Hours after it filed for bankruptcy, the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX said early on Saturday that it was investigating “unauthorized transactions” flowing from its accounts, as crypto researchers documented transfers of $473 million that may have been the result of a hack or theft.
“There are initial indications that $473 million in cryptoassets were stolen from FTX late last night,” the crypto research firm Elliptic said in a blog post. Ryne Miller, the general counsel for FTX’s U.S. arm, said on Twitter that the firm was “investigating abnormalities with wallet movements,” referring to the digital, publicly viewable accounts where crypto investors and companies store their holdings.
Mr. Miller added in a later post that FTX had accelerated the process of moving its funds to a different type of storage “to mitigate damage upon observing unauthorized transactions.”
The possibility that FTX was hacked is a new twist in a dramatic series of events that kicked off earlier this week, when the exchange faced a run on deposits and was unable to meet demand. On Friday, the company filed for bankruptcy, and its chief executive, Sam Bankman-Fried, announced his resignation.
In its post, Elliptic said the cryptocurrencies that were suspiciously transferred from FTX were rapidly moved through decentralized exchanges — crypto marketplaces that operate based on code and have fewer guardrails than centralized exchanges like Coinbase. The researchers described the transfers as “a common technique used by hackers in order to prevent their haul being seized.”
Crypto industry officials appeared to be piecing together the situation in real time over Twitter. As reports circulated that someone involved in moving funds had an account on Kraken, another crypto exchange, Kraken’s chief security officer, Nick Percoco, tweeted, “We know the identity of the user.”
Mr. Miller quickly responded. “Interested in anything you are open to share,” he said. “Could you reach out to me?”
Asked about the possible hack, Mr. Bankman-Fried said in a text to The New York Times, “We’re sorting through it with the bankruptcy” team. Mr. Miller could not immediately be reached.