In brief

  • Coronavirus has cost the global economy big, with trillions knocked off stock markets and assets like oil and gold.
  • An online coronavirus map has been secretly infecting computers and stealing crypto.
  • A marketplace for the buying and selling of information has emerged.

This week’s edition of This Week in Crypto comes directly from the underground bunker I’ve been hiding out in all along, known as “my mother’s basement” to my friends, and to the taxman as a “designated workspace.” The main news this week, both in crypto world and elsewhere, is that Coronavirus is officially a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. 

Bitcoin, supposed to be a safe haven, fell sharply alongside the global economy; a computer caught a coronavirus bug; and a crypto company launched a marketplace for information. 

Bitcoin bleeds

The stock market has had its worst week since before mullets were a thing, banks have cut interest rates, and companies are sending staff home. US President Donald Trump banned travel to the USA from Europe without telling anyone, and several high profile people have contracted the virus.

Bitcoin’s been hit hard, too. Bitcoin’s price fell to $5,300, as of March 13—a loss of over $4,300 since February 24, and its lowest price since last May. And the total market cap for all cryptocurrencies fell to around $150 billion—down from $224 billion on Wednesday. That’s a drop of around a third of crypto’s market cap in a few days. 

Of course, many within the industry think that the coronavirus is... a good thing for the market.

Mike Alfred, CEO and Co-Founder of Digital Assets Data, told Decrypt, “From the fundamental standpoint bitcoin is setting up for a very bullish 18-20 months, and I don't think coronavirus will have any long term impacts on it. Thus far, bitcoin has behaved well amidst coronavirus scares; some days it appears to be correlating with certain assets, but in the long run it is not correlated with anything,” he said. “Imagine a day banks are down 30% while bitcoin moves up 30%. That would be a spectacular day, and I think it is a sign of things to come, especially this halving year,” he added.

Matthew Dibb, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Singaporean investment manager Stack told Decrypt his company’s view is to be “cautious.” But he’s still very optimistic: “The coming weeks for longer-term investors will be a rare opportunity to consolidate holdings from other cryptocurrencies directly into Bitcoin, and take a dollar-cost averaging approach to their digital asset portfolio,” he said.

Meanwhile, Germany’s leader said that up to 70% of Germans could contract the virus, the New York Times led with a headline saying that the situation in Italy, which is currently under lockdown, is like “war,” and the US’s response seems, well—disastrous.  

Wash your hands; clean your computer

Here’s a fun story, ripe for puns and jokes and merry song: A downloadable coronavirus tracker that sources information from Johns Hopkins University is, in fact, a piece of malware that’ll infect your computer with viruses. That’s right, computers can get coronavirus, too! 

And even worse, this computer virus will also crash the hyperlocal crypto economy of your own wallet. It steals your crypto keys and sells your logins and passwords on the dark web. 

Specifically, the virus—according to an investigation from cybersecurity firm Reason Security—can extract information about credit card details and crypto-wallets. The malware, said Reason Security, searches for crypto wallets Electrum, Ethereum, and Exodus. Downloadable as “corona-virus.exe,” the malware is actually called AZORult, which first appeared in the wild in 2016.

Erasure Bay launches

Now for something completely different. Erasure Bay, a self-described marketplace for information, launched this week. On it, buyers and sellers can trade any piece of information they like. And there’s no middle-man to resolve disputes. Which is, uh, supposedly an advantage. 

Instead, sellers stake some of their own money when they’re selling information to show how confident they are in it. Buyers, if they don’t like the information they’ve bought, can destroy sellers’ stake, as long as they pay some money.

“In order to punish, the requester must burn a proportional amount of money according to the selected punishment ratio,” Natasha-Jade Chandler, vice president of communications at Numerai, the San Francisco-based company that built it, told Decrypt

The marketplace is built on Numerai’s Erasure protocol. Erasure’s mainnet went live on the Ethereum blockchain in August, 2019. 

So who’s gonna use it? Chandler, of whom I’m deeply afraid, wrote me a short story: 

“Imagine you’re a reporter. You’ve been tipped off about some bad actor behaviour but you don’t have evidence. Your tips inbox is flooded with spam, old news and memes. you have no opportunity for recourse against people wasting your time. You get a few good tip-offs, but you have no opportunity for recourse if someone sends you false information.

“You turn to Erasure Bay and request some specific information that requires a stake. You don’t have to trust the person who fulfills that request. You never have to meet them. they either send you what you want (you return their stake) or they don’t (you provably burn their stake).”

Only a handful of people are using it to date, according to a Twitter bot that spits out all the requests of the marketplace. 

And thus another week in crypto is complete. Stay safe out there.