North Korean cyber thieves are turning their attention to individual crypto investors
North Korean hackers have taken to stealing cryptocurrency from individual investors as part of a new strategy by Pyongyang to blunt the impact of international sanctions.
The targeting of individuals holding virtual currencies such as bitcoin marks a departure from its previous methods, which have targeted exchanges and financial institutions. Analysts say the shift shows Pyongyang is seeking a new source of income as it buckles under sanctions targeting its illicit nuclear weapons programme.
“Previously, hackers directly attacked exchanges,” Simon Choi, the founder of the cyber warfare research group IssueMakersLab, said. “They targeted staff at the exchanges, but now they are attacking cryptocurrency users directly.”
“With the US, the UN and others imposing sanctions on the North Korean economy, North Korea is in a difficult position economically, and cryptography has come to be seen as a good opportunity.”
Kwon Seok-chul, CEO of South Korean cybersecurity firm Cuvepia, said his company had detected more than 30 cases since April in which suspected North Korean hackers had preyed on people holding cryptocurrency.