Business 15 March 2019

Steve Kaaru

18-year-old Japanese hacker prosecuted for stealing $134,000 in crypto

Prosecutors in Japan have charged an 18-year-old male with stealing 15 million yen ($134,310 USD) worth of crypto. He had reportedly hacked a digital currency storage website last year. The police withheld the his name as they considered him a minor.

He resides in Tochigi, a city located north of the capital, Tokyo. According to a report by the Japan Times, this is the first case in which prosecutors have charged a hacker over crypto theft.

The prosecutors allege that the suspect hacked Monappy between August 14 and September 1 last year. Monappy is a decentralized social media platform in which content creators earn tips in Monacoin. It also acts as a wallet for the crypto.

He used Tor software that makes it much harder to track a hacker. However, the police identified his location by analyzing the communication records left on the website’s servers.

But, it was all in good fun, he reportedly told the police as he admitted to committing the crime. “I felt like I’d found a trick no one knows and did it as if I were playing a video game,” he said.

The young hacker exploited a flaw in a feature of the website that allows a user to transfer Monacoins to other users. He knew that if he repeated the same transactions repeatedly over a short period of time, the system would malfunction; and it did.

By overwhelming the servers with the same transactions repeatedly, he was able to increase his balance rapidly.

He then transferred the cryptos to a different wallet, exchanged them for other cryptos and cashed out. He used the proceeds to buy himself some fancy accessories such as a new smartphone, the police said. 

The hack affected over 7,700 Monappy users. The platform has agreed to compensate them. The stolen crypto had been stored in a hot wallet, Monappy told the police. Those that it had stored in cold storage weren’t affected.

It’s not yet clear what will happen to him. In Japan, 18 is the legal age of adult responsibility for men, and 16 for women. 

The country has seen a series of crypto hacks in the past which has made its financial regulator more stringent. The biggest one yet is the $530 million hack of Coincheck crypto exchange. 

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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