According to the report of a cyber security firm, FireEye, North Korean state-sponsored hackers are increasing attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea to steal Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Apparently, this is an effort to dodge the tough UN sanctions over advancing nuclear program.
Cryptocurrency is an uncharted territory – a decentralized system that offers anonymity to its users. It is expected that North Korea’s hold of digital cash will increase after the stepped up international sanctions. “We definitely see sanctions being a big lever driving this sort of activity,” said Luke McNamara, author of the new report. “They probably see it as a very low-cost solution to bring in hard cash.”
See also: What are Bitcoins?
South Korea is a trading hub for cryptocurrencies and, according to FireEye, three cryptocurrency exchanges have been attacked there. Hackers have used the spear phishing techniques – a fraudulent method where attackers guise as someone you know – and also dispersed malware to obtain the virtual currency. These attacks, linked to North Korean hackers, took place between May and July. It is also suspected that the same hackers were involved in intrusion into global banks in 2016.
This activity spiked right after the US said it planned to step up sanctions against North Korea. According to Bryce Boland, a Singapore-based chief technology officer with FireEye, “Sanctions against North Korea are likely to fuel their cyber crime activity.” He also said, “Attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges can be a great vehicle to obtain what is ultimately hard currency.”
Cyber security experts have also linked North Korea to WannaCry ransomware attack. WannaCry attack the biggest cyber-attack of the world that bagged $140,000 as a ransom. However, the North Korean government has repeatedly denied involvement in international cyber-attack.
Bitcoin was valued around $1000 during the start of this year and reached above $5000 in few months. It has been a valuable asset throughout the year and states across the world have also started to take a notice of this. Recently Ukrainian government announced the plan to use the technology behind it. However, in China, it is having a tough time.