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Daily Byte: Tuesday, November 6, 2018




A crypto fight in the Pacific, the Twitter scams are gaining steam, and crypto mining is worse than actual mining. Plus, Bitmain reveals new mining rigs.

Here is some of what's happening for Tuesday, November 6, 2018:

Introduction of National Cryptocurrency in Marshall Islands Causing Political Split, Vote of No Confidence

President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands is facing a vote of no confidence after pushing forward a proposal for a national cryptocurrency, The Guardian is reporting.

Heine proposed the cryptocurrency – known as Sovereign – in February to serve as the nation's second legal tender, after the US dollar.

The Marshall Islands is an associated state of the United States, or an independent nation that has a Compact of Free Association with America. This gives the United States control over its former territory's international defense and, conversely, Marshall Islanders the right to emigrate to and work in the United States. The United States has also agreed to provide $62.7 million in foreign aid to the nation per year up to 2023. The Sovereign represents something of an attempt to break from the United States' influence.

The Sovereign would be issued by an Israeli startup that the International Monetary Fund indicated had "limited financial sector experience". In September, the IMF indicated the plan "would increase macroeconomic and financial integrity risks," would open the nation up to cybersecurity risks, and tarnish the government's financial reputation.

Eight Marshall Island senators called for the vote of no confidence. The vote, which has the power to strip Heine from office, is scheduled for November 12. The senators opposed to the national cryptocurrency plan are seeking changes to Marshall Islands' regulatory structure to make the nation an investor haven.

If passed, the Sovereign would join Venezuela's Petro as the only crypto legal tenders currently in use.

Crypto Mining Uses More Energy than Traditional Mining, Say Researchers

New research is suggesting that cryptocurrency mining may utilize more energy than traditional mining of copper or platinum and possibly more than used for conventional gold mining. With market trends for crypto on the rise, the environmental impact of crypto mining will increase, as well, reads the report published in Nature Sustainability.

Proof-of-work transaction verification – as used currently by Bitcoin and Ethereum – requires the repetitive and redundant calculation of hashes. The amount of energy used by these calculations can be expansive, with one report suggesting that the Bitcoin network uses as much energy per year as the nation of Ireland.

"Bitcoin, like a mineral in the Earth's crust, is finite and extractable and, like conventional mining, cryptomining can be energy-intensive," the report reads. "As of August 2018, there are approximately 50 quintillion hashes performed on the Bitcoin network every second of every day."

It continues:

"On the basis of our 2017 estimates, Bitcoin alone consumed about as much energy (948 MW = 8.3 trillion kWh yr−1) as Angola or Panama (ranked 102nd and 103rd by total energy consumption). The market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies is approximately US$250 billion, with Bitcoin comprising approximately 50% of that value. If we assume that Bitcoin accounted for 50% of the entire crypto-energy consumed in 2017, then the total 16.6 trillion kWh yr−1 would be similar to Slovenia or Cuba (ranked 75th and 76th)."

The report found that – from January 2016 to June 2018 – it cost 17 megajoules on average to mine $1 USD of bitcoin. Comparatively, during the same period, it cost four megajoules for copper, five for gold, seven for platinum, and nine for rare earth oxides. Aluminum, which cost 122 megajoules, was an outlier. The study found that Ethereum utilized seven megajoules, Litecoin seven, and Monero 14.

Bitmain to Release 7nm Antminer

Speaking of bitcoin mining, Chinese bitcoin mining equipment maker Bitmain has released two new seven nanometer "Antminer" bitcoin ASIC mining rigs, per a tweet posted Monday.

The Antminer S15 and T15 will be available for purchase Thursday, November 8. In September, Bitmain indicated that it would be equipping its new Antminer models with its next generation ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Chips).

In a September lecture given by Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu, the ASIC "acceleration" chip BM1391 – which powers the new miners – will utilize 7nm Finfet semiconductor manufacturing technology. This advanced technique will allow the new chips to hold more than a billion transistors.

As the chip is an ASIC, it is designed to solely process SHA-256 calculations, making it more efficient than any GPU or CPU option available today for bitcoin mining operations.

The release reflects a growing arms race between ASIC developers. Yesterday, AMD announced that it would be partnering with seven major tech companies to produce eight new cryptocurrency mining rig models, while ASIC rig manufacturer Bitfury revealed its newASIC chip, Bitfury Clarke, in September.

India's National Disaster Authority is Latest Victim in Growing Bitcoin Twitter Scams

The Indian National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is but the latest victim to be hit by a growing scam that pirates Twitter accounts to promote bitcoin giveaway rip-offs. "I sent 0.30 BTC and got 6 BTC back," one of the tweets read, according to TNW. "Elon, you are the best person I have ever seen in my life," another said, commenting on the numerous fake Elon Musk accounts that litter social media with malicious giveaway links.

This follows attacks yesterday on the Twitter accounts of British clothing retailer Matalan and film studio Pathé UK, the British arm of the famed French filmmaker. Hackers took control of both accounts and posted messages, resulting in the theft of over £120,000 ($156,960) from over 300 persons, according to The Telegraph. The official names and pictures of the accounts were changed to support the scam. Both accounts were verified, increasing the impact of the attacks.

NDMA, Pathé UK, and Matalan have since regained control of their websites. Yet these attacks continue a string of high-profile hacking of verified Twitter accounts, highlighting deficiencies in Twitter's security. 

Happy Election Day! Please make sure to get out and vote. Most importantly, be here tomorrow for your Daily Byte.

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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