By Elizabeth Howcroft
LONDON (Reuters) - A blockchain linked to Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, has been hit by a $570 million hack, a Binance spokesperson said on Friday, the latest in a series of hacks to hit the crypto sector this year.
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said in a tweet that tokens were stolen from a blockchain "bridge" used in the BNB Chain, known until February as Binance Smart Chain.
Blockchain bridges are tools used to transfer cryptocurrencies between different applications. Criminals have increasingly targeted them, with some $2 billion stolen in 13 different hacks, mostly this year, researcher Chainalysis said in August.
The hackers stole around $100 million worth of crypto, Zhao said in his tweet. BNB Chain later said in a blog post that a total of 2 million of the BNB cryptocurrency - worth around $570 million - was withdrawn by the hacker.
The majority of the BNB remained in the hacker's digital wallet address, while about $100 million worth was "unrecovered," the Binance spokesperson said by email.
BNB Chain supports BNB, formerly known as Binance Coin, which is the world's fifth-largest token with a market value of over $45 billion, according to data site CoinGecko.
Elliptic, a London-based crypto blockchain researcher, told Reuters that the hacker had minted 2 million new BNB tokens before transferring most of the funds to other cryptocurrencies including Tether and USD Coin.
BNB Chain suspended its blockchain for several hours before resuming at around 0630 GMT, it said in a tweet.
BNB Chain was "able to stop the incident from spreading" by contacting the blockchain's "validators," - entities or individuals who verify blockchain transactions, it said in its blog post. There are 44 validators across several different time zones, it added without elaborating.
BNB Chain, described by Binance as a "community-driven, open-sourced and decentralized ecosystem," said it would introduce a new "governance mechanism" to counter future hacks, as well as expand the number of validators.
In March, hackers stole around $615 million from a blockchain bridge called Ronin Bridge, in one of the largest crypto heists on record, ter linked by the United States to North Korean hackers.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Tom Wilson, Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Louise Heavens)