Hackers steal $100m from Horizon bridge in third major cryptocurrency heist this year

Harmony says it is working with forensic specialists to identify the culprit and retrieve the stolen funds

More than $11 billion worth of cryptocurrencies has been stolen in different hacking incidents over the past nine years. Bloomberg
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Hackers stole $100 million from a cryptocurrency bridge, an app that lets people swap coins between blockchains, in the third major cryptocurrency heist this year.

Harmony, an open blockchain that runs Ethereum applications, said the hack of its bridge called Horizon took place on Thursday morning.

“We have begun working with national authorities and forensic specialists to identify the culprit and retrieve the stolen funds,” Harmony said in a series of tweets on Friday morning.

This is the third major bridge hack this year. Hackers stole more than $300m from Wormhole in February and about $620m from Ronin Bridge in late March.

Even before the Harmony hack, money stolen from bridges exceeded $1 billion, according to researcher Chainalysis.

More than $11bn worth of cryptocurrencies have been stolen in different hacking incidents over the past nine years.

The number of hacks peaked in 2021, with at least eight companies suffering breaches, Inside Bitcoins, a London-based online cryptocurrency news source, said in a January report.

The cryptocurrency market is massive, with more than 12,000 exchange marketplaces where digital assets such as Bitcoin, Ether and other digital coins are traded.

Account details, known as private keys in cryptocurrency parlance, can be hacked if not secured properly and the funds held in those accounts can be stolen.

Risks of hacks remain high as the market continues to expand, with more marketplaces and exchange platforms cropping up in different parts of the world.

Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies, is a digital chain of transactions that are linked to each other using cryptography — a mechanism for secure communications — on an open ledger.

However, hackers use a variety of techniques, including phishing and viruses, to steal large amounts of user data, according to Inside Bitcoins.

“From the hacking data, it is clear that, just like any other network, blockchain technology is susceptible to hacking. This calls for collaboration between users and investors to minimise losses,” it said at the time.

Last year, cyber criminals stole about 7,000 Bitcoins worth $60.5m from Binance, one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges.

Harmony said it was “working around the clock as we continue our investigation alongside the FBI and multiple cyber security firms”.

“We have also notified exchanges and stopped the Horizon bridge to prevent further transactions,” it said in a separate tweet. “The team is all hands on deck as investigations continue.”

Updated: June 24, 2022, 9:45 AM