New Details Emerge on How the Alleged Ethereum DAO Hacker Was Found


New Details Emerge on How the Alleged Ethereum DAO Hacker Was Found

The most recent episodes of Laura Shin’s Unchained podcast (Feb 24, 25, and March 1) have all explored the Ethereum DAO hack in greater detail, with further discussion and speculation on how and why the hacker was eventually found. 

In an episode that did not feature Shin, an early Ethereum testnet known as Morden is touted as potentially important to the investigation, while the supposed ability of Chainalysis is taken with a pinch of salt.

As we previously reported, podcaster Shin recently broke the news that former TenX CEO Toby Hoenisch was likely to be the man behind the hack. According to Shin, she arrived at the name with help from “a powerful and previously secret forensics tool” from Chainalysis.

Shin used this tool to un-mix bitcoin transactions that their suspected hacker had attempted to anonymize via the privacy-focused Wasabi Wallet. The bitcoin had been linked to the stolen Ethereum via Shapeshift.

Haseeb Qureshi, the managing partner at Dragonfly Capital, had his own take on the Chainalysis story angle.

Why the request for Morden data?

“I was slightly skeptical of this story,” he began. “It’s as simple as Chainalysis has some magic way to unmix Wasabi transactions? Maybe it’s true – but it seems more plausible that they had not that big of an anonymity set and they just kinda chased down all the things in the set.”

While Tarun Chitra, the founder of Gauntlet, had a different viewpoint. “If you were in Ethereum at that time, there was this very early testnet that 90%, I’m sure, of people have not heard of called the Morden testnet. It doesn’t really exist anymore. If you were paying attention on Twitter maybe five or six months ago, Laura and a few other people were like, ‘Hey, does anyone have an archived copy of the Morden testnet?’”

The request for Morden data seemed odd to Chitra, since the testnet ceased to exist when Ethereum forked following the DAO hack.

“It was very particular people very close to the Ethereum Foundation plus Laura, and the clustering was very odd to me… the Morden testnet thing was the big thing,” Chitra said.

Chitra believes the search for the Morden testnet could be key to the investigation. In particular, on-chain analysis tools that weren’t available in 2016 may have been brought to bear on the mothballed testnet, which is why Shin and others close to the Ethereum Foundation were so keen to find it.

Spoiler Alert

Further details on the Ethereum DAO hack are explored in Shin’s new book, The Cryptopians. As Shin states, the time period of the hack and its fallout covers only around two months. Despite this, the relevance of the event to Ethereum’s history is so huge that a third of her book is devoted to it. It does appear that for now, the commercially-minded Shin is coaching her guests not to drop too many spoilers.


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