back to article Parity calamity! Wallet code bug destroys $280m in Ethereum

There's a lot of hair-pulling among Ethereum alt-coin hoarders today – after a programming blunder in Parity's wallet software let one person bin $280m of the digital currency belonging to scores of strangers, probably permanently. Parity, which was set up by Ethereum core developer Gavin Woods, admitted today that a user …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    The user name is devops

    I guess we are seeing nominative determinism at work.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    This is when I know I'm getting old...

    The following devices in my house have received software updates:

    1. My computer, my phone, my tablet, my router: these, I accept. They are obviously computers.

    2. My TV, a pair of speakers: now this starting to get a bit silly.

    3. My wall socket timers, my thermostat: really? Has the nature of time and temperature drastically changed?

    4. My drum kit: ok, it's far more talented than I am, and doesn't actually need me to play: but still... complex...

    But now... to top it all... money needs a software update. Money. Jesus Christ! I'm sorry, but either we're all fucked, or I'm too old. I hope the latter, but suspect the former.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

      anything that can be programmed can be so in a good way or in a bad way. Programmable money: sorry, not for me and no, even though I have seen the rise and fall of the 5,25" floppy disk, I don't consider myself old.

      1. Loud Speaker

        Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

        even though I have seen the rise and fall of the 5,25" floppy disk, I don't consider myself old.

        Old is when you remember the invention of the 8" floppy.

        I remember when money was contaminated with Cocaine - not sure if that makes me old!

        1. herman Silver badge

          Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

          "Old is when you remember the invention of the 8" floppy."

          Hah, kids, these days - bring me my Winchester... no, not the 38-40!

          1. Scroticus Canis
            Happy

            Re: "bring me my Winchester"

            Yep, remember when they first came out - a whole 5MB. Replaced one of the two 8" floppy drives in the SuperBrain microcomputers (running CPM and CIS COBOL apps); made the world of difference to program response times (COBOL code overlays). Still needed one floppy for data comms back-up* when the acoustic-coupler modems wouldn't work**. My first distributed system :)

            * - stiff envelope and in the mail

            ** - had to write my own transmission checking and error correcting code; even with that sometimes the lines were just too noisy.

        2. Mage Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: TOld is when you remember the invention of the 8" floppy

          Whippersnapper.

          I remember coding forms.

          Much later we had access to punched cards and only computer support staff handled the 1/2" tape reels. The 8" floppy was later, for reloading microcode on a cold boot. So were Winchesters.

          1. Fluffy Cactus

            Re: TOld is when you remember the invention of the 8" floppy

            No, the Winchester 73, from 1873 - definitely was before 8" floppies. I know because I am 198 years old,

            and I exaggerate.

          2. Hargrove

            Re: TOld is when you remember the invention of the 8" floppy

            Hollerith cards, anyone?

        3. Daniel Bower

          Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

          I *can't* remember those days.. ;)

      2. nijam

        Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

        > 5.25" floppy disk

        I thought they used to be 8"?

        (OK, cue a flood of yet older technologies from commentards.)

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

        5,25" floppy disk

        Pah! I spit on your modern, high-tech rubbish!

        Everyone knows that paper tape is the proper medium for recording computer-device programmable logic on!

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

          Computer tape. Luxury. I remember when we had to carve the 0s and 1s on slate.

          1. noodle heimer

            Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

            Ay, but the irretrievable MTBF on that clay media was epic!

            Also, epoch.

          2. Surreal

            Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

            Whippersnapper. When I was young, all we had were zeros. We had to beat them flat with a rock to make ones.

          3. Aodhhan

            Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

            You're still young.

            I grew up using smoke signals for emails.

            To code, we used finger paint on walls.

            To archive, we carved into the back of tree bark and tied them together.

            ...and WE LIKED IT!!!!

          4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: we had to carve the 0s and 1s on slate.

            You jest.

            This is the first personal computer I used (at South Bank Poly):-

            http://www.z80.eu/images/intellec8.jpg

            Admittedly you only had to program in a JMP instruction to get it to run a PROM routine to accept input from a paper tape reader... which could then be used to load the Intel Assembler.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: we had to carve the 0s and 1s on slate.

              I tried to find an image of the computer we had at school in the early 70s and failed. It was red, IBM and resembled one of their supermarket tills. It was programmed in numbers - none of yer high level languages. But it could do stuff, and we could write and debug programmes there and then. Otherwise we had to use special pencils on cards that were sent off in a pack to the university's computing centre and which came back with a result ( or more often an error) a week or two later..

    2. Andrew Commons

      Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

      Software defined money. That it's broken is no surprise because we cannot write software.

      Thank god we don't have software defined networks, software defined infrastructure or software defined security because we would be royally screwed then.

      1. vincent himpe

        Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

        and some people want to tinker with the 'software' in the human brain....

        i predict hordes of roaming braindamaged zombies roaming the earth ...

        1. Sam Therapy

          Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

          Something makes you think they aren't already?

    3. lifetime security

      Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

      For the last 40 years or so, money has been in software. They are in database transactions but still software .

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

        For the last 40 years or so, money has been in software...

        That's quantities of money; this is actual currency. Different.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

          It's comforting to think that *our* own money is the real stuff.

          But so long as you can spend it...

        2. YARR
          Headmaster

          A fool and his money...

          That's quantities of money; this is actual currency. Different.

          How different? The majority of money is numbers in a ledger (which has been electronic for the last 40+ years), cash is only a fraction of all money that exists: MB + M0 - M3 + MZM).

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_supply

          Value is more likely to be preserved if a currency has :

          (1) Reliable ledgers.

          (2) An entire nation / economy of workers who are contractually paid with that currency. (Who is obliged to accept bitcoin?)

          (3) The issue of new currency (lending) is restricted to new assets that devalue slowly (not worthless used computer processing).

          (4) New currency can be created according to demand. If supply of a currency is artificially restricted (like Bitcoin) or is tied to a rare asset (like gold), this can restrict lending and economic growth, causing people to switch to alternatives.

    4. Mage Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

      Except all cryptocurrencies are primarily anonymisation systems. They often are Ponzi schemes, speculative and aid criminal activities more than €500 notes.

      They have a poor and elitist method to generate more "virtual coins".

      Any connection to actual money is tenuous as they are more used as an anonymous alternative to IBAN or PayPal, or by speculators.

      I'm tempted to do a Nelson impersonation. Ha! Ha!

      Mines the one with a leather wallet containing EU physical tokens to replace barter and plastic cards for terminal or web based Electronic funds transfer.

      The ONLY problem cryptocurrencies address is ANONYMOUS REMOTE funds transfer. The technology creates new problems (not scaleable, poor coin supply control, speculation like Tulips).

      1. Random Q Hacker

        Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

        Mage, most are not anonymous, as every transaction is recorded in the blockchain and known exchanges can be subpoenaed to obtain transaction records. As opposed to the many banks that laundered money for drug cartels and destroyed records becore being investigated.

        The problem they solve is having all your money in the hands of the 1%, making them rich, and paying an arm and a leg for the privilege.

        Systems like Bitcoin Cash are fast and scalable. Personally, I still appreciate real cash as well for true anonymity, though I suspect it will be harder and harder to make it counterfeit-resistant.

    5. vincent himpe

      Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

      in 1998 i had a Compaq monitor. A monitor! not a computer ! that needed a software update.

      One morning we found that all blue was gone. Only the red and green channels worked. this was old school picture tube analog VGA 640x480. We unplugged the vga cable checking for a bent pin and replugged it. Nope. Blue was gone. Did some joker turn down the blue using the menu ?

      Pulling up the on screen menu froze the monitor completely. The computers screen disappeared and the menu box was all garbled pixels.

      Power cycle the monitor : all back to normal.

      The little 8K cpu responsible for the control menu had locked up and turned down the blue gain. Trying to pull up the menu froze it completely. a cold start and we were back in business.

      Seriously? It's already bad our computers can lock up. now we have to deal with crashing firmware in screens ?

    6. Chemical Bob
      Flame

      Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

      "But now... to top it all... money needs a software update."

      Think of it as the digital equivalent of a fire.

    7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: This is when I know I'm getting old...

      Everything Needs An Update!

  3. DNTP

    EORN hash implementation successful

    Encrypt Once Read Never- because something broke and now you can't!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EORN hash implementation successful

      "Encrypt Once Read Never- because something broke and now you can't!"

      ah ah. I remember a bloke, in a scientific computing lab, who was used to edit all his marvelous programs in Fortran with "vi -x", back on Unicos from Cray.

      Turned up, with the first crypto wars, and the US forbidding shipping any crypto outside US, the function eventually got removed from Unicos.

      He never got access back to his sources. Good riddance.

      1. Natalie Gritpants

        Re: EORN hash implementation successful

        Odd that he couldn't access his source code and yet the compiler could. Or did the Fortran compiler have a decrypt-encrypted-source option that was compatible with vi?

  4. Mark 110

    Oh dear

    I feel a snigger coming on. Imagine the Bitcoin price will halve tomorrow. Risk and all that.

    Silly buggers trusting this shit.

    1. Leedos

      Re: Oh dear

      It would expect the opposite. Ethereum tanks, Bitcoin climbs. Let's check back on Friday to see who's right.

      1. dkerago

        Re: Oh dear

        I think you'll find that this will cause Ethereum to rise in value.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh dear

          I think the author should change the end line of the article to

          One Ethereum coin is right now worth about precisely fuck all.

      2. emmanuel goldstein

        Re: Oh dear

        Ethereum is the name of the decentralised platform. The value tokens for this platform are known as Ether, so it's more accurate to say "Ether tanks". The article itself seems a bit confused on this point too.

      3. dkerago

        Re: Oh dear

        It's Friday where I live and ... https://www.coindesk.com/ethereum-price/

    2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear

      "I feel a snigger coming on. Imagine the Bitcoin price will halve tomorrow. Risk and all that."

      So despite this having exactly nothing to do with bitcoin, or any bitcoin wallets, or anything other than a particular multi sig wallets for ETH, it's apparently going to cause a massive crash. Even ETH had only a minor bump from this, while BTC seems to have not even been affected.

      Now, as for silly buggers trusting wallet software that has already been compromised and had funds stolen (with an integer overflow attack) is a fair point. And I'm not quite sure how they managed this latest clusterfuck, but I expect it'll be another "coding for dummys" level error.

      Oh, and there are plenty of ways to trade BTC. including the usual derivatives. If you're so sure that the price is going to tank, short it and make a killing. If you're sure enough to post you should be sure enough to trade.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear

        We never had this much trouble with Tulip Bulbs

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Oh dear

          We never had this much trouble with Tulip Bulbs

          Indeed. And you can't eat an ethereum or bitcoin!

          (Not that I'm suggesting that it's wise to eat tulip bulbs. Especially as eating one could quite well finish you off..)

          1. Baldy1138

            Re: Oh dear

            Not if it's Holland in 1944:

            https://www.fluwel.com/eating-tulip-bulbs

  5. frank ly

    A tragedy?

    "They then posted that they were looking for a job if anyone was hiring."

    Or improvisational comedy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A tragedy?

      Definitely a comedy.

      But I am undoubtedly alone in smirking and hoping that the locked down wallets have been made permanently inaccessible. Please, please let all that vapour-cash be snuffed! Please.

      1. Richard Boyce

        Re: A tragedy?

        If your physical wallet got blown overboard into the sea, would you be happy if someone within earshot laughed and expressed the wish that all your capitalist vapour-paper be snuffed and permanently inaccessible?

        1. Citizens untied

          Re: A tragedy?

          Who cares, they might, they might not. I bet it has a lot to do with why they were on the boat to witness it in the first place. Fellow tourist, may not. Aggrieved and oppressed crew member working slave wages to feed an extended family in the third world? Perhaps.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

          If your physical wallet got blown overboard into the sea, would you be happy if someone within earshot laughed and expressed the wish that all your capitalist vapour-paper be snuffed and permanently inaccessible?

          Not sure why you accrued a couple of downvotes, I'd like to point out it wasn't me!

          Anyway, I wouldn't, but I don't think you can fairly compare the loss of physical cash with speculative blockchain currencies, with essentially fictitious values until (and if ever) converted into a real currency or other store of value, and I don't think that people can expect sympathy when playing with what are clearly unregulated investments, in volatile markets, with an unproven technology platform - all of which were true and obvious for all blockchain currencies before this latest snafu. This is nothing new - go back three and a half years to the Mt Gox disaster, when about $400m of bitcoins were stolen through a flawed exchange platform, with no comeback for the people who thought they were the rightful owners.

          So, harsh and unsympathetic I may be, but I still laugh, and given the nature of blockchain currency investors, I don't think that any widows or orphans will be the losers from this latest blockchain screwup. And I would guess it won't be the last. There's at least five large blockchain currencies now, and over 700 others. Given that most of those will be crappy, me-too efforts, most will curl up and die, probably taking a lot of supposed value with them. I don't mind if people wish to speculate in those currencies, but it is very high risk, and they still won't get my sympathy when their millions turn to smoke.

          I don't suppose you'll now join me in having a good laugh?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

            "Real" currencies are speculative until you use them to buy food.

            As to whom is deserving of sympathy, it is your privilege to judge strangers based on your favored stereotypes. Just remember that what goes around comes around.

            1. Mark 110

              Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

              Real currencies are guaranteed by governments. Who through good governance try and keep the value of them fairly predictable. Governments do things like insure your savings so if your bank goes bust you don't lose your money.

              If a government starts to guarantee virtual currencies then problems like this story won't be a big issue.

              1. TheTick
                Coffee/keyboard

                Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

                "Real currencies are guaranteed by governments. Who through good governance try and keep the value of them fairly predictable. "

                You owe me a new keyboard.

                It's a specific policy of the government (through the central banks) to constantly make your currency worth less every year, it's called the inflation target which is 2% for the BoE. Not 0%, which would be nice and stable, but 2%. That's assuming they are honest in their measure of inflation, and which of the three versions of inflation they use as the measure (RPI/CPI and the GDP deflator).

                Though I suppose that does match your statement that it makes them predictable - predictably bad.

                1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                  Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

                  It's a specific policy of the government (through the central banks) to constantly make your currency worth less every year, it's called the inflation target which is 2% for the BoE. Not 0%, which would be nice and stable

                  TheTick,

                  Just because you are ignorant of economics does mean that all the world's central banks are. Deflation is a much bigger risk to society than inflation. Which is why there is serious economic debate about whether those inflation targets should be raised to around 3%, because undershooting 2% and being around 1% is uncomfortably close to disaster (as the Eurozone has been flirting with for 6 years now).

                  As a nice example for you, Weimar Germany survived the inflation crisis of 1923, and managed to get the economy back on track. That's apparently the great German folk-memory, of people hauling cash round in wheelbarrows and the evils of inflation.

                  But it was the banking crisis and deflation after 1930 that triggered the rise of Hitler. Which is what most people seem to forget.

                  Excessive inflation creates friction and uncertainty and so can damage growth. Deflation makes borrowing almost impossible, which discourages investment and also makes banking dangerously fragile, as well as destroying any business or person carrying pre-existing debts. This creates a vicious cycle of falling growth and investment, failing businesses, unemployment, bank failure and political instability.

                  So low predictable inflation is a good thing. The only downside is that money is a less good store of value over the long term. But this can be counter-acted by investing that money - either in banks to mostly stave off inflation, or at slightly higher risk to beat it. Both of which investments then make otherwise idle money available for investment, thus further growing the economy.

                  This is basic economics.

                  1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                    Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

                    Weimar Germany survived the inflation crisis of 1923, and managed to get the economy back on track

                    When clearing out M.I.L's house, we found a million-Mark note from that period, with a short letter from someone in Germany to one of her deceased relatives.

                    Excitedly, I asked my then colleage in Gernamy how much it was worth.. Turns out that the short letter that accompanied it was worth about 10 times as much and that was worth about £20..

                    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                      Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

                      CrazyOldCatMan,

                      One thing I hadn't realised until seeing a repeat of an old BBC documentary this year was that the Nazis had pulled off a propoganda coup. They got hold of loads of old million Weimar Reichsmark notes and printed election pamphlets on them - which was a brilliantly subtle way of saying the old Weimar democracy is rubbish, why not try our system instead?

                      I wonder how they got hold of them in quanitity? You'd have thought the central bank would have destroyed them.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: A tragedy? @ Messrs Spartacus & Tick

                    Notwithstanding your apparent grievance with one another, you're both making some good points, most of which stand. If I might throw another dog or two on the fire, low inflation may be a good thing, negative real interest rates are most certainly not, added to which the question arises whether the measures of inflation are consistent or realistic (probably not as a time series, when they aren't taking account of disposable incomes, and when the government try and cheat the figures).

                    One other thought is that we've had deflation in tech and some manufactured goods prices for decades, and it has been treated as a good thing, despite being caused by FX and flawed trade and industrial policies. So to contend that deflation is some type of economic doomaggedon is exaggerated other than in the excess case (just like inflation). And one final point about using idle money - it never is idle, even if you think it is. But the cause of the great financial crisis was BECAUSE of investment - specifically mal-investment, in projects which couldn't pay back, and thus destroyed value, such as all the half built property still despoiling Spain. Investment only grows the economy if it actually delivers benefits greater than alternative uses of the money, and those benefits are a positive number.

                    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                      Re: A tragedy? @ Messrs Spartacus & Tick

                      If I might throw another dog or two on the fire, low inflation may be a good thing, negative real interest rates are most certainly not

                      Mr Anon,

                      You're a bit hard on the poor old doggies there...

                      As a general rule you are correct. Negative real interest rates are bad (i.e. interest rates below inflation). This is probably the main cause of the Euro crisis - when French and German inflation and growth were both down around 1-2% in the early 2000s, ECB interest rates were way too low for countries like Ireland and Spain. Causing runaway housing booms - which now means they need lower interest rates than say Germany.

                      However after the last recession we needed to generate inflation. Yes we needed to generate growth, to get out of recession. But was also needed to generate inflation itself. The reason for this often offends purveyors of the morality-play that Germany has deployed in the Euro-crisis, "poor savers must be protected from inflating away the debts of the feckless". There may even be some justice in that - however it's economically disastrous. As Keynes pointed out. If you have no inflation, then people with debts go bust, and they take the economy with them. That's the disaster of deflation. So the savers (owners of that debt) may complain that they're not getting their full pound of flesh, but what they don't realise is they face a stark choice. Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid. So they're better to accept a bit of inflation eating away at the principal and still getting interest plus repayments - because the alternative is the debtor going bust, and them getting nothing. Once that happens at a national scale, you get a 1930s style depression. So by generating inflation and stopping all the banks going bust, what our central banks did was to pass a bit of pain to the savers so that the borrowers didn't go broke and send the economy into a death-spiral.

                      Look how it took the Japanese central bank 3 years of insanely massive money-printing and government spending (Abenomics) in order to force their economy to start generating inflation again. Plus all the shorter and less extreme programs of government spending and QE they've done over the last 20 years that failed.

                      Your second point about deflation in the tech industry seems to be a misunderstanding / confusion of terms.

                      Deflation in the macro-economic sense means a rising in the value of money. Just as inflation is a fall in the value of money. And it truly is doom-ageddon. Once triggered it generates its own expectations, which cause it to continue. And the way to beat it is economically irrational, so the market can't easily get out of it without massive government intervention.

                      When you talk about deflation in the computer industry, you're actually talking about productivity rises. Society being able to produce more stuff with the same input of resources, due to new technology, automation and economies of scale. That's the best kind of economic growth.

                      If that happens in enough industries at once, it might cause deflation in the overall economy - such as in the 1870s - which if vague memories of my 19th C economic history serves, was down to globalisation (in food in particular) causing a long period of wage stagnation lack of investment. Deflation is the enemy of investment, and investment is what tends to fund productivity growth - which is what makes us better off by getting us more stuff for less effort.

                      1. Speltier

                        Re: A tragedy? @ Messrs Spartacus & Tick

                        Deflation is bad, but so is inflation. There is no inherent reason that 0% is problematic in the economic sense (one can argue that predictable deflation or inflation is equally non-problematic, except for the transient time when debt is mangled by people gambling on the future and not getting it right. Oh, and waiting to replace the car because tomorrow's deflated car will be cheaper is bogus, since eventually one has to replace the jalopy regardless of the future lower cost. In the limit, you die and your heirs and assigns buy the cheaper car).

                        The thing not mentioned by central bankers is that a low predictable inflation permits all sort of de facto things, like deflating the wages of workers in an industry that is on the way out, and making the GDP look rosy through fictitious growth. Businesses love low inflation because they can raise prices by more than inflation and can blame "inflation" for the rise, and show real growth in their profits. They can keep workers happy by giving out raises, more for meritorious workers and less for others and the lessors seem to rarely realize the subtle shafting. The list goes on. What I don't like, is that central bankers issue mumbo jumbo about the glories of low inflation when it is all a card game-- they should just admit the arbitrariness and move on.

                        What is generally damaging is rapid change in any direction. If the bond is for 20 years at a fixed interest rate, you sure hope that the inflation rate is stable over that time (or at least that you can call the bond if you are on the short end!). You hope that deflation doesn't set in because the idiot lawyers did not account for less than 0% inflation in a variable rate bond contract.

                        Deflation can be handled by giving out negative pay raises... but one still has to handle idiocy like pensions that never go down (again, because of idiots writing the rules) and a host of other side effects such as hoarding of specie. The problem isn't deflation but the inability of our growth centric system to handle anything but numbers going ever upwards.

              2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

                Who through good governance try and keep the value of them fairly predictable

                Or, with Zimbabwean values of governance, seek to make them lose 50% of value every hour or so.

              3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

                "

                Real currencies are guaranteed by governments.

                "

                Guaranteed to steadily decline in value perhaps. Ask any Venezuelan how much such a guarantee is worth.

                Meanwhile the Bitcoin I bought almost 12 months ago has increased in value by 1000% while the "guaranteed" currency in my bank account has diminished in value by about 3% in the same time period.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge
                  FAIL

                  Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

                  Cynic_999

                  The perfect definition of an economic bubble there.

                  As in "My shares in these South Sea companies are earning me more than my salary......... " and so on.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

                    Interestingly I have had several conversations recently with coworkers about "someone they know" who is making a motza on cryptocoin dealing, ICOs and other such punting. Numbers quoted on one seem to be in the hundreds of thousands - earlier miner in BTC who has been using that basis to trade in and out of other coins.

                    My point was that such people would do well to exchange their coins for hard currency, take the hit on marginal rate taxation and be free to enjoy things now - better house, more comfortable lifestyle, whatever. However, these individuals have not cashed out in any way shape or form. Not even a percentage. Why would they? I mean, this stuff is rising like crazy so why should they forgo all of those juicy future gains with BTC @ 10k etc?

                    That right there is the definition of a wild speculative bubble. These people are about to learn that history doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes.

                    Two charts, BTC vs USD and BTC vs Gold, the traditional inflation hedge. The one against physical Gold should ring alarm bells. If shit hits the fan people will trade for Gold, I doubt they'll wait for your BTC transaction to process.

          2. I3N
            Pint

            Re: A tragedy? @ Richard Boyce

            ... "widows and ministers" are the usual losers ....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A tragedy?

        Definitely a comedy.

        But I am undoubtedly alone in smirking and hoping that the locked down wallets have been made permanently inaccessible. Please, please let all that vapour-cash be snuffed! Please.

        That's the thing, isn't it? The article says $280 M worth of ethereum. Well, I would say, if it's inaccessible, then it's really worth $0.

        It would only be worth $280M if someone was willing to pay that for it, which is nobody now.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    devops199 said they were a newbie

    "They" said that, did they? How many DevOps are we talking about here - 199?

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

      One Devops of indeterminate gender. When we don't know (or care) about gender we can use "they" instead of "he" or "she" to avoid guessing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

        And the plural verb form "were"? They are more DevOps here than meet the eye. I'm sticking with 199.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

          Past tense, they were a newbie. They have now been elevated to chief chaos monkey.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

        I think you're being somewhat insensitive to state that the perpetrator is of undeterminate gender. The tag DevOps might imply that, but the assumption is unkind.

      3. Captain DaFt

        Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

        One Devops of indeterminate gender. When we don't know (or care) about gender we can use "they" instead of "he" or "she" to avoid guessing.

        Rather silly convention if you ask me.

        English has a perfectly usable gender pronoun, "it". In fact "they" is the plural of "it".

        Seriously, what would be your reaction if you went to see your boss, and when his secretary told him there was someone to see him, he belches out, "Who is they?"

        I have never knocked at a door, and heard, "Who is they?", it's just wrong!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

          Rather silly convention if you ask me.

          English has a perfectly usable gender pronoun, "it". In fact "they" is the plural of "it".

          English personal pronouns and their accompanying tenses are rather more complicated than you think. For instance, why is the 2nd person always plural in modern English?.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

            You just have to concede this type of argument if you're up against someone named Dr Syntax.

            But if I may point out an exception: in some places in the US, 2nd person "youse" is singular, "youse guys" is plural.

            1. DropBear Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              ""youse" is singular, "youse guys" is plural."

              So there's at least three different forms - singular, plural, and "all y'all"...?

            2. emmanuel goldstein

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              "You just have to concede this type of argument if you're up against someone named Dr Syntax."

              I suspect the name refers to this Doctor Syntax, a comic character created by William Coombe and cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson in the early 19th Century.

              And yes, I know I should get out more.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

                "I suspect the name refers to this Doctor Syntax, a comic character created by William Coombe and cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson in the early 19th Century."

                Well done that man.

                I always thought it would have been a good company name to use for IT contracting but in the end I went along with the more prosaic alternative of an off-the-shelf company.

            3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              in some places in the US, 2nd person "youse" is singular, "youse guys" is plural.

              I think that was inherited from some of the native English dialects..

            4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              But if I may point out an exception: in some places in the US, 2nd person "youse" is singular, "youse guys" is plural.

              Youse as in Scouse.

          2. Mage Silver badge

            Re: why is the 2nd person always plural in modern English?

            Not in N.I. or Scotland. Perhaps not in Northumberland and Yorkshire. Maybe for youse lot in London.

            We speak Queen Elizabeth's English.

            I'm never sure about Wales and Cornwall.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: why is the 2nd person always plural in modern English?

              Wales and Cornwall

              They[1] speak English using Celtic grammar:

              [1] Depending on the degree of native-speaking. The native Welsh-speaker (or Gaidhlig-speaker in Scotland) tend to speak more grammatically-correct English..

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: why is the 2nd person always plural in modern English?

              "Not in N.I. or Scotland. Perhaps not in Northumberland and Yorkshire. Maybe for youse lot in London."

              I'm in Yorkshire. And, sadly, what was in use (thee and thou) when I wor a lad has died out, nor did I hear it in NI when I lived there. AFAICS "youse" is a variant of "you". cf the French: "tu" versus "vous"

          3. nijam

            Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

            > For instance, why is the 2nd person always plural in modern English?

            It isn't. It's just that the singular and plural forms are spelt and pronounced identically. As with so many other examples in the language, that doesn't mean they're the same word.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              "It's just that the singular and plural forms are spelt and pronounced identically."

              The singular form is thee/thou and is nowadays regarded as archaic.

          4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

            For instance, why is the 2nd person always plural in modern English

            Because it's English and so expressly designed to confuse those damn foreigners? Not to mention a vast swathe of native speakers..

            (And let's not go into the various simplified language-forks like American English or Pidgin..)

            1. emmanuel goldstein

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              You think English is confusing? Might I suggest you try learning Czech (or Russian, or Polish for that matter)?

        2. Nolveys Silver badge

          Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

          English has a perfectly usable gender pronoun, "it". In fact "they" is the plural of "it".

          "It places the reports in the basket or else it gets the hose again."

        3. katrinab Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

          “English has a perfectly usable gender pronoun, "it". In fact "they" is the plural of "it".”

          Sorry, but you are wrong

          https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/grammar/using-they-and-them-in-the-singular

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

            Except one does not refer to persons as "it": animals yes, but persons, no.

            1. MyffyW Silver badge

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              Just a wild conjecture on my part - and happy to be proven wrong - but I have doubts that anybody calling themselves DevOps199 is particularly in touch with their feminine side.

              1. Teiwaz Silver badge

                Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

                I have doubts that anybody calling themselves DevOps199 is particularly in touch with their feminine side.

                I'm in touch with mine, or was, until the restraining order...

            2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              Except one does not refer to persons as "it": animals yes, but persons, no.

              Except "it's a girl!", "It's a boy!", "it's a... I'm not sure what it is!"

              1. Brangdon

                Re: "it's a girl!"

                "It's a girl!" would refer to a newborn baby. Babies are not persons. They develop into persons.

            3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

              but persons, no.

              Have you never done Luser support? "It" is positively polite..

        4. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

          I have never knocked at a door, and heard, "Who is they?", it's just wrong!

          Because that's a different case of pronoun. You might hear "Who is that?" But even if suffering an identity crisis you wont ask "Who am me?"

          "They" for indeterminate or unspecified gender isn't much different from other languages using plural forms for formal address. A French speaker isn't going to think that there must be someone standing beside them because you've asked "comment vous appelez-vous?". And as language work on patterns, it takes the same form of the verb that the normal plural use would. Neither is it a new use, for those who seem to be taking umbrage that it must be some new politically correct conspiracy, and is much less obtrusive than whirling around he/she, (s)he or randomly selecting a gender for each new paragraph.

        5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: How many DevOps are we talking about here

          "

          English has a perfectly usable gender pronoun, "it". In fact "they" is the plural of "it".

          Seriously, what would be your reaction if you went to see your boss, and when his secretary told him there was someone to see him, he belches out, "Who is they?"

          "

          A better reaction than if my boss had replied, "Ask it to come in."

    2. DNTP

      Re: devops199 said they were a newbie

      Here is the definitive way to handle gender pronouns at work:

      1. Chain-read every single one of James White's Sector General novels in a single three day weekend (you may choose to skip The Galactic Gourmet) until you've internalized how they handle pronouns.

      2. Go in to work, pretend you are at Sector General and all your coworkers are aliens, and just start referring to everyone as 'it'.

      3. Try to explain step 1 and step 2 to a completely baffled HR rep.

      1. I3N
        Happy

        Re: devops199 said they were a newbie

        Type 5 (just looked that up!):

        Thanks for Pratchett and now off to White

    3. chosenZero

      Re: devops199 said they were a newbie

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they: "The singular they had emerged by the 14th century and is common in everyday spoken English, but its use has been the target of criticism since the late 19th century."

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: devops199 said they were a newbie

        "the target of criticism since the late 19th century"

        That's the consequence of grammarians trying to force-fit the grammar of another language, Latin, onto English.

        I suspect that underlying all these issues is a sense not of number but of the personal vs the impersonal. The "singular" is more personal than the "plural". Where a less personal form is needed we instinctively use the "plural", hence not only the singular they but also the royal we.

        I wonder what the use of the impersonal "you" ways about us. Have we simply become too impersonal in our dealings with others or is the etiquette too complicated: I can thou thee but don't thee thou me was how to express it to a junior.

  7. wsm

    How many?

    How many DevOps does it take to, I dunno, lose a fortune in artificial currency?

    Fewer than expected, apparently.

    1. Mark 65

      Re: How many?

      The whole point of DevOps is efficiency, no?

  8. wsm

    How many?

    How many DevOps does it take to, I dunno, lose a fortune in artificial currency? Fewer than expected apparently.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've got 199 Ethereum problems but devops ain't one.

  10. CommodorePet
    FAIL

    bad analogy time

    Imagine the entry hall to an apartment building that has 200 units. 200 post boxes on the wall. Behind 199 of them are shredders that destroy anything put into them (no one lives there). Don't get the address wrong on your letter!

    (i.e. when you're sending crypto).

    Now imagine the instructions on how the posty should decode addresses is in the first letter he delivers.

    Multiply by a million. That's how safe this whole industry is.

  11. DougS Silver badge

    One coin worth $293

    I think you'd find if that devops guy tried to sell even 10% of his $290 million hoard, the real value is a fraction of that. Or worse, given the major blow this would undoubtedly give to the people's confidence that the money they think they have will be there tomorrow.

    1. foxyshadis

      Re: One coin worth $293

      The devops guy didn't steal them. He accidentally nuked the code to decrypt them, which apparently can't be restored, so now they're just random bits in the wind.

      It's as if some web server had exposed an initWallet() function that destroyed and recreated one, and an initWallets() that destroyed and recreated all of them. And they were both 100% public. The facepalm is strong with this company; the fact that he was involved with Etherium's founding is a strong knock against Etherium itself at this point.

  12. Claptrap314 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Any grownups?

    I just cannot get over the feeling that Etherium is lacking in adult supervision. According to comments I've seen, the first big bug was due to integer overflow. In 2017. THIS bug has this tremendous impact because people continued to trust the _same_ dev team to the point that they did not audit the code. When big G gave us Stagefright I and II just a couple of years ago.

    I can almost get that these mistakes might happen in the first place. I cannot get at all that people don't respond aggressively to fix the major malfunction when they do.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Def Silver badge

      Re: Any grownups?

      I've been playing around with Ethereum recently, and am totally unsurprised about this.

      Their core software is ropey as fuck, with more bugs than features. You look at their github issue list and how they're being dealt with (or not in most cases) and you really have to wonder who the fuck is in charge.

      The fact their main platform is written in Go says a lot too. You get the impression they're more interested in buzzword languages than they are in creating a serious platform.

      Which is a shame because despite all this, Ethereum is an interesting idea that could do very well. With a little adult supervision.

      1. Mark 65

        Re: Any grownups?

        The fact their main platform is written in Go says a lot too. You get the impression they're more interested in buzzword languages than they are in creating a serious platform.

        And if, up until the point of collapse, you could make a paper fortune and fund your existence whilst dicking around with trendy shit wouldn't you give it a whirl? I'd argue it is highly attractive up until the point you lose everything. Locate anywhere, work whenever. It ticks the Gen-whatever boxes.

  13. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Cryptocurrency

    Teaching libertarians why we have financial regulation since 2009.

    1. mitch 2

      Re: Cryptocurrency

      Do you think these companies are libertarian? https://entethalliance.org/members/

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My feelings

    its just sad , so very very sad ....

  15. Paul 129
    Mushroom

    Newbie!

    Therein lies the problem with so much software.

    Mind you, given the types that rely on crypto currencies, I would not like to be devops199.

    Darwin and natural selection, about to play out?

  16. Jonathan 27 Bronze badge

    Not worth $280m anymore now is it?

    But seriously, there is going to be a point in the future where we all look back at this and laugh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The future is now

      Ah hahahahahahahahahaahahah *deep breath* haaaaa!

      I still had to pay over the odds for my damn graphics card though.

      A million vanishing Eth is sure to knock rather a lot off the value.

    2. Bob Dole (tm)

      ... I’m laughing now. Why wait?

  17. DainB Bronze badge

    And that's why cryptocurrency is not and won't become a replacement for money

    Imagine this happening in a real bank with real money and literally everyone says

    - 290 millions ? Meh, big deal, suck it losers.

    Can't ?

    That's the point.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: And that's why cryptocurrency is not and won't become a replacement for money

      Big banks swallow the millions and hope one notices

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: And that's why cryptocurrency is not and won't become a replacement for money

      > Imagine this happening in a real bank with real money

      You are absolutely correct. There is no way that a bank would stuff up big time and effectively vapourise some eye watering sum of money. And if they did, they'd hardly go cap in hand to Mr add Mrs Tax-Payer for a bailout I guess.

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: And that's why cryptocurrency is not and won't become a replacement for money

        I guess you totally missed the point.

        No one cares only about millions of disappeared cryptocoins, be it Ethereum, Mt Gox and so on.

        Literally no one, even Ethereum developers, and why would they, they know it's not a real money.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: And that's why cryptocurrency is not and won't become a replacement for money

        You are absolutely correct. There is no way that a bank would stuff up big time and effectively vapourise some eye watering sum of money. And if they did, they'd hardly go cap in hand to Mr add Mrs Tax-Payer for a bailout I guess.

        Adam 1,

        But that's the point. There's a government to step in and save the day if the shit hits the fan.

        If the banks fuck up like that with people's current accounts they can go cap in hand to government to get it sorted out. For a mere couple of hundred million, most banks can just lose it out of their Tier 1 capital and carry on as normal - possibly having to raise a bit of cash on the markets. But if they can't, then the government will step in, and nuke sufficient of their shareholders' and bondholders' equity until the issue is sorted out.

        So even after the biggest financial crisis in 80 years, the UK government didn't have to give any money to the banks. The Bank of England lent them loads, truly insane amounts, which was all paid back within 2 years. Those banks in the deepest doodoo had to give the government shares, in exchange for more loans. All but the RBS shares have now been sold at a profit, as have the dead Northern Rock's assets. Now we're just left holding all those shares in RBS - which looks to have finally turned itself around - although I'm not holding my breath on that.

        That's why governments are good. They are often annoying, and screw things up, but there are certain levels of protection that their existence can provide - which markets can't. And that's why libertarians are wrong. You can't have functioning markets without functioning governments - for emergency backstop, rule-of-law, protection of contracts and legislation on monopolies.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And that's why cryptocurrency is not and won't become a replacement for money

        Errrr.The bank money hasn't disappeared. It just belongs to someone else now.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. jockmcthingiemibobb

      Re: And that's why cryptocurrency is not and won't become a replacement for money

      What real money are you referring to? These paper notes they print haven't been based on gold for a long while now.

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: And that's why cryptocurrency is not and won't become a replacement for money

        What real money am I referring to?

        The ones that you use to buy food.

  18. I3N
    Devil

    Really could have fooled me ....

    "DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users." visualstudio.com

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Really could have fooled me ....

      continuous delivery of value to our end users

      Indeed. And that particular DevOps person has just made the remaining Ether a tad more valuable. Until it too evaporates.

  19. Bibbit

    This cheered me up.

    Silly sods got what they deserved.

  20. mitch 2

    When are we going to get a grown up blockchain article from El Reg? The finance industry is being revolutionised under your noses and all you can do is ignore or sneer. You can start here https://entethalliance.org/members/

    1. DainB Bronze badge

      I thought El Reg is the place where readers have basic understanding of technology and can explain difference between blockchain and craptocurrency that uses blockchain.

      Obviously I was wrong.

  21. Pete 2

    Time to disappear?

    So who are these actual companies that have lost hundreds of millions of $$$ - or at least the make-believe equivalent? I find it hard to believe they would be involved in legitimate, honest, above-board, business transactions.

    On the assumption that at least one of them is a crime syndicate (or that at least one of them isn't), I would expect the developers to be getting seriously worried about the repercussions of "accidentally" losing a vengeful, violent, law-ignoring, gang a 7 or 8-figure sum.

  22. wolfetone
    Trollface

    I bet the Devops1 through to Devops198 wouldn't have done this.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Reminds me of Multiplicity. Devops1 was near perfect, but the facsimilies get worse and by Devops 250 they'll be licking windows.

  23. aks Bronze badge

    Software is never finished

    http://dilbert.com/strip/2017-10-02

    This seems relevant.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Software is never finished

      Many more more appropriate Dilbert strips

      Barry Dingle asks about blockchain

      Latest of many recent ones on the subject.

  24. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    How much money did those people actually put into this ethereum thing? Not $280m I suspect. However much that is, isn't that what they lost. All these posts here seem to talk about 'real' currency and ethereum. That's the whole point. It isn't real. It isn't really worth anything, except to the people who think it is. And there aren't that many of them.

    Put it another way, if everyone decided to sell their bitcoins or etherea, what would they be worth then?

    I don't profess to fully understand the whole thing, obviously, and I'm sure it shows, but that's the point too - it's a risky investment and I'd say pretty unstable.

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      > if everyone decided to sell their bitcoins or etherea, what would they be worth then?

      If everyone decided to sell their USD or Euros, what would they be worth then?

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        "If everyone decided to sell their USD or Euros, what would they be worth then?"

        Considering that average person living in countries that use USD and EUR has virtually no savings they do in fact sell all their dollars in exchange to goods and services and were doing it for decades.

        1. Adam 1 Silver badge

          That is not the same scenario because even though you point out (correctly) the lack of savings, you are also implicitly allowing for the fact that the average person continues to receive payment for their labour in that currency.

          If Anthony rather asked what would happen if everyone spent what ethereum they got as they got it and accepted more of it every other week as compensation for their labour and/or goods they had to sell, I think we would all agree that it is functioning as any currency should. His picture was about what would happen if everyone tried to totally rid themselves of the currency at the same time. He then went on to imply that this is a reason it should be considered a fake currency. My simple argument is that all currencies fail at that test. A dollar bill or a euro note has almost no intrinsic value. Maybe you could use wads of it to insulate your ceiling or walls, but we don't accept payments in such currencies because of its ability to keep our houses warm.

          No, we like to accumulate these because we believe that others will value it in the future and at that time we can get some desired good or service by offering some of this decorated paper or polymer. Part of the reason for that belief is, yes, regulations that seek to limit the rate that new decorated paper/polymer gets created. This means that it is less valuable for me to hoard decorative paper/polymer as its buying power decreases over time. This drives people with surplus decorative paper/polymer to invest it in enterprises that pay a dividend.

          There are of course risks associated with crypto currencies. You can lose your whole portfolio to a hacker, software bug or hardware failure. It is vulnerable to regulators who may restrict it in certain markets (leading to a combination of fewer buyers and a glut of sellers cashing out). But it isn't vulnerable to the Robert Mugabe style hyperinflation either. Nor can it be manipulated by governments to suit their trade agendas. I'm not saying you should throw your lot on this or that crypto currency. It isn't a binary proposition (er, pun not intended).

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "f Anthony rather asked what would happen if everyone spent what ethereum they got as they got it and accepted more of it every other week as compensation for their labour and/or goods they had to sell, I think we would all agree that it is functioning as any currency should."

            Can you see why it isn't a real currency?

  25. c1ue

    I think people are failing to note that the average bitcoin transaction price is $10 now. Or far more expensive than even a credit card unless you're buying a car.

    Shocking, that money operations cost money. Except the crypto money doesn't have all the costs underlying "regular" money operations like regulations and reimbursement.

    1. Mark 65

      Except the crypto money doesn't have all the costs underlying "regular" money operations like regulations and reimbursement.

      There is a hardware and power cost associated with processing transactions. The reason it is so high is likely "whatever the market can bear". After all, you have no oversight body to regulate costs as that was the choice you made.

  26. j.bourne
    FAIL

    And so the much touted total record of all transactions - the blockchain - doesn't enable the re-construction of who had what and when at all. So, for as much as blockchain is being touted as a usable record of all transactions in cryptocurrency <insertfakemoneynamehere>, it's actually not then?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha etc

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