Japan Sees Rising Crypto Theft, $540 Million Stolen in First Six Months of 2018



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Japan, often fondly referred to as the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ has this year increasingly become the ‘Land of rising crypto theft,’ with a new report suggesting that the yen equivalent of $540 million has been stolen during the first six months of the year.

$540 Million in Crypto Theft in 2018, Says Japan’s National Police Agency

According to a new report from Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun on cryptocurrency-related theft in the country, cybercriminals targeting cryptocurrency exchanges and investors have stolen 60.503 billion yen (approximately $540 million) equivalent in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, NEM, and more, during the first six months of 2018.

The data comes from Japan’s National Police Agency, adding that 158 separate incidents were reported – a figure that’s increased three-fold from the same period during the previous year. Both the number of incidents and total value of stolen cryptocurrency eclipse the entirety of 2017’s data. Last year saw only 149 cases and 662.4 million yen (about $6 million) stolen from exchanges and investors.

Hackers stole about 2.5 billion yen (roughly $22 million) directly from cryptocurrency investors, due to lax user account security measures. The majority of the stolen funds can be attributed to the infamous Coincheck hack back in January, which resulted in the largest ever-recorded cryptocurrency theft. In this case, hackers were able to make off with 58.062 billion yen (approximately $516 million) equivalent in NEM and other cryptocurrency tokens.

Japan’s Financial Services Agency is Working Toward a Safer Environment for Investors

It’s worth noting that of the 158 cases reported during the first half of 2018, 120 of them were reported during the first quarter alone, suggesting that the steps taken by Japan’s chief financial regulator overseeing the cryptocurrency market, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), are having a positive effect.

After Coincheck was hacked, the FSA put every cryptocurrency exchange in Japan under increased scrutiny. Since then, the FSA has implemented new security standards, issued warnings to a number of exchanges, and taken a number of other steps to create a safer environment for cryptocurrency investors. The FSA also issues licenses to select cryptocurrency exchanges, certifying that certain safety protocols and operational guidelines are met.

The FSA, however, still has a lot of work ahead of it. Because the data provided by the National Police Agency only covers the first half of 2018, it doesn’t include yesterday’s hack of the Tech Bureau-owned Zaif cryptocurrency exchange. The licensed exchange was hacked for 6.7 billion yen (roughly $60 million) equivalent of cryptocurrencies, including nearly 6,000 Bitcoins.

The majority of thefts are associated with cryptocurrency exchanges, so investors should heed the advice that one should never keep their assets on an exchange. Other steps investors can take to secure their assets is to ensure passwords to exchanges are difficult to crack and unique, and to enable two-factor authentication (2FA) using Google Authenticator. However, even 2FA through text messages has been proven to leave room for hackers to steal cryptocurrency.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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