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Teenage hacker used SIM-swapping to steal millions in cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Wit Olszewksi)

Canadian police have arrested a teenager for reportedly stealing $46 million CAD (about $36.5 million) worth of cryptocurrencies, in what is being described as a SIM swap attack.

To facilitate the theft, described as the largest-ever cryptocurrency pilferage from a single individual, the teen managed to hijack the victim’s phone number, which he then used to log into the victim’s crypto wallet by intercepting the two-factor authentication requests.

At the time of the arrest, police only managed to seize about $7 million CAD ($5.5 million) in stolen cryptocurrency from the teen, in Hamilton, in Ontario, Canada. 

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According to a statement, the arrest was the result of a joint investigation that began in March 2020 between the Hamilton Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the United States Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force. 

Amateur mistake

It isn’t immediately clear when the robbery took place, and whether the rest of the stolen cryptos haven’t been recovered because they’ve all been spent. 

However, the Hamilton Police statement did mention that the thief made the rather amateurish mistake of using the stolen cryptos to purchase “an online username that was considered to be rare in the gaming community.”

Although they haven’t mentioned the amount the thief spent on purchasing the username it would have been sizable enough to attract the attention of the authorities. In fact it was by tracking the transaction associated with the purchase of this rare username that led the authorities to the teenager.  

The teenager has been produced before the courts, but the statement doesn’t mention the quantum of the punishment awarded.

Make sure you protect yourself online with these best identity theft protection services and use these best security keys to add another layer to safeguard your accounts

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.