Binance Denies Hack As Exchange Halts Trading
Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange Binance said it won’t resume trading or enable customer withdrawals until Friday amid a continued blackout blamed on a prolonged system upgrade.
The suspension has sparked fears that the exchange has been hacked, though Binance, responding to such comments on Twitter, has strongly pushed back against the claim.
According to the most recent statement from Binance, the exchange is expected to resume trading at 4 a.m. UTC on Friday.
“We will allow a 30-minute window where users can cancel open orders prior to trading being opened,” the exchange wrote. “We will continue to update every two hours until the upgrade is complete.”
The exchange first posted on Twitter about the trading outage on Wednesday, telling users that they may see some degraded performance for the duration.
However, two hours later chief executive Changpeng Zhao announced that a server issue caused data to fall out of sync, stating that the development team would have to re-sync from a master database. In subsequent tweets, Zhao said that the maintenance did not proceed as planned, prolonging the outage.
Binance first launched in the summer of 2017, and in recent months has become one of the largest venues for cryptocurrencies by trade volume. According to a December report from Tech In Asia, the exchange was seeing as much as $500 million in daily trading volumes at the time.
Turnstile image via Shutterstock
Written by Bitcoin.com
Bitcoin Couture Makes Its Debut at New York Fashion Week
From the Blockchain to the Catwalk
Bitcoin has been popping up in the unlikeliest of places recently, from Kentucky Fried Chicken to the catwalk. In an era in which everything is placed on the blockchain and “blockchain” is being placed in front of everything, it was inevitable that the crypto craze would be picked up by fashionistas sooner or later. Bitcoin has long since made the mainstream, but this is believed to be the first time it’s made the catwalk.
Fashion designers are notorious for tapping into whatever trends are en vogue, often commandeering movements and themes with little sensitivity or understanding of the underlying issues. Not that it’s necessary to comprehend distributed ledger technology to slap a bitcoin logo on a silk shirt of course; all that’s required is for a certain motif to be hot, and right now bitcoin ticks all the right boxes.
Ariel and Shimon Ovadia’s coda to NYFW saw them draw their inspiration from punk, Silicon Valley, and crypto. A collection of 35 men’s pieces was showcased, with the highlight – for bitcoiners at least – being a natty green shirt paired with a faux sailor’s cap. “Bitcoin accepted – No cash” ran the slogan on the side of the shirt. Judging by the haunted look in the model’s eyes as he traipsed down the catwalk, he was holding some very heavy crypto bags.
Many of the pieces exhibited at events such as New York Fashion Week are haute couture that’s destined never to make it to the high street. Thus, the prospects of snapping up Ovadia & Sons’ bitcoin shirt – and of being able to pay for it in bitcoin (no cash) – seem remote. Still, should any self-styled fashionistas fancy replicating the look, it’s nothing that couldn’t be whipped up in five minutes with the aid of a gaudy green shirt and an iron-on bitcoin logo.
Written by Bitcoin.com
NY Regulator Demands Vigilance Against Market Manipulation from Bitlicense Firms
Vigilant Against Market Manipulation
The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) has issued a guidance paper on Wednesday, reminding all cryptocurrency companies licensed by it that they are required to implement measures designed to effectively detect, prevent, and respond to fraud, attempted fraud, and similar wrongdoing. In addition, it reminded Bitlicense holders that they must be especially vigilant against efforts at market manipulation. The regulator has granted six Bitlicenses so far, including to Bitflyer USA, Coinbase Inc., XRP II and Circle Internet Financial, and charters to Gemini Trust Company and itBit Trust Company.
“DFS took the lead in 2015 in regulating the virtual currency market, and we continue to be vigilant concerning risks in these markets. Market manipulation presents serious risks, both to consumers and to the safety and soundness of financial services institutions,” said Superintendent Maria T. Vullo. “As the cryptocurrency markets continue to evolve, DFS is directing virtual currency companies to take the necessary steps to guard against fraud, and to be extra vigilant about manipulation. By these actions, the market can evolve with strong regulatory supervision.”
All Bitlicense Firms to Report Risks
In its guidance paper, the DFS also directed cryptocurrency firms to adopt measures that include effective implementation of a written policy to identify and assess the full range of fraud-related risk areas, including market manipulation. The policy should provides procedures and controls to protect against identified risks, allocate responsibility for monitoring those, and provide for the investigation of fraud and other wrongdoing, whether suspected or actual.
Immediately upon discovering any wrongdoing, a licensed cryptocurrency firm must submit a report to DFS with all the details. They must also submit, as soon as practicable, further reports of any developments along with a statement of the actions taken, and a statement of changes put in place in order to avoid repetition of similar events.
Written by Bitcoin.com
Where’s Greg? Maxwell Eyes New Bitcoin Projects After Blockstream
One of bitcoin’s most respected developers, Gregory Maxwell, is returning to his cypherpunk roots with a series of new projects.
After nearly four years as CTO of high-profile bitcoin technology startup Blockstream, he’s departed that position to focus exclusively on code. Mainly because, as Maxwell explained in his departure letter, he accomplished what he set out to do at the startup, addressing the “significant under-investment” in bitcoin’s technology at the time he joined.
But with a “much larger and more active” developer community around bitcoin today, Maxwell is going into 2018 an untethered man set on improving bitcoin smart contracts.
In this pursuit, Maxwell published a paper on something called “Taproot” in mid-January, an idea that improves upon the privacy of MAST, an idea, long in the making, that could beef up bitcoin’s smart contract abilities. Days later, Maxwell released another proposal called “Graftroot,” improving on MAST further.
So, why is this focus so attractive for Maxwell?
Maxwell told CoinDesk:
“I expect every transaction to eventually use these tools, at least in limited ways. They are an incremental improvement, making things that were already more or less possible more private and efficient. They replace or make much better things like MAST.”
And so far, many developers have praised Maxwell’s new work.
“Taproot is annoyingly clever,” Lightning Network creator Tadge Dryja quipped on Twitter, adding that while the idea sounds simple in hindsight, no one had thought about it before Maxwell.
Like a dandelion?
Maxwell’s interest seems to be aligning with greater attention to MAST now that SegWit (a code change MAST depends on) has been activated on bitcoin.
To understand MAST, it’s helpful to start by looking one of the common use cases of bitcoin today – M-and-N multi-signatures, which require that coins can only be spent if a certain number of users (such as two-of-two, three-of-five) approve the transaction. One problem that can arise in these types of transactions is that one party loses their private key to sign with or just decides altogether not to comply, and at that point the money is unspendable.
MAST allows users to add additional conditions for when a transaction can be spent in a more efficient way, helping to solve the above issue.
For example, a transaction can be set to lose the need for multiple signatures, if the multi-signature funds aren’t spent after, say, 10 years. The magic of MAST is that it can cram all of this logic into one transaction efficiently.
In short, with Taproot and Graftroot, Maxwell has found a way to further improve privacy for these advanced transactions.
In Maxwell’s eyes, the problem with MAST as it stands is that each MAST transaction looks different than a normal transaction, which can be harmful for privacy, since people viewing bitcoin’s public ledger could theoretically glean which transactions are using MAST and in turn, more about financial transactions they have no business knowing anything about.
Taproot improves privacy in MAST instances where multi-signatures is used, by making those transactions, once settled on the blockchain, look the same as other transactions.
While Maxwell admits the use case is narrow, he told CoinDesk:
“There has been a lot of hype about smart contracts, but real and meaningful useage of them hasn’t caught up with that hype yet.”
But taking baby steps backed by real uses cases could help expand bitcoin’s value proposition as programmable money.
Both proposals, according to Maxwell, make smart contracts “easier to implement, more fee efficient and more private,” he said. “Taproot and Graftroot improve the backend technology for these advanced applications and by doing so will contribute to making them more accessible to people.”
And this ability to accomplish complex transactions without exposing that complexity is where Taproot specifically got its name.
“Taproot is most efficient to use for smart contract usage that resembles the root system of plants like a dandelion – a thick central path and small alternatives,” Maxwell said.
Simple but useful
While Maxwell is sold on the ideas, Taproot has attracted minor debate.
One of Maxwell’s former co-workers at Blockstream, Mark Friendenbach, argued that Taprootshows that MAST, if implemented a certain way, could cause problems in the future. His contention isn’t that Taproot itself is a bad proposal (in fact he argues the exact opposite), but that many of the MAST implementations on the table today aren’t built with future iterations in mind.
While Chaincode developer Matt Corallo said Taproot’s additional privacy is “absolutely massive to the ecosystem” and “should not be handwaved away for vague possibly-advantages.”
As long as Taproot and Graftroot get approval from developers and the community, though, Maxwell said it is possible to roll out the technologies alongside “future signature system upgrades,” such as aggregate signatures, another project Maxwell has contributed to.
But there could be some barriers still. According to Maxwell, bitcoin smart contracts are still a long way off.
“For real smart contracts like these to gain wide use a lot of additional work is required especially in the area of providing good user interfaces to use them,” he said.
But still, if disagreements are overcome, implementing and rolling out MAST with Taproot and Graftroot will be relatively painless.
“Taproot is one of these ideas which are very simple to implement but very useful.”
Written by CoinDesk