Hackers in cash-strapped North Korea are suspected of stealing and collecting bitcoins, an electronic payment system, because it is hard to track them down, according to US government-financed broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA).
North Korea took away about 40 million won (35,273 US dollars) worth of bitcoin from South Korea for two weeks after Seoul closed a joint industrial zone in the North's border city of Kaesong in 2013, RFA reported in a Korean-language article.
Since then, North Korea is suspected of having secured more than 100 million won worth of bitcoin every month, Choi Sang-myong at South Korea's cyber security firm Hauri Inc., was quoted as saying.
"Cyber criminals are turning to bitcoins in making money because it's very difficult to track them down. Riding on this trend, North Korea has been actively securing bitcoins from around 2012," Choi said, adding South Korea is not the only target of stealing bitcoin.
Choi said he was able to track down the collection of bitcoins by North Korean hackers until 2015. Afterward, they are believed to have moved to other money-making activities.
Bitcoins are created as a reward in a competition in which users offer their computing power to verify and record bitcoin transactions into the blockchain. This activity is referred to as mining and successful miners are rewarded with transaction fees and newly created bitcoins. Besides being obtained by mining, bitcoins can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services.
The use of bitcoin by criminals has attracted the attention of financial regulators and others. Criminal activities are primarily focused on darknet markets and theft.
Lim Chang-won = firstname.lastname@example.org