North Korea Is Suspect in Hack of Seoul Bitcoin Exchange


South Korean investigators are looking into North Korea’s possible involvement in the hack of a Seoul-based cryptocurrency exchange that collapsed this week, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Yapian, the owner of bitcoin exchange Youbit, said Tuesday that it would close and enter bankruptcy proceedings after a cyberattack that claimed 17 percent of its total assets. It was also hit by an attack in April that local media have linked to North Korean hackers.

Police investigators and the Korea Internet and Security Agency are viewing the case as an extension of the April attack, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information. While they aren’t ruling out North Korea as a suspect, they are also open to all other possibilities, the person said.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that investigators saw telltale signs that North Korea was behind the Youbit attack. Spokespersons for both the police and Korea’s internet security body couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Read more about North Korea’s hacker army

North Korea has used an army of hackers to try and raise cash as the U.S. has stepped up sanctions in a bid to thwart Kim Jong Un’s push for the ability to strike the American homeland with a nuclear weapon. Earlier this week, the U.S. blamed North Korea for the WannaCry ransomware attack that affected hundreds of thousands of computers globally this year.

While North Korea allows internet access to only a small portion of its population, it began to train its techno soldiers in the early 1990s, according to South Korea’s Defense Security Command. The country probably employs 1,700 state-sponsored hackers, backed by more than 5,000 support staff, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

North Korea has grown increasingly adept at breaking into computer systems around the world for financial gain and strategic benefit. This year, the regime’s cyber warriors have been linked to stolen U.S.-South Korean military plans and the alleged theft of $60 million from a Taiwan bank.

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