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Hackers From North Korea Targeting Bitcoin, Crypto Investors

North Korea Still In Love With Bitcoin, Crypto

Due to the decentralized, borderless, and censorship-resistant nature of Bitcoin and related technologies, North Korea, the world’s most well-known hermit state, has taken a liking to this decade-old innovation. But some would argue that North Korea has taken its crypto penchant a bit too far, with a multitude of reports indicating that the nation is leveraging cryptocurrencies for dubious financial gain.

As reported by Ethereum World News in mid-October, Lazarus, a supposed North Korea-based hacker consortium, was found to be responsible for five cryptocurrency exchange hacks, including the now-infamous $500 million breach of CoinCheck. A report from cybersecurity firm Group-IB, who first divulged this information, indicated that Lazarus’ constituents used social engineering, phishing, and malware to forcefully visit pertinent databases and access points.

Now, per the South China Morning Post, Lazarus has set its targets on retail crypto consumers, like you or me, who often aren’t the target of such bigwig hacker collectives.

Simon Choi of IssueMakersLabs, a so-called “cyber warfare research group,” recently told the SCMP that while Bitcoin hackers from North Korea used to target exchanges and their employees, a shift towards ‘common Joes’ in the cryptocurrency economy.

Backing this claim, Kwon Seok-chul, CEO of South Korea-based cybersecurity organization Cuvepia, noted that his firm has detected a minimum of 30 times that North Korean hackers have attacked cryptocurrency holders since April 2018.

Kwon, accentuating that the victims were just “simple wallet users,” went on to note that Cuvepia’s systems likely just detected the tip of the iceberg, adding that the “true number may be well over 100.” Explaining the reasoning behind the shift from lucrative exchange hacks, a seeming Robinhood-inspired form of attack, to individual wallet breaches, Choi noted that the former group has begun to bolster their security efforts.

Binance, for example, recently moved a majority of the Ethereum-based tokens it has custody over, more than $1.2 billion worth, to a new, arguably more secure wallet, as reported by Ethereum World News previously. The cybersecurity researcher explained:

The exchanges have become used to the attacks and boosted their security somewhat. Direct attacks on exchanges have become harder, so hackers are thinking about alternatively going after individual users with weak security.

Interestingly, Choi went on to add that the North Korean hackers are likely targeting South Korean CEOs, many of which may have billions of won in digital assets, such as Bitcoin.

Although the aforementioned statements make it sounds like Lazarus has given up on attacking exchanges entirely, Luke McNamara of FireEye recently claimed that Lazarus’ inaugural claims to fame could have aided in its efforts to target individual cryptocurrency users. He noted:

It’s possible from previous intrusions they’ve been able to collect information related to the email addresses, usernames of the people using these exchanges.

Regardless of the details, the SCMP’s most recent report on the matter underlines the state’s goal to reportedly bypass sanctions through the trading, garnering, and use of cryptocurrencies.

And in spite of purported hackers, other reports indicate that North Korea is still hell-bent on launching its second international crypto- and blockchain-centric conference.

Title Image Courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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Mt.Gox Opens Claiming Process, Victims To Receive $1 Billion In BTC

Mt.Gox Trustee Commences Claiming Process

You may not remember it, but in 2014, Mt.Gox was hacked for over 850,000 BTC in a now-infamous event. While the hack occurred in the crypto industry’s earliest stages, it still shook the community to its core, nonetheless. And with a recent announcement, it has become clear that the near-five-year Mt.Gox debacle has continued, with the Japan-based exchange recently revealing that it would be opening its civil rehabilitation claiming process for its creditors.Image result for mt.gox

As per an official Mt.Gox document, victims of the hack can finally make claims for their lost crypto funds. Along with the aforementioned document, Nobuaki Kobayashi, the infamous Mt.Gox trustee, released an online claiming tool, along with an offline method via post. However, this process may not be cut and dried, as the trustee outlined a series legal documents (and requirements) that creditors will have to fill out.

Prospective claimants will reportedly have until October 22nd to submit a filing, or else they will have to wave goodbye to their lost funds. Kobayashi elaborated, writing:

The deadline for filing proofs of claims is October 22, 2018 (Japan time) (must arrive by this date). If proof of claim is not filed by the deadline, then disenfranchisement (i.e., loss of the right to claim) might apply, so please be careful.

It is important to note that this process only applies to individual traders, with the online civil rehabilitation process for corporations or legal entities to come at an unspecified date. Kobayashi still has access to approximately 170,000 Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH), or the equivalent of over $1 billion, which will evidently be distributed to its rightful owners.

Following the October 22nd deadline, the civil rehabilitation requests will be submitted to Japanese courts, by February 14, 2019, at the latest. And pending judicial approval, the rest of Mt.Gox’s liquid assets, like the aforementioned BTC and BCH, will be distributed among the claimants.

Will A Mt.Gox BTC Selloff Occur?

In late-June 2018, documents revealed that the Mt.Gox case would be transitioning from bankruptcy proceedings to civil rehabilitation. Although this may seem mundane in and of itself, many investors breathed a sigh of relief, as this meant that trustee Nobuaki Kobayashi would stop the sale of BTC on spot market exchanges.

For those who are unaware, Kobayashi rose to infamy earlier this year, as many blamed him for single-handily wiping out the market by selling tens of thousands of BTC (upwards of 30,000 BTC) for fiat, evidently driving down prices.

But even as civil rehabilitation proceedings began, it has become apparent that this will only temporarily stave off a fiat selloff, as it is likely many creditors will want out once they receive the claimed funds in Q1 of 2019. Nonetheless, some are hopeful that this delay, albeit ‘only’ 8-9 months, will stave off any risk of the further propagation of 2018’s bearish price movements.

Photo by Andre Francois on Unsplash


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Cutting-Edge “PowerGhost” CryptoJacking Software Eyes The Corporate World

Crypto mining, or cryptojacking as it is better known by community insiders, has become a growing problem in this industry, with the presence of crypto-malware following 2017’s bull-run. According to ZDNet, researchers have recently uncovered a new form of cryptojacking software that is targeting corporate networks.

But first, a smidge of a background information about cryptojacking/crypto mining.

What Is Crypto Mining?

For those who are unaware, cryptojacking is a specific type of cybercrime that sees malicious hackers take control of a victim’s piece of technology, forcing the device to mine cryptocurrencies for the hacker’s personal gain.

Cryptojacking malware, although generating only a few cents per device affected, can easily sweep across thousands, if not millions of computers, netting the hackers with a nice reward. The medium of attack is usually an infected website, file, or media source that will install a malicious script onto the victim’s internet-connected device.

“PowerGhost” Malware Attacks Computers Worldwide

Researchers from Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, recently uncovered a cryptojacking software that was quickly dubbed “PowerGhost.” PowerGhost is a fileless malware that aims to secretly embed itself on a system and will propagate itself across a system of other PCs.

Kaspersky detected this software on a variety of corporate networks across the world, with affected firms in Brazil, Columbia, Turkey, and India getting hit the hardest. However, corporations were not only attacked in these four countries, with detections of PowerGhost also appearing in European and North American companies.

What makes a fileless variety of malware so damaging is that it can be extremely hard to detect by anti-malware programs, disguising itself in a system’s native processes and files. Once implemented successfully in the background of a computer’s processes, it will begin to mine a PC-mineable cryptocurrency like Ethereum, ZCash or Monero.

Infections of PowerGhost usually start with the utilization of computer exploits or “remote administration tools,” which will allow hackers to hide the malware not directly on the hard drive of the device.

Detection rates from Kaspersky products indicate that the malicious actors behind PowerGhost are targeting corporate networks, aiming to make higher returns in a shorter amount of time. Malware on a single corporate computer can quickly be replicated across a system of computers through a firm’s internal network.

Speaking on the PowerGhost software, David Emm, a principal security researcher at Kaspersky, wrote:

PowerGhost raises new concerns about crypto-mining software. The miner we examined indicates that targeting consumers is not enough for cybercriminals anymore – threat actors are now turning their attention to enterprises too. Crypto-currency mining is set to become a huge threat to the business community.

Malwarebytes: CryptoJacking Cases Are “Plateauing”

As reported by Ethereum World News last week, MalwareBytes, one of the Kaspersky’s primary competitors, recently released a report highlighting cybercrime in Q2 Of 2018. According to the aforementioned Malwarebytes report, cryptojacking is still a hot topic within cybersecurity circles, but detections of this method of cybercrime are starting to trend downwards.

While detection rates of cryptojacking are on the way down, researchers at ZDNet made it clear that corporate-centric crypto mining cases may become a large problem moving into the future, as non-detectable malware can pose a large problem for firms.

Title Image Courtesy of TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay


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MalwareBytes Report Says CryptoJacking Cases Are “Plateauing”

Malwarebytes, a premier cyber security firm, recently released a report highlighting the “cybercrime tactics” of this past quarter. The report mentioned that the presence of cryptominers (cryptojacking) has become quite apparent, as it “dominates the threat landscape.”

Before we delve into the data, first, a bit of information about cryptojacking.

What Is CryptoJacking?

For those who are unaware, cryptojacking is a specific type of cybercrime that sees malicious hackers take control of a victim’s piece of technology, forcing the device to mine cryptocurrencies for the hacker’s personal gain. Cryptojacking malware, although generating only a few cents per device affected, can easily sweep across thousands, if not millions of computers, netting the hackers a nice reward.

The method of attack is usually through an infected website, file or piece of media that will install a script into the background of the victim’s device. Although some might not notice that their computer power gets siphoned off by an attacker, others may begin to notice higher electric bills, and a slow-down to the device they are using.

Cryptojacking Detections See Large Decrease In Q2 2018

According to the aforementioned Malwarebytes report, cryptojacking is still a hot topic within cybersecurity circles but detections of this method of cybercrime are starting to trend downwards. The report noted:

Cryptomining detections are slowly declining; however, as one of the top two detections for both businesses and consumers, they still dominate the threat landscape… The trend in detections closely mirrors the ebb and flow of cryptocurrency market prices, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Monero.

CryptoJacking Profits Are Down Due To Declining Cryptocurrency Prices

The report cited one primary reason why a decrease in cases has occurred, the reason being that cryptocurrency prices have begun to decrease, resulting in a subsequent profit drop-off for miners. The document posted by the cybersecurity firm stated:

Ultimately, many criminals aren’t getting the return on investment (ROI) from cryptomining they were expecting. The cryptojacking craze will likely stabilize as it follows market trends in cryptocurrency.

The collective value of all cryptocurrencies has declined by over 65% since the start of 2018, but network hashrates continued to rise, resulting in a substantial drop in profits. In fact, some farms have begun to shut-off their machines in anticipation of losing large sums of money with their mining operation.

It has become apparent that the money just isn’t there for a majority of cryptojacking operators, resulting in a move from this cybercrime to another.

Android Cases On The Rise, While Desktop/Laptop Cases Decline

Despite seeing an overall decline in cryptojacking detections, especially on desktop and laptop devices, Malwarebytes pointed out that detections of Android cryptominers were up 244% in comparison to 2018’s first quarter.

It is likely that the anti-malware/anti-virus capabilities on Android devices are often lacking, resulting in attackers utilizing this flaw in security.

The report noted:

In fact, in May, the number of Android miner detections dropped by 16 percent from the previous month. However, despite these inconsistencies, Q2 still managed to come in with 244 percent more miner detections than Q1. The Android landscape is likely where we’ll see an overall increase in the use of miners.

Malwarebytes closed off the cryptomining segment expecting for the cryptojacking “hum” to slow as we move into Q3 of 2018, writing:

Until changes in the cryptocurrency market cause a spike or swift downturn, expect to see cryptomining hum along at its current slower pace into Q3.


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Cybersecurity Firm Kaspersky Calls Out Cryptocurrency Scams And Thefts

Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky recently released a report highlighting 2017’s cryptocurrency “social engineering schemes,” which saw criminals net millions in cryptocurrency value.

According to estimates given by Kaspersky’s research team, the cybercriminals managed to gain over 21,000 Ethereum, or approximately $10 million at the time of press, from the “social engineering” schemes seen in 2017. 

So what did these schemes entail?

The cybersecurity firm noted that ICO and cryptocurrency giveaway scams were common, with cybercriminals “drawing inspiration” from legitimate business operations. The report noted:

Some of the most popular targets are ICO investors, who seek to invest their money in start-ups in the hope of gaining a profit in the future.

For ICO-related scams, the criminals would create fraudulent websites and emails/messages that emulate well-known projects. This method resembles the classic internet ‘phishing’ scam, which involves scammers trying to obtain funds or sensitive information by disguising as a trusted party.

Kaspersky gave the example of a Switcheo ICO scam, allowing for criminals to steal over $25,000 by promoting a misleading cryptocurrency address on Twitter, rerouting the funds from the official ICO wallet to the criminal’s wallet.

Another prominent scam involved the OmiseGo project, which is one of the most popular projects on the Ethereum network. In a similar method to the Switcheo scam, criminals created “hundreds of fake websites,” enticing users to send their hard-earned cryptocurrencies to the ‘legitimate’ address. The Russian firm noted that OmiseGo scams drew in over $1.1 million worth of cryptocurrency, by far one of the most damaging cases of “social engineering.”

Elon “Not Giving Away ETH” Musk

Another popular method enlisted by scammers was with ‘cryptocurrency giveaways,’ with bad actors creating social media accounts that pretend to be celebrities, entrepreneurs or even cryptocurrency personalities. The most notable cases of these scams include Twitter ‘giving away Ethereum’ scams, with scammers requesting for users to send Ethereum to an address, in exchange for a substantially larger payout.

Obviously, nothing ever comes of these requests, as the unfortunate few who send their funds to the addresses never get anything in return. The cybersecurity firm acknowledged cases where criminals would even mimic the Twitter accounts of Elon Musk and the founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov.

Musk, one of the world’s most prominent businessmen, acknowledged the “scambots” made in his likeness, jokingly issuing a Tweet calling these accounts out.

Nadezhda Demidova, the lead web content analyst at Kaspersky gave a statement regarding the scams, saying:

These new fraud schemes are based on simple social engineering methods, but stand out from common phishing attacks because they help criminals make millions of dollars. The success criminals have enjoyed suggests that they know how to exploit the human factor, which has always been one of the weakest links in cybersecurity, to capitalize on user behaviors.”

However, Kaspersky noted that its wide array of products have been working well to stave off scams, and have blocked over 100,000 attempts to scam its users using “fake exchanges and other sources” in the first half of 2018. Kaspersky closed the report by reaffirming that users should be wary while dealing with questionable cryptocurrency exchanges, offers, and wallets.


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Donald Trump Sets His Eyes On Crypto

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has ordered the creation of a new task force to investigate crimes related to the use of cryptocurrencies, especially “cyber fraud and digital currency fraud.”

The details appear in an executive order from the U.S. President and his administration seeking to tackle this problem with higher efficiency and severity.

Read Also: U.N. Chief Of Cybercrime To Crypto-Hackers: “We Will Track You Down, And We Will Bring You To Justice”

According to information provided by Bloomberg, the White House is now more concerned than ever about the growing number of frauds that have been committed through the use of cryptocurrencies and ICO funding.

This wave of “cybercrime” has led them to take the issue more seriously, including this type of actions in the same spectrum of traditional crimes. With this approach, a more thorough investigation of these cases is expected.

Also, in addition to research, one of the positive results expected is the reduction of bureaucracy and conflicting competences. Through the creation of a task force by executive order, the various bodies involved should establish a coordinated policy rather than act independently of each other.

First, the executive order calls for the creation of this new Task Force by The Justice Department (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

SEC Logo Hanging on its Headquarters

The two most active agencies within crypto verse (SEC and CTFC) now have the possibility of establishing more robust and more effective policies by including agencies that have a level of research that goes beyond the purely administrative.

The commission will initiate investigations into various frauds involving cryptocurrency. Some scams (especially some exit scams and Ponzi schemes) will be in Mr. Trump’s sights:

“Fraud committed by companies and their employees has a devastating impact on American citizens in the financial markets, the healthcare sector, and elsewhere,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a press briefing in Washington.

Thanks to this new commission, the controversial president of the United States has the possibility of exercising a higher level of influence on the actions taken by the state agencies regarding cryptocurrencies

A Hidden Purpose Behind a “Good Cause”

Bloomberg also points out that Mr. Trump’s move has a political component and is not a simple, selfless action by the president:

“The creation of the task force comes as the Trump administration is moving to overhaul the CFPB, an agency formed after the financial crisis to better protect people from predatory mortgage lending and abusive credit card contracts. The CFPB has become one of the most politically divisive agencies in Washington, hailed as a regulatory crown jewel of consumer protection by Democrats while maligned by Republicans as a bastion of government overreach.”


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One Million Computers Fall Victim To Chinese Cryptojacking Scheme

China – Legal Daily, a Chinese media news source, recently reported that twenty Chinese suspects have been arrested for apparent ties to an immense cryptojacking campaign. Nine of the suspects are currently under the watchful eye of local authorities, while eleven are on bail.

The news source reported that over one million computers were infected with mining ‘bugs’ in this twenty-person operation.

These computers had reportedly mined over 15 million yuan ($2.25 Million U.S.) worth of cryptocurrencies over the course of this “two-year” illegal operation. According to Legal Daily, the $2.25 million in cryptocurrencies included Decred, Siacoin, and Digibyte, which are all computer minable through easy-to-use software.

An investigation into this group was triggered by a January cybersecurity report from Tencent’s security arm, noting that a ‘Trojan horse’ virus had been found in a video game cheat software. 

Upon further inspection the Tencent security team noticed that the virus had a mining function built-in, allowing for the attacker to take control of an affected machine’s computational power.

The report further noted that the implanted mining software would only operate when CPU utilization of an affected computer is less than 50%, ensuring users don’t notice any substantial performance degradation.

After a police investigation, authorities concluded that the scheme had ties to Dalian Shengping Network Technology, who may have been responsible for developing the cryptojacking software.

In a related swindle, Yang Moubao, who worked at the aforementioned firm, reportedly cloned a Baidu-owned premier video streaming platform and sold fraudulent subscriptions at internet cafes, gaining over 200,000 yuan ($30,000 U.S).

Yang confessed that he was also responsible for distributing free downloadable plug-ins that he distributed online to take control of other computers

This information was exposed after he was arrested at his home on March the 8th.

In all, Yang and his accomplices at Dailan Shengping Network Technology are rumored to have advertised free downloads for up to 3.89 million individual computers but only used one million for mining cryptocurrencies.

It is unclear what awaits the twenty suspects, but authorities made it clear that they have the situation under control.

Growing Cryptojacking Issue 

Cryptojacking, the act of stealing computer resources to mine cryptocurrencies, has become an increasingly apparent problem in the cryptocurrency community.

According to a report from cybersecurity firm McAfee, 2018 Q1 saw cryptojacking cases skyrocket, rising by over 629% alone in just 3 months.

In March, Troy Mursch identified nearly 50,000 websites that had been injected with cryptojacking software. Many of these websites had backdoors that could be utilized to falsely inject scripts into the site, making website visitors susceptible to background mining processes.

However, this has not been only limited to desktops and laptops, as mobile devices have experienced cryptojacking cases as well. Both Google and Apple have had to remove infected applications from their respective app stores after suspicious applications racked up thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies.

Jerome Segura, a security researcher with Malwarebytes gave a comment comparing two prominent cryptocurrency issues, stating:

Ransomware is basically like pointing a gun at you and saying, ‘Hey, pay up or you’re not getting your files back,’ versus cryptojacking you might not even know about it, it’s just going to silently steal your electricity.

He later added that cryptojacking is going to continue to be the preferred activity that cybercriminals will want to enlist, as long of the price of cryptocurrencies stays high.

Title Image Courtesy of Christoph Scholz


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Crypto Exchange Coinsecure Says Theft Probe Is Holding Up Refunds

Coinsecure is still unable to repay its customers following a debilitating theft last month, the India-based cryptocurrency exchange said over the weekend.

The exchange – which lost nearly 440 bitcoins in mid-April in an incident that has been publicly blamed on a “rogue” employee –  announced on April 29 that while it previously hoped to begin returning customer funds by this point, it remains unable to do so because of a police investigation.

The statement continued:

“When investigations are underway, we don’t have much of a say and do need permissions from the authorities to start the compensation process, which we are yet to receive. We will update you when we have definite dates around the start of the process.”

New contracts will be issued to all customers for both Indian rupees and bitcoin, Coinsecure went on to write, without elaborating.

Coinsecure previously blamed chief security officer Amitabh Saxena for allegedly exposed the exchange’s private keys while trying to distribute bitcoin gold, a cryptocurrency offshoot of bitcoin, to customers, as previously reported. At the time, chief executive Mohit Kalra said “our customers will be indemnified from our company’s funds,” but cautioned it might take time to recover the stolen coins.

The company later announced that if all of the stolen bitcoins were recovered, customers would be repaid fully in the cryptocurrency, but otherwise, they would be paid in a mix of bitcoins and rupees. In particular, Coinsecure announced that 90 percent of the funds would be repaid in rupees according to the price on April 9. At the time, the token was trading at under $7,000, but has rallied to just under $9,000 as of press time.

“Please do bear with us as we are working on multiple fronts to resolve the issues at hand at the earliest for our users,” this weekend’s statement explained.

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Bitcoin Exchange Implicates Employee In $3 Million Theft

India-based bitcoin exchange Coinsecure announced yesterday that 438.318 bitcoins worth $3.3 million were stolen from its service, allegedly due to the actions of a rogue employee.

According to a statement on the company’s website, the funds were lost as a result of the exposure of private keys, the cryptographic code that unlocks and moves blockchain-based assets, by the chief security officer of the company, Dr. Amitabh Saxena, in an attempt to distribute bitcoin gold (BTG), to its customers.

In a FIR (first information report) with the cybercrime unit in New Delhi, the company says, “We feel that he is making a false story to divert our attention and he might have a role to play in this entire incident.”

Speaking to CoinDesk, CEO of Coinsecure, Mohit Kalra, said the theft occurred at no fault of the company, rather “It was our CSO’s system which was compromised as he claims. The procedures he followed was never supposed to be done online in the first place.”

The company has also asked the cybercrime unit to seize Saxena’s passport to prevent him from absconding.

Speaking on the website, Coinsecure asked its customers to stand by the company in its efforts to recover the lost funds. Speaking to CoinDesk, Kalra called this as an “unfortunate event”.

He told CoinDesk:

“We are working day and night to resolve this. It might take time to recover the lost funds, but our customers will be indemnified from our company’s funds and we will relaunch much stronger.”

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'All Funds Are Safe': Binance Denies Crypto Hack Rumors

Binance has reassured customers that their money is still in their accounts following hours of speculation that the cryptocurrency exchange had been hacked.

“All funds are safe,” Binance chief executive Changpeng Zhao tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

Rumors that Binance has been hacked spread that morning after social media users reported seeing their balances at the exchange drained, sold at market rates and converted to viacoin. However, the exchange said its platform was not breached.

In its initial statement on Reddit, Binance said it was investigating these reports, announcing all withdrawals had been suspended but pushing back against claims that the platform was hacked.

“As of this moment, the only confirmed victims have registered API keys (to use with trading bots or otherwise). There is no evidence of the Binance platform being compromised,” the post said. “Please remain patient and we will provide an update as quickly as possible.”

Discussion on Reddit indicated that investors using trading bots may have fallen victim to stolen API keys, but it is unclear how widespread the issue was.

Viacoin became one of the few cryptocurrencies to rise on the day, jumping more than 40% to $3.53, according to data site CoinMarketCap. Similarly, it saw a tenfold spike in trading volume on the day, beginning at roughly the same time as the hack rumors.

Meanwhile, bitcoin has recovered from its intraday low of less than $9,500 to about $9,675 as of press time, and prices appear to have stabilized according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).

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