Top Blockchain Sleuths: How 5 Crypto Detectives Rose To Fame
|— Some of the top crypto detectives rose to fame for solving high-profile crimes where victims lost millions of dollars.
— Many blockchain detectives are anonymous or pseudonymous to protect their identities; solving crypto crime can be a dangerous business.
— In this article, you’ll learn about some of the top crypto detectives today, the types of crimes they solve, and how they rose to fame.
A blockchain sleuth is simply a crypto detective, and these important crypto experts are imperative for solving crypto crimes. In short, they use a mix of on-chain, and off-chain tools to analyze transaction details and tie on-chain perpetrators to their real-life identities. Often, they also cooperate with law enforcement to make sure the unfortunate victims get justice too.
These detectives each rose to prominence in their way. But they have one thing in common: they have solved some of the biggest cases in crypto history to prove their worth and help the community stay safe.
But who are these top investigators exactly?
While many of the most famous blockchain detectives try and maintain some level of anonymity, there are some things we know about each of them. So let’s dive into some of the biggest sleuths today and how they got so famous.
5 Top Crypto Investigators Solving On-Chain Crimes
There are many more blockchain sleuths than we can ever name here, and each of them has their own skill sets.
Of course, beyond the detectives themselves, there are also countless DAOs, security communities, and even web3 businesses aiming to help victims report on-chain crimes. To give you a taste of some of the biggest names in blockchain sleuthing, here are five crypto detectives you ought to know about:
Coffeezilla is a YouTube personality and crypto-native who specializes in exposés, crypto journalism, and holding celebrities and companies to account for their actions. His upbeat demeanor and well-thought-out presentation make the technicalities of an investigation digestible.
He is known for diving into some of the more dark side of celebrity involvement with crypto. Yes; he’s not scared to stand up to “powerful figures”, previously investigating projects such as Safemoon and FTX. This blockchain sleuth has even come up against fellow YouTuber Logan Paul, holding him accountable for his CryptoZoo project.
ZachXBT is a pseudonymous Twitter user famous for exposing NFT projects in particular. Today, he is probably one of the most famous blockchain sleuths in general. He’s solved multiple cases and uncovered surprising (and often damning) evidence on multiple occasions.
While already interacting with crypto Twitter as far back as 2015, his sleuthing adventures began much later in May 2021. He often cites surviving too many rug pulls as the reason why he does his work for free. Zach is known for several crypto cases. Then his other talent is exposing ethically questionable influencers. This is just one of the reasons that ZachXBT is considered one of the best crypto detectives on the scene.
Spreekaway is an independent researcher and consultant whose Twitter account is a gold mine for near-real-time updates on some of the most notorious on-chain events and regulatory implications. Spreekaway is notable for being one of the first detectives to discover and alert the community to the Nomad bridge hack.
Essentially, they tracked down the transactions and a pattern revealed itself. Publishing their theory and analyzing the data, the loss tallied up to $2.3M at the time. Spreekaway’s tweet exploded on Crypto Twitter, which then helped the community minimize the drain.
Nick Bax is a notable figure in the realm of blockchain sleuthing, boasting a diverse background including a Ph.D. in Structural Biology that fuels his unique approach to unraveling on-chain mysteries. He operates his blockchain consulting practice. He also holds the role of Director of Analytics at Unciphered, specializing in wallet recovery services.
His sleuthing skills shine in tackling both minor and major crypto thefts, where he uncovers emerging criminal patterns, offering a preemptive edge against future incidents. This unique approach, rooted in his scientific background, allows him to discern and disrupt sophisticated schemes abusing the blockchain. In a Boring Security interview, Bax said his involvement extends to legal realms, where he serves as an expert witness translating intricate on-chain data into comprehensive reports and testimonies.
JP on Chain
JP is an investigator and educator who founded IntelligenceOnChain, a blockchain investigation firm. By leveraging a variety of tools with different purposes, JP conducts investigations based on data from blockchain transactions. He also rose to fame studying transactions going in and out of the crypto mixer, Tornado Cash, and has built a safety-conscious community of more than 1,100 people! Like most crypto detectives, he tracks stolen funds between wallets but he also aims to get a deeper understanding of the users conducting these exploits. These skills made IOC the preferred organization to investigate the $75M Beanstalk Governance Attack that was carried out in April 2022.
Notable Investigations in Crypto History
On August 1, 2022, Nomad Bridge was hacked, with over $186M drained in just a few hours. While the initial exploit was discovered by one group of black hat hackers, plenty of others joined suit. To put it simply, the Nomad Bridge was flawed and it allowed anyone to extract funds from the smart contract.
The flaw was detrimental. Millions of dollars were drained within the first 15 minutes of the exploit. Within an hour, the bridge was losing $10M every minute.
Luckily, there were some crypto detectives to the rescue, who alerted the community to the hack and stopped the drain as soon as possible. As we mentioned earlier, Spreekaway was integral in responding to this exploit and helping to investigate it.
Scammers in Paris
In December 2021, the first victim of this NFT scam was successfully targeted. In short, these scammers were finding their victims through the supposed safety of their NFT communities. Specifically, this scam was targeting NFT holders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club.
It was a simple phishing scam. Using social engineering and operating within the private discord chats of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, they would offer community members a “free animated version of their BAYC”. In reality, the victims would be directed to a phishing site. Signing a transaction on this site would result in handing over BAYC NFTs for free.
Unfortunately, this scam was successful for a long time, stealing approximately $2.5 Million of NFTs in total between 2021 and 2022. However, after ZachXBT released his ‘Scammers in Paris’ article in August 2022, the perpetrators were apprehended by the Paris police in October of the same year.
Top Blockchain Sleuths: How they got there
Sleuths each have their skills and preferences, especially in how they publish their findings, be that YouTube or a post on social media. Before anything else though, these sleuths already understood the intricacies of blockchain technology. So if you don’t already have a solid background in blockchain tech, you might want to start there.
No blockchain sleuth was born overnight. And understanding both on and off-chain methods to identify perpetrators is no easy feat. If you want to start tracking down crypto criminals, education comes first. Learning to read transactions is a given. But to be a step ahead of the scammers, it’s also important to understand the data available and the tools you can use to up your sleuthing game.
So what are you waiting for? Start learning about blockchain and how transactions work. Then get to grips with the latest investigation tools. Finish this module and you’ll be one step closer to your blockchain sleuthing goal.