A hacking analysis team in South Korea believes North Korean hackers are secretly mining cryptocurrencies using other people’s computers, Bloomberg reports.
Kwak Kyoung-ju, who leads a team at the Financial Security Institute, an entity backed by the South Korean government, told Bloomberg that a hacking unit called Andariel seized a server at a South Korean company in the summer of 2017 and used it to mine about 70 Monero coins.
The Moneros are worth about US$26,350 based on current prices.
The hackers may have seized other computers to mine cryptocurrencies, said Kwak, citing server analysis, adding that the hacker group was able to take control of the server undetected by its operator.
Bloomberg noted that the case underscores the increasing appetite of cyber-attackers for digital currencies, as the units become a source of income for the Kim Jong-un regime which is grappling with tougher international sanctions.
“Andariel is going after anything that generates cash these days,” Kwak was quoted as saying. “Dust gathered over time builds a mountain.”
Monero, or XMR, was trading at US$376 as of 1:42 pm Hong Kong time on Tuesday, up 8 percent.
North Korean hackers appear to prefer Monero because the currency is more focused on privacy and easier to hide and launder than bitcoin, the largest digital currency by far, Kwak said.
According to Bloomberg, Monero trade mixes multiple transactions of the tokens to make it harder to trace the origin of funds, while adopting “dual-key stealth” addresses that make it difficult to pinpoint recipients.
Seoul-based bitcoin exchange Youbit announced last month that it has filed for bankruptcy after getting breached again. Hackers stole 17 percent of its asset reserves in the second breach in less than eight months.
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