North Korea hackers accused of Axie Infinity crypto heist
Apr15

North Korea hackers accused of Axie Infinity crypto heist

The United States has linked North Korean hackers to a multi-million dollar cryptocurrency heist last month focusing on players of the popular Axie Infinity game. The March hack of Blockchain project Ronin was one of the biggest to hit the crypto world, raising huge questions about security in an industry that only recently burst into the mainstream thanks to celebrity promotions and promises of untold wealth. The Ronin network allows users to transfer crypto in and out of the game. “Through our investigations we were able to confirm Lazarus Group and APT38, cyber actors associated with [North Korea], are responsible for the theft,” the FBI said in a statement. Lazarus rose to prominence in 2014 when it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment as revenge for “The Interview,” a satirical film that mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It has also been accused of involvement in the “WannaCry” ransomware attacks, as well as hacking international banks and customer accounts. “The United States is aware that the DPRK has increasingly relied on illicit activities – including cybercrime – to generate revenue for its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs as it tries to evade robust US and UN sanctions,” a Treasury Department spokesperson said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name. North Korea’s hacking programme dates back to at least the mid-1990s and has grown to a 6,000-strong cyber warfare unit, known as Bureau 121, that operates from several countries, including Belarus, China, India, Malaysia […]

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Will ‘largest’ release of US oil reserves bring prices down?
Apr09

Will ‘largest’ release of US oil reserves bring prices down?

Gasoline prices have risen sharply since Russia invaded Ukraine, and Americans are feeling the pinch at the pump. With mid-term elections just months away, United States President Joe Biden is under growing pressure to bring down high energy prices. And he is attempting to do that by increasing supply. The president has ordered the release of at least 180 million barrels of oil from the US’s strategic reserves over the next six months; that’s the largest release of oil reserves since the country’s stockpile was created more than 46 years ago. Elsewhere, we look at India, which is imposing a tax on cryptocurrency profits.

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Blockchain project Ronin hit by $590m crypto heist
Mar30

Blockchain project Ronin hit by $590m crypto heist

In one of the largest crypto industry attacks ever, the Ronin Bridge that connects different blockchains revealed that hackers stole about $590 million. Computers known as nodes operated by Axie Infinity maker Sky Mavis and the Axie DAO that support the bridge — a piece of software that lets people easily convert tokens into ones that can be used on the Ronin network — were attacked, with the hacker draining the bridge of 173,600 Ether and 25.5 million USDC in two transactions, Ronin said. The breach happened on March 23, but was only discovered Tuesday, Ronin revealed. The attack is the latest to show that bridges are often rife with problems. Many bridges’ code isn’t audited. It’s often unclear who runs them and exactly how. Identities of validators, who are supposed to order transactions on bridges, are often shrouded in mystery. The price of Ron, a token used on the Ronin blockchain, dropped about 20% after the hack was disclosed. AXS, a token used in Axie Infinity, fell 6%, per CoinMarketCap. Ronin didn’t immediately return requests for comment. In its blog, Ronin said it’s in touch with major cryptocurrency exchanges and with blockchain tracer Chainalysis to monitor the move of the stolen funds. Ronin also said it’s working with law enforcement.

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Bitcoin erases 2022’s losses as bulls eye $50,000
Mar28

Bitcoin erases 2022’s losses as bulls eye $50,000

Bitcoin broke out of a narrow trading range and wiped away this year’s losses amid a broad rally for cryptocurrencies, sparking speculation that the biggest digital asset could advance past the $50,000 mark soon. The token rose as high as $47,583 on Monday, well above the $35,000-to-$45,000 band where it’s been stuck since early January. With the fresh gains, Bitcoin is now up about 1.9% for the year, compared with a 4.7% decline for the S&P 500. Ether similarly bounced as much as 3.7% to $3,358 on Monday, while altcoins such as Solana’s SOL, Avalanche’s AAVE and Dogecoin rose between 5.5% and 9.4%. Bitcoin may encounter its next resistance level at $52,000 and should it break through that, it could advance to $65,000 — not far off the all-time high it reached in November, according to Fadi Aboualfa, head of research at Copper. Rick Bensignor, the president of Bensignor Investment Strategies, said in a note Sunday that Bitcoin is “on the verge of a 20% run higher.” The coin has been stuck in a tight path as the Federal Reserve and other central banks remove some of the stimulus measures they put in place in response to the pandemic downturn. That means there’s less cash to go toward riskier assets, including crypto. In addition, digital currencies came under scrutiny with speculation swirling that they could be used to skirt Russian sanctions, though many analysts rebuff that claim. Even so, Bitcoin and other tokens like Ether started a steady advance this month alongside broader […]

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Bitcoin to the rescue: Cryptocurrencies’ role in Ukraine
Mar19

Bitcoin to the rescue: Cryptocurrencies’ role in Ukraine

Cryptocurrencies have taken on an unprecedented role in the war in Ukraine, helping the government raise millions of dollars to fund its fight against the Russian invasion. Why has Ukraine turned to cryptocurrencies, and how is the nascent crypto industry changing its reputation and having an effect amid the clouds of war? How much crypto has been raised? At the outset of the conflict, Ukrainian officials posted addresses for two crypto wallets on their Twitter account, giving donors a direct and clear address to which to send contributions. The wallets attracted more than $10.2m (9.2 million euros) just four days after the start of the invasion. Since then, more than $100m worth of crypto has been raised, with the “Crypto Fund for Ukraine” run by Michael Chobanian – the founder of the Ukrainian crypto exchange Kuna – accounting for 60 percent of all donations. “We are still collecting crypto. It is being spent on aid like daily rations and bullet-proof vests and helmets,” the 37-year-old Ukrainian told AFP. Initially, two funds were set up, one for humanitarian purposes and the other to support the Ukrainian military. However, after the violence escalated across Ukraine, the funds were merged and focused fully on supporting the military, said Chobanian. He said that the majority of crypto donations came in the form of Bitcoin, Ethereum and the stablecoin Tether – a coin pegged one-to-one to the dollar. What are the benefits of donating in crypto? Aid packages sent to Ukraine in fiat money from […]

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Is seizing the yachts & mansions of Russian oligarchs enough? No.
Mar19

Is seizing the yachts & mansions of Russian oligarchs enough? No.

New York, United States–Over the past week at least half a dozen oligarch mega yachts have been seized or disabled in European ports, offshore havens like Isle of Mann have begun delisting private aircraft and McMansions in London have been occupied by activists – scenes straight out of a Hollywood script. Behind the inevitable memes and ancillary Twitter bots like the one following oligarch planes (@RUOligarchJets) is a concerted, yet faltering, global sanctions effort attempting to steer Vladimir Putin off his war against Ukraine. “We cannot think that this is a silver bullet or panacea,” says journalist Casey Michel who has written extensively on kleptocratic systems. “Because we have some mansions or yachts does not mean we can move on, that is not the end of all of their financial investments.” Despite the cries of billionaires like Russian-Israeli Mikhail Fridman who amassed his billions via conglomerate Alfa Group and now claims to be “broke,” oligarch wealth is mostly protected, say experts. After years of nurturing financial systems that assigned assets anonymity, “these assets can be sitting right up front of us and we would not know it,” says Jodi Vittori, Co-founder of Anti-Corruption Advocacy Network and professor at Georgetown University. And it is no small sum – one Atlantic Council report states “Russia has the world’s largest volume of dark money hidden abroad, about $1 trillion, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of its national GDP.” According to advocacy group Tax Justice Network, “current efforts to identify, track […]

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