Russian Central Bank Cracks Down on Cryptocurrency

The Russian government is currently keeping all cryptocurrency owners in the country on their toes as it decided to crackdown on cryptocurrency websites.

The Russian government is currently keeping all cryptocurrency owners in the country on their toes as it decided to crackdown on cryptocurrency websites. reports Russia’s Central Bank’s First Deputy Chairman Sergey Shvetsov, as saying that the bank welcomes imposing any restrictions on operations of external websites. Though the government has said that its decision to ban external websites dealing on cryptocurrencies is premised on the fact that cryptocoins pose a risk to its citizens and businesses, this reason is highly doubtful.

In the past months, the government and its financial regulatory agencies have been considering descending the sledge hammer on the heads of cryptocurrency traders and exchanges. The reasons advanced for their actions, though may hold some water, may not really be why such harsh actions are being taken.

Cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin have been seen as serious threats to fiat currencies and the gains derived from printing them. Since blockchain was brought into the financial market scene, it has been considered a serious technology capable of upsetting the ways things are done in the system.
Bitcoin, for instance, has been widely accepted as the digital currency of choice for financial transactions online and for payment for goods and services. And since it is decentralized, Bitcoin, Ethereum and some other carefully selected cryptocoins have made things relatively easier, reducing the confirmation time for financial transactions, and putting you fully in charge of your own portfolio with no external interference from banks and other financial regulatory agencies. This indeed has become a source of worries for several governments across the globe.

First Deputy Chairman Sergey Shvetsov has openly declared that the Bank saw “all cryptocurrency derivatives to be a negative development on the Russian market and do not consider it possible to support it.”

The ban on external websites comes on the heels of the recent complaints by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had earlier demanded for the banning of cryptocurrencies, bitcoin in particular, asserting that they could be used for money laundering, evading taxes, and terrorism financing. The president went on to say that bitcoin itself is a pyramid scheme.

Sputnik reported last month that the head of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina, has said “we are categorically opposed to introducing cryptocurrencies in regulation as a monetary asset.”

While addressing reporters, the Deputy Finance Minister has stated vehemently that the country would not make Bitcoin payments legal.

Estonia Becomes Cryptocurrency Leader in the Baltic Region

With its cryptocurrency-friendly attitude and innovative tech industry, Estonia has established itself as the Bitcoin leader in the Baltic area.

The Baltic region has always been a promising area wherein which cryptocurrency can flourish. The Baltic, which consists of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, is significantly poorer than its Western European counterparts. However, the Baltic has experienced an economic boom in the last decade, partly thanks to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

This is especially true in Estonia. Estonia, the birthplace of Skype, has always shown innovation in the IT industries. The tech-friendly attitude as well as the economic situation, has made Estonia the prime location to become a prominent Bitcoin exchange market.

Other considerations also factor into Estonia’s cryptocurrency success. Firstly, it is extremely easy to open up a business in the country. In addition, gaining access to the government is equally easy. Expenses for opening an LLC equates to less than $10 000. Due to the convenience of the process, several firms carry the OÜ extension, which is the Estonian equivalent for LTD. The convenient Estonian registration process might also become more widely used in blockchain projects, such as the .io domains are already employing.

Many experts believe that Estonia and their Baltic neighbours could soon become leaders in the cryptocurrency industry. Currently, Russian authorities are employing a largely draconian regime when it comes to cryptocurrency regulation. Considering Estonia's, proximity to the Russia, businesses, and traders will soon look towards the Estonian market to replace the gap left by the Russian market.
To make its position stronger, the Baltic area has a high concentration of Bitcoin full nodes. The nodes are a confirmation of the region cryptocurrency knowledge.

Currently, Lithuania boasts with the most nodes at 66 nodes. This number competes with several other crypto-friendly countries such as the Ukraine, which has 80 nodes, Poland with 66 nodes, and the Czech Republic which has 65 nodes.
While these statistics can not yet compare with cryptocurrency leaders such as Japan, or the US, the numbers are indicative of the countries’ strong position in cryptocurrency. While Latvia only has 16 nodes, and Estonia 10, these countries have confirmed their cryptocurrency leadership in other ways.

In addition to Bitcoin nodes, Lithuania also holds Monero nodes and three Litecoin nodes. While Estonia and Latvia both hold four Litecoin nodes respectively. This puts the area ahead of other tech-innovative countries such as Switzerland.

While comparing nodes alone cannot give us a comprehensive look at a country’s Bitcoin future, it is a good indicator of possible success and dominance.

The area has also been experimenting with issuing their own cryptocurrency coins. Earlier this year, Estonia announced the creation of estcoin, a token based on an Ethereum principle. However, this coin received a lot of criticism, including that of Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, who was quick to remind Estonia that the official currency will remain the Euro.

Despite the criticism, Estonia continued to operate the e-residence program. Several experts believe that blockchain tokens can co-exist with fiat currency in the future if the currencies do not merge or cross into each other's territory.

Given the openness of Estonia’s e-residency as well as the convenience of starting a business, Estonia has become the most sought-after options for start-ups. Currently, Estonia has less than 2 million residents, which means that they might choose to extend their e-residency to build a worldwide population of over 10 million people.

The e-residency could place Estonia as one of the main blockchain capitals of the world.
Estonia and the other Baltic states have managed to turn their biggest disadvantage into an attractive option for investors. The underdeveloped investment and finance sector, which previously was a burden, has now become a promising option for the cryptocurrency start-up option.

Putin Reopens the Case for Cryptocurrency in Russia

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, recently addressed financial leaders in the country to reassess the value of cryptocurrency.

Last week, President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, led a discussion surrounding Russia’s policy on cryptocurrency activity. The discussion, which included the countries leaders in the finance industry, notably went against current Russian thought as to cryptocurrency’s place in the country.

Last week, President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, led a discussion surrounding Russia’s policy on cryptocurrency activity. The discussion, which included the countries leaders in the finance industry, notably went against current Russian thought as to cryptocurrency’s place in the country.

Up until recently, most Russian finance leaders were strongly against employing or supporting cryptocurrency. Last week, Sergei Shvetsov, the Deputy Governor of the Russian Central Bank, denounced cryptocurrencies as dubious and officially stated his efforts to restrict access to external websites which allow users to trade in cryptocurrencies.

After Shvetsov’s statement, it seemed clear that Russia would follow China’s example and completely block all blockchain technologies and activities within their borders.

However, during the discussion led by the President, Putin stated his support for cryptocurrencies and the possibilities it offers. The meeting was attended by several prominent finance leaders including the Presidential Aide, Andrei Belousov, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Governor of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Olga Skorobogatova, as well as QIWI CEO Sergei Solonin.
During the discussion, Putin stated that blockchain technologies offer various opportunities for both organizations and citizens within the finance and banking sphere. Putin expressed his belief that cryptocurrency can make all financial activity convenient.

Cryptocurrency markets around the world have recently endured a tumultuous time. Two major cryptocurrency markets, China and South Korea, have placed bans on domestic cryptocurrency activity while Japan and countries in the Middle East have moved towards more definitive regulation. Despite the volatility, however, experts are still convinced that cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, will continue to enjoy an increased market value.
In the talk, Putin acknowledged the possible dangerous nature of unrestricted cryptocurrencies, especially in regards to it possibly enabling malicious activities. Putin stated that the first concerns are the possibility of money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorist financing. In addition, Putin also mentioned proliferation scams.

However, in addressing these concerns, Putin emphasized that the way forward is regulation, rather than outright banning the otherwise innovative industry. Putin suggested creating a comprehensive regulatory environment which would codify relations within the industry, while simultaneously protecting the interest of both Russian citizens, businesses and providing these with legal guarantees when conducting business within the industry.
Despite Putin’s positive attitude towards cryptocurrency, the industry’s future still remains murky both in Russia and the rest of the world. Several governments and financial authorities across the world have only recently acknowledged the growing need for regulatory systems. Something which is made more difficult by cryptocurrencies’ inherent decentralized nature. While some, like Putin, has called for regulation, others, like the Bank of Finland, do not believe that cryptocurrency can be sufficiently regulated.

Bitcoin Gold Releases Statement to Address Criticism

As the upcoming Bitcoin fork edges closer, the Bitcoin Gold project has received a lot of criticism from the crypto community.

The cryptocurrency community has been ardently discussing the upcoming fork, and Bitcoin Gold (BTG) in particular as the fork deadline is scheduled for 25 October. Several users and developers have conducted comprehensive investigations as to Bitcoin Gold’s code and found it lacking in more ways than one.

The flaws pointed out by the community as well as the lack of available information on BTG has led to a fair share of skepticism surrounding the fork. Several users on BTG's Slack channel have also voiced concern over BTG both in the form of asking the developing team questions, to denouncing BTG as "shady." Many users have also expressed their astonishment at the severe lack of infrastructure and exchange listing with the fork deadline looming.

One particular user used a reverse Whois background search on the BTG website to found the domain owner. The user’s research revealed that the BTG website owner also owns several other cryptocurrency domains. The same user also discovered that BTG’s algorithm is unfinished and has no added replay attack protection. As for the code itself, it did not show any concrete signs of developing, despite the fork deadline being just one week away. In addition, the code displayed an implemented pre-mine which means that the developers will have a lot of BTG if the project does end up successfully forking.

However, two weeks ago, the developing team responded to accusations and criticisms via an official statement.
According to the BTG accusers and critics simply did not understand the decentralized nature of the bitcoin network, and went on to address several other concerns.

In regard to the lack of replay protection, the BTG team stated that the replay protection code is relatively simple compared to the PoW change. However, the team did not confirm that replay protection will be added before the launch. They also cited the problem of lack of volunteers. So far, the BTG has only had one developer volunteer for the project.

The BTG team addressed the unfinished Equihash implementation by stating the true consensus change is still incomplete. They also noted the change in difficulty which led to the adjustment algorithm to not yet be merged with the code. As to the pre-mine, the team stated that the code came from a fundraising idea earlier this year.

While the BTG team stated that the idea did not fully reflect the vision and spirit of the entire team, they also did not rule out the idea of removing the code either. The team stated that they might keep the code as means of basic funding for the project which is made up of volunteers. However, the team stated that they will make a detailed financial plan available to the public for the sake of transparency.

In addition to the criticism, BTG has also experienced other issue in the form of illegitimate websites claiming to provide users early access to buy BTG. The website “claimBTCGPU” claims that users are able to enter their BTC into the system to pre-claim their BTG, but that users will not be able to spend the BTG yet.

The website also gives detailed instructions, including pictures which illustrate the process. The website claims to be a BTG wallet which gives BTG transactions a priority.

Several members of the crypto community have already denounced this website to be a scam via several social media channels.

The Demand For Cryptocurrency Degree Courses Skyrockets

Change remains the only thing that is constant; yet when it is introduced it is always resisted.

But in the long run, everyone comes to embrace change as they see the positive side of things it brings. Even if you try to highlight the prospects, people would still take it with a pinch of salt.

The cryptocurrency world is no different. When Bitcoin was launched people did not take it seriously because they felt it was not possible to have a sort of bank online that would be controlled by the coin holders. It wasn’t simply possible for a currency to be run outside of the traditional regulatory system, so they thought. But today everyone knows better. Bitcoin is a reality after all! Everybody wants to have it including nations. It’s no longer a thing people think might be useful in the future; it has come to stay with us.

The decentralized, digital nature of cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin is increasing the security of financial transactions, ensuring that payments are free of fraud and that middlemen no longer cut the shots. This is making the demand for cryptocurrencies to increase daily. This increase in demand is also increasing the need for more miners.

Miners play the role of adding ‘blocks’ to the ‘blockchain’ which guarantee transactions confirmation and prevent cryptocurrencies from vanishing without a trace. Every miner who creates a new block is compensated with priceless cryptocurrency.

Some savvy cryptocurrency traders already know that the best way to make huge money in the crypto-world is by being a miner, though cryptocurrency is relatively new as a money-making concept. This awareness is creating an increasing demand for university courses to teach the computer science of cryptocurrency as well as blockchain coding.

Startup of cryptocurrency societies have already been witnessed in some universities, with the Blockchain Education Network (BEN) playing the role of a focal point for ideas between student societies.

The crypto-world is full of fluctuations. It is really difficult to be an expert in the field of cryptocurrency without some kind of formal training. Some university courses are already emerging around cryptocurrency and one of such is the ‘Digital Currency, Blockchains and the Future of Financial Services’ at NYU Law.

Aggelos Kiavias, chair in cybersecurity and privacy and director of the blockchain technology laboratory at the Edinburgh University, told the Financial Times that the university is considering launching a cryptocurrency course that would be the first of its kind in Europe. He added that “Blockchain technology is a recent development and there is always a bit of a lag as academia catches up.”

The data received by the Financial Times from Linkedin revealed that in June alone, over 1,000 blockchain-related jobs were advertised, which is thrice the amount advertised in the previous year.

Speaking to the Study International, George Benton, the co-founder and co-president of Leeds University Union Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Society, said that “Students currently have the chance to be involved in the early stages of a technological revolution. The decentralized nature of blockchain technology resonates with my generation because of the power it gives to individuals.”

Blockchain technology and Financial Innovations Researcher, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Tamar Mentenshashvili, believes that blockchain is a technology with the possibility to upset several industries. Yet, it poses a lot of interesting intellectual riddles that must be cracked in order to realize its full potential.

With the potential that cryptocurrency promises to bring into the financial world and as more people embrace the blockchain technology, we expect to see more universities creating courses that are specifically targeted at producing more future digital miners.

Malaysia May Announce Bitcoin Ban at the End of the Year

The Central Bank of Malaysia recently hinted when addressing reporters that a blanket ban on all cryptocurrency activity might be in the works for the country.

The governor of Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), recently confirmed that the country would announce its decision on whether they will ban cryptocurrency at the end of 2017. Currently, there is no cryptocurrency regulation in Malaysia.

According to governor Muhammed bin Ibrahim, the government will make a decision and announced it at the end of 2017. However, his subsequent statements hinted at there is a strong chance of cryptocurrency activity being banned. Governor Ibrahim stated that before the close of the year, the Malaysian financial authorities intend to address several concerns. Some guidelines that will be issued are expected to include concerns regarding registering investors, collecting information, and ensuring that all cryptocurrencies are used towards legal practices.

China’s recent ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and domestic cryptocurrency exchange encouraged a mass capital outflow, which in turn caused the Malaysian markets to reach record highs.

Up until now, all cryptocurrencies have been unregulated. During 2014, BNM released a statement wherein they emphasized that Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, were not considered legal tender within Malaysia. The bank also confirmed in this statement that they did not regulate Bitcoin or other currencies. Last month, BNM issued another statement which warned potential investors about fraudulent ICOs.

Several financial experts have claimed that by legalizing Bitcoin, Malaysia could have an alternative to changing currencies. Recently the Malaysian ringgit endured strict capital regulation's following President Trump's election and the dollar surge that followed. These events caused a mass devaluation of the Malaysian currencies.

Several players in currency exchange were affected severely, especially multinational banks and investors, as they could not convert the local currency to US Dollars. All expatriate remittances to the country also suffered a blow. Considering Bitcoin’s decentralized system, many have argued that Bitcoin could allow capital to flow in and out of the country with more ease.

While a ban is possible, other financial authority officials have also hinted that Malaysia would accept cryptocurrencies if it were regulated. The assistant governor or BNM dropped several other hints regarding the matter. According to the assistant governor, BNM’s main objective in the coming months would be to balance both the safeguarding of their own fiat currency, while making the necessary room for innovation and progress. The governor also hinted that the Malaysian government might soon revise its strict anti-money laundering policies.

Abu Dhabi Regulates ICOs For Cryptocurrency Funding

Regulators in Abu Dhabi have started regulating Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) in the country and have cautioned that they are fraught with “many risks.” ICO is a popular way for cryptocurrency start-ups to raise money.

ICOs as a way of raising money for start-ups involves issuing new crypto coin and users buy them using Ethereum or Bitcoin. Just like crowdfunding, it is a way of raising money but involves cryptocurrency. Data website estimates that start-ups have raised up to $2.4 billion from ICOs this year.

The Abu Dhabi Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) on Monday, issued guidelines on ICOs and virtual currencies for the first time.
It noted that if an ICO possessed the characteristics of a security, like issuing a person ownership of shares in a company, then FSRA will place it under regulation, just like a company issuing new stock.

Head of fintech strategy at the FSRA Christopher Kiew-Smith, told CNBC in a telephone interview that there is a high level of diversity in the IOC market when it comes to quality, with some ICOs constituting high risk. He further stated that there are no disclosures or financial statements and they are extremely high risk for people who are seeking returns.

He noted that "But we are aware of and are working with some firms that want to use ICO tech to fund in a transparent fashion. We have asked firms to bring them within the regulatory framework."

The guideline provides that any company which wishes to execute an ICO must approach the FSRA to ascertain whether it falls under the body’s regulation. Just like a firm for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the stock market, under this regulation, companies are also required to publish a prospectus. The FRSA must approve any market intermediary or secondary market operators that are dealing with ICOs.

However, there are some ICOs which will remain unregulated. Any token which when offered as part of an ICO does amount to “offer of securities” would not be regulated. When that is the case, investors are advised to tread with “extreme caution.”

The FSRA’s guidelines state that "The risk of fraud and loss of capital is therefore significantly higher. This is particularly likely to be the case where a token issuer promises extremely high investment returns that are disproportionately high relative to those generally available in the market."

Cryptocurrencies are not money but commodities

The Abu Dhabi financial regulators also noted that virtual currencies are not money but “commodities” which are in the same category as precious metals or fuels. They, therefore, stay unregulated.

There have been contradictory regulations from one country to the other over the past months regarding the use of cryptocurrencies and accepting them for transactions. For instance, Dubai recently planned to build its economy around blockchain and has allowed it major companies to start testing out how they can adopt blockchain in doing business.

Japan has also gone ahead to make bitcoin legal tender. Japan’s GMO recently invested $90 million in cryptocurrency mining. Besides, Japanese e-commerce giant DMM is equally considering investing money in the crypto market. The country is obviously creating an enabling environment for cryptocurrency business to thrive.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of China, which has already placed a ban on ICOs because they felt it wasn’t safe for their citizens. This development has seen an exodus of start-ups going to launch their ICOs in Japan which has a friendlier environment.

The executive director of capital markets at the FSRA Wai Lum Qwok told CNBC by phone that "For us, we do see a lot of challenges in regulating something which was designed not to be regulated. We recently established a fintech reach with the Japanese FSA, and through such cooperation, we hope to see how they regulate these and if there are risks they see. We are open to carving virtual currencies into the regulated space."

FSRA is of the opinion that ICOs could be a way for companies to transparently raise money and in less expensive manner if appropriately regulated. They went ahead to say that were trying to remove disproportionate barriers to innovations that are sensible.

Looking at the way some ICOs have been launched recently, there’s need to have some regulations to create a sane environment and minimize the way some investors are being ripped off.

Malta Issues License to Allow Cryptocurrency Gambling

Unikrn recently obtained its license to enable cryptocurrency gambling, which will soon become available in most of Europe.

A regulated cryptocurrency gambling platform will soon be available in large part of Europe.

Earlier this week, the popular eSports platform, Unikrn, announced that they'd been allocated a license in Malta which will enable its platform to real-money wagering using its UnikoinGold crypto token.

This crypto token is based on the ERC-20 ethereum principle and is currently available via a token sale or initial coin offering (ICO). The UnikoinGold crypto token will be utilized as a substitute of real-money wagering in the licensed area. Since Malta has extended the license, this will be available in 80% of Europe.

Rahul Sood, chief executive of Unikrn, recently stated that expanding into Europe will a large and growing market of users. Users that include both previously established users and those who are attracted by the real-time money transition.

Unikrn EU was established through a collaborative venture with RBP, France's leading gambling platform. Currently, RBP boasts over 300 000 registered users, and an average of 1 million unique monthly visitors.

In addition to this, eSports are experienced a growing popularity, especially amongst younger users. eSports comprises of video games played competitively both online and in front of audiences, many consider this to be the world’s fastest growing sport. According to market research conducted by Newzoo, eSports will generate $696 million in revenue for 2017. This will mark a 41% growth from 2016. Experts have predicted that eSports could rake in approximately $1.5 billion by 2020.

So far Unikrn has attracted high-profile investors such as Mark Cuban, Ashton Kutcher, and Elisabeth Murdoch.

Until recently, Unikrn only enabled its real-money betting feature in Australia and the United Kingdom where it held gambling licenses. In other countries, Unikrn allowed free betting mostly on the popular first-person shooter and multiplayer arena video games such as Counterstrike, Global Offensive, League of Legends, and Dota 2.

Free betting was facilitated by previous free Unikoin tokens. However, these tokens will become out of use as Unikrn introduces their new UnikoinGold token.

The introduction of the UnikoinGold token, as well as the Malta licensure, were both critical factors which played a part in Unikrn’s moving from a free betting platform to implementing real money. This expansion will also allow for creating a broader amount of uses that the token owner can access from non-betting related areas.

Unikrn will release another token, UnikoinSilver, which will be released in unlicensed areas so as to keep users engaged. However, the tokens will not be allowed to trade on any other platform.

According to Sood, the decision to transition from free-play to implementing real-money was an easy one. Sood stated that the popularity of Unikoin was unexpected as they turned over a quarter of a billion in less than two years.

A large part of the new token’s appeal is that users don’t always have to place a wager to earn tokens. Many users can earn tokens purely by participating in a tournament or by viewing a match online or in person.

According to Sood, earning and using UnikoinGold won’t be restricted by regions. Sood stated that they will work to ensure that token owners can get more uses out of tokens so as to make them more valuable.

This principle sparked a discussion in the gambling community all over the world, as most gambling platforms are searching for ways to be more appealing to younger audiences. This is particularly true in the Las Vegas gambling industry. Last week, panel sessions regarding this issue was held during the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

While Sood recognized this, he cautioned the gambling industry that the only way to appeal to younger audiences is to do so by following the rules. He emphasized that the Malta license confirmed his company's dedication to providing its users a safe, legal, and regulated platform.