Telegram Founder: Crypto Mining Malware Not An App Flaw

 

 

There was a report by  that the attackers had discovered an exposed backdoor in Telegram Messenger, this vulnerability helped the attackers unknown to the owners turn computers into cryptocurrency miners.

These clandestine crypto mining operations had been going on since March 2017 reported Kaspersky Labs, the company that discovered and exposed the cyber attacks. Kaspersky also said a zero-day vulnerability in the Telegram messenger desktop app gave the attackers the ability to create and spread a never before seen the type of malware that could create a backdoor Trojan and also mine cryptocurrency.

 

A Kaspersky lab analyst said they had found quite a number of possible actions of the zero-day exploitation which asides from being spyware and malware, could also send unknown and unseen software for mining cryptocurrency, and that infections like that had become a global phenomenon.

Here is a little insight into the operation of the Telegram vulnerability; there is a way the Telegram Windows client deals with the RLO (right-to-left override) Unicode character (U+202E), in that process lays the vulnerability. However, that RLO Unicode Character is how languages are written from right to left (like Hebrew or Arabic) are coded. Kaspersky’s report states that a hidden RLO Unicode Character contained in the file name that flipped how the characters were ordered, thereby giving the file a new name was how the malware creators got access to computers. Like in this example, an attacker names a file “IMG_high_re*U+202E*gnp.js” and sends to someone using the Telegram messenger, the file seen at the User’s end will be “IMG_high_resj.png” (notice how a flip has happened to the file format), the user then clicks on the file thinking it is a picture file, then a JavaScript file containing the malware would be secretly downloaded.

                                                 Founder of Telegram

 

However, the founder of the Telegram application did not waste time in deemphasizing the allegations. He is of the opinion that antivirus companies always do the most at stretching the severity of their results, just to excite the public, and as such, should not be taken seriously. He also rebuffed Kaspersky’s claim by explaining that what they uncovered was nothing near a vulnerability of the Telegram messaging app, and also that there was no way cybercriminals could gain access to users’ computers without the users opening something malicious. He further assured Telegram users that they were safe and had always been safe.

According to Kaspersky, Fantomcoin, Monero, Zcash and other cryptocurrencies were acquired, and according to the evidence they had, Russians were behind the malware, and also that it could be used as a backdoor for hackers to gain access and silent control of users’ computers. Records of a Telegram local cache which most likely was stolen from victims was found in the process of doing their analysis of malicious servers.

One sure way to guard against such attacks is to avoid downloading and opening suspicious files from untrusted and unknown sources, as that suspicious file could be a portal for attacks.

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Arizona Law to Delineate ICOs and Securities

 

The world might be deliberating prohibitions and regulations on crypto activity, but in Arizona, they have embraced it so wholeheartedly that public records show that there has been a hike in the number of blockchain bills in the state’s legislature.

The state’s Senate has already passed a bill that approves its inhabitants to be able to pay their taxes in cryptocurrency. This new bill didn’t just pass all the stages in Senate as smoothly as one would believe. Arizona’s Senate minority leader Steve Farley was of the opinion that the volatility of the bitcoin might be a problem when it relates to tax payments. His fears were somewhat allayed when Arizona’s Department of Revenue confirmed that they would have only 24 hours to change the bitcoin payments into dollars.

The bill has already gone on to the state’s House of Representatives. If it is successfully passed, the state could soon start collecting bitcoin as an accepted form of tax payment.

Jeff Weninger, a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives (who was also very instrumental in the passing of the first bill) introduced two new different means focused on blockchain – one of which would start the process for an administrative structure for initial coin offering (ICOs) implemented in the state.

It should be noted that two new bills brought up by the representative comprise of words like “blockchain”, “virtual coin”, “virtual coin offering” and they are potential terms that might be added to the Arizona government’s catalog of definitions.

The virtual coin is defined in the first bill as a medium of exchange that can be traded digitally. A virtual coin has virtual value and can be used to store value.

The second bill tweaks the provisions of the Arizona Revised Statutes that pertain data created and stored by blockchain. The bill is in relation to the one that legitimized blockchain signatures and smart contracts implemented last year. This bill makes digital signatures have the same enforceability as written signatures. Arizona’s law now directs that smart contracts are to be also recognized and enforced.

The Arizona Electronic Transactions Act (AETA) provides that virtual signatures areas enforceable as written signatures. HB 2417 stipulates that signatures, e-records, as well as smart contracts — made through blockchain and entrenched by UCC Articles 2, 2A, and 7 — are recognized as legal e-signatures under the appropriate Arizona Act.

Using the “killing two birds with one stone” analogy, the legislature arm of the Arizona government has given a very comprehensive definition of cryptocurrencies and has ensured a solid foundation for contracts which are implemented using them. This means it’s now easier for people to meddle in the cryptocurrency world while ensuring they can do business with it.

It is worth to mention that the Arizona government perpetually sets up processes that strengthen the harnessing of the blockchain technology’s features.

Weninger is of the belief that cryptocurrency payments posses a multitude of merits which include the ease at which it can be used and the convenience it has.

 

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What Is Going on in Equities Markets Around the World

 

Global stock markets are agonizing through some of the worst selloffs in recent history. The performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NASDAQ Composite Index, and the S&P 500 has been nothing short of disastrous heading into the month of love. Equities traders, speculators, economists, and media talking heads have used every conceivable adjective in the book to describe the torrid time that markets are enduring. Equities traders have used terms like writhing convulsions to meteoric drops, bearish markets, corrections, and worst multi-year performance.

This begs the question:  Where are markets headed?

It’s important to take a step back from the current grim reality before simply weighing in on the otherwise lackluster performance of global markets. If we look at the following major indices, we can appreciate how well they have performed, and how significant the current market movements are:

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently down 6.58% over 1 month
  • The S&P 500 Index is currently down 6.05% over 1 month
  • The NASDAQ composite index is currently down 5.75% over 1 month

When we extrapolate further, we can see that the Dow Jones has a 52-week trading range of 20,061.73 on the low end and 26,616.71 on the high-end. Clearly, the current level of 23,715.44 (Friday, February 9, 2018) is firmly in the middle. The S&P 500 index has a 52-week trading range of 2,296.61 on the low end and 2,872.87 on the high-end. The current level is 2,583.74 – again right in the middle. The tech heavy NASDAQ composite index has a 52-week trading range of 5,685.15 on the low end and 7,505.77 on the high-end. It is currently trading at 6,744.55, 1,000 points above its 52-week low.

Why Are Markets Convulsing Right Now?

Major investors, and everyday folks are scared that runaway inflation and rising interest rates could hurt stock market investments. It must be remembered that the fundamentals of the US economy are sound – there is no questioning that. According to Olsson Capital trading guru, Edward Bronstein:

 

‘We have to appreciate the bigger picture here. The Fed has been pushing to raise interest rates ever since the US economy turned the corner. By December 2015, we started to see incremental increases to the federal funds rate in 25-basis point intervals. Come Wednesday, March 21, 2018, we are likely to see yet another rate hike if stock markets stabilize and employment numbers continue to shine and inflation keeps rising.

 

According to the CME Group FedWatch tool – a great barometer of sentiment for interest rate movements, there is a 71.9% likelihood of a rate hike of 25-basis points in the region of 1.50% – 1.75% in March. Unfortunately, stock markets don’t like rate hikes, especially when they are part of a series of ongoing rate hikes. When the monetary authorities decide to raise interest rates, the value of stocks declines. The thinking is that consumers have less personal disposable income, companies are paying more in interest, and naturally this is going to lead to lower demand for company products and services, and ultimately to lower prices.

 

So, to be safe, investors take their money out of stocks and put it into safe-haven assets like gold, gold ETFs, treasuries, and interest-bearing accounts. They are also going short on derivatives trading options like CFDs and spread betting. Is the stock market going to continue its massive selloff? Probably not. But for now the safe money is on a market correction before the value-investors jump back into the markets to pick up bargain deals on top stocks.

 

While the year to date gains have been erased from major bourses around the world, we should take pause and see what US inflation figures will be before determining whether Fed action is warranted. Meanwhile, German, US and UK bonds have reacted with high volatility to current economic conditions. Oil is down, gold is down, copper is down, and the USD is down. The current trajectory of financial markets is attributed to bearish sentiment.

 

 

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ROBOS and Banks: The Dawning of a New Time

Will Banks Use More Robots

The use of Robo advisors is gaining prominence in mainstream banking circles. Clients have several options available to them when picking investment products. These include the go-it-alone approach where individuals are responsible for the management of their own portfolio of stocks, bonds, cash, indices, commodities etc. This option is best suited to professionals, or investors who understand the intricacies of the financial markets.

The other option is a choice between using traditional banks and investment gurus on the one hand, or the modern-day upgrades with things like discount brokerages. While there is certainly merit in all of these options, many investors are not totally sold on either option. A fusion of these investment possibilities which encompasses online advice with a self-directed brokerage is increasingly preferred by clients.

Fintech Disrupting Traditional Banking

FinTech has dramatically revolutionized the investment landscape, and banking operations are front and centre. New-age investors prefer having a say in how their money is managed, and this need has not been fully satisfied with the options listed above. Instead, clients prefer hybrid options known as Robo advisors. The concept of a Robo advisor is largely misunderstood by mainstream investors. A Robo advisor does not remove the human element from investing and portfolio management.

True to form, Robo advisors do not require clients to meet with investment gurus face-to-face. It is a convenience-based element at play, and one that makes it easier for anyone to instantly initiate trades at the click of a button. Most of the communication via Robo advisors is conducted through secure online connections and chat services such as Skype, messenger, and the like.

More Control Over Financial Portfolios

The Canadian investment scene is slowly adapting to this modern-day technology, but only the Bank of Montréal has infused Robo advisor technology as part of its investments toolkit. FinTech is leaps and bounds ahead of traditional banking. It is a major disruptive force in the financial world, and it caters to a large under-banked or unbanked sector of society. In Canada, the US and across Europe, clients are looking for easier ways to manage their financial portfolios, while still maintaining control over trades that are executed.

The conventional system of entrusting all of one’s finances to a fund manager with a bias towards certain stocks, ETFs or mutual funds is losing traction. Today, investors want to have a modicum of control over their portfolio, and they don’t want the emotional component, or the bias via the investment advisor. A Robo advisor serves this purpose well. Provided the range of financial assets available to the client is all-encompassing, a Robo advisor can pick the appropriate stocks based on client specifications. Hard data is analysed instantly, and the best investment options are provided to the client.

Robo Advisors with Canadian Banks

The do-it-yourself model cannot be ignored by banks for much longer. The explosive growth of FinTech investment paradigms has already caused multiple banks like HSBC, Barclays, Standard Chartered, Goldman Sachs and others to stand up and take notice. Banks are implementing protocols to allow Robo advisors as part of their investment toolkit. One of the leading asset management companies is BMO. What many clients don’t know, is that BMO also has a robo advisor. Through use of this modern-day technology, BMO can now offer exchange traded funds across multiple portfolios.

It is the oldest bank in Canada, and also the first to adopt new-age technologies. Clients can easily synchronize their BMO online banking summary with their investment accounts for maximum functionality. A wide range of exchange traded funds is available, and the provision of Robo advisors makes it easy to use SmartFolio accounts. Account types include RRSP, TFSA, and RESP. By allowing customers to personalize their financial portfolios, it’s akin to a Robo advisor. This is the way Canadian investors are choosing to go, and many other big banks are now taking notice.

The post ROBOS and Banks: The Dawning of a New Time appeared first on Wall Street.

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Bitcoin The Hottest Topic in World Currency

 

Bitcoin surged to a fresh all-time high on Thursday hitting $5,231, eclipsing the previous record of $5,014 hit in early September. The cryptocurrency is now up more than 420% for the year.  So far, investors and customers have shrugged off negative commentary about cryptocurrencies, despite being unable to break into the U.S. markets.

In September, Chinese authorities banned exchanges that deal in crypto currencies. They also banned initial coin offers which are the way most digital currencies raise capital. This has further perpetuated the rally, since there is a limited supply on the amount of a crypto currency that can be mined. With supply contained by regulators and demand increasing, the price of bitcoin is getting forced higher.

There have been reports floating during the past week that China might allow cryptocurrency exchange as well as ICOs. Sources cite Chinese regulators saying that bitcoin trading will likely resume with more regulation. This could include new licensing and anti-money laundering regulations.

SEC Does Not Give Its Blessing to Bitcoin

To date, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is the main U.S. securities regulator, has not given its blessing to crypto currencies. Without consent from the SEC mainstream trading is not possible. Their unwillingness to consider bitcoin has frustrated exchange applicants who are now withdrawing their applications. This will likely be a long process, and need consent from congress as a new currency that is potentially subject to manipulation, would undermine the U.S. dollar. Bitcoin is a treat to the greenback globally, which will make it difficult for the digital currency to gain widespread acceptance in the United States.

Swedish Officials Pay Debt in Bitcoin

Swedish regulators with the Swedish Enforcement Authority has paid a debt with bitcoin. This is the first time the enforcement agency in any country has accepted bitcoin as a currency that is paid directly to a government.

Swedish authorities see bitcoin as an asset that can be used to make payment and its increasing acceptance will provide an alternative method for payments of debt. While the Swedish authorities are used to handling these issues through the banking world, they also take payments which need to be converted into cash.  By taking bitcoin, they greatly enhanced their ability to retrieve debts. In this regard, it seems the Swedish Enforcement Authority will likely continue accepting bitcoin for debts citizens wish to settle.

 

Bitcoin prices have broken out to fresh all-time highs pushing through the highs made in September, and poised to test higher levels.  Support on Bitcoin is seen near the 10-day moving average at 4,576.  Volume on the breakout is average, which does not add to the accelerating in prices.  Bitcoin prices are experiencing accelerating positive momentum as reflected by the relative strength index (RSI). The index is a momentum oscillator that also measures overbought and oversold levels. The currency reading on the RSI is 75, which is above the overbought trigger level of 70, which could foreshadow a correction. Reading below 30 on the RSI are considered oversold.

 

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Blockchain databases and what they mean for you

 

Blockchain databases represent the latest technology to fire the collective imaginations in Silicon Valley and tech hubs around the world.

They allow a distributed network of database users to create updates in real time – all without the need for a centralized administrator.

Although the original Blockchain rose to prominence as the technology that made Bitcoin possible, it’s now taking off amongst more conventional financial users, such as banks.

Standard databases, such as those built on top of the popular MySQL technology, are protected from both reading and writing by the general public.

If you call your insurance company, for example, the person at the end of the line updates the company’s database based on the information that you provide.From the security governance perspective, this company is the ‘central authority’ administering the database, and having to relay changes through it naturally slows down the update process.

Distributed Blockchain databases, on the other hand, leverage the power of “the crowd” – the online community as a whole – to make the updating process much faster. This is achieved by creating a large global network made up of a replicating series of nodes that reconcile one another in near real time. Because these nodes all contain the same information, it’s virtually impossible for the entire database to fail, or, just as importantly, be hacked.

The same technology that allowed Bitcoin users near-guaranteed anonymity, while also offering a robust currency independent of any national bank, is now set to transform the E-commerce space.

One of the most promising fields for Blockchain-based firms is smart contracts. These are online agreements where the release of funds is automatically triggered when the necessary conditions are met. They have the potential to eliminate the fraud that can occur when conducting transactions with strangers, and are seen by many as the next stage of the Blockchain revolution.

For years, ‘Blockchain without Bitcoin’ was considered by investors to be a mere pipe dream, but now investment capital has begun to pour into disruptive startups that are proving the ambitious, paradigm-shifting technology is capable of driving broad applications. Haim Toledano and Saar Pilosof are two of the heavy-hitting venture capitalists who have recently backed up-and-coming companies in the sector.

 

“Everyone wants to be able to buy and sell online with total confidence, in terms of the security of their money and their personal information,” explains Toledano. “Now that the technology has finally arrived, we’re about to see an explosion in the overall value of the E-Commerce economy and that’s why the major players of the future will be built on Blockchains.”   

Illustration with word cloud with the word Blockchain.

Security Matters: Improving Customer Safety on Your E-commerce Site

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Will Blockchain Disrupt Trade Finance

 

Will the Rise of Blockchain Disrupt Trade Finance in the Long-term

Despite the emergence and increased sophistication of bitcoin, blockchain remains a largely unheralded and unfamiliar technology. This is because many fail to draw the connection between the two, but in many ways the potential reach and applications of blockchain far outweigh anything associated with its most renowned offshoot.

In fact, blockchain also represents a good fit for online, commercial transactions between businesses, particularly in an environment where companies utilize a third-party trustee to safeguard their interests. Take trade finance, for example, which is likely to host a number of blockchain technologies in the near future and potentially create significant disruption within the sector.

 

Blockchain and Trade Finance: A Marriage Made in Heaven?

In the trade sector, there are a number of parties that would potentially benefit from the security advantages offered by blockchain. There are manufacturers, for example, who have a desire to produce, market and sell their goods to an international audience. We must also consider commercial buyers, whose task is to import global goods in order to sustain their employers’ business. The latter is particularly challenging at present, with UK buyers and those with an active trader account familiar with forex trading having seen the cost of imports increase as the pound has continued to endure a process of devaluation.

Increasing level of risk associated with international trading

With these points in mind, there is an increasing level of risk associated with international trading and trade finance in the modern age. While this risk is usually offset by banks and traditional lenders, who act as trustees in order to safeguard the interests of each party while also assuming the responsibility for reimbursing one or the other in the event that a specific deal collapses. The issue with this is that banks are increasingly all-equipped to perform such a role in the current climate, particularly with a larger number of trades completed through open trading platforms and the increasing pressure of a volatile social, economic and geopolitical climate.

 

In contrast, blockchain has the technological foundations and natural advantages that make it well-placed to address these growing challenges. It instantly negates the need for a central (and potentially vulnerable) ledger, for example, as blockchain is a distributed ledger that enables each party to store their own transaction history and data. Not only this, but blockchain also has a level of transparency and traceability that helps to provide genuine reassurances to parties, in the form of an enduring list of historical transactions that is constantly accessible and capable of providing advanced conflict resolution.

 

Will Banks Adopt Blockchain in the Long-term?

 Of course, the issue that remains in the question of accountability, as an independent technology source as blockchain would not be able to reimburse parties in instances when international goods are not delivered (as an example). The sensible solution would therefore be for banks to integrate blockchain technology into their existing software, primarily by acting as platform suppliers that external clients and counter-parties can connect to. This would help banks to improve their market share over time, rather than threatening the traditional status quo and placing their status as central ledgers at risk.

This will cause some considerable disruption in the short-term, of course, as banks get to grips with blockchain technology and look at adapt to a brave, new world. These challenges would surely ease over time, however, while enabling both lenders and blockchain to achieve their true potential in the commercial marketplace.

Marcus Turner Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Experts Know About Advertising

Changing the outlook of a potentially vibrant market that is suffering from a loss of identity that is born out of selfishness, fear and distrust is the bold step embarked upon by blockchain-enabled decentralized platform, Papyrus.  This move is aimed at reconciling the key participants in the digital advertising ecosystem and having them function as a team rather than rivals so as to deliver the market from its current declining state. With advertisers, publishers and internet users not trusting one another, a phenomenon that is clearly revealed by the stealth advertising modes being employed from one end and the ingenuity of ad blocking from the opposite end, developing a healthy market requires outright disruption.

 

A rebellious market

The internet has changed global communications, but advertising has retained the inefficiencies of the industrial era. This is largely due to the absence of a transparent, secure and fair operating environment.  The main participants in advertising are the Advertisers, the Publishers and the Internet Users have remained in perpetual conflict due to the various negative issues that they are constantly confronted with. Therefore, instead of a growing market powered by the synergy of key participants for mutual benefits, we see a rapidly declining market born out of conflict and unhealthy competition.

 

Ad Blocks

Most internet users have adopted the use of ad blocks in order to repel the bombardment from advertisers with irrelevant and unsolicited ads that rampantly pop unto their screens without permission. These ads are most often intrusive, annoying and can cause major distractions. These users have also suffered from exploitation by the unauthorized use of personal data by most advertising companies without compensation. Hence, they feel exploited and want to fight back with every opportunity.On their own side, advertisers are losing money to fraudulent and insincere intermediaries, while publishers are constantly deprived due to interceptions from ad blocks that keep them away from targeted traffic and their earnings.

 

The ads industry still has huge potential

Apparently, there is a system that is filled with opportunities, but rather than the parties involved working together to achieve their goals and earn money, unhealthy competition has led to conflicts that are hurting the entire industry and preventing it from reaching its potentials.  In 2017, the global market for digital advertising is expected to reach a value of over $220 Billion. Juxtaposing this figure with the advertisers budgets and misused funds within the market, as much as $110 Billion is wasted by advertisers every year.  Papyrus is using the blockchain to provide a completely new way to approach digital advertising that will benefit all participants. This is the first digital advertising ecosystem that is based on blockchain technology and managed by digital contracts.

Papyrus Ecosystem Evangelist Thomas Hulbert says:

“Papyrus is basically Ethereum for advertising. Blockchain together with our scalability solutions is game-changing tech that will not only solve the industry’s transparency and fraud problems, but unleash a new era of advertising creativity. The Papyrus mission is to use the best of blockchain to transform the entire digital advertising market by offering advantages to efficient and value adding players and marginalizing unscrupulous and irrelevant players. This will be a major distinction in the new era of digital advertising – if you’re operating on Papyrus, you will be seen as transparent, if not – your credibility will be questionable.”

The major industrial culprits

Middlemen and intermediaries are responsible for most of the bottlenecks and conflicts experienced in the market. This is mainly because of their non-transparent approach in most cases, creating room for doubts and suspicion, and turning the whole ecosystem into a jungle where everyone battles for survival.  These intermediaries, without originating any products simply find ways to position themselves and form a boundary between content originators and their targets. Despite playing the role of a link between product originators (in this case the Advertisers) and their targets, their overall attitude and exorbitant charges often generates a domino effect that unbalance the entire market.

Fixing it all in one place

With blockchain technology, Papyrus aims to provide tools that will enable seamless interconnectivity between decentralized applications and traditional advertising to make this transition both attractive and smooth for existing publishers and advertisers.  Such a system that will eliminate the unwanted distraction of intermediaries and deliver a transparent, secure and fair environment will indeed revolutionize the entire digital advertising market. Users will be able to determine what ads they want to receive, which ones to promote and how to earn the accompanying incentives. In today’s world, individuals should be able to determine to what extent they want their personal data to be exposed. Blockchain implementation in digital advertising will put back privacy control in the hands of these users and protect them from being exploited. On the other hand, advertisers who presently suffer huge waste in their budgets will experience lower entry cost barriers, and can begin to maximize their efforts and resources.

 

Papyrus platform uses the blockchain to ensure a transparent, secure and fair environment where the participants function as a team and are all rewarded adequately.