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Coincheck Hackers Have Already Laundered 40% of 500 Million Stolen NEM

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:05 PM
Josiah Wilmoth
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:05 PM

The hackers behind the record-setting Coincheck theft have successfully laundered 40 percent of the approximately 500 million NEM tokens (XEM) they stole from the exchange in January, cybersecurity consultants say.

Citing research from Tokyo-based consultancy group L Plus, Nikkei  reports that the hackers have laundered an estimated 200 million XEM, worth $79.3 million on the open market at the time of writing.

However, it is likely the hackers made far less than that figure, as evidence indicates the funds were likely laundered through dark web channels since the NEM Foundation and reputable cryptocurrency exchanges have been working together to blacklist the stolen funds.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has reportedly assigned about 100 police officers to investigate the Coincheck hack, and this task force has identified suspicious activity at the exchange in the weeks leading up to the theft.

Apparently, the hackers infiltrated Coincheck’s servers by hacking an employee’s email account, after which they were able to gain access to the private key to the platform’s NEM hot wallet, from which they stole 500 million XEM — worth $530 million at the time of the hack but just $198 million today.

An unnamed source familiar with the investigation told Nikkei that the laundered funds, which have largely been traded for Bitcoin, will likely eventually be converted into fiat currency. It is unclear whether any of stolen funds have already been cashed out.

The identity of the hackers also remains a mystery, although previous reports  have said that the attack bore similarities to cyber attacks that have been linked to North Korean state-sponsored hackers.

Japanese financial regulators have ramped up their oversight of cryptocurrency exchanges in response to the hack, and the country’s licensed trading platforms have announced that they will form a self-regulatory body that, if approved by the government, will have enforcement power over its members.

As CCN.com reported, Coincheck intends to resume trading this week following a government-mandated overhaul of its security systems.

The exchange will also begin compensating the estimated 260,000 customers who lost funds as the result of the hack. Notably, users will be compensated in fiat at a rate of nearly 89 JPY (~$0.83) per token, which is more than double the present XEM/JPY exchange rate.

Featured image from Shutterstock.