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Binance revokes Upbit hackers’ attempt to launder stolen funds

At just after 16:00 UTC Wednesday, bot Twitter account Whale Alert notified Binance – which has earlier committed to freezing any funds stemming from the hack – that roughly 137 ether (worth around $27,000 at press time) had relocated from an address linked to the Upbit hacker group to its wallets.

Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao tweeted that the funds had been successfully frozen and the cash would be returned to Upbit shortly. The time between hackers transferring the ether to Binance, and the exchange blocking funds was not longer than half an hour.

Those times are long gone when hackers could simply vanish with their loot, as did the one that stole 850,000 bitcoin from Mt. Gox in 2014. Wallet addresses connected to suspected hackers are now tagged, and exchanges immediately freeze any funds stemming from these wallets if they are detected on their servers.

In January 2019, Binance also froze funds linked to the $16 million Cryptopia hack.

Of course, the possibility to launder funds is still present. Something like 3,650 ether (worth roughly $725,000) has left the wallet linked to the Upbit hack the past 24 hours, much of it passing rapidly through other wallets, likely to undertake and obfuscate the digital record.

The hackers’ motivation for sending $27,000 worth of ether to Binance on Wednesday is not clear. Within the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a huge amount considering they managed to steal $49 million last November. One can speculate that they could test the exchange’s response times to ascertain if larger amounts might slip through unnoticed.