Australian Startup to Offer 20% Payback on Fuel Purchases in Tokens

Australian startup Incent plans to offer a 20% payback in its INCNT token on fuel purchases at United Petrol stations for a limited time.

Incent announced in a press release published on Sept. 26 that participants will have to sign up on its platform and sync their bank accounts in order to receive the tokens.

The firm also claims that the crypto asset in question is “Australia’s first cryptocurrency for all purchases at United Petrol stations.”

A substitute for point-based loyalty programs

United Petrol reportedly owns over 450 stations across Australia. Per the press release, the system’s advantage over classical company-emitted points is that those tokens cannot be devalued or discontinued by the company and that there are no plastic cards or friction. Incent CEO Rob Wilson explained:

“Giving consumers something of real value rather than points that can expire or only be redeemed under strict conditions is one of Incent’s key differences. […] But it’s also what goes on under the bonnet that makes it truly compelling. Once a user has synced their bank account, rewards are issued automatically. […] Consumers can literally save as they spend, seamlessly.”

Lastly, the author of the release explains that any customer who signed up for the service and synced their bank account will automatically receive 20% of their fuel purchase price at United Petrol back into their Incent account as token rewards.

As Cointelegraph recently reported, 63% of American consumers perceive blockchain tokens to be an easy form of payment.





Bitmain to Launch Platform for Connecting Miners and Farms

Chinese crypto mining hardware giant Bitmain will launch a platform connecting global crypto miners with farm owners in October.

World’s first resource to connect farms and miners

The platform, dubbed World Digital Mining Map (WDMM), will be officially launched during the World Digital Mining Summit (WDMS) taking place in Frankfurt between Oct. 8 and Oct. 10, Bitmain announced in a blog post on Sept. 27.

According to the announcement, the WDMM will be the first global network to connect mining hardware owners with mining farms who will provide the available power resources to host them for a fee. In turn, network members will get access to a number of personalized services from Bitmain, including assistance with mining farm design, connections to foreign clients to host, and support with operations, purchasing, and construction.

Listing applications during WDMS

In order to apply to be listed on the WDMM, mining farm owners will need to provide data on their current mining facilities and capacity to host other miners. Mining farm owners will be able to apply for listing on the WDMM during the WDMS event, the post notes.

Matthew Wang, Director of Mining Farm of Bitmain, stated that the WDMM will help make crypto mining more sustainable in the long term by providing a whole new way for connecting mining farms and hardware owners. Wang outlined the Bitmain’s commitment to leverage on-going support to miners throughout their hardware’s lifetime and to support the overall progress in the industry.

Top 10 mining farms

Additionally, Bitmain also plans to announce the winners of the world’s top 10 mining farms during the WDMS. According to the project’s website, winners will receive official certification and VIP tickets for the WDMS. According to the report, voting for the Top 10 Mining Farms is still open.

On Sept. 9, Bitmain launched two new Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) miners, the S17e and the T17e. According to the specifications, The S17e model has a hash rate of 64 TH/s and operates with a power efficiency of 45 J/TH, while the T17e offers a hash rate of 53 TH/s and a power efficiency of 55 J/TH.





Stealthy no more? A German radar vendor says it tracked the F-35 jet in 2018 — from a pony farm

COLOGNE, Germany — In the illustrious history of the F-35 fighter jet, add a pony farm outside Berlin as the place where one company claims the plane’s stealth cover was blown.

The story that follows is a snapshot in the cat-and-mouse game between combat aircraft — designed to be undetectable by radar — and sensor makers seeking to undo that advantage. In the case of the F-35, the promise of invisibility to radar is so pronounced that it has colored much of the jet’s employment doctrine, lending an air of invincibility to the weapon: The enemy never saw it coming.

But technology leaps only last so long, and Russia and China are known to be working on technology aimed at nixing whatever leg up NATO countries have tried to build for themselves.

Now, German radar-maker Hensoldt claims to have tracked two F-35s for 150 kilometers following the 2018 Berlin Air Show in Germany in late April of that year. The company’s passive radar system, named TwInvis, is but one of an emerging generation of sensors and processors so sensitive and powerful that it promises to find previously undetectable activities in a given airspace.

What happened in Berlin was the rare chance to subject the aircraft — stealthy design features, special coating and all — to a real-life trial to see if the promise of low observability still holds true.

Stories about the F-35-vs.-TwInvis matchup had been swirling in the media since Hensoldt set up shop on the tarmac at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport, its sensor calibrated to track all flying demonstrations by the various aircraft on the flight line. Media reports had billed the system, which comes packed into a van or SUV and boasts a collapsible antenna, as a potential game changer in aerial defense.

Air situation picture provided by Hensoldt’s passive radar tracking system, which covers the airspace of southern Germany. (Hensoldt)

At the same time, F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin was still in the race to replace the German Tornado fleet, a strategically important opportunity to sell F-35s to a key European Union member state. The company set up a sizable chalet at the air show, bringing brochures and hats depicting the aircraft together with a German flag.

Showtime in Schönefeld

The most convincing pieces of marketing for Hensoldt were meant to be two F-35s flown in from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The trans-Atlantic journey marked the jets’ longest nonstop flight, at 11-plus hours, officials said at the time.

But Lockheed and the U.S. Air Force did not fly the jets during the show so that its engineers — and anyone walking by the company’s booth, for that matter — could see if the aircraft would produce a radar track on a big screen like the other aircraft.

Reporters never got a straight answer on why the F-35s stayed on the ground. One explanation was that there was no approved aerial demonstration program for the aircraft that would fit the Berlin show’s airspace limitations.

Regardless of the reason, with no flight by the F-35, companies could not try out their technologies on perhaps the most illustrious of test cases. Passive radar equipment computes an aerial picture by reading how civilian communications signals bounce off airborne objects. The technique works with any type of signal present in airspace, including radio or television broadcasts as well as emissions from mobile phone stations. The technology can be effective against stealthy aircraft designs, which are meant to break and absorb signals from traditional radar emitters so that nothing reflects back to ground-station sensors, effectively leaving defensive-radar operators in the dark.

Because there are no emitters, passive radar is covert, meaning pilots entering a monitored area are unaware they are being tracked.

There are limitations to the technology. For one, it depends on the existence of radio signals, which may not be a given in remote areas of the globe. In addition, the technology is not yet accurate enough to guide missiles, though it could be used to send infrared-homing weapons close to a target.

Hensoldt said various radio station broadcasts in the area, especially a bunch of strong Polish FM emitters broadcasting deep into Germany, improved TwInvis calibration during the Berlin show. The border is about 70 kilometers away from Schönefeld Airport.

During a system demonstration by Hensoldt at the exhibit, company engineers convened around a large TwInvis screen showing the track of a Eurofighter performing a thundering aerial show nearby. But the prized target of opportunity, the two F-35s, remained sitting on the tarmac.

Horse country

As the event ended, Hensoldt kept a close eye on any movement of the heavily guarded F-35s on the airfield. As exhibitors began to clear out, it looked like the chance of catching the planes during their inevitable departure back home would be lost.

But in Hensoldt’s telling, someone had the idea of setting up TwInvis outside the airport, which ended up being at a nearby horse farm.

Camped out amid equines, engineers got word from the Schönefeld tower about when the F-35s were slated to take off. Once the planes were airborne, the company says it started tracking them and collecting data, using signals from the planes’ ADS-B transponders to correlate the passive sensor readings.

See American F-35 fighter jets arrive in Germany from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for an appearance at the 2018 Berlin Air Show. This was the aircraft’s first appearance at the show.

A spokeswoman for the F-35 Joint Program Office said she was unable to comment by press time on Hensoldt’s claim of having tracked the aircraft in Berlin or about the plane’s general vulnerability to passive radar.

There are several horse and pony farms in the vicinity of Schönefeld Airport, offering everything from riding lessons to horse-themed summer camps for kids. A woman answering the phone at the business closest to the airfield, “Keidel Ranch,” a couple kilometers to the west, confirmed to Defense News that “someone” from the Berlin Air Show had showed up and stayed for “two or three days.”

Hensoldt previously said its passive-radar detection works regardless of whether the targeted aircraft has radar reflectors (so-called Luneburg lenses) installed. Those features — little knobs on the roots of the F-35 wings — can be seen in photos released by the U.S. Defense Department on the occasion of the journey to Berlin.

The reflectors are often mounted on the stealthy aircraft to make them visible to local air traffic authorities during friendly missions, like air show appearances. They artificially create a radar cross section in the frequency bands in which airspace-deconfliction radars operate so that traditional, defense radar systems know what they are dealing with.

According to a source close to the program, Luneburg lenses mounted on the departing F-35s would make it a certainty that the jets can be tracked, suggesting that the situation would be different without the reflectors installed.

“When the F-35 is not flying operational missions that require stealth — for example, at air shows, ferry flights or training — they ensure air traffic controllers and others are able to track their flight to manage air space safety,” Lockheed spokesman Michael Friedman wrote in a statement to Defense News. “The Air Force can best address questions related to their F-35s participation at the Berlin Air Show.”

Hensoldt argues that passive-radar detection works in a different spectrum, making the presence (or absence) of reflectors irrelevant. In layman’s terms, passive radar tracks the entire physical shape of planes, versus being triggered by smaller, angular features on the body of a jet.

Talking stealth

Whatever Hensoldt’s claims, the German military has embraced passive radar as an emerging technology key for future capabilities, including air defense. Earlier this year, the country’s Air Force was in the process of creating a formal acquisition track for passive sensing, Defense News reported.

Airman 1st Class Emily Greaves, 33rd Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspection apprentice, uses a transducer to check for cracks in the low-observable paint on an F-35A. The transducer picks up clear sound vibrations to identify cracks that would diminish the stealth capability of the aircraft. (Senior Airman Andrea Posey/U.S. Air Force)

That step came after the Defence Ministry sponsored a weeklong “measuring campaign” in southern Germany last fall aimed at visualizing the entire region’s air traffic through TwInvis.

Also noteworthy, in the year and a half that followed the air show, emphasis on stealth features for the Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System program, meant to be Europe’s next-generation warplane, shifted.

Officials from the industry teams involved in the program increasingly converged around the idea that stealth as we know it had lost its shinethis following rumors circling the German defense scene about how Hensoldt had apparently managed to light up the American aircraft on the radar screen.


Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.








Apple-Update verursacht Datenrekord: 7,1 Terabit pro Sekunde

Die Veröffentlichung des iPhone-Betriebssystems iOS 13 am Donnerstagabend hat beim weltweit größten Internetknoten DE-CIX in Frankfurt am Main offenbar zu einem Datenrekord geführt. Mehr als 7,1 Terabit pro Sekunde liefen zeitweise durch die Leitungen. Das entspricht mehr als 2,1 Millionen Updates pro Stunde.

Wie Apple den Daten-Weltrekord pulverisierte

Einblick. Seit wenigen Tagen gibt es das neue iPhone-Betriebssystem iOS 13. Beim weltgrößten Internetknoten in Frankfurt war der Download-Ansturm so groß wie nie: 7,1 Terabit pro Sekunde.

Apple hat am Donnerstagabend sein neues Smartphone-Betriebsystem iOS 13 herausgebracht – und dabei prompt einen neuen Daten-Weltrekord beim weltgrößten Internetknoten, der in Frankfurt am Main betrieben wird, verursacht. Die meisten iPhones konnten die Installationsdatei ab 19 Uhr deutscher Zeit herunterladen.

Wer zuvor bereits das bis dahin aktuelle Betriebssystem iOS 12.4 nutzte, musste für das Update eine Installationsdatei von etwa 2,2 Gigabyte Größe von den Servern des US-Techkonzerns kopieren. Augenscheinlich luden so viele Apple-Kunden die neue Version direkt nach Erscheinen herunter, dass Internet-Backbones weltweit deutlich stärker ausgelastet wurden als normalerweise.

Der weltgrößte Internetknoten DE-CIX in Frankfurt vermeldete umgehend einen neuen Weltrekord für transferiertes Dartenvolumen pro Sekunde: Gegen 21 Uhr liefen am Donnerstag mehr als 7,1 Terabit pro Sekunde durch die Leitungen. Damit übertraf die DE-CIX-Technik die eigene Rekordmarke von 6,8 Terabit pro Sekunde vom Dezember 2017 deutlich.

„Stündlich mehr als 2,1 Millionen iPhones upgedatet“

„Wir nehmen an, dass das Release des neuen Apple-Betriebssystem iOS 13 für diesen Schub gesorgt hat“, kommentierte DE-CIX-Geschäftsführer Harald Summa den Rekord auf Anfrage von WELT. „Mit einem Datenstrom von sieben Terabit pro Sekunde könnten stündlich mehr als 2,1 Millionen iPhones auf das neue Betriebssystem upgedatet werden.“ In der vom DE-CIX herausgegebenen Leistungskurve ist deutlich sichtbar, wie die Transferrate ab 19 Uhr von gut sechs auf über sieben Terabit pro Sekunde sprang.

Apple kann sich regelmäßig damit brüsten, dass die jeweils neueste Version von iOS sehr schnell auf einer hohen Prozentzahl von Kundengeräten installiert wird. Ende August nutzten beispielsweise 88 Prozent das bis dahin aktuelle Betriebssystem iOS 12. Googles Android-Nutzer dagegen müssen oft lange auf Updates ihrer Smartphone-Hersteller warten. Viele Geräte im Android-Universum werden gar nicht mehr mit neuer Software versorgt. Anfang Juni liefen gerade einmal gut zehn Prozent aller Android-Geräte mit der aktuellen Android-Version 9.

Apple dagegen hatte in der Vergangenheit angesichts des Ansturms der Kunden sogar des öfteren Probleme, genügend Download-Kapazitäten zur Verfügung zu stellen. Das klappte, zeigt die Statistik, dieses Jahr besser. Doch der Konzern hat mit Blick auf eine optimale Lastenverteilung im Internet einen ungeschickten Zeitpunkt für die Veröffentlichung seines Updates gewählt. Denn die Internet-Infrastruktur verzeichnet regelmäßig eine Lastspitze um 21 Uhr abends, wenn sowohl die USA als auch Europa und Teile des Nahen Ostens und Asiens gleichzeitig intensiv im Netz unterwegs sind.

Datendurchsatz in Frankfurt seit 2014 verdoppelt

DE-CIX ist aktuell der weltweit größte internationale Knotenpunkt des Internets. Diese Knotenpunkte sind mit zentral gelegenen Flughäfen vergleichbar: Wer von Dubai nach San Franzisco will, kann das über Knoten wie jenen in Frankfurt. Über 60 Prozent des Internetverkehrs im Frankfurter Knoten sind internationalen Ursprungs.

DE-CIX ist ein weltweit führender Betreiber von Internetknoten. 1995 in Betrieb genommen, managt das Unternehmen global 18 Internetknoten in Europa, Indien, dem Nahen Osten und den USA, die allesamt miteinander vernetzt sind. Dem Standort in Frankfurt kommt dabei eine Schlüsselrolle zu. An den Knoten koppeln große Internetprovider, internationale Netzbetreiber wie Cloudflare sowie Internet-Unternehmen wie Google, Amazon oder Facebook ihre Netze zusammen, um Daten auszutauschen.

„Der Datendurchsatz am DE-CIX in Frankfurt hat sich seit 2014 weit mehr als verdoppelt und wird sich auch in Zukunft rasant weiterentwickeln“, erklärt Summa. „Alleine in 2018 ist die angeschlossene Kundenkapazität im Vergleich zum Vorjahr um über 35 Prozent auf mehr als 45 Terabit gestiegen.“

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“Get Ready for Bitcoin $20K” as US Fed Panic-Prints $53B

Bitcoin (BTC) could soon shoot to $20,000 as a result of emergency measures from the United States Federal Reserve, also known as The Fed, one of the industry’s biggest firms has said.

Fed echoes 2008 crisis moves

In a tweet on Sept. 18, Arthur Hayes, CEO of derivatives giant BitMEX, forecast that fresh quantitative easing (QE) would further decrease faith in fiat currency.

The comments come a day after the Fed swooped to decrease interest rates on some loans which reached more than 10%, or four times its target. More than $53 billion was pumped into the economy. 

“QE4eva is coming. Once the Fed gets religion again, get ready for #bitcoin $20,000,” Hayes wrote.

The Fed’s QE injection marked its first emergency intervention since the end of the 2008 financial crisis, an event directly leading to Bitcoin’s creation. 

While the cryptocurrency has yet to see a global crisis of the same scale, markets have shown that Bitcoin price benefits from political and economic uncertainty.

Hayes doubles down on Bitcoin price

Not just the Fed, meanwhile, but also the European Central Bank (ECB) is following the QE trend once more this year. 

Completing its latest move last week, commentators believe markets want the ECB to continue the same behavior, giving rise to the “QE4eva” phenomenon described by Hayes.

Earlier this month, Hayes already said Bitcoin would again hit its all-time high of $20,000. As Cointelegraph reported, BitMEX is still grappling with unwanted attention from U.S. regulators, who suspect that Americans are bypassing BitMEX geoblocking and accessing the platform.





US Army Seeks Blockchain Experts Who Can Trace Bitcoin in Real-Time

The United States Army Contracting Command (ACC) of New Jersey has issued a pre-solicitation notice for cryptocurrency investigation service providers. 

As a pre-solicitation, posted on July 25, the notice and the ACC’s responses do not bind ACC to solicit or award a contract.

For use in criminal investigations

According to the ACC, the cryptocurrency analytics solution is being sought for use by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (USACIDC) for use in criminal investigations and other missions.

The notice outlines that the contractor must provide a cloud-based, online service — not reliant on hardware or software — that can assist law enforcement in identifying and pursuing actors using cryptocurrencies for illicit purposes such as fraud, extortion and money laundering.

The contractor should provide the source of the cryptocurrency transactions, with the capacity to offer multi-cryptocurrency analysis from Bitcoin (BTC) to other major cryptocurrencies. 

Other requirements include providing “real-time Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transaction tracing,” including service attribution and identification, as well as being able to identify transaction patterns and interactions with other entities.

Government and army alike turn to blockchain

In fall 2018, a Diar report had revealed that  U.S. government agencies had tripled their investment in blockchain intelligence firms that year.

The vast majority of 2018 blockchain intelligence government deals were reportedly contracted to New York-based blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, which had — as of that date — signed deals with government agencies totaling $5.3 million.

This August, Cointelegraph reported that the U.S. Air Force had secured new contracts with smart contract startup Simba Chain and blockchain data management firm Constellation, with a focus on using the technology for supply chain and data management.

Meanwhile, in an interview earlier this month Grammy award-winning music artist and Bitcoin advocate Akon quipped that the value of fiat currencies such as the U.S. dollar is ultimately only sustained by military might.






Normalization In The Mainstream: $10K Bitcoin Stronger Than Ever But No One Seems to Care: Google Trends

Bitcoin (BTC) has hit a four-month low this week — as a search term on Google, with market fatigue and boredom spreading beyond traders.

“Bitcoin” least Googled since May

Data from Google Trends confirms that the term “Bitcoin” is less popular now than at any time since the end of April.

Despite the largest cryptocurrency actually trading higher this week than then — at $10,200 versus $4,100 — it appears Bitcoin currently attracts little mainstream interest.

On a normalized scale of 1 to 100, “Bitcoin” currently charts at 38 worldwide, after briefly hitting 100 in late June. That performance coincided with BTC/USD hitting its 2019 high of $13,800.

12-month worldwide Google search popularity for “Bitcoin.” Source: Google Trends

Interest follows price

As Cointelegraph has previously reported, mainstream attention tends to fluctuate in line with Bitcoin price volatility.

Overall searches have rocketed since the beginning of April when Bitcoin price began its rise from months of sideways trading around $3,500.

Other episodes of parabolic moves have likewise increased Bitcoin’s stance, as mainstream media titles frequently choose to cover cryptocurrency price performance over any other event.

BTC/USD has remained similarly flat around the $10,000 since mid-August, while commentators continue to suggest that volatility is ripe to return during the rest of the year.





ARAMCO: 500 Milliarden Dollar in einer Nacht verloren

Person der Woche: Amin Nasser, Vorstandvorsitzender Aramco

Der Raketenangriff auf Ölanlagen trifft Saudi-Arabien nicht nur militärisch. Der wirtschaftliche Schaden ist größer als geahnt, denn der Ölkonzern Aramco steht kurz vor dem Börsengang. Nun ist das teuerste Unternehmen der Welt plötzlich drastisch weniger wert.

Amin Nasser ist der Vorstandsvorsitzende von Saudi Aramco. Der 61-jährige Ingenieur, ein leiser Mann mit rahmenloser Brille, führt den weltgrößten Ölkonzern mit 76.000 Mitarbeitern. In wenigen Wochen will er ihn an die Börse bringen. Die internationalen Finanzmärkte warten schon voller Spannung darauf. Denn Aramco soll der größte Börsengang der Menschheitsgeschichte werden. In Riad erhofft man sich eine gigantische Marktbewertung von mehr als zwei Billionen Dollar. Zum Vergleich: Die Lufthansa ist sieben Milliarden wert. Aramco soll also so teuer werden wie 300 Lufthansa-Konzerne zusammen.

Nun haben die Drohnenangriffe – ob sie nun von jemenitischen Huthi-Rebellen oder von anderen iranischen Hilfstruppen gekommen sind – Saudi-Arabien nicht bloß militärisch und politisch empfindlich getroffen. Vor allem der wirtschaftliche Schaden ist enorm. Denn schlagartig ist die Bewertung von Aramco dramatisch abgesackt. “Globale Investoren sehen ab sofort die Sonderrisiken bei Aramco viel größer als bislang. Die Assets werden daher massiv heruntergestuft”, heißt es bei Petro-Analysten aus London.

Selbst wenn die Ölproduktion sich rasch wieder normalisieren sollte, werde der langfristige Wert des Unternehmens völlig neu eingeschätzt: “Man erkennt die Verletzlichkeit von Aramco. Niemand sieht den Konzern jetzt langfristig mehr wert als 1,5 Billionen Dollar.”

Damit hat der Raketenangriff Saudi-Arabien mindestens 500 Milliarden Dollar in einer einzigen Nacht gekostet.

Geplant war eine Erstnotiz des Konzerns bereits für Anfang November. Der neu installierte saudi-arabische Energieminister Prinz Abdulaziz bin Salman tönte noch vergangene Woche, dass das Königreich den Börsengang von Aramco “so schnell wie möglich” anstrebe. Man wollte die ersten Aktien – es sollte mit einem Prozent gestartet werden – zunächst an die heimische Börse bringen und im Jahr 2020 dann an einen internationalen Handelsplatz, wahrscheinlich London. Nun gerät dieser Zeitplan ins Wanken.

Viel profitabler als Apple

Der Verkauf von Aramco-Anteilen ist das Prestigeprojekt von Kronprinz Mohammed bin Salman. Er wollte die Verkaufserlöse in neue Industrien investieren, um die saudische Wirtschaft jenseits von Öleinnahmen zu diversifizieren. Sein Plan sah vor, erst einmal fünf Prozent der Aramco-Anteile zu platzieren und damit 100 Milliarden Dollar zu erlösen. Daraus wird nun nichts.

Unter Analysten und Bankern wird fortan gestritten werden, was Aramco unter den neuen Vorzeichen wohl wert sein könnte. Die saudischen Agenten verbreiten das Argument, der profitabelste Konzern der Welt erleide in Wahrheit keinen nennenswerten Schaden und strotze vor Ertragskraft. Tatsächlich zeigt ein Blick in die Halbjahreszahlen (der bislang so streng verschwiegene Konzern macht für den Börsengang seine Bilanzzahlen neuerdings öffentlich), dass Aramco im ersten Halbjahr 2019 einen unglaublichen Vorsteuergewinn von 92,5 Milliarden Dollar und einen Umsatz: von 163,9 Milliarden Dollar erwirtschaftet hat.

Das heißt: Aramco macht jeden Tag 500 Millionen Dollar Gewinn. Täglich fördert das Unternehmen zehn Millionen Barrel, dreimal so viel wie der Ölkonzern ExxonMobil. Alleine an Dividenden hat Aramco im ersten Halbjahr 46,6 Milliarden Dollar ausgezahlt. Bislang gilt Apple als das profitabelste Unternehmen der Welt – doch Aramco verdient schlichtweg dreimal so viel wie der amerikanische Computerkonzern.

Gefahr durch westliche Klimapolitik

Zum Vergleich: Die bekanntesten Ölkonzerne der Welt – Chevron und Exxon Mobil aus den USA, BP aus Großbritannien, das britisch-niederländische Unternehmen Royal Dutch Shell und Total aus Frankreich – erzielten 2018 knapp 80 Milliarden Dollar Gewinn, allerdings zusammengerechnet. Betrachtet man also die gewaltige Ertragskraft von Aramco und die enormen Rohöl-Reserven, dann wäre eine Börsenbewertung von deutlich mehr als 1,5 Billionen immer noch gerechtfertigt.

Die Skeptiker allerdings argumentieren, dass der jetzige Anschlag zeige, wie anfällig der Konzern sei. Sollte sich der Konflikt zwischen Saudi-Arabien und Iran ausweiten, würde Aramco unmittelbar Schaden nehmen. Zugleich sei der Saudi-Konzern der weltgrößte Verlierer, wenn sich die westliche Welt im Zuge einer neuen Klimapolitik tatsächlich dekarbonisiere, seine Energieversorgung ohne Öl organisiere und Verbrennungsmotoren durch Elektromotoren ersetze.

Amin Nasser erinnert Investoren daran, dass man alsbald kein reiner Ölkonzern mehr sei. Man habe vor kurzem für gut 69 Milliarden US-Dollar (61,1 Milliarden Euro) die Mehrheit am saudi-arabischen Chemiekonzern Sabic erworben. Sabic stellt Kunststoffe, Metalle und Düngemittel her und ist mit einem Anteil von 25 Prozent auch Großaktionär beim Schweizer Spezialchemiekonzern Clariant. Nasser setzt also auf Chemie im “Downstream-Segment” und verkündet: “Wir bauen unser Handelsgeschäft aus und intensivieren unsere Innovationstätigkeiten durch wegweisende Initiativen wie die Herstellung von Rohstoffen und Chemikalien, nichtmetallischen Werkstoffen und Wasserstoffkraftstoffen.” Die Diversifikation wird aber nichts nutzen, wenn die eigenen Großraffinerien niedergebombt und Öl langfristig ein Auslaufmodell werden könnte. So oder so: 500 Milliarden sind nach dem ersten Angriff erst einmal weg.





Bitcoin Is the Fraud? JPMorgan Metals Desk Fixed Gold Prices for Years

The United States’ largest bank faced fresh ridicule from Bitcoin (BTC) circles this week after prosecutors said traders had conducted more market fraud.

As Bloomberg reported on Sept. 16, JPMorgan Chase is facing an inquiry over the behavior of at least a dozen precious metals traders.

JPMorgan performed “thousands” of illegal moves

According to investigators, the employees willfully engaged in price-fixing of precious metals on thousands of occasions. Both market participants and JPMorgan’s own clients suffered losses as a result, they claim.

“Based on the fact that it was conduct that was widespread on the desk, it was engaged in thousands of episodes over an eight-year period… We’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead, whether it’s across desks here or at any other bank or upwards into the financial institution,” Bloomberg quoted Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski as saying.

JPMorgan is well known as being one of the more vocal skeptics of cryptocurrencies. CEO Jamie Dimon became notorious for his soundbites, which began in 2017 when he labeled Bitcoin a fraud in itself.

Dimon since appeared to have a change of heart, pledging not to discuss Bitcoin again in public, while denying he disliked it in private comments to Cointelegraph.

Bitcoin, bankers and fraud

More recently, the bank released its own digital currency offering, JPM Coin, which gained similar criticism over its technical characteristics.

The irony of the precious metals scandal was thus not lost of crypto commentators.

“They were charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and market manipulation. But I was told by the CEO that Bitcoin is the fraud,” Twitter analyst known as Rhythm summarized.

JPMorgan is not the only bank to issue warnings over cryptocurrency’s alleged fraudulent nature while being embroiled in legal turmoil.

In 2018, Dutch institution Rabobank claimed Bitcoin contained money laundering compliance hazards. Subsequently, authorities fined it $369 million for money laundering.





German Firm Northern Bitcoin AG Unveils Mobile Eco-Friendly Bitcoin Mining Containers

Bitcoin (BTC) mining infrastructure firm Northern Bitcoin AG has announced the completion of tests for its new air-cooled mining container, which houses 144 ASIC miners.

A press release published on Sept. 9 outlined that the highly mobile container solution has been designed as a piece of flexible and efficient infrastructure that will enable the firm to establish mining pools in countries with year-round cool locations.

Setting up shop anywhere energy is cheap, sustainable

Headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, Northern AG develops and operates Bitcoin-focused mining hardware that uses renewable energy sources and aims to attain optimal efficiency and sustainability.

The press release notes that Northern AG has developed and operated a mining pool with 21 water-cooled 41-foot containers — housing 210 ASIC miners each — in Norway for over a year.

The new water-cooled container has reportedly been developed with partners in Germany and will allow the firm to extend its operations, flexibly and at short notice, to new locations across Scandinavia.

Its 20-foot design — with a capacity to house 144 ASIC miners — has a significantly higher miner density than the earlier water-cooled containers. The firm says it is focused on deploying its mobile mining solutions in permanently cool locations where sustainable energy sources such as hydropower are cheap and abundant.

As the press release notes, efficient temperature control is critical for compute-intensive Bitcoin mining operations, during which the hardware required typically generates significant heat.

Bitcoin mining getting more energy-efficient

As recently reported, fresh data from aggregator Statista has indicated that Bitcoin (BTC) energy consumption is becoming rapidly more efficient, even as the global network’s hash rate continues to hit record highs.

Energy consumption as of July 2019 was 69.79 terawatt hours per year. In July 2018, the figure was 71.12 terawatts, while hash rate was almost 60% lower than at present.

A study in June found that three-quarters of Bitcoin mining activity is powered by renewable energy sources. 

Mining hardware manufacturers such as Bitmain are similarly seeking to develop new solutions with greater processing capabilities and lower energy demands.





New Analysis: Every Bitcoin Holder Makes a Profit After 1,335 Days

For comparison, to achieve a sure profit on the S&P 500,
an investor would have needed to hold their position for 23 years.

New analysis suggests Bitcoin (BTC) holders make a profit after an average of 1,335 days — or roughly three years and eight months.

The data, released on Sept. 8 by, roughly correlates to the four-year cycle length based on reward halving periods.

Bitcoin Profit Probability chart. Source:

Profiting from Bitcoin: A waiting game

While a 100% sure profit would have taken a maximum of 1,335 days, this relates to the bull run in late 2013, when Bitcoin price surged to $1,150.

Buying in right at the top would have meant it took until early 2017 before BTC finally broke that level again.

Missing the peak of that rally would have resulted in a substantially reduced wait for a profit. Holding Bitcoin for 317 days would have given a 75% chance of profit. There was a 60% chance of profit if Bitcoin was held for 35 days, and the likelihood that you were up over any single day was 50%.

If that seems like a long time, check the S&P 500

For comparison, to achieve a sure profit on the S&P 500, an investor would have needed to hold their position for 23 years.

This analysis purely looks at the chance of profit and not the scale of that profit. When Bitcoin is on a bull run, profits dwarf those achievable on stock market indices.

For example, the Grayscale Bitcoin Investment Trust outperformed everything so far in 2019  with appreciation of almost 300% in the year to date, as reported by Cointelegraph in July.





Bitcoin Is a Truth Machine, Says Gold Bullion Co-Founder

Gold Bullion International co-founder Dan Tapiero has said Bitcoin’s (BTC) value is a truth machine.

Tapiero made his regards during an interview with business news outlet AlphaWeek published on Sept. 10. He said:

“What it is is an invention, and I think it should be referred to as an invention rather than all the other things. It’s a, you know, what it really is […] It’s a truth machine. […] It’s a way to eradicate all fraud or lying by human beings.

Bitcoin is a reward for network maintenance

Tapiero also noted that the system is now 10 years old and has a good track record, all of which contributes to his will to ask “what is a security platform like that, with that track record” worth. In the end, he concluded:

“Bitcoin, really, is just the reward that miners get for guaranteeing the security of the framework of the network, that’s what it is.”

BTC is worth hundreds of billions of dollars

Tapiero also asked what it would cost for a company to develop such a system. He said that he believes it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, touching on the number of work hours dedicated to the development and maintenance of Bitcoin and its ecosystem.

He also added:

“Could a company even develop that? You know, maybe Satoshi realized it can only be developed slowly over time in a decentralized way.”

As Cointelegraph reported earlier today, Blockstream CEO said that Bitcoin is reverting to its historical market dominance of more than 90% at altcoins’ expense.





Block: 593468 — Someone Moved $1B in Bitcoin (94,504 BTC) for $700 Fee, Overpaying 20 Times

A $1 billion Bitcoin (BTC) transaction has become conspicuous not because of its size but because its sender spent far too much on fees.

Someone could have sent 94K BTC for $35

Social media users were guessing at the origin and destination of the funds on Sept. 6, which involved 94,504 BTC ($1.018 billion).

According to Twitter-based monitoring resource Whale Alert, the transaction did not involve known wallets or those belonging to a specific cryptocurrency-related organization, such as an exchange.

One theory suggested the funds may be tied to institutional trading platform Bakkt, which begins accepting client deposits today.

“Institutions building inventory for their market-making needs going forward,” commented Max Keiser on the giant transaction. He added:

“This = effective ‘put’ on the BTC price at $9,000 (as I’ve been reporting for several yrs now). Ie, institutions are net-buyers of any BTC that shows up at $9k. Risk/reward now for buyers is excellent.” 

Its sender, who may have been sending funds to themselves, nonetheless selected a very high fee rate.

At 480 satoshis per byte, the fee totalled around $700.

Bitcoin fees can vary depending on how quickly a sender wishes a transaction to be processed by miners. Many wallets allow manual fee-setting; the more money paid, the fewer blocks a user must wait for a transaction confirmation. 

Under current conditions, getting a transaction included in the next block — maximum ten minutes — is just 23 satoshis per byte, meaning the $1 billion sender overpaid 20 times. The funds could have settled in around 10 minutes paying a fee of just $35.

Bitcoin’s low fees era continues

Bitcoin fees have remained low in 2019 despite the cryptocurrency’s rapid rise in price.

As Cointelegraph reported, the situation marks a stark contrast to 2017, when Bitcoin circled all-time highs and fees grew in step. At the time, developers of projects such as the controversial Bitcoin Cash (BCH) aimed to take users away with the promise of lower fees.

The total hash rate of Bitcoin — the amount of computing power involved in the mining process — continues to reach new highs, and is now more than 1000% larger than in September 2017.




Mystery 94K BTC Transaction Becomes Richest Non-Exchange Address

The recipient wallet of the $1 billion Bitcoin (BTC) transaction on Sept. 6 is now presumed to be the first richest non-exchange address.

The recipient wallet of the massive 94,504 Bitcoin ($1.031 billion) transaction is the top richest Bitcoin address that is not reportedly associated with any crypto-related company, according to data from monitoring resource Bitinfocharts.

Top 5 richest Bitcoin addresses. Source: Bitinfocharts

A third of the coins came from Huobi

According to data by London-based blockchain data provider TokenAnalyst, at least one third of the mysterious transaction directly originates from Huobi exchange. Another analyst, blockchain data and metrics firm Glassnode tweeted that at least 73,000 BTC from the transaction originate from Huobi.

According to an earlier tweet by Crypto Herpes Cat, at least two Bitcoin wallets involved in the notable transaction belong to Huobi. One of the specified wallets is directly involved in the transaction.

Cointelegraph has reached out to Huobi for comments, to which the exchange’s representative responded:

“As we don’t generally disclose information about transactions, we can only confirm that this transfer of funds did not involve Huobi’s own funds and that, with exchanges as big as ours, large transactions like this one can and do occur from time to time. Our security team has been monitoring the situation carefully and has found no evidence of any compromises in account security. All client funds remain safe and secure.”

Rumors run wild

As reported earlier today, crypto monitoring resource Whale Alert stated that the much-discussed transaction did not involve any known wallets or those belonging to any specific crypto exchange or any crypto-related firm.

Some analysts suggested that funds may be tied to institutional trading platform Bakkt, which starts accepting client deposits today.

Meanwhile, Huobi, which is ranked 20th biggest crypto exchange by adjusted daily trading volume at press time, was reported to have seen the highest number of withdrawals from the alleged crypto Ponzi scheme PlusToken by Aug. 23.

Huobi did not respond to Cointelegraph’s inquiry about the transfer by press time.






Bitcoin Cash (BCH) Can’t Mine Blocks Bigger Than 2MB — And BSV Split-Forked Into Three

Altcoin Bitcoin Cash (BCH) faced fresh criticism this week after one of its lead developers appeared to admit its network was unable to process its larger blocks.

In a Reddit exchange on Sept. 2, Amaury Séchet, via his account known as u/deadalnix, responded to criticism of some miners by another pro-BCH user. In the response, the developer suggested a BCH node would not be able to process a block of transactions 2 megabytes or larger.

Séchet is the lead developer of Bitcoin ABC, the first incarnation of the Bitcoin Cash network client.

Large blocks would make nodes “trip over themselves”

“Sure or we can mine large block, so we move the problem from the mempool to indexing node that fill trip over themselves bsv style as they are not optimized to handle 100x the usual demand. Or we can solve the problem rather than trading it against another,” the response reads.

Larger blocks were a central tenet of BCH when it came into being in 2017. Its main proponent, Roger Ver, frequently champions bigger blocks as a cure-all for capacity problems which have faced Bitcoin (BTC) in the past.

Admitting the network cannot in fact process them, therefore, did not go unnoticed by BTC figures.

“No big deal. Just the main developer for #bitcoincash saying it can’t currently handle bigger than 2MB blocks,” Blockstream engineer Grubles commented retweeting Séchet’s post.

Grubles additionally referenced another Reddit comment which shows another user asking Ver to manipulate BCH mining practises.

An admission of failure?

Others advised caution, noting Séchet had not specifically stated the bigger blocks narrative was redundant.

“He didn’t said it directly but didn’t denied the premise. But it is something I have suspected and talked about for a year. As they never have had a 30 days constant blocksize of even 1MB,” Bitcoinated forum moderator AvatarX added.

Like the majority of major altcoins, BCH has fallen fast against both BTC and most fiat currencies in recent times. Controversial from the outset, an ongoing war between the coin and its hard fork, Bitcoin Cash SV (BSV), continues.

The latter, since diverging from BCH in Nov. 2018, has faced even more technical difficulties, leading to critics panning its security credentials and purported use cases.



Bitcoin SV Splits Into Three Chains Following 210 MB Block

Following a recent hard fork of Bitcoin SV (BSV), the network saw a three-chain split after a massive 210 megabytes (MB) block was mined.

As reported by BitMEX Research on Aug. 3, Bitcoin SV nodes divided into three groups on Saturday, making the network to split into three separate chains. According to the report, 65% of nodes were located on the current tip, while 17% were stuck on the 210 MB  block and 19% had not even upgraded and were on the old pre-hard fork chain.

Bitcoin SV node chart. Source: Twitter

According to data from Coin Dance, the 210 MB block was mined on Aug. 3 by CoinGeek miner and involved 808,633 transactions.

Bitcoin SV, a hard fork of Bitcoin Cash (BCH), which is in turn a fork of the major cryptocurrency Bitcoin (BTC), successfully ran its own scheduled hard fork on July 24 as part of plans to increase its block size from the previously set limit of 128 MB up to 2 gigabytes.

Bitcoin SV nodes are getting expensive

Prior to the three-chain split, Ryan X. Charles, a BSV supporter and CEO of BSV-powered payment system MoneyButton, published a post on the Money Button blog about his issues running a BSV node. Specifically, Charles stated that Money Button went down for three hours because their Bitcoin SV node ran out of memory and crashed during a stress test. He wrote:

Running a node is expensive. Our new instance will cost thousands of dollars per month to operate. As blocks continue to get larger and we have to upgrade the instance many times, this cost will balloon. Since we do not earn money from transaction fees like miners, it will be too expensive for us to run a node.”

According to tech news outlet TrustNodes, Coin Dance service is now on the new Bitcoin SV chain, while the older chain will likely be discarded. According to the report, this could mean that miners who got stuck on the old chain may have lost some money as those blocks could now be discarded. The report notes that, while the recent split appears to be the first of its kind, giga-sized blocks may generate splits with more than three forks. 

Bitcoin SV has previously experienced problems due to what some consider to be an unwieldy blockchain size. In April, the coin’s blockchain underwent a series of block reorganizations — a situation in which two miners discover a block simultaneously in a blockchain, which causes a temporary forking in the network. In general, block reorganization happens when a network is too slow to reproduce blocks efficiently.



Bitcoin Dominance Hits 70% as Keiser Warns Altcoins ‘Not Coming Back’

“Altcoins are to Bitcoin what lead is to Gold.”

Bitcoin (BTC) now has the highest share of the overall cryptocurrency market since before its record-breaking $20,000 bull run in 2017.

According to data from major monitoring resource CoinMarketCap, Bitcoin now accounts for 70.5% of the total cryptocurrency market cap as of Sept. 3.

Bitcoin market cap hits pre-$20K high

That figure has not been seen since March 2017, and comes as BTC/USD makes gains at altcoins’ expense.

As Cointelegraph reported, continued underperformance in cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin has triggered warnings from traders and analysts alike.

Among them are Peter Brandt and RT host Max Keiser, the latter again claiming this week that altcoins would never recover from this downturn.

“Alts never coming back… Sorry,” he tweeted on Sept. 3, also referencing market cap statistics. Brandt reiterated similar warnings.

“When will altcoin junkies understand that $BTC is the crypto with real and lasting value,” wrote Brandt, who added:

“Altcoins are to Bitcoin what lead is to Gold.”  

Some sources had reported Bitcoin hitting the 70% mark as early as last week.

Market cap readings set highs across the board

Bitcoin itself delivered a sudden return to form late on Monday, having previously dropped to just $9,350. At press time Tuesday, BTC/USD was circling $10,360, bringing 24-hour gains to 6.2%.

Altcoins in the top twenty, however, mostly failed to achieve more than 4%, meaning they, in fact, lost value in Bitcoin terms.

Some commentators voiced caution about placing faith in Bitcoin’s strength. Market cap, they argued, is a poor measure of performance, as it includes many altcoins which do not even have any trading volume.

Earlier, Cointelegraph reported on the phenomenon of Realized Market Cap, a metric designed to solve those inconsistencies which has also set new records in recent weeks.



No ‘AltSeason’ Until Bitcoin Breaks $20K, Says Hedge Fund Manager

The worst is yet to come for altcoins, says Cantering Clark’s Ryan Sperin

“When AltSeason 2?” has been on the minds of many investors for some time now. The average retail Joe Schmoe investor most likely draws some insight from crypto-sector leaders and Crypto-Twitter influencers who often post compelling charts of various digital assets with a captioned explanation of why or why not certain price action could lead to a particular outcome.

To review, here what many investors may have internalized as truth:

  • When Bitcoin (BTC) price consolidates (trades sideways) traders will take their profits and begin to play larger-cap altcoins, this catalyzes similar movement across other altcoins and could spark an altcoin rally.
  • As Bitcoin price notches new 2019 highs, larger cap altcoins from the top-10 will move in tandem.
  • A significant drop in Bitcoin market cap dominance will put the ball in altcoins’ court.

So far, none of these things have happened. In fact, the situation for the majority of altcoins has gotten even worse. 

To gain more clarity on this situation, Cointelegraph decided to ask a professional fund manager to explain what is going on with the crypto sector and why altcoins haven’t followed Bitcoin as they did in the past.

Cointelegraph spoke with Cantering Clark[‘s Ryan Sperin], a hedge fund manager and co-founder of Blockroots, to pick his brain about the general state of the market and whether altcoins will recover.

Cointelegraph: Bitcoin has had some periods of range-bound trading since topping out at $13,800. In your opinion, why haven’t we seen traders take advantage of this consolidation to jump into altcoins? Also, what exactly is “altseason” in your opinion?

Cantering Clark: Altseason was essentially a bunch of new investors entering the crypto space, drawn in by Bitcoin. They saw Bitcoin as being very expensive and the perception at the time was cheaper altcoins are going to be future Bitcoins in the making.

Newer investors were relatively ignorant of market cap and multiplier effects, they just saw the smaller price and equated a cheaper price to a better deal.

In my opinion, altcoins were the epitome of the bubble for 2017 and the process closely mirrored the Gartner Hype Cycle.

Bitcoin is essentially the chosen asset by the industry and it has become the haven of crypto. When Bitcoin does well there are flows that can be capitalized on but this flow cycle has begun to untether and fall apart.

The inverse correlation and positive correlation is no longer a conventional occurrence that investors can consistently rely on.

“Bitcoin price hasn’t broken it’s all-time high, and the next altseason is unlikely to occur until this all-time high is broken.”

CT: Shouldn’t a drop in Bitcoin dominance lead altcoins to surge? 

CC: If Bitcoin’s dominance rate dropped to 40% this would probably bring on an altseason but it’s unlikely that this sort of dominance shift is in the cards at the moment.

CT: Do you think investors’ confirmation bias impacts Bitcoin price action? For example, many investors believe that if Bitcoin must drop below the 61.8% Fibonacci retracement level before a real bull market begins. 

CC: Bitcoin is so volatile and it has been through every asset scenario possible. Moving averages are useful because traders make them useful.

The collective effort of traders makes the necessity of Bitcoin revisiting any price more “likely” thanks to the groupthink. Fibonacci retracements work because we make them work and we place bids and asks on the order book accordingly. Basically, nearly all resistances and supports are based on this thinking.

A revisit to the 61.8 Fib level diminishes the likelihood of us going way back up because it demonstrates that buyers are reluctant to step in and purchase at a higher price, or before that price is reached.

As for Crypto-Twitter, there is a deluge of cognitive biases to be found there every day. We should work to avoid confirmation bias and this is why I suggest reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

CT: Tell us about what led you to invest in cryptocurrency. 

CC: I was drawn to crypto primarily because of the volatility.

CT: Give us your best explanation of how leveraged trading works and how one can use it to their advantage. 

CC: In crypto, people use leverage to amplify gains through greater capital exposure. More often than not, traders take on losses because they don’t truly understand how margin works and what it is truly designed for.

Margin/leverage mitigates counterparty risk, and this is especially beneficial for crypto. With leverage, if I own 1 BTC, I can keep 90% of my BTC in a cold wallet and just put 10% of the BTC on exchange and protect myself from counterparty risk.

Leverage also gives the opportunity to trade both sides of the market. Frequently, traders use too much leverage and get liquidated as the market moves against them but a healthy amount of leverage gives the opportunity to take advantage of market trends.

2x and 3x leverage allows one to play the trend, especially when Bitcoin is in a strong trend with clear support and resistance levels.

CT: Tell us a little about Blockroots? 

CC: Our main objective is to educate new traders and separate the truth from the noise. There are a ton of paid groups and these are not always the best way for new traders to learn how to understand the basics of investing.

One of the troubling aspects of the cryptocurrency market is there are so many trading groups and newbies who copy the trading systems proposed in paid groups a kind of taking a shot in the dark. New traders really aren’t fully aware of how effective these trading systems are they don’t have transparency regarding the trader’s success rate. Blockroots provides an academic, base-level trading approach to help new traders find their way.



Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson Revises His Bullish Opinion on Ether

Fred Wilson, a financier and co-founder of venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, has revised his bullish opinion on Ether (ETH).

Back in 2017, Wilson had suggested the market capitalization of Ether will bypass the market capitalization of Bitcoin (BTC) and eventually be worth more per coin. However, in a Sept. 4 blog post, Wilson acknowledged ETH has fallen short of this — and that the underlying Ethereum network is experiencing problems. He wrote:

Ethereum, as many of you know, confounds me. It has shown the way to so many important things; smart contracts, programmable trust-free computing, potentially proof of stake, and a lot more. But it remains hard to build on, scaling issues abound, and many developers are looking elsewhere.

Last month, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin himself admitted that the Ethereum blockchain is almost full. Buterin said at the time:

“If you’re a bigger organization, the calculus is that if we join, it will not only be more full but we will be competing with everyone for transaction space. It’s already expensive and it will be even five times more expensive because of us.”

Ether is no match for Bitcoin

Referring to Bitcoin, Wilson said there is still nothing on the market that comes close to the leading digital currency, adding:

“There are some protocols, like the privacy-focused ones, that offer similar and in some cases better use cases. But for the most part, Bitcoin is our digital gold.

The venture capitalist also touched on the issue of Facebook’s yet-to-be-released Libra stablecoin, calling it a bright spot. In Wilson’s opinion, the industry will see more innovation, including a stable programmable crypto asset.

In January, Wilson had warned cryptocurrency will not be a safe haven in 2019 amid a weakening economy and a bear market in stocks, although he noted that “there will be signs of life in crypto land in 2019.” As for the impetus for the next bullish phase, Wilson listed a number of promises made back in 2017, including a number of smart contract platforms that can compete with Ethereum.

Cryptocurrency investor and Placeholder partner Chris Burniske argued in late August that Ether is enduring its first mainstream bear market, just as Bitcoin did back in 2014–15.




What Are the Biggest Alleged Crypto Heists and How Much Was Stolen?

As the appeal of cryptocurrency has grown, so has the opportunity for scammers to part naive investors from their money. 2019 has been no exception, with cryptocurrency and blockchain forensics company Ciphertrace dubbing it “the year of the exit scam.”

Exit scams are not a new phenomenon, with a 2018 report conducted by Statis Group revealing over 80% of initial coin offerings (ICOs) in that year to have been fraudulent. Here, Cointelegraph explains exit scams and how to spot them, as well as a look at some of the biggest scams that have been discovered by various researchers.

What are exit scams?

The premise of cryptocurrency is simple, a new ICO launches, claiming to offer lucrative returns for investors. Investors can’t believe their luck and clamor to buy in. The business runs for some time on the back of the invested capital, but, sooner or later, disaster strikes and the company shuts down, often with no explanation.

After a while, it becomes obvious that the company is gone for good, along with the invested funds. The poisoned chalice of crypto’s decentralized nature often means that investors are left in the dark when trying to recoup or trace their pilfered funds.

How to spot an exit scam

Many exit scams have tell-tale signs that investors should look out for. The financial content site Investopedia has a handy list of key characteristics.

First, exit scams often have inconsistent or misleading information about the team behind the project. When scouting potential investment opportunities, investors should scour for information on key members of any ICO.

It’s important to remember that online credibility can be faked by purchasing likes, profiles and followers on social media. Celebrity endorsements with verified accounts could also ring alarm bells for investors. A fake Twitter account purporting to be Elon Musk, with a supposedly verified twitter account, raised over $155,000 as part of a 2018 Bitcoin scam.

Investors should verify the credentials of backers, team leaders and promoters of cryptocurrency projects. Although individuals may seem to be legitimate at first glance, brand new social media profiles and few followers or connections should raise eyebrows.

The most significant characteristic unifying exit scams in cryptocurrency is the promise of a huge return on investment (ROI) — chances are that it’s probably too good to be true. Investors should always look through even the smallest details of what they are required to invest and what the company purports to be able to give back to them.

ICOs usually come with a white paper, setting out the design details of the project along with a business plan and other information. Investors should pursue all available information for ICOs, as any vagueness in the white papers should signal a big red flag.

When investing in an ICO, it’s vital to get an understanding of the business model. Investopdia writes that anything powered by concept alone should be a warning to anyone tempted to buy in. Although cryptocurrency projects can and do launch off the back of technological advances, investors should be wary of projects looking to gather millions of dollars before taking a sober look at the project’s ability to return the investment from the published information.

Heavy promotion of an upcoming ICO can also be a sign of an exit scam. Past scams have employed bloggers to promote via numerous forums. Ads both online and in print media could also be suspicious.

$2.9 billion PlusToken scam could be largest exit scam ever

A 2019 report shared with Cointelegraph by the cryptocurrency and blockchain forensics company Ciphertrace dubbed 2019 the year of the exit scam and highlighted the billions of dollars stolen in multiple scams this year alone.

The report shines a light on what, if confirmed, could be the biggest crypto scam ever, with an estimated loss of around $2.9 billion after Chinese police uncovered an alleged Ponzi scheme involving the South Korean wallet provider and exchange PlusToken. Although more is being uncovered about PlusToken, mystery still surrounds the key events.

Ciphertrace reports that the platform has enshrouded several Chinese nationals, the government of Vanuatu, the Chinese police and the company’s co-founders — a South Korean man operating under the alias of “Kim Jung Un” and a Russian known only as “Leo.” The alleged PlusToken scam centers around an app with which the wallet provider claimed investors could invest in PlusToken (PLUS).

According to the report, the firm claimed that the token, based on the Ethereum blockchain, was developed by a major technology company. PlusToken is also said to have falsely stated that it could deliver wallet holders an ROI of between 8% and 16% per month, with a minimum deposit of $500 in crypto assets.

Ciphertrace also reported that no verifiable source of revenue existed other than the proceeds from new membership. Those were onboarded per the traditional method of a Ponzi scheme, which require a constant stream of new investment in order to support its semblance of growth. Investors were incentivized to recommend new users with an invitation, which was the only way to join.

Although this was enough for some members to dismiss the legitimacy of the project outright, Leo, the company’s co-founder, published a press release that claimed he had met with Prince Charles, the future head of the English royal family, providing photos as proof. Ciphertrust reported that it had contacted the Prince Charles Foundation, which confirmed that Leo had indeed attended the event, but would not provide other information about the individual due to European Union General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.

PlusToken’s fate was seemingly sealed on June 28, after members of the Chinese police touched down in Vanuatu, detained six people involved with the project and extradited them back to mainland China. Ciphertrace reported that the so-called “PlusToken Six” were either Vanuatu citizens or applying for citizenship at the time of their arrest.

Soon after, PlusToken members found that they were unable to withdraw funds from their accounts. Customers were informed that withdrawals via the app were frozen due to “technical difficulties.” By June 20, the PlusToken app had ceased operations due to purported system maintenance.

For investors, there seems to be no secure lead on the final resting place of the allegedly billions of dollars of stolen funds. The Chinese government has yet to comment. A July 12 post from PlusToken stated that the six Chinese individuals were simply service users and not actually involved with the running of the company itself, stating that users should ignore the rumors and not try to log in until they receive confirmation that the servers are back online.


On April 9, 2018, two ICOs — iFan and Pincoin — operating under the umbrella of company Modern Tech based in Vietnam, went silent after reports outed them as scams that had scalped 32,000 investors out of an alleged $660 million in tokens, according to Tuoi Tre News.

Victims claim that the damages amount to roughly 15 trillion Vietnamese dong ($660 million) in token sales. Angered investors held a demonstration outside Modern Tech’s Ho Chi Minh City headquarters on April 8.

One of the initial characteristics that could have alarmed investors was the fact that Pincoin offered service users bonuses for successfully bringing other people on board. Pincoin did initially pay out cash until January 2018, when the company switched to iFan tokens, TechCrunch reported.

The owner of Modern Tech’s office building said that the company left its offices in March and that no one knew their current whereabouts. The firm left behind only an incomplete website that is now inactive. Modern Tech initially tried to pass itself off as a mere representative of both coins in Vietnam, prior to media reports confirming that seven of its Vietnamese executives were in fact behind the projects.

TechCrunch reported that the ambiguous mission statement from the then-functional site is typical of the vague and jargon-filled copy used by exit scammers:

“The PIN Project is about building an online collaborative consumption platform for global community, base on principles of Sharing Economy, Blockchain Technology, and Crypto Currency”

Financial scam directory Behindmlm released a report in February 2018 that found its buy-in method was typical of an ROI Ponzi scheme. Pincoin’s website is currently down, though iFan’s is still online.

QuadrigaCX — regulators catch on

The death of 30-year old Gerald Cotten shook the crypto world — not only because Cotten was the co-founder and CEO of Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, QuadrigaCX, but also because his control of the passwords and keys to accounts rendered all the assets on the exchange forever inaccessible after his death. Cotten took over $195 million of stolen cryptocurrency with him to the grave.

Related: QuadrigaCX Users Lose $190M as Speculations Over Cotten’s Death Swirl

Commenting on the May 9 Ernst & Young report, Ciphertrace said Cotten had played fast and loose with customer funds for many years in order to support a lavish lifestyle for both himself and his wife. Cotten allegedly exercised complete control over the exchange and used his position to perform “unsupported deposits” — i.e., fabricated transactions not represented by either fiat or cryptocurrency.

Cotten also used significant volumes of customers’ cryptocurrency via transfers from the platform into other exchanges he controlled. As per the EY report, Cotten shifted significant amounts of fiat and cryptocurrency between alias accounts, although less than 1% of these transfers was supported by documentation. Ciphertrace notes that as the admin, Cotten was in a perfect position to hide his fraudulent activities.

In a pattern that may now seem familiar, Cotten used customer funds to pay for QuadrigaCX operating costs after the company suffered liquidity issues due to his reported fraudulent use of user deposits. As QuadrigaCX began to struggle to stay afloat, EY reported that Cotten gambled customer funds in off-platform margin accounts to meet margin calls.

The report also states that Cotten traded unsupported deposits for legitimate funds thereby generating artificial trading markets, abused his position to override Know Your Customer requirements and hoarded all passwords:

“The Monitor understands passwords were held by a single individual, Mr. Cotten and it appears that Quadriga failed to ensure adequate safeguard procedures were in place to transfer passwords and other critical operating data to other Quadriga representatives should a critical event materialize (such as the death of key management personnel).”

As of April 12, EY estimated that Quadriga held around $20.8 million in assets and around $160 million in liabilities. The debts and assets are spread over three subsidiary companies, 0984750 B.C. LTD. (the “Quadriga Estate”), Quadriga Fintech Solutions and Whiteside Capital Corporation. On July 31, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia approved over $1.6 million in fees for parties seeking remuneration from the exchange, according to court documents seen by Cointelegraph.

CFTC action launched after $147 million BTC scheme

On June 18, 2019, the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) initiated a civil enforcement action against now-defunct Control-Finance Limited for a scheme involving $147 million worth in Bitcoin.

It is alleged that Control-Finance Ltd. defrauded over 1,000 investors by laundering around 22,858 Bitcoin. In mid-September 2017, its website was abruptly taken offline, payments to clients were suspended and advertising content from social media accounts was deleted.

The firm initially said that it would reimburse customers by late 2017. However, the company allegedly began transferring laundered Bitcoin by using the crypto wallet service CoinPayments. According to Ciphertrace’s Q2 2019 Anti-Money Laundering (AML) report, the CFTC complaint charges the company and its founder Benjamin Reynolds with:

“Exploiting public enthusiasm for crypto assets by fraudulently obtaining and misappropriating at least 22,858.22 Bitcoin from more than 1,000 customers through a classic high-yield investment (HYIP) Ponzi scheme called the Control-Finance Affiliate Program.”

Per the CFTC, the company claimed that investors who buy Bitcoin through the firm would be guaranteed daily profits thanks to their team of expert cryptocurrency traders. The complaint also stated that the firm falsely claimed market volatility would ensure funds invested through Control-Finance would result in profit.

The CFTC also alleged that Control-Finance misleadingly promised that it could earn customers a 1.5% ROI daily and 45% monthly. Control-Finance is also reported to have sent partial amounts of new clients’ BTC deposits to other customers, which were disguised as profit from trading, a tactic typical of Ponzi schemes. The legal action seeking civil monetary penalties and permanent trading bans continues.

Co-owner of Bitmarket found shot dead after alleged exit scam

On July 8, the Poland-based exchange Bitmarket shut down, citing liquidity issues. According to Ciphertrace’s Q2 2019 AML report, the shutdown cost users around 2,300 Bitcoin, approximately $23 million. Users attempting to log on to the site were met with the following message:

“We regret to inform you that due to the loss of liquidity, since 08/07/2019, was forced to cease its operations. We will inform you about further steps.” 

Ciphertrace reports that Bitmarket had a history of partners pulling out. In 2015, the firm lost payment processors CashBill and BlueMedia after the companies’ banks requested they end their working relationship with Bitmarket. PKO Bank Polski, Bitmarket’s own bank, also terminated its relationship with the firm only six months after Bank BPH had done so earlier in 2015.

Bitmarket’s two founders, Marcin Aszkiełowicz and Tobiasz Niemiro, have contradicting accounts about the misplaced user funds. Aszkiełowicz claimed that the exchange had been hacked for 600 BTC in 2015, an incident from which the company was unable to recover.

Niemiro, however, claimed that he was not responsible for activities on the exchange. Niemiro also purported to have been told that the company was purchased with a deficit of 600 BTC, which he allegedly repaid with his own money. Niemiro said he could not confirm that his partners had indeed used the money to purchase the 600 BTC.

Two weeks after the interview, Niemiro was found dead in a forest near his home with a gunshot wound to the head, which the police deemed to be self-inflicted. The District Attorney’s Office stated that it is not looking into the involvement of third parties in Niemiro’s death, but are still actively investigating the misappropriation of funds.


R3 Plagued by Internal Conflicts Over Corda, Sources Claim

The development of R3’s enterprise blockchain platform Corda is being plagued by fundamental disagreements over its core vision, causing frustration and delay.

The claim was made in a report from FT Alphaville on Aug. 22, citing numerous insider sources.

“Corda maximalists” versus interoperability proponents

Sources close to R3 reportedly allege that there is a gulf between Corda’s engineers and its senior management as regards the product’s design and development. The engineers have purportedly lost faith in the technology itself, considering it to be functioning poorly and underscoring that it lacks scalability. 

They have also pointed to the allegedly 5-figure monthly bills R3 is ratcheting up in payments for cloud services, which cast a shadow over the platform’s long-term viability.

Other sources have spoken of tensions at the level of the workforce, accusing the R3 engineers of being susceptible to a “three-year itch” they believe besets the enterprise blockchain sector as a whole.

Sources mention irresolution regarding R3’s identity — split between pitching itself as being a financial software firm to a more wide-ranging tech consortium.

As regards Corda itself, they claim there is a lack of ambition and clarity regarding exactly what kind of blockchain it aspires to be — and whether or not it will at all remain committed to distributed ledger technology also known as DLT.

This split has become tribal, they allege, with a split between so-called Corda maximalists and those open to pursuing interoperability.

The bottom line is that many reportedly fear the platform will not offer diverse businesses the efficiency gains it promises.

“Powerful but not very useful”

Among the R3 engineers, anonymous sources have said the consortium is trying to market software that is still ill-conceived and underdeveloped; they added that R3 is struggling to manage its burgeoning client base.

FT Alphaville was told by other in-house engineers that the flagship product “still feels like an engine without a car — powerful but not very useful.”

Notably, some have alleged the company would have faced a cash crisis had it not reached a settlement in 2018 with erstwhile rival Ripple over a legal dispute involving the breach of an option agreement that would have allowed R3 to purchase XRP at a discounted price.

Earlier this month, R3 announced plans to open a second European office in Dublin in 2020, just weeks after doubling the size of its London hub as part of an aggressive expansion plan.





Bitmain Valuation to Hit $12B With New 600K Chip Order, Source Says

[the article interchanges ‘ASIC’ and ‘Mining Rig’ (the toy boxes) arbitrarily]

Bitcoin (BTC) mining giant Bitmain will increase its capacity by 50% in the next six months on the back of a giant hardware order, a source close to the deal has said.

Bitmain eyes 50% capacity increase

As reported by Chinese social media network WeChat on Aug. 23, Bitmain, which has seen a dramatic reversal of fortunes in 2019, will now buy 600,000 mining chips.

According to a source close to the Taiwanese chip manufacturer processing the order, the chips will be of the most recent 7nm variety, the hash rate of which will be 50 tera hashes per second [per AntMiner mining rig].

“Based on this calculation, after half a year, Bitmain’s total network computing power will skyrocket by about 50%,” the publication notes, adding Bitmain’s valuation will subsequently top $12 billion.

Mining operators trickle into the black

In July, the company and competitor Canaan Creative sold 5,000 application-specific integrated circuit mining rigs, or ASICs, to German operator Northern Bitcoin.

As Cointelegraph reported, the increase in Bitcoin mining profitability this year has improved the prospects for operators like Bitmain. In late 2018, pressure was visible, with the company closing down operations and firing staff in some countries.

The impact of the previous Bitcoin bear market lingers on, Bitmain reporting losses of $625 million for January and February.

Renewed plans to conduct an initial public offerings — or IPO — in the United States could meanwhile come to fruition before the beginning of 2020.





Machine-to-Machine Communications: Can Blockchain Become an Integral Part of Autonomous Vehicles?

A decade ago, the thought of self-driving cars was far from reality, but with 2020 looming large, massive strides have been made in the field of autonomous vehicles. Meanwhile, in the space of a decade, Bitcoin has thrust cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology into the mainstream consciousness. The latter has become a tool that is quickly being integrated into the world of finance, governance, logistics as well as the motor industry.

Some of the world’s leading automobile companies have been exploring the applications of blockchain technology and how it can be used to improve vehicles, the systems that operate them as well as how they interact with the world around them.So how is blockchain being used to drive the development of autonomous vehicles around the globe?

Machine-to-Machine communications

As recently as August 2019, Daimler carried out a test run in which trucks made machine-to-machine payments using a blockchain platform without any human interaction. Frankfurt-based bank and financial services firm Commerzbank tested payments between the trucks and electronic charging points, which were settled using the blockchain technology.

The banking firm tokenized euros, which were then used by Daimler to test and process the payments using the pilot platform. The success of the project could be a potential driver for the use of blockchain technology to facilitate settlement systems for autonomous vehicles.

While this is the latest instance of blockchain-powered autonomous vehicle interaction, there have been a number of major projects that are leveraging blockchain technology to store and use vehicle data.

Back in May 2018, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) was launched by a joint venture made up of over 30 companies, headlined by major automobile companies BMW, General Motors, Ford and Renault.

The principal work of the project was the creation of the MOBI Vehicle Identity Standard, which is looking to create a blockchain-based database for Vehicle Identity Numbers, which goes further than the current system that is used to register newly created vehicles.

By storing data on a blockchain, digital certificates for information including vehicle identity, ownership, warranties and current mileage can be securely stored in an electronic wallet. This data will be immutably stored on the blockchain and cryptographically verified. The vehicle can then communicate with various networks and pay for parking or tolls autonomously.

The data of the vehicle can only be accessed by permissioned parties. This would then allow service providers and government entities to verify credentials and track certain data in real time. This connection with the world around the vehicle will also allow for digital currency transactions to happen autonomously in a cryptographically secure network.

It is an ambitious project but it is easy to see the benefits for the industry. A shared but secure database of vehicles that can interact with the world in real time could be useful to a number of industries, from dealerships and service departments to vehicle insurance companies.

Aside from its involvement in MOBI, GM has been making its own moves to use blockchain technology. In December 2018, the company filed a patent for a blockchain-powered solution to manage data from autonomous vehicles.

The patent builds on an original filing back in 2017 and sets out in detail how the platform would work, allowing the distribution and communication of data between autonomous vehicles and services and facilities on roadways or in cities.

GM’s patent suggests that a blockchain system would be best suited for this type of information sharing. The range of data shared would be anything from navigation, charging and refueling services, validity of licenses as well as recording balances for payable services like tolls and parking.

The American vehicle manufacturer isn’t the only company looking to develop technology in this vein. Multinational IT giant IBM is well known for filing patents for future blockchain-based projects, and it has made some big moves in the field of autonomous vehicles as well.

In April 2019 the company filed a patent for a project that would allow it to manage data and interactions for self-driving vehicles using blockchain tech. This specific patent outlines technology that would allow autonomous vehicles to identify nonautonomous vehicles around it and predict their behaviour based on data from those vehicles’ driving record.

When making use of the blockchain technology, other users data remains secure, but autonomous vehicles can access the information in order to improve their navigation on the road. Only authorized parties would be able to access this data in real time, because it is cryptographically secure.

A practical example would be an autonomous vehicle driving on a highway. As it progresses, it can scan the license plates of nearby vehicles with sensors in order to access the necessary data using a blockchain-based application.

Payment solutions for autonomous vehicles

Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies have proven their worth as disruptive payment alternatives, and this very application is one that is being actively developed for use by autonomous vehicles.

In July 2019, Daimler announced that it had partnered with a blockchain startup to develop a hardware wallet solution for vehicles. The solution is a blockchain-based platform that would allow for the use of vehicle identities to process secure transactions on a blockchain ledger.

The end goal is to provide a software solution that will power a marketplace for vehicles that goes further than just autonomously paying for tolls or parking. The platform could be used for ride-sharing and secure exchange of traffic information to alleviate congestion.

Alternative solutions

The applications of blockchain technology are seemingly endless, and creative ideas have led to some ingenious use cases. For example, in May 2019, a research project was announced involving Honda and General Motors that would look into the interoperability between electric vehicles and smart power grids. The project is working under the scope of the aforementioned MOBI consortium.

The project will explore the possibility of using electric vehicles to stabilize the supply of energy in smart grids. The parties hope to develop a platform that will see electric vehicle users earn rewards for storing power and exchanging it with the grid when needed.

An academic perspective

The examples of blockchain’s use cases in the development of autonomous vehicles and the improvement of their processes is clear to see. Alejandro Ranchal-Pedrosa, a researcher in blockchain technologies at the University of Sydney, has done significant research in the space.

Having co-authored a published use-case paper on blockchain technology for autonomous vehicles, the researcher told Cointelegraph that the applications of the technology in the automotive industry are plain to see, from payments per transport or unit of fuel, data-sharing for traffic and better transport to insurance.

Ranchal-Pedrosa believes there is one major hurdle to overcome in the use of blockchain tech in autonomous vehicles:

“It is understandable that the industry is taking its time, mainly, in my opinion, due to the scalability problem of blockchains and the latency requirement for autonomous vehicles which is why in most cases the automobile industry would leverage offchain protocols, when possible. We showed how offchain protocols and its fully trustless exchange of infinitesimally fragmentable goods give the possibility of new applications to the industry.”

It is difficult to identify the most beneficial use case of blockchain technology considering the massive potential and variety of possible uses. Various industries will tailor the technology to serve their greatest needs, but Ranchal-Pedrosa believes the most popular use case in the field of autonomous transport will be for transactional exchanges:

“The biggest influence is without any doubt towards the possibility of exchange of goods on-the-go, in a trustless manner. Insurance companies may or may not find blockchain technologies as the best fit for their services, but trustless exchange of transport (sort of a carpool in which you can sign a contract with literally anybody to pay per kilometer), fuel, or any other product/service seems to me like a perfect fit for the current industry, and especially the future autonomous vehicles and machine to machine communications.”






Big Four and Blockchain: Are Auditing Giants Adopting Yet?

Last week, Big Four firm Deloitte unveiled a mobile platform designed to host blockchain networks on a small scale for demonstration purposes. The product is “based on client interest in understanding blockchain capabilities in live interactions,” as per the press release.

With this move, the Big Four companies — comprised of Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young (EY) and KPMG — continue their expansion into the field of blockchain. Combined, the firms brought in over $148 billion in revenue last year, as they handle over 50% of audits for both public and private companies. Consequently, their presence in the crypto space could be a reflection of the state of blockchain adoption.

So, how far have the Big Four gone while exploring distributed ledger technology (DLT), and can blockchain offer any particular perks for those companies?

Big Four: Consistent, but limited interest in blockchain

At this point, all of the Big Four companies have at least demonstrated some interest in blockchain, albeit their approaches tend to differ. Some companies, like Deloitte, have been mostly researching how this technology has affected the general market, while EY, for instance, has focused on releasing software solutions tailored for the needs of cryptocurrency businesses.

Such diversity can be explained by the very nature of those companies — being professional services networks, they offer a variety of services, including audit, tax, consulting, enterprise risk and financial advisory. It is also the reason why the Big Four have yet to fully dive into blockchain instead of merely flirting with the technology, as Cal Evans — the founder of Gresham International, a compliance and strategy firm — opined in a conversation with Cointelegraph:

Because the Big Four work in such a wide scope of sectors, they are unable (or unwilling) to dedicate serious time to blockchain. This makes sense, given that they cannot invest in every new technology set which comes along (although we view blockchain as different). One key thing to note is that many of the big four only got into blockchain when Crypto projects began using them to show more transparency. The Big Four are known to only get involved with something when their client base is using it, blockchain was and is no exception.”

“These appear to be just early steps,” Juan M. Villaverde, chief crypto analyst at Weiss Ratings, said. “They [the Big Four] have begun to recognize the potential of DLT, but they have not yet figured out how to leverage that potential.”

According to recruitment platform Indeed, as of March 2019, PwC had 40 blockchain-related job offerings, being the top recruiter in the field among the Big Four. EY came second with 17 vacancies, followed by Deloitte with 10 job offers.

Meanwhile, a more up-to-date search shows that PwC is still the most active professional services network when it comes to blockchain technology, but has only 13 positions directly mentioning the word “blockchain” left. EY has four job offerings, while apparently neither KPMG nor Deloitte are hunting for any blockchain talent at this point. That seems to confirm that the Big Four’s interest in the crypto space is existent, but moderate: PwC, for instance, has a total of 1,010 open vacancies on Indeed, meaning that its 40 blockchain-related job offers account for a minuscule fraction of that number.

Maurizio Raffone, CEO at crypto-focused consultancy and advisory firm Finetiq Ltd., told Cointelegraph:

“My impression is that the Big Four are keen on blockchain as an additional area where they can provide consulting services rather than audit services. There has been a trend by audit firms to move into more lucrative consulting and blockchain offers them yet another opportunity for that strategy.”

Related: How Blockchain Is Reshaping External Audit: Crypto Developments by PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte

Nevertheless, blockchain itself should also prove especially useful in the auditing market due to its transparent nature, as Evans told Cointelegraph:

“Blockchain is one of the few technology sets that can actually aid in most auditing respects. Financial auditing can be assisted by an end-to-end blockchain-based company as all transactions will be open and verifiable. They will also be contained within one ledger, which is one of the largest problems for an independent financial audit. Of course, there is more than one type of audit. Blockchain can be deployed across different sectors to make, for example, a service level agreement audit more effective. Companies could be monitored using blockchain to ensure that they are meeting compliance and the clients wishes.”

Raffone agrees that auditing practices could benefit from having blockchain in place. “I see blockchain as a cost-saving technology in the auditing space,” he told Cointelegraph. “Given the public nature of financial accounts, a blockchain solution would be rather efficient.”

However, Villaverde of Weiss Ratings is wary that the Big Four can stimulate crypto adoption only in certain scenarios. If the Big Four seek to involve themselves exclusively in the support of private blockchain solutions, the expert said, then it would hardly have any effect on the market at large, because “a private, permissioned blockchain is little more than a glorified database.” He went on, saying:

“It’s only when these firms decide to leverage the power of public blockchains, such as Ethereum or Bitcoin, that we envision these initiatives having a significant impact on public adoption.”


  • Crypto/blockchain market reports: Yes
  • Blockchain-based software solutions: Yes
  • First-hand adoption (Bitcoin acceptance, crypto ATMs): Yes
  • Investments in the crypto market: No

Having started accepting Bitcoin (BTC) as a payment for a part of its services back in 2017, PwC today is arguably the Big Four company that is the most proactive in exploring cryptocurrencies and blockchain. The company even has a major training program in place to boost its employees’ knowledge on the field.

Thus, PwC is no stranger to the crypto space and its major problems: In its 2018 study entitled “Blockchain is here. What’s your next move?” the firm highlighted regulatory uncertainty and trust as major barriers to blockchain adoption among businesses. Additionally, PwC has paid particular interest to stablecoins — another increasingly important part of the industry — and struck a partnership with decentralized lending platform Cred to advise on issuance of a United States dollar-pegged cryptocurrency.

However, the firm has not limited its blockchain presence to its advisory department. In March 2018, it partnered with leading global asset management company Northern Trust in a bid to enable real-time equity audits via blockchain and hence make the underlying transactions more transparent. Two months later, PwC invested in VeChain, a large cryptocurrency startup specializing in web services, supply chain management and anti-counterfeiting. In July of the same year, news broke that PwC was going to audit Tezos, the ambitious cryptocurrency project that was going through an internal dispute and several class-action lawsuits at the time. As per the accompanying press release published by the latter, it was allegedly the first time a “large-scale blockchain organization” had been accepted as a Big Four audit client.

Most recently, PwC announced the release of a cryptocurrency auditing software solution. Specifically, the company updated its Halo auditing suite to accommodate “entities engaging in cryptocurrency transactions” by providing independent evidence of private-public key pairing and collecting information about transactions and balances from blockchains.


  • Crypto/blockchain market reports: Yes
  • Blockchain-based software solutions: Yes
  • First-hand adoption (Bitcoin acceptance, crypto ATMs): No
  • Investments in the crypto market: No

EY has released more solo crypto-related software projects than any of its Big Four rivals. First, in April 2018, EY announced Blockchain Analyzer, becoming the first mainstream auditor to offer its services specifically for the needs of cryptocurrency companies, which allowed for the gathering of an organization’s entire transaction data from multiple blockchain ledgers. A year later, the firm followed up with a major update, introducing “the second generation” of EY Blockchain Analyzer. According to Paul Brody, the global innovation leader for blockchain at EY, the new version can be used for multiple purposes — such as audit, tax and transaction monitoring.

Moreover, in March 2019, EY unveiled another software solution — this time, for tax purposes exclusively. Dubbed Crypto-Asset Accounting and Tax, or CAAT, the tool was designed to assist its U.S. customers — both public and institutional — in filing IRS tax returns related to crypto assets.

Further, in May, EY open-sourced the code of Nightfall — its solution that enables the transfer of ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain “with complete privacy” — and put it on GitHub. “It is an experimental solution and still being actively developed,” the company warned.

Finally, the audit titan has applied blockchain to track wine. Specifically, the platform — titled Tattoo — helps consumers across Asia determine the quality, provenance and authenticity of imported European wines. As with the aforementioned Nightall, EY’s solution enables its customers to perform secure and private transactions on the Ethereum public network by using zero-knowledge proof technology.

On top of releasing a number of blockchain-related software solutions, EY has also been supplying its regular services to crypto actors. Namely, the firm has been appointed by QuadrigaCX — a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange that went defunct under mysterious circumstances — as an independent third party to monitor the proceedings in a creditor protection case. However, some of the exchange’s former clients are not happy with how EY has been handling the case: At some point, the auditor reportedly transferred 103 Bitcoins (approximately $1 million) to the exchange’s locked-out cold wallets. According to the report released by EY in February, the loss was caused by “a platform setting error.”


  • Crypto/Blockchain market reports: Yes
  • Blockchain-based software solutions: Yes
  • First-hand adoption (Bitcoin acceptance, crypto ATMs): No
  • Investments in the crypto market: No

KPMG has not only been increasing its presence in the blockchain space, but has also been a member of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA) since 2017.

Over the past 12 months, it has partnered with blockchain company Guardtime to offer blockchain-based services to clients; joined forces with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to integrate blockchain in the pharmaceutical supply chain (the initiative will reportedly speed up the process of tracking inventory and boost the accuracy of data shared between members of the supply chain); and worked with United Arab Emirates officials to successfully test a blockchain-based Know Your Customer, or KYC, application.

Additionally, KPMG collaborated with three powerful software companies — Microsoft, R3 and Tomia — to develop a blockchain-powered solution for telecom settlements. Arun Ghosh, who leads KPMG’s blockchain consultancy, said of the initiative:

“Blockchain has the potential to deliver transparency and visibility, providing the opportunity to help reduce reconciliations and increase efficiencies associated with traditional interconnect billing, roaming and partner settlement processes.”

Apart from working on blockchain-backed projects, KPMG has also studied the cryptocurrency market with an overall bullish outlook. In a November 2018 report, for instance, the auditing company invited institutional investors to “realize its potential.” which, in turn, would allegedly benefit the industry at large. “Cryptoassets have potential. But for them to realize this potential, institutionalization is needed,” the document’s authors argued.

KPMG’s latest survey on blockchain, however, suggests that most tax and finance executives are not considering adopting the technology. Regardless, David Jarczyk, innovation principal and tax leader for blockchain at KPMG, highlighted its potential benefits for the financial world:

“Blockchain is like a spreadsheet on steroids that can automate certain tasks, build greater transparency, speed and reliability, and provide a single source of transactional information.”


  • Crypto/Blockchain market reports: Yes
  • Blockchain-based software solutions: Yes
  • First-hand adoption (Bitcoin acceptance, crypto ATMs): Yes
  • Investments in the crypto market: No

Deloitte was the earliest Big Four player to delve into the crypto space, as it announced its first blockchain lab in Dublin back in May 2016. By that time, the company had already collaborated with the Bank of Ireland to complete a joint proof-of-concept blockchain trial. Today, three of the Ireland’s four largest banks are reportedly using Deloitte’s blockchain solution (developed in its Dublin branch) to verify employees’ credentials.

Also in 2016, Deloitte installed a Bitcoin ATM on the premises of its Toronto office. Placed outside the security gates so it could be accessible to the general public, the machine showcased the firm’s interest in cryptocurrencies.

Since then, Deloitte has kept a close eye on the market, releasing several reports that have recognized regulatory uncertainty and Bitcoin’s infamous scalability problem among the main hurdles for mass adoption. Nevertheless, the company’s August 2018 report entitled “Breaking Blockchain Open: 2018 Global Blockchain Survey” predicted that blockchain technology was getting closer to a breakout moment. Meanwhile, the newest issue of that report unveiled that as much as 73% of Chinese enterprises believe that blockchain is a top-five strategic priority, highlighting the nation’s focus on the technology.

This summer, Deloitte has also begun supporting a new blockchain accelerator program called Startup Studio in partnership with 22 other companies, including Fidelity and Amazon. Startup Studio will reportedly host workshops for blockchain startups to help them enhance a variety of skills important for the industry.

Finally, the Big Four giant has just rolled out its own blockchain-based platform designed to provide users with blockchain demonstrations and experiments. Called Blockchain in a Box, the new product is described as “a mobile, self-contained technology platform capable of hosting blockchain-based solutions across four small-form-factor compute nodes and three video displays, as well as networking components that enable integration with external services, such as traditional cloud technologies.”

Are the Big Four doing enough?

As for now, experts seem somewhat skeptical of the Big Four’s progress in terms of blockchain, arguing that their knowledge on the subject seems limited at this point. Evans told Cointelegraph:

There have been examples in the market where companies such as PwC have actually plagiarized and copied work from other companies within the crypto space, showing that their knowledge on the subject is incredibly limited. It is hard for a company to push something they don’t fully understand themselves.”

Either way, most accounting and auditing functions have the potential to become automated with smart contracts at some point in the future, and the Big Four would have to drastically increase their presence to stay relevant, according to Weiss Ratings’ Villaverde, who continued:

“The main question is: Will the Big Four lead in the creation of this new technology? Or will smaller, potentially more nimble, players jump into the space and take over significant market share from the Big Four?”

Whether or not the Big Four will adopt blockchain in their regular service offerings, the fact that all four firms draw up regular reports on the crypto and/or blockchain market shows that they are interested and are closely following the developments in the industry.



Will PwC’s New Software Solve the Cryptocurrency Auditing Problem?


Earlier this week, Big Four firm PwC announced the release of a cryptocurrency auditing software solution.

According to the multinational professional services network, its Halo auditing suite has now been updated to accommodate “entities engaging in cryptocurrency transactions.” The new tool reportedly allows PwC to establish crypto asset ownership and gather information about transactions and balances from blockchains.

While it is currently unclear whether Halo will now be picked up by cryptocurrency-related businesses, PwC’s move seems to mark another landmark step for the industry.

Specifics of auditing in the crypto space

Auditing in the crypto space is still a developing practice that varies substantially between stakeholders, as Maurizio Raffone, founder and CEO of Finetiq, told Cointelegraph. He also drew a parallel between on-chain and off-chain audits, explaining:

“On one side, crypto exchanges have historically focused on cyber-security measures, processes and procedures dealing with corporate governance and so forth, just like most other businesses. There are then on-chain audits that tend to focus on checking for bugs and correct workflow of a blockchain protocol or, more often, smart contracts.”

Indeed, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) — a global body for professional accountants — believes that “robust and consistent” accounting treatment is required for different types of cryptocurrencies, as Narayanan Vaidyanathan, head of business insights at ACCA, told Cointelegraph via email:

“This is currently an on-going challenge that is still under deliberation within the accountancy profession. Is a crypto currency cash, inventory, a financial asset, or an intangible asset? Because if there are accounting issues, it therefore as a downstream implication also becomes an audit issue.”

Auditing services might also depend on how companies utilize cryptocurrencies, adds David Martin, chief investment officer at Blockforce Capital:

“It is important to differentiate how a firm is using digital assets in its business dealings. For instance, a company that uses cryptocurrency as a way to make transactions requires different services than an investment firm that is holding digital assets as a form of investment.”

Perhaps the most notable example here would be Tether, the company behind the eponymous stablecoin (USDT) and a wholly owned subsidiary of iFinex — which also owns crypto exchange Bitfinex.

Related: Tether, Bitfinex Stay Afloat Amid Controversy

In early 2018, Tether’s plans to release a third-party audit fell through, although the company had previously announced that it was undergoing a “balance sheet audit” by Friedman LLP, a New York-based accounting firm.

However, in late June 2018, a document was finally produced — although it turned out to be a memorandum rather than an audit performed by an auditing company. As Tether’s general counsel explained at the time, mainstream accounting firms would not conduct official audits on companies working with cryptocurrencies.

While it is unclear whether Tether was willing to provide all the required information to third-party auditors (which could be the reason it could not complete the inspection), the general problem seems to persist within the crypto industry. Ben Tsai, president and managing partner of Wave Financial, told Cointelegraph:

“Cryptocurrency companies definitely have an audit problem. Major players such as exchanges, stablecoins and hedge funds are not consistently providing proof of solvency despite the fact they need to.”

According to experts, the regulatory uncertainty within the space might be part of the issue. As Tsai told Cointelegraph, the current regulatory climate allows crypto businesses to turn to auditing firm only in case of emergency:

“Regulation does not currently require ‘proof of funds’ for stablecoins and for exchanges, which is the main reason these audits aren’t taking place. Mostly, the big four come in and audit companies after they ‘mess up.’”

Indeed, as Martin opines, cryptocurrencies remain in “a precarious situation” in regard to regulation:

“Regulatory systems are primarily reactive and laws haven’t necessarily caught up to the innovation of digital assets quite yet. The financial reporting standards in the US which are set by GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) don’t currently directly address the accounting for cryptocurrencies. Nuances like this make auditing business activities involving digital assets and cryptocurrencies inherently difficult.”

The Big Four’s relationship with cryptocurrencies

The Big Four is a commonly accepted term used to refer to the four biggest auditing firms in the world: Ernst & Young (EY), PwC, Deloitte and KPMG. Handling the vast majority of audits for companies around the world, both private and public, they are considered a cornerstone of the mainstream financial world.

Notably, during the past few years, the Big Four have been showing particular interest in the crypto industry. However, all of the major auditors have established long-term blockchain roadmaps to remain relevant in the space.

Related: How Big Four Auditors Delve Into Blockchain: PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG Approaches Compared

PwC has arguably been the most active Big Four company when it comes to cryptocurrencies. It started accepting bitcoin (BTC) for its services back in 2017 and announced a training program to enhance its employees’ blockchain knowledge in the following year.

Further, PwC has also recognized the regulatory uncertainty, naming it one of the main obstacles on the road to mass blockchain adoption in its 2018 report entitled “Blockchain is here. What’s your next move?” The Big Four giant had also pinpointed the lack of insurance as another problem hindering crypto businesses in a separate interview with Reutres.

Moreover, PwC has not only recognized the importance of the field, but has started to explore it firsthand. First, in May 2018, the auditing firm invested in VeChain, a major cryptocurrency project specializing in the Internet of Things (IoT), supply chain management and anti-counterfeiting.

Related: PwC’s Pierre-Edouard Wahl: Blockchain Can Bring Positive Competition to Swiss Banking Space

In March 2019, PwC began conducting a trial of its blockchain-powered platform for ensuring the integrity of employee credentials. By the end of the same month, the company had become the top recruiter for blockchain-related jobs on headhunting platform Indeed, being responsible for as many as 40 blockchain-related job offers there (EY had 17, Deloitte had 10, while KPMG didn’t have any offers). PwC had 400 blockchain experts on board in 2018 to cater to cryptocurrency-related clients, according to the Financial Times, while this number could be higher at this point.

“We are devoting significant resources to how we might provide audit services in not just cryptocurrency, but blockchain,” a PwC representative told the publication at the time.

However, PwC wasn’t the first Big Four venture to adjust its auditing tools for the needs of cryptocurrency companies. In that sense, it has been outraced by the competing EY, which rolled out its blockchain analytics program called “Blockchain Analyzer” in April 2018.

So, can PwC’s new solution outshine its rivals in the crypto space and will it actually have an impact on the industry at all?

Details about the new version of Halo

As PwC stated in the press release, the tool newly added to its Halo auditing suite can be used to “provide assurance services for entities engaging in cryptocurrency transactions.”

The firm claims that, after the update, the Halo suite permits PwC to provide independent evidence of private-public key pairing, which is used to establish crypto asset ownership.

“Proof of ownership is really the main blocking point,” notes Tsai of Wave Financial. He told Cointelegraph:

“We had a California state auditor come into the office who struggled to grasp what ‘ownership’ of cryptocurrencies looks like. Auditors are used to custodial statements, paperwork and other forms of ‘proof’. With the blockchain, only your private key proves ownership, which makes it difficult to show ownership without exerting control over the funds (moving them around, etc.).”

Therefore, if Halo can actually prove ownership of funds and auditors can trust the tool, it would “speed up audits and cut costs and headaches,” Tsai concluded.

Raffone also argued that Halo might prove to be efficient, given that it focuses on a specific on-chain audit niche:

“This is a useful tool for sure, focused on transactional history and balances which seems suitable for institutional investors and fund managers, entities that normally require audits relating to financial transactions and assets ownership.”

Further, PwC’s Halo can now reportedly gather information about transactions and balances from blockchains. That, according to Martin of Blockforce Capital, is also a potentially effective feature.

“The Halo platform offers an easy-to-use way for firms to access blockchain information without having to spend manpower and resources that could be better spent somewhere else,” Martin told Cointelegraph, elaborating:

“For instance, the Bitcoin blockchain is open-source and can be viewed by anyone. However, just because the information is available doesn’t mean it doesn’t require a unique skill set to access.”

According to PwC, the upgraded version of the Halo suite is already being employed to support audits of clients involved with cryptocurrencies and assisting companies for which the firm is not the auditor in implementing processes and controls necessary to obtain assurance reports from their auditors. Theoretically, that could ease cryptocurrency-related audits not only for PwC, but the industry at large.

Still, the Big Four firm notes that the tool has its limitations: namely, client’s control environment, and, “at this stage,” the breadth of tokens supported by Halo. The software reportedly supports bitcoin (BTC), bitcoin cash (BCH), bitcoin gold (BTG), bitcoin diamond (BCD), litecoin (LTC), ether (ETH), OAX (ERC-20 token) and XRP.

“These considerations will be key when determining whether we are comfortable to accept an audit engagement,” PwC wrote in the press release.

It is currently unclear whether Halo is deployable in all 158 countries that PwC claims to be operating in. Cointelegraph has reached out to the Big Four company to clarify this, but has not heard back as of publication.

Related: Daniel Diemers From PwC Strategy& Switzerland: Adoption of New Technologies Requires More Education

Experts suggest that the vast geography should not be a problem for Halo, however. ACCA’s Vaidyanathan reminded that the international auditing standards (ISAs) apply globally when asked about potential clashes.

Raffone of Finetiq, in turn, stressed the technical nature of PwC’s solution:

“The audit function provided by Halo is purely technical and doesn’t seem driven by any regulatory requirement, therefore it seems a ‘upon request’ service that can be deployed across jurisdictions. Although I don’t think Halo fills any regulatory need per se currently, it is certainly comparable to similar investment fund audit services and once the crypto industry becomes mainstream, I would expect this sort of audit service to be required by regulators.”

Martin maintains a similar position. According to the Blockforce Capital’s CIO, PwC should be well-poised to take on the regulatory complexities, given its experience with running auditing and accounting practices in multiple countries:

“While adjusting to different jurisdictions is difficult, PwC is in a great position to take on the task. They are a highly respected accounting firm and have the resources to apply to such an endeavor.”

Do things get better as we go along?

In the end, the problem seems to come down to the aspect of adoption: While the cryptocurrency industry continues to grow, the recognition from mainstream corporations — such as the Big Four — could speed up this process. That is why PwC’s work with Halo is “validating” the institutionalization of the crypto space, in Tsai’s view.

On the other hand, the need for crypto-specific audits could be fulfilled even without the participation PwC, Deloitte and others, according to what Raffone told Cointelegraph:

“A whole host of specialist firms are emerging as leading crypto audit service providers, challenging the Big Four and their cost structure. Even IBM is getting in the game with a recently patented solution to audit blockchains.”

While time will tell if Halo turns out to be a viable solution for the crypto space, the remaining Big Four players have now been challenged to release their own software that would be on par with Halo in terms of functionality.





1 Billion Mobile Users Vulnerable to Ongoing ‘SimJacker’ Surveillance Attack

More than one billion mobile users are at risk from a SIM card flaw being currently exploited by threat actors, researchers warn.

A vulnerability discovered in mobile SIM cards is being actively exploited to track phone owners’ locations, intercept calls and more – all merely by sending an SMS message to victims, researchers say.

Researchers on Thursday disclosed what they said is a widespread, ongoing exploit of a SIM card-based vulnerability, dubbed “SimJacker.” The glitch has been exploited for the past two years by “a specific private company that works with governments to monitor individuals,” and impacts several mobile operators – with the potential to impact over a billion mobile phone users globally, according to by researchers with AdaptiveMobile Security.

Simjacker has been further exploited to perform many other types of attacks against individuals and mobile operators such as fraud, scam calls, information leakage, denial of service and espionage,” said researchers with AdaptiveMobile Security in a post breaking down the attack, released Thursday.

They said they “observed the hackers vary their attacks, testing many of these further exploits. In theory, all makes and models of mobile phone are open to attack as the vulnerability is linked to a technology embedded on SIM cards.”

The attack stems from a technology in SIM cards called S@T Browser (short for SIMalliance Toolbox Browser). This technology, which is typically used for browsing through the SIM card, can be used for an array of functions such as opening browsers on the phone as well as other functions like setting up calls, playing ring tones and more.

From a high level, threat actors can send messages to victims that use the S@T Browser functionality in order to trigger proactive commands that are sent to the handset. The issue is impacted SIM cards that contain the S@T Browser technology do not check the origin of messages that use the S@T Browser, and also that SIMs allow data download via SMS, researchers said.

These messages contain a series of SIM Toolkit (STK) instructions and is specifically crafted to be passed on to the SIM Card within the device. Once the SMS is received by the SIM card, it uses the S@T Browser library as an execution environment, where it can trigger logic on the handset – mainly for requesting location and specific device information (IMEI).

The responses to these commands are sent back from the handset to the SIM card, where they are stored temporarily. Once the relevant information is retrieved from the handset, another proactive command is sent to the victim’s handset to send an SMS out with the information to the attacker’s handset.

“The location information of thousands of devices was obtained over time without the knowledge or consent of the targeted mobile phone users,” researchers said. “During the attack, the user is completely unaware that they received the attack, that information was retrieved, and that it was successfully exfiltrated. However the Simjacker attack can, and has been extended further to perform additional types of attacks.”

Once they have sent the message, attackers can launch an array of attacks utilizing the S@T Browser, including: location tracking, fraud, denial of service, malware spreading and call interception. Using the attack bad actors can also launch commands like playing a ring tone, sending short messages, setting up calls, and more.

Researchers said that they have seen many of these potential attacks being tested and used by the attacker group. While they did not name the group, they said: “We can say with a high degree of certainty, that the source is a large professional surveillance company, with very sophisticated abilities in both signaling and handsets.

To mitigate against the attack, users can “investigate if you have SIM cards with S@T Browser technology deployed in your network and if so whether any S@T Browser-specific proprietary security mechanisms can be applied,” researchers said.

Other recommendations include:

  • Determine whether existing network equipment can be configured to filter binary SMS messages from unauthorised sources.
  • Consider if current firewalls are simply only GSMA document ‘compliant’. “These GSMA documents should really only be used as a starting point for more effective protection,” according to researchers.
  • Review the ongoing investigation and research you are doing on what is being encountered in your network.

Researchers said that they have submitted the details of the exploit to the GSMA in terms of vulnerability disclosure, and “will continue to research how the attacks function, look for other variants of the Simjacker exploits and use of the vulnerability.”

While researchers say that the S@T protocol is used by mobile operators in at least 30 countries whose population adds up to over a billion people, in an email to Threatpost, the GSMA [stated] that the “potential vulnerability” impacts a “small minority of SIM cards.”

“This research specifically considers SIM cards which make use of a technology not used by most mobile operators, and requires a user to be sent specially coded messages containing commands for the SIM card,” a GSMA spokesperson told Threatpost. “The potential vulnerability is understood to not be widespread and mitigations have been developed for affected mobile networks to implement.”

Moving forward, “the GSMA has worked with the researchers and the mobile industry to create guidance for its members about how to identify which SIMs are impacted and ways to block these malicious messages, and has been working with the impacted member operators to help implement these mitigations,” the GSMA spokesperson told Threatpost.

Further findings from the exploit will be presented at Virus Bulletin 2019 in October.





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