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Cryptocurrency heist hacker returns $260m in funds

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The hacker behind one of the largest cryptocurrency heists to date has returned almost half of the $600m (£433m) stolen assets.

On Tuesday, the firm affected, Poly Network wrote a letter on Twitter, asking the individual to get in touch “to work out a solution”.

The hacker then posted messages pledging to return funds, claiming to be “not very interested in money”.

On Wednesday, Poly Network said it had received $260m back.

The company, a blockchain platform which lets users swap different types of digital tokens, posted on Twitter that it had been sent back three cryptocurrencies, including $3.3m worth of Ethereum, $256m worth of Binance Smart Chain (BSC) and $1m worth of Polygon.

A total of $269m in Ethereum tokens and $84m in Polygon tokens has yet to be recovered.

A blockchain is a ledger, or log, of every single transaction made of a cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin.

The ledger is distributed to all the users in the network to verify all new transactions when they occur, instead of being held by any one single authority.

Software flaws

The hacker published a three-page-long Q&A session on one of the blockchains essentially in the form of a self-interview, according to Tom Robinson, co-founder of Elliptic, a London-based blockchain analytics and compliance firm.

The hacker claimed to have always planned to return the tokens and said the heist was carried out to highlight vulnerabilities in Poly Network software.

“I know it hurts when people are attacked, but shouldn’t they learn something from those hacks?” the hacker wrote in the notes embedded on the Ethereum blockchain.

The hacker claimed to have spent all night looking for a vulnerability to exploit. They said they were worried that Poly Network would patch the security flaw quietly without telling anyone, so they decided to take millions of dollars in cryptocurrency tokens to make a point.

But they stressed that they did not want to cause a “real panic [in] the crypto-world”, so they only took “important coins”, leaving behind Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency that started off as a joke.

“Either they just intended to commit theft and steal the assets, or they were acting like a white hat hacker to expose a bug, to help Poly Network make themselves more strong and secure,” Mr Robinson, who routinely advises governments and law enforcement agencies about crypto-related crimes, told the BBC.

He added that the nature of blockchain technology makes it hard for cyber-criminals to profit from stealing digital currencies, because everyone can see the money being moved across the network into the hackers’ wallets.

“I wonder whether this hacker stole the funds, realised how much publicity and attention they were getting, realised wherever they moved the funds they would be watched, and decided to give it back,” said Mr Robinson.

“The blockchain itself has operated here flawlessly, but the problem is on blockchains like Ethereum, you can write your own smart contracts. Various services have started offering this, including Poly Network.

“So whenever a human being writes code, there’s a chance they will make a mistake.”

How it works

Poly Network’s platform works by facilitating movement between several blockchains when people trade one cryptocurrency for another, such as trading BSC for Ethereum.

“The Poly Network is the thing that facilitates the movement between these chains – ultimately, it’s software, it’s code, and code always has imperfections and defects in it,” James Chappell, co-founder of London-based cyber-security firm Digital Shadows, told the BBC.

“And that’s true of banks, or any financial system. Unfortunately, what seems to have happened here is a party has spotted a weakness in the implementation and exploited it to fool the network into transferring these tokens incorrectly.”

Similar attacks have happened to several other services in the last 12 months. These include:

Yearn Finance, which had $11m stolen by hackers in February;

Alpha Finance, which had $37m stolen in the same month;

and Meerkat Finance, which was drained of $32m by hackers in March.

After a rollercoaster 24 hours for the crypto community, it seems the hacker intends to return all or most of the stolen money.

As the criminal posted online: “The pain suffered is temporary, but memorable.”

The claim that it was all an elaborate way to force Poly Network to fix security failings is being treated with scepticism.

Why the taunting and boasting online if the motive was honourable?

There’s some suggestion that the net may have been closing in, as one cyber-security company says it was close to working out the identity of a suspect.

It might have been the case that the hacker bit off way more than they could chew and got scared, so returned the money.

Regardless, the authorities will still no doubt be working hard to find them.

But what this story mostly points to is just how powerful hackers can be and how powerless the unregulated, decentralised cryptocurrency world is when someone swipes a large fortune from under its nose.

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Crypto is a danger to world economy, tool for money laundry- EFCC Boss

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Advancement in digital assets such as cryptocurrencies increasingly portends huge risks to the world economy, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has said.

This, according to Bawa, is partly because, many criminals now play significant roles in crypto-currency markets. He said the virtual currencies had become their preferred mediums of exchange.

Bawa spoke while delivering his keynote address Monday at the 38th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, themed, ‘Economic Crime-Who pays and who should pay?’

The event was organised by the Centre for International Documentation on Organised and Economic Crime (CIDOEC), Jesus College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, who captured some highlights of the event in a statement, quoting Bawa as saying, “The developments in new technologies and the growth of cryptocurrencies portrays a far greater danger to the world economy than ever before with many criminals playing significant roles in crypto-currency markets.

“Criminals now elect to transact or receive illegal monies (such as ransom money) for

cyber-attacks in cryptocurrencies with Bitcoins and Ethereum as the most commonly used mediums for these exchanges.”

He lamented that “the sophistication and complexity that defines the dynamics of economic crime in the 21st Century continues to evolve, spurred by technological advancement in the global economy that has become borderless and transnational.”

This he said had “inevitably led to the prioritisation of law enforcement action on crimes that drive Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) across the globe”.

‘No nation is immune’

According to the EFCC Boss, “economic crimes which are largely illegal acts committed for private gain affect the vital structures of global economies, causing significant damage to the Global Financial System and depriving developing nations of the needed resources for sustainable development”.

He noted that developed countries are not immune to the scourge, which, according to him, has “magnified with the proliferation of cyber-crimes which threatens the stability of Global Financial Institutions.”

Bawa said the platform of the event provided an opportunity to interrogate the challenges of economic crimes.

“As the victims of crime continue to suffer globally from the effects of financial crimes, either directly or indirectly as part of a social system, the determination of who pays or who should pay becomes a critical measure of the criminal justice system in place.”

He underlined the imperatives of an impartial judiciary in ensuring that “the perpetrators of acts and not the victims pay for their crimes.”

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had barred commercial banks and other financial institutions from transacting with cryptocurrency in fear of the risks it poses to investments and the economy at large.

Despite these actions, there have been reports over the use of these digital or virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum and others, with criminals turning it to a haven to launder proceeds of corruption, fraud, drug trafficking, and other heinous crimes.

PRecall that last month that the United States Department of Justice training over 50 Nigerian investigators and prosecutors to tackle cryptocurrency-enabled organised crimes.

Efforts to fight crypto-related crimes

While highlighting some of the transparency and accountability achievements of the current administration by President Muhammadu Buhari, Bawa pointed out that the EFCC, as the rallying point in the fight against economic crimes in Nigeria, has recorded important milestones in investigations, prosecutions and assets recovery.

“Since its establishment in 2003, the Commission has recorded no less than 3,500 convictions and recovered assets of significant value including properties in Nigeria, the UK, USA, and the UAE. All these have measurably contributed to the national efforts against economic crimes in Nigeria,” he said.

The EFCC charged participants to come up with practical solutions to curb the international threat of economic crimes.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the symposium, Saul Froomkin, thanked the EFCC boss for his insightful presentation, and the support received from Nigeria in organising the event.

Participants at the symposium were drawn from law enforcement and security agencies, accountability institutions and partners across the world.

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SuperTV CEO: Lagos DPP to charge Chidinma Ojukwu, two others

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A Yaba Chief Magistrates’ Court in Lagos State has adjourned to sept 29, further hearing in the murder of Usifo Ataga, the Chief Executive Officer of Super TV.

A 21-year-old student, Chidinma Ojukwu and one Adedapo Quadri were again presented. before the Chief Magistrate, Adeola Adedayo on Monday after they were ordered to be remanded for thirty days at the Kirikiri Correctional Centre last month.

Police Prosecutor, Cyril Ejiofor, informed the court that the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecution had issued a legal advice on the case, recommending their trial for murder which implies that the case will now be heard at the high court of Lagos state which has jurisdiction to hear matters of this nature

She, however, adjourned the case to await further Information from the DPP as to the status of the case at the high court that will now hear the matter.

The News Beat also gathered that the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions, Olayinka Adeyemi, recommended the release of four persons who are also standing trial at the Magistrate court for obstruction of justice and dishonestly receiving stolen belongings of the deceased .

The four persons are Babalola Disu, Olowu Ifeoluwa, Olutayo Abayomi, Nkechi Mogbo, Ojukwu Onoh, who is said to be Chidinma’s adopted father.

One Egbuchu Chioma who was allegedly found in possession of the deceased’s iPhone 7, and who had initially refused to release the phone on demand, is however to continue her trial.

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Omoyele Sowore’s younger brother shot dead

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A file combo photo of Omoyele and Olajide Sowore

Sahara Reporters Publisher and ex-presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, has narrated how kidnappers shot dead his brother in the Okada area of Edo State on Saturday.

According to him, Olajide was killed in the early hours of Saturday on his way from the Igbinedion University where he was studying Pharmacy.

Sowore, in a tribute on his Facebook page, described his deceased brother who almost clocked 50 as an “out-of-the-box thinker”

He wrote, “My immediate younger brother, Olajide Sowore was today shot and killed near Okada in Edo state by reportedly herdsmen /kidnappers on his way from Igbinedion University in Edo sate where he is studying Pharmacy.

“They snuffed out the life yet another real human being!

“Rest In Power, “Dr. Mamiye!”

“This act in itself will not delay their day of justice.

“I travelled widely with you and our father as a little kid. You were the most loved robust kid I ever first knew. You, Mr. magnet had no enemy!

“You, Mr. Sunshine Foundation who made everyone happy.

“You, the boy who snuck out his older ones to parties, taking all the blames when our disciplinarian father found out.

“You, the guy who was an out-of-the-box thinker who decided school wasn’t for you and created you own genre of music and then turned around to go to school after you almost turned 50!

“You lived your life so that everyone could be alright but now assassinated by everything that’s not alright!

“Saddest day yet!”

Details later…

 

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