Bitcoin value dips in wake of South Korean exchange hack

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The crash widens bitcoin's year-to-date losses to as much as 50%, wiping about $120 billion off its market value this year.

A South Korean cryptocurrency exchange says hackers have stolen about one-third of the coins traded on its market.

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The news sent cryptocurrencies tumbling, with bitcoin losing about 13 per cent, ethereum down 12 per cent and ripple nearly 20 per cent lower as traders fret over the safety of their investments. It did not quantify the value, but local news outlet Yonhap News estimated that about 40 billion won (£27.8m) worth of virtual coins was stolen.

On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp, bitcoin BTC=BTSP was last trading at $6,790.88, down a sharp 10.8 percent from Friday, having fallen roughly 65 percent from its all-time peak hit around mid-December 2017. Another Korean cryptocurrency exchange Youbit lost bitcoins worth around 20 billion won a year ago to cyberthieves twice, once in April and again in December.

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Without disclosing the exact amounts stolen, Coinrail revealed some of the stolen ERC-20 tokens, namely NPXS tokens from Pundi X, a payment project; ATC from Aston X, a decentralized document project and; NPER tokens from the namesake decentralized IP project. "It is a minor player in the market and I can see how such small exchanges with lower standards on security level can be exposed to more risks", Kim Jin-Hwa, a representative at Korea Blockchain Industry Association.

Coinrail said it was co-operating with police and suspended trading. South Korea has been the third largest market for Bitcoin trading in the world after Japan and the U.S. and has also suffered several major exchange hacks resulting in both fear driven activity on the trading side and calls for more stringent regulation from the government. The rest of the coins were then moved to a safe "cold valet", which is disconnected from the internet. It wasn't immediately clear whether the lost coins were stored in the more insecure 'hot wallet'.

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