According to a huge police investigation, it was recently found that hackers have stolen more than $530 million of the cryptocurrency NEM from a Tokyo exchange known as Coincheck—potentially the biggest heist of all time. Now, it is believed that the hackers are using the darkest corners of the web to launder their ill-gotten gains at a 15% discount.
North Korea’s involvement
According to intelligence experts in South Korea, there is a strong possibility that the hackers are from North Korea. The country is well known to use computer hacking to affect networks across the globe. Most recently, North Korean hackers were linked to the ransomware “WannaCry.” It is believed that North Korean cyber teams do this to make more money for Kim Jong-un’s regime, attacking banks, casinos, and now, evidently, cryptocurrency exchanges.
The dark web is a hacker’s best friend
Using the dark web means they can remain anonymous, and continuously launder their cryptocurrency without detection. People close to the case say that the hackers are now sending messages to buyers who might be interested in their NEM, offering them a 15% discount. For now, the hackers are looking to get paid in bitcoin, which they’ll ultimately sell for cash.
At this point, it is not known which of the many dark websites the hackers are using. Generally, these markets are similar to sites like eBay, with a number of “shops” where potential buyers can look at the goods available before contacting the seller to make an offer.
When dealing with transactions on the dark web, bitcoin is the most popular currency. In fact, it’s often linked to transactions for drugs, stolen accounts, weapons, and various tools for hacking.
Coincheck has promised that customers who lost their NEM coins would be reimbursed. The company has also begun adding security measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The heist is currently still being investigated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
The obvious trend we are seeing today with cryptocurrency and the coin exchanges is a repeat of what happened to banks and retailers back in the early days of e-commerce, when information security was lacking and vulnerabilities were exposed.
If the cryptocurrency exchanges do not tighten up security, as banks and retailers were eventually forced to do by regulators, the exchanges themselves may fail—and worse, investors may lose faith in cryptocurrency altogether, leaving a lot of people who recently bet big with considerably lighter retirement funds.