On March 29, blockchain network Ronin announced the theft of 173,600 ether tokens, the currency of the Ethereum blockchain, and 25.5 million USD Coin tokens. The network is best known for its connection to the NFT game Axie Infinity, where players can earn, trade and sell tokens by raising and training Pokémon-like monsters. While the theft translated to losses of more than $610 million at the time of the official announcement, the corresponding assets were worth $540 million on March 23, the date of the hack. Even by this definition, the Ronin incident still comes in second in terms of the all-time biggest crypto heists as our chart shows.
Defending the pole position is the Poly Network hack, which took place in August 2021 to the tune of $610 million, even though nearly all of the funds were returned by the hackers days after the theft, with the attackers claiming to have only wanted to expose security risks on the platform. While most crypto heists happen on a smaller scale, 2021 and 2022 saw a rising number of high-profile hacks with estimated losses above $150 million, showcasing one of the potential drawbacks of the rising interest in and usage of decentralized finance (DeFi) solutions. Among the most notable are the hacks of information transfer platform Wormhole in February, in which hackers stole $326 million worth of ether tokens, and the crypto trading platform BitMark. In both of those cases, users were compensated for their losses by the platforms.
According to crypto risk assessment specialists Crystal Blockchain, hackers made off with $4.3 billion in cryptocurrencies in 2021 alone. Attackers exploiting DeFi protocols allegedly accounted for around $1.4 billion in losses, while the $2.3 billion were lost due to fraudulent activities.