Blockchain for Beer Advertising and the Air Force, DOJ Tackles Crypto Crimes, More Payment Initiatives Announced

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Blockchain Applications for Beer Advertising, Hotel Booking and the U.S. Air Force

By: Simone O. Otenaike

Late last week, a major U.S.-based beer brewing company launched a blockchain-based trivia game in conjunction with Vatom Labs as part of the firm’s “Know Your Beer” campaign. The mobile game, known as Great Taste Trivia, challenges players to answer 12 trivia questions correctly to win one of 10,000 cash prizes of $5 each. The brewing company relies on blockchain technology to secure and authenticate the $5 rewards. Also last week, a business and consumer travel services firm announced plans to use Hyperledger Fabric to build a system that tracks, manages and accounts for commissions owed to booking agents on behalf of hotel chains. The system will reportedly guarantee that agents’ commissions are paid, which will ultimately reduce the number of payment disputes.

In other news, the U.S. Air Force announced plans to employ the SIMBA blockchain to protect Additive Manufacturing in the field. Currently, long value chains present major security issues in manufacturing military applications, since hostile entities constantly seek to obtain or modify critical data. The Air Force’s Blockchain Approach for Supply Chain Additive Manufacturing Parts project will use the SIMBA Chain platform to decentralize Additive Manufacturing in the field and maintain data integrity. The U.S. Air Force also recently announced plans for another blockchain project with Constellation Network Inc. (Constellation). According to reports, the U.S. Air Force has multiple data sources such as drones, planes and satellites that need to be secured and consolidated so that data can be queried instantly. Constellation will reportedly provide the U.S. Air Force with a scalable and secure blockchain-based solution for big data processing, audit trails and live overview for both Air Force data pipelines and external data sources.

Last month, the World Economic Forum released a white paper that analyzes the question of public versus private blockchain solutions for global supply chains. The paper aims to outline important criteria to understand when dealing with public versus private blockchains and evaluates how each type of blockchain affects the eventual supply chain solution, depending on the context of the use case and its unique requirements. This paper is the third in a series related to responsible blockchain deployment in supply chains. The UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies also recently released a report that reviews blockchain adoption trends in the global supply chain industry. Among other things, the report highlights that more than half of the projects reviewed employ private blockchains, the grocery sector has the most active projects and roughly 15% of projects have moved beyond concept into production.

For more information, please refer to the following links:

Traditional and Emerging Blockchain Payments Firms Receive Licenses, Complete Pilots

By: Robert A. Musiala Jr.

Traditional and emerging financial institutions around the world made progress on blockchain initiatives this week. In Estonia, German bank WEG Bank reportedly obtained a cryptocurrency trading and custody license. In Switzerland, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, FINMA, issued two new banking and securities dealers’ licenses to two “blockchain based service providers,” SEBA Crypto AG and Sygnum AG. Elsewhere in Europe, one of the largest financial institutions in the world financed its first transaction on we.trade, a consortium-based blockchain platform that leverages Hyperledger Fabric to manage, track and protect transactions between small and midsize enterprises. And in the United States, a major bank became the first U.S. bank to process cross-border payments using the RippleNet blockchain platform.

Also this week, the Libra Association launched a public bug bounty program that allows developers to submit bugs and alert the association to security and privacy issues. According to the announcement, the program “is designed to encourage members of the security community to dig deep and help find even the most subtle bugs.” The announcement noted that bounties under the program “will scale up to $10,000 for critical issues on the testnet.” The news comes amid reports that European regulators have launched an investigation into the proposed Libra cryptocurrency related to concerns over anti-competitive behavior and the use of consumer data.

Finally, this week FINMA published new anti-money laundering guidance for cryptocurrency exchangers. According to the guidance, FINMA-regulated entities are prohibited from engaging in cryptocurrency transactions if information about the sender and recipient cannot be transmitted reliably. The new guidance is consistent with recently issued guidance from the Financial Action Task Force.

For more information, please refer to the following links:

Multiple Enforcement Actions Against Crypto Crimes, Order Issued in Billion-Dollar Bitcoin Lawsuit

By: Robert A. Musiala Jr.

Over the past 10 days, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has published six separate press releases providing details on enforcement actions involving cryptocurrencies. One press release announced that several Arizona residents had pleaded guilty and received prison sentences for their involvement in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and launder the proceeds. According to the press release, the defendants sold narcotics on the dark web and attempted to launder the proceeds by selling cryptocurrency through peer-to-peer exchangers. Another press release provided details on the sentencing of a dark market vendor who forfeited “millions of dollars in digital or crypto currency including Bitcoins, Stratis, Ethereum [and] 2350 Monero.” The press release noted that the forfeited assets included cryptocurrencies held in accounts at U.S.-based exchanges.

A third DOJ press release provided details on what is “believed to be the first federal criminal case charging an unlicensed money remitting business that used a Bitcoin kiosk.” The defendant “agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges for owning and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business where he exchanged up to $25 million in cash and virtual currency for individuals, including Darknet drug dealers and other criminals, some of whom used his Bitcoin ATM kiosk.” Another press release described charges against two Canadian nationals who allegedly “used a Twitter account with the name @HitBTCAssist to trick victims into thinking they were communicating with a customer service representative from HitBTC,” a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange.

A fifth press release described the sentencing of an Australian national “for money laundering with Bitcoin.” The investigation involved undercover agents who conducted money exchanges with the defendant, who agreed to exchange bitcoin for cash from narcotics proceeds. Finally, a sixth DOJ press release announced the indictment of a former software engineer at a major U.S. bank for unauthorized intrusion into stored data of the defendant’s former employer and more than 30 other companies. According to the press release, the defendant gained unlawful access to data on cloud servers and “used this access not only to steal data, but also used stolen computer power to ‘mine’ cryptocurrency for her own benefit, a practice known as ‘cryptojacking.’”

In addition to the DOJ actions, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) press release published late last week described an FTC settlement with the “promoters of recruitment-based cryptocurrency schemes.” The chain referral schemes (a type of pyramid scheme) involved the defendants using websites, YouTube videos, social media and conference calls to claim that they “could turn a payment of the equivalent of just over $100 into $80,000 in monthly income.” The defendants forfeited more than $500,000 and will be permanently barred from operating any other multilevel marketing or pyramid scheme.

In a final notable development, this week a federal court ordered self-proclaimed Bitcoin inventor Craig Wright to transfer half of his bitcoin holdings, which are believed to be worth billions of dollars, to the estate of David Kleiman. According to the order, Wright’s bitcoin holdings were produced in a 50-50 partnership with Kleiman to mine bitcoin and develop related Bitcoin technology.

For more information, please refer to the following links:

Hackers Wreaking Havoc in the Crypto Space

By: Jonathan D. Blattmachr

Gamers found themselves under threat this week, not from virtual baddies but from ransomware targeting players of Fortnite, a wildly popular online game. Some players downloaded what they thought was a helpful in-game add-on, but it turned out to be malware. Once it infects the targeted computer, the “Syrk” ransomware locks out its owner and promises to delete the computer’s files unless a bounty is paid. Fortnite players appear to be favorite targets of bad actors. Other malware infects gamers’ high-powered computers and uses them to mine cryptocurrencies.

French cops have broken up a botnet ring, which some estimate has made millions from fraud. The virus had infected thousands of computers in more than 100 countries, primarily in the Americas. As part of their plot, the fraudsters used ransomware, stole data from Israeli hospitals and patients, and even “mined” the cryptocurrency Monero. Investigators are still looking for those behind the scheme.

Cryptocurrency users are being warned about a new type of online attack, called “dusting.” Fraudsters send limited coins to users’ personal wallets and then track down their transactional activity. The attackers then perform a combined analysis of the pertinent IP addresses to identify the person or company controlling the wallet; phishing or blackmail follows. Experts advise using a VPN to vary IP addresses or using other methods that prevent monitoring by criminals.

For more information, please refer to the following links:

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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