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Bitcoin News Roundup 3.12.17

This week’s summary of various cryptocurrency news and developments:

New developments:

Nasdaq to launch bitcoin futures by mid-2018

According to reports, Nasdaq Inc, the world’s second largest stock market, is set to enable bitcoin futures trading by mid-2018. The financial institution, along with major financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., is rushing to integrate the cryptocurrency given its recent all-time high. According to Reuters, the exchange teamed up with New York-based money manager VanEck, which helped it develop the futures contract, that’s set to be cleared by the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC). The CME Group, the world’s largest derivatives exchange, and CBOE Holdings, had already planned to launch bitcoin futures this year, but Nasdaq’s product is set to differ from CME’s as it will be based on an index that takes prices from “more than 50 bitcoin exchanges.”

CBOE sees bitcoin futures approved by CFTC

Back in March, the SEC denied a request for the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) to list the first U.S. bitcoin ETF. Recently, however, it received approval from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to list bitcoin futures contracts on its platform, which are set to trade under the ticker symbol “XBT” and whose launch date is yet to be announced, as a period of regulatory review will precede it. In a concurrent announcement, Chicago-based exchange CME Group also revealed that the CFTC approved its listing and trading of bitcoin trading futures on its platform on December 18.

Bitcoin futures are somewhat controversial in some sectors, and as such the CFTC issued a statement explaining why it required exchanges to agree to “significant enhancements” to protect consumers and prevent extreme volatility in the market. The statement reads:

  • “Bitcoin, a virtual currency, is a commodity unlike any the Commission has dealt with in the past. As a result, we have had extensive discussions with the exchanges regarding the proposed contracts, and CME, CFE and Cantor have agreed to significant enhancements to protect customers and maintain orderly markets.”

Hackers compromised the official Bitcoin Gold (BTG) wallet

Earlier this week, the team behind Bitcoin Gold (BTG) released a “Critical Warning,” in which it revealed that from November 21 to November 25 users who downloaded the official Windows wallet from its website or GitHub repository received two suspicious files of unknown original as well, meaning a hacker successfully injected the files into the official wallet repository and download file. These files are presumably there to steal user funds or personal information, so users are strongly advised to protect themselves. Developers have revealed that anti-malware scans didn’t reveal anything, but still advised users to thoroughly check, or even wipe the machines to which they downloaded the malicious files.

Per Bleeping Computer, the breach was discovered when the Bitcoin Gold team noticed the SHA-256 checksum for the Windows installer did not match the original SHA-256 checksum for the file they initially hosted. The team has restored all original files and secured its GitHub account.

Coinbase ordered to hand the IRS data from 14,000 user accounts

The U.S: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Coinbase have been embroiled in a legal battle for years, as the IRS asked the company to disclose transaction records of its users between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015. Coinbase fought back, but recently the San-Francisco district court ruled that it must hand over user accounts at the exchange that transacted sums of $20,000 or more in that period. The information Coinbase must provide the tax agency includes names, addresses, taxpayer identification numbers, and date of birth.

Initially, the IRS requested information on nearly 500,000 customer accounts, but Coinbase argued the scope was too wide, even after the IRS proposed a reduced summons in July this year. Coinbase even managed to reduce the data included in the initial order, which also asked for wallet addresses and public keys. Advocacy group Coin Centre spoke out against the court’s ruling, saying it is deeply unsatisfied with the lack of justification on the IRS’ side, and that this sets a “bad precedent for financial privacy.” Coinbase stated it is currently reviewing the order, but told users:

  • “In the event that we ultimately produce the documents under this Court order, we intend to notify impacted users in advance of any disclosure.”

World affairs:

Nigeria’s Insurance Regulator warns citizens bitcoin lacks consumer protections

The Nigerien Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) recently warned its citizens of the lack of insurance to cover any risks related to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. According to local publication Premium Times, NDIC’s director of research and policy for international relations, Mohammed Umar, stated that the country’s financial regulators aren’t “playing catch up on the digital currency race” and added that “no country in the world allows its citizens to use digital currencies as money not issued by the Central Bank.” The statement, strictly speaking, is false as Japan, for example, acknowledge bitcoin as a legal payment method in April this year.

After pointing to previous warnings issued by financial authorities in the country, Umar stated that these public notices serve to “warn Nigerians who want to trade in bitcoins as gamblers.” He added that investors wouldn’t be secured by any protective measures, and as such deal with the cryptocurrency at their “own risk.”

Iran’s Cyberspace authority “we welcome bitcoin, but we must have regulations”

Iran’s High Council of Cyberspace (HCC), the country’s Cyberspace authority, recently revealed that it welcomes cryptocurrencies in the country, provided they’re properly regulated. As reported by the Financial Tribune, HCC secretary Abolhassan Firouzabadi stated:

  • “We [at the HCC] welcome Bitcoin, but we must have regulations for Bitcoin and any other digital currency…Our view regarding Bitcoin is positive, but it does not mean that we will not require regulations in this regard because following the rules is a must.”

Firouzabadi went on to reveal that the cryptocurrency is widely used in the country as a payment method, and added that both the HCC and the country’s central bank are studying cryptocurrencies to better understand them. Cryptocurrency adoption continues to grow in the country despite the absence of regulations, and the HCC secretary revealed that the central bank will soon clarify its position. Iran’s attitude towards cryptocurrencies shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it was discarded from the global banking system when payment network SWIFT removed its banks due to economic sanctions.

Financial:

Bitcoin hits new all-time high above $11,000, leading to outages on various

Bitcoin hit a new all-time high this week above $11,400, but quickly fell to the $9,000 mark and has been embroiled in volatility since. At press time, one Bitcoin is trading at $11,018, as the cryptocurrency’s market cap is at $184 billion and its dominance is of 56.4%. The cryptocurrency ecosystem’s market cap is of $326 billion. Notably, when Bitcoin surpassed the $10,000 mark and surged past $11,000, various cryptocurrency exchanges went down due to the amount of traffic they were receiving. Bitstamp, Coinbase, and Gemini, among others, reported the situation on social media.

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