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Japanese Cryptocurrency Exchange Loses Over $500 Million In Heist

A leading Japanese cryptocurrency exchange, Coincheck, experienced one of the largest monetary heists ever when hackers stole $532 million worth of the NEM cryptocurrency.

Earlier today, Coincheck halted NEM transactions. Because the suspension was given no explanation and the money wasn’t transferred to any other exchange, this led many to believe that someone may have hacked Coincheck. It was also rumored that the hackers may have stolen an additional $123 million worth of Ripple digital currency, too, as the exchange also suspended all Ripple withdrawals today.

The company announced:

Depositing NEM on Coincheck is currently being restricted. Deposits made to your account will not be reflected in your balance, and we advise all users to refrain from making deposits until the restriction has been lifted.We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused everyone. Please follow the official Coincheck blog and our official social media accounts for updates.

According to Nikkei, a large Japanese publication, Coincheck reported the heist to the local Financial Services Agency and the police. NEM Foundation president Lon Wong also confirmed the hack, calling it "the biggest theft in the history of the world."

Back in 2014, Mt.Gox, at the time by far the largest Bitcoin exchange also suffered one of the biggest heists ever, losing over $400 million worth of Bitcoins. However, the cryptocurrency market was much smaller back then, with only about $14 billion in market capitalization. The market is now valued at over $500 billion and Coincheck is also a smaller exchange, estimated to trade about 3% of the market volume. Therefore, this heist may not have anywhere as large of an impact on the market this time around.

Wong also said people shouldn’t panic yet, until we know more about this. As most cryptocurrencies, including NEM, are relatively trackable through the blockchain ledger, those who stole the NEM funds may have to either never use the coins again if they don’t want to risk getting caught or go through extreme lengths to hide how their money is moving.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.