China: Bitcoin Heist Attackers Steal $87 Million, Country’s Largest Crypto-Theft

Chinese police have arrested three men in connection with a massive $87 million theft worth of Bitcoin after suspicions of the trio’s hacking into local computer networks came to light, according to local news outlet SCMP.


The crime occurred in China’s northwestern province, away from prominent commercial centers like Shanghai and Beijing.

Despite the Chinese governments’ crackdown on digital assets, a minority of the country’s populace continues to dabble in the world’s most volatile asset class–some with nefarious outlooks.

Officers from the Xian district, where the crime was unearthed, stated the case formed China’s largest-ever theft involving cryptocurrencies, eclipsing several smaller instances not exceeding $5 million.

The case kicked off in March when local authorities were notified of a possible hacking network in the city after a man complained his bitcoins and ether worth 100 million yuan, or $14.5 million at the time, were stolen from his computer.

Police Puzzled after Facing New Tech

For the district’s police, such a case was new as cryptocurrencies were outright banned in China and rural areas were not particularly conversant with the asset class. An officer noted:

“Our bureau has not dealt with this kind of case before. It’s the first virtual currency-related case in Shaanxi.”

He added that blockchain technology, the prime underlying protocol of all cryptocurrencies, “made it easy” for the accused to hid their footprint, courtesy the tech’s famed anonymous features.

On further investigations, the police observed all three accused were quintessential “cyber-punks,” meaning they had learned to hack since they were 12-years-old and worked with top internet companies.

All proceeds from stealing bitcoins were evenly split between the three. The police added the hackers carefully divided their stash into small units and carried out several transactions over different exchanges to smoothly cash out.

Bitcoin Untraceabilty Adds to Police Woes

Meanwhile, authorities analyzed over 30,000 unique datasets and employed the services of cyber forensic firms to zero down on the hackers’ identities. The first suspect, a man named Zhou based in China’s Hunan province, was arrested in June.

The team of experts and police authorities took “another two months” to arrest the other suspects–a man named Cui in Beijing and a man named Zhang from the Jilin province.

The accused were monitored around the clock by local police in respective cities, with a final raid last Wednesday.

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