TOKYO – The cryptocurrency NEM coins amounting to 58 billion yen ($550 million) stolen from Tokyo-based exchange operator Coincheck, Inc. appears to have already been converted into other virtual currencies.
Cybersecurity expert Takayuki Sugiura of L Plus disclosed that as of Thursday evening, accounts set up by the hackers through the anonymous “dark web” showed zero balance for cryptocurrency NEM. Sugiura further exposed that after the January 26 heist, some stolen NEM coins were transferred to other virtual wallets from which the hackers began trading.
The NEM Foundation has been tracking the transactions in an effort to recover the coins, but it suddenly ended the investigation. The reason was not revealed. As of last week, half of the stolen NEM coins were already converted following the announcement of the said foundation. On Tuesday, about 11 billion yen of the NEM was swapped. It is believed that the stolen NEM may have been split between an undisclosed number of virtual wallets to make the recovery impossible.
A source related to the investigation held said that the thieves may have sought to change the virtual currencies for cash through foreign exchanges that do not apply strict implementation of personal identification of accounts. Tokyo investigators found suspicious transactions in Coincheck’s systems from servers coming from Europe and the U.S., which have already been in effect hours before the heist. It is still uncertain how they were able to get the digital “key” nor where the attack was even launched.
Investigators are still on the lookout for information from those who supposedly traded the stolen NEM coins. Transactions covering the swapped cryptocurrencies are still being monitored. The Coincheck attack has apparently shaken the cryptocurrency security in Japan and has marked an unpromising future for cryptocurrency exchange operators.
In 2017, 149 coin thefts totaling to about 662.4 million yen were reported by the National Police Agency. Virtual wallet providers and exchange operators have confirmed the thefts, which were mostly performed through the transfer of funds out of virtual wallets. Police are exploring the option of treating the reported cases as violations of the cybercrime laws.
The rate of recurrence of the cryptocurrency thefts in Japan is rapidly increasing due to lax security and verification process. The cryptocurrency NEM may not be the only virtual currency targeted.