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Isaac Benson

Isaac Benson

1 year ago

What's the difference between Proof-of-Time and Proof-of-History?

More on Web3 & Crypto

David Z. Morris

1 year ago

FTX's crash was no accident, it was a crime

Sam Bankman Fried (SDBF) is a legendary con man. But the NYT might not tell you that...

Since SBF's empire was revealed to be a lie, mainstream news organizations and commentators have failed to give readers a straightforward assessment. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have uncovered many key facts about the scandal, but they have also soft-peddled Bankman-Fried's intent and culpability.

It's clear that the FTX crypto exchange and Alameda Research committed fraud to steal money from users and investors. That’s why a recent New York Times interview was widely derided for seeming to frame FTX’s collapse as the result of mismanagement rather than malfeasance. A Wall Street Journal article lamented FTX's loss of charitable donations, bolstering Bankman's philanthropic pose. Matthew Yglesias, court chronicler of the neoliberal status quo, seemed to whitewash his own entanglements by crediting SBF's money with helping Democrats in 2020 – sidestepping the likelihood that the money was embezzled.

Many outlets have called what happened to FTX a "bank run" or a "run on deposits," but Bankman-Fried insists the company was overleveraged and disorganized. Both attempts to frame the fallout obscure the core issue: customer funds misused.

Because banks lend customer funds to generate returns, they can experience "bank runs." If everyone withdraws at once, they can experience a short-term cash crunch but there won't be a long-term problem.

Crypto exchanges like FTX aren't banks. They don't do bank-style lending, so a withdrawal surge shouldn't strain liquidity. FTX promised customers it wouldn't lend or use their crypto.

Alameda's balance sheet blurs SBF's crypto empire.

The funds were sent to Alameda Research, where they were apparently gambled away. This is massive theft. According to a bankruptcy document, up to 1 million customers could be affected.

In less than a month, reporting and the bankruptcy process have uncovered a laundry list of decisions and practices that would constitute financial fraud if FTX had been a U.S.-regulated entity, even without crypto-specific rules. These ploys may be litigated in U.S. courts if they enabled the theft of American property.

The list is very, very long.

The many crimes of Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX

At the heart of SBF's fraud are the deep and (literally) intimate ties between FTX and Alameda Research, a hedge fund he co-founded. An exchange makes money from transaction fees on user assets, but Alameda trades and invests its own funds.

Bankman-Fried called FTX and Alameda "wholly separate" and resigned as Alameda's CEO in 2019. The two operations were closely linked. Bankman-Fried and Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison were romantically linked.

These circumstances enabled SBF's sin.  Within days of FTX's first signs of weakness, it was clear the exchange was funneling customer assets to Alameda for trading, lending, and investing. Reuters reported on Nov. 12 that FTX sent $10 billion to Alameda. As much as $2 billion was believed to have disappeared after being sent to Alameda. Now the losses look worse.

It's unclear why those funds were sent to Alameda or when Bankman-Fried betrayed his depositors. On-chain analysis shows most FTX to Alameda transfers occurred in late 2021, and bankruptcy filings show both lost $3.7 billion in 2021.

SBF's companies lost millions before the 2022 crypto bear market. They may have stolen funds before Terra and Three Arrows Capital, which killed many leveraged crypto players.

FTT loans and prints

CoinDesk's report on Alameda's FTT holdings ignited FTX and Alameda Research. FTX created this instrument, but only a small portion was traded publicly; FTX and Alameda held the rest. These holdings were illiquid, meaning they couldn't be sold at market price. Bankman-Fried valued its stock at the fictitious price.

FTT tokens were reportedly used as collateral for loans, including FTX loans to Alameda. Close ties between FTX and Alameda made the FTT token harder or more expensive to use as collateral, reducing the risk to customer funds.

This use of an internal asset as collateral for loans between clandestinely related entities is similar to Enron's 1990s accounting fraud. These executives served 12 years in prison.

Alameda's margin liquidation exemption

Alameda Research had a "secret exemption" from FTX's liquidation and margin trading rules, according to legal filings by FTX's new CEO.

FTX, like other crypto platforms and some equity or commodity services, offered "margin" or loans for trades. These loans are usually collateralized, meaning borrowers put up other funds or assets. If a margin trade loses enough money, the exchange will sell the user's collateral to pay off the initial loan.

Keeping asset markets solvent requires liquidating bad margin positions. Exempting Alameda would give it huge advantages while exposing other FTX users to hidden risks. Alameda could have kept losing positions open while closing out competitors. Alameda could lose more on FTX than it could pay back, leaving a hole in customer funds.

The exemption is criminal in multiple ways. FTX was fraudulently marketed overall. Instead of a level playing field, there were many customers.

Above them all, with shotgun poised, was Alameda Research.

Alameda front-running FTX listings

Argus says there's circumstantial evidence that Alameda Research had insider knowledge of FTX's token listing plans. Alameda was able to buy large amounts of tokens before the listing and sell them after the price bump.

If true, these claims would be the most brazenly illegal of Alameda and FTX's alleged shenanigans. Even if the tokens aren't formally classified as securities, insider trading laws may apply.

In a similar case this year, an OpenSea employee was charged with wire fraud for allegedly insider trading. This employee faces 20 years in prison for front-running monkey JPEGs.

Huge loans to executives

Alameda Research reportedly lent FTX executives $4.1 billion, including massive personal loans. Bankman-Fried received $1 billion in personal loans and $2.3 billion for an entity he controlled, Paper Bird. Nishad Singh, director of engineering, was given $543 million, and FTX Digital Markets co-CEO Ryan Salame received $55 million.

FTX has more smoking guns than a Texas shooting range, but this one is the smoking bazooka – a sign of criminal intent. It's unclear how most of the personal loans were used, but liquidators will have to recoup the money.

The loans to Paper Bird were even more worrisome because they created another related third party to shuffle assets. Forbes speculates that some Paper Bird funds went to buy Binance's FTX stake, and Paper Bird committed hundreds of millions to outside investments.

FTX Inner Circle: Who's Who

That included many FTX-backed VC funds. Time will tell if this financial incest was criminal fraud. It fits Bankman-pattern Fried's of using secret flows, leverage, and funny money to inflate asset prices.

FTT or loan 'bailouts'

Also. As the crypto bear market continued in 2022, Bankman-Fried proposed bailouts for bankrupt crypto lenders BlockFi and Voyager Digital. CoinDesk was among those deceived, welcoming SBF as a J.P. Morgan-style sector backstop.

In a now-infamous interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box," Bankman-Fried referred to these decisions as bets that may or may not pay off.

But maybe not. Bloomberg's Matt Levine speculated that FTX backed BlockFi with FTT money. This Monopoly bailout may have been intended to hide FTX and Alameda liabilities that would have been exposed if BlockFi went bankrupt sooner. This ploy has no name, but it echoes other corporate frauds.

Secret bank purchase

Alameda Research invested $11.5 million in the tiny Farmington State Bank, doubling its net worth. As a non-U.S. entity and an investment firm, Alameda should have cleared regulatory hurdles before acquiring a U.S. bank.

In the context of FTX, the bank's stake becomes "ominous." Alameda and FTX could have done more shenanigans with bank control. Compare this to the Bank for Credit and Commerce International's failed attempts to buy U.S. banks. BCCI was even nefarious than FTX and wanted to buy U.S. banks to expand its money-laundering empire.

The mainstream's mistakes

These are complex and nuanced forms of fraud that echo traditional finance models. This obscurity helped Bankman-Fried masquerade as an honest player and likely kept coverage soft after the collapse.

Bankman-Fried had a scruffy, nerdy image, like Mark Zuckerberg and Adam Neumann. In interviews, he spoke nonsense about an industry full of jargon and complicated tech. Strategic donations and insincere ideological statements helped him gain political and social influence.

SBF' s'Effective' Altruism Blew Up FTX

Bankman-Fried has continued to muddy the waters with disingenuous letters, statements, interviews, and tweets since his con collapsed. He's tried to portray himself as a well-intentioned but naive kid who made some mistakes. This is a softer, more pernicious version of what Trump learned from mob lawyer Roy Cohn. Bankman-Fried doesn't "deny, deny, deny" but "confuse, evade, distort."

It's mostly worked. Kevin O'Leary, who plays an investor on "Shark Tank," repeats Bankman-SBF's counterfactuals.  O'Leary called Bankman-Fried a "savant" and "probably one of the most accomplished crypto traders in the world" in a Nov. 27 interview with Business Insider, despite recent data indicating immense trading losses even when times were good.

O'Leary's status as an FTX investor and former paid spokesperson explains his continued affection for Bankman-Fried despite contradictory evidence. He's not the only one promoting Bankman-Fried. The disgraced son of two Stanford law professors will defend himself at Wednesday's DealBook Summit.

SBF's fraud and theft rival those of Bernie Madoff and Jho Low. Whether intentionally or through malign ineptitude, the fraud echoes Worldcom and Enron.

The Perverse Impacts of Anti-Money-Laundering

The principals in all of those scandals wound up either sentenced to prison or on the run from the law. Sam Bankman-Fried clearly deserves to share their fate.

Read the full article here.

Scott Hickmann

Scott Hickmann

2 years ago

Welcome

Welcome to Integrity's Web3 community!

Sam Hickmann

Sam Hickmann

1 year ago

Nomad.xyz got exploited for $190M

Key Takeaways:

Another hack. This time was different. This is a doozy.

Why? Nomad got exploited for $190m. It was crypto's 5th-biggest hack. Ouch.

It wasn't hackers, but random folks. What happened:

A Nomad smart contract flaw was discovered. They couldn't drain the funds at once, so they tried numerous transactions. Rookie!

People noticed and copied the attack.

They just needed to discover a working transaction, substitute the other person's address with theirs, and run it.


Nomad.xyz got exploited for $190M

In a two-and-a-half-hour attack, $190M was siphoned from Nomad Bridge.

Nomad is a novel approach to blockchain interoperability that leverages an optimistic mechanism to increase the security of cross-chain communication.  — nomad.xyz

This hack was permissionless, therefore anyone could participate.

After the fatal blow, people fought over the scraps.

Cross-chain bridges remain a DeFi weakness and exploit target. When they collapse, it's typically total.

$190M...gobbled.

Unbacked assets are hurting Nomad-dependent chains. Moonbeam, EVMOS, and Milkomeda's TVLs dropped.

This incident is every-man-for-himself, although numerous whitehats exploited the issue... 

But what triggered the feeding frenzy?

How did so many pick the bones?

After a normal upgrade in June, the bridge's Replica contract was initialized with a severe security issue. The  0x00 address was a trusted root, therefore all messages were valid by default.

After a botched first attempt (costing $350k in gas), the original attacker's exploit tx called process() without first 'proving' its validity.

The process() function executes all cross-chain messages and checks the merkle root of all messages (line 185).

The upgrade caused transactions with a'messages' value of 0 (invalid, according to old logic) to be read by default as 0x00, a trusted root, passing validation as 'proven'

Any process() calls were valid. In reality, a more sophisticated exploiter may have designed a contract to drain the whole bridge.

Copycat attackers simply copied/pasted the same process() function call using Etherscan, substituting their address.

The incident was a wild combination of crowdhacking, whitehat activities, and MEV-bot (Maximal Extractable Value) mayhem.

For example, 🍉🍉🍉. eth stole $4M from the bridge, but claims to be whitehat.

Others stood out for the wrong reasons. Repeat criminal Rari Capital (Artibrum) exploited over $3M in stablecoins, which moved to Tornado Cash.

The top three exploiters (with 95M between them) are:

$47M: 0x56D8B635A7C88Fd1104D23d632AF40c1C3Aac4e3

$40M: 0xBF293D5138a2a1BA407B43672643434C43827179

$8M: 0xB5C55f76f90Cc528B2609109Ca14d8d84593590E

Here's a list of all the exploiters:

The project conducted a Quantstamp audit in June; QSP-19 foreshadowed a similar problem.

The auditor's comments that "We feel the Nomad team misinterpreted the issue" speak to a troubling attitude towards security that the project's "Long-Term Security" plan appears to confirm:

Concerns were raised about the team's response time to a live, public exploit; the team's official acknowledgement came three hours later.

"Removing the Replica contract as owner" stopped the exploit, but it was too late to preserve the cash.

Closed blockchain systems are only as strong as their weakest link.

The Harmony network is in turmoil after its bridge was attacked and lost $100M in late June.

What's next for Nomad's ecosystems?

Moonbeam's TVL is now $135M, EVMOS's is $3M, and Milkomeda's is $20M.

Loss of confidence may do more damage than $190M.

Cross-chain infrastructure is difficult to secure in a new, experimental sector. Bridge attacks can pollute an entire ecosystem or more.

Nomadic liquidity has no permanent home, so consumers will always migrate in pursuit of the "next big thing" and get stung when attentiveness wanes.

DeFi still has easy prey...

Sources: rekt.news & The Milk Road.

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Shalitha Suranga

Shalitha Suranga

1 year ago

The Top 5 Mathematical Concepts Every Programmer Needs to Know

Using math to write efficient code in any language

Photo by Emile Perron on Unsplash, edited with Canva

Programmers design, build, test, and maintain software. Employ cases and personal preferences determine the programming languages we use throughout development. Mobile app developers use JavaScript or Dart. Some programmers design performance-first software in C/C++.

A generic source code includes language-specific grammar, pre-implemented function calls, mathematical operators, and control statements. Some mathematical principles assist us enhance our programming and problem-solving skills.

We all use basic mathematical concepts like formulas and relational operators (aka comparison operators) in programming in our daily lives. Beyond these mathematical syntaxes, we'll see discrete math topics. This narrative explains key math topics programmers must know. Master these ideas to produce clean and efficient software code.

Expressions in mathematics and built-in mathematical functions

A source code can only contain a mathematical algorithm or prebuilt API functions. We develop source code between these two ends. If you create code to fetch JSON data from a RESTful service, you'll invoke an HTTP client and won't conduct any math. If you write a function to compute the circle's area, you conduct the math there.

When your source code gets more mathematical, you'll need to use mathematical functions. Every programming language has a math module and syntactical operators. Good programmers always consider code readability, so we should learn to write readable mathematical expressions.

Linux utilizes clear math expressions.

A mathematical expression/formula in the Linux codebase, a screenshot by the author

Inbuilt max and min functions can minimize verbose if statements.

Reducing a verbose nested-if with the min function in Neutralinojs, a screenshot by the author

How can we compute the number of pages needed to display known data? In such instances, the ceil function is often utilized.

import math as m
results = 102
items_per_page = 10 
pages = m.ceil(results / items_per_page)
print(pages)

Learn to write clear, concise math expressions.

Combinatorics in Algorithm Design

Combinatorics theory counts, selects, and arranges numbers or objects. First, consider these programming-related questions. Four-digit PIN security? what options exist? What if the PIN has a prefix? How to locate all decimal number pairs?

Combinatorics questions. Software engineering jobs often require counting items. Combinatorics counts elements without counting them one by one or through other verbose approaches, therefore it enables us to offer minimum and efficient solutions to real-world situations. Combinatorics helps us make reliable decision tests without missing edge cases. Write a program to see if three inputs form a triangle. This is a question I commonly ask in software engineering interviews.

Graph theory is a subfield of combinatorics. Graph theory is used in computerized road maps and social media apps.

Logarithms and Geometry Understanding

Geometry studies shapes, angles, and sizes. Cartesian geometry involves representing geometric objects in multidimensional planes. Geometry is useful for programming. Cartesian geometry is useful for vector graphics, game development, and low-level computer graphics. We can simply work with 2D and 3D arrays as plane axes.

GetWindowRect is a Windows GUI SDK geometric object.

GetWindowRect outputs an LPRECT geometric object, a screenshot by the author

High-level GUI SDKs and libraries use geometric notions like coordinates, dimensions, and forms, therefore knowing geometry speeds up work with computer graphics APIs.

How does exponentiation's inverse function work? Logarithm is exponentiation's inverse function. Logarithm helps programmers find efficient algorithms and solve calculations. Writing efficient code involves finding algorithms with logarithmic temporal complexity. Programmers prefer binary search (O(log n)) over linear search (O(n)). Git source specifies O(log n):

The Git codebase defines a function with logarithmic time complexity, a screenshot by the author

Logarithms aid with programming math. Metas Watchman uses a logarithmic utility function to find the next power of two.

A utility function that uses ceil, a screenshot by the author

Employing Mathematical Data Structures

Programmers must know data structures to develop clean, efficient code. Stack, queue, and hashmap are computer science basics. Sets and graphs are discrete arithmetic data structures. Most computer languages include a set structure to hold distinct data entries. In most computer languages, graphs can be represented using neighboring lists or objects.

Using sets as deduped lists is powerful because set implementations allow iterators. Instead of a list (or array), store WebSocket connections in a set.

Most interviewers ask graph theory questions, yet current software engineers don't practice algorithms. Graph theory challenges become obligatory in IT firm interviews.

Recognizing Applications of Recursion

A function in programming isolates input(s) and output(s) (s). Programming functions may have originated from mathematical function theories. Programming and math functions are different but similar. Both function types accept input and return value.

Recursion involves calling the same function inside another function. In its implementation, you'll call the Fibonacci sequence. Recursion solves divide-and-conquer software engineering difficulties and avoids code repetition. I recently built the following recursive Dart code to render a Flutter multi-depth expanding list UI:

Recursion is not the natural linear way to solve problems, hence thinking recursively is difficult. Everything becomes clear when a mathematical function definition includes a base case and recursive call.

Conclusion

Every codebase uses arithmetic operators, relational operators, and expressions. To build mathematical expressions, we typically employ log, ceil, floor, min, max, etc. Combinatorics, geometry, data structures, and recursion help implement algorithms. Unless you operate in a pure mathematical domain, you may not use calculus, limits, and other complex math in daily programming (i.e., a game engine). These principles are fundamental for daily programming activities.

Master the above math fundamentals to build clean, efficient code.

Mickey Mellen

Mickey Mellen

1 year ago

Shifting from Obsidian to Tana?

I relocated my notes database from Roam Research to Obsidian earlier this year expecting to stay there for a long. Obsidian is a terrific tool, and I explained my move in that post.

Moving everything to Tana faster than intended. Tana? Why?

Tana is just another note-taking app, but it does it differently. Three note-taking apps existed before Tana:

  1. simple note-taking programs like Apple Notes and Google Keep.

  2. Roam Research and Obsidian are two graph-style applications that assisted connect your notes.

  3. You can create effective tables and charts with data-focused tools like Notion and Airtable.

Tana is the first great software I've encountered that combines graph and data notes. Google Keep will certainly remain my rapid notes app of preference. This Shu Omi video gives a good overview:

Tana handles everything I did in Obsidian with books, people, and blog entries, plus more. I can find book quotes, log my workouts, and connect my thoughts more easily. It should make writing blog entries notes easier, so we'll see.

Tana is now invite-only, but if you're interested, visit their site and sign up. As Shu noted in the video above, the product hasn't been published yet but seems quite polished.

Whether I stay with Tana or not, I'm excited to see where these apps are going and how they can benefit us all.

Jack Burns

Jack Burns

1 year ago

Here's what to expect from NASA Artemis 1 and why it's significant.

NASA's Artemis 1 mission will help return people to the Moon after a half-century break. The mission is a shakedown cruise for NASA's Space Launch System and Orion Crew Capsule.

The spaceship will visit the Moon, deploy satellites, and enter orbit. NASA wants to practice operating the spacecraft, test the conditions people will face on the Moon, and ensure a safe return to Earth.

We asked Jack Burns, a space scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder and former member of NASA's Presidential Transition Team, to describe the mission, explain what the Artemis program promises for space exploration, and reflect on how the space program has changed in the half-century since humans last set foot on the moon.

What distinguishes Artemis 1 from other rockets?

Artemis 1 is the Space Launch System's first launch. NASA calls this a "heavy-lift" vehicle. It will be more powerful than Apollo's Saturn V, which transported people to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s.

It's a new sort of rocket system with two strap-on solid rocket boosters from the space shuttle. It's a mix of the shuttle and Saturn V.

The Orion Crew Capsule will be tested extensively. It'll spend a month in the high-radiation Moon environment. It will also test the heat shield, which protects the capsule and its occupants at 25,000 mph. The heat shield must work well because this is the fastest capsule descent since Apollo.

This mission will also carry miniature Moon-orbiting satellites. These will undertake vital precursor science, including as examining further into permanently shadowed craters where scientists suspect there is water and measuring the radiation environment to see long-term human consequences.

Diagram depicting earth, moon, and spacecraft travel route

Artemis 1 will launch, fly to the Moon, place satellites, orbit it, return to Earth, and splash down in the ocean. NASA.

What's Artemis's goal? What launches are next?

The mission is a first step toward Artemis 3, which will lead to the first human Moon missions since 1972. Artemis 1 is unmanned.

Artemis 2 will have astronauts a few years later. Like Apollo 8, it will be an orbital mission that circles the Moon and returns. The astronauts will orbit the Moon longer and test everything with a crew.

Eventually, Artemis 3 will meet with the SpaceX Starship on the Moon's surface and transfer people. Orion will stay in orbit while the lunar Starship lands astronauts. They'll go to the Moon's south pole to investigate the water ice there.

Artemis is reminiscent of Apollo. What's changed in 50 years?

Kennedy wanted to beat the Soviets to the Moon with Apollo. The administration didn't care much about space flight or the Moon, but the goal would place America first in space and technology.

You live and die by the sword if you do that. When the U.S. reached the Moon, it was over. Russia lost. We planted flags and did science experiments. Richard Nixon canceled the program after Apollo 11 because the political goals were attained.

Large rocket with two boosters between two gates

NASA's new Space Launch System is brought to a launchpad. NASA

50 years later... It's quite different. We're not trying to beat the Russians, Chinese, or anyone else, but to begin sustainable space exploration.

Artemis has many goals. It includes harnessing in-situ resources like water ice and lunar soil to make food, fuel, and building materials.

SpaceX is part of this first journey to the Moon's surface, therefore the initiative is also helping to develop a lunar and space economy. NASA doesn't own the Starship but is buying seats for astronauts. SpaceX will employ Starship to transport cargo, private astronauts, and foreign astronauts.

Fifty years of technology advancement has made getting to the Moon cheaper and more practical, and computer technology allows for more advanced tests. 50 years of technological progress have changed everything. Anyone with enough money can send a spacecraft to the Moon, but not humans.

Commercial Lunar Payload Services engages commercial companies to develop uncrewed Moon landers. We're sending a radio telescope to the Moon in January. Even 10 years ago, that was impossible.

Since humans last visited the Moon 50 years ago, technology has improved greatly.

What other changes does Artemis have in store?

The government says Artemis 3 will have at least one woman and likely a person of color. 

I'm looking forward to seeing more diversity so young kids can say, "Hey, there's an astronaut that looks like me. I can do this. I can be part of the space program.