Binance is ‘narrowing down’ identity of hacker behind $570 million crypto attack, CEO says

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance is getting closer to figuring out the identity of a hacker that orchestrated a $570 million hack on its BNB blockchain, CEO Changpeng Zhao told CNBC Monday.

After getting some tips from law enforcement on who the hacker might be, Binance is now “narrowing down” the person or persons behind the attack, Zhao said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

The attack in question saw a so-called cross-chain bridge targeted, allowing an as-yet unknown hacker or hackers to withdraw 2 million of Binance’s BNB tokens worth around $570 million at the time.

More than $1 billion has been lost to breaches on cross-chain bridges so far this year, tools that facilitate the swift transfer of tokens from one blockchain platform to another, according to Chainalysis data.

Popular in the world of “DeFi,” or decentralized finance, bridges have become a hot target for criminals due to faults in their underlying code.

“We’re still actually chasing … helping [authorities] to chase the bad players, working with law enforcement around the globe,” Zhao said. “Working with law enforcement is one of the ways that we can try to make the space safe.”

“Actually, in this particular instant, law enforcement gave us some tips of who they think it might be. So we’re actually narrowing down.”

Binance intervened to limit the damage of the attack, pausing activity on its BNB Chain blockchain network after coordinating with network validators — individuals and entities that sign off on transaction approvals — to enact an upgrade.

Zhao, who is commonly referred to as “CZ” online, said this meant BNB Chain was able to prevent most of the targeted funds from being taken by the hacker.

“The blockchain was able to freeze about 80% to 90% of it, so the actual loss of it was much smaller,” he said.

The “vast majority of the funds remain under control,” Binance’s BNB Chain said in a statement at the time of the hack. About $100 million was unrecoverable, BNB Chain added.

The BNB Chain, originally known as Binance Chain, was first developed by Binance in 2019. Like other blockchains, it features a native token, called BNB, that can be traded or used in games and other applications.

Sophie Tremblay

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