UPDATED 23:38 EDT / JULY 27 2017

EMERGING TECH

Besides developing nuclear weapons, North Korea is also mining bitcoin

In news that can only be described as out of left field, the hermit kingdom of North Korea has apparently joined the digital age and has started mining bitcoin in a serious way.

The new comes via a report this week from threat intelligence company Recorded Future Inc., which found that despite most of the country being cut off from the Internet, those that Kim Jong-un deems worthy of being allowed online are using the Internet to do things like use Gmail, check Facebook and, perhaps not surprisingly, view porn.

Strangely, state-sponsored bitcoin mining operations only started on May 17. The report claims that the date may be related to the spread of the WannaCry ransomware, which some claim originated in North Korea.

“It is not clear who is running the North Korean bitcoin mining operations; however, given the relatively small number of computers in North Korea coupled with the limited IP space, it is not likely this computationally intensive activity is occurring outside of state control,” the report noted.

Bitcoin mining is the process of adding transaction records to bitcoin’s public ledger of past transactions or blockchain. The process becomes more difficult over time, requiring more and more computing power – something North Korea is not exactly well-known for having.

The country, which is subject to a wide range of economic sanctions because of its belligerent development of a nuclear program, is desperate for all the funds in can raise, making bitcoin appealing to the ruling junta. That said, laundering any bitcoin the country mines or steals is now harder than it once was following the shutdown of bitcoin exchange BTC-e earlier this week and the arrest of a man alleged to operate the site.

Photo: zennie62/Flickr

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