As cryptocurrencies gained worldwide recognition over the last couple of years, it also attracted the attention of criminals – hackers and thieves, to be specific. Today, Chinese police in Beijing arrested three suspects who allegedly stole 600 million yuan ($87 million) worth of cryptocurrencies via hacking, according to reports by state media.
Investigations were launched by local police when rumors got out about cybercriminals targeting holders of various major digital currencies. Five months ago, police from the Xi’an province were alerted of a suspected theft when a victim named Zhang reported that hackers managed to gain unauthorized access to his computer. According to the Shaanxi Daily, the hackers eventually got away with over 100 million yuan ($15 million) worth of cryptocurrencies.
Further insights about this discovery were provided by Xinhua, a state-owned news agency. According to their report, the $15 milion theft consisted of the top two cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin and Ethereum. Shaanxi Daily also revealed that in the midst of transporting their stolen goods, the cyber thieves left a trail, which eventually led to a suspect, Zhou, in the Hunan province.
As a result, Zhou’s capture led to his two other accomplices, which helped the police unveil this $600 million scheme. Authorities were led to believe that these 3 hackers have been stealing money from various individuals and businesses by hacking into their computers. Nonetheless, local police from the Hebei, Xi’an, and Hunan provinces are still in the midst of a series of investigations about this case.
The Prevalence of Theft in the Crypto World
This incident is one of the many cases of theft that have happened in the cryptocurrency and blockchain world. Back in March, the shortage of mining equipment prompted a group of thieves in Iceland to go to extreme ends in order to obtain the required elements for their mining activities. This organized theft occurred over a two-month time span, and the combined value of all the stolen devices is allegedly worth over $2 million, according to an industry estimate.
Coincidentally enough, two months later, Icelandic police discovered evidence suggesting that the stolen equipment might be in China. According to a report by RUV, Icelandic police have launched an inquiry after receiving reports that the Chinese authorities recently confiscated 600 cryptocurrency mining computers. This incident happened in North China’s Tianjin Municipality where police raided the alleged thieves’ base and took the stolen goods after the local power grid reported abnormal electricity consumption.
Based on Chinese news network XinHuaNet, local police in Tianjin suspect that this was probably “the largest power theft case in recent years”. Further investigation shows that the junction box of the thieves’ electricity meter had been short-circuited – a common way to avoid paying for any electric bills that might arise.
In fact, this is not just any electric bill – the monstrous monthly electric bill for the running of 600 supercomputers is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hackers Pose as a Threat to Major Exchanges
The dangers of an organized group of highly-skilled hackers knows no bounds. Back in January, one of Japan’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, Coincheck, suffered what is said to be the biggest cryptocurrency heist in history. In a late-night press conference, the Tokyo-based exchange announced that about 400 million NEM tokens were lost after the hackers sent them “illicitly” out of Coincheck’s digital wallets.
Coincheck’s president Wakata Koichi Yoshihiro and chief operating officer Yusuke Otsuka estimate their losses to be around 58 billion yen (approx. $533 million). In comparison, Mt. Gox lost $340 million when they were attacked four years ago and were forced to shut down all operations because of the hack.
Just two months ago, Bithumb, the world’s sixth-largest cryptocurrency exchange, suffered a devastating hack, with the perpetrators stealing over $30 million worth of cryptocurrencies. As a result, the Seoul-based exchange had to freeze all transactions on its platform – deposits and withdrawals included – and began transferring funds to cold wallets to prevent further losses. Earlier that month, another South Korean exchange, CoinRail, was hacked for around $50 million.
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