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Bombing with Bitcoin: Does North Korea finance its nuclear program with cryptocurrencies?

2019-04-08 | 日記

North Korea has long had a taste for cryptocurrencies to circumvent the strict economic sanctions of the international community. According to a report by the magazine Wired, the regime in Pyongyang is pursuing a very specific goal with the attacks on crypto exchanges: The fraudulent cryptocurrencies are to be forwarded immediately into the nuclear program of the isolated country.

Wired quotes in the report various unnamed sources from Western intelligence circles. According to it, state-backed hackers from North Korea should have stolen at least $ 571 million in cryptocurrencies from five Asian crypto trading platforms between January 2017 and September 2018. A recent United Nations (UN) report also criticizes North Korea for bypassing sanctions - specifically referring to the case of the Hong Kong-based blockchain startup Marine Chain, allegedly linked to North Korea.

UN: "Attacks from North Korea on crypto exchanges are increasing"
The allegation: Marine Chain is said to have enticed investors with a token offering to invest in the company. In fact, this was a classic ICO scam. The investors never saw anything of the money again. Marine Chain was a bogus company whose sole purpose was to raise funds for the North Korean regime. Apparently not an isolated case - the UN report noted an "increase in attacks on crypto currency exchanges to circumvent international sanctions.

According to a European source by Wired, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Central to the North Korean cyber activities is an elite hacker group called APT 38, which reports directly to the North Korean intelligence service. The group consists of about 20 people and has extensive resources and technical expertise thanks to government support. Thus APT allegedly ill-gotten 38 2018 about a billion dollars - partly due to hacker attacks on crypto exchanges, partly through "traditional" attacks on poorly secured banks, especially in Asia.

Does North Korea finance its nuclear program with Bitcoin?
According to the source, the money so looted is "almost always passed on to the military program of North Korea." Thus, the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un would finance the development of his nuclear program directly with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

"Cybersecurity is no longer just about criminals," says another source. Instead, it would be about preventing regimes like North Korea from getting the means to start a nuclear attack. One has to ask the question, "Is it really all right if North Korea pays its next missile test with Bitcoin?"

North Korea has repeatedly been the focus of public attention on cryptocurrency in recent years. One of the best-known crypto-hacker groups ever, the "Lazarus Group" is said to be directly under the North Korean government and is considered the world's most successful hacker group in attacks on crypto exchanges. Experts have long been convinced that the regime is deliberately using cryptocurrencies to circumvent US sanctions. It is even conceivable that North Korea would create its own cryptocurrency.


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