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Everyday info sec, hardcore info sec, and DNMs
Edit: Currently writing a new version of this, dont know when it will be done. Edit: Since first post I have updated a few sections with additional information. I recommend reading it all even if it is very long, I might have placed some relevant info in different sections while thinking about what else needed to be added, plenty of steps remains mostly the same except when I comment directly on it. It is not necessary to do 100% security all the time, unless you absolutely need it, combining some high and some lower security ideas for a balance of security and convenience is useful. I will base this mostly on Windows, Linux users probably know this, and I have no idea how apple machines work (tho many things in here are still relevant for other operating systems, as they are just general tips) Disclaimer: There are certainly other steps that can make you more anonymous or safer, however I think for most people this will surfice. Any software I recommend should be independently verified for security, and examples of software are not to be taken as endorsements. I simply use examples and give recommendations when I believe it necessary, or helpful. I will not really differentiate between anonymity and security, they are often the same thing. As such the word security can mean either more anonymous, less vulnerable, or both. -------- Everyday Simple Info Sec:
Password for the device is an obvious one (8+ characters minimum, best if over +12), if there is sensitive information on any of the drives, either encrypt the entire drive or just the sensitive files, and make encrypted backups on a different memory storage device (There many programs to encrypt files and drives I'm sure a search will figure it out)
-There could be a hidden administrator user on your PC, make sure to change its password
Always use the device on a non admin account
a VPN that doesn't log (use with kill switch on, should be enough for everyday stuff, more safe stuff in the high security section) (VPNs that claim they don't log sometimes do, it's bad, but I would like to point out that not using a VPN will always expose your traffic to your ISP and also remove additional encryption. Even if the VPN tracks, there is no downside because your ISP would track anyways, and VPNs can be more anonymous, and also add extra encryption)
disable location tracking (preferably make all your privacy setting to release minimal info, get rid or cortana, change privacy settings in all of your accounts as well, there's no reason why you should allow Facebook to give you target ads. Use the setting they give you.
TOR, Firefox or similar browser, stay the fuck away from Google Chrome.
your preferred search engine should be duckduckgo (other privacy focused search engines exist as well)
use an adblocker that also prevents the adding of tacking cookies
Use pgp with all your friends or messaging services that implemented end to end encryption (Implemented services can still be bypassed, but are way more convenient so for everyday use they should suffice, some examples should be Telegraph, Signal, WhatsApp etc) (more info on pgp in high security section)
(Snapchat msgs, reddit dms, discord msgs, are just a few examples of msgs that are never encrypted) -Any info even send in encrypted msgs (and obviously non encrypted) should still be kept with possible deniability, don't say "I'm gonna do MDMA", say "I'm going out with molly."
use software (like ccleaner) that purges cookies and other data after every use, before shutting down your device
use a virus scanner daily (I like spy bot Search and destroy, many other options also exist)
never use the same password/passphrase twice (I will address what passphrase are below) (Better yet use randomized passwords that are stored in a master key chain, make them as long as possible (tho it is okay to go with the minimum of 12 never go below 7, I recommend 15+ depending on how often you have to manually enter the password instead of copying/pasting it) Don't generate too long keys for things you need to access regularly without copy/paste, except your master key ring)
its ideal to never use the same email or username as well, especially username, email is obviously tricky and also very annoying, but it would be best to always change the email.
-DO NOT STORE ANY PASSWORDS ON GOOGLE, IF GOOGLE LOGIN IS AUTHENTICATED IT WILL AUTFILL ALL PASSWORDS IT HAS SAVED (same with other similar services) (This means if you are logged in to chrome and someone has access to your machine, they can auto fill passwords without entering a single password) -use a rememberable passphrase, especially for your master key ring aka password manager A long sentence that is memorable makes an okay password (decent example,: "I met my wife at Little Ceasers for the first time on 07/09/20" better even if it's just something you know, if its impersonal, and if you can add special characters or numbers that you won't forget) (A better example for a passphrase is: "There is 0nly 0ne letter that d0esn’t appear in any U.S. state nameQ")
for your main password manager(key ring), I highly recommend Keepass 2, make backups of the file save to separate devices and drives (Flash drives, phone, PC, laptop, etc, if you loose that file, you lose all of your passwords) (Other good password managers exist as well, I don't recommend online password managers as you lose the control over passwords)
-Purge your internet activity frequently, there's a reason why I only have one post, and a few comments appearing in my account, but thousands of kama. Exposing information needlessly is not good. -Never post private information publicly, and if you do, do it vaguely as possible. (Example: Not "I'm 15", say "I'm a teenager") Do not post any vital information ever, no birthdays, mother's maiden name, age, or anything you have ever seen in a security question. Never post your current activities while they are ongoing. You going on a vacation? Don't announce it to the world, taking picture there? Post them when you are home.
Any account that is supposed to remain anonymous and as secure as possible should only be used on secured devices. A unsecured device can link you to the account.
always shutdown your machine when leaving it (To prevent access, and to prevent a possible attack vector)
2 factor factor authentication is not great anymore. Unless you can do it over a anonymous source. A cell phone is usually directly connected to you, so it is not a anonymous device. There might still be secure/anonymous 2 factor authentication methods that won't expose you, for example over a secure email. (If there is 2FA that doesn't need a device that removes anonymity and is secure, use it.) (Please don't misunderstand, 2FA is great, however it can remove the anonymity that you worked hard to establish)
-Rethink how you do security questions. Many answers to security questions can be found in your internet history. One could use the first word of the security question as an answer, or a different sceme that will mean you always remember it. (Security question need to go, the amount of personal info an average person puts on the internet makes it easy to attack anything using security question) -------_ High level crimimal information security: The motto here is, "All the Security, All the Time" As one fuck up can end with you leaving a lick of traceability, and you could be fucked. Pre Note: All of your software should always be up to date. Also even perfect info sec does not guarantee you are completely safe, a new zero day (exploit) can still fuck you, but good info security makes you significantly safer, by eliminating as many attacks as possible. -Get a new device (or make a already owned device seem like you never owned it, do this only if you know how to, there's a lot of stuff that goes into that, like changing your mac adress etc) buy with cash, and your face covered, preferably far away from where you live. (Do I need to specify to not bring your phone or anything else that tracks your location to anywhere you want to go anonymously?) (Be aware that even hardware can have vulnerabilities, many cpus have known vulnerabilities, I can't list them all, do some research before buying)
Do not EVER use a high security device at any lower level of security. There are unique identifiers to your device, exposing them once can expose you for everything you do.
-If you know how to use Tails (A linux distro designed for Info sec) use that, preferably on a USB. (Or learn how to use tails, its better, but complicated) Otherwise a clean copy of windows (make sure its not in any way associated with you) can do the job too, tho not as well. (Using a VM might give extra security, since VMs usually erase all data and RAM they were using on shutdown) -Get a non tracking VPN, Enable the kill switch (a setting that disables all traffic that doesn't go through the VPN) (change your firewall settings to only allow the traffic from the VPN, windows guide (Change settings so only traffic from the tor application is send) Edit: (Due to complaints: do not use vpn over tor, use tor over vpn. tor over vpn has no notable downside, if the VPN logs it makes no difference, your ISP will always log anyways, and vpns remove other attack vectors and also provide backup security should tor fail. Again even if the VPN tracks you only change the people doing the tracking, but now you are further removed making it more anonymous and also with less vulnerabilities) -rember privacy settings, cookie cleaner, and antivirus, password (There could be a hidden administrator user on your PC, make sure to change its password) -Always use the device on a non admin account
-Ideally use this device only on networks that are not connected with you. Such as public networks (try to never use the same public networks twice, move around) (a home network should be fine now, as it should never be exposed, but more security is always better) (Its just a conveniences vs security trade) -Never use accounts that have been exposed to lower security on higher security machines -your browser is now TOR (or your preferred security focused browser, if you dont plan on using onion ) Make sure you get the standalone version of tor not the addon build (the standalone is safer, because there are less settings and options to tweak) -Change your tor settings, to safest mode, enable a bridge (to my knowledge there's no difference in security between the build in bridges in tor), enable automatic updates, set duckduckgo onion as your primary browser. Set dark.fail onion page as your home page. (Or your preferred privacy search engine and onion directory)
set up a new pgp (can't use the same one you use for regular use, again less safer accounts are never used on safer devices) Cleopatra is my choice, its simple to use. Make sure you back up the private key multiple times, on safe devices. (Dont let the private key fall into anyone's hands) Give it a generic name like "HighSecurityPGP" do not give the pgp key pair a name that could identify you. (No initials etc) (Some pgp key pair programs want an associated email for a key pair, you can create a safe email, or which I recoend you can use a different program (like Cleopatra) (Feds & LEOs are known to copy private keys if they have your machine, so you will need to set up a new key pair if they ever take a device with a private key copy)
a high security machine that facilitates criminal activity can not use many programs. Many programs collect your devices mac adress, which is a unique identifier, amongst other things. It's should be used only for the activity you want to do.
-------_ How to use dark net markets (DNMs) If you finished your High Security setup, we can dive right in. Otherwise go do that. This is where all that is essential. Quick info on Tor, and onion sites. There is no search engine. It's all based of directories and addresses you are given by others. Tor will likely not be very quick, it has to pass through multiple networks to get to the destination. DNMs sometimes exit scam, an exit scam is when a market shuts down completely and takes all the money, this is a risk when using DNMs, it's not too common but happens maybe 0-4 times a year. The admins of thoese servers need to get out at some point, before they get jailed, so they exit the game, and scam everyone out of their money. -A very useful onion directory is dark.fail it has a lot of links, for all kinds of stuff. News, email, DNMs, Psychonautwiki (harm reduction website), forums etc. (Other directories also exist) -Pick a market, preferably one that handles secure connection server side instead of requiring you to establish the secure connection. Then create an account. Your account once created should include an entry box in your profile for a pgp key, post your PUBLIC key in there. (Verify the link is not a scam, most markets should provide a pgp signature) -Next is currency setup. All major cryptocurrency exchangers can be used, I can recommend coin base but there could be better ones out there. Unless you find a small non U.S., exchange, they will always ask for your identity. So unless you can find a trustworthy exchange that doesn't ID, you will need to give it to them. (Side note, all major crypto exchangers report to the IRS, if the IRS asks you if you bought cryptocurrency and you bought while having IDed yourself SAY YES, DO NOT COMMIT TAX FRAUD WHEN THEY KNOW YOU DID)
I recommend using Monero, it's hard to track, so it makes your job a lot easier. (If you use bitcoin you should run it through a scrambler, because BTC is tracable to anyone who knows what they are doing)
-Transfer (monero you can send directly, btc you should scramble) to your wallet. There are two options a cold wallet (physical) or a software wallet. Software wallets usually dont cost anything so I recommend them, even if often less safe. Electrum is easy to use, and pretty safe. You can also do your own research and find a wallet that fits your needs.
decide where you want to ship it. You can send to your home, to a PO box, to a PO box that you opened with a fake ID (I don't recommend), an abandoned house, general mail (sending to a post office instead of a street adress) pickup up with fake ID, use a remailing service. These are some options, sending it to your own home, isn't ideal, but its pretty much the only easy way.
-now you are ready to buy, only buy using escrow (it means the money is held by the market as a middle man until the product is delivered, they will also handle any issues like wrong quantity, cuts, etc), judge the reviews for a product, and if available look at the history of the vendor, until you find a product from a vendor you trust. (I recommend to buy within your country as much as possible, so it doesn't go through customs, it's very rare that something is found, but it can happen) -now you get to buy, depending on market, you either have cryptocurrency stored in their wallets (not recommend, you will lose it in an exit scam) or you can send it every order. When you send your delivery adress (or the one you want it to go to) encrypt the adress using the sellers public key. Make sure the adress is correct. -wait for the product, make sure to extend the escrow until the product arrives, if you can't extend it anymore dispute the order, and a moderator will step in -test the product, use it, and leave a review. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW, DNMs only work because of reviews. Edit: Didn't imagine I would write over 15000 words. Oh well, it was fun. Hope it helps, if you have any questions feel free to ask. No idea how long this will stay up, I might purge it in 7 days, or never.
Ultimate glossary of crypto currency terms, acronyms and abbreviations
List of current UI/UX issues & possible QoL improvements (Megathread?)
As some of you know, I only make stupidly long posts and also like to humbly brag about being a software engineer with fairly decent experience in QA, automated testing and testing in general (6+ years a C# dev). This is my personal list of things that either make no sense, are unpleasant, incoherent, or could be improved. Please feel free to add to the list, I will come back and edit every day. Numbers are also here to help you quote & provide your own criticism. Note that is is done with the following optimization mindset, in order of importance :
Remove redundancy / incoherence
Reduce time spent in menus/inventory (out of raid)
Reduce number of clicks / interactions
As you can see I worked under the assumption that the average player wants to spend more time in raid rather than in inventory ; obviously this falls apart if that is not the case. To do that I try to improve time spent on searching / arranging things without creating unecessary automation or remove important/immersive aspects of the game, even in inventory. I also try to improve time spent clicking through various windows as currently a lot of them are done to be fast & easy to for the devs, not for the players. I want to emphasize that I'm okay with that. I know the importance of having sub-optimal navigation to help you find out what your better navigation is. I also know a complete rework is not always possible, that is why I made my list without changing too much of the menus as well as keeping the vibe/current feel of those menus. Keywords like should & could are used as intended ; since this is not a professional report I'm emphasizing here, the meaning of the word is important. Should means it is adding an improvement over an existing issue, could means it's a possible improvement but requires further investigation. Would means investigation was done and is just one possible outcome usually relevant within the context. Please note that most of us now are very used to the current UI/UX, which will generate two reactions: - "It's fine as it is because I can do it quite fast." - "I don't want it to change again, I'm used to it now." I cannot emphasize how unefficient it is to let those emotions get the best of you. UI/UX is the study of common sense & ease of use in an interface. You should never have to get used to anything, it should be fluid and intuitive. If you think you're fast now, that means it's possible to be slow. This is extremely bad for a UI/UX standpoint. Everybody should be able to navigate/understand the menus just as fast the 1st time than the 100th time (ideally). Keep this in mind when you read everything down here, because some stuff you probably won't like at first glance, but you will get used to it very fast, and you will gain a lot of time in the future, as well as new players.
Currently when in the workbench (and I think others? now I doubt), the list of craftable items appears to be random. The order should always be the same for consistency. Does not provide meaningful gameplay experience to have to "look for the recipe" every time.
4. Collecting crafts
Hideout stations could display the finished craft on top for easy collection of craft, or there could be a "Get Items" or "Receive All" elsewhere to avoid unecessary scrolling. This is uncessary if ongoing crafts are moved on top of the list, or if the list is autoscrolled to the ongoing craft. "Collect All" on station level is not the best idea. If you go in a station, it's probably better that you know what you're collecting. I suggest moving the relevant craft on top or auto scrolling and not adding "receive all" on station level, although it would be a good help. This should be investigated. Receive All or Get Items could be moved or added at the top or bottom of the window.
5. "Receive All" could exist at hideout level
The same way we "receive all" from a trader, it would be nice to "Receive all" from the hideout. Either in the form of a trader (in which we can receive all / pick manually from) or by instantly putting it in inventory. If there is enough space it just works. If there isn't, it displays an error like it already does. This is not mutually exclusive with the previous suggestion.
6. Display crafts readyness/collection
6.1 Hideout The current behaviour is partially coherent. You get notified when an item is sold, and you get notified when a craft is finished. You have a display notification "Attachment" style when a trader has something for you, and you should get a display notification "attachment" style when the hideout has something for you. Ideally, there should also be such notifications for currently unused station Receive all on the right, Nutrition unit has finished crafting and Lavatory is currently NOT crafting 6.2 Traders There should be a way of knowing if something is waiting in trader inventory on a global level (quest rewards, money, insurance, unsold market items returns), like the nofication. The "new item" notification could be always visible as long as items are in the trader inventories, compared to now where it disappears as soon as you either click it or visit the messenger. In this hypothesis, there could be a change of color in the notification to show that there are still item waiting including some that haven't been seen yet (to still fulfill the current role of the notification)
Note : CTA = Call to Action, it's the button your user will press 99.3% of the time. Example, in the launcher, it's the "Start Game". Clearly visible, easily accessible, highlighted, much bigger, and at a very common CTA spot. That one is great. Some others are not. 7.1. "Receive All" should not be displayed when there is nothing to receive. 7.2 "Get" in single transaction messages from Ragman could be removed. There is no reason to take single items from the window when you can receive it all at once. 7.3 A "group collect" Receive all action could be added when you click on the attachment notification, or as an extra action next to the notification (just like shown on the Hideout in figure 6.0) that would specifically collect all. it would loop through all conversations and collect all and dump at the top of stash, either until its finished or there is not enough room, in which case it displays an error. It could also work like the scav case and not pick up anything until you have room, and in that case you would go in the window manually and/or make room (like we do now). 7.3 The "Receive all" is at the bottom when most CTAs in the game is at the top (dealer tabs, market tabs, character sheet tabs, settings...). Save in the settings is at the bottom too. It is incoherent. It would make more sense to have all CTAs at the bottom and options/tabs/menus at the top. 7.4 The "DEAL" button in trader view is much smaller and less visible than the "Fill Item" checkbox. The CTA should be getting more attention than a setting. New players pretty much *never* see it first and look around the "Fill Item" with eyes & mouse. DEAL should be at the bottom in the current \"Fill Item\" box. Fill Items should be removed entirely. 7.5 Quests could be automatically accepted (no need for CTA). I don't see a reason why someone would not accept a quest. The only reason we're Accepting them now is to let the user know he has a new quest. There are other means of notifying players of new stuff : usually notifications. If not, that button should at least be more visible/highlighted. Every new player ( 100%! ) I coach does not see it at first and never looks at the right spot the first time. 7.6 "Insure All" is the most commonly used button in the insurance screen and could be emphasized more. Example 7.5
8. Remove "Fill Items"
The Fill Items to automatically fill the trader's requirements should be removed and set as the default behaviour. There is no need to fill items manually nor tell the game to do so.
9. Expire / Delete pending requests
Friend requests should be cancellable and could expire. Requests should not be stuck until another user acts on them. Right clicking the request could display a "Cancel" or "Delete" request button. Ideally, the cell should include a CTA on the right, as the only action I would ever do in a cell in this context is cancel. Opening a submenu with only 1 item means youshould notbe opening a submenu, but displaying a button where the user right clicked instead. I can only re-send a friend request to someone that already denied me. This is incoherent.
10. Market Rows
From my somewhat small sample (about 60 players), nobody uses the expand button on the top right of a cell (see below). I think everybody uses the right click on item instead. An expanded cell with context menu opened, and a collapsed cell The extra information available on the right is the exact same as a right click, but is hidden behind a left click. This is incoherent. The only difference is the profile picture that I only get from expanding, but currently we all have the same one. This would need to be investigated. This could be an improvement, displaying the CTA's immediately (although BUY is definitely way too small). Notice profile picture on the left 10.1 The expandable cell feature should be removed altogether, as the other options are available on right click. 10.2 The whole row should provide the same context menu (right click). 10.3 The "Send friend request" could be included in the row's context menu, or could be removed entirely, as right now most requests are missclicks. Adding the Send Friend Request at the bottom of the context menu on the row would reduce the amount of missclicks. 10.4 Left clicking should not open the context menu. This is mostly the reason behind missclick friend requests, people double clicking slightly off the item icon sending a friend request by mistake. Now I have 4 just because I was trying to make a screenshot. F's in the chat. This would be resolved with 10.2 and 10.3. 10.5 Barter items have a "Barter" icon that is redundant, the first and second column are completely irrelevant to the player. Example 10.5
11. Filtering search
11.1 "Filter by Item" should not filter the browse list. If you're writing a valid keyword in the search field it should display the correct suggestions. Filtering content is good, filtering suggestions is incoherent. 11.2 Filters could be cleared as soon as you type text in the search field. This would resolve 11.1 Example 11 11.3 "My Offers" could not be affected by filters, or could reset filters. It is more trouble to remove the filter manually every time rather than browsing through the offer list. Currently we never have more than ~10 offers at the same time for most players, which is okay to display without filter. 11.4 Filters should not overlap with other UI elements, they could be resized to fit or the expandable filter list could include more elements so the visible ones fit. Example 11.4 11.5 The Remember Selected Filter / Reset Filter is unclear. Looks great, feels weird, and should be investigated to be more useful.
12. Context Menu in player lobby
The current lobby with context menu open All players in this list are looking for a group, there is no need to write a status "Looking for group", it's redundant. The exception is friends, which 99.633...% of the time is the group i'm about to play with. Those are displayed on top. The only action we do on the list on this screen is the "Invite to group" context menu action. It's a CTA and should not be hidden in a context menu, especially if the context menu only has one option. Since recently it has two, but we'll come to that in a minute. 12.1 The invite CTA should be on the player cell itself. 12.2 The report action should not be the default one from the context menu 12.3 Since there could be only one item in the context menu according to 12.1, the report action could be on the cell as well. A low quality suggestion for 12.x
13. Trader Buy/Sell
Trader screen needs to be reworked. I won't provide a solution that doesn't completely change how everything looks/works as I stated at the start of the post. That being said this should be improved. Example 13.1 13.1 Buying UI should be reworked. When buying, the price of the item is already displayed on the item itself in the trader view. The price is also displayed a second time in the tooltip of the item if you mouse-over. The price is also displayed a third time in the barter area on the right of the image (middle of the screen in game). This is redundant. I understand the item on the right is the physical item "Roubles" in a stack that is paid, like a barter, but it does not need to be displayed a third time. 13.2 Quantity limit (red box in the image) could be shown in the tooltip ; most of the time people will hit "DEAL" until they get an error insted of actually reading the red box. 13.3 The red box looks like an error even when at 0/x, this is not intuitive. Limited items can be listed in different ways that are not so invasive. We could add "out of X" at the right side of the quantity box. 13.4 Barter item prices (if we assume 13.1) would need to also displayed differently. This needs to be investigated 13.5 Selling UI should be reworked Example 13.5 Currently selling an item still displays the full available items to BUY, this is incoherent. Especially from the "Sell" tab. The whole left side of the screen is wasted, and cannot be used. 13.6 Items on the left are not greyed out (even though I can't buy them), but items on the right are greyed out (because I can't sell them). This is incoherent. 13.7 Trader sell space should be infinite 13.8 Buy/Sell could be done in a single tab if the whole screen is reworked. There are different levels to this. An easy one I could think : "Trade" Tab instead of "Buy". Displays the same as the current "BUY" tab. If you ctrl+click an item from your stash, it instantly sells without confirmation. The second tab would be a "Buyback" where you can see what you sold in the current trade session. If you leave the screen your buyback is reset and items cannot be recovered. Another way would be to keep buybacks for the last X items. You would need to pay what you received to get back. The item would not lose it's FiR status. This preleminary and simplistic rework has issues, notably that you have to know to right click to sell. One way to fix that would be to make right click sell to trader instead of control click, but that would definitely make missclicks the first few days (and buyback would be mandatory). This could be investigated. 13.9 Currency exchange rates should be easily available in relevant areas (Peacekeeper, Therapist and flea market) for all currencies (Rouble, Euro, Dollar, Bitcoin)
Items should be boxables and moved around. At least to be dropped in boxes, ideally to be moved around freely. There is a limit of 20 images. 🤷♂ Example 14
15. Quest inventory
If you loot too many quest items in a raid, you can end up not being able to loot it. I assume this is by design and it is why you have limited quest item space. The quest inventory could be infinite if it's not by design to be limited. The quest inventory should be manageable. In my case i had a 1 slot item blocking me from taking the suitcase, I should have been allowed to move that 1 slot item to the top or to the right of my inventory, clearing a whole line and letting me take the case. Quest items could be stored in backpack (and resized) ; since you lose them on death it's not relevant to the players looting you or you dying and that issue would be gone. Storing it in your stash would also prevent you from losing it by going in raid with it by mistake. Taking it in raid or giving it to trader would be a volontary action. It also makes much more sense that way as other quest items (that are also usable items) work that way. Alright this ended up taking more time than my lunchbreak, and there is *much* more to write but for the time being I'll leave it at that and come tomorrow to add your suggestions or mine. See you in 24 hours.
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
Popcorn Time takes its inspiration from Netflix, boasting a clean outlook with thumbnails and categories - And streams pirated copies of movies and shows to your computer or smartphone
Editors note: There are many fake versions of Popcorn Time. This article primarily use Reddit as its source to recommend and link to the official, well regarded, version of the app. When you think of movie streaming, services like Hulu, Disney+, and Netflix usually come to mind. However, there is another streaming platform that is particularly popular for streaming pirated movies: Popcorn Time. This streaming platform allows you to watch torrented and pirated movies without paying anything. All you need to do is install it on your PC/smartphone/tablet, search for a film, and click play. However, there are piracy and safety concerns when it comes to using Popcorn Time. This is how it works.
What Exactly is Popcorn Time?
How it Works
How to Install Popcorn Time
Which version is legit?
Where does popcorn time store movies?
Popcorn Time APK for Android
Is Popcorn Time available on iOS?
Is it Illegal to Use Popcorn Time?
How does the developers make money?
Popcorn Time alternatives
What Exactly is Popcorn Time?
Popcorn Time is an open-source, multi-platform BitTorrent software application with a stylish and attractive media player. It was initially released in March 2014 by a team of developers in Argentina. They wanted to create a software that allows users to stream video content from torrent. Popcorn Time takes its inspiration from Netflix, boasting a clean outlook with thumbnails and categories. It uses sequential downloading and uploading to play movies, hence allowing you to stream pirated movies instantly. Popcorn Time on the Mac
How it Works
Popcorn Time is a torrent based streaming tool and the way it works is simple enough. Let’s say you want to watch Tenet (it's not out as of this writing). You use the interface provided by the platform to find and click that title, and the tool then navigates through existing BitTorrent titles automatically from come from two well known torrent sites. YTS for movies and eztv for tv-shows. Then, Tenet is streamed directly to your computer from that pre-existing BitTorrent source. So, while you watch the film, Popcorn Times acts as a torrent client and continues to leech and seed it from other people. That means you'll be forced to share the content you watch.
How to Install Popcorn Time?
In order to use Popcorn Time to stream pirated movies, you will need to download and install the software on your computer or smartphone. The app is available for variety of operating systems, including Android, Linux, Windows, Mac, etc.
Download Popcorn Time from popcorntime.app which hosts Mac, Windows and Android.
There are no specific installation requirements as it is installed just like any other app.
However, keep in mind that its usage has been banned in many regions. So, you cannot download it from Apple’s Apple Store or Google Play Store. In some countries popcorntime.app has been blocked and you need a VPN to hide your real IP. You might want to use VPN software to keep your own information private and anonymous when running the app as well.
Which version is legit, and real?
There are many clones out there, some of which will install other apps, using your computer as a bitcoin miner. The legit, and most supported version according to Reddit, is popcorntime.app (formerly known as popcorntime.sh)
Where does popcorn time store movies?
On your computer or device. Using torrents the app stream the files, while they are being downloaded. So it's just like when you download a torrent, except it starts the video during the download.
Yes. But it's not as easy as downloading an app from the App store.The iPhone version of Popcorn Time is unstable and requires a jailbroken iPhone. Since jailbreaking your iPhone in 2020 is difficult and time consuming, it isn't an option for most. If you still want to try, there is Antique's version. You can follow his updates and links on Twitter. There is also a version which allegedly works with the alternative, non-jailbreak required, but much debated, altstore. For more information, see its Github home.
Is it Illegal to Use Popcorn Time?
In most cases, yes. Most, if not all, TV shows and movies which appear on Popcorn Time are pirated, and you may be wondering about the legality of it all. First of all, downloading any copyrighted file is illegal in most countries. However, torrents themselves are a valid means to share and download files. So without sounding too confusing, it is typically not illegal to download Popcorn Time. It's when you stream or download the movies and tv-shows themselves it gets risky. But depending on where you live this might not be the case. Copyright infringement is illegal in Germany while in India, there are no restrictions of using Popcorn Time to steam movies as long as you don’t redistribute them. Of course, laws change. That’s why it is recommended that you do your research to understand the risks.
How does the developers make money?
The Popcorn time version we recommend has affiliate links to VPN services. How much money this actually is, or if its funding hardware costs, is unknown. But it proves that money is being generated from the app.
Are there any alternatives?
There are a lot of alternatives, most of which are unstable or shady. However, here are a few alternatives recommended on Reddit. Note that they all come with their own positive and negatives aspects when compared to Popcorn Time.
Stremio - Open source project which lets you add your own sources, such as 1337 or Pirate Bay. It also uses official streams from YouTube, HBO and more. Has been reported as unstable but still the best Popcorn alternative.
Media Box HD - A MacOS app with 4K streams. Is known to be unstable for some.
Leonfix - A Popcorn Time Windows app which doesn't use torrents. Currently in beta.
ShowBox - Android alternative which doesn't use torrents. Unstable and currently in beta.
Radarr - Which automatically downloads shows and films.
Despite the concerns about whether or not using Popcorn Time is illegal, there is no denying that the tool is very impressive. The ability to download and stream torrent content in a seamless and hassle-free way is quite brilliant. Not to mention the platform has a much larger library of content with no restrictions whatsoever. So, it’s not surprising why many consider it a better alternative to regular torrents or a Disney+ subscription. Feedback and corrections are more than welcome! Originally written for Where You Watch.
Why Osana takes so long? (Programmer's point of view on current situation)
I decided to write a comment about «Why Osana takes so long?» somewhere and what can be done to shorten this time. It turned into a long essay. Here's TL;DR of it:
The cost of never paying down this technical debt is clear; eventually the cost to deliver functionality will become so slow that it is easy for a well-designed competitive software product to overtake the badly-designed software in terms of features. In my experience, badly designed software can also lead to a more stressed engineering workforce, in turn leading higher staff churn (which in turn affects costs and productivity when delivering features). Additionally, due to the complexity in a given codebase, the ability to accurately estimate work will also disappear. Junade Ali, Mastering PHP Design Patterns (2016)
Longer version: I am not sure if people here wanted an explanation from a real developer who works with C and with relatively large projects, but I am going to do it nonetheless. I am not much interested in Yandere Simulator nor in this genre in general, but this particular development has a lot to learn from for any fellow programmers and software engineers to ensure that they'll never end up in Alex's situation, especially considering that he is definitely not the first one to got himself knee-deep in the development hell (do you remember Star Citizen?) and he is definitely not the last one. On the one hand, people see that Alex works incredibly slowly, equivalent of, like, one hour per day, comparing it with, say, Papers, Please, the game that was developed in nine months from start to finish by one guy. On the other hand, Alex himself most likely thinks that he works until complete exhaustion each day. In fact, I highly suspect that both those sentences are correct! Because of the mistakes made during early development stages, which are highly unlikely to be fixed due to the pressure put on the developer right now and due to his overall approach to coding, cost to add any relatively large feature (e.g. Osana) can be pretty much comparable to the cost of creating a fan game from start to finish. Trust me, I've seen his leaked source code (don't tell anybody about that) and I know what I am talking about. The largest problem in Yandere Simulator right now is its super slow development. So, without further ado, let's talk about how «implementing the low hanging fruit» crippled the development and, more importantly, what would have been an ideal course of action from my point of view to get out. I'll try to explain things in the easiest terms possible.
else if's and lack any sort of refactoring in general
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This is why refactoring — activity of rewriting your old code so it does the same thing, but does it quicker, in a more generic way, in less lines or simpler — is so powerful. In my experience, you can only keep one module/class/whatever in your brain if it does not exceed ~1000 lines, maybe ~1500. Splitting 17000-line-long class into smaller classes probably won't improve performance at all, but it will make working with parts of this class way easier. Is it too late now to start refactoring? Of course NO: better late than never.
If you think that you wrote this code, so you'll always easily remember it, I have some bad news for you: you won't. In my experience, one week and that's it. That's why comments are so crucial. It is not necessary to put a ton of comments everywhere, but just a general idea will help you out in the future. Even if you think that It Just Works™ and you'll never ever need to fix it. Time spent to write and debug one line of code almost always exceeds time to write one comment in large-scale projects. Moreover, the best code is the code that is self-evident. In the example above, what the hell does (float) 6 mean? Why not wrap it around into the constant with a good, self-descriptive name? Again, it won't affect performance, since C# compiler is smart enough to silently remove this constant from the real code and place its value into the method invocation directly. Such constants are here for you. I rewrote my code above a little bit to illustrate this. With those comments, you don't have to remember your code at all, since its functionality is outlined in two tiny lines of comments above it. Moreover, even a person with zero knowledge in programming will figure out the purpose of this code. It took me less than half a minute to write those comments, but it'll probably save me quite a lot of time of figuring out «what was I thinking back then» one day. Is it too late now to start adding comments? Again, of course NO. Don't be lazy and redirect all your typing from «debunk» page (which pretty much does the opposite of debunking, but who am I to judge you here?) into some useful comments.
This is often neglected, but consider the following. You wrote some code, you ran your game, you saw a new bug. Was it introduced right now? Is it a problem in your older code which has shown up just because you have never actually used it until now? Where should you search for it? You have no idea, and you have one painful debugging session ahead. Just imagine how easier it would be if you've had some routines which automatically execute after each build and check that environment is still sane and nothing broke on a fundamental level. This is called unit testing, and yes, unit tests won't be able to catch all your bugs, but even getting 20% of bugs identified at the earlier stage is a huge boon to development speed. Is it too late now to start adding unit tests? Kinda YES and NO at the same time. Unit testing works best if it covers the majority of project's code. On the other side, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If you decide to start refactoring your code, writing a unit test before refactoring will help you to prove to yourself that you have not broken anything without the need of running the game at all.
This is basically pretty self-explanatory. You set this thing once, you forget about it. Static code analyzer is another «free estate» to speed up the development process by finding tiny little errors, mostly silly typos (do you think that you are good enough in finding them? Well, good luck catching x << 4; in place of x <<= 4; buried deep in C code by eye!). Again, this is not a silver bullet, it is another tool which will help you out with debugging a little bit along with the debugger, unit tests and other things. You need every little bit of help here. Is it too late now to hook up static code analyzer? Obviously NO.
Say, you want to build Osana, but then you decided to implement some feature, e.g. Snap Mode. By doing this you have maybe made your game a little bit better, but what you have just essentially done is complicated your life, because now you should also write Osana code for Snap Mode. The way game architecture is done right now, easter eggs code is deeply interleaved with game logic, which leads to code «spaghettifying», which in turn slows down the addition of new features, because one has to consider how this feature would work alongside each and every old feature and easter egg. Even if it is just gazing over one line per easter egg, it adds up to the mess, slowly but surely. A lot of people mention that developer should have been doing it in object-oritented way. However, there is no silver bullet in programming. It does not matter that much if you are doing it object-oriented way or usual procedural way; you can theoretically write, say, AI routines on functional (e.g. LISP)) or even logical language if you are brave enough (e.g. Prolog). You can even invent your own tiny programming language! The only thing that matters is code quality and avoiding the so-called shotgun surgery situation, which plagues Yandere Simulator from top to bottom right now. Is there a way of adding a new feature without interfering with your older code (e.g. by creating a child class which will encapsulate all the things you need, for example)? Go for it, this feature is basically «free» for you. Otherwise you'd better think twice before doing this, because you are going into the «technical debt» territory, borrowing your time from the future by saying «I'll maybe optimize it later» and «a thousand more lines probably won't slow me down in the future that much, right?». Technical debt will incur interest on its own that you'll have to pay. Basically, the entire situation around Osana right now is just a huge tale about how just «interest» incurred by technical debt can control the entire project, like the tail wiggling the dog. I won't elaborate here further, since it'll take me an even larger post to fully describe what's wrong about Yandere Simulator's code architecture. Is it too late to rebuild code architecture? Sadly, YES, although it should be possible to split Student class into descendants by using hooks for individual students. However, code architecture can be improved by a vast margin if you start removing easter eggs and features like Snap Mode that currently bloat Yandere Simulator. I know it is going to be painful, but it is the only way to improve code quality here and now. This will simplify the code, and this will make it easier for you to add the «real» features, like Osana or whatever you'd like to accomplish. If you'll ever want them back, you can track them down in Git history and re-implement them one by one, hopefully without performing the shotgun surgery this time.
Again, I won't be talking about the performance, since you can debug your game on 20 FPS as well as on 60 FPS, but this is a very different story. Yandere Simulator is huge. Once you fixed a bug, you want to test it, right? And your workflow right now probably looks like this:
Fix the code (unavoidable time loss)
Rebuild the project (can take a loooong time)
Load your game (can take a loooong time)
Test it (unavoidable time loss, unless another bug has popped up via unit testing, code analyzer etc.)
And you can fix it. For instance, I know that Yandere Simulator makes all the students' photos during loading. Why should that be done there? Why not either move it to project building stage by adding build hook so Unity does that for you during full project rebuild, or, even better, why not disable it completely or replace with «PLACEHOLDER» text for debug builds? Each second spent watching the loading screen will be rightfully interpreted as «son is not coding» by the community. Is it too late to reduce loading times? Hell NO.
Or any other continuous integration tool. «Rebuild a project» can take a long time too, and what can we do about that? Let me give you an idea. Buy a new PC. Get a 32-core Threadripper, 32 GB of fastest RAM you can afford and a cool motherboard which would support all of that (of course, Ryzen/i5/Celeron/i386/Raspberry Pi is fine too, but the faster, the better). The rest is not necessary, e.g. a barely functional second hand video card burned out by bitcoin mining is fine. You set up another PC in your room. You connect it to your network. You set up ramdisk to speed things up even more. You properly set up Jenkins) on this PC. From now on, Jenkins cares about the rest: tracking your Git repository, (re)building process, large and time-consuming unit tests, invoking static code analyzer, profiling, generating reports and whatever else you can and want to hook up. More importantly, you can fix another bug while Jenkins is rebuilding the project for the previous one et cetera. In general, continuous integration is a great technology to quickly track down errors that were introduced in previous versions, attempting to avoid those kinds of bug hunting sessions. I am highly unsure if continuous integration is needed for 10000-20000 source lines long projects, but things can be different as soon as we step into the 100k+ territory, and Yandere Simulator by now has approximately 150k+ source lines of code. I think that probably continuous integration might be well worth it for Yandere Simulator. Is it too late to add continuous integration?NO, albeit it is going to take some time and skills to set up.
Stop caring about the criticism
Stop comparing Alex to Scott Cawton. IMO Alex is very similar to the person known as SgtMarkIV, the developer of Brutal Doom, who is also a notorious edgelord who, for example, also once told somebody to kill himself, just like… However, being a horrible person, SgtMarkIV does his job. He simply does not care much about public opinion. That's the difference.
Hello visitors and subscribers of scams! Here you will find a master list of common (and uncommon) scams that you may encounter online or in real life. Thank you to the many contributors who helped create this thread!
If you know of a scam that is not covered here, write a comment and it will be added to the next edition.
Caller ID spoofing It is very easy for anyone to make a phone call while having any number show up on the caller ID of the person receiving the phone call. Receiving a phone call from a certain number does not mean that the person/company who owns that number has actually called you. Email spoofing The "from" field of an email can be set by the sender, meaning that you can receive scam emails that look like they are from legitimate addresses. It's important to never click links in emails unless absolutely necessary, for example a password reset link you requested or an account activation link for an account you created. SMS spoofing SMS messages can be spoofed, so be wary of messages that seem to be from your friends or other trusted people.
The most common scams
The fake check scam (Credit to nimble2 for this part) The fake check scam arises from many different situations (for instance, you applied for a job, or you are selling something on a place like Craigslist, or someone wants to purchase goods or services from your business, or you were offered a job as a mystery shopper, you were asked to wrap your car with an advertisement, or you received a check in the mail for no reason), but the bottom line is always something like this:
The scammer sends you a very real looking, but fake, check. Sometimes they'll call it a "cashier's check", a "certified check", or a "verified check".
You deposit the check into your bank account, and within a couple of days your bank makes some or all of the funds available to you. This makes you think that the check is real and the funds have cleared. However, the money appearing in your account is not the same as the check actually clearing. The bank must make the funds available to you before they have cleared the check because that is the law.
For various and often complicated reasons, depending on the specific story line of the scam, the scammer will ask you to send someone some of the money, using services like MoneyGram, Western Union, and Walmart-2-Walmart. Sometimes the scammer will ask for you to purchase gift cards (iTunes, Amazon, Steam, etc) and give them the codes to redeem the gift cards. Some scammers may also give you instructions on how to buy and send them bitcoins.
Within a couple of weeks, though it can take as long as a month, your bank will realize that the check you deposited was fake, and your bank will remove the funds that you deposited into your account and charge you a bounced check fee. If you withdrew any of the money from the fake check, that money will be gone and you will owe that money to the bank. Some posters have even had their bank accounts closed and have been blocked from having another account for 5 years using ChexSystems.
General fraudulent funds scams If somebody is asking you to accept and send out money as a favour or as part of a job, it is a fraudulent funds scam. It does not matter how they pay you, any payment on any service can be fraudulent and will be reversed when it is discovered to be fraudulent. Phone verification code scams Someone will ask you to receive a verification text and then tell you to give them the code. Usually the code will come from Google Voice, or from Craigslist. In the Google version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Google Voice account that the scammer will use to scam people with. In the Craigslist version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Craigslist posting that the scammer will use to scam people. There is also an account takeover version of this scam that will involve the scammer sending a password reset token to your phone number and asking you for it. Bitcoin job scams Bitcoin job scams involve some sort of fraudulent funds transfer, usually a fake check although a fraudulent bank transfer can be used as well. The scammer will send you the fraudulent money and ask you to purchase bitcoins. This is a scam, and you will have zero recourse after you send the scammer bitcoins. Email flooding If you suddenly receive hundreds or thousands of spam emails, usually subscription confirmations, it's very likely that one of your online accounts has been taken over and is being used fraudulently. You should check any of your accounts that has a credit card linked to it, preferably from a computer other than the one you normally use. You should change all of your passwords to unique passwords and you should start using two factor authentication everywhere. Cartel scam You will be threatened by scammers who claim to be affiliated with a cartel. They may send you gory pictures and threaten your life and the lives of your family. Usually the victim will have attempted to contact an escort prior to the scam, but sometimes the scammers target people randomly. If you are targeted by a cartel scam all you need to do is ignore the scammers as their threats are clearly empty. Boss/CEO scam A scammer will impersonate your boss or someone who works at your company and will ask you to run an errand for them, which will usually be purchasing gift cards and sending them the code. Once the scammer has the code, you have no recourse. Employment certification scams You will receive a job offer that is dependent on you completing a course or receiving a certification from a company the scammer tells you about. The scammer operates both websites and the job does not exist. Craigslist fake payment scams Scammers will ask you about your item that you have listed for sale on a site like Craigslist, and will ask to pay you via Paypal. They are scamming you, and the payment in most cases does not actually exist, the email you received was sent by the scammers. In cases where you have received a payment, the scammer can dispute the payment or the payment may be entirely fraudulent. The scammer will then either try to get you to send money to them using the fake funds that they did not send to you, or will ask you to ship the item, usually to a re-shipping facility or a parcel mule. Craigslist Carfax/vehicle history scam You'll encounter a scammer on Craigslist who wants to buy the vehicle you have listed, but they will ask for a VIN report from a random site that they have created and they will expect you to pay for it. Double dip/recovery scammers This is a scam aimed at people who have already fallen for a scam previously. Scammers will reach out to the victim and claim to be able to help the victim recover funds they lost in the scam. General fraudulent funds scams The fake check scam is not the only scam that involves accepting fraudulent/fake funds and purchasing items for scammers. If your job or opportunity involves accepting money and then using that money, it is almost certainly a frauduent funds scam. Even if the payment is through a bank transfer, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, Interac e-Transfer, etc, it does not matter. Credit card debt scam Fraudsters will offer to pay off your bills, and will do so with fraudulent funds. Sometimes it will be your credit card bill, but it can be any bill that can be paid online. Once they pay it off, they will ask you to send them money or purchase items for them. The fraudulent transaction will be reversed in the future and you will never be able to keep the money. This scam happens on sites like Craigslist, Twitter, Instagram, and also some dating sites, including SeekingArrangement. The parcel mule scam A scammer will contact you with a job opportunity that involves accepting and reshipping packages. The packages are either stolen or fraudulently obtained items, and you will not be paid by the scammer. Here is a news article about a scam victim who fell for this scam and reshipped over 20 packages containing fraudulently acquired goods. The Skype sex scam You're on Facebook and you get a friend request from a cute girl you've never met. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. She'll ask you to send pictures or videos or get on webcam where she can see you naked with your face in the picture. The scam: There's no girl. You've sent nudes to a guy pretending to be a girl. As soon as he has the pictures he'll demand money and threaten to send the pictures to your friends and family. Sometimes the scammer will upload the video to a porn site or Youtube to show that they are serious. What to do if you are a victim of this scam: You cannot buy silence, you can only rent it. Paying the blackmailer will show them that the information they have is valuable and they will come after you for more money. Let your friends and family know that you were scammed and tell them to ignore friend requests or messages from people they don't know. Also, make sure your privacy settings are locked down and consider deactivating your account. The underage girl scam You're on a dating site or app and you get contacted by a cute girl. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. Eventually she stops communicating and you get a call from a pissed off guy claiming to be the girl's father, or a police officer, or a private investigator, or something else along those lines. Turns out the girl you were sexting is underage, and her parents want some money for various reasons, such as to pay for a new phone, to pay for therapy, etc. There is, of course, no girl. You were communicating with a scammer. What to do if you are a victim of this scam: Stop picking up the phone when the scammers call. Do not pay them, or they will be after you for more money. Phishing Phishing is when a scammer tries to trick you into giving information to them, such as your password or private financial information. Phishing messages will usually look very similar to official messages, and sometimes they are identical. If you are ever required to login to a different account in order to use a service, you should be incredibly cautious. The blackmail email scam part 5: https://old.reddit.com/Scams/comments/g8jqnthe_blackmail_email_scam_part_5/ PSA: you did not win a giftcard: https://old.reddit.com/Scams/comments/fffmle/psa_you_did_not_win_a_gift_card/ Sugar scams Sugar scammers operate all over the internet and usually come in two varieties: advance-fee scams where the scammer will ask for a payment from you before sending you lots of money, and fake check style scams where the scammer will either pull a classic fake check scam, or will do a "bill pay" style scam that involves them paying your bills, or them giving you banking information to pay your bills. If you encounter these scammers, report their accounts and move on. Google Hangouts Google Hangouts is a messaging platform used extensively by all kinds of scammers. If you are talking with someone online and they want you to switch to Hangouts, they are likely a scammer and you should proceed with caution. Publishers Clearing House scams PCH scams are often advance-fee scams, where you will be promised lots of money after you make an initial payment. You will never need to pay if you win money from the real PCH. Pet scams You are looking for a specific breed of puppy, bird, or other pet. You come across a nice-looking website that claims to be breeding them and has some available right now - they may even be on sale! The breeders are not local to your area (and may not even list a physical location) but they assure you they can safely ship the pet to you after a deposit or full payment. If you go through with the payment, you will likely be contacted by the "shipper" who will inform you about an unexpected shipping/customs/processing fee required to deliver your new pet. But there was never any pet, both the "breeder" and the "shipper" are scammers, typically operating out of Africa. These sites are rampant and account for a large percentage of online pet seller websites - they typically have a similar layout/template (screenshot - example) If you are considering buying a pet online, some easy things to check are: (1) The registration date of the domain (if it was created recently it is likely a scam website) (2) Reverse image search the pictures of available pets - you will usually find other scam websites using the same photos. (3) Copy a sentence/section of the text from the "about us" page and put it into google (in quotes) - these scammers often copy large parts of their website's text from other places. (4) Search for the domain name and look for entries on petscams.com or other scam-tracking sites. (5) Strongly consider buying/adopting your pet from a local shelter or breeder where you can see the animal in person before putting any money down. Thanks to djscsi for this entry. Fake shipping company scams These scams usually start when you try to buy something illegal online. You will be scammed for the initial payment, and then you will receive an email from the fake shipping company telling you that you need to pay them some sort of fee or bribe. If you pay this, they will keep trying to scam you with increasingly absurd stories until you stop paying, at which point they will blackmail you. If you are involved in this scam, all you can do is ignore the scammers and move on, and try to dispute your payments if possible. Chinese Upwork scam Someone will ask you to create an Upwork or other freelancer site account for them and will offer money in return. You will not be paid, and they want to use the accounts to scam people. Quickbooks invoice scam This is a fake check style scam that takes advantage of Quickbooks. The blackmail email scam The exact wording of the emails varies, but there are generally four main parts. They claim to have placed software/malware on a porn/adult video site, they claim to have a video of you masturbating or watching porn, they threaten to release the video to your friends/family/loved ones/boss/dog, and they demand that you pay them in order for them to delete the video. Rest assured that this is a very common spam campaign and there is no truth behind the email or the threats. Here are some news articles about this scam. The blackmail mail scam This is very similar to the blackmail email scam, but you will receive a letter in the mail. Rental scams Usually on local sites like Craigslist, scammers will steal photos from legitimate real estate listings and will list them for rent at or below market rate. They will generally be hesitant to tell you the address of the property for "safety reasons" and you will not be able to see the unit. They will then ask you to pay them a deposit and they claim they will ship you the keys. In reality, your money is gone and you will have no recourse. Craigslist vehicle scams A scammer will list a vehicle on Craigslist and will offer to ship you the car. In many cases they will also falsely claim to sell you the car through eBay or Amazon. If you are looking for a car on Craigslist and the seller says anything about shipping the car, having an agent, gives you a long story about why they are selling the car, or the listing price is far too low, you are talking to a scammer and you should ignore and move on. Advance-fee scam, also known as the 419 scam, or the Nigerian prince scam. You will receive a communication from someone who claims that you are entitled to a large sum of money, or you can help them obtain a large sum of money. However, they will need money from you before you receive the large sum. Man in the middle scams Man in the middle scams are very common and very hard to detect. The scammer will impersonate a company or person you are legitimately doing business with, and they will ask you to send the money to one of their own bank accounts or one controlled by a money mule. They have gained access to the legitimate persons email address, so there will be nothing suspicious about the email. To prevent this, make contact in a different way that lets you verify that the person you are talking to is the person you think you are talking to. Digit wallet scam A variation of the fake check scam, the scammer sends you money through a digital wallet (i.e. Venmo, Apple Pay, Zelle, Cash App) along with a message claiming they've sent the money to the wrong person and a request to send the money back. Customer service for these digital wallets may even suggest that you send the money back. However, the money sent is from a stolen credit card and will be removed from your account after a few days. Your transfer is not reversed since it came from your own funds. Cam girl voting/viewer scam You will encounter a "cam girl" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to go to their site and sign up with your credit card. They may offer a free show, or ask you to vote for them, or any number of other fake stories. Amateur porn recruitment scam You will encounter a "pornstar" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to create an adult film with hehim, but first you need to do something. The story here is usually something to do with verifying your age, or you needing to take an STD test that involves sending money to a site operated by the scammer. Hot girl SMS spam You receive a text from a random number with a message along the lines of "Hey babe I'm here in town again if you wanted to meet up this time, are you around?" accompanied by a NSFW picture of a hot girl. It's spam, and they'll direct you to their scam website that requires a credit card. Identity verification scam You will encounter someone on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask that you verify your identity as they are worried about catfishing. The scammer operates the site, and you are not talking to whoever you think you are talking to. This type of scam teases you with something, then tries to make you sign up for something else that costs money. The company involved is often innocent, but they turn a blind eye to the practice as it helps their bottom line, even if they have to occasionally issue refunds. A common variation takes place on dating sites/dating apps, where you will match with someone who claims to be a camgirl who wants you to sign up for a site and vote for her. Another variation takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where the scammers setup fake rental scams and demand that you go through a specific service for a credit check. Once you go through with it, the scammer will stop talking to you. Another variation also takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where scammers will contact you while you are selling a car and will ask you to purchase a Carfax-like report from a specific website. Multi Level Marketing or Affiliate Marketing You apply for a vague job listing for 'sales' on craigslist. Or maybe an old friend from high school adds you on Facebook and says they have an amazing business opportunity for you. Or maybe the well dressed guy who's always interviewing people in the Starbucks that you work at asks if you really want to be slinging coffee the rest of your life. The scam: MLMs are little more than pyramid schemes. They involve buying some sort of product (usually snake oil health products like body wraps or supplements) and shilling them to your friends and family. They claim that the really money is recruiting people underneath you who give you a slice of whatever they sell. And if those people underneath you recruit more people, you get a piece of their sales. Ideally if you big enough pyramid underneath you the money will roll in without any work on your part. Failure to see any profit will be your fault for not "wanting it enough." The companies will claim that you need to buy their extra training modules or webinars to really start selling. But in reality, the vast majority of people who buy into a MLM won't see a cent. At the end of the day all you'll be doing is annoying your friends and family with your constant recruitment efforts. What to look out for: Recruiters love to be vague. They won't tell you the name of the company or what exactly the job will entail. They'll pump you up with promises of "self-generating income", "being your own boss", and "owning your own company." They might ask you to read books about success and entrepreneurs. They're hoping you buy into the dream first. If you get approached via social media, check their timelines. MLMs will often instruct their victims to pretend that they've already made it. They'll constantly post about how they're hustling and making the big bucks and linking to youtube videos about success. Again, all very vague about what their job actually entails. If you think you're being recruited: Ask them what exactly the job is. If they can't answer its probably a MLM. Just walk away.
You should generally avoid answering or engaging with random phone calls. Picking up and engaging with a scam call tells the scammers that your phone number is active, and will usually lead to more calls. Tax Call You get a call from somebody claiming to be from your countries tax agency. They say you have unpaid taxes that need to be paid immediately, and you may be arrested or have other legal action taken against you if it is not paid. This scam has caused the American IRS, Canadian CRA, British HMRC, and Australian Tax Office to issue warnings. This scam happens in a wide variety of countries all over the world. Warrant Call Very similar to the tax call. You'll get a phone call from an "agent", "officer", "sheriff", or other law enforcement officer claiming that there is a warrant out for your arrest and you will be arrested very soon. They will then offer to settle everything for a fee, usually paid in giftcards. [Legal Documents/Process Server Calls] Very similar to the warrant call. You'll get a phone call from a scammer claiming that they are going to serve you legal documents, and they will threaten you with legal consequences if you refuse to comply. They may call themselves "investigators", and will sometimes give you a fake case number. Student Loan Forgiveness Scam Scammers will call you and tell you about a student loan forgiveness program, but they are interested in obtaining private information about you or demanding money in order to join the fake program. Tech Support Call You receive a call from someone with a heavy accent claiming to be a technician Microsoft or your ISP. They inform you that your PC has a virus and your online banking and other accounts may be compromised if the virus is not removed. They'll have you type in commands and view diagnostics on your PC which shows proof of the virus. Then they'll have you install remote support software so the technician can work on your PC, remove the virus, and install security software. The cost of the labor and software can be hundreds of dollars. The scam: There's no virus. The technician isn't a technician and does not work for Microsoft or your ISP. Scammers (primarily out of India) use autodialers to cold-call everyone in the US. Any file they point out to you or command they have you run is completely benign. The software they sell you is either freeware or ineffective. What to do you if you're involved with this scam: If the scammers are remotely on your computer as you read this, turn off your PC or laptop via the power button immediately, and then if possible unplug your internet connection. Some of the more vindictive tech scammers have been known to create boot passwords on your computer if they think you've become wise to them and aren't going to pay up. Hang up on the scammers, block the number, and ignore any threats about payment. Performing a system restore on your PC is usually all that is required to remove the scammer's common remote access software. Reports of identity theft from fake tech calls are uncommon, but it would still be a good idea to change your passwords for online banking and monitor your accounts for any possible fraud. How to avoid: Ignore any calls claiming that your PC has a virus. Microsoft will never contact you. If you're unsure if a call claiming to be from your ISP is legit, hang up, and then dial the customer support number listed on a recent bill. If you have elderly relatives or family that isn't tech savvy, take the time to fill them in on this scam. Chinese government scam This scam is aimed at Chinese people living in Europe and North America, and involves a voicemail from someone claiming to be associated with the Chinese government, usually through the Chinese consulate/embassy, who is threatening legal action or making general threats. Chinese shipping scam This scam is similar to the Chinese government scam, but involves a seized/suspicious package, and the scammers will connect the victim to other scammers posing as Chinese government investigators. Social security suspension scam You will receive a call from someone claiming to work for the government regarding suspicious activity, fraud, or serious crimes connected to your social security number. You'll be asked to speak to an operator and the operator will explain the steps you need to follow in order to fix the problems. It's all a scam, and will lead to you losing money and could lead to identity theft if you give them private financial information. Utilities cutoff You get a call from someone who claims that they are from your utility company, and they claim that your utilities will be shut off unless you immediately pay. The scammer will usually ask for payment via gift cards, although they may ask for payment in other ways, such as Western Union or bitcoin. Relative in custody Scammer claims to be the police, and they have your son/daughtenephew/estranged twin in custody. You need to post bail (for some reason in iTunes gift cards or MoneyGram) immediately or the consequences will never be the same. Mexican family scam This scam comes in many different flavours, but always involves someone in your family and Mexico. Sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been detained, sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been kidnapped, and sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member is injured and needs help. General family scams Scammers will gather a large amount of information about you and target your family members using different stories with the goal of gettimg them to send money. One ring scam Scammers will call you from an international number with the goal of getting you to return their call, causing you to incur expensive calling fees.
Online shopping scams
THE GOLDEN RULE OF ONLINE SHOPPING: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Dropshipping An ad on reddit or social media sites like Facebook and Instagram offers items at huge discounts or even free (sometimes requiring you to reblog or like their page). They just ask you to pay shipping. The scam: The item will turn out to be very low quality and will take weeks or even months to arrive. Sometimes the item never arrives, and the store disappears or stops responding. The seller drop-ships the item from China. The item may only cost a few dollars, and the Chinese government actually pays for the shipping. You end up paying $10-$15 dollars for a $4 item, with the scammer keeping the profit. If you find one of these scams but really have your heart set on the item, you can find it on AliExpress or another Chinese retailer. Influencer scams A user will reach out to you on a social media platform, usually Instagram, and offer you the chance to partner with them and receive a free/discounted product, as long as you pay shipping. This is a different version of the dropshipping scam, and is just a marketing technique to get you to buy their products. Triangulation fraud Triangulation fraud occurs when you make a purchase on a site like Amazon or eBay for an item at a lower than market price, and receive an item that was clearly purchased new at full price. The scammer uses a stolen credit card to order your item, while the money from the listing is almost all profit for the scammer. Instagram influencer scams Someone will message you on Instagram asking you to promote their products, and offering you a discount code. The items are Chinese junk, and the offer is made to many people at a time. Cheap Items Many websites pop up and offer expensive products, including electronics, clothes, watches, sunglasses, and shoes at very low prices. The scam: Some sites are selling cheap knock-offs. Some will just take your money and run. What to do if you think you're involved with this scam: Contact your bank or credit card and dispute the charge. How to avoid: The sites often have every brand-name shoe or fashion item (Air Jordan, Yeezy, Gucci, etc) in stock and often at a discounted price. The site will claim to be an outlet for a major brand or even a specific line or item. The site will have images at the bottom claiming to be Secured by Norton or various official payment processors but not actual links. The site will have poor grammar and a mish-mash of categories. Recently, established websites will get hacked or their domain name jacked and turned into scam stores, meaning the domain name of the store will be completely unrelated to the items they're selling. If the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. Nobody is offering brand new iPhones or Beats or Nintendo Switches for 75% off. Cheap Amazon 3rd Party Items You're on Amazon or maybe just Googling for an item and you see it for an unbelievable price from a third-party seller. You know Amazon has your back so you order it. The scam: One of three things usually happen: 1) The seller marks the items as shipped and sends a fake tracking number. Amazon releases the funds to the seller, and the seller disappears. Amazon ultimately refunds your money. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to re-order the item directly from their website, usually with the guarantee that the order is still protected by Amazon. The seller takes your money and runs. Amazon informs you that they do not offer protection on items sold outside of Amazon and cannot help you. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to instead send payment via an unused Amazon gift card by sending the code on the back via email. Once the seller uses the code, the money on the card is gone and cannot be refunded. How to avoid: These scammers can be identified by looking at their Amazon storefronts. They'll be brand new sellers offering a wide range of items at unbelievable prices. Usually their Amazon names will be gibberish, or a variation on FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME. Occasionally however, established storefronts will be hacked. If the deal is too good to be true its most likely a scam. Scams on eBay There are scams on eBay targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who privately message you regarding the order, especially if they ask you to ship to a different address or ask to negotiate via text/email/a messaging service. As a buyer you should look out for new accounts selling in-demand items, established accounts selling in-demand items that they have no previous connection to (you can check their feedback history for a general idea of what they bought/sold in the past), and lookout for people who ask you to go off eBay and use another service to complete the transaction. In many cases you will receive a fake tracking number and your money will be help up for up to a month. Scams on Amazon There are scams on Amazon targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who message you about a listing. As a buyer you should look out for listings that have an email address for you to contact the person to complete the transaction, and you should look out for cheap listings of in-demand items. Scams on Reddit Reddit accounts are frequently purchased and sold by fraudsters who wish to use the high karma count + the age of the account to scam people on buy/sell subreddits. You need to take precautions and be safe whenever you are making a transaction online. Computer scams Virus scam A popup or other ad will say that you have a virus and you need to follow their advice in order to remove it. They are lying, and either want you to install malware or pay for their software.
Chinese Brushing / direct shipping If you have ever received an unsolicited small package from China, your address was used to brush. Vendors place fake orders for their own products and send out the orders so that they can increase their ratings. Money flipping Scammer claims to be a banking insider who can double/triple/bazoople any amount of money you send them, with no consequences of any kind. Obviously, the money disappears into their wallet the moment you send it.
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