Analysts are claiming that North Korea is housing a vast array of cryptocurrencies.
North Korea: Taking Too Much Crypto?
2018 was marred by stories of North Korean hacking groups, such as Lazarus, initiating cyberattacks on its southern neighbor to garner bitcoin and related currencies for its growing collection. Now, the digital money North Korea is said to have accumulated is worth an estimated $700 million USD.
A British think tank known as the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) released a report on Monday claiming that North Korea was responsible for crypto-based cyberattacks on several countries including the United States, South Korea, Great Britain and Japan. It is alleged to have stolen anywhere between $545 million and $735 million in assorted crypto funds.
Remember last year’s “Wanna Cry” hacks? RUSI says the hacking organization was spawned, in part, by cryptocurrency exchanges adopting hardcore legislative tactics against Pyongyang – North Korea’s capital city – and neighboring regions. Platforms that are alleged to have fallen victim to Wanna Cry include South Korea’s You Bit and Bithumb exchanges.
The organization launched several ransomware attacks against trading platforms that year, and You Bit and Bithumb are estimated to have lost anywhere between $30 million and $40 million each.
RUSI says in its report that North Korea may be using the money to purchase luxury goods from overseas sellers, including jewelry and gold.
The document explains:
Luxury goods are increasingly accessible using cryptocurrencies. Some high-value goods dealers such as sports car dealerships, jewelers, auctioneers and estate agents now accept payments in cryptocurrencies.
Another threat comes in the form of North Korea’s allegedly expanding fleet of commercial aircraft. Russia’s Tass media agency recently reported that North Korea’s foreign ministry has a newfound interest in purchasing Russian planes.
Sergei Neverov – a deputy vice chairman of the Russian State Duma lower house of parliament – explains in an interview:
At a meeting at the North Korean foreign ministry, we touched upon the issue of civil aviation and flight safety. The North Korean side expressed interest in buying new Russian planes. We maintain air services between Pyongyang and Vladivostok, and naturally, we would like to see more advanced and safer planes serving this route.
Attacks Under a Facade of Peace
Presently, Pyongyang’s air fleet operates three primary planes: the Li-18, the Tu-154 and the Tu-204. The latter (third) is typically used for international flights.
Granted these statements are true, it is disturbing to think that North Korea is allegedly stealing funds and potentially staging more attacks while countries such as the United States are working to solidify a peace agreement between both nations. President Donald J. Trump has recently commented that a third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could occur in the coming months, while South Korea is eager for a fourth summit.
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