Leaked Crisis Document Confirms Mt. Gox lost 744,400 Bitcoins

A leaked document(if legitimate) entitled “Crisis Strategy Draft” has surfaced across the internet confirming that troubled Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox has entered serious financial problems.

It states that the exchange will shut its doors for one month as part of a four-step rebranding strategy, with CEO Mark Karpeles stepping down once a suitable replacement has been found.

The exchange first entered muddy waters earlier this year when an alleged transaction bug in the Bitcoin source code caused havoc. It has only now become apparent that a massive 744,408 BTC with an estimated market value of $350 million has been skimmed by an unknown 3rd parties using this exploit. The company also has fiat liabilities of around $55 million. It’s worth noting that Mt. Gox was warned about the transaction bug, as revealed in our exclusive interview with Bitcoin developer Gregory Maxwell. They chose to ignore it which resulted in the “S**t hitting the fan”.

Although the leaked document appears genuine due to the apparent in depth financial knowledge of the exchanges current situation, it is yet unclear whether it has been internally leaked or drawn up by an external crisis management firm specialising in these type of situations.

On the face of things, Mt. Gox’s future does not look good, but one thing we do know is they they still have enough assets and liabilities to launch a new exchange as part of the four-step process as outlined.

Remaining assets and liabilities include:

  • 2,000 BTC
  • $22.4 million fiat
  • 1.1 million user database
  • High volume of trading
  • Publicity in the worlds media
  • Valuable domain names such as Bitcoins.com
  • Physical Bitcoin cafe
  • Japanese Bitcoin wallet software

 

The suggested four-step plan includes:
 

1. Reduce liabilities

The stakeholders of MtGox are not the owners, but everyone in Bitcoin. This is sad but the reality. The current situation will negatively affect everyone who owns or operates in Bitcoin. We will need to inject fresh coins inside the system in order to establish a basis to eventually clear the books by running the exchange (perhaps 200,000 coins). The costs of not doing so are incalculable at this stage.

Support from Bitcoin big players and core community – long term, high leverage:

Coins for equity, coin donations, and cash injections to buy coins at the cheap MtGox price are some options among many.

Bet on future profit to refill the lost coins – Long term, low leverage:

Regardless of malleability and regulatory issues, MtGox’s main problems are massive robbery and poor bitcoin accounting. However, the business as an exchange is highly profitable and healthy when run properly.

(Please refer to the business plan draft attached)
 

2. Shut down MtGox.com, launch new branding Big focus on the future

Letter from the CEO Admitting his errors and expressing desire to fix the situation by stepping back as a CEO. Blaming the technology implementation which was not sized and designed to deal with such level of transactions or to deal with malleability.

It’s time to step up and face reality by bringing a transition of respected advisors who will run things properly. In Japan, a CEO cannot resign until a new CEO is nominated. In that case customers knows that MtGox is still around and working, but under new management. Try to reduce the impact and raise stakeholder confidence, and eventually get Mark out. New branding, means that there are future-forward plans already in the works, and customers will see that MtGox actually has a plan in motion
 

3. 1 month transition while updating the industry

In order for stakeholders to follow up on MtGox progress, we will use SNS platforms with constant positive communications.

  • Every new milestone reached will be announced: Team members, new marketing, progress on the technology implementation etc…
  • The Customer support will stay operational to deal with people who want to have access to their account/history
  • During this period, the advisory board will be created, hopefully a new CEO can be chosen and try to reset and secure the trading engine platform. Expertise to find: Analysts, top class developers (crypto), IT security expert, marketing, Bitcoin experts, economists, execs (CFO, COO, CMO, etc)

 

4. MtGox becomes Gox

To avoid a bank run from customers, the daily amount of bitcoin and cash withdrawals will be limited. With the profit, a meticulous analysis will be made over the coming years to clean the bitcoin balance sheet while running the exchange and generating revenue to pay back stakeholders.
 
New offerings such as additional currencies, low trading fees, etc will give customers a reason to stay with MtGox.
 
The new branding is already complete, and new services such as the Bitpocket wallet are already developed and ready for deployment.
 
With a new image, team, and offering we believe that it will be a challenge, but is not impossible. The risks of not acting are incredibly large and unpredictable.

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Mt. Gox Bitcoin price surges 200% amidst withdrawal rumors

Withdrawal speculation has sparked a price surge on the troubled Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, with the BTC/USD exchange rate reaching an all time high since forgoing transaction meltability problems.

The rumour was sparked on the popular Bitcoin reddit community board which retains over 100,000 loyal subscribers resulting in a surge in the BTC/USD price. It reached an all time high of $348.

Headquartered in Tokyo, Mt. Gox was once the most popular virtual currency exchange in the world, reporting an impressive 10,000 new user registrations per month last April.
If you’ve not been keeping up with the recent news, this success was quickly reversed with prices diving to $91.50 when user accounts were suspended. Mt. Gox blamed a transaction bug in the Bitcoin source code.

Investors and account holders have yet to receive concrete evidence that their investments are safe or even timely progress of how the company is working to fix the alleged bugs.

Is the sudden price surge a sign that the troubled exchange is once again operating as normal?

All the same, we think it’s safe to say that even if withdrawals resume, customers will no longer trust such a company with their hard-earned Bitcoins.

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Interview with core Bitcoin developer Gregory Maxwell

We caught up with Gregory Maxwell, the core Bitcoin developer regarding the current transaction malleability bug and Mt. Gox.

Are Mt. Gox blaming their own coding incompetence on yourself and the other Bitcoin developers?

It’s hard to tell what MtGox is doing or thinking as they are very poor at communications.

I was very surprised by their press release, it was completely out of the tone of the discussion I had with them last week. I was also pretty insulted by it, I sought them out to advise them that they had issues and what I believed them to be— as a pure act of helpfulness on my part— and I got nothing out of it, except their press release using the fact that they’d talked to me to straighten their somewhat misleading claims.

MTGox runs software they wrote themselves, they have no one else to blame for it but themselves.

Will updates from your end be pushed or will it be up to the exchanges?

Entirely separately from MTGOX, someone suddenly started dos attacking the network with mutated transactions about 24 hours ago. They’re a nuisance and gumming up some services, but not causing any loss of funds like mtgox experienced. MtGox’s issues were their own mistakes.

We’ll probably issue some updates to filter out the DOS attack, however.

How much damage has Mt. Gox caused to the community?

I think they’ve done more damage to the remaining goodwill the Bitcoin community had for them than anything else. Market prices sometimes just reflect the most nervous parties, so I’m not sure how much weight to give the impact there. Bitcoin itself works fine regardless of what price people are buying it at.

As someone who personally has some funds in MtGox I’d personally like to know how much they lost. Prior to their press release I’d assumed the amount must be small or internal controls would have caught it,
instead of people reporting it to them on chat. The intensity and character of their response leaves me worried that my initial estimates might have been incorrect.

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Passing the ‘buck’! Mt. Gox’s incompetence continues to cause Bitcoin chaos

Mt. Gox, the worlds largest Bitcoin exchange recently suspended customer withdrawals across all accounts, stating that funds will not be released until Bitcoin fixes a known bug within its protocol. As expected however this has forced a huge backlash from its users and the Bitcoin community at large blaming the exchange for lax security implementations. So who’s to blame, Mt Gox or Bitcoin?

The customer withdrawal suspension was initially due to a problem with the exchange’s own payment processing system, but the most recent statement released by Mt. Gox regarding the freeze puts all the blame on Bitcoin developers without holding itself responsible.

What has come to light very recently however is that Mt. Gox have known about the security flaw and bug within the transaction malleability since 2011(view here), courtesy of core Bitcoin developer Greg Maxwell.

Maxwell alerted the exchange and explicitly warned them of the possible flaw in their platform yet recent events suggest this advice went unheeded.

No doubt the claim made by the company is monumental. Essentially they are saying the bug makes it possible for an attacker to covertly spoof transaction details and make them seem like bitcoins were sent to a wallet when in reality they did not.

If Mt. Gox’s claims hold water and are as infamous as advertised this could be an epic blow to the future of bitcoin. If false however the exchange is likely to die.
Many within the Bitcoin community have stressed their anger at Mt. Gox and questioned why withdrawals have not being actioned for several months with the exchange now conveniently freezing itself whilst other exchanges continue to operate.

One exchange that seems to be pushing on despite this ‘bug’ is Kraken:

Well known security researcher Oleg Andreev has researched Mt. Gox’s claims and has confirmed that there is no bug in Bitcoin Itself.

“If you need a quick answer: there’s no bug in the Bitcoin itself. You may go to Bitstamp/Coinbase/BTC-E/Bitcoin-Central and buy more BTC with a huge discount before it gets back to $800-$900.”

It’s clear that Mt. Gox does not want to hold itself accountable and instead wishes to pin the blame on somebody else, even if that has to be the Bitcoin developers themselves. Due to the Bitcoin community being tech-savvy it seems the news will only weaken the confidence in the company and ultimately strike it from the top spot in the exchange world.

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Andreas M. Antonopoulos gives insight into the current Bitcoin chaos

We spoke to Andreas M. Antonopoulos, Bitcoin Entrepreneur and security systems expert regarding the current Bitcoin transaction malleability problem.

Are Mt. Gox trying to pass the blame onto the Bitcoin Developers? Will this cause irreversible damage to the currency ?

Mt. Gox was relying on an incorrect implementation, it appears other exchanges were also relying on incorrect implementations. These incorrect implementations were susceptible to confusion by relying on transaction hashes for *unconfirmed transactions* which cannot be and should not be relied on. Many other exchanges and services, including the one I work as CSO (blockchain.info) had a correct implementation and were therefore not affected by the known issue of transaction malleability.

The issue was known since 2011, and Gox was warned not to rely on transaction hashes that this was not the best practice and could lead to problems.

maxwell-quote

Their attempt to blame the bitcoin software was grossly irresponsible. In the end it will further discredit Gox and reveal their management incompetence. Gox is now a minority exchange that has repeatedly suffered issues related to poor quality control in their software development methodology and has compounded these issues with bad communication and attempts to shift the blame elsewhere.

They represent less than 20% of the exchange volume and after their most recent problems and subsequent communications, they will likely lose more customers. Meanwhile, bitcoin remains unaffected. No transactions were falsified, the network continues to operate normally, and the authoritative ledger contains a correct record of transactions. If Gox had used the authoritative ledger as their reference instead of relying on an unreliable identifier, they would not have been defrauded by customers or had to suspend withdrawals.

In other words, Gox was sloppy, then they blamed someone else. Then they were rightly corrected by several well informed participants and many of the core developers.

Today we are seeing malicious actors trying to flood the bitcoin network with such malformed transactions in an effort to find other exchanges with similar implementation errors.

Some exchanges have temporarily suspended withdrawals in order to ensure they can process everything accurately. It’s like a retail customer showing up at a customer service desk with a photoshopped receipt and trying to get a refund. Mt. Gox was fooled because they didn’t check the receipts against the blockchain.

Others are not fooled, but today they saw a flood of such attempts, as if retail shoppers showing up with shoeboxes of falsified receipts hoping to cash in on this problem. These other exchanges are now dealing with a flood of these which is delaying legitimate withdrawals and some suspended withdrawals in order to check their implementations

In about a week I expect all the exchanges will have robust and correct implementations, as the network has now been stress-tested. Some will resume quickly, Gox might take a bit longer to resume. In the end, the entire industry will be more resilient.

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