A man in Taiwan has been arrested over claims he mined millions of dollars’-worth of cryptos using stolen power.

According to a report from EBC Dongsen News on Wednesday, a man with the surname Yang is suspected of stealing electricity valued at over NT$100 million ($3.25 million) via his various business premises to mine bitcoin and ether, reaping around the same amount in mining profits.

Yang reportedly tapped the power supply at 17 stores in Taiwan for his illicit crypto mining operations. He would first rent an internet cafe or a toy store, then hire electricians to redesign the wiring so that the stolen electricity would not be metered, the report alleges.

Taiwan Power Company, the island’s state-owned utility provider, first discovered the operations after noticing an unstable power supply and launching an investigation. Yang was suspected and subsequently arrested by the police.

Wang Zhicheng, deputy head of the fourth brigade of Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau said in the article:

“The group recruited electricians who managed to break into the sealed meters in order to add in private lines to use electricity for free before that usage reaches the meters.”

Several such cases of mining using stolen power have emerged recently, as easy gains have proven too much of a temptation for some. Last month, two principals at a Chinese school got in hot water after stealing electricity from the institution to mine ether.

Back in June, police in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui arrested a man for allegedly stealing a significant amount of power for bitcoin and ether mining, after the local power grid company reported a spike in electricity use. And, in April, six individuals were arrested in China’s Tianjin region over claims they used 600 cryptocurrency miners to generate bitcoin with power taken from the local power grid.

Joseph Lubin, co-founder of major cryptocurrency Ethereum (ETH), declared that he is “calling the cryptobottom of 2018” in a tweet Dec. 21.

According to Lubin, the crypto market’s bottom “is marked by an epic amount of fear, uncertainty, and doubt,” specifically from industry media and social commentators, which he refers to as “our friends in the 4th and crypto-5th estates.”

Continuing in a Twitter thread, the founder of Ethereum blockchain-focused software firm ConsenSys then evidently addressed his firms recently reported major layoffs:

“ConsenSys remains healthy and is engaging in a rebalancing of priorities and activities which started about nine months ago.”

He stated that Consensys continues investing in projects — in its role as a blockchain tech incubator and venture firm — and hiring for internal projects that “remain core to our forward looking-business.”

In the same thread, Lubin complained about “an epic amount of conjecture and preemptive paranoia” concerning “situations journalists and bloggers don’t have real data for, actual insight into, or understanding of.”

Concluding, Lubin reiterated his optimism about the future of ConsenSys and Ethereum, stating:

“The sky is not falling. From my perspective the future looks very bright. […] Peaking [sic] into 2019, if you could see the landscape through my eyes, you’d have to wear shades.”

Reports surfaced this week — citing sources familiar with the matter — that ConsenSys is spinning out startups it previously backed, some of them without financial support. The sources reported that the number of employees to be laid off could be anywhere between 50 and 60 percent of ConsenSys’ 1,200 person workforce.

This past week, Cointelegraph reported that in comparison to more significant job cuts in various industries globally, the current slump in the cryptocurrency markets and ensuring job cuts in associated companies seem relatively benign.

In September, Ethereum’s other co-founder Vitalik Buterin had pointed out that there is no chance that the cryptocurrency and blockchain space will see “1,000-times growth” again.

Sunday, Dec. 23 — all of the top 20 cryptocurrencies are seeing moderate gains, with Bitcoin’s (BTC) price going above $4,000 again, according to CoinMarketCap data.

Market visualization

Market visualization from Coin360

At press time, Bitcoin is up nearly four percent on the day, trading at $4,050. Looking at its weekly chart, the current price is lower than the Friday’s high of almost $4,200; but the cryptocurrency is still trading significantly up from $3,294 — the point at which it started this week.

Bitcoin 7-day price chart

Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ripple (XRP) — the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization — has gained over five percent on the day, trading at $0.374 as of press time.

On the weekly chart, the current price is significantly higher than $0.292, the price at which XRP started the week. However, the current price is slightly lower than the high of $0.389 reached on Wednesday.

Ripple 7-day price chart

Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ethereum (ETH) remains the third largest cryptocurrency by market cap, seeing a 15 percent value increase over the last 24 hours. At press time, ETH is trading at $128, having started the day at $111 and hitting an intra-day high of $133.

On the weekly chart, the current price is notably higher than $87, which was the value of ETH on Monday.

Ethereum 7-day chart

Ethereum 7-day chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Among the top 20 cryptocurrencies, some are reporting more significant growth rates. Namely, NEO has gained 12 percent, and EOS is also up nearly 12 percent. Cardano (ADA), Litecoin (LTC), IOTA and Ethereum Classic (ETC) are all up almost 10 percent.

The combined market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies has surged to over $135 billion at press time. This places the current market cap near its weekly high of over $137 billion, after having started the week at just $104 billion.

As Cointelegraph reported recently, co-founder of Ethereum, Joseph Lubin, declared on Twitter that he is “calling the cryptobottom of 2018.” He further added that from his perspective “the future looks very bright.”

Earlier this week, two United States congressmen introduced a bipartisan bill titled “Token Taxonomy Act,” which proposes to exempt crypto assets from being considered securities.

A team that includes representatives from the Bank of Israel has issued a formal request for information about Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), published on its website Dec. 18.

The request — the goal of which is, as per the title, the “Regulatory Coordination of Virtual Assets”— states that “the regulators of the Israeli financial system believe that there is room to renew and strengthen cooperation and coordination among all regulators and the public” regarding DLT.

Besides the country’s central bank, the team reportedly includes representatives from the country’s Securities Authority, the Ministries of Finance and Justice, the Tax Authority, the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority and various other local regulatory bodies.

The document asks for information pertaining to barriers to the development of the local DLT industry. The text inquires explicitly about problems encountered by local DLT companies, fundraisers, investors and consumers dealing with virtual assets as examples.

Moreover, the request inquires about the risks inherent in the use of virtual assets and the opportunities of DLT in the finance industry. Lastly, the statement also asks how DLT can help address issues regarding Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and terrorism financing.

As per the statement, interested parties are invited to submit relevant information until Dec. 31, 2018.

As Cointelegraph reported at the beginning of November, an Israeli study group exploring digital currency options has recommended that the country’s central bank not issue its own cryptocurrency.

At the beginning of December, Ehud Barak, a former Israeli Prime Minister, compared digital currencies to Ponzi schemes. He reportedly stated that “he would never invest” in crypto as “Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies [are] a Ponzi scheme.”

The Chinese fintech incubation zone located in the Guangdong province has officially started its operations, Chinese news outlet Chinese Software Developer Network (CSDN) reports Dec. 21.

According to the article, the zone — which officially opened Dec. 20 — has a total area of 120 square kilometers and already hosts the headquarters of over 20 companies. The zone and its administration will reportedly offer the companies project financing, office space and policy guidelines, and will overall “promote the transformation and application of technological achievements.”

CSDN notes that the Guangdong financial high-tech zone will “focus on the major needs and major pain points of the financial [industries] encouraging blockchain and other technologies in finance, manufacturing, trade.” The zone will begin with fostering pilot projects, and then will move forward in order to “culvative a group of blockchain financial technology enterprises and innovation teams.”

In November, the “Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao Dawan District Blockchain Alliance” had been established to promote innovation and sustain the development of blockchain tech. CSDN mentions the three districts as areas for expanding the use of the technology.

China, which has long been cracking down on cryptocurrency by banning both domestic and foreign exchanges, and even crypto-related social accounts, seems to be heavily investing in blockchain technology. As Cointelegraph reported this week, a media copyright protection alliance has been created in Beijing to provide copyright protection employing blockchain technology.

Also in December, Shenzhen, a major city in the Guangdong Province and home to the first economic special zone in China, announced that it will use blockchain technology for electronic tax invoices.

American global telecommunications conglomerate Comcast aims to make its blockchain initiative Blockgraph commercially available in 2019, according to a press release published Dec. 21.

“Comcast is currently working with NBCUniversal to test Blockgraph’s capabilities with plans of incorporating it into its addressable offering in early 2019,” states the release.

Comcast is a global media company founded in 2001, that provides cable television, Internet and telecoms services. Comcast is purportedly the second largest broadcasting company in the world in terms of revenue and largest TV company in the United States. The company’s consolidated revenue for the third quarter of 2018 was $22.1 billion.

According to Comcast, its Cable Advertising division initiated the next phase of its Blockgraph platform — a product designed to secure personal data and share information —  which will subsequently lead to the project’s launch in 2019. Comcast is working on the project with other industry players like mass media conglomerate Viacom and advertising sales firm Spectrum Reach, among others.

Blockgraph will purportedly provide an “identity layer” for the TV industry, by means of which media companies can share non-identifiable audience data. The peer-to-peer platform aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of TV marketing and advertising. President of Spectrum Reach David Kline commented:

“It’s imperative that the use of data prioritizes the privacy of consumers’ personal information. Blockgraph’s technology offers enhanced security and privacy protections by allowing all players within the TV ecosystem to directly share insights derived from anonymized and aggregated information.”

Comcast has been maligned in the American media for being a de facto monopoly in many regions, and has even been called the “Worst Company in America” by some publications. Earlier today, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against Comcast Corporation/Xfinity, alleging that it has charged customers more than it promised, in addition to charging for unordered services and products.

In addition to its own products, Comcast has supported other blockchain development projects. In March, New York-based blockchain startup Blockdaemon closed a $3 million venture capital seed round led by the telecoms giant. The funds were set to be used to “enhance infrastructure options, and to help customers run multi-tenant networks across all sorts of different blockchains.”

United States lawmakers have introduced a bill to levy further sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and the development and use of the national digital currency. HR 7321 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Gallagher on Dec. 17.

In a bid to combat money laundering and terrorism-related activities, the “Blocking Iran Illicit Finance Act” calls for sanctions on the Iranian financial sector and on the development and use of the national cryptocurrency.

The act specifically prohibits transactions, financing or other dealings related to an Iranian digital currency, and would also introduce sanctions on foreign individuals engaged in the sale, supply, holding or transfer of the digital currency.

The act also calls for a report to Congress on the government of Iran’s progress in developing a sovereign digital currency. A corresponding bill was introduced in the Senate by former presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz on Dec. 13.

The U.S. government introduced sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program in 2005, while the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act in 2010. The sanctions affected the financial sector of the country, barring financial institutions of Iran from directly accessing the U.S. financial system.

The sanctions were lifted in 2015 after the country agreed to dial down its nuclear program to meet standards set out by International Atomic Energy Agency in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

However, in May 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that America would withdraw from the JCPOA that was brokered under his predecessor President Barack Obama. Sanctions were subsequently reintroduced.

Many Iranians have turn to cryptocurrency as a way to skirt sanctions. In May, Mohammad Reza Pourebrahimi, the head of the Iranian Parliamentary Commission for Economic Affairs, referred to cryptocurrencies as a promising way for Iran to avoid U.S. dollar transactions, as well as a possibly replace the SWIFT interbank payment system.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier in December, Iranians are turning to Bitcoin (BTC) mining due to economic difficulties. Despite the recent crash in crypto markets and fluctuations in the national rial currency caused by sanctions, Iranian people are still reportedly managing to gain profits from mining Bitcoin.

Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex has introduced margin trading for stablecoin Tether (USDT), according to a blog post published Dec. 21.

Bitfinex has launched margin trading for the USDT/USD pair, which would purportedly lead to more efficient price discovery and enable users to hedge the exposure taken on stablecoins. Along with a dedicated lending market, USDT will be available as collateral for margin positions, the post further reads.

While stablecoin margin trading is currently limited to USDT/USD, the exchange is planning to introduce margin trading for some other stablecoin pairings once sufficient liquidity is reached.

Earlier in December, Bitfinex and its spin-off Ethfinex added support for four new major USD-backed stablecoins, including USDC, True USD (TUSD), Paxos (PAX) and the Gemini dollar (GUSD). The four coins joined the already supported Ethereum-backed coin DAI and the industry stalwart, USDT, all to be traded against the U.S. dollar.

In late November, Bitfinex became the subject of probe by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) in connection with alleged cryptocurrency market manipulation. The agency focused its investigation on whether or not USDT was used to artificially inflate Bitcoin (BTC) prices during last year’s meteoric rise.

The DoJ was reportedly looking into how Tether issues its new tokens and why the majority of USDT enters the market through Bitfinex, in the context of a broader enquiry into whether “market tricks” partially inflated crypto prices in recent years.

The DoJ’s allegedly intensified probe into activity on Bitfinex adds to prior investigations into possible misconduct. Both Bitfinex and Tether received subpoenas from U.S. regulators for undisclosed reasons back in December 2017, which purportedly relates to insistent doubt over Tether’s claims that USDT is backed one-to-one by the U.S. dollar.

Despite the market downturn in digital asset values, cryptocurrency automated teller machines (ATMs) are still in vogue. According to a tweet from cryptocurrency analytics firm DataLight, the number of crypto ATMs doubled in 2018 from 2,025 ATMs in 2017 to 4,051 ATMs, signaling an increase in the adoption of cryptocurrencies in general, despite the slump in price.

November will go down as a month investors won’t forget in a hurry, as bitcoin, along with the rest of the cryptocurrency market, experienced a massive slump in prices. Bitcoin, the dominant cryptocurrency, fell to $3,750 in November, as the market witnessed massive selloffs that would have bitcoin touch nearly $3,000 in December.

Data from Coin ATM Radar shows that while 68 bitcoin ATMs were closed in November, 209 new machines were also installed by operators all across the world. Bitcoin of America led the way, introducing 16 new ATMs, followed closely by CoinFlip Bitcoin ATMs and Localcoin, who installed 10 and 7 new ATMs, respectively.

While the U.S. remains the dominant country with 70 new installations, Peru, Albania and South Korea had their first bitcoin ATMs installed in November, the data from Coin ATM Radar revealed.

Bitcoin ATMs have also been a target of criminals. Security researchers at Trend Micro discovered malware that targets a service vulnerability in bitcoin ATMs, selling for $25,000, in an underground forum.

A senior researcher at Trend Micro, Fernando Mercês, commented on the vulnerability in his report, criticizing bitcoin ATMs for their lack of security standards, which make them easy to hack.

“Unlike regular ATMs, there is no single set of verification or security standards for Bitcoin ATMs. For example, instead of requiring an ATM, credit, or debit card for transactions, a Bitcoin ATM involves the use of mobile numbers and ID cards for user identity verification.”

They might not be as secure as traditional ATMs, but they are still finding meaningful uses cases across the world.

Bitcoin ATMs and Cannabis

While providing an easy avenue to trade bitcoin, these crypto ATMs have also created a channel for pot companies that are experiencing banking restrictions.

Bitcoin ATMs have made it easier for pot companies to receive payments from customers, thereby reducing their dependencies on cash. Cannabis cryptocurrency PotCoin also partnered with bitcoin ATM provider GENERAL BYTES (GB), making use of GB’s network of crypto ATMs to ease the transaction process for cannabis vendors.

Virtual Crypto Technologies also developed a proprietary crypto payment solution for cannabis dispensaries that enables them to exchange pot for bitcoin using a QR code placed on the shop’s point-of-sale interface.

Yesterday, an auction was held by cryptocurrency and blockchain artist @cryptograffiti for a piece titled “black swan,” which the artist made using “fiat and counterfeit detector pen ink.” The artist, who became involved with bitcoin in 2013, held the auction on a website where users could only bid via Lightning Network micropayments, with the first person to bid the smallest amount being the winner.

Cryptograffiti and Bitcoin Magazine would like to take this opportunity to announce the winner of the auction. Congratulations Twitter user @BTC_Spot!

The winning price was the first of several 1 millisatoshi bids (one hundred billionth of one bitcoin). At the time of writing, the US-dollar denominated value of the bid is approximately $0.000000037.

The auction marks a significant event for Lightning’s use among the Bitcoin community. It even served as a learning lesson for those who participated.

“Many others were unaware that sub-satoshi payments were possible via LN,” the artist told Bitcoin Magazine.

Fully concluded, the auction attracted 77 bids to the tune of 182,252 satoshis (0.00182252 BTC). Cryptograffiti pointed out that 14 bidders connected to his Lightning node the day before the auction after he sent out a tweet hinting at the event.

The Inspiration

As he explains in a Twitter thread, Cryptograffiti created “black swan” for two reasons. The first, to poke fun at mainstream media’s focus on the less relevant aspects of Bitcoin like its price, instead of the groundbreaking technology being built. The title itself is a seemingly playful nod to the black swan event theory, an event that is unexpected yet has paradigm-shifting ramifications.

He also created the piece to help spread awareness about the Lightning Network.

“The promise of micropayments was instrumental in my becoming an artist in the space,” he says. He continues to explain that it was in 2012 when he first recognized the impact micropayments could have for artists. He even began attaching public facing wallets to his street art in 2013 as a way to allow for tips.

The Setup

To his own admission, the artist was not technically skilled in setting up the payment processor. He reached out for assistance to Twitter user @notgrubles, who he states was a crucial player in getting the auction off the ground.

With @notgrubles’ help, the artist chose c-lightning, a standard compliant implementation of the Lightning Network protocol, and, using this, they set up nanotip. Nanotip is a web server built on Lightning Charge, a Blockstream-designed software package that makes it simple to build apps on Lightning.

“In addition to nanotip/Lightning Charge, I bought a CasaHODL node, set up BTCPayServer with Zap, and integrated Globee for merch payments,” the artist added.

“As a non-programmer, I still don’t have a firm grasp on everything, but I know more than I did before making black swan and I’m excited to see great strides being made in UX!”