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A former hacker who worked for a controversial spy firm will not join the company

One of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges has hired Dan Wolfford, a former NSA analyst who also worked for a UAE-based hacking firm accused of spying on US citizens, journalists and security forces. human rights activists. Update: After Motherboard reached out to the company for comment, they said Dan Wolfford “wasn’t onboarded” and wouldn’t be joining them again. Piracy. Disinformation. Monitoring. CYBER is Motherboard’s podcast and reports on the dark underbelly of the internet.

Crypto.com said in a statement, sent after an early version of this story was published, that Wolfford “was not integrated with the company and will not be joining us.”

On Monday, Wolfford announced in a LinkedIn post that he was starting as Crypto.com’s new head of security operations. Wolfford was an NSA analyst, and after retiring from public service he went to work for DarkMatter, a UAE-based cybersecurity firm. In 2016, The Intercept revealed that DarkMatter had hired dozens of experienced hackers, including former NSA and US intelligence analysts. Then, in 2019, Reuters revealed that a secret team within DarkMatter was tasked with conducting hacking and surveillance operations for the UAE government that targeted American citizens, journalists and human rights activists. ‘man.

Crypto.com recently attempted to raise its public profile by buying the naming rights to the arena the Los Angeles Lakers play in for $700 million and creating a now infamous ad featuring Matt Damon. The exchange suffered a hack last month that saw $30 million stolen from users, which the exchange refunded.

Wolfford does not list DarkMatter as a previous experience on its LinkedIn profile. When Motherboard asked Wofford if he disclosed this work history to Crypto.com, he replied that he “explained how media personalities like to report fake news that seems exciting to get clicks rather than the boring truth. “.

“Helped three United Nations member states develop national threat intelligence capabilities. Crypto.com believes my knowledge and experience brings value to their global security team,” he said, adding that he was just a “threat intelligence analyst.”

“I can’t speak for a company I worked with for a few months in 2017,” he said.

Do you have information about a cryptocurrency hack? Or are you looking for vulnerabilities in cryptocurrencies and their networks? We would love to hear from you. You can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, Wickr/Telegram/Wire @lorenzofb, or email [email protected]

Although he is no longer on his LinkedIn profile, Wolfford’s experience in the Middle East is very public. In 2018, he spoke at a cybersecurity conference in Austin, Texas on “Real World Hacking in the Middle East 2015-2018”. On the conference’s website biography, Wolfford is listed as having worked as an Intel director at DarkMatter and at Cyberpoint, an American cybersecurity contractor hired by the UAE government, some employees of which went on to joins DarkMatter.

In a 2019 interview with Ars Technica, Wolfford said he didn’t hack US citizens.

“We didn’t hack the Americans,” he told Ars. “Our mission was simple: to advise and assist the UAE in creating a national cybersecurity program.” And the work on creating a “target list”, Wolfford said, was part of a training operation “to teach Emiratis about legal targeting and collection”.

“We tried to show them who is and is not a threat to their national security,” he added at the time. “The bottom line is that I do not tolerate any illegal activity carried out by any of my employers. It’s a line I would never cross and I’m offended when people accuse me of being guilty by association.

In September last year, three former US intelligence analysts and ex-DarkMatter employees, then working for UAE intelligence, agreed to pay more than $1.68 million as part of a regulations. The US government accused them of providing piracy services to a foreign government in violation of US export control laws.

That Crypto.com is looking to beef up its security should come as no surprise. Last month, hackers stole around $30 million in cryptocurrency from some of the exchange’s users, the company has admitted. Crypto.com reimbursed victims and said hackers stole 483 users.

This isn’t the first time a crypto exchange has hired someone who used to work for a controversial surveillance company. In 2019, Coinbase acquired a blockchain intelligence startup launched by three former employees of the controversial spyware company Hacking Team, known for selling surveillance and hacking technology to countries including Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, who then used it against journalists and dissidents. After public outrage, including an online #DeleteCoinbase movement, Coinbase said the three former Hacking Team employees would “transition” the company.

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