Open Banking – too exposed?

As a human race, we are constantly striving for easier ways of doing things: simpler, faster and more practical. Thanks to better tech, you can now interact with people globally and instantly with the click of a few buttons.

Likewise, you can also physically move quickly due to advances in transportation technology. When it comes to the age-old practice banking – the same is now happening.

Provided you have the necessities, a passport, residential address and a mobile phone, you can now open a bank account within minutes. This is brought about by a Fintech offering better known as Open Banking.

Open banking is the use of open APIs that enable third-party developers to build applications and services around the financial institution.

Wikipedia

It is ultimately about giving you a better, secure and flawless service experience with the opportunity to gain access to excellent financial products.

Online security expert and Chairwoman of Zortrex, Susan Brown reflects on the advent of the new offering:

“Just over a year ago when Open Banking came into the limelight for the Fintech world. CMA9 (the nine largest banks within the UK), were effectively mandated to make their banking platform accessible for third party companies.”

A comprehensive global report commissioned by Accenture emphatically highlighted growth and talking points about the emerging industry in 2017.

N26 Bank
N26 Bank

This is all wonderful, innovative, and promotes transparency within the financial services market – but there is only one drawback Brown cites:

“Consumers really do not know what Open Banking means, there has been a lot published about the benefits that is to be had from Open Banking. At the same time consumers have become very aware of the negative aspects around sharing their data.”

Online scourge of hacks & breaches

Daily, you hear more and more about hacks, and data compromises. With the UK’s Lloyds Bank breach last year; the trust by its consumers to share their financial and personal information, some would say, is completely gone.

In addition, you go onto a site look review products and before you know it, you are bombarded with adverts on the products that you have been looking at elsewhere. This has led some consumers to abandon shopping carts and refrain from using online retailers.

If not adequately protected, the newly established Fintech system might suffer a similar data breaches.

Visa and Mastercard for one, are among the established firms threatened by Open (and Mobile) Banking. And so, they should be according to Brown.

“As consumers knowledge grows about their data and the security around their financial data has not been secure as shown with the Marriott hack.”

Naturally, these new systems pose a huge threat for banks as they become the digital gateway channel connection to the financial sector. This eliminates the direct relationship between consumers and banks.

This is not a bad thing as banks are overwhelmed and cannot always keep in touch with every client.

Added layer of protection

The solution for failing global acceptance would be for a new Fintech company to gain the trust of its new customers. They would naturally also be able to chip away at the market share of other expensive financial institutions.

What you as a consumer know and want is privacy and security. Currently, only banks can make this happen – but at a high cost.

With a new digital tokenisation system like Zortrex vault, you can concurrently let your consumers reap the awards on their transactions.

They can as a result, gain redeemable tokens for patronising your services. This can occur while both you and your partners offer them products globally.

“Don’t be a gateway for the challenger banks be in control of your omni channel for your consumers,” Brown advises

Read more about Zortrex’s solution to privacy here.

This blogpost contains excerpts from Susan Brown about Open Banking initially published on her LinkedIn page.  




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Digital Dribs & DApps!

We have barely scratched the surface with the Internet (introduced in the early eighties) and it is already seemingly being threatened with competition. A possible replacement by a new phenomenon.

Well, for lack of a better word, “replaced” has connotations of a dying Internet. This is far from accurate.

This new phenomenon – fostered by blockchain technology, will change the way you use and consume the Internet as a service.

So, what is this new Internet-like system creating waves online and making online marketers quiver at the prospect of them losing out on the exponential revenues they have previously enjoyed?

Well, without hyping it up any further, it is called Distributed Applications or ‘DApps’ for short.

A brief history of Apps

Before we delve further into its meaning and use in the cyber world, perhaps some background context is required.

The use of online or mobile applications software or “Apps” has boosted the way you consume products and services online. Companies jumped onto the bandwagon when they discovered that we mostly use Smartphones for the Internet – a lot more than on desktops.

App developers were then subsequently sought after to create mobile Apps for practically anything.  What started as something mainly for gamers moved quickly onto Apps for any commercial activity.

We now use Apps (the Internet) for shopping; fitness; travelling; online bookings and banking. Developers now create customised software to help with anything.

There is now an App store for every significant tech provider – Microsoft, Google and Apple to mention a few. This has naturally fattened their pockets and created an additional stream of income from an eager market.

The ‘catch’ for using mobile apps is that though it costs you nothing to download, using them still require some form of ‘registration’. You can do this by providing personal data or linking to an existing account such as your Facebook or Google account.

The benefit to App providers

The Apps, which are also embedded in social media, create a data goldmine for marketers to study and track your browsing habits. Through them marketers can gain valuable insights into your interests and then customise their products/services to sell to you.

Data mining has become more lucrative and more accessible with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Ever notice how after browsing online or having a conversation or a chat application like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, you go online afterwards, and you see Ads displaying the items you discussed?

Creepy isn’t it? Well, that is the future of Web 4.0 for you!

Staying ‘woke’

Luckily for us, there is a school of knowledgeable and security conscious programmers who are not ‘giving in’ to the way the Internet has become a centralised cesspool for marketers to harvest data from.

Social media platforms, search engine providers and mobile application providers facilitate them immensely with this.

Watch a video explaining the mechanics of DApps

The impetus behind a distributed application system is that it serves to distribute plough some of wealth garnered from your data via application providers back to you – the end user.

Imagine getting paid to surf the web for hours. The way you get paid for taking on a survey, partaking in a social experiment, donating an organ or sperm?

This is the way distributed apps are touted to work: by rewarding you for the use of specific applications (in a peer-to-peer review like setting) with cashable tokens. Seems only fair right?

Now you can imagine how companies like Cambridge Analytica would react to having to pay you for their use of your data. There will be reluctance and resistance but if they could pay companies like Facebook for the use of data, why not pay us directly?

Early adoption

Joining the DApps revolution is a no-brainer. Companies at the forefront of building and supporting DApps will end up getting a more substantial chunk of the market.

DApps will primarily provide you with the use of payment (remuneration) systems. These are specifically known as Smart Contracts and Proof or Work systems.

There are currently also web-browsers (built as DApps on blockchain platforms such as Ethereum or EOS) that will reward you for merely using their DApps.

For instance, you are rewarded in cashable tokens to surf the net over applications like Google Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox.

It is therefore, only a matter of time that this form of Internet-browsing and use of applications becomes the norm.

The Internet revolutionised the way you communicate, socialise, learn, shop and do business online.

DApps however, will determine the way you get compensated for doing the very same things you love to indulge online while making it worth your while.

Digital Fundraising

The latest abbreviation in finance and crypto-world is ‘ICO’. A word that gives both local and global financial authorities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nightmares for several reasons.

Not to be confused with Initial Public Offering (IPO) which is used by firms to raise cash through the issuing of shares to the public. An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) serves the same function and works like crowdfunding , but for digital currency and tokens only.

We recently covered a feature on raising funds and capital for a business but missed out on one relatively new method. More and more companies are using ICOs to raise capital for their businesses.250x250

The concept of an ICO works similarly to how a company raises capital through shares in that it is all based on contrived value.

Funding raising in effect boils down to sales! If your actual product or service has nothing substantial or intrinsic to offer a client base, then it is nothing more than a scam.

Launching an ICO is quite easy, and to an extent, many tech companies are now catching onto it.

An ICO is the cryptocurrency space’s rough equivalent to an IPO in the investment world. ICOs act as fundraisers of sorts; a company looking to create a new coin, app, or service launches an ICO — Investopedia.

If you still do not believe it is possible, just listen to this testament from someone who did it after unsuccessfully knocking on doors of conventional funders – the angel investors, venture capitalists and banks.

The alarming spurt rate of ICOs often brings with it a scourge of potential scammers. The SEC and other institutions have to step in to monitor and regulate them.

Social media Platforms like Facebook and Google – which house a bounty of users (potential investors) have banned ICOs ads due to possible prey on unsuspecting investors; exposing them to con artists.

Basically, the scammers use fancy websites, laden with impressive figures and terminology to con users into buying into their coins or tokens.

Though the tokens barely even cost a cent, it adds up if they have millions of people buying in.  Once they have reached a certain amount in funding – they close shop and disappear!

Hypothetically speaking if one wanted to create a new coin called ‘DebunqedCoin’, these are the steps:
  • Create a product concept or Business Plan for the coin or what is called a Whitepaper. This describes in great detail what the coin or token aims to do; the core technologies behind it; the team and their qualifications; the product’s lifecycle/growth path etc.

  • Once completed and water-tight, the whitepaper would be submitted along with an application to one of the best Cryptocurrency Exchanges for review.
  • Naturally, the business would need some initial working capital for liquidity. Some of this is raised by the owners and other institutions (through loans) etc. These will serve as collateral/insurance that there is indeed genuineness in the venture for all stakeholders.
  • You must then assure your investors of a solid return on investment (ROI) and deliver – which goes back to sales and growth. Unless your offering is a scam you actually need to do some work! This comes with regular updates (marketing campaigns can have a tremendous or adverse impact on the uptake and price) on milestones reached.
  • The above is necessary to keep the investors abreast with progress and in the process, getting them to possibly increase funding. Growing interest and addition of more funds creates demand for the coin/ token which, in turn, drives up the price and market capitalization.
  • Voila! you would then be in business!

Here are some of the most successful ICOs of all time

NEO:

Known as “China’s Ethereum”, and backed by Microsoft, Alibaba and the Chinese government, NEO uses smart contract applications. It does so, however, with the addition of decentralized commerce, digitized assets and identification.

It enjoyed a considerable hike in token value from $0.03 to $88.20, NEO has big things coming with a 294,000% ROI.

Ethereum:

Unlike Bitcoin, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency in the world has more functionality than just being a coin. Its ledger technology is used to build and deploy decentralized applications a.k.a. “smart contract” technology.

Ethereum’s ROI has been nothing short of jaw-dropping at 230,000%. Having sold its tokens at $0.31, an Ether token now sits at a whopping $713, second in value only to Bitcoin.

Spectrecoin:

The “premier privacy-focused cryptocurrency” enables users to send and receive currency worldwide with total anonymity. It is currencies like SpectreCoin that have most government tax offices quaking in their boots.

If you had repurchased a token in November 2016, that puny $0.001 would be worth $0.64 today, or an ROI of 64,000%.

Stratis:

This UK-based start-up has craftily created a platform that is compatible with .NET and C#. As a result, the product appeals to veteran users of Microsoft products.

Raising 915 BTC in 5 weeks, those who cashed in on the low investment of $0.01 per token have seen a titanic ROI of 56,000%.

Ark:

With Ark, collaboration is the name of the game. The platform’s SmartBridge is a lightning-fast ecosystem designed to integrate other cryptocurrencies into its blockchain.

Investors were eager as any to buy in, and they have made a 35,400% gain given today’s token price of $3.54.

DigixDAO:

DGD, which stands for Digix Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is a self-governing community. It gives out grants to different projects which will promote the growth of the DGX network.

At a current value of $346.88 per token, this gives them a return of 10,722%.

Quantum (QTUM):

QTUM is an open-source value transfer platform which focuses on mobile decentralized apps or Dapps. QTUM is the world’s first proof-of-stake smart contracts platform.

They hosted a highly successful ICO in March 2017, and since that time has seen an ROI of 6,400%.

Source: investinblockchain.com

The prospect can be daunting for a cryptocurrency investor looking to make money off new investment opportunities, while remaining cushioned from fraudulent ICOs and dodgy coins and tokens.

As there is no guarantee that any cryptocurrency or blockchain-related start-up will be genuine or successful. One simply needs to be vigilant and take steps such as getting to know the core team, poring over the whitepaper with a big magnifying glass. Naturally you should be monitoring progress of the token sales.

Most importantly, one must  just using common sense to gauge just how feasible the project is to ensure that you’re not falling for a scam.

Remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t true!

Modern-day Profit Hunters

Dealing with Cryptocurrency has its interesting dynamics. There are, however, many hidden facets making it still a mystery to the masses. Not knowing about it makes you prone to, get rich-schemes or outright scams.

We are all by now aware of the mania caused by the soaring prices and then, the subsequent decline that followed early this year. 

What people don’t pay attention to, however, is finding out exactly just how complex it is to physically “acquire” and store these Cryptocurrencies.

Mining coins can be described very basically as the process where users “or miners” become part of a Cryptocurrency network. This by making hardware (PC processors and graphics cards) available to support that specific network’s operations.

As a miner, you contribute towards the working of the Blockchain. The technology requires millions of calculations to validate transactions into what are known as public ledgers.

Click here for more about how the Blockchain works.

There are three main ways to mine these coins but we will not be highlighting them in this post. The matter to be covered here, however, is the business aspect: how the Blockchain has created a new line of commercial entities and profit takers.

These modern tech “enterprises” offer a specific or cluster of altcoins and tokens as a reward for helping them maintain their Blockchain.

Sounds like a win-win situation right?  Or is it?

Mining is hard

If you have actually looked into the main methods of  mining you will discover that only miners with high-end hardware are able to produce enough power to contribute to the Blockchain. This is called “hash power” or “hash rate”. This is  kind of like horsepower for cars, but for PC processing.

There are sites that illustrate how to calculate potential profits such as one conveniently called ‘what to mine’.

The opportunity cost of operating the customized computer systems (commonly known as Mining Rigs), will have to be offset with the cost of acquiring hardware such as the Antminer S9i. Then there are energy costs associated with running the rigs for long periods of time.

Your profit would, therefore, be the balance of the costs versus the revenue involved in mining coins – which is usually observed over a year to make a clear profit or loss assessment.

Mining profit = Revenue (quantity x price of the coin in local fiat currency)  minus cost of the mining devices + annual electricity costs (measured in local currency per KWh).

The problem with going at it alone is that it is very hard to break even. You are also faced with a conundrum:  the more powerful your hardware is, the more electricity it consumes.

It also takes a lot longer to acquire the coins which you are awarded by the respective blockchain network after successful hashing is completed.

To make it worth your while you would hope that the coin you mine’s market value exceeds the costs of the monthly/annual electricity bill.

Value proposition

There a now hundreds of these so-called Crypto/Tech companies spurting up by the day. Their modus operandi: to relieve you of the burden of the high electricity and hardware costs. This in exchange a monthly or once-off fee.

In return, they promise to mine coins and provide you with daily or monthly profits (payable in Crypto or in cash). They can do this because they presumably have bigger (and more powerful) mining setups and therefore benefit from larger economies of scale.

Some of these establishments use big rooms, whole buildings or even warehouses to run thousands of mining rigs throughout the year.

The payments you make supposedly help them with maintenance costs and pay for the said electricity bills. They are also usually stationed in countries where the cost of electricity is very low.

MiningCosts

You are likely to, however, run the risk of dealing with the occasional Ponzi-scheme – setup.  Such companies dive at the opportunity to swindle those not familiar with Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies.

By dazzling you with the price increases and potential astronomical returns which is public knowledge anyway, they take your money and make a run for it!

One can also ponder, as it is incredibly difficult and expensive to mine Bitcoin these days, if these setups are actually just people who have already made their millions from acquiring Cryptocurrency.

The acquisition naturally, would have been when they were dirt cheap, and are now offering the residue to make more profit off unknowing investors.

An example

How it would work is: let’s say you owned 100 Bitcoins mined in 2010 for the opportunity cost of $100 each (cost of electricity).

You then sold half at the height of the Crypto ‘bull run’ in January 2018 when they were worth $19 000 each.  You would have been $945 000 richer.

So, with almost a million bucks in the kitty and another 50 units of coins (which would be now worth a lot less); the natural inclination would be to look at ways to make the extra coins ‘work for you’.

And what better way than to be one’s own boss and head a Crypto company! You can with your new setup, sell off the residue of Crypto coins  in bits for profits in cash.

This is likely what some of these companies offering coins for an opportunity to acquire Bitcoins. This under the pretense of partaking in a mining operation.

Meanwhile,  in reality, the actual mining probably took place almost a decade ago!

All in all, do stay alert and do your research before parting with your money to join a mining pool or Crypto investment scheme!