FBI seized $500,000 from North Korean hackers
The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the seizure of about $500,000 in bitcoins previously paid by U.S. health care providers to the operators of the cryptocurrency attacker Maui.
Earlier this month, U.S. law enforcement officials had already warned about the activity on Maui, which is targeting medical organizations and public health care. Then it was reported that Maui uses a combination of AES, RSA and XORfor the encryption process: files are encrypted using AES with a unique key, which is then encrypted using a pair of RSA keys generated during the first run of Maui, and then the RSA public key is encrypted using another hard-coded RSA public key.
Experts speculated that the entire malware campaign is built on the willingness of medical institutions to pay a ransom, as they need to recover quickly from the attack and provide uninterrupted access to critical data and services, because people’s lives and health depend on it.
As the DOJ now explains, the discovery of this malware came after an incident at a Kansas hospital that the victims rushed to report to the FBI. In May 2021, that medical facility paid extortionists about $100,000 to recover data after the encryption attack.
“Through prompt reporting and cooperation from the victim, the FBI and Department of Justice disrupted a North Korean-sponsored group that was developing a ransomware program known as Maui,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monak. – “This not only allowed us to recover the ransom, but also to recover ransom payments made by previously unknown victims and to identify a previously unknown type of ransomware.
Thanks to a quick report of the incident, law enforcement could trace another $120,000 payment from an unnamed health care provider in Colorado. Those two payments, as well as an unknown number of $280,000 payments, were eventually recovered in May 2022, bringing the total amount recovered to approximately half a million dollars.
It is currently unknown how the seizure of the funds was arranged. It is likely that law enforcement could trace the victims’ funds, which the criminals were trying to launder, to a certain cryptocurrency exchange, which offers services for cashing out and converting cryptocurrencies into fiat.
While the amount recovered this time is small, it is emphasized that what happened demonstrates how rapid reporting of incidents allows law enforcement to more quickly and easily follow money trails, recover ransoms, and identify the perpetrators and their tactics.
The Ethereum (ETH) price crossed the $1800 mark, opening the way to $2000
Ethereum crossed the $1800 mark for the first time since August 2022. DeFi’s rise in popularity and the successful launch of the Shanghai update could see the price of ETH begin a bullish rally.
Crypto investors are investing in DeFi
The high likelihood of a new banking crisis seems to have spooked investors: more than $20 billion has been withdrawn from traditional financial institutions amid the recent Silicon Valley Bank and Signature incidents. Some of that money has migrated to DeFi protocols built on Ethereum.
This is confirmed by Glassnode’s onchain data, which shows a surge in the supply of ETH blocked on decentralized finance platforms. The big influx of funds occurred on March 13, a few days after the Silicon Valley Bank collapse.
Between March 13 and March 20, the supply of Ethereum in smart contracts grew by nearly 270,000 coins. That represents 0.22% of the total ETH in circulation, worth about $200 million.
When the volume of blocked tokens in smart contracts grows, the number of coins available for trading on cryptocurrency exchanges becomes smaller. The decrease in selling pressure caused by the recent DeFi boom could also be a catalyst for Ethereum’s price to rise.
The important onchain metric NVT (Network Value to Transactions Ratio) also supports a bullish outlook. As of March 19, the NVT ratio was 127.27, down 40% from the 213.75 recorded on March 5. A decline usually signals that an asset is undervalued.
Global In/Out of the Money (GIOM) data from the IntoTheBlock platform gives an indication of the potential bullish dynamics of the ETH price. The metric tracks the distribution of prices among holders based on the volume of tokens held at each address.
Ethereum Price Forecast
The Ethereum price is likely to face minimal resistance, as it approaches the $2000 zone. A further rise towards $2900 is likely if it gains a foothold above this mark. For the bears to gain the upper hand, the price of ETH must fall below $1600.
Ethereum holders will also be watching for a Shangai update, which is scheduled for April 12. Some investors expect that a successful launch will trigger a price rally, while others believe that the owners of the blocked tokens in Beacon Chain will rush to get rid of them.
We previously reported that Tether printed for 1 billion dollars on the TRON network.
Bitcoin (BTC) tests $28,000, but onchain metrics urge caution
Over the past week, bitcoin has strengthened by about 30%. However, onchain indicators warn that despite this brisk rally, BTC could retreat to the $24,500 area.
According to analytics platform MacroMicro, the average cost of mining bitcoin accelerated last month.
Over the past 30 days through March 20, the cost of mining peaked at $33,000 per block, while the currency was only able to appreciate to $28,500. This divergence means that despite bitcoin’s rise, miners’ losses have only been piling up over the past month.
A nice development was the day of March 18, when the value of BTC overtook the cost of mining by about $3,000. However, all of this surplus will soon evaporate when new miners come to the market in the near future, rushing to take advantage of the coin’s appreciation.
In addition, the current rise in bitcoin may encourage miners to sell some of their reserves to compensate for earlier losses. Considering that miners’ reserves account for about 10% of the total amount of BTC in circulation right now, such bearish pressure from node operators in the bitcoin network could have a tangible impact on the cryptocurrency’s exchange rate.
Coin inflows to exchanges
Another potentially troubling sign could be the recently increased net inflow of bitcoins to trading platforms. This is signaled by data from the leading blockchain analytics resource, Glassnode.
Over the past seven days, the inflow of BTC deposits to exchanges has significantly exceeded the outflow of coins from trading platforms. During this period, the number of bitcoins stored on exchange addresses has consistently increased from 3,895 BTC as of March 13 to 36,700+ BTC as of March 19.
Typically, prolonged net inflows of bitcoins to exchanges are a sign that hodlers are preparing more intensely for short-term trading activity or convenient profit-taking opportunities.
If these assumptions are confirmed, such sales could trigger a pullback in the BTC exchange rate in the coming weeks.
BTC forecast: possible dive below $25,000
According to IntoTheBlock’s In the Money/Out of the Money (IOMAP) statistics, a likely target for bitcoin may be the $24,500 area.
As a reminder, this metric tracks addresses that approach the breakeven level. Historically, hodlers tend to sell when the BTC exchange rate reaches the average price. As of March 20, more than 72% of bitcoin hodlers were in the profit zone. This could signal the potential for massive profit-taking.
If bitcoin enters a bearish trend, the first stop will be the $27,000 area, where 307,000 addresses that bought 364,000 coins can offer decent support for the coin. If this barrier does not hold, a sharp drop in price to $24,500 is possible. There are about 1 million addresses who bought about 360 thousand coins.
This pessimistic forecast will be neutralized if the price breaks above $29,500, where 345 thousand addresses, which earlier bought 130 thousand coins, are concentrated. This breakthrough may provoke a rally to $32,000. In this area, there is a cluster of 237 thousand addresses that may want to sell some of the 74 thousand BTC that belong to them.
We previously reported that Hong Kong allocated another $50 million to the crypto industry.
Hong Kong allocated another $50 million to the crypto industry
Hong Kong has allocated another $50 million to accelerate the development of the crypto industry after local authorities allocated HK$50 million (about $6.37 million) in late February to develop the Web3 direction. This is stated in a press release on the website of the government.
Legalization of cryptocurrencies in Hong Kong
According to the head of the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau of Hong Kong (FSTB) Christopher Hui, the pool of funds will be allocated, in particular, to organize major international Web3-events. Hui also said that the government will organize educational programs for young people, for which preparations have already begun.
In addition, the 2023 budget provides for the creation of a working group to focus on developing virtual assets and study the situation in the crypto market, development opportunities and the need for changes in regulation.
“Hong Kong is well positioned to become a leading hub for Web3 in Asia and beyond, and we attach great importance to virtual assets (VA) and Web3. The government is committed at a high level to developing this sector and providing a comprehensive support system for enterprises,” Hui said.
He added that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is now working on regulating stablecoins to introduce them into the economy next year. The country also plans to improve securities regulations so that retail investors can access ETFs based on cryptocurrency futures.
Despite several personal initiatives, Hong Kong authorities are also working closely with mainland China, testing international payments in the digital currency and working with the Central Bank. In all, as of the end of February, more than 80 Chinese companies had expressed interest in operating in Hong Kong.
Bloomberg wrote about China’s support back in late February. The agency pointed out that after Hong Kong set out to develop the crypto industry last October, Chinese officials have become more frequent visitors to Hong Kong. According to sources, this interest is because Beijing wants to use the city as a testing ground for digital assets amid tight control of crypto activity on the mainland.
We previously reported that the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank is spurring demand for crypto apps.
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