Hackers have stolen cryptocurrency worth nearly $615 million from a blockchain project linked to the popular online game Axie Infinity, the latest cyber heist to hit the digital asset sector. Ronin, a blockchain network that allows users to transfer crypto in and out of the game, said Tuesday that the theft happened on March 23, but wasn’t discovered until nearly a week later.
THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE RONIN HEIST.
CRYPTO IS A BIG DEAL NOW, right?
Indeed. Bitcoin and other digital currencies have exploded into the public eye in recent years, with mainstream investors massively embracing the sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry is now worth more than $2.1 trillion. As the money poured in, the hacks and heists that have long plagued crypto have also grown.
AND HOW DOES RONIN FIT IN?
Ronin is used in Axie Infinity, one of the world’s most popular online games featuring cryptocurrencies. The products include a digital wallet for storing cryptocurrencies and a “bridge” that allows users to move funds in and out of the game. This is where the cryptocurrency was stolen. Ronin takes its name from the samurai warriors of feudal Japan who did. not serve any particular lord. The name “represents our desire to take the fate of our product into our own hands,” Axie Infinity said in a blog post.
Vietnam-based Sky Mavis, which launched Axie Infinity in 2018, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Ronin also did not return the Reuters messages.
Jeffrey Zirlin, one of the founders of Axie Infinity, said at a conference on Tuesday, “It’s one of the bigger hacks in history and we’re fully committed to continuing to build.”
HOW DID THE ROBBER HAPPEN?
The Ronin hacker used stolen private keys — the passwords needed to access crypto funds — Ronin said in a blog post, after targeting computers connected to his network that help confirm transactions.
Ronin said it discovered the hack Tuesday and that it was working with “various government agencies to ensure the criminals are brought to justice”.
The identity of the hackers is still unclear.
AND AXIE INFINITY?
Axie Infinity says it has 2.8 million daily active players, with about $3.6 billion previously traded in its market, making it one of the most popular blockchain-based online games.
Set in a fictional universe, players can collect, trade, and play with virtual creatures called Axies, which are traded in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It is the largest NFT brand in terms of sales volume of all time, according to market follower CryptoSlam.
The game has raised venture capital funding, raising $152 million in October from investors including Andreessen Horowitz.
Axie and other play-to-earn games allow players to spend crypto and earn financial rewards. They have become hugely popular in the past year, when a frenzy in the NFT world prompted investors to speculate in hopes of big returns.
WHERE IS THE loot NOW? AND ARE USERS AFFECTED?
Most stolen funds are still in a digital wallet, which is available for viewing. Blockchain Intelligence Group, a Vancouver-based crypto tracker, said the hackers had moved a small portion of the funds to major exchanges FTX, Crypto.com and Huobi.
Huobi said it is investigating the hack and is communicating closely with Axie Infinity. FTX and Crypto.com did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Ronin said in a blog post that Sky Mavis was “determined to ensure that any money that was lost is recovered or refunded,” without giving details. Making sure no money is lost “is our top priority,” it added.
It said it partnered with major blockchain tracker Chainalysis to track down the stolen funds. Chainalysis declined to comment.
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