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Bitcoin Heist Adds $77 Million To Total Hacked Hauls Of $15 Billion

A “highly professional” heist sucked millions dollars in bitcoin out of Slovenian website NiceHash, the latest in a series of big cryptocurrency thefts.

Bitcoin Heist Adds $77 Million To Total Hacked Hauls Of $15 Billion
[Photo: Flickr user fdecomite]

Slovenian website NiceHash, which lets users buy and sell computer time for mining cryptocurrency, lost about $77 million when its payment system was hacked in a “highly professional” heist, it told Reuters. In total, about 980,000 bitcoins, worth about $15 billion in today’s skyrocketing prices, have been stolen from exchanges over the currency’s lifetime, the wire service estimates.

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But exactly who is behind the theft, or other recent cryptocurrency heists, is unclear. In September, security firm FireEye reported it had seen signs of North Korea targeting South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges, but given cryptocurrency’s relative anonymity and rapidly rising prices, exchanges are likely natural targets for skilled digital criminals from around the world.

Chart of the wallet used in the NiceHash heist, with a value at press time of $77.89 million [Image: Bitinfocharts.]
Other recent cryptocurrency thefts of note:

• Last month, Tether, which distributes cryptocurrencies tied to the value of the dollar and other traditional currencies, reported close to $31 million in its dollar-linked coin was stolen. It pushed out updates to its software to freeze the stolen tokens from further transfer.

• In a stranger incident last month, a bug in wallet provider Parity enabled a user to take control of, then permanently freeze, roughly $300 million in ethereum. Parity has said it’s investigating ways the ethereum codebase could be patched to recover the funds.

• In July, cryptocurrency trading platform CoinDash’s website was hacked during an initial coin offering, causing would-be participants to send about $7 million in ethereum to an address controlled by scammers.

• Last year, a misconfiguration in software for an ethereum-powered investment vehicle called the Distributed Autonomous Organization allowed a hacker to steal roughly $60 million in the currency. The ethereum codebase was soon changed to restore the funds to their original owners.

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• Also last year, cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex was hacked, with 120,000 bitcoin stolen, then valued at about $72 million. The funds were returned to users in full by the exchange by April 2017.

• Bitcoin schemes have worked their way into popular culture, as well. A 2016 Vietnamese movie with the English title Bitcoin Heist is now streaming on U.S. Netflix, and the USA Network’s Mr. Robot has addressed conspiracies around a fictitious cryptocurrency.

In a statement on Reddit Wednesday, NiceHash told users to change their passwords after the company halted operations, but it has provided few other details about the attack.

Bitcoin, meanwhile, has soared to new heights, reaching $15,000 just hours after it broke past $14,000. The bump sent the heist’s original bitcoin haul of $57.7 million to $77 million, and sparked new fears of what one analyst predicted would be “the biggest bubble of our lifetimes by a longshot.”

About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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