Zcash, the Privacy-Focused Cryptocurrency, Rockets to New Highs

Privacy advocates cheered another meteoric rise for Zcash early Monday, as the zero-knowledge proof cryptocurrency rose to record highs. Like other movers over the weekend, South Korean trading desks were the major catalysts for the rally.

Zcash Blows Past $800

The value of Zcash (ZEC) traded as high as $875 against the dollar, according to CoinMarketCap. Prices were last quoted at around $745, a gain of more than $200, or 37%.

The gain puts Zcash at a market cap of around $2.5 billion, or 23rd on the active list of cryptocurrencies.

South Korean Pay Huge Premium

The cryptocurrency was trading at a huge premium on South Korean exchanges, with Bithumb quoting a price of $1,110. Frenzied demand for digital assets in the Asian country have seen payment premiums rise in excess of 30% for the major altcoins. At last check, all the major altcoins as well as bitcoin are trading much higher than the global average.

Bithumb accounted for nearly 38% of ZEC transactions on Monday, which was by far the highest of any exchange.

South Korea’s love affair with cryptocurrency comes despite fresh calls within government to rein in the digital asset class. Legislative changes initiated last month make it illegal to trade cryptocurrency anonymously. New trading accounts on any of the major exchanges has also been barred. The government also prohibits bans, minors and foreigners from accessing the cryptocurrency market on South Korean soil.

The measures came after lawmakers held an emergency meeting to discuss “virtual currency emergency measures,” according to local Hankyung publication.

The country’s three biggest exchanges – Bithumb, Coinone and Korbit – process 10 billion won in sales each day. More than 1 million users access these exchanges on a daily basis.

“If it’s not private, it’s not safe”

Former CIA employee and privacy advocate Edward Snowden has referred to Zcash as the future of private trade. In a Dec. 19 tweet, the renowned whistleblower said “zero-knowledge proofs may be the future of private trade.”

The tweet quoted a Sept. 28 post, where Snowden said the following: “Zcash’s privacy tech makes it the most interesting bitcoin alternative. Bitcoin is great, but “if it’s not private, it’s not safe.”

Zcash gives users the option of having “shielded” and “transparent” addresses. As the names imply, transparent addresses are visible on the blockchain for anyone to see. Coins stored in shielded accounts are not.

An empirical study carried out by University of Michigan-Dearborn rsearcher Jeffrey Quesnelle revealed no major vulnerabilities in Zcash’s underlying infrastructure. But like other fin-tech privacy tools, the cryptocurrency can fail to protect if used the wrong way.

Of course, these features make Zcash more appealing for the criminal underworld, which is beginning to disavow bitcoin in favor of more anonymous cryptocurrencies. Analysts have pointed to Zcash and Monero as potential currencies to be exploited by dark web criminals.

Monero doesn’t quite have the same privacy specifications as Zcash. Whereas Monero generates fake addresses to obscure the sender’s identity, Zcash uses encryption to obscure the sender’s actual address.

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