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The Mango Markets Exploit: An Order Book Analysis

October 18, 2022
   |   By 
Solidus Labs Team

Summary

On October 11th, a cryptocurrency trader named Avraham Eisenberg executed a series of trades that were designed to:

  1. Pump the price of the Mango (MNGO) token
  2. Profit from this pump,
  3. Borrow $116 million against these (unrealized) profits, then
  4. Withdraw those funds from Mango Markets.

The exploit was a textbook example of cross-market manipulation. Within ten minutes of opening a massive Mango perpetual futures position, Eisenberg bought $4 million worth of MNGO on three separate exchanges, pumping its price by 2,300 percent. 

The exploit was also entirely preventable. Trade surveillance systems, which are commonplace in traditional finance, can automatically flag unusual price and volume movements, alerting exchange operators to manipulations in progress before substantial losses occur.

Contents

Entities involved

  • One or more individuals: Avraham Eisenberg, team (undisclosed)
  • Three wallets connected to Mango Markets: Wallet A, Wallet B, Wallet C
  • Two or more accounts on other exchanges: Account D on AscendEX, Account E on FTX

The Mango hack, minute-by-minute

The Mango exploit unfolded in 40 minutes. The key trades are visualized in chronological order below.

18:07 - 18:19 EST: Wallets A and B are funded with $5 million USDC each.

Wallet A's funding
Wallet B's funding

18:25 EST: Wallet A places an offer to sell 483 million Mango perpetual futures (MNGO-PERPs) at a price of 3.8 cents each.

483 million MNGO-PERP sell

18:25 EST: Wallet B buys all 483 million MNGO-PERPs.

483 million MNGO-PERP buy

18:26 EST: Wallet C buys $1.44 million MNGO on Mango Markets.

$1.44 million MNGO buy with USDC

18:27 EST: Account D buys  ~$1 million MNGO on AscendEX.

$1 million MNGO buy with USDT

18:25 - 18:30 EST: Account E buys ~$1.6 million MNGO on FTX.

$1.6 million MNGO buy with USD

18:26 - 18:45 EST: MNGO prices on Mango Markets fluctuate between 10x and 30x their previous-day price, reaching a peak of 91 cents.

MNGO's pump and subsequent dump

18:29 - 18:45 EST: Wallet B leverages the unrealized profits from its 483 million MNGO-PERP positions to withdraw $116M from Mango Markets.

The exploiter's $116 million "borrow"

How crypto exchanges can prevent similar attacks

In order to stamp out market manipulation, centralized and decentralized crypto exchanges need to implement trade surveillance systems that automatically alert their operators to abnormal price and volume movements. Without these risk monitoring measures in place, exchanges are unlikely to detect or deter the most common manipulative activities, like pump-and-dumps and wash trades, and the exchanges on which these manipulations take place may be exposed to considerable legal, reputational, and financial risk.

Learn more about Solidus’ Trade Surveillance:

FAQ

Mango Markets is a margin trading and lending platform on the Solana blockchain. Anyone can connect their wallet to trade on the exchange, and users have access to much as 20x leverage on a number of trading pairs.

Mango (MNGO) is the governance token of Mango Markets' DAO. MNGO was an attractive token to target because it was thinly traded – its average daily volume in October was less than $100,000 – and because it is cheap on a per-unit basis. The average MNGO sale price on October 10th was just four cents.

A perpetual futures contract, or perpetual swap, is an agreement to non-optionally buy or sell an asset at any time – sans expiration date. It was first invented by the Nobel Laureate Robert Schiller in 1996, but wasn’t implemented in practice until crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX did so in 2016. It currently exists only in crypto markets.

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