North Korea might turn to bitcoin as a way to get past sanctions imposed on the country by the U.S. government.
The Trump administration imposed new economic sanctions last month on North Korea’s shipping, created to hurt Kim Jong-un's ability to buy and sell commodities — as well as cut off all revenue streams — so the country is unable to fund its nuclear weapons program.
But according to News BTC, North Korea’s leader is considering using bitcoin to bypass these sanctions. And it’s assumed that North Korea will accumulate more bitcoin in its usual way — by hacking South Korean exchanges through spear-phishing attacks or email files laced with malware.
Late last year it was revealed that North Korean hackers were responsible for numerous attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges that resulted in the theft of $6.99 million worth of tokens in 2017. In addition, the U.S. government publicly acknowledged that North Korea was behind the WannaCry computer virus, which affected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries.
“We do not make this allegation lightly. It is based on evidence,” wrote Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. “We are not alone with our findings, either. Other governments and private companies agree. The United Kingdom attributes the attack to North Korea, and Microsoft traced the attack to cyber affiliates of the North Korean government.”
Reports revealed that North Korean hackers also breached an English-language bitcoin news website and funneled bitcoin ransom payments from WannaCry victims.
“We definitely see sanctions being a big lever driving this sort of activity,” said FireEye’s Senior Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst Luke McNamara. “They probably see it as a very low-cost solution to bring in hard cash.”