Harry has been with the MyCrypto team for ages and has built up a reputation as a world-class security and anti-phishing expert.
We're shining the spotlight on him!
What is your role at MyCrypto?
My name is Harry Denley and my Twitter username is @sniko_ - not really sure what sniko means but I picked it when I was 13. My role is a security researcher; I analyze security incidents and help apply their learnings to increase operational security. I maintain blacklists with CryptoScamDB, look at different exploits in the space, and see how MyCrypto and the ecosystem can learn from them. I also report on big hacks sometimes.
What initially got you into cryptocurrency?
I was coming onto crypto Twitter and seeing things happen that didn't really happen in the real world. I was seeing how people were losing millions of dollars - how people were scamming millions of dollars - just following that space. Then I started trying out buying on Coinbase and eventually found MyEtherWallet. I thought, “This is cool, you can actually control your money.” I then started seeing a problem of phishing and I thought, “Oh I can help tackle this,” so I built the EtherAddressLookup browser extension and started building bots and pushing stuff to a blog. Then Taylor got notice of it and we started discussions.
2017 feels so far away yet it really wasn’t that long ago! It feels like you’ve been with the team forever. What did you do before you joined MyCrypto?
I was writing PHP code for a company that's a bit like Amazon, but more business to business. My role was writing code to integrate with couriers and generate shipping labels and manifests for the fulfillment side of the business.
I always had an interest in web security because I used to build web apps in my teenage years. And then one of them got hacked. I was like, “Oh, I wonder how they did it.” I then learned how that and other hacks happened, and I got interested that way.
But my previous job was to write PHP code.
Ah, so that’s why you have an innate love for PHP and always talk about it when coding.
Yeah. It's the language I’m most comfortable with because it's just great.
What do you love about what you do?
There's a lot of things actually. There’s the sweeper stuff where we take locked assets and staked assets from compromised addresses and give them back to the actual owners. That’s great because it’s less money for bad guys, good guys get to keep their money, and we get to teach people about how to be more secure with their private keys.
Another reason is that I like helping people. Some people that are new to the space or less knowledgeable about security stuff can learn from the materials that we publish.
It's kind of crazy the industry that we're in. It's so new that so many people need help. Is your job challenging?
Yeah, it is. Because bad guys are always evolving. They're always kind of like a step ahead because they do some genius things. And the saddest thing is when you learn that someone lost their life savings to a scam that either was really clever or just came down to bad luck on the end user’s part. They generally can't get the money back once it's been stolen.
So learning about people losing their life savings... that's the hardest part.
I definitely feel that. We've seen so many tickets of people who have lost their money. At a certain point, you see it so often that it's easy to become desensitized to it. But sometimes you just put yourself in their shoes. Like if you lost all your life savings... it'd be devastating, you know?
Yeah. But it's not just about losing the money - it’s the mentality of not having that money, so if something bad happened in your life, you couldn’t cover it - like a medical expense or something.
You have a pretty lengthy history and have probably learned all there is to know about security. What’s something you’d like to learn more about?
I’d like to look into and study more smart contract hacks - the really intelligent ones, like the $600M PolyNetwork hash collision. I want to focus on learning how people exploit logic and smart contracts, even if that’s a flash loan and arbitrating between pools, or actually doing something really clever with hash collisions.
Well if you figure all that out, you’ll be unstoppable. What’s one of your favorite teams/projects/cryptocurrencies in the space, and why?
Well, they don’t have a coin but they do work that’s similar to what I do. That’s PhishFort. They were in Binance’s incubator and they monitor phishing in the space - I like the work they’re doing.
PhishFort is a great one. I feel like a lot of these security services don't get as much attention as they should, especially for the great work that they're doing.
Okay, this is the last crypto-specific question: If you had a microphone that could reach everybody in cryptocurrency right now, and you could tell them one thing, what would it be?
I would say have a security-first mindset, especially if you're launching something. A lot of teams push something to production and security is a second thought because they just want to get something out the door. And then we see loads of people lose money when the protocols are hacked with an attack vector that we've already learned about.
More About Harry
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I recently got into swimming in the sea. I live right by the sea, but I never really went. And I didn't learn to swim until a couple months ago, actually.
Really, wow! I'm in a similar boat - never been a good swimmer. So are you a really great swimmer now?
I’m still learning, but I’m a lot more confident now.
That’s awesome. How did you learn?
My sister and girlfriend taught me because they like the ocean and I was like, “I'm not gonna go in because I can't swim and then I'll drown and die.” They convinced me to go in and they taught me over a couple of sessions.
I can't believe that you're swimming in the ocean, though? I feel I would feel way less confident in the ocean - I'd rather be in a pool.
Yeah, I just didn't like getting to leisure centers when they're really busy. I don't like crowds of people too much. The ocean is kind of spread out a bit.
That's a fair point. Is there anything else that you would want to highlight that you enjoy doing outside of work?
In my downtime I like to do things like watching films, playing video games, going for walks, and drinking coffee in cafes.
What’s one of your favorite movies?
There’s a film called American Mary - it’s a horror-thriller and it’s pretty gory, but I like it and it’s my favorite one.
I had never heard of American Mary. Why is it your favorite?
I don't know why. But I watched it like 100 times.
We have to watch it sometime. Maybe next time you come to America we can all watch it together.
Okay, so the next question is a two-parter. What is your favorite place that you've ever lived? And then where do you live now?
I've only ever lived in South England. I haven't moved around - I’ve stayed in my hometown.
Where would you want to live, if you could live anywhere?
If everything was going well and all my checkboxes were ticked, I would be traveling around mainland Europe in an RV.
That'd be a lot of fun - just drive around and live somewhere a couple days at a time. I think a lot of people have a similar desire to do that at some point.
Yeah, I just don’t want to get to the point where I'm old and I’m like, “Ah, I wish I would have done that,” you know? “Wish I would have traveled and seen the world.”
Have you ever thought about where you'd want to live long-term?
No, I've mainly just thought about the immediate living, in South England, and then traveling. I haven't thought about where I want to retire.
Alright, so this is one of the last questions - what is an interesting and random factoid or random thing about Harry?
This is a tough one. My thumbs bend more than usual.
Really? Mine do too! Hitchhiker’s thumb!
Yeah, like it bends all the way back like it’s the letter C. That’s the only super weird thing - well, it’s not weird to me… it’s normal.
I think we’ll have to compare thumbs. Okay, almost done. If anyone wants to get in touch with you, follow you, or reach out anywhere, where should they go?
Harrydenley.com is my website with all my socials on it, or contact me on Keybase - my username is 409h.
Where does the 409 come from?
It was just a random HTTPS code I chose which means conflict. I was trying to think of a new name because I made ‘sniko’ when I was young and I didn’t quite like it. I was building HTTPS API’s at the time so I just chose a random one. I like the number 409.
Well, you know, there’s a brand of household cleaning products that’s called 409 - and I actually have a bottle of it in my apartment.
I’m the president of 409 house cleaning.
So you’re Mr. 409 huh? It’s kind of funny because it’s a cleaning product and, you know, you kind of help clean the industry up… so I feel like there’s a bit of a comparison there.
Okay, last thing. I’d love for you to share a picture of you doing something fun!
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I dressed up fancy - but I think we misinterpreted the word fancy - and then painted pictures of each other. So I’ll share with you a picture of us dressed fancy with our paintings!
Please do send that picture, and thank you for your time! Thanks, brother - I will see you around.