A South Korean cybersecurity firm has claimed that hackers from North Korea stole bitcoin worth 100 million won, about USD $90,000, every month from 2013-2015 from South Korea and beyond, to increase reserves of hard (safe haven) currency.
Choi Sang-myong, a senior official at the cybersecurity firm was speaking to Radio Free Asia, a Washington-based non-profit that broadcasts news and information in several languages to countries in Eastern Asia. It is unknown if the allegations pertain to state-sponsored hacking.
As reported by Korean news agency Yonhap, a senior official from Seoul-based security firm Hauri Inc. has alleged that North Korean hackers first began acquiring bitcoin after they ‘took away’ about 40 million won in the cryptocurrency from South Korea in 2013. The alleged theft occurred within weeks of Seoul shutting down operations in Kaesong, a North Korean city that hosted a joint industrial zone between the two countries.
Following that initial theft, these hackers then exercised a wider scheme of online extortion with bitcoin as their ransom instrument, according to the cybersecurity official.
After that, they were confirmed to have secured more than 100 million won in bitcoin every month.
Choi reportedly added that he confirmed the North to have secured bitcoin every month until 2015, from targets in South Korea and other unnamed countries around the world.
The executive also accused North Korea of ‘jumping on the bandwagon of bitcoin extortion since around 2012’ due to bitcoin’s anonymity and the lack of money trails in bitcoin-based crimes originating in North Korea.
Cybersecurity and intelligence officials have alleged North Korea of masterminding a number of notable cybercrimes, including the theft of $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank and the breach of a major Hollywood studio, Sony Pictures.
Security researchers also discovered a North Korean ploy to steal money from over 100 organizations and banks around the world after hackers tried to infiltrate Polish banks in late 2016.
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