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. It said it had frozen the tokens that were stolen and halted all trading across the exchange to help with a police investigation. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that United States investigators were demanding several bitcoin exchanges hand over trading data as part of a probe into potential manipulation of futures markets.
Whether Bitcoin can come bounding back from this weekend to reach the kinds of highs in June that bulls like Tom Lee have been predicting for months is unsure but with some clarity coming out of the USA and the general push of institutional money especially flowing into the Bitcoin futures market there is every indication that recovery could be swift as the price of Bitcoin has already moved back into the green.
As well as bitcoin, prices for other commonly traded digital currencies like ethereum also plunged. That's a drop of more than 60 percent since bitcoin's all-time high of almost $20,000, which it reached last December.
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Cryptocurrencies are still popular, especially with young investors. Coinrail said 70 per cent of its digital assets have been moved to what is known as a cold wallet - storage that isn't connected to the internet - and that it is working with authorities on finding the lost assets. "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. Cryptocurrency venues have come under growing scrutiny around the world in recent months amid a range of issues including thefts, market manipulation and money laundering.
"For the rest, we are looking into it with an investigative agency, related exchanges and coin developers", the company said.