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How to protect your crypto



Cryptocurrency has been touted as the future of the economy, but it might be just as vulnerable to hackers as the cash in your wallet is to pickpockets.

Although there’s no official figure available for how many Australians have invested in cryptocurrency, Canstar data shows it was one of the top three investment options for first-time investors in 2021.

But investing in cryptocurrency is like buying a very expensive lottery ticket; there’s no guarantee of a huge payoff.

In fact, there is a constant risk of losing your entire investment.

According to national competition regulator the ACCC, more than $35 million was lost in Australia to cryptocurrency scams by mid-2021.

And once that money is gone, it stays gone, University of Melbourne cyber security lecturer Shaanan Cohney said.

“There is no remedy,” Dr Cohney said.

“In rare circumstances, if you are a corporate holder of cryptocurrency, there are various forms of insurance available. But those tend to be highly limited.

“For your average Australian consumer, once you lose it, it’s gone.”

Why is cryptocurrency vulnerable?

Everyone wants to get in early and make a buck in the online economy, but that is leaving room for error, University of New South Wales senior lecturer Eric Lim said.

Dr Lim compared the current cryptocurrency and blockchain culture to that of Silicon Valley, the American home to technological movers and shakers such as Apple, Google, and Facebook.

He said the Mark Zuckerberg-esque “move fast and break things” culture in the cryptocurrency space could be leading to design and security flaws as developers rush their products to the finish line.

Although developers might not have malicious intent, Dr Lim said the ultimate byproduct of lack of due diligence is that people get hurt and lose their money.

But the responsibility also goes both ways between the developer and the community using the product, he said.

“[A decentralised] ecosystem is owned by the community, and the community actually sets the standard in terms of the level of rigour that is required from such services,” he said.

“So, at this stage, if the community of such ecosystems does not actually demand a high level of rigour and a high level of scrutiny on such products and services that are being pushed into the market, then of course, it increases the probability of such hacks happening.”

Most common type of attacks

Dr Cohney said by far the most common type of hacking attempt is done through phishing attacks.

This is where someone will send you a message, likely through email, pretending to be someone you are familiar with to gain your trust, such as your boss or a company you know, and ask for your details.

If you give your details, either through email or on a website that the message has directed you to, “your funds will be removed very quickly”, Dr Cohney said.

He said malware, a common term for computer viruses, will look through your device to find your cryptocurrency wallet details, and will attempt to drain any wallets that you have of their contents.

“Also, there are just a very large number of scams out there,” he said.

“If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

But not all is lost – there are some steps you can take to save yourself some financial pain.

How to protect your crypto

Sometimes there’s no better protection for modern technology than going old school and keeping things off of the cloud.

If you have cryptocurrency, then you’ll need a private key (typically a string of letters and numbers) to remove funds, and Dr Cohney said you should invest in a hardware wallet to keep it safe.

A hardware wallet is a physical storage device, similar to a USB or hard drive, that acts as a cryptocurrency wallet to store your private keys.

Dr Cohney said if you have given control of your private keys to a third party through a custodial wallet, such as Coinbase, make sure you have enabled basic security measures such as two-factor authentication and a strong password.

If you need to access your cryptocurrency or your custodial wallet, go directly to the official website rather than clicking on links and emails to get there, he said.

To decrease your chances of becoming a victim to hacking, Dr Lim said there is no better thing to do as a user than educate yourself.

He said the onus is on users to ask questions, just as it is for customers when buying a product such as a laptop.

“[If] I want to buy a laptop, it’s up to me to do the due diligence of researching which one is the best laptop out there,” Dr Lim said.

“If you are trying to use these decentralised apps or decentralised financial products, then it’s up to you to actually do all this due diligence yourself.

“Look at the the teams behind these projects, do they have the necessary credentials? Or do they have track records of pushing out good products and services? And what are the methods that these developers use?”

Dr Cohney said if you don’t understand something, don’t use it.





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Inflation concerns overshadow strong start to fourth quarter



US equity markets fell on inflation concerns ahead of next week’s highly anticipated Federal Reserve meeting, overshadowing a reasonably strong start to the Q4 2021 earnings season.

Following the weaker lead from Wall Street, the ASX200 fell to 7300, providing another test of the market’s resolve to keep the local bourse rotating around the 7400 region it has spent the past three months.

Here are the top five things that happened in markets this week.

1. US Q4 2021 earnings results

Despite some notable earnings misses from usually dependable names, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Citigroup, according to FactSet, of the S&P 500 companies that have reported to date, nearly 70 per cent have topped Wall Street’s expectations.

2. Australian jobs data for December

Following an impressive gain of 366k jobs in November, the Australian economy added another +64.8k jobs in December.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.2 per cent from 4.6 per cent, its lowest level since pre the Global Financial Crisis in August 2008.

3. UK inflation data

The inflation rate in the UK increased to 5.4 per cent in December, above market forecasts of 5.2 per cent.

It is the highest reading since March 1992, and the inflationary peak is yet to be reached, as utility prices will be hiked in April.

The Bank of England with likely deliver a 25bp interest rate hike at its meeting in the first week of February and commence Quantitative Tightening (QT) in March.

4. Bulls take the upper hand in ‘The Battle for Bullion’

Gold shrugged off rising yields to surge above $1840 on fears that rising inflation will debase fiat currency, restoring gold’s status as an inflation hedge.

Should gold now see a sustained break and close above downtrend resistance at $1850, from the 2020, $2075 high, it would indicate the rally in gold can continue towards the $1950 area.

5. Iron ore recovery set to continue

Chinese-affiliated state media noted that China has opened its monetary policy toolbox and won’t allow growth to drop below 5 per cent.

When Chinese authorities set targets, they rarely miss them.

Continued monetary policy easing from Chinese authorities will provide the foundation for the next leg higher in iron ore towards $160 p/t – 20 per cent higher than its current price.

Brought to you by City Index. Access to over 4500 global markets on shares CFDs, Indices, Forex & Crypto with a trusted provider.

All trading carries risk. The figures stated are as of January  20, 2022. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This report does not contain and is not to be taken as containing any financial product advice or financial product recommendation.





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Major dairy-product recall amid contamination fears



Live

Eight butter products sold through major supermarkets across Australia have been urgently recalled amid fears of contamination.

Food Standards Australia announced that Devondale and Woolworths butter and butter blend products had been pulled from shelves.

Producer Saputo Dairy Australia said there were concerns about potential microbial contamination – contamination with pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses or parasites – in the popular spreads.

The dairy spreads are sold nationwide at a host of outlets, including Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, Costco and independent supermarkets.

The affected products are:

  • Devondale Salted Butter, 250 grams, with best-before dates of May 18 and June 4
  • Devondale Salted Butter, 500 grams, with best-before dates of April 30, May 1 and June 24
  • Devondale Salted Butter, 3 x 500-gram pack, with a best-before date of May 1
  • Devondale Unsalted Butter, 500 grams, with a best-before date of April 30
  • Devondale Dairy Soft Original, 500 grams, with best before dates of January 6, April 6, and May 11, 12 and 26
  • Devondale Dairy Soft Salt Reduced, 500 grams, with a best-before date of May 10
  • Woolworths Butter Salted, 250 grams, with best-before dates of April 21, May 12 and 13, and October 16
  • Woolworths Butter Unsalted, 250 grams, with best-before dates of May 11 and 12, and October 16
devondale butter recall
The recalled products are sold at major and independent supermarkets across the country.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand said the products may cause illness if consumed.

“Any consumers concerned about their health​ should seek medical advice,” it said.

Anyone who has bought any of the affected products is urged to return it to where they bought it for a full refund.

See more information from FSANZ here.

-with agencies





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Businesses ‘lying’ about missing RAT orders: Greg Hunt



Live

Health Minister Greg Hunt has accused businesses of lying about desperately needed supplies of rapid COVID tests being seized by the federal government.

There have been multiple claims from Australian businesses that they have been told by wholesalers that orders of rapid tests for workplaces have been diverted to fulfil government orders.

On Wednesday, the South Australian government also said it had asked regulators to investigate reports of its RATs had been improperly diverted to other states.

But in Canberra on Thursday Mr Hunt emphatically denied suppliers’ claims that orders of the scarce tests were being requisitioned by the government.

“They are lying. That is why I am reporting them to the ACCC,” he said.

“There are people in the market that will make statements and promises and not be able to deliver. What we are seeing is that, whether it is Commonwealth, state or territories, or community or private sector, that some suppliers have overcommitted and not been able to deliver.”

There have been multiple reports in recent weeks, as Australia’s Omicron outbreak has spiralled and the PCR testing system began to buckle, that business orders of the crucial saliva tests were failing to arrive – despite being paid for in full.

Last week, Queensland Rail said it had been told an order of 20,000 tests would not be fulfilled, while a Victorian business said it had been told its bulk order for its staff had been seized.

Retailers such as Werko, Star Hygiene and HiCraft have also blamed federal government requisition of RATs on arrival in Australia for delays in filling orders, according to a report in the Financial Review on Wednesday.

SA Premier Steven Marshall also said he had written to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission boss Rod Sims asking him to investigate reports some tests bound for his state had been improperly diverted.

He said the NSW and Victorian governments had denied requisitioning tests at Sydney and Melbourne airports.

“If these allegations prove correct, it’s quite possible that they are illegal, anti-competitive and, of course, they’re a massive kick in the guts for South Australia,” Mr Marshall said.

But Mr Hunt said there was a global shortage of the crucial tests, and some suppliers were making wild claims.

He said the Commonwealth had supplied 6.1 million tests to aged care, and was beginning supply them to states and territories to hand out.

“We are seeing more supplies coming in through the system, where we use defence transport and logistics support to work with the private sector and the states,” he said.

“We are expecting to see 60 million movements in Australia over the coming weeks for the Commonwealth, state and community purposes.”

Earlier this week, Pharmacy Guild national president Professor Trent Twomey said his members were struggling to secure stock, and many had had orders delayed.

But, he told Guardian Australia, that reports from members that stock was being requisitioned by governments could not be substantiated.

Instead, he said, requests for big orders, worth millions, from governments – both state and federal – were hard for suppliers to ignore.

Victoria announced on Thursday it had ordered a further 166 million rapid tests, on top of a bulk order for 44 million tests earlier this month.

NSW this week increased its order of rapid tests to 150 million as it planned for surveillance testing of 1.3 million school students with the beginning of the school year.

-with AAP





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Food supplies recovering as government mulls shorter isolation



Supermarkets may have passed the worst of the Omicron supply chain crisis after close contacts were allowed to return to work if they posted negative tests.

But shoppers will likely struggle to find all the goods they want – and face purchase limits on sought-after products such as chicken and painkillers – until virus case numbers have peaked.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested that the worst of the Omicron staffing crisis may be over and his comments were backed by major supermarkets and poultry suppliers.

The federal government is nonetheless “actively considering” shortening the isolation period for COVID-positive workers from seven days to five in a move that would help thousands of essential workers return to work and bring Australia in line with the US and UK.

The government may also extend to the hospitality and retail sectors recent changes to isolation rules allowing close contacts in essential industries to return to work if they post negative tests.

Days after threatening to lead strikes if their health-and-safety demands were not met, unions criticised the potential rule changes as dangerous and unsafe.

“Workers are being told to keep supply chains going at any cost, that their health is worth less than the goods they transport,” Transport Workers Union national assistant secretary Nick McIntosh said.

Coles optimistic on shortages

The good news is that there are signs food shortages are improving.

In a statement to The New Daily on Wednesday, Coles said shoppers should start seeing more food on shelves in coming weeks.

“We are working collaboratively with our suppliers to improve the supply of all products for our customers and we are optimistic that we will see some improvements in coming weeks,” a Coles spokesperson said.

“We thank our customers for their patience as we work with our suppliers and transport partners to increase deliveries and return a full range of products to our stores.”

A Woolworths spokesperson said its stores continue to experience delays, but the company has no purchase limits for meat outside of Western Australia.

“Supply chain challenges continue to impact stock levels across the country [as] we experience delays with deliveries to our stores due to the impacts of COVID-19 and high rates of absenteeism,” they said.

The comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested the worst of the food shortages – caused by thousands of workers isolating with COVID-19 – are now in the past.

Mr Morrison has been meeting regularly with business groups about the shortages.

“We’re seeing some relief,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“It’s not back to where we’d want it to be, but the trajectory is right.”

Mr Morrison was referring specifically to chicken shortages that have forced supermarkets to introduce purchase limits and KFC to sell a reduced menu over the past week.

National cabinet began allowing workers in food supply chains to start skipping COVID-19 quarantine last week in a bid to ease the pressure on hard-hit chicken suppliers, which was welcomed by industry leaders.

Vivien Kite, executive director of peak body the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, said she was optimistic that the situation was starting to improve and that “the worst is behind us”.

But all businesses are struggling with high rates of absenteeism and some are down to just 50 per cent of their workforce, she said.

“We expect ongoing supply issues for the next couple of weeks as COVID-related staff absenteeism remains at a concerning level.”

Government considers further easing

The Morrison government is now “actively considering” further easing isolation rules for workers across the economy to hasten this recovery.

Mr Morrison said on Wednesday that, subject to revised health advice, Australia may follow in the footsteps of the US and UK by reducing the COVID-19 mandatory isolation period from seven to five days.

“The most recent information that we have is that post-five days you still have got 30 per cent [of workers] remaining infectious,” he said.

“And so that is a calibrated decision you’ve got to make.”

The government may also bow to demands from industry groups for an easing of isolation requirements for essential workers to be extended to other parts of the economy, such as hospitality and retail workers.

“Those issues are quite relevant in terms of when you could look at broader-scale changes,” Mr Morrison said.

“Those sorts of things are certainly not off the table, and if they’re safe to do they would make a lot of sense to do.”

Mr Morrison said all policy changes would be based on health advice, but added “you can expect that’s not too far away” when asked about a possible extension of eased isolation rules beyond essential workers.

Unions immediately attacked the suggestion, saying Mr Morrison is attempting to “slash” work health-and-safety protections to paper over the government’s failure to secure enough rapid antigen tests (RAT).

Business groups have also criticised the government over a severe shortage of RATs, warning that the eased isolation rules will not address staffing shortages unless employers can get their hands on more tests.

“It’s shameful that it is easier to catch COVID than it is to find a test kit,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We can limit admissions to hospitals, keep workplaces open and supply chains operating if we have free and accessible RATs.”

Mr McIntosh said the TWU would oppose shortening isolation periods.

“COVID-positive transport workers must not be brought back into the workplace after only five days of isolation,” he said in a statement.

“This will only run the risk of triggering long COVID and make more workers and their families sick. In that horrifying scenario, everybody loses.

“Supply chains rely on healthy workers.”





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Suffering from osteoarthritis? This breakthrough could be the key to relief

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Sustainable superannuation outperforms traditional funds in hot market



Superannuation funds have made dramatic gains over the past three years, with top performing sustainable funds topping traditional ones.

New figures from Rainmaker show the top default super funds – those where most Australians have their retirement savings invested by their bosses – returned more than 12 per cent a year in the past three years.

That’s despite the massive stockmarket crash at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Top-performing fund Aware Super returned 12.9 per cent while the GuildSuper Personal fund returned 12.3 per cent.

Retail fund Virgin Money Lifecycle returned 12 per cent, demonstrating that the lifecycle sector, which automatically moves members to less aggressive investment positions as they age, is now performing as well as traditional balanced funds, which leave their holdings in one place.

Figures from Chant West due in the coming days are expected to show  the median balanced fund returned just under 12 per cent during 2021.

‘Stunning stuff’: Sharemarket drives gains

Strong sharemarket growth drove gains for all fund types in 2021.

“The Australian stockmarket over 2021 rose 17.2 per cent,” Rainmaker director Alex Dunnin said.

“The international market was a bit higher, so all this is pretty stunning stuff.”

That lines up with data released by Oxfam this week which found that Australia’s 47 billionaires had doubled their wealth over the pandemic to $255 billion – last year was a very good one for those with assets.

“If you had $100,000 in super and a house worth $700,000 then you would have made $170,000 [on higher asset values],” Mr Dunnin said.

Sustainable funds outperform

What’s even more stunning than the returns on default super though has been the performance of funds with sustainable investments.

The top sustainable asset allocation, UniSuper’s global environmental fund, returned 25.4 per cent for the year ended in November 2021.

Australian Ethical’s international shares fund wasn’t far behind it, while Perpetual’s Sustainable and Responsible fund returned 22.9 per cent.

The performance of sustainable funds over the past three years is even more impressive.

UniSuper’s global sustainable option shot the lights out with a 27.9 per cent return, while two other funds reached at least 12.8 per cent.

That performance was also a result of sharemarket movements, with Mr Dunnin saying “there’s been a tilt towards ESG [environment, sustainability and governance] in the equity space”.

In other words, more funds have pledged to tilt towards sustainability, helping to push up the value of stocks already in that space.

Cassandra Williams, ratings leader at the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia, said there has been a “dramatic” capital shift towards sustainable investments, fuelled by rising member demand.

Though there’s been some easing of that phenomena recently.

“There has been an increased demand for fossil fuel stocks, with the coal price increasing,” Mr Dunnin said.

Sky-high returns won’t last

Investment adviser Rob Goudie, principal of Consortium Private Wealth, said those 25 per cent-plus returns won’t last.

“We see average returns of 10 or 11 per cent in most markets around the world,” he said.

“Those figures include some big falls that even out large rises like we’ve seen recently.”

Over the longer term, sustainable investment returns were closer to overall averages of 10 or 11 per cent, Mr Goudie said.

“AustralianSuper made 10 per cent, Care Super was 9.1 per cent and Mercer at No.3 averaged 8.8 per cent,” he said.

There will still be strong drivers for sustainable investments though.

“Companies like Coles and Woolworths have committed themselves to net-zero emissions by 2025 and others aim at 2030,” Mr Goudie said.

“That’s going to take a huge investment by companies to achieve those targets so industries that support those goals will have a huge investment tailwind driving them.”

The New Daily is owned by Industry Super Holdings





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