Halborn Logo

// Blog

Explained: Hacks

Explained: The DMM Bitcoin Hack (May 2024)


Rob Behnke

June 4th, 2024

In May 2024, DMM Bitcoin experienced the largest blockchain hack in over a year. The centralized cryptocurrency exchange suffered an estimated $305 million in losses.

Inside the Attack

DMM Bitcoin is a centralized cryptocurrency exchange located in Japan. The May 2024 hack was the third-largest crypto theft in history and the largest since December 2022.

Initially, the hack was identified as a large-scale transfer of 4502.9 BTC worth over $308 million from one unknown Bitcoin wallet to another. Without additional context, it was impossible to determine whether this was a security incident or a Bitcoin whale moving assets from one wallet to another. Later, the stolen Bitcoin was distributed to multiple different addresses, increasing the difficulty of identifying the culprit and retrieving the stolen assets.

However, a statement by DMM Bitcoin acknowledged that the organization was hacked and was taking steps to investigate the incident and prevent future incidents. The exchange assured customers that all deposits were secure and froze certain services during the ongoing investigation. However, it didn’t provide details about the root cause of the hack.

Without further comment from DMM Bitcoin, it’s impossible to determine the actual cause of the incident. However, there are a few potential options, including:

  • Exposed Private Keys: Private keys are essential to the security of blockchain accounts. If a hot wallet key was compromised or misused by an insider, then an attacker could generate a transaction transferring the assets to their wallet.

  • Compromised Signing Processes: If an attacker can get a user to sign a malicious transaction, they don’t need access to a private key. Social engineering, malware, and other techniques can be used to trick a user into authorizing a malicious transfer of funds.

  • Address Poisoning: Address poisoning attacks seed a user’s transaction history with lookalike addresses that resemble trusted addresses. If a user copies the wrong address when generating a transaction, they could send crypto to an attacker instead of the intended user. This was the cause of another recent major attack but is an unlikely culprit unless DMM Bitcoin is in the habit of performing large transfers of assets between its wallets.

Lessons Learned from the Attack

The DMM Bitcoin hack underscores the importance of strong security practices for protecting high-value accounts on Bitcoin and other blockchains. These include:

  • Multi-Sig Wallets: Multi-sig wallets require multiple private keys to generate a valid transaction. This reduces the risk of a single compromised private key being used to steal crypto.

  • Cold Wallets: Cold wallets should be used to store the private keys of major accounts offline. Hardware wallets offer additional protection against common threats to private key security.

  • Decentralization: Single accounts holding large amounts of crypto are a prime target for cybercriminals. Storing funds in smaller quantities with keys secured separately reduces the impact of a compromised key.

Implementing strong security practices is essential to the success of any blockchain project or exchange. For help in enhancing your organization’s protection against this type of incident, reach out to Halborn.