Laura Shin, cryptocurrency journalist and host of the Unchained podcast, claimed to have discovered the identity of the individual behind an exploit that drained more than 3.6 million Ether from German startup Slock.it’s The DAO in 2016.
According to a Bloomberg note on Tuesday, Shin he claimed that he had “extremely strong evidence” that Mimo Capital co-founder Toby Hoenisch was responsible for withdrawing over 3.6 million Ether (ETH) from The DAO in June 2016, close to $50 million at the time. An unknown hacker used an exploit to drain roughly a third of The DAO’s ETH supply, forcing the developers to hard fork the network and leaving the illicit funds on what became the Ethereum Classic blockchain (ETC).
With the publication of my book today, I can finally announce: in the course of writing my book, my sources and I believe we uncovered the identity of the Ethereum’s 2016 DAO hacker.
— Laura Shin (@laurashin) February 22, 2022
Shin’s research done with Ethereum developer Alex Van de Sande and blockchain analytics company chain analysis claimed that Hoenisch was aware of the exploit weeks before the attack took place on June 17, 2016. According to Van de Sande, the hacker used the Shapeshift exchange to convert the stolen ETC -after the hard fork- into Bitcoin (BTC). They believe the attacker then used the Wasabi wallet to mix the BTC, four “different core exchanges” to further launder the funds, and lastly, the privacy-focused cryptocurrency Grin “for added privacy.”
Chainalysis said it was able to de-scramble cryptocurrency transactions and trace the funds back to exchanges that later received the tokens in accounts purportedly managed by Hoenisch. the signature added what “This is another example of evidence preserved on the blockchain forever.”
“I don’t feel sorry for Toby Hoenisch, if he really is the guy,” said Van de Sande. “That period was stressful for all of us, we almost saw how everything we had built was destroyed and fell.”
The co-founder of Mimo Capital would have denied Shin’s accusations, calling his conclusions “inaccurate”. In Mimo’s Telegram on Tuesday, community manager Thomas Reinhardt said that Hoenisch “has not had any active role in the day-to-day operations” of the platform since its early days.
“The content of these allegations is as shocking to us as it is to the community, and we remain committed to providing the best and safest DeFi token platform for our users,” Reinhardt said.
Had the developers not acted to hard fork the network, the original 3.6 million ETH tokens would have been worth more than $9 billion today. However, since the price of ETC is roughly 10% that of ETH, the stolen funds are estimated to be worth around $94 million.
“I imagine that several people who have used [Wasabi] for illicit purposes feel insecure today,” Shin said. “This may make them wonder if blockchain forensics will catch up with them in the future, even if they use the latest cryptocurrency obfuscation techniques today.”
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