North Korea may be behind a massive cyber attack on a South Korean bitcoin exchange that caused it to collapse

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A projection of cyber code on a hooded man is pictured in this illustration picture taken on May 13,  2017. Capitalizing on spying tools believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, hackers staged a cyber assault with a self-spreading malware that has infected tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 countries. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Projection
of cyber code on hooded man is pictured in this illustration
picture

Thomson
Reuters


  • South Korea is investigating the North’s possible
    involvement in stealing from the Youbit bitcoin
    exchange.
  • Youbit had been hacked in April when nearly 4,000
    bitcoins were stolen in a cyber attack by a spy agency linked
    to the North Korean government.
  • Investigators say they have reason to believe North
    Korean agents were also behind the recent attack.

South Korea is investigating whether North Korea was involved in
a massive cyber attack on a bitcoin exchange in Seoul which
caused the exchange to collapse on Tuesday,
The Wall Street Journal
reported, citing sources familiar
with the situation.

Investigators are looking into Seoul-based cryptocurrency
exchange Youbit, which was
forced to file for bankruptcy
Tuesday after it was hacked for
the second time this year.

Youbit was previously targeted in April when nearly 4,000
bitcoins were stolen in a cyber attack by a spy agency linked to
the North Korean government, Reuters said, citing local South
Korean reports.

Investigators may have reason to believe North Korean agents were
also behind the latest attack, according to The Journal, given
the proximity and nature of the cyber-attacks on Youbit.


According to Reuters
, Youbit announced on its website that
the latest attack occurred at 4:35 a.m. local time Tuesday. The
site did not say how many bitcoins were stolen in the heist, but
did say 17% of its total assets were gone.

South Korean police and the Korea Internet & Security Agency
said an investigation into the attack was underway but they are
still determining the source and scope of damage done, The
Journal said.

North Korean cyber attacks are on the rise

Pyongyang has reportedly been involved in several high-stakes
hacks in recent years.

On Tuesday, the White House accused North Korea of masterminding
this year’s
WannaCry cyber attacks
, which affected computer systems in
schools, hospitals, and businesses across 150 countries. The
malware demanded ransom payments in the form of bitcoin.

While cryptocurrencies themselves are believed to be secure
thanks to encryption technology, some cyber thieves are able to
hack into digital wallets and cryptocurrency exchanges and steal
user information, The Journal said.

And hacking has become a lucrative business for cyber thieves,
particularly in North Korea where
sanctions
have taken a toll on its economy.

“North Korea is an ideal country to use hacking and financial
tools like bitcoin,” Troy Stangarone, a senior director at the
Korea Economic Institute in Washington, told The Journal.
“They’re experimenting with ways to earn back lost money from
sanctions.”

North Korea has denied any involvement in recent bitcoin hacks.

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