Tech

North Korea stole Bitcoin worth billions as cryptocurrency price soared last year, spy chief claims

jasper hamill

North Korea 'stole Bitcoin worth billions' as cryptocurrency price soared last year
Has the North Korean dictatator been robbing Bitcoins from the South? (Picture: Getty)

Kim Jong-un has been accused of masterminding a cryptocurrency heist which has netted North Korea millions or even billions of dollars.

South Korea claimed the North stole cryptocurrency from the South and said it was still trying to hack into its exchanges.

‘North Korea sent emails that could hack into cryptocurrency exchanges and their customers’ private information and stole (cryptocurrency) worth billions of won,’ said Kim Byung-kee, a member of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee.

Kim did not disclose which exchanges were hacked.

He added that the country’s spy agency assumed that North Korea was continuously trying to hack into exchanges to steal cryptocurrency and that it was trying its best to prevent further hacking.

This picture from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken and released on January 1, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivering a New Year's speech at an undisclosed location. Kim Jong-Un vowed North Korea would mass-produce nuclear warheads and missiles in a defiant New Year message on January 1 suggesting he would continue to accelerate a rogue weapons programme that has stoked international tensions. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / - / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
Notes from Kim Jong-underground: It’s famously difficult to work out where hackers are based and what their motivation is (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

If the allegations are true, it means the dictator who Donald Trump labelled ‘rocket man’ may have earned himself a fortune during a year in which Bitcoin soared in value from anout $900 to just under $20,000 – potentially causing Kim Jong-un’s crypto fortune to shoot up in value.

A mysterious hacking squad called the Lazarus Group was recently accused of launching attacks on crypto-businesses based in democratic South Korea.

Although it’s often hard to prove the true identity of cyber-attackers, it’s believed the Lazarus Group is a ‘threat actor’ based in North Korea.

It has been linked to the ‘WannaCry’ attacks which crippled the NHS using malware which locked down computers and demanded a ransom in Bitcoin to open them up again.

More: World

Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade and Priscilla Moriuchi, security researchers at the tech firm Insikt Group, have just published research which suggests Pyongyang launched a new hacking campaign in the autumn of last year.

They wrote: ‘The targets of this campaign appear to be users of the Coinlink cryptocurrency exchange, South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges at large… and a group called ‘Friends of MOFA’ (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), which is a group of college students from around South Korea with ‘a keen interest in foreign affairs’.

Its believed the hackers stole emails and passwords of users of Coinlink, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange, as well as the resumes of South Korean computer scientists who have worked at similar exchanges.

The researchers added: ‘This late 2017 campaign is a continuation of North Korea’s interest in cryptocurrency, which we now know encompasses a broad range of activities including mining, ransomware, and outright theft.’

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