Senior Bank of England Official ‘Not So Worried’ About Crypto ‘Threat’

Colin Muller

The snowy surroundings of the annual World Economic Forum Davos conference (known simply as “Davos”) are still not immune to talk about cryptocurrencies it seems, even after a yearlong implosion of market prices that has taken blockchain largely out of the public eye relative to one year ago.

Senior Adviser to the Governor at the Bank of England (BoW) Huw van Steenis was apparently “not so worried about cryptocurrencies,” after being asked during an interview if digital assets could “become a serious threat to the stability of the [UK’s, presumably] economy.”

Delivering an often repeated institutional argument, van Steenis pointed on that - in his view - cryptocurrencies “fail the basic tests of financial services: They’re not a great unit of exchange, they don’t hold value, and they’re slower.” He did however concede that “that’s at the moment, but they’re a threat.”

Van Steenis, who heads the BoW’s Future of Finance research report, went on to illustrate what he sees as a more pressing issue within “fintech” in general:

I think the bigger threat is: How do you get non-bank - [...] as [banking] moves to tech platforms [and as] the banking system is unbundling, how do you keep supervision over a much more complex set of companies?

Huw van Steenis at Davos

Crypto not= Fintech

Drawing a clear distinction between cryptocurrencies and such “tech platforms,” van Steenis describes in shorthand the predicament facing traditional, larger banks which are under threat from new fintech ventures seeking to digitize banking completely.

Although he did not name names, he is perhaps referring to services like Revolut or Uphold - services that not only handle fiat currency, but also integrate cryptoassets directly into their functionalities.

He says the “number one topic [among bank CEOs] is: How can they invest in technology to make their service better, and fend off the threats these big [fintech] platforms,” adding again that “cryptocurrencies are not high on my worry list.”

UK is Pro-Crypto

Even if van Steenis sees crypto as a marginal phenomenon, his fellow UK citizens perhaps do not share his views on average. CryptoGlobe reported during 2018 of surveys conducted in the UK, which revealed that most people preferred to get bitcoin as a gift, over cash; and that the majority of Britons are not keen on a centrally issued stablecoin.

Bitcoin Ransomware Attack: Google Disables Baltimore Officials’ Gmail Accounts

The Baltimore City government has been under siege since May 7, as it was hit with a ransomware attack that saw hackers demand $100,000 in bitcoin and officials refuse to pay the ransom. In a new development, Google disabled officials’ Gmail accounts being used as a turnaround.

According to The Baltimore Sun , the Baltimore City government created Gmail accounts to work during the ransomware attack, as the city’s servers have been disrupted to the point their emails aren’t working.

Recently, however, emails sent to several of the newly created Gmail addresses returned messages claiming the “email account that you tried to reach is disabled.” It was found that Google has considered these business accounts that need to be paid, instead of free individual Gmail accounts.

James Bentley, a spokesperson for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, noted Baltimore planned to purchase a business plan from Google so the accounts could be restored. The news outlet quoted him as saying:

They disabled them because they deemed them to be business accounts. Their position is these accounts are circumventing their paid service

City Council President Brandon Scott added that meanwhile his staff was appealing the suspension with Google, although he hadn’t been briefed on the problem. A spokeswoman for Baltimore’s health department claimed she was able to see received old emails, but not send or receive new ones.

Per her words, there as no notice on why the account was disabled. On its website, Google claims it’ll suspend accounts used for sending spam, distribute malware, abuse children, violate copyright, or for other illicit purposes.

As CryptoGlobe covered, Baltimore was hit with a ransomware attack earlier this month that brought its real estate industry to a halt and crippled some of its essential systems. So much so the city’s collection and transfer of property taxes and water bills have been affected.

The hackers attacked the city’s servers with a new type of ransomware known as “Robbinhood,” and are demand a 13 BTC ($102,900) ransom to stop the whole attack. They also gave the city the option to pay 3 BTC ($23,700) to decrypt a specific system.