Shortly after 1 pm local time Wednesday, South Korean crypto exchange UPbit suffered a hack which resulted in the theft of millions of dollars worth of Ethereum.
In an official statement posted on the exchange’s website, Lee Seok-woo, CEO of Doo-myeon, the operator of UPbit, announced that roughly $50 million were stolen from its Ethereum hot wallet.
“At 1:06 PM on November 27, 2019, 342,000 ETH (approximately 58 billion won) were transferred from the Upbeat Ethereum Hot Wallet to an unknown wallet,” he stated.
Lee assured UPbit’s customers that their funds were safe and that the 342,000 ETH that was stolen would be fully covered by the exchange’s assets.
The stolen funds were transferred to an unknown wallet associated with ETH address 0xa09871AEadF4994Ca12f5c0b6056BBd1d343c029.
UPbit’s customers were asked for “support in blocking deposits from the anonymous address,” and to report any suspicious transactions.
At the time of this writing, the stolen Ethereum was still at the hacker’s address.
In addition to Ethereum, crypto transaction tracker WhaleAlert tweeted that large amounts of TRON and BitTorrent tokens – worth more than $16.6 million and $3.5 million respectively – were transferred from UPbit to unknown addresses an hour after the Ethereum was stolen.
According to the announcement, UPbit will resume deposits and withdrawals in approximately 2 weeks.
In a show of support, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao vowed that the exchange would do all that it could to ensure that any hacked funds that find their way onto the platform will be immediately frozen.
We will work with Upbit and other industry players to ensure any hacked funds that may make their way to Binance are immediately frozen.
— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) November 27, 2019
The crypto market reacts
While the attack on UPbit did have an effect on the market, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as it could have been.
Just prior to the hack, Bitcoin had been trading at around $7,192. A few hours later, BTC prices had fallen to $6,974 – a loss of just over three percent.
The drop was not sustained, however, and Bitcoin rallied almost immediately, regaining nearly $300 in just two hours.
Over the next four hours, Bitcoin climbed another $395 before settling it at its current price of $7,559 – a 24-hour gain of 5.08 percent.
Like Bitcoin, Ethereum also experienced a drop following the UPbit hack, falling from $148 to $141.
Also like Bitcoin, Ethereum recovered quickly and at press time is currently trading at $154.14 – a gain of 4.34 percent over the past 24 hours.
Was the UPbit hack an inside job?
Speculation regarding the identity of the hacker(s) is running rampant among the crypto community and there are a number of people who think that it might have been an inside job.
Cryptocurrency analyst Joseph Young noted that the hacker timed their attack to coincide with UPbit making crypto transfers to its cold wallet.
“Hence, I think the probability of it being an inside job is higher than external breach. No details are certain for now. Will continue to update,” he tweeted.
A similar theory being floated about takes the notion of an inside job even further, suggesting that the hack may have been an attempt by UPbit to avoid taxes.
Heard an interesting conspiracy that exchanges hack themselve to avoid taxes.
Korean Tax Service told Bithumb to pay $30m tax in June 8, 2018.
-> Bithumb got hacked $35m 12 days later.
Upbit was ordered to pay 50-60m tax in Jan 8, 2019.
-> Upbit got hacked 50m today.
— Jeff Paik (@jeff_paik) November 27, 2019
Twitter user Jeff Paik shared the theory, which points out that UPbit was ordered to pay between $50 and $60 million in taxes earlier this year. Coincidentally, roughly the same amount of money was stolen by the hackers.
The tax evasion conspiracy theory compares the UPbit attack to that of Bithumb, which was ordered to pay $30 million in taxes. Twelve days later, they were hacked and $35 million in cryptocurrencies was stolen.