When Bitcoin Plunges, Buttcoin Cheers : The Online Community Praying For The End of Crypto

As bitcoin plunged below $20,000 in mid-June, many cryptocurrency users were distraught over massive losses – with some reporting they had lost their life savings. But one corner of the internet was cheering: Buttcoin, a Reddit subforum launched in 2011 to poke fun at cryptocurrency.

“I’m addicted, I need help,” read one popular post. “I just love watching line go down too much. I always tell myself ‘after it breaks through this next support line, you’ll be satisfied’ but there’s ALWAYS another lower level after that.” “I’m actually hoping it levels off at 20K for tonight,” said another user. “I’m kinda tired and need more time to think of new lower priced memes.”

One tech industry worker who frequents Buttcoin told the Guardian they stayed up until 3am one night to watch the crash unfold. “I know this may sound pathetic but I get a dopamine hit when I see the bitcoin price going down. It was so exciting.” The cryptocurrency flirted with its two-year low again this week, which meant a festive mood at Buttcoin. With about 135,000 members, the subreddit is tiny compared with the millions of people who chat on Reddit’s many pro-cryptocurrency forums.

But frequent contributors to the community – whose logo replaces bitcoin’s golden “B” with a pair of golden buttcheeks – describe it as a kind of digital support group, laced through with dark humor, for people who are horrified by the proliferation of crypto scams and pyramid schemes. Though they may not have the power to destroy crypto, they can make jokes when it stumbles. As Buttcoin members say, instead of mining useless digital coins – they’re “mining comedy gold”.

Just like the crypto culture it mocks, Buttcoin has its own set of memes. Some of them simply flip crypto sayings. Instead of baying for token prices to rise “to the moon”, Buttcoin users chant “to the floor”. But Buttcoin’s most popular jokes take pro-crypto logic and push them to sarcastic extremes. To skewer crypto promoters’ habit of spinning negative news, Buttcoin users comment “This is good for bitcoin” under stories of cryptocurrency catastrophes. (Bitcoin’s been banned in a major country? Good for bitcoin. Bitcoin’s price is plummeting? Good for bitcoin. Someone lost their life savings to a bitcoin scam? You guessed it… good for bitcoin.)

Another crypto catchphrase smugly referencing the technology’s complexity, “Few understand,” has been become a Buttcoin meme in its own right. (For example: a Buttcoin user jokes that a 2003 Toyota Camry’s rising price amid the crypto crash makes the Camry a superior “store of value”. “Every 2003 Camry has a unique VIN and you can drive it to the supermarket too … Few understand,” another replies. “This is good for Toyota,” a third chimes in.)

Buttcoin’s most senior moderator, an IT worker who goes by spookmann, told the Guardian that the 11-year-old forum has “changed as crypto itself as grown and festered. “Originally the tone was almost entirely ‘Haha… that’s so silly!’ And certainly that element is still present, but nowadays there’s an increasingly tragic element of ‘Ugghh… so many people are having their lives ruined by this damn thing!’”

The biggest posts on Buttcoin are shot through with schadenfreude. The subreddit invariably celebrates when bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, dips below symbolic price levels – which to many Buttcoin users, proves that the scam is unraveling. “I definitely get hopeful when it starts seriously dipping or when some stablecoin scheme goes to zero,” said Joe, a systems engineer who browses Buttcoin every day. “There’s a kind of thrill to the validation of it, right? Especially since the crypto bro stereotypes are so obnoxious whenever it goes up in a new bubble.”

But the more controversial posts mock crypto investors themselves for losing money – though there’s disagreement over how far to go. Some highly rated posts on the subreddit argue that there should be no sympathy for victims. “They can go fuck themselves,” read one post in late June, with more than 1,500 upvotes: “Criticizing scams is not being mean. This also isn’t a support group to help console people who lost all of their money on ElonDogPoop Coin.” Not all Buttcoin users agree. “Even if they are assholes, I don’t relish the idea of the average [investor] losing their life savings even if they should have been able to see the scam for what it is. That unambiguously sucks,” Joe says.

There’s a “shared enjoyment of watching things go up in flames”, said M, a Buttcoin user and a tech industry worker, but he still has “sympathy for those drawn into crypto by family members or by the promise of a better life … Times are tough for most.” He pointed to the victims of Celsius, an unlicensed crypto “bank” that offered massive returns to over a million investors in an alleged ponzi scheme that collapsed earlier this summer. The court testimonies – which included pleas from ordinary people who lost their life savings – were “heartbreaking”, M said.

Because Reddit’s pro-cryptocurrency forums quickly delete critical posts, Buttcoin also attracts users looking to commiserate over loved ones who have been caught up in the scam. One support seeker was Izzycc, a 23-year-old social work student whose boyfriend of eight years had become depressed after getting sucked into the NFT fad and losing money.

“I’m absolutely fucking praying for the downfall of cryptocurrency,” she wrote. “It would mean a wakeup call for him, he might finally pull out of this scam, and maybe even start to feel a little better not staring at a number that’s only going down.” Buttcoin users urged Izzycc to break up with her boyfriend – and so she did. “It was for a couple of reasons, but the NFT stuff was kind of a big one,” she told the Guardian.

“I just hated being around it all the time. I hated when he would talk to my family about it. It was just kind of embarrassing, I guess.” She’s doing “a lot better now”, but still browses Buttcoin: “The people are funny, and I know too much about cryptocurrency to not at least casually browse the site at this point.”

Buttcoin sometimes deals with heavier tragedy. In August, a user described a close friend who had gone all-in on crypto before he killed himself. “I was secretly making fun of him,” the user wrote, “till I recently heard the bad news … and it’s hard to feel sorry for crypto bros, but now that I’m here, I do.” “I’m tearing up hearing about this,” wrote one user. Another user observed: “This sub makes a lot of jokes that I consider comic relief, but everything about this sucks, in reality.”

That’s the tension that runs through Buttcoin: beneath the memes lies real pain – and a frustration of watching helplessly as more people around you get hurt. “I think if the crypto cult was just a bunch of dudes off in the woods with a server farm and a maypole there wouldn’t be any real call for Buttcoin to exist,” said Joe. “But it apparently intends to stick around and become a sufficiently big part of the world overall that I don’t have that option.”

Buttcoin isn’t so much a force for resistance as it is a coping mechanism, Joe said, and one that at least for him, may even be backfiring.

“I’m pretty sure the algorithms have actually been sending me more crypto ads since I started posting regularly because they can’t tell the difference between ‘I’m reading about how absurd this is’ and ‘I’m reading about this as a potential sucker/customer.’” He refreshes Buttcoin anyway, hoping he’ll one day witness the price go all the way to the floor.

Source: When bitcoin plunges, Buttcoin cheers: the online community praying for the end of crypto | Bitcoin | The Guardian

Critics by Sabrina Toppa

A Reddit forum devoted to skewering cryptocurrency investors and the industry’s neverending scams says it’s “mining comedy gold” instead of Bitcoin, which it prefers to label Buttcoin. Home to 135,00 members, the Buttcoin community arose in 2011, well-ahead of the current bear market in the crypto industry, which has wiped out some people’s savings. The subreddit’s emblem is gilded butt-cheeks, according to the Guardian.

For dark comic relief, Buttcoiners take widely-used crypto catchphrases by Bitcoin boosters like “going to the moon” and derisively supplant them with going “to the floor.” They also ironically label objectively catastrophic events as “good for Bitcoin,” such as when a country levies a nationwide prohibition on crypto or an entire crypto lender goes bankrupt, leaving destitute creditors in their wake. Other gripes with Bitcoin include its lack of utility in the world and the high environmental footprint associated with mining. 

In recent months, there’s been an uptick in groups chronicling the failure of decentralized finance and crypto. From Molly White’s “web3 is going just great” to the Cryptic Critics’ Corner podcast, these places are seen as an antidote to the often breathless coverage of crypto in some corners of the internet.

According to the Guardian, some subreddit users even get a dopamine hit when the price of Bitcoin plunges. “I definitely get hopeful when it starts seriously dipping or when some stablecoin scheme goes to zero,” a Redditor named Joe told the Guardian.

But even Joe has the self-awareness not to plunge too deeply into schadenfreude: “Even if they are assholes, I don’t relish the idea of the average [investor] losing their life savings even if they should have been able to see the scam for what it is. That unambiguously sucks.”

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Understanding 51% Attacks on Bitcoin and Blockchain

A 51% attack doesn’t mean the attacker can send BTC from your wallet or account; it only means the blockchain has been compromised, and double-spending of crypto is imminent. Blockchains like Bitcoin and its contemporaries, with larger mining nodes and hash power, are less likely to be attacked due to the financial cost involved.

Blockchain technology is no longer a new word in this digital era. The name prevalently comes to mind anytime Bitcoin cryptocurrency is mentioned in any discourse. Unfortunately, the connection between blockchain and Bitcoin can’t be ruptured because the Bitcoin cryptocurrency brought blockchain to the limelight in 2008.

For clarity’s sake, Bitcoin is a blockchain on its own, while its native cryptocurrency that is used to incentivize miners is BTC—Bitcoin cryptocurrency. The cryptocurrency was birthed through one of the several use cases of blockchain in the finance industry.

Consensus Mechanisms

A consensus mechanism is when the majority agrees on something or disagrees. Imagine you conduct a survey with 100 different people from different locations about how sweet a particular cookie is. If all 100 say it is sweet or otherwise, their opinion is unanimous, which marks a consensus.

The consensus mechanisms employed in all blockchain networks are similar to the example above. In the case of blockchain, miners replicate the audience that took the cookie survey. Back to Bitcoin mining.As mentioned earlier, the consensus mechanism of bitcoin is the PoW, where miners compete to solve complex cryptographic puzzles with their mining machines. Whoever can solve this puzzle faster and produces the winning hash wins the right to add the newly verified transaction data to a block.

Such a validator will be rewarded with the native crypto of the blockchain—BTC.What usually determines who wins the right to fill a new block with transaction data is having a mining machine with a high hash rate—i.e., machines that can produce more hashes per second. This can be achieved by having more machines and combining their mining power or getting machines with higher mining power to mine faster than your competitors.This suggestion can be likened to participating in a raffle where having more tickets increases your chances of winning. Now, what if an unscrupulous or malevolent actor has a higher mining power than other miners? Then, a 51% attack is imminent!

What Is a 51% Attack?

A 51% attack occurs when a malevolent miner in a blockchain network gains control of the blockchain mining power. This means that the miner—in this case, an attacker— will be able to mine faster than other miners because the attacker now controls more than 50% of mining power.

Having 51% control—which is the least percentage required to take over a blockchain network—is ominous.

Difference Between a 51% Attack and a 34% Attack

A 34% attack is known with the Tangle consensus algorithm. The attacker only falsifies the blockchain’s ledger by approving or disapproving transactions. In contrast, the 51% attack gives attackers control of a blockchain such that they can disrupt mining and the entire blockchain.

Implications of a 51% Attack on Blockchain and Bitcoin

When an attacker controls 51% mining power in a blockchain, then the security of such a blockchain has been compromised, leaving the attacker in control of transactions. Below are the implications of what’s bound to happen due to a 51% attack:

  1. Network Disruption by Delaying Validation of Transactions: The attacker disrupts the blockchain network by attacking the miner’s computing resources. In such a scenario, there’ll be a delay in the validation and storage of transactions in a block. As a result, the blockchain is hampered, causing the attacker to process transactions faster than the miners or even prevent another miner from adding blocks.
  2. Double Spending: Double spending occurs when miners spend their crypto twice on a particular blockchain network.How?
    Imagine if the attacker had previously purchased a Ferrari 250 GTO with 1,600 BTC; he paid for the car and got the delivery of the vehicle. During a 51% attack on the BTC blockchain, the attacker can reverse the 1,600 BTC transferred to the seller’s wallet such that he keeps the car and the BTC. The BTC can then be spent for another purpose. This is known as double-spending.
  3. Reduction in Miner’s Reward: Since miners are usually rewarded for validating transactions on a blockchain, in the wake of a 51% attack, the attacker steals the shares of other miners, making them earn less than what they’re supposed to earn.

Diminishes Blockchain’s Credibility

A 51% attack on a blockchain network will diminish the credibility of such a blockchain. Both miners and investors will not trust the security framework anymore. This might lead to abandoning the project or some exchanges delisting the crypto from their market.

Below are the examples of blockchains that have suffered a 51% attack:• BSV—Bitcoin Satoshi Vision—was attacked in August 2021• ETC—Ethereum Classic—was attacked thrice in August 2020

BTG—Bitcoin Gold— was attacked twice; once in 2018 and then in 2020

• GRIN was attacked in 2020, the attacker controlled about 58% of GRIN’s hash rate

VTC—Vertcoin—was also attacked twice in 2019

How to Prevent 51% Attack

i. Limited Hash Power – Blockchains running on the PoW mechanism should limit the hash power of each miner to 50% or lesser. This will pre-empt such an attackQuintex3-1-2-2-1-1-1-1

ii. Using PoS or DPoS A PoS- Proof-of-Stake- the mechanism is another consensus mechanism for validating blockchain transactions. It is eco-friendly because no power is needed, and it doesn’t require a sophisticated machine. PoS uses coin owners’ machines to mine crypto. Investors stake their coins in return for an opportunity to validate blocks.DPoS, on the other hand, means Delegated Proof-of-stake. It is a decentralized PoS where the crypto community appoints validators by voting. If a validator is perceived to be compromising the network, they are also voted out by the community.

Conclusion

A 51% attack doesn’t mean the attacker can send BTC from your wallet or account; it only means the blockchain has been compromised, and double-spending of crypto is imminent. Blockchains like Bitcoin and its contemporaries, with larger mining nodes and hash power, are less likely to be attacked due to the financial cost involved.

By Abubakar Maruf

Source: Understanding 51% Attacks on Bitcoin and Blockchain | HackerNoon

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Emerging Markets and The Future Of Blockchain

In the first ten years of the expansion of blockchain technology, it was utterly dominated by developed (or more precisely western) nations. But emerging markets like Africa are adopting crypto faster than their global counterparts. This growth is even more impressive when one considers that there has been very little institutional support for blockchain technology in these nations.

The growth in blockchain adoption has been concentrated in. Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania, which are some of the most densely populated nations on the continent, which have been banned from crypto trading. In the first ten years of the expansion of blockchain technology, it was utterly dominated by developed (or more precisely western) nations. Almost all the Bitcoin Miners were located in America and Europe, and only rising mining costs moved those operations abroad.

Asides from that, many of the earliest Bitcoin/blockchain innovators were either westerners or living in western countries. For example, Vitalik Buterin, while being Russian-born himself, had been in Canada for the better part of two decades before creating Ethereum. However, as blockchain technology is moving into the next phase of its development, it appears that emerging markets like Africa are adopting crypto faster than their global counterparts. While no one knows the reason for this, it’s very difficult to deny that it’s happening. The numbers are simply undeniable.

For example, cryptocurrency adoption grew in Africa by 1200% between the 12 months between July 2020 and June 2021. Regardless of whether this was brought on by the financial uncertainty of the pandemic or other clusters of reasons, the effect of this growth can hardly be ignored. This growth in blockchain adoption has been concentrated in countries Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania, which are some of the most densely populated nations on the continent. Peer-to-peer trading, which is a huge part of blockchain technology, is so big in Kenya that the country led the world in P2P transactions in 2022.

All this points to an exciting future for blockchain technology in these markets. This growth is even more impressive when one considers that there has been very little institutional support for blockchain technology in these nations. Many of the regulators in these countries have banned crypto trading, which has slowed down adoption. Despite that, the rate of adoption is still incredible. All this points to one thing; blockchain technology adoption might already have plateaued in the West, but this is just the beginning in emerging markets like Africa.

The Opportunities are Limitless

The blockchain ecosystem of emerging markets might not be as huge as that of developed nations, but it’s rather apparent that blockchain technology solves more structural problems in these markets than elsewhere. For example, in nations where inflation is rampant — like Zimbabwe — citizens can safeguard their wealth with stablecoins. Interestingly, I addressed the structural problems of P2E economies here and recommended the need for a dedicated stablecoin to fix these structural problems.

Blockchain technology also gives a level of autonomy to citizens in nations with oppressive and dictatorial governments. In countries where governments can unilaterally freeze bank accounts of dissidents, digital stores of value like cryptocurrency can be a real vehicle of social change.This is indeed already happening. In 2020, there was at least one case of a popular protest funded in part by Bitcoin. Bitcoin was rather useful for the protest because of the anonymity and decentralization built into the coin’s infrastructure on the blockchain.

Asides from the monetary use of blockchain, it also has administrative uses as well. By applying blockchain technology to supply chain management, countries can greatly improve asset recording, tracking, assigning, linking and sharing; developing nations can build resilient supply chains without using an overinflated bureaucracy. This can be especially useful for developing nations that are battling supply chain issues. Blockchain can be useful in the entertainment industry as well. It can be used to prevent privacy in the industry, protect digital content, and facilitate the distribution of digital collectibles.

There are opportunities in gaming too. While Play-to-Earn games with NFT characters have gotten a bad rep because of how expensive it is to purchase a character, companies like Rainmaker Games are solving this problem. Rainmaker Games, for example,  is one of the most exciting companies revolutionizing games for the future. Within just a few months, Rainmaker Games has found a way to vet the identity of players who are joining guilds, figure out a way players can play hundreds of P2E games for free, and also incorporate an NFT marketplace on all of that.

With startups like Rainmaker Games lowering the barrier of entry for P2E gamers from emerging markets, it’s only a matter of time before these players stand toe to toe with the rest of the world. Asides from the structural shakeup a startup like Rainmaker Games can cause with its technology; there’s also the matter of the financial freedom these P2E games can give to players from emerging markets.

The NFT Goldmine

Despite the opportunities on the blockchain, it’s obvious that the same enthusiasm for crypto in emerging markets has been missing. One reason that has been brought up is the unfriendly technical nature of NFTs. And that could be a good point. After all, the more technical using a technology is, the fewer people use it.

Perhaps that’s why players in Web3 are already working on the important infrastructure that will help builders scale technical barriers to entry and build products faster and cheaper in the ecosystem. Ankr is one of those stakeholders, and the company provides fast, reliable infrastructure at community first pricing. It isn’t just infrastructure either — the company does everything from helping enterprises integrate with Web3 to allowing DeFi users to stake their coins and earn higher yields.

Right now, NFTs have taken on a lot of different forms, but there’s one that remains elusive; representation from emerging markets.While developing nations seem quite capable of holding their own and accelerating their development when it comes to crypto, the markedly lukewarm attitude toward NFTs has continued unabated. We know that the reason isn’t because of lack of utility. NFTs have proven that they can solve the problem of monetization for content creators and solve the problem of piracy for artists.

This means that NFTs have a huge future in these emerging markets — even if adoption isn’t on the up and up as it is with crypto. The problem, it seems, is with the complexities of releasing a token and a much higher tech barrier to entry. Cryptocurrency has largely avoided these problems due to a friendlier technical environment. For example, there are centralized exchanges for crypto where people with limited technical knowledge can just open an account and buy their cryptocurrency.

While there is also something like that for NFTs — Opensea is a great example — it isn’t targeted at or built for content creators in emerging markets.Thankfully, some NFT companies are also already solving the problem of higher technical barriers to entry. Ayoken Labs, for example, is building an NFT platform where artists and content creators from these emerging markets can release their social tokens, and essentially monetize their content efficiently.

This platform not only monetizes content for creators but also rewards fans and users in general with its native token for use. In a way, it’s like a play-to-earn game but without the gaming aspect.It’s clear that there are limitless opportunities in the blockchain space in emerging markets. It’s almost inevitable that more startups will come into the space and create solutions that are tailor-made for these markets. It is now a matter of when — not if. Today, the developed world is the capital of blockchain innovation. But it might not be for long.

By Victor Fabusola

Sanctioning Russia On The Blockchain: Following The Money To A Network Of OTC Providers

Sanctions can only work if those who are supposed to enforce them understand exactly what to do so that they cannot be circumvented easily. Russia’s extensive network of Over-The-Counter (OTC) providers requires an extensive review by sanction committees, as they might be adopted to circumvent sanctions.

As described in the previous release, due to the limited liquidity of cryptocurrencies and Decentralized Finance space in general, it remains close to impossible for Russia to circumvent SWIFT-based systems by using crypto. However, Russians might still hold up to $200 Billion USD in crypto assets, besides running the third-largest crypto mining industry in the world. These funds can potentially be cashed out with Russian OTC providers.

The fifth EU sanction package on Russia limits the crypto asset holdings of Russian nationals, individuals, and legal entities established in Russia to €10,000 (with the same account, wallet or custody provider). The use of Russian OTC providers, which represents a network of physical providers offering cash payouts from crypto, could be adopted to circumvent these sanctions.

In oversimplified terms, OTC refers to a process in which individuals theoretically could agree on a price and meet to complete a transaction. An example of such a process could be a personal meeting in which one side brings bags with cash or any other pre-agreed means of value, and the other side could conduct a transaction on the blockchain on the spot. Transactions primarily with larger sums of money could be risky, to say the least.

Contrarily to peer-to-peer exchanges (P2P) which involve independent parties, OTC exchanges act comparable to physical pawn shops. At dedicated physical locations with announced opening hours, individuals can visit and exchange their cryptocurrencies in Russia for cash or bank transfers.

Depending on the business models of virtual assets service providers (VASPs), both OTC and P2P providers have existed in various jurisdictions since the beginning of financial interactions between individuals.

An example of such a platform in the EU is LocalBitcoin, registered with the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority. Unlike Russian OTC providers which are subject to the 6th Anti Money Laundering Directive of the EU and connected to its so-called Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) legislation, LocalBitcoin is a unique case.

Existence of such a platform in the EU is only possible in Finland, as the rest of the EU has followed the recommendation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to define and include Digital Assets in the national legislation and created an oversight program as a regulator.

It can be argued that the current regulatory frameworks remain far from perfect, but there is increased interest in incorporating DeFi into traditional financial compliance programs.

Such requirements to register a P2P or OTC exchange are way different within the Russian Federation. On the one hand, Russia approved use of cryptocurrency as an investment tool or a payment method as of Q1 2021 but on the other its national bank proposed a long list of bans that should outlaw the circulation of cryptocurrencies within the country.

Due to such unclear legal circumstances, licensing and supervisory programs are close to non-existent. In the absence of platforms that have chosen ‘compliance excellence’ as their differentiating business strategy, for example, Coinbase or some Scandinavian VASPs, many Russian providers have to operate in the gray space to say the least.

What is surprising is the fact that even though Russians store up to one fifth of the national bank’s reserves in digital assets, the public side has decided to not provide much clarity for the VASPs or any other players in Decentralized Finance (DeFi).

By not providing clarity for players in the Digital Assets space, the governments in Moscow and Minsk continue to lose on potential tax revenues and regulatory oversight of over 623 crypto platforms identified so far, associated with Russia and Belarus. The logic to continue to lose out on easily taxable capital gain from crypto investments remains questionable.

“Is it not paradoxical that despite the Russian Prime Minister stating that Russians hold $200 Billion USD in crypto, Russia has not yet formulated a comprehensive legislation to legalize crypto or set a taxation process for it?” — Dominika Kuberska, PhD, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn.

With the absence of regulated players in Russia, there is a well-developed gray market of OTC exchanges that facilitate the trade of Digital Assets in exchange for rubles using both cash and bank transfers.

Sources, who desire to remain anonymous, underline that bank transfers to individuals or entities from OTC brokers are labeled as payments for IT or consultancy services. The Russian government will officially tax profits from such transfers with personal or corporate income tax (PIT, CIT).

Moreover, for customers that desire to purchase or exchange a significant amount of digital assets, there are at least ten physical brokers in Moscow or even price comparison websites like BestChange.ru that display the current rates of OTC providers in various regions.

Due to the nature of the business model, customers can often exchange cash for digital assets at the physical offices of these exchanges which can be visited by both individuals and the members of the Russian financial supervisory authorities, in case they would acknowledge their existence.

The majority of OTC providers operate without identifying their customers. Multiple sources report on direct cooperation between dedicated Ponzi schemes or sanctioned brokers with OTC providers. Even if hard evidence such as an agreement or email exchange between confirmed parties is continuously being collected, blockchain based analytics continues to provide indications for illicit transactions.

Russia has been connected with an elevated amount of illicit activities for a country that has a population of 144 million, which is 1.5 times bigger than that of Germany.

“Russia has surprisingly large amounts of confirmed illicit “Unicorns” like BTC-e/WEX exchange, Hydra dark web marketplace, dozens of pyramid schemes like PRIZM, the largest ransomware attacks and other cybercrimes which experts consider to be possibly parts of state-sponsored-activities” – Oleksii Fisun, Co-founder of Global Ledger Protocol.

With so many confirmed illicit activities coming out of one jurisdiction, it remains worth investigating how profits from illegal activities could be potentially cashed out. As described extensively in the previous article, the advantage of a public blockchain is that it remains visible and traceable.

An example of such confirmed illicit activity that could be cashed out with a Russian OTC provider, would be funds allocated in a cryptocurrency wallet provider called Konvert.im. It includes more than 100 transactions and has more than 69% exposure to funds originating from newly sanctioned Hydra Darknet Marketplace.

As Konvert.im represents an exchange, most certainly, their compliance must be aware of the origination of those funds from sanctioned Hydra. It is within such schemes the funds might be mixed with other funds that could potentially be forwarded to OTC providers for cash out.

Regardless of the choice of the provider used for Blockchain based analytics, due to the nature of Blockchain based investigations that accumulate all of the funds and its traces on the Blockchain between different brokers, there will always be a certain exposure to illicit traffic, which most likely will be at a single digit percentage wise.

Similar to accepting a physical banknote at the local farmer’s market, there could be a possibility that this banknote was used to conduct illicit activity in the past. This connection to illicit activity remains invisible on the banknote itself, but such a transaction is perfectly visible on the Blockchain.

Having said that, it remains impossible to state that an exposure of 69% to Hydra has been a technical mistake. It should rather be perceived as a dedicated action and tracing the money from Konvert.im to a Russian OTC provider might serve as a symbol that this strategy can and might be adopted to circumvent SWIFT-based sanctions and easily bypass a limitation specified in the fifth EU sanction package.

I’ve specialised in the topics on the intersection between Information Systems, Fintech, Insurtech, Cryptocurrency, Blockchain – Distributed Ledger Technologies

Source: Sanctioning Russia On The Blockchain: Following The Money To A Network Of OTC Providers

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What Does The Future Hold For Bitcoin Mining?

From the outside looking in, it seems like a hard life earning a crust on the bitcoin mining breadline. Last year, when China imposed a blanket ban on the practice within its borders, a small army of miners hastily scrambled into action, powering down their machines, closing shop and redeploying their equipment overseas. Within a matter of months, China went from controlling two-thirds of all bitcoin mining worldwide to effectively exiting stage left.

Cryptocurrency miners are nothing if not resilient, but in few other industries would one have to up sticks and move country just to keep the lights on. It isn’t a case of hopping across a land border either. At considerable expense, ousted miners had to ship many tonnes of equipment from mainland China to far-flung territories such as the United States, Russia, Kazakhstan and Canada. If China left a gaping void it has been hurriedly filled, with Kazakhstan in particular cultivating a reputation as a mining hub.

Of course, things move fast in the much-maligned mining world. In recent weeks, Kazakh authorities have talked up significant tax increases for miners, some of whom are “severely damaging” the country’s energy system according to minister of digital development Bagdat Musin. The intrepid miners who made a home in the Central Asian Republic after being banished from China may soon be dusting off their passports, again.

Sandra Ro, the CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council, speaking at the Senate Agriculture Hearing into cryptocurrencies in February addressed climate concerns related to bitcoin mining saying, “What we have today is actually an opportunity… mining has shifted to the U.S., Canada, and Nordic countries… [so, Congress] should encourage crypto mining firms to set up in an environment with (global) oversight, [to] champion the increase in renewables for the industry.”

Against this chaotic backdrop, it’s worth asking where is bitcoin mining headed? Will more countries join China and others in imposing outright bans? Or will stances soften thanks to the efforts of the Bitcoin Mining Council and eco-friendly innovations like Bitmain’s liquid-cooled rig?

Nothing less than the future of bitcoin is at stake, and with it the chance to exercise financial self-sovereignty via a decentralized cryptocurrency revered as digital gold. This, more that ever, in the current state of global political and economic volatility, is increasingly seen as a human right in the free world.

Bitcoin Mining: The Origin Story

Mining, of course, is the process that brings fresh bitcoin into being. The eponymous blockchain, which recently celebrated its 13th anniversary, depends on a Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm that compels miners to solve mathematical problems that are difficult to solve but easy to verify.

Amid fierce competition from rival miners, PoW math problems are tackled and deciphered in exchange for a set quantity of bitcoin known as a block subsidy. This subsidy is then added to the sum of the transaction fees held in the block that is being mined to make up the block reward.

Just as gold-mining is the only way to increase the supply of the world’s most valuable precious metal, bitcoin mining is the only way to increase the supply of bitcoin. Of course, the currency does have a hard cap of 21 million bitcoins – so nodes can’t go on “producing” new bitcoin ad infinitum. Based on bitcoin’s predictable issuance model, the final coin will be mined some time around 2140.

Against all odds, Proof-of-Work has kept bitcoin ticking along for 13 years now with no recorded instances of double-spending. Those who expend electricity to verify transactions have a strong incentive to maintain the ledger’s integrity, and because PoW makes the cost of writing a block punishingly high, the security of the bitcoin network is more robust than it’s ever been. In fact, even if an attacker were to marshal 100 percent of the network hash rate, he would need over two years to completely rewrite the ledger dating back to January 3, 2009.

The Proof-of-Work PR War

Proof-of-Work is considered a marvel by bitcoin maximalists. As inventions go, they put it up there with the lightbulb and telephone. PoW has continued to attract criticism however, with many deeming the industrial-scale use of computing and electrical power wasteful. This has become the great bitcoin energy debate.

Such censure is not, on the face of it, unmerited. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, the bitcoin network consumes 125.1 Terawatt Hours (TWh) per year, a little more than Ukraine (124.5) and a bit less than Egypt (149), a country that has banned bitcoin, along with Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Bangladesh. In the CBECI’s country rankings, bitcoin currently occupies 27th place.

Should a borderless cryptocurrency really consume more electricity than nation states? That depends on your perspective. If you’re a net-zero energy campaigner, the answer is probably no. If you believe the people of the world need a self-sovereign digital asset now more than ever, the answer is clearly yes.

Certainly, the miners are undeterred. 2021 saw the highest miner revenues to date, a remarkable fact given the block subsidy is halved every four years. Last year, bitcoin miners raked in $16.7 billion in revenue, more than the combined takings of the previous three years.

Evidently, China’s crackdown didn’t hit miners in their pockets the way many had expected. Perhaps that was just blind luck, China’s ban coinciding with bitcoin’s best year, but whatever way you look at it, miners seem to shrug off adversity with breathtaking ease.

Prior to Russia’s war with Ukraine, the central bank of Russia called for an outright ban on cryptocurrency mining, with a recent report claiming the “potential financial stability risks associated with cryptocurrencies are much higher for emerging markets, including in Russia.”

The pendulum has swung with Western governments concerned that Russian’s central bank, the regime, and oligarchs will now use cryptocurrency to evade sanctions, a concern that most agencies believe to be unfounded due to the inability of the cryptocurrency ecosystem to process such large volumes – bitcoin can’t fund a war.

Erik Thedéen, vice chairman of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), has meanwhile urged the EU’s 27 member states to ban Proof-of-Work mining, claiming PoW has become a national issue in his native Sweden due to the amount of renewable energy it uses. This itself is an interesting observation, since critics normally slate bitcoin for its dirty energy usage.

A few weeks back, concerns were raised by a text circulated by the European Parliament that created a defacto ban on proof of work consensus mechanisms in the EU. Following advocacy work from the industry, MEP Stefan Berger, the Parliament rapporteur, postponed the committee vote on February 28 and revisited the text highlighting the fostering innovation mandate of MiCA and its importance in this and setting global standards. As such, the text removed the reference to the ban.

A new text was inserted on the March 9 which is the one that will be voted on Monday March 14, now re-enters wording but instead creates a phase-out approach. The operative text in article 2a, makes no reference to proof of work consensus mechanisms directly but instead refers to those crypto assets already in issuance putting in place a phased rollout plan to ensure compliance with the minimum environmental sustainability standards.

Lavan Thasarathakumar, EMEA government and policy director at Global Digital Finance says, “What this means in practice will only become clear through the delegated acts with: the intensive consumption of energy; the use of real resources; carbon emissions; electronic waste; the specifics of incentive design; and, the scale of operation of the crypto asset being the attributing factors.

The text as sent to vote does include two recitals 5a and 5aa, which includes reference to proof of work consensus mechanisms and its propensity to be energy intensive, however crucially, the call for action is in the non-legislative part of the text but also asks for action to be taken on a horizontal basis as opposed to being product specific – good policy making.”

U.S. President Biden issued an Executive Order last week on Digital Assets paving the way for a new era of digital innovation, better coordinated cross-agency collaboration with industry, and ensuring America maintains its market leading position as the world’s digital innovation hub.

E.U. parliamentarians are advised to pay close attention to the digital space race unfolding with the China ban and Russia at war, Europe’s responsibility to open and fair competitive markets should be clear, and bitcoin and the crypto industry are key to this future.

“Banning mining is becoming a trend in the medium term,” observes Louis Cleroux, CEO of Canadian crypto platform Timechain. “Bitcoin miners need to find creative ways to reach agreements with countries right now. Using wasted energy with miners should be something to consider.”

Cleroux’s latter point is worth emphasizing, particularly as the bitcoin energy debate heats up. For all its energy demands, mining could actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions by consuming methane that would otherwise be leaked into the atmosphere via flaring.

On February 15, oil and gas giant ConocoPhillips confirmed that it was selling extra flare gas to bitcoin miners in North Dakota, part of its commitment to reduce routine flaring to zero by 2030. Ostensibly, the company will allocate gas that would otherwise be burned off to a pilot project managed by a third party, effectively making bitcoin a load balancer for energy waste.

“We need to increase awareness on actual losses we incur due to our inability to store energy,” says Louis Cleroux. “Selling excess energy to miners is the best for both parties. Also, in a Proof-of-Work ecosystem, the winning miners are the ones who are able to be competitive in terms of hashrate /energy cost. This competitive system promotes healthy competition between miners to push for more efficient mining activities.”

Eco-Friendly Evolution

According to Erik Thedéen, the crypto industry as a whole should be nudged towards Proof-of-Stake, a less energy-intensive form of mining wherein users stake coins to become validators. With this model, staking replaces the computational arms race of Proof-of-Work, with validators selected at random to add a block to the ledger. Number two network Ethereum is in the process of transitioning to Proof-of-Stake, a move which it’s claimed could reduce its energy use by up to 99.95 percent.

For the moment, though, there is no sign that the Bitcoin network will abandon its tried and tested Proof-of-Work mechanism. The model has stood the test of time and PoW is more decentralized than its energy-lite counterpart, aligning incentives to secure all transactions.

According to bitcoin bull Michael Saylor, PoW architecture “anchors the crypto-asset network physically and politically to the firmament of reality, driving ferocious competition in the marketplace to decentralize, improve, and secure the network, thus assuring vitality and integrity over time.”

Saylor’s business intelligence firm MicroStrategy is one of the world’s major bitcoin hodlers, having acquired 125,051 BTC for around $3.8 billion, and earning the company huge profits in the process. Last summer, amid mounting criticism from energy activists, Saylor co-founded the Bitcoin Mining Council to promote energy usage transparency and accelerate sustainability initiatives worldwide.

In its most recent report, the Council noted “dramatic improvements to bitcoin mining energy efficiency and sustainability due to advances in semiconductor technology, the rapid expansion of North American mining, the China Exodus, and worldwide rotation toward sustainable energy and modern mining techniques.”

Overall, the report put the percentage of renewable-powered bitcoin mining at 58.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, a modest once percent rise since Q3. Nonetheless, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Ultimately, miners will always strive to seek out the lowest cost of power production they can find and the Council aims to highlight green options at every turn.

SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk was instrumental in bringing the Council into being, after all, it was the billionaire’s decision to reverse course on the acceptance of bitcoin for Tesla vehicles that reignited the debate around PoW. Musk even sat in on the inaugural Bitcoin Mining Council meeting last May. Energy concerns aside, Tesla still holds around $2 billion worth of bitcoin on its balance sheet.

“There are many initiatives that address criticism of bitcoin’s energy usage,” notes Maud Simon, COO of sharded blockchain Alephium, “Some are building alliances for clean mining, some are mining green blocks with certified hydro electricity, and others are attempting to reduce the quantity of energy required.

By capping energy consumption to less than an eighth of bitcoin’s after a certain threshold, our Proof-of-Less-Work innovation provides an example of how PoW chains can address the energy sustainability questions without sacrificing security and decentralization.”

One high-profile company that’s recently entered the mining business is Intel. Soon the California corporation will release its first crypto-focused chip, which it says provides “1,000x better performance per watt than mainstream GPUs for SHA-256 based mining.”

Dubbed Blockchain Accelerator, the chip will put Intel in direct competition with the likes of Bitmain, Canaan, and Nvidia. We’ll soon know whether the technology is all it’s cracked up to be. The first two companies to trial the chip will be Argo Blockchain and Block (formerly known as Square).

Existing hardware specialists are not deaf to the criticism of PoW. Bitmain’s latest mining rig, the S19 Pro+ Hydro, utilizes liquid cooling technology to reduce heat, power consumption and noise, with the added benefit of extending the machine’s lifespan. By deploying the machines, U.S. mining firm Merkle Standard expects to be net carbon negative by the end of 2022.

Clearly, the bitcoin mining industry as a whole is drifting away from polluting energies and embracing a more sustainable matrix that includes solar, wind, geothermal and hydro-electrical. Even nuclear sources are being tapped, as in the case of the fast-growing Mawson Infrastructure Group. Where an energy balance is not carbon free, Mawson uses carbon credits to offset its emissions.

Adrian Eidelman, Co-founder of smart contract platform and bitcoin sidechain RSK says, “The primary running costs for bitcoin miners is energy consumption, and they therefore have a clear incentive to find and maintain cheap sources, which are often renewable. Larger bitcoin mining farms are often located in remote locations, close to these energy sources, and take advantage of low energy costs that would either go to waste or be impossible to transfer to large cities.”

Mining has, to a large extent, taken place in the shadows up to this point. But that is beginning to change. We need only look at the launch of the first ever Bitcoin Miners ETF on the Nasdaq stock market. Rather than offering exposure to BTC itself, the product, which was pioneered by crypto asset manager Valkyrie, gives investors exposure to companies specializing in hardware or software used for mining the asset.

Looking to the Future

Aside from the criticism that stems from Proof-of-Work’s energy-intensive nature, questions have been raised concerning the longevity of the mining industry itself. After all, over 90 percent of bitcoin’s total supply has already been mined. With the block subsidy halving every four years (the next one’s due in 2024), won’t bitcoin have to see continual price appreciation for mining to remain profitable?

Well, yes. But that’s exactly what miners are banking on. While there is only 10 percent of bitcoin’s pre-programmed fixed supply left to mine, mainstream investors have only recently begun to look seriously at the asset class, suggesting there is plenty of room for growth. Bitcoin’s absolute scarcity, security and decentralization continue to make it a desirable digital asset for buyers.

And what happens when the final block has been confirmed, the last ever bitcoin mined?

One can only speculate what life will look like in 2140, but it’s entirely plausible that mining will continue. As mentioned earlier, miners receive a reward in every block they mine, made up of the block subsidy and the transaction fees.

In decades to come, the purchase power of bitcoin may be so strong, that the payout for the latter is enough to compel miners to maintain the ledger and mine blocks even in the absence of new bitcoins. It’s even possible that bitcoin will come to be regarded as so valuable a monetary base, that humans will allocate resources to keep the ledger alive despite money being lost when securing the network.

“Bitcoin mining will become an asset strategy of many countries in the future, and those opposing it will only be sacrificing their own prosperity by reducing innovation as well as jobs and wealth creation,” predicts RSK’s Adrian Eidelman.

Whatever happens, cryptocurrencies and mining will likely be front and center in the coming months, not just in the the great energy debate, but also in the social and political debate of the peoples’ rights to access self-sovereign cryptocurrency, a debate the will continue to be openly and productively led by the industry.

I cover fintech, crypto and digital assets, and sustainable finance and investments, and promote policies for a transparent, secure, and quality digital financial

Source: What Does The Future Hold For Bitcoin Mining?

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DeFi Analytics Firm Treehouse Raises $18M Seed Funding

Ethereum Merge Takes Place on Kiln Testnet

Bitcoin Sees ‘Bart Simpson’ Pattern During Thinly-Traded Asian Session

HSBC Enters the Metaverse Through Partnership With The Sandbox

Ongoing global chip shortage capped the capacity of new mining machines globally.

The U.S. and Canada have quickly risen to be the uncontested hashrate capitals of the world

What Does Hashrate Mean and Why Does It Matter

Kazakhstan’s Crypto Miners Face New Regulations After Contributing to Power Shortages

Hut 8 Mining, recently closed a $173 million public offering of common shares

Crypto’s Carbon Footprint Could Hinder Adoption: Deutsche Bank

China Crypto Bans: A Complete History

Why Shouldn’t the Navajo Mine Bitcoin

Cryptocurrency Miners Turn to Exotic Cooling Systems as Competition Heats Up

Riot Blockchain plans to increase its mining hashrate up to 50%

CleanSpark bought 20-megawatt-powered immersion cooling infrastructure

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