Blockchain Bites: Australian DCEs take flight with overseas licensing!; Australia universities dominate ranks in global blockchain stakes; Coinbase announces data breach of 6,000 accounts – Technology

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Michael Bacina, Jade McGlynn and Luke
Misthos of the Piper Alderman Blockchain Group bring you the latest
legal, regulatory and project updates in Blockchain and Digital

Australian Digital Currency Exchanges take flight with overseas

Two of Australia’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges have
been granted regulatory licences overseas. Independent Reserve was approved by the
Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) for a major
payment institution licence while CoinJar
received registration from the United Kingdom’s Financial
Conduct Authority (FCA).

Independent Reserve becomes the first and only Australian
virtual asset service provider (VASP) with a
Singapore licence following in-principle approval in August. Since being
established in 2013, Independent Reserve has amassed over 200,000
customers and sought expansion to Singapore in early 2020.
The Australian company was granted the approval over 170 other
global exchanges.

CoinJar, also established in 2013, is Australia’s longest
running crypto exchange and relocated to the United Kingdom in
2014. The move proved worthwhile as the U.K. continues to progress
regulation surrounding digital assets and awarded CoinJar an
exchange registration with the FCA. This marks a successful few
months for the exchange, having announced a partnership with Mastercard in

Currently in Australia, the only requirement to operate a crypto
exchange is to be registered and enrolled as a digital currency
exchange with AUSTRAC. The Select Committee on Australia as a Technology and
Financial Centre
is expected to shortly recommend the
introduction of a licensing regime in Australia which will be
aiming to be “at least as good as” Singapore’s

A careful balance will need to be struck between regulation and
the imposition of oversight to protect consumers and the freedom
necessary to promote innovation and competition, and attract
businesses and talent to help Australia to continue to punch above
our weight in blockchain.

Australia universities dominate ranks in global blockchain

Australian universities traditionally punch above their weight
globally in a number areas and blockchain is no exception. What is
exceptional is just how many Aussie universities have featured in
CoinDesk’s annual ranking of 230 universities, taking out 10%
of the top 50.

CoinDesk partnered with Stanford University to survey 230
schools worldwide for the ranking. The methodology considered
courses offered, research output, campus blockchain offerings (like
student clubs and research centres), employment outcomes, academic
reputation and tuition cost.

Australia dominated the top 50, with Melbourne’s RMIT taking
out the number 2 spot globally. Hot on their heels was UNSW, just
outside the top ten at 13, Sydney University came in at 20,
University of Melbourne at 34, Monash 48 (just beating Harvard
which scraped in at 49).

You can view the full top ten here.

The universities awarded the highest ranks are those conducting
not only blockchain research, but are using their blockchain
expertise to pioneer change in the real world.

The the top 3 universities were:-

  1. National University of Singapore – which takes
    their research into the real world, creating real systems,
    business, and spin-offs which benefit from blockchain in the areas
    of security and privacy, consensus and execution, data storage and

  2. RMIT – Home to the RMIT Blockchain
    Innovation Hub
    – the world’s first research centre on the
    social science of blockchain – providing a unique way to understand
    the global blockchain (r)evolution. RMIT has launched a $44.6m Victorian Government funded Digital CBD
    to use their expertise in blockchain, digital finance
    and the digital economy to help the State of Victoria respond to
    the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; and

  3. UC Berkeley – Offering a well rounded range of
    blockchain courses for students as well as consultation services to
    companies and industries who are interested in working with
    blockchain experts trained and/or hired by the university to
    provide blockchain solutions to their existing business problems.
    Being in the heart of Silicon Valley doesn’t hurt either.

Universities are highly competitive in their research generally,
and blockchain is no exception. The public recognition of leading
institutions should further fuel higher education to lean into more
blockchain research opportunities.

Per CoinDesk:

Data is good. There is an absence of data on this space:
Research and teaching can only get better if we track what academic
institutions are offering.

Commenting on RMIT’s success, Blockchain Innovation Hub
Director at RMIT, Prof. Jason Potts said:

There is strong competition in the blockchain technology space
in higher education. Our second placed ranking solidifies
RMIT’s position as not only a world leading research centre but
also as the top choice for students to come and study [the
blockchain evolution].

Regulation is yet to catch up with the pace of blockchain
technology. Having so many leading academics and universities
focusing on blockchain should help better position Australia and
our regulators to protect both consumers and innovators and catch
up with other countries who are leading the ongoing blockchain

Coinbase announces data breach of 6,000 accounts

United States listed cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase
suffered a hacking attack that impacted (and stole digital currency
from) at least 6,000 of its customers. The company announced the
situation in a breach notification letter. The breach took
place between March and May of this year when hackers exploited
Coinbase’s SMS account recovery process. There is yet to be an
announcement as to the amount of funds stolen.

Once hackers had access to user accounts, funds were transferred
to wallet addresses not associated with Coinbase. Hackers required
information such as email addresses, passwords and phone numbers
but Coinbase were unable to confirm how the hackers received this
information in the letter:

While we are not able to determine conclusively how these third
parties gained access to this information, this type of campaign
typically involves phishing attacks or other social engineering
techniques to trick a victim into unknowingly disclosing login
credentials to a bad actor.

As we have highlighted before, there are a
variety of precautions companies and individuals can take to limit
the likelihood of a data breach, including:

  • Business planning for a data breach response; and

  • Requiring that customers use non-SMS two factor authorisation
    and strong passwords.

Digital Currency Exchanges are always improving their security
systems but consistent updates and monitoring are required to
mitigate the risk of breaches. Customers’ personal information
such as their name, email address, phone number, home address, IP
address and date of birth were exposed in this breach, which could
lead to further attacks or impersonation of those persons by bad

In their letter, Coinbase noted that all affected customers have
or will receive full compensation for any loss and additional
support if needed:

We will be providing free credit monitoring to affected
customers who are interested and if available in your country of

All users of digital currency exchanges should ensure they have
secure and complex passwords, non-SMS two-factor authentication and
should always monitor their account balance as well as the privacy
policy of the exchange you are using. Storing digital assets off
exchange is even safer using a storage device such as a Trezor or Ledger.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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