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Explained: Hacks

Explained: The BtcTurk Hack (June 2024)


Rob Behnke

June 25th, 2024

In June 2024, BtcTurk, a Turkish cryptocurrency exchange, was the victim of a hack. The attacker stole an estimated $55 million worth of cryptocurrency from the project’s hot wallets.

Inside the Attack

The BtcTurk incident included attacks against ten hot wallets associated with the exchange. The majority of the exchange’s assets were held in cold wallets, which were unaffected by the hack.

The attack was likely made possible by compromised private keys, which enabled the attackers to steal an estimated $55 million in cryptocurrency. In addition to the impacts on the exchange, the incident also had significant impacts on the price of some cryptocurrencies — such as Luna Classic — after the attacker dumped large volumes of those tokens on the market and decreased their value.

After the attack was identified, BtcTurk temporarily froze deposits and withdrawals on its exchange as it assessed the damage. The exchange reported that all of the stolen funds belonged to the exchange itself and that crypto customers deposited with it were unaffected by the incident. BtcTurk also received aid from Binance in investigating the incident, and Binance froze over $5.3 million — roughly 10% of the stolen tokens — on its exchange.

An investigation by ZachXBT also found that it was highly likely that the BtcTurk attackers targeted Sportsbet, an online casino. A few hours after the BtcTurk incident, Sportsbet suffered a $3.5 million theft.

Lessons Learned from the Attack

The BtcTurk hack is another example of the security risks of compromised private keys. These types of hacks have been extremely common lately, resulting in high-profile and high-value hacks like the recent $200 million breach of Gala Games. These incidents can be caused by various means, such as phishing attacks, insecure key storage, or malware infections.

In some respects, BtcTurk did the right thing by keeping the majority of its assets in cold storage, where they are better protected against attack. However, some of its crypto needed to remain more accessible, which is why it had over $55 million sitting in hot wallets.

For these accounts, a multi-signature wallet may have provided the protection needed to prevent attackers from accessing hot wallets and transferring crypto out of them. To learn more about protecting your crypto assets against theft via compromised private keys and other threats, check out this article on digital asset security best practices.