12/12/2017, 16.43
NORTH KOREA
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Experts warn that North Korea is “stealing” bitcoins

The theft occurred when exchanges of the virtual currency in South Korea were hacked. Attacks are likely to continue as long as its value continues to rise. The virtual currency provides great anonymity outside government control.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Experts and officials say North Korea has been "mining" bitcoin in recent months, demanding it as ransom payment or outright stealing the digital currency.

Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency that lives on computer servers. The virtual coins are "mined" by complex algorithms and recorded in a digital ledger.

"It is a fact that North Korea has been attacking virtual currency exchanges," said Lee Dong-geun, a director with South Korea's state-run Korea Internet and Security Agency.

"We don't know how much North Korea has stolen so far, but we do know that the police have confirmed the regime's hacking attempts."

Experts say the attacks are likely to continue as bitcoin's price skyrockets. It started the year below US$ 1,000 but has soared more than 1,500 per cent, crossing US$ 17,000 for the first time last week.

North Korean hackers targeted four different exchanges that trade bitcoin and other digital currencies in South Korea in July and August, sending malicious emails to employees, according to police.

The digital currency was designed to operate outside of the control of governments or banks. That ias likely to appeal to North Korea at a time when the United States is stepping up efforts to cut the country out of the international financial system.

Bitcoin provides anonymity and is not tied to any central bank. Payments can be made anonymously without using banks as middlemen.

North Korea has repeatedly denied involvement in international hacking attacks. But it has made no secret of its interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Last month, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology touted a lecture from a bitcoin expert who came to North Korea to teach students about the technology behind the digital currency.

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