Category Archive : Iran

Terra were offering unsustainable yields; DeFi can support financial inclusion

Reporting from the inaugural day of the Blockchain Hub Davos 2022 conference, Cointelegraph’s editor-in-chief, Kristina Lucrezia Cornèr hosted a panel discussion centered around decentralized finance (DeFi) titled “Programmable Money is Here — and It’s Changing the World as We Know It.”

Panelists included chief partnership officer of SwissBorg, Alexander Fazel; Global Markets lead of Kraken Europe, Lucian Aguilar; co-founder and CEO of CasperLabs, Mrinal Monahar; and managing partner of Coral Capital, Patrick Horsman.

In the opening remarks, Aguilar reflected upon his attendance of the event two years ago, assessing the differences in receptiveness and attitude to crypto. He also noted how the prevailing narrative has evolved, stating: “Last time [there were] a lot of projects here that were trying to sell and present. This time, when I look around, it’s more talking about building, adopting and innovating.”

All of his fellow panelists concurred with this viewpoint. Horsman shared that DeFi’s total value locked (TVL) was $1 billion in May 2020, but has since grown 150 times — a healthy barometer of success for the industry by his account.

Engaging the audience in a hand-raising exercise to determine their entry-point into the space, SwissBorg’s Fazel stated that “in TradiFi people are thinking [that] I don’t want to lose money — how can you help me keep my wealth regardless of markets? So, it’s very risk-management orientated. While in DeFi, the degens are like ‘gimme those triple-digit yields wooo!’”

He argued that protocols within the space should adopt higher transparency standards for the risk associated with annual percentage yields (APYs), advocating that additional education could also help balance investors’ expectations.

Advancing that thesis, Coral Capital’s Horsman shared that the Terra (LUNA) crisis partly occurred because “they were essentially offering yields that were unsustainable, and [that] there were venture…


Inside Ukraine’s Meta History Museum

Karina Kachurovsakaya decided to stay in Ukraine during the war. Kachurovsakaya owns Avangarden, an art gallery and wine bar in the city. Our interview is unconventional: When we first connected, she explained over text that a standard phone or video call wouldn’t work. Her internet connection was bad, she said over Telegram, and people in Ukraine, “need to burrow into hiding places from time to time.” “Air raid alerts,” she clarified.

Kachurovsakaya was until late April part of the approximately 10-person team behind Meta History: Museum of War, an NFT fundraising initiative in Ukraine. Although Kachurovsakaya, her husband, and the project’s anonymous founder are staying in Ukraine, some of their team is now international. The museum’s crypto consultant, Valeriia Panina, revealed that she had moved to Seattle just two and a half weeks before our interview. She explained, “I lived in Kyiv and I fled,” and then repeated herself: “And I fled.”

The Meta History: Museum of War curates and sells NFTs to raise money for the Ukrainian government. So far, it has released two collections of just under 1,700 NFTs each, with a third, collaborative series coming out on May 19. Its primary project, “Warline,” documents Russia’s invasion between February 24 and March 15. Each NFT in “Warline” is a collage, pairing tweets from the likes of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, BBC News, Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and the White House with dark, emotional, and defiant digital artworks by artists from around the world.


Image by Meta History Museum/Serhii Holtvianskiy

Alisa Gots.jpg

Image by Meta History Museum/Alisa Gots

Some have chosen to represent their assigned tweet literally, depicting politicians shaking hands as sanctions are placed, or smoldering buildings as missiles crash into city centers. Others play with symbols like rats, monsters, shadowy figures and men in blood-stained suits to represent Russia, or…


Landmark NFT case recognizes Bored Ape as an asset • The Register

For the first time, a court has issued an injunction to stop the sale and transfer of a non-fungible token (NFT) at the request of a previous owner.

NFT digital art seen on smartphone. Bored Ape Yacht Club (or BAYC) is the collection of the most expensive NFTs

“We are the first law firm in Singapore, and one of the first few in the world, that is successful in obtaining a worldwide proprietary injunction to freeze a Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT sale on the blockchain against a Metaverse personality,” said international arbitration and litigation specialist Shaun Leong on law firm Withers KhattarWong’s LinkedIn page.

The Singapore High Court settled the commercial dispute over the jovial beanie-wearing ape through a court order on May 13, thus restoring its ownership to Janesh Rajkumar, after it had been used as collateral in a loan and subsequently seized.

Rajkumar had used his NFT to borrow Ethereum from public persona and Twitter afficionado “chefpierre” on NFTfi. The ape was to be held in escrow by NFTfi until the loan could be repaid with the stipulation that the loan could be extended.

However, rather than extending, chefpierre foreclosed on the loan, shifted the NFT to his personal Ethereum wallet, and listed it for sale in OpenSea.

“This injunction recognizes NFTs as an asset,” said Withers KhattarWong in a canned statement, adding: “The case is also unique as it allows for the service of court papers to be effected via social media such as Twitter, including on Ethereum’s platform.”

high court singapore (the disc shaped building)

The high court in Singapore (the disc shaped building on the left) was designed by Norman Foster and opened in 2005

Leong asserted that the ruling is important as it recognizes that Singapore courts can take jurisdiction over assets sited in the decentralized blockchain.

Around 10,000 BAYC apes exist worldwide as a collection of pictures of apes in costumes with varying facial expressions, with some owned by celebrities including Madonna, Eminem, and Jimmy Fallon….


It’s Time to Stop Giving Crypto Companies a Pass

(Photograph by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images.)

In response to growing concerns, including from U.S. sanctions officials that Vladimir Putin and his oligarch allies might look to cryptocurrency to conceal their financial movements, two bills—one in the House, sponsored by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), the other in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—would authorize the president to impose financial sanctions on any digital asset trading platform that provides services to a sanctioned Russian person or entity. 

The pro-crypto lobby is unhappy, and has reportedly spent $460,000 to oppose the legislation. While the decision to side with Putin and his allies risks significant reputational damage for a burgeoning industry desperate for Washington’s legitimization, it should also serve as a wake-up call to congressional Republicans to stop giving crypto companies a pass.  

“These bills don’t target Russian oligarchs, who aren’t using (& can’t use) crypto to evade sanctions,” declared the policy director for the Blockchain Association, a lobbying group representing more than 70 crypto platforms. The statement is not true. Crypto can be used for sanctions evasion, and sanctions have always been applied to platforms that knowingly enable or facilitate sanctionable transactions. Indeed, Russian crypto abuses are nothing new. 

Russia has emerged as a haven for cybercriminals who live on the digital decentralized ledger known as the blockchain, and it’s already the third-largest cryptocurrency miner in the world. Russia is a hub for “ransomware-as-a-service” providers who operate on the dark web, often with the connivance or even support of Putin’s regime. Now, as traditional bank compliance programs shut down the oligarchs’ ability to move funds, cryptocurrency platforms are an attractive conduit for sanctions evasion. 

Why then is the pro-cryptocurrency lobby so blatantly denying reality and opposing sanctions intended…


Axie Infinity hack highlights DPRK cryptocurrency heists

Despite how enormous it was, the Axie Infinity heist marked only the latest chapter in the story of North Korean financial cybercrime.

Sky Mavis, the developer of popular nonfungible token (NFT) video game Axie Infinity, lost hundreds of millions of dollars in assets when they were stolen by hackers on March 23. The attack occurred via a breach of the Ronin bridge that exists as part of the Ronin Network sidechain (also developed by Sky Mavis).

The breach occurred when attackers gained control of a series of validator nodes attached to Axie Infinity to conduct fake withdrawals. Hackers stole 173,600 Ethereum and 25.5 million USD Coin, worth approximately $620 million at the time (and about $375 million as of this writing).

Three weeks after the initial attack and two weeks after it was disclosed, the FBI formally attributed the attack to the Lazarus Group and APT38, nation-state threat groups tied to the North Korean government.

The Axie Infinity heist is not the first cryptocurrency heist for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis reported that last year that the country stole nearly $400 million in at least seven attacks against cryptocurrency platforms. The North Korean government also has a lengthy history with financially motivated cybercrime.

But the Axie Infinity hack represents an enormous theft on behalf of Kim Jong Un’s regime, and acts as the latest in a long line of big-game heists against cryptocurrency platforms.

The reason for these attacks, based on conversations with experts on both cryptocurrency and North Korea, appears to be a combination of opportunity and a highly adaptive offensive cyberoperation.

Axie Infinity artwork showcasing its virtual pet characters.

An unconventional nation-state threat

North Korea is a small, insular nation with an estimated population of 25 million people. Despite its size, the country’s enormous military and cybersecurity investments have…


Napster Wants to Become a Web3 Company

Image for article titled Napster Wants to Become a Web3 Company

File sharing pioneer Napster is getting a second chance at life, this time, on the blockchain. That’s right, nothing quite screams, “Web3 futurism” like a stumbling, hallowed out 23-year-old internet company.

News of Napster’s supposed web3 revival came by way of a LinkedIn post from Hivemind partner Matt Zhang (Hivemind, for those who haven’t heard, is a crypto-focused investment firm that recently acquired Napster Group along with another firm called Algorand). In a separate post, Napster Group said they hope the acquisition will help Napster “revolutionize the music industry by bringing blockchain and Web3 to artists and fans.”

While it’s unclear what exactly that will entail right now, it’s possible Napster could follow the playbook of other self-described Web3 music platforms and provide a platform for musicians to release content as NFTs. Some musicians are onboard. Kings of Leon, Deadmau5, Shawn Mendes, and Tory Lanez have all released NFT projects over the past year.

Oddly enough, Napster isn’t the only 2000s piracy purveyor getting a Web3 reboot. LimeWire relaunched this month as an NFTmarketplace nearly ten years after it was shut down. The new platform, which was acquired by Austrian brothers Julian and Paul Zehetmayr, will reportedly still focus on music-related content. In an interview with CNBC, Julian Zehetmay compared the loose, free-for-all atmosphere of NFTs to the internet’s wild west days.

“We’re trying to be a more mature platform and professionalize everything, just like Coinbase or other exchanges would do for crypto assets,” Zehetmayr said.

That project is already bearing fruit. Earlier this week, Limewire announced it had struck a deal with Universal Music Group to license content globally. Through that deal, LimeWire says UMG artists and record…


Gensler warns as crypto crashes: 'The public is not protected' – Protocol

Gensler warns as crypto crashes: ‘The public is not protected’  Protocol

Candidates backed by pro-Israel PACs, including 2 affiliated with AIPAC, won primaries in NC

(JTA) — Moderate Democrats backed by political action committees affiliated with the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby won hotly contested Democratic primaries Tuesday, which the group said was a vindication of its controversial decision to dive into direct campaign funding.

In North Carolina, Don Davis won handily in the 1st District, in the state’s northeast, besting Erica Smith. In the 4th District in the state’s center, a state senator, Valerie Foushee, defeated Nida Allam, a Durham County commissioner who was the first Muslim woman elected to office in the state, 47% to 37%, with 84% of the vote counted.

Both races were to replace longtime Democrats who are retiring and were two of three closely watched in the pro-Israel community because of massive injections of cash by United Democracy Project, a so-called “super PAC” launched last year by AIPAC. The PAC targeted the races because Smith and Allam would have added to the contingent of congressional lawmakers who seek stricter oversight and limitations on defense aid for Israel.

The third race, in Pennsylvania’s newly drawn 12th District, was too close to call, with the United Democracy-backed candidate, Pittsburgh lawyer Steve Irwin, less than a percentage point behind State Rep. Summer Lee with 98% of the vote counted.

It’s not clear how much AIPAC’s support drove the outcomes, as both Davis and Foushee had support from the the local Democratic establishment and the cryptocurrency sector, which is seeking to deter congressional oversight, also poured money into the races.

But it’s clear that the pro-Israel funding, which also flowed to a lesser degree from a PAC associated with the group Democratic Majority for Israel, did register in the races. In the Pittsburgh-area district Lee was seen as the clear front-runner until she was hit by a barrage of negative ads paid for by United Democracy. And in North Carolina’s 4th District, the pro-Israel donations caused the state’s…


FBI warns of North Koreans posing as foreign IT workers • The Register

Pay close attention to that resume before offering that work contract.

The FBI, in a joint advisory with the US government Departments of State and Treasury, has warned that North Korea’s cyberspies are posing as non-North-Korean IT workers to bag Western jobs to advance Kim Jong-un’s nefarious pursuits.

In guidance [PDF] issued this week, the Feds warned that these techies often use fake IDs and other documents to pose as non-North-Korean nationals to gain freelance employment in North America, Europe, and east Asia. Additionally, North Korean IT workers may accept foreign contracts and then outsource those projects to non-North-Korean folks.

Once Kim’s crew are hired by private-sector firms, they’ll either use their newfound corporate network access for cybercrime — cryptocurrency theft, ransomware, and cyberespionage are some of the Supreme Leader’s favorites. Or, they’ll simply send their paychecks to North Korea to fund that government’s other hobbies, such as developing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

From the alert:

An overseas DPRK IT worker earns at least ten times more than a conventional North Korean laborer working in a factory or on a construction project overseas. DPRK IT workers can individually earn more than $300,000 a year in some cases, and teams of IT workers can collectively earn more than $3 million annually. A significant percentage of their gross earnings supports DPRK regime priorities, including its WMD program.

It’s worth noting that all of these activities are subject to US and United Nations sanctions. Anyone who hires or supports North Korea government-backed workers, including processing…


US names and shames Venezuelan doctor as notorious ransomware maker – TechCrunch

The U.S. has named a Venezuelan cardiologist as the alleged mastermind behind the notorious Thanos ransomware.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Moises Luis Zagala Gonzalez, 55, created and distributed the Thanos software, a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operation that allowed its users to create and deploy their own ransomware variants.

Zagala allegedly sold and rented out the ransomware tools to cybercriminals starting in 2019 and even taught cybercriminals how to use the tools, according to the indictment, coaching threat actors on how to design a ransom note, steal passwords from victim computers, and set a bitcoin address for ransom payments. “Zagala provides extensive customer service along with his software, counseling his customers about how most effectively to use his software against their victims,” the indictment says. The FBI said that at least 38 copies of the Thanos tool were sold.

Zagala also publicly discussed how his customers used his tools in ransomware attacks, even posting links to news stories about the use of Thanos by an Iranian-state sponsored hacking group to attack Israeli companies. One of the linked reports detailed how the ransomware was used by the MuddyWater hacking group, which U.S. Cyber Command earlier this year linked to Iranian intelligence.

“As alleged, the multi-tasking doctor treated patients, created and named his cyber tool after death, profited from a global ransomware ecosystem in which he sold the tools for conducting ransomware attacks, trained the attackers about how to extort victims, and then boasted about successful attacks, including by malicious actors associated with the government of Iran,” said Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for eastern New York, where the case was filed.

In addition to creating Thanos, Zagala is accused of creating “Jigsaw v. 2,” a ransomware tool that included a so-called “Doomsday counter” that kept track of how many times victims had…