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Due to fraud and “questionable” blockchains, Alameda Research lost $190 million: whistleblower

Aditya Baradwaj, formerly an engineer at Alameda Research, reveals a staggering incident where a trader suffered losses exceeding $100 million due to an unfortunate click.

The trading funds of FTX’s affiliated hedge fund, Alameda Research, endured substantial losses, totaling at least $190 million. These losses were, in the eyes of Aditya Baradwaj, a former engineer turned whistleblower, a product of avoidable scams that plagued the firm at regular intervals.

On October 12, in a post titled “The Hacks” on X, Aditya Baradwaj, the former Alameda Research engineer, detailed the firm’s remarkable agility, which, regrettably, often resulted in significant security breaches every few months.

In one of the most prominent incidents, Baradwaj recounts the story of a trader at Alameda who lost a colossal sum exceeding $100 million from the firm’s funds. This substantial loss was triggered by the simple act of clicking on a malicious link, prominently displayed as the top result in a Google Search.

Baradwaj explained that the trader’s intention was to approve a decentralized finance transaction. However, their actions inadvertently led to this monumental financial setback.

Another example that Baradwaj highlights is Alameda’s involvement in yield farming on a blockchain of dubious legitimacy. This move eventually culminated in losses exceeding $40 million for the trading firm.

Baradwaj goes on to describe that Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, believed that the ability to act swiftly was of paramount importance for both Alameda and FTX. However, this philosophy led to Alameda consistently disregarding industry-standard engineering and accounting practices, resulting in a lack of thorough code testing and incomplete balance accounting. Safety checks for trading were only implemented on an as-needed basis.

Furthermore, blockchain private keys and exchange API keys were carelessly stored in plaintext, accessible to several employees. This negligent practice gave rise to yet another security breach that cost the firm millions when an outdated version of the plaintext files containing keys to Alameda’s wallets was inadvertently leaked. The attacker successfully transferred funds from “some exchanges,” accumulating losses exceeding $50 million.

Baradwaj acknowledges that Alameda faced numerous incidents of a similar magnitude to those he described, though many occurred before his tenure at the company.

In the aftermath of Alameda and FTX’s collapse in November of the previous year, the former engineer has been vocal about their many shortcomings. He sheds light on how Sam Bankman-Fried justified what he deemed “ridiculous” actions with the guise of an idealistic philosophy known as Effective Altruism.

Baradwaj’s revelations coincide with former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison taking the witness stand to testify against Bankman-Fried during his ongoing fraud trial. In the preceding days, several former colleagues, including Adam Yedidia and Gary Wang, have brought forth a plethora of new evidence against the former billionaire.

Wang has admitted to writing specific code that enabled Alameda to trade with a near-unlimited line of credit from FTX, while Caroline Ellison has offered detailed insights into FTX’s alleged mingling of funds with Alameda.

Bankman-Fried continues to maintain his innocence and plead not guilty to the charges brought against him in the ongoing trial.

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