Crypto exchange BitMart loses $196 million to hackers

The theft might be difficult to track.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Large-scale cryptocurrency heists remain a significant headache. According to Coindesk, the crypto exchange BitMart has lost the equivalent of $196 million (originally estimated at $150 million) to a hack. The intruder breached Ethereum and Binance wallets with a flood of transfers starting around 2:30PM Eastern on December 4th, followed by an exodus of tokens two hours later that included Shiba and USDC.

Founder Sheldon Xia said only a "small percentage" of BitMart's assets were at risk. Even so, the company has frozen withdrawals "until further notice" and is reviewing security.

It's not clear who was responsible, but the culprit may have been knowledgeable The stolen funds have been sent to an Ethereum mixing service that could make it difficult to trace the funds. Crypto thieves aren't always that astute. The Poly Network attacker, for instance, offered to "surrender" and wound up returning all their loot. They claimed they were contributing to Poly's security, but that might also have been an attempt to avoid repercussions after researchers obtained potentially identifying data.

While this isn't the biggest digital heist (the Poly attacker grabbed $610 million, for instance), Coindesk notes this is one of the larger centralized exchange hacks to date. It also underscores the growing issue of cryptocurrency theft — the technology makes it all too feasible to steal large sums with few repercussions.