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    Cryptocurrency

    Mastercard launched a virtual testing environment to evaluate Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) use cases

    Mastercard launched a virtual testing environment to evaluate Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) use cases

     

    On Wednesday, the global technology company in the payments industry, Mastercard, launched an innovative virtual and custom testing platform that would allow financial service providers and consumers to evaluate use cases and test roll-out strategies for Central Bank Digital Currencies.

     

     

     

     

    According to the source, the platform enables the simulation of issuance, distribution, and exchange of CBDCs between banks, financial service providers, and consumers. Central banks, commercial banks, and tech and advisory firms are invited to partner with Mastercard to assess CBDC tech designs, validate use cases and evaluate interoperability with existing payment rails available for consumers and businesses today.

     

     

    Mastercard’s Executive Vice President for Digital Asset and Blockchain Products and Partnerships, Raj Dhamodharan, said in a prepared statement that, “central banks have accelerated their exploration of digital currencies with a variety of objectives, from fostering financial inclusion to modernizing the payments ecosystem." He added that the company is “driving innovation with the public sector, banks, fintechs, and advisory firms in the exploration of CBDCs, working with partners that align to our core values and principles.” The executive believes that this initiative supports central banks, especially in terms of decision-making on local and regional economies now and shortly.

    CBDCs would allow central banks a direct bridge to consumers, avoiding the necessity to go through commercial banks for distributing and collecting money. Some designs are, however, focusing only on institutional money transfers. Mastercard’s platform appears to be geared for both. The company’s research and development often involve blockchain or DLT, while its card division has gradually warmed up to crypto-based cards along with its chief rival Visa, said Cointelegraph.

     

    Digital Currency Group acquired London-based Luno to expand crypto access globally

    Digital Currency Group acquired London-based Luno to expand crypto access globally

    Photo credit: AppsAfrica

     

    The New York-based firm Digital Currency Group, which is one of the biggest investing in blockchain companies, has acquired the British-multinational crypto and digital asset exchange - Luno. This acquisition plans to establish Luno's presence as a crypto exchange in Africa, Asia, Europe, and regions where it has not yet operated.

     

     

     

     

    In an official statement released Wednesday, Digital Currency Group (DCG) said that they plan to help Luno expand globally, both in geographies where it currently operates and beyond, by making a “significant financial commitment.” The press release by both companies did not disclose any details concerning the deal’s financial terms. However, it stated that the now wholly-owned subsidiary of DCG, Luno, will continue to operate independently joining other DCG’s subsidiaries – recently launched Foundry, Grayscale Investments, Genesis, and CoinDesk.

     

     

    Luno’s co-founder and CEO Marcus Swanepoel said that DCG became an “integral part” of Luno since its initial investment in 2014. The CEO added that the seven-year journey of the company following its establishment in 2013 has been “incredibly exciting” as it helps millions of its customers get access to crypto for the first time.

     

     

     

     

    Swanepoel shared that, “having the full backing of DCG just as we’re experiencing such a pivotal moment of growth in the industry is not just an exciting and important milestone for Luno, but more importantly it will significantly accelerate our ability to reach our goal to help upgrade 1 billion people to a better financial system by 2030.” His firm currently has Naspers Group and Balderton Capital to back up its operations as it continues offering exchange services in South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Malaysia, countries where cryptocurrency ownership is high.

     

     

     

     

    DCG founder and CEO Barry Silbert told BusinessWire that “Luno is a high growth, global business and there is a massive opportunity to expand organically and through acquisitions.” The CEO said that DCG “have been extremely impressed with Marcus and the Luno team,” since their first seed of investment. For him, Luno will blend into the DCG organization because it understands their firm’s culture. He described Marcus as “a focused, high integrity leader and exactly the kind of person we want running one of our companies at this critical moment when the crypto industry is at an inflection point.”

    The Digital Currency Group today sits at the epicenter of the industry, backing more than 160 companies in 35 countries, as it also invests directly in digital currencies and other digital assets, according to Cointelegraph.

     

    Two of Europe’s largest crypto tax reporting firms completes merger, eyes US expansion

    Two of Europe’s largest crypto tax reporting firms completes merger, eyes US expansion

     

    On September 8, Blockpit – Austrian compliance expert and developer of software solutions for digital assets – announced that it acquired the German startup company and its biggest competitor, Cryptotax. Both companies offer tax software for cryptocurrencies and currently provide tax reporting services in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Now that the two largest European crypto tax firms would be operating in one roof, sources revealed that global expansion was next on the line. Coverage for new markets was slated next year, targeting the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Korea, and other EU countries.

     

     

     

     

    Though both firms have similar offerings and operate in the same market, the founder and CEO of Blockpit Florian Wimmer told Tech. Eu that these two organizations “have different focuses and strengths.” CryptoTax provides tax reporting frameworks for crypto and non-crypto assets that can be adjusted to different countries. And its competitor, Blockpit, offers tax reporting and know-your-transaction (KYT) compliance tools. Both founders shared that this acquisition will make them a full-scale RegTech company in the market, noting that one of the reasons for merging is to penetrate the international scene. Klaus Himmer, co-founder and managing director at CryptoTax, told Cointelegraph that “The medium-term goal is to combine both companies to a renowned global player as well as an intensive expansion into the U.S. market.”

     

     

    The merger was close to a 50:50 deal, and Blockpit plans to raise €1.6 million (~$1.9 million) from both companies' existing investors and get the ball rolling on an extended Series C to fund the U.S. move, said by Coindesk.

    These firms took a bold move that certainly would demand changes in some parts of their organization. Blockpit and CryptoTax executives noted that the union would not affect their existing customers in any way as they would keep their offices in Linz and Munich. Over the next few months, the company’s representatives said that the CryptoTax frontend would be redesigned and adapted to the Blockpit interface.

    Hackers attacked Argentina’s immigration agency, halting services for four hours, demands $4 million ransom in Bitcoin

    Hackers attacked Argentina’s immigration agency, halting services for four hours, demands $4 million ransom in Bitcoin

     

    "Your files are encrypted.”

    In a rare occurrence, Argentina’s Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (DNM) received a ransom note signaling that hackers managed to get into the immigration system reportedly halted border crossings for four hours. The attackers, identified as NetWalker, demanded a ransom of $4 million in Bitcoin, which the government refused to budge.

     

     

     

     

    Security news site Bleepingcomputer said that the first attack was reported by the Argentinean government to the country’s cybercrime agency on August 27 after multiple calls from border checkpoints suggested their computer networks were compromised.

     

     

     

     

    The ransomware operators that breached Argentina's immigration agency, based on the article, were the group called Netwalker. Hackers initially demanded a $2 million payment to restore the agency's servers following a payment message flashed to a Tor network page. After seven days, the portal said that the amount changed to 355.8718 Bitcoin (BTC) payment, nearly $4 million at that time. According to Infobae, the attackers effectively shut down the borders for four hours, which directed authorities, during these system's downtimes, to take all computer networks used by immigration officials at regional offices and checkpoints offline. Government officials reportedly said "they will not negotiate with hackers” and are not concerned with retrieving the stolen data.

     

     

    Decrypt shared that ransomware has boomed in recent years, with hackers frequently demanding payments in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. New estimates suggest that the cost of ransom attacks, to companies, totals around $170 billion annually. Current victims of these cyberattacks include travel management firm CWT, the University of Utah (another NetWalker victim), and even vital health services responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Amazon and Tech Mahindra to build blockchain-based supply chain solutions across a wide range of global industries

    Amazon and Tech Mahindra to build blockchain-based supply chain solutions across a wide range of global industries

     

    Tech Mahindra announced that it would tap Amazon Web Services (AWS), together with its Advanced Consulting Partner - AWS Partner Network (APN)- to develop and market worldwide transformative solutions for its customers based on the Amazon Managed Blockchain.

     

     

     

     

    On Monday, the leading provider of digital transformation, consulting, and business reengineering services and solutions, Tech Mahindra revealed that this partnership would create multiple blockchain-based solutions “across verticals including aviation and aerospace, telecom, and healthcare.” As a subsidiary of an Indian conglomerate, Mahindra Group, Tech Mahindra served its customers in different industries such as banking and finance, retail, manufacturing, and oil & gas, travel, and logistics – of which in the next 12 to 18 months, will adopt blockchain solutions as well.

     

     

    The company plans to use blockchain to help the aviation industry track and trace “kits” throughout the delivery process. They will also build solutions that help hardware vendors in the telecom industry gain better visibility in the supply chain. The healthcare industry will be able to use Tech Mahindra’s blockchain solution to track and identify counterfeit medical products, including personal protective equipment kits, face masks, and sanitizers, says Cointelegraph. The statement reveals that the primary focus of this initiative is to disrupt the industry’s pre-existing supply chain to give rise to a solution that will guarantee business continuity when a global pandemic occurs.

     

     

     

     

    The Blockchain and Cybersecurity Practice Leader of Tech Mahindra, Rajesh Dhuddu, said in the statement that this “collaboration with AWS would support future pandemic preparedness and accelerate an economic rebound post-COVID-19 for organizations operating global supply chains and eliminate siloes.”

    For Tech Mahindra, this is not the first time they consider integrating blockchain technology into its project. In fact, with its goal to help artists from the media and entertainment industry track their revenue, royalty payments, and digital rights, the company has recently launched its blockchain-based digital contracts and rights platform built on top of IBM’s blockchain.