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Major Latin American E-Commerce Company Bans Cryptocurrency-Related Ads

The largest e-commerce company in Latin America, Mercado Livre, has prohibited cryptocurrency advertising on their website.

The largest e-commerce company in Latin America, Mercado Livre, has banned cryptocurrency advertising on their website, Cointelegraph em Português reported on March 18.

The development was revealed in an exclusive interview with Cointelegraph em Português after the company’s users reported receiving of emails informing them about the change in Mercado Livre’s policy.

The new policy requires all users to remove their listings pertaining to digital currency, otherwise all listings will automatically be taken down from the platform starting March 19. One of the users received a letter, saying:

“We would like to inform you that as of March 19, you will no longer be able to advertise used products in the following categories:

– Cryptocurrencies

– Prepaid cards for games

Because you have ads for used products that will soon be banned, we recommend that you end them. Otherwise, they will be finalized on the date mentioned above. “

Mercado Livre reportedly stated:

“Mercado Livre clarifies that as of March 19, crypto ads that are active on the site in the ‘used’ condition will automatically be finalized and new ads can only be created as ‘new products’.”

Mercado Livre (or Mercado Libre in Spanish) has overtaken fellow e-commerce giant Amazon in Latin America. Earlier this month, the firm reportedly sealed a deal for a whopping $750 million investment via a sale of common stock to payments network PayPal.

Large technology firms like Google and Facebook have previously introduced similar bans. In March last year, Google announced the ban of all cryptocurrency-related ads of all types starting from June 2018. The move affected all of Google’s ad products, meaning companies were not able to serve crypto-related ads on the search engine giant’s own sites, as well as third-party sites in its network.

In January, Google reportedly blacklisted keywords mentioning Ethereum (ETH) on its advertising platform. Google reportedly stated that cryptocurrency exchanges targeting the United States and Japan could be advertised on the platform, and that targeting other countries could be the reason for the ad rejection.

Last January, Facebook prohibited ads that use “misleading or deceptive promotional practices,” which reportedly includes ads of cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings.

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Brazilian Court Rules Santander to Return $350,000 to Crypto Exchange Mercado Bitcoin

A São Paulo court has dismissed the appeal made by Banco Santander against crypto exchange Mercado Bitcoin.

The Court of Justice in the Brazilian state of São Paulo has dismissed the appeal made by Banco Santander against cryptocurrency exchange Mercado Bitcoin, and ruled that the bank should return funds to the company, local crypto media CriptomoedasFacil reports on March 8.

Previously, the bank reportedly closed the exchange’s account, claiming that its activity was incompatible with its policy and froze the funds. According to the article, the Brazilian exchange took action through the courts against the closing of its account, claiming that the freeze of its funds was unjustified.

Per the report, the funds to be returned amount to R$1,350,733 (equivalent to nearly $350,000). The March 6 ruling on official government portal Impresa Oficial further specifies that the appeal has been dismissed by unanimous vote.

The report further explains that the exchange already won the case, with the bank having been ordered to return the funds plus interest of one percent per month, and pay for the legal expenses of the company and legal fees fixed at 10 percent of the value of the conviction. Moreover, the bank has since appealed the order and this appeal has now been dismissed.

As Cointelegraph reported in December last year, two major Chilean banks have urged the country’s anti-monopoly court to revoke its decision that prevents the closure of local crypto exchanges’ banking accounts.

In April 2018, Chilean cryptocurrency exchanges BUDA, Orionx and CryptoMarket (CryptoMKT) had applied to an appeals court to confront the banks that shut down their platforms’ accounts. The court ruled later in July the same year in favor of crypto exchange Orionx, resolving that the state-owned bank Banco Estado should reopen the company’s deposit account.

Moreover, in October last year, South Korea’s main financial authority officially cleared banks to work with crypto exchanges for the first time.

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Brazilian Premier League Soccer Club Launches Crypto ‘Fan Tokens’

Atletico Mineiro, a Brazilian premier league soccer club, is launching its own fan token “GaloCoin” based on Ethereum blockchain.

Brazilian premier league soccer club Atletico Mineiro has launched a fan token dubbed “GaloCoin,” Cointelegraph Brazil reports Friday, Dec. 14.

The GaloCoin is named after Atletico’s mascot, a rooster (“galo” in Portuguese). It is based on Footcoin — a platform that allows to launch utility tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. The GaloCoin is tied to the national fiat currency exchange rate and is equal to one Brazilian real.

Atletico’s token will allow fans to purchase game tickets, official apparel, as well as participate in discount programs. To use the club’s cryptocurrency token, one has to buy at least 50 GaloCoins (equivalent to approximately $13).

Utility tokens are steadily increasing in popularity among soccer teams. In September, one of the best-performing French clubs Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) partnered with the blockchain platform Socios.com to launch its own Fan Token Offering (FTO).

One of Italy’s most famous clubs, Juventus soon followed PSG’s example and announced “Juventus Official Fan Token,” also in partnership with Socios.com. The coin is set to launch in early 2019.

Moreover, seven United Kingdom premier league clubs — Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton & Hove Albion, Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, Leicester City Football Club, Newcastle United and Southampton — have partnered with local crypto trading platform eToro to integrate blockchain and cryptocurrencies in soccer stadiums.

As Cointelegraph reported in August, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has implemented a blockchain-based ticketing system. The association has already conducted a successful trial during the 2018 UEFA Europa League final in Lyon this May, where 50 percent of the tickets were sold using a blockchain-based application.

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Report: Number of Routers Affected by Crypto Malware Doubled Since August, Reaching 415K

A security researcher claims that the number of MikroTik routers affected by cryptojacking malware has doubled since August 2018.

The number of MikroTik routers affected by cryptojacking malware has repotedly doubled since summer 2018, reaching 415,000, security researcher VriesHd tweeted Sunday, Dec. 2.

Since August, VriesHd has been reporting on crypto malware that targets routers and forces them to mine cryptocurrencies along with the researchers from Bad Packets Report.

They revealed that routers by Mikrotik, a Latvian manufacturer of network equipment, were compromised by at least 16 different types of malware including Coinhive, a cryptojacking software mining privacy-oriented cryptocurrency Monero (XMR).

By September the estimated number of compromised routers surpassed 280,000, according to Bad Packets. In the recent tweet VriesHd explains that he has only checked three possible ways to abuse MikroTik, although there may be several more. VriesHd’s review, which is only based on preliminary projections, shows 415,000 routers affected.

As VriesHd told tech news outlet The Next Web, the attackers have recently switched from Coinhive to other mining software, such as Omine and CoinImp. He also noted that the exact number might be slightly off, as the data only reflects IP addresses infected. However, he believes the number is still high. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the actual number […] would be somewhere around 350,000 to 400,000,” VriesHd said.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, Brazil is the most affected by cryptojacking. According to research by Iran’s cybersecurity authority, Brazil was hit over 81,000 times by Coinhive in October alone. India came in second with around 29,000 incidents, followed by Indonesia with more than 23,000. Iran itself experienced around 11,000.

According to a Bloomberg report, the total number of crypto mining malware infections increased 500 percent this year after hackers allegedly stolen a code targeting Microsoft Systems from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Another report by network and enterprise security company Palo Alto Networks found that around 5 percent of all Monero in circulation was mined through cryptojacking.

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Major Latin American Bank Conglomerate Itau to Create Blockchain Platform for Small Loans

The largest private bank in Brazil, Itau Unibanco, has tested a $100 million loan on a blockchain platform powered by R3.

Brazil’s largest private bank has partnered with United Kingdom bank Standard Chartered to create a blockchain-based platform for small loans, according to a press release published by Itau Tuesday, Dec. 4.

Itau Unibanco, also a major Latin American banking group, and Standard Chartered both offer international banking services. The two entities have successfully conducted a proof-of-concept (PoC) for the mentioned platform, based on Corda Connect developed by New York-based blockchain startup R3.

Moreover, Itau and Standard Chartered, joined by United States multinational financial services company Wells Fargo, have issued a club loan of $100 million to test the platform. According to the release, the points of trial contract were effectively negotiated during the experiment, and the document was then checked for compliance with the conditions set and finally signed by both parties.

Ricardo Nuno, the head of treasury department at Itau, said that blockchain technology improved the communication between the banks, which is normally comprised of 2,000 words for a similar matter, Reuters writes.

Nuno further added that the money was not actually transferred, as it was a trial, but that the platform will definitely allow for that in the future.

Germana Cruz, head of financial institutions for Latin America at Standard Chartered, told Reuters that the company might use the results of the trial to issue loans on blockchain in the region.

Global banking groups have previously used blockchain to increase the speed of syndicate loan issuance, along with cutting operational costs. In 2017, seven major international banks —  including BNP Paribas, BNY Mellon, HSBC, and ING — partnered to conduct major tests in the blockchain technology-based marketplace for syndicated loans, called Fusion LenderComm and supported by R3.

Another banking giant, Spain-based Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), carried out a blockchain-based syndicated loan of $150 million in October. French banking group BNP Paribas and Japan’s bank holding Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) also participated in the trial.

Cointelegraph has also reported that U.K.-based bank Natwest was set to launch a similar blockchain platform based on R3 Corda technology in the syndicated loans market in November.

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Ripio Rolls Out Crypto-Powered Loans Across Latin America

Here’s something you don’t see every day: an ICO that has actually led to a shipped, working financial product.

Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, Argentinian startup Ripio is making peer-to-peer microloans available today to all its 200,000 bitcoin wallet users in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil. The Buenos Aires-based company raised $37 million in an initial coin offering (ICO) last year to build the Ripio Credit Network, which matches individual lenders and borrowers across the globe through ethereum smart contracts.

Today’s full rollout of that marketplace follows a closed beta in which more than 800 loans were facilitated to customers in Argentina. Ripio said it now has 3,000 lenders on the network, many of them located in Asia, issuing loans for up to $730, though so far the average loan size is $146.

Ripio CEO Sebastian Serrano told CoinDesk:

We have people from Asia funding people in South America, which is something you cannot do with another [app].”

Previously known as Bitpagos, Ripio is one of the longest-running startups in the crypto space, with well-established merchant processing, exchange and wallet services. It entered the credit business in 2016, lending its own funds to consumers in Argentina, before pursuing this more ambitious vision for global p2p lending.

While the borrowers receive their loans in fiat, the new network is powered by an ethereum-based token called RCN. Lenders send the funds in RCN, a cut of the tokens goes to third parties involved in the lending process – such as identity verifiers, credit scorers and co-signers of the loans – and Ripio (and, potentially, other wallet providers) converts the RCN to fiat before disbursing the money to the borrower.

Unlike most exchanges and mobile lending services, Ripio’s offerings are available to unbanked crypto users. This is essential for Latin American markets where people have diverse but overwhelmingly complicated histories with the banking industry. For example, according to World Bank statistics from 2017, around 30 percent of adults in Brazil are unbanked, compared to 54 percent in Colombia.

Although the startup doesn’t have data on how many unbanked users are on its platform, a survey of 1,000 Ripio users revealed 19 percent didn’t have a credit card. They often fund their wallets by depositing cash at convenience stores that partner with Ripio.

With the credit network, however, they now have a way to build a track record of repaying debts, which could help them obtain financial services in the future. Further, “the entire lifecycle of the credit and the loan” is contained in the smart contract on the blockchain, Serrano said.

“It gives the user credit history. Even if the marketplace disappears the code will continue to execute,” he said.

To make credit histories recorded in smart contracts widely useful, Ripio has proposed a standardized way to present claims about an identity (e.g. “Joe made all his car loan payments on time”) on ethereum. Serrano explained:

“In order for it to work across products and networks, ethereum needs to get a standard for identity claims so that every project uses one or two claim standards, kind of like we have ERC-20 [for tokens].”

Cross-border markets

Over the next year, Ripio plans to expand services to Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay.

“Every market has these different characteristics, regulations, things you have to comply with,” Serrano told CoinDesk, “Things you have to do to make it easy for users to deposit cash.”

Political instability can create roadblocks, however. For example, Ripio once operated in Venezuela and still maintains staff there, but security concerns and opaque regulations forced the startup to halt operations.

“We hope to extend service there as soon as this madness ends,” Serrano said. “It’s become very, very difficult to maintain operations in Venezuela, legally.”

In order to expand, Ripio is looking for more fiat-centric partnerships like the ones it established in Brazil with Neon Bank and Banrisul. Since users are handing over cash, Ripio needs banks for storage. Plus, expanding such partnerships in each nation could provide crucial liquidity.

Santiago Siri, the Argentinian founder of a blockchain governance project called Democracy Earth, told CoinDesk that Ripio’s partnerships are already making an impact across the continent.

For example, through its partnership with the e-commerce giant Mercado Libre, shoppers and sellers can transfer funds between their e-commerce accounts and Ripio wallets, offering new avenues for people to earn or spend crypto.

“Large populations in countries like Brazil and Mexico are unbanked,” Siri said. “So companies like Mercado Libre have to find ways to do business without credit cards. Ripio has been leading this, allowing people to do payments [indirectly] with bitcoin.”

Serrano said 15 percent of Ripio wallets’ transaction volume, millions of dollars per month, now comes from Mercado Libre. Rosine Kadamani, the founder of the educational Blockchain Academy in Brazil, praised this partnership with the largest e-commerce platform in the region, as well as Ripio’s crypto-powered loans, saying:

“When we’re trying to get people in the crypto space, it’s a good strategy to reach people where they are already comfortable… Why not provide a space for peer-to-peer loans? I see no reason at all for credit to be monopolized by banks.”

Speaking to the demand for such cross-border conduits, Siri added: “Latin America is a very fertile region for the deployment of cryptocurrency infrastructures.”

Sebastian Serrano image courtesy of Ripio

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Brazilian Crypto Platform Atlas Quantum Reveals Data Breach Affecting 260K Customers

Brazilian crypto trading platform Atlas Quantum has recently suffered a major data breach which led to the exposure of clients’ personal data, the company’s official Facebook page stated Sunday, August 26.

Atlas Quantum discovered the breach on Saturday, August 25, and has already started an investigation. The company informed users that the security incident has not affected funds from users’ accounts, thought they admitted that plenty of personal data has been leaked.

As soon as Atlas Quantum found the leak, they took measures to protect the database from further attacks. Some of the platform’s functions were temporarily paused after the incident, but the company assured users that passwords and encryption keys remained safe.

Data breach index site Have I Been Pwned reported August 26 that the leak affected more than 261,000 customers. Leaked data contained names, phone numbers, email addresses, and account balances. Reportedly 24 percent of the data were already in Have I Been Pwned base.

Atlas Quantum is an investment and trading platform based in Brazil that reportedly manages over $27 million in assets.

In July 2018  allegedly decentralized exchange platform Bancor was attacked by hackers who stole more than $12 mln from different accounts. As Cointelegraph reported following the incident, the company later created the сrime-fighting ‘Crypto Defenders’ initiative to tackle similar cases collectively.

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BRICS Summit: Major Banks From Member States Sign MoU on DLT Research

Five major banks from each BRICS member state signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the development of distributed ledger technology (DLT), according to an official press release July 26.

During the 10th International BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, banks from the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa agreed to a joint study of DLT technology like blockchain, “in the interests of the development of the digital economy.” BRICS countries have met annually since 2009 to discuss initiatives for economic, cultural, and political cooperation between member states.

The State Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs (Vnesheconombank), the Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), the Export-Import Bank of India, the China Development Bank, and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) will all participate in the study.

The main focus of the 10th BRICS Summit in South Africa is cooperation in economic development “in the face of the fourth industrial revolution,” according to the press release. Mikhail Poluboyarinov, First Deputy Chairman and a Member of the Board at Vnesheconombank, said of the MoU:

“The current agreement allows the development banks of BRICS countries to study the applications of innovative technologies in infrastructure finance and bank products optimization.”

Earlier this month, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) initiated its own study of blockchain technology, with the eventual goal of integrating it into the bank’s business processes. RBZ governor John Mangudya said that the bank wants to embrace the technology in order to keep up with blockchain banking innovations in other countries.

Banks worldwide are finding a variety of uses cases and applications for the technology.

Last week, Bank of America (BoA) filed a patent for a blockchain-based system that allows for the external validation of data, and the Bank of Thailand (BoT) is considering blockchain tech for cross-border payments and fraud protection.

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BRICS Bank Consortium to Research Blockchain Applications

A consortium of state-owned development banks plan to research blockchain technology for international transactions and other products, Russia-based Vnesheconombank said Thursday.

Vnesheconombank, the Brazilian Development Bank, the Export-Import Bank of India, the China Development Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa signed an agreement to conduct research on how they can use blockchain research to develop a digital economy, according to a press release.

These national development banks are generally tasked with supporting economic development in a nation. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are also often referred to as “BRICS” as a group of nations with emerging economies.

In the release, Vnesheconombank first deputy chairman Mikhail Poluboyarinov said the BRICS nations’ development banks collaborate “in a range of key areas,” which include improving financial cooperation between the nations and developing credit card financing tools for national currencies.

The research would also examine how to implement any new innovations, he said.

He added:

“This joint work opens new opportunities for Russian exporters, operators of large industrial projects, recipients of investments. The current agreement allows the development banks of BRICS countries to study the applications of innovative technologies in infrastructure finance and bank products optimization.”

Details about the research, including when the banks expect to begin the research project, were not available at press time.

BRICS flags image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.