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North Korean hackers target bitcoin exchanges to fund gov't

14 Setiembre 2017

South Korean Bitcoin exchanges have become the target of Spearphishing attacks.

New sanctions following North Korea's most recent nuclear test will hamper its ability to legitimately import gas and oil from China, but the nation retains an ability - and an increasing interest - in generating enormous revenues through cybercrime.

[S] tate-sponsored actors seeking to steal bitcoin and other virtual currencies as a means of evading sanctions and obtaining hard currencies to fund the regime.

In these attacks, hackers used spear-phishing attacks to target the personal email accounts of employees at digital currency exchanges using lures related to taxes or by deploying malicious malware such as PEACHPIT and other variants. With North Korea's tight control of it's military and intelligence capabilities It is likely that this activity was carried out to fund the state or personal coffers of Pyongyang's elite, as worldwide sanctions have constricted the Hermit Kingdom. United States intelligence officials, after evaluating the software, techniques, and network sources used in the hack, alleged that the attack was sponsored by North Korea.

Based on a announcement and report wrote down by FireEye, a cybersecurity firm - North Korean cyber criminals supported by Kim Jon Un's GOV are aiming South Korean exchanges to steal bitcoin and other altcoins. After acquiring bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, North Korea could then launder them on exchanges and get hard cash in return, as its main avenues for making money get cut off one by one.

It's entirely possible that North Korea is turning to bitcoin by stealing them from exchanges to then launder it into hard cash amid increasing scrutiny and sanctions from the worldwide community.

North Korea's Office 39 is involved in activities such as gold smuggling, counterfeiting foreign currency, and even operating restaurants.

Researchers point to multiple attacks, including one incident in April where South Korean bitcoin exchange Yapizon lost over $5 million in user funds and bitcoin due to a wallet compromise.

But there was another factor: "You also have cryptocurrencies appreciating significantly since the beginning of the year". In July, news outlets revealed that "billions" of Korean won had been stolen from Bithumb, one of South Korea's largest exchanges.

"Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have increased in value in the previous year, nation states are beginning to take notice", FireEye said."Consequently, it should be no surprise that cryptocurrencies, as an emerging asset class, are becoming a target of interest by a regime that operates in many ways like a criminal enterprise". Cyber criminals may no longer be the only nefarious actors in this space.

North Korean hackers target bitcoin exchanges to fund gov't