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The “Off-ramp Dilemma”: Is Bitcoin Truly Untraceable?

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Image Credits: MichaelWuensch / Pixabay.

$2.3 million.

That was the amount recovered by the Justice Department of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from a group of online hackers known as “Darkside”, earlier this month. It was also revealed that the federal agency had recouped more than 1 billion dollars in Bitcoin value from investigating chains of fraudulent activities. Also, a Czech national, Tomas Jorikovsky had his assets seized in connection with stealing a $40 million bitcoin equivalent sometime in 2015. This, and a host of others have become a slow but humbling discovery. Yet, it is not only stunning but also a positive oddity.  

Bitcoin is widely recognized as a decentralized, secure, and most importantly, anonymous crypto-currency which involves the exchange of value through a virtual network. It is built in such a way as to shield the identity of persons involved in any bitcoin transaction, and whose activities are registered on a decentralized ledger system known as Blockchain. Put simply, it is a form of digital currency which operates independently of any 3rd party oversight. Thus, due to its anonymous character, bitcoin has been utilized by many to perpetrate and finance an array of crimes ranging from tax evasion, money laundering among others, since its launch in 2009.

As earlier indicated, bitcoin has no physical balances and only makes use of a somewhat “pseudonymous” makeup to facilitate transactions. This makes it susceptible to be used in shady deals to defraud people of their money in bitcoin value. Once this is done, it is nearly impossible to track or even recover the lost sum. Yaya Fanysie, an adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Society noted that bitcoin is a choice for scammers just because of its anonymous elements. 

Moreso, we witnessed how the Twitter accounts of influential persons like Bill Gates and Obama were hacked in the past year and millions of people were scammed of their money in a bitcoin scheme. That was the last to be heard of it. 

If the narratives were true, how then have law enforcement agencies been able to break the jinx, recover stolen money from bitcoin and nab criminals? The answer lies in clarifying a prevalent myth that bitcoin is “entirely” untraceable. Since the records of a bitcoin exchange are recorded on a public, transparent and permanent ledger (blockchain), it leaves a trail for these agencies to latch on. This is intensified by using particularly sophisticated programs devised by software companies to do just that. Therefore, when criminals convert their coins to traditional currencies or want to spend the same, they are quickly highlighted for enforcement agencies who make the move on them. So granted, bitcoin is anonymous. However, it is not as private as is widely misconstrued. This leaves room for its traceability, if and when necessary. 

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Bitcoin.org gets hacked, scammers run BTC giveaway scam

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Earlier today, Bitcoin.org, the oldest cryptocurrency website registered by the founder of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, recently got hacked. Scammers ran a BTC giveaway scam with a promise to return double the amount users send to the named address. In the end, the scammers were reported to have collected $17,764 before the website was taken down. The website was inaccessible for a few hours after the incident, but normal service has been resumed.

To bring users’ attention to the hack, a pseudo-anonymous Twitter account with the name Cobra took to Twitter to reveal the news and claimed that the website may be offline for some days. He also clarified through his tweets that Bitcoin.org has never been hacked and that the breach must have been due to a lapse on the part of Cloudflare- the web provider that the website is hosted on.

“Bitcoin.org hasn’t been hacked, ever. We move to Cloudflare, and two months later we get hacked. Can you explain where you were routing my traffic too? Because my actual server didn’t get any traffic during the hack” he tweeted.

The scam on the website was perpetrated through a giveaway. Visitors on the website were greeted with a popup, asking them to send crypto to a Bitcoin wallet via a QR code and receive double the amount in return. The fake message showed that the Bitcoin Foundation was giving back to the community and that the giveaway will be limited to the first 10,000 people. This was made to draw more people into the scam.   According to an analysis on the scam address done by Reddit Sleuth, it was presumed that a chunk of the 0.4BTC came from the scammers themselves to add an element of credibility to the claim. At the time of writing this report, Bitcoin.org is once again, back to life.

How popular is the Bitcoin giveaway scam?

Bitcoin giveaway scam is quite popular among hackers as it allows them to make fast money without tampering with anyone’s wallet. In 2020, Twitter handles of top crypto celebrities, politicians and influencers were hacked to run Bitcoin giveaways. While the scammers were apprehended, the value of Bitcoin was not affected.

Today’s scam on Bitcoin.org did not affect the price of the coin either. Despite the Evergrande debt crisis and the fluctuations bedevilling the crypto market within the week, Bitcoin increased by 2.05% within the last 24 hours, thereby moving from $42,789 to $44,378.

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El Salvador’s Bitcoin adoption – What you need to know

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El Salvador made history (and headlines) after becoming the first nation to endorse and approve the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, as a legal tender. The move makes Bitcoin acceptable for transactions within the Central American country alongside the U.S dollar, which has been serving as the paper currency since 2001. This comes after the so-called “Bitcoin Law” came into force after passing legislation in June of 2021. El Salvador’s government announced that it had purchased 400 Bitcoin in 2 tranches of 200 each and plans to get more in the future.

The move to adopt Bitcoin has been justified by the government’s need to boost financial inclusion in the country. It is estimated that 70% of El Salvadorans do not have access to financial services and the government believes that Bitcoin can help close the gap. The Bank of America has outlined a few benefits that they believe will result from El Salvador’s bitcoin adoption. These include promotion of financial digitization, streamlining remittances as well as opening the country to digital currency miners. However, not all agree that the move is a step in the right direction.

Amongst the detractors of the scheme are the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, each having warned El Salvador about the risks of Bitcoin’s use as legal tender. The World Bank has been irked by what it described as “environmental and transparency shortcomings” with bitcoin, while the IMF cited “economic and legal concerns” in relation to the move.

Other than the push back from these international bodies, there has been some internal opposition to the adoption of Bitcoin. Citizens had held protests over Bitcoin’s adoption in August and about 67.9% of respondents in a poll said they disagreed with the government’s decision to adopt crypto. The results of the poll showed that 8 in 10 people had little confidence in the use of bitcoin as the currency.

In spite of the criticism, El Salvador’s government is moving forward and has reportedly installed 200 Bitcoin ATMs across the country. And in response to the World Bank’s environmental concerns, El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, has said the country plans to power mining activities using renewable energy from the country’s volcanoes. In order to incentivize the use of Bitcoin in the country, any citizen who signs up for the country’s “Chivo” wallet will get 30$ worth of bitcoin.

All in all, the adoption of a cryptocurrency by a sovereign nation is seen as a testing ground for many, as this is a use case Bitcoin has never experienced in its 12-year history. Countries such as Brazil and Panama seem to be watching the move to draw insights on whether to follow suit.

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Is Bitcoin Still a Good Investment?

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Source: Decentralize Africa; Bitcoin Investment

The above question is being asked a lot due to the surge and drop of bitcoin over the past months – so aspiring investors are curious about whether the coin remains a lucrative investment. Bitcoin is the world’s most treasured and appreciated digital currency in terms of its worth in the open market and this fascinates a vast scale of investors. While there have been ups and downs, Bitcoin still poses to be a good investment. 

When compared to various cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin has been proven to have innumerable benefits; 

Diversification

Diversifying your crypto portfolio is very important and investing in bitcoin, amongst others, can help you do just that. Several foundations and pension funds have added bitcoin to their portfolio over the years. Investment strategists have gone on to say that adding bitcoin to your portfolio may improve returns without notably increasing volatility. 

Working Capital and Cash Flow 

Bitcoin has shown to be a financial strong suit in terms of liquidity. At inexpensive prices, you can quickly swap Bitcoin for fiat currency or gold. The level of cash flow is often dependent on how many users, or in this case investors, a platform has. The liquidity of cryptocurrencies is likely to skyrocket if adoption rises and more people invest in Bitcoin as a viable means of exchange. 

Basic Trading And Operations 

More often than not, investing in stocks or company shares would require a license for the former and a visit to a broker for the latter. However, with Bitcoin, trading is made easy. Buying and selling Bitcoin is made easy and you can store them in your wallet with little to no hassle. Trading in Bitcoin is also instantaneous. 

Digitalized Storage And Repository

Due to the upgrade of technology, cryptocurrencies are not subject to the traditional form of investment and storage like banks. Instead, the data is stored in a peer-to-peer network of nodes and duplicated across the world. 

Digital Gold 

Owing to its limited accessibility, Bitcoin is referred to, by many, as the “digital gold”. Like with gold, which has to be extracted from the earth, Bitcoin has to be “mined” through the use of computer software and thus, cannot be produced at the snap of fingers. Bitcoin has been said to have features akin to gold, silver and the likes. 

Brand New Opportunities 

The fact that Bitcoin is still current in the world of cryptocurrencies brings room for fresh opportunities. Its newness poses a high price alteration and volatility, which may lead to vast profits if invested properly. 

Bitcoin has always been a smart expenditure. The rate at which individuals adopt the coin is proof that it is still a good investment. Bitcoins will help in diversifying your portfolio, it will help in simple and stress-free trading, it will help in electronic and digital storage, amongst many others. Bitcoin as a long-term investment is feasible because the supply is fixed. It goes without saying that Bitcoin has the potential to become a global currency.

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