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A fake LinkedIn job offer killed the world's most popular crypto game — here's how

Axie Infinity
Axie Infinity (Image credit: Axie Infinity)

Axie Infinity was once the world's most popular play-to-earn crypto game — until a fraudulent LinkedIn job recruiter seduced an Axie Infinity employee to click on a malicious PDF. This opened the flood gates to a devastating hack of epic proportions.

According to The Block, the US government discovered that the malicious team behind the massive breach is Lazarus, a North Korean group. Axie Infinity lost a whopping $540 million in the March exploit.

How a fake LinkedIn job offer destroyed Axie Infinity

Citing two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, The Block said that employees at Sky Mavis, Axie Infinity's developer, were approached by hackers masquerading as job recruiters on LinkedIn. At least one employee, a senior engineer, took the bait and attended multiple interviews.

As you might have guessed, the engineer passed the "interviews" with flying colors and received a "job offer" in the form of a PDF. Unfortunately, they downloaded the malicious file, and as a result, the hackers were able to infiltrate Ronin, the Ethereum-based sidechain that underpins Axie Infinity.

"This employee no longer works at Sky Mavis," A Ronin blog post said about the March attack. "The attacker managed to leverage that access to penetrate Sky Mavis IT infrastructure and gain access to the validator nodes."

Axie Infinity, influenced by Pokémon, was once all the rage. Personally, I wasn't a big fan of it because the buy-in costs were too high. In order to start playing, gamers needed at least three Axies (unique creatures with varying skillsets and quirks) to battle against other opponents. In the summer of 2021, Axies ranged between $230 and $312,000.

The game was so popular, a YouTube documentary highlighted that some low-income workers in the Philippines relied on Axie Infinity for their livelihood. How? Well, the game doled out rewards in the form of a cryptocurrency called Smooth Love Potion (SLP). Between the crypto bear market, the March exploit, and according to Decrypt, a poor economic strategy, Axie Infinity was bound to die off eventually — even without the fake LinkedIn recruiters.

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!