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The Korean conflict enters virtual currency: For the second time in a handful of days, a cryptocurrency hack or theft has been traced to sources in North Korea, leading analysts to suggest the country may be behind hacks designed to offset sanctions against North Korea for developing nuclear weapons, reports the BBC. In the latest attack, hackers stole about $7 million in digital money from Bithumb, South Korea's largest cryptocurrency exchange, a value that is currently worth $83 million. Hackers also stole personal information of about 30,000 people, and this data could be used for card theft and other payments fraud. South Korea's intelligence agency believes North Korea is behind the hacks, which have been happening since early 2017, the BBC reports. North Korea was also reportedly behind another attack on Coinis in September and a failed attack in October. The hackers have additionally demanded a ransom of $5.5 million from Bithumb in exchange for deleting personal information. The Bithumb hacks follow a spear phishing attack that was linked to a North Korean IP address and a report in early 2017 that North Korea may have played a role in hacks that used the Swift network to attack international payment systems.

Bloomberg News

Bitcoin ATMs: Bitcoin ATMs trail traditional currency ATMs by a large margin, though there is some momentum. Coinsource just installed more than a dozen bitcoin ATMs in Georgia, and NCR is collaborating with CoinHub to enable withdrawal from cryptocurrency accounts at the ATM in UAE. NCR's CxBanking software will provide the technology support at the terminals. The user experience is similar to other ATMs. The user authenticates him or herself by using an ATM card or a mobile device. The CoinHub cryptocurrency account will show up on the screen as another option along with other bank accounts. "When we first showcased this solution to market the 50th anniversary of the ATM last year, the positive feedback form our leading financial institution customers in the UAE helped guide our decision to bring this to market," said Panicos Demetriades, vice president of professional services at NCR Financial Services, in a release.

Fintech alliance: Two financial technology groups in Indonesia and Australia have agreed to support talent and expertise exchanges to expedite and expand innovation in payments, financial services, trading and related fields. FinTech Australia and FinTech Indonesia have signed a memorandum of understanding that will commit the two sides to allowing experts in one country to work on innovation in the other; internships and work opportunities for Indonesian developers in Australia, knowledge sharing and use of machine learning for risk and data management, fintech hubs, and a director that makes it easier for companies to find collaborators in each country. The two countries are also developing financial inclusion projects to serve Indonesia, where there are 80 million people and 49 million businesses that are currently unbanked, according to FinTech Indonesia.

First Data's path to contactless in Asia: First Data's technology-drive diversification beyond payments processing also has a geographic component. First Data and JCB are collaborating on a contactless payment initiative in Hong Kong. First Data will support JCB J/Speedy, JCB's contactless payment product, starting in Hong Kong and followed by other markets in the Asia Pacific Region. JCB J/Speedy users make payments by tapping their card at readers, and the First Data partnership will add international restaurant chains and duty-free outlets. "Going cashless is a key objective of many countries in the Asia Pacific region. Enabling contactless payments is a step in the right direction, offering a quick, easy and secure way to pay," said Ivo Distelbrink, executive vice president and head of Asia Pacific for First Data, in a release.

From the Web

StanChart and China's Ant Financial sign 'Belt & Road' partnership
Reuters | Mon Dec 18, 2017 - London-based bank Standard Chartered and Ant Financial, the payment affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd have agreed to collaborate in countries along China’s ‘Belt & Road’ strategic initiative. StanChart said on Monday the two companies will work to increase access to financial services in countries along the route, without giving details on how the partnership will work. China’s Belt and Road initiative aims to recreate the old Silk Road with massive infrastructure projects to connect China to Europe and beyond.

The Market for Stolen Account Credentials
Krebs On Security | Mon Dec 18, 2017 - Past stories here have explored the myriad criminal uses of a hacked computer, the various ways that your inbox can be spliced and diced to help cybercrooks ply their trade, and the value of a hacked company. Today’s post looks at the price of stolen credentials for just about any e-commerce, bank site or popular online service, and provides a glimpse into the fortunes that an enterprising credential thief can earn selling these accounts on consignment.

Banks Are Looking For Opportunity In Real-Time Payments
Forbes | Mon Dec 18, 2017 - U.S. commercial banks see opportunity, and not just pointless expense, in moving to real-time payments (RTP). A new report by the financial analytics firm Ovum says that banks are treating real-time payments as a business opportunity, not simply a compliance issue. They are investing in area of concern to corporate treasurers, such as cash management. The move to real-time payments comes at the same time banks are investing in becoming more digital and, in a related area, opening their platforms to API initiatives which started with consumer applications but are expanding to commercial services as well.

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