Defense Think Tank: South Asia’s Vulnerable Crypto Sector Is a Sitting Duck for North Korea

A new research paper titled “Closing the Crypto Gap: Guidance for Countering North Korean Cryptocurrency Activity in Southeast Asia,” published by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) claims that North Korea is a big threat to the South Asian crypto sector.

The North Korean state has long been accused of sponsoring and supporting attacks on the crypto sector, stealing millions of dollars and hurting the community at large. The new paper goes into great detail to explore the different aspects of the North Korean charge against the vulnerable cryptocurrency sector of South Asia’s crypto-interested countries.

The South Asian countries make an easy target for North Korea as most of them are trying hard to take advantage of the crypto industry but are not equipped to deal with the security requirements associated with it. North Korea has a huge incentive to exploit these conditions to bypass the sanctions put in place by the global community because of their brutal domestic policies and relentless pursuit of nuclear weaponry. The paper by RUSI expresses the UN Security Council’s warns that digital assets will make it easier for North Korea to bypass sanctions because “they are harder to trace.”

The report also blames the lack of coordinated regulation efforts by the South Asian nations for the vulnerability of their crypto sector. The report gave the example of the infamous malware called WannaCry (which was even previously cited by U.S. Deputy Attorney General) that took control of people’s files and important documents and demanded $300-$600 in 3-7 days as ransom, and which was also attributed to North Korea. Because of the pressure of international trade sanctions on North Korea, South Asian countries need to prepare for a continuous security threat from North Korea, the report claims.

The report also cites the growing number of crypto-users in the region and states:

“Because Southeast Asia is also host to a growing number of cryptocurrency businesses and users, countries in the region could prove vulnerable to North Korea’s cryptocurrency-related activity as well.”

In regard to what can be done to stop the North Korean attacks, the report suggests:

“If carried out with the appropriate urgency and in line with global standards, countries in the region can succeed in making themselves less vulnerable to the risks of North Korean cryptocurrency activity.”

As the number of crypto projects and their consumers grow in the South Asian region, it is critical that the countries directly under threat take the necessary steps required to ensure the safety of all the stakeholders.

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