New research claims to identify the man who hacked The DAO


Quick Take

  • Journalist Laura Shin and blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis claim to have identified the hacker of The DAO in 2016.
  • They point to blockchain transaction information that leads to an Austrian engineer – who denies involvement.

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New research by journalist Laura Shin and blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis claims to identify who was behind the theft of $60 million in ether (ETH) from The DAO in 2016, pointing the finger at former TenX CEO Toby Hoenisch.

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Hoenisch denies the claims, telling Forbes that “your statement and conclusion is factually inaccurate.” Hoenisch didn’t immediately respond to an email from The Block seeking comment or a message to his LinkedIn account.

The DAO was one of Ethereum’s first attempts at an on-chain funding platform where token holders would vote on funding to be handed out to projects. Yet on June 17, 2016, a hacker found a bug that led them drain it of its funds. A team of white hat hackers mobilized and managed to freeze the funds for a short period of time — during which the Ethereum blockchain was forked to fix the issue, creating Ethereum Classic (the original chain) and what we now know as Ethereum.

Shin points to transaction data to back up her claims. According to research from Chainalysis, the hacker of The DAO sent 50 BTC to a Wasabi Wallet and mixed it to try to hide the transaction history. The analytics firm claims it managed to follow the funds and they were sent to four exchanges. An employee at one of the exchanges told Shin that the funds were swapped for privacy coin Grin and sent to a Grin node called grin.toby.ai. That node’s IP address also hosted Bitcoin Lightning nodes: ln.toby.ai and lnd.ln.toby.ai. Plus a node at that IP address was called TenX.

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Hoenisch used the handle @tobyai on many social media platforms, including Twitter, and one of his email addresses ended in @toby.ai, per Shin. She also claims that Hoenisch was also familiar with The DAO’s code and weaknesses with the code, having communicated with its creator slock.it over such issues.

Beyond this, Hoenisch was also fluent in English, matching a support email sent by The DAO’s hacker to ShapeShift ahead of the hack.

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© 2022 The Block Crypto, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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