In a May 28 virtual roundtable before the congressional Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy, witnesses and congresspeople alike feared that they are not keeping up with criminals hacking the financial system.
Criminals have better resumes than government agents
One witness, Guillermo Christensen, a partner at law firm Ice Miller, admired the cyber talent operating illegally:
“We are always playing catch up with the criminals. […] It’s very hard to find people who are as qualified as some of these criminal hackers, frankly, to take apart their schemes and trace them.”
Another issue is the overclassification of government information, presenting a barrier to private-sector security efforts. “The information sharing between the private sector and the public sector is very valuable but it could be better,” saft Naftali Harris, co-founder and CEO of SentiLink, an anti-fraud software company.
Fintech’s vulnerability during the pandemic
In response to a question from subcommittee chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) as to the vulnerability of fintech to hacking, cybersecurity strategist Tom Kellermann warned that the current system is vulnerable to new developments and increasingly remote workflows:
“Financial institutions have the best security in the world, but because of telework and because of the customized malware or weaponry that are being developed in the darkweb, primarily the Russian-speaking darkweb. […] They’ve learned ways around the perimeter defense of the network security espoused by the standards of regulators around the world.”
Kellerman continued to explain that telework allows hackers easy access to well-defended financial networks via the worse-defended home systems of executives. He further called out APIs as adding another element of risk:
“The greatest vulnerability of fintech is they build out these APIs that allow them to connect to other financial institutions as well as other fintech vendors. Those APIs themselves are being exploited left and right.”
During the hearing, Chairman Cleaver commented that “It seems that we are losing this battle.” His closing remarks were no more optimistic. “Your comments were very informative but also very scary,” the chairman said.
Bitcoin and Ether Market Update July 2, 2020
Total crypto market cap added $4 billion to its value since Monday morning and now stands at $262.8 billion. Top ten coins are mostly in green for the last 24 hours with and Cardano (ADA) and Binance Coin (BNB) leading the group with 11.2 and 2.4 percent of gains respectively. At the time of writing bitcoin (BTC) is trading at $9,195 on the Bitstamp daily chart, while ether (ETH) is hovering around $228 and Ripple’s XRP nears $0.175.
Bitcoin finally managed to turn the tide and formed a green candle on the daily chart after five consecutive losing sessions. The coin was in freefall since it was last rejected at $9,700 on June 23, but closed the trading day on June 28 at $9,120 or 1.3 percent higher. The coin ended the seven-day period with a 2 percent loss.
On Monday, the BTC/USD pair continued to rise and extended its gains up to $9,185. Still, it was worth noting that the leading cryptocurrency was gravitating around the $9,150 line in an obvious consolidation.
The trading session on Tuesday, June 30 was direct evidence for the above statement. BTC formed a short red candle and dropped down to $9,127. It was 3.2 percent down on a monthly basis.
The third day of the workweek was quite positive for buyers. The price of bitcoin climbed up to $9,237, but not before hitting the $9,300 mark.
In terms of trading volumes, the 24-hour values were stable in the $19-$20 billion zone from Monday to Wednesday morning then started to pick up in the evening and neared $23 billion.
At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading at $9,205.
The Ethereum Project token ETH was also under a high seller pressure since it was rejected near the mid-term downtrend line on June 23. It ended the losing streak on Sunday, June 28, and moved up to $224 after finding support in the $220-$216 zone.
The ETH/USD pair surpassed the 50-day EMA, but closed the seven-day period 1.3 percent lower.
The ether started trading on Monday by hitting the $230 mark in the early hours of the session before closing at $228 a few hours later.
On Tuesday, June 30, the leading altcoin made a short pullback to $225 but found stability near the already-mentioned exponential moving average. It closed the month of June 2.1 percent lower compared to May.
The mid-week session on Wednesday marked the return of buyers. The price of ETH reached $232 during the day and stopped at $230 at closure.
Trading volumes were relatively stable, hovering around $5 billion for the first three days of the week.
What we are seeing on Thursday morning is a slight pullback to $228.
3 snippets to begin your day: Bitcoin’s been busy, another crypto-ETP and more
Privacy? What privacy?
While most users of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies value their financial privacy, not all of them understand the true nature of Bitcoin. Bitcoin does not guarantee anonymity, but only pseudonymity. This was perhaps the misconception held by a convict who recently lost his appeal before a court in the United States.
The man in question, convicted of child pornography charges, argued before the U.S Appeals Court that law enforcement’s analysis of his on-chain transactions without a warrant amounted to a breach of his fourth amendment right which relates to protection against unreasonable search and seizures.
However, the Court ruled otherwise, stating that the defendant’s expectation of privacy is undercut by the fact that each Bitcoin transaction is recorded on a public, permissionless blockchain. In its ruling, the Court claimed that like traditional banks, exchanges such as Coinbase and their records fall under the Bank Secrecy Act and aren’t protected by the fourth amendment.
Busy day for Bitcoin?
Bitcoin, the world’s premier cryptocurrency, may not be setting the world alight with its exponential price movements over the past few months, but it seems to be doing well on other fronts, with its blockchain noting quite a few highs over the last 24-hours.
Not only did the metrics for hourly new and active addresses hit 2 and 1-year highs, respectively, but the hourly transaction count also touched a 10-month high, with hourly spent outputs with 24hr lifespans surging to a new all-time high.
This comes on the back of a similar rise in Bitcoin’s daily active addresses, another development that many expect could have positive implications for the cryptocurrency’s price. However, that may not necessarily be the case.
Whatever the case, healthy blockchain activity seems to have become the norm for Bitcoin.
Another Bitcoin ETP….. in Europe
While the United States continues to maintain a ‘safe distance’ from crypto-ETFs and ETPs, Europe is busy embracing it, with the latest development on the continent seeing 21Shares’ Bitcoin ETP being listed on Deutsche Boerse’s Xetra, one of Europe’s biggest trading platforms.
The ETP in question, offered by the firm formerly known as Amun, tracks the value of Bitcoin and has already been listed on Switzerland’s biggest exchange – SIX
The sheer size of the trading platform now listing this ETP makes for critical development, with more and more people now getting exposure to the world’s largest cryptocurrency.
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GTA Online Is Bigger Than Ever, Let’s Review it in 2020
Rockstar never meant to support GTA Online for nearly a decade and counting. That was never the plan. Yet GTA Online continues to be updated, and oddly, now in 2020, it’s bigger than ever.
Grand Theft Auto Online launched as part of something else. It was the multiplayer mode attached to Grand Theft Auto V, a huge sequel that would go on to have one of the most successful entertainment launches in human history. Meanwhile, GTA Online would launch a few weeks later in a terrible state. Only a few months after its release players were calling it dead. Rockstar itself has since admitted that the launch was a disaster and it lost a lot of players forever due to bugs, server outages, and a lack of exciting updates.
But now, seven years removed from that awful launch, GTA Online is one of the most popular games in the world. It’s totally eclipsed the game it was originally a part of and will now do something few online games ever have: exist across seven platforms actively and simultaneously. Since release it has grown, changed, and evolved beyond the simple online sandbox it was back in 2013. That’s why, all these years later, I felt it was time to review GTA Online properly.
GTA Online starts with your created character flying into Los Santos. You peer out the window during a cutscene and look down on people racing streetcars and playing tennis. And while you can still do these things in today’s game, they’ve become dated relics of a different era, an era when GTA Online was more grounded, and focused on being serious and gritty. Real-life. Today, a more accurate intro would reflect these changes in content, perhaps having your plane glide over jet bikes, explosive RC cars, roving biker gangs, and huge floating ramps.
In fact, the entire intro and tutorial that starts GTA Online feels old and in need of updating.
You shoot some random gang members, steal back some drugs, race a few streetcars, and change your clothes. Again, these are all things you can still do in GTA Online, but it’s moved far beyond that, and soon your phone will blow up with text messages and phone calls from seven years’ worth of characters and factions.
Jumping into GTA Online today is extremely overwhelming. There are numerous people vying for your attention, different businesses to buy, things to upgrade, events to join, and heists to undertake. Some of these missions and events involve global corporations, the FBI, and powerful criminal kingpins. It is strange that when starting your new game as a nobody, low-level criminal, so many powerful people are falling over themselves to reach out to you. But in a way, it fits. GTA Online’s become a strange game, where you’ll end up owning multiple businesses, several military bases, and dozens of weaponized cars, yet will still be asked to help a random gang member sell a bit of weed. It’s a game where police officers still send cars and helicopters to stop players driving hover tanks and shooting lasers.
This mix of mundane and wild, of over the top and grounded and boring and crazy, is part of GTA Online’s charm. It’s become a giant buffet. And like any large buffet, parts of it feel like it’s only there because, well, it has to be. Nobody really wants those gross, hard little rolls, but if they weren’t there at least a few people would complain. GTA Online has a lot of this content. Nobody plays the parachuting missions in 2020. Nobody cares about boring deathmatches in 2020. Yet it is all part of the big, enormous GTA Online buffet. If Rockstar were ever to remove these older, less-wanted bits it would almost instantly receive complaints from angry gamers who hadn’t’ even touched those modes in years.
Over the years the GTA Online community’s acquired a bad reputation, and a lot of it is deserved. I’ve overheard an incredible number of racists, sexists, and dirtbags while playing this game over the years. So many of them are young boys who seem dedicated to being the shittiest people they can be. But I’ve also met cool folks. I’ve pulled off heists with people from all around the world. And the community is always finding new ways to impress and make me laugh. Some of the stunts people pull off are incredible, and the recent alien war is a great example of how the community can come together in positive ways.
Still, Rockstar isn’t doing enough to help keep this community healthy and positive. It is way too easy to harass other players, even without mods or cheats. And while Rockstar does ban players, many have complained to me about being harassed and targeted with no support or punishment from Rockstar. On Xbox 360 and PS3, GTA V and GTA Online have stopped receiving official updates, becoming lawless wastelands filled with powerful hackers and game-breaking mods. At this point, it makes sense to just shut it down on those older platforms and maybe, with the upcoming launch of new versions on PS5 and Xbox Series X, it will do just that.
Fan and community sentiment toward Rockstar has shifted a lot since GTA Online launched. At first, folks were excited about the future of an online Grand Theft Auto game. But while some are still happy, a growing number of fans feel Rockstar is squeezing them for every penny they have. Looking at the rise of in-game prices it isn’t hard to agree. Some recently-added clothing costs more than sports cars released during the first year. But payouts on missions and events haven’t really scaled upward as content’s become more expensive.
This leaves players with two options: Grind for more money to buy all the new toys or buy Shark Cards using real-world money to quickly fill their digital bank. This is the main point of tension between Rockstar and longtime players. Many players feel like Rockstar is making GTA Online more of a grind to earn more money. And the company recently added a casino, too. That only added more fuel to this fire as players could, in theory, use real-world money to buy Shark Cards, and use those to purchase in-game chips to gamble with, a situation so legally iffy the company had to shut off some of these features in countries with stricter gambling laws
In GTA Online’s defense, while prices on items have gone up, a vast majority of the content can be played freely or with very little in-game investment. For example, that new casino is free to enter, provides players with free chips every day, and has a prize wheel they can spin once a day at no cost. On the flip side, if you want to do the new casino heists and don’t have a rich in-game friend, you’ll be shelling out a not-insignificant amount of real-world cash to earn your way to that content. It’s this clash between offering free content and hiding some content behind small or large paywalls that has created a rift between Rockstar and its fans. And as each year passes without a new mainline GTA, and GTA Online updates continue to feature more and more expensive items, it seems this rift will only grow.
Whether you are an angry old player or a newbie jumping in for the first time, you’ll quickly discover that GTA Online’s narrative is a total mess in 2020. When the game launched, Rockstar explained that it was set before the events of GTA V, a game that itself is set around 2012. This all made sense. It worked. But over the years timelines have shifted, and this no longer seems to be the case. Characters will reference 2018 and new songs released after 2012 are now on GTA Online’s radio. Yet meanwhile, characters who died in GTA V, set in 2012, can still interact with your character while you’re busy doing missions supposedly set in 2018 or later.
But none of that really matters anymore. GTA Online has long abandoned the grounded world and narrative it launched with in favor of becoming a giant content platform, where both Rockstar and players can create and share wild game modes and maps. Huge floating race tracks with transforming vehicles and power-ups are some of the most popular things in GTA Online these days, with players creating and uploading their own versions using the in-game creator tools. These tools launched a few months after GTA Online went live, but didn’t become truly popular until the PS4 and Xbox One versions launched.
Now players can create new content for seven game modes and upload them for others to play and enjoy. And they can do all this with little to no involvement from Rockstar Games. The developers sometimes highlight creations they find exciting or fun, but by and large, the community runs and operates this huge chunk of the game themselves. Even if one-day Rockstar stops supporting GTA Online, it will continue to get new content from dedicated creators for years. In a way, Rockstar’s created a giant monster that it couldn’t really kill, even if it wanted to.
While GTA Online continues to grow and grow, both thanks to fans and Rockstar’s official updates, the world and game are starting to strain at the seams. Spending nearly a decade in the same map has started to make things feel… boring. The world feels static, and there’s only so many times I can drive from the desert to the city during a mission before I start to find myself wanting a change of scenery. And even as its file size grows, it’s starting to show its age. This is still, at its core, a 2012 Xbox 360 and PS3 game. While textures have improved and draw distances have increased, based on what Rockstar’s added, it seems there’s only so much it can do.
A lot of the new content uses the same basic gameplay mechanics and systems. New missions often feature old areas repurposed, and many races rely on similar track pieces and map chunks. I get the sense that Rockstar is unable to really shake up the world or game in a big way, lest it break everything in the process.
For example, the big and shiny new casino that was added last year is impressive, until you realize it is just an empty facade, with the new content hidden behind multiple, noticeably slow loading screens. It all feels creaky and old, like one-day Rockstar will add one too many cars to the game and the whole thing will collapse like a sandcastle.
In reality, It’s unlikely GTA Online will end in such an embarrassing and wild way, but that leads to the biggest question on my mind as I get ready to play this game on a whole new generation of consoles: How will GTA Online end? As much money as it makes, GTA Online might seem like it will go on forever, but that is just as unlikely as the whole thing collapsing under its own weight. So how and when will it end?
There is always the possibility that GTA Online will move forward with Grand Theft Auto VI. But that seems less likely today then it did back in 2015 or so. Today, GTA Online feels too old and rickety to be carried forward into a future GTA VI. When it does finally depart, I’ll miss GTA Online more than any other game, which is strange to think about. This is a game with a large and often shitty community, with tons of filler and boring content and server issues. But I love it. It’s this weird little world where I always have something to do and when it finally shuts down, I’ll miss it all.
Grand Theft Auto Online is a better game today than it was back in 2012, 2014, or even 2017. In 2020, Grand Theft Auto Online feels both like a dinosaur from a different era, but weirdly, also just as relevant as ever. It was one of the first “games-as-a-service” released all the way back in the last generation. Since its rocky launch, it has become one of the most successful games ever made, and yet no one’s really copied it. I think this is a testament to just how hard it is to make one of these always-online open-world games. The only true clone of GTA Online is Red Dead Online, another game being developed by Rockstar. It seems Rockstar might be the only studio willing, able, or crazy enough to try and make these things.
And I’m thankful for it making GTA Online. After 676 hours, I still enjoy logging in and playing with friends or just going around solo doing whatever I want to do that day. And it seems, based on Rockstar porting it to the new machines, that I’ll end up putting another 600 hours into this game before it’s all over. And that’s fine. I don’t mind at all. GTA Online is a great game and a world I love returning to, even when some 12-year old decides to blow me up.
Bitcoin and Ether Market Update July 2, 2020
3 snippets to begin your day: Bitcoin’s been busy, another crypto-ETP and more
GTA Online Is Bigger Than Ever, Let’s Review it in 2020
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