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Fintech CEO: The Paxful Data Leak that Wasn’t: A Cautionary Tale in Vendor Selection

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Last week,  it was reported that cryptocurrency exchange Paxful released a firm denial of an alleged data leak with 4.8 million entries. The company noted that the data from the supposed leak, which contained employee information among other items, was actually data which was illegally stolen from a third-party vendor.

“If you take Paxful at their word, and I’m not aware of any reason that we shouldn’t at this point, users can be relieved that the exchange wasn’t successfully hacked. But, the issue of incompetent vendors is one which all too often plagues cryptocurrency exchanges,” said Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges. “It’s tough because the cryptocurrency space is relatively new, so most vendors are new, too. Those are the vendors who compete on cost, instead of on their industry success.”

“Fundamentally, however, cryptocurrency exchanges are, at their core, financial exchanges. The technology required to ensure they run flawlessly and with appropriate security measures in place — those things require experience in providing technology for exchanges. Building online auction sites or websites, dabbling in development… those kinds of vendors aren’t capable of handling the kinds of stress put onto a cryptocurrency exchange,” explained Gardner.

Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

“What happens here is that these technology vendors watched Bitcoin explode, and they wanted to cash in on that opportunity. They built technology that’s shiny and works until put under stress. Then they charge rock bottom prices for it. Crypro-preneurs, looking to get to market fast and cheap, find themselves enamored with the offering. For years, the exchange runs without issue because the exchange never saw peak traffic. Once it’s successful and bringing in significant money, hackers will become interested in it. Even worse, the technology stack that powers the exchange isn’t set up to handle the volume demanded by success. Bad things happen. We’ve watched this movie before,” Gardner continued.

“How does this stop? Our industry needs to stop normalizing sub-par, cheap technology provided by suppliers without any experience in the field in which they’re now practicing. We need to normalize and prioritize security. In this case, if the vendor couldn’t secure their own house, how can they be trusted to work on exchange technology in any capacity? Luckily, Paxful executives noted that the vendor is no longer under contract. But, that vendor is very likely still supplying technology to dozens, or even hundreds, of other exchanges. It’s time to flip the script and value experience over sticker price,” opined Gardner.

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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eNaira

Official eNaira Website Goes Live

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The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) eNaira website has gone live a week before the planned launch of the digital currency.

The website promises easier financial transactions for users of eNaira, offers opportunity for peer-to-peer payments which allows users to send money to one another through a linked bank account or card; allows customers to move money from their bank account to their eNaira wallet with ease; can monitor their eNaira wallet, check balances and view transaction history; and make in-store payment using their eNaira wallet by scanning QR codes.

In addition, customers are allowed to scan the QR Code on the website to get started.

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, while speaking to a gathering of foreign investors in New York, recently, had told his audience that because of activities surrounding the country’s Independence celebration on October 1, the earlier planned launch of the eNaira on same date would likely be rescheduled to October 4, 2021.
“The central bank would not want the event to take the shine away from the Independence celebration,” he said.

“We are going to be the first country in Africa to launch a digital currency. It is a novel idea because we think it will facilitate trade, Nigeria being the biggest economy in Africa, this will set the tone to tell Africa that we are ready to lead and we would indeed lead in trade and we would make sure that happens.

“Between all central bankers in ECOWAS, we are already working on certain collaboration to make trade, payment and banking system integrate in such a way to set example on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” he added.

In line with global trend, the CBN recently took a major step towards the launch of its digital currency with its formal announcement of its engagement of global fintech company, Bitt Inc. as its technical partner for the project. To choose the technical partner, the CBN went through a rigorous vendor selection process in line with the Public Procurement Act, conducted by seven departmental directors and a Deputy Governor whereby several companies were evaluated. The evaluation was based on the following criteria: technology ownership and control; implementation timeline; efficiency, ease of adoption; support for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT); platform security; interoperability; implementation experience.

Emefiele expressed optimism that the eNaira, would bring about increased cross-border trade, accelerate financial inclusion and lead to cheaper and faster remittance inflow. He said the digital money would lead to easier targeted social interventions, as well as improvement in monetary policy effectiveness, payment systems efficiency, and tax collection.

According to him, after its unveiling, Nigerians should be able to download the eNaira app from either Google plays store or Apple app store, on board themselves and fund their eNaira wallet using their bank account or with cash at a registered agent location.

“If you are a bank customer and you have say N10 million in your bank account, for your comfort of spending and making purchase, you can tell the bank to load N2 million out of your N10 million into your wallet.

“So, your bank balance in physical cash drops to N8 million, while your e-wallet carries N2 million. With that you can make purchases both within and across the country.
“There are so many variance of the eNaira. But this is where we would start because we are not going to pretend that there are not risks in opening your system up. We would look at the various products, determine the risk, determine the best way to mitigate the risk before we now open it up more and more,” Emefiele added.

Also shedding more light on Bitts, he said, “we chose them as a partner. In some other climes where they are, they have their software and they earn their money. But we chose that they would establish their company in Nigeria. “The CBN will own substantially stake in that company. It is a company that will be established in Nigeria and majority holding will be the CBN,” he added.

On his part, the CBN’s Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, explained that the eNaira project had been a long and thorough process for the apex bank following its resolve in 2017, to digitise the local currency after extensive research and exploration.

Meanwhile, China’s central bank last weekend announced that all transactions of crypto-currencies are illegal, effectively banning digital tokens such as Bitcoin.

“Virtual currency-related business activities are illegal financial activities,” the BBC quoted People’s Bank of China to have said, warning it “seriously endangers the safety of people’s assets”. China is one of the world’s largest crypto-currency markets. Fluctuations there often impact the global price of crypto-currencies.

The price of Bitcoin fell by more than $2,000 (£1,460) in the wake of the Chinese announcement.

It was the latest in China’s national crackdown on what it sees as a volatile, speculative investment at best – and a way to launder money at worst. Trading crypto-currency had officially been banned in China since 2019, but had continued online through foreign exchanges. However, there has been a significant crackdown this year.

In May, Chinese state intuitions warned buyers they would have no protection for continuing to trade Bitcoin and other currencies online, as government officials vowed to increase pressure on the industry.

In June, it told banks and payment platforms to stop facilitating transactions and issued bans on “mining” the currencies – the trade of using powerful computers to make new coins.

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Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency Exchanges Rush to Cut Ties With Chinese Users After Fresh Crackdown

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Cryptocurrency exchanges and providers of crypto services are scrambling to sever business ties with mainland Chinese clients, after Beijing last Friday issued a blanket ban on all crypto trading and mining.

In a culmination of years of efforts to rein in the sector, 10 powerful Chinese government bodies including the central bank, said overseas exchanges were barred from providing services to mainland investors via the internet – a previously grey area – and vowed to jointly root out “illegal” cryptocurrency activities.

Huobi Global and Binance, two of the world’s largest exchanges and popular with Chinese users, have stopped new registrations of accounts by mainland customers. Huobi also said it would clean up existing ones by the end of the year.

“On the very day we saw the notice, we started to take corrective measures,” Du Jun, Huobi Group co-founder said in a statement to Reuters.

Du did not give an estimate how many of its users would be affected, saying only that Huobi, once the world’s biggest crypto exchange, had embarked on a global expansion strategy many years ago and seen steady growth in Southeast Asia and Europe.

Shares in crypto-related firms tumbled on Monday with crypto asset manager and trading firm Huobi Tech plunging 23% and OKG Technology Holdings Ltd, a fintech company majority owned by Xu Mingxing, the founder of cryptoexchange OKcoin, losing 12%.

TokenPocket, a popular service provider of crypto wallets, also said in a notice to clients that it would terminate services to mainland Chinese clients that risk violating Chinese policies and would “actively embrace” regulation. It added it welcomes cooperation from China in blockchain technologies.

Many Chinese crypto exchanges shut down or moved offshore in 2017, after China, once the world’s biggest bitcoin trading and mining centre, banned such platforms from converting legal tender into cryptocurrencies and vice versa. Then in May this year, China’s State Council vowed to ban bitcoin trading and mining.

Amid the crackdown, other types of Chinese crypto companies have been moving out of China over the past few months, said Flex Yang, founder and CEO of Babel Finance, adding that the impact from the latest policy would be “limited”.

The Chinese crypto financial services provider this month opened new business headquarters in Singapore.

Cobo, a crypto asset management and custodian platform, also recently moved its headquarters from Beijing to Singapore.

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Cryptocurrency

Coinbase Bonds Fall Again After China Bans Cryptocurrency

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Coinbase Global Inc.’s debut junk-bond sale fell to fresh lows after the Chinese government banned all crypto transactions and vowed to stop illegal crypto mining.

Paper losses for investors that bought the two tranches of notes at par now stand at roughly $100 million.

The $1 billion 10-year 3.625% bonds dropped more than 1.5 points overnight to 94.5 cents on the dollar, while the $1 billion seven-year 3.375% notes fell more than a point to 95.5 cents, according to Trace bond pricing data.

Coinbase’s bonds had already whipsawed since pricing on Sept. 14 as markets traded down over fears that the Evergrande contagion could affect global markets, and after dropping plans to launch a new crypto lending platform after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission raised concerns over the plan.

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