Crypto Products Launch; Bitcoin Ordinals Project Sells Out; U.S. EIA to Survey Miners; OFAC and DOJ Announce Crypto Actions; Ransomware Data Published | BakerHostetler | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

New Crypto Indices Launch; Crypto Firms Announce Product Integrations

By Christopher Lamb

According to a recent press release, SIX, a major Swiss stock exchange and global financial information provider, has launched new SIX Reference Rate Crypto Indices and SIX Real-Time Crypto Indices. The press release notes that the new indices “cover the major crypto assets Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH)” and “foster clarity and consistency by sourcing data from multiple exchanges.” The SIX Reference Rate Crypto Indices provide the Bitcoin and Ethereum benchmark price in USD on an hourly basis, while the Real-Time Indices provide BTC and ETH prices every second. According to the press release, the indices are “accessible for tracking and analysis through AsiaNext’s institutional crypto derivatives platform, as well as through the data feeds from SIX.”

According to recent reports, Hashnote, a DeFi startup, has integrated with Copper, a cryptocurrency custody firm, to offer its yield-bearing USYC token. According to reports, USYC’s yield is based on U.S. Treasury Bills held overnight with a guaranteed price the next day. The integration with Copper will reportedly provide access to USYC to Copper’s clientele of around 300 large institutions and crypto trading platforms.

Another recent report indicates that a major U.S. fintech and financial services company has integrated with MetaMask, a cryptocurrency wallet used to interact with the Ethereum blockchain, to enable streamlined access to Ethereum-based tokens. The integration will reportedly allow users to purchase Ethereum-based tokens through the company’s “low cost order engine.”

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Bitcoin Has a Banner Week: ETF Ads Approved and Ordinal Project Sells Out

By Lauren Bass

A U.S.-based multinational technology and advertising company reportedly released its long-awaited advertising policy update that will allow certain cryptocurrency finance products – including recently approved bitcoin ETFs – to be featured in ads and sponsored links across the company’s platforms. According to reports, ads touting ETFs or other permitted financial products that allow investors to trade shares in trusts holding large pools of digital currency will still need to comply with all local laws for targeted areas, and as of now, ads for NFTs or other cryptocurrency sales – including ICOs and DeFi – remain banned from the platform.

In other news, the first Bitcoin Ordinals project – the equivalent of NFTs on the Bitcoin blockchain – reportedly sold out its initial mint in one day, taking in almost $13 million for the 3,000 digital images. According to reports, while most of the collection was purchased by whitelisted investors during an exclusive five-hour preview window, at least 10 percent of the collection was purchased by members of the public during the first two seconds of the mint.

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U.S. EIA to Conduct Survey of Crypto Mining Companies

By Robert A. Musiala Jr.

According to a recent press release by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the EIA is “initiating a provisional survey of electricity consumption information from identified cryptocurrency mining companies operating in the United States.” The EIA press release notes that the survey was authorized by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on January 26 “as an emergency collection of data request.” According to the press release, beginning the week of February 5, the EIA “will survey identified commercial cryptocurrency miners, which are required to respond with details related to their energy use.”

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OFAC Adds Crypto Exchange Companies to SDN List as Part of Hamas Sanctions

By Robert A. Musiala Jr.

According to a press release by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), OFAC recently imposed a fifth round of sanctions on Hamas since the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel. According to the press release, the action “targets networks of Hamas-affiliated financial exchanges in Gaza, their owners, and associates, and particularly financial facilitators that have played key roles in funds transfers, including cryptocurrency transfers, from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza.” The press release notes that the persons added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) include Al-Markaziya, which was one of three companies from which the Israeli Defense Ministry’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing seized 189 cryptocurrency accounts in April 2023.

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DOJ Announces Multiple Crypto Enforcement Actions

By Robert A. Musiala Jr.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently published four press releases providing details on cryptocurrency-related enforcement actions. In the first press release, DOJ “announced charges against two individuals and the guilty plea of a third individual for orchestrating a $1.89 billion cryptocurrency fraud scheme.” According to the press release, the defendants co-founded and promoted “HyperFund, also known as HyperTech, HyperCapital, HyperVerse, and HyperNation,” through which they “offered and sold investment contracts to the public through HyperFund’s online investment platform” and “falsely represented that investors would receive substantial returns paid from cryptocurrency mining operations, which did not in fact exist.”

The second DOJ press release announced that an “Indian national pleaded guilty … to running a dark web narcotics conspiracy.” According to the press release, the defendant “forfeited cryptocurrency accounts that ultimately became worth $150 million,” which represents the largest cryptocurrency and cash seizure in the history of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

A third DOJ press release announced the conviction of a defendant for “manipulating the price of a security and scheming to defraud investors in connection with the purchase of Hydrogen Technology’s cryptocurrency, HYDRO.” According to the press release, the defendant and his co-conspirators “hired an outside firm … to run an automated trading system or ‘bot’ to manipulate the price of HYDRO on a cryptocurrency exchange in the United States by flooding the market with fake and fraudulent orders … and … executed approximately $7 million in ‘wash trades’ and placed over $300 million in ‘spoof trades’ for HYDRO through the bot.” The press release further notes that the spoof and wash trades fraudulently induced retail investors to purchase HYDRO so that the defendant and his co-conspirators could sell Hydrogen Technology’s own holdings of HYDRO for over $1.5 million over the course of a seven-month period.

The fourth and final DOJ press release announced charges against a Belarusian and Cypriot national for money laundering conspiracy and operation of an unlicensed money services business in relation to the defendant’s actions operating and controlling BTE-e, “a significant cybercrime and online money laundering entity that allowed its users to trade in bitcoin with high levels of anonymity and developed a customer base heavily reliant on criminal activity.” BTC-e was the subject of an enforcement action in 2017.

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Report Finds 2023 Ransomware Payments Exceeded $1 Billion

By Joanna F. Wasick

Last week, Chainalysis, a major U.S. blockchain analytics firm, issued a report finding that “2023 marks a major comeback for ransomware, with record-breaking payments and a substantial increase in the scope and complexity of attack.” Specifically, in 2023, ransomware actors intensified their operations, targeting high-profile institutions and critical infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and government agencies. According to Chainalysis, major ransomware supply chain attacks were carried out exploiting the file transfer software MOVEit, impacting companies ranging from the BBC to British Airways. As a result of these attacks and others, ransomware gangs reached “an unprecedented milestone,” surpassing $1 billion in extorted cryptocurrency payments in 2023 – the highest amount ever observed.

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