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In crypto, you can see everyone’s balances—and transactions—by design.

A thief is “combing” the ethereum blockchain and draining weakly protected wallets

Member exclusive by Matthew De Silva

Imagine a thief going door to door in a neighborhood, checking for homes that were left unlocked to rob. That’s essentially what’s happening on the ethereum blockchain, but on a much larger scale—and at a dizzying pace.

Somebody is actively monitoring weakly protected wallets on the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency network and draining them the instant that funds arrive. This unusual, automated theft was detected by Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), a Baltimore-based group of researchers and activists. ISE published its findings on “ether combing” this week.

ISE calls the unidentified thief the “blockchain bandit.” At one stage, this ingenious person (or group? or state?) had collected more than $54 million in ether via the wallet-monitoring-and-draining scheme.