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CryptOsint Weekly Newsletter: July 21, 2020
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Check out past issues from our archive. Please let me know if you want a particular topic featured or a specific question answered. All feedback, suggestions, and questions can be sent to brenna@bellingcat.com.

Twitter might’ve been first, but YouTube is (probably) next

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, Twitter was hacked last week. Reportedly, it was a group of young 20-somethings who hijacked over two dozen verified accounts — all to promote connected crypto scams. 

The hackers first started small, peddling a fake campaign called Cryptoforhealth and infiltrating crypto-Twitter accounts, like Coinbase, Gemini, and Binance CEO CZ’s account. Then one of the hackers allegedly went rouge — which resulted in the likes of Elon Musk, Kanye West, and Joe Biden being hacked.

Ultimately, roughly $180,000 was stolen which, depending on who you ask, wasn’t a very impressive haul. (Though apparently, Coindesk stopped $280,000 worth of BTC making it into the hackers’ coffers.) The bigger question on everyone’s mind is: What’s next?

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do have some evidence that points towards a likely next victim: YouTube.

Over the last couple of months, crypto scams run on YouTube have become quite popular. According to data from BitcoinsWhoWho, so far in 2020, there have been 412 user reports of scams on Youtube. For comparison, in 2019, there were 81 reports of YouTube scams for the whole year. 

If you recall, recent YouTube scams have raked in a lot of money. Remember the Elon Musk livestream that earned over $200,000 back in June? Or how about recent livestream scams for Vitalik Buterin, Cardano founder Charles Hoskinson, and the Winklevoss twins? 

Crypto companies have begun to take notice of these scams. In April 2020, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse sued YouTube over allegations that the social media platform is failing to police fake XRP giveaway scams. 

With last week’s events, however, I’m guessing YouTube, along with every other major social media company, is scrambling to protect its platforms. While I don’t have a simple solution to combating these scams, one suggestion I do have for YouTube is to reevaluate their content moderation algorithm. 

YouTube erroneously banned hundreds of crypto videos around Christmas of last year. The crypto-community came out in full force claiming this move was an act of censorship. As a result, YouTube later admitted the removals were a mistake in its content monitoring algorithm and restored most of the removed videos. 

This is a perfect example of YouTube’s algorithm being stuck between two extremes: on the one hand, it's overzealous in flagging content. On the other, it’s easily duped by scammers impersonating celebrities. 

YouTube needs to find a middle ground that doesn’t restrict legitimate content but does recognize nuanced scams. It’s no easy task, but it’s imperative to protect YouTube’s users. For now, we’ll just have to sit back and wait.

Twitter Hack

With all of the news about last week’s Twitter hack, I thought it’d just be easiest if I flagged the best content I found on the topic. To be clear, some of these pieces offer competing views on how the hack went down. The fact that I am sharing these is not an endorsement for any one version of these events. 

Blockchain in Beijing

  • Twitter is not the only place dealing with major scams. Chinese authorities recently seized over $15 million in crypto, as well as two luxury cars totaling $2 million dollars in worth. [Wolfie Zhao // Coindesk]

  • Beijing is planning on becoming a blockchain hub and the local government released an entire plan on how they’re going to do it. [Saniya More // The Block]

  • Ripple's Brad Garlinghouse says China leads the US with regards to crypto regulations. [Benjamin Pirus // Cointelegraph]

This Past Week in Crypto
  • Bellingcat’s Christo Grozev tracked down the disgraced Wirecard executive Jan Marsalek to Belarus and transferred “significant sums” of bitcoin after fleeing from Germany. [Christo Gorvez // Bellingcat] [Frank Chaparro // The Block]

  • A third executive from Centra Tech Inc pleaded guilty to defrauding investors, including boxer Floyd Mayweather and musician DJ Khaled, more than $25 million. [Chris Dolmetsch // Bloomberg]

  • The Canadian government paid Justin Trudeau’s half brother $12,430 to speak at a blockchain conference last year. [Janice Dickson // The Globe and Mail]

  • Singapore’s financial regulators are in the final stages of developing a national digital currency.  [Fintechnews Singapore]

  • The Bank of England is now also considering a digital currency. [Momina Khan // The Block

  • Hackers stole 336 bitcoin from UK crypto-exchange Cashaa. [Vireshwar Tomar // Cointelegraph]

  • Paypal *officially* announced its breaking into the crypto-space last week. [Yogita Khatri // The Block]

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) slapped crypto app Abra with a $300,000 fine for illegal swaps. [Paddy Baker // Coindesk]

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