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October 16, 2018

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Coinbase and the Hacking Team Controversy

March 4, 2019


Hearing that your trusted crypto exchange has hired a company to allow it to secure and protect customer data in-house is not exactly negative news. Hearing that the company in question is notorious for working with autocratic regimes to help them subjugate their citizens definitely is.


Both of these statements involve Coinbase and their recent acquisition of Neutrino, which still includes a few key executives from Hacking Team. Hacking Team’s claim to fame or, more accurately, notoriety, is the fact that they provide what they call “offensive solutions for cyber investigations” and they do not seem to care who they sell these solutions to.


In the past week, accusations have surfaced including that they assisted Saudi Arabia in some capacity in their efforts against Jamal Khassogi, which reportedly included surveilling him and just about anyone who spoke out against the Saudi regime.


Now, two Hacking Tam executives and one former employee are on the leadership team at Neutrino, which claims to be a service for tracking the movement of cryptocurrencies, even across different networks. Coinbase, when queried on the subject of Neutrino’s ties to Hacking Team, reportedly admitted that they were well aware of the the history and decided to acquire the firm anyway.


In an opinion piece for CoinDesk today, Michael Casey reacted to the controversy with some thoughtful insights. Chief amongst them is the idea that while it is a good thing that Coinbase will now not be allowing any third-party service to sell user data, they are still taking on a horde of issues by accepting Neutrino into their midst.


As Casey suggests, it is possible that Coinbase executives thought they could weather the storm of initial backlash and still come out on top due to their large user base and established reputation in the greater cryptocurrency space. At the same time however, perhaps they are placing too much faith in these factors.


Something likely needs to be done at this point to regain the trust of Coinbase’s existing users, in the face of a movement that calls for the mass deletion of accounts. However matters shake out over the next few months, expect things to remain complicated as there is not exactly another service out there that provides such easy, reliable, regulated access to crypto and fiat on and off-ramps at the same time.




By: BGN Editorial Staff

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