Alleged North Korea-Backed Bitcoin Hackers: Should China Be Worried?
A new report by an intelligence-led security company, which earlier linked North Korea to the WannaCry attack, claims the country is about to unleash a second wave of sponsored actors to steal bitcoin and other virtual currencies as they have reportedly done to exchanges in South Korea.
The FireEye report, authored by Luke McNamara, buttresses the hackers’ capabilities based on the claim that the state-sponsored actors have been under observation since 2016 for their use of intrusion capabilities to conduct cyber crime targeting banks, the global financial system and cryptocurrency users. It cites how the hackers have targeted at least three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges through spearphishing as at May 2017 with the suspected intent of stealing funds.
It now begs the question of which countries would be their next targets in this proposed second wave of attacks which circumstances suggest could be necessitated by an outlook of a greater future need following the UN-backed sanctions slammed on the Kim Jong Un-led regime on Monday September 11 that will cut off a portion of the country’s earnings.
As Bloomberg reports that South Korea may have become a target for its proximity to Pyongyang, shared language and its being one of the busiest trading hubs for cryptocurrencies this year, China could be susceptible to such attacks too considering its closeness to North Korea and the huge Bitcoin-related activities going on in the country — that is if FireEye’s postulation checks out. But should the Chinese be worried of these hackers’ foray into their domain?
Except agreed otherwise, nothing stops the Chinese market from being a major target. North Korea has been implicated in other security breaches including the FBI blaming it for the breach of Sony Corp.’s film studio and linking the country to the theft of $81 million through the New York Fed last year. The suggestion that the hackers may strike again to obtain hard currencies to fund their regime and cushion the effect of sanctions imposed on the country for its effort to build a nuclear weapon seems also plausible. Time and the level of the sanctions’ constraint will tell.