Meet Brock Pierce, the Presidential Candidate With Ties to Pedophiles Who Wants to End Human Trafficking
thedailybeast.com | Sep. 20, 2020. The “Mighty Ducks” actor is running for president. He clears the air (sort of) to Tarpley Hitt about his ties to Jeffrey Epstein and more. In the trailer for First Kid, the forgettable 1996 comedy about a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the president’s son, the title character, played by a teenage Brock Pierce, describes himself as “definitely the most powerful kid in the universe.” Now, the former child star is running to be the most powerful man in the world, as an Independent candidate for President of the United States. Before First Kid, the Minnesota-born actor secured roles in a series of PG-rated comedies, playing a young Emilio Estevez in The Mighty Ducks, before graduating to smaller parts in movies like Problem Child 3: Junior in Love. When his screen time shrunk, Pierce retired from acting for a real executive role: co-founding the video production start-up Digital Entertainment Network (DEN) alongside businessman Marc Collins-Rector. At age 17, Pierce served as its vice president, taking in a base salary of $250,000. DEN became “the poster child for dot-com excesses,” raising more than $60 million in seed investments and plotting a $75 million IPO. But it turned into a shorthand for something else when, in October of 1999, the three co-founders suddenly resigned. That month, a New Jersey man filed a lawsuit alleging Collins-Rector had molested him for three years beginning when he was 13 years old. The following summer, three teens filed a sexual-abuse lawsuit against Pierce, Collins-Rector, and their third co-founder, Chad Shackley. The plaintiffs later dropped their case against Pierce (he made a payment of $21,600 to one of their lawyers) and Shackley. But after a federal grand jury indicted Collins-Rector on criminal charges in 2000, the DEN founders left the country. When Interpol arrested them in 2002, they said they had confiscated “guns, machetes, and child pornography” from the trio’s beach villa in Spain. While abroad, Pierce had pivoted to a new venture: Internet Gaming Entertainment, which sold virtual accessories in multiplayer online role-playing games to those desperate to pay, as one Wired reporter put it, “as much as $1,800 for an eight-piece suit of Skyshatter chain mail” rather than earn it in the games themselves. In 2005, a 25-year-old Pierce hired then-Goldman Sachs banker Steve Bannon—just before he would co-found Breitbart News. Two years later, after a World of Warcraft player sued the company for “diminishing” the fun of the game, Steve Bannon replaced Pierce as CEO. Collins-Rector eventually pleaded guilty to eight charges of child enticement and registered as a sex offender. In the years that followed, Pierce waded into the gonzo economy of cryptocurrencies, where he overlapped more than once with Jeffrey Epstein, and counseled him on crypto. In that world, he founded Tether, a cryptocurrency that bills itself as a “stablecoin,” because its value is allegedly tied to the U.S. dollar, and the blockchain software company Block.one. Like his earlier businesses, Pierce’s crypto projects see-sawed between massive investments and curious deals. When Block.one announced a smart contract software called EOS.IO, the company raised $4 billion almost overnight, setting an all-time record before the product even launched. The Securities and Exchange Commission later fined the company $24 million for violating federal securities law. After John Oliver mocked the ordeal, calling Pierce a “sleepy, creepy cowboy,” Block.one fired him. Tether, meanwhile, is currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General for possible fraud. On July 4, Pierce announced his candidacy for president. His campaign surrogates include a former Cambridge Analytica director and the singer Akon, who recently doubled down on developing an anonymously funded, $6 billion “Wakanda-like” metropolis in Senegal called Akon City. Pierce claims to be bipartisan, and from the 11 paragraphs on the “Policy” section of his website it can be hard to determine where he falls on the political spectrum. He supports legalizing marijuana and abolishing private prisons, but avoids the phrase “climate change.” He wants to end “human trafficking.” His proposal to end police brutality: body cams. His political contributions tell a more one-sided story. Pierce’s sole Democratic contribution went to the short-lived congressional run of crypto candidate Brian Forde. The rest went to Republican campaigns like Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, John McCain, and the National Right to Life Political Action Committee. Last year alone, Pierce gave over $44,000 to the Republican National Committee and more than $55,000 to Trump’s re-election fund. Pierce spoke to The Daily Beast from his tour bus and again over email. Those conversations have been combined and edited for clarity. You’re announcing your presidential candidacy somewhat late, and historically, third-party candidates haven’t had the best luck with the executive office. If you don’t have a strong path to the White House, what do you want out of the race? I announced on July 4, which I think is quite an auspicious date for an Independent candidate, hoping to bring independence to this country. There’s a lot of things that I can do. One is: I’m 39 years old. I turn 40 in November. So I’ve got time on my side. Whatever happens in this election cycle, I’m laying the groundwork for the future. The overall mission is to create a third major party—not another third party—a third major party in this country. I think that is what America needs most. George Washington in his closing address warned us about the threat of political parties. John Adams and the other founding fathers—their fear for our future was two political parties becoming dominant. And look at where we are. We were warned. I believe, having studied systems, any time you have a system of two, what happens is those two things come together, like magnets. They come into collision, or they become polarized and become completely divided. I think we need to rise above partisan politics and find a path forward together. As Albert Einstein is quoted—I’m not sure the line came from him, but he’s quoted in many places—he said that the definition of insanity is making the same mistake or doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting a different result. [Ed. note: Einstein never said this.] It feels like that’s what our election cycle is like. Half the country feels like they won, half the country feels like they lost, at least if they voted or participated. Obviously, there’s another late-comer to the presidential race, and that’s Kanye West. He’s received a lot of flak for his candidacy, as he’s openly admitted to trying to siphon votes away from Joe Biden to ensure a Trump victory. Is that something you’re hoping to avoid or is that what you’re going for as well? Oh no. This is a very serious campaign. Our campaign is very serious. You’ll notice I don’t say anything negative about either of the two major political candidates, because I think that’s one of the problems with our political system, instead of people getting on stage, talking about their visionary ideas, inspiring people, informing and educating, talking about problems, mentioning problems, talking about solutions, constructive criticism. That’s why I refuse to run a negative campaign. I am definitely not a spoiler. I’m into data, right? I’m a technologist. I’ve got digital DNA. So does most of our campaign team. We’ve got our finger on the pulse. Most of my major Democratic contacts are really happy to see that we’re running in a red state like Wyoming. Kanye West’s home state is Wyoming. He’s not on the ballot in Wyoming I could say, in part, because he didn’t have Akon on his team. But I could also say that he probably didn’t want to be on the ballot in Wyoming because it’s a red state. He doesn’t want to take additional points in a state where he’s only running against Trump. But we’re on the ballot in Wyoming, and since we’re on the ballot in Wyoming I think it’s safe—more than safe, I think it’s evident—that we are not here to run as a spoiler for the benefit of Donald Trump. In running for president, you’ve opened yourself up to be scrutinized from every angle going back to the beginning of your career. I wanted to ask you about your time at the Digital Entertainment Network. Can you tell me a little bit about how you started there? You became a vice president as a teenager. What were your qualifications and what was your job exactly? Well, I was the co-founder. A lot of it was my idea. I had an idea that people would use the internet to watch videos, and we create content for the internet. The idea was basically YouTube and Hulu and Netflix. Anyone that was around in the ‘90s and has been around digital media since then, they all credit us as the creators of basically those ideas. I was just getting a message from the creator of The Vandals, the punk rock band, right before you called. He’s like, “Brock, looks like we’re going to get the Guinness Book of World Records for having created the first streaming television show.” We did a lot of that stuff. We had 30 television shows. We had the top most prestigious institutions in the world as investors. The biggest names. High-net-worth investors like Terry Semel, who’s chairman and CEO of Warner Brothers, and became the CEO of Yahoo. I did all sorts of things. I helped sell $150,000 worth of advertising contracts to the CEOs of Pepsi and everything else. I was the face of the company, meeting all the major banks and everything else, selling the vision of what the future was. You moved in with Marc Collins-Rector and Chad Shackley at a mansion in Encino. Was that the headquarters of the business? All start-ups, they normally start out in your home. Because it’s just you. The company was first started out of Marc’s house, and it was probably there for the first two or three months, before the company got an office. That’s, like, how it is for all start-ups. were later a co-defendant in the L.A. County case filed against Marc Collins-Rector for plying minors with alcohol and drugs, in order to facilitate sexual abuse. You were dropped from the case, but you settled with one of the men for $21,600. Can you explain that? Okay, well, first of all, that’s not accurate. Two of the plaintiffs in that case asked me if I would be a plaintiff. Because I refused to be a part of the lawsuit, they chose to include me to discredit me, to make their case stronger. They also went and offered 50 percent of what they got to the house management—they went around and offered money to anyone to participate in this. They needed people to corroborate their story. Eventually, because I refused to participate in the lawsuit, they named me. Subsequently, all three of the plaintiffs apologized to me, in front of audiences, in front of many people, saying Brock never did anything. They dismissed their cases. Remember, this is a civil thing. I’ve never been charged with a crime in my life. And the last plaintiff to have his case dismissed, he contacted his lawyer and said, “Dismiss this case against Brock. Brock never did anything. I just apologized. Dismiss his case.” And the lawyer said, “No. I won’t dismiss this case, I have all these out-of-pocket expenses, I refuse to file the paperwork unless you give me my out-of-pocket expenses.” And so the lawyer, I guess, had $21,000 in bills. So I paid his lawyer $21,000—not him, it was not a settlement. That was a payment to his lawyer for his out-of-pocket expenses. Out-of-pocket expenses so that he would file the paperwork to dismiss the case. You’ve said the cases were unfounded, and the plaintiffs eventually apologized. But your boss, Marc Collins-Rector later pleaded guilty to eight charges of child enticement and registered as a sex offender. Were you aware of his behavior? How do you square the fact that later allegations proved to be true, but these ones were not? Well, remember: I was 16 and 17 years old at the time? So, no. I don’t think Marc is the man they made him out to be. But Marc is not a person I would associate with today, and someone I haven’t associated with in a very long time. I was 16 and 17. I chose the wrong business partner. You live and you learn. You’ve pointed out that you were underage when most of these allegations were said to take place. Did you ever feel like you were coerced or in over your head while working at DEN? I mean, I was working 18 hours a day, doing things I’d never done before. It was business school. But I definitely learned a lot in building that company. We raised $88 million. We filed our [form] S-1 to go public. We were the hottest start-up in Los Angeles. In 2000, you left the country with Marc Collins-Rector. Why did you leave? How did you spend those two years abroad? I moved to Spain in 1999 for personal reasons. I spent those two years in Europe working on developing my businesses. Interpol found you in 2002. The house where you were staying reportedly contained guns, machetes, and child pornography. Whose guns and child porn were those? Were you aware they were in the house, and how did those get there? My lawyers have addressed this in 32 pages of documentation showing a complete absence of wrongdoing. Please refer to my webpage for more information. [Ed. Note: The webpage does not mention guns, machetes, or child pornography. It does state:“It is true that when the local police arrested Collins-Rector in Spain in 2002 on an international warrant, Mr. Pierce was also taken into custody, but so was everyone at Collins-Rector’s house in Spain; and it is equally clear that Brock was promptly released, and no charges of any kind were ever filed against Brock concerning this matter.”] What do you make of the allegations against Bryan Singer?[Ed. Note: Bryan Singer, a close friend of Collins-Rector, invested at least $50,000 in DEN. In an Atlantic article outlining Singer’s history of alleged sexual assault and statutory rape, one source claimed that at age 15, Collins-Rector abused him and introduced him to Singer, who then assaulted him in the DEN headquarters.] I am aware of them and I support of all victims of sexual assault. I will let America’s justice system decide on Singer’s outcome.
In 2011, you spoke at the Mindshift conference supported by Jeffrey Epstein. At that point, he had already been convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor. Why did you agree to speak? I had never heard of Jeffrey Epstein. His name was not on the website. I was asked to speak at a conference alongside Nobel Prize winners. It was not a cryptocurrency conference, it was filled with Nobel Prize winners. I was asked to speak alongside Nobel Prize winners on the future of money. I speak at conferences historically, two to three times a week. I was like, “Nobel Prize winners? Sounds great. I’ll happily talk about the future of money with them.” I had no idea who Jeffrey Epstein was. His name was not listed anywhere on the website. Had I known what I know now? I clearly would have never spoken there. But I spoke at a conference that he cosponsored. What’s your connection to the Clinton Global Initiative? Did you hear about it through Jeffrey Epstein? I joined the Clinton Global Initiative as a philanthropist in 2006 and was a member for one year. My involvement with the Initiative had no connection to Jeffrey Epstein whatsoever.
You’ve launched your campaign in Minnesota, where George Floyd was killed by a police officer. How do you feel about the civil uprising against police brutality? I’m from Minnesota. Born and raised. We just had a press conference there, announcing that we’re on the ballot. Former U.S. Senator Dean Barkley was there. So that tells you, when former U.S. Senators are endorsing the candidate, right? [Ed. note: Barkley was never elected to the United States Senate. In November of 2002, he was appointed by then Minnesota Governor Jesse Venture to fill the seat after Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash. Barkley’s term ended on Jan. 3, 2003—two months later.] Yes, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. My vice-presidential running mate Karla Ballard and I, on our last trip to Minnesota together, went to visit the George Floyd Memorial. I believe in law and order. I believe that law and order is foundational to any functioning society. But there is no doubt in my mind that we need reform. These types of events—this is not an isolated incident. This has happened many times before. It’s time for change. We have a lot of detail around policy on this issue that we will be publishing next week. Not just high-level what we think, not just a summary, but detailed policy. You said that you support “law and order.” What does that mean? “Law and order” means creating a fair and just legal system where our number one priority is protecting the inalienable rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” for all people. This means reforming how our police intervene in emergency situations, abolishing private prisons that incentivize mass incarceration, and creating new educational and economic opportunities for our most vulnerable communities. I am dedicated to preventing crime by eliminating the socioeconomic conditions that encourage it. I support accountability and transparency in government and law enforcement. Some of the key policies I support are requiring body-cams on all law enforcement officers who engage with the public, curtailing the 1033 program that provides local law enforcement agencies with access to military equipment, and abolishing private prisons. Rather than simply defund the police, my administration will take a holistic approach to heal and unite America by ending mass incarceration, police brutality, and racial injustice. Did you attend any Black Lives Matter protests? I support all movements aimed at ending racial injustice and inequality. I have not attended any Black Lives Matter protests. My running-mate, Karla Ballard, attended the March on Washington in support of racial justice and equality. Your platform doesn’t mention the words “climate change.” Is there a reason for that? I’m not sure what you mean. Our policy platform specifically references human-caused climate change and we have a plan to restabilize the climate, address environmental degradation, and ensure environmental sustainability. [Ed. Note: As of writing the Pierce campaign’s policy platform does not specifically reference human-caused climate change.] You’ve recently brought on Akon as a campaign surrogate. How did that happen? Tell me about that. Akon and I have been friends for quite some time. I was one of the guys that taught him about Bitcoin. I helped make some videogames for him, I think in 2012. We were talking about Bitcoin, teaching him the ropes, back in 2013. And in 2014, we were both speaking at the Milken Global Conference, and I encouraged him to talk about how Bitcoin, Africa, changed the world. He became the biggest celebrity in the world, talking about Bitcoin at the time. I’m an adviser to his Akoin project, very interested in the work that he’s doing to build a city in Africa. I think we need a government that’s of, for, and by the people. Akon has huge political aspirations. He obviously was a hugely successful artist. But he also discovered artists like Lady Gaga. So not only is he, himself, a great artist, but he’s also a great identifier and builder of other artists. And he’s been a great businessman, philanthropist. He’s pushing the limits of what can be done. We’re like-minded individuals in that regard. I think he’ll be running for political office one day, because he sees what I see: that we need real change, and we need a government that is of, for, and by the people. You mentioned that you’re an adviser on Akoin. Do you have any financial investments in Akoin or Akon City? I don’t believe so. I’d have to check. I have so much stuff. But I don’t believe that I have any economic interests in his stuff. I’d have to verify that. We’ll get back to you. I don’t believe that I have any economic interests. My interest is in helping him. He’s a visionary with big ideas that wants to help things in the world. If I can be of assistance in helping him make the world a better place, I’m all for it. I’m not motivated by money. I’m not running for office because I’m motivated by power. I’m running for office because I’m deeply, deeply concerned about our collective future. You’ve said you’re running on a pro-technology platform. One week into your campaign last month, a New York appeals court approved the state Attorney General’s attempt to investigate the stablecoin Tether for potentially fraudulent activity. Do you think this will impact your ability to sell people on your tech entrepreneurship? No, I think my role in Tether is as awesome as it gets. It was my idea. I put it together. But I’ve had no involvement in the company since 2015. I gave all of my equity to the other shareholders. I’ve had zero involvement in the company for almost six years. It was just my idea. I put the initial team together. But I think Tether is one of the most important innovations in the world, certainly. The idea is, I digitized the U.S. dollar. I used technology to digitize currency—existing currency. The U.S. dollar in particular. It’s doing $10 trillion a year. Ten trillion dollars a year of transactional volume. It’s probably the most important innovation in currency since the advent of fiat money. The people that took on the business and ran the business in years to come, they’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’m not sure they’ve done anything criminal. But they certainly did things differently than I would do. But it’s like, you have kids, they turn 18, they go out into the world, and sometimes you’re proud of the things they do, and sometimes you shake your head and go, “Ugh, why did you do that?” I have zero concerns as it relates to me personally. I wish they made better decisions. What do you think the investigation will find? I have no idea. The problem that was raised is that there was a $5 million loan between two entities and whether or not they had the right to do that, did they disclose it correctly. There’s been no accusations of, like, embezzlement or anything that bad. [Ed. Note: The Attorney General’s press release on the investigation reads: “Our investigation has determined that the operators of the ‘Bitfinex’ trading platform, who also control the ‘tether’ virtual currency, have engaged in a cover-up to hide the apparent loss of $850 million dollars of co-mingled client and corporate funds.”] But there’s been some disclosure things, that is the issue. No one is making any outrageous claims that these are people that have done a bunch of bad—well, on the internet, the media has said that the people behind the business may have been manipulating the price of Bitcoin, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the New York investigation. Again, I’m so not involved, and so not at risk, that I’m not even up to speed on the details. [Ed note: A representative of the New York State Attorney General told Forbes that he “cannot confirm or deny that the investigation” includes Pierce.] We’ve recently witnessed the rise of QAnon, the conspiracy theory that Hollywood is an evil cabal of Satanic pedophiles and Trump is the person waging war on them. You mentioned human trafficking, which has become a cause for them. What are your thoughts on that? I’ve watched some of the content. I think it’s an interesting phenomenon. I’m an internet person, so Anonymous is obviously an organization that has been doing interesting stuff. It’s interesting. I don’t have a big—conspiracy theory stuff is—I guess I have a question for you: What do you think of all of it, since you’re the expert? You know, I think it’s not true, but I’m not running for president. I do wonder what this politician [Georgia congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene], who’s just won her primary, is going to do on day one, once she finds out there’s no satanic cabal room. Wait, someone was running for office and won on a QAnon platform, saying that Hollywood did—say what? You’re the expert here. She won a primary. But I want to push on if we only have a few minutes. In 2006, your gaming company IGE brought on Steve Bannon as an investor. Goldman later bought out most of your stock. Bannon eventually replaced you as CEO of Affinity. You’ve described him as your “right-hand man for, like, seven years.” How well did you know Bannon during that time? Yes, so this is in my mid-twenties. He wasn’t an investor. He worked for me. He was my banker. He worked for me for three years as my yield guide. And then he was my CEO running the company for another four years. So I haven’t worked with Steve for a decade or so. We worked in videogame stuff and banking. He was at Goldman Sachs. He was not in the political area at the time. But he was a pretty successful banker. He set up Goldman Sachs Los Angeles. So for me, I’d say he did a pretty good job. During your business relationship, Steve Bannon founded Breitbart News, which has pretty consistently published racist material. How do you feel about Breitbart? I had no involvement with Breitbart News. As for how I feel about such material, I’m not pleased by any form of hate-mongering. I strongly support the equality of all Americans. Did you have qualms about Bannon’s role in the 2016 election? Bannon’s role in the Trump campaign got me to pay closer attention to what he was doing but that’s about it. Whenever you find out that one of your former employees has taken on a role like that, you pay attention. Bannon served on the board of Cambridge Analytica. A staffer on your campaign, Brittany Kaiser, also served as a business director for them. What are your thoughts on their use of illicitly-obtained Facebook data for campaign promotional material? Yes, so this will be the last question I can answer because I’ve got to be off for this 5:00 pm. But Brittany Kaiser is a friend of mine. She was the whistleblower of Cambridge Analytica. She came to me and said, “What do I do?” And I said, “Tell the truth. The truth will set you free.” [Ed. Note: Investigations in Cambridge Analytica took place as early as Nov. 2017, when a U.K. reporter at Channel 4 News recorded their CEO boasting about using “beautiful Ukranian girls” and offers of bribes to discredit political officials. The first whistleblower was Christopher Wylie, who disclosed a cache of documents to The Guardian, published on Mar. 17, 2018. Kaiser’s confession ran five days later, after the scandal made national news. Her association with Cambridge Analytica is not mentioned anywhere on Pierce’s campaign website.] So I’m glad that people—I’m a supporter of whistleblowers, people that see injustice in the world and something not right happening, and who put themselves in harm’s way to stand up for what they believe in. So I stand up for Brittany Kaiser. Who do you think [anonymous inventor of Bitcoin] Satoshi Nakamoto is? We all are Satoshi Nakamoto. You got married at Burning Man. Have you been attending virtual Burning Man? I’m running a presidential campaign. So, while I was there in spirit, unfortunately my schedule did not permit me to attend. OP note: please refer to the original article for reference links within text (as I've not added them here!)
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
What is Bitcoin (BTC)? Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital currency. Basically, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment system that is not tied to the economy of any country or to the central bank. All actions to issue new coins, process payments, and create accounts are done by equal, independent network participants. Bitcoin uses cryptographic methods to ensure the functioning and protection of the system, but at the same time, all information about transactions is documented on a virtual ledger called the Bitcoin blockchain, which is accessible for everyone to see. Nowadays Bitcoin is the most famous cryptocurrency in the world and the number one digital currency by market capitalization. by StealthEX
Bitcoin achievements and future plans
The latest most impactful news from around Bitcoin were the following: • Bitcoin halving took place on May 11, 2020. • Bitcoin developers move forward protocol enhancements through soft forks and activating Taproot. • Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency investment for companies. MicroStrategy, a publicly-listed U.S. invested $425 million in Bitcoin. Square reportedly invested 1% of its portfolio into BTC, demonstrating strength in its long-term growth. • According to Chainalysis 11.4M Bitcoin are held as long term investment. • At block height 642,034 on August 3, a billion-dollar transaction took place where it only cost a small amount of 80 cents (0.0008034 BTC at 129.6 sat/vB). • Over $300,000 in bitcoin grants being raised to support open source development and seeing bitcoin out-perform the price of gold by 100% so far this year. There is no official roadmap of the Bitcoin project. But according to the official Twitter of the Bitcoin Core developer – John Newbery, in the near future, the Bitcoin team will focus on the Lightning Network. The Lightning teams working on c-lightning (Blockstream), Eclair (ACINQ), LND (Lightning Labs) and Rust Lightning will continue to develop the protocol.
Blomberg analytics says that Bitcoin’s foundation is firming for further price advances. “Considering normal maturation, about double the time frame from $1,000 to $10,000 would come in around 2025, for Bitcoin to potentially add another zero.”
Mike Novogratz (CEO of crypto merchant bank Galaxy Digital) hopes that BTC will reach $20,000 highs by the end of 2020. “This is the year of Bitcoin and if it doesn’t go up now by the end of the year, I might just hang my spurs.”
An entrepreneur John McAfee has attracted public’s attention with his bizarre Bitcoin price predictions for the year 2020. Twitter, by StealthEX At the beginning of October 2020, McAfee got arrested for tax evasion charges, so the crypto community probably will not see the end of this bet.
Famous derivatives trader and consultant, Tony Vays during an interview with IGTV noted his thoughts for BTC price: “Do we think we go as high as $100,000? I’m not willing to make that statement. For me, I would be happy if the next top was around $45,000, and that can happen quickly.”
Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano
The co-founder of Morgan Creek Digital Assets, Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano is sure that Bitcoin will continue to grow. “You know there are people who debate what the size of the gold market is but let’s just use easy numbers. Let’s say that it’s $8 trillion. That puts Bitcoin at, depending on how many are lost or stolen, $400,000 to $450,000 today. Do you think that Bitcoin is going to be the equivalent of the gold market? I don’t. It’s better. It’s going to capture more market.”
By the beginning of December 2020 BTC price will be $10,271.457 (-9.23%) per coin. TradingBeasts analytics thinks that by end of the year 2021 the maximum BTC price will reach $13,969.59 (+22.51%), while the minimum price could be $9,499.322 (-16.69%) per coin.
Wallet Investor Bitcoin price prediction
According to the Wallet Investor Forecast System, BTC is a good long-term investment. By the end of December 2020 Bitcoin could reach a maximum price of $15,339.20 (+34.51%) while by the end of 2021 its price can be $16,691.80 (+46.38%) per coin. So, is it profitable to invest in Bitcoin? According to Wallet investor forecast, the long-term earning potential can reach +12.47% in one year.
DigitalCoinPrice BTC price prediction
Based on DigitalCoinPrice forecast Bitcoin is a profitable investment.The BTC average price may grow up to $26,263.42 (+130.31%) till the end of December 2020. While by end of the next year the its average price will be around $23,736.09 (+108.15%).
CoinPriceForecast Bitcoin forecast
CoinPriceForecast thinks that Bitcoin price at the end of 2020 will be around $11,495 (+0.8%). By the end of 2021 BTC price will reach $15,603 (+36.83%) per coin. As you can see there are a lot of Bitcoin price predictions, but no one knows for 100 % what will happen with its price. One thing is for sure – if you are looking for the best platform to exchange cryptocurrency – StealthEX is here for you.
How to buy Bitcoin at StealthEX
BTC is available for exchange on StealthEX with a low fee. Follow these easy steps: ✔ Choose the pair and the amount for your exchange. For example, ETH to BTC. ✔ Press the “Start exchange” button. ✔ Provide the recipient address to which the coins will be transferred. ✔ Move your cryptocurrency for the exchange. ✔ Receive your BTC coins! Follow us on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit to get StealthEX.io updates and the latest news about the crypto world. For all requests message us via [email protected] The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision. Original article was posted onhttps://stealthex.io/blog/2020/10/15/bitcoin-price-prediction-2021/
Bitcoin’s continued decrease in volatility comes even after a testing week for the crypto market in general. As previously reported by BTCManager, U.S. law enforcement arrested a co-founder of the popular crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX, with the platform also under investigation by the Department of Justice (DoJ). The news of the issues facing BitMEX did cause a slight price dip with BTC dropping about 5 percent. BitMEX also saw massive outflows from its exchange as traders sought to move their funds to other exchanges. Read more about bitcoin.....
Bilibili Copycat Tried to Save Itself With a $2M Crypto IEO – It Didn’t Work
A Chinese video site copycat raised $2.1 million via an initial exchange offering in August 2019 – but it appears this last resort wasn’t enough to save the company from falling apart. On Sept. 24, the Shanghai Yangpu District Court disclosed an Aug. 31 ruling that video streaming company Dilidili has infringed the trademark of Nasdaq-listed Bilibili and must pay a fine of nearly $500,000. The ruling followed a separate notice by the Shanghai Minhang District Prosecutor in July, which ordered the arrest of Dilidili’s founder for copyright infringement. The years-long case has drawn widespread attention among Chinese mainstream media given Dilidili’s outright copy-and-paste from Bilibili, which is China’s hit video site for streaming licensed Japanese anime content. The episode is also an example of a failed attempt by Chinese companies to use the concept of cryptocurrency and blockchain decentralization to rejuvenize their businesses. Founded in 2010, Bilibili.com has grown into one of the top video sites in China. It specializes in streaming licensed Japanese animation that targets China’s Generation Z population. Bilibili reportedly has some 170 million monthly active users. Bilibili went public on Nasdaq in March 2018 with a raise of $483 million. Earlier this year, Sony invested another $400 million in Bilibili and bought over 4% of its shares. The dispute between Bilibili and Dilidili started in 2015, when Dilidili was created with a name that appeared to be mimicking the incumbent. Soon after its creation, Dilidili had allegedly downloaded more than 3,000 episodes of Japanese animation from Bilibili and then uploaded it to its own platform for free viewing so that it could monetize the traffic, according to the Shanghai prosecutor’s arrest order. In January 2019, Bilibili brought a lawsuit against Dilidili and demanded some $4.3 million as damage claims due to Dilidili’s alleged trademark and copyright infringement. In a notable pivot, Dilidili tapped into the 2019 frenzy of cryptocurrency initial exchange offerings (IEO) in order to build a blockchain-based community governance ecosystem. Dilidili launched its token, DILI, on the ethereum platform and did the IEO on Chinese exchange Gate.io in August 2019. According to Gate.io’s announcement on Aug. 28, Dilidili achieved its goal of raising $2.1 million by selling 1.5 billion DILI, although the total subscription orders it received from Gate.io users were worth over $70 million. The trading started on the same date with a starting price of $0.00143 per DILI. But soon after trading began, several news reports emerged online with accusations of Dilidili running an illegal fundraise becaause China had banned token-based fundraising activities. The price of DILI on Gate.io has since plunged by over 90% to just $0.000253. Originally published by Wolfie Zhao | September 30, 2020 Coindesk
08-11 01:54 - 'Canaan's Co-Chairman was 'Out', Chinese BIG3 Bitcoin Miner Makers under Inner Wars' (self.Bitcoin) by /u/CjOnChain removed from /r/Bitcoin within 964-974min
''' [link]1 The Bitcoin miner maker Canaan Creative (NASDAQ: CAN) lately announced that five members of their board are leaving. As told, the terms of office of two directors, namely Jianping Kong and Qifeng Sun, expired on July 31, and three of its independent directors, namely Hong Zhang, Xiaohu Yang and Mei Luo, expired on August 1. It is noteworthy that all the departing directors are not allowed to seek appointments nor participate in the elections of the board of directors after the expiration of their terms of office. On July 9, Canaan Creative’s Hangzhou headquarter underwent business registration record modification. Former directors Kong, Sun and Li Jiaxuan, as well as supervisor Tu Songhua withdrew from the board, and Meng Lu was added as the new supervisor. "The corporate contact person also changed from Zhang Jing to Zhang Ning. According to the news, recently, the founder Zhang Nangeng had come with some Canaan Creative executives from Beijing to Hangzhou, dismissed a number of managers of Hangzhou headquarter, took away the official seal and business license of the company, later that day, some employees called the police. [link]2 The same as Bitmain, the first NASDAQ listed Bitcoin miner maker Canaan Creative also built the VIE structure, the main body of the company set up in the Cayman Islands. According to some sources, there has been a power struggle in Canaan Creative, between Zhang’s Beijing office and Kong’s Hangzhou office. In response to what happened in Hangzhou, Canaan Creative said that, "after the registration modification, the company is running normally, and all subsidiaries in China are headed by Zhang as the company's executive director, general manager and legal representative”. The power struggle in Canaan is not a single case. As the former industry dominant, BitMain technologies, who has released IPO prospectus in 2018 but with no progress, stuck in a Cayman Islands lawsuit between two founders. Its business is also badly affected. While another rising star MicroBT’s founder suffered from the disaster behind bars. December 12, 2019, Shenzhen Nanshan Court announced that the criminal suspect Yang Zhenxing was arrested by the crime of official encroachment. Outpost OnChain confirmed the news with MicroBT at the first moment. [link]3 Dr. Yang was graduated from Tsinghua University, had been the former miner chip design supervisor in BitMain and worked for the mysterious miner maker ‘FriedCat’. He had designed so-called BE300 chip using a "full custom methodology", the chip failed to go into mass production with the disappearance of FriedCat. Yang disclosed the "Full Custom Methodology” to the founder of BitMain, Zhan Ketuan, which can significantly reduce the cost and power consumption of the chip. Yang worked part-time to help design the S7 miner (1385 chip) and the S9 miner (1385 chip) that made BitMain's mining dominance possible. In 2016, Yang left BitMain and built up Shenzhen MicroBT Electronic Technology Company. Subsequently, MicroBT released a number of high-performance crypto mining products, quickly squeezed into the market, which had shaken the market dominance of BitMain. Later on, BitMain launched a patent ownership and infringement dispute lawsuit against MicroBT. However, a source said that there are some hidden facts behind Yang's arrest. As the source acknowledged, during the end of 2019, the lawsuit between BitMain and MicroBT made significant progress, law enforcement officers from Beijing has come to Shenzhen to handle the case. Right at this point, as the chairman, general manager and the actual beneficiary of MicroBT, Yang arrested by a 100 thousands RMB worth embezzlement case. The case between BitMain suspended after that. The timeliness of the embezzlement case and the identity of the informer are worthy of considering. Satoshi Nakamoto may not have imagined the emergence of ASIC chips when he published the Bitcoin white paper. The mining machine, a money-printing artifact, has created wealth for mining giants such as BitMain, MicroBT and Canaan Creative in just a few years. While the rapid accumulation of wealth, pathetic stories have also been staged, from the vanish of the FriedCat to the BitMain’s official seal wresting case. The road less traveled may not be the right path for everyone. ''' Canaan's Co-Chairman was 'Out', Chinese BIG3 Bitcoin Miner Makers under Inner Wars Go1dfish undelete link unreddit undelete link Author: CjOnChain 1: p*e*iew.redd.it/c*****q*b5g51.jpg*width=16*0&f*rmat=pj*g&*m*;*uto=*eb*&s=*d609326*f*b62c*9e****be8*947**abfb8b**4 2: pre*iew.r*dd.it**o7z24z8b*g51.png*wi*th=*176&*mp;f*rm*t=**g&*aut*=webp&a*p;s=224cf*10**a*550***54d3*e0*6d1e929**7e*** 3: previ*w.red*.**/8*i23*bab5*5*.jpg*w*dth=1*80&*mp*fo*mat=pjp*&*mp*au*o=web**amp;s=7e289df*ce**2d9ca2de9**c0ce2847c2**e***f Unknown links are censored to prevent spreading illicit content.
Hello community! Here is report from XMR.RU-team. The following articles/manuals were translated into Russian and posted not only on XMR.RU but also on Bitcointalk, Bits.Media, different crypto-chats, etc. If you would like to read the original article in English, then, open the article you are interested in, and at the end of each article you will find a link to the source.
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Listen neckbeard, in a democracy you don't have to cure cancer before you tell some wanker on the internet that they fucked up. And besides, if I think he caused more damage over all than good, wouldn't me doing nothing be enough of an achievement to tell a wanker to stfu? You know? So ask the right questions. Also... Just to be really clear, I was using Einstein sarcastically as an insult.
Do we now have a potential VPN criminal conglomerate?
As many of you have already read, Private Internet Access has recently been acquired by a company named “Kape Technologies”. “Kape Technologies” is a huge company that also owns the likes of CyberGhost VPN as well as Zenmate. I decided to read more and found facts that thoroughly shocked me: • CyberGhost was acquired by “Kape Technologies” (previously named “Crossrider”) back in 2017. “Crosrider” was known to hide malware/adware in their software and then sell data collected by it. • The co-founder of “Kape Technologies”, Teddy Sagi was sentenced to prison in regards to fraud and bribery back in 1996. • CyberGhost VPN service was also found to have WebRTC, IPv6 as well as DNS leaks multiple times, risking its users’ privacy. • Private Internet Access hired Mark Karpeles (ex-CEO of MT.Gox BitCoin platform) as their CTO. Karpeles was arrested and found guilty when tampering with financial records, trying to hide the platform’s loss by combining his personal finances with the exchange’s. • Private Internet Access’s founder, Andrew Lee, also known as “Rasengan” on HackerNews, made serious allegations against ProtonVPN. • Allegations against NordVPN followed, where PIA’s employee was caught sharing a misleading PDF as a ‘concerned citizen’. • An ex-employee of Private Internet Access was threatened due to disclosing management issues, therefore spilling a lot of information about the company. • The same employee disclosed that PIA faked Reddit comments and ordered to downvote negative feedback about the product. • Another thing to consider is that before acquisition, Private Internet Access was in debt of over $32 million. The facts about these companies were easy to find, to be honest, I didn’t need to dig deep to find them. I am just truthfully shocked about this and how much I didn’t know about the companies beforehand. Personally, given this knowledge, I am not going to support these companies, especially when they potentially have criminal past and present activities. P.S. Had to use my relative's account just cause someone is working hard to remove these posts :) Edit: By the way - has anyone tried sharing these news with journalists, for example, PcMag or TechRadar (they're unbiased imho)? I don't see the story being covered at all, especially with these added details
Do we now have a potential VPN criminal conglomerate?
As many of you have already read, Private Internet Access has recently been acquired by a company named “Kape Technologies”. “Kape Technologies” is a huge company that also owns the likes of CyberGhost VPN as well as Zenmate. I decided to read more and found facts that thoroughly shocked me: • CyberGhost was acquired by “Kape Technologies” (previously named “Crossrider”) back in 2017. “Crosrider” was known to hide malware/adware in their software and then sell data collected by it. • The co-founder of “Kape Technologies”, Teddy Sagi was sentenced to prison in regards to fraud and bribery back in 1996. • CyberGhost VPN service was also found to have WebRTC, IPv6 as well as DNS leaks multiple times, risking its users’ privacy. • Private Internet Access hired Mark Karpeles (ex-CEO of MT.Gox BitCoin platform) as their CTO. Karpeles was arrested and found guilty when tampering with financial records, trying to hide the platform’s loss by combining his personal finances with the exchange’s. • Private Internet Access’s founder, Andrew Lee, also known as “Rasengan” on HackerNews, made serious allegations against ProtonVPN. • Allegations against NordVPN followed, where PIA’s employee was caught sharing a misleading PDF as a ‘concerned citizen’. • An ex-employee of Private Internet Access was threatened due to disclosing management issues, therefore spilling a lot of information about the company. • The same employee disclosed that PIA faked Reddit comments and ordered to downvote negative feedback about the product. • Another thing to consider is that before acquisition, Private Internet Access was in debt of over $32 million. The facts about these companies were easy to find, to be honest, I didn’t need to dig deep to find them. I am just truthfully shocked about this and how much I didn’t know about the companies beforehand. Personally, given this knowledge, I am not going to support these companies, especially when they potentially have criminal past and present activities.
The biggest cryptocurrency thefts in the last 10 years
In this article, we will try to remember all the major theft of cryptocurrencies over the past 10 years. 1. Bitstamp $5.3 mln (BTC), January 4th, 2015 On January 4, 2015, the operational hot wallet of Bitstamp announced that it was hacked by an anonymous hacker and 19,000 Bitcoins (worth of $5 million) were lost. The initiation of the attack fell on November 4, 2014. Then Damian Merlak, the CTO of the exchange, was offered free tickets to punk rock festival Punk Rock Holiday 2015 via Skype, knowing that Merlak is interested in such music and he plays in the band. To receive the tickets, he was asked to fill out a participant questionnaire by sending a file named “Punk Rock Holiday 2015 TICKET Form1.doc”. This file contained the VBA script. By opening the file, he downloaded the malware on his computer. Although Merlak did not suspect wrong and has opened the "application form", to any critical consequences, this did not open access to the funds of exchange. The attackers, however, did not give up. The attack continued for five weeks, during which hackers presented themselves as journalists, then headhunters. Finally, the attackers were lucky. On December 11, 2014, the infected word document was opened on his machine by Bitstamp system administrator Luka Kodric, who had access to the exchange wallet. The file came to the victim by email, allegedly on behalf of an employee of the Association for computer science, although in fact, as the investigation showed, the traces of the file lead deep into Tor. Hackers were not limited to just one letter. Skype attacker pretending to be an employee of the Association for computing machinery, convinced that his Frame though to make international honor society, which required some paperwork. Kodric believed. By installing a Trojan on Kodriс's computer hackers were able to obtain direct access to the hot wallet of the exchange. The logs show that the attacker, under the account of Kodric, gained access to the server LNXSRVBTC, where he kept the wallet file.dat, and the DORNATA server where the password was stored. Then the servers were redirected to a certain IP address that belongs to one of the providers of Germany. There are still no official reports of arrests in this case. Obviously, the case is complicated by the fact that the hackers are outside the UK, and the investigation has to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in other countries. 2. GateHub $9.5 mln (XRP), June 1th, 2019 Hackers have compromised nearly 100 XRP Ledger wallets on cryptocurrency wallet service GateHub. The incident was reported by GateHub in a preliminary statement on June 6. XRP enthusiast Thomas Silkjær, who first noticed the suspicious activity, estimates that the hackers have stolen nearly $10 million worth of cryptocurrency (23,200,000 XRP), $5.5 million (13,100,000 XRP) of which has already been laundered through exchanges and mixer services. GateHub notes that it is still conducting an investigation and therefore cannot publish any official findings. Also, GateHub advises victims to make complaints to the relevant authorities of their jurisdiction. 3. Tether, $30.9 mln (USDT), November 19th, 2017 Tether created a digital currency called "US tokens" (USDT) — they could be used to trade real goods using Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ether. By depositing $1 in Tether, the user received 1 USD, which can be converted back into fiat. On November 19, 2017, the attacker gained access to the main Tether wallet and withdrew $ 30.9 million in tokens. For the transaction, he used a Bitcoin address, which means that it was irreversible. To fix the situation, Tether took action by which the hacker was unable to withdraw the stolen money to fiat or Bitcoin, but the panic led to a decrease in the value of Bitcoin. 4. Ethereum, $31 mln (ETH), July 20th, 2017 On July 20, 2017, the hacker transferred 153,037 Ethers to $31 million from three very large wallets owned by SwarmCity, Edgeless Casino and Eternity. Unknown fraudster managed to change the ownership of wallets, taking advantage of the vulnerability with multiple signatures. First, the theft was noticed by the developers of SwarmCity. Further events deserve a place in history: "white hackers" returned the stolen funds, and then protected other compromised accounts. They acted in the same way as criminals, who stole funds from vulnerable wallets — just not for themselves. And it all happened in less than a day. 5. Dao (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) $70 mln (ETH), June 18th, 2016 On June 18, 2016, members of the Ethereum community noticed that funds were being drained from the DAO and the overall ETH balance of the smart contract was going down. A total of 3.6 million Ether (worth around $70 million at the time) was drained by the hacker in the first few hours. The attack was possible because of an exploit found in the splitting function. The attackes withdrew Ether from the DAO smart contract multiple times using the same DAO Tokens. This was possible due to what is known as a recursive call exploit. In this exploit, the attacker was able to "ask" the smart contract (DAO) to give the Ether back multiple times before the smart contract could update its own balance. There were two main faults that made this possible: the fact that when the DAO smart contract was created the coders did not take into account the possibility of a recursive call, and the fact that the smart contract first sent the ETH funds and then updated the internal token balance. It's important to understand that this bug did not come from Ethereum itself, but from this one application that was built on Ethereum. The code written for the DAO had multiple bugs, and the recursive call exploit was one of them. Another way to look at this situation is to compare Ethereum to the Internet and any application based on Ethereum to a website: if a website is not working, it doesn't mean that the Internet is not working, it simply means that one website has a problem. The hacker stopped draining the DAO for unknown reasons, even though they could have continued to do so. The Ethereum community and team quickly took control of the situation and presented multiple proposals to deal with the exploit. In order to prevent the hacker from cashing in the Ether from his child DAO after the standard 28 days, a soft-fork was voted on and came very close to being introduced. A few hours before it was set to be released, a few members of the community found a bug with the implementation that opened a denial-of-service attack vector. This soft fork was designed to blacklist all the transactions made from the DAO. 6. NiceHash, 4736.42 (BTC), December 6th, 2017 NiceHash is a Slovenian cryptocurrency hash power broker with integrated marketplace that connects sellers of hashing power (miners) with buyers of hashing power using the sharing economy approach. On December 6, 2017, the company's servers became the target of attack. At first, Reddit users reported that they could not access their funds and make transactions — when they tried to log in, they were shown a message about a service interruption. In the end, it became known that the service had undergone a major cyberattack and 4736,42 Bitcoins disappeared without a trace. Despite heavy losses, NiceHash was able to continue working, but CEO and founder Marco Koval resigned, giving way to a new team. The company managed to maintain the trust of investors and began to strengthen the protection of its systems. 7. Mt.Gox, 850000 (BTC), June 19th, 2011 The Hacking Of Mt.Gox was one of the biggest Bitcoin thefts in history. It was the work of highly professional hackers using complex vulnerabilities. A hacker (or a group of hackers) allegedly gained access to a computer owned by one of the auditors and used a security vulnerability to access Mt.Gox servers, then changed the nominal value of Bitcoin to 1 cent per coin. Then they brought out about 2000 BTC. Some customers, without knowing it, conducted transactions at this low price, a total of 650 BTC, and despite the fact that the hacking hit the headlines around the world, no Bitcoin could be returned. To increase investor confidence, the company has compensated all of the stolen coins, placed most of the remaining funds in offline storage, and the next couple of years was considered the most reliable Bitcoin exchanger in the world. However, it was only an illusion of reliability. The problems of the organization were much more serious, and the management probably did not even know about them. CEO of Mt.Gox, Mark Karpeles, was originally a developer, but over time he stopped delving into technical details, basking in the rays of glory — because he created the world's largest platform for cryptocurrency exchange. At that time Mt.Gox handled over 70% of all Bitcoin transactions. And, of course, there were those who wanted to take advantage of the technological weakness of the service. At some point, hackers made it so that Bitcoins could be bought at any price, and within minutes millions of dollars worth of coins were sold — mostly for pennies. World prices for Bitcoin stabilized in a few minutes, but it was too late. As a result, Mt.Gox lost about 850,000 Bitcoins. The exchange had to declare bankruptcy, hundreds of thousands of people lost money, and the Japanese authorities arrested CEO Mark Karpeles for fraud. He pleaded not guilty and was subsequently released. In 2014, the authorities restored some of the Bitcoins remaining at the old addresses, but did not transfer them to the exchange, and created a trust to compensate for the losses of creditors. 8. Coincheck, $530 mln, January 26th, 2018 The sum was astonishing, and even surpassed the infamous Mt.Gox hack. While Mt.Gox shortly filed for bankruptcy following the hack, Coincheck has surprisingly remained in business and was even recently approved as a licensed exchange by Japan’s Financial Services (FSA). Coincheck was founded in 2014 in Japan and was one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. Offering a wide variety of digital assets including Bitcoin, Ether, LISK, and NEM, Coincheck was an emerging exchange that joined the Japan Blockchain Association. Since Coincheck was founded it 2014, it was incidentally not subject to new exchange registration requirements with Japan’s FSA — who rolled out a framework after Mt. Gox –, and eventually was a contributing factor to its poor security standards that led to the hack. On January 26th, 2018, Coincheck posted on their blog detailing that they were restricting NEM deposits and withdrawals, along with most other methods for buying or selling cryptocurrencies on the platform. Speculation arose that the exchange had been hacked, and the NEM developers issued a statement saying they were unaware of any technical glitches in the NEM protocol and any issues were a result of the exchange’s security. Coincheck subsequently held a high-profile conference where they confirmed that hackers had absconded with 500 million NEM tokens that were then distributed to 19 different addresses on the network. Totaling roughly $530 million at the time — NEM was hovering around $1 then — the Coincheck hack was considered the largest theft in the industry’s history. Coincheck was compelled to reveal some embarrassing details about their exchange’s security, mentioning how they stored all of the NEM in a single hot wallet and did not use the NEM multisignature contract security recommended by the developers. Simultaneously, the NEM developers team had tagged all of the NEM stolen in the hack with a message identifying the funds as stolen so that other exchanges would not accept them. However, NEM announced they were ending their hunt for the stolen NEM for unspecified reasons several months later, and speculation persisted that hackers were close to cashing out the stolen funds on the dark web. Mainstream media covered the hack extensively and compared it to similar failures by cryptocurrency exchanges in the past to meet adequate security standards. At the time, most media coverage of cryptocurrencies was centered on their obscure nature, dramatic volatility, and lack of security. Coincheck’s hack fueled that narrative considerably as the stolen sum was eye-popping and the cryptocurrency used — NEM — was unknown to most in the mainstream. NEM depreciated rapidly following the hack, and the price fell even more throughout 2018, in line with the extended bear market in the broader industry. Currently, NEM is trading at approximately $0.07, a precipitous fall from ATH over $1.60 in early January. The extent of the Coincheck hack was rivaled by only a few other hacks, notably the Mt.Gox hack. While nominally Coincheck is the largest hack in the industry’s history, the effects of Mt.Gox were significantly more impactful since the stolen funds consisted only of Bitcoin and caused a sustained market correction as well as an ongoing controversy with the stolen funds and founder. Moreover, Mt.Gox squandered 6% of the overall Bitcoin circulation at the time in a market that was much less mature than it is today. Despite the fallout, Coincheck is now fully operational and registered with Japan’s FSA. As practice shows, people make mistakes and these mistakes can cost a lot. Especially, when we talk about mad cryptoworld. Be careful and keep your private keys in a safe place.
A few stories about Brian Krebs: The independent cybercrime journalist who exposes criminals on the internet
First, a bit of introduction before we get into the living drama that is Brian Krebs. Brian Krebs has been a journalist for decades, starting in the late 90s. He got his start at The Washington Post, but what he's most famous for are his exposes on criminal businesses and individuals who perpetuate cyber crime worldwide. In 2001, he got his interest in cybercrime piqued when a computer worm locked him out of his own computer. In 2005, he shifted from working as a staff writer at The Washington Post's tech newswire to writing for their security blog, "Security Wire". During his tenure there, he started by focusing on the victims of cybercrime, but later also started to focus on the perpetrators of it as well. His reporting helped lead to the shutdown of McColo, a hosting provider who provided service to some of the world's biggest spammers and hackers. Reports analyzing the shutdown of McColo estimated that global spam volume dropped by between 40 and 70 percent. Further analysis revealed it also played host to child pornography sites, and the Russian Business Network, a major Russian cybercrime ring. In 2009, Krebs left to start his own site, KrebsOnSecurity. Since then, he's been credited with being the first to report on major events such as Stuxnet and when Target was breached, resulting in the leakage of 40 million cards. He also regularly investigates and reveals criminals' identities on his site. The latter has made him the bane of the world of cybercrime, as well as basically a meme, where criminals will include references like Made by Brian Krebs in their code, or name their shops full of stolen credit cards after him. One of his first posts on his new site was a selection of his best work. While not particularly dramatic, they serve as an excellent example of dogged investigative work, and his series reveal the trail of takedowns his work has documented, or even contributed to. And now, a selection of drama involving Krebs. Note, all posts are sarcastically-tinged retellings of the source material which I will link throughout. I also didn't use the real names in my retellings, but they are in the source material. This took way too long to write, and it still does massively condense the events described in the series. Krebs has been involved with feuds with other figures, but I'd argue these tales are the "main" bits of drama that are most suited for here.
Fly on the Wall
By 2013, Krebs was no stranger to cybercriminals taking the fight to the real world. He was swatted previously to the point where the police actually know to give him a ring and see if there'd actually been a murder, or if it was just those wacky hackers at it again. In addition, his identity was basically common knowledge to cybercriminals, who would open lines of credit in his name, or find ways to send him money using stolen credit cards. However, one particular campaign against him caught his eye. A hacker known as "Fly" aka "Flycracker" aka "MUXACC1" posted on a Russian-language fraud forum he administered about a "Krebs fund". His plan was simple. Raise Bitcoin to buy Heroin off of a darknet marketplace, address it to Krebs, and alert his local police via a spoofed phone call. Now, because Krebs is an investigative journalist, he develops undercover presences on cybercrime forums, and it just so happened he'd built up a presence on this one already.
Guys, it became known recently that Brian Krebs is a heroin addict and he desperately needs the smack, so we have started the "Helping Brian Fund", and shortly we will create a bitcoin wallet called "Drugs for Krebs" which we will use to buy him the purest heroin on the Silk Road. My friends, his withdrawal is very bad, let’s join forces to help the guy! We will save Brian from the acute heroin withdrawal and the world will get slightly better!
Fly had first caught Krebs' attention by taunting him on Twitter, sending him Tweets including insults and abuse, and totally-legit looking links. Probably either laced with malware, or designed to get Krebs' IP. He also took to posting personal details such as Krebs' credit report, directions to his house, and pictures of his front door on LiveJournal, of all places. So, after spotting the scheme, he alerted his local police that he'd probably have someone sending him some China White. Sure enough, the ne'er-do-wells managed to raise 2 BTC, which at the time was a cool $200 or so. They created an account on the premiere darknet site at the time, The Silk Road under the foolproof name "briankrebs7". They found one seller who had consistently high reviews, but the deal fell through for unknown reasons. My personal theory is the seller decided to Google where it was going, and realized sending a gram of dope into the waiting arms of local law enforcement probably wasn't the best use of his time. Still, the forum members persevered, and found another seller who was running a buy 10 get 2 free promotion. $165 of Bitcoin later, the drugs were on their way to a new home. The seller apparently informed Fly that the shipment should arrive by Tuesday, a fact which he gleefully shared with the forum. While our intrepid hero had no doubt that the forum members were determined to help him grab the tail of the dragon, he's not one to assume without confirmation, and enlisted the help of a graduate student at UCSD who was researching Bitcoin and anonymity on The Silk Road, and confirmed the address shared by Fly was used to deposit 2 BTC into an account known to be used for money management on the site. By Monday, an envelope from Chicago had arrived, containing a copy of Chicago confidential. Taped inside were tiny baggies filled with the purported heroin. Either dedicated to satisfied customers, or mathematically challenged, the seller had included thirteen baggies instead of the twelve advertised. A police officer arrived to take a report and whisked the baggies away. Now, Fly was upset that Krebs wasn't in handcuffs for drug possession, and decided to follow up his stunt by sending Krebs a floral arrangement shaped like a cross, and an accompanying threatening message addressed to his wife, the dire tone slightly undercut by the fact that it was signed "Velvet Crabs". Krebs' curiosity was already piqued from the shenanigans with the heroin, but with the arrival of the flowers decided to dive deeper into the сука behind things. He began digging into databases from carding sites that had been hacked, but got his first major breakthrough to his identity from a Russian computer forensics firm. Fly had maintained an account on a now-defunct hacking forum, whose database was breached under "Flycracker". It turns out, the email Flycracker had used was also hacked at some point, and a source told Krebs that the email was full of reports from a keylogger Fly had installed on his wife's computer. Now, because presumably his wife wasn't part of, or perhaps even privy to her husband's illicit dealings, her email account happened to be her full legal name, which Krebs was able to trace to her husband. Now, around this time, the site Fly maintained disappeared from the web, and administrators on another major fraud forum started purging his account. This is a step they typically take when they suspect a member has been apprehended by authorities. Nobody knew for sure, but they didn't want to take any chances. More research by Krebs revealed that the criminals' intuition had been correct, and Fly was arrested in Italy, carrying documents under an assumed name. He was sitting in an Italian jail, awaiting potential extradition to the United States, as well as potentially facing charges in Italy. This was relayed to Krebs by a law enforcement official who simply said "The Fly has been swatted". (Presumably while slowly removing a pair of aviator sunglasses) While Fly may have been put away, the story between Krebs and Fly wasn't quite over. He did end up being extradited to the US for prosecution, but while imprisoned in Italy, Fly actually started sending Krebs letters. Understandably distrustful after the whole "heroin" thing, his contacts in federal law enforcement tested the letter, and found it to be clean. Inside, there was a heartfelt and personal letter, apologizing for fucking with Krebs in so many ways. He also forgave Krebs for posting his identity online, leading him to muse that perhaps Fly was working through a twelve-step program. In December, he received another letter, this time a simple postcard with a cheerful message wishing him a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Krebs concluded his post thusly:
Cybercrooks have done some pretty crazy stuff to me in response to my reporting about them. But I don’t normally get this kind of closure. I look forward to meeting with Fly in person one day soon now that he will be just a short train ride away. And he may be here for some time: If convicted on all charges, Fly faces up to 30 years in U.S. federal prison.
Criminals are none too happy when they find their businesses and identities on the front page of KrebsOnSecurity. It usually means law enforcement isn't far behind. One such business was known as vDOS. A DDOS-for-hire (also known as a "booter" or a "stresser") site that found itself hacked, with all their customer records still in their databases leaked. Analysis of the records found that in a four-month time span, the service had been responsible for about 8.81 years worth of attack time, meaning on average at any given second, there were 26 simultaneous attacks running. Interestingly, the hack of vDOS came about from another DDOS-for-hire site, who as it turns out was simply reselling services provided by vDOS. They were far from the only one. vDOS appeared to provide firepower to a large number of different resellers. In addition to the attack logs, support messages were also among the data stolen. This contained some complaints from various clients who complained they were unable to launch attacks against Israeli IPs. This is a common tactic by hackers to try and avoid unwanted attention from authorities in their country of residence. This was confirmed when two men from Israel were arrested for their involvement in owning and running vDOS. However, this was just the beginning for this bit of drama. The two men arrested went by the handles "applej4ck" and "Raziel". They had recently published a paper on DDOS attack methods in an online Israeli security magazine. Interestingly, on the same day the men were arrested, questioned, and released on bail, vDOS went offline. Not because it had been taken down by Israeli authorities, not because they had shut it down themselves, but because a DDOS protection firm, BackConnect Security, had hijacked the IP addresses belonging to the company. To spare a lot of technical detail, it's called a BGP hijack, and it basically works by a company saying "Yeah, those are our addresses." It's kind of amazing how much of the internet is basically just secured by the digital equivalent of pinky swears. You can read some more technical detail on Wikipedia. Anyway, we'll get back to BackConnect. Following the publication of the story uncovering the inner workings of vDOS, KrebsOnSecurity was hit with a record breaking DDOS attack, that peaked at 620/Gbps, nearly double the most powerful DDOS attack previously on record. To put that in perspective, that's enough bandwidth to download 5 simultaneous copies of Interstellar in 4K resolution every single second, and still have room to spare. The attack was so devastating, Akamai, one of the largest providers of DDOS protection in the world had to drop Krebs as a pro bono client. Luckily, Google was willing to step in and place his site under the protection of Google's Project Shield, a free service designed to protect the news sites and journalists from being knocked offline by DDOS attacks. This attack was apparently in retaliation for the vDOS story, since some of the data sent in the attack included the string "freeapplej4ck". The attack was executed by a botnet of Internet of Things (or IoT) devices. These are those "smart" devices like camera systems, routers, DVRs. Basically things that connect to the cloud. An astounding amount of those are secured with default passwords that can be easily looked up from various sites or even the manufacturers' websites. This was the start of a discovery of a massive botnet that had been growing for years. Now time for a couple quick side stories: Dyn, a company who provides DNS to many major companies including Twitter, Reddit, and others came under attack, leaving many sites (including Twitter and Reddit) faltering in the wake of it. Potentially due to one of their engineers' collaboration with Krebs on another story. It turned out that the same botnet that attacked Krebs' site was at least part of the attack on Dyn And back to BackConnect, that DDOS protection firm that hijacked the IP addresses from vDOS. Well it turns out BGP Hijacks are old hat for the company. They had done it at least 17 times before. Including at least once (purportedly with permission) for the address 220.127.116.11. Aka, "leet". It turns out one of the co-founders of BackConnect actually posted screenshots of him visiting sites that tell you your public IP address in a DDOS mitigation industry chat, showing it as 18.104.22.168. They also used a BGP Hijack against a hosting company and tried to frame a rival DDOS mitigation provider. Finally, another provider, Datawagon was interestingly implicated in hosting DDOS-for-hire sites while offering DDOS protection. In a Skype conversation where the founder of Datawagon wanted to talk about that time he registered dominos.pizza and got sued for it, he brings up scanning the internet for vulnerable routers completely unprompted. Following the publication of the story about BackConnect, in which he was included in, he was incensed about his portrayal, and argued with Krebs over Skype before Krebs ultimately ended up blocking him. He was subsequently flooded with fake contact requests from bogus or hacked Skype accounts. Shortly thereafter, the record-breaking DDOS attack rained down upon his site. Back to the main tale! So, it turns out the botnet of IoT devices was puppeteered by a malware called Mirai. How did it get its name? Well, that's the name its creator gave it, after an anime called Mirai Nikki. How did this name come to light? The creator posted the source code online. (The name part, not the origin. The origin didn't come 'til later.) The post purported that they'd picked it up from somewhere in their travels as a DDOS industry professional. It turns out this is a semi-common tactic when miscreants fear that law enforcement might come looking for them, and having the only copy of the source code of a malware in existence is a pretty strong indicator that you have something to do with it. So, releasing the source to the world gives a veneer of plausible deniability should that eventuality come to pass. So who was this mysterious benefactor of malware source? They went by the name "Anna-senpai". As research on the Mirai botnet grew, and more malware authors incorporated parts of Mirai's source code into their own attacks, attention on the botnet increased, and on the people behind it. The attention was presumably the reason why Hackforums, the forum where the source code was posted, later disallowed ostensible "Server Stress Tester" services from being sold on it. By December, "Operation Tarpit" had wrought 34 arrests and over a hundred "knock and talk" interviews questioning people about their involvement. By January, things started to come crashing down. Krebs published an extensive exposé on Anna-senpai detailing all the evidence linking them to the creation of Mirai. The post was so big, he included a damn glossary. What sparked the largest botnet the internet had ever seen? Minecraft. Minecraft servers are big business. A popular one can earn tens of thousands of dollars per month from people buying powers, building space, or other things. It's also a fiercely competitive business, with hundreds of servers vying for players. It turns out that things may have started, as with another set of companies, two rival DDOS mitigation providers competing for customers. ProTraf was a provider of such mitigation technology, and a company whose owner later worked for ProTraf had on at least one occasion hijacked addresses belonging to another company, ProxyPipe. ProxyPipe had also been hit with DDOS attacks they suspected to be launched by ProTraf. While looking into the President of ProTraf, Krebs realized he'd seen the relatively uncommon combination of programming languages and skills posted by the President somewhere else. They were shared by Anna-senpai on Hackforums. As Krebs dug deeper and deeper into Anna-senpai's online presence, he uncovered other usernames, including one he traced to some Minecraft forums where a photoshopped picture of a still from Pulp Fiction contained the faces of BackConnect, which was a rival to ProTraf's DDOS mitigation business, and another face. A hacker by the name of Vyp0r, who another employee of ProTraf claimed betrayed his trust and blackmailed him into posting the source of another piece of malware called Bashlite. There was also a third character photoshopped into the image. An anime character named "Yamada" from a movie called B Gata H Hei. Interestingly, under the same username, Krebs found a "MyAnimeList" profile which, out of 9 titles it had marked as watched, were B Gata H Hei, as well as Mirai Nikki, the show from which Mirai derived its name. It continues on with other evidence, including DDOS attacks against Rutgers University, but in short, there was little doubt in the identity of "Anna-senpai", but the person behind the identity did contact Krebs to comment. He denied any involvement in Mirai or DDOS attacks.
"I don’t think there are enough facts to definitively point the finger at me," [Anna-senpai] said. "Besides this article, I was pretty much a nobody. No history of doing this kind of stuff, nothing that points to any kind of sociopathic behavior. Which is what the author is, a sociopath."
I don't have the time or energy to write another effortpost, and as is I'm over 20,000 characters, so here's a few other tidbits of Krebs' clashes with miscreants.
A source and security researcher he was talking to started blabbing about him working with Krebs, and also was selling data to hackers on the side. His example data in his sales post was fucking Brian Krebs'.
Another male feminist gets accused of sexual assault. The kicker? he was the founder of Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook. The university that was recommended to braincels after the quarantine. (653 points, 283 comments)
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