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Other major cryptocurrencies also suffered on Friday. XRP, the second largest by market value, was down 7 percent while ether fell 11 percent.

Timothy Tam, CEO of cryptpocurrency research firm CoinFi, said bitcoin’s large move downward was a “combination” of factors.

On Thursday, the SEC extended their review period of a much-awaited bitcoin ETF until February 27. While Gabor Gurbacs, who’s spearheading the bitcoin ETF effort at VanEck, said the move was “expected” — the market still reacted.

“Historically there is price correlation with expectation of an ETF approval and downward movement when the ETF gets rejected or delayed,” Tam told CNBC Friday. “Sentiment among retail investors in the crypto space is already negative, so any negative news like this generates an overreaction.”

Michael Moro, CEO of Genesis Trading, said unlike prior weeks with drama in another cryptocurrency bitcoin cash, this week’s moves don’t appear to be event-driven.

“It looks like a continuation of the momentum trade that it has been for all of 2018,” Moro said. “Short interest has continued to spike, as trading firms look to take advantage of the volatility.”

Moro has also seen an uptick in selling by some long-term bitcoin holders.

“The general market sentiment seems to be that this ‘crypto winter’ could last for some time; not too many people are expecting a V-shaped recovery in 2019,” he said.



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Macron government to face no-confidence vote following French protests

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Yellow vest (gilets jaunes) protestors take notes as thet watch French President Emmanuel Macron's speech on TV on December 10, 2018 at a restaurant with French deputy Richard Damos, in Fay-au-Loges, near Orleans, Center France. 

Guillaume Souvant | AFP | Getty Images

Yellow vest (gilets jaunes) protestors take notes as thet watch French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech on TV on December 10, 2018 at a restaurant with French deputy Richard Damos, in Fay-au-Loges, near Orleans, Center France. 

Left-of-center lawmakers in France have tabled a motion of no confidence in the French government following repeated protests and scenes of violence.

The “gilets jaunes” (“yellow vests”) crisis started as a demonstration against a carbon tax policy and planned fuel tax increases, but have morphed into wider discontent at the leadership of President Emmanuel Macron.

Now representatives from the French Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the far-left populist movement France Unbowed (La France Insoumise) have come together to table the motion against Macron’s government.

The government of Georges Pompidou in 1962 was successfully toppled by such a motion but few believe this one will pass as Macron’s centrist La République En Marche! party enjoys a strong majority in the 577-seat house.

“The French political system makes it extremely difficult to remove a President from office,” said the Deputy Director of Research at Teneo Intelligence in a note Wednesday.

“The only political tool available to the opposition to expel Macron is the constitution’s impeachment procedure, which no one is currently considering,” he added.

The motion is expected to be debated at 10:30 a.m. eastern time on Thursday, according to media reports.

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Hertz launches biometric lanes to make car renting faster

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CLEAR, the company behind the technology, also developed Delta Biometrics – the system used by the airline to streamline its airport lounge access.

“By teaming with CLEAR, Hertz gets a partner with an expanding footprint and proven track record to help us innovate the car rental process, improve the customer experience and bring meaningful benefits to busy travellers,” Hertz CEO Kathryn V. Marinello said in a press release Tuesday.

CLEAR’s CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker added: “You are you, and we’re creating a future in which your fingerprints, eyes and face are your best and most secure ID.”

The fast lanes are available for use by Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program members, as well as CLEAR members who opt to upgrade.

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‘Operation Sharpshooter’ hack hit government, defense firms

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Hackers infiltrated dozens of companies around the world with advanced malicious software that extracted information from their systems, according to McAfee.

Research released by the cybersecurity firm on Wednesday showed that the infiltration campaign — called “Operation Sharpshooter” — primarily targeted defense and government organizations.

The report identified that, between October and November, the cybercriminals targeted individuals at 87 companies using social media, sending them messages disguised as recruitment campaigns to get them to open a malicious document.

Once opened, another program called “Rising Sun” is installed, opening a “backdoor” portal that gave hackers the ability to extract intelligence and send it on to a control server. Attackers gained access to usernames, IP addresses, network configuration and system settings data.

“We know that this campaign was intended to conduct espionage, indeed it was only recently launched. The question of the ultimate purpose remains to be seen,” Raj Samani, chief scientist and fellow at McAfee, told CNBC via email on Wednesday.

“In many cases such attacks are a precursor for something else, however we are hopeful that identifying and sharing the details will prevent the true nature of the campaign from being carried out.”

It appears the attack could be linked to the Lazarus Group, a cybercrime collective that has been associated to North Korea by various cybersecurity firms, as it drew from the source code of a hack that targeted South Korean firms in 2015. However, McAfee researchers said it appeared “too obvious” to conclude that Lazarus was responsible, adding the attack could be a “false flag” aimed at diverting the attention towards the notorious organization.

“The original malicious documents were hosted in the U.S.,” Samani said. “In terms of attribution, certainly there are similarities with tactics and code previously attributed to the Lazarus Group, however we are conscious that this may be an intentional tactic to make it appear so.”

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