The past week has reminded us again how important strong cyber security measures are for companies, institutions, as well as individuals when the “NotPetya” attack spread globally and encrypting systems of leading institutions such as banks, oil companies, and the Ukrainian government.
Similarly to the WannaCry attack in the month prior, the attackers asked for a ransom payment in bitcoin. However, this time around the focus and blame was not put on the digital currency. Instead, it is starting to become universally accepted that bitcoin has become to go-to payment service for ransomware attacks due to its pseudo-anonymity as a payment system.
Despite bitcoin’s recent correction from close to $3,000 to the mid-2000s, bitcoin has outperformed all major asset classes including stocks, bonds, and gold in the first half of 2017. According to data compiled by Forbes, bitcoin (measured by the performance of the Grayscale Bitcoin Investment Trust) generated over 220 percent return year-to-date. Stocks, on the other hand, only generated 8.17 percent and gold only returned 7.68 percent. 20-year US Treasuries gained only 6.13 percent in value in the first six months of 2017.
While mainstream media has been focusing on bitcoin’s price drop in the last two weeks, it largely fails to recognize how much the price of bitcoin has climbed since the start of 2017 and that corrections like this are totally normal for a rallying asset.
This week’s review is compiled from contributions by Alex Lielacher, Evan Sixtin, and Joseph Young.
TUI Group, a German multinational travel agency, and the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world, is adopting blockchain technology into its booking, reservation, and payment systems. In the past, TUI lost ground to competitors by not adapting quickly enough to the Internet. Because of this, lucrative business was forfeited to companies like Expedia, Trivago, and Booking.com. In an effort to regain this business and catch up with the current trends in travel, TUI has turned on the turbo thrusters and sped ahead of the rest to become the first company to adopt blockchain in the tourism industry.
TUI Group will use the Ethereum blockchain to update, distribute, and directly access data on hotel capacity, removing middlemen like Expedia and Booking.com from the equation.
For TUI, the move to a blockchain system is expected to save costs and will give the company a global overview of peak booking demand and central control over bookings, two things which they do not currently have. From a hotel owner's perspective the changeover only requires minor software alterations, and from a customer's perspective, there should be no noticeable difference in the UI at all.
MGT Capital Investments LLC, a technology company led by outspoken cybersecurity pioneer John McAfee, announced on June 23 that it had purchased Ethereum mining equipment to launch a new cryptocurrency mining operation that focuses on ether and ethereum classic.
MGT Investments has made an agreement with Bit5ive LLC to buy up to 60 graphics processor-based mining computers, which will use high-quality GPU cards and Intel CPUs designed to divide the hardware’s hash rate between Ethereum’s ether (ETH) and ethereum classic (ETC).
McAfee stated: “We are more convinced each day of the growth and value of digital currencies, and our Company is uniquely positioned to be a leading provider of processing power to relevant blockchains. The addition of Ethereum and Ethereum Classic to our crypto mining strategies is expected to be very profitable for us.”
Leading global professional services company Accenture is backing blockchain technology as one of the next major disruptors in the aerospace sector. The firm believes the technology will be fully applicable to the aviation industry in the next two years and will lead to improved time and cost management.
Speaking at the 2017 Paris Air Show, John Schmidt, Head of Aerospace and Defense at Accenture, expressed the company’s belief that blockchain technology will be beneficial to the sector. "I really see this coming in, in a couple of years," he said.
Citing engine maintenance as an example, Schmidt explained how the blockchain could facilitate an easier and more efficient service process. Currently, different parts of the engine are typically maintained by different service providers: "Through all that life cycle of the engine, the original parts, the replacement parts, and configuration are all being tracked, and it is being done by a number of different companies.”
Cryptocurrency mining is making a big comeback driven by the impressive rally in digital currencies in the spring of 2017. To benefit from this increase in demand for hardware, technology company Sapphire has launched a series of new graphics cards, the first of such specifically targeted at cryptocurrency miners.
Hong Kong-based Sapphire focuses on the production of computer hardware such as motherboards and graphics cards. Due to the increase in popularity and demand for high-performing graphics cards by the cryptocurrency mining community, Sapphire has launched five new graphics cards for crypto miners.
On June 27, global ransomware Petya encrypted the computers of victims concentrated in Europe, including the Ukrainian government, banks, a Russian oil company, British advertising company WPP and other organizations internationally.
Sources revealed that the developers and distributors behind the Petya ransomware demanded individual victims to pay $300 in bitcoin in return for a personal decryption key that is necessary to recover files from devices infected by the ransomware. However, an announcement from Posteo, a German email service provider, revealed that email addresses associated with the Petya ransomware attack have been closed and terminated immediately after the Posteo legal team was informed that its email addresses were being used to finance a global ransomware attack.
One major issue with Posteo’s decision to block email addresses associated with the Petya ransomware attack is that the victims that have paid the $300 bitcoin ransom to receive their decryption keys and recover their files can no longer receive the decryption keys because the developers of Petya can not gain access to their email addresses. Thus, the Petya ransomware team can not identify who has sent the desired ransom payments to its bitcoin address and victims that have paid more than $10,000 will not be able to receive their decryption keys.