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Hacker Who Stole $611M From Poly Network Returns Nearly Everything, Refuses $500,000 Thank-You Bounty

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The suspected hacker, who claims to have initiated the attack “for fun :),” took hundreds of millions in digital assets after discovering a bug in Poly Network’s system as a way to “keep it safe” from more malicious actors.


Hackers Steal, Then Promise To Return $611M

Around $611 million worth of digital assets were stolen in a cyberattack this week in what appeared to be one of the largest cryptocurrency thefts ever. Now, a person claiming responsibility for the hack has returned nearly all of the money and even refused a $500,000 reward from their victim.

The situation largely began Tuesday morning when the blockchain provider Poly Network publicly announced the theft and said it sought to establish a line of communication with the hacker or hackers involved. In its statement, the company also urged the culprit(s) to return the hacked assets to thousands of victims on its platform.

On Wednesday, in what became the first of several strange turn of events, the hacker(s) told Poly that they were “ready to return” the assets. Several hours later, Poly reported that it had recovered an initial $4.8 million.

At first, it was unknown why the hacker(s) had started to send the money they stole back to Poly.

Tom Robinson, a chief scientist of the blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, told CNBC, “I think this demonstrates that even if you can steal cryptoassets, laundering them and cashing out is extremely difficult, due to the transparency of the blockchain and the use of blockchain analytics.”

“In this case the hacker concluded that the safest option was just to return the stolen assets.”

Others have theorized that the hacker(s) grew afraid of being exposed and prosecuted after researchers found potentially identifying information, including an email and IP address.

Suspected Hacker Says It Was All “For Fun”

Later Wednesday, a person claiming to be behind the attack instead offered a different explanation, saying it was all just “for fun :).”

“Cross chain hacking is hot,” they said.

According to that person, after spotting a bug in Poly’s systems, they took the money to protect it from bad actors who might also find the bug and run off with the money for good.

“I had a mixed feeling,” the reported hacker said. “Ask yourself what to do had you fac[ed] so much fortune. Asking the project team politely so that they can fix it? Anyone could be the traitor given one billion!”

“I can trust nobody! The only solution I can come up with is saving it in a _trusted_ account while keeping myself _anonymous_ and _safe_.”

Hacker Reportedly Turns Down $500,000 Reward

As of Friday morning, Poly said all but $33 million in frozen Tether, a “stablecoin” with a value attached to the U.S. dollar, had been recovered.

However, another $238 million remains locked behind an account that requires passwords from not only Poly Network but also from the hacker. 

“It’s likely that keys held by both Poly Network and the hacker would be required to move the funds — so the hacker could still make these funds inaccessible if they chose to,” Robinson said in a blog post-Friday.

That said, the suspected hacker has promised to provide the final key “when _everyone_ is ready.”

In another message, the reported hacker said Poly Network has offered them immunity and even claimed to have turned down a $500,000 “bug bounty” from Poly for returning the money and “helping us improve [our] security.”

Tech organizations tend to offer bug bounties to those who report security vulnerabilities to them. As such, Poly actually ended up thanking the hacker and has begun referring to them as a “white hat,” a term meant to denote ethical hackers who expose system flaws.  

“After communicating with Mr. White Hat, we have also come to a more complete understanding regarding how the situation unfolded as well as Mr. White Hat’s original intention,” Poly said in a statement to Reuters. 

However weirdly this story may have played out, it nonetheless highlights the inherent risks of decentralized finance platforms and the lack of safeguards they employ compared to traditional banks and exchanges. 

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Reuters) (Engadget)

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China Decrees All Crypto-Related Transactions Illegal

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The announcement has led to significant sell-offs in the crypto market, though many analysts expect those sell-offs to be short-term.


Crypto Is Illegal in China

China’s central bank announced on Friday that all cryptocurrency-related transactions are illegal. 

“Virtual currency-related business activities are illegal financial activities,” the People’s Bank of China said, adding that cryptocurrency “seriously endangers the safety of people’s assets.”

In 2019, China officially banned crypto trading through its domestic exchanges as a way to suppress money laundering, but since then, it has also worked to restrict people in the country from continuing to trade using online foreign exchanges. 

In May, China barred banks and other financial institutions from providing crypto-related transaction services while warning traders that it would not protect them against speculative trading. 

The following month, the province of Sichuan banned crypto mining, which in turn lead to some miners leaving the country. To prove it was serious on its crackdowns, the People’s Bank even ordered one company to shut down in July due to suspicions that it was “providing software services for virtual currency transactions.” 

China’s new decree fully outlaws all online foreign exchanges from offering services in the country. Further, anyone in China who participates in crypto-related activities will be prosecuted. 

The country will also now gradually phase out domestic mining operations, and from this point forward, it will no longer allow new operations to pop up. Between Sept. 2019 and April this year, China fell from accounting for 76% of the world’s Bitcoin energy use to 46%.

Crypto Fears Induce Sell-Off

Major digital currencies such as Bitcoin and ether tumbled after China’s latest decision.

On Friday, Bitcoin, which has never been a stranger to volatility, fell from a 24-hour high of $45,000 to a 24-hour low of $40,800. Meanwhile, ether, the world’s second-largest virtual coin, fell from nearly $3,200 to below $2,800 within the same time frame.

Still, many analysts expect the sell-offs to be short-term given that additional crypto crackdowns by China were already expected. 

Many crypto holders in the country are also worried that their investments will now be forever frozen by China.

“I have already received over a dozen messages – email, phone and encrypted app – from Chinese crypto holders looking for solutions on how to access and protect their crypto holdings in foreign exchanges and cold wallets,” David Lesperance, a Toronto-based attorney who works in the international crypto trading sphere, told CNBC on Friday.

“Along with not being able to do anything with an extremely volatile asset, my suspicion is that… the Chinese government will ‘offer’ them in the future to convert it to e-yuan at a fixed market price,” he added.

Currently, China is one of many countries which has announced plans to develop and launch a digital version of its currency.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNBC) (CNN)

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NY Gov. Says State Will Seek To Replace Some Unvaccinated Staff With Foreign Workers

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The effort is aimed at addressing job shortages in the healthcare industry, which will only become worse next week when medical facilities in the state can begin terminating unvaccinated workers.


NY To Terminate Unvaxxed Medical Staff

Starting Monday, medical facilities in New York state will be allowed to terminate any healthcare workers who haven’t already received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot.

According to data compiled by the state’s Health Department, 19% of hospital workers and 18% of nursing home workers were unvaccinated as of Sept. 15. 

Given that nearly one in five people in the state’s healthcare workforce are unvaccinated, mass terminations could exacerbate problems in a field that is already struggling with job shortages. 

Because of that, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who assumed the position last month following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, said New York is currently “reaching out to the Department of State to find out about visas for foreign workers, on a limited basis, to bring more nurses over here.”

Hochul added that the state is also “working closely with various hospital systems to find out where we can get other individuals to come in and supplement places like nursing homes.”

For now, a clear answer seems uncertain as New York tries to navigate the difficult task of ensuring that healthcare facilities are adequately staffed while also not allowing unvaccinated workers to potentially spread COVID.

Staffers who claim religious exemptions to the vaccine will be able to avoid the deadline and continue working until at least Oct.12, but it’s also possible that their formal challenge could fail in court after that day. Many of those bucking against the requirement are Catholic and oppose the use of “aborted fetal cell lines” that helped develop the vaccine, despite the U.S. Conference of Bishops and Pope Francis both endorsing the vaccine. 

Medical Facilities Fear Shutting Down Over Employee Shortages

Employee shortages have been hitting every sector of the workforce in recent months, but one area where shortages are proving to be particularly disastrous is healthcare. 

According to data published this month by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, “86% of nursing homes and 77% of assisted living providers [surveyed] said their workforce situation has gotten worse over the last three months.” Around 50% of both types of facilities indicated that staffing issues have gotten “much worse.” 

The same survey found that “nearly every nursing home (99%) and assisted living community (96%)” in the country is currently facing a staffing shortage, which is leading to nearly all workers taking on overtime or extra shifts. As a result, many facilities have had to limit admissions.

Perhaps even more concerning is that 78% of nursing homes and 71% of assisted living communities are worried these shortages might force them to close.

Around 70% of both types of facilities said they believe the staffing shortages are due to a lack of interested or qualified candidates, coupled with unemployment benefits discouraging people from work. The next greatest cause of the shortages was the loss of staffers due to vaccination requirements, which was indicated by about 40% of respondents.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (New York Post) (ABC Rochester)

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Couple Kicked Out of Texas Restaurant for Wearing Masks Out of Concern for Immunocompromised Son

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While the pair has been met with widespread support online, they’ve also had to defend themselves from critics who slammed them for going out to a restaurant in the first place.


Texas Restaurant Sparks Outrage With Face Mask Ban

A couple in Texas said they were forced to leave Hang Time Bar & Grill earlier this month after refusing to comply with the owner’s ban on face masks.

Natalie Wester and her husband Jose Lopez-Guerrero went out to meet friends at the restaurant in Rowlett on Sept. 10. They told NBC’s TODAY this was a rare date night for them since they are new parents to a four-month boy who has cystic fibrosis.

The pair wore their masks out in public to be as safe as possible with their son in mind as he stayed home with his grandmother that night.

According to a Facebook post from Wester, they were immediately asked to take down their face coverings when entering the restaurant. Because the music was loud, they assumed it was related to staff checking their IDs, so they put their masks back on and went to order. After ordering, Wester said a waitress came over to tell her, “Our manager sent me over because I’m nicer than he is. And yes, this is political.“

“She then told me that masks are not allowed in their building, and they can make the rules because they are [a] private business,” Wester wrote in her post. “She said that the mask ‘doesn’t work, is like using a chain-link fence to keep out mosquitoes, and doesn’t give people enough oxygen.'”

Wester allegedly explained that they were wearing masks out of concern for their immunocompromised baby at home. However, she was reportedly told there was no other option and that they would have to close out their tab if they didn’t comply.

Because the couple didn’t want to make a scene or ruin their friends’ night, they decided to go home and wrote about their experience on Facebook, which they also left as a review on the restaurant’s page. It, of course, went viral.

Owner Stands by Policy

Since then, the owner of the restaurant, Thomas Blackmer, has admitted on Facebook and to reporters that he doesn’t allow masks inside his business.

He told The Washington Post that he implemented the ban in April because he doesn’t think masks stop COVID from spreading and believes criminals can use them to get away with a robbery, theft, or vandalism in a place where his two adult children work.

“I’m not doing things that put them at risk,” he added.

He has also reportedly shared anti-vax and anti-mask content on social media.

After news of this incident spread, Blackner was was hit with a flood of backlash both over the phone and online. He claims he even had to move from his Dallas apartment into one he’d already rented but hadn’t moved to after he was doxxed on Twitter. 

Still, he is not backing down on his stance. “This is right,” he told The Post, “and if we don’t have a business next week, we’ll be fine.”

Meanwhile, the couple at the center of this story has also faced backlash from people who asked why they went out in the first place. Many are digging through their social media posts to call them out about any other times they were spotted without a mask or at a large gathering. 

For example, strangers found a photo of Wester not wearing a mask in August while taking her mom to see a Chris Stapleton concert. Wester told The Post she wore a mask inside the venue until they got to their seats and decided to take some pictures.

The couple has also responded by noting that their son’s doctors have encouraged them to still live their lives, telling TODAY that they “just advised us to be a little extra cautious when we’re going out and use our brains and make decisions as we feel appropriate, and that’s why we left.”

Wester additionally argued that photos of her without masks or at events don’t negate any part of their experience at this specific establishment.

“Tom has stated that he does not care for masks nor believes that they work,” she told The Post. “I am confused why me wearing one (or not wearing one) in any setting would matter to them?”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (TODAY)(Dallas Morning News)

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