Cryptocurrency wallet and investment app Abra now allows users to connect accounts from “thousands” of U.S. banks, the firm announced Thursday.
The expanded bank options come courtesy of an integration with Plaid, a fintech service that enables applications to connect with users’ bank accounts using APIs.
Until now, Abra users in the U.S. and EU have had the option to fund their wallets via a bank transfer. With the new feature, they will have banks connected in-app for funding their purchases.
Bill Barhydt, CEO of Abra, said:
“The addition of these new liquidity enhancements in our app gives users more ways to move between crypto and fiat.
“Consumers need to be able to invest their money wherever they choose, regardless of where they bank,” said Plaid’s head of sales, Paul Williamson. With the integration, Abra users who bank with smaller institutions will have more investment options, he said.
In the same announcement, Abra said it has expanded native withdrawal support to all 30 supported cryptocurrencies. Previously, it users could withdraw only bitcoin (BTC), bitcoin cash (BCH), litecoin (LTC) and ether (ETH).
With the extra withdrawal options, users will have more options for storing their holdings, including hardware wallets, the firm said.
Abra is also expecting to expand crypto deposit support “in the near future,” the firm’s VP of product, Willie Wang, said.
Notably, the firm will soon allow global users to buy fractions of traditional investment instruments.
Back in Februry, Abra said its app will utilize the bitcoin blockchain and smart contract technologies to support fractional investments in stocks and exchange-traded funds. The app currently offers investment in 50 fiat currencies and 30 cryptocurrencies.
Abra image via CoinDesk archives
Crypto asset markets have remained buoyant this week despite the news that Binance, the world’s largest exchange, suffered a US$40 million hack this week. In the past, major exchange breaches have caused markets to plummet, but this week Bitcoin and other major cryptocurrencies seemed to shrug off the bad news as markets reached a new 2019 capitalization high of almost $190 billion, and Bitcoin broke the psychological $6,000 barrier on Thursday, the same day as the Binance hack.
Binance boss Changpeng “CZ” Zhao announced that the firm would refund all the lost 7,000 Bitcoins out of a company fund set up to cover for such incidents. Binance also suggested a “rollback” of the Bitcoin blockchain to undo the fraudulent transaction, but this was soon shot down by most of the crypto community, who argue Bitcoin must be kept immutable.
Chinese social media platform WeChat has bowed to further pressure from Beijing by reportedly announcing that it will be banning all crypto related payments by the end of May. The payment service agreement was updated to prohibit all dealings or discussions on virtual currencies and tokens. The new rulings will result in the banning of merchant accounts if they service any crypto token project or fund. The Tencent-owned chat app blocked crypto and blockchain-related media outlets from its platform last August.
Still in China, widely read US-based markets blog Zerohedge has tied the recent surge in Bitcoin and crypto markets with a report that Chinese banks may be running out of dollars. It cites a SCMP report which claims that authorities in China have quietly begun “soft” capital controls on foreign currency withdrawals. As the trade war intensifies Chinese banks have started limiting USD withdrawals, which could be forcing people into other safe haven stores of wealth such as Bitcoin. Trading cryptos has been banned in China since late 2017, but investors can still get their Bitcoin fixes via over the counter (OTC) or peer to peer trading.
India also seems to be continuing with its crackdown on cryptos, which is seeing more exchanges seeking friendlier climes in which to operate. Zebpay was forced to close its doors to Indian customers last October, due to a national banking ban preventing crypto-related deposits and withdrawals. The exchange, now headquartered in Singapore, has now announced the launch of a crypto trading services in Australia. Zebpay has acquired a license from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the country’s finance regulator, and opened an office in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s central bank is pushing ahead with its cryptocurrency efforts with the launch of a prototype blockchain platform. Bank of Thailand’s tech partner Wipro announced that the solution will enable the BoT to use a cryptocurrency to settle interbank transactions between its eight commercial banking partners, which include Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai, Siam Commercial Bank, Standard Chartered Bank (Thailand) and HSBC. The project dubbed lnthanon will be based on the Corda platform developed by blockchain firm R3. The prototype has demonstrated that blockchain technology can significantly enhance payment and transfer speeds and efficiency between banks.
Three of South Korea’s largest crypto exchanges, Korbit, CPDAX and GOPAX, have partnered with CrossAngle to improve their token listing processes. The firm has developed a data disclosure platform called Xangle, which says it will aim to tackle the lack of credible and comprehensive data for crypto token projects. This will help exchanges make more informed decisions while also avoiding scams and pump and dump schemes. CrossAngle will provide due diligence reports and the exchanges can decide on whether to list the tokens for trade or not.
Facebook has made a U-turn on its crypto advertising ban by allowing crypto related ads back on its platform. The social media giant first censored crypto advertising in January 2018 during the ICO boom. According to a report by crypto advisory Statis Group, more than 80% of token sales were fraudulent and Facebook did not want to take the risk of allowing them to advertise. It did not make any real attempt to block spammers or scammers from using the platform from their own accounts, however.
Facebook will reportedly launch its own blockchain project, with a cryptocurrency based payment system later this year.
Binance has vowed to raise the quality of its security in the aftermath of a hack that saw thieves make off with over $40 million in Bitcoin from the exchange.
The company — which is widely believed to operate the world’s largest crypto exchange based on trading volumes — said today that it will “significantly revamp” its security measures, procedures and practices in response. In particular, CEO Changpeng Zhao wrote in a blog post that Binance will make “significant changes to the API, 2FA, and withdrawal validation areas, which was an area exploited by hackers during this incident.”
Speaking on a livestream following the disclosure of the hack earlier this week, Zhao said the hackers had been “very patient” and, in addition to targeting high-net-worth Binance users, he suggested that attack had used both internal and external vectors. That might well mean phishing, and that’s an area where Zhao has pledged to work on “more innovative ways” to combat threats, alongside improved KYC and better user and threat analysis.
“We are working with a dozen or so industry-leading security expert teams to help improve our security as well as track down the hackers,” Zhao wrote. He added that other exchanges are helping as best they can to track and freeze the stolen assets.
The real focus must be to look forward, and in that spirit, Binance said it will soon add support for hardware-based two-factor-authentication keys as a method to log in to its site.
That’s probably long overdue and, perhaps to make up for the delay, Zhao said the company plans to give away 1,000 YubiKeys when the feature goes live. That’s a worthy gesture but, unless Binance is giving out a discount code to redeem on the website directly, security purists would likely recommend users to buy their own key to ensure it has not been tampered with.
The final notable update is when Binance will resume withdrawals and deposits, which it froze in the wake of the attack. There’s no definitive word on that yet, with Zhao suggesting that the timeframe is “early next week.”
Oh, and on that proposed Bitcoin blockchain “reorg” — which attracted a mocking reaction from many in the blockchain space — Zhao, who is also known as CZ, said he is sorry.
“It is my strong view that our constant and transparent communication is what sets us apart from the “old way of doing things”, even and especially in tough times,” he wrote defiantly, adding that he doesn’t intend to reduce his activity on Twitter — where is approaching 350,000 followers.