On Wednesday numerous users of the Binance cryptocurrency exchange reported that their Alt Coins were dumped on the open market in what appeared to be a massive hack attempt.

According to Binance, the company acted to stop the nefarious activity when emergency exchange triggers automatically disabled account withdrawals.

CEO  Zhao Changpeng says that the company’s investigation has determined the incident was the result of a phishing attempt by an organized group of hackers who had established exchange credentials over a “long period of time.” The hackers reportedly attempted to transfer funds out of the exchange, but Binance account security protocols prevented all outbound transfers:

The hackers accumulated user account credentials over a long period of time. The earliest phishing attack seems to have dated back to early Jan. However it was around Feb 22, where a heavy concentration of phishing attacks were seen using unicode domains, looking very much like binance.com, with the only difference being 2 dots at the bottom of 2 characters. Many users fell for these traps and phishing attempts. After acquiring these user accounts, the hacker then simply created a trading API key for each account but took no further actions, until yesterday.

Yesterday, within the aforementioned 2 minute period, the hackers used the API keys, placed a large number of market buys on the VIA/BTC market, pushing the price high, while 31 pre-deposited accounts were there selling VIA at the top. This was an attempt to move the BTC from the phished accounts to the 31 accounts. Withdrawal requests were then attempted from these accounts immediately afterwards.

However, as withdrawals were already automatically disabled by our risk management system, none of the withdrawals successfully went out.

Confirming Changpeng’s commitment to customer service and security, Binance began the process of reversing all of the trades.

But Binance didn’t stop there. Their response to the hackers was swift and merciless. After thwarting the digital heist, the company made the decision to seize all coins belonging to the accounts of the hackers involved:

The VIA coins deposited by the hackers were also frozen. Not only did the hacker not steal any coins out, their own coins have also been withheld.

Ouch.

Payback.

The full statement from Binance is posted below:

Fellow Binancians,

On Mar 7, UTC 14:58-14:59, within this 2 minute period, the VIA/BTC market experienced abnormal trading activity. Our automatic risk management system was triggered, and all withdrawals were halted immediately.

This was part of a large scale phishing and stealing attempt.

So far: All funds are safe and no funds have been stolen.

The hackers accumulated user account credentials over a long period of time. The earliest phishing attack seems to have dated back to early Jan. However it was around Feb 22, where a heavy concentration of phishing attacks were seen using unicode domains, looking very much like binance.com, with the only difference being 2 dots at the bottom of 2 characters. Many users fell for these traps and phishing attempts. After acquiring these user accounts, the hacker then simply created a trading API key for each account but took no further actions, until yesterday.

Yesterday, within the aforementioned 2 minute period, the hackers used the API keys, placed a large number of market buys on the VIA/BTC market, pushing the price high, while 31 pre-deposited accounts were there selling VIA at the top. This was an attempt to move the BTC from the phished accounts to the 31 accounts. Withdrawal requests were then attempted from these accounts immediately afterwards.

However, as withdrawals were already automatically disabled by our risk management system, none of the withdrawals successfully went out. Additionally, the VIA coins deposited by the hackers were also frozen. Not only did the hacker not steal any coins out, their own coins have also been withheld.

The hackers were well organized. They were patient enough to not take any immediate action, and waited for the most opportune moment to act. They also selected VIA, a coin with smaller liquidity, to maximize their own gains.

After a thorough security check by Binance, we resumed withdrawals. Trading functionality was never affected. There are still some users whose accounts where phished by these hackers and their BTC were used to buy VIA or other coins. Unfortunately, those trades did not execute against any of the hackers’ accounts as counterpart. As such, we are not in a position to reverse those trades. We again advise all traders to take special precaution to secure their account credentials.

Protecting our traders is and has always been our highest priority.

Thanks for your support!

Binance Team

2018/03/08