Best of the Worst: Top 5 Crypto Villains of 2023

Photo - Best of the Worst: Top 5 Crypto Villains of 2023
The crypto world is a tapestry of various roles: investors, developers, influencers, and entrepreneurs, each contributing to the market's evolution. Yet, there are those whose actions seem to undermine it.
In the world of crypto, just like in fairy tales, there are heroes and villains. Heroes seek to enhance the world with blockchain, demonstrating its benefits and aiding in demystifying its complexities. The villains, conversely, aim for its restriction or downfall, often exploiting others for personal gain.

Remembering the Disney stories of our childhood, we know good ultimately overcomes evil. And, as daunting as it may seem, it's crucial to 'know thy enemy' to be prepared for the battle!

Gary Gensler

SEC Chairman Gary Gensler. Source:

SEC Chairman Gary Gensler. Source:

Gary Gensler, the current head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has significantly influenced the interplay between traditional finance and the crypto world. His tenure, beginning in April 2021, saw a notable shift towards blockchain regulation in the past year.

Traditional investors often view the SEC's approach to cryptocurrencies as a barometer of the market's trustworthiness. As such, negative remarks from the SEC can hinder the broader adoption of blockchain. Gensler's comments have sometimes painted a bleak picture:
This is a field rife with fraud, scams, bankruptcies, and money laundering,
Gary Gensler remarked at a conference.
In 2023, the SEC aimed to classify digital assets using the Howey Test, determining if cryptocurrencies fall under securities law.

Gensler's most notable action was the legal confrontation with Brad Garlinghouse and Ripple Labs, culminating in Ripple's victory and a 97% surge in XRP value. The SEC also brought cases against Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken.

Despite this, Gensler brought a glimmer of hope to crypto enthusiasts in November 2023. He suggested the possibility of a reboot for the defunct FTX exchange under new leadership, which led to a 50% rise in the value of FTT. 

Discover more about Gary Gensler in our dedicated article.

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. Senator for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren. Source:

U.S. Senator for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren. Source:

Senator Elizabeth Warren has become a vocal critic of cryptocurrencies. Her bold statements in 2023 have been so extreme that they've sparked satirical responses from the crypto community.

Warren has accused Bitcoin of contributing to terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons, and global warming. She's consistently expressed her opposition to cryptocurrencies, labeling them the preferred tools of international drug traffickers.
Crypto mining firms are polluting communities, they’re straining power grids, and they’re driving up utility costs in communities from Texas to New York,
Warren has argued.
In December, she proposed a bill targeting money laundering through digital assets. A key feature of the bill is the mandatory implementation of KYC procedures for miners, validators, and other participants in the network, particularly those involved in transaction verification, security, or facilitation within the blockchain.

However, the bill hasn't found much favor among politicians, with some outright deeming it a failure. This perception is reinforced by Warren's legislative track record: only one of her 330 proposed bills has been enacted over her 11-year Senate career.

The Lazarus Group

North Korean hackers, the Lazarus Group. Source:

North Korean hackers, the Lazarus Group. Source:

Originating from North Korea, the Lazarus Group is one of the most formidable cybercriminal organizations. Active since 2016, their most significant and confirmed blockchain attacks have occurred in the past two years.

In 2022, the group was responsible for high-profile attacks on the Horizon Bridge and Ronin Bridge, resulting in losses of $100 million and $540 million, respectively. The Lazarus Group had not been officially linked to any cybercrime until June of the previous year, at which point they were implicated in several notable incidents:

  • June 3: Hacking of Atomic Wallet, resulting in $100 million in damages.
  • July 22: Accessing CoinsPaid's hot wallets via social engineering, leading to losses of $37.3 million.
  • July 22: Attack on the centralized crypto payment provider Alphapo, incurring $60 million in damages.
  • September 4: Hacking of the online crypto casino, with $41 million in losses.
  • September 12: Assault on the CoinEx crypto exchange, leading to $54 million in damages.

It remains uncertain whether the Lazarus Group is involved in other major hacks of 2023, such as those affecting Curve Finance, KyberSwap, and Multichain. However, the timing of these incidents suggests a high probability of their involvement.

Sam Bankman-Fried

Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. Source:

Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. Source:

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried dealt a substantial blow to the cryptocurrency world when he declared the exchange bankrupt in late 2022. This event not only shook the crypto industry in 2022 but also continued to have repercussions throughout 2023, earning Sam a notorious reputation as one of the key crypto villains of the past year.

Alongside Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research, SBF misappropriated over $8 billion. The fallout from FTX's bankruptcy led to a 25% drop in the overall cryptocurrency market cap, possibly causing irreparable damage to the relationship between blockchain and traditional investors.

In November 2023, a jury found SBF guilty on all charges. He is now in a federal prison in New York, awaiting a final sentence due in March 2024.

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is one of the world

Warren Buffett is one of the world's largest investors with a net worth of over $100 billion. Source:

Legendary TradFi investor Warren Buffett has long been a skeptic of cryptocurrencies. His stance did not change in 2023, as he continued to express negative views on the crypto market. Buffett is included in our list of crypto villains because his opinions significantly influence how traditional investors perceive blockchain.

Buffett's latest skeptical comments about cryptocurrencies were made during an interview with CNBC's Squawk Box, conducted on April 12 when BTC hit $30,000 for the first time in 2023.

“Bitcoin is a gambling token and it doesn't have any intrinsic value. But that doesn't stop people from wanting to play the roulette wheel,” said Warren Buffett.
Interestingly, despite such skepticism, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway profits from blockchain investments, such as its stake in Nubank, a financial institution engaged in cryptocurrency-related services. 

Vlad Vovk
Writes about DeFi and cryptocurrencies from a technological perspective.