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The Security of Your Password Vault: An Interview with Keeper’s Co-Founder

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Passwords. The keys to verify your credentials on every single online platform that you use. With the multitude of social media accounts, online services, email addresses, banking logins and more, it is entirely likely that you may find remembering multiple passwords (a good security practice) to be, overwhelming.

If you’re an everyday user of the Internet frequenting several websites that seek credentials, you are likely to be using a password manager, or an encrypted password vault that stores your passwords. Password managers are a no-brainer solution in this day of mandatory form-filling and entering credentials. They are now available as cross-platform products that can be installed as an application on your phone. Quite simply a no-brainer, a password manager helps make your time spent on the internet to be a seamless experience.

Despite the benefits, the reality is that every platform, product or service can be hacked. Skilled white-hat hackers bring vulnerabilities and bugs to the developer’s attention while malicious hackers profit from the exploits they devise for the vulnerabilities. Hacked readers will remember a recent report wherein LastPass, a contender for the most widely used password manager of them all, was revealed to contain “a number of bugs, bad practices, and design issues,” as two security researchers put it. The researchers also claimed there is no “bug-free” software, insisting that any further research on password managers would “likely have similar results.”

Hacked spoke to Craig Lurey, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Keeper, a prominent password manager and digital vault that adheres to SOC-2 compliance, a top-level security certification.

Why isn’t consumer-end security given precedence? For instance, why is SOC-2 not widely implemented by security companies for end-users and consumers?

SOC-2 compliance is not easy to obtain because it structurally changes the entire software development process, security, operations and data management of the company.  It requires continuous improvement, optimization and a team that embraces the process.  We’re proud that Keeper is the only SOC-2 certified company across the entire password management industry. Keeper is also a Zero-knowledge security provider. Zero-knowledge is a system architecture that guarantees the highest levels of security and privacy by adhering to the following principles:

  • Data is encrypted and decrypted at the device level (not on the server)

  • The application never stores plain text (human readable) data

  • The server never receives data in plain text

  • No employee or intermediary can view the unencrypted data

  • The keys to decrypt and encrypt data are derived from the user’s master password

  • Multi-Layer encryption provides access control at the user, group and admin level

  • Sharing of data uses Public Key Cryptography for Secure key distribution

Data is encrypted on the user’s device before it is transmitted and stored in Keeper’s digital vault. When data is synchronized to another device, the data remains encrypted until it is decrypted on the other device.

We’re color-brand-white@2xconfident that Keeper is the most secure, certified, tested and audited password management and digital vault in the world. We are the only SOC-2 certified password management solution in the industry and certified by TRUSTe for online privacy.

Not only do we implement the most secure levels of encryption, but we also adhere to very strict internal practices that are continually audited by third parties.

Where is the Keeper user’s encrypted record stored?

Customer data is encrypted and stored locally on the user’s device using 256-bit AES.  The user’s master password derives an encryption key using PBKDF2, and that key decrypts other keys that are then used to encrypt and decrypt the record-level data.  Keeper uses multiple layers of encryption.

The cipher keys used to encrypt and decrypt customer records are not stored or transmitted to Keeper’s Cloud Security Vault. However, to provide syncing abilities between multiple devices, an encrypted version of this cipher key is also stored in the Cloud Security Vault and provided to the devices on a user’s account. This encrypted cipher key can only be decrypted on the device for subsequent use as a data cipher key.

If a person is interested to dig into the low-level encryption methods of Keeper, they can check out our open source API called Keeper Commander.  Our full security disclosure is published here.

Amazon recently and finally started two-factor authentication for its customers’ accounts. What are some of the practices that you see will gain wider adoption among the masses for better security?

The use of two-factor authentication is definitely a growing movement as companies begin to grasp the severity of data breaches. Adding a process like 2FA to control access over the network layer will become the norm in a few years time. Another process we see going mainstream is the integration of security directly into the hardware and software layers of devices. If devices come pre-loaded with security applications, users will develop better security hygiene from the start rather than having to learn a behavior.

How does Keeper ensure a safe account recovery process compared to other password managers’?

Keeper has a unique and secure Zero-knowledge account recovery process to ensure that customers can access their accounts in the case of a lost Master Password.

During account signup, you are asked to select a Security Question and Answer. Also during signup, Keeper generates a ‘data key’ which is used to encrypt and decrypt the ‘record keys’ stored with each of your vault records. Your ‘data key’ is encrypted with your master password, and each record key is encrypted with the ‘data key’. Each record has an individual, different ‘record keys’.

The way account recovery works is by storing a second copy of your data key that is encrypted with your Security Question and Answer. To complete a vault recovery, your are required to enter an email verification code, and also your Two-Factor Authentication code (if enabled on your account). We recommend creating a strong security question and answer, as well as turning on Keeper’s Two-Factor Authentication feature from the ‘Settings’ screen.

We’re the only product in the industry to offer this secure method of account recovery in a Zero-knowledge environment.

Are there any drawbacks to 2FA? If so, what are they?

Not really. 2FA can be implemented in many different forms, and most consumers are not familiar with the terminology.  This is why we refer to 2FA in our product as “Keeper DNA”.  We offer the user many choices and options in their 2FA configuration.  For example, users can authenticate with their Apple Watch or Android Wear device with a single tap.  Nobody else in the password management industry is offering this.

Full disclosure: I’m a user of LastPass’ free service. Why do I need to — if I need to — switch over to Keeper?

We’re the only Zero Knowledge and certified platform, made for the mass consumer market as well as the enterprise environment.  When you use Keeper, you’ll immediately notice the quality of the service and the ease of use across mobile, desktop and browsers.  We prioritize security and ease of use over quantitative features.  Many of our competitors such as LastPass are buggy, confusing, and springs fly out every time you use it.  Buggy and complex software inevitably leads to security vulnerabilities which has been reported widely in the press.  We spend a massive amount of time improving our user experience while building the most secure product.

Featured image from Shutterstock. Keeper logo from Keeper.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsSamburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.




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5 Comments

  1. Bob Archer

    December 7, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    “Many of our competitors such as LastPass are buggy, confusing, and springs fly out every time you use it.”

    Such FUD. Also, Last Pass is a zero knowledge product too at half the price.

    Security questions can be less secure than a strong password. The user is always the weakest link in the chain.

    • P. H. Madore

      December 8, 2015 at 12:57 am

      Although I agree it’s fuddish, you should check out some recent and interesting vulns discovered in LastPass: https://hacked.com/researcher-even-lastpass-will-hacked/

      That’s not to say Keeper won’t have its own problems, and for the record I still use LastPass, though I’ve followed the researcher’s recommendations.

  2. aaron ashfield

    December 9, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    We should not be using a password vault. The solution is to KILL passwords. Secure Access Technologies removes all passwords, and replaces them with a fingerprint on your phone.

  3. Hua Li

    June 8, 2016 at 7:30 am

    These days we have so many passwords to remember. We need passwords for email accounts, banking websites, social media accounts, online shopping, just about everything needs a password! The average person needs to log into about 20 different accounts regularly and passwords often have requirements that you need to include numbers, symbols and capital letters. How can we remember so many different complex passwords? Although the experts warn us not to use the same password for all our accounts, most of us are guilty of this little shortcut.

    However, reusing the same password for all your accounts carries great risk. If even one of your accounts is hacked, then criminals can get access to all your important accounts, including bank accounts! Or if hackers gain access to your email account then they can use the password reset links on websites to gain control of your other accounts.

    A solution to this problem, is to use a secure password manager to store and even generate passwords for you. CoverMe’s encrypted password protected vault includes a password manager for you to store all your passwords.

    CoverMe’s secure password manager is organized into 6 categories: ID Cards, Wallet, Web Sites, Accounts, Email, Others.

    In ID cards, you can store information like driver’s license, passport and membership cards. In Wallet, you can save your credit card, debit card, bank account, Paypal and Alipay information. In Website, you can store information about any website you want and the most popular websites are already listed to get you started, such as Facebook, Google and YouTube. Accounts is where you would put information about your computer password, server password, iTunes and Dropbox. In Email, you can save passwords for Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo or any other email accounts. In Others, you can save things like software license key, calling card numbers or whatever you like.

    CoverMe’s not only stores passwords, but it can also generate unique, random passwords for you to use. Use CoverMe password manager to safely store all your passwords for you on your phone!

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How You Could Profit From The Fairfax County Investment In Morgan Creek Digital

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Morgan Creek Digital recently scored what it says is probably the first investment in the known crypto asset universe from a U.S. pension fund.

Two pension plans in Fairfax County, Virginia are anchor investors in a new $40 million venture-capital fund, according to a statement from the company. Other investors include an insurance company, a university endowment and a private foundation, said Morgan Creek Digital founder Anthony Pompliano, who declined to provide further details.

Fairfax County Retirement Systems manages three separate defined benefit plans, two of which invested in the Morgan Creek Digital fund, said Pompliano. Katherine Molnar, chief investment officer of one of the funds said in a statement that blockchain technology is an “emerging opportunity” that offers an “attractive asymmetric return profile.’’

Morgan Creek Digital, which is an affiliate of the investment manager Morgan Creek Capital Management LLC, exceeded its original target of $25 million for the fund. Its pitch: all traditional assets will eventually be represented by digital tokens, while the influx of intellectual capital into digital assets will create positive returns. It also argues that cryptocurrencies are not correlated to traditional assets, giving investors unique exposures.

The fund created by Morgan Creek Digital in New York is investing in cryptocurrency giant Coinbase, which was recently valued at $8 billion, and several lesser-known startups, including Blockfi, RealBlocks, TrustToken, Harbor, Open Finance Network, CityBlock Capital, Namebase, Good Money and Digital Assets Data.
As much as $4 million of the investment could eventually be used to purchase cryptocurrency directly, though that has not happened yet.

This sort of development is crucial for the digital asset markets to evolve. Let’s take a closer look at Morgan Creek Digital’s other blockchain companies, and see if there might be equity or token opportunities.

CityBlock Capital

CityBlock Capital offered a digital security token sale on the SharesPost platform, representing perhaps the lowest-barrier investment opportunity for someone looking to tag onto the Fairfax County investment in Morgan Creek Digital.

CityBlock’s NYCQ Blockchain Infrastructure Fund invests in companies building blockchain-based capital markets infrastructure. From the instantaneous settlement of trades, elimination of intermediaries, and the reduction of fraud, the fund’s portfolio companies include clearing houses, exchanges, depositories, makers of market aggregation tools, securities services firms, data analytics, smart contract auditors, and issuance platforms. Its focus is early-stage firms, with ten percent of its funds going to late-stage companies.

CityBlock’s digital tokens are designed to represent ownership interests in the fund. Investors will be able to buy and sell these assets on SharesPost’s Alternative Trading System (ATS), which is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

TrustToken

If you’re looking for a stablecoin, this Morgan Creek Digital-backed option might be a nice tool to escape crypto-volatility. TrustToken’s first token is TrueUSD, a stablecoin redeemable one-to-one for U.S. dollars. Over its initial four months of trading, the coin’s market increased to $85 million as investors look for stability in the unstable world of crypto. The token has a $61 million hard cap on the token allocated over three tranches of $0.12, $0.14 and $0.16 per trust token.

In the TrueUSD system, dollars are kept in the escrow accounts of multiple trust companies, not a bank account. Those accounts verified by an independent third party that issues monthly reports on the funds held in collateral.

Blockfi

In need of liquidity and have a lot of crypto you could put up as collateral? Blockfi is now operating in the US, and could be the business solution you need. BlockFi is a New York-based secured non-bank lender of  USD loans to cryptoasset owners who collateralize the loan with cryptoassets. Blockfi iquidity is available to both individuals and institutions. Client Bitcoin and Ether is held with a registered custodian. Loans are issued in USD to their bank account.

BlockFi currently operates in 35 US States, lending to retail investors and companies. It raised approximately $1.5 million in seed funding earlier this year from ConsenSys Ventures, SoFI and Kenetic Capital, followed by Galaxy Digital Ventures investment of $52.5 million. $50 million, the lion’s share of the capital, will be used to loan to BlockFi’s customers. The remaining $2.5 million represents an equity investment in the company from Galaxy and earlier backers.

Namebase

Namebase offers probably the most unique idea in which Morgan Creek Digital invests. This platform enables the registration of top-level domains on the Handshake blockchain. As a fork of Bitcoin, Handshake allows users to register domain names. Registration records are maintained by a decentralized network of nodes. Handshake is compatible with the existing domain name system. It is easily integrated with mainstream browsers.

Handshake uses the Bitcoin software with some extra transaction types allowing users to bid on names on-chain. Handshake forked everything about the Bitcoin node software while not forking the UTXO set, like in the case of Zcash. The Handshake project plans to distribute 70% of the coin supply to open source developers, projects, and non-profits without any contractual expectation of work.

Bakkt

The Bakkt Bitcoin Daily Future is a physically delivered daily futures contract on Bitcoin traded in BTC/USD. It’s still subject to regulatory approval, but ICE plans for them to be traded on its electronic trading platform which is regulated by the CFTC. ICE Clearing US, the main counterparty for all ICE cleared forex futures trades, will clear and guarantee all trades, to be settled in physically delivered Bitcoin “in the regulated Bakkt Warehouse.”

Bakkt raised $18.2 million to develop a global digital assets platform and a bitcoin futures product. Owned by Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), which in turn is owned by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Bakkt’s investors include Boston Consulting Group, Galaxy Digital, Goldfinch Partners, ICE, M12 (Microsoft’s VC fund), Pantera Capital and Protocol Ventures.

Digital Assets Data

This financial technology and data company build enterprise-grade software and data feeds for crypto hedge funds and other market participants. The companies data, information and transparency tools will be applied to crypto assets, including currencies, platforms, applications, side chains, security tokens, and initial coin offers (ICOs) through subscription services offered to hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Harbor

While companies like Polymath stole much of security token show in early 2018, Harbor’s blockchain-based platform and compliance protocol has also been built to transform private securities like commercial real estate offerings an investment funds into more liquid forms of private investment.

This institutional-grade onramp for issuers and investors is an end-to-end service. Investor on-boarding to the platform encompasses KYC, AML, accreditation and tax forms, signing of documents, funding, and other tasks. The Harbor compliance protocol manages complex rules and regulations governing securities on issuance and secondary transfers.

Open Finance Network

Created in 2014, The OpenFinance Network (OFN) uses blockchain technology to create an U.S. regulated security token platform. “We wanted to give users the control over their funds. Since with security tokens, there is a lot of overhead holding tokens on a centralized platform. So to put capital to better use, we went with self-custody. We are not entirely decentralized though, and we think this is attractive to all types of users.”

Open Finance Network is comprised of the ledger, the token and the adaptors. Open Finance’s a global registry of assets that are represented by security tokens as well as entities such as broker-dealers, transfer agents, custodians or escrow agents that can be used on different security token processes.

Good Money

Good Money is a new type of banking platform founded by Gunnar Lovelace. When a new customer signs up with Good Money, they receive an equity share – in other words, they become co-owners. Lovelace says customers could hold as much as 70% one day.

Good Money operates similar to a credit union, which are non-profits, and offers members no ATM or overdraft fees. 50% of its profits are invested into green projects and charitable donations. The platform’s customers vote on where profits should be invested, but the options will only include sustainable investments, like clean energy and reforestation efforts.

RealBlocks

RealBlocks is creating a real estate capital markets platform designed to connect users globally so they can more easily raise capital for real estate. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, the platform allows organizations to raise capital through the issuance of tokenized securities.

On the platform, investors can directly purchase ownership interest in real estate with digital and fiat currencies. The platform also claims to provide a mechanism for peer-to-peer liqudity. According to RealBlocks, “anyone in the world is now able to directly invest, raise capital, and obtain liquidity for investments in real estate.” The platform also provides a mechanism for peer-to-peer liquidity. By using RealBlocks, anyone in the world is now able to directly invest, raise capital, and obtain liquidity for investments in real estate.

Conclusion

“There’s a belief in the institutional world that if the industry will be around for a long time, it will be very valuable,’’ Pompliano said in a phone interview. “The smart money is not distracted by price but looks at the long-term trends, and believes they’re betting on innovation as a great way to deliver risk-mitigated returns.’’

Today, even police officers and other state employees in Virginia’s Fairfax County are now looking forward to retirement with potential dividends from bitcoin. Two separate pension funds that collectively manage $5.1 billion in assets for the state’s police force and other employees have joined a $40 million investment in the Morgan Creek Blockchain Opportunities Fund.

If you look at the startups in which Morgan Creek Digital is invested, there are few token options. Using TrueUSD to hedge your crypto-investments offers one opportunity to augment your investment strategy. More interestingly, the CityBlock Capital security token represents an alternative to other VC-backed securities tokens, such as Blockchain Capital’s BCAP.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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5 stars on average, based on 2 rated postsJustin O'Connell is the founder of financial technology focused CryptographicAsset.com. Justin organized the launch of the largest Bitcoin ATM hardware and software provider in the world at the historical Hotel del Coronado in southern California. His works appear in the U.S.'s third largest weekly, the San Diego Reader, VICE and elsewhere.




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Netflix Price Hike Helps Bag $10 Million Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Documentary

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Shortly after Netflix announced it would be raising the costs of subscriptions for U.S customers, the movie streaming giant just splashed out $10 million to secure a documentary on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Bearing the politically provocative title of Knock Down the House, the movie was subject to a bidding war at the Sundance Film Festival last week, where Netflix outbid competitors such as Amazon and Hulu to gain rights to air it on their platform.

The $10 million figure was only revealed this week, however, and it immediately takes its place in the record books as the largest purchase ever recorded for a documentary film at Sundance.

Netflix Economics

As discussed previously on Hacked, the price hike enacted by Netflix – which saw standard subscriptions rise from $7.99 to $9.99 per month – is unlikely to affect the company in a negative way. While the stock price did stumble earlier in the week, it recovered 2.6% rapidly just days later.

HD and multi-screen subscriptions were subject to the largest price hike in the company’s history – from $10.99 up to $12.99; an increase of over 18%. The premium plan, which encompasses streaming on four seperate devices, rose from $13.99 to $15.99, making it more expensive than competitor HBO NOW for the first time in its history.

One of Netflix’s main advantages is its international user-base – one which reached as high as 117 million in 2018. Only 55 million of those users came from inside the U.S, which begs the question: how did a documentary about a regional political representative in New York’s 14th district become the most sought after cinematic property in Sundance history?

Knock Down the House

According to the plot summary:

“The film follows four women who decided to run for Congress in the 2018 United States elections: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Amy Vilela of Nevada, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia. Vilela, Bush, and Swearengin lost in the primary round, but Ocasio-Cortez won the election.”

Whether it’s true or just an attempt at legend, the story goes that director Rachel Lears began working on the film the day after Donald Trump was elected president.

The film won the Sundance Favourite award last Thursday, and has accumulated a score of 6.1/10 from twenty-four votes on IMDB; and a 100% positive score from eight early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. On reviewer from IndieWire gave the film a ‘B’ rating, adding:

“Stylistically, the film isn’t at all fussy: on-screen graphics are straightforward and informative, and Lears leaves the editorializing out of her introductory captions, though the film’s score often proves manipulative during the most unnecessary of times.”

With recent Sandra Bullock starrer, Bird Box, estimated to have been viewed by over 80 million households, it will be interesting to see if Knock the House Down translates just as well to an international audience. Although, Netflix can probably afford to take a hit for the sake of pushing its new political favourite.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 147 rated postsGreg Thomson is a full-time crypto writer and digital nomad. He eats ICOs for breakfast and bleeds altcoins. Wherever he lays his public key is his home.




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ICE Has Raised $182.5 Million for Upcoming Bakkt Trading Platform

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The downturn in crypto has not deterred high-profile investors from betting big on the future of the market. Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the world’s largest stock exchange operator, has raised $182.5 million in support of its Bakkt cryptocurrency venture.

Bakkt: Institutional Support Grows

The Bakkt startup has raised $182.5 million from more than a dozen high-profile investors and venture capital firms, CEO Kelly Loeffler announced Monday. First-round investors include: Boston Consulting Group, CMT Digital, Eagle Seven, Galaxy Digital, Goldfinch Partners, Alan Howard, Horizons Ventures, Microsoft’s venture capital arm, M12, Pantera Capital, PayU, Naspers’ fintech arm and Protocol Ventures.

“Our work today is centered on driving institutional access for digital assets, along with merchant and consumer uses, and we’re already expanding on this vision, collaborating with great companies like Starbucks in these efforts,” Loeffler said.

Further details on Bakkt’s 2019 objectives will be announced sometime next month, though Loeffler indicated that the focus is on developing new infrastructure for the nascent market. This includes the “industry’s first institutional grade regulated exchange, clearing and warehousing services for physical delivery and storage.”

What is Bakkt? Preparing for the Physical Bitcoin Futures Market

Bakkt is scheduled to launch its bitcoin futures market Jan. 24 but delays in regulatory approvals could see that date get pushed back by a week or more. Further details can be found in the following article from Dec. 22.

Disrupting Traditional Finance

Bakkt has been described as the world’s first physically-backed bitcoin futures market, but its mandate stretches far beyond that. When ICE first unveiled the crypto startup in August, the goal was to broaden institutional access and consumer adoption of digital assets. Through high-profile partnerships with Starbucks and Microsoft and with the support of early investors like Susquehanna International and Fortress Investment, Bakkt is aiming to bring “regulated, connected infrastructure together with institutional and consumer applications for digital assets,” according to Jeffrey Sprecher, the founder and chairman of ICE.

NYSE Owner Is Betting Big on Cryptocurrency with Bakkt

The launch of a physically-settled bitcoin futures market as early as next month means institutional investors can access digital assets through a trusted custodian. On the consumer side, Starbucks will be the flagship retailer of Bakkt with the goal of developing practical applications for commercial use. According to Starbucks senior executive Maria Smith, consumers will one day be able to convert cryptocurrencies into dollars at various Starbucks locations.

Starbucks will play an important role in helping Bakkt disrupt the traditional payments market. One of Bakkt’s stated goals is to move consumers away from credit cards toward crypto applications.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 773 rated postsChief Editor to Hacked.com and Contributor to CCN.com, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi




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