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Android Malware Targets Users of 32 Crypto Apps, Including Coinbase, BitPay

A new strain of Trojan malware for Android phones is targeting global users of top crypto apps such as Coinbase, BitPay and Bitcoin Wallet.

A new strain of Trojan malware for Android phones is targeting global users of top crypto apps such as Coinbase, BitPay and Bitcoin Wallet, as well as banks including JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. The news was reported by technology news outlet The Next Web on March 28.

Based on research from prominent cybercrime analytics firm Group-IB, this is reportedly the first time the Trojan — now named “Gustuff” — has been reported or analyzed. The malware is described as being designed for mass infection and is spread by SMS messages with links to load malicious Android package kit files.

The malware’s creators have reportedly created “Automatic Transfer Systems” that aim to expedite and scale the thefts by triggering autofills of payment fields for legitimate Android apps to maliciously reroute transfers to the hackers.

The app is purported to issue a host of “web fakes” that mimic legitimate apps to phish for sensitive data from users — specifically targeting customers of as many as 32 different crypto apps. Push notifications using legitimate icons are a further device the malware uses to automate downloads of fake apps and trigger transaction autofills.

Group IB reportedly identified 27 fake crypto and banking apps specific to the United States, 16 for Poland, 10 for Australia, nine for Germany and nine for India. The malware also targets payment systems and messenger services such as PayPal, Revolut, Western Union, eBay, Walmart, Skype and WhatsApp.

In order to function, Gustaff reportedly exploits Android’s accessibility features designed for disabled users, with Group IB characterizing this as a relatively rare and effective trick:

“Using the Accessibility Service mechanism means that the Trojan is able to bypass […] changes to Google’s security policy introduced in new versions of the Android OS. Moreover, Gustuff knows how to turn off Google Protect; according to the Trojan’s developer, this feature works in 70 percent of cases.”

Reportedly first traced to hacker forums from April 2018, Group IB notes that Gustuff has been designed by a Russian-speaking cybercriminal nicknamed “Bestoffer,” yet targets customers of international firms primarily outside of Russia.

Android users are advised by Group IB to download apps strictly from the Google Play store and pay attention to the extensions of downloaded files.

As reported in February, decentralized app MetaMask was recently pulled from Google Play after researchers detected malware impersonating the tool to steal crypto from users.

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CEOs of Mastercard and Wells Fargo Concur on Blockchain’s Long Term Potential

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan and Mastercard CEO Ajaypal Banga agreed that there is still no clear blockchain-based business model.

Top execs at Mastercard and Wells Fargo agreed that blockchain technology has long-term potential, but it has not been realized to date, CNBC reports on March 28.

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan and Mastercard CEO Ajaypal Banga concurred that the potential of distributed ledger technology (DLT) is yet to pay off, but that there are still no clear business use-cases as of now. The executives made their comments to CNBC at the Fintech Ideas Festival on Wednesday.

Wells Fargo’s CEO emphasized that the technology has been very slow to roll out, pointing at a blockchain pilot carried out between the bank with the Commonwealth Bank in Australia back in October 2016. Sloan stressed that the pilot resulted in just one transaction, concluding that DLT will have more impact “over time.” He said:

“If you turned the clock back a few years ago, it should have completely changed the industry — that’s just not the way it works.”

Mastercard’s CEO declared that blockchain tech has “interesting possibilities,” and it would be a bad idea to ignore that. Specifically, Banga outlined the potential of the tech to improve the efficiency of supply chains and to address issues around counterfeit goods. However, he also noted that a blockchain-enabled business model is not proven to date, claiming that “we’re just saying we don’t know the business model yet.”

Both Mastercard and Wells Fargo have been actively exploring the benefits of blockchain tech, with Mastercard ranked third company worldwide according to the number of blockchain patents filed. For its part, Wells Fargo entered the Forbes’ list of The 50 Largest Public Companies Exploring Blockchain in July 2018.

In October 2018, CEO of global payment giant Visa, Al Kelly, argued that its major competitor Mastercard has to “try harder” in terms of blockchain applications, since they are smaller than Visa.

Recently, global professional services firm Accenture announced a collaboration with Mastercard to introduce a blockchain-based circular supply chain.

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US Crypto Exchange ErisX Hires Former Wells Fargo Executive as Business Developer

ErisX announced that it has hired former Wells Fargo executive Kyle Unterseher as a business development executive.

United States-based cryptocurrency exchange ErisX announced that it hired former Wells Fargo executive Kyle Unterseher as a business development executive. The news was reported in a Medium post published by the exchange’s head of marketing on March 5.

In December 2018, ErisX raised $27.5 million from Fidelity, Nasdaq Ventures and other investors, with the goal of offering spot trading in Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Litecoin (LTC), as well as futures markets, pending regulatory approval in 2019.

Unterseher joins the ErisX business development team and will be reporting directly to ErisX chief commercial officer Kelly Brown. In the post, Brown stated:

“We were impressed with Kyle’s wide range of global experiences working with FCMs as well as in managing and operating critical growth departments […] He is a significant addition to the team as we gear up to launch one platform for spot and regulated futures on digital assets.”

Unterseher points out in the post that the exchange “has operated a regulated marketplace for over seven years before entering the cryptocurrency space.”

As Cointelegraph reported in February, crypto exchange ErisX has also appointed three veterans from Barclays, YouTube and the Chicago Board Options Exchange to fill executive roles at the company. Moreover, in December last year, the company announced the appointment of veteran exchange founder Matt Trudeau as its chief strategy officer.

In February, ErisX filed a comment letter with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in response to the agency’s request for feedback on Ethereum (ETH)’s mechanics and market, noting that the introduction of ETH future would have a positive impact.

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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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New Gallup Poll Shows Only 2% of US Investors Own Bitcoin, But 26% Are ‘Intrigued’

The results of a Wells Fargo/Gallup poll published July 27 finds that only two percent of U.S. investors own Bitcoin, but 26 percent are intrigued by it.

The online survey was conducted May 7-14, 2018 amongst  U.S. investors with more than $10,000 in stocks, bonds or mutual funds. The results show that the overwhelming majority of investors who have already heard of Bitcoin will not be investing in the leading cryptocurrency any time soon, with 72 percent saying they “have no interest in ever buying Bitcoin.”

According to the data from the poll, even though 96 percent of investors had heard of Bitcoin, “only about three in 10 investors (29%) say they know something about digital currencies,” with 67 percent saying they have heard of them but don’t know much about them.

Even though the initial intention behind Bitcoin involves its use as a means of payment, or “electronic cash”, it’s high volatility has made it “more popular as a high-risk/high-reward investment than as an online currency — although acceptance of Bitcoin for electronic payments is growing.” The results of the survey show that 75 percent of respondents view an investment in Bitcoin to be “very risky,” with 23 percent saying it was “somewhat risky.”

The statistics on gender and age show that young men are the most likely demographic to “say they know something about bitcoin or other digital currencies.” The report also states that “[r]elated to the age differences, investors with less than $100,000 in investments (who tend to be younger) are more likely to be familiar with the innovation than those with higher asset levels.”

A study on Americans and cryptocurrencies commissioned by in February showed that 8 percent, or around 26 mln, of Americans have already purchased cryptocurrency.

A recent report on the top ten crypto projects that raised a minimum of $1 million in 2017 revealed that on average each showed a return on investment of over 136,000 percent.

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Wells Fargo Files Patent for Tokenization System to Protect Sensitive Data

San-Francisco-based bank Wells Fargo has outlined a patent for a tokenization system that would protect data, according to a filing published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) July 17.

The newly published application details a system in which any type of data element — whether a document, graphic, or database value — could be located, accessed, and protected by means of tokenization.

Tokenization, as the patent filing outlines, uses encryption methods to process an originally unrestricted data element into a corresponding restricted token that can subsequently only be retrieved — or ‘detokenized’ — by a specified user. The system harnesses cryptography to bind specific values to data under an authenticated digital signature.

The tokenized system can thus be used to both control access and confidentiality, authenticate data origins, and maintain data integrity by detecting any undue modifications to an element.

Wells Fargo explains that tokenization can be used to protect data “even when it is stored in a publically accessible environment, such as the cloud, within a blockchain…in a flexible way that is file and data element neutral”:

“Unlike the limited, anonymous signatures supported by existing systems, this tokenization manifest supports single signers, multiple signers, or co-signers to store information publicly without loss of confidentiality of any sensitive content.”

The proposed system would furthermore flexibly allow content owners or managers to select a desired output for tokenization — which can be used for any file in part or in its entirety — and select how it will be manifest for restricted users, e.g. through blurring, randomized text, or blacking out.

Just last month, Jeremy Allaire, Co-Founder & CEO of payments company Circle spoke at MoneyConf Dublin of an unprecedented “crypto-revolution,” suggesting that global society is “at the beginning of a tokenization of everything” that will extend to “every form of value storage and public record.”

While evidently embracing the technology that underlies cryptocurrencies for its own purposes, Wells Fargo has recently moved to prohibit its customers from purchasing crypto using credit cards issued by the bank due to perceived investment risks.

The bank was nonetheless an early pioneer of the first-of-its-kind international freight shipment to China back in 2016, in what was the world’s first reported interbank trade using a blockchain system.

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How to Explain Crypto Collectibles to Your Banker

Courtney Brock manages business operations for Blockade Games in Austin, Texas.

Its May 11, 2018 and I receive a surprise in the mail: an overnight package from FedEx. It’s addressed to my company, Blockade Games.

Another surprise: Our bank, Wells Fargo, thinks we may be a money services business (MSB) and has a stack of paperwork for me to fill out. Thank you, traditional banking system. It’s not like we didn’t spend two hours answering all of these questions when we set up the account or anything.

The document is from Wells Fargo’s “Enhanced Due Diligence Center.” Yeah, you’re probably rolling your eyes like I am. Even better, if they don’t receive the requested information by the deadline, they’ll close our account. Fantastic.

Our contact’s name is Alex, and he’s actually pretty cool. He knows a little bit about cryptocurrency, but I have to do a lot of talking to explain how a video game company uses blockchain. He agrees we are not a money services business and instructs me on how to fill out the paperwork online.

I’m sure there are lots of other small companies utilizing blockchain technology that are going through similar situations, so this post is dedicated to them. A special dedication goes out to everyone building and innovating in the cryptogames space.

We formed Blockade Games in January to work on our first game, Neon District. The game hinges on a single concept: Almost every item is represented by a non-fungible token that has the ability to become rare and unique through game play.

The things we’re doing are new, and finding the right words to describe them can be difficult. But I’ll give it a go.

Talking to noobs about bitcoin

Stepping back, when talking to people about cryptocurrency I find most have at least heard about bitcoin. If they’re a little savvier, they might know about ethereum or litecoin. Some folks might have even heard about Ripple and XRP, but you can tell them that’s a story for another day.

Outside bitcoin, cryptocurrencies can be called altcoins or tokens (there is also an unflattering term that rhymes with “bitcoin”). Each of these designations has a different definition based on how the coin’s blockchain is developed.

Countries all over the world have different ways of classifying them for regulation and taxation. In Singapore, they’re considered a product until invested and then they get treated more like a stock. They’re a taxable asset in Israel and private money (whatever that means) in Germany.

Rounding up the ranks as the most progressive jurisdictions, Japan and Australia recognize bitcoin as currency, though the internet seems to be in disagreement as to whether either has brought it into full legal tender status. In the U.S., bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies are regulated as commodities.

So, what makes bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency a commodity? A 2017 article from the Economist explains it pretty well:

“In economic terms, commodities are vital components of commerce that are standardized and hence easy to exchange for goods of the same type, and have a fairly uniform price around the world.”

In other words, they’re fungible. Every ounce of gold or oil will cost the same amount as any other ounce of gold or oil. One satoshi of a bitcoin will always be worth the same amount as all other satoshis in a bitcoin, just like pennies in a dollar.

That’s why it’s so easy to trade cryptocurrency like stocks. They’re fungible and interchangeable so no matter how much of a bitcoin you buy (and you can buy less than one bitcoin), variables like where the bitcoin came from should not change its market value. You’ll get exactly what you ordered. Unless you get bitcoin cash, but that’s also a story for another day. (Yes, my commentary brings all the trolls to the yard.)

In fact, the permanent public ledgers of these cryptocurrencies are so secure, it’s plausible we’ll see all forms of stocks and bonds tokenized in the coming decades.

Fun fact: Diamonds are not considered fungible nor are they traded on a commodity market. As anyone who’s shopped for an engagement ring knows, each part of a diamond is different in cut and clarity, so much so that the price of diamonds as a whole cannot be standardized. Each diamond must be individually inspected to determine its value.

Just like bitcoin is frequently called digital gold, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) could be called digital diamonds. The value of each token comes from a combination of rarity and identified desirable features.

Talking to noobs about NFTs

In the fall of 2017, teams from Decentraland and Cryptokitties attended the ETHWaterloo hackathon in Canada with a new protocol to play with.

Called ERC721, it was a departure from ethereum’s ERC20 standard for smart contracts, which are both programmable and fungible. The features of ERC-20s make them the perfect vehicle for the ICO. But ERC-721s were designed for something different.

The ERC-721 protocol makes each token unique. They may operate on the same smart contract, but each token has its own cryptographic signature.

For example, each Cryptokitty has a unique genetic code that assigns a kitty with physical “cattributes.” These kitties can then be bred to produce a new tokenized kitty with its own genetic signature reflective of the genetic signatures of both parents. A player can’t counterfeit a CryptoKitty as each kitty’s authenticity is recorded on the blockchain.

If being able to be able to distinguish a digital original from a digital copy weren’t revolutionary enough, CryptoKitties presented another new reality for digital games.

For the first time ever, a player could truly own the digital assets they acquire within a game. When an asset is purchased, owned, or gifted, it belongs to the player and not the game. If the game servers shut down, the assets don’t go with it. If a player wants to sell an asset, that’s up to them. And one day when enough game developers are using this technology together, players may be able to transfer beloved assets from one game into another.

On the surface, CryptoKitties can be seen as a silly game that briefly possessed people’s senses, causing them to spend over $20 million in ether on digital cats. In reality, CryptoKitties is a proof of concept for a technology with a mind-blowing range of potential use cases.

In November of 2017, bitcoin had broken $10,000 for the first time, thousands of altcoins and tokens had been launched, billions of dollars raised by ICOs … and digital cats became the first widely adopted commercial use case of blockchain technology. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though: games are always a testing ground for revolutionary technologies.

Within a month, at least two to three blockchain games were being announced every day. It’s important to note that this wasn’t the first time blockchain technology had been incorporated into games or online collectibles. Several projects had already been paving the way, utilizing Counterparty tokens (fungible tokens created on the bitcoin blockchain.) However, the development of a non-fungible token standard was the spark of creativity needed to move crypto-gaming into the mainstream consciousness.

Still not an MSB

It’s May 31, and I receive a second identical package from FedEx. I open it with a lot more side-eye than curiosity this time.

Of course, it’s another money services packet from Wells Fargo. This time the letter informs me that that the bank has not received the requested information. At this point, I’m pretty confused because I know I sent back everything they needed the first time around.

Fortunately, there is an email waiting for me from Alex stating that they had the original document and just needed to clarify a couple more items.

I’m realizing that a large part of my job now involves educating professionals in other fields how to interface with a blockchain business. Especially banks.

Despite the fact that we can accept crypto as a currency and will occasionally pay for business operating expenses with crypto as a currency, our blockchain product is not a currency. I can see why this is confusing as all get-out to them.

Comparing NFTs to baseball cards is helpful. You can’t use a baseball card as money, but someone may pay money for a baseball card based on its unique and rare attributes.

Alex thanked me for my help in understanding this new and crazy world. I’m sure it’s not the last time I’ll be explaining how this works.

Explaining crypto 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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US Bank Wells Fargo Bans Crypto Purchases With Its Credit Cards

San-Francisco-based bank Wells Fargo has announced that it will no longer allow its customers to purchase cryptocurrency using its credit cards, Fortune reported June 11.

Wells Fargo, which is the third largest bank by assets in the US, said that its customers are now prohibited from purchasing digital currency on their credit cards issued by the financial institution. A bank spokesperson said that the decision was made in order to avoid “multiple risks” associated with cryptocurrency usage:

“Customers can no longer use their Wells Fargo credit cards to purchase cryptocurrency. We’re doing this in order to be consistent across the Wells Fargo enterprise due to the multiple risks associated with this volatile investment. This decision is in line with the overall industry.”

However, the spokesperson added that the bank “will continue to evaluate the issue as the market evolves.”

With this move, Wells Fargo joins a wave of financial institutions banning the purchase of cryptocurrency with their credit cards. In February, three banking giants J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup announced they would no longer permit credit card purchases of cryptocurrency. Later that month, J.P. Morgan Chase said that financial institutions can “face the risk that payment processing and other services could be disrupted by technologies, such as cryptocurrencies.”

The list of banks which bar customers from buying crypto with their credit cards has been growing globally. In Canada, the Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), one of the largest banks in North America, announced in an email statement to customers that it is banning the purchase of cryptocurrency with credit cards. The bank said the measures were taken “in order to serve and protect our customers, as well as the bank.”

India’s HDFC Bank, the country’s largest private bank, informed clients that its debit and credit cards cannot be used to purchase cryptocurrency in order to protect customers. Restrictive measures were also supported by the largest UK bank, Lloyds Banking Group, and Virgin Money, which is present in Australia, South Africa and the UK.

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Dutch Bank ING Says Crypto Exchange Bitfinex Is An Account Holder

ING Groep NV confirmed Tuesday that cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex has an account with the Dutch bank.

According to Bloomberg News and Reuters, a spokesperson for the financial services company acknowledged Bitfinex’s account but declined to share any other information, citing confidentiality. The reports made no mention of Tether, the affiliated company behind the USDT token at the center of much of the controversy surrounding Bitfinex.

The ING spokesperson did, however, state that the bank performed “more extensive due diligence” on transactions conducted by cryptocurrency companies, though this did not extend to companies which occasionally transact with cryptocurrencies.

According to Bloomberg, he said in an email:

“With companies that are active in the crypto market we are very reserved … not with companies that are in traditional markets and receive or do payments with cryptocurrencies, but with parties that are in the chain of cryptocurrencies.”

This marks the first major financial firm to confirm a working relationship with Bitfinex since Wells Fargo suspended transactions early last year. Since then, Bitfinex has apparently operated without a major banking partner until it opened its account with ING.

It remains unclear when this account was opened, though a Dutch-language investigative journalist website called “Follow the Money” implied there was a relationship between the two entities in a report from Feb. 14.

Bloomberg reported that Bitfinex may have had an account with the Polish Bank Spoldzielczy late last year, but this relationship was not confirmed.

A spokesperson for ING did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ING image via Mauvries / Shutterstock

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Wells Fargo: Stock Markets Affected by Bitcoin’s Volatility

Bitcoin has largely bounced back from a monumental correction after reaching an all time high in December – but not without stock markets feeling the crunch. Having hit the $20,000 mark on December 17, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies endured massive drops. Altogether, the cryptocurrency market dropped $200 bln in market cap in the space of 48 hours.

Speaking to CNBC, Wells Fargo’s head of equity strategy Chris Harvey said that technology companies and equities could well feel the effects of further corrections going into 2018:

“People have been asking me about speculation in the crypto market and there’s a significant amount of froth. We think that it will come out and spill over – it’s not going to happen in a vacuum and you’re seeing technology down, not a lot but a little bit.”

While his sentiments came before the cryptocurrency market consolidated after Christmas Day, Harvey cautioned that stocks would also bare the brunt of further volatility in the cyptocurrency market:

“At the end of the day what we’re worried about is froth coming out of that market and starting to affect equities. We’re seeing it a little bit but not to a large degree – but it’s something to watch out for in 2018.”

Big players still coming

Foreboding predictions like Harvey’s are not unfounded, as a number of technology companies have vested interests in the cryptocurrency market. A quick glance at Nvidia’s stock price shows a $6 drop alongside Bitcoin’s falling price in the most recent correction.


Correlation does not imply causation, so it’s uncertain whether the drop in Bitcoin’s price necessarily led to Nvidia’s dip. However, the GPU manufacturer’s top graphics cards are favourites among hobby miners, particularly in the altcoin space.

Mike Novogratz postponed the launch of a $500 mln cryptocurrency hedge fund in the wake of the pre-Christmas dip. Others may have gotten cold feet as well, but it is still likely we see the NASDAQ and Goldman Sachs enter the market in 2018.