Just days after Hong Kong-based bitcoin exchange Bitfinex was allegedly hacked and lost $65 million worth of customer funds, a Reddit user claiming to be the hacker is running a twisted lottery that has thousands of people lining up to get some of the action.
The user, who goes by "rekcahxfb"—that's "bfx hacker" backwards—claims that they will give away 1,000 bitcoins to one lucky person next Wednesday. As of today's bitcoin prices, that amounts to $575,520. That could be a "life changing amount of money," as one user put it. For people who lost money in the Bitfinex hack, it could be a lifeline.
A Reddit post by rekcahxfb has racked up more than 4,000 comments from people sharing their public bitcoin addresses, and a thread on the BitcoinTalk forum runs over 170 pages long. One commenter implored: "Please be my Robin Hood."
The prize coins are real, and rekcahxfb controls them. Rekcahxfb posted a message and cryptographic signature to go along with the bitcoin address in their post, and when checked against each other with a tool to verify bitcoin signatures, they returned a green "verified" notification. There's just one problem: the coins that rekxahxfb plans to give away were transferred into their wallet three years ago, making it an impossibility that they came from the Bitfinex hack, which happened earlier this week.
Who rekcahxfb is, or why they want to give away coins now while pinning it on the Bitfinex hacker, is a mystery. Motherboard reached out to rekcahxfb and hasn't received a response.
"Clearly, it's someone who is just playing around with the community"
There main theory posited by skeptical commenters is that rekcahxfb, whoever they are, ultimately plans on sending the coins to themselves. Since bitcoin addresses are anonymous, rekcahxfb could theoretically send the coins to an address they posted in the comments while pretending to be just another commenter hoping to win the lottery without any concrete link being drawn between the two. But is rekcahxfb a troll, or the real deal?
"Clearly, it's someone who is just playing around with the community," Emin Gün Sirer, a hacker and professor at Cornell University, wrote me in an email. "My first guess was that it's someone on a binge from controlled substances, but it has lasted a little too long for that. My second guess is that it's someone who came to possess large numbers of coins easily, who is jilted, and wants to debase community members by making them beg for coins."
The second possibility is conjecture, Sirer said, but it does make a good deal of sense, if the giveaway is for real. It could be that the coins were stolen during any one of the many hacks and scams that plagued bitcoin in 2013, and the moment of opportunity to pin it on somebody else while having some fun has only presented itself in the wake of the Bitfinex hack.
In the Wild West of bitcoin, Occam's Razor isn't always a reliable rule of thumb, but the weight of it nonetheless clearly rests on one possibility here: someone is likely having some very mean fun with some very desperate people.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that rekcahxfb is planning on giving away $60,000 worth of bitcoin, when in fact that number is close to $600,000 worth of bitcoin. Motherboard apologizes for the error and reminds everyone to double check their decimal places.