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.”

The Supreme Court of Greece has ruled in support of a decision to extradite the alleged former operator of now-defunct crypto exchange BTC-e Alexander Vinnik to France. A “correspondent at the scene” from major Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported the news Dec. 19.

As previously reported, 39-year old Russian national Vinnik, a.k.a “Mr. Bitcoin,” was first indicted by United States authorities and detained in Greece on July 25, 2017, on criminal charges of fraud and allegedly laundering up to $4 billion in Bitcoin (BTC) via BTC-e.

Russia and France have since both sought the defendant’s extradition in regard to a further series of fraud allegations. When a Thessaloniki court ruled in support of Vinnik’s extradition to France this summer, the defendant had appealed against the decision at the country’s highest judiciary.

TASS today reports that the Supreme Court discussed Vinnik’s extradition to France on Nov. 19, but had initially postponed the ruling to Nov. 29.

Since his detention back in 2017, Vinnik has been held in a Greek prison, and announced a hunger strike in late November in protest against the “arbitrariness” of the Greek judges. TASS today cites the defendant as claiming that:

“I have been fasting for 24 days already. Yesterday the last time I was weighed [in prison], I lost 8 kg according to the documents. But they did not immediately start weighing me, only on the third day. So I lost 9 kg exactly.”

Vinnik has reportedly stated he will only stop his hunger strike if he is extradited to Russia.

As previously reported, Vinnik’s legal representatives allegedly consider that his extradition to France will result in his further extradition to the U.S. Following the closure of BTC-e in July 2017, the U.S. has been seeking a penalty of $110 million from BTC-e and another $12 million from Vinnik for his alleged role in the exchange’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) violations.

TASS today states that a decision over the conflicting extradition requests will likely be settled by the Greek Ministry of Justice, or possibly even the country’s leadership.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a comment this July accusing the Greek authorities of “continu[ing] to complicate relations with Russia,” and requesting that Russia’s extradition request be given priority over that of France.

A suspected scam which threatens to blow up buildings unless recipients pay a Bitcoin (BTC) ransom caught the attention of the United States’ government Dec. 13.

The scam, which centers on anonymous emails demanding payment of $20,000 in Bitcoin or face a “mercenary” detonating a device in “your building,” has appeared throughout the world.

Now, the U.S. National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) opted to release dedicated advice to victims, advising the only action necessary on receipt of an email was to inform the FBI.

The NCCIC is “aware of a worldwide email campaign targeting businesses and organizations with bomb threats,” it said.

“The emails claim that a device will detonate unless a ransom in Bitcoin is paid.”

Prior to the government acknowledgment, media sources had reported on the scheme, including cybersecurity publication and research outlet Krebs On Security, which published the full text of the email.

“My mercenary keeps the building under the control. If he notices any unusual behavior or emergency he will blow up the bomb,” an excerpt reads.

“I can withdraw my mercenary if you pay. You pay me 20.000 $ in Bitcoin and the bomb will not explode, but don’t try to cheat -I warrant you that I will withdraw my mercenary only after 3 confirmations in blockchain network.”

Multiple campaigns continue to target unwitting internet users both within and outside the cryptocurrency community.

As Cointelegraph reported, 2018 has seen an almost 500 percent rise in the number of flagged hacking schemes known as “cryptojacking” — the process by which a device is commandeered to mine or steal cryptocurrency.

Phishing scams — hackers masquerading as known entities to trick users into transferring coins to a fake address — have spread from emails to social media platforms such as Twitter en masse this year.

Three Thai citizens who are currently being prosecuted for allegedly swindling $24 million worth of Bitcoin (BTC) have pleaded “not guilty” in the Criminal Court of Bangkok, major Thai newspaper Bangkok Post reports Wednesday, Nov. 7.

During the hearings, Thai prosecutors accused the three defendants and six accomplices of defrauding 21-year-old Finnish investor Aamai Otava Saarimaa back in 2017. According to the investigation, he was persuaded to buy shares in Expay Software Co, invest in a gambling-focused crypto token Dragon Coin (DRG), and buy 500 million shares in DNA (2002) Co, which he consequently did by transferring crypto to the siblings’ wallets.

The prosecutors claim that after receiving the money, the Jaravijit family bought several blocks of land in Thailand. Saarimaa, in his turn, received no profit and later complained to the Thai Crime Suppression Division (CSD).

The three Jaravijit siblings, charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering, have recently pleaded “not guilty.”

Two of the siblings, Jiratpisit (a Thai actor known as “Boom”) and Supitcha, were arrested in August and then released on bail of $61,000 each. Their elder brother, Prinya Jaravijit, managed to flee to the U.S. in an attempt to avoid the charges.

However, in October, the Thai CSD revoked the Prinya Jaravijit’s passport — making his stay in the U.S. illegal — in order to force his return. After arriving in Bangkok, Jaravajit was then detained without bail and is currently being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison.

Venture capital investor Tim Draper reaffirmed his prediction that the Bitcoin (BTC) price will reach $250,000 by 2022, during a panel discussion at the Web Summit summit conference Nov. 6

Draper initially predicted that the BTC price will surge up to $250,000 in April of this year. “Believe it, it’s going to happen – they’re going to think you’re crazy but believe it, it’s happening, it’s going to be awesome!,” Draper said then.

When asked at the recent Web Summit conference whether he still thinks the BTC price will experience a 40 times return in a span of four years and reach $250,000, Draper said:

“Yes. We are talking […] about five percent market share to get to $250,000. That seems like a drop in a bucket and all we need to really do is make it so that Bitcoin can be used to buy Starbucks coffee, and all of a sudden the world just opens up and then they say ‘I’ve got this choice.’ […] Do I want a currency that I can take from country to country […] or do I want one that sticks me in one country or one geographic area and I can’t use it anywhere else?”

Draper also questioned the need for fiat currencies or “political currencies,” stating “why do we even trust currencies that are determined by some weird political party or another?” In Draper’s view, banks issue money “whenever they feel like it for whatever reason they want it,” and the emergence of a “totally apolitical,” global, and open currency would cede control of money from banks to common people, he explained.

Speaking at the GovTech Pioneers conference in May, Draper presented his vision of a future in which blockchain utilizing smart contracts in conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI) will massively change the role and responsibilities of states. “If we combine Bitcoin, blockchain with smart contracts and artificial intelligence, we could create the perfect bureaucracy,” he said.

In September, Draper made another prediction, saying that the total cryptocurrency market capitalization will hit $80 trillion in the next 15 years. Draper argued that the significant slide in the cryptocurrency market in previous months is attributed to people who had not adopted digital currencies as a new asset class. Draper said then:

“Cryptocurrency will go after trillion dollar markets — these are finance, healthcare and insurance, banking and investment banking, and governments.”

Nov. 2: Cryptocurrency markets have continued trading slightly in the green today, remaining relatively quiet with moderate gains throughout the top 20 coins. Most of the top 100 digital currencies have experienced humble gains over the past 24 hours.

COIN360

Market visualization from Coin360

The leading cryptocurrency Bitcoin (BTC) is up only 0.06 percent on the day, and is trading at around $6,395 as of press time. BTC has seen slight volatility during the day, with the deepest and highest points of $6,327 and $6,396 respectively.

BTC

Bitcoin 24-hour chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ethereum (ETH) is up by slightly almost 1 percent over the last 24 hours, trading around $200, and the altcoin’s weekly chart showing its price decreasing by a relatively modest 0.41 percent. After dipping to its weekly low of $193.29 on Oct. 31, ETH has been steadily gaining in price.

ETH

Ethereum 24-hour chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

The third largest cryptocurrency by market cap Ripple (XRP) is up by 0.57 percent over the last 24 hours, and trading around $0.459 at press time. Over the past seven days, XRP is down by 0.06 percent.

XRP

XRP 24-hour chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) has stood out among other top 10 coins, making gains of 9 percent on the day. The altcoin is trading at around $462, while its daily trading volume is around $522 million, according to CoinMarketCap. On its weekly chart, BCH rose to as high as $469 following a dive to $411.

BCH

Bitcoin Cash 24-hour chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

During the last week, total market cap has seen some notable fluctuations, with a sudden dive to $202 billion and surge to $209 billion on Oct. 29 and Nov. 1 respectively. After jumping to as much as $209 billion yesterday, total market capitalization dropped to $205 billion, after which it saw moderate gains today.

TOTAL

Total market capitalization weekly chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

The industry has been awaiting the decision of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding the review of proposed rule changes related to a series of applications to list and trade various BTC Exchange-Traded Fund (ETFs) set for Nov. 5.

Yesterday, the so-called “godfather of ETFs” Reggie Browne said that Bitcoin ETFs will be certified “no time soon.” He specified that Bitcoin ETFs will be approved only after the development of a strong regulatory framework for the industry.

As per the release, new tokens will be approved and listed on the platform “within weeks instead of months.”

The new platform will operate within the regulatory framework established by the E.U. and Maltese Government, using Malta’s Virtual Financial Assets Act (VFA) in particular. In 12 months the company is planning to apply to the Malta Financial Services Authority to become a regulated virtual financial asset exchange.

Previously branded Bittrex Malta, the exchange stated that trading will be available for customers from all countries except for the U.S., stating “[c]urrent and new U.S.-based customers will continue to use Bittrex.com and will not have access to international markets.”

Bittrex is an American cryptocurrency exchange founded in 2013. As of press-time, the exchange is ranked 43rd in terms of daily trade volumes, according to CoinMarketCap.

In September, Bittrex invested in Malta-based blockchain company Palladium, acquiring a 10 percent stake.

In August, Bittrex became one of the members of “Virtual Commodity Association Working Group” — a self-regulatory association for digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies. The organization was planning to “be a precursor to the formation” of self-regulatory activity for digital currencies.

The city of Ephrata, Washington, will halt new crypto mining developments in the city for the next 12 months, Eastern Washington and North Idaho daily newspaper The Spokesman Review reports Friday, Oct. 19.

The recently announced suspension will only affect new crypto operations from being established in Ephrata, while the existing four businesses already there will continue operating. According to Ephrata city administrator Wes Crago, those four crypto operations — including two at the Port of Ephrata, one in an industrial area of the city, as well as one in a residential area — are being relocated at the moment.

The decision for the suspension was taken by a city council vote, with six council members voting in favor of the new cryptocurrency regulations, and only one commissioner, Matt Moore, voting against.

Moore noted that even a temporary ban can pose a threat for the city’s economic development since it puts the industry “outside the city’s expertise,” adding that he does not want to “surrender any economic opportunity big or small.”

Council member Kathleen Allstot clarified that the new ban implies taking a one-year “break” in order to see “see what’s going” in the sphere, as well as to find out how mining fits both in Ephrata and the Grant County Public Utility District (PUD).

Crypto mining operations have become increasingly popular in the cities of the Columbia Basin due to the region’s cheap electricity sources. However, the growth of crypto mining developments in Ephrata has created some inconveniences for the residents, with some reportedly suffering a lack of electricity due to the operation of the high energy-consuming cooling equipment by the local crypto miners.

Ephrata’s recent move goes in line with crypto mining-related regulations imposed by a number of cities in the Grant County PUD, the article notes. In addition to the suspension, Grant Cities has developed new – and sufficiently higher – electricity rates for crypto firms, with the new rates set to be enforced in April 2019.

Washington state is reportedly one of the leading crypto mining sites in the world, with one of the biggest mining farms, GigaWatt, located within its borders. The U.S. state currently offers the cheapest power in the country, with $9.56 per kWh for individuals and $8.42 per kWh for businesses.

In late July 2018, Franklin PUD commissioners approved a moratorium that will provide staff with extra time to investigate the impact of mining on the electrical system before accepting applications for electricity from crypto mining companies in rural Washington.

Earlier in April, Chelan PUD council members ordered staff to enforce a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining following the discovery of unauthorized mining activities, which were considered as “unauthorized loads to law enforcement as power theft.” And in January, Cointelegraph reported on Washington’s Douglas County electrical infrastructure experiencing pressure from cryptocurrency miners.

Set to go live from Friday, the project, known as HUSD, will consist of Huobi’s own stablecoin asset which investors can use as an go-between to interact with four USD-backed stablecoins currently listed on the exchange.

Specifically, Huobi will accept and store Paxos Standard (PAX), True USD (TUSD), USD Coin (USDC) and Gemini Dollars (GUSD), giving users a balance in HUSD as a kind of aggregator of all four.

According to Huobi’s post, users can then cash out the same stablecoin they deposited or select from any of the other three.

HUSD will also be tradeable against other cryptocurrencies, beginning with controversial stablecoin Tether (USDT), followed by Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).

Commenting on the project, Huobi said it would expand it to cover other stablecoins in future.

“We will keep a close watch on new stablecoins that appear on the market and optimize the HUSD standards,” executives wrote:

“We look forward to more stablecoins being involved in the HUSD system.”

Huobi announced the listing of the above four USD-backed stablecoins earlier this week, following a similar move by OKEx.

Huobi is currently the third largest crypto exchange globally by daily trading volumes, seeing about $416 million in trades on the day to press time.

A New York federal court has ordered cryptocurrency hedge fund Gelfman Blueprint, Inc. (GBI) and its CEO Nicholas Gelfman to pay over $2.5 million for operating a fraudulent Ponzi scheme, according to an official announcement published Oct. 18.

GBI is a New York-based corporation and denominated Bitcoin (BTC) hedge fund incorporated in 2014. As stated on the company’s website, by 2015 it had 85 customers and 2,367 BTC under management.

The order is the continuation of the initial anti-fraud enforcement action filed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) against GBI in September 2017. The CFTC charged GBI for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme from 2014 to 2016, telling investors that it had developed a computer algorithm called “Jigsaw” which allowed for substantial returns through a commodity fund. In reality, the entire scheme was a fraud.

Per the announcement, GBI and Gelfman fraudulently solicited over $600,000 from at least 80 customers. Moreover, Gelfman set up a fake computer “hack” to conceal the scheme’s trading losses. It eventually resulted in the loss of almost all customer funds.

The current order charges GBI and Gelfman to pay over $2.5 million in civil monetary penalties and restitution. GBI and Gelfman are ordered to pay $554,734.48 and $492,064.53 in restitution to customers and $1,854,000 and $177,501 in civil monetary penalties, respectively.

James McDonald, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement, said that “this case marks yet another victory for the Commission in the virtual currency enforcement arena. As this string of cases shows, the CFTC is determined to identify bad actors in these virtual currency markets and hold them accountable.”

Last month, the CFTC filed a suit with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against two defendants for the allegedly fraudulent solicitation of BTC. Per the suit, defendants Morgan Hunt and Kim Hecroft were running two fraudulent businesses and misleading the public to invest in leveraged or margined foreign currency contracts, such as forex, binary options, and diamonds.