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Top 10 of The Biggest Cryptocurrency Hacks and Scams Ever

If you have been around the cryptocurrency industry long enough, you will know that one of the biggest risks faced by users is the loss of funds through hacks on cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges.
Online exchanges are prime targets for hackers and thieves on the internet. This is mainly because of the amount of funds that are kept on these platforms. For hackers that have succeeded in stealing funds from such platforms, the amounts are usually huge.
As much as individual users try to play their roles in securing their accounts by using personal passwords, PINs and codes, there is a higher layer of security that lies in the hands of the platform providers. Once this is breached, the individual security efforts become irrelevant.
Over the years, exchanges and wallets appear to have improved in terms of security as the frequency of hacks and platform breaches have reduced. What used to be a common occurrence in the industry has become a rare development, with hacks now few and far between.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 of the biggest cryptocurrency hacks and scams ever.

10. Bitcoin Gold ($18 Million)

In May 2018, the theoretical 51% attack possibility was proven in a heist that saw a breach in Bitcoin Gold which cost the protocol $18 million.
In this heist, hackers used 51% raw computing power to seize control of the network and carry out their ulterior plans effectively. Ciphertrace and other security outfits in the ecosystem believe that the algorithm weaknesses in Bitcoin Gold’s Proof of Work (PoW) transaction verification may have enabled the success of the theft.

9. Geth ($20 Million)

In June 2018, the Ethereum client Geth was hacked and ETH worth $20 million was stolen. This incidence was reported by blockchain security firm, Cyphertrace. During the hack, JSON-RPC port 8545 was exploited. This is the port that initiates ETH send transactions.
All the ETH wallets that were affected by this breach was drained by the thieves, accumulating to the quoted $20 million equivalence based on the price of ETH at that time.

8. Bancor ($23.5 Million)

In July 2018, about one month after the Geth incident, decentralized cryptocurrency exchange, Bancor was hacked and $23.5 million worth of crypto stolen. This particular event raised some eyebrows in the cryptocurrency industry, redefining the general opinion of decentralized exchanges being prone to hacking.
The process involved the exploitation of a security flaw in a wallet that was used to update some of the smart contracts on the exchange. Bancor, which was one of the most successful ICOs of 2017, raising $153 million during its token sale, was forced to shut down after the hack.

7. Coinrail ($40 Million)

Coinrail was hacked in June 2018, and $40 million was stolen from the exchange. The South Korean exchange which ranked among the top 100 exchanges by volume, suspended its services shortly after the hack.
According to sources from the exchange, the tokens that were stolen included NPXS tokens from the Pundi X project, ATC from Aston and the NPER project’s NPER token.
  1. Binance ($40.7 Million)
Binance exchange was hacked in May 2019 and 7,000 Bitcoins were stolen from the platform. The value of the Bitcoins stolen at the time was about $40.7 million.
To achieve their aim, hackers were able to steal API keys, two-factor codes and some other key information to access the wallets. According to the exchange, the incident impacted only about 2% of its total Bitcoin holdings as all other wallets are secure.
Affected wallets were promised a refund through the exchange’s Secure Asset Fund for Users (SAFU) arrangement. This is a policy that the exchange uses to prepare for rainy days. A portion of fees charged on the exchange is set aside in order to ensure that platform users do not bear the brunt during occurrences such as this.

5. Zaif ($60 Million)

Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange Zaif was hacked in September 2018 and $60 million was stolen in the process. The theft was possible after hackers gained authorised access into the exchanges hot wallets, making away with huge amounts of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and MonaCoin.
The exchange’s asset reserve could not cover the loss, therefore it reached an agreement with a Japan-listed firm called Fisco to receive a $44.5 million investment in exchange for a major share of ownership.

4. Bitfinex ($77 Million)

The Bitfinex hack of August 2016 was a popular event that rocked the entire cryptocurrency industry. The hack occurred at a time when cryptocurrencies appeared to be shifting gears in terms of awareness and development. As a matter of fact, the aftermath of the event saw the Bitcoin price drop by 20%.
After the hack, Bitfinex issued cryptographic tokens to its users that were affected by the hack, all of which the exchange announced to have bought back by April 2017.

3. BitGrail ($187 Million)

$187 million worth of Nano tokens were stolen from BitGrail in February 2018. The reported theft was announced weeks after the unauthorized transfer was initiated. This information was from evidence retrieved from the Nano blockchain explorer by skeptics.
While BitGrail recognized the concerns of it users, it however stated that it is impossible for it to refund the stolen amount.

2. Mt. Gox ($460 Million)

The Mt. Gox scandal remains one of the biggest stains on the cryptocurrency industry. In February 2014, Mt. Gox was hacked and as much as $460 million was stolen from the exchange. In the wake of this, the exchange’s CEO, Mark Karpeles issued a statement that accepted responsibility on behalf of his company.
“We had weaknesses in our system, and our bitcoins vanished. We’ve caused trouble and inconvenience to many people, and I feel deeply sorry for what has happened, “ he said.
At the time, Mt. Gox was the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange that looked impressive from the outside, but many who claimed to know about the internal workings accused the company of a messy combination of poor management, neglect, and raw inexperience.
The size of this event left a huge dent on the reputation of Bitcoin and the crypto industry at large. It took a long time before the market picked up again, and for users to regain confidence in the industry. The exchange has since gone down and ceased to exist.

1. Coincheck ($500 Million)

The biggest theft in the history of the cryptocurrency industry happened in January 2018, when Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange, Coincheck was hacked. A total of NEM tokens worth $500 million were stolen in the process.
A statement from the exchange accepted the blame and took responsibility for the breach. According to reports, rather than storing its customers’ assets in offline wallets, the assets were stored in hot wallets that were connected to the internet. Coincheck also reportedly failed to protect the wallets with standard multi-signature security protocols.
Having traced the destination of the stolen funds, NEM developers created a tracking tool that would allow exchanges to automatically reject stolen funds.

Conclusion

Hacks and massive theft of cryptocurrencies have contributed to the setback experienced by the technology. Each of the events takes a hit on the confidence of investors and willing participants who may not be sure of how the affected exchanges will handle the situation.
The industry is however learning from past experiences, as the frequency of such hacks have reduced, while in some cases, modalities are being put in place to ensure that end users do not bear the brunt of such events, just like the case of Binance.
The NEM developers’ response to the Coincheck hack has a way of rendering stolen funds unspendable, as long as other members of the community comply. However, no one knows how long this will last, and if the hackers will be able to nullify the traceability of the stolen coins yet.
The action by the developers will discourage hackers and thieves, but is yet to restore value to the end users whose funds have been stolen.
For the industry to grow as it should and become stable, security of funds need to be established. Exchanges and developers are continuously making efforts to ensure that funds and transactions within the industry remain safe at all times.
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