A 36-year-old Oxford man was arrested in the UK yesterday on suspicion of defrauding cryptocurrency investors out of USD 11.4 million worth of IOTA, according to the BBC.
The man is alleged to have stolen the cryptocurrency from 85 different people and had become the subject of a Europe-wide investigation involving state police from Hesse in Germany, Europol, and the National Crime Agency. He was finally arrested by officers from the UK’s South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).
The man, whose name has still not been released, used the name “Norbertvdberg” while purporting to offer support to IOTA enthusiasts. He fronted his activities by offering to use his help site to generate IOTA-compliant unique passwords for other users by generating the seeds for users required by the coin.
The hacker linked his site to a public GitHub repository claiming to contain the source code of the iotaseed.io service in order to convince other users that his support was legitimate. However, the code generated predictable passwords which were then being logged by the hacker.
Alex Studer, UK student and crypto enthusiast, explained: “This code patches the Math.seedrandom function, which is used by the [seed] generation code, to always use a fixed seed ‘4782588875512803642’ plus a counter variable that increases by one every time seedrandom is run.”
The effect of this, according to Studer, is that the same predictable series of numbers is continually returned causing the wallets’ seeds to always remain the same.
Det Insp Rob Bryant from SEROCU said: “This has been an intricate investigation into the theft of huge sums of money from victims across the world. We have been grateful for the support of our European colleagues… The offences have taken place over an extended period, and it’s likely that there are other victims out there.”
According to Europol, the operation was launched due to the vigilance and proactivity of the IOTA users as several victims of the hack reported their concerns quickly to the authorities prompting swift action.
The perpetrator is now awaiting extradition from the UK to Germany in order to stand trial.
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