Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are becoming more and more valuable – and therefore also attract cybercriminals. In the past, hackers have captured large sums of money from popular file sharing platforms. Overview of the most famous cases.
“Mt. Gox”, “Bitfinex”, “KuCoin” – these crypto exchanges have one thing in common: they were the target of hacker attacks, in which criminals stole digital money worth billions of US dollars. Although these exchanges protect their platforms, it succeeds attackers again and again to break into services.
The most known offensive that’s eight years ago. In 2014, unknown persons stole cryptocurrencies worth 480 million euros from the Mt. Gox trading platform. But the Mt. Gox hack wasn’t the first crypto crime and it wouldn’t be the last. Here is a look at the biggest crypto thefts of all time.
1. “Ronin Network”, 2021, loot: $625 million
The biggest and last known crypto hack was the attack on the “Ronin Network” of the video game “Axie Infinity” in March 2022. The hackers allegedly stole US$625 million. The FBI, among others, is handling the case. This blamed North Korean hacker groups “Lazarus” and “APT38” for the attack.
“Ronin” is a network through which players can exchange their money for other cryptocurrencies. “Ronin” and the associated token “RON” operate on a so-called sidechain of Ethereum. A sidechain is a technology that works alongside a related blockchain such as Ethereum, but operates independently.
2. “Poly Network”, 2021, loot: $611 million
The second largest crypto hack stole approximately $600 million in digital currency. The hackers’ target was the American company “Poly Network” in August 2021.
“Poly Network” reported at the time that strangers had breached security measures and redirected deposits from “tens of thousands” of customers to accounts they controlled.
Luck in disguise for customers: The unknown hackers were later revealed to be just one attacker who returned the stolen cryptocurrencies to the company.
3. “Coincheck”, 2018, loot: $547 million
In January 2018, the third biggest crypto hack took place. At the time, Japanese trading platform “Coincheck” reported the loss of digital currency “NEM” worth US$547 million.
A little later, “Coincheck” announced that there had been security breaches. The company wanted to compensate the approximately 260,000 customers affected.
At the time of the attack, Coincheck was one of the largest exchanges in Japan. A few months later, the company was taken over by the financial services provider “Monex Group”.
4. “Mt. Gox”, 2014, loot: 480 million dollars
For a long time, the largest and most well-known crypto hack was that of the Japanese trading platform “Mt. Gox” in 2014. At that time, attackers were able to capture 480 million US dollars.
The 850,000 Bitcoins stolen would today be worth around 34 billion euros. “Mt. Gox” started in 2010 as the “Magic the Gathering” playing card trading service and processed over 70% of all Bitcoin transactions in 2014.
In the fifth largest cryptocurrency heist, hackers stole $320 million in an attack on the Wormhole platform. The hackers had exploited a software bug on the platform.
The platform allows the exchange of data between different cryptocurrency networks. “Wormhole” is a so-called DeFi (Decentralized Finance) network.
According to the industry service “Elliptic”, hackers created 120,000 digital coins there from “wETH”. It is a variant of the second most important cybercurrency after Bitcoin, Ethereum.
6. “KuCoin”, 2020, loot: 285 million dollars
During the attack on the Chinese trading platform “KuCoin” in 2020, hackers illegally took about 285 million US dollars from the platform.
According to “KuCoin”, the attackers obtained the private keys of the digital wallets on the platform. Much of the captured digital currencies could be brought back. “KuCoin” was able to reimburse the rest to the affected users through insurance.
7. “Bitmart”, 2021, loot: $200 million
In an attack on the Bitmart trading platform in December 2021, hackers stole approximately US$200 million worth of digital currencies. In a statement, Bitmart announced that it had suspended its exchange for withdrawals until further notice. The stores remained disabled until all investigations were completed.
The company itself estimates the amount stolen at over $150 million. Data analytics firm Peckshield, meanwhile, estimated the value of the stolen cryptocurrencies at nearly $200 million.
8. “BitGrail”, 2018, loot: $170 million
Italian cryptocurrency trading platform BitGrail announced in February 2018 that it had lost almost $195 million in digital money to hackers. This was the loss of approximately 17 million nano tokens.
At the time, insiders believed the exchange operator itself was behind the theft. For a long time, users felt that something was wrong with “BitGrail”. Transaction amounts were increasingly reduced, registration processes took a strangely long time.
Eventually, an Italian court in Florence confiscated the platform’s bitcoin and nano holdings, BitGrail reported in June 2018.
9. “Bitfinex”, 2016, loot: $72 million
Chinese trading platform “Bitfinex” also succumbed to a hacker attack in 2016. Around that time, attackers stole 120,000 bitcoins, valued at $72 million at the time. The hackers had managed to redirect 2,000 transactions to their wallet. The case has recently received renewed attention as US authorities, after years of work, were able to produce the first arrests in the case.
Investigators had arrested a New York couple who allegedly tried to launder Bitcoin that came from “Bitfinex”.
The bitcoins seized were now worth more than $3.6 billion. It is the largest seizure of financial assets by the US Department of Justice to date, he said.
10. “NiceHash”, 2017, loot: $64 million
The Slovenian crypto exchange “NiceHash” had to announce the loss of around 4,700 Bitcoins in 2017. The value at the time was around 68 million US dollars. “NiceHash” spoke at the time of a “highly professional attack”.
As a result, the hackers had stolen the private keys of Bitcoin wallets which were stored at “NiceHash”. The company had asked all users to change their passwords.
“NiceHash” was founded in 2014 and is a cloud-based crypto-mining marketplace where you can rent your idle computing power to other users so they can mine Bitcoin.
11. “Zaif”, 2018, loot: $60 million
The Japanese trading platform “Zaif” had to recover from a smaller, but still painful sum in 2018. In a hacker attack, unknown people stole digital currencies worth around 60 million US dollars. Hackers stole Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Monacoin from Zaif’s wallets.
Most of the digital currencies came from the users of the exchange. The company reimbursed customers for their stolen parts.