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Brave launches version 1.0 of its privacy-focused browser

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Brave, the company co-founded by ex-Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich after his ouster from the organization in 2014, today launched version 1.0 of its browser for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS. In a browser market where users are spoiled for choice, Brave is positioning itself as a fast option that preserves users’ privacy with strong default settings, as well as a crypto currency-centric private ads and payment platform that allows users to reward content creators.

As the company announced last month, it now has about 8 million monthly active users. Its Brave Rewards program, which requires opt-in from users and publishers, currently has about 300,000 publishers on board. Most of these are users with small followings on YouTube and Twitter, but large publishers like Wikipedia, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Slate and the LA Times are also part of the ecosystem. Using this system, which not every publisher is going to like, the browser will show a small number of ads as a notification in a separate private ad tab, based on the user’s browsing habits. Users then receive 70% of what the advertisers spend on ads, while Brave keeps 30%.

As users view these ads, they start earning Basic Attention Tokens (BAT), Brave’s cryptocurrency, which they can keep or give to publishers. In its early days, Brave actually started with Bitcoin as the currency for this, but as Eich noted, that quickly became too expensive (and because the price was going up, users wanted to hold on to the Bitcoin instead of donating it).

Brave also comes with a built-in ad blocker that is probably among the most effective in the industry, as well as extensive anti-tracking features. “Everybody’s bothered by the sense of being tracked and bothered by bad ads,” Eich told me. “But I think ad aesthetics are not the problem. It’s the tracking and the cost of tracking which is multifarious. There’s page load time, running the radio to load the tracking scripts that load the other scripts that load the scripts that load the ads, that drains your battery, too.” Eich argues that with Brave, the team found a way to tie this all together with anti-tracking technology and an approach to ad blocking that goes beyond the industry-standard blocklists and also uses machine learning to identify additional rules for blocking.

For those users that really want to be anonymous on the web, Brave also features a private browsing mode, just like every other browser, but with the added twist that you can also open a private session through the Tor network, which will make it very hard for most companies to identify you.

At its core, Brave is simply a fast, extensible Chromium-based browser. That’s also what the company believes will sell it to users. “The way you get users, […] I think speed is the first one that works across the largest number of users. But you can’t just leave it at speed. You want to have all your benefits tied up in a pretty knot and that’s what we have done,” he said. For Brave, speed and ad/tracking protection are obviously interconnected, and all the other benefits accrue from that.

Looking beyond version 1.0, the Brave team plans to implement better sync, with support for tab and history syncing, for example. Brave also aims to make participating in Brave Rewards an experience with much lower friction for the user. In the early days, before it was on Android, the opt-in rate was around 40%, Eich told me, and the team wants to get it back to that.

If you want to give Brave a try, you can download it here.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/13/brave-launches-version-1-0-of-its-privacy-focused-browser/

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A US citizen is accused of trying to help North Korea evade sanctions

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Atlanta (CNN Business)A US computer researcher appeared in federal court in Los Angeles on Monday, accused of advising North Korea how to use cryptocurrency to avoid sanctions, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.

Griffith is a research scientist for the Ethereum Foundation, a Swiss-based cryptocurrency platform. In a statement, Ethereum told CNN Business it did not approve or support Griffith’s travel to North Korea.
Griffith is accused of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by traveling to North Korea “in order deliver a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions,” according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
    In a statement to CNN Business after the Monday hearing, Griffith’s attorney said his client has been released from jail pending trial.
    “We dispute the untested allegations in the criminal complaint,” attorney Brian Klein told CNN Business. “Virgil looks forward to his day in court, when the full story can come out.”
    The technology behind cryptocurrencies, known as blockchain, is a digital ledger and record made up of a list of transactions. The blockchain is powered by a decentralized network of computers that work on the same task.
    Data cannot be easily changed or deleted, helping to avoid fraud. Since it’s a permanent record, and because the ledger is held by many entities, it’s nearly impossible to hack.
    The IEEPA prohibits US citizens from exporting goods, services or technology to other countries without a license from the Department of Treasury. North Korea is specifically mentioned as a threat in executive orders.
    The US Attorney’s Office alleges that Griffith traveled to North Korea through China in April to attend the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference without approval of Treasury and despite being denied permission by the US State Department to travel to the country.
    “We cannot allow anyone to evade sanctions, because the consequences of North Korea obtaining funding, technology and information to further its desire to build nuclear weapons put the world at risk,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in the news release.
    “It’s even more egregious that a US citizen allegedly chose to aid our adversary.”
    During Griffith’s presentation, called “Blockchain and Peace,” at the cryptocurrency conference, he discussed how blockchain technology could benefit North Korea, according to the criminal complaint.
    After the conference, he “began formulating plans to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency” between North and South Korea knowing that his assistance would violate sanctions against North Korea, the complaint said.
    He also announced his intention to renounce his US citizenship and encouraged other US citizens to travel to North Korea, the complaint states.
      If convicted of violating the IEEPA, Griffith faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the US Attorney’s office said.
      — CNN’s Laura Ly, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Mirna Alsharif contributed to this report.

      Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/03/tech/crypto-expert-north-korea-sanctions-trnd/index.html

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      Investment platform eToro acquires crypto portfolio tracker app Delta

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      The multi-asset investment platform eToro, which spans “social” stock trading to cryptocurrency, has acquired Delta, the crypto portfolio tracker app.

      Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although one source tells me the deal was worth $5 million. It is not clear if it is stock only or cash (or a mixture of both) and if it is contingent on any future targets being met.

      The Delta app helps investors make better decisions regarding their crypto investments by providing tools such as portfolio tracking and pricing data. It very much fits with the evolution of eToro, which not only wants to “own” the commission-free stocks (and ETF) space, but has also ventured ambitiously into crypto — most recently bringing crypto asset trading to the U.S.

      Delta’s crypto portfolio tracker app has support for more than 6,000 crypto assets from more than 180 exchanges. It provides investors with a range of tools to track and analyse their crypto portfolios. To date, Delta says it has seen 1.5 million downloads and has “hundreds of thousands” of active monthly users.

      The acquisition sees Delta become part of the eToro Group, while the Delta team led by Nicolas Van Hoorde will become part of eToroX, reporting to Doron Rosenblum. “The team will continue to be based in Belgium, working in close collaboration with eToro and eToroX employees across the globe,” says eToro.

      Meanwhile, eToro is talking up the fact that it is a regulated platform where you can hold crypto and traditional assets in the same portfolio. The idea with the Delta acquisition is to extend that so you’ll be able to track all your investments in once place, starting with crypto and eventually multi-asset. In addition, you’ll be able to trade from the app via eToroX, eToro’s own crypto exchange.

      “At a time when other fintechs state that they are not even targeting profitability, we are proud to be a well funded, profitable business that is growing both in terms of geographical coverage but also product range,” says Yoni Assia, co-founder and CEO of eToro, in a statement.

      “We are a trading and investing platform that not only provides clients with access to the assets they want, from commission free stocks and ETFs through to FX, commodities and cryptoassets, but also lets customers choose how they invest. They can trade directly, copy another trader or invest in a portfolio. We believe in empowering our clients and the acquisition of Delta will allow us to add an important new element to our offering.”

      Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/06/investment-platform-etoro-acquires-crypto-portfolio-tracker-app-delta/

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      Facebook sues OnlineNIC for domain name fraud associated with malicious activity

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      Facebook today announced it has filed suit in California against domain registrar OnlineNIC and its proxy service ID Shield for registering domain names that pretend to be associated with Facebook, like www-facebook-login.com or facebook-mails.com, for example. Facebook says these domains are intentionally designed to mislead and confuse end users, who believe they’re interacting with Facebook.

      These fake domains are also often associated with malicious activity, like phishing.

      While some who register such domains hope to eventually sell them back to Facebook at a marked-up price, earning a profit, others have worse intentions. And with the launch of Facebook’s own cryptocurrency, Libra, a number of new domain cybersquatters have emerged. Facebook was recently able to take down some of these, like facebooktoken.org and ico-facebook.org, one of which had already started collecting personal information from visitors by falsely touting a Facebook ICO.

      Facebooks’ new lawsuit, however, focuses specifically on OnlineNIC, which Facebook says has a history of allowing cybersquatters to register domains with its privacy/proxy service, ID Shield. The suit alleges that the registered domains, like hackingfacebook.net, are being used for malicious activity, including “phishing and hosting websites that purported to sell hacking tools.”

      The suit also references some 20 other domain names that are confusingly similar to Facebook and Instagram trademarks, it says.

      Screen

      OnlineNIC has been sued before for allowing this sort of activity, including by Verizon, Yahoo, Microsoft and others. In the case of Verizon (disclosure: TechCrunch parent), OnlineNIC was found liable for registering more than 600 domain names similar to Verizon’s trademark, and the courts awarded $33.15 million in damages as a result, Facebook’s filing states.

      Facebook is asking for a permanent injunction against OnlineNIC’s activity, as well as damages.

      The company says it took this issue to the courts because OnlineNIC has not been responsive to its concerns. Facebook today proactively reports instances of abuse with domain name registrars and their privacy/proxy services, and often works with them to take down malicious domains. But the issue is widespread — there are tens of millions of domain names registered through these services today. Some of these businesses are not reputable, however. Some, like OnlineNIC, will not investigate or even respond to Facebook’s abuse reports.

      The news of the lawsuit was previously reported by Cnet and other domain name news sources, based on courthouse filings.

      Attorney David J. Steele, who previously won the $33 million judgement for Verizon, is representing Facebook in the case.

      “By mentioning our apps and services in the domain names, OnlineNIC and ID Shield intended to make them appear legitimate and confuse people. This activity is known as cybersquatting and OnlineNIC has a history of this behavior,” writes Facebook, in an announcement. “This lawsuit is one more step in our ongoing efforts to protect people’s safety and privacy,” it says.

      OnlineNIC has been asked for comment and we’ll update if it responds.

      Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/31/facebook-sues-onlinenic-for-domain-name-fraud-associated-with-malicious-activity/

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