North Korean Hackers Responsible for Stealing Millions of Dollars in Cryptocurrencies

North Korean Hackers Responsible for Stealing Millions of Dollars in Cryptocurrencies

In a report that was recently published by the Japanese news outlet Nikkei Asian Review, North Korea has been introduced as responsible for many cyber-attacks to cryptocurrency exchanges all across the world. This report was prepared by the United Nations Security Council Expert Panel. As it is claimed in this report, this East Asian country has succeeded in stealing about $670 million in cryptocurrencies in a three-year period from 2015 to 2018. Based on the statistics of this report, cryptocurrency exchanges were the main target of these cyber-attacks. Such that in the period from January 2017 to September 2018 this country was able to steal about $570 million in foreign currencies by attacking five Asian cryptocurrency exchanges. These cyber-attacks were carried out by organizations belonging to the armed forces of North Korea and seemed to be part of this country’s policy.

For years North Korea has been met with sanctions from world large powers under different pretexts such as missile and nuclear activities, money laundering, and cyber-attacks. These sanctions have made this country be faced with economic challenges. Even the export of coal, which is the main source of income for this country, has met some challenges as a result of these sanctions and has led to a decrease in the income of this country. It seems that the main reason for these cyber-attacks is gathering money and using that money to circumvent economic sanctions. According to experts, cryptocurrency has made tracing financial transactions hard and from the other hand does not belong to any country. Moreover, thus it is a good tool for this country to circumvent sanctions.

This is not the first time that North Korea has been introduced as responsible for cyber-attacks. In the cyber-attack to the electronic business website Interpark in South Korea, the personal information of 10 million of its users were stolen. Hackers asked for a ransom of $2.7 million not to leak that information. South Korea announced that North Korea is responsible for this cyber-attack. Moreover, in February 2018 the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) claimed in a report that North Korean hackers had stolen millions of dollars from this country’s cryptocurrency exchanges.

According to the report by the United Nations Security Council Expert Panel, in addition to stealing cryptocurrencies, North Korea has used Blockchain technology to circumvent sanctions in a number of ways. For instance, the Hong Kong startup Marine Chain which used to operate in selling and buying ship based on the Blockchain technology has been introduced as one of the suspects in transferring cryptocurrencies to North Korea. This company was closed down in September 2018.

Finally, this report has suggested to the United Nations Security Council members to share the information of cyber-attacks carried out by North Korea to help the analysis of these attacks so that they can deal with these attacks better in the future.