Gone in 12 seconds—Two US brothers charged with stealing $25M in crypto heist using skills they acquired at MIT

Hacker uses crypto hot wallet key to steal ethereum
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The term "heist" brings to mind masked intruders, ticking clocks and a getaway driver that's never there when you need them, leading to a whole lot of kerfuffle and a tense car chase. Turns out the modern version might be a whole lot faster than Hollywood movies have had us believe, as two US brothers have been charged of stealing $25M worth of ethereum in just 12 seconds.

Anton Peraire-Bueno and his brother, James Peraire-Bueno, have been charged with wire fraud and money laundering in relation to an incident in April 2023 in which $25 million in ethereum cryptocurrency was stolen by a method prosecutors refer to as "the Exploit" (via BBC News). 

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say that the computer science and math skills the two developed while studying at MIT university helped them carry out the attack, which relied on exploiting a vulnerability in MEV-boost software. A program used by many ethereum network validators to check new transactions are legitimate. 

US Attorney Damian Williams said: "As we allege, the defendants' scheme calls the very integrity of the blockchain into question". Officials also say that the brothers refused to return the funds when confronted by a representative for ethereum, and took further steps to launder their ill-gotten gains.

Cryptocurrency markets have been experiencing something of a surge in value since the start of this year, with ethereum maintaining its position as the second most valuable cryptocurrency by market cap next to bitcoin. 

The news of this heist and the potential blot on the integrity of the ethereum blockchain doesn't seem to have hurt its value, as the currency appears to be holding steady at around $3,000 per coin as of the time of writing, although—crypto being crypto—it could be worth about the same as a bag of chips in the next hour or two. The "future of money", folks. It sure is a rollercoaster!

That being said, while cryptocurrency seems to remain something of a wild west frontier, popular coins like bitcoin and ethereum have previously relied on the perceived stability and security of their networks as a major selling point.

The fact that two individuals were able to defeat the supposedly secure system and transfer such a large sum in such a short amount of time may cause some investors to lose a little sleep, although it doesn't seem to have caused much of a dent in the market as things stand.

Personally, the mere mention of the term ethereum brings back unhappy memories of GPU shortages, the pandemic and endless crypto-boom headlines. Still, the markets continue to rise and fall, and while huge amounts of money remain tied up in crypto networks, they'll always remain a target for those looking to beat the system and make a quick buck. 


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Andy Edser
Hardware Writer

Andy built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 12, when IDE cables were a thing and high resolution wasn't. After spending over 15 years in the production industry overseeing a variety of live and recorded projects, he started writing his own PC hardware blog for a year in the hope that people might send him things. Sometimes they did.

Now working as a hardware writer for PC Gamer, Andy can be found quietly muttering to himself and drawing diagrams with his hands in thin air. It's best to leave him to it.