5 of the Largest Crypto Heists in History – So Far!

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The world of crypto has long been touted as a haven of decentralisation, security, and anonymity. However, this technological utopia has not been without its pitfalls.

Over the years, we have seen a series of high-profile crypto heists that have left investors reeling and the industry’s reputation tarnished.

Here’s a list of the most audacious and catastrophic crypto heists of all time.

Mt. Gox

Arguably the most infamous crypto heist in history, the fall of Mt. Gox shook the very foundations of the cryptocurrency world.

Once the largest Bitcoin exchange, handling over 70% of all transactions, Mt. Gox met its demise in 2014 when it was revealed that a staggering 850,000 Bitcoins, worth roughly £356 million at the time, had vanished from its coffers.

The exchange filed for bankruptcy, and its CEO, Mark Karpelès, was arrested and charged with embezzlement and data manipulation. To this day, the whereabouts of the stolen Bitcoins remain a mystery.

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In January 2018, the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck fell victim to a cyber-attack that saw the theft of 523 million NEM tokens, with a value of approximately £390 million at the time.

This breach surpassed the Mt. Gox theft to become the largest cryptocurrency heist in history. The attackers exploited a weakness in Coincheck’s security system, which had not implemented the use of multi-signature wallets or cold storage for its NEM holdings.

In the aftermath of this audacious heist, Coincheck compensated its users and strengthened its security measures.


In August 2016, Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex suffered a devastating security breach that resulted in the theft of 119,756 Bitcoins, worth approximately £52 million at the time.

The hackers exploited a vulnerability in the exchange’s multi-signature wallet system, which was designed to provide an additional layer of security.

In the wake of the hack, Bitfinex issued its users with ‘BFX tokens’ as a form of IOU, which were later redeemed or converted into equity in the company.

In February 2022, a couple from New York, Ilya Lichtenstein, and his wife Heather R. Morgan, found themselves facing charges from US federal authorities.

They were accused of conspiring to launder Bitcoin valued at a staggering US$3.6 billion at the time. The case continues to unfold.

5 of the Largest Crypto Heists in History - So Far!
Art by Aurora Salt


The Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO) was an ambitious Ethereum-based project that aimed to revolutionise the way organisations are governed.

In June 2016, a cunning hacker exploited a loophole in the DAO’s smart contract code to drain over 3.6 million Ether, worth approximately £37 million at the time.

The attack led to a controversial hard fork in the Ethereum blockchain, creating two separate cryptocurrencies: Ethereum (ETH) and Ethereum Classic (ETC).


In September 2020, Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange KuCoin fell prey to a highly sophisticated cyber-attack that resulted in the theft of more than £200 million worth of various cryptocurrencies.

The hackers gained access to KuCoin’s hot wallets by exploiting a vulnerability in the exchange’s private key management system.

Following the breach, the exchange worked closely with other platforms and law enforcement agencies to recover the stolen funds, eventually managing to retrieve approximately 84% of the lost assets.

The New World of the Crypto Frontier

Despite the many advantages and innovations brought about by cryptocurrencies, these high-profile heists have exposed the darker side of the digital currency revolution.

Some of the key dangers that continue to plague the crypto landscape include:

  1. Cybersecurity Risks: As demonstrated by the heists mentioned above, cryptocurrency exchanges, wallets, and smart contracts are susceptible to cyber-attacks that can result in significant financial losses.
  2. Market Volatility: Cryptocurrencies are infamous for their price volatility, with drastic fluctuations capable of wiping out investments in a matter of minutes. This instability can leave investors vulnerable to substantial losses.
  3. Regulatory Uncertainty: The constantly changing regulatory landscape poses a challenge to both investors and industry professionals alike. The lack of clear, universally accepted regulations can lead to legal issues and hinder the growth of the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
  4. Anonymity and Illicit Activities: The anonymity afforded by cryptocurrencies has made them a popular choice for money laundering, ransomware attacks, and other illicit activities. This association with criminal enterprises can tarnish the reputation of the industry and deter potential investors.
  5. Environmental Concerns: The energy-intensive nature of cryptocurrency mining, particularly Bitcoin, has raised concerns about the environmental impact of these digital currencies. The significant energy consumption associated with mining has led to increased scrutiny and criticism from environmental activists and governments alike.

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital currencies, one thing is clear: vigilance and adaptability are key to safeguarding our investments and preserving the integrity of the industry.

In doing so, we can unlock the true potential of crypto and usher in a new era of financial freedom and empowerment.

READ NEXT: 10 Cryptocurrency Scams and How to Avoid Them

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