Cybercriminals Attempted 159,000 Attacks on Upbit Crypto Exchange in First Half of 2023: Report

In the first half of 2023, South Korea’s major cryptocurrency exchange, Upbit, faced an alarming surge in cyberattacks, with hackers attempting to breach its security systems over 159,000 times. This concerning revelation came to light through a report submitted by Upbit’s operating company, Dunamu, to South Korean Representative Park Seong-jung of the People Power Party, as reported by Yonhap News Agency on October 9.

This staggering figure represents a significant uptick, showcasing a 117% increase from the same period in 2022 and a staggering 1800% rise from the first half of 2020. Upbit, a prominent player in the South Korean crypto market, boasts a robust 24-hour trading volume of approximately $1.2 billion, making it a prime target for cybercriminals. Alongside Upbit, other major exchanges in South Korea, including Bithumb, Coinone, and Gopax, are also under constant threat from malicious hackers.

To combat the escalating attempts to breach their security, Dunamu disclosed that Upbit has bolstered its defenses. Notably, the exchange has increased the proportion of funds stored in cold wallets to 70%, enhancing security measures. Cold wallets, which store private keys on external hard drives and USBs, are considered more secure compared to hot wallets, where private keys are stored online. The move aims to fortify Upbit’s resilience against hacking attempts, given that hot wallets are often the preferred target for cybercriminals due to their vulnerability.

Despite Upbit’s resilience in recent years, with no security breaches reported since the $50 million exploit in 2019, the exchange faced a challenge in late September. Upbit had to suspend Aptos token services after failing to identify a fraudulent token, “ClaimAPTGift.com,” which affected 400,000 Aptos wallets.

Acknowledging the increasing frequency of cryptocurrency-related hacks, Representative Park Seong-jung urged the South Korean government, specifically the Ministry of Science and Technology, to take proactive measures. Seong-jung emphasized the necessity for large-scale security tests and investigations to assess the information security conditions of virtual asset exchanges, given the persistent threat of cyber attacks. He pointed out the ambiguity in the Ministry of Science and ICT’s role in managing and supervising these exchanges, underscoring the need for clear regulatory oversight.

The cryptocurrency landscape witnessed a series of attacks in September, highlighting the vulnerability of exchanges globally. CoinEx, a Hong Kong-based exchange, fell victim to a $70 million hack when one of its private keys was compromised. In response, the company assured affected users of compensation for any losses incurred. Additionally, Huobi Global’s HTX exchange lost $7.9 million in a separate exploit on September 24, further underscoring the urgency for enhanced security measures within the crypto industry.

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