Current State of The Crypto Market (December 1st, 2019)

Hackers:  On November 27th Upbit was the latest exchange to fall victim to a hack.  Following the theft of 342,000 Ether (About $50 million) from major South Korean crypto exchange Upbit, some commentators have suggested that the hack was actually an inside job.  In its statement, the exchange emphasized that it deemed the 342,000 ETH transaction to be the only irregular transaction on the ledger, alluding to a number of other large-scale transfers that it said were related to the exchange moving assets between hot and cold storage wallets.  Taking Upbit’s statement about cold storage transfers at face value, many news sources have argued for the strong possibility than an exchange employee took advantage of the timing of the storage transfers to perpetrate the theft.   Upbit today pledged to cover all user assets with corporate funds and exchange deposits and withdrawals will reportedly take at least two weeks to resume.

Key Players:  North Korea has long been accused of using cryptocurrency to avoid sanctions, but the US is now accusing a man of giving the country some help American law enforcement has arrested crypto expert and Ethereum project member Virgil Griffith for allegedly providing North Korea with information on how cryptocurrency and blockchain tech could help the isolated nation evade US sanctions. He presented at a crypto conference in Pyongyang despite being denied permission to travel to North Korea, and reportedly discussed how the country could “launder money” and otherwise skirt trade barriers. There were several North Korean officials in the audience who asked him questions, according to the Justice Department.  On top of this, Griffith supposedly planned to streamline Ethereum exchanges between North and South Korea while knowing this would violate US sanctions. He apparently called on other Americans to visit North Korea (including for the crypto conference) and signaled plans to renounce his US citizenship while buying citizenship elsewhere.  Griffith is charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and, if convicted, could face up to 20 years in prison.

Banks & Institutions:  From next year, banks in Germany will be allowed to offer the sale and storage of cryptocurrencies under new legislation.  Previously, banks were barred from offering direct access to crypto assets, but the new law implementing the fourth EU Money Laundering Directive would change that.  The bill has already been passed by the German federal parliament, the Bundestag, and is expected to be signed off by the nation’s 16 states.  The bill goes further than had been previously planned, the report says. Originally, banks were not to be allowed to act as crypto custodians, and were to have relied on external custodians or dedicated subsidiaries.  Sven Hildebrandt, head of the consulting firm DLC, welcomed the news, telling news sources: “Germany is well on its way to becoming a crypto-heaven. The German legislator is playing a pioneering role in the regulation of [crypto assets]. “

Adoption: A cryptocurrency-friendly travel booking platform has partnered with the online travel agency giant Booking.com. The deal will allow users of the Travala platform to book accommodation listed on Booking.com and pay for it with crypto assets.  Although the announcement is great news for existing and future users of the Travala service, its impact on actual crypto adoption remains to be seen. Since there will be no change to the user experience at Booking.com, the partnership might not even serve as much of an opportunity to promote cryptocurrency usage to the not yet converted.