The hacker behind a giant cryptocurrency heist is returning stolen funds

The intruder stole about $611 million thanks to an exploit.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Someone just perpetrated one of the largest cryptocurrency heists known to date... and appears to be having second thoughts. The Block and CNBC report that a hacker stole about $611 million in Ethereum, Shiba Inu and other digital currencies from the decentralized Poly Network finance platform on August 10th by exploiting a vulnerability. Less than a day later, however, the intruder sent a token indicating they were "ready to surrender" and started returning millions in funds.

It's not completely clear what prompted the change of heart, but the hacker may have been caught. Slowmist and other security researchers reportedly tracked down identifying info, including email, an IP address and the Chinese cryptocurrency exchange the perpetrator used. If so, the 'refund' may have been an attempt to avoid criminal charges.

The damage might be limited as a result. However, this is still one of the largest thefts in DeFi (decentralized finance) history, and comes in a year when there had already been $361 million in such hacks as of July. It might just shake the confidence of those relying heavily on crypto exchanges. If there's any consolation, it's that the very technology exploited during the attack also made it difficult to profit from that attack. As analyics firm Elliptic's Tom Robinson told CNBC, it can be difficult to launder or otherwise cash out cryptocurrency without leaving a trail of clues — incidents like these might discourage attacks.

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