At the Stolen Asset Recovery Network, we work day in and day out to combat cyber crimes. Cyber Heists, once seen as anomalies, are now an everyday reality for businesses, financial institutions, and private individuals. Even though we deal with recovering assets stolen in cyberheists on a daily basis, we were still shocked to see the largest reported cyberheist in history: over six hundred million dollars (approximately $610,000,000) gone in an instant.

On August 10th, 2021, a hacker stole the hefty sum from the Poly Network. The Poly Network is a financial institution for cryptocurrency transactions. Cryptocurrency has hit the mainstream in the past decade, allowing individuals to make payments, transfer money, and receive loans without high fees or middlemen. The worldwide decentralized nature of cryptocurrency has made it appealing, but also makes it hard to police.

The theft was made public by the Poly Network, who posted an open letter on their Twitter history. “Dear Hacker,” it read, “We want to establish communication with you and urge you to return the hacked assets. The amount of money you hacked is the biggest one in history. Law enforcement in any country will regard this as a major economic crime and you will be pursued. It is very unwise for you to do any further transactions. You should talk to us to work out a transaction.”

The story immediately grabbed headlines across the globe. Since the money stolen was across different currencies, some of the platform holders immediately froze the accounts. Still, it seemed there was not much that the Poly Network could successfully do to recover the stolen assets – beyond beg for them to be returned.

The next day, Wednesday August 11th, the unexpected happened: the money did start to return. Trickling in through various anonymous receiving stations that the Poly Network had set up, almost all of the money was returned over the next twenty-four hours, with the rest of it slowly rolling in.

Enclosed in the transactions returning the money were hidden messages that only the Poly network could read. They revealed that the hacker was what the Poly Network called a “White Hat Hacker:” someone with good intentions who discovered a security vulnerability and exploited it to call attention to it. In the messages, they claimed their plan was always to take the money and return it, even refusing a bounty of $500,000 that the Poly Network had offered in exchange for the money’s safe return.

This cyberheist may have had a relatively happy ending, but the sad truth is that most do not. If you are the victim of a cyberheist, contact the Stolen Asset Recovery Network as soon as possible. We can help you locate, freeze, and recover stolen assets taken by cybercriminals.

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STARNet, which is short for Stolen Asset Recovery Network, is a global alliance of independent law firms created to provide financial institutions and governments with multi-disciplinary services across countries and jurisdictions for locating, freezing, and ultimately recovering stolen assets related to cyber heists, fraud or corruption.

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