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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.

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At Least 30% of All Brazilians Are Interested in Crypto Investments.

Cryptos continue to make their way into the world of finance becoming more and more popular. Not only are they a mechanism used by anarchists and tech savvy people, but they are now increasingly used as financial tools by ordinary users.

This is extremely important for the consolidation of cryptocurrency as a revolutionary alternative to the traditional financial system, given that its advantages are becoming increasingly evident to the general public.

Not Only Brazilians are Informed About Cryptos, They Are Also Interested in Owning Cryptocurrencies

A study conducted by the cybersecurity company Avast and sent to the Bitcoin oriented brasilian website Portal Do Bitcoin, revealed that about 30% of Brazilians are interested or plan to invest in cryptocurrencies in the near future.

The survey was carried out on a total of 1900 individuals during the month of April, and although the study was carried out in compliance with certain statistical standards, despite having randomly chosen subjects from different social strata, 84.36% admitted to being familiar with cryptocurrencies.

This is another extremely relevant fact, since it allows the conclusion to be drawn that in a country as heterogeneous as Brazil, catalogued as one of the world’s leading emerging economies, the fact that almost 90% of its population has some knowledge about cryptocurrencies could facilitate a massive adoption in the near future.

Security: A Major Concern

Avast being a company focused on the cybersecurity aspect, focused the survey questions on issues related to this area.

Brazilian Flag

Brazilians prefer to view their websites with ads rather than “lending” their processing power to cryptomining. 44% of respondents agreed to websites using their computers to mine in exchange for an ads-free experience.

In relation to scandals related to illegal or nonconsensual miners (such as the famous malwares and extensions used to mine Monero XMR), 86.6% of those surveyed expressed concern about being infected. The rest do not give it much importance; however, of this 13.4% almost half think it would not affect them because they do not own any cryptocurrency.

The Brazilian market is of special importance for the regional development of South America. Brazil handles much of the Gross Domestic Product in the region.

Despite not having special support from financial institutions, a large part of the crypto and blockchain related projects consider Brazil to be an important market niche to expand their operations on a global scale.

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Brazil’s Central Bank Develops Blockchain Data Sharing Platform for Financial Regulators

Brazil’s central bank has created a permissioned digital ledger platform that will enable data sharing among financial regulators, Finextra reports today, June 20.

The ledger, called the Information Integration Platform for Regulators (Pier), will be used by regulators to exchange information on general authorization processes of financial institutions, ranging from administrative processes to the conduct of employees. Additional information not related to administrative sanctioning processes can also be shared if mutual interest is shown.

Pier, developed by the Banco Central de Brasil’s IT department (Deinf), will connect the Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil (CVM), and the National Pension Funds Authority (Previc). The platform is currently in alpha testing, with plans to go live at the end of 2018.

Deputy head of Deinf, Aristides Cavalcante, said in a statement that the impetus to develop a blockchain platform came from the benefits of horizontal information sharing, adding that

“Furthermore, as the blockchain platform records every data request using cryptographic signatures, it is possible to certify at any moment the authorship, and that no entity has tampered with the data, and thus guaranteeing information authenticity.”

In April, Cointelegraph published an Expert Take on how a presidential cryptocurrency money laundering scheme has led Brazil to implement more blockchain tech, specifically with the use of documenting funding on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain.

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Brazil's Central Bank Plans Blockchain Data Exchange for Regulators

Brazil could soon have a new blockchain platform to ensure the authenticity of information exchanged between the country’s financial authorities.

Brazil’s central bank, Banco Central do Brasil (BCB), announced Tuesday that it has built the platform in order to allow secure data sharing between itself and other domestic financial regulators, such as the country’s Superintendency of Private Insurance (SUSEP), the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM) and National Superintendency of Complementary Pensions (PREVIC).

In its release, BCB credits blockchain technology for its ability to provide a horizontal network of information, as well as immutable data storage.

The platform, dubbed “Pier,” will be used to exchange data associated with the authorization processes of financial institutions, including punitive processes, administrator performance and the management of corporate entities regulated by the central bank.

By integrating blockchain technology, Pier is said to eliminate the hierarchical nature of traditional business models and assist regulators in bypassing centralized entities when communicating. Furthermore, it would help prevent third parties tampering with the information, as the platform stores every data request using cryptographic signatures, the release says.

Despite having previously likened bitcoin to a pyramid scheme, Banco Central do Brasil has been enthusiastically experimenting with blockchain in the last year.

The central bank told CoinDesk in November 2017 that it was restarting work with the latest iteration of R3’s Corda distributed ledger platform, having halted development because the older technology had been considered too “immature.”

While it is not clear from the data provided which blockchain Pier is based on, the BCB said in the November interview that it was also developing proofs-of-concept on four platforms – ethereum, JPMorgan’s Quorum and Hyperledger Fabric, alongside Corda.

Pier started development with technical assistance from the Department of Informatics (deINF) at the Federal University of Maranhão in August 2017, as per the release. It is currently undergoing testing at deINF to smooth out any technical issues before an eventual launch planned for the end of 2018.

BCB 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.

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Crypto Exchange Huobi Confirms Move Into Brazilian Market

Huobi, a major cryptocurrency exchange originally from China, has told CoinDesk that it’s setting up shop in Brazil.

The news first broke Tuesday when a Brazilian cryptocurrency news source reported that executives from Huobi were seen distributing name cards at a local industry event and talking to well-known figures.

The report further suggested that Huobi has set up an office in a co-working space in the country’s capital São Paulo and is also seeking to hire local staff via LinkedIn, posting staff positions such as chief compliance officer and digital market manager.

In a response to an enquiry from CoinDesk today, a representative from Huobi Group confirmed the company’s intent to enter the Brazilian market, but declined to disclose further details as to the possible launch of a branch in the South American country.

The effort marks another step in Huobi’s plans for global expansion. As previously reported by CoinDesk, following China’s crypto trading ban last autumn, the exchange has shifted its business focus overseas – including the relocation of its headquarters to Singapore.

In March, Huobi also registered its U.S. operation as a money services business with the country’s financial regulator Fincen ahead of a planned roll-out of crypto-to-crypto trading. Most recently, another Huobi representative told CoinDesk that the group is also at “an early stage” in the Canadian market.

Brazil 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.