S.Korean exchange Coinrail says hit by hackers, bitcoin slides

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There has been a sharp drop in the price of bitcoin and other virtual currencies after South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinrail was hacked over the weekend.

Of the holdings stolen from Coinrail, the exchange says two-thirds are covered by freezing or recalling them - and that the remaining third is being investigated by police and industry experts. Although the exact amount of damage caused by the theft is yet to be confirmed, South Korean news outlet Yonhap News has estimated it to be around 40 billion won ($37.2 million).

South Korea is one of the world's major cryptocurrency trading centers, and is home to one of the most heavily trafficked virtual coin exchanges, Bithumb.

Coinrail did not specify the value of the currency that was taken in the attack at the weekend but said it was working with authorities and other coin developers to track down the culprits.

Another popular cryptocurrency, ethereum, also fell, contributing to a loss of well over $40 billion in virtual currencies' overall value from Saturday to Monday, the Coinmarketcap.com website reports.

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In 2014, Tokyo-based Mt Gox, which once handled 80% of the world's bitcoin trades, filed for bankruptcy after losing bitcoins worth around half a billion dollars.

The Chainalysis data quantifies this distinct shift in the make-up of bitcoin owners from longer-term investors - those who held the asset for more than a year - to short-term investors who have traded more recently, by analysing how regularly coins have changed hands.

"Coinrail is not a member of the group that promotes self regulations to enhance security".

South Korea has emerged as a hotbed for trading in virtual currencies over the previous year. It wasn't immediately clear whether the lost coins were stored in the more insecure 'hot wallet'.

Cryptocurrencies have plunged since the end of 2017, when bitcoin hit a record high near US$20,000, having surged from less than US$1,000 just 11 months earlier.

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