The California Legislature has passed Assembly Bill 2658, which provides a legal framework for the recognition of blockchain technology in the state’s insurance code.

Introduced by Democrat Ian Calderon, the bill sought to amend Sections 1624.5, 1633.2, and 1633.75 of the Civil Code, Section 25612.5 of the Corporations Code, Section 16.5 of the Government Code, and Section 38.6 of the Insurance Code, with relation to blockchain technology, electronic signatures, and smart contracts.

New Inclusions and Definitions

Under previously-existing California law, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act offered legal protection and enforceability to the use of electronic signatures in creating contracts, specifying that in the events of a requirement for writing or a signature, an electronic record or signature should suffice.

No mention was made, however, of electronic records or signatures secured using blockchain technology, which was a point of legal ambiguity for blockchain-based businesses. The new bill expands the definition of “contract” under California law to include “smart contract,” which provides legal basis for use of blockchain-based electronic signatures in sealing contracts.

It also specifies that any individual doing interstate or foreign commerce using blockchain technology to secure information they own or have rights to has access to the same ownership and usage rights in California.

Under the bill, Section 1633.2 of the Civil Code is amended to include a legal definition of blockchain technology, and Clause “e” in the section is amended to read as follows:

“‘Contract’ means the total legal obligation resulting from the parties’ agreement as affected by this title and other applicable law. ‘Contract’ includes a smart contract.”

Clause “h” is also amended to read as follows:

“‘Electronic record’ means a record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means. A record that is secured through blockchain technology is an electronic record.”

Clause “i” is amended to include the sentence: “A signature that is secured through blockchain technology is an electronic signature.” Clause “p” is also added to give a legal definition of “smart contract” under California law.

It reads:

“‘Smart contract’ is an event-driven program that runs on a distributed, decentralized, shared, and replicated ledger that can take custody over, and instruct transfer of, assets on that ledger.”

In February, CCN reported about Assembly Member Calderon’s efforts to advance blockchain use for electronic signatures and smart contracts in the state. The passing of bill 2658 represents a major coup for Calderon, who at age 29 became the first millennial to be elected to the state legislature.

In April, CCN also reported that California Senator Bob Hertzberg launched bill SB 838 to allow blockchain technology into formal documentation known as a corporation’s articles of incorporation throughout the state.

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According bitcoin.com reported that North Korea plans to hold a seminar devoted block chain technology and encryption currency. The meeting scheduled on October is expected to invite experts from around the world to meet with representatives from North Korean companies.

North Korea’s first international cryptocurrency event?

In the field of cryptocurrency, North Korea’s reputation has not always been good. According to the Yonhap News Agency, North Korea plans to hold a cryptocurrency and blockchain conference in the capital Pyongyang in October this year. The two-day conference will begin on October 1.

An anonymous security expert said that North Korea seems to want to demonstrate its capabilities in cutting-edge technologies such as cryptocurrency and blockchain through this conference.

Hacker’s paradise

Recently, North Korea has once again been accused for exploiting security vulnerabilities and obtaining cryptocurrencies through illegal means. Lazarus Group, a cybercrime group associated with North Korea, used a new type of malware to infect multiple operating systems.

Researchers at cybersecurity company, Kaspersky pointed out that North Korea’s hackers recently launched an operation called “Applejeus”, using a Trojan called Fallchill. The software that steals cryptocurrencies was discovered after invading an IT system on a cryptocurrency exchange in Asia.

The attack was triggered by an employee of the exchange downloading a cryptocurrency trading app with a virus from a seemingly normal website. Experts have found that the Fallchill Trojan has been redesigned to not only target Windows systems, but even macOS and Linux devices.

North Korea’s ambition

This is not the first time North Korea has been accused of stealing cryptocurrencies. In March of this year, former National Security Agency (NSA) officials and Asia Pacific cybersecurity expert Priscilla Moriuchi said that North Korea received at least 11,000 bitcoins (BTC) in 2017 through mining and hacking. The estimated value at that time was more than $200 million.

Last year Lazarus Group was suspected of being involved in an attack on South Korean cryptocurrency transactions. According to South Korean intelligence agencies, North Korean hackers have been involved in the cyberattack of Bithumb, South Korea’s largest crypto exchange, stealing more than 30,000 user profiles.

Because of international sanctions, North Korea is unable to connect with the world financial system, so it has been trying to use cryptocurrencies to break restrictions and anonymous transactions. Pyongyang University has opened a cryptocurrency course to prove North Korea’s development in this area.

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In response to a reported increase in the illicit use of cryptocurrencies, Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) plans to introduce new software which can track cryptocurrency transaction history, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization NHK reported August 30.

In 2019, the National Police Agency will reportedly put special software into service to track the history of virtual currency transactions within the country. The move comes as part of an effort to fight the increased level of cryptocurrency misuse and thefts.

In order to cover the expense of the new software, the NPA is looking to increase its budget by 35 million yen (around $315,000) for the next fiscal year.

The software was developed by a private company, the name of which has not been disclosed. According to the NHK, the software can extract transaction data needed for an investigation, visualize it from open records, and show what crypto exchange operators used the currency for.

Earlier this month, Tokyo-based security software manufacturer Trend Micro found Bitcoin (BTC) automated teller machine (ATM) malware available for purchase online. For the price of $25,000, criminals could purchase BTC ATM malware accompanied by a ready-to-use card with EMV and near-field communication capabilities, allowing fraudsters to receive the BTC equivalent of up to 6,750 U.S. dollars, euros, or pounds.

Last week, the commissioner of Japan’s financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), said that the agency wants the cryptocurrency industry to “grow under appropriate regulation,” adding that it has “no intention to curb [the crypto industry] excessively.” The FSA’s goal is reportedly to develop the crypto industry and find a “balance” between consumer protection and technological innovation.

Prior to that, the FSA revealed the results of its on-site inspections of crypto exchange operators, noting that “substantial” ongoing review of registration procedures will be necessary. The FSA probe found that crypto exchanges’ maintenance and control systems had failed to keep pace with exponential growth in transaction volumes.

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The international remittance market is huge. In 2016, migrants from the world over sent in excess of $580 billion to their home countries. The scenario has changed considerably in the last two decades, before which the field was primarily the domain of banks and a handful of high-street brokers. Now, people get scores of FinTech overseas money transfer companies from which to choose. Customers, it appears, are set to gain even more going forward, mainly because of the benefits blockchain has to offer.

The Ripple Effect

Some of the leading money transfer companies have already turned to blockchain. Market leaders Western Union and MoneyGram have started testing the blockchain technology offered by Ripple. InstaReM, an Asia-based money transfer specialist, has tied-up with Brazil-based BeeTech, also an international remittance company, soon after both signed up with Ripple.

Incidentally, even some prominent banks have jumped on Ripple’s blockchain bandwagon. Examples in case include the Latin American Itau Unibanco Holding SA, the French Crédit Agricol, and India’s IndusInd Bank.

Blockchain Benefits

International money transfer companies can benefit by adopting blockchain technology in different ways, and then pass them on to their customers.

  • Making transfers more cost effective. Data suggests that the average cost of making a cross-border money transfer through a bank is around 11%. With fintech companies, the average drops to around 5%. Only, even the fintech players rely on banks to function as intermediaries. With blockchain comes the possibility of doing away with banks completely. This would make overseas money transfers even more cost effective.
  • Increased reach. Large populations in Asia, Africa, and South America remain under-banked, and this has an adverse effect on their ability to send or receive payments to or from overseas. However, given the widespread usage of mobile phones, cryptocurrency wallets hold the potential to simplify how they deal with cross-border remittances.
  • Faster turnaround. Most banks take days to process overseas money transfers. With international companies, you still have to rely on banks to do the needful. Cryptocurrency transfers, on the other hand, can go through in near real time.
  • Increased security. The centralized manner in which most money transfer companies and banks operate leaves them vulnerable to online attacks of different kinds. Blockchain, on the other hand, functions in a decentralized way, which makes attacks much more difficult to execute. In addition, every blockchain-based transaction is recorded in a digital ledger that is impossible to fudge.
Are There Downsides?

There is one drawback that may well stay in place until the technology becomes common place. The sender typically needs to purchase a cryptocurrency using a fiat currency, and the receiver then needs to sell the cryptocurrency to purchase a fiat currency. In such a transaction, currency conversion takes place twice. There’s also the fact that most people still need to deal with a basic cryptocurrency learning curve.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that blockchain technology holds the potential to bring about significant changes in the international money transfer market. With increased security, better cost effectiveness, and quicker transfers, the benefits are rather plain to see.

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Polish legislators have introduced a long-awaited new bill to clarify the current crypto taxation policy. The document was published on the country’s government site on Friday, August 24, and explained by local crypto media outlet Kryptowaluty August 25.

Kryptowaluty writes that a new document has been offered for consultation, and the Polish Council of Ministers will review it in the third quarter of 2018. The previous taxation policy, which had been resisted by country’s crypto community earlier this year, was taken into account but has been slightly changed. The purpose of the bill, as stated by government, is to simplify the tax system for crypto transactions.

First, the bill defines cryptocurrencies in terms of the Act on Counteracting Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing as a “digital representation of money”. Furthermore, virtual currencies are divided in two groups — cryptocurrency and centralized virtual currency — and are allowed to be used as a medium of exchange, in e-commerce, and be accepted as means of payment.

As for taxation, the bill refers to both individuals and businesses. Crypto-to-crypto transactions performed on the stock exchange or individually will be tax free. At the same time, income from selling services, property, and goods will be treated like revenue for taxation purposes.

The document then covers crypto miners, noting that those who work for themselves won’t be charged, while others who work for entities or individuals will be obliged to pay taxes.

The current taxation system in Poland is 18% is for an annual income of up to 85,500 zloty ($23,000), and 32% for incomes above this limit.

2018 began with massive anti-cryptocurrency campaign in Poland. In February, the Central Bank of Poland admitted to funding $27,000 worth of content aimed against crypto, which was published on YouTube and then broadcast by local press. Later in May, a similar campaign was organized by Poland’s Financial Supervision Authority (KNF). Social media materials on risks associated with cryptocurrencies, pyramid schemes, and forex trading were funded by 615,000 zloty (around $173,000).

As the Polish crypto community criticized the campaign along with the newly announced taxation for digital currencies, the local Finance Ministry rolled the measure back, promising to elaborate more convenient regulation.

However, in June, crypto owners from Poland blamed banks for deliberately denying service to cryptocurrency entities and selectively closing accounts, Cointelegraph reported.

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The Russian state pension fund (PFR), the country’s largest social service, has recently suggested implementing blockchain technology in labor relations, local news outlet Izvestiya reports Wednesday, August 29, citing the organization’s press center.

The fund plans to introduce smart contracts to be used as employment contracts between employers and employees. Such agreements could be made in any of the numerous state units providing public services — the net that reportedly covers up to 97% Russia’s population.

Officials told reporters that they hope blockchain technology as it would be used in the scheme would help to avoid unnecessary paperwork and to reduce costs for storing and maintaining a huge amount of data. Officials also reportedly believe that the new system will protect citizens from “negligent employers who violate current legislation when concluding contracts,” the fund’s press center stressed.

State Labour Inspectorate statistics cited by Izvestiya show that more than 465,000 Russian citizens claimed their labor rights were violated in 2017.  In that regard, officials imposed fines for more than 20 billion rubles (approximately $293 million).

Russia is currently taking numerous steps in order to reorganize its labor industry. As local news agency TASS noted today, Russian prime-minister Dmitry Medvedev recently offered to store all employment records online starting in 2020. All necessary data will also be shared with the PFR, Tass reports.

The PFR’s decision to turn to blockchain comes against the backdrop of a radical pension reform the Russian government introduced in mid-2018. Officials initially offered to raise the minimum retirement age for women up to 63 years (from its current 55 years) by 2034 and for men up to 65 years (from its current 60 years) by 2028.

In the broader context of pressure from U.S. and European economic sanctions against Russia, the pension reforms sparked massive backlash in the country. After the largest cities in Russia held protests against the proposed reforms in July, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced in a speech today that the government plans to amend the reform.

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The world’s major financial cities are waking up to blockchain’s disruptive potential, and while some are drafting regulations and consulting legal experts, cities like Hong Kong are making significant moves.

Hong Kong’s Blockchain Push

On Aug. 28, the Hong Kong government added distributed ledger technologies (DLT) to its list of “Quality Migrant Admission Scheme” (QMAS), which awards bonus marks to experts seeking employment in specific areas or looking to move to the city.

Crypto-Exchange Huobi May Go Public on Hong Kong Stock Exchange
Related: Crypto-Exchange Huobi May Go Public on Hong Kong Stock Exchange

Alongside DLTs, the notice listed other disruptive technologies touted to lead the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”–which includes artificial intelligence, robotics, biometrics and chemical engineering.

For the uninitiated, the QMAS scheme allows skilled workers to enter and settle in Hong Kong without the typical employer-sponsored requisite. However, as the list noted, entrants are subject to a quota-scheme (limited to 1,000 entrants annually) and tends to favor “highly skilled or talented” persons only.

The QMAS scheme was developed to help build Hong Kong’s economy and enhance the city’s competitiveness, according to the release.

A Points-Based Test

For those interested, applicants must meet predefined criteria before being awarded points from a “general” test or an “achievement-based” test. All participants are then graded against each other using a comprehensive percentile system.

According to the announcement:

“For applicants who meet the specifications of the respective profession under the Talent List, bonus marks will be given under the General Points Test of the QMAS.”

Blockchain enthusiasts looking to settle down in Hong Kong must qualify under the list’s terms to be considered a “quality admission.” The aforementioned terms include holding a bachelor’s degree, work experience in the field of interest and an application-centric understanding of DLT.

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Economic and financial affairs ministers from the European Union’s (E.U.) 28 member states will reportedly hold an informal meeting on the challenges posed by digital assets and the possibility of tightening regulations, Bloomberg reported August 29.

According to a draft note seen by Bloomberg, participants will discuss a general lack of transparency and the potential for cryptocurrency to be used for tax evasion, terrorist financing and money laundering at a September 7 meeting in Vienna, Austria.

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has previously warned customers about Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), citing a lack of investor understanding and problems with unregulated financial activities. The ESMA also noted that unregulated exchanges are unprotected due to their existence outside of global financial regulations, which means that customer losses from an event like a cyberattack would not be covered by E.U. law.

Despite previous warnings from E.U. financial watchdogs, the document obtained by Bloomberg says that ICOs “have established an effective and efficient way to raise capital.” The document reportedly also states that ICOs could help integrate capital markets in the E.U.

The E.U. Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive came into force on July 9. Measures within the directive set a new legal framework for European financial watchdogs to regulate digital currencies. The new rules enact stricter transparency requirements directed at the use of “anonymous payments through prepaid cards” and  “virtual currency exchange platforms” for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing.

In March, the ESMA strengthened requirements for Contracts For Differences (CFDs) in cryptocurrencies. In accordance with the introduced rules, investors must have enough funds to cover at least half of a contract value upon opening, changing the leverage limit of cryptocurrency CFDs to 2:1 from 5:1 at opening.

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Golden Finance Blockchain August 27th reported recently, the regulation of the cryptocurrency industry in various countries has become tighter.  In China, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, Central Network Information Office, Ministry of Public Security, Bank of China and General Administration of Market Supervision jointly issued the “Tips on Preventing Risk Raising with Virtual Currency and Blockchain protection”; Whereas in Singapore, the Singapore Exchange and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have partnered with Anquan, Deloitte and Nasdaq to use clear ledger technology to clear tokenized securities. And also in Hungary, the Hungarian Ministry of Finance has indicated that they will explore into cryptocurrency regulation, but also  to emphasize that virtual currency will not be considered legal tender.

Singapore collaborates with Anquan, Deloitte and Nasdaq to clear tokenized securities through distributed ledger technology

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Singapore Exchange have announced a partnership to allow financial institutions and corporate investors to process exchange transactions and liquidate tokenized digital currencies & securities assets. The two organizations will work closely together to improve the efficiency of business operations and reduce settlement risks.

According to relevant press releases, mainstream financial companies Anquan, Deloitte and Nasdaq have been appointed as technical partners for clearing projects in Singapore. The project is expected to submit a research report which to explore the possibility of a smart contract automated delivery and payment (DvP) settlement process, while also to identify key design factors to ensure flexibile operations and enhancements by November.

Tinku Gupta, technical director and project president of the Singapore Exchange, said:

“The project will deploy blockchain technology to effectively link capital transfers and securities transfers, therefor to eliminate the risks of buyers and sellers in the delivery and payment processes. This is actually a collaborative innovation that involves multiple industries and users to gather and  promote the ecosystem.”

Sopnendu Mohanty, chief financial technology officer of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said:

“Blockchain technology is revolutionizing the way financial transactions are executed today, and seamless trading across blockchain technology will open up a whole new business opportunity. The participation of three well-known technology partners will definitely achieve this goal. Singapore is a country that has strong skilful talents and expertise. I hope to see financial technology industry would develop further, and with development of innovative blockchain applications it would create new opportunities to regain profit.”

Domestic regulators warned illegal encryption crowdfunding activities

Last week, China Insurance Regulatory Commission, Central Network Information Office, Ministry of Public Security, Bank of China and General Administration of Market Supervision jointly issued on the “Tips on Preventing Risk Raising with Virtual Currency and Blockchain protection”, which mentioned the speculation block. The main characteristics of high risk chain concepts are illegal fund-raising, pyramid schemes and fraud, including cross-border, etc.

Hungarian’s  Ministry of Finance refuses to recognize cryptocurrency as legal tender

According to local media reports in Hungary, the Ministry of Finance has stated that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will not be treated as legal tender.

In addition, Hungarian’s Ministry of Finance also said they are exploring the regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and issued a statement saying:

“Hungary is currently studying on the regulatory encryption tools. The central bank, tax authorities, the Ministry of Finance and other regulatory agencies have formed a joint working group to assess the legal, economic, law enforcement, money laundering issues related to cryptocurrencies and newly introduced to more detailed Regulatory initiatives.”

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With rising blockchain integration, industries across the board are facing a shortage of software engineers familiar with the space. To meet growing demand, Canada’s George Brown College is launching a blockchain development program for incoming students.

Comprehensive Certificate Program in Blockchain

George Brown College will become the first Canadian college to offer a comprehensive certificate in blockchain technology, according to a press release.

The Blockchain Development program will teach students about the technical aspects of blockchain, its architecture and industry applications. Additionally, the program’s curriculum was developed by industry professionals currently working on distributed ledger technology (DLT) projects.

In the official press release, School of Computer Technology Chair Albert Danison said: 

“The most significant challenge inhibiting growth in blockchain today is sourcing qualified talent. With this new program, we are helping build the workforce that Canada needs to harness and ensure mainstream adoption of the technology.”

To meet rising demand, educational institutions have taken action to teach incoming students about blockchain technology. MIT and Princeton, for example, already offer similar, full-time blockchain certificate programs and majors.

Related: Ripple Partners With 17 International Universities In New $50 Million Blockchain Research Initiative

George Brown’s Blockchain Development program will further immerse students in the design and implementation of decentralized applications (dApps), smart contracts, security practices and legal regulations.

The industry-forward program will only accept 20 students and will be taught in an “executive format” over the duration of three semesters.

Marc Lijour, Solution Delivery at ConsenSys, was involved with building the program’s curriculum. In the official press release, Lijour said:

“The blockchain industry is growing rapidly so more educational programs will help provide companies with access to top talent. Research by ICTC estimates that by 2024, more than 100,000 blockchain jobs will be created in Canada. … I’m calling upon my former colleagues in the education ministries to help us scale this program in the months ahead.”

The nascent program aims to prepare students with the tools needed to disrupt industries–such as finance, retail, healthcare and logistics–using blockchain and will launch at George Brown College, Sept. 4.

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