WASHINGTON, December 13, 2017: Financial experts are warning that North Korean hackers have been attempting to target Bitcoin exchanges because of the increasing worldwidedemand for the digital currency. In 2016, digital security company FireEye noted that North Korea has already begun targeting banks and financial systems.
Bitcoin value has skyrocketed throughout the year. Recently, the digital currency surpassed $17,000 in value per Bitcoin. At the beginning of the year it was worth less than $1,000. The increasing price is drawing investors to the new currency, but is now beginning to attract deep-pocketed investors.
Some investors have made a lot of money on the cryptocurrency’s rise, and hyperventilating headlines have brought more of them into the cryptocurrency world. North Korea used to focus their cyber espionage on traditional state activities and banking. Now they seem to be turning at least some of their attention to Bitcoin. That cryptocurrency is non-refundable, making it a potentially lucrative target for North Korean hackers, assuming they can cash out before people know that a theft has taken place.
Digital security experts believe North Korean hacker attacks will continue because of Bitcoin’s perceived value to the currency-starved regime. A steady stream of about 3,600 new Bitcoins are created a day, with about 16.5 million now in circulation from a maximum limit of 21 million.
As already noted, the respected American cybersecurity company FireEye discovered three attacks against South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges last summer, which, in turn, they traced to North Korean hackers. South Korea’s main cryptocurrency exchange, Bithumb, was hacked in late June, while that country’s main Ethereum exchange was also breached, losing more than an estimated $1 million earlier this month.
North Korea has faced tougher international economic sanctions since it conducted its sixth nuclear test in September. After that test, an alarmed U.N. Security Council, in an unusual unanimous vote, approved additional stringent sanctions against North Korea.
North Korea’s continuing attempts to hack and attack Bitcoin exchanges are not particularly surprising, given that the country’s economy is being crippled by ever-tightening economic sanctions. North Korea’s state sponsored hacking is likely viewed by its totalitarian dictator as a way to evade those sanctions and obtain currencies to fund the regime’s increasingly reckless nuclear ambitions.
North Korean hackers or North Korean-paid foreign hackers deemed responsible for some of these attacks have been identified belonging to various groups including Lazarus, Andariel and Bluenoroff. All have been known to be associated with North Korea. At the current time, it remains difficult to ascertain what the next move in this dangerous game of digital chess might be.