Trying To Inspire Socially Responsible Trading, Bobby Bhatia, TrakInvest

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Bobby Bhatia has worked in finance his entire career, much of it based in Asia, working for some of the biggest names in banking and trading. In his sector, he observed the way the world was changing, in particular for millennials and their careers.  ‘The world went from too little data to too much data almost overnight,’ he says. ‘And there was little or no curation. Artificial Intelligence was added in and all of a sudden the challenges facing millennials in their careers were huge.’

‘I saw an opportunity to teach trading as a life skill, proving a primary or even a second income.’

‘In Institutional trading the odds are stacked against the little guy,’ he says. ‘I felt there had to be a way to close the gap and also to head towards a social responsible trading concept.’ Not normally terms associated with trading but Bhatia is on the money in terms of his timing.

He first set up TrakInvest in 2014. It was a free to use, gamified trading platform with phantom money. It was also a world first. Mirroring the top ten equity exchanges across the world, people could set up accounts and learn to trade in a risk free environment.  The ‘Trak’ in the name allows people to track successful traders and copy their trades if desired. In a short while the platform has grown in popularity to a community of more than 100,000 people, of which 35,000 are very active.

TrakInvest runs regular competitions to find the best traders and soon corporates began to take notice. As a result, TrakInvest became a talent identification platform for financial organisations.

‘Someone might be a straight A student but learning trading theory is very different from actually trading,’ says Bhatia.

‘The person’s record on the platform is very detailed. You can see the trades they made, and then ask them about each individual one. For a prospective financial employer this is very powerful.’

Such is the enthusiasm that TrakInvest set up a reality game on its YouTube channel. Over ten weeks the top six traders were featured on the video show, explaining how they made the decision to trade as they did. TrakInvest also brought in legends of the Capital Markets to mentor the contestants, Each week, people were eliminated if they fell down the rankings, creating a natural selection and new people each time. At the end of the series all top 100 traders were offered jobs or internships.

The success of the show – more than 600 minutes of original content and 10 million viewers – attracted the attention of the ET Now, India’s biggest business news TV channel, which is a group company of Times of India. As a result, the second series will be telecast on ET NOW this year to vast audience.

TrakInvest not only acts as a talent identifier and education platform, it also brings with it the holy grail of all trading engines – data. However, the data generated on TrakInvest differs from traditional trading data. Firstly, it is unstructured data collected from blogs, forums and chat rooms. Secondly, there is a vast amount of transactional data available based on the community of traders. Nowhere else has this depth and cross sector knowledge base.

This has expanded its reach into mainstream education. Across India and Thailand there are TrakInvest learning centres attached to 20 colleges, giving real experience to would-be traders without the associated risks.

So, now enter the blockchain, cryptocurrency and the ICO. This was an obvious step according to Bhatia. It is also another first to have a cryptocurrency virtual exchange.

‘We know how social media such as Facebook and Twitter hi-jacks our data,’ he says. ‘We are big on the ‘my data is my data’ philosophy. We were educating people on the risks of trading and also the rewards. We allowed members to track successful traders and so we began to think wouldn’t it be nice to reward them properly.’

On the blockchain, and using the key features of immutability, transparency and most importantly, smart contracts, TrakInvest will now monetize the good content generated. It operates three key features.

Certification: People can sign up for a course that lasts typically 3 months, or shorter if they are very capable. They must consume data but also achieve real time trading results too – hitting the top ten leaderboard. This is not easy but it is achievable. Once completed this will be stored on the blockchain for prospective employers to view.

Next up TrakInvest will monetise reputation. People can follow the more expert traders, crowdsourcing wisdom if you will, in exchange for tokens. ‘Before smart contracts this was not possible,’ says Bhatia.

Finally there is huge data collected on the site. This can be sold to external organisations and the fee split with the creator of the content. ‘This is a fair redistribution of wealth,’ says Bhatia.  ‘The creator and not the platform benefits the most with 70% of any fees donated to the creator.’

In some ways it might seem unusual to use trading a new form of income. Traditionally trading have all been staked with the big guys, the house always wins and there are some shocking accounts of brokers scamming off their clients. Then with the huge interest in cryptocurrency, it seems everyone wants to be a trader.

‘TrakInvest will help people wanting to earn an income but it can also help people just wanting to punt on cryptocurrency,’ says Bhatia. ‘We are talking to various exchanges about putting us up a front room. Let people practice, get used to the system, and learn how to navigate a cryptocurrency exchange, before they sign up to a real exchange  This will promote social responsible trading as well as helping the exchange cut down on support issues – they can choose to fast-accept people who have used the pilot first. Given the main issues for Binance at the moment, this would have to be a good thing.’

All up, TrakInvest aims to create 20,000 jobs in the next year. The pre ICO is live since December 16 and they hope to raise approximately $15 million now and then a further $15 million in the main ICO later on in the year. After that, it’s every millennial for themself!

 

Did You Realise Coinhive Has Been Using Your CPU Power For Altcoin Mining?

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Coinhive mining – a victimless crime?

Coinhive delivered a clever piece of software in September with very little fanfare. Website owners were asked to create an account with Coinhive and then run their application on their websites. The software was an in-browser java script app that allowed the host website use the visiting people’s CPU’power to mine for alt coin Monero.

Visitors were unaware of this CPU filtering, or stealing, and may only have spotted that their machine had slowed down or their fans suddenly revved up.

Typically the additional electrical costs per stolen CPU ran in the region of a few dollars per month, but it all adds up of course for the website miner if they can get multiple visitors ‘donating’ their CPU.

Sophos Senior Technologies Paul Ducklin is calling out the practice. ‘Here at Sophos we don’t agree with the subterfuge,’ he says. ‘We are calling it parasite-ware. The donating CPU may not be actually damaged and the energy costs next to minimal in most cases, but it is permission-less and therefore unacceptable.’

Ducklin compared it to an employee driving to a restaurant for lunch and the loaning the company car to a stranger to run around the corner to get groceries. ‘They might not use much petrol, there may be little or no wear on the actual car, but it’s not really on, is it?’

Ducklin has a point, especially as the software exploded over the internet in a number of ways. He did a trawl of URLs that installed the CoinHive and could find very little to connect or unify them. ‘None of the big brands did it of course, but there was a strange mixture of websites that did not exhibit any patterns I could detect.’

Of course, an auxiliary action happened when hackers took to the idea. The actual mining key for the destination money is anonymous and impossible to trace, so many websites were actually hacked, the software installed without the permission or even awareness of the owner and funds trafficked that way.

‘It could also be an employee of a company that decided that this was a cool way of earning some extra free money,’ said Ducklin. ‘There was a high profile case of in Australia where an employee decided the rendering macs used for cartoons for a broadcasting station were idle and could be used for this purpose. In this case the costs were high and discovered as a result.’

‘I’m not sure if he was fired or not,’ says Ducklin, ‘but it certainly shows up how the Coinhive app spread – a mixture of website owners feeling it was okay, employees thinking it was a good idea or hackers trawling through stickie sites looking for extra income.’

The popularity of the Coinhive app was driven by the rise in alt coins generally. Maybe the slow down in price might relax the speed of adoption. ‘We posted graphs on our blog which showed the rise in price of Monera and alt coins in general and the speed of adoption,’ says Ducklin. ‘It was fast and furious.’

Coinhive went public via Pirate Bay, a site offering fast download speeds. It decided that rather than pester its clientbase with advertising, it would simply borrow its extra CPU power. When it went public, all hell broke loose with many complaints.

‘Pirate Bay, like the name, has an irregular reputation. But it did two things. It alerted people to the Coinhive app and it also called out the position on whether it was victimless or not, and if switching unwanted advertising with possibly unwanted CPU approbation was okay,’ Ducklin says.

To actually make money mining Monero the minder would need multiple visitors all spending at least ten minutes on their sites. ‘But I guess if the miner was making small money from each visitor it would seem like harmless appropriation of their CPU,’ he says.

Coinhive suggested that miners tune down how much of the visiting CPU they were borrowing but in many cases this was not done resulting in very angry visitors watching their computer totally slow down or stop. For the most part the public feeling is that stealing even unused CPU is not on, at least not without permission.

‘On the plus side, this may be a wakeup call to the Advertising industry,’ suggests Ducklin. ‘No one wants click bait, auto play videos with sound and popups. This might make the clever folk that work in that industry come up with some other form of advertising.

‘In the interim, we here at Sophos are blocking it. If you want to give away your CPU to strangers then at least give permission,’ he says.

He is not alone with other antivirus companies such as Malwarebytes doing similar. In an article in TheRegister, Malwarebytes said Coinhive was the second-most-commonly blocked domain by its users, with 130 million users expressing their disdain for the technology.

The publication quoted Adam Kuiawa, director of Malwarebytes as saying: “We do not claim that Coin Hive is malicious, or even necessarily a bad idea. The concept of allowing folks to opt-in for an alternative to advertising, which has been plagued by everything from fake news to malvertising, is a noble one. The execution of it is another story.”

A case of visitor beware.

As Ducklin pointed out, some sites claimed the mining was a genuine alternative to advertising.  Ýet they still ran ads,’ he says. ’A question of having your cake and eating it.’

Since speaking with Sophos, Coinhive has responded to media interest and in a blog on their website confirmed they have released a new version of the software called AurthMine which insists on asking the client PC if they will allow the mining. This is good and bad in parts as the original, non-authorised version is still available allowing the host website to decide if they are going to be naughty or nice this Christmas. Given the projected income from the Coinhive craze to the owners of Coinhive is sizable it might be fair to assume those nice anonymous German programmers are playing both sides of the fence.

Cryptocurrencies Bring Greater Freedom To Individuals, David Drake, Global ICO Expert

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“The beauty of Cryptocurrencies is that they offer the same freedom to the individual as that traditionally enjoyed by large corporates”

It must be the Swedish nature of David Drake that lends him to want individuals to enjoy the same tax and privacy privileges of large corporations. ‘Isn’t that the beauty of owning Bitcoin,’ he says on the line from New York.  ‘Anyone can enjoy the lack of intrusion or censorship operated by countries – it’s all about freedom.’

Drake is the CEO and founder of LDJ Capital, a Multi-Family Office that looks after the wealth of UHNW (ultra high net worth) individuals and families. An independent financial institution, LDJ Capitals claims to offer its clients financial advice that is uncomplicated by franchises or connections. And recently Drake has been chatting about the benefits of cryptocurrencies on public platforms and in interviews. ‘Although I do not give trading advice,’ he emphasis, ‘I am not a trader.’

Having said that Drake scored highly on the ICObench people list – at a cool 51.6 – topping the poll of ICO bench people where he is also linked to more than 10 ICOs, both as investor and adviser – including Ambrosus (November 26) covered here a few weeks ago.

‘I like cryptocurrency and see value in buying them,’ says Drake. ‘I personally hold about 30 different coins and intend hanging on to then and watching them grow. But I find people can be nervous and they are not without reason.’

Drake reckons there are three main impediments to mainstream adoption.

The first is lack of knowledge. ‘What I don’t understand I don’t trust. If people don’t understand cryptocurrency they will prefer to ignore it rather than do anything about it. No one wants to look foolish or stupid,’ says Drake.

‘Secondly, there is no insurance on cryptocurrency,’ he says. ‘The industry is crying out for insurance and peace of mind. We need to know that an insurer has got your back. If someone will offer insurance then you can be sure people will be prepared to pay for it.’

Finally, Drake reckons for cryptocurrency adoption to go mainstream, there needs to be bankers to mediate it. He laughs at this point as he is now directly arguing against the disintermediary nature of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

‘I know,’ he says, almost ruefully, ‘but if you want mainstream adoption, then people need to understand how to invest in cryptocurrency. Most people who invest their money in the stock marker are not traders but people who place their money with traders. Same too with cryptocurrency.’

The idea of insurance leads us onto security against theft. I moot that it is scary to think that people have lost fortunes in bitcoin in forgotten laptops or devices. Or even that if you forget your password and device, the money is gone too. And what about robbery of exchanges and I mention the theft of $70 million from a cryptocurrency mining marketplace NiceHash on Wednesday.

However, Drake points out that people get robbed all the time – up and down the country – just not for such vast amounts. Being robbed of cash is very easy, however;  just leave some under your mattress and see what intruders can take. But no one speaks of the inherently untrustworthy nature of cash, so what makes alt coins different? Their novelty of course.

Drake has been involved with different crowdfunding projects for many years and stresses that theft here is also very low. ‘However, one big fraud and everyone might turn against crowdfunding. It is all in the perception.’

Drake set up early meetings four years ago with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) on the regulations surrounding crowdfunding. ‘We were mostly self-regulating but we knew we could not overstep the mark.’

He reckons that Bitcoin will go to $40,000 by the end of 2018 and he is personally holding onto his coins. ‘I predict that the next big influence on price will be the entrance of institutional funds into this space.’ He says.   ‘We are no longer talking about dollars but millions and millions of dollars investing and trading cryptocurrencies. Those big cheques will make a huge difference,’ he says.

So, while he is not giving financial advice, Drake reckons the price has a bit to climb he may well be right.

He is not alone in his predictions as John McAfee, antivirus founder, privacy campaigner and wanted man, claimed on Twitter in November if bitcoin doesn’t make $1 million by 2020 he will eat his d*ck on live television.