MoviePass is back, with a blockchain and eye-tracking to keep you glued to ads

Remember MoviePass, the completely unsustainable and shady business that allowed people to go see unlimited movies in theaters (until it didn't)? Well, it's back. This time they promise you'll be able to earn cryptocurrency by watching ads, which I guess you can then spend to watch more movies. Not only that, they promise to prevent that pesky issue of people putting their phones down while the ads are playing by using eye tracking to make sure you're firmly glued to the screen. I wonder if they screen A Clockwork Orange.

BlockFi set to pay $100 million to settle with SEC and state regulators over sketchy lending services

Bloomberg reported that BlockFi is preparing to pay $100 million to settle allegations from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and state regulators that it provided a service allowing people to loan their cryptocurrencies to others in exchange for high interest rates. BlockFi will also not be allowed to provide new high-yield accounts to most Americans following the settlement. BlockFi is only one of several crypto firms, including Celsius, Gemini, and Voyager Digital Ltd., who are facing scrutiny from regulators over concerns of unregistered securities sales.

Squiggles project revealed to be part of an NFT scam ring just before launch

3D rendering of a monkey with a banana stuck to its forehead, wearing a yellow hoodieSquiggles NFT (attribution)
A project called Squiggles generated an enormous amount of hype before its launch, with hundreds of thousands of members in its Discord and followers on Twitter. Just before the project launched on February 10 with its whopping 1 ETH initial mint price (around $3,100), a 60-page dossier was published that claimed to expose the people behind the project as the same group who had pulled off a long list of other NFT rug pulls: League of Sacred Devils, League of Divine Beings, Vault of Gems, Lucky Buddhas, Dirty Dogs, Sinful Souls and Faceless. The project, which was expected to generate around $20 million in sales, still enjoyed some trading volume, though YouTuber and crypto scam researcher CoffeeZilla has opined that millions of dollars in trading appears to be the project founders trying to generate hype with shadow wallets. CoffeeZilla also reported on the people behind the scam ring allegedly threatening those who exposed them, promising lawsuits, threatening to publish fake news stories accusing their families of crimes, and even saying they had put out hits on people. OpenSea delisted the project shortly after mint, and as of February 17, the NFTs were selling on the OpenSea alternative LooksRare for 0.1–0.2 ETH (between $280 and $575).

mtgDAO gets a legal notice from Wizards of the Coast, writes that they are "unfairly discriminat[ing] against web3 tech and web3 communities"

The fledgling mtgDAO promised to deliver a "crypto NFT card economy" based around the Magic: The Gathering card game published by Wizards of the Coast. Needless to say, WotC sent them an email to inform them that their "intended use of Wizards' intellectual property, including its trademarks and copyrights, would be unlawful". This prompted mtgDAO to publish a 20-tweet-long thread about "why WotC is ngmi", where they accused WotC of "unfairly discriminat[ing] against web3 tech and web3 communities" by protecting their intellectual property. It's unclear where mtgDAO will go from here—they wrote in the thread that they hope to "help [WotC] see something like mtgDAO, and web3 in general, as an opportunity and not a threat", but I suspect they will not have much luck convincing WotC to let them infringe upon their intellectual property out of the goodness of their own hearts. On February 15 the project said what was already pretty clear: "I don't know shit about copyright law" and that "I'll tell you that mtgDAO NFTs being IP infringement is not intuitive to me."

Security firm forced to publicly disclose issues with Atomic Wallet after they go unaddressed for months

Atomic Wallet is a cryptocurrency wallet that claims to have more than 3 million downloads and advertises that "we provide users with the exceptional safety of their funds". However, an April 2021 audit by the Least Authority security firm "found that the design and implementation of the Atomic Wallet system does not sufficiently demonstrate considerations for security and places current users of the wallet at significant risk." When the Atomic Wallet team returned to the auditing firm in November to show them they'd addressed the issues, Least Authority found that "a significant number of issues and suggestions remain unresolved and that the implementation in its current state continues to be a security risk for users". After the Atomic Wallet team continued to ignore issues raised by the Least Authority team, the security researchers took the last-ditch step of publicly disclosing that there are serious issues with the platform, and recommending that the software not be used. The researchers did not disclose the specific issues they had found, in hopes of avoiding malicious actors exploiting the outstanding bugs.

New York power plant starts mining Bitcoin, increases emissions by 6x

An aerial photo of a power plant, with trees and a lake in the backgroundGreenidge Generation, with Seneca Lake in the background (attribution)
A mostly-dormant coal power plant near Seneca Lake in New York was converted to natural gas in 2017 and began devoting much of its power generation to mining Bitcoin in 2019. The plant went from generating a total of 39,406 tons of carbon emissions in 2019 to generating a total of 243,103 tons in 2020, its first full year mining Bitcoin—the equivalent of the emissions that would be produced to provide electricity to around 35,000 households. The plant was operating at only 13% of its capacity in 2020, but has plans to increase its mining operations. Locals who enjoy Seneca Lake for swimming and other leisure activities have said that, due to the plant, Seneca Lake is now "so warm you feel like you're in a hot tub". This is because the plant circulates around 135 million gallons of water a day from the lake to the cool the plant, outputting water directly into the lake at allowed temperatures up to 86–108˚F (though the plant claims its average outflow temperature is 50˚, only 7˚ warmer than the inflow temperature).

Locals of the area have demanded that the Department of Environmental Conservation review the air emissions permit for the plant rather than renew an old one, which the DEC agreed to do, though they have delayed a new decision until March 31. Many pressing for permit review were unhappy with the delay, with the Seneca Lake Guardian reporting, "This delay from the DEC is not benign... Every day that Gov. Hochul and Commissioner Seggos drag their feet on this (permitting) decision is another day for Greenidge to continue expanding operations."

On June 30, regulators denied Greenidge's request to renew their permit.

Hackers take more than $10 million from defi project Dego Finance

Hackers drained more than $10 million from the project Dego Finance. This also plunged the value of the project's $DEGO token by about 78%. Dego claims that the hackers compromised the keys to the address providing liquidity on UniSwap and PancakeSwap. Dego, which is a decentralized finance project, asked the various major exchanges to step in and prevent trading of the token, a type of intervention by centralized exchanges that is precisely what defi is supposed to prevent from happening.

Creator of Skycoin files lawsuit claiming he was extorted and kidnapped

Brandon Smietana, the creator of the Skycoin cryptocurrency, filed a civil racketeering lawsuit on February 9 against a slew of people. He claims that the people hired to market the coin and redo its website ended up damaging the website to demand ransom payments, and ultimately kidnapped Smietana and his girlfriend, then beat and tortured them for hours until Smietana handed over $360,000 in Bitcoin and Skycoin.

One defendant in the lawsuit has described the suit as "absurd" and "pretty weird", and said that Smietana has "a history of blaming other people for the failure of Skycoin".

Canadian antivaxxers try shilling crypto after failing to fund their trucker protest

A group of protesters gathering outdoors. One is holding a Bitcoin flag, several others hold Canadian flags.Canadian protesters with Bitcoin flag (attribution)
A protest in Canada against COVID-19 vaccine requirements for truckers re-entering the country, known as the "Freedom Convoy" has tried to crowdfund in several ways. A GoFundMe campaign that raised over CA$10 million was taken down after terms of service violations. A campaign on the right-wing favorite GiveSendGo raised over CA$8.2 million, but funds were frozen after an injuction by the Ontario Attorney General. The GiveSendGo platform also catastrophically failed to secure sensitive user data, and suffered a huge leak of donor data including scans of passports and drivers licenses, which is being made available to journalists and researchers by the inimitable DDoSecrets.

The protesters eventually turned to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for crowdfunding, even appointing a "Bitcoin team lead" who rambled on in a livestream about not "being shackled by the censorship put in place by our legacy financial system", much to the confusion and annoyance of some viewers. One commenter asked, "Are we at a press conference for Freedom Convoy 2022 or having some guy shove Bitcoin down our throats?" As of February 9, the group claims to have raised $300,000 in Bitcoin, and $500,000 in other cryptocurrencies.

Baby Musk Coin rug pulls after a $2 million January ICO

Illustration of a baby that looks like Elon Musk on a yellow coinBaby Musk Coin illustration (attribution)
The Baby Musk Coin memecoin launched in January, promising to "revolutionize the meme industry". The coin enjoyed a $2 million ICO the previous month, despite warnings from observers who noticed the coin couldn't be sold, and who described it as a honeypot. Sure enough, on February 9, the project developers suddenly transferred 1571 BNB out of the project and quickly mixed it using Tornado Cash, earning a tidy profit of around $653,300. The sudden sell-off crashed the coin value to 0, leaving remaining holders with a worthless coin they were unable to sell. Developers took down the project website, Twitter account, and even their "Baby Musk dance video".

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