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The Washington Post to Encrypt the News

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Bezos Encrypt The NewsThe Washington Post has begun encrypting sections of its news website. The first major news outlet to take such an act acknowledges they may see a fall in ad sales as a result. This comes in addition to UK’s GCHQ expressing concern about the increasing spread of encryption.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million in cash. His decision to change how news is delivered to consumers flies in the face of government security agencies. Last November, Robert Hannigan a GCHQ director, criticized social-media sites that would encrypt the news for frustrating the efforts of GCHQ tracking programs.

We can locate, collect, exploit (in real time where appropriate) high value mobile devices & services in a fully converged target centric manner, a GCHQ document from 2011 states.

ISIS terrorists, he states, use messaging and social media services to communicate. They abuse hash tags to inject their messages to wider news feeds. There is no need for jihadists to seek out restricted websites or private services. They are completely comfortable with mainstream services. He called the web “a terrorist’s command-and-control network of choice.”

HTTPS acts like a padlock, a separate key exists for each user to unlock content. The Washington Post’s traffic will appear as digitally scrambled noise to eavesdroppers listening in on the transmission across the wire. Without the key to unlock the padlock data remains scrambled.

Also Read: GCHQ Spies Given License to Hack

Limiting spy organizations’ ability to monitor what people are reading is not the only advantage of encryption. HTTPS prevents governments from censoring or editing content. Users’ traffic browsing HTTPS enabled sites only reveal the domain, not specific page, they visit. Countries would be forced to block entire sites, not specific content.

Some ad platforms are not compatible with HTTPS. For now, the security measure is deployed to the site’s front page. In the upcoming months it is expected to roll out to the remainder of the site. By then every third party must be HTTPS-compliant or throw a security warning in the browser.

Images from Shutterstock and Flickr.

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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The Internet of Shopping: Blockchain Solutions to Consumer-Retail Challenges

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It’s possible that blockchain, as a disruptive tool for innovation, will successfully shake-up and improve upon the existing hegemony seen in consumer retail. We have already seen this happen in many other areas, like traditional finance.

Projects such as Ethereum stand testament to the fact that blockchain has far surpassed its original use-case (as a decentralized payment solution).

Furthermore, developments around the nascent technology are proceeding at remarkable speeds for the consumer market – at varying levels of accomplishment.

We would like to take this opportunity to further explore some of the more prominent examples, what their goals are, and how their teams seek to achieve them to give you an enhanced perspective on what we can expect in the future.

BC / AD: Before Cryptocurrency / Anno Decentralization (A Prologue)


Image Source: Pixabay

Consumerism and retail shopping have long been a cornerstone of modern civilization: with tangible benefits that apply to society, politics and the economy.

One of the greatest epitomes of this growth was reached in tandem with the growth of early commercial internet technology, through to Web 2.0.

Many new market leaders rose from the ashes of the burst dot-com bubble, as well as the Western economic recession of the early 2000s. All under the banner of ‘e-commerce’

Since then, we have arguably seen a stagnation in the traditional retail shopping sector. Brick-and-mortar stores are in constant decline in many areas of the Western world, as well as shopping malls closing down throughout the USA (dubbed by some the ‘Western Retail Apocalypse’).

Amazon currently possess 41% of US e-commerce retail sales, according to Statista. A number which is projected to increase to 50% by the year 2021.

1. Blockchain for the Unbanked and Borderless Payments

According to the data from The World Bank’s Financial Inclusion Database (or ‘Findex’) 1.7 billion adults were recorded to have been ‘unbanked’.

‘Unbanked’ denotes individuals who do not have access to traditional financial services, for the most part living in developing countries. The largest of these is China (225 Million), closely followed by India (190 Million).

Banking institutions have demarcated the differences of opportunity and accessibility between classes – both domestically and between the ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds. They have also acted as gatekeepers to a broad range of valuable services and functions: such as international payment transactions, and currency conversions.

Being without a traditional centralized bank doesn’t have to mean you are ‘unbanked’ however, as blockchain and digital banking providers are proving. These populations alone provide a massive use case.

Shops, service providers, and many other possibilities have been left wide open, and we’ve already seen some examples of organizations attempting to resolve this issue….

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin for example are a cheap and fast means to send money and furthermore, allows for those ‘unbanked’ to access digital consumer markets with ease.

IBM is another organization responsible for a unique solution to the issues of the ‘unbanked’ seeking to send cross-border payments by using peer-to-peer (P2P) blockchain technology.

Travelers and migrants are a great example of the potential beneficiaries for this type of project. This is because making international payments in developing countries can often be error-prone, costly with transactions in different currencies – requiring multiple-intermediaries to process them over days or sometimes even weeks

2. Shopping Loyalty Programs, by way of Blockchain.

Loyalty rewards programs have existed for a long time as a means of attracting a greater level of sales and custom in a repeat manner, as well as for the gathering and interpretation of shopping data to provide insights and historical data analytics.


Image Source: Deloitte Center for Financial Services – ‘Making blockchain real for customer loyalty rewards programs’. 2016.

Their age is telling however, as the lack of development on this front regarding the benefits offered to both users and program providers has remained somewhat static for a long time now, with little in the way of improvement or progress.

It has become a burgeoning issue, that these types of programs are perceived as unfulfilling to many, with a high level of market penetration when considering the percentage of households enrolled – however a low number of overall utilization of the points or cards by said households.

There are a number of interesting platforms which claim to provide a solution to this issue, which include some which we have covered ourselves in great detail before (see our review of Eligma for example), as well as others we would like to discuss more in the near future.

One of the latest of these is Gabrotech, which positions itself as a 6-in-1 solution. Its user-centric and comes with a multi-currency crypto wallet that offers seamless P2P transfers, and loyalty redemption capabilities among others.

The platform has a multi-currency conversion engine (MCCE) that allows for borderless payments in any place that accepts MasterCard. It utilizes a liquidity pool that converts ‘any supported blockchain asset to the appropriate fiat currency at market value in real-time’.

This brings empowerment to the swathes of unbanked peoples, representing a breakthrough moment for a gigantic population of the world.


Source: Presentation by Pani Baruri, ‘Blockchain Powered Financial Inclusion’

Gabro’s core strength lies within its token Gabro (GBO). It’s a utility token solely designed to work within its ecosystem. Users are rewarded with GBO through spending, conversion or friend referrals.

Through its Loyalty Central feature, it removes the requirement for multiple accounts to manage multiple loyalty programs and allows for the simple swapping and consolidation of loyalty points. This will allow for idle and / or lower credited programs to be topped up and utilized to their fullest.

Blockchain technologies are already disrupting the financial industries; unbanked and cashless societies are tipped to benefit the most from the technology. Interestingly, the loyalty market, worth approximately $500 billion USD, is also to have its full potential realized.

3. Account Data, Personalized Customer Experiences, and Product Recommendations

Research within the retail sector has long existed as a practice. The dawn of big data and other new technologies such as automated data processing, however, have led us into a new era of insights (best known as customer analytics).

Shopin is a token-based platform which seeks to use blockchain technology in order to create user data profiles / accounts which are transferable and inter-operable between different participating merchants across the web.

In addition to providing absolute security and empowering users through control over their data and its security, merchants are incentivized by having access to powerful on-boarding tools and deferred liability regarding data protection.

The platform also incorporates machine learning / AI systems and data relationship protocols to provide product recommendations to its users on the customer / consumer side.

If you are interested in learning more about this solution in particular, check out our ICO review from April this year.

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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Bitmain Becomes Biggest Blockchain Company Ever Following Series B Funding

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China’s dominant bitcoin mining manufacturer has become the largest crypto conglomerate in the world after securing a new round of Series B funding, according to Caixin news agency.

Bitmain Expands Influence

Caixin reported last week that Bitmain has secured between $300 million and $400 million in new funding from Sequoia China, U.S. hedge fund Coatue and Singapore-based EDBI, effectively becoming the largest cryptocurrency company in the world. With the latest round, Bitmain’s total value has swelled to $12 billion.

Bitmain is making waves across the blockchain industry, having recently announced plans to purchase roughly 43% of Opera Ltd., a Norway-based internet browser that has filed for an initial public offering with Nasdaq.

Back in May, the company led a $110 million financing round for Circle, an influential cryptocurrency company with backing from Goldman Sachs and others. In an official announcement, Circle said Bitmain’s stake in the company will allow it to expand critical infrastructure needed to power the crypto economy:

“Bitmain Co-founder and CEO Jihan Wu is well known for espousing a vision similar to ours regarding the creation and adoption of a new global economy powered by cryptographic assets, distributed contracts, and open source blockchain technology. We are excited to be working directly with Bitmain on realizing our shared vision.”

Earlier this year, Circle purchased digital currency exchange Poloniex for $400 million.

Race for Blockchain Dominance

Bitmain is considered one of China’s ‘big three’ crypto mining manufacturers, and its sphere of influence is growing by the day. The company controls the lion’s share of bitcoin’s hashrate through mining pools BTC.com and Antpool. As CCN reported last month, the company is coming dangerously close to controlling 51% of the bitcoin hashrate, a mark that would theoretically allow it to carry out a 51% attack against the network. It has also been estimated that Bitmain accounts for up to 80% of the market for bitcoin mining hardware.

Ebang and Canaan Creative – Bitmain’s main competitors – have announced aggressive IPO plans this year. Each company is looking to raise at least $1 billion for various growth initiatives. In both cases, diversification appears to be a main objective as blockchain companies look to expand their influence in the market.

Bitmain has also stated it is “open” to conducting an IPO in Hong Kong but has yet to announce definitive plans to that effect.

In terms of profitability, Bitmain dwarfs its competitors. The company reported $4 billion in earnings last year, leapfrogging tech powerhouse Nvidia, which took 24 years to secure $3 billion in profit.

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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4.6 stars on average, based on 494 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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What Is Civic? Blockchain for Digital Identities

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There are now so many alt-coins out there that it’s almost impossible to keep track of which projects are legitimate and which are garbage.

This article is the second entry in a series I will write for Hacked which will give summaries and context around a specific crypto project.

The topic of today’s summary is Civic.

So, what is Civic?

Essentially, Civic is a personal identity verification tool that leverages distributed ledger technology to manage digital identities more effectively.

Civic, in a nutshell, is a platform that envisions a safer, cheaper, and more efficient identity verification method for individuals and industries around the globe.

A perfect use case of Civic’s platform is everyday KYC requirements. In most cases, when someone applies for a new job, opens a bank account, or even participates in an ICO, they have to submit some valid proof of their identity and then wait for it to be verified. Depending on the service utilized, this could take days or even weeks.

Typically, this sluggish pace is due to the fact that organizations have to spend the time and resources authenticating this information with outdated systems.

Civic contends it has a modern solution to this problem, where a single input of your personal identity data allows any organization or service to cross-check it on the blockchain without asking you to provide the same data twice. That is, Civic wants to provide personal identity verification that is easily transferable from one service to another. They do this by leveraging their own token, which is built on the Ethereum blockchain.

Civic Network

Civic’s network accommodates three different but interwoven individuals/entities: users, validators, and service providers.

The users are defined as anyone who wishes to use the protocol to register an identity. Civic provides their own “secure identity” app expressly for this purpose.

Validators meanwhile are responsible for verifying an identity’s authenticity on the blockchain’s distributed ledger. They can then choose to sell this information to service providers who in turn need to verify their customer’s identities, in exchange for CVC token. Civic uses smart contracts to oversee data attestation and payout for this work.
Secure Identity App

As previously mentioned, getting started with civic requires the secure identity app, either in its or mobile or web version.

To set up the application, you need to enter a variety of personal identity information. This includes your name, address, social security or tax identification number, passport number, driver’s license, etc.

Without utilizing usernames and password, multi-factor biometrics, such as fingerprint scan, secures the application to keep it-and your data-fully in your control.

The application also encrypts personal information with a private key issued by a third party wallet; this provides a buffer between Civic and its users, in theory providing peace of mind that Civic won’t access personal identity info without consent.

As a matter of fact, Civic doesn’t store any personal information on the blockchain directly. Instead, it stores attestations of this information for reference. Storing references to the data instead of the data itself ensures that you are always in control of your own sensitive identity information, while also providing proof that the validators have confirmed the authenticity of your data.

The Civic ecosystem, therefore, functions with the app accommodating users on the front-end, and validators and providers supplying the back-end services, including identity attestation and KYC confirmation for users.

Validators are also responsible for verifying identities for the network, both on the blockchain and for service providers. If a user wants to submit personal identifying data to a service provider (e.g., an exchange, a bank, or other service), they could submit the relevant info from their Civic app to a validation contract.

These smart contracts act as escrow services for the transaction and provide validators with the identity data. After attesting that the information is authentic, the validators hash it into the network.

It’s relevant to mention that in theory a validator could be the service provider itself, and for a user identity’s first commit to the network, it likely would be.

Additionally, in order to confirm a user’s identity, validators need to crosscheck their information with some other source (e.g., public records, financial records). A government, for instance, could provide a wealth of information as an identity authenticator.

Once a validator has verified the identity data, other service providers can buy access rights to this information on behalf of a user with CVC, Civic’s utility token.

Validators can also sell rights to the information, (with the user’s consent), on the Civic Marketplace.

When a service provider pays for identity data, the CVC tokens are placed in the validation contract.

Once the validator provides proof of the identity data, both it and the user receive CVC in return. This service is flexible, too, since validators can pick and choose which information to verify per a service provider’s request.

Say a service provider, like a credit score company, needs access to a client’s credit history and bank account information. After communicating with the user, the service provider would submit a data request to a prior validator, maybe a credit card company, bank, or other financial institution. This validator would then be able to retrieve the hash for the requested information from the blockchain to attest it with the information that the client currently provides. If everything checked out, the validator is paid for these services (as is the user) and the service provider approves the client’s identity.

The Civic team is loaded with experienced entrepreneurs.

For instance, Co-founder and CEO Vinny Lingham has over ten years of e-commerce experience and is a member of the Bitcoin Foundation. He’s also one of the “sharks” on Shark Tank South Africa.

In addition, Jonathan Smith, the project’s CTO and co-founder, has more than 15 years of experience with development, technical analytics, and management work for blue-chip entities like Deloitte and RBS.

With Civic, reusable KYC and personal identity information could streamline identity verification for any relevant service. Service providers no longer would have to expend the effort and money to verify a user’s identity; as long as a validator on the network has done the legwork for them, they need only pay a fee in Civic tokens to have the information processed in real time.

Users would never have to recommit the same information to different organizations in tireless succession–saving time and effort.

At the core of this vision is the promise of greater identity security and integrity. The Civic app’s encryption and biometric locking mechanisms give users complete control over their identities, while the blockchain’s own encryption and distributed nature keep this information free from theft and exposure without user consent.

It’s important to note that Civic is not the only company attempting to provide moderns identity solutions. Some notable competitors include Bloom, SelfKey, Blockpass, and Peer Mountain.

As the competition heats up, it will be interesting to see whether the fragmentation of identity data makes centralization a necessary evil. The premise of services like this is that self-sovereign identity can give users more control of their data AND be more convenient. It’s the second part that remains to be seen.

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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