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Ethereum vanity address exploit may be cause of Wintermute hack

20 Sep, 20223 min readEthereum
Ethereum vanity address exploit may be cause of Wintermute hack

The Ethereum community is reviewing the nature of the recently announced $160 million Wintermute hack and has stumbled upon a potential attack vector. One of Wintermute’s addresses has the properties of a vanity address which could be the root of the vulnerability.

wintermute's address had 7 leading 0'saccording to @k06a's estimation, can brute for this in 50 days using 1000 GPUsthe attacker was definitely a pro — tuba 🦈 (@0xtuba) September 20, 2022

Vanity addresses are generated cryptographically by assigning a specific prefix or suffix to a program that then generates potentially millions of addresses until it finds one matching the specified conditions.

One such tool — Profanity — is available via GitHub and has had serious security concerns for some time. The repository is abandoned due to “fundamental security issues in the generation of private keys,” according to the file.

A blog post by the 1inch team is included in the markup, which lists several potential vulnerabilities in the code. Although the codebase has allegedly been updated to remove “all affected binaries,” the methodology may be flawed at its core.

According to research from k06a, a contributor to 1inch, 0xtuba was able to calculate that it may take only 50 days to brute force an address with seven leading 0s using 1,000 GPUs. Given Ethereum’s recent move to proof-of-stake, plenty of miners are currently looking for somewhere to apply their GPU power.

The image below showcases the estimated time to generate an Ethereum address with seven leading 0s using an RTX 3070TI GPU home gaming computer.

Should this attack vector be confirmed viable, there is now a fear that some miners may choose to move toward malicious means to ensure their farms continue to return a profit.

The 1inch blog post contains the following warning:

“Notice: Your money is NOT SAFU if your wallet address was generated with the Profanity tool. Transfer all of your assets to a different wallet ASAP! “

CryptoSlte has reached out to Wintermute for comment on the method used to generate addresses but has not immediately received a response.

Also known as Akiba, Liam is a journalist and editor of Blocklight at CryptoSlate. He believes that decentralized ledger technology has the potential to make widespread positive change. He predicts the next 10 years will bring in a dawn of a new age of technological innovation.


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