North Korea hacking bitcoin exchanges along with threatening nuclear war

North Korea latest act of maleficence doesn’t involve nuclear weapons but something still deeply concerning to the cyrptocurrency community: bitcoin hacking.

The rogue state is alleged by South Korea to have been intentionally targeting bitcoin exchanges, albeit rather poorly, like its missile technology. North Korea is accused of stealing more than 100 million won ($88,100) in bitcoin from 2013 to 2015 as part of its efforts to increase the country’s hard currency, according to local reports.

South Korean police claim that the attack vector consisted of spear phishing campaigns, with the North Korean hackers pretending to be security authorities and sending emails containing malware. Those emails were sent from the same IP address linked to previous known North Korean hacking attempts.

“The hackers sent 10 emails to 25 workers each at four different bitcoin exchanges, disguising themselves as officials from South Korean public institutions such as the police, prosecution, Seoul city government or Financial Security Institute,” a police spokesperson said.

A report from security firm FireEye Inc. earlier this month confirmed the reports, saying that “since May 2017, we have observed North Korean actors target at least three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges with the suspected intent of stealing funds.”

North Korea has had a seemingly ongoing interest in bitcoin as a way to bypass sanctions imposed against it. A report in July claimed that alongside developing nuclear weapons, the country was also mining bitcoin.

South Korean bitcoin exchanges have been successfully hacked in the past, with potentially millions being stolen from Bithumb in July. North Korea hasn’t been directly linked to the hack but it is possible the country played a role in it, even if it’s more likely to be an indirect role such as hiring third parties to undertake the hack on its behalf.

The hermit kingdom is also accused of attempting to hack South Korea’s central bank on “multiple occasions” this year but failed to do so.

Photo: North Korean News Agency

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