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Mt. Gox: How many Bitcoin were stolen in the biggest hack in history?

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5 minute read

Published on: 15-08-2022

The biggest hack in cryptocurrency history is the one that occurred at the Mt. Gox exchange, from which 850,000 Bitcoin were stolen.

The story of the 850,000 Bitcoin stolen from Mt. Gox

Mt. Gox is still the biggest hack in crypto history

Of all the hacking incidents that have occurred in the history of cryptocurrencies, the most substantial of all was certainly the one that happened to the Japanese exchange Mt.Gox in 2014, when a breach to its systems was able to steal the entire Bitcoin assets held by the company. 

This amounted to 850,000 BTC (about 7% of all Bitcoin in circulation at the time) embezzled on several occasions, with a countervalue at the time of $475 million. At current market prices, the value would now be more than $18 billion.

That episode led to the bankruptcy of the company, which then managed to recover about 200,000 of the stolen Bitcoin, over which there was a very tough legal battle by users, who had lost all their money paid into the exchange. 

Last July, it appears that the affair finally led to an initial resolution involving at least a partial refund to the creditors of the failed exchange.

What really happened to the Bitcoin from Mt. Gox

It is difficult to understand how the hack on Mt. Gox, which had already suffered an initial attack in 2011, technically happened. Thus, as stated by many cybersecurity experts surveyed, it was entirely foreseeable that the company’s security systems were hackable because they had some flaws. 

Anonymous insiders reported that Mt.Gox’s system lacked basic (and vital) features such as version control software and, until a few months before its downfall, a testing environment.

Without version control, one Mt. Gox developer could have even accidentally modified another’s code. There was no change history or reliable mechanism to merge code or restore a known working copy. 

Because it lacked a testing environment, Mt. Gox put this largely untested software in front of the general public. It is quite clear that very experienced hackers could have taken advantage of precisely these security flaws with relative ease in order to enter the system and steal the funds.

Bitcoin withdrawals were reported to have occurred via a wallet.dat. This is a file that contains vital data used by the cryptocurrency wallet on your computer. This file includes information such as the public/private key pairs for each of the users’ addresses, transactions made and other sensitive information.

The most recent hacks in the crypto world

The hacks carried out by hackers are countless and even greater in value (at the time of the theft) than the one perpetrated against the Japanese exchange. 

Starting with the most recent ones suffered by Bitfinex or Polygon, which remains one of the biggest hits from the point of view of the amount of funds stolen.

Last December, a hacker took away 801,601 MATIC, worth about $650 million, before the vulnerability was fixed. 

A few weeks ago, on the other hand, the FBI arrested the two alleged perpetrators of another sensational hack, whereby the two allegedly took 120,000 BTC from the Bitfinex exchange, which took place in 2016. 

The two were allegedly betrayed by some large BTC transactions made from one wallet to another, allowing federal agents to trace the likely perpetrators of one of the most blatant thefts committed in the cryptocurrency world. 

In a way, even bigger than the Mt. Gox hack is the leak caused by Coincheck, which occurred in 2018. 

In 2017, Coincheck was considered one of the exchanges with the highest crypto trading volumes in all of Asia. Then, in January 2018, the company announced that it had lost $534 million in a hack theft. 

Also substantial was the recent theft of more than $200 million by a hacker group from the KuCoin exchange.

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