On the trail of the $600 million stolen from Axie Infinity players

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Paris (AFP) – Some 600 million dollars stolen, furious players… Investigations are continuing to find the trace of the sums evaporated on the video game Axie Infinity, in a hack of unprecedented scale which comes to fuel the sometimes sulphurous reputation of cryptocurrencies.

This very popular video game in Asia is based on the blockchain (chain of blocks) ethereum, the best known after that of bitcoin, to create a kind of virtual world where players raise and exchange small creatures, the Axies.

The game’s publisher, the Vietnamese group Sky Mavis, uses a so-called “side” blockchain to ethereum, which allows it to manage its own internal transaction system, without resorting to ethereum for each of them.

But this side system has been hacked, allowing hackers to appropriate the amounts raised by players.

The hack, discovered only after six days by Sky Mavis, is one of the biggest cyberattacks involving cryptocurrencies.

It comes weeks after a previous hack of the Wormhole platform, also linked to cryptocurrencies, which saw $320 million disappear into thin air.

“We are seeing more and more hacking” in the field of cryptocurrencies, said Roman Bieda of Coinfirm, a company specializing in blockchain security. But Sky Mavis showed a “huge deficiency” in taking so long to detect the fraud, he added.

Collect the funds

According to Roman Bieda, the sector tends to sacrifice security for profit, without learning the lessons of the past.

Sky Mavis has promised to recover lost funds from players or refund them, providing some reassurance to players, especially in the Philippines.

The archipelago has hundreds of thousands of game aficionados.

“Some Filipino players are mad about what happened,” Manila-based player Dominic Lumabi told AFP.

Chainalysis, the specialist in blockchain analysis, and Ellptic, another specialized company, are helping Sky Mavis try to reconstruct the path taken by the lost money.

But Sky Mavis will have a lot to do to recover these evaporated funds and keep its promise.

“The larger the amount stolen, the more difficult it is to hide,” said Roman Bieda, however.

Hackers have many techniques at their disposal to cover their tracks and convert their fraudulent assets into traditional currencies.

They can thus resort to “mixing”, which consists of mixing fraudulent transactions with legitimate transactions to make tracing very difficult.

They can also use cryptocurrency exchanges that are not too fussy about the origin of the funds, or use platforms located in North Korea or Russia.

For Roman Bieda, thieves and defenders of blockchain integrity are engaged in a “permanent battle”.

“Cryptocurrencies are more and more widespread, there are more and more protocols and solutions, but the desire to reduce the cost of transactions, and to make profits sometimes pushes the industry to… forget about security “, he underlines.

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On the trail of the $600 million stolen from Axie Infinity players

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