Wintermute hacked for $160 million

The algorithmic market maker Wintermute suffered a major hack, according to their CEO. He estimated the loss at around $160 million, also writing that the company is "solvent with twice over that amount in equity left".

Wintermute hasn't disclosed more about the attack, but it's possible that the hacker may have exploited the vulnerability in the vanity wallet address generator Profanity, which was disclosed five days prior. The crypto asset vault admin had a wallet address prefixed with 0x0000000, a vanity address that would have been susceptible to attack if it was created using the Profanity tool.

This is the second incident involving Wintermute in the past few months. In June, the group provided the wrong wallet address to the Optimism project, and Optimism sent 20 million OP tokens to a non-existent address. Another person noticed the error before they did and was able to take the tokens. They ultimately returned 17 million of the tokens to Wintermute, keeping the rest as a "bounty". $OP have been trading at around $1 as of mid-September.

Sparkster settles for $35 million with the SEC; SEC charges crypto influencer

The firm Sparkster and its CEO Sajjad Daya settled with the U.S. SEC after a cease-and-desist arguing that Sparkster sold securities worth at least $30 million without registration. The firm and Daya agreed to settle with the SEC, and will pay more than $35 million to a fund that will be distributed to the investors who were harmed.

The SEC also charged crypto influencer Ian Balina for his involvement with the scheme. He allegedly accepted a 30% bonus on the $5 million worth of SPRK tokens he purchased in an agreement to promote the project on YouTube, Telegram, and other channels, but did not disclose his compensation. He also organized an investing pool with more than 50 investors, and also didn't register it with the SEC. Balina had advertised that he could help people "make millions with initial coin offerings".

UK financial regulator warns against FTX exchange

The United Kingdom's Financial Conduct Authority issued a warning that FTX is not authorized by them, but is targeting consumers in the UK. "Almost all firms and individuals offering, promoting or selling financial services or products in the UK have to be authorised or registered by us," they wrote in the announcement, noting that FTX is not. Because of this, "you are unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong".

A spokesperson from FTX said they believed that "a scammer is impersonating FTX", which they said they thought led to the warning. However, that statements in the warning are accurate: FTX is not registered with the FCA, and they serve UK customers.

Scammer earns 13 ETH ($17,500) from fake Mutant Ape scheme

An illustration of an ape with skin made from various animal prints, a bright green muzzle with a tongue stuck out and wrapped around a beer can, X-ed out eyes, a bone necklace, and a WW2 pilot helmet with teeth around the brimMutant Ape #21080 (attribution)
The owner of Mutant Ape #21080 was approached with an offer to trade their ape for another Mutant Ape (#55) and an extra 0.5 ETH ($675) to sweeten the deal. The trader agreed, and moved forward with performing the trade on SudoSwap, one of several platforms that allows people to set up NFT-for-NFT swaps. Unfortunately, he didn't check that the "Mutant Ape #55" that the trader was offering was actually the genuine article. The scammer had created a bunch of fake Mutant Apes that look identical through the SudoSwap frontend, but are clearly fakes if you look at the contract.

The trader ended up with a worthless counterfeit and a measly 0.5 ETH for his pricey NFT. The scammer quickly flipped the real Mutant for 13.5 ETH, making a tidy $17,500 profit.

Whale illustrates price manipulation risk in GMX exchange, profits more than $400,000

A candles chart showing a pattern of the AVAX token dropping in price and then going back up as a whale manipulates the price.AVAX chart (attribution)
GMX is a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange that boasts zero price impact trades. On most exchanges, users have to contend with slippage: a difference between the price of a token when the user goes to enter the trade and the price when the trade is executed. A sufficiently large trade can itself cause slippage, particularly with crypto assets with lower liquidity.

A whale was able to take advantage of this "feature" by taking large positions in AVAX, the token belonging to the Avalanche blockchain, which has relatively low liquidity compared to larger tokens like Bitcoin or Ether. The whale then manipulated the price by making large trades on a centralized exchange, taking an estimated profit of between $400,000 and $450,000 after fees.

Some had publicly expressed concerns about the possibility of such an exploit earlier in September: Taureau, a founder of another decentralized exchange, had outlined the possibility of an exploit like this on a podcast episode on September 1.

GMX responded to the incident by capping the size of positions that users can take on AVAX. Another project, MM.Finance, announced they would be pausing order execution on their MadMex platform, which is a fork of GMX.

Binance accounting bug involving Helium tokens results in $19 million of erroneous payouts

Helium has two different tokens: HNT, which is paid out to people who run Helium hotspots, and MOBILE, which is paid to those maintaining the new Helium 5G network. However, Binance erroneously treated both tokens as HNT within their exchange. As a result, anyone who sent MOBILE to Binance wound up with that same number of HNT tokens in their wallet—a big benefit, given that HTN has traded between $4 and $7 this past month, and MOBILE is not yet easily tradable.

Binance distributed around 4.8 million HNT before discovering and patching the bug, valued at around $19 million.

Hours after Ethereum transition to proof-of-stake, SEC Chair says PoS crypto could be classed as securities

Official portrait of Gary GenslerSEC Chairman Gary Gensler (attribution)
In the early hours of September 15, Ethereum completed "The Merge – the long-awaited transition from its original proof-of-work consensus mechanism to proof-of-stake.

Later that day, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler pointed to the staking mechanism as a signal that an asset might be a security as determined by the Howey test.

There has been much discussion over whether cryptocurrencies in general or individually should be considered securities, commodities, or possibly even something else. Broadly, people within the crypto community don't want to see the assets fall under SEC jurisdiction, as the SEC is seen as much less friendly to the industry than the CFTC.

Vulnerability discovered in vanity wallet generator puts millions of dollars at risk

The 1inch Network disclosed a vulnerability that some of their contributors had found in Profanity, a tool used to create "vanity" wallet addresses by Ethereum users. Although most wallet addresses are fairly random-looking, some people use vanity address generators to land on a wallet address like 0xdeadbeef52aa79d383fd61266eaa68609b39038e (beginning with deadbeef), or one with lots of 0s at the end, or some other address the user thinks looks cool.

However, because of the way the Profanity tool generated addresses, researchers discovered that it was fairly easy to reverse the brute force method used to find the keys, allowing hackers to discover the private key for a wallet created with this method.

Attackers have already been exploiting the vulnerability, with one emptying $3.3 million from various vanity addresses. 1inch wrote in their blog post that "It’s not a simple task, but at this point it looks like tens of millions of dollars in cryptocurrency could be stolen, if not hundreds of millions."

The maintainer of the Profanity tool removed the code from Github as a result of the vulnerability. Someone had raised a concern about the potential for such an exploit in January, but it had gone unaddressed as the tool was not being actively maintained.

"No politics at work" Coinbase rolls out a feature to promote crypto-friendly politicians

A mobile screenshot of a list titled "explore legislators", showing various representatives and their "Crypto sentiment". Carolyn Maloney of New York, District 12 is displayed with a negative crypto sentiment.Coinbase crypto policy feature (attribution)
When the "politics" were widespread civil unrest in the summer of 2020 triggered by the police murder of George Floyd, and pressure on the company to release a statement in support of Black Lives Matter, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong announced that there would be no political discussion or activism at work, and those who didn't like it could leave.

Now, he's just announced that Coinbase will be "integrating our crypto policy efforts right into our app" by providing a rating of Congressmembers' negative or positive "crypto sentiment". He also said that they plan to "help pro-crypto candidates solicit donations from the crypto community (in crypto)", and wish to get their users to attend town hall events. "We've also added a very easy way for you to contact your member of Congress to urge them to support pro-crypto policies," Armstrong said in a video demonstrating the feature.

"Double your money" scammers capitalize on Ethereum merge

Tweet by Twitter account with the verified display name "vitalik.eth" but the account handle "iThinkBuzz". Tweet reads "To celebrate the Merge, Ethereum Foundation giving away 50,000 ETH! 🎉

First come, first serve ➡️https://ETH-MERGE.BLOGSPOT.COM

You can only apply once."Tweet by hacked verified account (attribution)
If it seems like you've been seeing a lot of Ethereum co-founder and figurehead Vitalik Buterin around Twitter lately, it may be due to the influx of hacked verified Twitter accounts that have been retrofitted to resemble Vitalik's account. They've been used to share a litany of scam links to supposed Ethereum giveaways in celebration of "The Merge": the much-anticipated change to Ethereum's consensus model that's scheduled to happen on September 15.

Most of the tweets say something like "To celebrate the Merge, Ethereum Foundation giving away 50,000 ETH!", and link out to various websites that invite people to send some amount of Ethereum with the promise that they'll receive twice as much in return—a classic double-your-money scam.

At least 36 verified Twitter accounts were compromised and used for the scam, including the 6 million-follower Cityarabia account that normally tweets for Arabic-speaking fans of the Manchester City football club. On the afternoon and evening of September 14 alone, at least 195 ETH (~$314,000) was drawn in by the accounts and scam websites I found.

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