Crime

Japan pursuing charges against teen for alleged wallet hack

March 15, 2019, 11:40AM EDT

An 18-year-old has been accused by Japanese authorities of hacking cryptocurrency wallet Monappy to steal ¥15 million ($134,300) worth of cryptocurrency last year, The Japan Times reports. The case marks the first time criminal charges have been brought against a hacker for a cryptocurrency theft in Japan.

The man, whose name is being withheld due to being a minor under Japanese law, allegedly exploited a glitch in the wallet allowing users to transfer the cryptocurrency monacoin to another user. He allegedly overwhelmed the system by initiating multiple concurrent transfers to himself, which allowed his account to reflect an artificially inflated balance.

Police quoted the alleged hacker as saying, “I felt like I’d found a trick no one knows and did it as if I were playing a video game.”

He then moved the stolen coins into an account set up by a different cryptocurrency operator, and took his payouts in a different cryptocurrency to buy items like a smartphone, police told The Times.

Although he attempted to cover his tracks using Tor, police were able to identify him by analyzing communication records left behind on Monappy’s server.

Approximately 7,700 Monappy users were affected by the alleged hack, which is said to have occurred between Aug. 14 and Sept. 1 of last year. The company has said it will be compensating the impacted users.

Monappy’s owner told The Times the pilfered coins were kept in a system using an always-on internet connection and that no offline coins were stolen.

Of course, this isn’t the first or the largest crypto-heist Japan has seen. In arguably the highest-profile cryptocurrency theft to date, ¥48 billion (~$430 million) worth of bitcoin was stolen from cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox in 2014, precipitating its eventual closure.

In June, Japan’s Financial Service Agency regulating digital currencies established six virtual currency exchange operators in an effort to improve internal controls, The Times reports.

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