A $610 million cryptocurrency theft is always interesting. But when the thief returns all the money they stole, you know it’s going to be a great story. And back in August, that’s exactly what happened.

Hacking the Poly Network

The Poly Network platform offers a way to connect various cryptocurrency technologies together. This means that millions of dollars of crypto flow through Poly Network every day, making it a very attractive target to cybercriminals.

When one hacker broke into the system and stole $610 million, it became the biggest crypto theft ever. Naturally Poly Network was hugely embarrassed, sending out a desperate plea on Twitter:

“The amount of money you hacked is the biggest one in the defi history. The money you stole are from tens of thousands of crypto community members… you should talk to us to work out a solution.”

A surprising development

Normally you would expect the thief to disappear, enjoying their new-found riches and living the high life. But this was no ordinary hacker.

Somehow the individual in question was able to resist temptation. Just one day after the breach, all of the missing money was returned.

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According to an update released by Poly Network, the thief was actually an ethical hacker, testing platform security to identify weaknesses that need to be fixed. They had discovered a serious flaw in the platform’s security and took the cryptocurrency to show how serious the problem was.

Now nicknamed “Mr White Hat” by Poly Network, the hacker sent a series of messages that explained what they had done – and why they decided to steal such a huge sum of money. They claim the theft was simply a test of their technical skills – and an opportunity to help make poly Network and cryptocurrencies safer and more secure for everyone.

Hacking for good

One of the best ways to test computer security is to try and break them. Known as ethical hacking, IT security specialists use the exact same tools and techniques as cybercriminals to exploit security flaws, capture passwords and steal data – or cryptocurrency.

Ethical hacking reveals where there are problems, allowing businesses to fix their software before cybercriminals get there. In most cases, ethical hackers are contracted to the company, or are skilled people who take part in official paid testing programs, sometimes called ‘bug bounties’.

It is important to note that ethical hackers do not attack personal computers without permission from their owner. To do so would be completely unethical – and illegal.

As always, the best defense against hackers is preparation. Using the firewalls built into your computer’s operating system and an intelligent anti-malware tool like Panda Dome you can identify and block malware-based hacking attempts before they can infect your system.

You must not underestimate the importance of antimalware – especially as you are unlikely to be hacked by an honest citizen like Mr White Hat.