Top Crypto News – 11/05/2018

UPbit Suspected of Fraud


Korean prosecutors have conducted search and seizure against the nation’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, UPbit, on charges of fraud.

The financial investigation team of the Seoul Southern District public prosecutors’ office sent prosecutors and investigators to UPbit headquarters in the Gangnam District on the 10th and 11th of this month to secure computer hard disks and accounting records.

Prosecutors allege that the company has been transferring funds from customer accounts to a separate account. The separate account is suspected to belong to an executive at UPbit.

The prosecutors have been investigating domestic exchanges since March. The first target of the investigations was Coinnest. Last month, Kim Ik-hwan, chairman of Coinnest, was detained over charges of embezzlement and fraud.

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Ripple: XRP Pilot Cuts Payment Fees Up to 70%


Distributed ledger startup Ripple published the results of its xRapid pilot programs on Thursday,

The report focused on the company’s offering centered around the cryptocurrency XRP, stating that pilot-takers saw significant savings on fees as well as overall transaction times. The company has announced a number of partnerships in recent months with companies piloting xRapid as well as xCurrent, another offering that does not utilize XRP.

Head of product Asheesh Birla told CoinDesk that the company looked at seven pilot projects, finding that the results were fairly similar across the board. As a result, the startup aggregated the data into the 40-70 percent savings released in its report on Thursday. He also noted that transactions across borders only took a few minutes, compared to a period of several days for traditional payments of that kind.

The platforms piloting xRapid recognized that speed, he said, adding “they were like, ‘Wow, this entire thing is happening in a matter of seconds all the way through,’ and that’s just not possible given the way the current legacy financial system works.”


While the transactions from one financial institution to another took a few minutes, the portion actually involving the XRP ledger only took a few seconds, Birla said. The bulk of the time spent was caused by the institutions converting fiat to XRP and back through local exchanges.

“It takes a few minutes to process and send out into local rails,” he said.

Now Ripple plans to focus on moving from pilot programs to full-scale launches, he said, though there is no firm timeline yet for those plans.

“We’re going to continue running pilots and we’re working on putting the final touches on the product. The next step now is moving those customers from pilot to production,” Birla explained, adding:

“With financial products and payments, there is no Silicon Valley ‘move fast and break things,’ we really have to make sure we’re buttoned up from security standpoint, from the compliance standpoint.”

XRP token image via Shutterstock
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Telegram Reportedly Testing Service to Store Data for Identity Verification 


Telegram Passport to Prevent Anonymous Crypto Payments

Developers at Telegram are conducting closed tests of a new service designed to store personal data, according to sources quoted by Russian media. Telegram Passport will be used to verify identities of users on the messenger’s Telegram Open Network. They will be able to buy goods and pay for services on the TON blockchain platform with Telegram’s crypto token called Gram.

Customers will provide their personal details and documents, such as copies of IDs, passports, drivers’ licenses, utility bills, bank statements, and possibly photographs. Once uploaded, the information can be potentially shared with Telegram’s partners within the platform, but also on their systems, Vedomosti reported, quoting two sources close to the company.

Telegram Passport, which may be launched by the summer, is expected to effectively prevent anonymity associated with crypto payments, which is a worrisome aspect for regulators around the world, explained Alexander Filatov, partner at SP Capital. His consulting company has invested in TON and facilitated investments of other interested parties.

A number of partner businesses will be able to take advantage of the service. The Russian payments services provider Qiwi has already been granted access to the system, according to the report. The company is said to be cooperating with the messenger on the launch of Telegram Passport.

Initially, only the users, not even Telegram, will have access to their details and documents. They will be able to secure the data with a password and two factor authentication. The company will use the information only with the account holder‘s consent, according to information shared on the closed pages of cited by the Russian outlet. Once Telegram’s partners receive the data, they can verify it according to their own standards.

Others are Working on Similar Concepts

Telegram’s main competitors in that field are mature systems that use authorization services provided by third-party platforms via Google, Facebook, or Windows Live, said Dmitry Ufaev, head of the Russian operations of Bitfury, a leading manufacturer of software and hardware blockchain solutions. In his words, Telegram Passport will allow the messenger to circumvent these established services, providing greater privacy and data security to its users. This will be a reputational advantage, Ufaev noted.

Other major companies are working in the same direction as well, and Telegram is likely to face hefty competition. The Chinese messenger Wechat has already implemented money transfers for users and service providers on its platform. The company is currently testing a digital identity verification system with face detection functionality which should be more efficient than verification based on copies of documents. The tech giant Apple is also working on its Face ID system.

According to Alexei Prokofiev, partner at two venture capital funds, states will eventually switch to identity verification based on biometrics. “It’s a matter of digital sovereignty,” he believes. In his opinion, if Telegram does not establish relations with government authorities, it may fail to acquire licenses for providing services in jurisdictions where biometric verification is required by law.

News that Telegram is working on its blockchain platform TON came out in January. The company founded by entrepreneur Pavel Durov was able to attract investments worth a total of $1.7 billion dollars to finance the project. Goods, services and other content on TON will be paid with Gram, Telegram’s own crypto. Recently, the messenger called off a planned public initial coin offering.

Durov’s company has been involved in a bitter conflict with authorities in Moscow following its refusal to hand over its encryptions keys to FSB, the Federal Security Service. Despite some interruptions, attempts by Russian regulators to block the service in the country have been unsuccessful so far. Russia’s telecom regulator Roskomnadzor has been trying to restrict access to the messenger since April 16 after a decision by a district court in Moscow from April 13.

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‘Ebay for CryptoKitties’ Raises $2 Million from All-Star VCs


More money is being poured into crypto cats.

Well, cats, and the slew of other non-fungible digital items made possible by new token standards, such as ethereum’s ERC-721. And these crypto collectibles now have a home in OpenSea, a marketplace for allowing users to buy and sell these items – an Ebay for CryptoKitties if you will.

Coming out of Y-Combinator last winter, OpenSea today announced a $2 million seed equity round led by 1confirmation, with participation from a series of other high-profile crypto investors, including Founders Fund, Foundation Capital, Blockchain Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Chernin Group, Stable Fund and Blockstack.

“When CryptoKitties came out, it was this exciting, mainstream, fun use case for blockchain,” Devin Finzer, co-founder of OpenSea, told CoinDesk.

Indeed, the ethereum-based decentralized application for buying, selling and breeding digital cats was a quick hit within the community, launching in November last year and peaking in December, when the game nearly brought the ethereum blockchain to a halt as it tried to deal with a significant increase in transactions.

Many concluded that the game helped push blockchain technology and cryptocurrency into the mainstream, and others argued that the game displayed a blockchain use case that could expand away from silly cats and into serious business (such as real estate). For instance, Union Square Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz led a $12 million investment round to spin CrypoKitties out of its parent company so that the team could really dig deeper into future applications for the concept of non-fungible digital items.

And while those serious applications have yet to be realized, a spate of similar games were created after CryptoKitties success, including the more general CryptoPets, CryptoCelebrities and Crypto All-Stars.

But according to OpenSea, users need a place to more easily buy and sell those items.

It turns out OpenSea wasn’t alone: the decentralized online marketplace for physical items OpenBazaar has plans to open up its platform for digital items such as CryptoKitties as well, plus OPSkins recently created Wax, a platform for spinning up decentralized exchange services for these items.

So far, it looks like a fine idea, according to Finzer, who said:

“We’ve so far had about half a million [dollars] in volume pass through our marketplace.”

The go-to marketplace

One of the keys to OpenSea’s success, according to Finzer, is the team’s relationship with crypto game developers.

As to be expected, OpenSea has done best in offering a “store” for games that don’t already have built-in marketplaces (many game developers want to focus on the game and so aren’t keen to building a marketplace on top). As those game developers hear about OpenSea, they’ve typically just made OpenSea the game’s official digital shop.

“We’ve kind of developed a synergistic relationship with game developers,” Finzer said, adding that OpenSea offers a revenue share model depending on what marketplace duties are handled by what party (although Finzer declined to discuss this in more detail).

Yet, OpenSea is available for more than just games, although that’s the company’s main stream of business. For instance, one art project used OpenSea and Finzer said it could also work as a marketplace for software licenses.

We’ve barely scratched the surface on what these crypto collectibles and a marketplace for them could offer.

One thing that’s interesting about these programs, for instance, is that because a CryptoKitty, for example, is just a piece of code, different interfaces will create completely different visualizations of that cat (as recently displayed by a viral art image made purely from code).

These different visualizations could be shared between users and might make the games even more fun.

Zombies for kitties?

Plus, Finzer wants to facilitate the trade of items that aren’t even part of the same game.

This would go above and beyond digital games today, where items that are part of a centralized game must stay within that universe, he said, adding:

“I could be breeding zombies and you could be breeding kitties. I think what that results in is, these items having a lot more value than they would in the existing digital world.”

In fact, this kind of cross-collaboration has already happened – a new game called KittyRace allows users to race their CryptoKitties.

This kind of thing, Finzer said, has garnered quite a bit of interest from other crypto gaming companies.

This interest in digital items isn’t new only to the world of cryptocurrency, though. In fact, the market for gold within the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft is so lucrative that prisoners in China are made to mine the stuff for sale to gamers in the developed world.

Yet, Finzer said, he plans to stay out of the world of trading digital items for physical cash, namely because it’s a business that’s somewhat frowned upon, but also because he doesn’t see a lot of opportunity in enticing more traditional gaming companies to move to a blockchain.

“The technological benefits of moving an existing game to a blockchain are actually negative now,” he said.

That doesn’t get Finzer down, though. He sees tremendous opportunity focused on crypto.

He concluded:

“Our thesis is that the most interesting use cases for blockchain-based games will come from new games rather than existing games.”

CryptoKitties image via CoinDesk archive
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