North Korea has constantly been in the news for all of the wrong reasons in recent years. Whether it is related to missile testing or defectors, they have been receiving a lot of negative attention from the press. As a result of their wrongdoings, there have been wide-ranging sanctions placed upon them from countries all across the world.
However, it now appears that they can bypass a lot of these sanctions by utilizing some of their supposed haul of 11,000 bitcoins. Information about this stockpile was reported by an ex-United States National Security Agency (NSA) officer Priscilla Moriuchi while being interviewed by Vox.
If this stockpile of bitcoins had been liquidated during peak bitcoin prices in December 2017, this figure would have reached the $210 million mark, whereas this fell to $120 million during January.
How is North Korea Utilizing Cryptocurrencies?
Moriuchi is now working for a cyber threat intelligence firm called Recorded Future, and she believes that the majority of the digital currency North Korea has stockpiled originated from hacking or mining.
Experts in the field of financial security believe North Korea has been trying to kick-start their lagging economy by injecting cash into them via virtual coin markets. They are under some crippling international sanctions that are making their economy worsen on a daily basis.
Moriuchi believes they are turning their digital currencies into either physical goods or some fiat currency which subsequently go towards supporting their ballistic and nuclear missile program.
Of course, their use of digital currencies also aids them remaining anonymous somewhat when buying and trading drugs, weapons and other nefarious goods.
What is Their History With Cybercrime?
In recent years North Korea has been suspected of a wide number of major cyber attacks across the world. For example, the United States intelligence agencies confirmed in December that the WannaCry ransomware attack that took place in May was conducted by North Korea, an attack that afflicted over 230,000 companies in more than 150 countries.
There was another case of accusations leveled against North Korean hackers for the stealing of funds from the Bank of Bangladesh in 2013 that was worth nearly $81 million.
It is believed hacker cells are operating in different foreign locations including the likes of India and China.
Some reports recently indicate their efforts are shifting from traditional banking targets towards more potentially lucrative cryptocurrency based attacks.
For example, in December 2017 many South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges were targeted by attacks by hackers. It is believed that North Korea was behind this and more than $7 million worth of digital currency was stolen, with one of the exchanges in question called Youbit forced into bankruptcy.
Of course, North Korea denies all of these allegations. North Korea denies these allegations despite both defectors and cybersecurity experts claiming that a lot of the promising students in the country will be taken from the universities and placed into Bureau 121 which is the cyberwarfare agency of North Korea.