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Daily Byte: 10.18.2018




US Marshals Service set to auction off $4.2 million in bitcoin, crypto may not be as decentralized as you think, and a Norwegian man was murdered in a peer-to-peer bitcoin trade.

Here's what's happening for October 18, 2018:

US Marshals Service Set to Auction Off $4.2 Million in Bitcoin

The United States Marshals Service has announced that a sealed bid auction will be held online on November 5 for approximately $4.2 million in bitcoin.

The civil and administrative forfeiture seized assets auction, per an announcement released yesterday, will be for approximately 660 bitcoin collected from 31 cases. The bitcoin will be divided into two series: one containing six "blocks" containing 100 bitcoin each, and one "block" containing 60 bitcoin. Participants in the auction can bid on "blocks" from each series but not on individual bitcoin.

Registration for the auction will require a deposit of $200,000 originating from a bank situated in the United States. Registration for the auction will begin on Monday, October 22, at 8 a.m. EDT and will close at noon EDT on Wednesday, October 31.

As typical with sealed bid auctions, bidders will not be able to see the bids of other bidders and will not be able to retract or change a bid once submitted. This auction comes just months after the Marshals' auctions in January and March of more than 3,600 bitcoin and 2,100 bitcoin, respectively.

Among the coins available in the November auction are coins seized from traders Theresa Tetley and Thomas Mario Costanzo, who the federal government successfully prosecuted for money laundering.

Crypto May Not be as Decentralized as You Think, Says One Study

One recent study from cryptocurrency tracking resource CryptoCompare finds that cryptocurrencies aren't as decentralized as you might think. The authors point to governance mechanisms for protocol upgrades as evidence of centralization, because a group of people, often developers, makes decisions about code changes and there is no mechanism to guarantee community consensus. Of course, miners must choose to implement the changes decided upon by developers.

CryptoCompare says that for 85 percent of all cryptocurrency assets, development teams can alter the currency platform and operating software after public launch.

In one example, the report classifies Ethereum as "semi-decentralised." "The development of the Ethereum project involves relatively centralised decision-making (e.g. the hard fork resulting in Ethereum Classic), but a large and decentralised mining group," the report reads. "The code that the miners run is open-source and subject to change by the community."

Decentralization has always been a key selling point for many cryptocurrencies. Satoshi Nakamoto created the idea of bitcoin to work as a peer-to-peer cash system, eliminating the need for a centralized banking institution. The whole idea was that centralized authorities could not be trusted, so this is a hot topic in the crypto community. However, it's important to note that many would argue the importance of governance to allow protocol upgrades that further the technological evolution of blockchain.

Norwegian Man Murdered in Peer-to-Peer Bitcoin Trade

A Norwegian man was stabbed to death Monday evening after he exchanged his bitcoin for cash. The 24-year-old was killed in his apartment in the affluent Majorstuen neighborhood of Oslo, as reported by TV 2.

"At this time we will not provide more information about the investigation," said Grete Lien Metlid, leader of the Oslo's police department's intelligence and investigations unit. Metlid believes that economic reasons were the motivation for the killing, but no suspects have been identified.

This story is still developing.

Japan Moves to Simplify Crypto Tax Filings

Japan is largely seen to be the world's leader in embracing crypto. Recent news that the Japanese government is seeking out ways to simplify the cryptocurrency tax filing system is the country seeming to reinforce this notion.

According to local news outlet Sankei, the Government Taxation Investigation Committee, which advises the prime minister on tax policy, met yesterday to discuss possible improvements on the process.

Among topics discussed was the importance for clarification about capital gains reporting requirements. The commission noted that the current system is cumbersome in part because different exchanges price crypto differently and there is no standardization for the storing of historical transaction data, making filing an accurate return challenging.

Crypto capital gains are currently recognized as miscellaneous income in Japan, where earnings over 200,000 yen (roughly $1,780) a year are taxed and must be reported.

"Since it is necessary to take into consideration frameworks other than the taxation system and business practices, we will hold a small meeting of experts to deepen the discussion while listening to outside opinions," said Minoru Nakazato, president of the tax committee, following the meeting.

The meeting reflects a new strategy to recognize and properly tax income derived from the "sharing economy."

Security Giant G4S Offers Protected Offline Storage in Response to Rising Hacker Activity

Global security leader G4S has suggested a solution to the rise of hacker-initiated crypto thefts: throw your assets into a vault. Per a recent press release, G4S, the London-based security provider that offers guarded protection for cash transfers to nuclear plants in more than 90 countries, is now offering secured storage of cold wallets for exchanges.

According to the Financial Times, G4S is already storing private keys on external storage devices for an undisclosed European exchange. G4S is storing the keys in its own vaults instead of building new facilities.

"Our security solution is built on a foundation of 'vault storage,'" said Dominic MacIver, senior risk analyst for G4S, per the release. "We not only take the assets offline, but break them up into fragments that are independently without value and store them securely in our high security vaults, out of reach of cyber criminals and armed robbers alike." 

Offline storage of private keys is recognized to be the safest way to protect a crypto wallet. Having a third party responsible for "off-lining" your wallet takes the risk of human error (i.e., forgetting where you place the wallet, forgetting passwords and access codes, physical damage, theft of the offline wallet, etc.) and delegates it to someone else.

If that is a good thing or not is for time to tell.

Be fast, be clever, be wise. Most importantly, be here tomorrow for your Daily Byte.

Translations by Google.

Frederick Reese

Frederick Reese is a politics and cryptocurrency reporter based in New York. He is also a former teacher, an early adopter of bitcoin and Litecoin, and an enthusiast of all things geeky and nerdy.

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