Venezuela Named Cheapest Country to Mine Crypto as El Petro is Launched

As president, Nicolas Maduro rolls out the El Petro ICO, Venezuela is named the cheapest country in the world to mine Bitcoin. But is it also the most expensive place to live?

The manual for the first 82.4 million units of the Venezuelan cryptocurrency, El Petro was made available for download in multiple languages yesterday to much international criticism. The digital currency, which is linked to the countries oil reserves, has been derided as a workaround of the economic sanctions created to allow those in power to increase their wealth in the crypto market.

President Maduro announced that the valuation of the Petro’s 100 million tokens would be just over $6 billion and that the sale would bring a new economic era to the nation.

Cheapest Mining In The World

Meanwhile, the country has been named the cheapest location in the world to mine cryptocurrency. According to the company Elite Fixtures which carried out a study on the cost of mining around the world Venezuela is more than 100% cheaper then it’s near neighbor Trinidad and Tobago.

According to the company they took statistics supplied by countries and agencies around the world on electricity costs and compared the use on three of the most popular mining rig configurations. The cost in Venezuela was $531 followed by Trinidad at $1,190 with South Korea coming in at $26,170 per coin, the most expensive in the world.

China, Russia, and The United States present similar costs. China being slightly cheaper at $3,965 while both Russia and the US are around $4,700.

But Also The Highest Cost Of Living

While making money mining Bitcoin in the Latin American country may be very profitable due to its subsidized electricity doing almost anything else is very expensive. Inflation over recent years in Venezuela has been as high as 800% by some estimates making the Bolivar essentially worthless as the government prints more and more of the currency.

The oil-rich country carries a 14% budget deficit of its GDP and a 60 trillion debt after decades of mismanagement by corrupt or just truly wrong-minded leadership. Though the official exchange rate is about 6.3 Bolivar per US Dollar the black market rate is multitudes higher, perhaps as high as 100 times that.

Factor in the scarcity of everything from food to medicine, as well as a crime rate that has soared over the last three years and it’s clear that the cost of living in the country would offset the advantage of cheap electricity. Given the dire state of the economy as well as the government’s oblique regulatory stance on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency trading the launch of El Petro seems an odd solution to the countries economic woes.


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The cryptocurrency bull run of 2017 attracted multitudes of investors looking to get rich quick but it also created a mining boom that has resulted in a worldwide shortage of computer components.

Miners Plunder Singapore, Hong Kong For Cheap Rigs

Scores of miners from around the world come to the electronics bazaars in Asia to buy cryptocurrency rigs. Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po and Singapore’s Sim Lim Square to name just a couple are jammed with people of all ages ordering specialized rigs.

This new demand for mining rigs has revitalized these electronic markets that were dying only a few years ago when shoppers turned online for computers, cameras, and gadgets of all kinds.

“It’s 30-50 percent cheaper to buy equipment related to crypto-mining in Hong Kong than in Europe,” Russian bitcoin miner Dima Popov said. This is because Hong Kong has no sales tax and is in close proximity to Chinese components manufacturers.

Miners are demanding more powerful rigs that can include up to 500 graphics cards each which has created a worldwide shortage of the cards allowing manufacturers and retailers to gauge buyers on the price.

Scarce GPU Cards Selling At Double Price

The market for high-end graphics cards used to work like anything else. You went to the electronics shop, found the card you wanted and paid just about the Manufacturer’s retail price. Today due to the escalating demand from mining you’ll most likely find the shelves that once held them bare but if you do actually what your looking for expect to pay a premium.

These high-end graphics cards are the most efficient way to mine cryptocurrency and as hobbyist miners and big players alike scramble to snatch up as many as they can prices go through the roof. Last summer popular GPU’s like the AMD Radeon RX 580 sold for about $250 at retail, today the price is more likely to be over $500 and that is if you can find them.

Checking the price of the 5 most popular graphics cards from last year and comparing it with the updated version shows a general price increase of between 70 and 100%. This leaves many wannabe miners trolling online for the best deals on new or even second-hand cards. Buying older cards though means slower computing ability which reduces the profitability of a rig.

Rigs using, for example, a high-end Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 ti card costing around $1,300 (MSRP) can earn as much as $10 dollars a day at current crypto values. This means that the card may pay for itself in about 4 months.

String the math out and it’s easy to see how a fair sized rig can make a very nice profit over a year or more. Retailers reported a dip in demand for the cards during the crypto market correction but now that Bitcoin and it’s like are on the rise sellers and manufacturers are looking for demand to reach and surpass 2017.

Action star and martial arts master Steven Seagal’s latest role has him playing the part of cryptocurrency spokesman but, can his combination of Hollywood magic and Akito moves save this lost cause?

Can This Ageing Action Star Kickstart Bitcoiins Success

Steven Seagal has weathered over three decades in one of the toughest business there is by sticking to a formula; save the girl, beat the bad guys, uncover the conspiracy, try and be cool while doing it.

His latest role as the spokesman for an ICO called Bitcoiin2Gen though may be his most difficult to sell. The token that invites speculation right off for its obvious play on Bitcoin’s name seems to have a number shortcomings.

From the basic problem that Bitcoiin’s white paper doesn’t actually address a targeted problem the coin will solve to the fact that none of its initial backer’s names are cited on its homepage.

Data from ICAAN reveals that the company was originally started in 2015, is registered in Panama and has changed ownership around Jan. 8. None of this bodes well and then things getting even dodgier with their referral commission – Partner program.

The scheme which is literally diagrammed as a pyramid on their website shows the four levels of ICO investment. This has caused the ICO to be compared to Onecoin and Bitconnect both of which have been accused of running pyramid schemes.

“To promote Bitcoiin B2G, a depositor who chooses to participate in one of our accredited Mining Programs, will earn commissions off their recruits’ earnings. Bitcoiin B2G is offering a 4-level commission structure, available to whoever joins the program and/or purchases Bitcoiin B2G during the ICO period.”

Though Bitcoiin Gen2 looks pretty bad on all fronts celebrity endorsements are growing in the cryptocurrency world as tokens like Bitcoin and Etheruem prove to be profitable assets.

Cryptocurrencies Look To Celebrities

Perhaps most active in lending his celebrity to crypto-projects is Mr. Money; Floyd Mayweather Jr. In July 2017 he was the spokesman for stox.com’s ICO and a month later came out for Hubli Network. Signed in September he was key in Centra raising $30 million for their ICO.

Pop singer Katy Perry boosted the reputation of cryptocurrency when she posted a photo of her fingernails that each had the logo of one of the biggest cryptocurrencies painted on it.

Richard Branson has been a vocal supporter of Bitcoin from the beginning when he announced he accept the currency for payment on his upcoming space fights virgin galactic in late 2013. Since then he’s put his money where his mouth his investing $30 billion in Bitpay in 2014.

Even Iron Mike has put his fame to work partnering with Bitcoin in 2015 to put his face on Bitcoin ATMs and then again in 2016 when Bitcoin direct announced that the former champ would have his own wallet that people could trade from using the app.

The list of celebrities who have backed cryptocurrencies goes on but in this case, Bitcoiin may be one lost cause the zen master Seagal can’t save.

Yesterday was President’s Day in America. Schools were shut, no government offices functioned and even the stock markets rested. While the banking system napped though over $7 billion in Bitcoin was traded.

Bitcoin Rebounds As Banks Take The Day Off

Unlike the stock and commodities markets, cryptocurrency trades 24/7. It recognizes no national holidays, doesn’t mind working on Sundays and stays up all night.

Since January 3, 2009 when Bitcoin went online it has been functionally trading 99.99 percent of the time. In that same time period, there have been 216 bank holidays in America (more in other countries) not including weekends, when trading in traditional markets stagnates.

Historically cryptocurrencies will spike on national holidays. It makes sense that like online commerce which always has an uptick when people are off work Bitcoin markets will see a bump when the majority of day traders are at home.

Yesterday was no different. Bitcoin trading was brisk over the weekend as the price rose back over $11,000, showing an 84% gain. Though it dropped back down to 10,800 on Monday as investors took some profits out more than $7 Billion traded over the day.

This rebound should ease some investors fears about a free falling market and shut down much of the FUD and doom and gloom from naysayers looking for a bubble to pop.

As Bitcoin fell from all-time highs starting in December and other cryptocurrencies followed suit there was much talk from government representatives and mainstream media about it being a false market in need of heavy regulation.

Analysts who specialize in following the movements of the crypto market though called it a correction that fell in line with crypto market history and said there would be a slow recovery through the spring and sharp gains starting around July.

Good News From Europe And Asia

Though some of the movement yesterday may be contributed to leisure time activity like shopping and online gambling the steady price rebound over the last two weeks may mark the return of a crypto bull market that analysts are looking to bring big gains back to the market in 2018.

The UK’s business insider reported that much of the weekend recovery was fueled by heavy trading in Japan as investors rush to get back in the game now that Bitcoin is gaining again.

There was also positive news from Europe as the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) published guidelines last week to regulate ICO’s and one of the main banks in the Netherlands has announced that it will use Blockchain technology to replace escrow accounts. As the fiat banking systems rests the cryptomarket continues to trade, sometimes rising, sometimes falling but always working.

Hackers have discovered that the easiest and most direct way to steal cryptocurrency is to first steal phone numbers.

Hijacked phone numbers are used to drain crypto accounts

A growing number of online crimes begin with hackers persuading cellular phone companies to transfer a victim’s number to a device of their own. In many cases this allows the hacker to reset account passwords that use the phone number as a backup security measure gaining access to email, social media, and cryptocurrency accounts.

Though many who have been hacked this way are reluctant to admit the crime even highly successful, technical savvy investors have been targeted. Case in point Joby Weeks lost control of his phone number and subsequently, a million dollars worth of cryptocurrency was drained from his accounts. This despite requesting that his phone company add additional security measures after his wife and parents had their numbers stolen.

“Everybody I know in the cryptocurrency space has gotten their phone number stolen,” said Joby Weeks.

Hackers seem to home in on those most active on social media platforms related to trading crypto-currency. Experts giving advice on forums and even consultants that appear on mainstream media talking about investing have been successfully targeted through this method.

Bump up your security

This rash of phone porting is the unintended result of what was supposed to be a security upgrade known as two-factor authentication. Many email providers and financial services require phone numbers to be added to passwords in order to verify a users identity not seeing how easily the system could be reversed.

Service providers have taken it upon themselves to upgrade their own security measures by including more complicated PIN’s and adding complex security questions as a requirement for making changes. The problem is that customer service agents still have leeway to allow changes on a case to case basis.

“These guys will sit and call 600 times before they get through and get an agent on the line that’s an idiot,”

Mr. Weeks said.

There are many measures anyone can take to make their accounts more hack proof.

  • Add a password to mobile phone accounts.
  • Create an email address specifically for use with cryptocurrency accounts.
  • Use a phone number for cryptocurrency accounts that you don’t use for anything else.
  • Enable two-factor identification using google authenticator, not SMS text messaging.
  • Change passwords frequently and never use the same one on multiple accounts.

Probably the two most important ways to secure cryptocurrency is to first hold it in a secure (offline) multi-signature wallet and to keep a low profile online and in life about your trading activity.

In the end, no amount of precaution can stop dedicated hackers if they really want to access information. The goal is to become a less inviting target. It’s like the line about meeting a bear in the woods while hiking, it’s not necessary to outrun the bear just the other people.

Security experts advise on how to keep yourself and your digital coin safe from  thieves that focus on the crypto-wealthy.

Criminals targeting cryptocurrency investors

Cases of thieves targeting those who have gotten wealthy from the boom in Bitcoin, Ethereum and other digital currencies are on the rise worldwide. From Phuket, Thailand, to Manhattan to the Ukraine, stories of kidnappings and even killings for access to peoples Bitcoin is becoming a staple in the world news.

Fiat currency accounts in traditional banks and other holding systems have elaborate checks and countermeasures developed over a long time against thieves. The anonymous nature of cryptocurrency though assures criminals that once they have access to and can transfer the information to their own wallets it is nearly impossible to track down their identities.

Chainalysis is a company that specializes in tracing criminal activity on the Blockchain. Jonathan Levin the founder of the company has assisted law enforcement all over the world to try and track down stolen Bitcoin and its like.

Even when a transaction can be tracked through the Blockchain ledger though the anonymous design of cryptocurrency allows criminals not to have their true identities linked to their accounts. This is where the trail goes cold and not much more can be done.

“For this [crime], the advantage of Bitcoin is that it’s hard to verify,” said Chanut Hongsitthichaikul an investigator with the Chalong Police Station in reference to the extortion case in Thailand that involved a young Russian couple who were held in their apartment by armed assailants until $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency was transferred.

The police were able to track the victim’s laptop to Kuala Lumpur where it was discarded and that was where the investigation ended.

“This is now becoming more pervasive and touching more law enforcement divisions that deal with organized crime and violent crime on a local level,”

Jonathan Levin, founder of Chainalysis.

New security being developed

Recently a group of about 170 leaders in the crypto world held a panel discussion about security in Cancun Mexico. Calling the meeting the Satoshi roundtable the group discussed how individuals could protect themselves and their holdings from crypto thieves.

One measure that came from the meetings was having a ‘duress wallet’. That is a wallet with a small amount of currency to throw thieves off the trail of larger holdings.

Overall security advisers agree one the best measures presently is to keep your holdings in a multi-signature wallet. That is a wallet that requires at least two people to sign in for a transaction to be completed and for one of those people to be off location, perhaps an attorney.

Programmers are also in the process of creating wallets with built-in stress codes. Like duress alarms in banks, these codes can be triggered to inform either private security or law enforcement directly while a person is forced to make a transaction.

Perhaps the best and easiest way to protect yourself and your crypto-currency is to keep a low profile. In at least one high profile case the robbery was perpetrated after the victim had told his friend about his newly acquired crypto-fortune.

Unrepentant cryptocurrency bull Tom Lee predicts Bitcoin will reach $25,000 in 2018 and $125,000 by 2022.

Aggressive Predictions For Bitcoin’s Future

Tom Lee was the first major Wall Street analyst to cover Bitcoin and has remained bullish about the cryptocurrency market since. In his latest report, Fundstrat Global advisor’s head of research called for some high numbers in the coming years.

Having analyzed 22 bitcoin depreciations of more than 20% he found that recoveries take 1.7 times the duration of a decline in a bull market, to which he added that this is still a bull market. Given that trend, Bitcoin would make a complete recovery by July.

“We expect bitcoin’s major low to be $9,000, and we would be aggressive buyers around that level. We view this $9,000 as the biggest buying opportunity in 2018.”

Lee said in his report on Thursday

Lee’s formula for valuing bitcoin measures money supply growth, the ratio of alternative currencies like gold to the money supply and a digital currencies share of those alternatives. He also expects to see substantial interest in crypto commodities from institutional investors in the coming year.

Lee said in his report that the $10,000 mark, which Bitcoin recovered this week, is an important psychological key for investors watching the recovery. Noting that the bottoms of the recent decline have all been V-shaped he went on to predict some big numbers.

Lee said on CNBC’s Fast Money that he expected bitcoin to go to $25,000 by July of this year and then double that by years end. $25,000 was a mark he previously set a four-year goal, which he now has reassessed to $125,000.

These may sound like grandiose predictions but coming from the man who called the new year drop of roughly 50% a buying opportunity not completely unexpected.

“We can see a case for Bitcoin’s resilience here given the sharpness of the recent decline.”

Tom Lee

Blue Chips Will All See Tremendous Growth

He moved on from bitcoin in his report to make some equally impressive predictions concerning other ‘Blue Chip’ cryptocurrencies.

He expects Ethereum to reach $1,900 by years end, up 90% from present value.

Lee also predicts the Chinese developed NEO currency will gain 50 percent from Thursday’s value to hit $225 by 2019.

As stunning as Lee’s predictions for 2018 they actually pale in comparison to the percentage gains for each of these coins in 2017. When Bitcoin hit 19,800 in it’s December peak it was up 2,000% from its previous high value. Ethereum gained 9,600% and ripple or XRP blew everyone away by going over 35,500 percent by the end of 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ellen DeGeneres has presented a ‘hilarious’ send-up of it on her highly popular talk show, taking bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to a different level of mainstream exposure.

The fact that Ellen stood in front of her audience and did a partial breakdown on how cryptocurrency works using the image of an adorable baby goat shows how far out of the shadows bitcoin has come.

Bitcoin has Moved into Mainstream Media

Not long ago Bitcoin was talked about in the same hushed tones as the dark web and was only mentioned in the media as the currency of cybercriminals. It was how international drug dealers and human traffickers funded their criminal empires.

Today though references to Bitcoin have become commonplace in the news cycle and as fodder for comedy shows.

The general premise of which is that cryptocurrency is a little-understood, nerd based system of trading pseudo-money. Good for a laugh but in the end just another fad that will surely pass along like Zumba or the pet rock.

Though most of the send-ups of Bitcoin are about as tin can as the Ellen breakdown where she simply glosses over the system with a shoulder shrug and an eye roll to elicit laughs there have been some genuinely hilarious skits that deal with the complexity of Blockchain technology.

Still a Laughing Matter

A fake commercial for Bitcoin that aired on the Seth Meyer show presented three women having coffee and playing cards when one goes into the most abstract breakdown of digital currency, Blockchain and the crypto market your likely to hear outside of a Reddit thread while one friend pretends to understand every nuance and the other becomes incredulous about the jibberish.

Likewise the often subversive and consistently off-kilter Conan O’Brien aired a breakdown of Bitcoin by its founder ‘Marcus Ortman’ who rambles away using half technical, half new age lingo, even at one point parsing the famous flat circle speech from True Detective. Finally, Conan tries to corner him on giving a straight answer. At which point Ortman throws a smoke bomb and tries to disappear but can’t even get that right.

Bitcoin has moved out the murky depths of the dark web to the spotlight of mainstream media even if it’s only to be either derided or laughed at. Whether it be grumpy old billionaires calling it “Poisonous” and “asinine” or comedians poking fun at the complex technology the message is clear. Bitcoin is a thing for tech weirdos, like dungeons and dragons.

That is until the next phase. I imagine the first blockbuster movie starring the muscle guy (I’m talking to you Dwayne Johnson) and his sexy female sidekick tracking down the evil cyber criminal who made off with the all the cryptocurrency raised to help the orphans isn’t to far off.

Coinbase has admitted that a glitch in its system has been overcharging customers for several days, even after investors posted complaints on content sharing platforms like Reddit about being charged multiple times for a single transaction.

Overcharged Coinbase Customers Vent on Reddit

San Francisco’s Coinbase is the leading cryptocurrency wallet and brokerage which also oversees Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX), and up until recently, a trusted destination to buy, trade and sell bitcoin and other digital currency.

Coinbase officially admitted to the glitch on February 15, responding to the outrage of customers posting on Reddit that a problem in their system has been creating multiple charges for single transactions.

“[Coinbase] drained my bank account and now I have nothing,”

One user cried out on Reddit.

“Welp officially broke, charged 17×1000$ on my account,”

said another user.

Coinbase reacted, posting directly to Reddit yesterday.

“We can confirm that the unexpected charges are originating from our payment processing network, and are related to charges from previous purchases. To the best of our knowledge, these unexpected charges are not permanent and are in the process of being refunded.”

Soon after this post though Coinbase released another statement passing the buck.

Coinbase Traces Problem to New MCC Code

“We have confirmed that this is an issue occurring downstream from Coinbase, and we’re working with those parties to reach a resolution.”

Ultimately the exchange blamed the way credit-card companies have changed their policies for buying cryptocurrency. Now treating the purchases as cash advances, carrying all of the fees and higher percentages along with them.

They detailed the situation in a statement given to The Next Web.

We’re currently investigating an issue where some customers were charged incorrectly for purchases of digital currency with credit and debit cards.

This is related to the recent MCC code change by the card networks and card issuers charging additional fees. We have identified a solution and future purchases will not be affected. We will ensure any customer affected by this issue is fully refunded. We expect these refunds to happen for customers automatically through their bank.

If you believe you were affected by this issue, please contact [email protected] We will be reviewing all card transactions from the last few weeks to ensure all affected customer are notified. We will post on Twitter and our blog with further updates.

Coinbase said the affected time period is from Jan.22 through Feb 11, when transactions may have been reprocessed multiple times resulting in erroneous charges.

 

For years Ukrainian hackers have preyed on bitcoin investors, emptying wallets and then hiding behind the inherent anonymity of the encrypted blockchain.

$50 million in stolen cryptocurrency

Now Cisco has exposed a notorious Ukranian hacker ring known as Coinhoarder (very subtle) possibly responsible for thefts equaling more than $50 million from Blockchain.info over many years.

According to a report from Cisco’s Talos cybersecurity team, the thieves used a ‘simple yet treacherous’ form of phishing that involved salting Google adwords with near named sites like Blockchein.info.

Users entered their security information thinking they were on legitimate sites which allowed hackers to steal cryptocurrency directly from their registered wallets. According to the Talos team;

“The attackers needed only to continue purchasing Google AdWords to ensure a steady stream of victims,”

Treacherous Phishing

Cisco investigated this group’s Phishing campaign for over six months in cooperation with Ukrainian cyber-police and found that its technique had ‘become increasingly common in the wild, with attackers targeting many different crypto wallets and exchanges.

The Coinhoarder thefts occurred over three years but culminated in late 2017 as the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies rose sharply. The group reportedly got away with $10 million between Sept. and Dec. and in one frantic burst of advertising snatched $2 million in less than 4 weeks.

Cisco was able to trace some of the stolen funds with the assistance of Ukrainian law enforcement to the thieves own wallet address. Though this doesn’t reveal the identity of the crooks as the wallets are under pseudonyms, Cisco hopes that by scouring forums like Reddit they may eventually pick up clues to the real names of the hackers.

Coinhoarders aren’t the only hacker group to use phishing as a way to attract potential victims. The same technique is employed by the notorious Lazarus Group from North Korea. Cisco found that people from countries with insufficient banking facilities and services are more likely to fall prey to these kinds of techniques as they look towards cryptocurrency as an alternative way to store and move wealth.

In a bit of irony residents from the African countries of Nigeria and Ghana top this list of victims. Schemes like phishing that rely on digital ads have prompted Facebook to ban all cryptocurrency ads while Google is exploring ways to put an end to the misleading and fraudulent use of Adwords.

Still, the Cisco security team hopes to ultimately discover and reveal those involved in the Coinhoarder group and maybe even being able to return the stolen funds to their rightful owners. Though that is most likely wishful thinking.