Japan has decided to set up a new agency to better address cybercrime. The Tokyo-based center gathers 500 analysts and investigators who will also combat cryptocurrency theft. Over 3 million attempts to steal digital information have been registered last year. Hackers have stolen funds worth over 17 billion Japanese yen.
$6.3 Million Worth of Cryptocurrency Stolen Before Coincheck
The new law enforcement unit is expected to streamline efforts to combat cybercrime. The center will operate from Tokyo. Over 500 analysts and investigators from different branches of Japanese police and other security services will work at the new agency, Kyodo reported. Authorities hope to address the internet security issues in a more efficient way.
Last year alone, hackers stole ￥17 billion JPY ($166 million USD). That includes ￥662 million ($6.3 million) worth of cryptocurrency. The amount does not cover the funds lost by Coincheck this year. In January hackers took ￥58 billion worth of NEM (~$550 million USD) from the Japanese crypto exchange. Police are still investigating the theft. The hack was probably carried out with a virus emailed to the Coincheck’s employees.
Cybersecurity experts have voiced concerns that half of the NEM coins, which disappeared in the heist, have been laundered already on the darknet. It’s believed that the attackers have converted them to other cryptocurrencies or even fiat money. A couple of weeks ago the NEM Foundation announced it would no longer track the stolen cryptos. The Singapore-based organization also said it had provided “actionable information” to law enforcement agencies investigating the hacker attack.
Crime in the cyberspace has become a real issue in Japan. More than 3 million attempts to steal computer stored data have been registered in 2017. These include cases of attacks on both credit cards and cryptocurrency wallets. Hackers have misappropriated twice as much as in 2016.
Attention Turning to Crypto Users
In March, Japan’s National Police Agency said it was aware of 149 crypto-related attacks that took place last year. In most cases hackers accessed unprotected crypto wallets storing both public and private keys. Funds in ripple (￥453.5 million), bitcoin (￥194.4 million), etherium (￥5.3 million), and NEM (￥9.2 million) have been illegally transferred to other accounts.
The number of attacks peaked in June, with 41 cases. It stayed below 20 per month for the following five months before going up again in December, when 25 cases were recorded. No suspects have been identified in any of these investigations.
A total of 16 Japanese exchanges have been targeted, according to the Japan Times. Authorities have blamed lax security in more than 80% of the breaches, despite recommendations by exchanges for implementing measures like multifactor authentication.
Although many hackers may have shifted their attention to cryptocurrency users, the number of illicit online transfers of yen and other fiat currencies remains high. 425 such cases have been reported last year in Japan.