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DOJ Arrests Couple for Huge Bitcoin Heist — Who Are They?

Cryptocurrency doesn’t depend only on technology; it depends on trust, and trustworthiness

On the morning of February 8, DOJ announced that they had made an arrest in the $3.6 billion Bitcoin heist from Bitfinex from 2016. They arrested Ilya Lichtenstein and his wife, Heather Morgan. However, little information was conveyed about the pair.

Some digging, however, revealed two individuals by those names who worked together in a variety of technology startups, at least one of which is cryptocurrency-based. While we don’t know for certain if these are the same individuals, the profiles are very similar, and other media seem to be reporting that they are the same. The profile here is on the two individuals we were able to identify, and have not confirmed they are identical to the ones in the DOJ announcement.

Ilya Lichtenstein got his start in the tech work by founding the company MixRank, which he co-founded with Scott Milliken in 2011 as part of the Y Combinator incubator’s 2011 startup class (Milliken is the current CEO). MixRank started as a competitor analytics company, where you could find the traffic sources and ad campaigns of your competitor’s marketing pushes. It eventually morphed into a general sales data tool.

Heather Morgan is also an entrepreneur. In 2014 she helped found SalesFolk, which focuses on advertising copy for email campaigns. In addition to running SalesFolk, she is a partner in the startup funding firm DemandPath, where Lichtenstein lists himself as an investor. She has also had regular columns at Forbes and Inc magazines, and was an amateur rapper known as Razzlekhan, the name under which she also makes surreal art. She has said that rapping helped her mitigate burnout, and she recommends it to others.

In 2018, together they started a new company, Endpass, where Morgan serves as CEO and Lichtenstein serves in an advisory position. What does this new company do? It started as identity management and data control. In 2020, their tagline said that they “prevent losses from fraud and cybercrime.” In 2021, they started developing an Ethereum wallet to hold all your sensitive data, and host all your encrypted keys.

In the last two weeks, the Endpass website went dark.

However, traces of Endpass can still be found on the Internet — as of the morning of February 10, 2022, they have a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, a Github repository, and a careers page.

We are still investigating to see if this is the same couple and waiting for more official details to be released.

But it is concerning to think that the next big move for two people implicated in the largest cryptocurrency heist to date may have been to offer a secure storage solution for ordinary users’ Ethereum keys.

This brings up the larger issue of trust on the Internet. How do you know that someone’s solution is reliable? That it is being run by reliable people? How do you know that the security solution you are using isn’t being run by the world’s top hackers? This trust issue is a growing problem that we will have to face more directly in the coming years.

Mind Matters News reached out to Heather Morgan via Twitter and Endpass at their last available number for comment, but there was no response prior to publication.

Bitcoin: Is lack of trust the biggest security threat? Jonathan Bartlett: It’s almost a parable: Everyone can see, no one can access, the millions trapped in the ether by a password known only to a dead man. Is this the future of currency? Seems like the Dark Ages to me. Bitcoin is a clever idea, but it is perhaps too clever for its own good.

Jonathan Bartlett

Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Jonathan Bartlett is a senior software R&D engineer at Specialized Bicycle Components, where he focuses on solving problems that span multiple software teams. Previously he was a senior developer at ITX, where he developed applications for companies across the US. He also offers his time as the Director of The Blyth Institute, focusing on the interplay between mathematics, philosophy, engineering, and science. Jonathan is the author of several textbooks and edited volumes which have been used by universities as diverse as Princeton and DeVry.

DOJ Arrests Couple for Huge Bitcoin Heist — Who Are They?