Inside FTX’s All-Night Race to Stop a $1 Billion Crypto Heist


By the night of November 11 of final 12 months, FTX’s workers had already endured one of many worst days within the firm’s quick life. What had just lately been one of many world’s high cryptocurrency exchanges, valued at $32 billion solely 10 months earlier, had simply declared chapter. Executives had, after an prolonged wrestle, persuaded the corporate’s CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, handy over the reins to John Ray III, a brand new chief govt now tasked with shepherding the corporate by a nightmarish thicket of money owed, a lot of which it appeared to don’t have any means to pay.

FTX had, it appeared, hit all-time low. Till somebody—a thief or thieves who’ve but to be recognized—selected that exact second to make issues far worse. That Friday night, exhausted FTX staffers started to see mysterious outflows of the corporate’s cryptocurrency, publicly captured on the Etherscan web site that tracks the Ethereum blockchain, representing a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of {dollars} value of crypto being stolen in actual time.

“Holy shit,” one former FTX staffer, who requested to not be named as a result of they weren’t licensed to discuss inner firm issues, remembers pondering. “In any case this, we’re being hacked?”

In line with its personal accounting, FTX would in the end lose between $415 million and $432 million value of its cryptocurrency holdings to these unidentified thieves, numbers it has publicly confirmed as a part of its chapter course of. What FTX hasn’t beforehand revealed is how shut it could have come to shedding vastly extra—how its workers and outdoors consultants raced to maneuver greater than $1 billion value of crypto to safer storage earlier than it could possibly be stolen by the malevolent presence on its community—even, at one level, scrambling to ship near half a billion {dollars} to a bodily USB drive in a single marketing consultant’s workplace in an effort to maintain it out of the thieves’ arms.

“Invitation: Pressing”

Because the trial of FTX’s disgraced founder Sam Bankman-Fried enters its second week, many within the cryptocurrency neighborhood are closely watching courtroom events for any trace of how the trade was so catastrophically looted, simply hours after it left his management. The query of who carried out that theft—and whether or not the thieves had been FTX insiders or exterior hackers—looms largest of all. That thriller stays unsolved, and neither Bankman-Fried nor different high FTX executives have been charged with that theft.

However now, WIRED can reveal the occasions of FTX’s panicky evening working to restrict the injury from that theft—and to forestall what may in any other case have been a 10-figure heist. The brand new FTX management beneath Ray, its new CEO, declined to be interviewed in regards to the incident. However WIRED realized the hour-by-hour particulars of the disaster response from an in depth bill submitted by the restructuring agency Alvarez & Marsall for its work on FTX’s chapter case, interviews with people who participated within the rapid response to the theft, and blockchain evaluation offered by the cryptocurrency tracing agency Elliptic.

That response began round 10 pm on the night of November 11, when Zach Dexter, the chief govt of FTX subsidiary LedgerX, despatched a Google Meet invite to a bunch of greater than 20 of FTX’s remaining workers, chapter attorneys, advisers, and consultants. The invitation’s one-word topic line: “pressing.”

A handful of staffers rapidly joined that Google Meet video name, which might ultimately develop to dozens of contributors over the subsequent 12 hours. They might all see FTX wallets being drained in actual time on Etherscan. However nearly nobody on the decision had any concept the place precisely FTX saved its cryptocurrency or the way it managed the key keys that managed these wallets. That information was held solely by a small group of FTX elite—Bankman-Fried and his inside circle. Bankman-Fried by no means appeared within the assembly, in line with sources who had been current, however Gary Wang, the FTX cofounder and CTO, did be a part of the decision.

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