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US Government Claws Back Crypto from Ransomware Scam as Feds Flex Growing Tech Muscle

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The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack caused incredible disruptions to the US economy costing businesses and consumers millions of dollars in lost productivity. As the price of gas rose, and people queued up at stations waiting on the dwindling supply due to the malfeasance, the perpetrators, known as the DarkSide, claimed they did not mean to create problems – a pretty feeble statement.

It soon was revealed that a ransom was paid and Colonial started working on getting things back online – an unfortunately slow process.

While ransomware and foreign attacks of both private and public networks have been a profound problem for years, the extortion of Colonial highlighted the vulnerabilities of networks and the pressing need to be more proactive and to fight back far more aggressively.

Yesterday, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a win in the ongoing battle with cybercrime. The feds announced that it had seized 63.7 Bitcoins, valued at around $2.3 million, representing the bulk of funds pilfered by the DarkSide. The seizure was aided by the fact that a warrant had been issued in the State of California enabling enforcement officials to swoop in and reclaim the BTC. Having tracked the address of the ransom on the public ledger, using crypto tracking tools, the Federal Bureau of Investigation  (FBI) was able to access the private key for the wallet and take the money back.

The Special Prosecutions Section and Asset Forfeiture Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, assisted by the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, coordinated efforts through the Department’s Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force, a relatively new entity created to combat the growing number of ransomware and digital extortion scams.

FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said there is no place beyond the reach of the FBI to conceal illicit funds that will prevent them from imposing consequences upon malicious cyber crooks. In a warning to copycat criminals and other organized crime groups, Abbate stated:

“We will continue to use all of our available resources and leverage our domestic and international partnerships to disrupt ransomware attacks and protect our private sector partners and the American public.”

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Stephanie Hinds said they must improve cyber resiliency of critical infrastructure:

“We will also continue developing advanced methods to improve our ability to track and recover digital ransom payments.”

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco for the U.S. Department of Justice, said they will continue to target the ransomware ecosystem to deter these attacks.

“Ransom payments are the fuel that propels the digital extortion engine, and today’s announcement demonstrates that the United States will use all available tools to make these attacks more costly and less profitable for criminal enterprises.”

These statements, and the fact that enforcement authorities were quick to recoup the ransom paid, highlight the fact that federal authorities are now leveraging sophisticated crypto tools to track down digital assets where ever they may be located. Due to the public nature of the blockchain, absconding with digital assets via the internet is becoming increasingly difficult for bad actors. Because the crypto ended up on a computer somewhere in California, this enabled a quick seizure. You may expect a growing number of foreign jurisdictions closely working with US authorities to help stop illicit activities like this as well as aiding in recapturing ransom funds.

The aforementioned federal Task Force was created to disrupt, investigate, and prosecute ransomware attacks and digital extortion while dismantling the development and deployment of malware and identifying the cybercriminals responsible for nefarious activity. The Task Force also collaborates with foreign government agencies as well as private sector partners to combat this criminal threat. While there may be some countries that shy away from cooperation, a public ledger identified by authorities is a pretty big smoking gun in fingering the crooks. The next step needs to be finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice – a few key public arrests of cybercriminals should help to crush the incentive to extort companies and requesting payment in crypto now that the feds have a bigger and better tech arsenal to counter these digital thugs.


RANSOMWARE AND DIGITAL EXTORTION TASK FORCE DETAILSfact_sheet_0


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Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/06/176382-us-government-claws-back-crypto-from-ransomware-scam-as-feds-flex-growing-tech-muscle/

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Singapore based Wealth Management Firm Endowus Appoints Wei Mei Tan as Chief Advisory Officer

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Earlier this week, Singapore-headquartered digital wealth management service provider Endowus confirmed that it had appointed Wei Mei Tan as its Chief Advisory Officer.

In her role at Endowus, Wei Mei will be expected to lead strategic initiatives in order to accelerate the company’s ongoing growth while providing leadership and guidance in curating the advisory and investment solutions that are offered to customers across all key market segments.

As a key member of Endowus’ Investment Committee, Wei Mei will be tasked with supporting various portfolio strategies and fund selection processes.

With more than 2 decades of financial markets experience, Wei Mei brings to Endowus a solid background in managing and expanding online advisory platforms and investment strategies, having occupied senior management positions at some of the world’s leading private banks.

Recently, she was serving as MD at Deutsche Bank as the Global Co-Head of Advisory & Investment Solutions, where she was focused on supporting the institution’s dbXpert wealth advisory solutions.

While working at Credit Suisse, Wei Mei was the APAC Head of Portfolio Solutions and successfully managed to deploy CS Invest. Wei Mei also worked for around 6 years at UBS Wealth Management where she served as the APAC Head of Mandate Specialists. She has a lot of experience advising ultra-high net worth clients or UHNWIs (or people with at least $30 million net worth) on asset allocation and portfolio construction strategies.

Wei Mei is notably a Harvard Business School graduate and has also earned qualifications from the prestigious Nanyang Technological University. She’s a Temasek scholar and possesses Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Accountant (CA), and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) designations. She’s also an Adjunct Lecturer at the Nanyang Technological University.

Her appointment has been announced soon after Endowus acquired SGD 23 million in capital from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Softbank Ventures Asia.

Samuel Rhee, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer at Endowus, stated:

“As an industry veteran, I believe her wealth of experience in client advisory and investment solutions will be essential in our next stage of growth and in meeting the needs of our clients. Endowus is expanding its range of client solutions and bringing onboard new best-in-class fund products across various asset classes, and Wei Mei’s expertise will contribute to our clients finding more solutions suitable to their investment needs.”

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/06/176853-singapore-based-wealth-management-firm-endowus-appoints-wei-mei-tan-as-chief-advisory-officer/

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Open Banking: Indonesian Fintech Brankas Exceeds 10M Monthly API Calls with Over 80 Network Partners

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Indonesia-based Brankas, an Open Banking services provider, recently revealed that it has managed to exceed 10 million monthly API calls with more than 80 network partners.

The Brankas platform currently operates in over six different countries and has teamed up with over 30 financial institutions in order to bring Open Finance to the Southeast Asian region.

Brankas offers open finance tech solutions to financial institutions and online or all-digital businesses across the Asia-Pacific region, building the area’s supply of available financial API products. The company aims to make it easier for online or digital businesses to integreate embedded finance into their line of products and services.

The Brankas Open Finance Suite allows financial institutions to launch their open API products within 8 weeks or less. Brankas’ aggregated data and payments APIs allow clients to benefit from better choice, flexibility, and security while accessing modern financial services.

Brankas’ management noted that they now offer around 80% market coverage in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. The company has also expanded its business operations to Singapore, Vietnam, and Bangladesh.

Brankas was one of the five startups that was chosen to be a part of the first Visa Accelerator Program in the APAC region.

Komo, a digital banking service developed by East-West Banking Corporation (EastWest) (PSE: EW) in the Philippines, teamed up with Brankas in May 2021, in order to support instant in-app deposits.

Through this partnership, Komo users will be able to instantly top-up their balance via the app.

Users just have to enter the amount they want to top-up and choose a source bank through Brankas’ secure (software development kit) SDK flow in order to deposit funds to their Komo accounts.

Through Brankas’ fund transfer APIs and bank integration suite, clients are able to receive funds from their choice of Philippines-based banks instantly in the app.

Todd Schweitzer, CEO of Brankas, stated:

“At Brankas, we’re impressed with Komo team’s passion for their customers. Komo provides a beautiful, intuitive, and secure neobanking experience, raising the standard for Philippine consumer banking. At Brankas, we believe Filipinos should have more choice and flexibility in managing their hard-earned money, and we’re excited to partner with Komo to introduce customer-centric Open Banking solutions.”

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Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/06/176851-open-banking-indonesian-fintech-brankas-exceeds-10m-monthly-api-calls-with-over-80-network-partners/

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BaaS Fintech Unit Acquires $51M in Capital via Series B from Accel, Better Tomorrow Ventures, Others

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After acquiring $51 million in capital through a Series B round led by Accel, Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) provider Unit has introduced a product that will allow firms to offer live bank accounts and issue payment cards within minutes.

Better Tomorrow Ventures, Aleph, Flourish Ventures, and TLV Partners also took part in Unit‘s latest investment round.

Established in 2019 and having come out of stealth mode in late 2020, Unit’s management noted that their modern technology stack has been developed on a native ledger. The company’s platform features embedded compliance, along with built-in bank relationships. This enables companies or businesses to go live in around four weeks. During the past 3 months, Unit has seen deposit volume increase by more than 300%, and banked end-clients grow by 600%.

The firm recently completed integrations with Plaid and Allpoint. Unit’s management said that the proceeds from the new round should help it expand operations and offer various other financial products. The company will also be working on other types of integrations, while also implementing a richer feature set, such as (software development kits) SDKs and front-end components.

First up in the company’s line of products is Unit Go, which aims to allow firms to create live bank accounts and issue physical and virtual cards in just a few minutes. Founders and developers are able to sign up for free accounts, build solutions in Unit’s live environment, and instantly test out their products with real funds.

Unit CEO Itai Damiti stated:

“After interacting with hundreds of builders, we believe even more strongly that the next decade in Fintech will be defined by tech companies using their unfair advantage — the flywheel of distribution, trust, software, and data — to launch massively successful fintech products in their verticals. Our mission continues to be helping these companies bring those products to life, unlock value, and expand financial access for all.”

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Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/06/176791-baas-fintech-unit-acquires-51m-in-capital-via-series-b-from-accel-better-tomorrow-ventures-others/

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Indonesian Fintech Finantier, an Open Finance API Platform, Finalizes Seed Round from Global Founders Capital, East Ventures

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Indonesia-based Finantier, an open finance API platform, has secured an undisclosed 7-figure sum through a seed round that was led by Global Founders Capital and East Ventures.

Finantier’s latest investment round was oversubscribed. The capital was raised at a post-money valuation of over 20 times its pre-seed valuation in November of last year.

Participating in Finantier‘s new funding round were Future Shape, an investment and advisory company established by Tony Fadell, the co-inventor of the iPhone; Partech Partners, Taurus Ventures, Saison Capital, and GMO Venture Partners. Several other high-profile Fintech investors made contributions as well.

Existing investors AC Ventures, Y Combinator, Genesia Ventures, Two Culture Capital and prominent angels also took part in Finantier’s round. As previously reported, Finantier was part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 batch.

Finantier will also be working with Francesco Simoneschi, Co-Founder and CEO at Truelayer as an advisor to strengthen the firm’s Board of Directors.

The proceeds will be channeled towards scaling the business and further improving Finantier’s line of products, while helping the firm to continue its expansion efforts in Indonesian markets and the wider region. The company will also be doubling the size of its workforce.

Since the beginning of 2021, the firm has been focused on growing its professional team. It now has around 50 employees and has increased its client base and business partnerships by more than 50% MoM.

Edwin Kusuma, Co-founder and COO at Finantier, stated:

“Finantier democratises access to financial services by allowing the millions of unbanked – from roadside warungs (SMEs) to gig economy workers – to benefit from their digital data footprint. By unlocking access to basic financial services for the unbanked, we are enabling them and their loved ones to lead better lives.”

As covered in December 2020, Finantier had revealed that it acquired an undisclosed amount of capital from US-based startup accelerator Y Combinator.

Finantier had joined Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 funding cycle, which was scheduled to begin in January 2021. Finantier had said in December that it was planning to expand its business operations into emerging markets outside the Southeast Asia region via its partnership with the accelerator.

The Fintech firm allows companies or businesses to build and provide financial services to customers by offering accounts aggregation, income and ID verification, recurring repayments and subscription services. Finantier leverages machine learning to analyze raw data and then offer insights from several different sources.

Edwin Kusuma, Chief Operations Officer at Finantier, stated (in December of last year):

“Fintech lenders are frequently unable to extend loans to consumers and businesses. This is due to incomplete information, or the inability of Fintechs to obtain the full financial picture of a borrower to de-risk their operations and reduce costs.”

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/06/176848-indonesian-fintech-finantier-an-open-finance-api-platform-finalizes-seed-round-from-global-founders-capital-east-ventures/

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