International

North Korea Making Money Hacking Cryptocurrency Exchanges

North Korean hackers have made millions of dollars in cryptocurrency in recent weeks after a series of successful cyberattacks.

According to news from Reuters, more attacks from North Korean hackers are expected as international sanctions force the country to find new ways to shore up cash. North Korea’s government has already been blamed for the WannaCry virus that impacted hundreds of thousands of computers this past spring, spanning 150 countries.

Analysts told Reuters that the skyrocketing value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is an enticing target for hackers in North Korea. After all, bitcoin started the year trading around $1,000 and was above $19,000 at one point on Tuesday (Dec. 19).

South Korean researchers told Reuters that attacks on Bithumb, Coinis and Youbit were likely the work of North Korean hackers. North Korea has long dismissed accusations that it is behind the attacks. A spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said earlier this week that the government was looking at “countermeasures” that may include additional sanctions because of the cyberattacks.

On Monday, Reuters reported that South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said North Korean hackers were responsible for numerous attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges that resulted in the theft of $6.99 million worth of tokens this year. North Korean hackers were also to blame for leaking personal information from 36,000 accounts on Bithumb, which is the busiest cryptocurrency exchange in the world.

According to the NIS, the malware used to hack the cryptocurrency exchanges was similar to that of the Sony Pictures and Bank of Bangladesh hacks. Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA) also stopped an attack using emails that had malware embedded in them, noted Reuters, citing South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

In September, Bloomberg Technology reported news that North Korean hackers hit cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea and related sites, breached an English language bitcoin news website and funneled bitcoin ransom payments from WannaCry victims. The stolen cryptocurrencies could be used to help North Korea avoid trade restrictions, including recent sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council. U.S. officials said the new measures would cut the country’s textile exports by 90 percent, restricting its ability to get hard currency.

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