Digital Asset Holdings CEO Blythe Masters Named Chairman of Santander Consumer USA

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Digital Asset Holdings CEO Blythe Masters Named Chairman of Santander Consumer USA
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Blythe Masters, the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, a blockchain company, succeeded Stephen Ferriss today as the non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc. Santander is a holding company that specializes in consumer finance, focused on vehicle finance and unsecured consumer-lending products.

“Blythe Masters’ deep understanding of the financial markets and emerging bank technologies, coupled with her regulatory expertise, make her the right choice to lead the SCUSA Board,” said Jason Kulas, CEO of SCUSA, in a prepared statement. “She has a long track record as an innovator, which fits SCUSA’s entrepreneurial culture and our focus on using data and scalable technology to originate and service attractive consumer assets.”

Santander has been one of the more vocal banks on the ability for banks to save considerable amounts of money utilizing the blockchain. In The Fintech 2.0 Paper: Rebooting financial services, the authors argued that distributed ledger technology could save banks $15 billion-$20 billion per year by 2022.

The other new directors on the board are Jose Garcia Cantera, Victor Hill, Monica Lopez-Monis Gallego, Javier Maldonado, Robert J. McCarthy and William Rainer.

Before Masters joined Digital Asset Holdings as its CEO, she was a senior executive at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. as the head of its global commodities business from 2007 to 2014. Before that, she was chief financial officer of J.P. Morgan’s investment bank from 2004 to 2007. She is one of the many executives who have left traditional Wall Street firms for young, blockchain companies.

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African Bitcoin Startup Wins Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant, Launches Blockchain Event Series in Nairobi
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Bitcoin startup Bitsoko announced that it soon will begin sponsoring a Blockchain Event Series in Nairobi, Kenya. The events, held monthly at the iHub innovation hub, will focus on Blockchain education and networking, and offer opportunities for local startups to pitch.

The Bitsoko team, which is spread across Africa with a presence in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Rwanda, uses Bitcoin to revolutionize money transfer and remittance services. The company offers digital currency services ranging from remittance and money transfer services to payment processing for merchants at a fraction of the current rates.

Last month Bitsoko won a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Daniel Bloch of Bitsoko in Kenya will develop their mobile money platform known as Bitsoko, which integrates Blockchain technology for low-cost transactions mediated by bitcoins,” states the Grand Challenges website. “They have built a mobile wallet and a point-of-sale service for merchants that allows money to be easily and securely transferred around the world using only a Bitsoko username, phone number or bitcoin wallet address. Bitsoko will also offer simplified options for paying household bills and payrolls. They will raise awareness of their platform to scale up the number of users and merchants, and continue to evaluate the security and capability of the platform.”

Titled “Enable Universal Acceptance of Mobile Money Payments,” the grant page notes that people living on under $2 per day need to transact with money just like everyone else, but most poor people, particularly those living in countries where poverty is widespread, have no access to formal financial products or services to help them manage these transactions and their money. That’s the reality that Bitsoko hopes to change.

The Impatient Optimist blog of the Gates Foundation states that the goal of this Grand Challenge is to increase the value of mobile for poor and low-income people by enabling universal acceptance of mobile money among small merchants and service providers.

“The modern financial system does not work for the poor,” notes the foundation. “But there is a different option – a digital financial ecosystem. Digital transactions are efficient and can be very low in cost, but we still have a long way to go until we see the wide-scale adoption of digital payments.”

As a winner, Bitsoko will receive $100,000 in funding, with an opportunity to receive an add-on grant of $1 million if the project is successful. Bitsoko will use the grant to expand its services to Ghana, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone, further enabling simple low-cost payments.

“The financial structure in Kenya and throughout Africa has changed rapidly since the birth of mobile money by MPesa,” said Bitsoko co-founder and lead developer Allan Juma. “We believe that this will only continue to grow, and tools such as Bitsoko that leverage Blockchain technology to lower transaction costs will be at the forefront of this boom. ”

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Italian Spyware Tracks Down Bitcoin Transactions and Private Keys
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Italian spyware vendor Hacking Team’s internal data was hacked and released this week, leaking research and information on how its bitcoin spyware called “Money Module,” which was used to spy on protesters and political dissidents works.

The Italian spyware vendor has been selling the software that surveils computers or smartphones to a range of clients, including international law enforcement agencies. The software was launched in January 2014, and has been used to track down transactions of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, litecoin, feathercoin and namecoin.

The software targets one key file in a bitcoin wallet called wallet.dat, which contains a set of private keys needed to settle a transaction on the blockchain. Once the software gets hold of the keys, it acquires the entire transaction history.

“It is straightforward to grab the wallet.dat and related files and for malcode to get the password for this file when the user accesses their bitcoins,” Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California, told ArsTechnica. “Similarly, one can also search for Bitcoin-related keywords in e-mail messages and other content on their computer. And once you have a copy of the wallet.dat file, you have the entire transaction history (as Ross Ulbricht can attest to).”

According to the email leaks on Wikileaks, the software is able to collect a wide range of information apart from bitcoin and cryptcurrencies.

“The module is able to collect various information: list of contacts and local accounts, wallet (i.e., the money) and the history of transactions,” reads an email dated January 12, 2014, published by Wikileaks. “Currently it is intended only for Desktops (Windows, OS X, Linux), while introduction in Mobiles is still under evaluation.”

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