In November of last year, the market value of all digital assets surpassed $3 trillion, a growth of 21,000% from 2016. But the process of that progress has not been easy. A barrage of cybersecurity breaches have hit the market, and the price of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin has been soaring like a rollercoaster. The largest cryptocurrency attacks since 2021 are highlighted in the list below, which shows how slowly and painfully the industry is coming to understand the need for perfect security as part of the privilege of managing digital assets valued at millions of dollars.
1. Ronin Network, 2021 – $614m
The March 2022 attack on Ronin Network, a platform that enables users of the video game Axie Infinity to trade in-game tokens for other cryptocurrencies, was the largest cryptocurrency theft ever, according to a calculation based on the worth of the stolen crypto assets at the time.
On March 30, the network disclosed that a hacker had acquired the private keys needed to authenticate transactions and had transferred 173,600 Ethereum and 25.5 million USDC, a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar, to their own wallets. The theft is valued at $614 million using the conversion rate in effect at the time. When a consumer attempted to withdraw money legally, the theft was revealed.
2. Poly Network, 2021 – $611m
The $611 million stolen from Poly Network last year, a platform for smart contracts that enables users to trade tokens between other blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, is the second-largest cryptocurrency theft in history.
A hacker sent three wallets under their control $611 million worth of Poly Network tokens on August 10th, 2021. Security researcher Mudit Gupta’s investigation indicated that the attacker had discovered a method for ‘unlocking,’ or purchasing, tokens on the Poly Network protocol without first ‘locking,’ or selling, the corresponding tokens on other blockchains.
For Poly Network’s benefit, the attacker started repaying the tokens the following day. A person claiming to be the attacker said they had merely taken the tokens “for fun,” despite some speculation that they may have had trouble selling them.
3. Binance: $570 million
The Binance exchange was stolen for $570 million in one of the most well-known hacks in cryptocurrency history in October 2022. Hackers used the BSC Token Hub cross-chain bridge to exploit, causing the creation of additional Binance Coins (BNB) and the creation of extra 2 million BNB tokens. The native token of the cryptocurrency exchange is BNB. The hack was made possible via a flaw in a smart contract, demonstrating the need for stronger blockchain security.
4. Wormhole Bridge: Loss – $320 million
A hacker stole approximately $320 million in wrapped ETH from the Wormhole protocol on February 2. This protocol connects Solana, Ethereum, Avalanche, and other major cross-chain crypto networks.
To mint wrapped ETH, a form of cryptocurrency whose value is tied to that of ethereum, wormhole users are required to stake ethereum.
The exploit was attributed by analytics company Elliptic to Wormhole’s disregard for “guardian” account validity. enabling the attacker to create 120,000 wETH without any underlying ethereum. The hacker then converted 93,750 wETH into ethereum and the remaining funds into solana. At the time, the loss had a total cost of nearly $320 million.
5. Bitmart: $196 Million
The Bitmart centralised exchange was hacked in December 2021, with losses of $196 million. A security analysis company discovered the hack after it noticed that BitMart addresses had lost all of their balance. Ethereum was used to transfer about $100 million in different cryptocurrencies, and $96 million left through Binance Smart Chain. Tokens were all transferred to an address identified by Etherscan as labeled to the “BitMart Hacker.”
6. Nomad Token Bridge, 2022 – $190m
In a couple of hours in August 2022, the cross-chain protocol Nomad Token Bridge was hacked of $190 million. Hackers could transfer any amount by simply altering the code of an earlier transaction since a flaw was introduced to the protocol during a regular update.
After the initial hacker launched the attack, hundreds others did so immediately. The incident was called “one of the most chaotic hacks web3 has ever seen” and “the first de-centralized crowd theft of a nine-figure bridge in history.”
Nomad had positioned itself as a “security-first cross-chain messaging protocol” and a reaction to the recent theft of billions of dollars via structures resembling these.
7. Beanstalk Farms: Loss $182 million
A DeFi protocol called Beanstalk Farms, which intended to balance the supply and demand of various crypto currencies, was attacked in April, and $182 million worth of cryptocurrency was stolen.
According to PeckShield, the attacker took advantage of the majority vote governance structure in Beanstalk and voted to send themselves $182 million. The attacker acquired a controlling interest in the protocol using a flash loan, but the corporation estimated that their actual profit was just around $80 million.
8. Wintermute: Loss $160 million
Hackers have recently targeted the DeFi protocol Wintermute, stealing $160 million from the platform’s decentralised financial area. CEO Evgeny Gaevoy claimed that a serious flaw in Profanity, an Ethereum vanity address generator, was to blame for the breach.
He claimed that Wintermute never used the tool for “vanity,” but rather to build an exclusive address in order to reduce transaction expenses. This particular attack appears to be the result of human error.
9. Maiar, 2022 – $113m
Beginning in early June 2022, the decentralised cryptocurrency exchange Maiar alerted customers about “strange behaviours” on its Elrond blockchain. Soon later, it was discovered by an unbiased researcher that hackers had discovered a platform security hole and exploited it to steal 1,650,000 Elrond eGold (EGLD), the blockchain’s internal currency. At the time of the hack, it was valued at $113 million. However, the price of EGLD dropped from $76 to just $5 after the hackers sold little under half of their loot.
Beniamin Mincu, CEO of Maiar, stated in a post-breach update that the business had recovered the stolen monies and had updated its platform to correct the flaw.
10. Harmony Bridge, June 23, $100 million
Two of the five security keys for the Binance and Ethereum bridge were accessed by the North Korea-affiliated Lazarus gang, who then authorised transfers of funds out of the bridge. Harmony now needs consensus on transactions from four out of the five validator keys, but it has not yet disclosed how it will compensate users.
In recent years, the cryptocurrency business has expanded quickly as a result of the launch of new products. Given how often it is being hacked, the industry may potentially be developing too quickly. Back-to-back hacks have exposed the crypto industry’s fragility and damaged investors’ trust. Blockchain networks need to have more security added by developers in order to prevent more sentimental harm.
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