Hackers make off with £31m in Bitcoin heist from Binance exchange | Science & Tech News
Hackers have made off with £31m in bitcoin from the Binance cryptocurrency exchange in a meticulously timed heist, the business has said.
Japan-based Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, had its hot wallet emptied rather than its main vault of bitcoin.
The hot wallet, which was used for customer transactions, contained 2% of the company’s total holdings.
Bitcoin hit its highest valuation in December 2017, with a single coin’s value reaching above £15,000 on some exchanges.
Since then, a unit of the cryptocurrency has dropped to about 30% of that and is today worth around £4,500 – and exchanges such as Binance have continued to serve its supporters.
That community has remained a target for hackers, both amateur and well-prepared. Binance said the cyber criminals who made off with almost 7,000 coins had been patient in penetrating the organisation’s systems and executed the heist “at the most opportune time”.
The company has an emergency insurance fund which will cover the losses from the incident in full. It said no user funds would be affected by the theft.
The company is now conducting “a thorough security review” expected to take a week, according to chief executive Zhao Changpeng.
Mr Changpeng told Binance users to reset their two-factor authentication security measures.
“While it is a very expensive lesson for us, it is nevertheless a lesson,” he said of the heist.
“It was our responsibility to safeguard user funds,” the chief executive said in a Twitter video. “We should own up it. We will learn and improve.”
During this period deposits and withdrawals of cryptocurrency will be suspended, although trading will still be supported to allow customers to adjust their positions.
Binance’s concern is that the hackers may still control some user accounts and could use their access to those accounts to manipulate prices.
It is not known who could have conducted the theft, although North Korean hackers have been accused of some of the largest and most audacious cyber heists in the world.
As sanctions on the secretive state started to bite in 2017, Pyongyang’s premiere hacking group started stealing Bitcoin, too.
A secretive North Korean agency known informally as Office 39 has been a critical asset generating black market revenues for the state since at least the 1970s, cyber security experts say.
It is estimated to bring $1bn a year through illicit activities, including counterfeiting US dollar currency, producing narcotics, and even smuggling gold.
Researchers have noted how escalating economic sanctions against North Korea were accompanied by an upsurge in its hacking campaigns targeting South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges.