Following an attack on Nice Hash that resulted in about $60 million USD in stolen bitcoins, it appears the digital currency has a new enemy — North Korea. In a recent report, independent cybersecurity researcher Ashley Shen claimed to have intelligence that suggests Kim Jong-un is employing APT (advanced persistent threat) groups to attack cryptocurrency exchanges and international banking organizations.
Danger From the East
Speaking with reporters, Shen explained, “We assume one of the reasons why Bitcoin is being attacked is because the price keeps increasing, and we think it’s reasonable for hackers [to target]. Digital currency might be easier to gain than physical currency.”
Bitcoin has been dominating headlines after seemingly jumping in value by approximately 1,500 percent in just the last few months alone. The digital currency is now appearing much more valuable to investors and criminals alike, and malintent seems to be striking from all ends of the world.
The Heat Is On
Shen and her team have been tracking several hacking groups for months. Among them, Lazarus, Bluenoroff and Andariel are believed to be North Korea-based operations.
Thus far, the groups have attacked several banks in Europe and South Korea, as well as bitcoin exchanges and even ATM companies.
“Before, when we tracked nation-state attackers, they usually perform cyberattacks which are aimed for confidential data and intelligence,” Shen mentioned in her report.
“However, recently we’ve discovered that some of the APT groups are trying to hack financial institutions like banks and Bitcoin exchanges to gain financial profit.”
No Problems Yet, But Could This Change?
The good news is that many of the attacks have been unsuccessful (so far), leaving people’s BTC safe and secure. However Shen warned the attacks are likely to continue into 2018, and that advancements in malware could potentially make things a little harder to control.
“My own opinion is they will probably keep doing the Bitcoins because the price keeps increasing and it’s a good investment,” she said. “I assume they will do more Bitcoin attacks and, of course, they will keep targeting banks because that’s what they did before.”
Over the past several months, Kim Jong-un has repeatedly pushed the boundaries of U.N. sanctions by launching missiles and testing North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Additionally, bitcoin’s price has dropped to the $14K range, likely due to increased activity on exchanges like Coinbase which have resulted in outages, slow service and delayed transactions.
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