Huobi Resumes Trading in Japan as FSA-Licensed Exchange

Cryptocurrency exchange Huobi — currently the world’s 7th largest by daily traded volume — has relaunched as a fully licensed platform in Japan after merging with BitTrade. The news was announced in a press release published Jan. 17.

As reported, Huobi Global’s wholly owned subsidiary, Huobi Japan Holding Ltd, acquired a majority stake in BitTrade last September. At the time, BitTrade was one of only 16 crypto exchanges in the country to have secured a license from national financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA).

Leon Li, Huobi Group Founder and CEO, has said that securing the license represents a significant milestone for Huobi, given the importance of the Japanese market.

Huobi’s press release takes pains to emphasize security provisions, outlining that Huobi Japan “features specialized distributed architecture, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack countermeasures system, and A+ ranked SSL certification (the highest available).”

According to the press release, Huobi Japan supports trading of Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), and Monacoin (MONA).

While a license has been mandatory for all crypto exchanges operating within Japan since the amendment of the country’s Payment Services Act back in April 2017, the FSA has continued to ratchet up requirements for applicants throughout 2018, in the wake of last January’s industry-record-breaking $532 million theft of NEM tokens from Coincheck.

Ahead of Huobi’s majority stake deal — BitTrade became Japan’s first FSA-licensed platform to be fully acquired by an international investor, the Singaporean multi-millionaire and entrepreneur Eric Cheng. The investor also acquired BitTrade’s affiliate company, FX Trade Financial Co., Ltd — one of Japan’s leading forex trading platforms. Following the Huobi deal, FX Trade Financial retained 25 percent of the BitTrade’s shares.

Founded in China in 2013, Huobi Group has been headquartered in Singapore since Beijing’s crackdown on domestic crypto-fiat exchanges in September 2017. As part of its ongoing overseas expansion efforts, the platform has recently rebranded its United States-based strategic partner trading platform HBUS to the better known Huobi name.

Following Coincheck’s very recent acquisition of an FSA license, the total number of regulator-approved exchanges in Japan stands at 17.

Last fall, an executive from leading U.S. crypto exchange Coinbase made positive remarks about Japan’s crypto regulatory climate, saying that the FSA’s intense focus on security is “good for us.” Coinbase has had plans to secure a license to operate within the country in the works since June 2018.

Huobi has seen $299.6 million in trades over the 24 hours to press time, according to CoinMarketCap data.

Tradesmarter’s WOW TRADER Joins oneZero Liquidity Network

WOW TRADER, Tradesmarter’s proprietary B2B platform for CFD trading, has announced a newly formed partnership with oneZero Financial Systems in an effort to expand the reach of its liquidity feed to a greater pool of accredited financial entities.

oneZero provides an automated solution for market connectivity and price distribution, which will help to streamline WOW TRADER’s offering of its multi-asset liquidity feed to a greater pool of exchanges, brokers, and banks. This expansion of distribution network will make WOW TRADER’s liquidity also available to a broader set of market participants in different regions.

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WOW TRADER will also benefit from oneZero’s EcoSystem, which encompasses over 200 participants, including banks, brokerages, and various hedge funds. Since all members use oneZero’s proprietary software, all of them will have access to both DMA and warehouse liquidity at a lower rate.

Expanding access to multi-asset liquidity

Further facilitating WOW TRADER’s liquidity access expansion is the fact that the company joins a few providers within the oneZero EcoSystem who offer multi-asset liquidity in one B2B feed and such a diverse list of assets for users to select.

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Enabling clients’ access to such a broad list of derivative products under a unified technology and clearing solution is a highly progressive model both in terms of software and brokerage.

Tradesmarter is a binary options technology developer established in 2008. Its “WOW” platform is said to offer a simple, intuitive user interface (UI) to improve client interaction and engagement. The platform was built with an architecture that allows it to support 3rd party app integration.

Commenting on the partnership, Andrew Ralich, CEO of oneZero Financial Systems said: “We are thrilled to welcome WOW TRADER to our platform. I have been impressed with their ability to cater to the trader of today and look forward to helping them expand their access to multi-asset liquidity.”

Ben Horovitz, the COO at WOW TRADER, added” “By teaming up with oneZero, we will enable our b2b clients access to such a broad list of financial instruments under a unified technology and clearing solutions. This is a highly progressive model both in terms of software and brokerage.”

SwatchPAY! Comes To Switzerland; Paytm Teams With Zomato For Food Delivery

Welcome to The Axis, your late look at payments news from around the world. Coverage includes the availability of SwatchPAY! in Switzerland. In addition, Paytm is working with Zomato on food delivery in India, and cafe+co International tapped Nayax to be its exclusive supplier of cashless payments for diners in multiple European countries.

After coming to China in the summer of last year, SwatchPAY! has become available to consumers in Switzerland, Swatch Group said in an announcement. The system taps into a near-field communication (NFC) chip under the dial of the watch. To make a payment, a consumer puts the watch adjacent to a payment terminal that takes contactless payments at the checkout terminal. The company noted that the watch doesn’t need batteries for payments, as the payment terminal provides energy needed for the transaction. Swatch Creative Director Carlo Giordanetti said in the announcement, “This latest advance, with the introduction of the fastest and simplest tokenization, makes it easier than ever to pay ‘forever’ — token up your Swatch, swipe it and you’re done.”

In other European payments news, cafe+co International tapped Nayax to be its exclusive supplier of cashless payments through a partnership that is said to span five years, Foodbev Media reported. Through the tie-up, VPOS Touch and Onyx card readers from Nayax are said to come to 25,000 café+co machines. As a result, diners in Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria will be able to tap into different cashless payment options. café+co International CEO Fritz Kaltenegger said, according to the report, “Upgrading our operations is a top priority and we have been searching for an all-inclusive solution that will help us improve our sales and operations for a long time.”

And Paytm, a payment service in India, unveiled an offering called Paytm Food Ordering with the help of Zomato, PCMag India reported. Through the offering, users will have the ability to use the Paytm app to place an order — and they don’t need to install Zomato. And Paytm noted that the service would encompass restaurants in 80 cities prior to the end of the month. Paytm Senior Vice President Renu Satti said in the announcement, “Our association with Zomato is a valuable addition to our platform in bringing the convenience of ordering food online through our app. A vast majority of our customers are from the tier 2 & tier 3 cities, with this new addition we are confident of driving the growth of online food ordering further.”

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Cryptocurrency Investors in India Are Fighting Back in the Name of Having Their Bank Accounts Closed – Bitcoin Exchange Guide

India, the land of one of the oldest civilizations, has existed for thousands of years. To survive for so long, one needs great tenacity and a certain acceptance of fate. There is also an ability that is colloquially known as ‘jugaad,’ the closest English equivalent is a hack. So when Banks in India started to close the accounts of customers thought to be involved in crypto trading, people found simple jugaads to bypass the scrutiny.

Banks Caught In A Bind

While the Supreme court of India has yet again postponed the hearing of its case pertaining to Cryptos, Banks have gone ahead and implemented the central banks, the Reserve bank of India, directive. Compliance to the circular requires the banks to effect bans and deny services to customers or businesses that are found to be dealing in digital assets.

Thus banks are required to close accounts that might have made crypto related transactions. This means they are expected to carry massive sweeps on their customer base and check on how people are spending their own money.

To make things worse most people savvy with these things, have already found ways to circumvent the banks screening and workarounds to avoid account closures.

How Do The Users Avoid Account Closures?

According to Instashift, a local cryptocurrency exchange, banks are closing accounts based on a simple search of any cryptocurrency-related words in the transaction remarks. This means that when a customer’s bank account is being scrutinized by a banking official, they are looking for keywords such as crypto or bitcoin in the remarks. If found the account is most likely to be closed off.

As one would imagine, the solution is to just not leave such notations. As Nischal Shetty, the CEO of Wazirx explained,

“Majority of the people understand not to enter such terms in the remarks. So simply avoiding entering anything related to crypto in the payment remarks is more than enough to avoid any problems from banks.”

He went on to suggest that the banking system has no verifiable method to confirm if a P2P transaction was used for crypto or non-crypto purposes.

Echoing the exact sentiment many Indian twitteratis are posting similar suggestions. A user, Cryptomanic has suggested

“Use P2P without writing anything related to crypto in remarks. And don’t do heavy transactions.”

Another one, Vivekmacha, concurs and advised for making use of P2P, as it cant be tracked. He further repeated the importance of making sure no crypto- related terms are noted in the remarks, for any reason.

More Than Enough Options On Offer

A solution that has been gaining in popularity recently is P2P, exchange-escrowed peer-to-peer style of trading. The popularity is unsurprising, ever since the central bank initiated the ban on digital assets and more and more crypto exchanges in India are gravitating towards offering this type of trading.

Another simple solution offered is to open another account. An Instashift spokesperson suggested that if crypto users have their accounts closed, they can simply start “a fresh account in another bank.” With the new account, they merely need to be more cautious and ensure that if they are trading, they do so without using any crypto terms that might draw attention.

Since all bank accounts are created using a Permanent Account Number, Indias water-downed version of the US social security number, the same person opined

“It’s easy to open a new account for a person in India & banks also welcome people to open accounts.”

Rigorous Action By Multiple Banks

The closing of accounts is, unfortunately, not an isolated instance, with many people reporting problems with banks, big and small, closing accounts which shows any crypto activity. Kotak Mahindra Bank, the banking branch of a major Indian industrial family and Digibank, a bank backed by the powerful Asian financial group, DBS, recently made the news. They have been sending letters to their customers advising them of impending account closures. One person affected by this took to Twitter.

Indiancryptogirl posted letters she says were sent to her. The letter simply stated that it had found some transactions with brokers who dealt in virtual currencies. As India did not consider such transactions legal the bank was

“constrained to place a credit freeze in your account. Further as per the extant guidelines, we are required to exit such relationships where transactions with brokers/traders, dealing in virtual currencies are observed.”

The letter ended with the notification that

“Hence 30 days from the date of this communication your account will be closed by the bank.”

This is not an isolated incident of some bank targetting customers with an affiliation for cryptos, numerous such cases have come to light in the recent past. Telling a similar story is Pushpendra Singh, who banks with the smaller UCO bank, but claims that this same modus operandi was followed there as well. A similar complaint reverberated in the words of Bluecrypto on Twitter who said,

“the same happened to me and my HDFC account got closed.”

Not only that, but most Banks now also follow a similar policy like Standard Chartered bank which explicitly requires, those who are looking to open an account in India to specifically agree to not engage in any sort of dealings in digital assets.

The issue of banks deciding for their customers how they can spend their money is in the front and center of this story. However, as Yatharth Vashishth pointed out, that banks are not the sole bearers of this burden as they are only following RBI’s order.

“Bank is acting as per regulations by the RBI. All banks are instructed to shut accounts of all entities dealing in crypto. ”

It does appear that banks are hapless and forced to toe the line, set by the central banks and, many suspect, a government not trusting the technology. While one can hope that the nations notoriously lethargic judicial systems come to the rescue, it is already clear that the second most populated country on the planet is working on hacks to join the crypto market and blockchain revolution.

Bitcoin Cash has failed to make use of its 8MB block size, analysts say – The Next Web

In 2017, a veritable civil war was fought between camps of Bitcoin believers: those who sought to keep its “block size” at 1MB, and those who wanted to increase it.

Those looking for bigger blocks found themselves rallying behind a then-new cryptocurrency – a “hard fork” of Bitcoin called Bitcoin Cash (BCH) – whose premise rested on re-creating Bitcoin to mine 8MB blocks.

The idea was (and still is) that larger blocks technically allow for more transactions to be confirmed at once, as you can fit more of them into a single block. This supposedly makes a blockchain more efficient.

As it turns out, Bitcoin Cash BCH has never, ever, mined a block that is 8MB in size, reports cryptocurrency research group LongHash.

In fact, over the past 500 days, Bitcoin blocks have been 30 times bigger than BCH blocks, on average.

Remember: the big stink made by Bitcoin Cash was that Bitcoin‘s blocks are simply too small.

According to LongHash, the average block size of Bitcoin Cash has been 171KB since its inception in August 2017. This represents just 2.1 percent of BCH’s limit (8MB).

“There has only been one day so far where BCH blocks have been more than half full. On January 15, 2018, one year ago today, BCH blocks averaged 59 [percent] of their total capacity,” declared LongHash.

When comparing activity between the two blockchains over the past month, things look even more grim for BCH.

Indeed, in the last 30 days, the average size of BCH blocks was 34 KB. That’s just 3.7 percent of the average size of Bitcoin‘s blocks, which was found to be 923 KB.

LongHash noted this ratio is actually analogous to their market caps – BCH‘s is currently just 3.6 percent of Bitcoin‘s.

“Some will claim that it’s a positive sign that BCH blocks are not near their capacity, but others will point to the lack of interest in BCH as concerning,” the analysts concluded.

Published January 17, 2019 — 17:01 UTC

Goldman Eyes FinTech As Investment — And As Strategy

Goldman Sachs as FinTech player?

Goldman Sachs has been around since 1869, and may exist in the mind’s eye with pile carpeting, wood paneling and being among the more entrenched players in traditional wealth management and on Wall Street.

The digital age is upon us, though, and the bank is proving nimbler than perhaps some might think.

News came Wednesday (Jan. 16) that growth in Marcus continues apace, and that the online lending and savings offering had logged $35 billion in deposits last year, with growth logged dually in the U.S. and the U.K., and where the company is making inroads into a wider client base. Call it FinTech for the masses, done with higher rates on savings than might be seen elsewhere, and where those rates are going higher by several basis points, starting, well … now.

Add to that the announcement that Capify, an alternative lending provider focused on small businesses in Australia and the U.K., has scored a $95 million credit facility from Goldman, and it seems the cash advance market is catching the attention of the company, too.

Uber? Well, Goldman made a profit by selling at least part of its stake in that ride-hailing firm, as noted on a post-earnings discussion during a conference with analysts. The exact amount is not known, but the segment in which that sale would be recorded contributed about $1 billion in revenue in the quarter.

Marcus grabbed some of the initial headlines in the wake of Wednesday’s earnings call, but beyond the consumer, observers got a glimpse of how the company views financial technology in the service of corporate clients. The end goal would be to speed and streamline the ways these clients transact and do business with other firms, especially on a global stage.

As CEO David Solomon said in reference to an ongoing review of the fixed income, currency and commodities division (commonly known as FICC), the company is training its sights on cash management  Keep in mind that FICC, for the full year 2018, contributed $5.9 billion, which grew 11 percent year on year.

“Cash management,” the CEO said on the call, “presents a logical area for us, given the breadth of our corporate relationships, and the size of that wallet,” which points to revenue possibilities. As he went on to state, “the pace of technological change in the payments space gives us confidence that this is an appropriate time for us to address this opportunity.”

The company is six months into what Solomon termed a “six year build” in cash management tech operations, and Goldman is on track to become the first corporate to use (its own) cash management platform beginning this year, with a launch planned for next year to embrace use from other firms. CFO Stephen Scherr said that the company has picked up 65 basis points of “wallet share” to a current 12 percent since 2016 from its institutional clients, and revenues in its FICC electronic business were up 40 percent year on year.

Later, speaking generally about treasury services, Scherr told an analyst that “I’d also say that what we perceived was a pain point among corporate treasuries that the technology and the platforms they were working with were underwhelming. And what’s more, if you look at what banks have been paying on operational deposits, it’s been de minimis. And so from our perspective, this is something where with a clean sheet of paper, we can build the technology, we can design it, edge your way to address those pain points.” In other words, revenue and stickier relationships would be in the offing for Goldman.

The goal, too, is to serve consumers in investments and wealth management. Solomon pointed to the endeavor to evolve offerings from a single product to a multi-product platform. By way of example there is the continued uptake of Clarity Money, which is the personal finance startup that was folded into Marcus earlier in the year, and where Goldman seeks to include a “multi-tiered mass affluent digital wealth offering, which is currently in development.”

This all takes place against a backdrop where, despite a slowdown in global growth amid China-U.S. trade wars, Brexit, and a change in heretofore easy monetary policy, corporations and individuals are in need of active transaction execution and financial services, as executives said on the call.

Per remarks on the call, the amount that Goldman is bringing to these efforts has been and will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Management stated on the call that as much as $892 million had been spent on “the different projects” that are tied to the aforementioned initiatives. All of this takes place where the banks have moved from 50 percent of revenues tied to fee-based and recurring structures only five years ago to 60 percent today.

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Symantec Spots Attacks On West African Financial Institutions

Hackers are targeting financial firms in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea, using commodity malware and living off the land tools, reported Symantec, the cybersecurity company, in a new blog post.

According to the company’s Thursday (Jan. 17) blog post, banks and other financial firms in a number of West African countries have been targeted by hackers who are using a variety of the commodity tools to get in. While Symantec said it’s not clear who is behind the attacks, it appears to most likely be several different groups using the same tactics. The attacks started around the middle of 2017, impacting banks and financial services companies in Cameroon, Congo (DR), Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast.

Symantec said it has observed four attack campaigns that specifically target the financial firms in Africa. The first one targeted firms in Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea, infecting victims with commodity malware known as NanoCore. Some of the tools that were used in the attacks were similar to the tactics SWIFT warned about in 2017, noted Symantec. The second attack identified by Symantec started in the late part of 2017 and targeted firms in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Congo and Cameroon. The attacks relied on malicious PowerShell scripts to infect computers and used a credential-stealing tool called Mimikatz, reported Symantec. Once in the networks, hackers infected computers with Cobalt Strike, a commodity malware.

Symantec said the third attack targeted firms in Ivory Coast and involved the use of Remote Manipulator System RAT, another commodity malware, along with other tools. In December of 2018, the fourth type of attack was directed at organizations in Ivory Coast. In this attack, Symantec said hackers used Imminent Monitor RAT, an off-the-shelf malware, to infiltrate networks. Symantec said all four attacks were discovered via alerts generated by its Targeted Attack Analytics (TAA).

“A growing number of attackers in recent years are adopting ‘living off the land’ tactics — namely the use of operating system features or network administration tools to compromise victims’ networks. By exploiting these tools, attackers hope to hide in plain sight, since most activity involving these tools is legitimate,” wrote Symantec in the blog post. “However, in each case, a TAA alert was triggered by the attackers maliciously using a legitimate tool. In short, the attackers’ use of living off the land tactics led to the discovery of their attacks.”

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Edge Cryptocurrency Wallet Update Integrates Support for Wyre & Bitrefill – Crypto Economy

Edge, the blockchain asset security platform and mobile cryptocurrency wallet, announced yesterday January 16th, that it had integrated Bitrefill and Wyre directly into the wallet application.

Bitrefill is a mobile top-up and gift-code service provider while Wyre is a fiat-to-crypto exchange service. Both these services have been integrated into the Edge wallet to help it have more utility for its users.

With Bitrefill, users will be able to purchase a variety of gift-codes to be used on leading retailers including Amazon and Walmart. The integration with Wyre will enable Edge users to purchase cryptocurrencies directly from their bank accounts at a 1% fee.

However, Wyre only supports the purchase of two main cryptocurrencies i.e., Bitcoin and Ethereum but once the user has purchased these coins, they can easily swap them for each other or for other Edge supported currencies such as Dash at a low fee. Overall this new integration allows users of Edge wallet to easily acquire and spend cryptocurrency all within the application.

Bitrefill and Wyre directly into the wallet application

Even though Edge wallets supports several digital assets, the Bitrefill integration works in the favor of Dash more than any other asset. This is because, with Bitrefill, Dash will be able to showcase one of its best features the InstantSend.

Through InstantSend, gift-codes and vouchers purchased through Bitrefill will be delivered instantly to recipients as opposed to the other assets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum that have to wait for network confirmations. On top of this feature, Dash users on the Edge wallet will receive a further 10% discount for all Bitrefill transactions processed. Therefore, for both the new and existing users of Edge, Dash will offer the best option for any digital asset payments.

Commenting on this latest development, Edge CEO Paul Puey said that of all the assets supported by Edge, Dash represented the most natural fit for its goals and vision.

“The Dash community has been tremendously helpful and supportive of Edge and our efforts. Their goal of making crypto usable, spendable, and accessible to the masses strongly aligns with our vision. Their implementation of InstantSend by default is a clear example of this. We’re excited to have Dash integrated into Edge and provide ways for people to use Dash in their day to day lives.”

Cryptocurrency mining malware has become self-aware (kinda) – The Next Web

A common form of cryptocurrency mining malware has evolved and is now able to switch off security services to continue mining without being detected.

Security researchers at Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 discovered that the malware used by cryptojacking group “Rocke” is able to gain administrative privileges to Linux-based cloud servers and uninstall vital security programs. This means the malware can go on illicitly mining coins undetected.

Typically, if a piece of malware were to uninstall cloud-based security services, the system admin would be alerted. However, as the cryptojacker’s malware followed the official uninstall procedures of the security services in question, it remained undetected.

It seems this instance of cryptojacking malware is highly targeted, as it is designed to remove five pieces of cloud-based security services from Chinese firms Alibaba and Tencent.

According to Unit 42, the malware also kills any other preexisting mining processes that might be running on the server. It then adds internet protocol (IP) rules that block other cryptojacking software from working. The malware then downloads and runs the coin miner using a “preload” trick to hide the process from system admins.

The “preload” trick effectively runs the process before any other system processes to obscure its origin and keep it working on the server whilst remaining somewhat undetectable.

As netizens of the world wise-up to the threat of cryptojacking and keep their hardware and software up-to-date cryptojackers face an ever harder job. However, given the outright sneakiness of this malware, researchers at Unit 42 think we’ll be seeing a lot more attacks of this nature in the near future.

Published January 17, 2019 — 15:18 UTC

Asia-Pacific Newswire