MIT students used an ETH blockchain glitch to steal $25 million in seconds, according to the DOJ.

DOJ says MIT students stole $25 million in seconds by taking advantage of a bug in the ETH blockchain.


An indictment released Wednesday by the US Department of Justice alleges that two highly educated brothers stole $25 million in 12 seconds by interfering with the Ethereum blockchain in a novel cryptocurrency scam.

US Attorney Damian Williams said the plan “calls the very integrity of the blockchain into question.”

The brothers reportedly utilized their computer science and math degrees at one of the world’s top institutions to influence the protocols used by millions of Ethereum users “Williams said. They completed their theft in 12 seconds after executing their strategy.

Anton, 24, and James Peraire-Bueno, 28, were detained Tuesday for wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. Each brother faces “a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count,” the DOJ stated.

The indictment stated the MIT-educated twins initiated the scam in December 2022 after months of preparation. The two utilized their “specialized skills” and crypto trading knowledge to fraudulently access “pending private transactions” on the blockchain and “used that access to alter certain transactions and obtain their victims’ cryptocurrency,” the DOJ stated.

The indictment details how the plan exploited the Ethereum network after a transaction was made but before it was uploaded to the blockchain.

The DOJ said that these pending transactions must be arranged into a proposed block and verified by a validator before being put into the blockchain, a decentralized log of crypto holdings. By “establishing a series of Ethereum validators” through shell firms and overseas exchanges, the brothers camouflaged their attempts to influence blocks and capture Ethereum.

They reportedly utilized “bait transactions” to attract specialized bots meant to help buyers and sellers locate profitable Ethereum prospects. After bots took the bait, their validators seemed to use a flaw in block structure to reorganize the block to their benefit before adding it to the blockchain.

After victims discovered the crime, the DOJ said the brothers refused to return the monies and buried them.

The DOJ said the brothers “took numerous steps to hide their ill-gotten gains,” based on their web search histories. The measures included “setting up shell companies and using multiple private cryptocurrency addresses and foreign cryptocurrency exchanges” without “know your customer” (KYC) requirements.

They studied the “very crimes set in the charge,” the DOJ stated. When organizing the alleged fraud, the brothers searched for “how to wash crypto” and “exchanges with no KYC.” After the plan, the brothers reportedly looked for “top crypto lawyers,” “money laundering law of limitations,” and “does the United States deport to [foreign country].”

Special agent in charge Thomas Fattorusso of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) New York Field Office stated investigators “simply followed the money.”

“Regardless of case complexity, we lead financial criminal investigations with cutting-edge technology and good-old-fashioned investigative work, on and off the blockchain,” Fattorusso added.

In the same month as the SEC’s decision on an Ethereum ETFthe indictment was issued. According to CNBC, the suspected scam may make the SEC skeptical about the Ethereum ETF.

CNBC reported that crypto skeptic SEC Chair Gary Gensler wants to protect investors before authorizing risky listings.

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