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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency
Although digital currencies have shown a substantial amount of progress over the past few years, recent volatility in the crypto world is giving skeptics more reason to stay doubtful.

While we have seen a consistent stream of innovation with new currencies, particularly in the past 18 months, there are now more than 800 of them that have been pronounced dead. This means that the coins have no value, trading at less than 1 cent. Most commonly the failure of these coins is due to their lack of integrity — being a scam or a joke — or because the product did not materialize. Many of the obsolete cryptocurrencies are listed on the website Dead Coins, which describes itself as a “strategic partnership to clean up crypto.” Coinopsy is another site that has reported dead coins. When considering reports from both sources, the number of dead projects accumulates into the thousands, with reasons ranging from true abandonment to outright scams.

CREATING NEW TOKENS: RISKY BY NATURE

A process called an initial coin offering (ICO) can create new digital tokens. In this process, a start-up can issue a new currency that is available for purchase by investors. While the investor does not obtain an equity stake in the company, the purchased cryptocurrency can be used on the product of the company. Since the coins are cheap while holding potential for substantial returns down the line, people often buy into an ICO.

By their very nature, ICOs are highly risky. Moreover, these kinds of investments have been riddled with fraud. Just in 2018, a scam ICO called Giza was reported by CNBC. It was a fake startup that ran off with $2 million in investor money, giving plenty of fuel to skeptics to continue to doubt the legitimacy of this industry.

It is important to keep in mind that everyone expects the startups to fail. The problem is the massive amount of cash that floods into these projects before they are ready — this is the primary cause for concern. When startups receive more fuel than they can keep up with, the resulting conflagration ultimately consumes both the company and the founders, which is not helpful to the investors in return.

The conflagrations are, unfortunately, a global phenomenon. In 2017 alone, dead ICOs and scams raised $1 billion, and nearly 300 startups had been marked as questionable. The lock-ups and pricing scams within the ICO market are using greed rather than rational thinking, and are hurting the industry more than helping it. In the end, it is crucial to invest only what you can afford to lose and expect any token that you invest in to fail. Then if it succeeds, you will be pleasantly surprised, and if it fails, you will avoid devastation.

Even Bitcoin, the biggest cryptocurrency by market capitalization or value, has had a tough year.

Although it hit a record high of nearly $20,000 last year, it has since decreased by nearly 70%, according to data from CoinDesk. While Bitcoin is still among the stronger of coins, many others have not been as fortunate. To note are five of the greatest failures in cryptocurrency history thus far.

THE BIGGEST CRYPTO TOKEN FAILURES 

SPACEBIT

SpaceBit has long held the status of one of the most ambitious cryptocurrency projects thus far. And perhaps rightly so, as this is the company that wanted to launch several “nano-satellites” into orbit to provide a globally-accessible blockchain, which would be used for the storage of Bitcoin as well as helping unbanked regions access financial services. This announcement attracted much attention and enthusiasm from the public, gaining massive support behind them. However, the project ultimately disappeared. There was never any prototype or proof-of-concept, and eventually, all talk about SpaceBIT faded out completely. Supposedly the team behind SpaceBIT is now completely focused on a new project called BlockVerify, so SpaceBIT has been put on the shelf for good.

GEMS

Originally branded as “Gems” but now named “GetGems,” this was a social networking platform that uses cryptocurrency to pay members that view advertisements within the app. Having made grand claims in 2014 about disrupting social media, the result was somewhat disappointing with an underwhelmingly low crowdsale that year. Since then, GetGems has been overtaken by competitors, but they are still running; they have seen the most success in the country of Uzbekistan, ranking in 63rd place among apps.

DOGECOIN

Although this cryptocurrency began as a joke, it quickly evolved into a success with a passionate community behind it that became known for donating to charity with DOGE. After a successful streak, the Dogecoin collapsed. To make matters worse, founder Alex Green had disappeared with everyone’s money, shutting down the exchange. This led to the crashing of DOGE and disbandment of its community.

PAYCOIN

Launched in 2014, PayCoin grew to be one of the largest cryptocurrencies worldwide by market capitalization. The coin’s white paper presented a vision for new variations of blockchain technology that would produce a new breed of cryptocurrency. However, it quickly became evident that the coin would not live up to this vision when its founder converted PayCoin into a generic altcoin clone, which made it easier to push onto the market faster. As it lacked follow-through, people ultimately lost faith in the coin. By 2015, GAW shut down entirely and faced a federal investigation, with its founder fleeing the United States.

DAO

Taking first place in cryptocurrency failure is the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), an Ethereum-based coin. While its beginnings were met with great enthusiasm, including large purchases of the token, one incident had changed the entire course of this currency transactions. When an attacker exploited a vulnerability in the DAO smart contract, this led to a loss of more than $50 million. After information about the attack became well known, the token became abandoned by traders, throwing it into a downward spiral.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There has been intense pressure and skepticism placed on the crypto world, perpetuated by consistent news of novel scams or unsuccessful coins. However, optimism for the industry remains strong. Proponents of crypto expect regulators to learn to be more favorable towards the field, which could boost participation in the market. Similarly, there is a lot of optimism for the future of ICOs as an alternative to initial public offerings and venture capital funding. It is true that many coins have not survived, but there are also many coins that have. Every impactful innovation has its trials and tribulations, but that does not mean that it cannot evolve into a success that improves the way we live our lives.

This article was originally published at MinDice.com.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

Well into the second half of 2018 and it’s been a white-knuckle roller coaster ride for most. With Ether shedding 44 percent of its value in just two weeks and the media speaking of a Bitcoin bubble, is it possible to lose faith in crypto but remain bullish on blockchain? Apparently; if continued corporate statements like the UBS blockchain endorsement are anything to go by. But can you really separate cryptocurrency and blockchain?

UBS Bullish on Blockchain, Bearish on Bitcoin

CEO of Swiss investment banking giant UBS, Sergio Ermotti, came out with a bold claim recently. He said that blockchain was “almost a must” for business. UBS blockchain support is nothing new, however. Neither is their stance that cryptocurrencies are risky and will probably never become mainstream currencies.

Sergio Ermotti

UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti

Yet, when it comes to blockchain, UBS changes their point of view. The bank believes that blockchain technology can help companies become more efficient and reduce their operating costs across the board, from healthcare to finance. This implies a separation between cryptocurrencies and the technology that they run on.

But is it possible to separate the two? Furthermore, since the original vision of Satoshi was to send peer-to-peer electronic payments without the need for a middleman, UBS blockchain support could be misplaced.

Disrupt or Be Disrupted

“While we are doubtful cryptocurrencies will ever become a mainstream means of exchange, the underlying technology, blockchain, is likely to have a significant impact in industries ranging from finance to manufacturing, health care, and utilities,” UBS wrote in October of 2017.

Adding that, “Just as [the] internet has transformed our lives with email, e-commerce, or smartphone apps, we believe blockchain as an infrastructure technology can power future disruptive technologies through distributive ledgers, smart contracts, tokens or identity management.”

So, what about cutting out the middleman? The centralized authority taking its fees? UBS blockchain research does acknowledge a certain level of risk, although they limit this to technological shortcomings and an uncertainty as to which application will benefit the industry most. They fail to mention whether digital currencies will threaten fiat ones, or if central authorities will be cut out of the loop.

In fact, within the financial sector, UBS predicts that blockchain technology will have irreversible and positive effects. And UBS blockchain support doesn’t stop at words. The bank is also investing in research into distributed ledgers and smart contracts in its business model.

UBS currently holds a number of blockchain patents. Yet, despite Ermotti’s bullish stance, their blockchain activities are dwarfed by other large banks and credit card companies. The list includes American Express, BBVA, Mizuho Financial Group, Goldman Sachs, BNP, and Bank of America (who’s buying up blockchain patents like they’re expecting a war). Is this a bid to disrupt or be disrupted? Or a defensive maneuver to protect themselves against blockchain innovation?

Blockchain and Bitcoin Are One and the Same

Plenty of people criticize Ermotti’s point of view, seeing it as a convenient way of taking a politically acceptable view and a safe position. Leaving the door open without scaring away existing clients. Others believe that more than just convenient, it misses the point completely. After all, blockchain and cryptocurrency are one and the same.

Consider the Bitcoin network for a moment. The way it was created requires miners to believe that the value of the Bitcoin they are rewarded will increase over time (or at least, not decrease in value). Otherwise, there is no incentive or rational reason to invest in expensive mining equipment, electricity, and time.

Bitcoin mining company, Bitmain would benefit from an IPO

Bitcoin Mining Equipment

So, for those like UBS that are skeptical on Bitcoin, but busy singing the praises of blockchain, they may not fully understand. In an interview with Malta’s Steve Tendon, a member of the country’s Blockchain Taskforce and author of Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy, he expressed his concern with viewpoints such as the UBS blockchain one.

He argued that many regulators and institutions tried to draw a distinction between blockchain and cryptocurrencies, viewing crypto as a bad thing because of its criminal associations and scams, but blockchain as a positive technology with infinite possibilities.

“There is no way you can have a smart contract platform that is as sophisticated as the one that Ethereum has implemented today (but there will be others in the future) unless you also have a cryptocurrency that is being used to “pay” for the computation. So the distinction between cryptocurrency and blockchains are really artificial: they are just two aspects of the same coin,” he said.

 

Final Thoughts

Ermotti and the UBS team may be making headlines with their views on the transformative technology. Calling blockchain “crucial and disruptive” is all well and good. But frowning on Bitcoin at the same time may just be missing a trick.

This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com.
 
 
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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency, Cybersecurity

For years, hackers have been sharpening their tools and scouting for new targets to penetrate cyberdefenses, making cybersecurity a major problem that the United States faces today. Both the public and private sectors remain at risk for both nation-state cyber threats, with Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea leading the list; as well as non-state cybersecurity threats such as terrorists and criminals. Considering the gravity of the danger every cybercrime poses, what steps has the government been doing to address such threats?

What Has Been Happening

The recent election hacks and government data attacks are some of the government’s motivation to establish a cybersecurity law. According to Thales Data Threat Report, the data breach is becoming a “new reality” for US federal government agencies. Based on its recent study, federal agencies are at a higher rate of breaches compared to other industries, with 71% among U.S. federal agencies recorded to have been breached. Federal government agencies are at much higher risk since they handle private data of citizens.

A research conducted by the US Intelligence Community states that the “potential for surprise” in cyberspace will increase in the next years as there would be more connected devices that have little security in them. The risk increases as both nation states and individual hackers become more encouraged and equipped in executing their cyber attacks.

Aside from federal government agencies, other sectors continue to brace themselves for breaches. Hacks targeting transportation systems, electrical grids, and other critical infrastructures are looming. Data privacy remain at risk as companies that hold social security numbers and birth dates continue to be vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hackers, allegedly from North Korea, have been targeting holders of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The government must also strengthen its guards against potential cyber attack in the upcoming midterm elections in November, considering how hackers have targeted numerous voting systems in 2016.

Recent Developments

Research suggests that encryption technologies are critical tools in helping government agencies to protect their data. Agencies are now starting to consider encryption as the most effective way to support cybersecurity. There are now projects targeting to implement encryption for data protection. Currently, only 23% among federal agencies use encryption, but this number can go up to 84%.

About a year ago, President Trump issued Executive Order 13800 or the Presidential Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure, with the intention of toughening the nation’s cyber posture and capabilities amidst the cybersecurity threats. Along with it, more than 240 bills and resolutions concerning cybersecurity were introduced, while 28 states enacted their new policies in 2017.

To address national cybersecurity threats, initial actions were taken by ordering the heads of executive departments and agencies to submit, within 90 to 240 days, a comprehensive report about the country’s preparedness against cybercrimes.

The rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May is a big leap in protecting data privacy in Europe, as well as in holding big tech companies accountable for data breaches. The risks are growing and the government needs to keep up.

This article was originally published at HoganInjury.com.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency
The rise of Bitcoin and the blockchain industry has been accompanied by criticism, just like any other emerging tech sector. Such criticism was heard during the dawn of the internet, and despite it, the internet is still alive and well today. Industry experts have offered different hot takes on the nature of cryptocurrency in general, calling it everything from a bubble to a Ponzi scheme. The latest well-known figure to criticize the cryptocurrency industry, however, is Agustín Carstens, head of the Bank for International Settlements, also known as the central bank for all central banks.

According to Carstens in a recent interview, young people should stop trying to create money in the form of cryptocurrency. The Bank for International Settlements’ opinion on cryptocurrency may not gain any traction within the community because things have been improving for cryptocurrency. Banks and large corporations have been warming up to blockchain, the underpinning technology of most cryptocurrencies.

Corporations like IBM have developed enterprise platforms and partnered with cryptocurrency platforms like Stellar to provide blockchain-based payment solutions. Several significant partnerships have also been made between cryptocurrency platforms and banks. Even with the fear of fraud and theft, banks realize that there is profit to be made from the industry and if their customers decide to trade, they may have no choice but to cooperate.

During the interview, Agustín Carstens was asked if cryptocurrencies can be described as money. He replied by explicitly stating that cryptocurrencies are not money, rather they are a type of asset that can be invested in. By Carstens’ description, these digital assets can’t assume the functionality of money in the economy due to the way they are created.

Mostly, cryptocurrencies are produced by a group of people who have either been appointed, elected or allowed to secure the network and receive new cryptocurrency in the form of block rewards. The most incentivized people in a cryptocurrency community are its miners. They make a profit when they create new assets and, in turn, deliver the needed security for the network.

Carstens has stated that this is a bad model for money and simply does not maximize its usefulness. Money is supposed to be a great store of value, means of payment and unit of account. However, so far, digital assets like cryptocurrency have proven to fail badly at all three things.

As for the hype surrounding the industry at the moment, mostly due to the peak prices achieved by major cryptocurrencies in 2017, Carstens believes that it is only happening as a result of the knowledge that a lot of money can be made on cryptocurrencies in a short period. He also called crypto assets a Ponzi scheme, bubble and environmental disaster due to the infrastructure needed to keep some of their networks running securely.

Carstens alluded to the fact that he is sure that cryptocurrency will not have a happy ending. He compared digital assets to the renowned National Bank electronic payment system of Switzerland saying that cryptocurrencies may never exhibit that level of efficiency and trust.

Central banks, on the other hand, have exhibited that level of trust, which is built on several years of efficient service, a level which Carstens is sure that digital asset networks will never achieve. This is why he believes that young people should be more focused on innovation and creative solutions to problems instead of trying to re-invent money.

This is not the first time that Carstens has openly criticised Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry. In fact, he gave a talk on the topic at the Goethe University in Germany in early 2018, stating that central banks must work hard to stop the rise of cryptocurrency. This would ensure that the technology does not meddle with the finance industry and affect the financial stability of various world economies.

He also spoke about the difficulties associated with working with Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) in central banks, including the lack of efficiency, the expensive costs, and the slow speeds. Prior to this, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, expressed his own opinion on cryptocurrencies calling them risky assets. He also stated that the European Central Bank is continuously working to identify threats and dangers that cryptocurrency may pose so that they are mitigated before any harm can be done.

In addition to this, Carstens based the enthusiasm within the cryptocurrency industry on speculative mania and their use for illegal transactions. According to the BIS head, authorities are getting closer to finding ways to control and prevent the risks associated with digital asset use, stating that it is alarming that several banks have come up with bitcoin ATM’s where BTC can easily be bought or sold, an easy alternative to a Bitcoin exchange.

As long as the most prominent use case for cryptocurrencies lies in illegal payments, central banks cannot merge the technology with that of the banking sector, to avoid financial disaster. This is similar to the opinion shared by the U.S. Secret Service concerning the provision of regulations for cryptocurrencies, especially those that provide anonymity to users. These coins are usually misused for illegal transactions and present issues when tracing such payments.

The BIS has taken this stance on the industry for a long time. In February 2018, they highlighted issues with the scalability model of cryptocurrencies, stating that those with more users and a more extensive network are more likely to break down before others. Again, the bank warned the public to avoid making any risky decisions concerning their investments within the space.

According to the BIS annual report, due to the fragility, lack of stability and lack of scalability, trust can easily disappear from the network and its capabilities. Such networks are also subject to regular congestion as they grow larger. One example is the Ethereum network congestion that occurred subsequent to the launch of Cryptokitties. Other issues addressed include transaction fees and limits.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Many have argued that banks make money and are taking a hypocritical stand by telling others not to. The warning by Carstens will most likely not be taken seriously in light of the continuous flood of investors into the cryptocurrency space. Despite the volatility within the industry, cryptocurrency has come to be recognized as a way to invest and make a lot of money. As a result, demand for digital assets has increased over time and will continue to lead to an increase in supply, not the opposite scenario that Carstens is proposing.

Despite the bold statements by Carstens, the cryptocurrency industry has seen improvement in the number of projects, investors and amount of money raised through crowdfunding. Apart from the statements that tell young people to stop trying to make money, he raised some relevant points including the insecurity and expenses associated with running such networks. Another problem lies in the lack of stringent regulations within the industry to govern its many investment and trade practices.

Carstens continues to be outspoken about the Bank of International Settlements lack of support for cryptocurrency as a whole. Other experts in various financial and technological fields also continue to show mixed opinions on the subject. However, the recurring themes are rooted in regulation, theft, illegal activities and profits. Hopefully, cryptocurrency will get to a middle ground that makes security provision for users, regulators, like central banks and even law enforcement, easier.

This article was originally published at MinDice.com.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

Building a cryptocurrency portfolio is not something you do in 5 minutes. The rise of the cryptocurrency market and ICO’s, in general, has lured many investors into the idea of making big bucks as quickly as possible. And while there’s still plenty of opportunity out there, it pays (quite literally) to be as professional as you can.

It’s the wild wild west all over again, except this time, programmer cowboys are riding in on coded horses in search of digital gold. Arm yourself with some powerful tools so you too have a chance of striking it big.

Let’s dive in and take a look at 5 key points to consider when building a cryptocurrency portfolio.

#1: Bitcoin – The New Benchmark

In the following graphic, we measure the % gains of several major cryptocurrencies against the US Dollar since the beginning of 2018:

Cryptocurrency Portfolio

Beginner investors love measuring the performance of their favorite coin versus their local currency (like the US Dollar or Euro). This is a mistake, however. Consider instead to measure your performance versus Bitcoin or Ethereum.

In the example above Bitcoin outperformed LitecoinMonero, and Dash but not Ethereum. 2018 Has so far turned out to be a bear market and having more Ethereum in your portfolio would have minimized your losses. 28% Compared to Bitcoin’s 57%.

Why Benchmark?

The granddaddy of crypto didn’t achieve that title without good reason. Bitcoin’s enormous bull market since 2011 is the result of an economic value system which has been built with the properties of sound money in mind.

It’s no surprise then that many in the crypto community refer to Bitcoin as digital gold. Just as the physical kind is used as a store of value in troubled times so does capital flow into Bitcoin when investors become nervous:

  • No hack of the Bitcoin blockchain has ever been recorded
  • Bitcoin is widely available & well supported on exchanges around the world
  • It is the most liquid cryptocurrency available (easy to find a buyer/seller in the market)

Many smaller coins underperform Bitcoin and are difficult to trade. Ask yourself, is it worth the risk to buy a lesser known coin? In many cases, just HODL’ing bitcoin and doing nothing for a few years will work out better in the long run.

#2: Understand Your Risk Profile

Risk is just as much a part of life as it is in the markets. No pain, no gain, as they say. Investing in this market means dealing with huge swings in price (volatility). And many do not have the stomach for it.

It is essential to ask yourself several questions related to cryptocurrency risk. It’s also a good idea to write down the answers. Some questions to consider:

  • How much capital do you have to invest?
  • Are you comfortable losing some or all of your capital?
  • What are your investment goals?
  • How close are you to retirement?

A good method to measure your risk tolerance is to see how well you sleep at night while invested in the cryptocurrency market. If you find yourself obsessing over price and getting up in the middle of the night to check, chances are, you have too much capital invested. Never ever invest money you cannot afford to lose!

You may want to consider hiring a financial advisor to do the work for you. But keep in mind that accredited financial advisors are almost unheard of in this emerging industry.

#3: Do Your Own Research (DYOR)

Perhaps the worst thing you can do in this market is to invest impulsively or based on a random tip you heard via friends, family, a Telegram channel or Reddit group. This is your money after all.

We live in the age of the internet, and information has never been so widely available as it is today. This is both a good and a bad thing. There’s a bunch of info out there. It’s relatively easy to find, but relatively hard to interpret. It’s your job, as an intelligent investor, to do your own due diligence.

Do Your Own Research

Courtesy of Kris Straub

Every project is trying to market themselves in the best light possible. No project is perfect and many are just downright scams. Check in with the experts. There are some excellent sources on twitter providing valuable information on a daily basis.

#4: Take Full Responsibility for Your Decisions

Now that you’ve done the hard work, it’s time to actually add coins into your cryptocurrency portfolio and face the consequences. That’s right, you are completely responsible for all your investment decisions, both good and bad. Own it. It will make you a better investor.

Don’t be fooled by tweets, videos or posts by investors who claim they never lose. Even the best investors in the world make terrible decisions. It’s part of the game. When you accept your mistakes you also open the door to becoming a better cryptocurrency investor.

In no way, shape or form should any of this post be considered investment advice. If you’ve heard that before it’s because influencers all over the web fear providing content which could be considered as financial advice. Why? Because many investors who lose money often want to shift the blame to someone else. Don’t be that guy/girl.

The recent Bitconnect scandal, which saw a number of influencers served with lawsuits, is a good example. So I say it again, you are completely responsible for your own financial well-being.

#5: Be Patient

When people see double-digit returns in a major bull market it’s easy to catch a case of the fomo (fear of missing out). Be patient, play the long game. The market was here yesterday and it will be here tomorrow.

Unless you are a talented and active day trader, a longer-term HODL’ing strategy might be a better option for you. When you take the longer view, with practice and patience, it’s easier to stomach double-digit losses because you see the bigger picture. Bitcoin has already painted that picture since 2011.

Remember, there are no guarantees with this. Consider also the opposite side of the argument. Use patience as one tool in your larger toolkit. Being patient with a coin which goes to zero does not pay off. Either way, patience is a virtue worth building as you become a better investor.

Cryptocurrency Portfolio Summary

Cryptocurrency investment is not for everyone. Some will become stinking rich from it, and some will lose all their money. With some disciplined work, the chance of you becoming the former and not the latter increases dramatically.

To summarize, keep these 5 keys in mind when building your cryptocurrency portfolio and good luck out there in the markets!

  1. Bitcoin – The New Benchmark
  2. Understand Your Risk Profile
  3. Do Your Own Research (DYOR)
  4. Take Full Responsibility for Your Decisions
  5. Be Patient
 This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com.
 
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Cybersecurity, Marketing, Social Media, Social networking

Social networking has inevitably redefined social interactions for good. Since the inception of every social media platform, its rise had been unstoppable. A recent study shows that Facebook and Youtube continue to dominate this landscape among adults in the US, while majority of the younger users seem to use Snapchat and Instagram more often. If social media platforms are so utilized, how do they impact their users’ social interactions?

The Good

Social networking sites provide an additional avenue for connectivity, interaction, and creativity. Users are able to reach out to family and friends and stay up-to-date on their lives through their posts on social media. With the use of chat, they are able to communicate with peers in a timely manner anywhere. Users are also exposed to people of varied backgrounds and are able to exchange ideas with them, making their world virtually wider and more diverse. Furthermore, users are able to enhance their writing, reading, and critical thinking skills through the use these platforms.

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube have become effective venues for news outlets to reach a larger audience, making social media users more politically aware now. Young users are able to form their own opinions on social issues and share their thoughts publicly.

In case of emergencies, social media platforms also come in handy and become crucial in emergency response and preparedness among citizens. The Federal Emergency Management Agency utilizes social media to facilitate the exchange of information during disasters. Through their smartphones, users can use FEMA’s app to receive alerts, updates, safety reminders, and preparedness tips. Users are involved and given the ability and the social responsibility to spread awareness more rapidly in desperate times.

The Bad

With the benefits, come the risks and disadvantages of social media use. While these platforms are effective in the free flow of ideas among users, it has also become a venue of abuse. The anonymity that these sites provide, through the option to use names and identity other than their own, gives way to unfortunate encounters such as cyberbullying, harassment, and abuse. These encounters have deep and real-life damage on a person’s mental and emotional health, reputation, and safety.

In a 2017 study, it was found that roughly 4 in 10 Americans have personally experienced online harassment, while 66% have witnessed this behavior towards others online. They expressed that they were harassed online based on their politics, physical appearance, gender, race, and ethnicity. The Federal Bureau of Investigation stated in 2014 that 42% of kids had experienced cyberbullying, while 35% had been threatened on social media platforms, as well. Fifty-three percent said that they have said something hurtful towards somebody online. The FBI considers cyberbullying as one of the most significant new issues that law enforcement needs to address.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 states that online hosts are not liable for the content that users post on the platforms. However, 8 in 10 Americans feel that online services need to step in when harassment occurs, while 3 in 10 feels that stronger laws are needed in order to combat this type of online behavior. A good percentage of US adults expressed that law enforcement does not take online harassment cases seriously enough.

 

If you experience or observe abuse on social networking sites, contact Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

None of the content on Hoganinjury.com is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

This article was originally published at HoganInjury.com.

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Uncategorized

The customer is the heart of any business. Whether the business is a retail clothing store, food delivery, or even a law firm offering expert services, the business’s success relies on their customers. Even if the product or service that you’re selling is top-notch if you don’t have people to buy what you’re selling or avail of your services, your business is bound to fail. Companies including law firms should consider their customers as assets because aside from buying a business’s product or service which gives the business revenue to keep on operating, these customers provide invaluable feedback that your company can use to improve and to expand; this is the reason why businesses should make an effort to understand their customers.

One method that a business can use to understand their customers better is the use of CRM or Customer Relationship Management. CRM is a system that lets businesses manage their business relationships and customer data that can help the company increase its sales and improve customer retention. CRM systems compile information about your customer from their interactions with any part of your business, whether it’s your company website, telephone conversation, direct mail, or social media. The information gathered can range from the customer’s personal information to their spending habits and product feedback, all of which can be very helpful to any business.

These are some of the advantages of having a CRM system for your business:

1. Organized information. – CRM collects data and creates a database which can be accessible to members of the company, enabling them to understand the customers better. Unlike traditional customer information filing systems, CRM is not confined to the four walls of an office stuck inside a filing cabinet; instead, customer information can be easily accessed by any member of the business who needs it. The information in the database can be quickly sorted and filtered to find the relevant data that can help you give your customer an excellent experience with your company.

2. Better communication. – Because customer information is accessible to any member of the business, there will be no miscommunication about a client, even if the customer is talking to someone from the company for the first time.

3. Improved customer service. – If ever your customer experiences a problem with your service or product, they would want immediate resolution, and because CRM stores all information about your customers like previous purchases, preferences, and any other information gathered from interacting with your business, you will be better equipped to resolve any issue that they may have.

4. Create better strategies. – Since organized and comprehensive customer information is available to your business because of CRM, you will be able to create business strategies that can help you expand your business faster. Information about purchase history and preferences can help you create a marketing strategy that can persuade more customers with the same interests to buy your service or product and help you grow your customer base. Multiple feedbacks about your business can help you identify problem areas and start taking steps to improve your business.

There are many CRM systems available to businesses with a multitude of features that will satisfy your company’s needs. Law firms can gain a lot of benefits by using CRM systems that will help them schedule tasks and meetings with clients, organize their client contacts, and assist them in their efforts to follow-up on potential clients. Client retention for law firms can also be greatly increased by using CRM to anticipate their client’s needs. CRM data can also help law firms project their future by analyzing their current client base, and these projections will enable law firms to make adjustments to serve customers better.

Appreciating your customers is good, but for you to truly show your appreciation for them, you need to understand their needs and CRM helps you do that.

None of the content on Hoganinjury.com is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

This article was originally published at HoganInjury.com

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

Australia. Plenty of images come to mind when we think of the land down under. Sun-bleached surfers, wallabies, the Sydney Opera House. But, Australia, despite its modest population of 23 million, is more than just a faraway tourist destination. The home of kangaroos, koalas, AC/DC, and vegemite is well on its way to becoming a world leader in the blockchain space. Here are at least five signs of blockchain innovation in Australia right now.

1. Australia Is a World Innovation Center

You might not know it, but Australia is actually the 11th largest economy in the world. And it’s one that’s in a state of transition–fast. With an economy traditionally based on manufacturing, the government’s focus for the future is firmly fixed on technology. And, more specifically, on blockchain innovation in Australia.

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They’ve been paving the pathways for this for some time now. In 2016, the government of Southern Australia allocated $80 million to creating jobs of the future and modernizing the economy. In that same year, three of the world’s most disruptive startups on the Disrupt 100 list (curated by the likes of Microsoft Ventures, IBM curate, and Sky News) came from Australia, recognized as having the power to “influence, change or create new global markets.”

There are also plenty of international companies with a foothold down-under. The likes of HP and Microsoft both with innovation centers here. Australia has already made a splash on the world scene with its homegrown telecom company Myriota. The company won best industrial startup at the Internet of Things Summit, Silicon Valley, for their low-cost, low-power IoT transceiver.

And when it comes to blockchain innovation in Australia, their talent pool is quickly deepening, with an entire innovation district Tonsley already blooming in South Australia. With its driverless buses, open spaces, restaurants, and meetup centers, Tonsley is Australia’s answer to Silicon Valley. A place to foster creative thinking, innovation, incubation, skills, connections, and conditions needed for new technology like blockchain to thrive.

TechStars’ first accelerator program in the Asia-Pacific region is based in Adelaide and the entrepreneur scene is thriving in this Australian city. As the US continues to forge its path to regulating cryptocurrencies, smaller countries, it seems, are steaming ahead. Well, smaller population countries anyway.

2. A Pioneering Stock Exchange

Despite recent announcements from NYSE parent company ICE and Switzerland’s SIX, Australia’s largest stock exchange is already light years ahead. Not only has The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) already been listing cryptocurrency exchanges and blockchain companies since 2014, but they’re actually migrating their entire infrastructure to blockchain by 2020.

Australian Securities Exchange

Australian Securities Exchange / https://www.asx.com.au/

We’re not just talking about listing Bitcoin or other digital assets here. The country’s main stock exchange will embrace blockchain technology entirely. The plan is to implement a post-trade system that is blockchain-based. This will replace their existing Clearing House Electronic Subregister System.

ASX estimates that by moving over to blockchain technology to administer the Australian financial market, they can add as many as 50 new features for traders, at the same time as making significant cost savings. The plan is already underway and will make the ASX the world’s first major stock exchange to migrate to blockchain technology.

3. Government Funding for Blockchain Research and Development

In May, the Australian government announced they would allocate $700,000 AUD ($500,000 US) to “blockchain research,” and how to use it to deliver more reliable and secure government services. Part of the money will also go towards funding a Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to evaluate using blockchain for government payments.

The goal is to understand how blockchain innovation in Australia can help improve efficiencies and modernize the country’s economy. They also aim to assess the level of maturity of the technology and the problems it may solve. This appears to be taking a leaf out of Malta’s book with the establishment of a digital innovation authority to regulate and assess blockchain initiatives.

While this is not necessarily a huge sum, it’s not the only funding allocated for blockchain projects. The Australian Department of Home Affairs (DHA) also announced tentative plans and a proposal to use blockchain alongside AI and IoT to manage international trade and supply chain.

Then just last month, the Australian government awarded IBM a cool $1 billion AUD ($750 million US) to develop blockchain innovation in Australia over the next five years. This will be specifically geared towards developing AI, blockchain, and quantum technology solutions for cybersecurity, research, and data management.

Some critics have questioned the Australian government’s seemingly blind faith in IBM after their disastrous attempts at managing the country’s 2016 census (which suffered incessant DDoS attacks). Others suggest that a long-term commitment with just one provider may not be a good move. This could mean repeating the mistakes made in the dotcom boom at the turn of the century.

Either way, the five-year IBM agreement is an indicator that neither the tech giant nor the Australian government believes that blockchain technology is going away any time soon.

4. Academic Centers of Excellence

Australia is also earning a reputation for leading academic centers of excellence in blockchain technology. The RMIT University, for example, has a long-established blockchain innovation hub and has already committed just shy of $3 million of funding in blockchain innovation in Australia. The institution claims to be the “world’s leading social science research institute in blockchain.”

RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub

RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub / https://sites.rmit.edu.au/blockchain-innovation-hub/

There is also no shortage of blockchain meetup centers around the country including the Blockchain Centre in Melbourne, regular meetups in Sydney, and of course, Southern Australia’s Tonsley.

5. Major Blockchain Companies

Finally, some major blockchain projects are coming out of Australia as well, including Perth-based blockchain technology company DigitalX that was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in June 2014. As an innovative blockchain company, they offer ICO consulting, blockchain software development, and other consulting services.

Power Ledger from Western Australia is an energy blockchain startup that enables peer-to-peer (P2P) electricity sharing. Raising a massive $34 million in its ICO, Power Ledger also received a further $8 million from the Australian government. This is meant to help develop its incentivizing marketplace for renewable energy.

Block8 is an Australian blockchain incubator aiming to help other companies accelerate their projects by giving them access to their network, expertise, and funding opportunities. And startups Havven and CanYaare also starting to find success, raising millions of dollars of ICO funding and developing solutions for volatility and an online work marketplace respectively.

Blockchain Innovation in Australia Is Booming

With a government committed to fostering innovation and technology, and conditions ripe for it, it will be interesting to watch developments in Australia. We’ll see if IBM can get it right this time, and how the ASX blockchain-based system works. So, instead of looking around for innovative companies, next time, it may pay to look down under.

This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com.
 
 
 
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Blockchain, Blockchain technology

What’s next in the evolution of autonomous cars? Based on Volkswagen’s recent demonstration just this past June at the CEBIT ‘18 Expo in Germany, there seems to be a lot in store for us.

In its presentation, Volkswagen joined forces with the IoT-focused IOTA blockchain project and vehicle manufacturer to show a proof of concept (PoC) for how the IOTA system can be used for autonomous cars. The PoC demonstrated how IOTA’s Tangle architecture can be used by car manufacturers such as Volkswagen to securely transfer software updates “over-the-air” as part of Volkswagen’s new “Connected Car” systems. The demonstration included a panel discussion entitled “Blockchain in Future Mobility.”

AUTONOMOUS VS. AUTOMATED

Not to be confused with “automated,” Jim Tung, a fellow from a leading developer of mathematical computing software Mathworks, gives a clear distinction between automated and autonomous:

“Practically speaking, autonomy is the power of self-governance — the ability to act independently of direct human control and in unrehearsed conditions. This is the major distinction between automated and autonomous systems. An automated robot, working in a controlled environment, can place the body panel of a car in exactly the same place every time. An autonomous robot also performs tasks it has been “trained” to do, but it can do so independently and in places it has never before ventured.”

It is crucial for an autonomous car to be designed so effectively that it chooses the most favorable course of action in every unique situation. What this comes down to is having enough data, which is where IOTA comes into the picture.

WHAT IS IOTA?

IOTA is a revolutionary distributed and open source ledger. Rather than relying on the blockchain, it is based on its very own invention called a “Tangle.” The platform allows connected devices to transfer money numerically in the form of micropayments. Also, the platform has no transaction fees, which is optimal for a micro-payment infrastructure.

The IOTA team is driven by their vision to “enable all connected devices through verification of truth and transactional settlements which incentivize devices to make available its properties and data in real time. This gives birth to entirely new general purpose applications and value chains.” And now they are applying this vision to autonomous cars.

WHAT IS A “TANGLE?”

The Tangle is a new data structure based on a Directed Acyclic Graph. Their system has a topological order that allows for different types of transactions to run on different chains in the network simultaneously. For this reason it has no Blocks, Chain, or Miners. This is a radical new architecture that greatly differentiates IOTA from other Blockchains, allowing for zero transaction fees, secure data transfer, and infinite scalability.

When it comes to Volkswagen distributing data for its connected cars, the fact that different types of transactions can run on different chains simultaneously make this network highly useful.

Another significant difference in IOTA is how transactions are made and the fact that it requires consensus. Because there are no miners, transactions can only be made by participants actively engaging in the consensus of the network. They do this by approving two past transactions. In this way, the system ensures that the entire network achieves consensus on the current state of approved transactions.

IOTA has a range of unique features due to its architecture:

The IOTA website lists a range of its unique features that are enabled by its architecture:

  • Scalability: IOTA can achieve high transaction throughput thanks to parallelized validation of transactions with no limit as to the number of transactions that can be confirmed in a certain interval
  • Decentralization: IOTA has no miners. Every participant in the network that is making a transaction, actively participates in the consensus. As such, IOTA is more decentralized than any Blockchain
  • Quantum-immunity: IOTA utilized a newly designed trinary hash function called Curl, which is quantum immune (Winternitz signatures)
  • No Transaction Fees: This is particularly optimal for a micro-payment infrastructure

SECURITY FLAWS?

Learning how to implement this technology effectively will be a process but, once refined, it shows great potential for security and transparency. For example, data integrity in the context of vehicles is pivotal to safety. Even in 2016 the FBI warned consumers of the threat that malicious parties present in exploiting vehicle software.

Recent data by the SANS Institute Infosec Reading Room further demonstrates that it is possible to inject malicious code into vehicle software updates. Threats can include disabling or interfering with power steering, overriding acceleration, applying brakes at any speed, and even tightening seat belts.

“Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) are crucial for the future of trusted transactions. IOTA has great potential to become a DLT leader with the Tangle approach,” commented Johann Jungwirth, Volkswagen’s Chief Digital Officer and a member of the Supervisory Board of the IOTA Foundation on the potential importance of blockchain technology in data-sensitive industries.

However, the two-year legal battle between Volkswagen and a team of European security researchers indicates that achieving optimal use of this technology will not come without trials and tribulations. When the researchers had uncovered the details of a security flaw present within the Volkswagen remote keyless vehicle entry system, they tried to publish this information but were hindered by Volkswagen, which used litigation to try to keep things quiet. Now, Volkswagen’s current work with the IOTA project steers in the direction of transparency in the hopes of gaining digital trust with customers, authorities, and third parties.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE FUTURE

IOTA’s big dream is a fully autonomous machine economy in which IoT devices can communicate and transact with each other through the Tangle. This greatly applies to the self-driving car. Earlier this year, the IOTA team announced the successful operation of the world’s first vehicle charging station that utilizes IOTA for charging and paying. Also, IOTA plans to integrate their system into a system MaaS (Mobility as a service). This system will use its distributed accounting technology for things such as making reservations and payments for Volkswagen’s autonomous vehicle. This could also lead to using its distributed ledger technology for services such as booking and trip planning, as well as payment services within the smart vehicle ecosystem. Additionally, IOTA partnered on a substantial Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) earlier this month for the transport industry; in doing so they join other manufacturing giants including Ford, GM, BMW, and Renault, along with IBM, Bosch, and Hyperledger.

According to Jungwirth, the IOTA platform will “allow connected devices to transfer money numerically in the form of micropayments,” which is very advantageous for the future of IoT.

As for Volkswagen, they describe their vision for using Tangle in their PoC press release to distribute data within its developing smart car economy wirelessly and securely. By 2020, over 250 million connected cars are expected to be on the road, underscoring the need for frequent updates to remote software and transparent access to data.

FINAL THOUGHTS

IOTA’s partnership with Volkswagen holds implications far beyond connected cars. On its website, the IOTA team describes its technology as “the missing puzzle piece for the Machine Economy to fully emerge and reach its desired potential.” They envision IOTA “to be the public, permissionless backbone for the Internet of Things that enables true interoperability between all devices.” An autonomous system for cars is just one step toward their much larger vision, and how they implement this system could pave the way for future devices.

As MathWorks fellow Jim Tung explains, “there is no one-size-fits all approach to designing — or defining — autonomous systems. In some cases, the goal is to remove human engagement. In others, it’s to augment our physical and intellectual abilities. In all instances, however, the utility of autonomous systems is bound by how much data is collected and what value can be extracted from that data.”

Volkswagen’s progress with the IOTA system could set a precedent for potential future use of distributed ledger technology at-large. It will be interesting to watch how these autonomous systems evolve and where the lines will be the drawn.

This article was originally published at MinDice.com.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

The meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies has taken the world by storm. Innovators, investors, users, and governments are scrambling to wrap their heads around cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that they rely upon. The emergence of a new market and business model has created great opportunities for participants, but it also carries significant risk.

Cryptocurrencies present an inherently unique challenge to governments because of their new technology, cross-jurisdictional nature, and frequent lack of transparency. Governments are struggling to develop new ways to regulate cryptocurrencies, adapt existing regulations, and identify fraudulent schemes. Cryptocurrencies and their regulations are evolving before our eyes, and this article will provide a brief background on cryptocurrencies and an overview of where cryptocurrency regulations currently stand.

What are cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrency is, by any other name, a currency—a medium of exchange used to purchase goods and services. Or, as some have suggested, cryptocurrency is a “peer-to-peer version of electronic cash.” However, this currency has two qualities that distinguish it from traditional bills and coins.

First, cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that is created through cryptography (i.e. coding) and developed by mathematical formulas through a process called hashing. Second, unlike traditional bills and coins that are printed and minted by governments around the world, cryptocurrency is not tied to any one government, and thus is not secured by any government entity. The fact that cryptocurrencies are not secured by a government authority has led to concerns from critics that this is the second coming of Tulipmania, because we are ascribing value to an otherwise valueless item. However, the potential for cryptocurrencies as a medium of exchange remains enormous.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is the technology at the heart of most cryptocurrencies, and explaining the technology in detail would require a blog post of its own. What is important to know is that blockchain is a record of peer-to-peer transactions categorized into blocks on a distributed ledger. Despite the obtuse terminology, blockchain functions similarly to a local bank authorizing and recording a transaction, but instead of only one party holding the entire ledger book, the transactions are recorded communally by member nodes, with each node being a computer in a peer-to-peer distributed network.

The blockchain can confirm a transaction within minutes, removing errors that exist when trying to reconcile and audit separate ledgers and transactions. Whenever a transaction takes place, the miners on the blockchain develop a new hash and digital signature to update the ledger and create a new “block.” This block, or recorded transaction, is time-stamped and encrypted and will remain on the blockchain for life.

Regulation in the US – Utility Tokens v. Investment Tokens

In the United States, there has been no federal regulation of cryptocurrencies. Instead, cryptocurrencies are often grouped into two non-binding categories: (1) investment tokens that fall under the purview of already existing U.S. securities laws like the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and (2) utility tokens, which remain largely unregulated (for now).

Security Tokens

Whether the tokens being offered in connection with a particular cryptocurrency are security tokens is decided on a case-by-case basis that even experienced securities lawyers can disagree upon. Tokens are usually analyzed under the four-part Howey Test below to see if the token is in fact a security. Securities must meet the following criteria:

  1. An ​investment of money
  2. in a ​common enterprise
  3. with an ​expectation of profits
  4. predominantly from the efforts of others

Each characteristic of the token is analyzed against this framework to see if the cryptocurrency is in reality functioning as a new-age security. If it is, then regulators treat it as such, and cryptocurrencies must then be registered and handled with all of the same disclosures and precautions as any other security sold in the United States or to U.S. investors.

 

Utility Tokens

Cryptocurrencies can also be categorized as non-security utility tokens. These tokens purport to offer intrinsic utility and value, and are typically instrumental in powering the blockchain technology. These tokens function more like commodities than securities, and while they may act like currency in a fully functional network, they also have other values.

However, having a utility token with a properly formed and functioning network does not preclude said token from being labeled a security by the SEC. In In the Matter of Munchee, Inc., a purported utility token with a non-functioning network was labeled a security by the SEC. While labeling a token without a functioning network as a security – as it has no present utility – is not unexpected, the SEC also concluded that: “even if [Munchee] tokens had a practical use at the time of the offering, it would not preclude the token from being a security.”

After analyzing the Munchee Tokens under the Howey test, the SEC concluded that they were investment contracts because purchasers of the tokens had an expectation of profits predominantly from the efforts of Munchee and its staff. The SEC further concluded that Munchee had primed such expectations through its marketing efforts.

While this new case does not eliminate the distinction between utility and security tokens, it does caution that, when deciding whether a given token is a security, the SEC will look beyond utility at the character of the instrument, and base their conclusion based on the terms of the offer, the plan of distribution, and the economic inducements held out by the token issuer.

State Regulation

So far only the state of New York has issued any kind of regulation specifically regarding cryptocurrencies: the BitLicense. The BitLicense is New York’s attempt to control cryptocurrencies within its borders by requiring cryptocurrency businesses to register and comply with several different disclosure and financial obligations. The regulation has been divisive, and many businesses have rallied against its high costs. While a few companies have applied for and received the license, most other companies have simply left the state or stopped offering services to its residents.

Regulation Abroad – The Ever-Shifting Jurisdictional Question

The United States is not the only country grappling with how best to regulate cryptocurrencies. Many cryptocurrency businesses face daunting questions regarding in which jurisdictions to form and to do business in. In the end, the question is quite difficult and fact-specific, requiring communication between legal counsel in different jurisdictions and taking into account nebulous and piecemeal country-by-country regulations. It is impossible to do a detailed analysis without knowing how a country’s existing securities laws, financial regulations, and banking regulations will operate (or will be adapted to operate) with cryptocurrencies. The fact that cryptocurrency-specific regulations are still developing does little to add clarity, and makes the analysis even more challenging. Yet a few global trends are noticeable:

Suspending Cryptocurrencies

Some notable countries, like China, and South Korea, have suspended cryptocurrencies. These countries have cited the risk of fraud and the lack of adequate oversight in suspending cryptocurrencies and their exchanges, forcing cryptocurrency companies and exchanges to relocate.

Regulating Cryptocurrencies

Other countries, like Japan and Australia, have adopted disclosure and regulatory measures, or have companies register with the applicable government authority. Several countries have also tried to implement disclosure or registration regulatory regimes when it comes to cryptocurrencies, but such regimes are cumbersome and expensive to fledging companies.

Cryptocurrencies as Commodities

On the other hand, Switzerland and Singapore, two of the countries at the forefront of the cryptocurrency market, have simply stated that cryptocurrencies are assets not currency, and that they will treat them as such under existing regulations.

Conclusion

Ultimately, cryptocurrency regulation remains in its infancy. Piecemeal regulation has already begun around the world as governments enact new regulations to control and legitimize cryptocurrencies, fold cryptocurrencies into existing regulations, or ban them outright. These splintered attempts at controlling a global phenomenon will keep the cryptocurrency market volatile, and pose a challenge to innovators, investors, and users. They will continue to work in the cryptocurrency space while pushing for legislation and regulation that will remove ambiguity and legitimize cryptocurrencies. At the same time, they must grapple with the possibility that new regulations may be confusing, detrimental, or have negative inadvertent effects.

Written by Gary Ross

This article was originally published on UpCounsel.

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