July 2023 Rollup | Latest Trends & Developments
NOAH's July Rollup provides a comprehensive overview of the most significant cryptocurrency events and developments in July 2023. Read to stay informed about the latest trends and happenings in the ever-evolving crypto landscape.
Chainalysis Report Reveals Sharp Drop in Crypto Crime But Warns of Rising Ransomware Threat
2023 Witnesses 65% Reduction in Crypto Crime
In a significant development for the cryptocurrency sector, the first half of 2023 marked a steep 65% decrease in illicit crypto transactions compared to the same period in 2022. According to the mid-year report from Chainalysis, a leading blockchain analysis firm, this reduction surpasses the 28% decline observed in legitimate cryptocurrency transaction volumes.
The report credits this reduction to a convergence of factors: a market downturn making cryptocurrency less attractive to criminals, heightened regulations and compliance tools usage by cryptocurrency entities and law enforcement, and the disruption of large-scale crypto scams like FTX and Terra that collapsed in 2022.
Shifting Criminal Trends Impacting the Crypto Space
While these developments indicate a positive trend, the report also identifies a concerning shift in criminal behavior. Some illicit activities are migrating to platforms such as decentralized exchanges (DEXs) or privacy coins that pose more significant challenges to tracking and regulation.
Moreover, scams continue to represent the most profitable type of crypto crime, despite their revenue falling by 77% compared to last year. This significant drop is primarily due to dismantling two of the largest scams, FTX and Terra, that accounted for over $4 billion in investor losses in 2022.
Ransomware Attacks Increase Amid Decline in Crypto Crime
Contrary to the overall declining trend in crypto crime, ransomware attacks are showing a sharp increase in 2023. The report indicates that these attacks have already generated $175.8 million more than during the same period last year.
This growth is fueled by the revival of "big game hunting" - targeting large organizations that can afford to pay substantial ransoms, and the emergence of aggressive ransomware groups like REvil and DarkSide.
Call for Coordinated Response to Tackle Ransomware Threat
Chainalysis's report highlights ransomware's grave threat to critical infrastructure, public services, and individual businesses. It calls for an integrated and strategic response involving governments, law enforcement agencies, cryptocurrency businesses, cybersecurity firms, and civil society organizations.
While the reduction in crypto crime signals a positive trend, the report underscores the pressing need to address the growing ransomware threat. It emphasizes the critical role of data analytics in monitoring, preventing, and investigating illicit blockchain activities.
For further insights into Chainalysis's report here.
BlackRock's New Bitcoin Allocation Recommendation of 84.9 Percent
A recent groundbreaking asset allocation study by BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, positions Bitcoin as a high-return component that should make up a significant part of an investor's portfolio.
Understanding BlackRock's Bitcoin Allocation Study
The April 2022 study by BlackRock investigated Bitcoin's performance from July 2010 through December 2021. It utilized a utility function, a method to assess the balance between risk and reward for varying portfolio compositions. Findings suggest Bitcoin offers a high likelihood of delivering extremely high returns, outperforming traditional asset classes like equities, bonds, real estate, and gold.
A notable result was Bitcoin's superior Sharpe ratio - a measure of return for each unit of risk - compared to other asset classes. The study also factored in different risk aversion levels, revealing Bitcoin as a dominant asset for the majority of risk profiles.
BlackRock's Bitcoin Allocation Suggestion: A Closer Look
For a conventional 60-40 portfolio (60% equities, 40% bonds), BlackRock suggests an optimal Bitcoin allocation of 84.9%. It advises reducing exposure to traditional assets, splitting the remaining 15.1% between stocks (9.06%) and bonds (6.04%).
Based on historical data, this allocation would have maximized returns while maintaining reasonable risk. It could have yielded a 230% annualized return over the past decade, compared to 7.5% from a standard 60-40 portfolio.
Impact of BlackRock's Bitcoin Study: What to Expect
BlackRock's study has potential to be a pivotal moment for Bitcoin, bolstering its legitimacy as a standalone, high-return, diversifiable asset.
Despite the promise, the study does have certain limitations. It doesn't factor in potential transaction costs, taxes, liquidity constraints, regulatory risks, or behavioral biases. Its reliance on historical data doesn't guarantee future performance.
Nonetheless, this bold move from BlackRock, coupled with its recent Bitcoin spot ETF application, indicates its positive stance on Bitcoin. It reinforces the digital asset as a valuable, high-return component that could enhance portfolio diversification and performance.
U.S. Bitcoin Mining Boom Could Generate Climate Benefits, Says Study
A recent study indicates that a significant shift of Bitcoin mining to North America could offer surprising climate benefits. The research, led by Christian Stoll, revealed that 38% of global Bitcoin mining had relocated to the U.S. and Canada by the end of 2022. The move was largely driven by these regions' robust electrical grid and regulatory environment.
During winter storm Elliott in December 2022, Bitcoin mining proved crucial in maintaining grid stability, particularly in Texas. Miners curtailed about 100 Exahashes per second, or 38% of the total Bitcoin network hashrate, showcasing the industry's potential to react to grid instabilities.
Bitcoin mining could also tackle environmental issues like methane emissions from oil extraction and CO2 emissions from orphaned oil and gas wells. Miners could incentivize the construction of generators that convert excess methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into usable energy. Furthermore, financial incentives from Bitcoin mining could be used to seal unplugged oil and gas wells, reducing their annual CO2 emissions.
The study also suggests that Bitcoin mining could catalyze the expansion of renewable energy. Bitcoin miners, who can operate almost anywhere and adjust load as needed, can populate areas rich in renewable energy but lacking infrastructure or local demand. Preliminary evidence shows Bitcoin miners co-locating with renewable energy infrastructure and investing in additional resources.
The energy-intensive Bitcoin mining process generates significant waste heat, which could be captured and reused to offset energy consumption elsewhere, thereby reducing the industry's overall energy footprint.
While Bitcoin mining consumes considerable electricity, the study argues that its overall environmental impacts could be mitigated. Increased transparency from public mining companies and the potential for regulatory oversight could help maximize the industry's climate benefits. However, the researchers stressed the need for further research and data transparency.
Bitcoin mining's migration to North America began in earnest after China's mining ban in 2021. The U.S. hashrate share surged from 3.5% in 2020 to 38% in August 2022. Notably, this only amounts to 0.9% to 1.7% of the U.S.'s total electricity usage. This industry-wide transition has brought unprecedented transparency, with public companies now required to disclose information, painting a more accurate picture of Bitcoin mining's environmental impact.
The Bitcoin Mining Council claims that 58.9% of electricity comes from sustainable sources. However, verification is lacking. Increased transparency and standardized definitions of renewable energy could help validate these claims. Regulatory measures, such as disclosure requirements and carbon accounting, could also guide the industry toward more climate-friendly practices.
With the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Reserve System (FED) working on regulations to incentivize sustainable Bitcoin mining practices, the industry may be poised for a greener future.
Ripple Ruling Breakthrough: Major Implications for Crypto Regulations
Ripple, the blockchain-based technology company at the helm of XRP cryptocurrency, has marked a significant victory in its ongoing legal dispute with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC sued Ripple in December 2020, alleging that it conducted an unregistered securities offering worth $1.3 billion.
As per official court documents released on July 13, 2023, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres ruled that XRP was classified as a security when sold to institutional investors by Ripple but not when sold to retail investors on cryptocurrency exchanges. The ruling hinged on the different levels of investor sophistication and Ripple's influence over XRP's secondary market.
This landmark decision carries vast implications for Ripple and the larger cryptocurrency industry. From Ripple's perspective, it can continue its operation and retail sales of XRP without needing to register with the SEC or conform to securities laws. Furthermore, Ripple potentially avoids substantial fines linked to previous sales to institutional investors due to the statute of limitations on securities violations expiring.
Repercussions for the cryptocurrency industry are equally profound. The ruling offers much-needed clarity on distinguishing between securities and non-securities in the realm of digital assets. It also establishes a precedent for crypto projects facing similar SEC lawsuits. In her ruling, Judge Torres indicated that the SEC must consider each token's specific traits and market circumstances in its regulatory approach.
The SEC retains the option to appeal this decision or negotiate a settlement with Ripple. It can also pursue additional charges such as fraud or market manipulation against Ripple and its executives. The ruling does not impact XRP's status in other jurisdictions where different regulations and restrictions may apply.
While not the final word in Ripple's legal journey, the ruling signals a ray of hope for Ripple and its supporters after over two years of litigation. News of the ruling seems to have buoyed the cryptocurrency market, with XRP surging more than 50% in July 2023 to reach its highest level since April 2021. It appears to have catalyzed a renewed sense of optimism in the crypto sector.
OpenAI CEO Launches 'Worldcoin': A New Cryptocurrency with Global Ambitions
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, has co-founded a new cryptocurrency venture, Worldcoin. The project, which aims to create a global digital identity system, differentiating humans from AI bots, has launched on July 24, 2023. The ambitious goal is to facilitate universal basic income (UBI) in the future.
Worldcoin is the brainchild of Tools for Humanity, a San Francisco and Berlin-based company. Since its conception in 2019, it has raised $125 million from major investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, and Reid Hoffman.
Worldcoin's unique service is the World ID, a "digital passport" for confirming human identity. It is obtained through an iris scan using Worldcoin's orb, a silver ball the size of a bowling ball. The IDs are stored on an Ethereum-based blockchain, which ensures decentralization and privacy.
Worldcoin is now expanding its operations from 2 million beta period users to 35 cities in 20 countries. The ultimate goal, according to Worldcoin, is to create a more inclusive and equitable economy.
Worldcoin's operation relies on iris recognition technology, a type of biometric verification. After the orb captures and converts iris images into numerical codes, they are hashed, encrypted, and stored on the blockchain. The WLD token, the fuel for the Worldcoin network, is an ERC-20 token compliant with Ethereum's standard and can be used for a range of purposes.
However, Worldcoin's ambitious objectives aren't without challenges. Critics question the ethical and practical implications of widespread iris scanning and the feasibility of truly equitable token distribution. Moreover, the idea of using Worldcoin for UBI is attractive but raises many logistical and ethical questions.
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