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SEC: Stay Vigilant Against Cryptocurrency Related Frauds

 

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has released a new alert that fresh illegal schemes are targeting digital assets. 

According to security experts, individuals and organisations must be cautious against crypto-related frauds or other "get rich fast" schemes since social engineering attempts are rising. 

The SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy and Division of Enforcement's Retail Strategy Task Force states in its advisory, "Fraudsters continue to exploit the increasing popularity of digital assets to entice investors into schemes, frequently leading to severe losses." 

Users should be wary of phishing or impersonation schemes that pretend to provide something innovative or cutting edge, according to the regulator. 

The SEC added, "If you are considering a digital asset-related investment, take the time to understand how the investment works and to evaluate its risks. Look for warning signs that it may be a scam." 

The SEC's advisory comes after the authority fined BitConnect, a now-defunct cryptocurrency network, with $2 billion in the alleged fraud. 

The SEC termed the scheme "one of the largest Bitcoin-related Ponzi-like schemes," stating that defendants stole almost $2 billion of investor funds using a platform - a "technology bot" - that promised extravagant profits. The cryptocurrency platform reportedly advertised itself in several countries using testimonial-style YouTube videos and other social media.

As per the SEC, BitConnect ran a pyramid scheme-style referral programme, paid investor withdrawals from incoming investor funds, and "did not trade investors' Bitcoin consistent with its representation". 

Furthermore, according to the US Department of Justice, BitConnect's major U.S. promoter, Glenn Arcaro, pleaded guilty to similar criminal charges last week. Officials say he faces up to 20 years in jail and must refund $24 million to investors gained from the scam. 

Suspicious Signs

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, suspicious digital asset activities frequently: 
• Are unregistered/unlicensed vendors;
• Demonstrate representations of account values rising; 
• Sounds too good to be true, and it usually is; 
• Promote phoney testimonials since fraudsters frequently pay people to promote a product or service on social media or through video. 

Many security and blockchain researchers attribute these malicious practices and highly complex social engineering tactics or outright misleading advertising, contributing to bad or disastrous crypto investments. 

According to James McQuiggan, the Florida Cyber Alliance's education director and a security awareness advocate for the business KnowBe4, "Cybercriminals will always find emotional lures to exploit users through social engineering. Asking yourself the question, 'Is this too good to be true?' is the first step to determine if the organisation is worthwhile." 

Likewise, Julio Barragan, head of cryptocurrency intelligence at CipherTrace, warned about ongoing schemes in which victims are enticed by a convincing fraudster who sends them direct messages on social media or through a friend's hacked account promising big rewards. 

As per Neil Jones, a cybersecurity evangelist with Egnyte, "Significant change [in the space] will only occur when cryptocurrency platforms become subject to the same standardized IT requirements as traditional investment platforms, and when cryptocurrency exchanges no longer represent a safe haven for payments to ransomware attackers." 

Notwithstanding, Robinson stated, "There is no need for new crypto-specific regulation to handle [these events] since regulators are currently prosecuting these fraudsters under existing laws." According to him, US authorities have penalized over $2.5 billion in fines, primarily for fraud and unregistered securities offerings. 

But authorities like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., continue to push for extensive cryptocurrency regulation. Warren compared many cryptocurrency activities to "shadow banks" that lack standard investor safeguards in an interview with The New York Times on Sunday. 

SEC Chair Gary Gensler highlighted earlier remarks on impending cryptocurrency regulation last week, stating The Financial Times that digital assets must be safe and long-lived within a public policy framework. He also asked the congressional authority to minimize investment risks associated with virtual currencies.

Hacker Rewarded With $500,000 and a CSA Job by Poly Network

 

Lately, it has been a turbulence-filled time for Poly Networks. The company creates software to handle the exchange between different blockchains for cryptocurrencies and other commodities. 

The company announced last week, by leveraging its security weaknesses, that a fraudster took hundreds of millions of dollars off its network in digital tokens, worth $600 million (roughly Rs 4,462 crores). But the same company has offered a Chief Security Advisor job role plus a sum of $500,000 to the crypto hacker involved in the heist that reaped over $600 million (roughly Rs 4,462 crores) last week. 

The criminal has started handing back digital money – and at least $260m of tokens were repaid after Poly Network encouraged netizens, crypto-exchanges, and miners to disallow the transactions containing the wallet credentials of the criminal. The business claimed that they have maintained communication with the suspect, known as Mr. White Hat. 

It is believed to be the biggest crypto theft ever, overtaking the US$534.8 million in digital coins seized from the Japanese exchange Coincheck during a cyberattack in 2018 and the approximated $450 million bitcoin crypto theft from Tokyo exchange Mt. Gox in 2014. 

"It is important to reiterate that Poly Network has no intention of holding Mr. White Hat legally responsible, as we are confident that Mr. White Hat will promptly return full control of the assets to Poly Network and its users," the organization said. "While there were certain misunderstandings in the beginning due to poor communication channels, we now understand Mr. White Hat’s vision for Defi and the crypto world, which is in line with Poly Network’s ambitions from the very beginning — to provide interoperability for ledgers in Web 3.0." 

As a bug bounty prize on Ethereum Poly Network awarded him $500,000. However, he stated that he wouldn't accept the money, yet the awarded money was sent to his wallet. Additionally, the firm has advanced one step further and offered him the Chief Security Advisor position in their firm. 

Nevertheless, the business stated it completely acknowledges the intentions of Mr. White Hat to deny the cash and transfer it to people who strive to enhance the technology of Blockchain. “We will still transfer this $500,000 bounty to a wallet address approved by Mr. White Hat so that he can use it for the cause of cybersecurity,” Poly Network added. 

It is not known if the so-called Mr. White Hat will accept the employment offer or not. It doesn't appear probable right now, making judgments on the messages included in Ethereum transactions made between the two parties. He is still yet to give up $238 million to their knowledge, though he says he is not prepared to give the keys back to the wallet that stores the cash. He also stated earlier that Poly Network was targeted for fun and that its programming was fragile. 

“We are counting on more experts like Mr. White Hat to be involved in the future development of Poly Network since we believe that we share the vision to build a secure and robust distributed system,” it said in a statement. “Also, to extend our thanks and encourage Mr. White Hat to continue contributing to security advancement in the blockchain world together with Poly Network, we cordially invite Mr. White Hat to be the Chief Security Advisor of Poly Network.”

The Hacker Behind the Biggest Crypto Heist is Refusing to Return the Remaining Funds

 

The Poly Network attack took place two weeks ago, but the narrative is far from finished. Mr. White Hat, an unknown hacker, was able to extract $614 million in cryptocurrencies, according to the Poly Network team. They are now declining to assist and delaying the Poly Network team after returning a portion of the cash. 

The hack is regarded as the largest crypto theft to date, and the Poly Network team appears to have fewer options other than to ask the hacker to restore the stolen funds peacefully. The attacker/ attackers are interacting with the Poly Network team via the Ethereum blockchain's transaction data field. The unknown hacker is known as "Poly Network Exploiter 1," as per blockchain-tracking service Etherscan. 

“Your essays are very convincing while your actions are showing your distrust, what a funny game. You don’t [sic] even think to unlock my USDT account,” Poly Network Exploiter 1 wrote on the Ethereum blockchain. 

The attacker is referencing a USDT account with $33 million in stablecoins. The funds have been frozen by Tether, which irritates the offender. The hacker's conversation suggests that he has no issues with keeping the stolen money for an undetermined period. 

The Poly Network team replied, "We still hope you can provide the key to us this week because thousands of people are eager to get their assets back." 

In the response, Poly Network Exploiter 1 replied, “I am not ready to publish the key in this week [sic]… Here is one thing that you can always trust me: [sic] Holding BTC and ETH is better than trading them.” 

On August 10, the Poly Network was hacked, and the intruder returned $256 million worth of coins the next day. As a gesture of cooperation, the hacker produced a token labeled 'The hacker is ready to surrender' and sent it to the assigned Polygon address. 

The Poly Network team has given a $500,000 bounty for identifying the exploit to make things easier for the attacker. It is willing to pay 160 ETH ($500,000) to the hacker's address, a gesture that the hacker has turned down. The attacker has also been given the opportunity to become a consultant for the DeFi initiative (decentralized finance). 

Mr. White Hat, as the hacker is called by Poly Network, is a reference to ethical hackers that look for flaws and assist organizations to patch them. It's unclear why the hacker is preventing the final part of assets from being accessed. Poly Network is in charge of roughly $330 million in stolen funds, while Tether, a stablecoin operator, has frozen $33 million pending legal action. Because the blockchain is transparent, putting every transaction data out in the open, hackers find it difficult to get away from their crime or encash it, according to Chainalysis. 

The company mentioned in its report, "With the inherent transparency of blockchains and the eyes of an entire industry on you, how could any cryptocurrency hacker expect to escape with a large cache of stolen funds?" 

"In most cases, the best they could hope for would be to evade capture as the funds sit frozen in a blacklisted private wallet." 

It's hard to determine whether the hacker was attempting an ethical assault or committing a heist. The underlying reason, however, does not appear to be a concern for the Poly Network team at this time. 

As the pressure from thousands of victims grows, recovering the stolen funds is a prime concern. The attack serves as a reminder to governments and authorities that cryptocurrency legislation must be taken seriously. There is currently near to zero accountability, posing a significant danger to the future of DeFi. 

“Regardless of their intentions, we’re of the belief that this sort of publicity stunt hurts the perception of the virtual asset economy in the eyes of the public,” said AnChain.AI founder and CEO Victor Fang. 

DeFi-related thefts are on the upsurge, the first seven months of the year represented 54% of overall crypto fraud volume, compared to 3% for the entire year last year, according to CipherTrace.

The youngest crypto millionaire Mr. Buterin destroyed almost $7 billion worth of Shiba tokens donated to him

 Creator of Ethereum, crypto millionaire Vitalik Buterin destroyed more than 410 trillion Shiba tokens, the total value of which CoinDesk estimates at $6.7 billion. According to Etherscan, Buterin sent the coins to a non-existent address and thus removed them from circulation

In a note attached to the transaction, Buterin explained that he had decided to destroy 90% of the Shiba tokens he owned. The billionaire plans to send the rest of the funds to charity.

He has previously donated more than 50 trillion Shiba tokens (almost a billion dollars) to the fight against coronavirus in India.

Earlier, the creators of Shiba transferred half of all issued coins to the wallet of the founder of Ethereum to attract attention to their cryptocurrency. In his note, Buterin asked all the creators of cryptocurrencies to no longer send him tokens without his consent.

The mass destruction of tokens has not yet affected the Shiba token exchange rate. According to Coingecko, since the morning of May 17, the value of the cryptocurrency is kept at about 0.000016 dollars per token.

However, the commission has decreased. According to Bitinfocharts, the average transaction fee on the Ethereum network has decreased by 74% over the past five days.

Yuri Pripachkin, president of the Russian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain, added that any destruction of the mass of tokens leads to an increase in the price.

"This is a PR campaign to attract attention to Ethereum. This is a marketing move, Vitalik Buterin has the right to do so," Pripachkin said.

According to him, meme-cryptocurrencies will not have a serious future, and people who take everything that happens with meme tokens seriously "do not cause anything but a surprise."

It is worth noting that in early May, 27-year-old programmer Vitalik Buterin became the youngest cryptocurrency billionaire in the world. Buterin's wallet contains more than 333 thousand Ethereum tokens, the price of which has increased 25 times since the beginning of last year.

Buterin was born in Russia but moved to Canada with his parents at an early age.

Here's a Quick Look at the Role of 'Covalent BlockChain Data API' in Terms of Data Gathering

 

In this article, we’re going to deep dive into the role of Covalent, the unified blockchain API. So, the first question that arises in all of our minds– What is covalent? 

Covalent is the only multi-chain API that provides every single point of on-chain data. This includes granular, historical, and blockchain metadata. Blockchain technologies can change the world, but this potential is left unfulfilled if the data is not accessible. Despite the proliferation of digital assets on the blockchain, granular and historical blockchain data is impossible to access by anyone but the most sophisticated and technically talented individuals. Querying blockchains directly is time-consuming and compute-intensive, while additionally refining and manipulating the data adds another layer of complexity. 

Current solutions require developer hours to write additional code to query granular and historical blockchain data. Developers need to be retrained while understanding the complex tools (for example, how to write a subgraph), which can take weeks or months to implement. This is expensive to adopt and slows down the mainstream adoption of blockchain technologies. Covalent is committed to creating the simplest solution possible for developers - no extra code needed, just one API call.

Ultimately, Covalent’s vision is to empower the pioneers of tomorrow by providing the richest and most robust data infrastructure for the entire blockchain ecosystem. Covalent does so through a single, unified API. The key point here is that your private key used to encrypt your data is held with a decentralized storage provider. Encryption plays a huge role in the excellent security and privacy that decentralized platforms have.

It is important to remember that Covalent is an API and requires a developer to integrate the product rather than an end-user consumer-facing product. In that regard, it is like Stripe or Twilio. 

First, there are the crypto natives; these are developers building DApps or working for enterprises adopting blockchain technologies. The majority of our customers belong to this bucket today.

The second bucket is regular fintech companies offering crypto products to their existing customers. Every single fintech company is today thinking of their crypto strategy - especially those companies catering to millennials and gen-z. These companies lack in-house blockchain expertise and are looking for a turn-key API solution to shorten their time to market. We have a growing customer segment that belongs to this bucket. 

What end-users and the market care about?


According to the researchers, there are four critical needs: - 

The first need is data security. End-users care that no one except themselves has access to their files. The second need is system speed. The service needs to offer fast upload and download speeds. The third is consumers are very conscious about pricing. As more and more data is being stored, end-users care deeply about costs. The fourth key requirement is data privacy. It’s important to make the distinction between data security and data privacy.

Maze/Egregor Ransomware Earned over $75 Million

 

Researchers at Analyst1 have noticed that the Maze/Egregor ransomware cartel has made at least $75 million in ransom payments to date. This figure is the base of their estimations, as the maximum could be conceivably more since not every victim has disclosed paying to the threat actor. While the group is crippled presently, it is the one that began numerous innovations in the ransomware space. 

“We believe this figure to be much more significant, but we can only assess the publicly acknowledged ransom payments. Many victims never publicly report when they pay a ransom,” security firm Analyst1 said in a 58-page report published this week. 

Analyst1's discoveries are in accordance with a similar report from blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis, which listed the Maze group as the third most profitable ransomware operation — behind Ryuk and Doppelpaymer. 

The now-dead ransomware Maze group was a pioneer in its times. Started in mid-2019, the group was closed down for obscure reasons before the end of last year however resurrected as Egregor ransomware. The greater part of the code, working mechanism, and different clues call attention to that Egregor is the new Maze group. The group dealt with a purported RaaS (Ransomware-as-a-Service), permitting other cybercrime actors to lease admittance to their ransomware strain. These clients, likewise called affiliates, would penetrate organizations and send the Maze groups ransomware as an approach to encrypt files and extort payments.

But, while there were a lot of ransomware groups working on similar RaaS plans, the Maze group became famous by making a “leak site” where they'd regularly list organizations they infected, which was a novelty at that point, in December 2019. 

This branding change didn't influence the group's prosperity. Indeed, both Maze and Egregor positioned as the second and third most active RaaS services on the market, representing almost a fourth of all victims recorded on leak sites a year ago. As per Analyst1's report published for the current week, this heightened period of activity additionally converted into money-related benefits, based on transactions the company was able to track on public blockchains. 

However, this achievement additionally drew attention from law enforcement, which started putting hefty assets into researching and finding the group. Right now, the Maze/Egregor group is on a hiatus, having stopped activities after French and Ukrainian authorities captured three of their members in mid-February, including a member from its core team.

Crypto at Risk After Facebook Leak: Here’s how Hackers Can Exploit Data

 

The tech giant Facebook has been hit with a new wave of data leaks, yet again but this time, the number of users whose records were exposed was not 50 million but a massive 500 million. 

According to a security analyst, sensitive personal information for over half a billion Facebook users was leaked on a well-trafficked hacking forum on April 3, posing a danger to millions of cryptocurrency traders who may now be susceptible to sim swapping and other identity-based attacks.

What should be done? 

In response to the question that how exactly does this most recent breach place at risk the crypto assets of individuals, Dave Jevans, CEO of blockchain security firm CipherTrace, told Cointelegraph that people who have had their phone numbers leaked need to be extra careful because a lot of fraud involving digital assets hinges on such details. 

He further added, “We’ve seen an increase in SIM swaps, phishing attacks, and other types of fraud involving cryptocurrencies that rely on acquiring the phone numbers of victims to execute. Leaked info about the identity of high-profile crypto users gave bad actors the ability to target them.” 

Ben Diggles, co-founder, and chief revenue officer at Constellation, told Cointelegraph that Facebook's latest security lapse is unsurprising, especially given that most Facebook users have a different approach, in which they prefer their world to be managed and structured for them. 

“Those that are crypto holders that were on the list have little to worry about unless they were storing descriptive details of their holdings and access on their Facebook account. However, these hackers have gotten really sophisticated, so I have no idea what tricks they may have [up] their sleeves with regards to scraping info specific to crypto wallets and exchanges.”, he added. 

However, he suggests that most users should update their passwords for all of their social media profiles, as well as all other sites that share their data with Facebook, as a precaution. 

Does decentralization matter? 

As more data leaks occur, a large majority of people around the world are understanding the value proposition that decentralized systems offer in terms of protection, particularly, since they do not feature a single point of failure. 

On the matter, Eli Arkush, a cloud solutions engineer at cybersecurity firm GlobalDots, suggests that having a platform's backend system distributed using blockchain technology could make it more difficult for hackers to obtain user information; however, once credentials fall into the wrong hands, password reuse may become a concern. 

However, Stephen Wilson, the CEO of Lockstep Group and a member of the Australian government's National Blockchain Roadmap Cybersecurity Working Group, believes that, contrary to popular belief, storing personal information on any blockchain ecosystem is never a good idea. He pointed out that the type of personal data breached by Facebook should never be stored in a blockchain, and even if it is, such data can never be completely protected by blockchain in the long run.

“Blockchain and DLTs usually only decentralize some aspects of data management. They don’t usually decentralize data storage in any relevant sense because they tend to duplicate ledger entries across multiple systems. The storage is distributed, but identical copies of information are available in multiple locations and can be vulnerable to attackers or thieves.”, he further added. 

Most hacking schemes in the past have primarily focused on stealing funds from cryptocurrency exchanges. For example, in 2014 and 2018, the total amount of money compromised as a result of exchanges being hacked was $483 million and $875 million, respectively. 

However, an increasing number of offenders are focusing their attention on stealing user data because it provides them with unique opportunities to obtain funds quickly. As a result, cryptocurrency owners must protect their assets.

China and its Humongous Bitcoin Mining Industry has Severe Impact on the Global Climate

 

According to a new study in Nature Communications, electricity consumption and carbon emissions from bitcoin mining in China have accelerated speedily. These effects could weaken global sustainable practices without stricter regulations and policy changes. 

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies depend heavily on "blockchain" technology, a shared transaction database that requires confirmation and encryption of entries. Blockchain is a digital recording device that offers secure means for payments, pacts, and contracts to be documented and authenticated. But uniquely, the database is shared between a network of computers, and not in a place such as the conventional ledger book. Only a few users or hundreds and thousands of people can enter this network. However, the network is secured by people known as "miners," who use high-powered computers to check transactions. These computer systems consume huge quantities of electricity. 

Around 40% of China's Bitcoin mines are coal operated and the rest utilize renewable sources, according to the study. The coal power stations, however, are so large that Beijing's promise to peak carbon emissions by 2030 could be undermined and carbon neutralized by 2060, the study warned. 

With a simulated carbon emissions model, Dabo Guan, Shouyang Wang, and colleagues track carbon emissions streams from Bitcoin blockchain operations in China. Given recent developments in Bitcoin mining, it is estimated that this procedure will spike energy consumption at around 297 terawatt-hours by 2024 and generate approximately 130 million metric tons of carbon emissions. This exceeds the total annual emission volumes of greenhouse gas in entire mid-sized European countries, for example, Italy and the Czech Republic. 

In order to guarantee a stable supply from renewable sources it should concentrate on updating the power grid, said Wang. He further added that “Since energy prices in clean-energy regions of China are lower than that in coal-powered regions … miners would then have more incentives to move to regions with clean energy.” 

In the past year, Bitcoin's price rose five times and reached a record of $61,000 in March, presently it’s just below the mark of $60,000. Due to the available profits, Wang said carbon taxation isn’t sufficient to determiners. The research teams said the "attractive financial incentive of bitcoin mining" has triggered an arms race in the mining hardware industry. The price hike in Bitcoin was further driven by some renowned companies, including electric carmaker Tesla, implementing it as a method of payment. The Covid 19 pandemic also probably played a role, where more people shopped online and left physical currencies in their accounts.

Experts Confirm Shady Ransomware Business, Block-chain Transactions on Rise


 

Chainalysis, a blockchain investment firm, recently published a report that confirms that ransomware operating cybercrime groups don't always work in their own arena and often switch ransom suppliers, also called RaaS services, in a look-out for better profits. ZD Net says, "by taking out legitimate avenues for converting funds and reaching real-world profitability, Chainalysis believes RaaS operations would have a hard time seeing a reason to operate when they can't profit from their work." 

The research looked into Bitcoin funds transactions from victims to cybercriminals, and how the stolen money was split between various hacking groups active in the ransomware cyber attack. It also analyzed money laundering. However, to grasp these things, a surface knowledge of present ransomware is required. The ransomware landscape in the present time operates in the same way a modern business does. 

Today, many coders exist which build and rent these ransomware strains through RaaS service, similar to how modern software is offered today. Few coders are selective in renting these ransomware strains to a very limited group of people or groups better known as "affiliates," whereas some coders rent it to any user who has signed up for its use. In cyberattack incidents, it is usually these affiliates who are behind the orchestration of such attacks. The affiliates usually hack into government or corporate networks using emails, and then use these rented ransomware strains obtained via RaaS to infect and encrypt the systems. 

In a few incidents, experts observed, the affiliates have also been in multiple groups. Few specialize in intrusion and getting access, these are called initial access vendors, whereas others are well versed with spreading the initial access of hacked networks to maximize the ransomware damage. Chainalysis report, "while we can’t say for sure that Maze, Egregor, SunCrypt, or Doppelpaymer have the same administrators, we can say with relative certainty that some of them have affiliates in common. We also know that Maze and Egregor rely on the same OTC brokers to convert cryptocurrency into cash, though they interact with those brokers in different ways."

Interview with Dhruv Bagri, founder of the copyright timestamped entity Digital Witnessor

 The world is changing, technology is changing. We conducted an interview with one of the founders of a new startup Digital Witnessor(https://www.digitalwitnessor.com/) and lawyer Mister Dhruv Bagri. He shared with us his knowledge about copyright, how to securely register it, quickly and easily, using Blockchain, and from a legal point of view.

If you have created your own software, your clothes design, a choreographic dance, wrote a poem and do not know how to register copyrights to your creation, how to protect your rights, then this article is for you.


  • Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Dhruv Bagri, I am a  Lawyer at RDB Associates. We frequently work on matters relating to Intellectual Property protection, including a lot of copyright infringement work. I’m also one of the founders of the platform Digital Witnessor.


  • How would you describe Digital Witnessor?

We have developed a platform called Digital Witnessor that creates timestamps using blockchain on your works. This allows you to protect your intellectual property rights in just a few seconds. The timestamp is considered official proof of ownership, and this saves you a considerable amount of time and legal fees in case of infringements and helps in more than one way. As the Company is based out of Estonia and the Service provided has been structured, studied, and developed by industry veterans from Cyber Security Privacy Foundation PTE Ltd, a Singapore based cyber security company, it boasts of maintaining high levels of privacy in accordance with GDPR guidelines and also provides high levels of security protection to any and all content passing through the Platform.


  • Why copyright is so important?

A copyright is a right in rem, which means that the right exists on the person who created the work right from the time such work was created. The platform is created at a time when there is a lot of uncertainty in the law with regard to copyright. Music and Art and their associated businesses are booming in the last decade. All these come under copyrightable work.  So, the copyright timestamped entity that is Digital Witnessor helps protect individuals and companies against copyright theft.


  • Are companies secure from their own programmers/employees and third parties?

Typically, the company would be the copyright holder, even though an employee might create it on behalf of the company. That is usually the structure that is in place and is an industry-standard. However, there are times when the company would not be holding the copyright. And that basically implies that the company needs to go ahead and register the copyright with country-specific entities/registrars that are available within their respective jurisdictions, which would create a legally binding registration that could be affected in a court of law. However, without that, litigation becomes a big hassle when copyright has not been registered. It becomes harder to prove that the work is originally theirs. So, Digital Witnessor takes away this problem for the company. We will generate a timestamp for the company data that needs copyright using blockchain technology. In fact, it's just a hash that is created and that could stamp your creation. The main file would also not be required to be uploaded. A file would be stamped without giving us access to its contents in case of any sensitive and confidential information which creates a bit of a hesitation in the holder of the works as to providing such content to us. 


  • How can a timestamp be useful in court? It’s legal?

From a legal point of view, a proceeding that includes a hash-signed block is an electronic document that can serve as written evidence in court.

It would also be helpful in case you are applying for copyright after a particular period of time, for example, you need to apply for copyright because the company is selling its entity and the buying entity would require such IP rights to exist. Similarly, a company receiving investments, the investor would always be more favorable to companies holding IP rights as this would deem to be an intangible asset in the company books. So, a timestamp would help the registration authorities to access this document in itself and in determining the exact time on which such the work was created. That makes things simpler. Secondly, a timestamp would be binding in a court of law. Blockchain has been implemented in quite a few countries across the world. So, it would definitely be helpful in most of the countries around the world.

Timestamp plays the role of a virtual notary and is much more credible than the traditional one. Because nobody can alter the information on the blockchain, not even the Company and I think that is the beauty of this Product. 


  • What kind of blockchain - private/public are you using? Why?

We are using a public blockchain. Firstly, in a public blockchain, anyone can take part by verifying and adding data to the blockchain. Secondly, A public network is more secure due to decentralization and active participation. Thirdly, a private blockchain is more prone to hacks, risks, and data breaches/ manipulation. In a private blockchain, anyone who is overseeing the network can alter or modify any transactions according to their needs.


  • How does it work? For example, I am a designer and I want to copyright a shoe model. What should I do and how will it happen?

As I mentioned earlier, it can be uploaded on the platform. It is not necessary that the design in itself be uploaded onto the platform.

Post which the platform would timestamp that particular uploaded file, in this case, that file will contain a shoe design. Once that is timestamped and the credentials of the author are stamped, it enters the blockchain. 


It should be noted that the content of the original works is never available to be viewed on the blockchain or exposed publicly. It is not visible to us as and it's not visible to any third party either.


So, what we provide is a time stamping facility which allows you to do three things:

    •    Legally establish yourself as the copyright owner of the work.

    •    Legally establish the date of creation.

    •    Take legal action against anyone who infringes on your copyrighted work.

Ease in assignment and transfer of said Copyrighted works to 3rd Party entities and individuals 


  • We know that Digital Witnessor works together with legal company RDB Associates? What is the role of this company?

RDB Associates is a full-service multi-specialty law firm based out of Bangalore in India and with multiple offices across India. I am one of the founding partners of the firm, which started in 2017. We believe that in our country as well many people are not going to go and get their copyrights registered, or we see that people do that for their other available Intellectual property rights such as trademarks, industrial designs, Patents, etc.

But with copyright, no one really gives that extra push to get their works registered. So, we noticed that there were many infringement matters wherein copyrights were in question and it was very hard for even the opposing counsel and for us to prove that such and such copyright existed at a particular time or not.

We did find a way to prove that the creations are in fact created on those particular timelines. It made the process a little more streamlined and a little more simple especially since it's not easy for everyone to approach the registrar for the Copyright and requires properly drafted applications. With the introduction of the platform Digital Witnessor, one can do it in a few seconds and get the process of registration started with ease.


We have a separate intellectual property team that works on registration and cases of infringement. We are integrated into the whole aspect through the onboarding of our clients onto this Platform or giving legal opinions on whether copyright exists or not, sending out legal notices in case of any infringements, and so on and so forth.


What is the distinctive feature of your company from others on the market?

Presently there aren’t many timestamping companies. We don't technically provide the same service as other competitors in the market dealing with similar platforms. However, one of the features that is distinctive is that we provide for easy assignment of copyrights from the copyright owner to third parties. So, that is a great feature that is available on our platform.

However, our other main USP is that our platform is going to be used across the world. Most of the companies that exist are very jurisdictional specific, so they only apply to certain areas thereby limiting their rights to such certain jurisdictions alone. 


  • What are the benefits that a company would get by using the platform Digital Witnessor?

Some benefits that the company would get is primarily establishing their definite right in rem and streamlining the process of registering with applicable registrars/entities in their jurisdictions by making it much easier for registration of their work.

It will ease the process in a way that quicker decisions would be made regarding the infringement of copyrights. And individuals do not have to wait longer and go through a long, arduous litigation process to get justice. So we believe that in case of IP rights, it is important to establish definite rights and to not leave it open-ended whereby one invites liability. Streamlining the process is very important and that's the main benefit that the platform would be providing.


  • How do you see the company in 5 years?

We do have certain things lined up and planned for the next couple of years, for starters, the integration of the technology for agreements. Enforceability of contracts and agreement terms would be made much easier. So once this facility is provided, I think many companies would be or would in fact like using this platform just to streamline the internal processes as well.

But currently, I think we need to concentrate on copyright protection, and we shall take it one step at a time.


  • We've covered quite a bit in this conversation. Before we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to share about?

I think we covered most of the aspects of the platform and its benefits.  Just looking forward to see how this develops, grows, and integrates itself into the market in the coming few months

New €4.2 Million fund to empower internet innovators to develop blockchain-based solutions

 Get up to €123k (equity-free funding), free coaching and free access to top infrastructure

The EU-funded project ONTOCHAIN has €4.2 Million euros to develop a new software ecosystem for trusted, traceable, and transparent ontological knowledge management, and is looking for internet innovators to co-create it.

18 proposals will be selected in the first open call of the project to produce functional and technical specifications for the ONTOCHAIN framework.

Through a 7-month supporting programme, participants will get up to €123k (equity-free funding), free coaching and free access to top infrastructure.

“Today, the digital life is an extension of our physical world and demands the same critical, moral and ethical thinking. By bringing ONTOCHAIN to you and building it with you we expect to contribute to a more distributed and transparent internet that respects and promotes the fundamental values of diversity, equality, privacy and participation.” Caroline Barelle, ONTOCHAIN Coordinator.

How it works?

In the first phase of the programme the 18 selected projects will start by conceptualizing a research project for one of the following topics:

    • Applications

    • Semantic interoperability

    • On-chain data management

    • Off-chain knowledge management

    • Ecosystem economy

    • Ecosystem scalability and integration

Six of them will proceed to the second phase to elaborate the concept proposed in phase one and prepare design specifications to be implemented. Additionally, the best projects will be awarded for the publication of their outcomes.

Applications are open on F6S until 15 January 2021, at 17:00 CET.

http://www.f6s.com/ontochain/apply

For more information about the ONTOCHAIN open call go to

https://ontochain.ngi.eu/apply

About ONTOCHAIN

ONTOCHAIN marries the Semantic Web with Blockchain to deliver a novel software ecosystem for trusted, traceable, and transparent ontological knowledge management. ONTOCHAIN, which is developed under the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative, explores and delivers novel interoperable on-chain and off-chain data, ontology, knowledge and information management methods. The ONTOCHAIN software ecosystem consists of a novel protocol suite grouped into high-level application protocols, such as data provenance, reputation models, decentralised oracles, market mechanisms, ontology representation and management, privacy aware and secure data exchange, multi-source identity verification, value sharing and incentives and similar, and core protocols that include smart contracts, authorisation, certification, event gateways, identity management and identification, secure and privacy aware decentralised storage, data semantics and semantic linking, ONTOCHAIN optimisation and similar. The ONTOCHAIN software ecosystem will demonstrate its potential in high impact domains, such as eHealth, eGovernment, eEducation, eCommerce, decentralised infrastructures and similar in order to achieve trustworthy information exchange and trustworthy and transactional content handling.

The project is operated by 7 partners with complementary expertise that form the core of a vibrant ecosystem: European Dynamics (Luxembourg), University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), IntelliSemantic (Italy), iExec Blockchain Tech (France), Athens University of Economics and Business (Greece), German Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Greece) and F6S (Ireland). 

Interview with experts who lead the project ONTOCHAIN

On 9 November E Hacking News conducted an interesting interview with experts from different parts of the world that lead the project ONTOCHAIN. It is a new European funded project, with the goal to empower internet innovators with a novel software ecosystem for trusted, traceable and transparent ontological blockchain-based knowledge management. This three years innovation project will distribute a total amount of 4.2 million euros via three open calls in order to build the ONTOCHAIN software ecosystem.

  • Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Caroline Barelle: I’m Docteur Caroline Barelle, the Coordinator of the European project ONTOCHAIN. I am working for European Dynamics (Luxembourg), one of the partners of the ONTOCHAIN project among seven partners from six countries with complementary expertise that form the core of the ONTOCHAIN vibrant ecosystem: University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), IntelliSemantic (Italy), iExec Blockchain Tech (France), Athens University of Economics and Business (Greece), the German Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Greece) and F6S (Ireland). ONTOCHAIN is also part of the Next Generation Internet initiative that is developed actually in Europe with the ambition to ensure that the development and progressive adoption of advanced technologies, concepts and methodologies contributes to make the future Internet more human-centric, particularly in these times of crisis.

Vlado Stankovski: I’m the scientific and technical coordinator of ONTOCHAIN. I work as a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). Actually, our earlier initiative was the Human Centered Cloud, which we developed under the IFIP organization, established in 1960 under the auspices of UNESCO. The idea here is that the Internet in the past couple of decades has been governed by pretty strong software companies around the world. And now what we want to achieve with the Next Generation Internet initiative is to include in the core protocols of the Internet mechanisms so that people can rely and build on their historical and cultural achievements gained in the past couple of thousand years of European history. for example, the Internet backbone should support pluralism, diversity, democracy, human-rights and other aspects like this. So, we are very much engaged in this type of activity.

Miguel Gonçalves: I’m EU projects manager at F6S (Ireland), a company that has become the largest tech founder community. We are supporting the ONTOCHAIN project making sure that we deliver all the money that comes from taxpayers to the best applicants who will participate in the open calls, this is very important. So we will make sure that we found the best innovators to join us to build this novel software ecosystem called ONTOCHAIN. 

  • How Would You Describe Your Project?

Caroline Barelle: So from a general point of view, this project is funded by the European Commission and under the program, ICT-54-2020, blockchain for the next generation internet. The idea is to empower Internet innovators to co-develop with us a novel software ecosystem that will provide trustworthy and transparent applications for knowledge and information management as well as for knowledge, information and service exchange. We will do this via three Open Calls implemented successively over a period of 3 years and a total budget of equity free funds to be distributed to third parties of 4,2M€. The first Open Call is dedicated to the conceptualisation of the ONTOCHAIN ecosystem around 6 axis: Applications,Semantic Interopearbility, On-Chain Data Management, Off-Chain Data Management,Ecosystem Economy and Ecosystem Scalability and Integration . It is actually is actually open for Innovators. The second Open Call  is about from the concept, to transfer the relevant specifications and to develop appropriate applications for vital sector of the economy (eScience, eEducation, eHealth, eGovernment, eCommerce, eTourism, eInfrastructures) that will be tested and validated then during the third Open Call.

Vlado Stankovski: From my viewpoint, we have funding to build a software ecosystem that will be built and used by stakeholders that share our common goal, which means to improve the Internet protocols in a way that people can trust the knowledge and information that is being generated, stored and shared among individuals and organizations on the Internet. And by doing so to enable many dynamic, semantically complex and heterogeneous ecosystems of resources and actors that would underpin our future smart and sustainable society. 

This project follows the general idea of the Semantic Web, which is to deliver trust by delivering a Semantic Web technologies stack which is now part of the World Wide Web. You probably all know about the initiatives of the World Wide Web consortium, such as the Web Ontology Language (OWL), and other initiatives like this. And the ultimate goal of this technological stack is the trust between the different parties that share knowledge and information on the Internet.

Now, in our ONTOCHAIN project, what we want to achieve is to design and integrate an additional technology, which is coming from the area of blockchain. Blockchains are proven for people to trust them because they already do monetary transactions across the world by using different types of Ledgers. Blockchain is a shared database of transactions. In a way, this is resembles ontologies which are shared conceptualization of physical or abstract entities or shared organization of human knowledge. With these two database and knowledge base technologies put together what we hope about is to “marry" the Semantic Web with blockchains and by doing so, build a new software ecosystem that would improve the the trustworthiness of content and information on the Internet. 

Caroline Barelle:  What I would like to add, is that also one of our goals is to integrate ONTOCHAIN in a specific legal and regulatory and ethical framework that is currently thought over for blockchain and smart contracts. Standardisation and interoperability are also important aspects of what we are doing.

  • What do you mean by ontological knowledge?

Vlado Stankovski: Ontology is a shared conceptualization. We as humans have shared a lot of concepts together, for example, the concept of a car, is the same concept in Japan, in Europe,in the United States and in Latin America, all over the world. We know that carriages and later cars have existed for several thousand years. Carriages have been run using horses, but today we have battery run cars and so on. Yet, we have the concept of a car. So, having these concepts shared helps improve the interoperability of applications, the data which are stored by one application can be sent as input other applications, and easily understood by the other applications. An example of a computer language that helps solve such interoperability problems is the XML (eXtensible Markup Language) of the W3C, and is part of the already mentioned Semantic Web technologies stack. At a practical level, this helps applications communicate information among each other. Ontology languages may be used for more complex specifications of the knowledge that we have about different concepts, so that we can share the same understanding among applications and among each other. We can describe the concept of a car, but we can also describe concepts such as news items, elections, artificial intelligence methods in all their complexity.

  • Who will benefit from this project and how?

Caroline Barelle: We are, in fact, looking for innovators, developers and Internet experts. They will be our partners in co-developing the ONTOCHAIN ecosystem. A part from the equity free funding, they will also benefit from mentoring from worldwide recognised experts in the diverse fields related to ONTOCHAIN. The added value also for them would be a gain in visibility and community building with other innovators, industry and potential investors.

Vlado Stankovski: The inclusion of semantics into blockchains has the potential to open immense possibilities for new smart applications in practically all domains important for people, life and nature around the world.

Existing applications already use blockchains to record hashtags of documents in order to ensure the immutability of the information, which is stored off-chain. Now, imagine that more complex semantics, which means complex structures representing important concepts, such as trustworthy news, elections, automated doors and cars, are being recorded on the blockchains. This would make it possible, for example, to commit to the specific ontologies and consequently commit to the same democratic rules, for example, when distributing important news, going to elections, or sharing cars. Once the common rules are specified on blockchain, on ONTOCHAIN, as a matter of fact, that would enable that people follow the same rules that have been democratically agreed among each other. So, ONTOCHAIN enables organizations not only to establish the common concepts and facts that can be trusted but to rely on diversity, democratic and pluralistic means, when engaging in very dynamic, semantically complex ecosystems in practically all domains. Our goal is to support the smart specialization wave, which is in the heart of the European Horizon 2020 programme of research and innovation.

Miguel Gonçalves: So, there are three levels of beneficiaries. The applicants who take part in the open calls and receive funding, support and mentoring. A second line of beneficiaries will be all the innovators who will use this novel software ecosystem to build the new applications and software. And finally, the citizens who will benefit from trusted, traceable, and transparent based solutions. This will be the end goal of the project.

  • How might your project evolve over time?

Caroline Barelle: From our view point, even if ONTOCHAIN is a three-year project, we foresee sustainability for this ecosystem and we hope to make it last for ever as far as possible. This is the goal. 

  • You announced your project publicly 2 months ago. Did you get the expected response from the public?

Vlado Stankovski: Yes, it is fantastic. We have received really a lot of interest from people who work on different aspects, for example, from the viewpoint of ontologies and the Semantic Web. We know there are several tens of thousands of researchers in the world working only on the development of the Semantic Web technologies stack, such as the Protegé community and other innovators. Then, from the blockchain viewpoint, many hundreds of people already expressed their interest. Moreover, from the viewpoint of cryptography, experts of post-quantum cryptography have shown their interest, security in general. We have some interest from the United States, from people who lead blockchain projects for defense agencies and many other domains. I would say this technology has a lot of perspectives. That's why it has been recognized already for funding as one of the key blockchain projects for the Next Generation Internet. It is amazing that we received so much interest from different experts. And this is what we need in order to be able to build something new and useful for the future generations of users of the Internet.

Miguel Gonçalves: As mentioned the project just started two months ago. We already had the opportunity to promote five ONTOCHAIN TALKS now available on Youtube, and other events. In terms of applicants, the open call is not launched yet. It will be launched very soon, on the 16th of November and will be open for a period of two months. And we then expect to receive a lot of high-quality applications from all over Europe and 16 H2020 associated countries. 

  • Are you going to launch your own blockchain? 

Vlado Stankovski: On the baseline of our ONTOCHAIN architecture we have Interledger. Many smart applications would use private and public blockchains. For example, a smart car may move from Ljubljana to Vienna and would enter the transactions there. Some, but not all data generated in Ljubljana may be needed in Vienna. We need to convey the higher-level semantics of the Ljubljana transactions and to move that to another smart environment, such as Vienna. This is the key idea of how Interledger will support ONTOCHAIN’s semantic transactions. We have an architecture about this that is made of four or five layers. We have applications for trustworthy content handling and information exchange, we have application protocols, then we have ONTOCHAIN protocols and we have underneath this Interledger. In short, ONTOCHAIN is not a typical ledger one may think. 

  • As I understand, you'll work on Etherium and Hyperledger?

Vlado Stankovski: For the time being, but we have also some other people who have attended our meetings, for example, from Tezos and other ledgers. We are really not restricted to few particular ledgers. This project will deliver some showcase applications in the short term, but it intends to open an area of new research where the semantics is shared among blockchains, we would like to see the generation of new type of blocks that we call them ONTOBLOCKS.

  • Would you launch your own tokens or is it just purely application?

Vlado Stankovski: Our partner company iExec Blockchain Tech (France) has already tokens, which will be used in one area. However, the point is that what we want to support a variety of ecosystems. The idea is that by using our ONTOCHAIN software ecosystem, one can establish their own applications that include trusted knowledge management mechanisms. Instead of just recording hashtags, one can record more complex semantics on blockchains. One key challenge in the project is how do we make the interface between what is trusted and resides on the blocks and what is trustless, inherently I mean, which is the sensing environment, the data and information, and the decentralised oracles that reside outside the blockchains.

Any ONTOCHAIN stakeholder can, of course, launch their own tokens and make business. One topic of our first open call, topic number five, is devoted to the development of new economic mechanisms benefiting from trusted knowledge management. 

  • And how do you deal with the censorship of anything that might be required in any sort of network like this, or would it be totally trustless? 

Vlado Stankovski: Censorship in our context is rather a new ONTOCHAIN infrastructure supporting diversity, pluralism, democracy, human-rights, sustainability and other historical achievements of humankind. Imagine that the resulting infrastructure will be a forest of ONTOBLOCKS, or rather an ONTOBLOCKS graph. . This means that our key achievements as humanity can be built into this trusted knowledge management structure. This is the key technological idea of the project. It is not the same as the current World Wide Web that are currently governed by a few big players.

  • We've covered quite a bit in this conversation. Before we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to share about?"

Caroline Barelle:  Just that we are actually calling for all Internet researchers, innovators and developers whether from high tech companies, academia or natural person(s) to be part of this adventure with us!