Hacker steals fortunes from PolyNetwork, gets invited as head of security

Tue 17 Aug 2021 ▪ 19h16 ▪ 4 min read — by Hugh Renolds

PolyNetwork, a company specialising in connecting blockchains together, fell prey to what turned out to be one the biggest heists in the history of crypto. 

Photo of guy fawkes mask with red flower on top on hand

Last week, PolyNetwork’s code was unceremoniously hacked, resulting in the theft of $610 million (~£444 million) worth of assets – a fat chunk of the company’s asset pool.

Hats off to Mr White Hat! 

PolyNetwork’s response was just as drastic – the company pleaded with the hacker, asking to return what they had stolen. In their plea, PolyNetwork also promised to drop any charges should the perpetrator agree – meaning they would effectively get away with the heist. 

 And, as is the way of the world, agree they did

Steal from the rich to give back to the rich

As the news took the world by storm, about half of the stolen assets was returned to the company’s addresses, excluding $33 million (~£24 million) worth of Tether (USDT) frozen by the service. The other half still remains on the attacker’s addresses and will require some cooperation with PolyNetwork to return. 

As for the reasons for this controversial break-in, the intruder said they did it ‘for fun’ and had no interest in the money itself. Although, from their own words, they could’ve stolen much, much more. 

If you can’t beat them, hire them

The intruder was then given a code name Mr White Hat – a network jargon name used to call hackers that help to expose a network’s bugs and vulnerabilities. 

Having considered the circumstances, PolyNetwork then decided to communicate with Mr White Hat a bit closer. The company offered them a nifty sum of $500,000 (~£364,000) as a ‘bug bounty‘. 

But most importantly, after a bit of consideration, Mr White Hat was offered the post of Chief Security Advisor at PolyNetwork. 

As the company’s statement goes, “We are also counting on more experts like Mr White Hat to be involved in the future development of Poly Network since we believe that we share the vision to build a secure and robust distributed system. Also, to extend our thanks and encourage Mr White Hat to continue contributing to security advancement in the blockchain world together with Poly Network, we cordially invite Mr White Hat to be the Chief Security Advisor of Poly Network.”

PolyNetwork promises to take measures to improve security 

The seeds of any hack are sowed in a system’s mainnet, and after all that happened, PolyNetwork is going to have to do some gardening. 

The reason for White Hat’s success was a flaw in the network’s code that allowed him to carry out transactions without the approval of the system. And, as PolyNetwork sighs with relief after White Hat’s agreement to return the stolen funds, the company still has a lot on its plate in terms of improving and overhauling its security measures. The incident has drawn the keen eyes of tech specialists around the globe, and will likely turn out to be a seminal moment for crypto safety at large. 

As for PolyNetwork’s job proposition, it’s hard to imagine a better testament to someone’s skill and expertise. We have yet to hear from White Hat on the offer, and hopefully, whatever the response, their communication will lead to increased security of user transactions across the board. 

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Hugh Renolds avatar
Hugh Renolds

I believe in the bright future of crypto. I have been investing since 2017 and look to share my experience in, and thoughts on, crypto and the blockchain.


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and should not be taken as investment advice. Do your own research before taking any investment decisions.

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