FTX’s $400M Heist: Federal Charges Point to SIM Swap Attack Involvement of 3 Suspects

The $400 million hack of FTX in the hours after its bankruptcy has been linked to three people charged last month by United States prosecutors, alleging they conducted a series of SIM swap attacks that netted them cryptocurrency.

A Jan. 24 filing in a Washington, D.C. District Court U.S. federal prosecutors charged Robert Powell, Carter Rohn and Emily Hernandez with carrying out SIM swap attacks by stealing the identities of 50 victims and convincing telecom providers to port victims numbers to the trio’s phones.

A part of the filing details an attack on “Victim Company-1” — where on Nov. 11 and 12, 2022, Hernandez allegedly impersonated an employee at the company and Powell then gained access to their AT&T account, accessed company accounts and “transferred over $400 million in virtual currency” out of the crypto wallets.

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A Feb. 1 blog post from blockchain security firm Elliptic said it “appears likely that FTX is the ‘Victim Company-1’ named in the indictment” as FTX’s crypto wallets had multiple unauthorized transactions totaling around $400 million in the hours after it filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11, 2022.

A Feb. 1 Bloomberg report cited two people familiar with the case, who confirmed the company referred to in the indictment is FTX.

Some of the funds were sent to the crypto exchange Kraken shortly after the hack. Its chief security officer Nick Percoco posted to X at the time that it was aware of the user’s identity.

For months after, the exploiter wallets moved the funds through different bridges and blockchains to try to launder the pilfered crypto.

SIM swapping allows attackers to intercept multi-factor authentication codes often used for logins and multiple high-profile crypto figures and projects were successfully targeted in a spate of attacks in December.

The X account of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was also targeted in a SIM swap attack, the agency confirmed, after exploiters falsely posted from its account that spot Bitcoin BTC exchainge-traded funds had been approved.

FTX CEO and restructuring chief John J. Ray III claimed the exchange’s poor security and lack of proper systems was “pure hell” to wrangle with when he took over post-bankruptcy — likely making it a good target for the alleged SIM-swapping trio.

Powell, Rohn and Hernandez have been charged with wire fraud conspiracy and identity theft.

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