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Inside the Hidden World of Egyptian Bitcoin Miners

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Egyptian Bitcoin Miners

Egypt’s unfavourable regulatory environment has made bitcoin adoption more difficult in the North African country. Nonetheless, Egyptians are secretly buying and selling the digital currency on peer-to-peer exchanges while a hidden network of cryptocurrency miners has emerged to take advantage of cheap energy to stealthily mine bitcoins.

Egypt’s Underground Bitcoin Mining Scene

Globally, people are using their computers to mine bitcoin. However, in Egypt bitcoin miners operate under a veil of secrecy. Bitcoin miners have established an underground network away from the public eye, with only a few even willing to speak to the media.

The bitcoin underground is fuelled by market regulators whose negative stance towards cryptocurrencies has made it difficult for bitcoin traders and miners to go about their activities. The Central Bank of Egypt refuses to accept digital currencies and recognizes only the Egyptian pound as legal tender. While transacting in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin is not illegal, the authorities are seemingly willing to take action against any bitcoin-related activities within its jurisdictions.

Speaking to Cairo Scene under a pseudonym, Hussein, a bitcoin miner, argues the law is rather ambiguous when it comes to bitcoin and thus most people are concerned about being discovered.

“I believe what I’m doing is legal. When people get arrested for mining it’s usually because they’re caught with black market foreign currency exchange, or they’re forging money and they just happen to have mining rigs or bitcoin on them. The authorities see this and therefore associate cryptocurrency with illegal activity,” he stated.

Therefore, it makes sense that the mining community would adopt a defensive attitude. What is puzzling is bitcoin is not technically off-limits so why go to such great lengths to remain concealed? Hussein explains,

“The recent statements they’ve given say mining is not illegal, but it can get you into trouble for sure. I think the administration is trying to understand cryptocurrency, but they’re still in the process of learning more. I’m 99 percent sure that if they knew more about it, it’d be fully legalized in Egypt…. Legal like in Japan, the US, England, Europe, legal like in most countries.”

How is Bitcoin Mined in Egypt?

Bitcoin mining is the process where miners contribute their computing power to solve complex algorithms to confirm and process transactions on the bitcoin blockchain. For that, they are rewarded with fresh bitcoins. The higher the computing power the larger the reward. This is why mining farms have been created, hosting scores of computers with extra processing power to earn more bitcoins.

Currently, Ethereum is the most frequently mined cryptocurrency in Egypt on account of it being the most profitable mining option and its mining hardware being easily accessible locally. Bitcoin is usually mined through special hardware called ASICs whereas Ethereum is mined through graphics cards (GPUs), which is a standard for gamers and video editors who require heavy processing capabilities.

However, the reality of mining in Egypt is quite different from the usual set up found in other countries. Spread across the busy metropolis of Cairo are multitudes of hidden farms where digital currencies are mined every day. You will discover the people who participate in the mining are not your typical hackers or tech aficionados typing away late into the night.

A perfect example would be Hussein, who is a  former economics student, but decided to try his luck in the male-dominated bitcoin mining scene. A spot check across Egyptian digital currency interest groups on Facebook and Whatsapp also reveal very few women in the bitcoin space.

Having said that, despite the community being composed of different professions such as economists, doctors, entrepreneurs, and coders, they are united by the prospect of cashing in on bitcoin’s volatility, and the process of earning the worlds most valuable cryptocurrency through mining. The question then arises, why Egypt of all places?

Lower Mining costs in the Form of Cheap Electricity

The typical mining setup includes a PC working at all hours converting maths into money. The process requires a lot of energy in order to prevent the hardware from overheating and getting damaged; since the inbuilt PC fans are not enough to handle the heat produced by the constant heavy workload. Therefore, external fans and air conditioning are required to lower the temperatures in mining farms.

Surprisingly, as demanding as it can be to keep things cool in Egypt’s arid environment, the cost of electricity is cheaper compared to other developing economies. This has encouraged the local cryptocurrency mining boom due to the low overheads involved. Hussein points out,

“Until recently, energy was subsidized, and a lot of people don’t even pay for electricity, which is sad. But that’s part of why it’s more profitable to mine in Egypt… Yes, of course, I pay my electricity bill.”

For Mohammed, a Cairo-based Ethereum miner, the mining craze is fueled by more than just cheap electricity. He believes how you pay for the energy plays a significant role in making the endeavour more lucrative. “I think it’s better to mine in Egypt because you pay your energy bills in local currency, but you get your investment back in cryptocurrency.”

He explains that bitcoin, which acts as a digital asset, has retained value more reliably than the inflation-prone Egyptian pound. That combined with the cheap energy has led to some expats to consider moving back to Egypt.

Bassem is an Egyptian who presently resides in Qatar and runs a bitcoin mining farm. He owns a fleet of ASIC machines that are optimised to mine non-stop and churn out bitcoins. He started mining in Doha on account of the free electricity being provided but has now set his sights on returning to Egypt this year. He is not that worried about leaving behind the free energy as he calculates his farm will still make a good profit once he deducts electricity costs.

What are the Benefits of Cryptocurrency Mining in Egypt

For Egyptians, cryptocurrency mining has changed their financial fortunes. A case in point would be Hussein who developed an interest in digital currencies due to his economics background. He learnt about bitcoin through YouTube videos and started mining in 2012. He then quit his job and moved back to Egypt, something that would not have been possible without the income he receives from mining digital currencies.

“[Cryptocurrency mining] has enabled me to take the time to think about my future plans, rather than worry about monthly expenses. Especially in Egypt, by mining, you can make enough money to just live. Depending on market fluctuation, a one-time 50,000 LE investment in equipment can earn the equivalent of about $400 a month.”

Hussein who is also a cryptocurrency trader insists he has made more money on cryptocurrency than investing in real estate. The new coins he earns are converted to fiat currencies by trading them at the exchanges for a profit. But not only are individuals making money out of crypto mining, local hardware dealers are cashing in on the demand for mining hardware. According to Mohammed, hardware importers are not only making good money but a number of them have joined the bandwagon and taken up mining themselves. Hussein had this to add,

“Mining in Egypt is booming, but one issue is the equipment; when the price of Ethereum spiked, demand for GPUs was high and stores couldn’t stock enough of them… Getting GPUs in Egypt is kind of like getting drugs. It’s actually easier to get drugs than to get GPUs sometimes.”

On the debate by some critics from some Muslim countries who claim that cryptocurrencies might be haram if it is viewed as making money out of nothing, Hussein had this to say, “If the monetary system is haram, then sure, bitcoin is haram,” he began. “But in my opinion, it’s not. The trading aspect is definitely not; it’s a mutual agreement, and bitcoin is equal to money, which we already use. And you can actually see a lot of religious people mining bitcoin.”

While bitcoin mining may be unappealing for most due to the high energy requirements and the technological complexity, for Egyptian cryptocurrency miners the process is quite very rewarding.

Mohammed states,

“I believe in the future of cryptocurrency – nobody can refute it. It’s already happening now, some countries are already making bitcoin official. I hope that Egypt uses it eventually. They have to know that people here are using it now, that people believe in it and put their trust in it.”

Source: CairoScene.com

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3 Reasons to Use a Bitcoin Mixer in 2020

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Bitcoin Mixer

Bitcoin is not as anonymous as people think. Bitcoin transactions are viewable on the network’s public blockchain, which also means that transactions can be linked to real-world identities. As a result, bitcoin is not (yet) fungible and does not protect individuals’ financial sovereignty as much as it should. Fortunately, there is something called a bitcoin mixer that enables bitcoin users to increase their financial privacy.

In this guide, you will learn what bitcoin mixers are and why you should consider using them.

How Anonymous Are Regular Bitcoin Transactions?

Regular bitcoin transactions are not anonymous. Bitcoin addresses are pseudonymous. They do not reveal your identity as a user but can be linked to your identity.

For instance, most exchanges require you to verify your identity with legal identification (ID) documents. In a situation where you withdraw funds from an exchange into your wallet, your identity can be linked to that wallet, and all your linked transactions could be tracked.

Blockchain analysis companies can use information from your linkable transactions to track how many bitcoins you own, what you spend your coins on, and who you transact with. If you are conscious about your privacy, you might need a bitcoin mixer.

What is a Bitcoin Mixer?

Bitcoin mixing service

A bitcoin mixer allows you to mix your coins with other users. This obscures the ties between your personal identity and bitcoin transactions.

The end goal of a bitcoin mixing service is to create a misleading trail of transactions that makes it difficult to track your transactions. This is achieved by breaking down your bitcoin into smaller parts and then mixing them with coins from other transactions.

Most bitcoin mixers are non-custodial, run on the Tor network, and do not keep records of users after a couple of hours.

Why Do People Use Bitcoin Mixers?

The primary reason for using a bitcoin mixer is to increase transactional privacy. You may not want “the whole world” to be able to see what you are doing with your bitcoin. Through the use of a mixing service, you can achieve that despite Bitcoin’s public blockchain.

Moreover, there are a number of other reasons why you should consider using a bitcoin mixer. They include:

Your Transactions Reveal Personal Finance Information

Every time you send bitcoin to or receive bitcoin from an individual, the other party gains some information about your bitcoin holdings.

For example, if you have ten bitcoin in your wallet and you send two to another person. The individual who received the bitcoin now has access to your bitcoin address, which allows them to check your balance on the blockchain.

In some cases, by analyzing your inputs and outputs, they can predict other addresses you own, giving them more information about your finances and transactions you have done in the past. Mixers can prevent this. The mixer breaks the connection between addresses in your wallet by creating transactions that make it difficult for blockchain analysts to track.

Based on the example above, if you use a coin mixing service to send out the coins, the receiver can still check the blockchain to verify the transaction but will be unable to track your old transactions and find your bitcoin address.

Blockchain Analysis Companies Are Watching

Over the years, blockchain analysis companies have been established to track transactions and monitor the Bitcoin blockchain. These groups have resources to probe deeper into transactions, with some going as far as connecting IP addresses to bitcoin transactions.

Further, cryptocurrency exchange verification is required by regulators to keep an eye on how individuals use their bitcoin. This means that exchanges can still trace your transactions after you have purchased bitcoin.

Bitcoin mixers allow you to detach connections between your initial receiving address and other transactions you make. This can prevent companies from gathering data about you, which it would otherwise share with (or sell to) third parties.

To Prevent Censorship

Money has become a tool used to fund political groups and operations. In authoritarian regimes, where the financial system is highly monitored by the ruling government, critics or opposition groups may opt for bitcoin.

To ensure complete privacy while using bitcoin, such groups will require bitcoin mixing platforms. Without increased transaction privacy, these groups risk losing support in situations where the state begins to target individuals funding them by tracking their transactions on the blockchain.

This allows bitcoin to be used as a tool for freedom of speech and expression.

If you want to mix your coins to protect your financial sovereignty as a bitcoin user, check out Bitcoin Mixer.

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Bitcoin in Africa: Making A Big Difference For A Big Continent

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Big Continent

There is no doubt that bitcoin, and cryptocurrency as a whole, can have a huge impact on the world economy. Also, Africa could benefit from it more than any other region.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, recognised this fact and recently claimed that Africa will define the future of bitcoin. He might be right as Africa is predicted to have some of the most populous metropolises by 2100 and the banking situation here is abysmal.

As it stands, bitcoin literally has the power to boost the economy of the entire continent of Africa. The question is whether it will happen as regulation by local authorities plays a key part in the adoption of cryptocurrency.

Why Africa Is the Best Place for Bitcoin to Shine?

Jack Dorsey is a well-known advocate of Bitcoin, which means he understands its potential better than most. And he is right to note that Africa is an exceptionally fertile ground for cryptocurrency. The entire continent is struggling because banking services are outright unavailable to many.

Remote is the best way to decide the vast majority of towns and other settlements in Africa. Many of them are days away from any urban areas, let alone places urbanised enough to actually have banks, Yet millions of people in these remote places rely on remittances from their migrant-worker relatives to survive. With a great number of these people being unbanked getting that money to them is a huge problem. A problem that literally costs lives.

Wherever banking is available, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Many governments in Africa are not trustworthy and hardly seem to work for the people’s best interests. As all banking services are regulated at the state level, people distrust them the same way they do the governments.

The fact that the number of banks is limited doesn’t help. With very little competition they set outrageous terms, especially for those poor families relying on remittances.

The situation is changing a little with the help of online money transfer companies. A transfer from UK to South Africa now costs a MINIMUM of 0.5% in fees. This is a great improvement, but it doesn’t change the fact that such transfers still cost 7% to 10% for the majority of Africa.

In such conditions, easy and virtually free bitcoin transfers can make a huge difference in the quality of life. And people need this kind of service desperately. Therefore, it’s no surprise that if bitcoin is allowed full freedom as an accepted universal currency, Africa will adopt it wholesale.

How is Bitcoin Doing in Africa Today?

bitcoin adoption

For all its potential, bitcoin is not a big thing in Africa today. Admittedly, cryptocurrency as a whole is not yet a big enough power to be a major factor in the global economy. It has the potential but it has not yet been realised.

Bitcoin is legal in most African countries, but this hardly matters because this only means that it’s not illegal to buy and trade it. You cannot actually use this cryptocurrency to make any payments, like pay utilities or your grocery bill. The best you can hope for is to pay at some international online shopping platforms that accept bitcoin.

In the states where using bitcoin isn’t banned, the government’s stance on it is very similar. Local finance authorities are investigating the potential impact of cryptocurrency. However, no state as of yet has reached a point where it decided to actually give it a legitimate status. Therefore, cryptocurrencies remain largely unregulated.

Being unregulated is one of the main benefits of cryptocurrency in the eyes of users. It’s an even more attractive advantage for countries where the level of trust in the government isn’t high. In fact, in many developing countries with unstable political and economic environments, residents now see crypto as an effective hedge that can protect their assets in times of turmoil. But truly benefitting from crypto is still hard due to its lack of legal status as a recognised currency.

The Wealth Lost in African Remittances Every Year

To understand how much of a difference adopting bitcoin can make for Africa one should consider some simple numbers. According to the World Bank, global remittances have already exceeded $530 billion annually. And this number keeps growing fast. About $40 billion of that money is sent by immigrant workers to Africa, over half of that money coming to Nigeria, where remittances are one of the main contributors to the GDP.

However, Nigeria is among the parts of Africa where the banking situation isn’t good at all. Therefore, remittances here cost about 10% of the transaction amount. With the overall amount of transactions about $29 billion, nearly $3 billion is lost in fees. Those are $3 billion that could go to the families and be invested in the country’s economy.

To understand how much of a difference that amount would make for regular people you should remember that GDP per capita in Nigeria is a little over $2,000 a year. Compare this to the US, where GDP per capita is over $60,000. Every cent counts for the families of migrant workers, especially when you consider that the size of an average remittance is under $500.

Bitcoin in Africa: Hopes for the Future of the Big Continent

The situation with banking and remittances to Africa is rather grim. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Bitcoin offers an opportunity to change this. The question is whether local governments will accept this and take the risk of adopting a decentralised cryptocurrency. So far, there have been no official announcements from that direction.

If this does happen, the economy of the entire continent could receive a boost. And the best thing is that this would be an immediate boost because that money already belongs to Africa, it’s just lost on the way there.

Bitcoin will make a difference. Jack Dorsey is absolutely right about that. Should this change happen, the difference for bitcoin itself, and cryptocurrencies in general, will also be huge. Recognition in Africa could tip the rest of the world in favor of crypto.

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BitClub Network: The Rise And Fall of A Bitcoin Mining Scam

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Bitclub Network

Operators of the prominent bitcoin mining company, Bitclub Network, have been arrested and charged with fraud by the US Department of Justice in December 2019.

In this article, you will learn about the rise and fall of the BitClub Network scam, which has defrauded thousands of bitcoin investors.

What is BitClub?

The BitClub Network is a company that claims to enable individuals to make money through bitcoin cloud mining. Since BitClub was established in 2014, it has been in the spotlight for supposedly using MLM strategies to defraud investors.

BCN claimed on its website (before it was taken down) that it is a “team of experts, entrepreneurs, professionals, network marketers, and programming geeks who have all come together to launch a very simple business around a very complex industry.” These unspecific details about the people behind the company should have been the first warning sign.

The founders of BitClub Network have been anonymous for a long time. Only convicted sex offender, Russ Medlin, was associated with the bitcoin mining scam. However, recent arrests have brought to light other people that could be architects of the investment scheme.

Plenty of Red Flags

In addition to the acute lack of information about the company and its operators, the list of red flags was long.

  • Investors have to pay $100 to join BCN. They then choose from three packages of $500, $1,000, and $2,000. Considering that you can join other mining pools for free, BCN does not look attractive at all.
  • Generally, earning profits through bitcoin mining is difficult but on BCN, this is almost impossible. For example, an investor wrote on Steemit that he was earning $0.34 daily in 2017 with BCN’s $500 package. It would have taken nine years or more for him to get a return on his investment. But since the contract was only running for 600 days, he was never going to make any profits.
  • You can only sign up for an account on BitClub if you have a sponsor. This is characteristic of MLM schemes that thrive on referrals.
  • Russ Medlin is a convicted sex offender from the US associated with various BitClub Network YouTube videos and blog posts. He is considered the “Master Distributor” and unofficial “Owner” of the scheme.
  • Ofir Beigel, the founder of 99Bitcoins, states that the company used a criminal’s picture under a different name to display a customer testimonial. The photos were later taken down after the misrepresentation was discovered.
  • Investors are encouraged to reinvest their cloud mining earnings, which is a tactic MLM companies use to stay alive.
  • Many BitClub YouTube videos that were suspicious were deleted after catching attention from reviewers.
  • BitClub launched a “digital currency” that had no value outside its platform.

The Rise

Bitclub Scam

There is no doubt that the BitClub Network has been aggressively marketed. From Facebook and Telegram groups to Reddit, BitClub promotions have been all over social media. This attributed to its steep growth.

Although the hype surrounding making money with bitcoin is not what it once was, BCN has convinced a lot of people that they could get rich through bitcoin mining. After five years, some investors, if not all, are reportedly regretting their decisions after losing thousands of dollars to BitClub.

In Africa, BCN was just as popular as anywhere else in the world and social media was a key recruitment tool. An example is the Facebook page, BitClub Network South Africa, which is asking people to join.

Using the “fake it till you make it” approach, the leaders of the scheme defrauded investors $722 million even though earlier reports showed that the Network was contributing to bitcoin’s mining activity. However, the information from the recent arrests reveals that the BCN operators were displaying fake mining numbers to investors.

The Fall

Bitclub Network Scam

As with any Ponzi scheme operators, the law is bound to catch up with them. This is what happened to Matthew Goettsche, Joseph Abel, Silviu Balaci, and Jobadiah Weeks, the alleged operators of BCN.

The US District Court prosecutors charged the four with fraud in December 2019 with regards to the BitClub Network Ponzi scheme.

While these arrests could have brought the company to its knees, Russ Medlin, a well-known name in the BitClub Network scam, has not yet been charged.

The arrests revealed that the operators were making millions of dollars while using a small fraction of the money they received from new investors to pay the old investors. Interestingly, the leaders of BCN were not shy to state in their correspondence that they were out to profit from “the typical dumb MLM investor.” In January 2015, Goettsche told Balaci:

“We are building this model on the backs of idiots.”

Lessons Learned

The story of Bitclub is a great lesson for new and future crypto investors. There is a lot we can learn from a bitcoin scam that has been able to operate for so long.

The key points are:

  • Always do your research before investing in any opportunity
  • If you cannot find clear details about the founders of an investment company, do not invest
  • Always regard with suspicion any investment opportunity that asks for registration fees
  • Anyone who promises returns is most likely lying
  • Bitcoin mining is making people money but not as fast as you think
  • Never invest in something you do not understand

The ugly side of crypto is real. There are people intentionally starting crypto scams to make money from unsuspecting investors. Therefore, it is important to stay vigilant and to research the companies you plan on doing business with.

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