Digital asset markets plunged this week with Bitcoin leading the drop. It once again fell to below US$10,000 on Tuesday and by Thursday had slipped below $9,000. The rest of the market duly followed with Ethereum dropping below $200 and Ripple’s XRP token falling to its lowest level in almost a year. Despite a minor rally at the end of the week, billions were wiped from the market.

One possible contributing factor for the drop was a Chinese Ponzi scam that resulted in the loss of a substantial sum of Bitcoin. Founding partner at Primitive Crypto and China crypto observer Dovey Wan was busy on Twitter with the news that PLUS Token team members have been arrested.

Other reasons for the slump are the intensifying economic tensions between China and the US and the People’s Bank of China, which said it was close to releasing its own cryptocurrency. Bloomberg quoted Mu Changchun, deputy director of the PBoC’s payments department, as saying the new digital Yuan is now “close to being out.” 

After five years of research, China’s central bank is, perhaps, reaching its goal of a national digital currency, with research efforts seemingly intensifying after the threat of a Facebook-owned digital dollar rattled economists in Beijing. It’s important to note, however, that in direct contrast to decentralized digital assets such as Bitcoin, the PBoC’s crypto coin will actually give Beijing more control over its financial systems.  

Indian mobile giant Jio has announced a number of partnerships that it says will help with its lofty plans of building the world’s largest blockchain network. The mobile network arm of Mumbai-headquartered Reliance Industries has dominated the industry in the last few years and at its annual general meeting earlier this week, Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani said the firm plans to launch its fiber-optic broadband business next month. 

This will be followed by “one of the world’s biggest blockchain networks” in the next 12 months. A ten-year partnership with Microsoft, which  Jio says will leverage the American tech giant’s Azure, Microsoft 365, and AI platforms, will launch new cloud data centers across India. The move comes as India’s lawmakers are pushing through legislation intended to halt all private cryptocurrencies. 

In South Korea, internet giant Kakao has just launched a teaser for its cryptocurrency wallet Klip. The wallet, that will be available as part of the messaging app KakaoTalk, will enable users to transfer and store its native Klaytn token. The network has a focus on supporting applications such as finance, content creation and blockchain-powered games, and aims to have 34 decentralized apps (dApps) running by October. The wallet is being developed by Kakao’s blockchain subsidiary GroundX and is expected to launch in the second half of this year. The messaging app now boasts a user base of more than 50 million. 

Still in South Korea, a United Nations investigation has revealed a series of hacking attempts against financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges by a Pyongyang-backed group. According to the report, there have been at least 35 incursions in 17 countries and the Reconnaissance General Bureau, a high level North Korean military intelligence agency, is believed to be behind the attacks. 

Ten of the attacks were on South Korean targets, India reportedly suffered three and attacks were also seen in Bangladesh, which had two, while 13 countries suffered one attack including Malaysia and Vietnam. In addition to Korean crypto exchange Bithumb, which was hit four times, a number of cryptocurrency exchanges in the region have been attacked this year including Binance, which is now based in Malta, Tokyo-based BitPoint and Singapore-based Bitrue. 

The reports claim the hacks were attempts to illegally raise money for weapons of mass destruction programs.