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Bitcoin: Hackers’ ‘Anonymous’ Currency

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An illustration photo shows a Bitcoin (virtual currency) paper wallet with QR codes and a coin
  • Bitcoin: Hackers’ ‘Anonymous’ Currency

The perpetrators of the global cyberattack that caused havoc in 150 countries demanded “ransom” money in bitcoins, but experts believe the anonymity that the virtual currency affords is not necessarily impenetrable.

Bitcoin, heavily-coded electronic tokens that take their name from software first put online in February 2009 by several software designers using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, essentially allow those who possess them to remain anonymous.

The message that flashed up on hundreds of thousands of screens infected by the WannaCry virus over the last few days demanded payment of US$300 (€275) in Bitcoin, saying: “Ooops, your files have been encrypted!”

It warned that if payment was not made within three days the price would double, and if none was received within seven days the locked files would be deleted.

“Bitcoin is digital cash. The transactions are totally anonymous and non-refundable. However they are totally traceable, Nicolas Debock of London-based Balderton Capital that specialises in virtual currencies said.

“All the transactions are stored in databases called blockchains. It’s anonymous but anyone can monitor a bitcoin address and see how the money moves,” Debock said.

“No-one can take the money off those who hold it, but it is possible to follow in detail the activity on the account.”

That is the problem for investigators, according to Pierre-Antoine Gailly, who compiled a study on bitcoin and other cyber currencies for French state body CESE in 2015.

“Bitcoin doesn’t need a bank so this monetary flow escapes any supervision and any checks,” he told AFP. “The accounts don’t have a physical address or a bank address and they are not stored centrally – anonymity comes before anything else.”

‘RANSOM NOT THE POINT’

The extent of the damage caused to computers around the world, the number of victims and the sheer number of companies concerned is likely to push international investigators and national security agencies to investigate the bitcoin address to which any ransom money has been paid.

Adding to the complexity of tracking the hackers, the holders of bitcoins can use services available on the so-called dark web known as “tumblers” which can offer an additional layer of anonymity.

“The tumbler divides the bitcoin amounts into thousands of tiny pieces, spreads them around to millions of different addresses and carries out lots of transactions,” said Manuel Valente, the manager of a Bitcoin-selling service in Paris.

“Within a week, all of the bitcoins can be put on a new address with the aim of covering (the holder’s) tracks. It is essentially money-laundering of bitcoins. And people offer this kind of service on the dark web.”

Clement Francomme, the director-general of Utocat, a software company that specialises in blockchains, said collecting ransoms was perhaps not the hackers’ real aim.

“The idea was perhaps to show the rest of the world that they have pulled off a really, really big coup. With an attack like that, they’re going to gain notoriety in the international hacking fraternity.

“They probably don’t have any desire to spend the bitcoins, knowing they are being monitored. Their real aim is to use their reputation to sell other services.”

And Francomme warned: “This team has made a show of force and I suppose there will be another attack before very long.”

European police agency Europol said Tuesday it was too early to say whether North Korea was involved in the massive cyberattack.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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E-commerce Black Friday Sales Estimated to Surge by 40% to 10.2 Billion

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The 2020 holiday shopping season will be unique, as the pandemic shifted consumer behavior from retail stores to online shopping. In response, many retailers moved their services online to not miss out on this year’s profits. Atlas VPN team decided to look into how e-commerce sales are set to perform in the upcoming long weekend.

Researchers predict that the US e-commerce revenue will exceed last year’s earnings by 49.5% on Thanksgiving day, totaling $6.18 billion in revenue. Black Friday is calculated to reach $10.2 billion in sales, exceeding last years numbers by 39.4%

Rachel Welch, COO of Atlas VPN, shares her tips on how to stay safe when shopping online during the holiday season:

“Watch out for too-good-to-be-true deals from unknown sellers, as cybercriminals will also expect to turn a profit during the holiday season, even though they are not selling anything, except maybe a bag full of disappointment.”

 Finally, analysis shows that on the last day of the long and full of special offers Thanksgiving weekend, consumers will go all out to bring record sales for e-commerce businesses, adding up to $12.89 billion.

To look at these five days from a wider perspective, e-commerce companies can expect to earn around 39.72% more than they did last year.

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Alibaba Merchants Sell $40B in First Half Hour of Singles Day 2020, More than 2019 Event Full Sales

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Singles Day 2020 was a roaring success, cementing its position as the world’s biggest shopping holiday. Sales across Alibaba’s platforms during the event totaled $74.1 billion, up from $38 billion in 2019.

According to the research data analyzed and published by Stock Apps, within the first 30 minutes of the event, the gross merchandise volume (GMV) surpassed 2019’s full-event sales, reaching $40.87 billion.

Moreover, instead of live events, Alibaba had 400 company executives and 30 celebrities hosting livestreams. Based on a study by Coresight, the Chinese livestream market is set to rack in sales worth $125 billion in 2020, compared to $63 billion in 2019. The US livestream market is a small fraction of that, valued at $5 billion.

China’s Tech Heavyweights Lose $280 Billion in Market Cap

Alibaba Singles Day 2020 dwarfed other major shopping holidays as has been the trend in previous years.

According to Practical eCommerce, Amazon Prime Day 2020 sales totaled $10.4 billion up from $7.16 billion in 2019. Cyber Monday sales in the US amounted to $7.9 billion in 2020 according to Statista. Black Friday and Thanksgiving added $9.7 billion to the figure to make $17.6 billion for the weekend.

Similarly, in 2018, Singles Day sold $30.8 billion while Prime Day sold $4.19 billion and Thanksgiving weekend got $14.2 billion.

However, the 2020 Singles Day event came in the wake of Ant Group’s suspension of a $37 billion listing. The suspension resulted in a $76 billion drop in Alibaba’s market cap, as the tech giant owns a two-thirds stake in Ant Group. Moreover, China’s regulators released anti-trust draft rules prior to the event, aimed at controlling monopolistic behavior.

Following the release, Alibaba shares plunged by 9.8%, as JD.com shed off 9.2%. Tencent similarly saw a 7.39% drop and Xiaomi fell by 8.18%. For the five companies, there was a combined loss of $280 billion in market capitalization.

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Top Three PC Vendors Shipped 121.5 Million Units in 2020, Lenovo Leads with 47.1 Million Shipments

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Remote working and distance learning amid the coronavirus outbreak continue increasing global demand for PCs and laptops. After a sharp fall in the first quarter of 2020, global PC shipments have grown in the last six months, despite the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

According to data presented by Stock App, Lenovo, HP, and Dell, as the world’s three largest PC manufacturers, shipped 121.5 million units in the nine months of 2020. With 47.1 million shipments in this period, Lenovo tops the global PC vendor ranking.

More than 187 Million PCs Shipped Between January and September, a 1.6% Drop YoY

The rise in smartphone usage and the global shift from hardware to cloud solutions had been driving a downturn in global PC shipment for seven years in a row. In 2011, 365.3 million units were shipped worldwide, revealed the Gartner data. By the end of 2017, this figure dropped by almost 30% to 262.7 million.

The 2018 shortage in Intel central processing units brought a new hit for merchants’ supply chains and cut global shipments to 259.7 million that year, under 2007 levels.

In 2019, 261.2 million PCs were shipped worldwide, which was a slight increase from 2018 figures. However, the COVID-19 outbreak triggered the biggest fall in shipment since 2013, as pandemic affected supply chains.

The Gartner data showed 51.6 million PC units were shipped in the first quarter of 2020, down 12.3% from the previous year. Between April and June, the market started showing signs of recovery, with global PC shipment rising by 2.8% YoY to 64.8 million.

Consumer demand for PCs due to remote working, home entertainment, and distance learning amid an ongoing pandemic, along with the strongest US PC market growth in a decade, drove the global market momentum in the third quarter of the year. Between July and September, 71.4 million PCs were shipped worldwide, a 3.6% jump year-over-year.

Statistics show that 187.8 million PCs were shipped worldwide in the nine months of 2020, a 1.6% drop YoY.

Lenovo`s Sales Rose in 2020, HP`s Market Share Dropped Down

The Gartner data also revealed that Lenovo, as the market leader, increased its market share in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fourth quarter of 2019, the Chinese tech giant had a 24.8% market share, with 17.5 million shipments worldwide.

In the third quarter of 2020, the number of shipped units jumped by 8.3% YoY to 18.3 million, while its market share rose to 25.7%.

As the second-largest PC vendor globally, HP hit a 21.6% market share in the third quarter of 2020, down from 22.8% in December last year.

The Gartner data indicate that Dell’s market share, as the third-largest PC vendor globally, dropped from 17.2% in Q4 2019 to 15.2% in Q3 2020. The US computer technology company also witnessed the most significant drop in PC shipments among the top three vendors, with the figure falling from 12.1 million in December to 10.8 million in September.

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