UK Pension and Welfare Agency Examining Blockchain and DLT

In an Aug. 9 blog post, Richard Laycock, the deputy director of digital payments and banking systems at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) – an agency that manages the U.K.’s welfare and pension policies – said that the DWP is looking to transform its payments infrastructure.

The United Kingdom pension and welfare agency has identified blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) as technologies that could disrupt the payments industry.

In a bid to make its payment system “efficient, modern, fast, scalable, flexible, innovative and available 24/7”, the DWP is monitoring blockchain and DLT as possible disruptors to the payments system.

Regarding DLT, Laycock further claimed:

“We are starting to see the first full production implementations, such as Santander’s One Pay FX. The benefits include reducing time, cost and failure rate associated with making transactions whilst data is stored on a secure immutable ledger.”

Among other options that could purportedly benefit the DWP’s payment system, Laycock also noted that open banking could enable new business models and products.

Earlier in August, the United States Federal Reserve Board revealed plans to release a real-time payments and settlements service in order to boost the payments infrastructure in the country. The agency is going to develop a new interbank real-time settlement service called FedNow to support faster payments in the U.S., which will purportedly launch in 2023 or 2024.

As Cointelegraph reported in a dedicated analysis, there is an emerging trend of utilizing hybrid systems in the payment sector that comprise both DLT and centralized systems.

In June, SWIFT announced plans to allow firms running DLT systems to use its global payments innovation platform. Visa also announced a new centralized payment network for business transactions that incorporates elements of decentralized technology.

Thousands of Microsoft Servers Infected by Crypto-Mining Botnet Since 2018

A malicious botnet has been targeting Microsoft SQL database servers to mine cryptocurrency for two years, according to a new report.Guardicore Labs said Wednesday that in the last several weeks alone, the hackers had managed to infect close to 2,000 to 3,000 servers daily. As reported by Hacker News, the botnet has been dubbed “Vollgar” after the vollar cryptocurrency it mines alongside monero (XMR), and its “vulgar” way of operating.

The attack brute-forces passwords in order to access servers with poor security. Once in, it executes configuration changes allowing the hackers to run malicious commands and download malware binaries.

Entities across health care, aviation, IT, telecoms and education in China, India, South Korea, Turkey and the U.S. have all been affected, according to the report.

The network of compromised computers was used to host all of the attackers infrastructure, with its primary command-and-control server based in China, according to Guardicore. That itself had been compromised by multiple attackers, the firm added.

To help companies find out if their servers have been infected by this attack, Guardicore has released a script on GitHub.

In other security news, ZDNet reported earlier this week that QR codes – now ubiquitous across the bitcoin industry as a mean of making it easier to make bitcoin payments – have become another attack vector.

The shockingly simple attack saw malicious actors provide a purported service allowing people to create a QR code for payments to their bitcoin addresses. However, the address inserted was the attacker’s own.

Harry Denley, director of security at MyCrypto, discovered the scheme hosted on nine websites. According to the report, some $45,000 in bitcoin (BTC) has been stolen in the last month.

For the record, it’s advisable to avoid these sites at all costs: bitcoin-barcode-generator.com, bitcoinaddresstoqrcode.com, bitcoins-qr-code.com, btc-to-qr.com, create, bitcoin-qr-code.com, free-bitcoin-qr-codes.com, freebitcoinqrcodes.com, qr-code-bitcoin.com and qrcodebtc.com

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