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North Korean crypto hackers siphoned off nearly $400 million in crypto through cyber attacks in 2021 according to new data from Chainalysis.
The type of crypto stolen has also seen a sea change according to the Jan. 13 report from the blockchain analytics firm. In 2017, BTC accounted for nearly all the crypto stolen by the DPRK, but it now accounts for just one fifth:
“In 2021, only 20% of the stolen funds were Bitcoin, whereas 22% were either ERC-20 tokens or altcoins. And for the first time ever, Ether accounted for a majority of the funds stolen at 58%.”
The report stated that attacks in 2021 from North Korea (DPRK) primarily targeted “investment firms and centralized exchanges, and made use of phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering” to maliciously acquire the funds.
The threat that the DPRK presents to global crypto platforms has become ever-present. Chainalysis now refers to hackers from the Hermit Kingdom, such as Lazarus Group, as advanced persistent threats (APT). These threats have been on the increase over the past three years, following the all-time high of over $500 million in crypto stolen in 2018.
Chainalysis reported that the funds were meticulously laundered. Methods range from chain hopping, the ‘Peel Chain’ method, and more recently the hackers have employed a complicated system of coin swaps and mixing.
Mixers were used on over 65% of the funds stolen in 2021, which is a 3-fold increase since 2019. A mixer is a software-based privacy system that allows users to hide the source and destination of the coins they send. Decentralized exchanges (DEX) are increasingly preferred by hackers since they are permissionless and have ample liquidity for coins to be swapped at the user’s will.
Chainalysis used the Aug. 19, 2021 hack at Liquid.com in which $91 million in crypto was stolen as an example of the typical way in which DPRK hackers launder funds. They first swapped ERC-20 coins for Ether (ETH) at decentralized exchanges. Then the ETH was sent to a mixer and swapped for Bitcoin (BTC), which was also mixed. Finally, BTC was sent from the mixer to centralized Asian exchanges as a likely fiat off-ramp.
Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary laid out his plans to invest in mining company stocks. In an interview with Anthony Pompliano, Mr. Wonderful shared stories about his recent travels in the Middle East to find ways to invest in Bitcoin (BTC) mining. According to the Shark Tank mogul, investors in the Middle East are looking into “sovereign mining operations.”
O’Leary also predicts that in the next 2-3 years, sovereign funds may decide to invest in Bitcoin mining. However, the businessman notes that the funds will choose mining businesses that use sustainable energy. Due to environment-related controversies, the eco-friendliness of mining operations is a crucial deciding factor for investors, according to the Canadian entrepreneur.
The businessman also expressed his interest in opening his own mining operations. However, he explained that there are things that he is considering before this happens. He stated that aside from government approvals, the people who live in the community where the mining operations will take place must approve of the business.
Aside from these, the entrepreneur also explained that Bitcoin mining companies must be able to track their BTC earnings in company balance sheets. This enables investors to buy the mining company stock and own BTC through equity. O’Leary notes that he will be investing in BTC through this process.
Back in December, O’Leary also shared his thoughts on crypto investing with the public. In an exclusive interview with Cointelegraph, the businessman explained that investing in crypto is similar to investing in Google and Microsoft.
“If you’re investing in, for example, Google or Microsoft, what are you investing in? You’re investing in software. Why wouldn’t you invest in crypto? It’s software too,” he said.
Meanwhile, the former BTC critic is also very excited about the potential of nonfungible tokens (NFT). O’Leary is betting that NFTs may potentially become bigger than Bitcoin. However, he notes that he will invest in both.
Bitcoin’s (BTC) sudden crash on Jan. 10 caused the price to trade below $40,000 for the first time in 110 days and this was a wake-up call to leveraged traders. $1.9 billion worth of long (buy) futures contracts were liquidated that week, causing the morale among traders to plunge.
The crypto “Fear & Greed” index, which ranges from 0 “extreme fear” to 100 “greed” reached 10 on Jan. 10, the lowest level it has been since the Mar. 2020 crash. The indicator measures traders’ sentiment using historical volatility, market momentum, volume, Bitcoin dominance and social media.
As usual, the panic turned out to be a buying opportunity because the total crypto market capitalization rose by 13.5%, going from a $1.85 trillion bottom to $2.1 trillion in less than three days.
Currently, investors seem to be digesting this week’s economic data that shows United States December 2021 retail sales going down by 1.9% compared to the previous month.
Investors have reason to worry about stagflation, a scenario where inflation accelerates despite the lack of economic growth. However, even if this eventually proves that Bitcoin’s digital scarcity is a positive characteristic, markets will still take shelter with whatever asset is deemed safe. Thus, the first wave will potentially be damaging for cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin price was flat over the past seven days, effectively underperforming the altcoin market’s 7% gain. Part of this unusual movement can be explained by layer-1 decentralized applications platforms showing a positive performance that was driven by Fantom (FTM), Cardano (ADA), Near Protocol (NEAR) and Harmony (ONE).
Loopring (LRC), a zkRollup open protocol for decentralized exchanges on Ethereum, presented the worst performance of the week. The DEX volume using the protocol peaked at $30 million per day in early December 2021, but is now near $6 million. Meanwhile, Dfinity (ICP) and Chainlink (LINK) are adjusting after a 40% or higher rally in the first 10 days of 2022.
The OKEx Tether (USDT) premium or discount measures the difference between China-based peer-to-peer (P2P) trades and the official U.S. dollar. Figures above 100% indicate excessive demand for cryptocurrency investing. On the other hand, a 5% discount usually indicates heavy selling activity.
The Tether indicator bottomed at a 3% discount on Dec. 31, which is slightly bearish but not alarming. However, this metric has held a decent 2% discount over the past week, signaling no panic selling from China-based traders.
To further prove that the crypto market structure has held, traders should analyze the CME’s Bitcoin futures contracts premium. That metric analyzes the difference between longer-term futures contracts to the current spot price in regular markets.
Whenever this indicator fades or turns negative, it is an alarming red flag. This situation is also known as backwardation and indicates that bearish sentiment is present.
These fixed-month contracts usually trade at a slight premium, indicating that sellers request more money to withhold settlements for longer. As a result, futures should trade at a 0.5% to 2% premium in healthy markets, a situation known as contango.
Notice how the indicator flipped negative on Dec. 9 as Bitcoin traded below $49,000 but it still managed to sustain a slightly positive number. This shows that institutional traders display a lack of confidence, although it is not yet a bearish structure.
Considering that the aggregate cryptocurrency market capitalization is down 9.5% to date, the market structure held rather nicely. The CME futures premium would have gone negative if there had been excessive demand for short-sellers.
Unless these fundamentals change significantly, there is not yet sufficient information available that would support calls for a sub-$40,000 Bitcoin price.
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.
It wasn’t just a bull run for prices last year. Careers in crypto outstripped price action in 2021, as crypto job searches soared by 395% in the United States alone according to LinkedIn.
Crucially, the crypto industry outpaced the wider tech industry, which also saw remarkable development, almost doubling its number of job listings. However, at 98% growth, the tech industry dwindles in comparison to crypto jobs, which gained by a whopping 395%.
Furthermore, no industry was safe from “crypto-ization” in 2021. The LinkedIn News post offered valuable insight into crypto influencing other industries:
While most of the job postings were in software and finance, other industries are also seeing a rise in demand for crypto talent. These include professional services like accounting and consulting, as well as the staffing and computer hardware sectors.
For 2022, the growth trend looks set to continue. The biggest exchanges in crypto are brimming with job posts; Coinbase has over 250 openings, Kraken over 300, and the world’s most active exchange, Binance, lists more than 600 job posts.
For Bitcoiners and Bitcoin (BTC) Maxi’s there’s a new resource, Bitcoiner jobs. A service dedicated to helping connect Bitcoiners with Bitcoin-only companies, it now offers almost 100 Satoshi-approved careers.
For those who are unable to switch jobs into crypto, a wider HR trend is crypto remuneration. The Mayors of New York and Miami announced that they would take a portion of their pay in BTC in 2021, while a total of seven NFL players have chosen crypto over cash salaries to date.
Nonetheless, while the crypto career switch appears to be gaining traction, the LinkedIn audience is not convinced. Most comments on the LinkedIn post were from bewildered onlookers wondering why crypto has value; and one aggrieved copywriter remonstrated the industry’s scammy nature.
Plus, given that Bitcoin price action has yet to impress in 2022, the crypto industry may struggle to sustain such high human resources growth levels.
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