Sanctions from the United States have pushed North Korea to large-scale cyber attacks, including cryptocurrency thefts.
High-ranking authorities in the U.S. believe that Western sanctions against North Korea have forced Pyongyang to conduct cryptocurrency-related cyber attacks. Media outlet Korea Herald reports that these security breaches enable the country to support its national economy.
North Korea: Experts in Cybercrime
This is not the first time that North Korea has been accused of committing cybercrimes.
Tonya Ugoretz, the deputy assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Intelligence Unit, claims that North Korean hackers are behind numerous cases of bank theft, cryptocurrency mining, hacks, and ransomware attacks. As examples, she mentioned the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, the bank robbery in Bangladesh in 2016, and the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017.
As Ugoretz explained, this is the way the country responds to tough U.S. sanctions imposed against it, which have succeeded in hindering its economic growth. These actions allow the country to circumvent the sanctions and improve its financial position.
North Korea and UpBit
Recently, South Korean cryptocurrency exchange UpBit warned its users of a phishing attack. The hackers allegedly requested more data from users but, in fact, tried to activate a malicious code on their computers. This made many participants in the cryptocurrency community blame North Korean hackers, while some cybersecurity experts even claimed they recognized the unique characteristics of North Korean hacking groups.
IMPORTANT NOTICE – Please note that any Upbit email using the address email@example.com is likely a scammer. All such emails should be deleted immediately and do not open any attachment files: https://t.co/z8z8m2YrhT
— Upbit Global (@upbitglobal) May 29, 2019
China, Iran, and Russia
China, Iran, and Russia have also been associated with similar cybercrimes being perpetrated by North Korea.
Currently, there’s a general tendency among sanctioned economies to bet on blockchain-based solutions to mitigate the negative effects of U.S. sanctions and escape dollar dependency. Mostly, they choose to launch their own cryptocurrencies or develop alternative ways of global payment networks. However, some of them abuse blockchain technology and its benefits — and this can’t be ignored.
Erin Joe, the head of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Centre under the Director of the U.S. National Intelligence Agency, said that U.S. authorities are working on ways to stop and prevent such cryptocurrency-related malicious activity. However, crypto-crime is a relatively new form of cybercrime, she explained.
There’s a pressing need to further explore the role of cryptocurrencies in big politics and sanction-evasion efforts. Global cooperation is needed to share any data related to such cybercrimes in order to detect and prevent them in the future.
Do you believe that U.S. economic sanctions push affected countries, like North Korea, to cybercrime? What do you think about domestic cryptocurrency theft in the U.S.? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!