Top Crypto News – 23/04/2018

All About Verge: The $1 Billion Cryptocurrency That’s Pumping On Porn


“The future has cum.”

Clad in balaclavas and carrying sacks of plastic coins redeemable for real cryptocurrency, porn stars stormed Wall Street last week with cries of “free money.” No late-night TV parody, the scene was rather meant to mark one of the most surprising announcements in crypto so far in 2018, the news that verge (XVG) had been officially added as a payment method on adult entertainment website Pornhub.

Indeed, with an average of 81 million visitors per day, the deal with the name-brand website has been heralded as a defining moment for the industry, one that has also done much to boost awareness of what was until April 17 among the lesser-known of the many privacy-centric cryptocurrencies.

But the news has stirred up criticisms as well.

A relatively small crypto asset by market cap, verge’s privacy measures have been long dismissed by some of the industry’s top researchers. As such, the response from the broader crypto community has been, at times, incredulous.

“I don’t view their deal with Pornhub as any endorsement or indication of their technical value,” Sarang Noether, a researcher at rival privacy-centric cryptocurrency monero, told CoinDesk. “It just indicates that you can make a deal with Pornhub if you pay millions of dollars.”

Of note in Noether’s comments is the nature of the Pornhub arrangement, which found the cryptocurrency’s users paying to incentivize the deal. In a matter of weeks, global verge users, or the “#vergefam” as they’re sometimes known, raised 75 million XVG, or $5.2 million, in donations toward the partnership.

And the payments are continuing to flood into the verge donation address, where they will eventually be put toward a strategy that verge core developer Justin “Sunerok” Valo described as “a global marketing campaign the likes of which you have never seen.”

“It’s going to change crypto in a really, really good way,” Valo told his fans.

But there’s a darker side to the promotion as well. Dismissed by one user as a “cult of teenagers,” verge’s avid followers are known for being outspoken, even going to war with the notorious security developer John McAfee on Twitter in what was allegedly a paid pump gone awry.

Perversely, though, some think the coin’s bad reputation might just increase its appeal.

Sarang told CoinDesk:

“If anything, I think verge will use this to push some kind of ‘bad boy of crypto’ image. Whether or not it succeeds, people now see it as the asset that a big porn site accepts.”


Stepping back, it’s worth noting that until recently, XVG was worth a fraction of a fraction of a cent.

A largely obscure cryptocurrency, it was originally created as “dogecoindark” back in 2014 by a little-known developer from Florida named Justin Valo, who has had some minor brushes with the law that he’s acknowledged as potentially related to recreational marijuana use.

A fork of the cryptocurrency named peercoin, dogecoindark aimed to achieve privacy by routing payments over Tor and IP2, two network anonymity protocols that conceal location data and IP addresses. Announced on the Tor mailing list, it was met by a cold reception, with a user replying that the “Tor community is not a suitable target for cheap scams using altcoins.”

In the peak of altcoin mania, the response on Bitcoin Talk, one of the oldest and most widely used forums for online cryptocurrency discussion, was similarly dismissive.

“If this coin makes it to an exchange, all hope is truly lost for crypto,” one user wrote.

Distinct from a closely woven pack of followers, dogecoindark remained largely unknown for several years. It rebranded to verge two years ago and saw brief price fluctuations as it was added to more exchanges.

According to Valo, the move corresponded with a software release that routed dogecoindark payments through IP2.

“The community decided we should rebrand to be taken more seriously,” Valo told CoinDesk.

Then, in December last year, the cryptocurrency went from $0.005 to $0.25 in a matter of days.

The boost corresponded with a tweet by John McAfee, founder of anti-viral McAfee software, who wrote that alongside monero and zcash, privacy-centric cryptocurrencies like verge “cannot lose.”

The tweet was allegedly accompanied by multiple statements by McAfee’s social media accounts predicting a meteoric rise for the cryptocurrency. McAfee later said these accounts were fake, and that the verge price had been “wrongly pumped beyond reason.”

Imperfect privacy

In technical circles, the reaction has been similar. Days after the McAfee incident, a website was published that leaked the location data of verge transactions.

The incident highlights another issue, that verge’s approach to privacy has long been a point of contention in the cryptocurrency space. Essentially, because its network routing protocol only conceals the location of its users – and not wallets, payments or identities – tracing analysis is easy to conduct.

“So much for Verge $XVG and their IP address privacy,” Riccardo Spagni, a core developer of monero, tweeted, with a link to the data dump. “Considering that IP address obfuscation is their single privacy claim, looks like they’re toast,” the developer wrote.

Still, the website was dismissed by the verge community as “fake news” and FUD, with others using the data dump as proof of the cryptocurrency’s aptitude.

“Those are just locations of Tor relay nodes,” Valo told CoinDesk. “None of those are our actual users’ home IP addresses.”

In a recent verge software release called the “wraith protocol,” the cryptocurrency project added so-called stealth addresses, a way to obscure the recipient of a transaction. Upcoming releases claim to include ring signatures, or RingCT, as well as smart contract and atomic swap capability.

But many in the cryptocurrency space are dismissive of these measures.

Sarang told CoinDesk:

“They make broad privacy claims that aren’t supported by their history, and they’re a perfect example of how the market generally can’t identify good design.”

Mining attack

But the privacy leak wasn’t the first attack.

Just weeks before the Pornhub partnership was announced, a hacker took over the verge blockchain, mining one block a second and printing millions of XVG.

Posted by a mining pool operator named “ocminer” on Bitcoin Talk, the attack was a mining exploit that allowed an attacker to create low difficulty blocks by manipulating timestamps.

Citing allegations of developer negligence, ocminer called verge “an absolutely trashy shitcoin” that had been “pumped in heaven through that tweet from John McAfee.”

Speaking to Valo, the miner continued: “Invest it into a decent dev team, as seriously, and everyone knows that, you have not the slightest idea of coding whatsoever.”

According to Sarang, reports and discussions of the event were silenced on the verge subreddit, alongside critical discussions of privacy.

But such controversy’s have not diminished verge’s fanbase.

Valo told CoinDesk:

“Our community never ceases to amaze me. It’s really hard to wrap my head around how large it really is.”

Pact with the devil

But even the verge community is not without its doubts.

For example, prior to the Pornhub announcement, rumors were circulating its developers might even seek to abscond with funds. That’s because 8.6 million XVG was moved out of the donation wallet into the Binance exchange, allegedly for Ledger hardware wallet integration, though the company has denied this.

And outside of the verge community, suspicion is even more rampant.

Speaking to CoinDesk, Leah Callon-Butler, co-founder of the sex-industry blockchain startup Intimate, said her company had been approached by Pornhub but had turned down the deal.

“ made a strategic decision to ignore the proposal because we did not wish to align ourselves with a brand that is widely known for the proliferation of free porn,” Callon-Butler said.

SpankChain CEO Ameen Soleimani also tweeted his blockchain startup declined to work with Pornhub for ethical reasons. In his mind, oscillating Verge price patterns showed clear evidence of a “pump and dump” scheme.

But tribulations aside, the move has rocketed the cryptocurrency to the center of the spotlight.

“You have to remember that 90 percent of the world is stupid, ” monero developer “rehrar” wrote in a developer chat, adding: “If you market to stupid, you get lots of money. Monero doesn’t market to stupid, but it should.”

And the self-funded marketing move has brought the little-known cryptocurrency right next to the industry’s biggest players.

Sarang told CoinDesk:

“Verge did a good job of marketing, and goodness knows, that apparently gets you pretty far in this space.”

Screenshot via YouTube
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Central Bank Of Iran Bans Banks From Crypto Dealings


The central bank of Iran has banned domestic banks and other financial institutions from dealing in cryptocurrencies, citing money-laundering concerns first raised in a circular from December 2017, Reuters reported Sunday, April 22.

Reuters cites Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA as saying Sunday:

“Banks and credit institutions and currency exchanges should avoid any sale or purchase of these currencies or taking any action to promote them.”

Today, April 23, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (REFRL) cites further details from the December circular:

“All cryptocurrencies have the capacity to be turned into a means for money-laundering and financing terrorism and in general can be turned into a means for transferring criminals’ money.”

The ban comes as the country braces itself for the possible renewal of U.S. sanctions on May 12, which has seen the national currency, the rial, plunge to unprecedented lows. Reuters further reports that Iran has unified its official and open market exchange rates and banned all money changing outside of banks, as it attempts to prop up the country’s ailing financial institutions and halt further currency slumps.

Iran’s stance towards crypto toughened notably in February 2018, when local media quoted the central bank’s intent to “control and prevent” what it views as “highly unreliable and risky” digital currencies.

Concurrent reports in February of Iran’s inquiry into issuing a state-back digital currencyprompted comparisons with Venezuela’s centrally-issued Petro, which many have viewed as a response to the country’s own crippling international sanctions.

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Telegram Urges Paper Airplane Protest, Pussy Riot Activist Arrested



Telegram Continues to Resist Russian Government Crackdown

“For 7 days Russia has been trying to ban Telegram on its territory – with no luck so far,” the still defiant founder of the encrypted messaging service posted to his personal channel. “I’m thrilled we were able to survive under the most aggressive attempt of internet censorship in Russian history with almost 18 million IP addresses blocked.”

Back on April 13, Dmitri S. Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson, stressed, “There is a certain legislation that demands certain data to be passed to certain services of the Russian Federation.” Judge Yulia Smolina agreed, ruling, “The ban on access to information will be in force until the [Federal Security Service’s] demands are met on providing keys for decrypting user messages.”

Telegram Urges Paper Airplane Protest, Pussy Riot Activist Arrested
Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina

Roskomnadzor, a censuring media body, made the most vigorous argument in asking the court to shutter Telegram. Last month, the company appealed before the Supreme Court over Russia’s Federal Security Service’s (FSB) 800,000 ruble fine. The FSB ordered Telegram to decrypt messages in accordance with relatively recent anti-terrorism laws. “We don’t do deals with marketers, data miners or government agencies. Since the day we launched in August 2013 we haven’t disclosed a single byte of our users’ private data to third parties,” a Telegram blog post insisted. Telegram was summarily banned, effective immediately.

An initial response by Mr. Durov came also on his personal channel, explaining, “To support internet freedoms in Russia and elsewhere I started giving out bitcoin grants to individuals and companies who run socks5 proxies and VPN. I am happy to donate millions of dollars this year to this cause, and hope that other people will follow. I called this Digital Resistance – a decentralized movement standing for digital freedoms and progress globally.”

Telegram Urges Paper Airplane Protest, Pussy Riot Activist Arrested
Paper airplanes flown at Russia’s security agency in protest over country’s ban on Telegram.

The Digital Resistance Gets Paper Wings

Activists took to the streets roughly 4 days ago, placing themselves in front of the Federal Security Services’ headquarters, armed with colored paper. They then began to make paper airplanes in remembrance of the iconic Telegram logo. Not soon after, busses of uniformed police rolled up, and began dispersing the crowd, and wound up arresting Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina. She was brought before a nearby magistrate, booked on blocking a public passageway, and released.

In response, Mr. Durov insisted on April 22, “If you live in Russia and support free internet, fly a paper plane from your window at 7 PM local time today. Please collect the airplanes in your neighborhood an hour later – remember, today is Earth Day. My thanks to all the members of the #Digitalresistance movement. Keep up your great work setting up socks5-proxies and VPNs and spreading them among your Russian friends and relatives. They will be needed as the country descends into an era of full-scale internet censorship.”

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Circle’s OTC Crypto Desk Doubles Minimum Orders to $500,000 While Clearing $100 Million Trades


‘The market is robust.”

That’s how Jeremy Allaire, chief executive of fintech startup Circle, described the nascent institutional cryptocurrency trading market, which he says has grown dramatically in 2018 even as prices entered a bear cycle.

Speaking with Business Insider, Allaire said that Circle Trade — the company’s over-the-counter (OTC) trading desk  — has doubled its minimum order size in recent weeks, though most trades are much larger.

“The minimum ticket size has moved up to $500,000 with an average of $1 million,” he said.

Previously, Circle Trade’s minimum order size had been set at $250,000, with the firm reporting that it was handling about $2 billion worth of OTC trades per month.

OTC trading is crucial for increased institutional adoption of cryptoassets, as these platforms allow traders to execute large orders outside of conventional exchanges, where a large order may cause a violent price swing that ripples throughout the global markets.

The trustee of now-defunct Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, for instance, drew criticism when he revealed that he had liquidated about $400 million worth of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash on order-book exchanges rather than using an OTC trading desk.

Allaire said that Circle, which has received financial backing from Goldman Sachs, has processed individual trades in excess of $100 million.

“That watermark will continue to rise,” he predicted.

A variety of platforms offer OTC trading for institutional clients, and the number continues to expand as large firms begin to dip their toes into this asset class.

Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange founded by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, recently announced that it would begin offering block trading, with transaction data reported on a delay to minimize its impact on exchange pricing. Another US-based exchange, Kraken, began offering OTC trading in April as well.

But though institutional trading remains a central focus for Circle’s cryptocurrency ventures, the company has also increasingly expanded its retail-focused product line in recent months.

Earlier this year, Circle acquired cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex in a deal reportedly worth $400 million. Then, the company launched Circle Invest, a cryptocurrency investment app that allows users to make commission-free trades that leverage the company’s OTC trading desk.

Featured image from Shutterstock.
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