El Salvador To Begin Offering Bitcoin Backed Loans for Businesses

While there are many Bitcoin maximalists and enthusiasts, they all fall short of one particular person who has done the most to make the most of the king coin. Nayib Bukele, who dubbed himself as the ‘CEO of El Salvador’ is pushing the boundaries and making real-world implementations of the digital currency.

Bitcoin Powered Loans 

The Bitcoin enthusiast government is looking into more ways to leverage the use of digital currency to support their nation’s growth.

A Facebook live discussion held yesterday titled ‘Bitcoin loans with lower interest rates, had Monica Taher, the head of Technological & Economic International Affairs at the Government of El Salvador as its guest but she did not disclose much about the loans yet.

But one thing that did come forward is that these loans are going to be implemented using the El Chivo wallet. The official Bitcoin and Dollar wallet of the Government of El Salvador, El Chivo has witnessed a skyrocketing rate of adoption. 

In less than 4 months since its creation, it has managed to amass more than 60% of the entire population of the country. Out of a population of 6.5 million people (including people under 18 who are ineligible to use the wallet), 4 million people are already using it.

Thus developments such as the Bitcoin-backed loans will only further them in their attempt at establishing a Bitcoin-based economy after the announcement of the Bitcoin City.

Announced about 2 months ago, the Bitcoin city powered by geothermal energy from a volcano and financed by Bitcoin-backed bonds was painted as a Bitcoin haven. The city promises 0% taxes across income, capital gains, property, payroll, municipal and CO2 emissions.

So it becomes apparent that all the steps being taken are to ensure that the king coin becomes the currency of the future.

But can the currency itself attract investors?

Well, that can’t be ascertained since the market conditions haven’t been the most favorable for BTC. Apart from the 37% price drop in 2 months, the coin is also stuck in a sideways momentum for almost a fortnight.

While hopes of a recovery persist, it’ll be a while before it happens and investors enter the market.

Bitcoin’s disappointing price action

It’s a Big Day ahead for Cryptos as U.S Congress Talks Cryptos and the Environment

There’s been plenty of regulatory and government chatter on cryptos in recent months. Late last year, a Stablecoins Committee Hearing looked into stablecoins, with stablecoiners receiving some tough questions.

The Stablecoins Committee Hearing looked into the risks associated with the likes of USD Coin (USDC). We have yet to hear of any action plans from Congress in response to the hearing.

House Committee on Energy & Commerce

Today at 1030am, EST, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing titled“Cleaning up Cryptocurrency: The Energy Impacts of Blockchains”.

Today’s hearing is scheduled to address issues relating to cryptos, the environment and energy.

According to subcommittee chairman Pallone’s briefing memorandum, a number of key issues that will likely be discussed include:

  • Proof-of-Work (PoW) crypto mining.
  • Energy consumption.
  • Carbon emissions.
  • Waste.
  • Cleaner alternatives.

When considering the stats that the briefing memorandum refers to, PoW protocol and Bitcoin (BTC) are in for a tough day ahead.

Other Considerations ahead of Today’s Hearing

Key PoW mining stats from the briefing memorandum include:

  • The estimated annual energy usage of the Bitcoin network alone grew from 77.78 Terawatt-hours (TWh) on 2nd January 2021 to more than 198 TWh on 26th November 2021.
  • Over the same period, the Ethereum (ETH) network’s annual energy usage grew from 14.81 TWh to more than 92 TWh.
  • A single ETH transaction added more than 90 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere, while a single BTC transaction added more than 1,000 pounds.
  • The global 2021 CO2 emissions of ETH and BTC mining is equivalent to tailpipe emissions from more than 15.5m gasoline powered cars on the road every year.

Other key stats that we have previously reported include:

  • According to Columbia Climate School, Bitcoin (BTC) is thought to consume 707KwH per transaction. In addition, there are also mining computers that heat up and need cooling.
  • The University of Cambridge estimated that Bitcoin (BTC) mining consumes 121.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. Based on this estimate, if Bitcoin were a country, it would be a top 30 energy consumer.
  • It is estimated that Bitcoin (BTC) mining yields 22m to 22.9m metric tons of CO2 emissions each year.
  • In terms of global warming, Bitcoin (BTC) mining could push global warming above 2 degrees centigrade in less than 3-decades.

U.S – China Carbon Emission Goals

For the subcommittee, there are a number of reasons to make progress towards cleaner alternatives.

  • China banned Bitcoin mining in June 2021 as part of its goal to be carbon neutral by 2060.
  • Since China’s ban, the U.S has become the world’s largest Bitcoin mining nation, according to Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance.
  • President Joe Biden announced a new target for the U.S “to achieve a 50-52% reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030”. Upon taking office, President Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement, aiming to tackle the climate crisis both domestically and abroad. The U.S has a goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

The EU Calls for a Ban on PoW Mining

If China’s 2021 ban on Bitcoin mining is not enough of an incentive for U.S lawmakers, the EU has also begun to talk of the adverse impacts of PoW mining on the environment.

Overnight, news hit the wires of vice-chair of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) calling for a ban on PoW mining. The comments follow India Prime Minister Modi’s calls for a unified approach on cryptos at this week’s DAVOS 2022.

With the SEC-Ripple’s Lab case ongoing, regulatory scrutiny is unlikely to abate any time soon.

Regulatory Scrutiny to Intensify

On Wednesday, news had hit the wires of SEC Chair Gary Gensler warning of a crackdown on digital assets this year. The SEC Chair talked of more direct regulation of crypto trading platforms in the coming months. He added that the additional scrutiny is crucial to give crypto investors the levels of protection seen across other assets.

LunarCrush Poll Shows That Users Want Crypto to Replace Banks

A survey by LunarCrush has revealed that many users are willing to trade their bank accounts for crypto. The survey asked users whether crypto could replace their bank account. The majority was a yes, with 74.71% open to that idea in 24 hours. 

Crypto Enthusiasts Dominated LunarCrush Poll

However, the platform didn’t provide any extra details about the poll, especially in terms of how many people voted. So, it’s hard to tell how representative this poll is of the overall population. Also, the fact that most of the respondents to the poll are crypto enthusiasts means that the results will reflect support for crypto.

Regardless, the polls show the growing interest in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other digital assets. In a BlockFi survey last year, crypto was a popular gift idea for several Americans, especially the millennials.

In recent years, the crypto industry, especially the DeFi sector, has positioned itself as an alternative for traditional financial institutions.

By offering similar products as traditional institutions but with higher returns, many people have embraced it. The general belief is that they can get better services through this space.

Risks Associated With Crypto Puts Many Away

While this is true to an extent, traditional financial institutions still represent the best option for many people. Beyond the volatility of these assets, the associated security risks discourage many people. 

In 2021, over $14 billion worth of crypto assets were lost to crypto crimes. The DeFi sector accounted for a major part of these losses.

The trend has continued into the new year, with crypto hacks already resulting in millions in losses. For instance, around $15 million worth of assets were stolen from the Crypto.com exchange, but the firm has denied this vehemently.

Though these security issues discourage some investors, it hasn’t stopped others. A number of traditional financial institutions are already entering the crypto industry as regulations permit. 

The DeFi platform, Aave, recently launched Aave Arc, a permissioned DeFi platform for financial institutions. Several regulated and licensed financial institutions have already signed on to it, including Switzerland-based Seba Bank. Thus, a future where crypto and bank coexist is very much possible.

Miami and New York City Progress in Raising Funds through CityCoins

Earlier this year, the Mayors of Miami and New York City were in the crypto news. Miami City Mayor Suarez confirmed that he will receive a Bitcoin (BTC) salary.

In the first week of the year, New York City Mayor Adams also confirmed that he will take his first 3 pay checks in BTC. Both mayors had talked of crypto salaries during their respectively election campaigns.

Miami City to Pay BTC to Local Residents

Late last year, Miami City Mayor Suarez had already been in the crypto news, however. Bitcoin advocate Suarez announced an initiative to pay BTC to locals who create a digital wallets.

In June 2021, the City of Miami had launched its very own MiamiCoin (MIA), which became the first CityCoins to market.

CityCoins provides citizens a medium to generate crypto-based revenue. Powered by Stacks (STX), CityCoins enables smart contracts on the Bitcoin network. While most crypto protocols are a single token system, the CityCoins protocol allows for a multiple token systems. This feature allows users to generate tokens for each  individual city.

CityCoin miners receive CityCoins token rewards by depositing STX into smart contracts. 70% of all STX tokens deposited into the smart contract go to the stackers. The remaining 30% goes to City Wallets. City Wallets are considered a crypto equivalent of a city’s treasury. Mayors can exchange the accrued tokens for fiat to invest into the city. Alternatively, mayors can mine with the accrued STX tokens to earn Bitcoin.

MiamiCoin Market Cap hits $25m, with NewYorkCityCoin Hitting $30m

At the time of writing, MiamiCoin was ranked #4,002 on CoinMarketCap, with a market cap of $24.15m. For the City of Miami and its residents, as the value of MiamiCoin rises, the number of miners increases. The result is an increase in STX blocks, which leads to a larger crypto treasury chest for the city. Coin holders are then also rewarded Bitcoin.

In a nutshell, it is up to the people with vested interest in the City of Miami to mine. This then leads to a larger treasury chest to invest into the city.

Miami is not alone, however, with NewYork Coin (NYC Coin) also in circulation.

With regulatory activity on the rise at the turn of the year, CityCoins could have  a tough road ahead. Environmental concerns around Bitcoin could be a stumbling block. A number of governments have raised concerns over the impact of Bitcoin mining on the environment. China banned Bitcoin mining last summer as it looks to be carbon neutral by 2060.

21 Shares Launches First Crypto ETP for Cosmos (ATOM)

Giving a massive push to the Cosmos blockchain, 21 Shares one of the world’s largest issuer of cryptocurrency ETPs, today announced the listing of the first crypto ETP for the Cosmos blockchain.  The exchange-traded products (ETP) are set to trade against CHF, EU, and USD on Switzerland’s SIX Exchange.

21Shares’s Cosmos ETP will deliver a product for investors looking to capitalize on the growth trajectory of interoperable, decentralized blockchains that are empowering the early stages of the metaverse. 

The CEO and Co-Founder of 21Shares, Hany Rashwan, said:

“We are thrilled to launch this product as we continue building widely accessible bridges into the crypto world.”

Diversifying, Developing, and Growing 

Cosmos is a proof-of-stake chain with the ATOM token powering an ecosystem of blockchains designed for scaling and interoperability. The organization aims to ‘create an Internet of Blockchains, a network of blockchains able to communicate with each other in a decentralized way.’ 

The Cosmos ecosystem knits together Decentralized Finance (DeFi) infrastructure and marketplaces, financial tools like wallets and smart contracts, as well as gaming apps, among other features. The Cosmos ecosystem’s ability to enable the use of the IBC protocol to allow blockchains to exchange value without compromising their underlying assets gives the ecosystem edge in the space. 

That said, focusing more on development, a liquidity staking module is coming to Cosmos soon.  Liquid staking could give additional functionality to the staked chain assets, meaning that ATOM will be able to issue a staking derivative without needing to unbond or redelegate.

That said, Cosmos’s DeFi ecosystem has seen some good growth in 2022 and currently sits just under the $9 billion mark according to data from DeFi Lama.

Source: DeFi Lama

ATOM Prepares to Rally

The announcement of Cosmos ETP listing positively impacted price and social sentiment for the altcoin. ATOM saw an over 10% appreciation in price jumping from $35.5 to $39.41 at press time. 

ATOM, FXempire, Crypto, Cosmos
Source: Trading View | FXempire

While price saw a jump, the retail crowd was still cautious of its move as spot trade volumes for ATOM saw no major uptick and since the altcoin was still down around 2% on the weekly chart. 

Nonetheless, ATOM’s long-term prospects looked decent as development collaborations seemed to pave way for future growth.

Binance Integrates LUNA As Terra Announces The LFG

Terra’s growth has been strikingly extraordinary considering the network’s performance as well as the price performance of LUNA. But Luna does not seem to want to stop just here as its latest plans of ‘LFG’ seem to be hinting towards something bigger.

LUNA On Binance

In an announcement today, Binance completed LUNA’s integration into the exchange and activated deposits for the altcoin.

Although withdrawal for the asset is yet to be activated sometime in the future, at the moment investors can deposit their LUNA and begin trading at once.

Considering how rapid Terra’s growth has been over the last few months this announcement only adds more fuel to the fire.

The network on the DeFi front destroyed records with its fleeting advancement as Terra beat all other top DeFi chains to place itself on the mantle of the second biggest DeFi chain by TVL (Total value locked), holding $18.6 billion.

DeFi chains ranked by TVL | Source: DeFi Llama

Despite having merely 17 active protocols Terra managed to surpass even the Binance Smart Chain (BSC) which hosts more than 291 protocols on the chain. The exclusivity of dApps on Terra has a lot to do with the network making headway.

But There is a Catch…

Terra isn’t willing to stop just now and seems to be pretty confident in their plan considering the announcement of the Luna Foundation Guard (LFG).

As described by Terra:

“LFG is a non-profit organization mandated to build reserves supporting the $UST peg amid volatile market conditions and allocate resources supporting the growth and development of the Terra ecosystem.” (sic)

Their initial target is, to begin with spreading awareness of blockchain technology and to eventually build out educational programs relevant to it.

This will be followed by allocating grants for product development as well as providing transparency about the ongoing activities to the community.

Furthermore, the LFG aims to prioritize DeFi projects, particularly those which focus on the peg stability and sustainability of TerraUSD, the network’s stablecoin.

Terra also stated that the LFG will be governed independently by an international Council of leaders and experts. This will in due course include more members of the Terra ecosystem.

Effects On LUNA?

No immediate effect can be observed on the altcoin since it is following its bullish pattern of persistent rallies. This has allowed the altcoin to rise by over 229% in 4 months, with indications of a continued rally going forward.

LUNA has risen by 229% in 4 months – Source: FXEMPIRE

Philippines’ UnionBank Opts Metaco and IBM for Crypto Safekeeping

The Union Bank of the Philippines, a pro-crypto bank, has chosen Metaco and IBM to provide orchestration for cryptocurrency storage solutions. Announced Thursday, Union Bank will deploy crypto management services on IBM Cloud.

“It’s a way to future-proof our banking business,” Cathy Casas, head of the bank’s blockchain, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

The bank will use Metaco’s Harmonize service, a crypto orchestration system. By doing so, UnionBank can improve the insurability of assets with certified physical controls for managing and migrating keys.

“We have the passion for meaningful and sustainable reinvention. We value our strategic partners, like Metaco, and collaborate with them in an alliance that is meaningful in pursuit of a common vision,” UnionBank Senior Executive Vice President Henry Aguda said in the release.

The partnership with UnionBank follows Metaco’s recent opening of Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore.

Pro-Crypto Moves

The UnionBank debuted its crypto custody services in August 2021, stating that the bank is in “full compliance” with the central bank of the Philippines, in offering this service.

The bank has been exploring crypto-friendly options ever since it installed the first two-way bitcoin ATM, at its main bank branch in early 2019, mainly to address remittance service demand.

The UnionBank has even issued its own stablecoin – PHX – pegged to the Philipino peso and backed by UnionBank reserves. PHX is similar to the US dollar-pegged Tether or USDT.

The stablecoin is available to all UnionBank account holders and can be purchased through debits to account holders.

Crypto Custody Services vs. Wallets

Put simply, custody services are safekeeping solutions for cryptocurrencies. On the other hand, wallets, though hot and cold wallets address safety concerns, are third parties offering storage and safety for digital tokens.

Importantly, crypto custody services are primarily intended for institutional investors and for those who hold large amounts of Bitcoin or Ethereum, or other digital assets. But wallets are for all crypto buyers, sellers, traders, and investors.

Having said that, Metaco services enable institutions to manage not only crypto custody and trading but also smart contract management and decentralized finance (DeFi). Some of Metaco’s crypto custody clients include Swiss banks BBVA and GazpromBank.

“[Clients] can leverage the existing stack, existing run capabilities to manage Metaco vaults directly from existing infrastructure. And we have a number of other similar deals in the pipeline, leveraging our combined capabilities,”

Seamus Donoghue, Metaco’s VP of business development said in a CoinDesk interview.

Multichain Protocol Loses Over $3 Million in Multiple Hacks

Hacks are something everybody has to consider when entering the crypto world, especially when it comes to smart contracts.

The cross-chain protocol announced last Monday to users that six tokens had critical vulnerability, including WETH, PERI, OMT, WBNB, MATIC, and AVAX. The team commented that users need to revoke the approval of any of the six tokens. The next day over $1 million was stolen.

A day later, on January 19, Tal Be’ery, the co-founder of the ZenGo wallet announced on his twitter account that the Multichain losses rose to $3 million as mentioned below.

In the crypto world, the hacks haven’t disappeared, last month the Centralized exchange BitMart lost around $200 million worth of crypto, and also the Celsius Network about $54 million.

What Is Multichain?

Multichain, formerly known as Anyswap, is a cross-chain router protocol, founded in July 2020. It allows users to swap tokens between different blockchains using a bridge.

The protocol supports 30 different chains and over 1,389 different tokens according to their official website. It has $9.43 billion Total Value Locked (TVL) and over $4 billion of volume in the last seven days.

The cross-chain protocol uses a governance token called MULTI, and it allows holders of the token to vote and participate in the decisions of Multichain’s ecosystem.

Is the Hack Situation Under Control?

At the moment one whitehat hacker returned 259 ETH as Multichain’s official twitter account commented as you can see below:

The Multichain team has warned over and over about the six compromised tokens on their protocol. Also the team has been taking actions along the way like monitoring and reaching the affected users, making announcements, updates, and alerts banners on social channels.

It appears Multichain is a bit relieved due to the recovery of some of its funds, but are all the funds going to be recovered? Let’s hope so.

 

Lindsay Lohan is Launching her “Experiential NFTs” on Superfandom

Lindsay Lohan is entering the Non-fungible token space with her experiential NFTs. The tokens will be available for sale on the Superfandom marketplace. 

The famous actress will also serve as an adviser for the platform, helping them attract more users and similar celebrities.

Experiential NFTs Offer Holders a new Level of Experience

With her foray into NFTs, she joins several celebrities and entertainment stars who have issued NFT tokens. Many more are even in the space as collectors, and some go as far as starting their own NFT companies. 

Experiential NFTs are unique as they offer special utility for holders. They allow the fans to interact with the celebrity or get special access. For example, a singer who issues these digital tokens might give holders premium access to shows and listening parties. 

Built on the Stacks Blockchain, Superfandom is for celebrities who want to monetize their fame and fans who wish to have special access to these stars. 

The platform already has actors such as Riya Sen and Jake Busey, singer Jubin Nautiyal, and home improvement celebrity Richard Karn on its list. Lindsay Lohan, however, will be the biggest star to join the platform so far.

This is a strategic move for Superfandom as the Rare Sense subsidiary tries to get more stake in the space. Superfandom was one of the successful projects in the first cohort of Stacks accelerator. 

According to its CSO Sophia Pervez, experiential NFTs are like regular NFTs. They’re better for creators than the typical NFTs, which are digital artworks.

For Lindsay Lohan, this won’t be her first move into the crypto industry. Earlier this year, the Hollywood star promoted All Coins Yield Capital (ACY Capital), a platform that gives users exposure to meme coins, DeFi, and NFTs. Thus, she’s quite familiar with the field and is only looking to expand her portfolio.

Interests in NFTs Continue to Spike

This year, NFTs have been getting lots of attention from the public, with OpenSea already breaking its monthly trading volume record. 

We have witnessed the incursions of traditional firms like Samsung investing in the space. Apart from that, top celebrities like Eminem have also made notable investments into the space this year.

Popular automakers Lamborghini and Mercedes Benz also recently announced that they’d be launching their NFT collections soon. 

However, despite the boom, it has not translated to a steady green run for tokens in the industry like AXS, GALA, THETA, and others whose run mimics the broad crypto market.

Can Dogecoin’s Defi Venture push DOGE price?

Following a successful listing by THORchain, after a long wait by the market participants, Dogecoin can finally be purchased on a decentralized exchange (DEX). The cross-chain liquidity network THORChain in a recent announcement unveiled that it has enabled support for Dogecoin opening doors to decentralized finance (DeFi) capabilities for the token.

The support by THORchain is set to deliver the first-ever DeFi protocol connection to the meme token blockchain network enabling users to swap their DOGE for Bitcoin, ERC-20 tokens, BSC tokens, LTC native tokens, and stablecoins.

The Dog Enters the Defi Race 

The integration allows users to enter and exit the market free of Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations thus providing more sovereignty to the asset. In addition to that, a liquidity pool established for DOGE gives the asset’s liquidity providers the ability to earn yields on their deposits from trading fees. Similar to other liquidity providers on THORChain, depositors have impermanent loss protection based on the length of time of each deposit.

Additionally, the non-custodial offering is set to open new yield farming opportunities for bigger investors looking to obtain better harvests from their stacks through a new permissionless DOGE liquidity pool.

Further, DOGE’s DeFi venture is expected to put the memecoin in a better place both in terms of its store of value narrative and as a medium of exchange. Dogecoin, for a long time, had been a spectator of DeFi growth but this integration puts the blockchain at the forefront of the DeFi ecosystem thus promoting all-over growth. 

That said, over the last month, major market developments like Tesla accepting Dogecoin for its merch have more or less failed to push spot prices in the right direction. 

Where’s Price Headed?

Looking at Dogecoin’s price chart it could be noted that the memecoin stood at $0.1647, just above the lower support level of $0.145. 

Dogecoin, DOGE, Trading View, FXempire, CRypto
Source: Trading View | FXempire

That said, the coin’s price spiked by over 2% to reach an intraday high of $0.167 after Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted a meme inspired by Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar, which seemed to have stirred the winds for Dogecoin’s price.

Nonetheless, the tech tycoon’s efforts towards pushing DOGE’s price have pretty much gone in vain over the last few months and this time too any significant rise wasn’t seen. DOGE’s DeFi venture however could aid network growth and thereby price growth in the long term.

Millions in Cryptos Stolen by Criminals Attacking Individual Investors

In the growing industry of a new form of finance, we also see growth in all other aspects related to it. One such is cybercrime, and the crypto market is taking a severe hit from it.

The New Wave of Cybercrime

In a report from Chainalysis, these crypto-criminals developed methods of hacking came to light. Now hacks and attacks on exchanges and DeFi protocols are known and usually since they have a significant social media presence, they tend to be noticed and fixed sooner or later.

However, there are some who manage to escape thanks to the unconventional methods of hacking. Using methods like Cryptojacking, Clipping, etc. these criminals can target smaller traders or holders and steal little amounts of money.

Multiply this method to thousands or millions of people and you get stolen funds running up to millions of dollars.

The most widely used method is Cryptojacking and it amounts to up to 73% of the total steal by hackers.

Cryptojacking accounts for the most funds received by hackers | Source: Chainalysis

However, instead of directly stealing money from them, they steal computing power from their victims. Using it they illicitly mine cryptocurrencies like Zcash and Ethereum but the most mined altcoin is Monero. 

According to Chainalysis, the reason why it’s more difficult to identify these Cryptojackers is that,


“Since funds are moving directly from the mempool to mining addresses unknown to us, rather than from the victim’s wallet to a new wallet, it’s more difficult to passively collect data on cryptojacking activity”

Furthermore, most of these illicitly mined cryptocurrencies are sent to different platforms from where they are liquidated for money. In 2021 about 54% of the funds were sent to exchanges, And another 20% of them were deposited into DeFi protocols.

Most of the funds are sent to Exchanges | Source: Chainalysis

Additionally, Illicit services also received a significant 15% of the stolen funds which is related mostly to the darknet markets which is a major money-laundering avenue for malware operators.

Another successful Clipper, Hackboss, managed to drain over $560k from crypto holders by essentially “inserting its own addresses into the clipboard when victims attempt to copy and paste another address to carry out a cryptocurrency transaction”, stated Chainalysis.

Would This Continue Going Forward?

There is a very high chance that such crypto-attacks would further flare up in the future given the immense growth the crypto market is witnessing.

Throughout 2021, the total market cap of the entire crypto market shot up by 201.97% amassing more than $1.505 trillion. Thus, such growth serves as a lucrative opportunity for cybercriminals.

The growth of the crypto market last year

Secret (SCRT) Draws in Big Investors, Raising $400m to Support Big Goals

While it’s been a bearish start to the year for Bitcoin (BTC) and the broader market, Secret (SCRT) has been on the move.

Having fallen back from a November high $11.08 to sub-$4.00 levels late last year, Secret has found strong support.

For the current month, Secret was up by 78% to a Wednesday closing $9.06. Earlier in the month, Secret had struck a new ATH $11.25 before easing back.

Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction NFTs and Privacy Key Drivers

At the turn of the year, there’s been no shortage of favorable news to support Secret’s current breakout.

Early this year, news hit the wires of Pulp Fiction’s Tarantino going ahead with the sale of 7 Pulp Fiction NFTs. The sale of the 7 NFTs, called “Secret NFTs” started on Monday and ends on 31st January.

The Secret’s NFT launch will have two components. Uncut scenes from the movie and secret content, only accessible by the buyer. A key attribute of the Secret (SCRT) is that users can build and use applications “that are both permissionless and privacy-preserving”. Secret (SCRT) therefore protects users and also secures applications. The goal is to allow users to control how their data is used and viewed.

With regulatory scrutiny also on the rise, Secret’s platform attributes are likely to provide strong demand in the year ahead.

Such has been investor interest that SCRT is currently ranked #79 on CoinMarketCap, with a market cap of $1,352m and a Total Value Locked (TVL) of $65.95m. Secret had only just entered the top 100 at the start of the year.

Secret Network Announces $400m in Ecosystem Funding

With SCRT having hit an ATH this month and bucking the trend across the broader crypto market, Secret Network delivered more good news this week.

Overnight, Secret Network announced $400m in ecosystem funding, with some big names loosening their purse strings. Marquee investors included HashKey, DeFinance Capital, CoinFund, and Alameda Research among others.

As part of the announcement, Secret revealed “a new $225m ecosystem fund targeted at expanding Secret Network’s application layer (NFTs and DeFi), network infrastructure, and tooling”. In addition, Secret announced a $175m accelerator pool. Funded in SCRT, the pool is there to “provide non-dilutive capital, grants, and ecosystem incentives to rapidly expand user adoption”.

Secret’s targets for the first half of this year include launching hundreds of new apps as well as the on-boarding hundreds of thousands of new users.

Secret (SCRT) Price Action

At the time of writing, down by 0.63% to $9.003. A move back through to $10.00 levels would give SCRT a run at 14th January’s $11.25 ATH. With the broader crypto market under pressure, we can expect plenty of resistance at $10.00, however. The day’s first major resistance level sits at $9.85.

A fall back to sub-$9.00 levels would bring this week’s low $8.37 into play before any recovery. The day’s first major support level sits at $8.32.

Bitcoin (BTC) Mining Comes under EU Scrutiny

It’s been a bearish turn of the year for Bitcoin (BTC) and the broader crypto market. Back in November, Bitcoin had struck a new ATH $68,979 before hitting reverse. An extended sell-off saw Bitcoin visit sub-$40,000 levels at the start of the year. Bitcoin had last visited sub-$40,000 back in September.

Regulatory Focus on Cryptos Intensifies

Market sentiment towards FED monetary policy has certainly contributed to the reversal. Regulatory chatter and activity have also been crypto market negative at the turn of the year, however.

Late last year, the Bank of England raised concerns over the crypto market and financial stability. The BoE also called for a global crypto regulatory framework. Earlier this year, the IMF raised similar concerns. Just this week, India’s Prime Minister Modi also called for a unified approach to cryptos at DAVOS 2022.

With cryptos back in focus, crypto mining has also drawn plenty of attention in recent weeks. Last summer, China banned Bitcoin mining as part of its goal to be carbon neutral by 2060. As a result of the ban, Bitcoin miners relocated to other crypto mining friendly nations that included the U.S and Kazakhstan.

According to Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, the U.S accounted for 35.4% of the global hashrate in August 2021. Before China’s ban on Bitcoin mining, the U.S had accounted for just 16.8% of global mining back in April 2021.

With the U.S having a goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, Bitcoin mining has come under scrutiny. Later today, a U.S Congress subcommittee hearing will look into cryptocurrencies, with mining likely to be a key area of focus.

EU Takes Aim at Crypto Miners

This week, world leaders are attending virtual DAVOS 2022. Among the top 10 global risks over the next 10-years are climate action failure, extreme weather, human environmental damage, and natural resource crisis.

Environmental activists and governments could argue that cryptos and crypto mining could contribute to all of these and possible more.

With plenty of focus on mining, the EU has also stepped forward, calling for a ban of Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining.

News hit the wires overnight of European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) vice-chair Erik Thedeen calling for the ban on PoW mining. The vice-chair reportedly spoke of the significant risks that PoW mining poses to the environment. He reportedly added that EU regulators should encourage the Proof-of-Stake protocol as it has “a significantly lower energy profile”.

Both Bitcoin and Ethereum (ETH) are currently PoW networks, though Ethereum 2.0 will be a shift to a PoS protocol.

With no reported plans of Bitcoin moving to a PoS protocol, the chatter on Bitcoin mining and the environment will likely intensify. Whether pressure from regulators forces a change to a PoS protocol remains to be seen. Many may argue, however, that this would be another example of influence from centralized power.

Google Partners with Crypto Exchanges to Allow Digital Asset Cards

Google Pay, the firm’s payments division, is seeking to partner with crypto exchanges and companies to expand payments options for the platform.

According to a Jan. 20 Bloomberg article, Google has partnered with firms such as Coinbase and BitPay, to “store crypto assets in digital cards, while still having users pay in traditional currencies.”

The search giant has yet to fully embrace digital assets and does not accept them but said it was seeking more of these types of partnerships in an effort to entice more users to its payments app. Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce commented:

“Crypto is something we pay a lot of attention to. As user demand and merchant demand evolves, we’ll evolve with it.”

Big Hire From PayPal

In an additional effort to bolster its payments platform, Google (GOOG) has hired former PayPal (PYPL) executive Arnold Goldberg to run its payments division.

Ready added that the hire is part of a “broader strategy to team up with a wider range of financial services, including cryptocurrencies.”

Google has spent several years developing the payments side of the business and planning a digital checking and savings service with a number of banking partners. However, Ready confirmed that the firm has no intentions of becoming a bank.

The firm lags way behind its competitors Apple on the payments business side of things so this latest shakeup and pivot towards crypto appears to be a drive to reverse this trend. According to research in 2020, Google accounted for just 4% of contactless payments in the U.S. for that year.

Google Pay takes no fees on transactions and this will not change according to Ready who added that more payment features within search and its shopping service will be added to show users “the entire array of financial services out there.”

Targeting Searchers and Shoppers

Google, which spent $1 billion on a new London property last week, aims to become the network linking all payment options, including crypto, rather than a dedicated payments platform. The move to accept digital cards with crypto from various exchanges is evidence that it is finally warming to the nascent decentralized financial ecosystem.

The firm wants to keep web searchers and shoppers on Google, “helping more activity occur on a free and open web – that naturally pays dividends to our overall business,” added Ready. The company makes billions through targeted advertising so it does not necessarily need to take commissions on payments as crypto exchanges do.

Polygon’s Decentralization Plan Draws in Almost 500k Daily Active Users

It is usually uncommon for any network to sustain as many investors as Polygon did within a day especially when the market is not in the asset’s favor. While MATIC has lost over 11.61% in the last 48 hours, investors continue to swarm in owing to Polygon’s developments.

Polygon’s Expeditious Growth

Although MATIC has been bearing the brunt of the bearish market, for most parts the altcoin performed exceptionally in the last 2 months.

While the overall market was on a downfall, Polygon’s token witnessed a 61.1% rise initially which marked a new all-time high for the coin. And this was followed by a 31% fall (ref. MATIC Price Fluctuation image below). 

Soon after MATIC recovered but was met with the 3 big red candles of the last 3 days where it ended up falling by more than 12%.

However, investors were quick to jump in to buy the dip of January 8 and this resulted in the network experiencing the all-time highest number of active users in a day of 492.1k.

Polygon DAU marks an ATH | Source: DeFiPulse

But beyond just the price action, the network’s ever-expanding adoption also deserves credit for this bullishness observed from the investors.

The most recent example of this augmenting adoption is Bitfinex’s activation of Polygon deposits on the exchange.

Additionally last month, Uniswap was launched on the network as well, and just 2 days ago EIP-1559 went live on Polygon to help make MATIC deflationary. Thus the developments on the network are propelling investors’ bullishness towards Polygon. 

Furthermore, the network is also looking into strengthening its decentralization using various methods. The first of which is Polygon DAO.

According to the Polygon Team in order to best initiate a more established and empowered governance community creating a DAO is important as it helps Polygon users to make decisions on the future of Polygon.

But since the network is still in the initial stages of creating a truly decentralized network, they assured investors of transparency as they reveal further details on their plans as well as a governance transparency application, details of which too would be discussed later.

Will MATIC Have Any Impact?

The price action for the altcoin has not been affected as severely currently. As discussed above the momentum is still favoring the broader market cues. But as the Parabolic SAR displays a rising uptrend, price too could enter recovery soon.

MATIC Price Fluctuation – Source: FXEMPIRE

Hedera Governing Council to Acquire Hashgraph Consensus from Swirlds

The Hedera Governing Council has officially voted to purchase the intellectual property rights to the hashgraph consensus algorithm from Swirlds, a recent blog post by the organization revealed.

The purchase was made from the original creator of the hashgraph consensus algorithm and a founding member of the Hedera Governing Council for an undisclosed fee. 

Strides Towards Success 

The announcement also charted the roadmap for the transition of their code towards open source under Apache 2.0 license in 2022. The organization anticipates that the open-sourcing of the consensus layer will serve to further accelerate its development and expand the number of contributors.

Further, the council members also announced that the network code will be out of beta with the next mainnet upgrade.

In addition to that, other updates from the company included the transfer of core team members such as CEO Mance Harmon and chief scientist Leemon Baird from Hedera to Swirlds Inc as to the CEO and CTO (chief technology officer), respectively, as well as deploying community staking and node opportunities, among others. 

The Hedera network is a sustainable, enterprise-grade public ledger for the decentralized economy in the Web3 space. The platform is governed by a council of 25 organizations, including Avery Dennison, Boeing, Chainlink Labs, Dentons, DLA Piper, Google, and IBM among others.

According to the press release, the decisions have come to light in efforts to enable broader community participation and ‘facilitate exponential growth.’ 

On January 7, Hedera had announced the partnership with the London-based tech firm Neuron Innovations on a drone initiative designed to gather and store quantitative data metrics on various sectors including government initiatives.

While the decision to buy hashgraph IP is set to aid internal growth for the organization, partnerships and collaborations would further strengthen the institutional narrative for Hedera.

Price Action Still Dull 

In terms of ecosystem-centric growth and network development, Hedera seemed to glimmer but price action still looked dull. At the time of writing, HBAR traded at $0.26 noting merely 0.6% daily gains with price action on a daily chart looking largely bearish. 

HBAR, Crypto, FXempire, Hedera
Source: Trading View | FXEmpire

While a price push above the $0.29 level can mark a decent recovery, the alt was still over 10% away from that resistance line with the $0.58 price level acting as a strong support. 

That said, HBAR still had a yearly ROI (vs USD) of +263.63% even though its short-term and mid-short-term ROIs were negative at the time of writing.

Bitcoin Takes a Hit as Crypto Market Records $193 Million in Liquidations

More than 70,000 traders were hit with liquidations over the past 24 hours as the broader cryptocurrency market sustained losses.

The Crypto Market Loses 2.4% of its Value in 24 Hours

The recent data obtained from Coinglass has revealed that more than $193 million worth of liquidations was recorded in the cryptocurrency market over the past 24 hours.

Over the last one hour, more than $7 million worth of liquidations took place in the market. The liquidations have resulted in the total cryptocurrency market cap dropping below the $2 trillion mark a few hours ago.

Bitcoin accounted for most of the losses, with $11.47 million worth of BTC liquidated over the past 24 hours. Ethereum, Cardano, Fantom, and Cosmos complete the top five cryptocurrencies with the highest liquidation.

Bitcoin has struggled below the $45k resistance level over the past few weeks. At press time, BTC is trading at $41,788, up by less than 1% over the past 24 hours.

Fed Rate Hike the Likely Catalyst Behind Market Liquidation

The United States Federal Reserve is expected to announce more significant rate hikes over the coming months. This has resulted in a stronger dollar over the past few days, ultimately affecting the performance of the cryptocurrency market.

According to Coinglass, Binance accounted for most of the liquidations. The cryptocurrency exchange recorded more than $80 million worth of liquidations over the past 24 hours. It is followed by OKEx, with $49 million in liquidations during that period.

Coinglass added that more than 70,000 traders were liquidated over the last 24 hours. The largest single liquidation order happened on Okex, BTC-USDT-SWAP (a total of $3.81M).

If the cryptocurrency market continues to underperform, Bitcoin could lose the $40k support level over the coming hours or days.

Play-To-Earn Game Warena Has Officially Launched

It seems a new era of gaming is coming, and it is called “play-to-earn”. After having a successful Beta phase of 15,000 players in a four-day period of Warena, the initial phase of Warena game has officially deployed.

Warena is a play-to-earn game built in the Binance Smart Chain and will be released in two phases, the first phase of the game called “Survival”, was launched today, a 2D game survival mode in a post-apocalyptic world, and the second phase called “Metaverse” will come in Q2 this year as a 3D game.

In October 2021, Warena raised $1.5 million during a funding round from big companies in the blockchain ecosystem such as Genesis Builders, DAOMaker, Momentum 6, Master Ventures, Animoca, Clovers Ventures, and others.

About Warena

The play-to-earn game starts its first phase in the year 2129, where technology is really advanced but is World War 3 because a virus spread and most of humanity became zombies. Players will choose to be humans or robotic warriors to fight against the zombies.

The Warena project is a combination of software game companies such as d2mstudio, and co-led by the Genesis Builders Fund, according to Warena’s official GitBook.

One of the most anticipated features will be available during the second phase of the game, where players will interact and battle other “Metaverses” players that are built on other blockchains like, for example, Axie Infinity in the Ethereum blockchain.

How Do You Earn Tokens in Warena?

There are two tokens you can earn in the game: $WARE, which is the main currency of the game, and $RENA.

You can earn $WARE in the daily quest that is granted for all players, passing successful missions in the adventure gameplay, achieving one-time milestones, being in the top 100 players list in the weekly rank challenge, and renting warriors. On rare occasions, you will earn $RENA instead of $WARE by achieving missions.

The token $WARE is used to purchase things like mystery boxes, improving your warriors, to rent a warrior. On the other hand, $RENA can be used for staking and earning more tokens.

Both tokens $WARE and $RENA are also available in Binance Smart Chain’s decentralized exchange PancakeSwap.

As the Beta phase was successful, probably the first phase of Warena will be a success too, as an innovative play-to-earn game, let’s see if it can reach the top list of the most played games in the near future.

Over 64% Canadians Desire To Be Paid in Cryptocurrency: Survey

The discussion of cryptocurrency’s mainstream adoption has been going on forever and the only way to turn it into reality is by finding the easiest mass influential method.

Salary in Bitcoin?

That is the demand of Canadians at the moment. A survey of 1000 Canadians brought to light the demand and current use of cryptocurrency in the country and what they expect from the future.

Presently crypto payments aren’t accepted by every business in the country.

Although some retailers do accept crypto currently, it is yet to be accepted conventionally. And the process would have to start with none other than the king coin, Bitcoin.

Of the surveyed individuals, about 81% of them had used Bitcoin at some point in their life. Following by a gap of 33% is Ethereum which holds about a 48% usage domination.

Other altcoins used by the focus group included Dogecoin which was used by 28% of people, followed by Litecoin and Cardano at 18%

And their usage comes from the fact that 2021 had crypto hyped the most ever as over 58% of the users jumped into this space less than a year ago. Only 4% of the 1000 individuals were truly dedicated users as they had been using crypto for more than 5 years.

The duration of crypto being used | Source: Capterra

Alas, most of those who entered the crypto space did not join with the intention of truly utilizing the strengths of this technology. About 58% of respondents said that their motivation was to make profits through cryptocurrency.

However, some 26% of them truly looked forward to escaping the clutches of the regular banking system, and being paid in crypto would certainly enable them to do so.

Reasons for why cryptocurrency | Source: Capterra

This particular reason has been driving not just Canadians but also people from other countries to be paid in crypto.

Earlier last year Australian companies too began paying a portion of their employees’ wage in crypto. And the year before New Zealand made it legal for salaries to be given using digital currencies.

But This Is a Matter of Concern…

While 64% of the respondents refrained from using crypto due to a lack of knowledge, another 44% feared the end of cryptocurrencies’ demand in the future.

Reasons for why not cryptocurrency | Source: Capterra

Although another reason why being paid in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum would be risky is the rampant volatility of the market.
Within the span of just the last 3 months, Bitcoin shot up by 65% to touch $67,500 and then dropped back to $41.9k as of press time.

Bitcoin and Ethereum’s volatility – Source: FXEMPIRE

Thus, maybe looking into a more stable form of cryptocurrency such as stablecoins (USDC, USDT, etc.) would be advisable for paying wages in crypto.

Russia Raids Ransomware Group REvil, Seizes $7 Million

Russian domestic intelligence agency, Federal Security Service (FSB), has announced that it has put an end to the ransomware gang, REvil.

The Russia-based criminal gang has been at the center of some of the most prominent ransomware attacks in recent years.

FSB Arrests 14 People, Seizes Almost $7 Million Worth in Cryptos

In a large-scale crackdown, FSB raided 25 residences tied to the gang. The agency arrested 14 members and seized  $6.8 million worth of different currencies, including crypto assets. It also seized crypto wallets, computer equipment, and luxury cars. 

REvil has been at the center of several major ransomware attacks, especially against US companies. In May 2021, the gang hacked Colonial Pipelines, forcing it to pay almost $5 million in Bitcoin for ransom. The hackers were able to take the pipeline offline, leading to a major gas shortage across the country.

Though the authorities were able to recover most of the ransom, the attack represented how notorious the organization had become.

Some REvil Cyberattacks

Beyond that, REvil was responsible for over ten major cyberattacks in 2021. In March alone, it attacked Harris Federation and Acer, leading to confidential data leaks. 

In May of the same year, it attacked Brazilian meat processing company, JBS SA, forcing it to pay an $11 million ransom.

Its largest ransomware attack was in July when it affected thousands of people and businesses in at least 17 countries. The gang collected a ransom of $70 million worth of Bitcoin at that time.

The US Pressured Russia to act

The widespread impact of the cyberattacks by the gang and other similar groups led to the US President pressuring Russian authorities to act.

While Russia has been slow to act, it appears that it has finally heeded US calls. According to FSB, this crackdown was at the request of US authorities.

This will mark the first time in years that US and Russian intelligence will collaborate on a mission like this.

Russia’s motive for doing it now remains unknown; however, it should be noted that the global effects of cyber attacks have also led to more global security collaborations. 

Authorities in Kuwait, South Korea, and Romania arrested suspected REvil members last year. With this Russian-US partnership, the momentum is to curb cyber hacks and limit safe havens for cybercriminals.