Cryptocurrency hackers steal one third of coins on South Korea exchange

Tuesday, 12 Jun, 2018

Coinrail said it had temporarily suspended trading in digital currencies and was fully cooperating with investigators to try to track down the missing funds. The stolen coins that are now frozen were in the NPXS, NPER and ATX currencies, it said.

What just happened? A number of digital currencies have seen their value fall following a hack on South Korean exchange Coinrail over the weekend.

However, by April 2018, the data show the amount held by investors - about 6m bitcoin - was much closer to the amount held by short-term speculators, with 5.1m bitcoin. The theft was of less well-known cryptocurrencies rather than bitcoin itself. Exchanges in South Korea have a history of being hit by cyberattacks.

Not all those in the trader community are looking at the situation as an entirely negative one or a reason to remain bearish.

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South Korean regulators have taken a tough stance in trying to tame the cryptocurrency market, which is one of the world's busiest as measured by trading volume. Almost $30 billion in cryptocurrency wealth was wiped in about seven hours of trading, according to data provider Coinmarketcap.com.

"Investors have been increasingly anxious about cybersecurity issues", said Adrian Lai, founding partner at Hong Kong-based investment firm Orichal Partners.

Coinrail, a relatively small exchange but still ranked among the worlds top 100 reported at first that it was reviewing its system due to a "cyber intrusion" and later revealed that $40 million in altcoins had been stolen from user accounts, similar to Japan's Coincheck hack earlier this year. That prompted a Japanese authorities to step up scrutiny of exchanges. Coindesk reports that prices had already begun falling on Saturday, so the Coinrail hack might not be entirely to blame for the slump, though Ethereum and Litecoin also fell on Sunday. South Korea has been the third largest market for Bitcoin trading in the world after Japan and the United States and has also suffered several major exchange hacks resulting in both fear driven activity on the trading side and calls for more stringent regulation from the government.