Decrypt’s Art, Fashion, and Entertainment Hub.
Decentralized, scalable, secure. The lofty three-pronged goal of blockchains the world over. Very lofty, it turns out; a new report, compiled by blockchain security firm CypherTrace, has found that just under $1 billion worth of cryptocurrency has been stolen from exchanges this year. That’s three times more than was stolen throughout the entirety of 2017. Chief among the culprits are Italian exchange BitGrail and Japanese exchange Coincheck, which managed to lose $195 million and $350 million worth of cryptocurrency respectively. Sounds like Coincheck forgot to check its coins, eh??? I'm here all week. Try the veal.
If only the reprobates who robbed Coincheck had been honorable, like the hacker who recently stole around $32,000 worth of ETH tokens from “adult industry” platform SpankChain, before kindly giving it all back on Thursday. In an unprecedented display of chivalry, the hacker then helped SpankChain—via what must have been a weird phone call with Ameen Soleimani, SpankChain’s CEO—retrieve the some 4,000 BOOTY tokens that had been frozen as a result of the hack.
Because crime apparently pays quite handsomely, the hacker was then awarded 5,000 BOOTY tokens (current monetary value=$0), as well as an extra 5.5 ETH for the trouble ($1,068.65). Is crime now...good? Is this a positive “paradigm shift” in the bank robbery industry? Or is this a parable for something? If it is, we don’t want to know.
When the going gets criminal, the criminal gets sponsored on Twitter. In what has now become a routine narrative, the Twitter account of a celebrity was hacked (this time it was chef Tyler Florence's turn), defaced, and transformed into a fake bitcoin-peddling scam account. In this instance, the zombie account assumed the identity of gazillionaire Elon Musk. The subsequent fake ad, distressingly, was then pushed to thousands of users as “sponsored content,” meaning the hackers paid Twitter directly for the honor of disseminating the scam.
Though the hackers’ imitation of Musk was dreadful (“I’m giving away 5 000 Bitcoin (BTC) to all community! [...] I left the post of director at Tesla, thank you all for the support!”), the ruse apparently worked—Hard Fork found that several transactions had been forwarded to the advertised public key since the fake proclamation. Maybe the guileless defraudees are just holding out for the day a real celebrity, say, Queen Elizabeth II, actually makes good on a random Twitter pledge to distribute bitcoins. When Her Majesty starts rewarding her most loyal subjects with one shiny bitcoin each, won’t we look the fools.
None of this nonsense would go down in China. According to Coindesk, the People’s Bank of China is proceeding with plans to devise its own, yuan-backed cryptocurrency. The Bank, which announced plans to develop the coin last year, is now looking to recruit at least “four engineers” who, er, know how to actually do that. Surely it’s not hard to find four willing (or unwilling) engineers in China?
For those in the West, apparently it is. The various delegates of Ethereum-contender EOS’s holistic voting system, it turns out, are struggling to communicate with one other across the Pacific; Coindesk (again, sorry) found that Westerners tend to prefer Telegram, while Chinese crypto lovers prefer WeChat. So it’s less “Great Firewall” and more “What the hell is Telegram?” Nevertheless, this makes EOS’s vaunted democratic structure more tricky in practice; it’s like if half of the U.S. Congress communicated through iPhones while the other half stuck to carrier pigeons. But at least pigeons are unhackable. Sort of.
Read next: Pump 'n' anarchist uprising.