More than $80m in crypto stolen in Orbit Chain hack

3 Jan 2024

Image: © Proxima Studio/

The blockchain platform is working with numerous agencies including the Korean National Police Agency to support its investigation.

South Korea’s Orbit Chain, a platform designed to function as a multi-asset blockchain hub, has confirmed it suffered a major breach on the last day of 2023.

The company confirmed there was an “unidentified access to Orbit Bridge”, its decentralised cross-chain protocol, which resulted in more than $80m worth of cryptocurrency being stolen.

In a series of posts on X, Orbit Chain revealed details of the hack, saying the hacker used cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash to fund an initial Ethereum wallet before attacking Orbit Chain’s Ethereum vault. Tornado Cash hit headlines last year when its co-founders were charged with money laundering.

The stolen funds were then sent to numerous Ethereum wallets. Blockchain analytics platform Arkham Intelligence showed Orbit Chain’s Bridge balance plummet from $115m to $31m between 31 December and 1 January.

In a post on X yesterday (2 January), Orbit Chain said the stolen assets “remain unmoved” at the time of posting and the team is constantly monitoring the stolen assets.

“Orbit Chain team has developed a system for investigation support and cause analysis with the Korean National Police Agency and KISA (Korea Internet and Security Agency), enabling a more proactive and comprehensive investigation approach. Furthermore, we are also discussing close cooperation with domestic and foreign law enforcement agencies,” the company said in a post.

“We sincerely request that all members of the Orbit Chain community and the Web3 ecosystem help spread this information as widely as possible.”

Crypto chaos

The crypto sector has come under increased scrutiny over the past couple of years, with many dubbing it an unregulated ‘wild west’.

2023 in particular saw a number of high-profile crypto hacks take place. In March, UK-based crypto platform Euler Finance lost an estimated $197m from hackers exploiting vulnerable code. However, the hackers later returned the funds.

Meanwhile, Ethereum-based crypto exchange Curve was targeted in a major hack in July 2023 and a few months later, in September, a report by blockchain analytics company Elliptic suggested that notorious North Korean hacker group Lazarus had stolen an estimated $240m in crypto assets in less than four months.

Aside from cybercriminal hacks, the crypto industry has also been in the spotlight for the exploits of its own leaders. The founder of crypto exchange FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried, was arguably the most notable, being found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. In November 2023, Binance’s CEO Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty to federal money-laundering violations.

Amidst all of this criminal activity, moves have been made to put guardrails on this unregulated industry. In April last year, EU lawmakers approved a landmark piece of legislation for governing and safeguarding the crypto industry –  Markets in Crypto Assets, also known as MiCA.

This legislation entered into force in June 2023 and is currently in its implementation phase, which includes consultations on a range of technical standards. The European Securities and Markets Authority plans to submit the draft technical standards to the European Commission for endorsement by 30 June 2024.

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic