To date, four-in-five people (81%) have never purchased cryptocurrency, highlighting just how far away we are from it being accepted as a common form of payment or investment.
Kaspersky’s survey found that there is a desire amongst many consumers to use cryptocurrency, but a knowledge gap is getting in the way of taking the plunge. In addition, many people who thought they knew what they were dealing with, later decided against using cryptocurrency. Nearly a fifth (18%) stopped because it became too technically complicated.
Like with any cyberthreat, there is no substitute for vigilance – if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
This lack of understanding could be leading to mistrust in cryptocurrencies’ ability to keep consumers’ money safe. For instance, nearly a third (31%) of respondents stated that they believe cryptocurrencies are quite volatile and they need to be stable before they are prepared to use them. There is also a common perception amongst consumers that cryptocurrency will not be around forever. A third (35%) believe cryptocurrencies are a fad that is not worth bothering about.
While widespread interest in cryptocurrencies may have already peaked, there is still a demand to use the technology. A fifth (20%) of those surveyed said that while they are not using cryptocurrency at the moment, they would like to in the future. Yet there is still doubt amongst consumers – often led by a fear that there is a real risk to their finances. Fraudsters can use cryptocurrencies to their advantage, with around one-in-five (19%) of those surveyed saying they have experienced hacking attacks on exchanges. Criminals also create fake e-wallets to attract people to unwisely invest their money, and 15% of consumers have been victims of cryptocurrency fraud.
Vitaly Mzokov, Head of Commercialisation at Kaspersky, comments:
“It is clear that mainstream adoption and growth of cryptocurrency is being held back due to the vulnerable nature of the technology. While there is a high appetite to use it, giving your hard-earned cash to something you don’t fully understand, or trust, is a hurdle. With the safety of investments being of paramount importance to consumers, it is vital that they take their own steps to safeguard it. Like with any cyberthreat, there is no substitute for vigilance – if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is. If you want to trade crypto-assets on any exchange, pay attention to the safety of your account’s credentials.”
Financial disaster has had a silver lining for some fintechs, with many benefitting from RBS’s remediation funding scheme, that was established in the wake of the financial crisis.
Five fintechs are beneficiaries of the latest round of grants. We had a quick look at who they are, and what they do.
Swoop’s matching technology helps SMEs find the right funder for their business. Working with over 1000 providers, they can serve up lenders that are a best fit. Born in Ireland, they cover the local and broader UK market.
Matching technology is clearly where the excitement is, with Funding Options performing a similar role to Swoop, this time matching those in need with more than 50 lenders.
Unlike Swoop and Funding Options, Form3 operates in the payments-as-a-service space. They have access to the Faster Payments Scheme, operating as a Direct Settling Participant. They exist to plug the awkward payments gaps that have arisen as businesses try to make payments work, across an increasingly fragmented ecosystem.
Codat should call themselves the connecter of the connectors. The company’s API allows you to integrate once to multiple accounting software platforms. Think of it maybe like the Yodlee of accounting.
Last but not least, intelligent cashflow management software Fluidly is all about helping businesses predict their financial future. The also offer automated credit control, claiming they are able to save businesses over 40 hours per month on cash collections.
Here’s hoping some great things come from the £5m grants these companies have received. It is certainly not spare change, and there will no doubt be great expectations from the community, to ensure that money is put towards building great products and experiences that avoid the very disaster the grants were born from.
Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business and the Gig Economy and is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zuper, a new superannuation startup in Australia.
I have no commercial relationship with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.
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Two lawmakers want to pass an amendment that aims to stop a massive data collection program run by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The bipartisan amendment wants to defund the program unless the government vows that it won’t intentionally collect data of Americans, including emails, messages and browsing data, without a warrant.
“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to submit a certification under section 702(h) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or for an acquisition pursuant to such a certification, if such certification does not include the following sentence: ‘This certification does not authorize any acquisition that intentionally targets a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if a significant purpose of such targeting is to acquire the communications of a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States, any acquisition of a communication as to which no participant is a person who is targeted pursuant to the authorized acquisition, or any acquisition of a communication known to be entirely domestic,’” the entire amendment reads.
The amendment’s authors, Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI, 3rd) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, 19th), have the support of groups such as the ACLU, the EFF, FreedomWorks, New America and the Sunlight Foundation.
The NSA can currently use its Section 702 powers to collect and store the communications of foreign targets outside the U.S. But according to a blog post by the EFF, “the program actually does sweep up billions of communications involving people not explicitly targeted, including Americans. For example, a 2014 report by The Washington Post that reviewed a ‘large cache of intercepted conversations’ provided by Edward Snowden revealed that 9 out of 10 account holders ‘were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.’”
Last year, Section 702 was reauthorized with almost no changes, even after there were numerous complaints and concerns following Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance.
“The NSA has used Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to justify collecting and storing millions of Americans’ online communications,” according to the EFF. “The House of Representatives must vote yes in order to make this important corrective.”
While the government has refused to give specifics on how many Americans have had their data collected by the NSA, last year the government revealed that it made more than 9,600 warrantless searches of Americans’ communications, an increase of 28 percent year-over-year.
The round was co-led by Abramovich-backed Impulse VC and Dubai-based VentureSouq, while many existing investors, including Boost Heroes, Aria Group and 808 Tech Ventures also participated. The funds will be used to boost development of the company’s property management system, as well as finance growth initiatives across Europe and Asia.
“We can build on our experience in scaling operationally complex companies and apply previous learnings in our journey with GuestReady,” said Christian Mischler, co-founder at GuestReady, according to Business Cloud. “We have highly capable teams in our local markets that bring the necessary local expertise into the mix so that we can move faster and stay more capital-efficient than others in our industry.”
The company currently manages more than 2,000 properties via its in-house developed property management software solution. GuestReady Group, which includes GuestReady, BnbLord, and Oporto City Flats, operates in 14 cities around the world.
In April it was reported that GuestReady had acquired another rival in its quest for market prominence. The company acquired French competitor BnbLord, a similar startup that claimed to be the biggest Airbnb host-assistance platform in France and also Portugal. The details of the acquisition are unknown.
GuestReady’s first acquisition was Easy Rental in 2017, which operated in the U.K. and France. It also acquired Portugal-based Oporto City Flats last year, and France’s We Stay In Paris.
“We are extremely excited about this acquisition because it allows GuestReady to propel forward and become the largest service provider in the vacation rental industry,” GuestReady CEO and co-founder Alexander Limpert said at the time. “Since we started, we have been very focused on operational excellence and building a property technology system that allows us to automate non-core processes.”
As bitcoin hovers around $9,100, as Libra may (or may not) give the marquee cryptocurrency a run for its virtual money, it’s worth noting what lies behind the wild price swings — especially the ones that have ramped prices from sub $4,000 levels in short order.
Call it exuberance, excitement, the fear of missing out, at least for some speculators. And where there is such a whole hearted embrace of promise there lies peril. And to add another P to that list: Pyramid schemes.
News comes Tuesday that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has filed a civil enforcement action in New York against Control-Finance Limited, which CoinDesk reported is a “purported” bitcoin trading and investment company. The action also named its founder, Benjamin Reynolds, who is based in the United Kingdom.
The allegations detail a pyramid scheme that raked in staggering sums from May to October 2017.
The charges state the individual and the company took in more than 22,850 bitcoin — as much as $147 million worth at the time of the fraud — and the victim count numbered 1,000. The pyramid scheme, according to the CTFC, operated through what was billed as the Control-Finance “Affiliate Program.”
The defendants promised that — through the trading activities of Control-Finance’s program — investors could ear up to 45 percent returns on investments. Monthly. All the unwitting victims had to do was purchase and send bitcoin to Control-Finance.
“In reality, the defendants made no trades on customers’ behalf, earned no trading profits for them, and misappropriated their Bitcoin deposits,” alleged the CFTC in a statement. The promises of get-rich-quick lures are centuries old, but the methods here were decidedly modern. The scheme, reports say, used single use wallets to receive the deposits, route them elsewhere and then pass them through a series of processes. When customers wanted redemptions, money was siphoned from other customer accounts. Thus the pyramid, or Ponzi, scheme. Reynolds also provided fake account details and trade reports.
The Control-Finance case comes amid news that show bitcoin being used for shady doings on a far larger stage. As reported, Kim Jong Un’s regime in North Korea is banking — no pun intended — on cybercrime to gain access to foreign currency.
The Financial Times reports that, amid continued sanctions, the dictator has deployed thousands of hackers to steal money from abroad. The latest forays seem to include attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges, where hackers stole hundreds of millions of dollars.
The read across here is two-fold: Enthusiasm can open the door to fraudsters eager to make some (virtual) money. Economic desperation can open the door to fraudsters, even state sanctioned fraudsters eager to grab some money, too. Cryptos — where the use cases are always on the come, always over the horizon and something less than ready for prime time when it comes to commerce — opens the door to fraudsters looking for a way to fleece.
Also participating in today’s round are two banks headquartered in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, as well as existing investors Octopus Ventures and EQT Ventures. California-based Token will use the funds to build on its TokenOS open banking platform and develop new payment solutions with digital money and identity technology.
“As the emerging category leader in open banking infrastructure, Token gives banks a fast track to deliver great open banking customer experiences,” said Token Founder and CEO Steve Kirsch. “For banks, establishing an early position in this new hyper-connected market is a competitive advantage; a new wave of independent financial apps and services will soon be available to their customers, so banks need to be clear about their future roles. By solving the infrastructure problem, Token enables them to focus on service innovation and delivery earlier than the competition.”
Founded in 2015, Token was built on the mission to create the next generation of payment capabilities. The company has 4,000 bank clients in its ecosystem in which participating online merchants to connect to the bank to allow the customer to make purchases directly from their bank accounts. Among Token’s clients are Tandem Bank, Think Money Group, An Post, Sberbank Croatia and Slovenia, and Khaleeji Commercial Bank.
Token showcased its PSD2 compliant solution at FinovateEurope 2017 in London. Last month, the company partnered with Omni Group to provide open banking and PSD2 compliance solutions to the group’s bank partners. This year, Token won Best Payments Newcomer in the 2019 Card and Payments Awards as well as Fintech Start Up of the Year in the 2019 FStech Awards.
Content IQ technology solution provider ABBYY has launched a new SDK that gives developers the ability to add real-time image and data capture to their mobile onboarding process. ABBYY Mobile Web Capture, available on both iOS and Android, makes it easier for institutions to leverage the popularity of the mobile channel while eliminating one of its main pain points – manual data entry.
Once integrated, the technology enables a faster, smoother onboarding process by letting new customers photograph required documents for account opening. The SDK leverages the web browser on the mobile device to capture high-quality, text recognition ready, images in real time. Mobile Web Capture helps lower error rates while making the data delivery process less of a hassle for the user.
SVP for Product Marketing at ABBYY Bruce Orcutt added a streamlined customer journey, greater profitability, and market differentiation as further reasons why companies can benefit from the new SDK. “The new devkit closes the gap in mobile onboarding for enterprises, providing the same experience as a native app, without the need to install one,” Orcutt explained.
ABBYY provides a wide range of AI-based solutions that help businesses better understand, manage, and act on enterprise data. The company is a specialist in Content IQ, a new kind of enabling technology that helps businesses maximize their digital transformation by empowering digital workers to transform unstructured content into actionable information. This technology has been deployed to complement intelligent automation platforms like robotic process automation (RPA) and business process management (BPM). In fact, the company notes that more than one-third of the Forbes 100 companies that are engaged in RPA for intelligent automation use ABBYY’s solutions and services.
ABBYY participated in our developers conference FinDEVr SiliconValley 2016, presenting How Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are Creating New Revenue with Mobile Solutions. The company showed how new technologies like machine learning and AI are being used to provide real-time mobile data recognition and capture.
A global corporation with offices in 11 countries including Germany, Russia, and the United States, ABBYY was founded in 1989 by David Yang and Dean Tang. Last month, the company announced that it had strengthened its technology partnership with intelligent information management firm, M-Files. Also in May, ABBYY unveiled its FineScanner AI, an AI-enabled mobile scanner that leverages neural networks to sort and find text recognition worthy images.
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EBay today joined Uber, PayPal, Lyft and other tech heavyweights as an inaugural member of the Libra Association, the Switzerland-based organization that will oversee Facebook’s cryptocurrency. Although eBay, which has a market capitalization of about $35 billion, would not reveal how Libra will change the way buyers and sellers on the marketplace will transact, eBay’s …Read More
To simplify invoicing for its corporate clients, HSBC is partnering with Australian company Identitii on a digital accounts receivable tool. Identitii, which went public in 2018, focuses on transaction security. The application of Identitii’s technology is for a tool called DART, which allows businesses to create a standardized invoicing tool that is easy to use. HSBC’s corporate …Read More
For bitcoin — and for cryptocurrency brethren — a stretch of calm before the storm?
The official debut of a new cryptocurrency, Libra, may have stalled a rally in the marquee name in digital coins. Libra is the currency that will ride the new permissioned Libra Blockchain Network rails, also developed by Facebook.
The marquee name would be bitcoin, of course, which as of this writing was changing hands at a bit more than $9,100. That’s well above the low $8,000 levels seen earlier in the month, and yet off from the $9,250 levels seen just a day ago. Similarly, some other cryptos of note, among them ethereum (the second largest cryptocurrency as measured by market cap, at $28.5 billion) is off 2.7 percent on the day, to $266.40, as reported by Coinbase. XRP is trading down several basis points to about 43 cents each.
In astrology, the sign of Libra is represented by a set of scales. And while Libra’s launch has not spelled doom for cryptos, sending them crashing from the zenith of a rally that has been underway for several months, neither has it given a “floor” for cryptos.
A scale, of course, weighs and gives truth to things being compared, on a relative basis.
The details include the fact that Facebook has structured Libra so as to distance itself from being the sole force operating the network and the currency. Libra assets, including the currency and its reserves, will be managed by an independent, non-profit association that includes, to start, 28 financial services and payments stakeholders, among others. Libra is governed by a Managing Director, a Council and a Board. No one Member has any voting power beyond one percent of the value of their shares. Each Member will be asked to contribute $10 million to help fund operations in order to have a seat at that table.
With the launch of Libra as a currency, the flag that crypto advocates now wave is one of awareness: As in, more people will be aware that cryptos exist as an alternate payment method.
“Facebook is about to introduce hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of people to the concept of cryptocurrencies,” the WSJ quoted Andy Bromberg, the founder of CoinList, as saying. (CoinList is a platform for capital raising geared to token offerings.) “It’s hard to think of a better accelerant.”
There are some differences though, between bitcoin (we will use bitcoin as proxy here for most, though not all digital coins) and Libra. There will be a Libra reserve that is collateralized by a basket of low-volatility currencies, which is intended to reduce some of the volatility that has marked the cryptocurrency space for years — and which, the Libra team says, makes it appealing to people living in developing world economies where currency fluctuations are more volatile.
Then there is the reputational backing behind it. Facebook, to put it mildly, has some name recognition — billions of users, yet no shortage of front-burner reputational issues over data privacy that give regulators pause. Recruiting the “who’s who” in payments and FinTech to sit at the table is a well-crafted strategy to blunt the sting of any Facebook reputational backlash. But keep in mind: the only commitment made by those players is to now work through the charter and its governance principles to see if there is a “there” there.
Missing at the table are the central bankers and regulators, who have not taken kindly to currencies that require they relinquish control of their fiat money. If using the Libra network means using Libra currency, then adoption for both may be a long time coming. Then again, achieving critical mass may be easier to attain than might be seen with bitcoin’s existence across such far-flung exchanges and price volatility.
As noted in this space Tuesday by Karen Webster, the launch — which carries with it the digital wallet known as Calibra, where transactions happen across blockchain — seeks to work off a basket of low-volatility currencies such as the dollar and the Euro. As Webster said, too, the goal may be to ignite eCommerce — a grand ambition that has yet to (and may never?) be proven.
Against this backdrop, though, for now the question is which “currency” prevails.
Some think that a rising tide for one boat — that would be Libra — is a sea change for all boats. Then again, it might spell the death of bitcoin. Bitcoin, with its lack of “guarantee,” stability, governance structure and use cases, may now really cement its future as being the currency of choice when transacting on the Dark Web.
India is asking messaging service WhatsApp to put a digital fingerprint on every message sent by the service, but without breaking the encryption, according to a report by the Economic Times.
Indian officials want to be able to see where a message came from and how many people interacted with it, either by reading or forwarding, without the official having to read the actual message. This comes after rumors of children being kidnapped spread on the app and a number of people were lynched across the country in 2018.
“Fingerprinting WhatsApp messages will help find the originator of the message. That is all we want,” an official told the news outlet. “We don’t want to read the messages but when we see a problematic message we should be able to go to WhatsApp to help us trace the sender. They have to find a way, it is technically possible.”
WhatsApp said its end-to-end encryption isn’t traceable, and authorities who want to find out where messages on the service came from — ones that feature sexual abuse or cause public disruption — say they can’t because of the technology. They say the metadata that WhatsApp provides doesn’t allow for the capture of people breaking the law.
“It is not acceptable that no one can trace any message. Somebody should be able to trace some messages sometimes. We have reached the limit of anonymity on the internet and that has to go,” another government official said.
Around 300 million to 400 million people use WhatsApp in India, and the company is moving forward with a payments service that hasn’t yet received approval from the government.
In order for it to be able to provide digital fingerprints, officials say, WhatsApp would have to completely overhaul its architecture, a move that would potentially anger privacy activists in other parts of the world.
“This suggestion will theoretically require WhatsApp to have knowledge of each and every message sent on the platform and store it by affixing a unique fingerprint. This may seem simple, but it is not so easy to do,” said Apar Gupta, executive director of Internet Freedom Foundation. “Traceability will make it easier for government surveillance, which is already unaccountable without any checks and balances.”