After losing control of its dedicated servers, Livecoin, the Russian exchange for cryptocurrency, has been successfully hacked by a gang of cybercriminals.

Once they had gained access to the Livecoin online portal, the band of hackers tampered with system settings and changed exchange rates of a variety of cryptocurrencies, effectively increasing them by 10 to 15 times more than their usual values.

A rapid and ruthless attack

On Christmas Eve, the Russian-based cryptocurrency exchange made a public statement on its official website. The posted message detailed that Livecoin had temporarily lost its control of all its online servers and had been hit by hackers. It also added a warning to all Livecoin customers to stop using the exchange’s services immediately and make no further deposits or transactions.

Posts made on social media indicate that the swift and malicious attack appears to have taken place at some time in the night between December 23 and Christmas Eve. The band of hackers hit Livecoin and assumed control of the cryptocurrency exchange’s infrastructure before modifying the normal exchange rates to entirely unrealistic and disproportionate vales.

Before administrators at Livecoin were able to take control once again of the exchange’s dedicated systems on Christmas Eve, the Bitcoin exchange rate had increased astronomically from the normal $23,000/BTC to over $450,000/BTC. On top of this, Ethereum spiked from $600/ETH to around $15,000/ETH, and Ripple price also showed a hike from $0.27/XRP to over $17/XRP.

After exchange rates had been successfully edited, the malicious attackers then started cashing out multiple accounts and generating humungous profits for themselves.

Regaining control after a cyberattack

In its recent website announcement, Livecoin’s administrators commented on the Christmas Eve raid.

“It was a carefully planned attack, which has been prepared, as we assume, over the last few months. We lost control of all of our servers, backend, and nodes. Thus, we were not able to stop our service in time. Our news channels were compromised as well, At the moment, we partially control frontend, and so we’re able to place this announcement.”

While the exchange’s main web-based portal was rendered inactive by the incident, Livecoin is encouraging all its users to now stop making any deposits or conducting transactions via other assorted interfaces such as the site’s own API or convenient mobile applications.

According to statistics from CoinMarketCap, the Russian company is now ranked as the 173rd biggest internet exchange for cryptocurrency and is currently handling around $16m (£11.7m) worth of transactions on a daily basis. The hacked site has been operating successfully for some time and was first established back in March 2014. Livecoin has stated that it has officially notified law enforcement agencies of the incident.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ripple and Ethereum are popular with cybercriminals, particularly ransomware operators who often request their payments in this format. Next to impossible for law enforcement agencies to track and trace, such transactions are also exceptionally difficult to reclaim after they have been transferred, giving them vast potential for deceptive use.