North Korea is resorting to other illegal methods to sustain the loss, owing to tightening sanctions. According to security experts, in order to obtain funds and keep the economy afloat, Pyongyang is stealing bitcoins through cyber-attacks on South Korea.
In the past few months, North Korean hackers have launched online attacks on at least three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges, according to security researcher FireEye report.
The attacks include an apparently successful one when four wallets at Seoul-based exchange Yapizon were compromised.
The cyber attack perpetrated from North Korea used “spearphishing” attacks targeting the personal email accounts of employees at digital currency exchanges, said FireEye.
The perpetrators used tax-themed lures and deployed malware and variants linked to the North Koreans who are suspected of being behind intrusions into global banks in 2016.
“North Korea has set its sights on the so-called next generation financial markets, including virtual currencies, pin-tech and blockchains,” said Ha Tae- Kyung, lawmaker from South Korea’s opposition Bareun Party.
Kyung, who has followed North Korean hacking attempts, said it had apparently stolen more than 90 billion won (USD 80 million) from South Korea through hacking attacks in the four years, including cyber-attacks on ATMs.
The attack comes at a time when South Korea is emerging as one of the world’s busiest trading hubs for bitcoins.
Seoul-based Bithumb is the world’s largest exchange for the ethereum virtual currency. In June, Bithumb was hit by cyber attacks ,in which information about 30,000 customers was leaked.
Some 160 customers are preparing a class action suit against Bithumb, claiming they lost around $10 million in total.