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Crypto Weekly: Unravelling a $3.6bn exchange hack

Mads Eberhardt

Cryptocurrency Analyst

Summary:  The US authorities announced last week the seizure of Bitcoins worth $3.6bn, originating from a 2016 exchange hack. MasterCard has announced a positive push into crypto consulting, and Sunday’s Super Bowl gives some negative associations to early 2000.


$3.6bn in Bitcoins seized

In 2016, one of the largest crypto exchanges at the time, Bitfinex, was hacked for 119,754 Bitcoins, worth around $72 million then. For years, the hackers have laundered some of the funds, but the majority has been kept at the over 2,000 Bitcoin addresses, which the funds were sent to following the hack. On the 1st of February, though, these remaining 94,643 Bitcoins were transferred to a single address over the span of one and a half hours. This was rather unexpected since the prior laundering was done somewhat sophisticatedly with minor amounts each time. Around a week later, on the 8th of February, the answer came to why the funds were moved. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the US authorities had seized the amount and arrested a married couple on charges that they conspired to launder proceeds from the Bitfinex hack. The US authorities stated that they came across the couple in its pursuit to allegedly launder the Bitcoins. Following this, the execution of a court-authorized search warrant of online accounts belonging to the couple led the authorities to find an encrypted file in the man’s cloud storage counting over 2,000 addresses and their corresponding private keys associated with the hack, which empowered the seizure. The couple has not been charged for the exchange hack itself.

Following the press release, the crypto market declined slightly in value as investors expect the 94,643 Bitcoins to be liquidated at some point in the future. However, in our view, the seizure is fairly positive for the market as a whole because it shows that crypto is not a safe haven for criminals to operate in. This highly publicly covered case should frighten criminals and encourage the authorities to spend more resources on crypto, and with better analytical software and know-how in the future, it should become more complicated for criminals to operate in the space.

MasterCard to push further into crypto

The global payment provider MasterCard has today announced its intention to hire more than 500 employees in its consulting business named Data & Services, which already counts over 2,000 employees. The hiring sprint is partially dedicated to the division’s focus within crypto consulting, which stresses that there is an increasing demand for such services. Alongside Visa, MasterCard has been keen on crypto for some years, leading the company to recently acquire crypto analytics software CipherTrace and to partner with Coinbase in regard to its upcoming NFT platform.

The crypto bowl

On Sunday, the annual Super Bowl was held in Los Angeles, California, in which Los Angeles Rams won over Cincinnati Bengals. One might ask how this relates to crypto. To answer that, one should have seen the advertisements throughout the match, where crypto companies were heavily represented. Companies such as Coinbase, FTX, Crypto.com, and eToro were running ads. Budweiser even promoted NFTs in their ad. On one hand, it emphasizes that companies within the industry now have the necessary financial capabilities to run such ads to catch the attention of a broader audience. On the other hand, at the Super Bowl in 2000, 17 respective dot-com companies were advertising. Fast forward a few years the majority of these companies had filed for bankruptcy, so Sunday’s event gives some bad associations to the past. Hence, the crypto-related events at the Super Bowl can arguably both be regarded as positive and negative.
Bitcoin/USD - Source: Saxo Group
Ethereum/USD - Source: Saxo Group
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