Cryptoheisting: Or Press ENTER to Continue

by | Technology

Butch Cassidy: What happened to the old bank? It was beautiful.

Guard: People kept robbing it.

Butch Cassidy: Small price to pay for beauty.

–  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy) and Robert Redford (Sundance Kid) are a pair of bank robbers in the Old West, who make a living as professional bank and money train robbers.

It’s LOOSELY based on the real lives of Robert Leroy Parker, or Butch, and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid.

The movie follows the exploits of these American outlaws, as we watch them hijack Union Pacific railroad trains.

Paul Newman was cast perfectly as Butch Cassidy… according to historical sources, the real Butch was something of a personable Robin Hood-like folk hero to many people, and Paul Newman plays that role to the tee.

But It’s not long before both Butch and Sundance catch the attention of E.H. Harriman, a top executive of the Union Pacific Railroad. Harriman, sick of Butch and Sundance robbing so many of his company’s train cars, decides to hire a “superposse” of top law enforcement cops and Indian trackers, who have been hired to hunt down and capture both Butch and Sundance, dead or alive.

They know the superposse is too powerful to fight, so they flee the United States and head down to South America.

But their past once again catches up with them, and they end up continuing their bank heist careers down in South America, as reborn American “banditos”.

I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say the movie clearly is behind the thematic idea that “crime doesn’t pay”.

You get the sense through the entire film that Butch and Sundance are two likable characters, who have unfortunately chosen a very arduous and unlucky profession to make a living.

There’s a reason why MOST people decide not to rob banks and trains for a living… the logistics of planning a heist, as well as evading massive armies of law enforcement, are an effective deterrent that makes robbing more trouble than it’s worth, no matter how lucrative the winnings may be.


Fast forward to the 21st century.

There’s this new terminology I’m starting to see on the internet.


Welcome to the World of Cryptocurrency Theft

It’s too bad Butch and Sundance lived in the 19th century. They would have had a MUCH easier time as bank heist bandits in the 21st century.

It looks like Coincheck, one of Asia’s biggest digital currency exchanges (the process of converting digital currency such as Bitcoin, into standard currency like US Dollars), just recently suffered a digital hack which resulted in the theft of $534 million dollars.

Most of you have probably heard about the skyrocketing value of the digital cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (somewhere north of $11,000.00 for 1 bitcoin, as of the time of this article).

Cryptocurrency is literally the new digital gold rush of the 21st century. It runs on an open ledger system known as “blockchain”.

The basic idea is that blockchain technology and cryptocurrency provide a brand new way of performing monetary transactions.

Instead of being controlled and centralized by formal institutions and agencies like banks and federal reserves and world banks, cryptocurrency runs on completely decentralized bank ledgers.

As a software developer, I like to view it through the lens of open source versus closed source software.

Closed source software is source code that is copyrighted and controlled by a person or organization, and which may not be shared, viewed, or modified by anyone without the express permission of the original source code writers. Traditional institutions like banks and federal reserves regulate and control the flow and amount of money currency which circulates for common use.

Open source software is source code that is freely viewable by anyone. People who have a desire to change the source code and add features and functionality to it are allowed to take the source code, modify it, and submit their changes back to the original governing body who released the original source code, for review. If the code change is approved, the changes will end up in the main code base.

This sort of open review is very similar to the “open ledger” architecture of blockchain/cryptocurrency systems. The core principle behind blockchain technology is there are always many “eyeballs” continually reviewing the monetary transactions that officially get entered into the open ledger system.

And it doesn’t look like this new digital architecture is some sort of flash in the pan fad. It genuinely appears to be yet another new technological revolution in the way people transact money.

But as with any technological revolution or invention, it also brings the dark side of technology as well.

And cryptocurrency is no different.

It looks like cryptocurrency is the new playground for cyberthieves. And it’s not hard to understand why.

[bctt tweet=”It looks like #cryptocurrency is the new playground for cyberthieves. And it’s not hard to see why.” username=”profocustech”]

The New Digital Crime Wave?

Traditional bank robbers, who rob banks or other financial institutions, are taking a big gamble robbing money … it takes a lot of real-world logistics and contending with physical obstacles like steel hardened safes, time locks, security guards, potential human hostage scenarios, not to mention the armies of law enforcement agencies and tactical S.W.A.T. and military forces to contend with.

Law enforcement has had a lot of years to wise up to bank robbers and thieves and know their tactics well enough to develop counter-strategies to foil bank robbers.

As Butch Cassidy lamented in the movie to Sundance – “If he’d just pay me what he’s spending to make me stop robbing him, I’d stop robbing him!”

The life of crime in the real world isn’t easy.

Which is why crypto-heists, like the one mentioned previously, will probably be the new digital crime wave of the 21st century.

The beauty of crypto-heists is it eliminates all the logistical headaches of robbing real brick & mortar financial institutions… no messy dynamite to blow up buildings, safes, or railroad cars like Butch and Sundance had to deal with!

It’s all about hacking into the core digital ledgers (blockchain) to steal the obscenely valuable digital currency. And if you’re good enough, you can pull off your digital caper without carrying a real weapon, breaking into a physical, heavily guarded building, and sweating out the extremely challenging problem of how to escape with the money, while evading capture. 

The Future of Crypto-Theft

I see two possibilities happening in reaction to this rise in cryptocurrency.

It depends on whether people decide that cryptocurrency is worth investing in. As clearly seen by these recent cryptocurrency robberies, this technology is going to lure many other hackers and digital thieves to figure out ways to steal this valuable digital currency.

If the popularity of digital currency is so great that it can’t disappear, then I imagine there will be whole new branches of law enforcement that will specialize in digital crimes like cryptocurrency theft.

And of course, people will continue to have to figure out how to make blockchain technology more secure and immune to digital thievery.

Easier said than done, of course.

Just ask Butch and Sundance.

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