All posts in “Bitcoin”

The sad story of an alleged SIM swapper who boosted millions

Get that SIM.
Get that SIM.

Image: Thomas Trutschel / getty

You probably shouldn’t feel sorry for Nicholas Truglia. It’s just that his story is so pathetic.

The 21-year old Manhattan resident was arrested last November and extradited to California in December. There, he’d face 21 felony counts relating to accusations of SIM swapping his way to a million dollars worth of stolen cryptocurrency. While Truglia’s fate remains unclear, details of his life leading up to the arrest have begun to emerge thanks to a lawsuit filled by a separate alleged victim, and oh man is it a wild ride. 

As Krebs on Security reports, a lawsuit filed by Michael Terpin — a cryptocurrency investor and self-described “thought leader” — against Truglia claims he lost over $23 million after Truglia SIM swapped him and drained his crypto accounts in January of 2018. That document, and a supporting affidavit by one of Truglia’s former friends, tells the story of a cash-flush young man who saw himself as untouchable. 

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, they also paint Truglia as kind of an asshole. 

The now-deleted Twitter profile pic of @erupts, the account allegedly once belonging to Truglia.

The now-deleted Twitter profile pic of @erupts, the account allegedly once belonging to Truglia.

Image: twitter / waybackmachine

“Nick likened himself to Robin Hood who robs from the rich but did not give to the poor,” explained Chris David, former associate of Truglia’s, in the aforementioned affidavit. 

Instead, the documents paint a picture of someone who delighted in giving to himself — in the form of a Rolex, a $6,000-a-month apartment, and a $100,000 stack of cash he kept on his credenza. But that clearly wasn’t enough for him.

According to David, Truglia operated the now-suspended Twitter account @erupts, where he lamented that his wealth didn’t bring him friends, and even bragged about SIM swapping his dad.  

Exhibit D

Image: screenshot / superior court of california

“Stole 24 million but still can’t keep a friend,” reads one alleged Truglia tweet saved by David and included in his supporting affidavit. 

Ouch.

Image: twitter / waybackmachine

David’s affidavit is filled with some other gems, as well. 

“Nick arrogantly proclaims that he will never [be] caught hacking/stealing because he is so good at it—literally, ‘how are they going to prove that my story [his defense] wrong?,'” he wrote. “Nick also boasted: ‘Nobody can get me in trouble. Nobody can put me in jail. I would bet my life on it, actually.'”

That is a watch.

Image: twitter / waybackmachine

In addition to supposedly boasting about how he would never be caught, David says Truglia took pleasure in life’s small things: Like, for example, skipping out on a restaurant check and repeatedly beating his dog. 

Sounds fun.

Image: screenshot / SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA

Obviously, Truglia was eventually arrested. According to Krebs On Security, his court date is set for April 10.

Terpin, for his part, wants his money back. “I have brought this lawsuit as part my ongoing effort to recover my losses caused by the perpetrators of the January 7, 2018 theft,” he explained to the court

Which, hey, why not. As this lawsuit makes clear, stranger things have happened. 

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NYSE operator’s crypto project Bakkt brings in $182M

The Intercontinental Exchange’s (ICE) cryptocurrency project Bakkt celebrated New Year’s Eve with the announcement of a $182.5 million equity round from a slew of notable institutional investors. ICE, the operator of several global exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange, established Bakkt to build a trading platform that enables consumers and institutions to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets.

This is Bakkt’s first institutional funding round; it was not a token sale. Participating in the round are Horizons Ventures, Microsoft’s venture capital arm (M12), Pantera Capital, Naspers’ fintech arm (PayU), Protocol Ventures, Boston Consulting Group, CMT Digital, Eagle Seven, Galaxy Digital, Goldfinch Partners and more.

Bakkt is currently seeking regulatory approval to launch a one-day physically delivered Bitcoin futures contract along with physical warehousing. The startup initially planned for a November 2018 launch, but confirmed this morning an earlier CoinDesk report that it was delaying the launch to “early 2019” as it awaits permission from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Along with the funding, crypto news blog The Block Crypto also reports Bakkt has hired Balaji Devarasetty, a former vice president at Vantiv, as its head technology.

ICE’s crypto project was first announced in August and is led by chief executive officer Kelly Loeffler, ICE’s long-time chief communications and marketing officer. Bakkt quickly inked partnerships with Microsoft, which provides cloud infrastructure to the service, and Starbucks, to develop “practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into U.S. dollars for use at Starbucks,” Starbucks vice president of payments Maria Smith said in a statement at the time.

Many Bitcoin startups floundered in 2018, despite record amounts of venture capital invested in the industry. This was as a result of failed initial coin offerings, an inability to scale following periods of rapid growth and the falling price of Bitcoin. Still, VCs remained bullish on Bitcoin and blockchain technology in 2018, funneling a total of $2.2 billion in U.S.-based crypto projects — a nearly 4x increase year-over-year. Around the globe, investment hit a high of $4.6 billion — a more than 4x increase from last year, according to PitchBook.

“Notably, 2018 was the most active year for crypto in its brief ten-year history,” Loeffler wrote. “This was evidenced by rising investment in distributed ledger technology and digital assets, as well as by blockchain network metrics such as daily bitcoin transaction value and active addresses. Yet, these milestones tend to be overshadowed by the more narrow focus on bitcoin’s price, which has been seen by some, as a proxy for the potential of the technology.”

Today, the price of Bitcoin is hovering around $3,700 one year after a historic run valued the cryptocurrency at roughly $20,000. The crash caused many to dismiss Bitcoin and its underlying technology, while others remained committed to the tech and its potential for complete financial disruption. A project like Bakkt, created in-house at a respected financial institution with support from noteworthy businesses, is a logical bet for crypto and traditional private investors alike.

“The path to developing new markets is rarely linear: progress tends to modulate between innovation, dismissal, reinvention, and, finally, acceptance,” Loeffler added. “Each step, whether part of discovery or adversity, ultimately strengthens the product. Twenty years ago, it was controversial to suggest that commodities or bonds could trade electronically on a screen, and many steps were required for that evolution to play out.”

Atari teams up with some startup to pretend to make blockchain-based games

Animoca Brands will produce and publish blockchain-based versions of RollerCoaster Tycoon and Goon Squad worldwide (excluding China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau); the new titles will feature the integration of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The term of the Agreement extends through to 31 March 2022.

In honor of this exciting announcement I’d like to propose the following blockchain-based products available for license to those hunting for a quick buck:

Blockchain! The Musical
Blockchain Cereal
Blockchain Brand Kombucha
Blockchain & Me, An Alien Adventure
Blockchain Whiskey
Blockchain Soda
Blockchain The Miniseries
Blockchain Lingerie – Shake His Merkle Tree
Blockchain Brand Firestarters
Blockchain Pessaries For Her
Blockchain French Ticklers
Blockchain Getaway Cars
Blockchain Killer Apps (rumored not to exist)
Blockchain Airlines
Blockchain Margarita Mix
Blockchain Cowboy Hats
Blockchain Burgers
Blockchain Dance Studios
Blockchain Pants

2018 was crypto’s year of reckoning, but there’s hope ahead

2018 has been a tough year for cryptocurrencies. 

As I write these lines, the prices of major cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, XRP, and Ethereum are the lowest they’ve been in over a year. The price decline, which started roughly in January, has been relentless: The cryptocurrency market cap shrunk from its all-time high of about $830 billion to just over $100 billion. The sentiment on crypto-related chats, groups, and subreddits is grim: Everyone expects the prices to fall further. Some vocal critics, like Nouriel Roubini, are gloating over what they see as annihilation of the crypto bubble. 

Perhaps even worse than the falling prices is the uncertainty over where crypto’s headed next. Bitcoin (and its derivatives) failed to become the new money (or even new gold), and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. Ethereum’s vision of becoming a global, decentralized computer is plagued by obstacles and likely many months away, and the ICO craze that fueled its growth appears to be over, at least for now. And numerous cryptocurrency projects, even well-funded ones like ConsenSys and Bitmain, are laying off staff due to the cryptocurrency market’s decline.

And yet, there’s hope ahead. 

While the cryptocurrency bubble appears fully deflated on most charts, if you look closely, the prices of Bitcoin and Ethereum are still far, far above than what they were just two years ago. 

Total market capitalization of cryptocurrencies.

Total market capitalization of cryptocurrencies.

In May 2017, the value of Ethereum and Bitcoin soared, propelling the total market cap of crypto to $80 billion. And back then, the experts were mostly in agreement: That sort of growth isn’t sustainable, and the entire space is likely in a bubble. The bubble kept growing, but to be fair, there was no sane reasoning behind that growth except greed and the type of reckless optimism that borderlines with madness. 

This could, of course, mean that the prices could plummet even further. But if you look at the cryptocurrency space as an exciting, new technological playground instead of a big casino, you’re probably well aware that even the current prices aren’t earned. Cryptocurrency might one day disrupt finance, online betting, gaming, logistics, and content creation, among other industries, but none of that has happened yet. 

The sentiment I often see among experts is that the bursting of the crypto bubble, while painful for many, should clear the way for the smart people working on blockchain (and related) technologies to create something great. In crypto lingo, it’s time to stop thinking about HODLing and start BUIDLing

Time to BUIDL

So, what is the cryptocurrency space building towards? Some proponents dream of a world where people have the option to cut out the middlemen and take their finances into their own hands. A few years ago, that concept mostly included owning Bitcoin and using it for payments. That didn’t work out (so far), but the space has already evolved. 

Nowadays, when we talk about the future of money through the lens of crypto, we can include far more advanced concepts like lending money or raising a loan, trade derivatives or purchase tokenized assets such as real estate or bonds — all through decentralized, trustless, permissionless services. 

The prices of cryptocurrencies have been plummeting, but the number of decentralized apps on blockchain platforms is still growing.

The prices of cryptocurrencies have been plummeting, but the number of decentralized apps on blockchain platforms is still growing.

Amazingly, this future is already here; these services all exist today, though some are still in beta stages of development. Dharma is a platform that lets developers build a variety of lending products, dY/dX is a protocol for decentralized margin trading and derivatives, and two companies called Propellr and Fluidity have partnered up to offer Manhattan real estate in tokenized form.

For these products and services to disrupt anything, though, a lot more people needs to start using them, and the underlying blockchain technology needs to mature, both in terms of the security it offers and in terms of scalability (most of these products are based on Ethereum, which needs to be orders of magnitude faster to really support them). 

The examples above are just a small taste of what’s being built on the blockchain or similar technologies — for an interesting overview of non-financial applications of blockchain technology, read Vitalik Buterin’s tweetstorm, below. 

And many hurdles to adoption are being solved as we speak. For example, crypto’s notorious volatility found a solution in a special, new type of coin called the stablecoin. Scalability issues which are hampering Bitcoin and Ethereum are being worked on. Lightning Network, which aims to speed up Bitcoin transactions, has been picking up speed lately. Ethereum is attacking the problem from several angles, most importantly by planning to adopt a database-relate technology called sharding. Projects like EOS and Cardano claim they’re already further ahead than these “old” blockchain platforms, and upcoming ones like Dfinity are promising an even more advanced approach and faster transaction speeds. 

Big players are, finally, coming

And then there’s the institutional money. While some cryptocurrency diehards don’t want anything to do with Wall Street and pension funds, the terrain is being prepared for big money to enter the space, for better or for worse. January should see the launch of Bakkt — an ambitious cryptocurrency market backed by the Intercontinental Exchange, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Boston Consulting Group. 

And though SEC has been turning down proposals for cryptocurrency ETFs throughout 2018 (mostly on the grounds of these markets being easily manipulated), crypto markets are slowly maturing. If this trend continues, a positive verdict from the regulator feels like a matter of when, not if (although it may be a long wait). SEC has also hardened its stance towards unregulated initial coin offerings (ICO), and while this means people likely won’t be scrambling to buy ether to jump on the next ICO anytime soon, it also brings a degree of order to the often chaotic — and fraudulent — crypto crowdfunding space.  

A lot can still go wrong. Development of popular cryptocurrencies could be slower and more complicated than anticipated. After the horrible year crypto had, institutional investors might be wary of joining the fray. Regulators might retain their tough stance for years instead of months. The stock markets could go tumbling down and drag crypto prices (and interest in the space) with them — though the opposite could happen as well. 

Still, it feels like too much has been set in motion for crypto to just wither and die. VCs — some with very good track records — have invested a lot of money in the space. An entirely new ecosystem of platforms, markets and exchanges was built for crypto in a few years. And, most importantly, a lot of smart people are working on blockchain tech. It might take a while for all of it to amount to something real, but I’d be very surprised if it all turned out to be just smoke and mirrors. 

Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH. 

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Cryptocurrency exchange Gemini launches mobile trading app

Users of U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange Gemini can now trade on the go with a new mobile app, launched for iOS and Android on Tuesday. 

The app lets you buy and sell cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, ether, litecoin, bitcoin cash and Zcash. 

Besides buying, selling, sending, receiving and storing cryptocoins, the app comes with a couple of advanced features. These include setting recurring buy orders and buying a basket of cryptocurrencies (called Cryptoverse) with a single order. 

Image: GEMINI

And even if you’re not a Gemini customer, you can still use the app (provided it’s available in your region) to check prices and access historical price data for the cryptocurrencies that are available on Gemini. 

Image: GEMINI

Gemini was launched in 2015 by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and was touted as one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges that’s fully regulated and fully compliant with U.S. laws. It currently operates in all U.S. states except Hawaii, as well as Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and the U.K.

“Cryptocurrency never sleeps so it’s important for us to make it easy for our customers to engage with it wherever they are and whenever they want,” Cameron Winklevoss, president of Gemini, said in a statement. 

The app is available now in Apple’s App Store, as well as in Google Play Store

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