Why Do Crypto Exchanges Keep Getting Hacked?

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Table of Contents
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Key Takeaways:

  • Crypto exchange hacks have resulted in billions of dollars in losses, highlighting the need for stronger security measures in the industry
  • Major incidents like Mt. Gox, Coincheck, BitGrail, and Binance serve as cautionary tales and emphasize the importance of comprehensive security protocols for exchanges
  • Hackers use various methods such as exploiting vulnerabilities, conducting phishing attacks, deploying malware and ransomware, and taking advantage of inside jobs to breach crypto exchanges’ security

Why Do Crypto Exchanges Keep Getting Hacked?

Crypto exchanges keep getting hacked due to various reasons. One of the main reasons is the attractive nature of cryptocurrency as a digital asset that can be stolen and used anonymously. Hackers constantly find vulnerabilities in the security systems of these exchanges and exploit them to gain unauthorized access to the users’ funds.

Understanding how to safeguard your crypto assets can feel like navigating a minefield. The sobering reality is that cyberattacks have led to losses totaling $20 billion in 2022 alone.

This article will guide you through major hacks experienced by crypto exchanges, the methodologies hackers utilized, and strategies you can adopt to protect against such breaches. Stay with us as we dissect these digital heists and learn from their lessons.

Lessons Learned from Major Crypto Exchange Hacks

Major crypto exchange hacks have taught us valuable lessons about the vulnerabilities in cryptocurrency platforms, with incidents like Mt. Gox, Coincheck, BitGrail, and Binance serving as cautionary tales for the industry.


Mt. Gox’s infamous hack back in 2011 has secured its place as one of the biggest cautionary tales in cryptocurrency history. Illustrating flaws inherent in exchange security, over 740,000 Bitcoins were stolen from this Tokyo-based platform.

The attack not only crippled Mt.Gox but also sent shockwaves through the entire industry and resulted in a significant value drop for Bitcoin at that time. Despite later recovering around 200,000 coins, the massive breach drove Mt.Gox into bankruptcy, highlighting an important lesson: exchanges must prioritize comprehensive security measures to prevent vast losses and sustain trust within the blockchain community.


Coincheck, a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange, experienced one of the biggest security breaches in the crypto industry. In January 2018, hackers stole approximately $530 million worth of NEM tokens from Coincheck’s hot wallet.

The hack exposed vulnerabilities in Coincheck’s security protocols and raised concerns about the safety of digital assets held by exchanges. This incident highlighted the importance of implementing robust security measures to safeguard funds and protect against cyber attacks.

Following the hack, Coincheck faced regulatory scrutiny and was forced to enhance its security practices to regain trust within the industry.


Italy’s BitGrail crypto exchange suffered a major breach in 2018, resulting in a loss of approximately $195 million worth of Nano cryptocurrency. The hackers exploited vulnerabilities in BitGrail’s platform and managed to steal the funds from users’ wallets.

This incident highlighted the importance of robust security protocols and regular security audits for crypto exchanges. It also served as a reminder that even seemingly secure platforms can fall victim to cyber attacks, emphasizing the need for continuous vigilance and improvement in security measures within the crypto industry.


Bitfinex, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, fell victim to a major security breach in 2016. The attack resulted in the theft of approximately 120,000 Bitcoins, worth over $70 million at the time.

This incident highlighted the vulnerability of centralized exchanges and underscored the need for enhanced security measures within the crypto industry. Bitfinex subsequently implemented various security upgrades, including multi-signature wallets and improved authentication protocols.

This breach serves as a reminder that even prominent platforms can become targets for hackers if proper security precautions are not taken seriously.


Binance, one of the largest crypto exchanges globally, has faced its fair share of security breaches in the past. In 2019, it fell victim to a hacking incident where hackers stole over $40 million worth of Bitcoin from its platform.

This breach highlighted the vulnerability of even well-established exchanges to cyber attacks. It prompted Binance to enhance its security measures by implementing measures such as multi-factor authentication and regular security audits.

Despite this setback, Binance remains a popular choice for traders due to its commitment to improving safeguards and protecting user funds from future breaches. With ongoing advancements in security protocols, Binance is working towards mitigating risks and ensuring a safer trading environment for its users.


Upbit, a South Korean crypto exchange, fell victim to a major security breach in 2019. The hackers managed to steal approximately $50 million worth of cryptocurrency from the exchange’s hot wallet.

This incident highlighted the vulnerabilities that even established exchanges can face and the need for robust security measures. Upbit took immediate action by suspending all deposits and withdrawals to prevent further losses.

They also assured their users that they would cover any stolen funds with their own assets. This breach served as a reminder to other exchanges of the constant threat posed by cybercriminals and reinforced the importance of implementing stringent security protocols to safeguard user funds.


Zaif, a Japanese crypto exchange, experienced a major security breach in 2018, resulting in the theft of approximately $60 million worth of cryptocurrencies. The hackers exploited vulnerabilities in the exchange’s hot wallets and siphoned off Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Monacoin.

This incident highlighted the vulnerability of centralized exchanges to cyber attacks and emphasized the importance of robust security measures. It also revealed the need for regular security audits and updates to ensure that crypto exchanges can effectively safeguard their users’ funds from potential breaches.


Coinrail, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange, suffered a security breach in 2018. The hackers were able to steal various cryptocurrencies worth over $40 million, including tokens like Pundi X and Aston.

This incident highlighted the vulnerability of crypto exchanges to cyber attacks and raised concerns about the security measures implemented by these platforms. Coinrail’s hack serves as a reminder for exchanges to strengthen their security protocols and take necessary steps to safeguard user funds from potential breaches.


One major crypto exchange hack that holds valuable lessons is the attack on The DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) in 2016. The DAO was a smart contract built on the Ethereum blockchain, aimed at democratizing venture capital funding.

Hackers exploited a vulnerability in the code and drained approximately one-third of its funds, totaling over $50 million at the time. This incident highlighted the importance of thoroughly auditing smart contracts and conducting rigorous security testing before deploying them on blockchain networks.

It also emphasized the need for clear governance structures and mechanisms to address vulnerabilities promptly to prevent such breaches from occurring again in the future.


Nicehash, a popular crypto mining marketplace, was targeted in a security breach in December 2017. Hackers managed to infiltrate Nicehash’s systems and stole over 4,700 Bitcoins, equivalent to around $64 million at the time.

This incident highlighted the vulnerability of centralized exchanges and the importance of robust security measures. Nicehash took immediate action by suspending all operations and working on enhancing their security protocols.

The breach served as a wake-up call for both Nicehash and the industry as a whole, emphasizing the need for continuous monitoring and improvement of cybersecurity measures to safeguard against future hacks.

Common Methods Used by Hackers

Discover the common methods used by hackers and learn how to protect your funds from cyber threats.

An illustration of a padlock surrounded by colorful objects representing crypto exchanges being hacked.

Exploiting Vulnerabilities in Exchange Platforms

Hackers often target crypto exchanges by exploiting vulnerabilities in their platforms. These vulnerabilities can range from weak security protocols to outdated software that hasn’t been properly patched.

By identifying and exploiting these weaknesses, hackers can gain unauthorized access to the exchange’s infrastructure and steal digital assets.

In some cases, hackers have even found vulnerabilities within the underlying blockchain technology itself. The decentralized nature of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies means that any flaws in the code can be potentially exploited.

This highlights the importance of regular security audits and updates to ensure that any potential vulnerabilities are identified and addressed promptly.

Crypto exchanges must also be vigilant against social engineering tactics used by hackers. Phishing attacks, where hackers trick users into revealing their login credentials or personal information through fake websites or emails, are a common method used to gain unauthorized access to accounts.

Phishing Attacks and Social Engineering

Hackers often employ phishing attacks and social engineering tactics to gain unauthorized access to crypto exchanges. Phishing attacks involve sending deceptive emails or messages that appear legitimate in order to trick users into revealing their login credentials or personal information.

Social engineering, on the other hand, relies on manipulating individuals through psychological tactics to bypass security measures. These methods have proven successful in numerous high-profile exchange breaches, such as the Mt.Gox hack.

Remain vigilant against these types of attacks by implementing strong authentication processes and educating themselves about potential red flags and security precautions.

Malware and Ransomware

One of the common methods used by hackers to compromise crypto exchanges is through the use of malware and ransomware. These malicious software programs can infiltrate exchange platforms and gain unauthorized access to users’ accounts and funds.

Once inside, hackers can steal sensitive information, such as private keys or login credentials, and even lock users out of their own accounts until a ransom is paid. This type of attack can have devastating consequences for both individuals and exchanges, resulting in significant financial losses and damage to reputation.

It is key for crypto exchanges to implement robust cybersecurity measures, including regular security audits and updates, to protect against these types of threats. Additionally, educating users about the risks associated with malware and ransomware attacks can help prevent them from falling victim to these schemes.

Inside Jobs and Employee Negligence

Hackers aren’t the only ones to blame when it comes to crypto exchange hacks. Inside jobs and employee negligence have also played a role in compromising the security of these platforms.

In some cases, employees with access to sensitive information and systems have exploited their positions for personal gain. Other times, negligence on the part of employees has led to vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

This highlights the importance of implementing strict protocols for employee access and regularly educating staff on best practices for cybersecurity. Additionally, exchanges must conduct thorough background checks during the hiring process and implement monitoring systems to detect any suspicious activities by their employees.

Security Solutions for Crypto Exchanges

To enhance security in crypto exchanges, implementing robust security protocols, multi-factor authentication, cold storage for funds, regular security audits and updates, and insurance coverage for potential losses are crucial.

Implementing Robust Security Protocols

To protect against crypto exchange hacks and security breaches, it is crucial for exchanges to implement robust security protocols. Here are some essential measures that can significantly enhance the security of crypto exchanges:

  • Use industry-standard encryption techniques to secure user data and transactions.
  • Employ strict identity verification procedures to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Implement a comprehensive system for monitoring suspicious activities and detecting potential threats.
  • Regularly update and patch software to address any known vulnerabilities.
  • Conduct thorough security audits to identify and mitigate potential weaknesses in the system.
  • Store a significant portion of funds in cold storage wallets that are not connected to the internet, reducing their vulnerability to hacking attempts.
  • Apply multi-factor authentication methods, such as biometrics or hardware tokens, to add an extra layer of protection for user accounts.
  • Educate users about best practices for securing their digital assets, including using strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication.
  • Collaborate with cybersecurity experts and share information about emerging threats and attack vectors within the industry.
  • Consider obtaining insurance coverage specifically tailored to protect against financial losses resulting from cyber attacks.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is a security measure that crypto exchanges should implement to protect user accounts. With multi-factor authentication, users have an additional layer of protection beyond their passwords.

It typically involves requiring users to provide two or more forms of identification, such as a password and a unique code sent to their mobile device.

This extra step greatly reduces the risk of unauthorized access because even if hackers manage to obtain someone’s password, they would still need physical possession of the user’s mobile device to gain access.

Implementing multi-factor authentication can significantly mitigate the risks associated with phishing attacks and stolen passwords.

According to cybersecurity experts, multi-factor authentication has proven effective in preventing unauthorized access by hackers. By requiring multiple forms of verification, it adds an additional barrier that makes it much harder for attackers to breach user accounts and steal funds.

Cold Storage for Funds

One security solution for crypto exchanges is the implementation of cold storage for funds. Cold storage refers to storing cryptocurrency offline, away from internet-connected devices, making it less susceptible to hacking attempts.

This method involves using hardware wallets or paper wallets to store private keys securely. By keeping funds in cold storage, exchanges can significantly reduce the risk of digital robberies and vulnerabilities inherent in online platforms.

Several major crypto exchange breaches could have been prevented if they had adopted cold storage practices. It provides an extra layer of protection against cyber attacks and ensures the safety of users’ funds even in the event of a security breach on the exchange’s platform.

Regular Security Audits and Updates

Regular security audits and updates are essential for maintaining the integrity of crypto exchanges and preventing potential security breaches. By conducting regular audits, exchanges can identify vulnerabilities in their systems and take proactive measures to address them. Here are some key aspects of regular security audits and updates:

  • Conducting comprehensive vulnerability assessments: Crypto exchanges should regularly assess their systems for any potential vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit. This includes analyzing the exchange platform, network infrastructure, and any connected applications or services.
  • Updating security protocols: As new threats emerge, it is crucial for exchanges to stay updated with the latest security protocols and best practices. Regular updates to encryption algorithms, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and other security tools can help strengthen defenses against cyber attacks.
  • Patching software vulnerabilities: Software vulnerabilities can often be exploited by hackers to gain unauthorized access to exchange systems. It is important for exchanges to promptly apply patches released by software vendors to fix these vulnerabilities.
  • Monitoring network activity: Continuous monitoring of network traffic can help detect any unusual or suspicious behavior that could indicate a potential breach attempt. This includes monitoring user logins, transactions, and system activity logs.
  • Educating employees about security best practices: Employee negligence is one of the leading causes of security breaches. Regular training sessions should be conducted to educate all employees on security best practices, such as recognizing phishing emails, avoiding suspicious websites, and using strong passwords.
  • Engaging third-party auditors: Exchanges can benefit from hiring independent third-party auditors who specialize in cybersecurity assessments. These auditors can provide an unbiased evaluation of the exchange’s security measures and identify areas for improvement.

Insurance Coverage for Potential Losses

Insurance coverage is an important aspect of protecting crypto exchanges against potential losses due to security breaches. With the rising number of cyber attacks and hacks in the industry, having insurance can provide a safety net for these platforms.

In recent years, the total amount lost in exchange hacks has reached billions of dollars, making insurance coverage crucial for mitigating financial risks. By obtaining comprehensive insurance policies that cover both digital assets and fiat currencies, exchanges can receive compensation in the event of a breach or theft.

This not only helps safeguard against potential losses but also instills confidence among users and investors in the security measures taken by these platforms.


What is a Decentralized Finance (DeFi) Platform?

Decentralized finance, also known as DeFi, refers to the use of blockchain technology and smart contracts to create financial applications that operate without the need for intermediaries like banks. DeFi platforms offer various services including lending, borrowing, and trading of cryptocurrencies.

How Do Hackers Steal Cryptocurrencies From Exchanges?

Hackers employ various techniques to steal cryptocurrencies from exchanges. These can range from exploiting vulnerabilities in the exchange’s security systems, using social engineering to trick employees into revealing sensitive information, or even launching sophisticated cyber attacks to gain unauthorized access to the users’ funds.

What Steps Do Exchanges Take to Secure User Funds?

Exchanges employ several security measures to protect users’ funds. This includes implementing multi-factor authentication, using cold wallets to store the majority of funds offline, regularly auditing their systems for vulnerabilities, and offering insurance policies to cover potential losses due to hacking incidents.

How Can Users Protect Their Cryptocurrencies From Being Stolen?

Users can take several precautions to protect their cryptocurrencies. This includes using hardware wallets to store their funds offline, enabling two-factor authentication, being cautious of phishing attempts, and regularly updating their devices and software to ensure maximum security.

How Common Are Crypto Hacks?

Crypto hacks have unfortunately become quite common in the cryptocurrency sector. The increasing value of digital currencies has attracted cybercriminals who are constantly devising new ways to breach the security systems of exchanges and steal users’ funds.

What Are Some of the Largest Cryptocurrency Hacks to Date?

Some of the largest cryptocurrency hacks to date include the $600 million hack of Poly Network in 2021, the $200 million heist from Bitmart in December 2021, and the $523 million NEM hack of the exchange Mt. Gox in 2014.

How Do Hackers Launder Stolen Crypto Assets?

Hackers often attempt to launder stolen crypto assets to make them more difficult to trace. They may use mixers or tumblers to obfuscate the transaction history, convert the stolen funds into privacy coins, or transfer them across multiple addresses to make it harder to identify the ultimate destination of the funds.

Conclusion: The Importance of Strengthening Security Measures for Crypto Exchanges

The numerous crypto exchange hacks and security breaches in recent years have highlighted the crucial need for stronger security measures in the cryptocurrency industry.

These incidents have not only resulted in significant financial losses but also eroded trust among users and investors. To ensure a secure environment for digital transactions, it is essential for crypto exchanges to implement robust security protocols, multi-factor authentication, regular audits and updates, as well as insurance coverage for potential losses.

By prioritizing cybersecurity, exchanges can mitigate the risks of future attacks and safeguard both their own funds and those of their users.



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About the Author:
Jordan Adams, with a rich background in Finance and Economics and specialized knowledge in blockchain, is a distinguished voice in the cryptocurrency community. Their journey in fintech and digital currency trading has equipped them to offer unique insights into digital finance. Jordan's writing demystifies cryptocurrency concepts with well-researched, practical advice. Engaged in the crypto community, Jordan shares timely market insights, fostering understanding of complex technologies and their practical applications in the evolving digital currency landscape.