North Korea Hacked 11.000 Bitcoins to Fund Nuclear Program

North Korea Hacked 11.000 Bitcoins to Fund Nuclear Program

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The Telegraph states that Priscilla Moriuchi, a former US National Security Agency officer revealed that North Korea may have raked in more than $200 million in digital cryptocurrency transactions last year, diluting the impact of stiff international sanctions over its nuclear and missiles programme. Ms. Moriuchi, now director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future, told Vox.com, said:
“I would bet that these coins are being turned into something – currency or physical goods – that are supporting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme.”
North Korea has been trying to benefit from the opportunities cryptocurrencies offer, in terms of freedom and anonymity of transactions. The international financial system is largely unavailable to Pyongyang, as its access is severely limited. Multilateral sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs have been imposed. North Korean interest in cryptos has been confirmed by reports indicating that Pyongyang University is offering courses on cryptocurrencies. The Alma Mater is considered to be the breeding ground for North Korean hackers. A security firm known as FireEye explained that it has found evidence that North Korea hacked several cryptocurrency exchanges. The report elaborated by this firm reads as follows:
“While Bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchanges ay seem like odd targets for nation-state actors interested in funding state coffers, some of the other illicit endeavours North Korea pursues further demonstrate an interest in conducting financial crime on the regime’s behalf. North Korea’s office 39 is involved in activities such as gold smuggling, counterfeiting foreign currency, and even operating restaurants.”
Pyongyang consistently denies all hacking allegations. However, cybersecurity experts and defectors have claimed that promising students are handpicked from prestigious universities to join Bureau 121, the hermit kingdom’s shadowy cyberwarfare agency. In November, it was reported that the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology was teaching a specialised cryptocurrency course. A report by Recorded Future claimed that North Korean government actors, including the Lazarus Group, continued to target South Korean exchanges and their users in late 2017. South Korean intelligence has informed lawmakers during a parliamentary hearing in Seoul that the North has never stopped trying to hack crypto exchanges in the country. The assessment came in a period of relative warming of relations on the Korean peninsula, which recently hosted the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Ms. Moriuchi said the international community should increase regulations on cryptocurrency exchanges.
“That helps create a paper trail we can use to identify North Korean accounts and how North Korea is moving these currencies,” she said.

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