Even though security breaches are not exclusive at all to the cryptocurrency sector, its worthy of note that it is one of the biggest problems faced by operators of cryptocurrency exchange platforms all over the world. Apart from regulatory trouble faced by exchange firms in select countries such as China, there seems to always be some cybercriminals who are on the prowl and ever ready to break through security measures at these institutions.

Cybersecurity firm Carbon Black says that in the first two quarters of last year, cyber breaches aimed at stealing crypto accounted for about $1.1 billion and exchanges accounted for 27% of that. For the same period in 2019 Ciphertrace security firm says that crypto exchanges lost about $480 million. In some cases, many of these exchanges did not survive the breach and end up going down under. Even though 2019 isn’t over, here is an overview of recorded breaches so far, whether or not these exchanges have gone out of business.

1. Cryptopia

Based in New Zealand, the Cryptopia hack is one of the most popular for 2019 as it happened early in the year. Sometime on January 15, Cryptopia announced that there was a security breach on its platform and became unavailable. At the time, the exchange said that it lost $2.44 million worth of Ether (ETH) among other assets. Police estimates later put the exchange’s total loss around $16 million.

The company tried to get back on its feet and even began trading again in March. However, the damage was already done and it couldn’t survive. In May, Cryptopia began its liquidation process and eventually filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. So far, the company has not specified how the hack happened and no one has any technical details.


Popular peer-to-peer platform LocalBitcoins announced in January as well, that it had also suffered a breach. According to reports, the hackers were able to infiltrate a discussion forum run by a third-party on the LocalBitcoins platform and created a fake login page where users unknowingly filled in their information. The hackers then used this information to gain access to a few user accounts and were able to transfer 7.9 BTC – almost $27,000 at the time – in an operation that lasted about 5 hours before the forum was taken offline.


About a month after Cryptopia’s announcement, Coinmama suffered a similar fate. The company released a statement on February 15, informing the general public that “a list of (Coinmama) emails and hashed passwords were posted on a dark web registry. The statement specified that about 450,000 email addresses were affected, as part of a larger breach which compromised 841 million user records across 30 companies. Thankfully, Coinmama did not lose any assets and customers’ funds remained safe.


On Sunday, March 24, the exchange announced that it had been breached by hackers and had lost millions of dollars in crypto. The Singapore-based exchange made this revelation via its Telegram channels, later specifying that the “funds stolen [was] around $7 million” and a considerable amount of the stolen funds had already been re-routed to several other exchange platforms.

The company further dismissed rumors that it had gone bankrupt and mentioned that it had “asked domestic and overseas policemen for help.” DragonEx did not promise to fully refund lost funds.


Bithumb, South Korea’s largest crypto exchange platform, was hit by hackers in March and lost about $19.2 million with EOS accounting for $13 million and about $6.2 million worth of XRP. The company suspected that the operation was carried out by an insider because of what it described as an “abnormal withdrawal”. The company said all lost funds were owned by Bithumb and no users were affected.


Easily the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance also suffered a hack back in May. According to reports, hackers used malware and phishing methods to siphon 7,000 BTC – about $41 million – at the time, in a single transaction. Binance said that the wallet affected only had 2% of the company’s total funds, insisting that it will refund any affected users. The funds from the Binance hack were immediately transferred in several transactions involving much smaller wallets with some eventually converted to fiat and withdrawn.


XRP wallet provider Gatehub in June announced that about $10 million worth of XRP had been lost to unknown hackers as the GateHub wallet’s application program interface (API) was breached. The company expressed some confusion over the fact that the hackers used valid token keys to access the affected wallets leaving them shocked as to how the secret keys could have been compromised in the first place.


BitTrue is another exchange based in Singapore that lost about $5 million in crypto assets to a security breach in June. According to the company, the hackers “exploited a vulnerability in our Risk Control team’s 2nd review process” and was able to gain access to funds from about 90 customers. About 9.3 million XRP and 2.5 million ADA was taken and transferred to other changes. BitTrue promised that “100% of lost funds will be returned to users.”


Japan’s Bitpoint crypto exchange announced it had lost about $32 million worth of digital assets to hackers. The company noticed the withdrawals were suspicious and immediately suspended all trading activity. Remixpoint, the parent company for Bitpoint eventually announced that it would refund all lost funds. No one is sure how hackers were able to gain access to Bitcoin and bleed up to 50,000 customers.


The Upbit hack is currently the most recent one as the company announced in a blog post that on November 27, it lost 58 billion won – $49.2 million at the time – worth of ETH to hackers as they transferred the funds out of Upbit’s hot wallet to an unknown wallet. In response, Upbit immediately moved all of its funds to cold wallets and also disabled all trading activity. The company also promised to return all funds to affected users.

With each hack, there’s a point to be made about how unsafe crypto exchanges generally are and why it might be important for all crypto holders to hold their private keys. Regardless, it is expected that all of the affected exchanges and even unaffected ones have done more to beef up their security and prevent further occurrences in the future.

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