- A $1.1 billion Bitcoin theft is said to have occurred in February 2020, yet it is never talked about
- If verified it would be the biggest ever Bitcoin theft targeting an individual and the UK’s biggest heist
- Why does no one mention it in the list of top Bitcoin hacks?
As far as Bitcoin thefts go, there have been some big ones. Mt. Gox in 2014, Bitfinex in 2016, and Binance in 2019 are some of the more memorable examples of when bitcoin has been swiped. There is one Bitcoin theft that stands head and shoulders above all the others however, but one that no one aside from a select few band of people ever talks about. This is surprising given that ₿111,000 and other coins worth a staggering $1.1 billion were stolen in one go when the theft took place in February 2020, making it the biggest single theft on British soil by a factor of more than three. So why does it not appear on any lists of biggest Bitcoin thefts? Because the victim is a certain Craig Steven Wright and the details surrounding it are, naturally, somewhat sketchy.
A Fruitful Hack
News of Wright’s supposed billion-dollar Bitcoin theft emerged in June 2020 when his law firm, Ontier, wrote to Bitcoin company Blockstream telling them that Wright had been the victim of the hack four months previously and he wanted his bitcoin back. The story, as Wright would later clarify, went like this.
Around February 8, 2020, a gang of hackers broke into Wright’s house and planted a Wi-Fi ‘pineapple’ behind his TV, a device used by network penetration testers which allowed the hackers to infiltrate his home network. They used this to swipe, and then delete, 37GB worth of cloud data, which may or may not have included the keys to two cryptocurrency wallets holding a total of ₿111,000 as well as the equivalent in BCH and BSV tokens. The haul was worth over £850,000 million, smashing the record for Britain’s biggest ever heist.
Wright claimed that “several outages across multiple (security) companies occurred right at the same time”, which he says explains how the hackers managed to get into his property to plant the device. This suggests that it wasn’t just one or two people that were involved in the hack on Wright, but an entire Oceans 11-style operation was conducted – one team knocked out the security company networks while the other bypassed the other security features and broke into his house to plant the device.
Stolen Bitcoin Hasn’t Moved
Having discovered the theft, Wright, for some reason, didn’t phone the police but instead wiped his entire computer, which is the first thing they would have told him not to do. He then reported it the next day, giving time for key digital and physical forensic evidence to be potentially lost. He also didn’t simply re-download the private keys from the online rubbish bin into which they had been placed by the cloud providers, or contact them to see if they could help get the keys back so he could move the funds before the hackers did.
Wright also never solicited the public for their assistance in potentially identifying the gang, which someone must have seen given that they would have looked out of place in a leafy part of the English countryside.
Wright’s Response Raises Questions
Something else that makes this billion-dollar bitcoin theft seem less than genuine is how Wright reacted. Given that he had lost the equivalent of several fortunes, did he try and elicit some sympathy, which he surely would have received, even from his harshest critics? Did he warn the crypto space about the dangers that lurked out there for wealthy Bitcoin holders?
No. Instead he promised a big announcement that “impacts the ENTIRE space”, “changes every blockchain” and “destroys the lies”. And then he launched legal proceedings against Blockstream, and eventually a bunch of developers, to try and get them to refund his coins. The police report went nowhere and Wright never discussed the case, with the story not even picked up by the local newspaper. Instead, Wright seemed more obsessed with proving that court orders could move bitcoin, something he had promised in 2019 that he would soon prove. Funny that…
Not His Coins
In the meantime, the ‘stolen’ coins have never moved, probably because they were never Wright’s in the first place and so they were never hacked. One address, known as 1Feex, belongs to hackers who stole 80,000 coins from MtGox in 2011 and moved them there, seemingly losing access in the process. Wright claims he bought these coins in 2011 and that the coins move wasn’t a hack but was in fact the coins being delivered to him. The other address, known as the 12ib7 address, dates back to around the same era and is one Wright has claimed in the past, but has never explained how he came to own the coins in there.
All in all, the vague details of the break-in, the fact that no bitcoin was actually moved or has ever been moved from the allegedly stolen wallets, and the fact that police have made no comment on the theft or appealed for witnesses in the case all adds up to the theory that the biggest ever Bitcoin theft never actually happened.
It seems that the entire charade was probably cooked up by Wright to enable him to try and prove that coins can move without needing the private key, essentially breaking the Bitcoin protocol, which is his endgame (he hopes that BSV will replace it).