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Cryptocurrency experts and analysts are warning users to beware of the North Korean hackers trying to steal their Bitcoins. As North Korea faces strict sanctions against its economy due to its illicit nuclear weapons program, the regime has turned its eyes from cryptocurrency exchanges to the average wallet holders. Cryptocurrencies have always made the average user a potential target because of lack of accountability and oversight of digital currencies.
This new development is just another step towards further discouraging investors from an already suffering market. Due to several incidents of fraud and deceit, cryptocurrency critiques have been telling users to be wary of new and unheard of cryptocurrencies and protect their money.
North Korea has famously built a formidable army of hackers who have targeted many institutions and governments over the years in their attempts to sabotage or benefit from these attacks. In the crypto market, these hackers had only targeted exchanges and cryptocurrency owners up until now. With the hopes of robbing these individuals and exchanges’ rich reserves of cryptocurrencies, the North Korean regime hopes to fill the gap in its economy left by the sanctions against them carried out by the international community.
Kwon Seok-chul, CEO of South Korean cybersecurity firm Cuvepia was quoted saying that his company had detected more than 30 cases since April in which suspected North Korean hackers had preyed on people holding cryptocurrency. Experts are saying that there are two main reasons for this shift in strategy by the North Korean hackers. Firstly, over the years the cryptocurrency exchanges and CEO’s have strengthened their security and gotten used to the attacks. Which means it is getting harder for hackers to gain access to these exchanges. The second reason is that the successful attacks they have been able to carry out have allowed them access to a lot of users information such as emails and wallet addresses.
So now, the hacker groups such as Lazurus (or Lazarus) Group have shifted their focus to individual users with weak security measures. “Its possible from previous intrusions they’ve been able to collect information related to the email addresses, usernames of the people using these exchanges,” said Luke McNamara, an analyst at a cybersecurity firm FireEye. “When they understand and know the targets when they are able to craft lures specific to those organizations or entities that they are going after – to me, that says they are effective at what they are doing,” he concluded.
North Korean hackers have been accused by Group IB, a Russian cybersecurity company, of stealing US$771 million from five cryptocurrency exchanges, including South Korea’s YouBit and Japan’s Coincheck, since 2017. An investigation carried out by Reuters last year found that more than US$6 billion worth of Bitcoin had been stolen from exchanges since 2011. In light of all of this information, users are advised to tighten up their security and learn of the ways that they can protect themselves from such attacks.