Incident 50: The DAO Hack

Description: On June 18, 2016, an attacker successfully exploited a vulnerability in The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (The DAO) on the Ethereum blockchain to steal 3.7M Ether valued at $70M.


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Alleged: The DAO developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed DAO Token Holders.

Incident Stats

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Report Count
Incident Date
Sean McGregor

CSETv0 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

In 2016 programmers created The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (The DAO) on the Ethereum blockchain to be a venture capital firm without executives or middlemen. Members invested approximately $150M worth of Ether cryptocurrency in The DAO in return for DAO tokens which could be used to vote on and fund real-world projects. On June 18, 2016, an attacker successfully siphoned off approximately a third of The DAO’s funds, which also initiated a precipitous drop in the value of Ether. Due to the nature of blockchains, the code that made up The DAO was both publicly available and immutable, which allowed the hacker to find a vulnerability while preventing The DAO’s creators from securing their system. In a controversial vote, the Ethereum community decided to ‘hard fork’ their blockchain to return the stolen funds, which some see as a violation of the freedom and autonomy at the core of cryptocurrency.

Short Description

On June 18, 2016, an attacker successfully exploited a vulnerability in The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (The DAO) on the Ethereum blockchain to steal 3.7M Ether valued at $70M.



Harm Type

Financial harm

AI System Description

A smart contract written to create a decentralized autonomous organization on the Ethereum blockchain.

System Developer


Sector of Deployment

Financial and insurance activities

Relevant AI functions


AI Techniques


AI Applications




Named Entities

The Decentralized Autonomous Organization, Ethereum

Technology Purveyor

The Decentralized Autonomous Organization

Beginning Date


Ending Date


Near Miss

Harm caused


Deliberate or expected

Lives Lost


Financial Cost

3.7M Ether ($70M at the time)

Data Inputs

User votes · 2016

Thoughts on The DAO Hack

We just lived through the nightmare scenario we were worried about as we called for a moratorium on The DAO: someone exploited a weakness in the code of The DAO to empty out more than 2M ($40M USD) ether.

The exploi…

Digital currency Ethereum is cratering because of a $50 million hack · 2016

The value of the digital currency Ethereum has dropped dramatically amid an apparent huge attack targeting an organisation with huge holdings of the currency.

The price per unit dropped to $15 from record highs of $21.50 in hours, with mill…

A $50 Million Hack Just Showed That the DAO Was All Too Human · 2016

Sometime in the wee hours Friday, a thief made off with $50 million of virtual currency.

The victims are investors in a strange fund called the DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization, who poured more than $150 million of a bitcoin-st… · 2016

Analysis of the DAO exploit

Phil Daian

So I'm sure everyone has heard about the big news surrounding the DAO getting taken to the tune of $150M by a hacker using the recursive Ethereum send exploit.

This post will be the first in what is po…

The DAO Debacle Shows Immaturity of Smart Contract Technology · 2016

The recent debacle surrounding The DAO has shed an interesting spotlight on smart contract technology. Since individual developers wrote the entire concept of this project, it looks like smart contracts are not completely trustless. There i…

Ethereum's DAO Hacking Shows That Coders Are Not Infallible · 2016

Oops. Ethereum's first Decentralized Autonomous Organization, The DAO, has lost money - lots of it. To be specific, it has lost the equivalent of about US$ 60m. This is not because it is a duff idea and no-one can be bothered with it (thoug… · 2016

The tragic combination of inevitable bugs and immutable code

Last week witnessed a catastrophic event in the Ethereum ecosystem, when The DAO, a smart contract less than two months old, began rapidly leaking funds to an unknown party. Looki…

Understanding The DAO Attack · 2016

David Siegel is a blockchain strategist and speaker, founder of and curator of, a place to learn about blockchain.

In this piece, Siegal attempts to help journalists understand what happened when The DA…

Blockchains, Smart Contracts and the Law · 2016

Blockchains, Smart Contracts and the Law

…unravelling the legal issues surrounding The DAO

Reuben Bramanathan Blocked Unblock Follow Following Jun 24, 2016

The public debate following the spectacular implosion of The DAO is a good reminder …

The Ethereum hard fork: Everything you need to know · 2016

Ethereum burst onto the virtual currency scene almost a year ago. It’s similar to bitcoin, but with a key difference. In addition to supporting its own digital currency, ether, it also supports smart contracts, agreements written in compute…

The DAO, The Hack, The Soft Fork and The Hard Fork · 2016

The Dao, the Hack, the Soft Fork and the Hard Fork Antonio Madeira 12 Mar 2019

What was the DAO incident?

In this guide we attempt to cover: how and why The DAO was created, how The DAO was exploited, how the soft fork failed miserably, and…

The History of the DAO and Lessons Learned · 2016

The History of the DAO and Lessons Learned

Christoph Jentzsch Blocked Unblock Follow Following Aug 24, 2016

There are some things which one can only learn through experience, either one’s own, or that of others. In this post, We would like …

The Failure of The DAO: Should We Regulate Cryptocurrency? · 2016

The New Kid on the Block

The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) was set to become the first digital decentralized investment fund. Virtually all its daily operations would be handled, well, virtually. This includes investment plans…

A hacker stole $31M of Ether - how it happened, and what it means for Ethereum · 2017

Yesterday, a hacker pulled off the second biggest heist in the history of digital currencies.

Around 12:00 PST, an unknown attacker exploited a critical flaw in the Parity multi-signature wallet on the Ethereum network, draining three massi…

Details Of The DAO Hacking In Ethereum In 2016 · 2017

The DAO hack that threatened everything and affected Ethereum

Do you remember how a decentralized autonomous organization can create with the use of Ethereum? In the year 2016, there was a downfall. A startup was working on a DOA project na…

The DAO hack - what happened and what followed? · 2017

In 2016 a grand idea made its way onto the Ethereum network. The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (The DAO) was created to operate like a venture capital fund for decentralized cryptocurrency projects. The DAO was built as a smart cont…

The Story of the DAO - Its History and Consequences · 2017

The Story of the DAO — Its History and Consequences

Samuel Falkon Blocked Unblock Follow Following Dec 24, 2017

One of the most incredible concepts to be successfully implemented through blockchain technology is the DAO, a decentralized aut…

The DAO Hack - Stolen $50M & The Hard Fork. · 2018

The DAO Hack — Stolen $50M & The Hard Fork.

Cryptonomy Blocked Unblock Follow Following Apr 20, 2018

The last article explained the idea of DAOs, but I think we can’t talk about DAOs without mentioning “The DAO”.

The DAO was the first DAO t…

The DAO Hack and Blockchain Security Vulnerabilities · 2018

Security considerations override all other considerations in software in general and in blockchain specifically. If security fails, nothing else matters. Blockchain proves decentralized, trustless transactions work, but many blockchain secu…

The DAO Hack Explained: Unfortunate Take-off of Smart Contracts · 2018

The DAO Hack Explained: Unfortunate Take-off of Smart Contracts

Osman Gazi Güçlütürk Blocked Unblock Follow Following Jul 31, 2018

Logo of the DAO

Smart contracts brought distributed autonomous organizations, aka “DAO”s, to our life. A DAO … · 2018

CCN is an unbiased financial news site reporting on US Markets and Cryptocurrencies. Op-eds and opinions should not be attributed to CCN. Journalists on CCN follow a strict ethical code that you can find here. You can contact us here. · 2019

One of the design goals of Ethereum was to simplify the specification of the consensus layer. That’s a noble goal, as it facilitates the re-implementation of the platform for different programming languages and constraints. But even if the …

The DAO (organization) · 2019

The DAO (stylized Đ) was a digital decentralized autonomous organization,[5] and a form of investor-directed venture capital fund.[6]

The DAO had an objective to provide a new decentralized business model for organizing both commercial and …

Understanding The DAO hack in 10 questions · 2019

We have done our best to curate and clarify The DAO hack developments. This page will be updated to reflect new developments. Do not hesitate to flag inconsistencies and suggest updates.

[Lire cette FAQ en français]

UPDATE 30 June: The envi…


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.

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