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Cryptocurrency ‘rug pulls’ cheated investors out of ‘$8bn’ • The Register

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First, come up with a catchy name for a cryptocurrency project. Next, convince the credulous to buy associated digital tokens. Finally, abandon the project and keep investors’ funds.

This “rug pulling” scam lacks sophistication but evidently it works. According to Chainalysis, a blockchain data biz, separating cryptocoin buyers from their money in this manner has become particularly popular in the DeFi (decentralized finance) ecosystem and has contributed to a scam surge.

In a post previewing the company’s 2022 Crypto Crime Report, Chainalysis said scams constituted the largest form of cryptocurrency-based crime, as measured by transaction volume. Cryptocurrency investors – if that’s the right term – lost over $7.7bn worth of digital whatever in 2021.

That’s up 81 per cent from 2020, but 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was an unusual year. This year was not quite as bad as 2019, which was close to $10bn worth of scams. But there were more scams overall (3,300 in 2021, up from 2,052 in 2020), albeit with shorter lifespans (~70 days in 2021, compared to ~192 in 2020 and to around ~2,369 in 2013).

Take-the-money-and-run gambits should not to be confused with losses attributable to security shortcomings at DeFi services that let hackers steal funds, like the recent theft of some $120m in tokens from BadgerDAO or the $31m taken from MonoX. That’s a separate dumpster fire.

The decreasing survivability of crypto scams, Chainalysis suggests, follows from increasing regulatory enforcement, like the charges filed in September against 14 crypto-oriented entities by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for fraud and other rule flouting.

There’s no authoritative list for such a fast moving market though TokenSniffer aspires to keep track of dubious crypto cruft. The website currently has flagged 66,239 crypto tokens as potentially problematic, with the obligatory disclaimer a listing isn’t a definitive determination. After all, with names like KingSmudge, ELONSHIBASOK, and Honey Badger, who’s to say what possible riches might be yours by sending your money to unknown people on the internet?

Total scam revenues for the year would have remained flat, Chainalysis said, but for the rise in rug pulls, which accounted for 37 per cent ($2.8bn) of all 2021 revenue from cryptocurrency scams, compared to just 1 per cent in 2020.

The number of deposits to scam addresses – blockchains make such things visible – fell from about 10.7 million to 4.1 million, which suggests fewer people were victimized. However, the figures also indicate that the average amount taken from each victim increased.

The largest alleged rug pull of the year involved Thodex, a Turkish centralized exchange rather than a DeFi project driven by, ahem, smart contracts. What happened was people invested and the CEO – who denied any wrongdoing – disappeared with the funds. Users lost over $2bn in cryptocurrency, which is most of the 2021 loss attributable to rug pulls.

The second most significant alleged rug pull was AnubisDAO, a DeFi project – meaning transactions get governed by code, in theory anyway.

A mere 20 hours later, all the funds raised, primarily held in wrapped Ethereum (wETH), disappeared

“With little more than a DOGE-inspired logo — the project had no website or white paper, and all of its developers went by pseudonyms — AnubisDAO raised nearly $60 million from investors practically overnight, all of whom received the project’s ANKH token in exchange for funding the project’s liquidity pool,” Chainalysis explained. “But a mere 20 hours later, all the funds raised, primarily held in wrapped Ethereum (wETH), disappeared from AnubisDAO’s liquidity pool, moving to a series of new addresses.”

If only there were some way to anticipate how poorly this project turned out.

The year now drawing to a close also saw Finiko, an alleged traditional ponzi scheme based in Russia that ran from December 2019 until it collapsed in July 2021. It managed to attract somewhere between $34m and $80m in investment, according to the Moscow Times, before authorities in Russia stepped in. Chainalysis says about $1.5bn in Bitcoin passed through the firm, some unknown portion of which was paid out.

What to conclude from all this? Chainalysis argues, “Scams represent a huge barrier to successful cryptocurrency adoption, and fighting them can’t be left only to law enforcement and regulators.” ®

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Best podcasts of the week: what does the bloodsucking saga Twilight tell us about society? | Podcasts

Voice Of EU



Picks of the week

The Big Hit Show
“Twilight is stupid; if you like it, you’re also stupid.” Why is there so much vitriol towards female Twihards? (Spoiler: misogyny.) In the first run of a series unpicking pop culture’s biggest moments – from the Obamas’ media company – Alex Pappademas starts by dissecting the wildly popular tale of teenage vampire love – and what the reactions to it say about us. Even if you’re not a fan, he raises some great questions. Hollie Richardson

Fake Psychic
Journalist Vicky Baker captivated listeners with Fake Heiress and now she investigates the fascinating story of Lamar Keene, the go-to spiritualist of 1960s America. When he hung up his questionable crystal ball he decided to reveal the tricks of supposed psychics, and Baker asks if that too was a con while pondering the authenticity of the psychics who followed. Hannah Verdier

Deep Cover: Mob Land
Animal lover, lawyer and switcher of identities Bob Cooley is the subject of Jake Halpern’s new season of the reliably mysterious podcast. Cooley was a top Chicago mob lawyer in the 70s and 80s, but what was the price when he offered to switch to the FBI’s side? This dive into corruption quizzes the key figures around him. HV

This lively, engaging podcast attempts to “apply a Jewish lens to life’s toughest questions”. Hosts Rabbi Shira Stutman and one-time West Wing actor Joshua Malina cover topics ranging from reality TV shows to the Jewish “New Year of the Trees”, via the recent hostage stand-off at a synagogue in the Dallas suburb of Colleyville. Alexi Duggins

Backstage Pass with Eric Vetro
Eric Vestro is a vocal coach who’s worked with the likes of John Legend, Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello and Ariana Grande. Here, he entertainingly lifts the curtain on their craft, talking to them about their journey in a manner that feels genuinely intimate given their pre-existing relationships. Expect some enjoyably daft voice exercises too. AD

Royally Flush investigates the monarchy’s relationship with the British slave trade.
Royally Flush investigates the monarchy’s relationship with the British slave trade. Photograph: Chris Radburn/Reuters

Chosen by Danielle Stephens

It’s fair to say that in the last couple of years the British monarchy has been put under a microscope for the way they handle their own family members, whether that be an heir to the throne and his American wife, or a prince embroiled in a civil sex abuse case. In a two parter titled Royally Flush, however, the Broccoli Productions’ Human Resources podcast goes back in time to investigate the royal family’s role in the slave trade in Britain, questioning how influential they were in trying to prevent abolition.

This is clearly a pandemic production as audio quality can sometimes be shaky, but the content is an important listen. As the country gears up to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee, writer and host, Moya Lothian-McLean takes us on an unexplored trip down memory lane, presenting fascinating insights into why – despite ample evidence that the monarchy was historically instrumental in propping up the slave trade in Britain – we haven’t heard so much as a sorry coming from Buckingham Palace, according to the program maker.

Talking points

  • Never underestimate the skill that goes into making a good podcast. Over a year since Meghan and Harry’s audio production company Archewell signed a podcast deal with Spotify, they’ve only managed to release a single podcast. Hence, presumably the job ads Spotify posted this week, looking for full-time staff to help Archewell.

  • Why not try: Smartless | Screenshot

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California’s net neutrality law dodges Big Telecom bullet • The Register

Voice Of EU



The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court’s refusal to block California’s net neutrality law (SB 822), affirming that state laws can regulate internet connectivity where federal law has gone silent.

The decision is a blow to the large internet service providers that challenged California’s regulations, which prohibit network practices that discriminate against lawful applications and online activities. SB 822, for example, forbids “zero-rating” programs that exempt favored services from customer data allotments, paid prioritization, and blocking or degrading service.

In 2017, under the leadership of then-chairman Ajit Pai, the US Federal Communications Commission tossed out America’s net neutrality rules, to the delight of the internet service providers that had to comply. Then in 2018, the FCC issued an order that redefined broadband internet services, treating them as “information services” under Title I of the Communications Act instead of more regulated “telecommunications services” under Title II of the Communications Act.

California lawmaker Scott Wiener (D) crafted SB 822 to implement the nixed 2015 Open Internet Order on a state level, in an effort to fill the vacuum left by the FCC’s abdication. SB 822, the “California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018,” was signed into law in September 2018 and promptly challenged.

In October 2018, a group of cable and telecom trade associations sued California to prevent SB 822 from being enforced. In February, 2021, Judge John Mendez of the United States District Court for Eastern California declined to grant the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to block the law. 

So the trade groups took their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has now rejected their arguments. While federal laws can preempt state laws, the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband services has moved those services outside its authority and opened a gap that state regulators are now free to fill.

“We conclude the district court correctly denied the preliminary injunction,” the appellate ruling [PDF] says. “This is because only the invocation of federal regulatory authority can preempt state regulatory authority.

The FCC no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services

“As the D.C. Circuit held in Mozilla, by classifying broadband internet services as information services, the FCC no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services. The agency, therefore, cannot preempt state action, like SB 822, that protects net neutrality.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supported California in an amicus brief, celebrated the decision in a statement emailed to The Register.

“EFF is pleased that the Ninth Circuit has refused to bar enforcement of California’s pioneering net neutrality rules, recognizing a very simple principle: the federal government can’t simultaneously refuse to protect net neutrality and prevent anyone else from filling the gap,” a spokesperson said.

“Californians can breathe a sigh of relief that their state will be able to do its part to ensure fair access to the internet for all, at a time when we most need it.”

There’s still the possibility that the plaintiffs – ACA Connects, CTIA, NCTA and USTelecom – could appeal to the US Supreme Court.

In an emailed statement, the organizations told us, “We’re disappointed and will review our options. Once again, a piecemeal approach to this issue is untenable and Congress should codify national rules for an open Internet once and for all.” ®

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RCSI scientists find potential treatment for secondary breast cancer

Voice Of EU



An existing drug called PARP inhibitor can be used to exploit a vulnerability in the way breast cancer cells repair their DNA, preventing spread to the brain.

For a long time, there have been limited treatment options for patients with breast cancer that has spread to the brain, sometimes leaving them with just months to live. But scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) have found a potential treatment using existing drugs.

By tracking the development of tumours from diagnosis to their spread to the brain, a team of researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre found a previously unknown vulnerability in the way the tumours repair their DNA.

An existing kind of drug known as a PARP inhibitor, often used to treat heritable cancers, can prevent cancer cells from repairing their DNA because of this vulnerability, culminating in the cells dying and the patient being rid of the cancer.

Prof Leonie Young, principal investigator of the RCSI study, said that breast cancer research focused on expanding treatment options for patients whose disease has spread to the brain is urgently needed to save the lives of those living with the disease.

“Our study represents an important development in getting one step closer to a potential treatment for patients with this devastating complication of breast cancer,” she said of the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Deaths caused by breast cancer are often a result of treatment relapses which lead to tumours spreading to other parts of the body, a condition known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer. This kind of cancer is particularly aggressive and lethal when it spreads to the brain.

The study was funded by Breast Cancer Ireland with support from Breast Cancer Now and Science Foundation Ireland.

It was carried out as an international collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Pittsburgh in the US. Apart from Prof Young, the other RCSI researchers were Dr Nicola Cosgrove, Dr Damir Varešlija and Prof Arnold Hill.

“By uncovering these new vulnerabilities in DNA pathways in brain metastasis, our research opens up the possibility of novel treatment strategies for patients who previously had limited targeted therapy options”, said Dr Varešlija.

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