DeFi Lost Billions to Theft in 2021

By Aleksandra Wilson
4 min read December 1, 2021

Elliptic, a risk management firm, declared that users of DeFi lost billions to scams and hacks. The number goes around $10.5 billion. The number is significantly higher when compared to the $1.5 billion from 2020. 

Decentralized finance stands for apps based on blockchain that enable people to go around the traditional banking system. With DeFi, it’s possible to bypass financial intermediaries to borrow, lend, save, or trade with other users. This is an option due to making use of automated smart contracts connected to protocols.

This particular sector of the crypto space currently has more than $250 billion in assets. Back in June 2020, its worth was less than $1 billion. A successful cycle was created by the rising prices of the coins, governance tokens, and increased use of protocols. People invested in the crypto space are seizing the moment and fast-growing their earnings.

The Downside 

As networks like Binance and Solana keep growing, they become more popular by the day. Although DeFi networks experienced growth in acceptance, subsequently, it also brought more theft. As the sector keeps riding the wave of popularity, many projects struggle to keep up with the industry. 

For thieves, all of this new boom in the industry translates to the possibility of stealing more funds. The firm Elliptic, an expert in risk management, stated that the core of this problem is poor cybersecurity. The issue with DeFi projects is that many startups don’t put enough resources into reinforcing the security. 

Another issue is that once the theft is done, recovering the funds is almost mission impossible. Crypto transactions are of irreversible nature, which makes the process of taking them back a challenging one. Which makes it one of the main reasons why DeFi lost billions in a short amount of time.

New projects are not the only one to blame. It is also the pressure of trying to keep up with this fast-paced industry. To satisfy the high demand for new products, the security of these protocols is exposed to threats. The mix of the named factors makes these startups the most attractive victims for attackers. When we say attackers, we mean of all kinds, from hackers working alone to nation-states.

The Other Side of the Coin 

Although a third party is the culprit behind the attacks in most cases, sometimes that’s not the case. Mistakes in cybersecurity can result in inserted “backdoors” by developers that lead to stealing the users’ funds. 

Just in the last couple of years, over $2 billion were stolen straight from DeFi applications. Elliptic also attributes $10 billion in losses as the value of some tokens declined due to theft or fraud. Although it’s a complex number to pin down, it’s even harder to calculate its total impact. Usually, when news breaks about some new theft, it translates to decreased confidence in the asset.

DeFi Lost Billions and What Are the Consequences?

Last year, most of the losses came from DeFi Ethereum, with $8.6 billion. The protocol started lending decentralized exchanges, derivatives products, and protocols. Uniswap, Synthetic, and MakerDAO are only some examples of this. Protocols of Binance Smart Chain are also responsible for $2.5 billion in losses since last year.


According to Elliptic metrics, users should be more careful when dealing with lending protocols. This mechanism enables people to borrow crypto from pools of other users. The protocols are highly vulnerable to economic exploits, just as they are to code exploits. As the crypto space becomes more mature, attacks will eventually be happening only at risky platforms. Until then, users should keep their eyes wide open and guard up. One thing is undeniable, as numbers show, DeFi has become an alluring paradise for hackers.

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