Blockchain bridges fall under fire after suffering multiple hacks recently
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Another day, another hack – and another blockchain bridge burned.
When thieves stole an estimated $190 million from U.S. crypto firm Nomad last week, it was the seventh hack of 2022 to target an increasingly important cog in the crypto machine: Blockchain "bridges" – strings of code that help move crypto coins between different applications.
So far this year, hackers have stolen crypto worth some $1.2 billion from bridges, data from London-based blockchain analysis firm Elliptic shows, already more than double last year's total.
"This is a war where the cybersecurity firm or the project can't be a winner," said Ronghui Hu, a professor of computer science at Columbia University in New York and co-founder of cybersecurity firm CertiK.
"We have to protect so many projects. For them (hackers) when they look at one project and there's no bugs, they can simply move on to the next one, until they find a one weak point."
At present, most digital tokens run on their own unique blockchain, essentially a public digital ledger that records crypto transactions. That risks projects using these coins becoming siloed, reducing their prospects for wide use.
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Blockchain bridges aim to tear down these walls. Backers say they will play a fundamental role in "Web3" – the much-hyped vision of a digital future where crypto's enmeshed in online life and commerce.
Yet bridges can be the weakest link.
The Nomad hack was the eighth-biggest crypto theft on record. Other thefts from bridges this year include a $615 million heist at Ronin, used in a popular online game, and a $320 million theft at Wormhole, used in so-called decentralised finance applications.
"Blockchain bridges are the most fertile ground for new vulnerabilities," said Steve Bassi, co-founder and CEO of malware detector PolySwarm.