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Crypto hackers steal $100 million from blockchain bridge

Harmony, which developed the blockchain bridge, said it is working with the FBI to retrieve the funds

Harmony, a blockchain company, says hackers exploited its ethereum and Binance Chain bridge and made off with $100 million in digital currency. (Angel Garcia/Bloomberg News)

Hackers seized a blockchain bridge developed by Harmony and swindled roughly $100 million in cryptocurrency, the company announced.

Blockchain functions as a decentralized ledger, a record of transactions that is publicly available and verifiable but not maintained by any one person, making it useful for tracking digital currency. A blockchain bridge is essentially a means of decentralized transfer between ledgers — making it a prime target for crafty opportunists.

Harmony, a blockchain company, said in tweets on Thursday evening that hackers exploited the company’s ethereum and Binance Chain bridge in a theft amounting to $100 million. Harmony said its bitcoin bridge was not affected.

“Harmony is working around the clock as we continue our investigation alongside the FBI and multiple cyber security firms,” the company said in a follow-up tweet. It also posted an online address of the suspected culprit.

Harmony did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

As cryptocurrency’s popularity has grown, it has increasingly been targeted by criminals. Crypto crime hit a fresh all-time high of $14 billion last year, according to research from Chainalysis, up from $7.8 billion in 2020.

It’s a challenging time for cryptocurrency, which saw an emphatic boom during the coronavirus pandemic as homebound Americans turned to investment, with many first-time investors intrigued by the promises of digital currency.

The tech sector has been hit hard as inflation and a tangle of other economic tensions drag down highflying companies and speculative sections of the market. Tech layoffs have soared to their highest level since the early days of the pandemic, with crypto companies announcing 1,700 layoffs so far in June according to Business Insider. Crypto giants like Coinbase and Gemini have been among those slashing positions and instituting hiring freezes while warning of the potential for another “crypto winter” as the economy tilts toward recession.

“We appear to be entering a recession after a 10+ year economic boom,” Brian Armstrong, chief executive of Coinbase, said in a June 14 blog post announcing an 18 percent reduction to its staff. “A recession could lead to another crypto winter, and could last for an extended period. In past crypto winters, trading revenue (our largest revenue source) has declined significantly. While it’s hard to predict the economy or the markets, we always plan for the worst so we can operate the business through any environment.”

Bitcoin’s value has fallen nearly 70 percent from its November high of more than $68,000. On Friday, it was trading around $21,245.

As of Friday, the global cryptocurrency market was valued around $929 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

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