Optimism’s mysterious hacker is at it again. 

Ethereum layer-2 scaling solution Optimism revealed yesterday that a hacker made away with 20 million Optimism (OP) tokens after token launch partner Wintermute accidentally transferred the tokens to the wrong account. Now, the hacker has made their next move, sending one million of the stolen OP tokens to Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin’s wallet

OP tokens are the native tokens of Optimism’s new DAO, the Optimism Collective DAO. DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, use such governance tokens to allow members to vote collectively on decisions. Optimism intended to distribute the 20 million OP tokens to Optimism Collective stakeholders, to continue the token’s launch process. However, market maker Wintermute, which Optimism consulted to streamline the token airdrop process, accidentally sent the tokens last week to an inaccessible account, which a hacker then infiltrated, successfully stealing all 20 million tokens.


After making away with the haul, which at the time of theft equalled some $35 million in value, the hacker sold off one million of the OP tokens for ETH. Then they sat on the other 19 million tokens, and went silent for a week. 

In that time, Optimism, Wintermute, and Crypto Twitter have speculated as to the hacker’s motives. Wintermute held on to hope in a blog post yesterday that the hack may have been a “white hat,” or benevolent operation, given the fact that the hacker retained the vast majority of OP tokens. They also threatened the hacker with the wrath of law enforcement if the remaining tokens weren’t returned within a week.

The hacker now continues to befuddle captive onlookers with their next move: sending another million OP tokens, at the time of writing worth $824,000, this time to the public wallet of Vitalik Buterin. The transfer occurred at 12:36 a.m. UTC today. The other 18 million OP tokens remain in the hacker’s wallet

The motive for such a move on the hacker’s part is unclear, and does little to clarify the attack’s purpose, be it to raise awareness, or accrue financial gain. In the past, users have sent tokens to Buterin’s wallet for various reasons. Last year, developers of the Shiba Inu token sent $8 billion worth of the cryptocurrency to Buterin’s wallet, as a tactic to remove half of the token’s supply from circulation. Buterin burned 90% of the tokens, and donated the rest to Covid-related charities.

Regardless, it seems Optimism and Wintermute will have no choice but to wait for the next move of a hacker who thus far seems to have no intention to cooperate.


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