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Computer hackers

South Korean bitcoin attacks ‘were made by the North Korean hackers that attacked Sony’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 1:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 9:17pm

Cyber attacks on bitcoin and other crypto currency in South Korea were performed by the same North Korean hackers associated with the 2014 Sony Pictures data theft, US-based researchers claim. 

Lazarus Group, an organisation thought be tied to the North Korean government, was behind the attacks that occurred in the weeks leading up to the opening of talks with South Korea, Insikt, a research team at Recorded Future, said on Tuesday.

The hackers aunched a so-called spear-phishing campaign against bitcoin and other crypto users, the cybersecurity company said in a new report.

According to the report, Insikt found technical similarities between those incursions and other North Korean-linked activities, including the data heist at Sony Pictures and the WannaCry ransomware attack, in which victims were forced to pay hackers in bitcoin.

“This late-2017 campaign is a continuation of North Korea’s interest in cryptocurrency, which we now know encompasses a broad range of activities including mining, ransomware, and outright theft,” the report says.

Last nonth, the owner of bitcoin exchange Youbit said it would close and enter bankruptcy proceedings after a cyberattack claimed 17 per cent of its total assets. It was also hit by an attack in April that local media linked to North Korea.

Bitcoin falls 20pc as corrections and regulation concerns deal a hard blow to crypto-linked stocks

Hackers associated with North Korea have been working to raise cash after the US stepped up sanctions in a bid to thwart Kim Jong-un’s push for the ability to strike American soil with a nuclear weapon.

The 2014 Sony Pictures hack saw the company threatened with the digital publication of employees’ details, personal emails and then-unreleased films if it did not cancel the release of Kim Jong-un spoofing comedy The Interview.

After cinemas, fearing bombing attacks, pulled the film, Sony elected to release it on digital streaming channels.

The WannaCry attacks, meanwhile, saw a virus encrypting data in some 300,000 Windows computers then demanding bitcoin payments in exchange for the information. Although it was patched up by Microsoft, amages were in the billions of US dollars, according to some analysts.

Bitcoin, the largest digital coin, is off to a tumultuous start this year, as the prospect of regulatory crackdowns has spread, including in South Korea. 

Shutting down cryptocurrency exchanges is still an option, Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said in an interview with TBS radio. Kim said there’s irrational speculation and that rational regulation was needed.

Bitcoin slumped as much as 20 per cent on Tuesday.