North Korean hackers have pulled off a huge Bitcoin robbery, according to reports that are emerging from South Korea.
The South Korean Bitcoin exchanging site, Youbit, was attacked on Tuesday and law enforcement authorities in Seoul have announced that the main suspects come from their near neighbours to the north.
"The people said there were telltale signs and historical evidence that North Korea was behind the Youbit attack," reported the Wall Street Journal. North Korean hackers in April targeted the same cryptocurrency exchange, operating under a different name, several of the people said. Yapian, the company that operates Youbit, suspended trading and filed for bankruptcy after Tuesday's hack."
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North Korea is known to have an established online hacking team and have turned to Bitcoin in order to circumvent their chronic lack of hard currency, a problem caused by the extensive sanctions placed on the regime by the international community. Bitcoin is seen as the ideal target for North Korean thieves as the currency's guaranteed anonymity allows them to use it widely, even with people who would not usually deal with them.
"They're building a cache of bitcoin, if you think about it. It's an anonymous currency, it can easily bypass any sort of sanctions because there are none on bitcoin, and the value has increased dramatically," said George Kurtz, CEO of cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. "It's the perfect currency for North Korea to be hoarding."
North Korea was recently named by the United States, the UK and Australia as the originator of the WannaCry ransomware hack, which affected Windows users in May 2017. The attack caused users to have their files encrypted, with a message that informed that they would have to pay $300USD in Bitcoin to the hackers.
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The attack was particularly felt in the UK, where National Health Service servers were infected and up to 70,000 devices, including operating theatre equipment and MRI scanners, were affected. Hospitals were forced to turn away patients with non-critical illnesses due to computer failures.
Bitcoin is in the midst of a huge bubble, with the value of the currency experiencing record high values. One bitcoin is currently worth $15,000 US dollars, almost 15 times what it was worth in April. The North Korean regime is thought to have reaped in $150,000 through the WannaCry hack, which would now be worth over $1 million.
Words: Mike Meehall Wood
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