Posts with «finance» label

Federal Reserve study offers no answers on creating a digital dollar

Don't expect the US Federal Reserve to issue a digital dollar any time soon. CNBCreports the Reserve has published its long-in-the-making study of a central bank cryptocurrency, but took no stances on whether or not it should pursue the technology. The paper instead explored the potential benefits and pitfalls of digital currencies, and asked for public comments.

The Fed cautioned that existing cryptocurrencies tend to be highly volatile, consume lots of energy and frequently have significant transaction limitations. A central bank-backed format might overcome some of those problems, the Reserve said, by serving as a "bridge" between payment services, making finance more inclusive and providing "safe and trusted" money. The Reserve also believed the digital money could improve cross-border payments and protect the role of the US dollar on the world stage.

However, the government also warned that official digital cash would need to account for possible changes to the financial world, such as encouraging more runs on financial companies. It would also need to maintain privacy, protect against crimes like fraud and be resilient. The Reserve floated the possibility of offline capability to enable transactions when internet access isn't available, such as during natural disasters.

The agency stressed its report was a "first step" in discussing the possibility of a central bank cryptocurrency, and that it would give the public until May 20th, 2022 to offer feedback and answer questions. For now, though, the Reserve will remain neutral and will only work on a digital currency if longer-term research supports the concept. It's resisting the pressure to act quickly, even if other countries are already moving forward.

Crypto.com loses $34 million in hack that affected 483 accounts

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Crypto.com's Chief Executive Kris Marszalek has admitted that 400 customer accounts were compromised by hackers. He said his team detected unauthorized transactions made from the accounts, but that they'd fixed the issue immediately and fully reimbursed the affected users. Now, the company has published a report revealing details from its post mortem. Apparently, 483 accounts were affected and the unauthorized withdrawals totaled 4,836.26 ETH, 443.93 BTC and approximately $66,200 in other currencies. Based on current exchange rates, that's $15.3 million of ETH and $18.7 million of ETC for a total of $34 million in losses. 

JUST IN: CEO @cryptocom’s Kris Marszalek discusses the site's recent hack with @BloombergTV’s @emilychangtv. "Customer funds were never at risk." #TheYearAheadpic.twitter.com/YlCtGO60t5

— Bloomberg Live (@BloombergLive) January 19, 2022

Before the company revealed the scope of the hack in terms of lost funds, blockchain security analytics company PeckShield Inc. said Crypto.com may have lost cryptocurrency worth $15 million. At least 4,600 of the coins lost were Ethereum, and half of them are reportedly being washed — a process that obfuscates a coin's transaction trail. Meanwhile, Bitcoin research firm OXT Research said the company's loss might be worth up to $33 million.

The report explained that the company's risk monitoring systems detected unauthorized activity a few days ago, wherein transactions were being approved without two-factor authentication for a small number of accounts. As a result, the cryptocurrency exchange paused withdrawals on the evening of January 16th. Indeed, people in the comments on its Twitter announcement revealed that they had funds stolen even if they had 2FA enabled. 

In another tweet posted on January 17th, Marszalek said that "no customer funds were lost," the company's infrastructure was down 14 hours and that his team strengthened its security in response to what happened. The report expounded on that last part, revealing that Crypto.com revoked all customer 2FA tokens and implemented additional security measures that required all account users to re-log-in. The company said the move is necessary, because it migrated to a completely new 2FA infrastructure. However, it intends to eventually move away from 2FA and to true Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).

Crypto.com has also introduced an additional security measure that requires users to wait 24 hours before they can withdraw to a newly registered whitelisted address. Finally, the company is launching the Worldwide Account Protection Program (WAPP) on February 1st for users who want additional protection for their funds. 

WAPP can restore up to $250,000 of a participating user's money in case a third-party gains access to their account. That said, to qualify for the program, users must enable multi-faction authentication on all transaction types and not be using a jailbroken device. To be able to recoup their funds under the program, they must've set up an anti-phishing code at least 21 days before an unauthorized transaction, file a police report and provide Crypto.com a copy, as well as complete a questionnaire to support forensic investigation. 

Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion

Microsoft just made one of the largest-ever bids for a game studio. The company has announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard for $95 per share, valuing the all-cash deal at an enormous $68.7 billion. The deal would make the combined entity the "third-largest" game company by revenue, according to Microsoft, and would put titles like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft under the company's wing. Microsoft plans to add Activision Blizzard games to Game Pass as part of the deal.

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UK government announces official crackdown on 'misleading' crypto ads

The UK government has revealed that it plans to update its laws in order "to bring the promotion of cryptoassets within the scope of financial promotions legislation." That will ensure any crypto promotion will be held to the same standards as promotion for stocks, shares and insurance products. It also has fall in line with the rules set by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Governments have recently started cracking down on crypto ads in an effort to protect consumers from scams they may not be familiar with. The Spanish government is currently establishing rules on how influencers and their sponsors promote cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, Singapore's authorities asked crypto companies outright not to market their services to the public. One type of scam is the "pump and dump," in which fraudsters find ways to artificially inflate the value of a cryptocurrency and to get people to invest money in it. They then unload their shares while the value is high to make a lot of money, thereby lowering the coin's value in the process. 

According to the UK government, approximately 2.3 million people in the country are now thought to own a cryptoasset. While cryptoassets' popularity is rising, the FCA's research suggests (PDF) that potential investors' level of understanding about them is on the decline. That means people may not be fully aware of the risks involved when it comes to investing in them, which further supports "the case for regulatory intervention to ensure that cryptoasset promotions are fair, clear, and not misleading. "

Amazon UK won't ban Visa credit cards on January 19th after all

Last November, Amazon notified customers that it would stop accepting Visa credit cards in the UK as of January 19th, 2022, blaming the high fees Visa charges for credit card transactions. Now, the company has backtracked on that, telling customers via email that it will continue accepting Visa cards, at least for the time being.

"The expected change regarding the use of Visa credit cards on Amazon.co.uk will no longer take place on January 19," an Amazon spokesperson told Engadget. " We are working closely with Visa on a potential solution that will enable customers to continue using their Visa credit cards on Amazon.co.uk."

The dispute has been simmering for a while, with Amazon previously accusing Visa of charging high credit card transaction fees, and Visa saying that Amazon was "threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future." Both companies, global leaders of their respective industries, previously said that they were attempting to work towards a solution. 

Amazon didn't elaborate further on its statement but also didn't set another deadline — so presumably UK buyers will be able to use their Visa cards for the foreseeable future. 

Waymo has its first commercial autonomous trucking customer

Last June, Alphabet’s self-driving unit worked with J.B. Hunt, a trucking and logistics company, to test its Waymo Via technology in Texas. On Friday, the two announced they’re forming a strategic partnership with the hope of deploying a fully autonomous trucking operation within the state sometime in the next few years. In the immediate future, Waymo and J.B. Hunt say they plan to hold multiple pilots involving Waymo Via. That’s the Waymo Driver-powered unit the Alphabet subsidiary developed for Class 8 trucks. They also plan to complete additional market studies.

The expanded partnership follows a successful first pilot in which Waymo and J.B Hunt said they moved 862,179 lbs of freight without their test trucks speeding or ending up in any accidents. The conclusion they drew at the time was that Waymo Driver was ready to deliver freight on-time and safely. Waymo is just one of a handful of companies working on autonomous trucking technology. A few months before the company completed its June pilot with J.B. Hunt, Aurora, the startup that acquired Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, announced it was working with Volvo to build fully autonomous semi trucks that would carry cargo across North America.

Flexbooker online appointment service breach exposes data of 3.7 million users

A group of hackers is trading a database of stolen information from FlexBooker, a cloud-based tool for scheduling appointments, containing sensitive customer data. According to BleepingComputer, the company suffered a security breach before the holidays and notified its customers about the attack in an email, where it revealed that its Amazon AWS servers were compromised on December 23rd. It also admitted that its system data storage was accessed and downloaded.

Based on information from Have I Been Pwned, the breach compromised 3.7 million accounts containing email addresses, names, passwords, phone numbers and partial credit card numbers. BleepingComputer says a group called Uawrongteam took credit for the attack and shared links to archives with the stolen data, which the group claimed also include users' drivers' licenses, other IDs, password salt and hashed passwords. FlexBooker's typical customers are people who need to be able to quickly schedule appointments with clients, such as doctors, lawyers, dentists, gyms, mechanics, salons, trainers, therapists, so and and so forth. 

In Flexbooker's email to users, it said the infiltrators failed to get "any credit card or other payment card information." We're guessing the company didn't take the stolen partial credit card numbers into account. Before Flexbooker, Uawrongteam previously claimed other data breaches and also traded databases with stolen information from its previous targets. They include data from Racing.com, a digital TV network that broadcasts horse racing, and from rediCASE Case Management Software solution for health services and other businesses. 

 

New breach: Online booking service FlexBooker had 3.7M accounts breached last month. Data included email addresses, names, phone numbers and for some accounts, partial credit card data. 69% were already in @haveibeenpwnedhttps://t.co/LGaAnj1hUA

— Have I Been Pwned (@haveibeenpwned) January 6, 2022

Microsoft's $19.7 billion Nuance acquisition wins EU approval

The European Commission has approved Microsoft’s $19.7 billion bid to buy Nuance Communications. The regulator said on Tuesday the proposed acquisition “would raise no competition concerns” within the European Union. In analyzing the bid, it found that “Microsoft and Nuance offer very different products.” Moreover, it believes the company will continue to face “strong” competition from other firms in the future.

Before today, the US and Australia had both signed off on the purchase, but it’s not yet a done deal. On December 13th, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said it would investigate the transaction. With the regulator accepting public comments until January 10th, 2022, it’s unlikely the deal will close by the end of 2021 as Microsoft had said it would when it first announced its intention to buy Nuance. 

Nikola will pay $125 million to settle SEC fraud charges

Electric vehicle company Nikola will pay $125 million to settle civil charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission of defrauding investors. The company was accused of misleading investors about its in-house production capabilities, technological advancements, reservations and orders, hydrogen production and more.

The SEC accused founder and former CEO Trevor Milton of undertaking "a public relations campaign aimed at inflating and maintaining Nikola’s stock price" through tweets and media appearances before the company had made a commercial product. It said that the company also misled investors by "misrepresenting or omitting material facts" about the hydrogen station at its headquarters, how long it would take to refuel its concept vehicles, the source and cost of power for planned hydrogen production and the risks and benefits of a mooted partnership with a major automaker.

“As the order finds, Nikola Corporation is responsible both for Milton’s allegedly misleading statements and for other alleged deceptions, all of which falsely portrayed the true state of the company’s business and technology,” SEC enforcement director Gurbir S. Grewal said in a statement.

Although Nikola did not admit to or deny the SEC's charges of securities law violations, it agreed to some voluntary undertakings, to pay the penalty and to cease and desist from "future violations of the charged provisions." It will cooperate with ongoing litigation and investigation too.

"We are pleased to bring this chapter to a close as the company has now resolved all government investigations," Nikola said in a statement. "We will continue to execute on our strategy and vision to deliver on our business plan, including delivering trucks to customers, expanding our manufacturing facilities and our sales and service network, and building out our hydrogen infrastructure ecosystem including hydrogen production, distribution and dispensing stations." The company also said it was seeking reimbursement from Milton "for costs and damages in connection with the government and regulatory investigations."

Nikola became a publicly traded company in June 2020 through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) deal, which enables companies to bypass the usual process of going public. That September, reports suggested the SEC was looking into Nikola's claims about its electric trucks. Milton, who had stepped down as CEO just before the company went public, resigned as executive chairman a few days after news emerged about the probe.

A grand jury indicted Milton on fraud charges in July 2021. He was accused of lying to investors about “nearly all aspects of the business” to increase Nikola's share price. He denied the charges and is free on bail pending a trial that's scheduled for April. 

Meanwhile, Nikola delivered its first electric trucks to customers last week.

Rivian selects Georgia as site for its second EV factory

Following months of speculation, electric transport startup Rivian shared where it plans to build a second factory. In the summer of 2022, the automaker will break ground on a facility about an hour east of Atlanta, Georgia, it announced on Thursday. Once the plant is complete sometime in 2024, the company hopes to eventually produce 400,000 electric vehicles there. It also plans to build a battery production facility nearby.

Rivian says the EV facility will cost approximately $5 billion to build and will employ more than 7,500 employees. The company will pay for it with proceeds from its recent November 10th IPO. Once complete, the facility will significantly boost Rivan’s manufacturing capacity. The automaker claims its first and currently only factory in Normal, Illinois can produce about 150,000 cars annually. It plans to eventually manufacture about 200,000 there every year.

That might seem like a lot but Rivian is still in the process of scaling production and meeting demand for its vehicles. As of December 15th, 2021, the company said it had produced 652 of its R1 vehicles. As of that same day, it had a total of 71,000 pre-orders from customers. It also needs to produce at least 100,000 trucks for Amazon. In other words, it has its work cut out for it.