My personal definition of a brilliant idea is one that is immediately obvious once it’s explained, but no one has thought of it before. I can’t believe that no one has described this taxonomy of access control before Ittay Eyal laid it out in this paper. The paper is about cryptocurrency wallet design, but the ideas are more general. Ittay points out that a key—or an account, or anything similar—can be in one of four states:

safe Only the user has access,
loss No one has access,
leak Both the user and the adversary have access, or
theft Only the adversary has access.

Once you know these states, you can assign probabilities of transitioning from one state to another (someone hacks your account and locks you out, you forgot your own password, etc.) and then build optimal security and reliability to deal with it. It’s a truly elegant way of conceptualizing the problem.

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    US blacklisting of Tornado Cash sparks outcry from cryptocurrency industry / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 9 August - 18:31 · 1 minute

Abstract image of a blockchain displays ones and zeroes imposed on interconnected chain links.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Yuichiro Chino)

The US Treasury Department blacklisted the virtual currency mixer Tornado Cash on Monday, saying the system "has been used to launder more than $7 billion worth of virtual currency since its creation in 2019." The platform was added to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN), prohibiting all transactions on Tornado Cash by people in the US "unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control]", the Treasury Department announcement said.

"As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of the entity above, Tornado Cash, that is in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons is blocked and must be reported to OFAC," the announcement said. There is reportedly over $412 million of assets on Tornado Cash. Prices of Tornado's crypto token TORN plummeted after the blacklisting announcement.

The Treasury action was criticized within the crypto industry because it affects any US person using Tornado Cash, not just those involved in money laundering or other crimes. The SDN list is generally used to "identify persons involved in terrorism, enemy states, or other state-sanctioned activities and ensure that these individuals cannot get the benefit of the US financial system," Coin Center Executive Director Jerry Brito and Research Director Peter Van Valkenburgh wrote yesterday. Coin Center is a cryptocurrency research and advocacy group.

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    Out of prison, Shkreli plans “Web3 drug discovery” platform backed by crypto / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 26 July - 22:25 · 1 minute

Martin Shkreli being photographed for his role as CIO of MSMB Capital Management.

Martin Shkreli being photographed for his role as CIO of MSMB Capital Management. (credit: Getty Images)

Martin Shkreli—the notorious ex-pharmaceutical executive fresh from prison after his 2017 fraud conviction —announced his latest, eyebrow-raising venture Monday: creating a blockchain-based "Web3 drug discovery platform" that traffics in his own cryptocurrency, MSI, aka Martin Shkreli Inu .

The platform, still in the early development phase, is called Druglike , according to a press release that circulated Monday. The platform's goals are ostensibly lofty, but the details are extremely sketchy, and Shkreli's intentions have already drawn skepticism. It's also unclear if the enterprise will run Shkreli afoul of his lifetime ban from the pharmaceutical industry , which stemmed from the abrupt and callous 4,000 percent price hike of a life-saving drug that made him infamous.

Shkreli, who is named as a co-founder of Druglike , says the platform aims to make early-stage drug discovery more affordable and accessible. "Druglike will remove barriers to early-stage drug discovery, increase innovation and allow a broader group of contributors to share the rewards," Shkreli said in the press release. "Underserved and underfunded communities, such as those focused on rare diseases or in developing markets, will also benefit from access to these tools."

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    Cryptomining boom has people’s energy bills skyrocketing; feds mull new rules / ArsTechnica · Monday, 18 July - 22:22 · 1 minute

Cryptomining boom has people’s energy bills skyrocketing; feds mull new rules

Enlarge (credit: Andriy Onufriyenko | Moment )

This is not the summer that Americans want to deal with an unknown number of cryptocurrency firms unexpectedly flooding the power grid. More Americans are already expecting to experience rolling blackouts as the nation's power grid strains against record heat and drought conditions currently spiking energy usage from coast to coast. Now, lawmakers are worried that US cryptocurrency mining operations planning for rapid growth will potentially further destabilize the grid while quietly spiking carbon emissions and driving up utility costs to more and more consumers.

That's why Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) joined five other Congress members to submit a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy , recommending the agencies combine forces to draft new regulations requiring emissions and energy use reporting from all cryptomining operations nationwide. Only then, Warren and others suggest, will we know exactly how many firms are operating in the US, how much energy is being used, how much damage to the environment is being done, and how many communities are being affected.

The letter provided the EPA and DOE with new information from Congress' investigation into the environmental impacts of "seven of the largest cryptomining operations in the US." It's just a fraction of the whole, but together, these firms plan to increase their total mining capacity by nearly 230 percent, requiring an added electricity consumption than is used to power all the homes in Los Angeles. None of the firms said that it tracks the impacts on consumers connected to power grids, and none of the firms seemed to think they had any reason to fully comply with Congress' request for information.

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    Crypto lender Celsius files for bankruptcy, still won’t let users withdraw funds / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 14 July - 16:02 · 1 minute

Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky speaks at a conference while seated on a stage and wearing a T-shirt that says,

Enlarge / Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky addresses the audience at the November 2021 Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images )

Cryptocurrency loan company Celsius filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 yesterday, one month after the lender announced it was suspending withdrawals . The petitions for reorganization give Celsius "the best opportunity to stabilize the business, consummate a comprehensive restructuring transaction that maximizes value for all stakeholders, and emerge from Chapter 11 positioned for success in the cryptocurrency industry," the company said .

In an FAQ updated yesterday , Celsius told users that withdrawals are still suspended. As part of the bankruptcy process, Celsius said it "intend[s] to put forward a plan that restores activity across the platform." But it offered no timeline for allowing withdrawals and other suspended transactions again:

On June 12, 2022, we made the difficult but necessary decision to pause withdrawals, Swap, and transfers on our platform to stabilize our business and protect our customers.

Most account activity will be paused until further notice. Withdrawals, Swap, and transfers between accounts will remain paused, and rewards will stop accruing as of the date of the filing. Celsius is not requesting authority [from the bankruptcy court] to allow customer withdrawals at this time.

Existing loans "will continue to be serviced" but "Celsius will not be issuing new loans at this time," the company said. Celsius also said that if it hadn't halted withdrawals, "the acceleration of withdrawals would have allowed specific customers—those who were first to act—to be paid in full while leaving others behind to wait for Celsius to harvest value from illiquid or longer-term asset deployment activities before they receive a recovery."

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    EXPOSED UPDATE! They seek her here, they seek her there, but cannot find the Cryptoqueen anywhere! (but they're still looking!) / Decentralized Today · Friday, 8 July - 00:00 · 8 minutes

EXPOSED UPDATE! They seek her here, they seek her there, but cannot find the Cryptoqueen anywhere! (but they're still looking!)

Some weeks back, DT published the following story about Ruja Ignatova. We often talk about the three existential threats to crypto as being criminality, deception and regulation...this individual represents the worst of all three, directly or indirectly.

Last week, news surfaced that the FBI have now added her to their international Top Ten Most Wanted list and the BBC (yes, we know!) added some more insight within the following:

OG article:

Welcome to another episode of EXPOSED! on where we share public domain information about the individuals, organizations, companies and governments involved in criminal and corrupt activities. Many are well known, some less so.

Today, we turn to the woman who became known as 'The Cryptoqueen', Ruja Ignatova.


And if that was your reaction, that it would probably be understandable, so let's recap on her legacy!

$ 6 billion fraudulently obtained from investors into her 'OneCoin' cryptocurrency venture.

Now let's look at how she got here and the ramifications for her and, more broadly, the development of cryptocurrencies.

Born to Bulgarian parents in Sofia in 1980, she moved to Germany as a 10 year along with her younger brother, Konstantin (more on him later).

She studied with some distinction, earning a law doctorate along the way, and is reported to have worked at the international business consultants, McKinsey & Co., at some point. There is no doubt that Dr Ignatova was incredibly intelligent and more than a little street smart!

Her first taste of embezzlement, and brush with the authorities, came in 2012, when she and her father were convicted of fraud in connection with the acquisition of a company that was declared bankrupt soon afterwards in highly dubious circumstances. She received a suspended sentence of 14 months' imprisonment as a result.

In 2013, she was back at it again with her first venture into Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) with a company called BigCoin. MLM basically involves lots of people buying quantities of goods or services and then recruiting layers of staff to sell these on...effectively a pyramid selling scheme and often used in scams for bogus, ineffective or non-existent products.

Then came OneCoin!

Launched in 2014, it was a centralized currency hosted on OneCoin own servers in Bulgaria and Hong Kong. The business involved selling educational material for trading. Investors were able to buy packages of various sizes, but apparently up to over 200,000 euros each, and in exchange receive tokens which allowed them to mine for OneCoins.

However, the only way to exchange Onecoins for any other currency was via the OneCoin Exchange, xcoinx, an internal and exclusive marketplace for members where coins could be exchanged with the proceeds placed in a virtual wallet for them. These could then be wire transferred on request, although the daily limits were very strict.

The exchange closed without notice in January 2017, although individuals connected with the scheme continued to collect investment funds for some time afterwards.

Almost from its launch the company attracted the attention of authorities and media across the globe including in Bulgaria, the UK, the USA, India, Norway, Croatia, Thailand, Vietnam, Germany and Hungary. Many expressed concerns about the company's registration and business practices, and soon legal proceedings started to mount. By the latter stages, as the scheme snowballed, there were huge amounts of money in play and moving these triggered investigations into securities and wire fraud as well as charges of money laundering.

This was all orchestrated by Ignatova, her lawyer / husband, her business co-founder, Sebastian Greenwood, her brother and various other accomplices around the world. And despite the growing concerns about the OneCoin model, they kept it going until one day in late 2017.

Ignatova was to address these concerns at a meeting of European OneCoin promoters in Lisbon, Portugal. Dr Ignatova, who was famously punctual, just didn't show up and no-one could explain why not! Some claimed she had been killed or kidnapped by the big banks, who had most to lose from the cryptocurrency 'revolution', or by criminal associates or even by terror groups she was supposedly secretly funding.

In fact, FBI records show that on 25 October 2017, two weeks after the Lisbon no-show, she boarded a Ryanair flight from Sofia to Athens and at that point she really did disappear.

It had been exposed as a giant international 'ponzi' scheme and the head con artist got out just before the 'house of cards' collapsed.

Where are they now?

In September 2021, a money-laundering trial commenced in Germany at which Dr Ignatova's German lawyer, Martin Breidenbach, went on trial accused of laundering and transferring €20 million to a London law firm to fund the purchase of a luxury property. Two others are also facing charges connected to the siphoning of millions from the (now estimated) €4bn scam.

And the trial shed light on some of the conspicuous spending by Dr Ignatova with one witness remembering meeting her in 2016, at an exclusive Abbots House apartment block in Kensington, London, as she returned from a shopping trip with her Bulgarian bodyguards.

"These two poor men came behind her like overloaded donkeys, struggling, and a bit out of breath - they must've had 20 bags each"

Dr Ignatova had been splurging on designer-labelled goods, Jimmy Choo, Prada, Calvin Klein and the like, - with no regard for the cost.

It transpired that she 'owned' an $18 million four bedroomed, penthouse apartment inside the building, complete with its own swimming pool.

"She had an Andy Warhol painting stuffed in the cupboard"

That was a print of the actress, Elizabeth Taylor, whilst another Warhol, Red Lenin, hung above the fireplace and a print of Queen Bubblegum by Michael Moebius was in another reception room. In total, it was estimated that there was in excess of $800,000 worth of art in the property, all bought from London's Halcyon gallery.

The mechanics of the purchase operation, involving, amongst others, lawyers in the US and anonymous Guernsey shell companies, have all been extensively covered elsewhere, suffice to say, she covered her tracks well and, by and large, via sadly legal devices and banking routes.

In July 2018, Dr RIgnatova's brother, Konstantin, who took over the running of the company after her disappearance, posted a photo of himself taken inside the penthouse.

EXPOSED UPDATE! They seek her here, they seek her there, but cannot find the Cryptoqueen anywhere! (but they're still looking!)

On 6 March 2019, Konstantin was arrested at LAX and charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. He has now admitted to his role in the fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme and pleaded guilty to several charges, including money laundering and fraud.

He signed a plea deal on October 4th 2021, which was made public on November 12th. In it, (Brother) Ignatov will not face further criminal charges for his role at OneCoin, except any criminal tax violations that emerge. He still faces up to 90 years in prison for his part in the scheme!

Additionally, he has been testifying at the trial of a US lawyer accused of laundering proceeds from OneCoin. Mark Scott is accused of helping move around $400m out of the USA while concealing the ownership and source of the funds. His trial will conclude shortly.

Back in the UK, a leading campaigner for the victims of the scheme,  Jen McAdam, has stated:

"This is almost certainly OneCoin victims' money that these properties have been purchased with, victims who for the last five years have been facing unimaginable emotional suffering and immense financial loss".

It has been estimated that investors, in that country alone, lost more than £100m.

She went on to criticize the City of London Police for closing its investigation into OneCoin in September 2019 without making any charges.

While the billions of dollars lost to OneCoin have yet to be recovered, a British attorney has pointed authorities to digital wallets hosted in the Seychelles that, allegedly, belong to Dr Ignatova and contain Bitcoin now said to be worth over $10 billion. It has also been reported that she is living under an assumed identity in Frankfurt, Germany. Her, now ex, husband and their 5-year-old daughter are also said to live in the area.

But on a grander scale, the saddest thing about this whole affair, leaving aside the victims for a moment, is the reputational damage this and similar actions inflict on cryptocurrencies and their slow march to acceptance and mass adoption.

There are three principal existential threats to the existence of life in Cryptoland...and this involves all three. Firstly, outright internal criminality - deception, fraud, embezzlement - secondly, outright external criminality - fraud, money laundering, tax evasion - and finally, and potentially the most damaging, these two will fuel calls for an increase in regulation and greater control over all crypto-related activities.

What the Times of London has described as "one of the biggest scams in history" could yet inflict even greater collateral damage in the long run. Let us hope cool heads prevail and that the heads of the wrong doers 'roll'...metaphorically!

Dr Ruja Ignatova was the subject of the 2019 BBC podcast series The Missing Cryptoqueen. Sadly, whilst a good listen, it does plays into the establishment narrative.

Reference Links

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    Meta highlights NFT, blockchain hopes as it shutters its Novi crypto wallet / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 6 July - 16:31

Meta highlights NFT, blockchain hopes as it shutters its Novi crypto wallet

Enlarge (credit: Meta )

Meta will shut down its pilot of the Novi digital wallet, one of the last remnants of the company's beleaguered cryptocurrency push, in September, Bloomberg reported this week.

Novi users in parts of the US and Guatemala will no longer be able to log in starting on September 1.

And as of July 21, they won't be able to add to the wallets. In fact, Novi's website urges users to empty their accounts "as soon as possible." Novi says it will "attempt to transfer your balance to the bank account or debit card you’ve added to Novi" if you still have money in your account after the pilot ends.

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    Cryptocurrency plunges as crypto “bank” Celsius suspends withdrawals / ArsTechnica · Monday, 13 June - 21:08

Cryptocurrency plunges as crypto “bank” Celsius suspends withdrawals

Enlarge (credit: Oliver Mallich )

Major cryptocurrencies suffered big losses on Monday. As I write this, bitcoin is down 14 percent over the last 24 hours, while ether is down 16 percent. Other major cryptocurrencies—including solana, dogecoin, and litecoin—are also down by double digits, according to CoinMarketCap .

The cryptocurrency crash is part of a broader market sell-off. The S&P 500 stock market index fell almost 4 percent on Monday amid fears of faster interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve. High interest rates put downward pressure on all assets, including stocks and cryptocurrencies.

Another big factor that may have spooked cryptocurrency traders was the Monday announcement by crypto lender Celsius that it was suspending withdrawals. The company said this was the result of "extreme market conditions."

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