ProBit Bits — ProBit Global’s Weekly Blockchain Bits Vol. 87

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 Industry Insiders Cautiously Optimistic on ETH ETF Prospects

As major crypto networks gear up for new developments in 2024, speculation is mounting around the prospects for a spot Ethereum ETF. Industry figures canvassed by The Block gave varied predictions, with estimates for SEC approval this year ranging from cautious optimism to outright skepticism.

Proponents argue the similarities with bitcoin, including futures markets and products tracking those contracts, provide a clear pathway. They point to precedents like Grayscale's court victory as encouraging signs. Experts including analysts from GSR and XBTO put chances as high as 75%.

However, others weren't as convinced. Uncertainty surrounds the SEC's definitive stance on whether ether is a commodity. The commission's recent stance resisting further crypto approvals was also cited as a potential impediment. Doubters included representatives from SkyBridge Capital, TD Cowen, and JPMorgan, who saw chances closer to 50% or less.

As the debate rages on, market attention remained fixed on whether regulators may expand the envelope to include the second-largest crypto asset this year. Both bulls and bears will be monitoring developments closely.

 Court Rejects CZ’s Second Attempt to Visit UAE Before Sentencing

In a fresh setback, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao has been denied permission to travel abroad despite offering his $4.5 billion equity stake in the crypto giant as a bond. In documents recently released by the federal court in Seattle, it was revealed Zhao attempted to visit the UAE last month for an undisclosed medical procedure involving a family member.

However, Judge Richard Jones refused the request, citing Zhao's "enormous wealth and property overseas" as well as lack of ties to the U.S. as reasons the crypto tycoon presented a significant flight risk. It marked the second rejection of Zhao's travel bids, with an earlier attempt in December also stymied.

While precise health details were redacted, the urgency of Zhao's involvement was stressed. Still, the court was unmoved, maintaining strict pre-sentencing restrictions on the Binance founder. He is scheduled to learn his fate for his plea to anti-money laundering failures at the exchange later this month. The case continues to keep Zhao stateside as the legal saga plays out.

 Repayment Rumors from Mt. Gox Rattle Crypto Markets

The long-running saga of defunct exchange Mt. Gox took another twist today as rumors swirled the company had started contacting creditors regarding compensation for its 2014 hack. Scattered reports on social media and Reddit claimed some users had received deposits or instructions on repayment steps.

If true, this would mark tangible progress after years of legal wrangling in the bankruptcy process sanctioned by a Tokyo court. However, the mere suggestion of moves from Mt. Gox sent ripples through crypto markets, with Bitcoin falling below $40,000 for the first time in over a month.

The collapse of the once-dominant Mt. Gox exposed the loss of 750,000 BTC, then worth $460 million. Today, that figure would be near $30 billion. As the case continues through 2024, its implications remain a threat to sentiment. Platforms tracking the bitcoin horde tied to the insolvent exchange showed no major transactions, leaving the validity of claims ambiguous for now. Nevertheless, the exchange's chequered history makes any news from its administrators big enough to move markets.

 North Korea Crypto Hacks Rise Even as Total Heists Fall in 2023

A fresh analysis from Chainalysis suggests North Korean cyber actors remain determined crypto threats, despite declining profits last year. While estimating roughly $1 billion was looted in 2023, down slightly from a record $1.7 billion previously, the blockchain intelligence firm found hacking attempts by North Korean groups rose notably.

According to the report, an estimated 20 attacks were conducted in 2023 compared to 15 the prior year. DeFi remained a prized target but saw reduced vulnerability exploiting, aligning with an overall downtrend in DeFi hacking globally.

Major factors for the falling stolen funds included less malfeasance involving Ethereum smart contract flaws and a 54% slide in total crypto plundering industry-wide from the astronomical 2022 sum. Still, with individual hacks growing to 231 incidents, Chainalysis concluded offline risks persist. North Korean actors appeared to up engagement in 2023 regardless of decreasing rewards, hinting continued vigilance is prudent from the crypto community.

 Crypto Usage Surging in South Africa as Population Adoption Nears 10%

Regulatory progress is coming for South Africa’s crypto sector, with the nation’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority confirming the imminent issuance of the first Financial Service Provider licenses. FSCA head Gerhard van Deventer recently told a local podcast decisions would come in the next two months on 128 license applications received by the November deadline.

As the watchdog seeks to ensure crucial protections for South African investors, the move brings welcome clarity to a market seeing crypto adoption rates surge. Nearly 10% of the population - or around 6 million people - now hold digital assets like bitcoin for transactions and investment.

Payment processors have reported climbing crypto withdrawal activity as usage grows. The imminence of licensing approval is timely as both consumer access and protection will be bolstered.

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