CoinFLEX files for restructuring

The cryptocurrency exchange CoinFLEX announced they had filed for restructuring, a move that probably didn't surprise too many people after they stopped customer withdrawals in June, sued Roger Ver over $84 million they claimed he owed them in July, and then significantly cut staff in order to try to massively reduce their costs.

As tends to happen with insolvent exchanges, they are hoping to "compensate" their depositors with a mix of CoinFLEX-issued tokens and equity, rather than actual money or more liquid, established cryptocurrencies.

Nuri crypto exchange files for insolvency

The German cryptocurrency exchange Nuri, formerly known as Bitwala, filed for insolvency. Interestingly, they did not stop customer withdrawals—as have many exchanges who later announced they were insolvent—allowing its existing users to continue to withdraw funds and otherwise use their services.

Their announcement began by saying, "We would like to inform you about an important development that does not affect our services, funds or investments with Nuri," and throughout the post they stressed that customer funds were safe.

Nuri blamed the insolvency on everything from "the ongoing after-effects of the Corona pandemic" to "the economic and political uncertainties in the markets after Russia's invasion of Ukraine" to the more recent crypto bear market.

Curve Finance frontend compromised

Curve Finance's frontend at curve.fi was compromised, prompting users to give token approval to a malicious smart contract. Stolen funds were then transferred out to the FixedFloat cryptocurrency exchange and the Tornado Cash tumbler. It appears that at least 362 ETH (~$620,000) have been stolen.

Curve acknowledged the apparent exploit, tweeting at the iwantmyname domain platform to say they believed the issue was on their end. Around an hour after the issue was widely noticed, Curve announced the "issue has been found and reverted", and to use the alternate Curve Finance domain until DNS changes propagated for the affected domain. They also urged users to revoke any recent contract approvals they'd made on the Curve platform.

FixedFloat tweeted that they had been able to freeze 112 of the stolen ETH (~$192,000) that had been transferred to their platform.

Truth in Advertising sends letters to 17 celebrities about undisclosed promotion of NFTs

A collage of sixteen of the seventeen recipients of TINA's letters: Drake Bell, Tom Brady, DJ Khaled, Eminem, Jimmy Fallon, Paris Hilton, Eva Longoria, Madonna, Floyd Mayweather, Meek Mill, Von Miller, Neymar, Shaquille O'Neal, Gwyneth Paltrow, Logan Paul, and Snoop DoggSome of the recipients (attribution)
Non-profit advertising watchdog organization Truth in Advertising (TINA) sent letters to seventeen celebrities, urging them to follow FTC requirements on clearly disclosing when they are being paid to promote a brand. TINA had also previously sent such letters to Justin Bieber in relation to his promotion of the inBetweeners NFT project, and to Reese Witherspoon in relation to her endorsement of World of Women.

The celebrities who received letters from TINA were Drake Bell, Tom Brady, DJ Khaled, Eminem, Jimmy Fallon, Paris Hilton, Eva Longoria, Madonna, Floyd Mayweather, Meek Mill, Von Miller, Neymar, Shaquille O'Neal, Gwyneth Paltrow, Logan Paul, Snoop Dogg, and Timbaland.

At least 101 NFT Discord servers compromised in July

A fluorescent green skull with blond hair, a piece of cheese floating above its head, a rainbow connecting its eye sockets, and padded armorTasty Bones' Discord was hacked twice in July (attribution)
I've largely stopped covering crypto Discord compromises because they occur so frequently it would drown out everything else. OKHotshot has been keeping count, though, and according to them, at least 101 servers have been compromised in the month of July. Four of the projects—EY3KON, Tasty Bones, Universe by Barnabe, and Angry Dinos—were each compromised twice in that month.

"Animate your Bored Ape" scammers linked to more phishing attacks amounting to more than $2.5 million

Screenshot of an Instagram post promising to animate users' Bored Ape NFTs. Text reads "Wanna turn your Ape or Mutant into a cool GIF? - High quality - All attributes working - Only gas fees to pay (50$) boredapeyachtclub.github.io (LINK IN BIO) PM @exyt to get gas fees refunded!"Screenshot of an Instagram post promising to animate users' Bored Ape NFTs (attribution)
Crypto sleuth zachxbt has uncovered a French scam duo, Mathys and Camille, who he believes were behind the March "turn your BAYC animated" phishing scam in which they stole a collector's Bored Ape NFT and flipped it for 264 ETH (at the time worth $764,000). He has also tied them to four other Bored Ape holders who fell victim to fake "animator" phishing schemes that also stole pricey NFTs including Doodles and Mutant Apes. Among them, they lost NFTs collectively valued at $1.7 million. In his investigation, zachxbt also uncovered other crypto wallets that appeared to contain proceeds from other phishing scams, totaling around 497 ETH (~$851,000). "Undoubtedly there is more to uncover, but there is only so much that can be tracked through Tornado Cash," he wrote.

Tornado Cash added to U.S. sanctions list

The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added Tornado Cash to its SDN list: a list of "Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons" with whom U.S. individuals and organizations are prohibited from doing business.

Tornado Cash is the most prominent cryptocurrency tumbler (or "mixer") and has been used in a multitude of instances to launder proceeds from cryptocurrency hacks and scams. In a press release, the Treasury Department named the North Korea-sponsored Lazarus Group's $625 million hack of Axie Infinity in March, the $100 million theft from Horizon Bridge in June, and the $190 million hack of the Nomad bridge in August as contributing to the decision.

Although Tornado Cash had claimed to be complying with sanctions in the wake of the Axie hack, the Treasury Department wrote in their press release that, "Tornado Cash has repeatedly failed to impose effective controls designed to stop it from laundering funds for malicious cyber actors on a regular basis and without basic measures to address its risks".

Tornado Cash is also widely used to maintain privacy in a world where transactions are publicly visible, and it remains to be seen how the cryptocurrency ecosystem will react to this major development. Tornado Cash is also relatively decentralized in its operations, meaning it may be difficult for the sanctions list to be kept up to date and for the sanctions to be enforced.

Bitcoin mining operation Riot Blockchain earns more money in July by not mining, effectively mines without paying for power

An aerial photo of large warehouse-style buildings, electricity infrastructure, and shipping containers on a large dirt plotRiot Blockchain's Rockdale, Texas facility (attribution)
The Bitcoin mining firm Riot Blockchain produced 318 BTC in July, valued at around $6.88 million, from its mining operations located in central Texas. The firm also received $9.5 million in power credits for switching off their power-hungry Bitcoin miners during all-time-high energy demands in a month where the state has been experience extreme heat waves.

A press release from Riot proudly announced that "Riot curtailed a total of 11,717 megawatt hours in July, enough to power 13,121 average homes for one month", as though it is acceptable that they are normally using this amount of electricity solely to churn out Bitcoins.

They also wrote that "When applied to anticipated power costs for the month, the power credits and other benefits are expected to effectively eliminate Riot’s power costs for July"—meaning that Texas residents are effectively subsidizing the cost of Bitcoin mining whether they like it or not. Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune and The Dallas Morning News report that many Texans are paying 50–70% more for electricity than this time last year.

Hodlnaut halts withdrawals

Crypto lending firm Hodlnaut announced they would be suspending withdrawals "due to recent market conditions". They also announced they would be withdrawing their license application with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and that "Hodlnaut is therefore no longer providing regulated digital payment token (DPT) services, ie our token swap feature. For the avoidance of doubt, Hodlnaut will also cease all borrowing and lending services."

In an FAQ attached to the announcement, Hodlnaut told users that "it will not be a short process" to re-enable withdrawals and token swaps.

No one wants to admit to owning the WazirX crypto exchange

Tweet by Nischal Shetty, quote-tweeting a tweet by Changpeng Zhao.

CZ tweet reads: Sad that these have to be debated on Twitter:
Binance provides wallet services for WazirX.
WazirX domain is transferred to our control.
We were given a shared access to an AWS account.
We could shutdown WazirX. But we can't, because.. 1/2

Shetty's tweet reads:'We could shut down WazirX' - Proves you have control
'Shared access of AWS' - You have ROOT access of AWS! Anyone with root access controls AWS
'WazirX domain transferred to our control' - Good to see you confirm that
Only control now is Zanmai, why are you not taking it?Tweet by WazirX founder Nischal Shetty (attribution)
After India froze the assets of the WazirX cryptocurrency exchange due to suspicions they were enabling money laundering, suddenly no one wants to admit to operating it.

Despite a 2019 blog post by Binance titled, "Binance Acquires India’s Leading Digital Asset Platform WazirX to Launch Multiple Fiat-to-Crypto Gateways", Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao ("CZ") tweeted that "Binance does not own any equity in Zanmai Labs, the entity operating WazirX", and that besides wallet services and an off-chain transaction integration, "WazirX is responsible all other aspects of the WazirX exchange". These statements were disputed by Nischal Shetty, the founder of WazirX, who stated in no uncertain terms that WazirX was acquired by Binance. "Binance owns WazirX domain name. Binance has root access of AWS servers. Binance has all the Crypto assets. Binance has all the Crypto profits", Shetty wrote on Twitter.

Brand new Dragoma "move-to-earn" game rug pulls for around $3.5 million

An illustration of a purple dragon with white spikes all around its head, perched on the text "Dragoma" in blue all caps. Underneath that it says "Dragoma Web 3.0" in white text. In the background is an illustrated scene of trees and sky.Dragoma promotional image (attribution)
The Polygon-based Dragoma app promised to be a new move-to-earn game, the term for a category of web3 apps that promise to reward people in tokens when they exercise. This particular app promised to be a dragon-themed "adventure game" where users could hatch dragon eggs by walking 500 meters a day (about 1/3 of a mile) for 40 days.

The project launched only days before it rug pulled. On August 7, the $DMA token dropped in price over 99% as funds were removed from the project and moved to exchanges. According to CoinDesk, around $3.5 million was taken. The project's website, Telegram channel, and Twitter accounts were all taken offline.

Someone makes NFTs out of photographs from the Xinjiang Victims Database

A 3D rendering of a man, standing in a T-pose and pictured from above his head. The rendering itself is shown on what appears to be a polaroid-style photograph inside a black plastic sleeve with stickers on itMade in Uyghur NFT (blurring added by W3IGG) (attribution)
The Xinjiang Victims Database is a database that aims to collect records on ethnic minority citizens in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region who have been imprisoned in concentration camps as a part of the Uyghur genocide. According to the project, "The goal of this database consists in documenting the aforementioned individuals, so as to both protect them now and hold the Chinese authorities accountable later."

Someone apparently decided this was perfect material for an NFT project, which they named "Made In Uyghur". They took 100 images from the database, clumsily projected them onto 3D-rendered human models in a T-pose, and listed them for $25 apiece.

Upon becoming aware of the NFTs, the Xinjiang Victims Database updated their site licensing to CC BY-NC, a Creative Commons license that forbids commercial reuse. "Commercial use of the data, including images of victims, is not okay", they wrote on Twitter, "[Made In Uyghur] never contacted us about this".

"Saxon James Musk" token developer rug pulls for around $442,000

Who could have predicted that the shitcoin named after one of Elon Musk's 16-year-old sons could turn out to be a scam? Well, besides the people who fell for previous rug pulls of tokens based on the Musk family, such as Baby Elon coin in June or the Baby Musk Coin in February...

The project developer suddenly sold off their share of the coin for around 1355 WBNB (~$442,000), sending the coin price plummeting by more than 68% as a result.

Beanstalk Farms comes back for round two after $182 million exploit

The algorithmic stablecoin project Beanstalk Farms suffered a devastating hack in April 2022, suffering $182 million in losses from a governance attack and flash loan exploit on the project. The project tried a fundraiser to restore the stolen money, but only raised $10 million.

Now, Beanstalk is re-launching, saying they've made changes to their governance model and security practices, and have received audits from two major firms.

In June, the project creator stated that "The thing about a system like Beanstalk is that it works until it doesn't. You can never actually know if it works, only that it has worked so far."

Hacker compromises wallet of Steven Galanis, CEO of Cameo app, stealing $231,000

An illustration of an ape with grey-brown fur, with heavily lidded eyes, wearing 3D glasses and a togaBored Ape #9012 (attribution)
A hacker compromised the wallet belonging to Steven Galanis, the CEO of Cameo, an app that allows people to pay various celebrities to record short messages for them. The hacker took 9,457 ApeCoin (~$69,000), 2.3 ETH (~$3,900), a Bored Ape NFT, three Otherside land plots, and other various NFTs. The hacker then flipped the Bored Ape for 77 ETH (~$131,000), and the other NFTs for a combined 16 ETH (~$27,000).

Galanis wrote on Twitter that he "Just got my Apple ID hacked". Although he didn't offer more details on how he had determined iCloud was to blame, it's likely he's referring to an attack vector where MetaMask automatically backs up users' seed phrases to iCloud unless it's disabled, meaning that a hacker who successfully accesses a person's iCloud account can also compromise any of their MetaMask wallets. The same type of attack saw a user lose $650,000 in April, and brought wider attention to the app's behavior.

Researchers identify an attack strategy actively being used by the second-largest Ethereum mining pool to earn outsized mining rewards

Researchers from The Hebrew University have identified an attack on the consensus mechanism used by Ethereum which they describe as risk-free and which can used to "obtain consistently higher mining rewards compared to the honest protocol". They also identified that the attack was being actively used by F2Pool's Ethereum mining pool to attack other mining operations. F2Pool is the second-largest Ethereum mining pool.

By manipulating the timestamps of blocks to be added to the chain, a miner can replace other miners' main-chain blocks with their own blocks, obtaining the fees that would have gone to the other miners. The attack has been called an "Uncle Maker" attack because Ethereum refers to valid but not main-chain blocks as "uncles".

F2Pool co-founder Chun Wang responded on August 8 to the allegations against his mining pool, apparently acknowledging their behavior and suggesting that manipulating a vulnerability in a system is not a "blatant disregard [of] the rules" as the researchers had characterized it. He tweeted: "We respect the *consensus* as is. If you don’t like the consensus, convince [Ethereum developer Tim Beiko] to send me another Announcement and change it." Quote-tweeting a tweet by the lead author of the paper who described F2Pool's technique, he wrote, "I can’t stop appreciate this elegant implementation of what we’ve done over the past two years... A robust system must withstand all kind of tests."

India freezes assets of WazirX, Binance's Indian exchange

India's Enforcement Directorate froze $8.16 million of assets belonging to WazirX, a Binance-owned cryptocurrency exchange that is one of the largest exchanges in India. According to the ED, its action was a result of an investigation into WazirX allegedly laundering the proceeds of a crime by allowing it to be converted into cryptocurrencies.

The ED wrote in a press release, " ED found that large amounts of funds were diverted by the fintech companies to purchase crypto assets and then launder them abroad...(a) maximum amount of funds were diverted to WazirX exchange and the crypto assets so purchases have been diverted to unknown foreign wallets".

Ian Macalinao revealed to have pumped the total value locked on the Solana ecosystem by pretending to be 11 developers working on over a dozen projects

Ian Macalinao sitting in a folding chair and speaking into a microphone, gesturing at someone out of frameIan Macalinao (attribution)
CoinDesk revealed that eleven developers behind Solana projects including Sunny Aggregator and Cashio were all actually personas created by Ian Macalinao. Macalinao created the Saber protocol on Solana, and used his personas to build what appeared to be independent projects that all used Saber. In doing so, he was able to artificially inflate the apparent total value locked (TVL) on Solana by double-counting the same tokens. At their peak popularity, Saber and Sunny were responsible for the $7.5 billion of Solana's $10.5 billion TVL.

In an unpublished blog post where he confessed to his deception, he wrote, "I believe it contributed to the dramatic rise of SOL". He wrote the post shortly after one of his persona's projects, Cashio, was hacked for $52 million, but apparently shelved it.

Ian Macalinao's brother Dylan, the other co-founder of Saber protocol, aided in the scheme by lending credibility to Ian's various personas to those who had doubts about trusting money to projects led by pseudonymous individuals.

All told, Ian Macalinao was responsible for the Saber protocol, the Protagonist VC firm and incubator, and Ubeswap under his real name. He created Sunny Aggregator as Surya Khosla, Cashio as 0xGhostchain, Goki as Goki Rajesh, Quarry as Larry Jarry, TribecaDAO as Swaglioni, Crate as kiwipepper, aSOL as 0xAurelion, Arrow as oliver_code, Traction.Market as 0xIsaacNewton, Sencha as jjmatcha, and VenkoApp as ayyakovenko.

CoinGape and Binance publicize scam recovery address after Nomad hack

After the August 1 Nomad bridge exploit, Nomad created an address where people who took money out of the bridge could return it.

However, that was not the address that CoinGape published in their article titled "Breaking: Nomad Announces ENS Address And Bounty For Returning Funds" article, which was syndicated to Binance's news feed. Instead, they indicated that people should send funds to a different address, a scammer who had been sending on-chain messages to various people who took money out of Nomad during the exploit, asking they return it.

Although CoinGape removed the article fairly quickly, it remained live on Binance's site for over an hour. Fortunately, it doesn't appear anyone besides the writers have fallen for the scam, as no cryptocurrency has been sent to the address.

ZB crypto exchange exploited for more than $3.5 million

The self-described "world's most secure digital asset exchange", ZB, suffered an exploit in which attackers stole a large number of different cryptocurrencies, estimated by various researchers to be valued at around $3.6 million and $4.8 million.

ZB announced that they were suspending deposit and withdrawal services due to "sudden failure of some core applications".

Robinhood cites crypto market crash in decision to lay off 23% of employees

Stock and crypto trading app Robinhood announced they would be laying off 23% of their staff: 780 people. The layoffs followed a prior round of layoffs in April, which saw 9% of their staff (~342 people) out of jobs.

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev wrote, "Since that time, we have seen additional deterioration of the macro environment, with inflation at 40-year highs accompanied by a broad crypto market crash. This has further reduced customer trading activity and assets under custody. Last year, we staffed many of our operations functions under the assumption that the heightened retail engagement we had been seeing with the stock and crypto markets in the COVID era would persist into 2022."

The announcement came the same day that Robinhood was fined $30 million by the state of New York for insufficient anti-money laundering and cybersecurity protections in the crypto portions of their offering.

Thousands of Solana wallets drained in attack that nets over $6 million

Nearly 8,000 Solana wallets were drained for at least $6 million worth of assets, including native SOL tokens and SPL tokens like USDC. The attack went on for nearly a day before Solana identified the likely cause: private keys that were exposed to an application monitoring service used by the crypto wallet Slope. Both Solana and Slope were vague about further details but explained that they were continuing to investigate.

CoinShares investment firm reports $21.5 million loss from Terra collapse

In their Q2 earnings report, European cryptocurrency investment firm CoinShares reported that they'd only made $120,000 in net income in the most recent quarter, down from more than $32 million in Q1. They explained this was largely because of an enormous loss that resulted from the May collapse of the Terra ecosystem, costing the firm £17.7 million ($21.5 million).

Michael Saylor steps down as MicroStrategy CEO as the company reports a $918 million impairment charge on Bitcoin holdings

Michael Saylor sitting in front of a large model shipMichael Saylor (attribution)
Bitcoin maximalist Michael Saylor announced he would be stepping down as CEO of MicroStrategy, which is ostensibly a software company but in recent years appears to be mostly a Bitcoin-purchasing company. Saylor is extremely pro-Bitcoin, with an emphasis on "extreme". In March 2021, when Bitcoin was at around $57,000, he urged people to "go mortgage your house and buy Bitcoin with it... if you've got a business that you love because your family works for the business and it's been in your family for 37 years, and you can't bear to sell it, mortgage it, finance it, and convert the proceeds into ... Bitcoin. If you're working for a company that's got $100m in the treasury, you ought to convince the CEO and the board of directors to convert the treasury into Bitcoin... that'd be worth billions to them."

Unfortunately, that treasury strategy—which in his case also includes taking on more debt to buy more Bitcoin—is not currently working out so well for MicroStrategy, which reported a $918 million impairment charge on their Bitcoin holdings in their most recent earnings report. Saylor stepped down as CEO the same day.

Robinhood fined $30 million over lackluster cybersecurity and anti-money laundering protections in their crypto offering

The New York Department of Financial Services levied a $30 million fine against Robinhood, an app used for stock trading that has also branched into crypto. According to the DFS, Robinhood Crypto demonstrated "significant failures" in its anti-money laundering and cybersecurity obligations.

Robinhood Crypto had certified to the DFS in 2019 that they were in compliance with those regulations, despite the fact that they were not. The DFS imposed a $30 million fine to the company, and also ordered them to hire an outside party to evaluate their regulatory compliance and efforts to remediate the problems with their platform.

Reaper Farm exploited for around $1.7 million

Yield farming project Reaper Farm suffered an exploit that resulted in a $1.7 million loss. The attackers discovered a vulnerability that allowed them to withdraw anyone else's funds. They then bridged funds to Ethereum, then laundered them through Tornado Cash. After discovering the exploit, Reaper Farms used the same vulnerability to remove funds from the remaining vulnerable vaults to prevent the attacker from stealing more.

Shortly after the exploit, Reaper Farms announced they plained to raise capital via "the sale of vested $OATH tokens from our treasury with desirable terms", which would then be used alongside other assets in their treasury to compensate users.

Operators of Dropil crypto scam sentenced to federal prison

Two men who ran an "investment management service" called Dropil were sentenced to 2½ and 3 years in prison after stealing around $1.9 million from more than 2,000 people. They convinced people to buy DROP tokens, which they said would provide access to an automated trading bot that would return up to 63% in annual returns. In reality, there was no functional trading bot. When the SEC inquired, the two men forged profitability reports and lied under oath about the project.