Crypto asset markets started the week on the up, as Bitcoin surged back towards US$12,000 in a rise of more than $1,000. Many had speculated that it was Chinese buyers getting into what now is commonly labeled as a ‘safe haven’ offshore asset as their own currency tanked.
As US President Trump ramped up the rhetoric and the trade war tariffs, the People’s Bank of China posted its lowest yuan/dollar daily reference rate in more than a decade. The CNH rate of about 7 seems to have sent traders flocking to Bitcoin and the speculation of that sentiment attracted many other global traders too, and the digital asset ended the week more than 20% higher than its price at the same time in the previous week.
Intelligence-led security company FireEye has released a report that claims to have unearthed evidence of a Chinese state-linked hacking outfit who are now advertising their skills and services and indicating that they could be hired. In its latest Cyber Threat Intelligence Report, FireEye claimed that a hacking collective known as APT41 had targeted a number of firms operating in the gaming, fintech and crypto industry. APT41, according to FireEye, is “a prolific Chinese cyber threat group that carries out state-sponsored espionage activity in parallel with financially motivated operations.” It is unique among Chinese hackers because it “uses tools typically reserved for espionage campaigns in what appears to be an activity for personal gain.”
The FireEye reports claims that APT41 “appears to have moved toward strategic intelligence collection and establishing access and away from direct intellectual property theft since 2015. This shift, however, has not affected the group’s consistent interest in targeting the video game industry for financially motivated reasons.” The hackers, says the report, “are as agile as they are skilled and well-resourced.”
Iran, another nation in a sanction-led financial battle with the US economy, is close to passing a bill that finalizes regulation for crypto assets, according to local media. The bill, that was formally ratified by the government this week, paves the way for a new industry of cryptocurrency mining. The bill states that mining will be allowed in Iran under certain conditions. One restriction is that crypto mining farms must not be situated within a 30-kilometer range of any towns, except the capital Tehran and the major city of Esfahan. This is presumably related to power consumption concerns. The bill also lifts the illegal status of cryptocurrencies in Iran but also says that, at this stage, the government and banking system will still not view digital currencies as legal tender.
In Busan, South Korea, a special economic zone has been deemed ineffective due to a government blockade on using cryptocurrencies there. The Busan Blockchain Special Zone was designated regulation-free by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups last month. However, a number of companies have been reportedly excluded from the zone due to their involvement with digital assets. South Korea is one of the world’s most active cryptocurrency trading nations, yet official laws are still a grey area, as policy remains inconsistent on how to regulate this still new asset class.
One of South Korea’s largest crypto exchanges, Bithumb, is about to enter the Singaporean market. A deal has been done with local crypto trading platform BitHolic which will rebrand as Bithumb Singapore. It has been widely reported that the South Korean exchange is keen to expand into international markets in an effort to keep up with competitors Binance, Huobi and OKEx.
In Malaysia, one of the largest electricity suppliers has accused a number of Bitcoin miners of stealing power, according to local media. More than 30 premises were searched by authorities around Kuantan, the capital city of the state of Pahang on the east coast of the peninsular of Malaysia, after local power company Tenaga Nasional Bhd claimed to have lost 3.2 million MYR (about $750,000). The utility company stated that high-powered computer networks were tapping electricity directly from the distribution board, bypassing their meters.