What’s Happening in North Korea?
It was observed in 2016, certain actors that seemed to be North Korean were conducting cyber-crime. Their target being banks and global financial institutions. Although, looking at North Korea’s reputation as a nation that is entirely cut off from the global economy and also a nation that has a government unit dedicated to carrying out illegal economic tasks. This act was possibly carried out to fund the Pyongyang’s elite especially, with them having complete control of their military forces.
A second wave has already begun as these state-sponsored actors are now seeking to steal bitcoins and other digital currencies. It began in May 2017, three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges were targeted with the intention of stealing resources. According to observations made previously, these actors mostly target personal accounts of employees at these cryptocurrency exchanges using phishing scams. In particular, the attacks used malware called PEACHPIT.
Activities Conducted by North Korea Against South Korean Cryptocurrency Exchanges in 2017
- April 22 – A South Korean digital currency exchange, Yapizon, had four wallets stolen.
- April 26 – The US announces an increased economic sanctions strategy against North Korea. These international sanctions could be the reason behind North Korea’s interest in cryptocurrency.
- Early May – First spearphishing attempt against South Korea is taken.
- Late May – Second South Korean exchange is targeted.
- Early June – Increased North Korean activity took place with cryptocurrency service providers in South Korea targeted.
- Early July – Third South Korean digital currency exchange targeted.
Advantage of Targeting Cryptocurrencies
If they keep this up and plan to take on an exchange itself, they could be able to control online wallets and much more. From moving cryptocurrencies out of online wallets to sending cryptocurrencies to other wallets and even swapping cryptocurrencies for other ones. Since the digital currency realm is still pretty new, several exchanges might have less secure anti-money laundering security measures which make these exchanges a hot-spot for such attacks.
As the adaptation of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies have increased within the past few years, various nation states have begun to take notice. While many countries are beginning to open new digital currency exchanges or launch their own cryptocurrency, there are some that use it for criminal activities as well. Currently, North Korea is winning over their cyber spying skills but this isn’t long-term either with the advancing cyber powers.
Story Credits: fireeye.com
Image Credits: money.cnn.com