Nasdaq Holds Closed-Door Meeting with Crypto and Fiat Firms

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Despite their obvious growth in popularity and real-world applications, cryptocurrencies have been lingering in the regulatory grey zone mostly because international regulatory bodies hold mixed opinions on the development of the rapidly growing industry as well the asset class. It would seem that the reputation of the entire cryptocurrency industry has been hopelessly tainted by issues pertaining to fraud and shady transactions, but everything is about to change for the better.

With a number of emerging regulation and institutional solutions, Wall Street is beginning to slowly warm up to the idea of cryptocurrencies as a legitimate digital asset class. One of the organizations championing the legitimization of crypto is Nasdaq who on July 27, 2018, held a closed-door meeting in Chicago with the heads of various cryptocurrency-based companies and other financial institutions to discuss the future of the sector.

Bloomberg reports that the agenda of the meeting was the examination of ways of enhancing the overall outlook of the crypto-business and exhibiting its potential to the rest of the world. They also, reportedly, discussed some of the actions that crypto-based companies must do in order to improve the reputation of bitcoin and other digital currencies

Nasdaq Is Optimistic About a Digital Economy

Nasdaq has already adopted an industry-forward stance as far as crypto is concerned – its CEO, Adena Friedman is already at the helm of a number initiatives designed to help cryptocurrency exchanges advance their security systems. Security will naturally be a key determinant of whether crypto is finally ready to take the next step forward towards legitimization.

The company also partnered with Winklevoss twins-owned Gemini, a digital asset exchange to monitor Ether and bitcoin trading using Nasdaq’s SMARTS Market Surveillance systems. This was followed by an announcement that was made earlier this week disclosing that Nasdaq is going to be supplying five digital currency exchanges with market surveillance technologies.

Adena Friedman, who is at the helm of all these developments, has expressed a lot of optimism towards the development of a digital economy. In a May 7 CNN podcast, she noted that:

“How it evolves and which of the cryptocurrencies may or may not be the one that ultimately gets embraced, I think that really the jury is still out on that. But I do think the idea of a more globalized payment mechanism that is more efficient than what we have today allows for money to transfer across countries and certainly supports the Internet economy.”

She believes that cryptocurrencies are, without a doubt, the next logical step in the space of currency adding that the underlying blockchain technology will enable among other things more efficient value transfer. In addition to this, she has even said that Nasdaq would be willing to consider operating a cryptocurrency exchange once regulations settle and the crypto sector matures.

Bitcoin Crosses $8,000 Mark, Up 20 Percent in One Week

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Bitcoin’s price yesterday crossed the $8,000 mark for the very first time in over a month. This has already begun to spark speculations that this could be the return of the bull run that last year propelled bitcoin to its all-time high of almost $20,000. But, is it?

This recent rise in bitcoin’s price comes just after a week that saw it increase in value by about 20 percent following news that established financial institutions were eyeing the possibilities of venturing into bitcoin and cryptocurrency as a well as a ton of positive regulatory new from all around the world.

On the same note, bitcoins surge in value has been affecting many other aspects of the crypto industry including the so-called bitcoin dominance which rose to 47 percent this week, which is the highest it has ever been since December 2017 – bitcoin dominance is a measure of how much the total digital currency market is controlled by bitcoin.

What Is the Cause?

Many experts and crypto enthusiasts believe that bullishness around bitcoin can be attributed to the expected approval of a bitcoin exchange trade fund (ETF) that is currently being mulled over by the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). The ETF was filed by New York-based VanEck and a blockchain platform known as SolidX through the Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE).

If this bitcoin ETF is approved, people will be able to buy bitcoin without having to deal with existing clunky exchanges that usually struggle with cumbersome regulation and lack of trust from the public. According to a report filed but the ICO Journal a week ago, given the rise in bitcoin’s price, it appears that the bitcoin ETF is likely to get approved.

“I would call [the likelihood of approval] 90% at this point. The crypto markets have moderated and regulators have watched the lack of drama surrounding bitcoin futures across several global exchanges,” one of the ICO Journal’s unnamed sources reportedly commented. “The price moderation and adoption of a peer product is what the conversations have centered around. In January we were justifiably concerned about a bubble and the harm a quickly approved product could attract speculators and create losses that led to significant lawsuits. Now, those factors seem to be mitigated significantly.”

Global Regulatory Developments

Investors have also been quite keen on global regulatory news and this might also have something to do with the surge in bitcoin’s value. For instance, South Korea last week set up a government department that is tasked with creating policy initiatives around cryptocurrencies and financial technology.

“Regulation is moving in apace with positive murmurings from governments as they understand the opportunities and risks, and how to tailor their approaches — South Korea being the latest to give another tacit nod,” Charles Hayter, chief executive of digital coin comparison site CryptoCompare, said in an email on addressed to CNBC.

More Universities Providing Courses on Crypto

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It has been a little less than a year since crypto exploded into mainstream awareness but it is already becoming the focus of a growing number of university courses and educational programs. A few of these courses are based on the actual coding, computer science, and cryptography that lie behind cryptocurrencies. However, more and more courses are being tailored with the idea of providing a detailed introduction to crypto in mind – the intention is to allow the more business-focused audiences to have a basis for deciding whether or not to adopt crypto and to what extent they should do this.

While this may seem like a profit-oriented venture by universities that have found ways to capitalize on the cryptocurrency frenzy, the students themselves have reported considerable satisfaction with the teaching that they have received so. Even though the courses simply focus on teaching how to conceptualize blockchain instead of how the technology is coded and created, the knowledge that is imparted is still vital enough to be a major driving force for crypto if it is to be adopted on a global scale.

In the United States, crypto is mostly taught in the context of business-related programs, with very few universities offering specific degrees in crypto or blockchain technology. As it stands, a decent number of high – profile MBA programs in the country have already included or are including crypto-based courses that enable the students to have a grasp on crypto.

Russian Universities Join the Bandwagon

Just like the United States and a few other parts of the world, more academic institutions in Russia are beginning to offer educational courses as well as postgraduate programs focused on crypto and blockchain.

The most recent entrants are three Russian universities who have recently announced new courses and majors all related to cryptocurrencies and associated crypto technologies. These programs will be offered immediately the next academic year kicks off this fall and they will cover a wide array of subjects that include digital economy, cryptography, blockchain, distributed ledger technologies and alternative payment systems among others.

The Voronezh State University (VSU), one of the three universities, has already formulated a bachelor’s degree program that is all about studying digital economy and blockchain technology. Referred to as the “Models and methods for analyzing the digital economy”, the new major will be offered by the university’s Department of Information Technologies and Mathematical Methods in Economics.

The Don State Technical University (DTSU), on the other hand, will be offering two master’s programs in blockchain technologies – these will be “Intellectual systems based on blockchain technologies” and “Digital accounting and management.”

“We offer graduate students [the opportunity] to study in depth the distributed ledger technology. Blockchain is a promising technology that is rapidly introduced in many areas of life. Demand for specialists in this field is growing every day,” said DSTU’s Vice-Rector Alexey Belskopilniy.

Bitcoin to Replace Traditional Currencies Within a Decade

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Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have long been touted as the logical “next steps” for money as they grow closer to being adopted as mainstream forms of payment. According to a recent study by researchers from Imperial College London in conjunction with trading platform eToro that assessed the fundamental roles of traditional currencies, digital currencies have three criteria to fill if they are to go mainstream. Among these criteria is the ability to act as a store of value which most of the cryptocurrencies have already managed to successfully fulfill.

The remaining criteria to be fulfilled are the abilities to act as a medium of exchange and as units of account. To fulfill these two, cryptocurrencies will first have to deal with certain setbacks that include regulation and scalability.

Since it came to light in 2009, bitcoin has been the subject of heated debates regarding whether digital assets have what it takes to replace fiat. Bitcoin remains at the center of many of these discussions despite the fact that over 1,600 digital currencies have emerged within past decade – the Imperial College London believe that the attention that bitcoin is receiving is not in vain since it is well on its way towards mainstream adoption and use within the next decade.

“The world of cryptocurrency is evolving as rapidly as the considerable collection of confusing terminology that accompanies it. In this context, we wanted to get back to basics: clarifying the nature of cryptocurrencies as a new kind of asset class, contrasting them with traditional forms of wealth, and classifying the main challenges that need to be overcome in order to drive their success forward. There’s a lot of skepticism over cryptocurrencies and how they could ever become a day-to-day payment system used by the man on the street. In this research, we show that cryptocurrencies have already made significant headway towards fulfilling the criteria for becoming a widely accepted method of payment,” William Knottenbelt, a professor from the Imperial College said.

The research paper that is titled “Cryptocurrencies: Overcoming Barriers to Trust and Adoption” argues that the evolution of traditional money is what will pave the way for the mainstream adoptions of digital currencies. This sentiment is shared by the UK managing director of eToro, Iqbal Gandham, who said that:

“The history of money is a history of evolution, of new technology replacing old to improve the transfer of value from one person to another. Cryptocurrencies represent the next step on this journey.”

Case in point, there has been a significant increase in the distribution and use of contactless and mobile payments – this is, in essence, the backbone of the technology behind cryptocurrency.

“Given the speed of adoption, we believe that we could see Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on the high street within the decade,” Mr. Gandham added.

John McAfee Fires Shots at the RBI over Cryptocurrency Ban

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Renowned cybersecurity pioneer John McAfee has recently called for a boycott of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the financial institutions dealing with it over a recent decision by the central bank that forces banks to cease and desist from dealing with cryptocurrency traders.

The move by the RBI has created a lot of chaos and panic especially because of India’s technology ecosystem that has been riding the cryptocurrency wave for quite some time now. Most of the reactions have cited concerns pertaining to how the country’s rapid movement towards development will be hindered from here on out.

It is important to note that the ban is not an all-inclusive decree that Indian cryptocurrency investors will be in violation of the law for dealing in crypto. In fact, there are many other options that digital currency traders can users and they include crypto-to-crypto, peer-to-peer, offshore exchanges as well as international bank accounts. As such, while the decree that financial institutions should stop offering services to crypto investors is indeed a setback, it does not mean that it will be the end of all cryptocurrency trading in India.

The Indian media is culpable for the panic, fear, uncertainty, and doubt that is now rife in the country – as expected, they erroneously reported that the RBI had imposed a country-wide ban on cryptocurrency trading among investors.

McAfee Is Not Amused

On July 6, John McAfee posted an intriguing tweet that fired off at the Reserve Bank of India and urged all financial institutions to dissociate themselves with the central bank. He further warned that he would call for a boycott against the financial institutions that steal deal with the RBI.

“The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) initiated this atrocity out of fear and won through the existing centralized power structure. I’m calling for a boycott of any financial institution that does business with RBI. We must stand together and act,” read McAfee’s tweet.

In his tweet which comes in the wake of the recent verdict by the Indian Supreme Court to uphold the RBI crypto ban, McAfee spoke out against these developments. Knowing McAfee, he will remain at the forefront of these protests, at least until the ban is either lifted or a reasonable consensus is reached.

From the looks of things, there are many ways this could play out but it will all depend on how both sides of the divide will play their cards. Recent reports revealed that prior to the ban, the RBI did not carefully and explicitly review the pro and cons of cryptocurrencies in the country. Already, the central bank’s officials have begun reviewing a draft that focuses on cryptocurrencies and associated regulations that would be required to ensure its survival. The said draft was prepared by the Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs, Subhash Chandra Garg. Maybe there is still hope for crypto in India after all.

Indian Supreme Court Upholds RBI’s Cryptocurrency Ban

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On April 5, India’ central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular that was addressed to all regulated financial institutions including banks prohibiting them from offering their services to crypto-related business. The policy further mandated the financial institutions to stop allowing their own retail clients from purchasing cryptocurrencies through their banking accounts. A three-month deadline was set for the policy and therefore the ban should effectively take effect as from Thursday, July 5.

As expected, the move by the RBI to ban cryptocurrencies has caused quite a stir across India’s nascent but rapidly growing cryptocurrency community with a number of crypto exchanges opting to take up the issue through the courts. The Supreme Court just happens to be one of the many courts where petitions challenging the ban were filed – most of the petitions cited the RBI’s policies as being “arbitrary, unfair and unconstitutional.”

The move was led by the Internet and Mobile Association of India which counts cryptocurrency exchanges as its members. The organization fast-tracked the legal challenge against the RBI ban and they finally got to be heard on the morning of June 3.

Unfortunately, the Indian Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra chose to side with the arguments of the RBI and therefore the cryptocurrency ban is still in effect and so is the July 5 deadline.

“This a win for the RBI and a big blow to virtual currency exchanges and traders. In our earlier request to the RBI as well, we had asked it to extend the deadline by a month after the July 20 hearing. However, now that the ban will continue, the banking route for the exchanges and its users will be completely choked,” said Rashmi Deshpande, an associate from legal firm Khaitan & Co who are involved in the petition.

Is This the End for Crypto Exchanges in India?

If you have been following the crypto industry in India, you may have noticed that it is quite likely that this might truly be the end of cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. There is all talk of total control of crypto being eventually handed to the RBI, something that, if goes through, will lead to the digital currencies being declared as completely illegal assets.

Furthermore, some top government officials have hinted at a number of regulatory or legal developments that are currently in the works and have the potential of turning everything around.

“We have prepared a draft (on virtual currencies) that entails what parts of this businesses should be banned and what should be preserved. This should be discussed by the first week of July and we should wrap this up within in the first fortnight of July,” Subnash Chandra Garg, the Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs said.

While we cannot be certain about what the future truly holds for crypto, the Supreme Court’s decision is most certainly bad news for the Indian crypto market especially considering how deep-rooted blockchain technology is in India.

Facebook Reverses Ban on Crypto Ads for Approved Vendors

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Barely six months after a somewhat successful attempt at banning the proliferation of deceptive cryptocurrency advertising on the popular social media platform, Facebook has decided to lift some of these restrictions. The ban on cryptocurrency adverts by Facebook come officially on January 30 as part of a customer protection initiative that was meant specifically to keep naïve users of the platform from falling victim to crypto-related scams that have been rife in the online space.

 “We’ve created a new policy that prohibits ads that promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices, such as binary options, initial coin offerings, and cryptocurrency,” Facebook’s Product Management Director, Rob Leathern said at the time.

In the wake of Facebook’s crypto ad ban, other leading tech companies and advertisers such as Twitter, Google and Snapchat also joined in and implemented their own bans on cryptocurrency ads while citing the same reasons that Facebook did.

Did It Work?

Unfortunately, the ban did not turn out to be as effective as Facebook had hoped – crafty cryptocurrency advertisers were still able to sneak their promotions onto the social media platform by modifying or changing the spellings of common crypto-related keywords. However, it is worth mentioning that the ban did indeed see to a significant reduction in the number of crypto ads.

Unfortunately, again, while the ban helped in barring con artists from advertising, it also barred legitimate cryptocurrency business like Gemini and Coinbase from advertising their products. This is perhaps the main reason why Facebook has moved to loosen their restriction on cryptocurrency adverts albeit with a few conditions.

The Terms

In an official blog post on Tuesday, June 19, Facebook’s Rob Leather once again made the announcement that the social media platform has loosened the restriction they laid out earlier this year in January but they have also included measures to ensure the allowed ads are from legitimate crypto businesses.

“In the last few months, we’ve looked at the best way to refine this policy — to allow some ads while also working to ensure that they’re safe. So starting June 26, we’ll be updating our policy to allow ads that promote cryptocurrency and related content from pre-approved advertisers. But we’ll continue to prohibit ads that promote binary options and initial coin offerings,” the blog post reads.

Even though Facebook argues that it has loosened the ban to allow legitimate cryptocurrency business to keep advertising their services, there has been speculation stemming from rumors that the social media behemoth has been developing its own blockchain and could eventually launch its own digital currency.

In a way, this was confirmed by an announcement from Mark Zuckerberg which followed shortly after and stated that the company was looking into digital assets and the decentralized technologies behind them as a potential fix for some of Facebook’s problems.

Chinese Bitcoin Miner Manufacturer Seeking to Go Public

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Bitcoin recently slumped below $6,000 reaching its lowest value in a little over eight months. This has sparked a number of reactions as investors and other members of the digital coin’s community debate over allegations of price manipulation.

Bitcoin’s woes do not stop there though. The Chinese government also recently issued a blanket ban on cryptocurrency trading followed by a restriction on bitcoin miners. Is this enough to stop bitcoin’s rise?

Well, amid all the talk of bitcoin’s price drops, the blanket ban, and theories of its ultimate downfall, Ebang Communication, one of China’s largest bitcoin mining chip makers, has opted to ignore all the buzz as it seeks to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX). According to a Reuters report, EBang Communications filed an application for an initial public offering (IPO) with the HKEX on June 25. However, the application is still a draft and thus the valuation of the Zheijang-based company is still definitively clear.

Even so, the application itself confirms a May report that claimed the company was working with advisors on Hong Kong float and aimed at raising as much as $1 billion to fund its growth. The filing also includes a financial statement that state that Ebang Communications earned 925 million yuan ($45 million) in revenue last year – 2017 was indeed a great year for the company as the revenue was nearly eighteen times as much as what they got in 2016.

In addition to the revenue statistics, the filing further suggested that the proportion of the bitcoin miner manufacturer’s revenue was generated solely from the sale of the bitcoin miners has also gone up significantly year-on-year. To put this into perspective, the revenue generated from the sale of bitcoin miners rose from 31 percent in 2015 to 42 percent in 2016 and then to a staggering 94.6 percent in 2017.

Founded in 2010, Ebang Communications kicked off its operations as a manufacturer of hardware products for the telecommunication industry. The company opted to enter the cryptocurrency mining in 2016 when they launched the Ebit miners, a product that was intended to compete directly with two other Chinese bitcoin mining market leaders, Cannan Creative and Bitmain.

The company’s IPO application also came with some exciting news for bitcoin miners. As it turns out, Ebang is on the verge of releasing its next generation of bitcoin miners that will be equipped with the latest 7nm semiconductor chips. These next-generation 7nm chip have been in development since 2017 and were just recently launched by GMO, a Japanese tech conglomerate.

Reserve Bank of India Reveals Its Crypto-Ban Was Uninformed

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The Reserve Banks of India (RBI), India’s central bank, has been warning the citizens of India against the dangers of investing in crypto since 2013. The central bank followed through with two more major warnings in 2017 before it finally came down hard on the cryptocurrency industry earlier this year.

An April 5 this year, the RBI issued a somewhat controversial decree that required all regulated financial institutions to quit providing services to business dealing in cryptocurrencies – this was accompanied by a three-month compliance deadline. According to the bank, the move was primarily motivated by the need to protect consumers and prevent money laundering. At the same time, the RBI also announced that it would be forming a workgroup that would be tasked with the study of the feasibility of issuing a state-backed cryptocurrency.

As expected, not everyone agreed with the RBI and its decision especially because of the concern that the bank did not conduct proper research prior to issuing the decree. This concern was confirmed this week when the RBI revealed that had made no serious efforts to effectively and explicitly study and understand various aspects of cryptocurrencies before issuing the ban. Furthermore, the bank did not form an internal committee to investigate the purported risks that it associated with cryptocurrencies.

“The RBI specifically mentions that it conducted no research or consultation before the implementation of restriction in April. The RBI also responded that no committee was ever formed for analyzing the concept of blockchain before the decision,” said Sethi, a lawyer and founder of blockchainlawyer.in.

The most affected parties, in this case, were the Indian cryptocurrency exchanges and individual traders, most of whom believe that even though they are opposed to it, they actually did expect something like that to come up. It is becoming more common for governments to make spontaneous decisions on crypto without studying it first. For instance, Japan and Russia have tried to ban crypto but have been forced to soften their stances on the issue owing to the backlash, and India is certainly headed in the same direction.

What Next?

Multiple lawsuits were filed against the RBI and some of them are already taking root into how the future of crypto in the country will play out.

“This RBI response has cemented our case ahead of the hearing in SC. The grounds on which our writ petition has been filed is that the RBI has not done enough research to ban a business completely,” Rashmi Deshpande, one of the lawyers fighting out the case in India’s Supreme Court told local news outlet.

According to June 13 report by the Economic Times, the RBI has already softened its position and therefore going to lift sanctions and the ban on crypto thus allowing trading once again. Some other reports have conflicting information but one thing that is clear is that there is a lot of effort being made toward making sure the decision is reversed.

“The foremost reason we are fighting is because we know that banning is next to impossible and it will make things worse for everyone – for the Reserve Bank, for the government, for the tax department, and for the user. In addition, it will push India back in reference to blockchain adoption across the world. We always have an option to relocate to other countries to carry our business, but that’s not the solution. If we cannot convince our own government, we cannot expect other governments to support us,” says Kunal Barchha, one of the founders of Coinrecoil.

Scotland Hospital Opens Rehab Center for ‘Crypto Addicts’

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We have all witnessed, or at least heard of, cases of various forms of addiction right from the infamous drug addiction to alcohol addiction and even problem gambling. In essence, one can get addicted to almost anything, and perhaps we have always overlooked the fact that even crypto falls into the broad spectrum of these addiction hazards.

While the rest of the world – most of it, that is – has been indulging the blissful pursuit of a crypto future, a hospital in Scotland has decided that it is about time that the issue of ‘cryptocurrency addiction’ (yes, it is a thing) is taken seriously. Castle Craig Hospital, the largest addiction treatment facility in Scotland, has recently established a residential treatment course to help ‘crypto addicts’ recover from obsessive cryptocurrency trading and get back to normal life.

The launch of the crypto rehab center was mostly influenced by requests by people asking the hospital to treat problems related to cryptocurrency. Clearly, this is starting to get out of hand and thus it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.

Are You a Cryptocurrency Addict?

Are you among those people who have their eyes fixed on Coinmarketcap all day long waiting for the right moment to buy or sell cryptocurrencies? Do you have trading accounts on a bizarrely large number of crypto exchanges? Are you spending large amounts of money crypto? Do you keep trading even after losing money hoping to gain it back?  Do you scoff at people who do not know what HODL, bull, bear, whale, ATH, FUD, and FOMO mean?

If your answer to most of these questions is yes then I am sorry to tell you that you definitely have a problem, at least according to behavioral scientists. There is currently no mention of cryptocurrency addiction on scientific literature but the experts have noted that the trading in crypto can become a behavioral addiction just like problem gambling.

“The high risk, fluctuating cryptocurrency market appeals to the problem gambler,” says Chris Burn, a gambling therapist at Castle Craig Hospital. “It provides excitement and an escape from reality. Bitcoin, for example, has been heavily traded and huge gains and losses were made. It’s a classic bubble situation.”

Some Agree, Some Do Not

Since there was no literature to study, the only source of information was the cryptocurrency trading community itself. Niko da Costa Gomez, a frequent crypto trader who has been making more profits than losses in his crypto investments, says that the idea of cryptocurrency addiction is not one that he would subscribe to. He does not “think anyone is really addicted to trading cryptocurrency unless they are very rich.”

Manav Singhal, the chief executive of Velix.ID, a blockchain startup, is also unconvinced that cryptocurrency is a valid issue. In fact, the CEO is one of those traders who keep trading even though he has been making continuous losses.

“I think profits and losses are just a part of the trading, and it is no different than trading any other kinds of securities,” goes his rather philosophical answer. “Gambling addicts are just that — gambling addicts. They can choose any addiction they want, and it can be cryptocurrencies, but that doesn’t mean that a majority of cryptocurrency traders are addicts. There’re many reasons that make you trade cryptocurrencies frequently, given how fast things are changing in the industry. I am not signing up for any rehabilitation any time soon.”

These sentiments are shared by most, if not all, cryptocurrency traders and this points to one very prominent issue in any addiction – no one admits the problem in the first place.