethereum-based blockchain platform – says it will fix the encryption vulnerability before the platform goes live.
The People’s Bank of China is nearing the launch of its digital currency. The central bank digital currency (CBDC) is almost ready for the green light, but developers and regulators may have decided to reconsider after reviewing Facebook’s planned Libra cryptocurrency platform.
According to state media, Yang Dong, who is Director of the Research Center of Finance Technology and Cyber Security at Renmin University and is close to the PBoC project, said further testing “is needed before officially launching the Chinese CBDC.” Dong said the digital Yuan gained “inspiration from Libra” but now needed a series of pilot tests that focused on “non-governmental and cross-border scenarios of using the CBDC.”
Just like Facebook-owned Libra, the digital Yuan will be totally centralized and controlled by one single entity, the PBoC, which will be able to track all monetary flows.
Still in China, major flooding and mudslides have impacted Bitcoin mining operations in the mountainous Sichuan province. Sichuan has become the center of operations for a number of Bitcoin mining facilities due to its low-cost hydroelectric power.
Bitcoin miners have flocked to Sichuan over the past two years to take advantage of the cheap power supply and, in the wet season, the area becomes even more attractive to them because of the increased amount of water.
However, many have suffered this week as flooding and landslides have closed down power plants and swept through mining farms. The damage did not affect the overall computing power, or hash rate, on the Bitcoin network however, which still remains close to its all-time high.