In a big digital cash heist announced on Tuesday, hackers stole bitcoin worth over $600 million from a digital ledger used by gamers of the famous online game Axie Infinity.
Cryptocurrency has grown in popularity, as have its prices, but the money has also become a tempting target for tech-savvy crooks.
The attack on Ronin Network’s blockchain netted 173,600 ether and $25.5 million in stablecoin, a digital commodity tethered to the US dollar, according to the company.
The haul was worth $545 million when it was stolen on March 23, but it was worth nearly $615 million based on Tuesday’s pricing, making it one of the greatest crypto thefts ever.
“Most of the hacked funds are still in the hacker’s wallet,” Ronin wrote in a blog post announcing the crime.
According to Sky Mavis, the creator of the battle and trade game Axie Infinity, the security flaw was detected on Tuesday after a user was unable to withdraw ether.
Ronin claimed the incident was still being investigated, but that hackers obtained private “keys” to extract digital payments.
“We know trust needs to be earned and are using every resource at our disposal to deploy the most sophisticated security measures and processes to prevent future attacks,” Ronin added.
“We are working with law enforcement officials, forensic cryptographers, and our investors to make sure there is no loss of user funds.”
Players in Axie Infinity fight with colorful blob-like Axies and are awarded with “Smooth Love Potion” (SLPs), which may be exchanged for cryptocurrency or cash, or invested back into the game’s virtual planet Lunacia.
According to Sky Mavis, the Philippines accounts for over 35% of Axie Infinity traffic and the majority of its 2.5 million daily active players. Its popularity is fueled by high English proficiency, a strong gaming culture, and extensive smartphone usage.
Players must initially purchase at least three Axies in order to play the game.
An Axie is a non-fungible token (NFT) having a specific set of skills and features. They, like NFT artwork, are stored on the blockchain, which is a decentralized digital ledger that cannot be altered.
Other players can purchase, sell, or rent axes. They can also be bred to produce new Axies with higher value.