What We Can Learn From Japan's Crypto Hack

The disclosure that one of Japan's biggest cryptocurrency exchanges lost about US$400 million in NEM tokens is spooking investors in a nation still wary of such venues four years after the collapse of Mt. Gox. But Coincheck said that the method was not used to store NEM coins.

Regardless of the official tally, it's a major theft, surpassing the ~$340 million that was famously stolen from Mt. Gox in 2014. Hackers reportedly stole NEM tokens, which is a recently launched digital currency that has already reportedly been ranked the 10 digital currency in the world. The company subsequently stopped trading in NEM, as well as withdrawals and deposits in the virtual currency. Lon Wong, president of the Nem.io Foundation created to promote the technology underlying NEM, wrote on twitter that "It's unfortunate that Coincheck got hacked", but said the foundation is "doing everything we can to help".

The price of NEM has plunged 15%, even though the security flaw lies entirely with Coincheck.

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"By the time the transaction is confirmed, fluctuations in Bitcoin price mean that it's for the "wrong" amount", Stripe product manager Tom Karlo said in a statement. While that may be peanuts compared to the 30 trillion yen or so once held by Bitcoin, the largest of any digital currency, NEM was popular with individual investors.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused everyone.

According to Nikkei, a large Japanese publication, Coincheck reported the heist to the local Financial Services Agency and the police. Trading has also been halted for all cryptocurrencies, expect bitcoin.

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One customer said, "I want to know what happened". Shortly after, Coincheck extended the restriction to other cryptocurrencies as well as the Japanese yen.

All told, about 500 million XEM tokens, worth roughly $420 million, was stolen from Coincheck, according to Bloomberg.

"We're still examining how many of our customers are affected", he said, adding that the exchange was trying to find out whether the breach was from Japan or another country.

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It is still unclear as to how many Coincheck users were impacted by the hack.

  • Kelly Blake