Crypto journalist says she uncovered the identity of the 2016 DAO hacker who stole $11 billion in ether

Crypto journalist says she uncovered the identity of the 2016 DAO hacker who stole $11 billion in ether
Representation of Ethereum cryptocurrencyJakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Author Laura Shin believes she may have solved the mystery of the infamous 2016 hack of TheDAO.
  • Shin detailed her findings in a Forbes article that discussed her new book.

A new book may have revealed the identity of the mastermind behind the infamous 2016 hack of a crypto collective called TheDAO.

In her book, "The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze," journalist Laura Shin believes the alleged hacker — who stole what today would be about $11 billion worth of ether — is 36-year-old programmer Toby Hoenisch.

Hoenisch, who is known for cofounding crypto startup TenX, did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on this story in a LinkedIn message.

In a phone call with Insider, Shin said she reached out to Hoenisch for interviews before publishing the book but was unsuccessful. Eventually, she emailed him a document detailing her research and discoveries, to which he responded that her "conclusion is factually inaccurate." She said he never responded to emails asking for further details as to why.

In a Forbes article, Shin said TheDAO, a decentralized venture fund, launched in 2016 and raised $139 million to make it the most successful crowdfund at the time. Within weeks, a hacker exploited weaknesses in TheDAO's code and siphoned 3.64 million ether, or 5% of all ether at the time, into a new fund called the DarkDAO.


The hack eventually led to ethereum splitting into two in an effort to recoup the stolen funds. That meant the DarkDAO held ethereum classic — not what is today's ethereum — making its stolen crypto worth about $100 million, instead of about $11 billion based on the current ethereum price, Shin said.

Shin told Insider she didn't necessarily set out to solve the mystery when she started on her book four years ago but said there were enough clues, conversations, and traceable transactions to lead her to her conclusion.

A new forensics tool from blockchain analytics company Chainalysis also helped Shin with her research.

"People seem to recognize the evidence is strong," she said of the responses she's received so far. "What other author can say that they had a book launch like this?"