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Bitcoin The Almighty Buck

MtGox Finds 200,000 Bitcoins In Old Wallet 227

Posted by Soulskill
from the left-it-in-their-other-cryptopants dept.
thesandbender writes: "Today brings news that MtGox has 'found' 200,000 Bitcoins in a 'forgotten' wallet that they thought was empty (PDF). The value of the coins is estimated to be $116 million USD, which happens to cover their $64 million USD in outstanding debts nicely and might offer them the chance to emerge from bankruptcy. There is no explanation yet of why the sneaky thieves that 'stole' the bitcoins used a MtGox wallet to hide them."
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MtGox Finds 200,000 Bitcoins In Old Wallet

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  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:31AM (#46542539) Homepage Journal

    It's amazing how they "found" these... I would have thought that computers would make it impossible to "lose" such funds - even with the most simplistic of accounting programs. The more I hear, the more it sounds like something else is going on (like the principles of Mt Gox trying to run off with as many BitCoins as they can). It's like watching a soap opera.

    • by B33rNinj4 (666756) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:34AM (#46542561) Homepage Journal
      All we need is for MtGox to "disappear" after a tragic fall off a sailboat...only to return with amnesia later on...and begin a romantic relationship with his nighbor who actually turns out to be his unknown sister.
    • by mysidia (191772) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:36AM (#46542593)

      Probably... they were 'magically discovered' when it became clear to Mark that the authorities might be contemplating criminal charges against him.

      • by alphatel (1450715) *

        Probably... they were 'magically discovered' when it became clear to Mark that the authorities might be contemplating criminal charges against him.

        Or when it seemed obvious the rest of the world had hacked the sh$t out off his life and he was going to be terminated by the next silk road assassin within weeks.

      • by goombah99 (560566) on Friday March 21, 2014 @10:29AM (#46543093)

        Consider, What does it mean for a bitcoin to be lost or to be found or to exist. To be "lost" it means no one no longer knows the bitcoin's key. Yet you can also have more than one copy of the key. For example MagicTux might have "stolen" the coin (that is, transfered a coin to a key, deleted that key from the mtGox data base ("oopsie") but secretly kept a copy of the key somewhere else. But then suppose that not all copies of the key were deleted. Both the "found" key and the one lurking in MagicTux's hideout are the same valid key. Either one can spend the coin.

        Thus there is not one copy of the coin to be found. there could be many.

        If you give someone control of your wallet, so that they know your keys, you can never get back that control. They can always keep copies of it and have the authrority to spend. THe only way to recover control is to make a new key and transfer the coins to that. Thus these exchanges that manage your coins are scary.

        • by jythie (914043)
          Though it almost sounds like in this case they thought the coins had been transferred out into a new wallet and never were, thus they old copy of what should be a useless key to an empty wallet turned out to be valuable.
          • by goombah99 (560566)

            Though it almost sounds like in this case they thought the coins had been transferred out into a new wallet and never were, thus they old copy of what should be a useless key to an empty wallet turned out to be valuable.

            I suspect they honestly did transfer the keys to a new wallet at some point. Then some time later they "stole" them by deleting those keys from the new wallet (keeping a backup in their hideout) but forgot there might be other copies of the key around when they deleted the keys in the new wallet. The person that stole them might not even realized there was an old wallet. That is how would anyone know the past wallets a key might have resided in. there's no history that tells you how many copies of a k

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I have not understood the concept of BitCoin exchanges:

          1: Unlike banks which are similar in "just keep your money with us... yes, you can trust us", banks have insurance where if they go under, your cash is safe up to a certain amount. A BitCoin exchange going under, those coins are lost forever, period. I don't know any BitCoin exchanges that have insurance, much even an independent auditor coming in to check that they have a basic set of security standards.

          2: If an exchange takes all the coins it has,

        • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday March 21, 2014 @02:02PM (#46545203)

          "If you give someone control of your wallet, so that they know your keys, you can never get back that control."

          Yes you can. Create a new wallet and pay those bitcoins into the new wallet. Done.

          • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Friday March 21, 2014 @04:22PM (#46546471) Homepage

            The GP already alluded to that. But that gives you control over the funds in a new wallet, not control over the original wallet. If someone sends new funds to the old address you won't have exclusive control over them until you've transferred them elsewhere.

            Think of wallets as free, unbreakable safes with fixed combinations. If someone else learns the combination, you can move the contents to a different safe that only you know the combination to (as long as you get to it first), but the other party will always be able to get into the original safe.

      • Probably... they were 'magically discovered' when it became clear to Mark that the authorities might be contemplating criminal charges against him.

        There are more players in this. Nameless ones. The ones who make sure that no one accidentally sets fire to your house.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        That would be my guess as well. Others keep trying to make this about 'regulation' and such but even in the absence of specific securities are wire transfer laws that could apply to Bitcoin, there are still simple fraud charges to consider. Now this is Japan so the rules might be different there.

        In general though if I say I'll take your $Y and give you Xbtc and don't do it, or if I say I'll take your Xbtc and give you $Y and don't do it. I have misrepresented what I am going to do in a contract with you.

    • by Megane (129182) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:42AM (#46542649) Homepage

      I would have thought that computers would make it impossible to "lose" such funds

      Except that computers make it possible for idiots to screw up even worse than ever before. And given that the guy apparently cared more about opening a bitcoin restaurant than, say, using a programming language that wasn't crap COUGHPHPCOUGH, I'm just barely willing to believe they lost it. I'm really more surprised that they found that wallet before it got thrown out on a junked hard drive. [theverge.com]

      Sure, it's a bit too convenient, especially after all the rumors of hacks that let people double-dip when withdrawing bitcoins, but it's not impossible that they came from a different source. So just how easy is it to look up the transaction records for 200,000 bitcoins, anyhow?

    • by hawkinspeter (831501) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:45AM (#46542685)
      ...aaand it's gone!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DT7bX-B1Mg/ [youtube.com]
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      A Bitcoin wallet is just a text file. They moved it to offline storage to protect it from hacking. They had it in their accounting software, that's how they knew it was missing.

      Man, I wish I could find $116m in an old wallet.

    • It's like watching a soap opera.

      Its like watching a very dumb version of Monty python .. really ..

      _____
      This !! aint fishy . This is "sea food platter"

      • It's like watching a soap opera.

        Its like watching a very dumb version of Monty python .. really ..

        LoL, I stand corrected!!! And now, I can't get Monty Python skits outta my head - this is going to make the work day a lot more fun! :-P

      • by NotDrWho (3543773)

        Batley Townswomans Guild presents The Fall of MtGox....

    • Exactly.
      - Sorry, we lost $1B
      - But, you owe us $50M
      - What a coincidence! I just found $100M. But I promise you, I don't know where the other $900M are.

    • As Falkvinge says (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:50AM (#46542745)

      As Falkvinge says, this looks like a copycat fraud.

      In one of the first major bitcoin scams, mybitcoin com in 2011, the owner also said hackers took everything and "luckily" recovered a percentage of the funds some weeks later. This is a classic con man move, called cooling the mark out. You're supposed to accept that you were stupid, take your losses and go home, rather than pursue the scammers for the rest.

      • Yours is a very plausible theory.

        The slightly more innocent (but still probably criminal) interpretation is that MtGox employees were scrambling to make transfers that kept themselves financially whole, while the company burned down with everyone else's assets. That is usually fraud when viewed under the bright lights of a courtroom, because of the implied or explicit promises made to customers, even when the company somehow escapes the usual fiduciary duty to its account holders.

        A week ago there was a r

    • This looks like they were just incompetent and stupid rather than evil. Still, their credibility is now zero.

    • What next Bitcoins dow the back of the couch?
    • by Michalson (638911) on Friday March 21, 2014 @10:22AM (#46543025)
      While the MtGox situation is very, very suspicious the way Bitcoin works it makes the stealing and 'finding' of bitcoins very strange compared to traditional currency. Imagine a dollar bill. Much like a Bitcoin it has a unique serial number at the bottom. You can deposit it in a bank where they will keep a ledger so they know how much money anyone can withdraw from the teller while keeping most of it in the vault. If the vault is robbed it will quickly be discovered when they open it up in the morning and find it empty.

      But Bitcoin differs in that last part. When you spend or transfer a bitcoin you aren't handing over the original, you're making a copy and the person receiving it is adding an extra digit to the serial number. Even though you still have it your copy of the coin is no longer legal tender and if you go to a store and try to spend it the cashier will tell you the serial number is too short and someone else owns the legitimate digital copy of that coin. If a thief gets into the bitcoin vault he doesn't need to remove or change anything, he just copies all the serial numbers and immediately 'pays' it into wallets he owns or controls, making his copy the legitimate article and the coins in the vault useless bits of data. The owners of the vault don't know this - the contents of the vault have not been changed in any way and it's only when they remove some of the money from the vault and try to spend it that they'll discover they've got worthless old copies.

      While less likely it is also possible, with ledgers being moved around and even manipulated by thieves, that bitcoins that where assumed withdrawn are in fact still legal tender - if the bank made a copy of a one of their coins to service an apparent withdrawal, but that copy was never 'spent' then the original is still good. This is one of the difficulties of Bitcoin, unlike physical currency or even centrally managed digital currency (what a lot of your money basically is) you can't determine if each coin is worth something or just a bunch of worthless numbers without asking for the opinion of a bunch of other people. The extra layer of security of a vault actually makes it harder, since you are trying to keep that data out of the wrong hands, not share it with others to get their daily opinion (imagine if a bank removed every bill from the vault daily to check them with those counterfeit pens - how many opportunities to steal the money would that add).
    • I would have thought that computers would make it impossible to "lose" such funds - even with the most simplistic of accounting programs.

      OK, look - for their infrastructure, they re-implemented ssh in php [archive.org].

      If somebody wants to argue "plausible deniability", then fine, but it would require an assertion of supergenius levels of foresight, planning, and cunning.

      I lean more towards "you've got to be kidding me".

    • Mybitcoin.com copycat scam, right on schedule [falkvinge.net].
    • by Tom (822) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:57AM (#46543933) Homepage Journal

      I would have thought that computers would make it impossible to "lose" such funds - even with the most simplistic of accounting programs.

      ROTFL.

      The dark secret of business world-wide: It's all a hodgepodge of hacks and duct-tape. Large corporations regularily misplace money and assets, often in the millions. And yes, despite SOX and all that.

      Computers or not, large corporations are complex beasts, and all the accounting trickery they play for tax purposes doesn't exactly make it easy nor transparent, because it intentionally isn't. For a fast-growing company, most CFOs are pretty happy if their accounting isn't too far off.

      So yeah, losing a hundred million is a rare event, but it's impossible nor unheard of.

    • It's amazing how they "found" these... I would have thought that computers would make it impossible to "lose" such funds - even with the most simplistic of accounting programs. The more I hear, the more it sounds like something else is going on (like the principles of Mt Gox trying to run off with as many BitCoins as they can). It's like watching a soap opera.

      That's been more or less my assumption from the start; that this is some sort of inside job at Mt.Gox.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      That's because some guys pointed out in the blockchain that MagicalTux (Karpeles) was proven to have previously had access to an account with 200,000 bitcoins in it. That meant that any coins spent out of that account would be proven theft. Better to say they "forgot" about them.
  • Steal from Peter to pay Paul...it works for the USG, right?
  • ooops, here they are
  • by jittles (1613415) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:36AM (#46542599)
    Oh I know how that is. The other day I put on one of my old winter coats from years ago and found 500,000 bitcoins in the pocket. It was completely unexpected. I used it to buy a pizza.
  • Thieves (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:37AM (#46542605)

    Thieves often place stolen goods nearby so they can retrieve them later

    • Thieves often place stolen goods nearby so they can retrieve them later

      But is it really theft if they didn't actually "take" it? If you're at the store, and you take a jar of peanut butter and later place it on the shelf of the produce aisle, did you shoplift?

      • by geeper (883542)
        A defendant can commit the crime of shoplifting without actually leaving the store. All he needs to do is to move the property and exercise control over it in a way that is inconsistent with the shop owner's reasonable expectations as to how shoppers will handle merchandise.
        • by pnutjam (523990)
          That depends on the laws in each state. In many, you have to pass the point of purchase.
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:38AM (#46542617)

    I could argue that the system probably was setup to save lost bitcoins into a wallet.
    The CEO may not have known about it, as the programmers, probably felt that such an error could happen, so there was a mechanism to deal with it.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday March 21, 2014 @10:28AM (#46543077)

      Actually, I think there might be merit in your idea. We had a similar thing happen with one of our ticketing systems. Thousands of vanished tickets... They weren't even on the tables anymore! Oh no! Then we found them on some random table (there are thousands in the DB) and apparently, over 10 years ago, someone had conceived of the idea that something could go wrong, and instead of strait up deleting rows the system was throwing the deleted rows onto this "archive" table. The code that broke it was someone on another teams fault, but whomever wrote this way back in the day saved us a hell of a lot of trouble.

      Of course, MtGox could just be a bunch of thieves as well.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      Never one to assume malice, my guess is that it was a temporary wallet used for short-term transfer of funds. Back when I worked in finance, we fairly often set up accounts for a few days, just to receive an incoming transfer or to send out funds from the right name. Those accounts, by their published nature, became targets for attack. It was always enlightening when a client sent in an emailed request to withdraw money from the temporary account, after we'd just closed the account as planned a few days bef

      • by cusco (717999)

        Here's what I'm wondering; $64 million is missing, and they find $116 million. Where the frack did the other $52 million dollars come from? If I've lost a 20 dollar bill and find 38 one dollar bills while looking for it I may be happy but I'm still missing a 20 dollar bill.

  • Possible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GoCrazy (1608235) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:40AM (#46542635)
    While it's seems convenient and sketchy to magically find money after it was stolen, is it possible that MtGox is just that incompetent?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's called plausible deniability

    • by Megane (129182)
      Your sig makes me wonder if possibly Homer Simpson was somehow involved in the Mt. Gox problems. Maybe it was on the sofa and Homer sat on it, causing it to be lost in the cushions. Have they done a parody episode for bitcoin yet?
    • I place the odds at about 3:2 for incompetence over malfeasance. When you run that much money through a website for trading Magic cards, the probability of either is pretty good.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      ...is it possible that MtGox is just that incompetent?

      Absolutely. It's just a question of whether their incompetence happened to be the cause here.

  • runs the place.

    If you didn't know he was going to rob you just by looking at him, you deserved it.

  • by alexmogil (442209) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:42AM (#46542659) Homepage Journal
    They have the lying skills of a twelve year old.
    • by myowntrueself (607117) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:57PM (#46544625)

      They have the lying skills of a twelve year old.

      Do not underestimate the lying skills of children!

      At 10 years old I realised that if I wanted to lie to my mum the best way was to first offer an obvious lie which she would detect and demand 'the truth'. I'd then, unwillingly, offer a more plausible lie. She'd accept the more plausible lie as the truth; she felt like she'd won a victory over me, that she was so much smarter than me and that I was obviously ashamed at having been caught and had admitted the truth.

      • by citylivin (1250770) on Friday March 21, 2014 @03:53PM (#46546169)

        She was just being nice. As the parent of an 11 year old, they make very bad liars. I just take everything my children say with a grain of salt. The thing with lies is if you understand peoples motivations in life, what they are interested in, what they desire. Then you can easily see when they are lying, withholding information or distorting their own memories to match with a current assumed reality.

        I find that it's good practice to firstly identify peoples motivations and character and then look at everything they say through that prism.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday March 21, 2014 @09:47AM (#46542723) Homepage Journal

    I'm going to check behind the fridge and under the couch.

    I hear someone's lost an airliner.

  • ...that news like that keeps surfacing every time someone "stumble" over their lost & found bitcoin-collection. Remember the Norwegian guy who forgot that he bought some bitcoins many years ago, and all of a sudden was a millionaire (just to see his bitcoin value drop to HALF the value the next month or so?)

    Bitcoin is a perfect example of how easy it is to create something out of virtually nothing. It's essentially bits & bytes with a digitally encrypted keylock, it's nothing physical, most govern
    • it's a shady way of transferring money anonymously.

      One man's "shady" is another man's "prudently concealed".

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Friday March 21, 2014 @10:15AM (#46542945)

    If you copy my wallet (cloudy or cold) and know the decryption password or whatever, presumably I still have it as well, since it's just digital data.

    So it is a race to see who spends them first I guess, me, if I discover the "theft" quickly, or you right after you access the data.

    Or I guess you could copy the coins data then do a secure wipe on my storage including my backups. That seems implausible if I have a decent backups policy.

    Anyone know what "stealing" bit coins from MtGox actually meant in this case?

  • by Wansu (846) on Friday March 21, 2014 @10:16AM (#46542957)

    "There is no explanation yet of why the sneaky thieves that 'stole' the bitcoins used a MtGox wallet to hide them."

    Sure there is. The explanation is the whole thing is a huge swindle.

  • Do they really not realize that this is actually way scarier than simply saying that they were hiding this wallet all along?
  • Hi, I'm Fred! I have a bank. Got 50 BTC? I'll keep it, er, right here on my smartphone, right here in my vest pocket, don't worry about it..

    .
  • Or am I watching Office Space again?

    Ever since I did that relaxation therapy I really can't tell anymore and don't particularly care either.

  • by Tom (822)

    ...what this means in meaningful terms. Does it mean I get to actually withdraw the single bitcoin that I had tried to exchange at MtGox? Probably not, right?

  • Holy crap, anyone that is using bitcoin for anything but their illegal money laundering is insane.

    "oops we forgot about this" is 100% lies and bullshit. They might as well start talking with a thick new jersey accent and ask if they need to send Big Tony over to talk about if legs need to be broken or not.

    fagetaboutit!

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday March 21, 2014 @01:13PM (#46544769)
    So let me see if I get this right: If MtGox hadn't been hacked, and if they hadn't found this old wallet, then these guys would have lost $116 million out of sheer incompetence? Can you imagine Bezos saying to Amazon shareholders: "Sorry guys, we lost $116 million. The money must be somewhere in the building, but we can't find it. " Or Tim Cook. Or Eric Schmidt. Or Ballmer.

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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