Sask. Bitcoin firm blames cyberspace breach – Regina Leader

REGINA — Drawing comparisons to an intruder sneaking into his home after he closed the door and locked it, the president of Dominion Bitcoin Mining Company Ltd. suggested someone tunnelled into the firm’s website before it was public.

“I always felt the site was secured,� Peter Voldeng testified Friday at the third day of a securities hearing.

“It was designed to share the information privately,� he added.

But securities investigator Harvey White has testified that what he found on the site was public ­— and sparked allegations Dominion and its founders violated the Securities Act.

Closing arguments are to be heard Tuesday by a three-member panel.

Dominion, Voldeng, Jason Dearborn — the firm’s chairman — and Jim Gibbon, a Edmonton resident who built the website, are accused of running afoul of securities laws by publicly advertising or soliciting sales of securities on its website without properly registering or filing a prospectus. It’s also alleged misleading statements — such as “ten provincially held entities� contracted to Dominion ­— were made on the site.

But Voldeng, the only witness called by any of the respondents, disagreed.

“We weren’t offering shares for anything,� he said. Voldeng said the website was being used by the trio for “brainstorming.� He didn’t believe it was publicly accessible and personally used a log in to view it.

“My mother couldn’t access my website,� he quipped.

But White did in April 2014.

He testified that what he saw on the site ­— like references to “assets� and “purchasing shares� and “dividends� ­— sparked concerns the Bitcoin mining group was digging around for shareholders. On May 1, the Saskatchewan Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA) issued a cease-trade order against Dominion, followed four months later by the statement of allegations.

The respondents have suggested White somehow cracked the code, accessing an encrypted site that was password protected — allegations denied by the investigator, who says he has no computer expertise.

The respondents’ argument, in part, rests on pages of garbled type that were disclosed to them from White’s investigation file. Voldeng said the type isn’t “gibberish� — as White called it — but a reflection of Dominion’s locked-down, encrypted web pages, protected by a “replacement cipher.� He speculated there might be a number of ways White unscrambled the pages using his government computer, including certain software or browsers.

However, White suggested it was more about a computer hitch than a hack. He testified that he accessed the website several times in April 2014 and clearly saw the text passages that troubled him, but then he saved the pages as PDF documents. When he later printed the PDFs, they appeared as gibberish. He said he’s since done some online research, and discovered it’s an issue with certain web browsers and printers.

On April 30, 2014 when he viewed and printed the web pages without first saving them as PDFs, they printed fine — and those are the clear images that are the focus of the hearing.

But the respondents have also called those pages into question because every page, regardless of the link such as “our team or “structure� or “how to invest,� has the same website printed at the top — www.dominionbitcoin.com/#!blogger-feed/clxm6 — which Voldeng said doesn’t actually reflect a named link on the site.

Lawyer Cloudesley Rook-Hobbs, who represents Dearborn, suggested in his cross-examination of White that there may have been political motivations to dig up dirt on the upstart Bitcoin mining firm.

Under questioning by Dearborn (a former Saskatchewan Party MLA), Voldeng, a former party president, testified Friday that he was being considered as a party candidate to run in a new Saskatoon provincial constituency — until these allegations surfaced.

bpacholik@leaderpost.com

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