Blackmail behind multi-million dollar ETH transfer fees, researchers say

Von | 22. Juni 2020

Over the past week, the crypto community has been stunned by three small transfers from Ether (ETH) that have involved millions of dollars in fees.

However, new reports have given weight to speculation that the seven-figure fees may have been deliberately spent as part of a blackmail scheme aimed at a crypto-currency exchange, with PeckShield, the Chinese blockchain analysis firm, concluding that the transactions were probably the result of extortion attempts.

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ETH’s seven-figure fee is attributed to extortion
On June 12, Chinese media Chainnews reported that the analysis company PeckShield has concluded that the string of multi-million dollar commissions were paid by hackers who expected a crypto-currency exchange to pay them a ransom.

The report speculates that the exchange had been compromised in a phishing attack, allowing hackers to gain permission control of many of the platform’s operating functions, including its servers.

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While the implementation of multi-signature restrictions prevented attackers from draining exchange funds into purses under their control, they can make transfers to whitelisted addresses, determining the gas fees paid for such transactions.

Researchers believe that hackers threaten to empty the exchange’s purse if they are not paid a bribe, with PeakShield claiming that 21,000 ETH remain in the purse under the hackers‘ control.

A purse pays $5 million to move 355.5 ETH in 24 hours

The first multi-million dollar transfer rate occurred on June 10, with $2.6 million in fees paid to move only 0.55 ETH. Within 24 hours, a second transfer of 350 ETH was made from the same purse, again spending $2.6 million on gas.

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The next day, the Ethereum network processed a third curious transfer, this time from a different purse. The transaction paid 2,310 ETH to move 3,221 Ether.

The peculiar transfers triggered a series of theories from members of the Crypto Investor, who sought to explain the seven-figure fees by attributing the transactions to revenge actions of a former employee of the exchange, human error in writing or a mistake in a money-laundering robot.