Binance Hackers Minted $569M in Crypto—Then It Got Complicated

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Another day, another massive hack in the cryptocurrency industry. But this one is strange.

Binance revealed Friday that unidentified hackers managed to exploit a flaw in the company’s BNB Chain crypto token, allowing them to mint 2 million of the company’s decentralized tokens worth a total of $569 million. That money wasn’t actually stolen from Binance, in other words, but rather fabricated out of thin air thanks to a flaw in the security of Binance’s cryptocurrency. But the hack nonetheless seemed poised to flood the market with BNB and thus reduce its value for legitimate owners, while allowing the hackers to walk away with half a billion dollars.

Unfortunately for those hackers, even they didn’t seem prepared for their sudden windfall. Cryptocurrency-tracing firm Elliptic found that they quickly traded away some fraction of their tokens for a variety of other cryptocurrencies. That allowed them to obtain about $53 million in Ethereum-based tokens. But other cryptocurrencies that they traded their BNB for, like Tether and USDC, are more centrally controlled, allowing the funds to be frozen. Binance, meanwhile, managed to temporarily shut down its BNB blockchain to prevent the hackers’ newly mined currency from moving further. “So we have a very sophisticated exploit, managing to mint yourself $569 million,” says Elliptic research lead Thibaud Madelin. “But what followed was a complete shambles, to be honest.”

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