Category Archives: bitcoin

Everything You Need to Know About Cryptocurrency Regulation

Originally posted on UpCounsel by Gary Ross.

The meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies has taken the world by storm. Innovators, investors, users, and governments are scrambling to wrap their heads around cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that they rely upon. The emergence of a new market and business model has created great opportunities for participants, but it also carries significant risk.

Cryptocurrencies present an inherently unique challenge to governments because of their new technology, cross-jurisdictional nature, and frequent lack of transparency. Governments are struggling to develop new ways to regulate cryptocurrencies, adapt existing regulations, and identify fraudulent schemes. Cryptocurrencies and their regulations are evolving before our eyes, and this article will provide a brief background on cryptocurrencies and an overview of where cryptocurrency regulations currently.

What are cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrency is, by any other name, a currency—a medium of exchange used to purchase goods and services. Or, as some have suggested, cryptocurrency is a “peer-to-peer version of electronic cash.” However, this currency has two qualities that distinguish it from traditional bills and coins.

First, cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that is created through cryptography (i.e. coding) and developed by mathematical formulas through a process called hashing. Second, unlike traditional bills and coins that are printed and minted by governments around the world, cryptocurrency is not tied to any one government, and thus is not secured by any government entity. The fact that cryptocurrencies are not secured by a government authority has led to concerns from critics that this is the second coming of Tulipmania, because we are ascribing value to an otherwise valueless item. However, the potential for cryptocurrencies as a medium of exchange remains enormous.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is the technology at the heart of most cryptocurrencies, and explaining the technology in detail would require a blog post of its own. What is important to know is that blockchain is a record of peer-to-peer transactions categorized into blocks on a distributed ledger. Despite the obtuse terminology, blockchain functions similarly to a local bank authorizing and recording a transaction, but instead of only one party holding the entire ledger book, the transactions are recorded communally by member nodes, with each node being a computer in a peer-to-peer distributed network.

The blockchain can confirm a transaction within minutes, removing errors that exist when trying to reconcile and audit separate ledgers and transactions. Whenever a transaction takes place, the miners on the blockchain develop a new hash and digital signature to update the ledger and create a new “block.” This block, or recorded transaction, is time-stamped and encrypted and will remain on the blockchain for life.

Regulation in the US – Utility Tokens v. Investment Tokens

In the United States, there has been no federal regulation of cryptocurrencies. Instead, cryptocurrencies are often grouped into two non-binding categories: (1) investment tokens that fall under the purview of already existing U.S. securities laws like the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and (2) utility tokens, which remain largely unregulated (for now).

Security Tokens

Whether the tokens being offered in connection with a particular cryptocurrency are security tokens is decided on a case-by-case basis that even experienced securities lawyers can disagree upon. Tokens are usually analyzed under the four-part Howey Test below to see if the token is in fact a security. Securities must meet the following criteria:

  1. An ​investment of money
  2. in a ​common enterprise
  3. with an ​expectation of profits
  4. predominantly from the efforts of others

Each characteristic of the token is analyzed against this framework to see if the cryptocurrency is in reality functioning as a new-age security. If it is, then regulators treat it as such, and cryptocurrencies must then be registered and handled with all of the same disclosures and precautions as any other security sold in the United States or to U.S. investors.

 

Utility Tokens

Cryptocurrencies can also be categorized as non-security utility tokens. These tokens purport to offer intrinsic utility and value, and are typically instrumental in powering the blockchain technology. These tokens function more like commodities than securities, and while they may act like currency in a fully functional network, they also have other values.

However, having a utility token with a properly formed and functioning network does not preclude said token from being labeled a security by the SEC. In In the Matter of Munchee, Inc., a purported utility token with a non-functioning network was labeled a security by the SEC. While labeling a token without a functioning network as a security – as it has no present utility – is not unexpected, the SEC also concluded that: “even if [Munchee] tokens had a practical use at the time of the offering, it would not preclude the token from being a security.”

After analyzing the Munchee Tokens under the Howey test, the SEC concluded that they were investment contracts because purchasers of the tokens had an expectation of profits predominantly from the efforts of Munchee and its staff. The SEC further concluded that Munchee had primed such expectations through its marketing efforts.

While this new case does not eliminate the distinction between utility and security tokens, it does caution that, when deciding whether a given token is a security, the SEC will look beyond utility at the character of the instrument, and base their conclusion based on the terms of the offer, the plan of distribution, and the economic inducements held out by the token issuer.

State Regulation

So far only the state of New York has issued any kind of regulation specifically regarding cryptocurrencies: the BitLicense. The BitLicense is New York’s attempt to control cryptocurrencies within its borders by requiring cryptocurrency businesses to register and comply with several different disclosure and financial obligations. The regulation has been divisive, and many businesses have rallied against its high costs. While a few companies have applied for and received the license, most other companies have simply left the state or stopped offering services to its residents.

Regulation Abroad – The Ever-Shifting Jurisdictional Question

The United States is not the only country grappling with how best to regulate cryptocurrencies. Many cryptocurrency businesses face daunting questions regarding in which jurisdictions to form and to do business in. In the end, the question is quite difficult and fact-specific, requiring communication between legal counsel in different jurisdictions and taking into account nebulous and piecemeal country-by-country regulations. It is impossible to do a detailed analysis without knowing how a country’s existing securities laws, financial regulations, and banking regulations will operate (or will be adapted to operate) with cryptocurrencies. The fact that cryptocurrency-specific regulations are still developing does little to add clarity, and makes the analysis even more challenging. Yet a few global trends are noticeable:

Suspending Cryptocurrencies

Some notable countries, like China, and South Korea, have suspended cryptocurrencies. These countries have cited the risk of fraud and the lack of adequate oversight in suspending cryptocurrencies and their exchanges, forcing cryptocurrency companies and exchanges to relocate.

 

Regulating Cryptocurrencies

Other countries, like Japan and Australia, have adopted disclosure and regulatory measures, or have companies register with the applicable government authority. Several countries have also tried to implement disclosure or registration regulatory regimes when it comes to cryptocurrencies, but such regimes are cumbersome and expensive to fledging companies.

Cryptocurrencies as Commodities

On the other hand, Switzerland and Singapore, two of the countries at the forefront of the cryptocurrency market, have simply stated that cryptocurrencies are assets not currency, and that they will treat them as such under existing regulations.

Conclusion

Ultimately, cryptocurrency regulation remains in its infancy. Piecemeal regulation has already begun around the world as governments enact new regulations to control and legitimize cryptocurrencies, fold cryptocurrencies into existing regulations, or ban them outright. These splintered attempts at controlling a global phenomenon will keep the cryptocurrency market volatile, and pose a challenge to innovators, investors, and users. They will continue to work in the cryptocurrency space while pushing for legislation and regulation that will remove ambiguity and legitimize cryptocurrencies. At the same time, they must grapple with the possibility that new regulations may be confusing, detrimental, or have negative inadvertent effects.

Don’t Sleep – Robinhood Adding Crypto to Their Popular Mobile App Platform

Robinhood is a mobile stock market trading app. It has gained wide popularity because it allows you to buy and sell stocks and securities for no fees. The platform will soon allow stocks, options, ETFs and cryptocurrencies. I have owned this app, which required me to be on a waiting list for a long time for over two years now, and I am very happy with the integration and progression of the company. The app has a very simple and stylish design with 4 colors total and is completely mobile. A desktop version is coming soon.

1_ER7YBE3138afGPNmfkeRRw

The mobile app has just announced that they will be adding Cryptocurrencies in their new ad “Don’t Sleep” relating to the fact that currencies especially cryptocurrencies trade on a 24/7 global market around the world. This is very different from the American market which runs from 9:30a to 4:00p. According to news outlets and their site they will allow users to track 16 of the top cryptocurrencies and they will allow you to trade the top two “bitcoin” and “Ethereum”. This is largely due to the recent craze among these investment vehicles and gaining popularity around the world. It seems like these days, mobile companies are trying to capitalize and keep up with the times. They will still allow trading to be commission free even on the new cryptocurrencies. This is interesting because lately Bitcoin has been having issues with its high transfer fees and transfer speeds.

DQmSdSh23GzGePEJFHc69ADtZS7wXaMctKmTzGzEue1E3wX

The Sixteen Currencies that you can track include: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, XRP, Ethereum Classic, Zcash, Monero, Dash, Stellar, Qtum, Bitcoin Gold, OmiseGo, NEO, Lisk, and Dogecoin. This implementation will begin in February 2018. Stay Tuned.

 

Sources:

http://blog.robinhood.com/news/2018/1/24/dont-sleep

 

 

NEO, Also Known as the “Chinese Ethereum”, has a Future that is Looking Bright

NEO, or the Chinese Ethereum, is a coin that many investors and developers have their eyes on. NEO is considered the Chinese Ethereum because its “ first decentralized, open-source cryptocurrency and blockchain platform launched in China.” With it moving up as the ninth largest market cap with $9,871,550,000, it has a circulating supply of 65,000,000 and has a total supply of 100,000,000. As of January 18th, it has a value of 151.72.

Many developers and investors have bought into the coin because of the potential the coin carries. The goal of NEO is to use a combination of digital assets, digital identity, and smart contracts to create a smart economy. The idea of digital assets, identities and contracts are to take data and digitize it. Digital assets is an idea of protecting the assets one has possession of. Through smart contracts, a record of possession can be recorded and added to the blockchain allowing for decentralization of the asset. NEO wants to do this by taking assets and turn them digital. Digital identity is an idea of taking your personal information from passports to medical records all onto the NEO blockchain, so it’s all in the same location. This allows for a person to easily retrieve the data, through a various different ways like facial recognition, fingerprints, voice recognition, and SMS, in the same place. There is no confusion of misplacing data and information. The creation of digital assets and digital identities are done by smart contracts.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 10.36.53 PM

In 2018, NEO is going to have a good year. NEO is an underrated cryptocurrency that has a good team of developers being the coin. 2018 should be a good year for the top 10 coin because there are already a number of ICO’s ready to launch in China using the coin’s platform technology. Neo also uses POS (Proof of stake technology and when a coin is staked it produces the underlying GAS coin which powers the blockchains. GAS has also been doing incredibly well in the markets with a lot of upward momentum at the end of 2017 and early 2018. You can look at GAS as sort of a dividend or reward from staking the coins and verifying transactions on the NEO blockchain. NEO Hit a high of around $160 and has recently pulled back to the $120 region. We could very well see NEO follow a similar trajectory of Ethereum because of the similarities of the platform and smart contract capabilities.

South Korea Halting All the Crypto-Fun.

December started with a new peak in most of the top 10 cryptocurrencies; however, January is starting with low numbers that people haven’t seen since November. Bitcoin is below $10,000, Ethereum is below $1,000 and Litecoin is below $200. Not only are the major players being affected, but altcoins are also seeing a hit. Many believe that this is the “crash” everyone has been expecting, but this isn’t. This decrease is due to the nature of fear many users and investors are having with government regulation. Especially in South Korea. South Korea has a major role in cryptocurrencies because of the amount of trading that is done in that region. With so much control over the market, one negative move that restricts cryptocurrencies caused a large effect across countries because of the global nature of the technology.

shutterstock_188428388-825x510

What South Korea is unsure of this new technology and the cryptocurrency uproar. Many young people are under a lot of pressure due to job supply and demand, so people are looking to make money on the side, people are also investing a lot of money and savings into the currencies and the government doesn’t want its people to get burned in the market because of a bubble. They want to regulate cryptocurrencies and decide how they want to proceed. Cryptocurrencies are being a larger and larger part of the future and South Korea is trying to figure out how to restrict them because of their lack of centralization; however, the same reason that South Korea wants to ban it is what makes it very hard to control. Since there is no one in control besides the blockchain, no one has control over it. This is leading to South Korea making very tight restrictions to avoid potential problems with scams, ICOs, bubble, etc. And therefore the buying of cryptocurrencies in South Korea has halted. And with any good free market supply and demand, the less people buying, the lower the price is going to be. In the end, the market is taking a hit.

This decrease trend is soon going to have a turn around and head in the other direction. South Korea is going to figure out the best ways to restrict cryptocurrencies and the market is going to rebound. If this doesn’t happen, China and the United States will take the market in their own hands and the market will soon be controlled by them, leading to a more stable market. These are just very uncertain times, especially with this new technology. It was a rough few days but things look like they are heading back up.

Crypto Mining: A Short Intro

Most all cryptocurrencies record transactions by using blockchain technology or a similar DAG Directed acyclic graph technology to record transactions. To operate with the blockchain, cryptocurrencies use miners to link each transaction or block into a chain. This allows for each transaction to be accounted for on the same platform, making everything uniform. This is what creates the decentralized nature of the currencies. Bitcoin is the coin that made people aware of the possibility of mining; however, any coin that uses the bases of blockchain on a proof of work chain can be mined the other alternative is Proof Of Stake (we’ll talk about this later).

1_c9JqUb8R5jolNJrlUnnrVw

Mining is just verifying the list of transactions on the blockchain. Someone who verifies that the transactions are accurate is rewarded with a specific currency. Set up the computers to solve the verification equations and complete the chains. When a transaction is made, miners first began by making sure the transaction is valid through running it through a series of tests. Next the data is put into a memory pool where the miner then pulls the information from. Once the miner has the data, the race begins to race to solve a set of complex equations through a computer called a hash function. In simplicity, a hash function is a algorithm that takes different length inputs (which are the transactions) and creates an output that is of all the same lengths. Here is an example of a simple hash function:

hello   ==> 2cf24dba5fb0a30e26e83b2ac5b9e29e1b161e5c1fa7425e73043362938b9824
goodbye ==> 82e35a63ceba37e9646434c5dd412ea577147f1e4a41ccde1614253187e3dbf9

In order to solve one of these functions, the computer just keeps making guesses until it is correct.

1280x720-fTu

For a person to mine cryptocurrencies, it takes more than a computer. In order to successfully mine, many people create mining rigs. Each rig consists of five to six graphic cards. The mining rigs take a lot of power/electricity, which can be quite expensive. The power of a graphic card is determined by the hash rate and power consumption. The hash rate is determined by how fast the graphic card can solve the hash functions. Miners have a decision to make between conserving power, while still having a fast hash rate. It is all about finding the perfect balance. In addition to power and hash rate,  it is important to run them in a cool environment. The colder the environment the faster the processing power.

In addition to miners, the process also needs nodes to double-check and validate. Nodes are important members that move data, such as payments and additions to the blockchain, around the network. While the information is passed around, it is checked by other nodes on the network. Nodes differ from miners because the miners are doing the raw work of attacking the transactions to the blockchain, and the Nodes are the validators. When a transaction is validated and a block is complete all the nodes around the system in the web are updated, which creates the decentralization and the data is held in all the seperated locations instead of in one central location.

 

https://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-hash-functions-explained/

https://chrispacia.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/bitcoin-mining-explained-like-youre-five-part-2-mechanics/

https://cryptosrus.com/ethereum-mining-rig/

 

https://www.google.com/amp/www.coinminingrigs.com/how-to-build-a-6-gpu-mining-rig/amp/

https://bitsonblocks.net/2015/09/09/a-gentle-introduction-to-blockchain-technology/

 

Monero: The Dark Coin

Lately I have been investing more and more into some of the popular alt-coins. One of my favorite websites is called coinmarketcap.com. This site allows me to look up a list of the top currencies on the market right now and sort with different filters. The list is defaulted on the market cap of the coin. This is important because this is basically the valuation of the entire currency in the default of USD after conversion. You can also sort by price, volume, circulating supply and 24 hour change. Numbers are updated in real time. This is a very powerful tool for doing swap research.

While on this site I kept seeing a coin called Monero(XMR). It has been in the top 10 for a while now and currently has the 11th highest market cap of all the coins around $7b and a coin price of $460.

Monero has been around since April 2014 and has a heavy focus on Privacy and decentralization. The coin is mineable and records transactions publicly via ledger. Monero’s main objective is to obscure the sender to receiver and the amount transferred. This gives a more traceless system. Some argue that this could be dangerous giving the transaction agents a mask. This brings controversy because people assume it will be used for illegal activities.

Monero basically blew up in 2016 and experienced a ton of growth in its market cap and volume because it was adopted in the darkNet site MarketAlphaBay, which was later closed in July 2017 due to criminal activity.

How it works: Monero uses uses uses stealth addresses, confidential transactions and stealth hidden ring signatures to hide the origins, transaction amounts and destinations of coins. A holder still gets all the benefits of a normal decentralized cryptocurrency just with an added layer of anonymity. The coin also cannot be blacklisted based in its previous activity and can be mutually interchangeable.

Monero has been accepted in many dark places on the web due to its attraction to dark/illicit activity. Because of its visibility in the marketplaces and ability to shield users identity it is less speculative than other popular and similar coins. Monero will be capped at 18 million coins and will rely on supply and demand of the coin to determine price and mining will take another 8 years to reach total coins mined.

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 10.25.38 PM

Lately the coin has had tremendous growth during the past few weeks. There have been many rumors in the US about which coins are contenders to be added to the widely popular coin exchange app Coinbase and Monero due to its market cap and volume definitey seems to be a contender.

Smart-Bridging the Cryptocurrency Gap, What ARK Coin is All About.

Being a college student, the need for money is quite high; however, we want it fast. With Bitcoins $4,882 rise just last week, everyone is pouring there money into the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin this, Bitcoin that; however, the new thing in the world of cryptocurrency investors are alt currencies. These are a set of cryptocurrencies that have specialized features, but are far less known mainstream. The next crypto on the radar of many crypto users is ARK.

ARK is a fork of Lisk, which started out as a cryptocurrency with the goal of creating side chains. ARK still uses the blockchain; however it is utilizing it in a very different way. The potential is very high for ARK because of the ambition behind the team of developers. There is a team of 27 developers that work to fix the problems that mainstream cryptocurrencies have. A few things that the developers have done are increasing speed, the Delegated Proof of Stake, and the notorious SmartBridge.

To start off, the developers of ARK have increased the speed of confirmation time. The confirmation time for ARK is around 8 seconds. The developers were able to achieve this by allowing microtransactions to be done through off-chain processing. This allows the transaction to be much faster because it prevents blockchain bloat. Blockchain bloat is when the blockchain gets filled up with test/fake/small transactions that slow down the network; however, with the use of off-chain processing, this can be avoided.

Another change ARK has made to their cryptocurrency, which is a problem the top cryptos have, is a modified Delegated-Proof-of-Stake. Many cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, would select people to put together the blocks. However, the same people keep on getting it. With the new DPoS system, 51 active forging Delegates are selected by vote mechanism built into DPoS. These people have voting power; however, it changes each time. This allows the cryptocurrency to be more decentralized. This decision making process makes is very easy to upgrade the currency. This means it is good for investing in because of the continued improvements that the developers are able to do with ease.

ARK is also experimenting with a homogenous codebase. This means that connecting other services off the main code is very easy since it all contains the same “format” of code. “The potential to provide service bridges in the form of Lisk blockchain apps, along with any other additional systems provided by their Blockchain administrators.”

And Finally, the greatest thing ARK has brought to us: the SmartBridge. SmartBridge is the bridge that connects all cryptocurrencies together. To convert cryptocurrencies into a different type you have to use a wallet that has both currency pairs, convert it, and then move it to where you wanted it to go; however, this process is way faster with ARK. For example, a user that has ARK currency and needs to send it to another user that wants bitcoin. The user with ARK can simply send the ARK currency and while on its way it will convert to Bitcoin. This allows all cryptocurrencies to be easily converted. ARK is trying to become the centralized crypto, the one cryptocurrency that connects them all.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 10.08.32 PM

The ambition and drive that the ARK developers have is the biggest asset to the new cryptocurrency. The developers are taking all the small issues that blockchain based cryptos are having and adapting to ARK to avoid similar problems and issues.

Now what everyone wants to talk about, what are the returns on this coin. The crypto currency is trading for $4.16 as of 12/12/2017. ARK started on March 22nd, 2017 and started trading at .03 cents; however, it started to make major gains in August when it started to trade at .85. By September the coin saw a 311% gain and was up at $2.65. Now at the start of December, ARK started at $3.06 and saw a great increase until the 5th of December; however, it is making another climb and is trading at $4.16. That is still a dollar return on the coin within 12 days.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 10.11.00 PM

The potential for this coin is quite high. The future of this coin looks bright.

 

 

Sources:

https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/ark/

https://ark.io/