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Bi-weekly crypto round-up for August 2022 (Part 1)

August got an eventful start with BlackRock finally joining the crypto bandwagon. And the Tornado Cash drama.

The first 2 weeks of August were somewhat slow, but there were some pretty noteworthy headlines to pay attention to – namely Tornado Cash getting shut down and the world’s largest asset manager betting big on crypto despite market rout.

Here’s our latest market wrap from the last 2 weeks.

All figures are in US dollars.

Quick take

  • The US Treasury Department has sanctioned Tornado Cash for allegedly helping launder over $7 billion of virtual currency
  • BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has launched a spot Bitcoin (BTC) private trust for US-based institutional investors
  • Troubled crypto broker Voyager is approved to return $270 million in cash deposits to its customers
  • NFT marketplace Magic Eden is going multi-chain and integrating Ethereum-based NFTs
  • Over $8 million worth of SOL and USDC were drained from 8,000+ wallets on the Solana network in one of the latest cyber attacks
  • Ethereum completes final dress rehearsal, Goerli testnet merge, in preparation for its highly anticipated PoW to PoS migration

Key events

We’ve handpicked some of the most relevant emerging stories in the crypto space to help you stay ahead of the curve.
Charles Schwab

Acquisitions and fundings

  • 3 Aug: Fintech start-up Bits Crypto raised $1.2 million in pre-seed funding to build out its crypto-investment mobile application
  • 3 Aug: TD Bank agreed to acquire US brokerage Cowen Inc for $1.3 billion in a bid to bulk up its presence in American capital markets
  • 4 Aug: Charles Schwab Corp’s $655 billion asset management arm launches its first crypto-related exchange-traded fund, the Schwab Crypto Thematic ETF (STCE) which started trading on the NYSE Arca exchange
  • 4 Aug: Fan engagement token firm to invest $100 million in Barca Studios, the Web3 division of Spain’s top football club, FC Barcelona
  • 5 Aug: Coinbase shares surged about 31% after announcing its partnership with BlackRock to offer its institutional clients access to cryptocurrency trading and custody services
  • 8 Aug: expands into South Korea after 2 new acquisitions – payment service provider PnLink and virtual asset provider OK-BIT
  • 11 Aug: BlackRock launched spot Bitcoin private trust for US-based institutional clients
  • 12 Aug: Huobi Group founder Leon Li in talks with a clutch of investors to sell his majority stake for $1 billion

NFTs, GameFi and metaverses

  • 1 Aug: Tiffany and Co. unveils limited edition, diamond-encrusted CryptoPunk pendants with its “NFTiff” collection. 250 digital passes – priced at 30 ETH (~$50,000) each – will be sold exclusively to CryptoPunk holders and redeemable for the physical necklaces
  • 3 Aug: Magic Eden announces integration for Ethereum-based NFTs. The NFT marketplace will also support cross-currency purchases, enabling users to purchase NFTs in either SOL or ETH
  • 5 Aug: Meta (Facebook) confirms NFT roll-out across 100 countries after integrating with Coinbase Wallet and Dapper. The social media platform will also add support for Flow Blockchain
  • 8 Aug: Consumer watchdog called out 19 celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Paris Hilton, for shilling NFTs
  • 9 Aug: New NFT privacy proposal for the use of stealth addresses to obscure NFT transactions gets the attention of Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin
  • 10 Aug: Magic Eden plans to build an exclusive ApeCoin NFT marketplace just for Bored Ape Yacht Club
  • 13 Aug: OpenSea changes stolen NFT policy following user outcry, which will now require a police report to be submitted within 7 days of flagging an NFT as stolen

Digital banks and exchanges

  • 2 Aug: Coinbase Prime has added Ethereum to its expanding list of staking options for US domestic institutional clients, as well as a crypto on-ramp for institutions
  • 2 Aug: Binance.US delists the AMP token as a precaution after the SEC claimed that it was a security
  • 5 Aug: Revolut launches crypto services in Singapore
  • 8 Aug: Cryptocurrency lender Hodlnaut announced the freezing of withdrawals, token swaps and deposits
  • 11 Aug: Troubled crypto exchange Zipmex has partially reopened Bitcoin and Ethereum withdrawals, after halting for around 3 weeks due to a liquidity crunch

Blockchains and tokens

  • 1 Aug: Aave DAO has voted in favour of creating a new stablecoin, GHO, that will be backed by a portfolio of other cryptocurrencies
  • 3 Aug: Binance to launch Binance Account Bound (BAB) token, its first soulbound token on Binance Smart Chain (BSC) to address identity issues in the decentralised society. BAB will be exclusively available for users who have completed their KYC on Binance
  • 4 Aug: El Salvador’s open-source banking platform, Galoy, raised $4 billion for Bitcoin-backed synthetic dollar pegged to the US dollar
  • 11 Aug: Ethereum’s third and final test merge on Goerli goes live, pumping the token by 14%
  • 15 Aug: Monero completed a hard fork, which has introduced improved privacy and security features to the network

Defaults, exploits and lawsuits

  • 2 Aug: 2 Californian men were sentenced to prison for operating a cryptocurrency scam that swindled a collective of $1.9 million from over 2,000 investors
  • 2 Aug: Cross-chain messaging protocol Nomad was actively hacked and lost $45 million in wrapped BTC, ETH and some stablecoins
  • 3 Aug: Over 8,000 “hot” wallets connected to the Solana network were hacked. Approximately $8 million worth of SOL and USDC were drained
  • 3 Aug: Robinhood Crypto was fined $30 million by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) for violating anti-money-laundering and cybersecurity rules
  • 5 Aug: Crypto broker Voyager granted bankruptcy court approval to return $270 million in cash deposits to its customers
  • 5 Aug: Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange lost approximately $4.8 million from its hot wallets in a probable hack
  • 6 Aug: Nomad cross-chain bridge recovers $22 million in Ethereum tokens after $190 million hack
  • 6 Aug: India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided properties related to Sameer Mhatre, a director of WazirX, over alleged fraud on instant loan apps. $8.1 million of the exchange’s funds is now frozen
  • 10 Aug: Ethereum DeFi exchange Curve lost over $570,000 in ETH from a front-end hack
  • 10 Aug: German crypto bank Nuri has filed for insolvency
  • 12 Aug: Dutch authorities arrested Tornado Cash developer for alleged involvement in concealing criminal financial flows and facilitating money laundering
  • 15 Aug: DeFi platform Acala’s latest exploit resulted in the depegging of its native stablecoin, aUSD. The token’s value has since plummeted 99%

Images: Getty Images

Top crypto news

The Tornado Cash sanction: A necessary measure or completely unconstitutional?

8 August 2022

Tornado Cash

Image: Getty Images

The US Treasury Department has sanctioned Tornado Cash for allegations of helping North Korean hackers launder billions of dollars of crypto. This effectively bans US crypto users and businesses – even for legitimate reasons – from interacting with the protocol.

According to the Treasury, the service has laundered over $7 billion worth of digital currency since it was founded in 2019. However, findings from the cryptocurrency analyst firm Elliptic show that only around 20% of the figure ($1.5 billion) was tied to illicit activity, which contradicted the Treasury’s report.

But what exactly is Tornado Cash and how does it work?

Tornado Cash is an Ethereum-based, open-source cryptocurrency “mixer” that allows users to shield the origin and destination of their transactions.

Simply put, users send their coins to the service, and through the use of smart contracts, the service mixes these token deposits from one address into a pool of other coins. This breaks the on-chain link between the source and the destination, concealing the connection between the sender and recipient. Users will then withdraw the equivalent amount of tokens from a different address – anonymising the entire transaction.

So, what’s the drama?

Privacy advocates call coin mixers like Tornado Cash a necessary tool for preserving the right to anonymity – and there are plenty of legitimate reasons to use it. Just like you don’t want others to know every intimate detail of every bank or credit card transaction that you’ve ever made (even if you’ve absolutely nothing to hide), you wouldn’t want others to know every detail of every purchase, transfer or interaction you’ve made on the blockchain either.

But in the eyes of governments and regulatory bodies, coin mixer tools facilitate money laundering. Though it’s unjust to condemn everyone who ever used Tornado Cash, they aren’t exactly wrong either. Tornado Cash has been notoriously popular among cybercriminals, a go-to service to launder billions of stolen funds.

To comply with the sanctions, many DeFi platforms including dYdX, Aave, Uniswap and Balancer have reportedly banned wallets that have interacted with Tornado Cash. As expected, these DeFi platforms came under fire for supposedly undermining the core tenets of decentralisation – and potentially being unconstitutional.

Read more

BlackRock dives deep into crypto with spot Bitcoin private trust

11 August 2022

BlackRock Bitcoin Private Trust

Image: Finder

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with $8.5 trillion under management, has launched a private Bitcoin trust for its institutional clients in the US – despite the crypto market getting hammered by plunging prices, credit crisis and government investigations.

“Despite the steep downturn in the digital asset market, we are still seeing substantial interest from some institutional clients in how to efficiently and cost-effectively access these assets using our technology and product capabilities,” BlackRock said in a statement.

The news also comes shortly after the financial titan’s recent partnership with Coinbase to offer institutional investors easier access to crypto trading, starting with Bitcoin.

As such, some crypto enthusiasts view these fresh endorsements as a “bullish” move that could legitimise the digital asset in the eyes of more traditional investors and bring crypto into the mainstream. But for others, this change of tune has come as a surprise since the company’s CEO, Larry Fink was once a harsh critic of crypto, labelling Bitcoin an “index of money laundering” back in 2017.

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