Japan punishes hacked cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck

Above, Coincheck's signboard in front of a Tokyo building where their office is located. The cryptocurrency exchange lost ¥58 billion (SR1.98 billion) worth of NEM coins to hackers. (Reuters)
Updated 29 January 2018
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Japan punishes hacked cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck

TOKYO: Japan’s financial regulator on Monday ordered Coincheck to get its act together after hackers stole $530 million (SR1.98 billion) worth of digital money from its exchange, jolting the nation’s cryptocurrency market in one of the biggest cyber heists.
The theft highlights the vulnerabilities in trading an asset that global policymakers are struggling to regulate and the broader risks for Japan as it aims to leverage the fintech industry to stimulate economic growth.
The Financial Services Agency (FSA) said on Monday it has ordered improvements to operations at Tokyo-based Coincheck, which on Friday suspended trading in all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin after hackers stole ¥58 billion of NEM coins, among the most popular digital currencies in the world.
Coincheck said on Sunday it would return about 90 percent with internal funds, though it has yet to figure out how or when.
The FSA is due to brief media on the matter at 2pm local time.
Japan started to require cryptocurrency exchange operators to register with the government only in April 2017, allowing pre-existing operators such as Coincheck to continue offering services ahead of formal registration.
The FSA has registered 16 cryptocurrency exchanges so far, and another 16 or so are still awaiting approval while continuing to operate.
Coincheck has said its NEM coins were stored in a “hot wallet” instead of the more secure “cold wallet,” outside the Internet.
NEM fell to $0.78 from $1.01 on Friday, before recovering to around $0.97 on Monday, according to CoinMarketCap.
Singapore-based NEM Foundation said it had a tracing system on the NEM blockchain and that it had “a full account” of all of Coincheck’s lost NEM coins.
It added that the hacker had not moved any of the funds to any exchange or personal accounts but that it had no way to independently return the stolen funds to its owners.
In 2014, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, which once handled 80 percent of the world’s bitcoin trades, filed for bankruptcy after losing around half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins. More recently, South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Youbit last month shut down and filed for bankruptcy after being hacked twice last year.
World leaders meeting in Davos last week issued fresh warnings about the dangers of cryptocurrencies, with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin relating Washington’s concern about the money being used for illicit activity.
Many countries have clamped down on exchanges.
South Korea will ban crytocurrency traders from using anonymous bank accounts to crack down on the criminal use of virtual coins. China has ordered some exchanges to close, with the aim of containing financial risks.
But Japan has taken a different tack, becoming last year the first country to introduce national-level regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges.
The move, intended to protect consumers and stymie money laundering, was praised by many traders and operators as progressive.


Pakistani central bank lifts interest rate as inflation bites

Updated 20 May 2019
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Pakistani central bank lifts interest rate as inflation bites

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s central bank raised its key interest rate to 12.25% on Monday, warning that already soaring inflation risked further rises on the back of higher oil prices and reforms required for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
The 150 basis points increase follows a preliminary agreement last week with the IMF for a $6 billion loan that is expected to come with tough conditions, including raising more tax revenues and putting up gas and power prices. It was the eighth time the central bank has increased its main policy rate since the start of last year.
With economic growth set to slow to 2.9% this year from 5.2% last year, according to IMF forecasts, the rate rise adds to pressure on Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to power last year facing a balance of payments crisis that has now forced his government to turn to the IMF.
Higher prices for basic essentials including food and energy has already stirred public anger but the central bank suggested there was little prospect of any immediate improvement.
Noting average headline inflation rose to 7% in the July-April period from 3.8 percent a year earlier, the central bank said recent rises in domestic oil prices and the cost of food suggested that “inflationary pressures are likely to continue for some time.”

 

It said it expected headline inflation to average between 6.5% and 7.5% for the financial year to the end of June and was expected to be “considerably higher” in the coming year. Expected tax measures in next month’s budget as well as higher gas and power prices and volatility in international oil prices could push inflation up further, it said.
It said the fiscal deficit, which the IMF expects to reach 7.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, was likely to have been “considerably higher” during the July-March period than in the same period a year earlier due to shortfalls in revenue collection, higher interest payments and security costs.
Despite some improvements, financing the current account deficit remained “challenging” and foreign exchange reserves of $8.8 billion were below standard adequacy levels at less than the equivalent of three months of imports.
The central bank said it was watching foreign exchange markets closely and was prepared to take action to curb “unwarranted” volatility, after the sharp fall in the rupee over recent days that saw the currency touch a record low of 150 against the US dollar.
Details of what Pakistan will be required to do under the IMF agreement, which must still be approved by the Fund’s board, have not been announced but already opposition parties are planning protests.
As well as higher energy prices that will hit households hard, there are also expectations of new taxes and spending cuts in next month’s budget to reach a primary budget deficit — excluding interest payments — of 0.6% of GDP.
With the IMF forecasting a primary deficit of 2.2% for the coming financial year, that implies squeezing roughly $5 billion in extra revenues from Pakistan’s $315 billion economy, which has long suffered from problems raising tax revenue.

FACTOID

Pakistan’s economic growth is set to slow to 2.9% this year.