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Twitter Could Face Crypto Makeover After Elon Musk Takeover, Binance Owner Suggests

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 3 November 2022

Social media platform Twitter could become much more entwined with cryptocurrencies and blockchain in the future, one of the backers of Elon Musk’s $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.6 lakh crore) takeover hinted on Wednesday.

Changpeng Zhao, who owns the crypto firm Binance and put $500 million (roughly Rs. 4,100 crore) into the takeover by the world’s richest man, gave his first hint that he would not be a completely silent investor.

“Let’s give Elon some time to get adjusted,” he told a press conference at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, before adding that he was there to help Twitter in any future crypto-related moves.

Zhao was speaking on the first full day of the get-together, which kicked off on Tuesday night with a plea from Ukraine’s first lady for IT workers to use their skills to save lives rather than end them.

“Some IT specialists in Russia have made their choice to be aggressors and murderers,” said Olena Zelenska, urging attendees to make the opposite choice.

The Web Summit brings together start-ups, investors, business leaders and agenda-broadening speakers –- linguist Noam Chomsky and heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk are among this year’s line-up.

Organisers said all 70,000 tickets had been sold for the first full-scale edition since coronavirus restrictions halted in-person gatherings in 2020.

Although most major tech firms are represented, the most senior Silicon Valley figures rarely appear at such events anymore.

Some attendees were happy with the lower-key approach at a conference that has previously seen the likes of Musk give talks.

“These conferences were getting too big, it was getting harder to find interesting things,” said attendee Gabriele Lemmle from Munich, adding that she was happier to focus on start-ups with fresh ideas.

Crypto Twitter

With Silicon Valley bosses in short supply, crypto chiefs filled the void.

In one of his talks, Zhao played down the current slump in his sector and argued that cryptocurrencies were among the most stable assets at the moment.

During his speech at the opening ceremony on Tuesday, he had insisted that Musk was the boss and he had no plans for Twitter, but by Wednesday his tone had shifted.

“We want to be very supportive on anything that Twitter does with crypto and web3,” he said, referring to a notional future version of the web that would have crypto and blockchain at its heart.

The Web Summit comes at a time when the tech industry as a whole faces huge difficulties.

Firms are being roiled by supply chain problems, trade disputes between the US and China, plunging profits and creaky business models, and a wider economic slump that has sent investors and consumers fleeing.

But Mark MacGann, a former lobbyist for Uber who leaked thousands of compromising documents on his old firm in July, focused on the problems regulators face in trying to control big tech.

He said regulators were largely limited to issuing fines that were “pocket change” and did nothing to change the behaviour of big tech.

“When you become so big and so wealthy that you become ungovernable and impossible to regulate, that’s very dangerous for society and democracy,” he said.

MacGann — who led Uber’s lobbying efforts in Europe between 2014 and 2016 — leaked thousands of documents earlier this year that led to widespread accusations that the ride-hailing app had broken the law — allegations the firm denied.

MacGann said Uber had improved since he left, but questioned why the firm was funnelling millions into lobbying designed to stop legislative efforts to give drivers more rights.

And he called for more protection for whistleblowers in tech, arguing that workers who revealed malpractice in the public sector enjoy more safeguards.

Web Summit organisers say more than 1,000 speakers will take part in the event, which runs until Friday, giving talks on subjects from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence.

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Hackers Said to Demand Rs. 200 Crore in Cryptocurrency From AIIMS-Delhi, Server Remains Down for Sixth Day

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 29 November 2022

Hackers have allegedly demanded an estimated Rs 200 crore in cryptocurrency from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi as its server remained out of order for the sixth consecutive day, official sources said on Monday.

It is feared that data of around 3-4 crore patients could have been compromised due to the breach detected Wednesday morning.

Patient care services in emergency, outpatient, inpatient and laboratory wings are being managed manually as the server remained down, the sources said.

The Delhi Police, however, issued a statement, saying “no ransom demand as being quoted by certain sections of the media has been brought to notice by AIIMS authorities.” The India Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), Delhi Police and representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs are investigating the ransomware attack.

A case of extortion and cyber terrorism was registered by the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police on November 25.

Official sources said Internet services are blocked on computers at the hospital on the recommendations of the investigating agencies.

The AIIMS server has stored data of several VIPs, including former prime ministers, ministers, bureaucrats and judges.

“Hackers have allegedly demanded around Rs 200 crore in cryptocurrency,” one of the sources told PTI.

Meanwhile, the NIC e-hospital database and application servers for e-hospital have been restored. The NIC team is scanning and cleaning infection from other e-hospital servers located at AIIMS which are required for delivery of hospital services, an official source said.

Four physical servers arranged for restoring e-hospital services have been scanned and prepared for the databases and applications.

Also, the AIIMS network sanitisation is in progress. Antivirus solutions have been organised for servers and computers. It has been installed on nearly 1,200 out of 5,000 computers. Twenty out of 50 servers have been scanned and this activity is ongoing 24×7, the source said.

“The full sanitisation of the network is likely to continue for five more days. Thereafter, e-hospital services can be rolled out in a phased manner. Patient care services including emergency, outpatient, inpatient,laboratory etc services are being continued on manual mode,” the source said.

The AIIMS-Delhi in a statement said, “The data restoration and server cleaning is in progress and is taking some time due to the volume of data and large number of servers for the hospital services. Measures are being taken for cybersecurity.” All hospital services, including outpatient, in-patient and laboratories, continue to run on manual mode, it added.

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WazirX Received 828 Requests From Indian, International Law Enforcement Agencies During April-September

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 28 November 2022

WazirX has received 828 complaint requests from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Interpol, among other international agencies, and Indian law enforcement agencies such as the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), according to the cryptocurrency exchange. The requests were received against a total of 10 million transactions during April-September 2022. The exchange maintained its record of a 100 per cent compliance rate for all 828 requests received from Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA), said a report released by WazirX.

The exchange on Monday released the third edition of its Transparency Report. According to the report, only 0.008 per cent of all transactions during this period were reported or investigated by law enforcement agencies. Out of 828 queries received, 764 were by Indian law enforcement agencies, whereas the foreign agencies made 64 requests.

The greatest number of requests came in from regulators and law enforcement agencies in Maharashtra, it said. Illegal fund transfers, crypto scams, cheating, and forgery were the most common types of crimes reported, resembling scams in the traditional financial sector.

Over 700 accounts were blocked during this period. The majority of them were due to requests that came in from users.

In its continued effort to provide transparency to users and safeguard their assets, it launched the third edition of the Transparency Report.

The report highlights the company’s initiatives in boosting awareness about Web3, assisting law enforcement in identifying bad actors and implementing a full-proof onboarding process to ensure the security of users.

“We have also outlined some common trends observed in crypto scams over this time period which users should be aware of,” it said.

Some of the Indian and Foreign Law Enforcement Agencies that WazirX has worked with during this period are: the National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, State Cyber Crime Cells, Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Ops (IFSO) Delhi, Special Task Force, Narcotics Control Bureau, Bhopal Police, Crime Branch and CID, Toronto Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), German Police Agencies, United Kingdom Police, Interpol, Dutch Police, Austrian Police, Europol, etc.

“We still have some way to go to prevent security risks in crypto. The level of awareness around crypto needs to extend to its ill uses too. Only then can mainstream adoption take place in an environment of trust. We will continue our efforts to educate Indians about crypto, and comply with regulators to ensure any form of fraud with virtual digital assets is tackled,” Nischal Shetty, CEO and Founder at WazirX.

According to the report, around 40 per cent of the scams are happening in Ponzi schemes and social engineering scams, 34.7 per cent of cases of Impersonation type, 21.1 per cent of cases are in Phishing / Airdrop Scams and 4.2 per cent are in other categories.

As per the report, in a recent case, a Bitcoin racket being run from Delhi came to the notice of the CBI on being alerted by the Austrian police. Imposters posed as Europol officers and other law enforcement agencies to tell their victims that their identities had been stolen and used for narcotics businesses. The criminals would target foreign nationals for the same. WazirX’s legal team, with assistance from Chainalysis, collaborated with the CBI on this case to block the operation. They identified the accounts which were being used to carry on this racket and blocked the withdrawal of the assets that were gained from the criminal proceedings.

In one of the first disproportionate asset cases involving crypto, WazirX helped Bhubaneswar Police identify the crypto accounts of an engineer who did not reveal his investments in Digital Assets. Upon scrutiny by the team, it was discovered that he had 50-odd crypto wallets and an investment worth Rs. 2 crores.

In another incident, the legal team assisted the Kolkata police in nabbing criminals who were defrauding people through a mobile gaming platform. In this case, a large sum of money was collected from the public via the platform called e-nuggets. The culprits then disabled the withdrawal of money and also removed all data from the app. WazirX helped ED freeze crypto assets worth Rs 12.83 Crores.

A few months ago, a group of criminals from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, created an elaborate fake trading app to lure customers and dupe them of huge sums of money. WazirX assisted the Ghaziabad Police real-time in identifying the identities that were linked to the culprits which led to their arrest.

In Bandra, Mumbai (Maharashtra) the WazirX team helped identify wallets linked to Chinese loan apps which were used to dupe people through fraudulent transactions. The team worked closely with the law enforcement agency to identify the accused and block their operations using crypto.

WazirX cooperated with the investigators by providing them with all the necessary details, information, and documents of the alleged accused companies who used the WazirX platform. After an in-depth internal investigation, WazirX noticed that most of the users whose information was sought by ED were already identified as suspicious by WazirX internally and were blocked in 2020-2021. Due to the active cooperation extended by WazirX and active Anti-money laundering (AML) checks, suspected users were identified.

WazirX also modified the procedure to raise a Law Enforcement request. To submit a Law Enforcement request under relevant provisions of law, the requester must be a law enforcement agent or government official authorized to Gather evidence in connection with an investigation or Make a formal law enforcement request.

They can send an email to legal@wazirx.com from the official email ID of the law enforcement agency along with a duly authorized written request.

WazirX has continued its association with TRM Labs, a virtual digital asset compliance platform, to sustain and scale up its efforts of security. It also collaborated with Chainalysis, a platform to analyze blockchain data. WazirX also joined hands with other industry players in the country to form a new crypto advocacy group called Bharat Web3 Association (BWA).

WazirX launched a course on Blockchain Technology to educate individuals. This was in collaboration with Gurukula Kangri in Haridwar, a deemed-to-be university, as per the University Grants Commission (UGC). Since its initiation, the course has seen more than 20,000 enrolments. We recently awarded the completion certificate to over 400 individuals. 7.4 per cent of them were females. Uttar Pradesh saw the highest number of enrolments in the program (25.4 per cent) among all participating states.

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FTX Collapse: Bahamas Attorney General Says Crypto Exchange Remains Focus of ‘Active’ Investigation

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 November 2022

Collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX remains the subject of “an active and ongoing investigation” by Bahamian authorities, Bahamian Attorney General Ryan Pinder said on Sunday, as he praised the Bahamas’ regulatory regime and swiftness with which it responded to the crisis.

FTX, which had been among the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, is headquartered in the Bahamas. The firm, whose liquidity crunch forced the company to declare bankruptcy on November 11, is the subject of investigations by Bahamian and US authorities. In mid-November, the Royal Bahamas Police said that government investigators in the Bahamas were looking at whether any “criminal misconduct occurred.”

“We are in the early stages of an active and ongoing investigation,” Pinder said on Sunday, according to prepared remarks for the speech. “It is a very complex investigation.” He said it involved both civil and criminal authorities.

Pinder said that the Bahamas Securities Commission, Financial Intelligence Unit and the police’s Financial Crimes Unit would “continue to investigate the facts and circumstances regarding FTX’s insolvency crisis, and any potential violations of Bahamian law.”

Pinder also defended the Bahamas’ regulatory regime and said that its Securities Commission had moved quickly “because of the strength of the legislative framework.”

Bahamas securities regulators had revoked FTX Digital’s licence and began involuntary liquidation proceedings the day before the US bankruptcy case kicked off.

“Any attempt to lay the entirety of this debacle at the feet of the Bahamas, because FTX is headquartered here, would be a gross oversimplification of reality,” Pinder said, adding that the Bahamas Securities Commission had moved with “remarkable” speed in response.

Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, founded FTX in 2019 and rode cryptocurrency boom to a net worth that Forbes pegged a year ago at $26.5 billion (roughly Rs. 2,16,560 crore). Bankman-Fried resigned as FTX’s chief executive officer the same day as the firm’s bankruptcy filing.

The liquidity crunch came after Bankman-Fried secretly moved $10 billion (roughly Rs. 81,700 crore) of FTX customer funds to his proprietary trading firm, Alameda Research, Reuters reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, led by veteran securities fraud prosecutor Damian Williams, in mid-November began investigating how FTX handled customer funds, a source with knowledge of the probe told Reuters. The Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission also opened probes.

FTX’s demise comes after a string of meltdowns that have taken down other key players including Voyager Digital and Celsius Network and led some global investors to question the viability of the cryptocurrency sector.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Binance to Establish Industry Recovery Initiative to Invest in Digital Sector Companies

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By Reuters | Updated: 25 November 2022

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance said on Thursday it was committing $1 billion (nearly Rs. 8,200 crore) to establishing an industry recovery initiative (IRI) to invest in companies from the digital assets sector.

The move comes at a time when the crypto market is teetering from the collapse of FTX, which is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States.

The unraveling of one of the biggest crypto exchanges in the world has also fanned worries around the industry’s continued ability to draw investments from venture capital and private equity giants.

Binance said it intends to ramp up its commitment amount to $2 billion (nearly Rs. 16,340 crore) in the near future depending on need.

“We anticipate this initiative will last about six months and will be flexible on the investment structure — token, fiat, equity, convertible instruments, debt, credit lines, etc,” the crypto exchange added in a statement.

Zhao said while speaking at a conference in Abu Dhabi last week that there was significant interest from industry players in a recovery fund his company plans to launch to help cryptocurrency projects facing a liquidity squeeze, following the collapse of rival FTX.

He said such a fund would help “reduce further cascading negative effects of FTX” without giving an exact figure for the fund.

Several crypto firms have been bracing for the fallout from the FTX collapse, with many counting their exposure in millions to the beleaguered exchange.

It was reported a few days back that Binance is also under global regulatory scrutiny following the sudden collapse of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange and its subsidiaries. While speaking to reporters, Republican Patrick McHenry, a senior House Republican, confirmed that Binance’s role in the FTX collapse is under congressional scrutiny. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao aka CZ has, however, has come out and vehemently denied taking part in the FTX collapse, citing that his exchange is a victim of the situation.

Binance has time and again argued that the cause of FTX’s collapse was ‘financial irregularities and possible fraud’ in written comments to a UK parliamentary committee. Notably, the UK counterparts wanted to know what role Binance played in the FTX collapse.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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FTX Bankruptcy: BitGo Recovers $740 Million in Crypto Assets So Far, Court Filings Show

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By Associated Press | Updated: 24 November 2022

The company tasked with locking down the assets of the failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX says it has managed to recover and secure $740 million (roughly Rs. 6,040 crore) in assets so far, a fraction of the potentially billions of dollars likely missing from the company’s coffers.

The numbers were disclosed on Wednesday in court filings by FTX, which hired the cryptocurrency custodial company BitGo hours after FTX filed for bankruptcy on November 11.

The biggest worry for many of FTX’s customers is they’ll never see their money again. FTX failed because its founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and his lieutenants used customer assets to make bets in FTX’s closely related trading firm, Alameda Research. Bankman-Fried was reportedly looking for upwards of $8 billion (roughly Rs. 65,330 crore) from new investors to repair the company’s balance sheet.

Bankman-Fried “proved that there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ conflict of interest,” BitGo CEO Mike Belshe said in an email.

The $740 million (roughly Rs. 6,040 crore) figure is from November 16. BitGo estimates that the amount of recovered and secured assets has likely risen above $1 billion (roughly Rs. 8,170 crore) since that date.

The assets recovered by BitGo are now locked in South Dakota in what is known as “cold storage,” which means they’re cryptocurrencies stored on hard drives not connected to the Internet. BitGo provides what is known as “qualified custodian” services under South Dakota law. It’s basically the crypto equivalent of financial fiduciary, offering segregated accounts and other security services to lock down digital assets.

Several crypto companies have failed this year as Bitcoin and other digital currencies have collapsed in value. FTX failed when it experienced the crypto equivalent of a bank run, and early investigations have found that FTX employees intermingled assets held for customers with assets they were investing.

“Trading, financing, and custody need to be different,” Belshe said.

The assets recovered include not only Bitcoin and Ethereum, but also a collection of minor cryptocurrencies that vary in popularity and value, such as the shiba inu coin.

California-based BitGo has a history of recovering and securing assets. The company was tasked with securing assets after the cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox failed in 2014. It is also the custodian for the assets held by the government of El Salvador as part of that country’s experiment in using bitcoin as legal tender.

FTX is paying Bitgo a $5 million (roughly Rs. 40 crore) retainer and $1,00,000 (roughly Rs. 81 lakh) a month for its services.

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FTX Bankruptcy Hearing: Sam Bankman-Fried Ran Crypto Firm as ‘Personal Fiefdom’, Assets Missing, Attorneys Say

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By Reuters | Updated: 23 November 2022

FTX was run as a “personal fiefdom” of former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, attorneys for the collapsed crypto exchange said in its first bankruptcy hearing as they detailed ongoing challenges such as hacks and substantial missing assets.

In the highest-profile crypto blowup to date, FTX filed for protection in the United States after traders pulled $6 billion (roughly Rs. 49,072 crore) from the platform in three days and rival exchange Binance abandoned a rescue deal. The collapse has left an estimated 1 million creditors facing losses totaling billions of dollars.

An attorney for FTX said at a bankruptcy hearing on Tuesday the company now intends to sell off healthy business units, but has been the subject of cyberattacks and had “substantial” assets missing.

FTX said on Saturday it has launched a strategic review of its global assets and is preparing for the sale or reorganisation of some businesses. FTX said on Tuesday it was receiving interest from potential buyers for its assets and would conduct a process to reorganize or sell them.

The hearing was held at the US Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware and was livestreamed to around 1,500 viewers on YouTube and Zoom.

An attorney also said the firm had been run as a “personal fiefdom” of Bankman-Fried with $300 million (roughly Rs. 6,705 crore) spent on real estate such as homes and vacation properties for senior staff. FTX, led since the bankruptcy filing by new CEO John Ray, has accused Bankman-Fried of working with Bahamian regulators to “undermine” the US bankruptcy case and shift assets overseas.

Bankman-Fried did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Reuters earlier reported that Bankman-Fried’s FTX, his parents and senior executives of the failed cryptocurrency exchange bought at least 19 properties worth nearly $121 million (roughly Rs. 989 crore) in the Bahamas over the past two years, official property records show.

Attorneys also said an investigation must take place into Binance’s sale of FTX in July 2021. Binance bought a stake in FTX in 2019.

Separately a filing late on Monday by Ed Mosley of Alvarez & Marsal, a consultancy firm advising FTX, showed FTX’s cash balance of $1.24 billion (roughly Rs. 10,144 crore) as of Sunday was “substantially higher” than previously thought.

It includes around $400 million (roughly Rs. 3,272 crore) at accounts related to Alameda Research, the crypto trading firm owned by Bankman-Fried, and $172 million (roughly Rs. 1,407 crore) at FTX’s Japan arm.

Reuters has reported Bankman-Fried secretly used $10 billion (roughly Rs. 81,800 crore) in customer funds to prop up his trading business, and that at least $1 billion (roughly Rs. 8,181 crore) of those deposits had vanished.

Disclosure debate

At the hearing, FTX representatives argued that names of customers should be kept secret, as disclosing them could destabilize the crypto market and open customers up to hacks. FTX also argued its customer list is a valuable asset, and disclosing it could impair future sale efforts or allow rivals to poach its user base.

A judge said those names can remain undisclosed until a future court hearing.

FTX lawyers also described an uneasy truce with court-appointed liquidators overseeing the wind-down of FTX’s Bahamas unit, FTX Digital Markets.

The two sides reached an initial agreement to coordinate their US-based insolvency proceedings before Judge John Dorsey, avoiding the possibility of conflicting rulings from two different US bankruptcy judges. But both sides signaled they still have broader disagreements over how to coordinate the recovery and preservation of assets held by various FTX affiliates.

Bankman-Fried, FTX and the Bahamas liquidators did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Contagion Fears

FTX’s fall from grace has sent shivers through the crypto world, driving bitcoin to its lowest level in around two years and triggering fears of contagion among other firms already reeling from the collapse in the crypto market this year.

Major US crypto lender Genesis said on Monday it was trying to avert bankruptcy, days after FTX’s collapse forced it to suspend customer redemptions.

“Our goal is to resolve the current situation consensually without the need for any bankruptcy filing,” a Genesis spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters, adding it continues to have conversations with creditors.

A Bloomberg News report, citing sources, had said Genesis was struggling to raise fresh cash for its lending unit.

The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources, that Genesis had approached Binance seeking an investment but the crypto exchange decided against it, fearing a conflict of interest. Genesis also approached private equity firm Apollo Global Management for capital assistance, the WSJ said.

Apollo did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the WSJ report, while Binance declined to comment.

Crypto exchange Gemini, which runs a crypto lending product in partnership with Genesis, tweeted on Monday it was continuing to work with the company to enable its users to redeem funds from its yield-generating “Earn” program.

Gemini said on its blog last week there was no impact on its other products and services after Genesis paused withdrawals.

Since the implosion of FTX, some crypto players are taking to decentralized exchanges known as “DEXs” where investors trade peer-to-peer on the blockchain.

Overall daily trading volumes on DEXs leapt to their highest level since May on November 10, as FTX imploded, according to data from market tracker DeFi Llama, but have since pared gains.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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