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Chapter 1: Pandora’s Box

1 Bitcoin was worth 18,000 USD.

When the impossible became a reality, everyone became expectant yet worried about cryptocurrency.

This was the beginning of the rise of cryptocurrency. Everyone, even the housewives, entered this frenzy, which made the trading dealers richer and richer.

Of all the dealers, the number one in Korea was Bitmain.

It was a company that allowed fast transactions of various cryptocurrencies, which enabled them to grow in users exponentially. The development team of this company worked day and night to keep up.

"Chief Kang, we have a traffic overload, so we need to add more servers. If this continues, we will be in trouble again."

"Do you think I don't know? I do, but I haven't received an approval. They can't afford more servers yet."

"Are they still holding off on them? We can only do so much with what we have. Are they hoping for all of us to quit?"

Kang Woosung smiled bitterly at Assistant manager Choi's complaint.

Woosung was 36 years old and the current head of the server development team of Bitmain.

"I will take a look, so you can go home now, Assistant Manager Choi. You can also let everyone else know they can leave too."

"What about you?"

"Haha. Are you worried about me?"

"This is why you haven't been able to get married yet. You work late every night, so you never get a chance to meet people."

"I get paid more than you, so I should work harder."

"Gosh, Chief. You are already doing so much… You're going to get sick."

"I'm fine. This isn't my first day on this job. You, on the other hand, are still in your honeymoon phase. You should get home. You better go straight home or else people are going to think that I am making you work late."

"Haha, I'm newly married, so where else would I go other than home?"

Woosung smiled at Assistant Manager Choi proudly. 3 years ago when he started to work here, he was the one who interviewed and hired Choi as an intern. Choi was now an assistant manager and married, and Woosung was proud of him. Bitmain was a new company back then. It was always short on workers, and so promotions were given easily.

One by one, everyone left, and it was finally just Woosung in the office.

Unlike stock brokerages, cryptocurrency dealers ran 24/7. Problems could happen at anytime. Errors could happen in the middle of the night, so everyone needed to be on call at all times. Woosung was the head of the server team and he was doing his best.

Errors needed to be fixed everyday. Daily workload made the days go by fast, and only after everything was done could they have a meeting regarding making improvements and developments.

Working late was necessary, as well as working during weekends.

"Has it already been 3 years?"

Woosung looked outside the window from a small building on Teheran street. 3 years ago, Woosung was working at a company that specialized in finance—SI. He was offered a job at Bitmain through a mutual friend, and after all his hard work, he was promoted to the chief of the server team.

3 years ago.

It was before the cryptocurrency became popular. The dealers at the time barely made any money and couldn't afford to hire many developers. They had to do everything then, including working on the actual apps for android, iPhone, and the web…

Woosung, at that time, needed to deal with every single aspect of the transaction. By now, every related program for Bitmain had at least one of his codings.

He treated his work like his own child to achieve this cryptocurrency transaction system.

"Let's work a little bit longer and go home."

He was lucky if he could leave by midnight, but he felt good knowing the stock options he would receive. Woosung read over the bug reports and started to fix them one by one.

***

Woosung tilted his head in confusion.

"Hmm… this is strange."

He stared at the computer screen.

– Server down. Abnormal trading phenomenon has occurred.

Abnormal trading phenomenon.

This was a critical problem. The report did not include any details, so Woosung started looking through the server codes and data from the Oracle (This is a form of a data system that records data in a table format like Excel.) After a while, Woosung tilted his head again.

"This shouldn't be happening…"

He stood up to stretch and sat down again. He knew that data never lied.

"53.123.111.211, 53.12.78.99, 53.33.67.100. How could this IP addresses trade?"

He re-read them but still couldn't figure it out. Due to heavy traffic, the server was down once today, and all trading activities halted.

During this time, however, these three IP addresses had no trouble buying and selling. Woosung looked up the records from a month ago.

He paid special attention to the days that the servers went down. During these days, these IP addresses never had problems with their transactions. Even when the traffic was so high that the regular users couldn't even login, these IP addresses had no problem making the most profitable transactions. They were able to purchase at the lowest point and sell at the highest point, allowing them to make profits of possibly tens of millions of dollars.

He couldn't believe his eyes, but data were clear. How could something like this happen without him, the chief of the server team, knowing?

Woosung could only think of one way.

Hacking.

Bitmain was being hacked.

Woosung immediately called the CTO (Chief Technology Officer).

Ring… Ring…

Ring…

Ring… Ring…

No one answered, but this was something that needed to be taken care of right away. Woosung continued to make the call.

After his fourth attempt, he was finally answered. But the person who answered was in no condition to work.

"Hello, Chief Kang Woosuuung… What's going on?"

"Who is it, oppa? Who's calling you?"

"It's one of my employees."

"You weren't lying when you said you are a CEO!"

"Hahahaha. Ooof course. You wanna talk to him?"

CTO Jung Jinsup was drunk, and the young female's voice was loud. Woosung wet his lips. This was an emergency. Woosung spoke, "Sir, there are signs that we have been hacked. When the servers were down, certain IP addresses were still able to complete transactions. We need to have an emergency meeting."

CTO Jung Jinsup was only 33, and they usually talked to each other respectfully. But because he was drunk, the CTO said rudely, "Right now? It's past midnight, you fool. You shouldn't work so hard, Chief Kang. We need to enjoy ourselves now."

"But sir, this is an emergency…"

"Did the IP addresses start with 53 by chance?"

"What? How did you know…"

"Oppa! Stop touching me!"

"Hahaha…. Why? You know you like it."

"O-Oh t-there…"

It was awkward for Woosung to continue listening, but he had to find out.

"That's our VIP list, so don't worry about it."

"What do you mean the VIP list?"

"Gosh you are such a straight arrow. Just stop worrying about it and go home."

"Oh! Oppa! I can't wait anymore!"

"Hahaha. Then here I come."

The call ended. Woosung sat for a long time while still holding on to his phone.

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